Friday, October 16, 2015

A potential difficulty for any AT society

Some observers have noted a potential problem with the society I intend to propose as model (and thus devote my efforts to materialize) which I think raises a very valid point, so I am going to devote this post (a kind of interlude in the development of the Manifesto, if you wish) to try to clear it up. What my critics have noticed is that the whole schema of leaving behind the current dominant reason and its three noxious rules rests on the following premises:

·         Close-knit groups that can police themselves with a minimal institutional apparatus (4-10 leaders and a handful of guardians, plus occasional arbitrators with no specialist training), which can only be achieved if they consistently maintain a shared, coherent set of alternative values (the “traditionalist” part). Alternative, that is, to the current “respect people only insofar as they own lots of money (and the more money, the more respect should be bestowed on them)”

·         To avoid those groups impinging too much on the autonomy and liberty of its members (the “anarchist” part) we are trusting in an almost unlimited mobility, so people can leave with minimal impact those groups perceived as too stifling, or demanding too much from them. That would in practice put a limit on how authoritarian (or how constraining of their members’ freedoms) groups can become, under the threat of loosing too many of them and stop being economically  (or socially) viable

The problem comes from the fact that both premises may be conflicting, or even downright incompatible. For the “freedom to leave” to be meaningful and to work as intended (as a brake in every human group’s innate tendency to encroach on its members lives beyond what their individual interests would grant) people doesn’t only require a lack of impediments in the group from which they depart, but a moderate amount of goodwill from the group that receives them, without which they would find it very difficult to successfully settle and prosper. And, depending of the kind of values that the receiving group espouses, that goodwill may not be forthcoming at all.

To better explain the kind of problem the AT society we propose may pose, let’s imagine a couple of friends living in phratry A, and surrounded by three other phratria: B, C and D. Phratry A has fallen under wretched times, as the leaders that have come to power are reckless and authoritarian, have appointed their cronies to all the positions of power, are wasting the common resources in their own exclusive benefits and extracting ever increasing percentages of the rest of the populace’s earnings, and have so curtailed the election process (may be eliminating it altogether) that there is no reasonable expectation of ever dislodging them. So our friends decide to vote with their feet and look for greener pastures in the surrounding polities. They first arrive at Phratry A, and soon decide that it is not of their liking because it is entirely made of mormons, and they enforce a strict prohibition of alcohol, coffee, tobacco (or any other recreational drug) and homosexual activity and, guess what, our two friends are gay…   No biggie, they think, they will try their fortune at the next phratry, phratry C, where they have heard they have no problem with alcohol, coffee and tobacco (and even marijuana) and, as far as they know, have no prejudices against gay couples. Problem is, it is a phratry with a policy of blatant racial discrimination, as it is peopled exclusively by white nationalists. They teach their children that there is nothing wrong with being black, and are civil and polite when dealing with black people outside their territory, but they are virulently opposed with them settling in there or mixing with them. Needless to say, our two friends happen to be black… Sometimes life is a bitch, so somewhat dejected they turn their weary steps towards phratry D, where they have heard they have nothing against blacks. Indeed, there is a vibrant black community there, the falashas, as it is a predominantly (exclusively, indeed) jewish community. Reformed jews, so they are accepting of alcohol, coffee, tobacco, gays and blacks. But somehow our friends Rashid and Mohammed think it is not such a perfect fit for them… What I wanted to highlight in this somewhat contrived example is that maximum mobility (to keep communities in check internally and prevent them from becoming too overbearing) and maximum freedom to establish homogeneous, tradition based communities (so they require a minimum “government” to coordinate the individual wills and function harmoniously) are going to be difficult to reconcile. And of course, there may be people whose sense of belonging is so distributed (or distributed between combinations of groups so bizarre) that they can never legitimately aspire to ever find enough like minded people to form a community of their own, and so will necessarily have to compromise some aspect of their being, some expression of their truest self, to be able to live with their fellow humans.

Of course, that is a problem that liberal, multicultural societies have faced since the advent of modernity and the weakening of the traditional narratives that bounded people together (a common faith, a common language and race, a common understanding of their own history). The formulation of the Universal Rights of Men we incorporated in our AT Manifesto can be construed as an attempt to ensure that people with different origins and different preferences could coexist peacefully in a functioning group, sharing a minimal purpose which the liberal world defined as the “pursuit of happiness”, but was truly the unlimited pursuit of material goods accumulation, while being able to express different religions, aesthetic taste and sexual preference. The problem, of course, is that when the group only shares that minimal purpose we end up under the iron rule of the three laws of our current dominant reason, with anomic individuals who tend to think they are giving more than what they receive, so they require a vast state apparatus to coordinate and constrict their drives and impulses so they end up producing into socially acceptable behavior, and to punish them when such constrictions fail…

This being such a tough nut to crack, I see I’ll need to come back to it in a later post

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