Special Guest Post from the UK: Cat Vincent brings us “Rate Of Return: Woolwich, 4GW and Kayfabe.”

Posted by on May 27th, 2013

In this special guest post, Cat Vincent reports from the UK on the aftermath of the Woolwich attack, and 4GW (Fourth Generation Warfare).

Rate Of Return: Woolwich, 4GW and Kayfabe.

The recent murder of a soldier by two men on the streets of London has produced a wave of shock and horror around the world.

It has also produced a vicious backlash, both officially and otherwise: the British government has responded with increasing pressure for near-total internet surveillance to be put into law and also restricting the availability of certain ‘radical’ Muslim websites, while the thuggish forces of the neo-Nazi English Defence League have staged several highly-publicised (but poorly-attended – tens or hundreds at most) marches and riots.

At the same time, a heavily organized and well-planned series of non-violent actions (protests in dozens of cities across the world, with literally millions in attendance) against the Monsanto corporation were all but ignored in the popular press. Why is this?

I don’t think it’s as simple or as cynical as the old saying “if it bleeds, it leads”… though certainly, that’s a factor. What it makes me think about specifically is the theoretical work of writer John Robb on the subject of 4th Generation Warfare (4GW).

Robb, a former USAF special ops pilot and security consultant, discussed the concept of 4GW – effectively, the warfare conducted by small non-state actors against heavily militarized governments – at length in his blog Global Guerillas. One of his key concepts in why 4GW is so effective is that of the “return on investment” (RoI). From Robb’s book, Brave New War:

In the summer of 2004, Iraq’s global guerrillas attacked a southern section of the Iraqi oil pipeline infrastructure (Iraq has over 4,300 miles of pipelines). This attack cost the attackers an estimated $2,000 to produce. None of the attackers was caught. The effects of this attack were over $50 million in lost oil exports. The rate of return: 250,000 times the cost of the attack.

It’s clear that the return on investment for the Woolwich attack is considerable, probably on a level of millions to one – committing the UK government to millions, even billions of pounds in police, military and counter-intelligence spending for no more than a couple of hundred quid on some knives and axes and a rusty old revolver. (In fact the cost is so low, the action having been performed by just two people, it makes the attack close to being what the writer Brainsturbator described in his Skilluminati blog as 5GW – warfare committed by “super-empowered individuals” – though in this case, the empowerment comes from their media use more than their actual tool set. Skilluminati in general, and the 5GW Project in particular, are I think vital mind-tools for the aware Grinder.)

Yesterday, I put a mention of the RoI of the Woolwich murder on Twitter (which is what prompted the Grinding editorship to ask for this article). The main thing I didn’t get the space to expand upon there was the question of cui bono? – if there’s a return on investment for such a violent action, who actually profits from it?

A clue about this appeared on my Twitter stream not long after, in a conversation between Brainsturbator and Damien Williams (@wolven) of this parish: the subject of conversation was not terrorism, but a term from professional wrestling: Kayfabe.

To quote from the brilliant Edge essay by Eric Weinstein (who is best known this month for possibly reconciling all modern physics)

Because professional wrestling is a simulated sport, all competitors who face each other in the ring are actually close collaborators who must form a closed system (called “a promotion”) sealed against outsiders. With external competitors generally excluded, antagonists are chosen from within the promotion and their ritualized battles are largely negotiated, choreographed, and rehearsed at a significantly decreased risk of injury or death. With outcomes predetermined under Kayfabe, betrayal in wrestling comes not from engaging in unsportsmanlike conduct, but by the surprise appearance of actual sporting behavior. Such unwelcome sportsmanship which “breaks Kayfabe” is called “shooting” to distinguish it from the expected scripted deception called “working”.
Were Kayfabe to become part of our toolkit for the twenty-first century, we would undoubtedly have an easier time understanding a world in which investigative journalism seems to have vanished and bitter corporate rivals cooperate on everything from joint ventures to lobbying efforts. …What makes Kayfabe remarkable is that it gives us potentially the most complete example of the general process by which a wide class of important endeavors transition from failed reality to successful fakery.

One of the consistent myths of pro wrestling is the concept of the “face” and the “heel” – the good guy and the bad guy. Within the consensus reality of the Kayfabe, these are mortal foes… right up to the point where one or the other makes a “heel-face turn”, the good guy becoming the bad or vice versa. (Like, say, the ‘heroic rebels’ of the CIA-sponsored Mujahideen becoming the post-9/11 enemy…) But in reality, they’re still just performers in a symbolic, mythical struggle. Whether they consciously co-operate or not, both sides need the struggle in order to continue their identity, to define their reality.

So, again – who profits? Those invested – emotionally, financially – in the game, on both supposed sides. The extremists; the governments who seek any excuse to cow the populous, to keep every single person scared and surveilled; the radicals who want to tear down anything that doesn’t look exactly like their fantasy world (be it Dar-al-Islam or Rule Britannia); the corporations that sell the weapons to them all or, like Monsanto, rely on the distraction to conceal their agenda. And, by pure coincidence, those who want to tame the internet, to stop those who don’t want to suffer for their gain from finding out more about the truth behind the spectacle. Anyone who wants to play another game, wants a future of co-operation not competition, strength for all instead of profit-and-loss… are just collateral damage for the drones and the thugs.

John Robb doesn’t write about 4GW directly that much, these days. In his consideration of precisely how one should defend against it, he came to understand the necessity of working towards the living conditions which are most effective in resisting terrorism in general and such cheap RoI attacks in particular – decentralized infrastructure, local and networked co-operation unlocked from hierarchy. People acting in groups sharing common goals, working towards long-term building of resilient communities rather than zero-sum enemies to be obliterated. A long-term solution that strives to bypass the reflexive tit-for-tat of this conflict, to benefit all.

As I wrote this, the EDL marched on Whitehall. Again, only a couple of hundred of them, faced with a similar number of anti-fascist protesters. Supposed patriots are giving Nazi salutes and fighting police in the very heart of British governance, claiming to be protecting England against the infidel. Another front in The Forever War opened these past few days… and for those who aren’t part of the kayfabe, who strive to break past the fourth wall of us-and-them, resilience is becoming that much harder. We have to keep looking for the tools to grind our bodies, minds and tribes to be strong and flexible enough to endure the crushing pressures of these wrestling behemoths, to always remember that whoever appears to be the face or the heel… this should not, cannot be just war.

It must always be a rescue mission.

Ian ‘Cat’ Vincent is a writer and journalist on the Fortean beat, a contributing editor to The Daily Grail and a former professional combat magician. He lives in Yorkshire, England.


Posted by on December 30th, 2012

Last year, we asked you for questions.

You gave them to us.

This year, we’d like to do the same thing, shockingly enough.


Here’s the deal. Ask us anything — anything at all — via our formspring account here: http://www.formspring.me/Grinding We will then answer your questions in a hopefully entertaining manner.

Remember to use the Formspring account and not the increasingly compromised comments system for this. That’s http://www.formspring.me/Grinding — stay anon if you want or not. No topic is off limits, but things involving Grinding, the future, or whatnot would probably be a good idea.

Go forth to our Formspring and sin no more…  unless that’s what you’re into.



Hope vs. Fear: we stand in the gap.

Posted by on November 8th, 2012

In which I string a narrative together from #OccupySandy / US Election / Eschaton coverage.

Power to the People : Occupy’s afterlife — a dispatch from New York’s dark zones by Sarah Jaffe:

The comparisons to Katrina have been everywhere, of course, but for me they hit home when, safe in my Crown Heights apartment that never even lost power, I saw friends and acquaintances who’d been involved with Occupy Wall Street tweeting their relief activities under the hashtag #OccupySandy. I couldn’t help but think, as I watched them tweet their setup of a hub in Red Hook, of Common Ground, of Malik Rahim, of New Orleans’ mutual aid after the storm, and how leftists and radicals (Rahim, a former Black Panther, learned about community care from the Panthers’ free food and tutoring programs) step quietly into the spaces that are left vacant by the wrecking crew that’s laid waste to social welfare programs and the churches and charities that Republicans keep telling us will step up to provide care.

Explaining #occupysandy in NY doing things FEMA, Gov, NYPD, Red Cross can’t, Ada says: “That’s because they’re not used to taking orders.”

— Quinn Norton (@quinnnorton) November 6, 2012

Quinn said - Don’t Vote:

The magic of aggregate human attention is so strong that we can fix this world, we can exceed these troubles — but only together, not looking to leadership structures that have failed us again and again.

Humanity is amazing. It is the elemental magic of the world. You are the ground that can shake and rise under the fragile political structures of the Earth. You are the wrath of angry gods, you are the true storm a small and accidental system of power fears. As long as you keep believing you have to vote, and all your power is tied only to that vote, our leaders get to balance a pyramid on its tip and call it democracy.

Lay down the lie of the American ballot box, with its legal rigging, lobbying, revolving doors, gerrymandering, and even at moments outright fraud. You will have to ask yourself what is next? What do you believe, and how do you live out those beliefs? It is a scary and beautiful thing to live your beliefs.

Don’t Vote. Do by Dymaxion:

Get out a sledgehammer and claim the real right you have to remake the system.  If you’re not American, if you live in a place where your vote really can change the fundamentals of your world, great; go do that first and then act.  For everyone who lives in the US or a place like it where your vote is consent and nothing else, don’t vote in the booth, vote in the street.  Don’t consent to a poisonous system that isn’t listening or let it confuse you into thinking the consent you give means anything.  Organize.  Strike.  Demand.  Whistleblow. Speak.  Build.  Rebuild.  Insist that the world treat you and those around you with decency, dignity, kindness, and equality.  Start by making sure you do the same to those around you.  Keep doing it until your vote matters again, and then keep doing it some more.

Do not consent to be governed by a man who would kill you in the street just because the other man would kill you in the street and piss on your corpse.  Do not consent to be governed by the system that made them.  Do not give your life to a machine designed to absorb it without a trace.

Teratocracy Triumphant? by Jamais Cascio:

I strongly suspect that, regardless of who wins the US presidential election today, the United States is likely to be entering a period of a crisis of legitimacy. If Romney wins, the claims of voter suppression and out-and-out shenanigans (this is a less ambiguous example) will potentially leave many Democrats incandescent with anger, even more so than after the 2000 Supreme Court selection of George W. Bush — because now it will be a “we can’t let them get away with this again” scenario. If Obama wins, the already widely-extant opposition to his legitimacy as President among Republicans could explode; expect to see Twitter storms about secession and armed revolution, as well as the very real possibility of violence.

Donald Trump has a Grump:

…and the one he deleted:


— Mark Pesce (@mpesce) November 7, 2012

Fox News, Karl Rove Argue Over The Outcome In Ohio:

YouTube Preview Image

Imagine if Fox News was your only source of information right now.

— Matt Novak (@paleofuture) November 7, 2012

I’m told there are motels in Amerika where the tv’s are only tuned to Fox News. This is what we mean by reality tunnels.

This is the Ontological Gulf. On the other side of the Abyss there are people that hate us.

Time’s Up by David Gelernter:

We’ve seen an important (though far from decisive) battle in the slow-motion civil war the nation is undergoing: The blue states want to secede not from America but from Americanism. They reject the American republic of God-fearing individuals in favor of the European ideal, which has only been government by aristocracy: either an aristocracy of birth or, nowadays, of ruling know-it-alls — of post-religious, globalist intellectuals (a.k.a. PORGIs). As I’ve said before — many others have too — you can’t graduate class after class after class of left-indoctrinated ignoramuses without paying the price.  Last night was a down payment.

More ideology from this theorist of the Right; Dismantling of a Culture:

 LOPEZ: And a “PORGI (Post-Religious Globalist Intellectuals) establishment.” Is that to get you tea-party cred?

GELERNTER: If we don’t understand who’s running our leading colleges, we can’t even begin to understand our own culture. Our most powerful colleges have gigantic cultural influence through their alumni, graduate, and professional schools (especially their law, journalism, business, and education schools) and their direct influence on sister institutions throughout the nation. So who’s in charge? Once upon a time, there was a powerful WASP elite in this country. Obviously they weren’t all the same, and obviously we can generalize (either that or we can’t think). The WASP elite on the whole was politically moderate and Christian.

And what sort of people are running our powerful colleges today? Or are they so diverse, it is impossible to generalize?

In fact they’re radically un-diverse. They’re not all the same, there are dissenters, but culturally they are far more uniform than the old WASP elite ever were. You won’t find lots of church-goers among them. You won’t find lots of patriots. You will find plenty of intellectuals. You can call the PORGI establishment whatever you like, but there’s no way around the fact that the culturally uniform, conformist group in powerful positions at top colleges are likely to be post-religious and globalist and intellectuals — or at least intellectualizers, would-be intellectuals. So call them whatever you like, but they’re PORGIs to me.

LOPEZ: Why is that “post-religion” bit so important?

GELERNTER: Post-religious thinkers don’t even live on the same spiritual planet as Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish Americans. Old-time atheists struggled with biblical religion and rejected it; modern post-religious thinkers struggled with nothing. Since the Bible and biblical religion underlie the invention of America, it’s hard (unsurprisingly) for post-religious people to understand America sympathetically. Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, the most sacred of American texts, is (precisely) a sermon describing North and South as equally guilty in God’s eyes for the sin of slavery and, ultimately, for the war itself:

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

The quote is from Psalms 19; Reagan’s famous “shining city on a hill” paraphrases the gospels. Expecting post-religious, Bible-ignorant thinkers to grasp America is like expecting a gerbil to sing Pagliacci. The gerbil might be brilliant in his way, but he’ll never make it in opera. (If this be species-ism, make the most of it!) How can my post-religious colleagues and countrymen, many of whom have never even opened a Bible, understand Lincoln or America or Americans?

The Truth, such that it exists, is that the way one frames their enemy speaks far more to their own worldview. Just look at the depictions of the Gnostics by the early Christians. So at this point we may as well quote from an upright fictional work by a Globalistia Intellectual, a counter point scene from Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom:

It was the second year of my undergrad, taking a double-major in not making trouble for my profs and keeping my mouth shut. It was the early days of Bitchun, and most of us were still a little unclear on the concept.

Not all of us, though: a group of campus shit-disturbers, grad students in the Sociology Department, were on the bleeding edge of the revolution, and they knew what they wanted: control of the Department, oustering of the tyrannical, stodgy profs, a bully pulpit from which to preach the Bitchun gospel to a generation of impressionable undergrads who were too cowed by their workloads to realize what a load of shit they were being fed by the University.

At least, that’s what the intense, heavyset woman who seized the mic at my Soc 200 course said, that sleepy morning mid-semester at Convocation Hall. Nineteen hundred students filled the hall, a capacity crowd of bleary, coffee-sipping time-markers, and they woke up in a hurry when the woman’s strident harangue burst over their heads.

I saw it happen from the very start. The prof was down there on the stage, a speck with a tie-mic, droning over his slides, and then there was a blur as half a dozen grad students rushed the stage. They were dressed in University poverty-chic, wrinkled slacks and tattered sports coats, and five of them formed a human wall in front of the prof while the sixth, the heavyset one with the dark hair and the prominent mole on her cheek, unclipped his mic and clipped it to her lapel.

“Wakey wakey!” she called, and the reality of the moment hit home for me: this wasn’t on the lesson-plan.

“Come on, heads up! This is not a drill. The University of Toronto Department of Sociology is under new management. If you’ll set your handhelds to ‘receive,’ we’ll be beaming out new lesson-plans momentarily. If you’ve forgotten your handhelds, you can download the plans later on. I’m going to run it down for you right now, anyway.

“Before I start though, I have a prepared statement for you. You’ll probably hear this a couple times more today, in your other classes. It’s worth repeating. Here goes:

“We reject the stodgy, tyrannical rule of the profs at this Department. We demand bully pulpits from which to preach the Bitchun gospel. Effective immediately, the University of Toronto Ad-Hoc Sociology Department is in charge. We promise high-relevance curriculum with an emphasis on reputation economies, post-scarcity social dynamics, and the social theory of infinite life-extension. No more Durkheim, kids, just deadheading! This will be fun.”

She taught the course like a pro—you could tell she’d been drilling her lecture for a while. Periodically, the human wall behind her shuddered as the prof made a break for it and was restrained.

At precisely 9:50 a.m. she dismissed the class, which had hung on her every word. Instead of trudging out and ambling to our next class, the whole nineteen hundred of us rose, and, as one, started buzzing to our neighbors, a roar of “Can you believe it?” that followed us out the door and to our next encounter with the Ad-Hoc Sociology Department.

It was cool, that day. I had another soc class, Constructing Social Deviance, and we got the same drill there, the same stirring propaganda, the same comical sight of a tenured prof battering himself against a human wall of ad-hocs.

Reporters pounced on us when we left the class, jabbing at us with mics and peppering us with questions. I gave them a big thumbs-up and said, “Bitchun!” in classic undergrad eloquence.

The profs struck back the next morning. I got a heads-up from the newscast as I brushed my teeth: the Dean of the Department of Sociology told a reporter that the ad-hocs’ courses would not be credited, that they were a gang of thugs who were totally unqualified to teach. A counterpoint interview from a spokesperson for the ad-hocs established that all of the new lecturers had been writing course-plans and lecture notes for the profs they replaced for years, and that they’d also written most of their journal articles.

The profs brought University security out to help them regain their lecterns, only to be repelled by ad-hoc security guards in homemade uniforms. University security got the message—anyone could be replaced—and stayed away.

The profs picketed. They held classes out front attended by grade-conscious brown-nosers who worried that the ad-hocs’ classes wouldn’t count towards their degrees. Fools like me alternated between the outdoor and indoor classes, not learning much of anything.

No one did. The profs spent their course-times whoring for Whuffie, leading the seminars like encounter groups instead of lectures. The ad-hocs spent their time badmouthing the profs and tearing apart their coursework.

At the end of the semester, everyone got a credit and the University Senate disbanded the Sociology program in favor of a distance-ed offering from Concordia in Montreal. Forty years later, the fight was settled forever. Once you took backup-and-restore, the rest of the Bitchunry just followed, a value-system settling over you.

Those who didn’t take backup-and-restore may have objected, but, hey, they all died.

Except this is not a war. It’s a rescue mission. Just because someone hates us, doesn’t mean we won’t save them. The network doesn’t think like the hierarchy. Back to the Rescue.

The New Revolution: The Grassroots Efforts of Hurricane Sandy Relief by Veronica Varlow

This is what I learned this week:  We are at the helm of our world community thriving or dying.  Know this.

Down at Beach 23 and Seagirt Blvd in the Rockaways, the five of us, jammed in a 1990 Mazda 323, on top of 2 generators and a pump to empty basements of water,  pulled up to a parking lot.

Sixty people came running to our car, surrounding it. “Do you have blankets? Please, we’re freezing!”

We had two left to give.

I was not expecting this. We came out to pump out basements so the people can get power back without danger of electrocution or house fires.

Four of the small band of five of us, have had our houses burn to the ground with everything in it. I know that devastation first hand and I still was shocked at what I saw happening out there.

I wish my eyes had cameras so that I could show you what is going on right now. At Beach 23 and Seagirt Blvd, a neighborhood deemed dangerous – there is no media presence.

It is true.  We are the media. You and me.

I did not see FEMA there, I did not see the Red Cross. It was us.

It is people like Cory Booker, getting emergency updates from people on Twitter and running in to help. It is the grassroots movement of Occupy Sandy who are stepping in to help organize relief, it is the performers of the House of Yes who piled into an RV with supplies, food, and people ready to help.

People like you and me ARE the new emergency response.

The years ahead aren’t going to be easy. Far from it. But together, we can do it!

Just listen to Robert Anton Wilson, from the audiobook discussing his book TSOG:

Grant Morrison at Morrison Con on transhumanism

Posted by on October 3rd, 2012

From CBR:

With that bleak thought, another audience member asked, in the face of war, economic crashes and global warming, is there any hope for the future?

“Yes,” Morrison replied, and the answer had everything to do with phones.

“Everyone’s got a phone now and the phone is getting smarter and smarter, the phone’s getting smaller and smaller, children have them now, so what you’re seeing is the development of a prosthesis,” Morrison said, explaining phones were evolving alongside humans and slowly merging the two into one. He also cited Stephen Hawking’s brain-computer interface as helping speed transhumanism, seeing both things as the beginning of a way of life that would turn humanity into a literal network identical to technological networks, erasing war and all barriers by interconnecting the human race.

“It’s going to be something new, it’s going to be a networked entity,” Morrison continued. “That’s what happening right now and there’s kind of a race on between the apocalypse and this thing — It’s not aliens that are going to come in, it’s the phone that’s going to come in. The phone is ringing for us right now and is about to connect everything up.

“So don’t worry!” Morrison added as the audience burst into applause.

Ontological Rescue Squad Training Manual #1: Know Thyself

Posted by on September 15th, 2012

Listen to Imhotep

– from S.H.I.E.L.D issue#1

Critical Thinking is Critical.

In this post I will go through several long and educational, instructional LongReads… These will serve as an introduction, a basis to build from.

As I’ve said before, “the first grind is the mind”, and that video at the other end of that link is well worth (re)visiting.

We are in the midst of a Reality War, where the meaning of words such as Theory are weapons.

Where in the US the Romney/Ryan campaign is, rather generously, described at Post-Truth. Where earlier this year the Texas GOP declared war on Critical Thinking. Yes, really. And the shocking thing is… we aren’t shocked by this.

But there is still hope. Take this tale of a man who broke out of the prison of his mind; The Political Awakening of a Republican:

I always imagined that I was full of heart, but it turned out that I was oblivious.  Like so many Republicans, I had assumed that society’s “losers” had somehow earned their desserts.  As I came to recognize that poverty is not earned or chosen or deserved, and that our use of force is far less precise than I had believed, I realized with a shock that I had effectively viewed whole swaths of the country and the world as second-class people.

I might still have stuck it out as a frustrated liberal Republican, knowing that the wealthy business core of the party still pulled a few strings and people like Richard Lugar and Olympia Snowe remained in the Senate — if only because the idea of voting for Democrats by choice made me feel uncomfortable.  (It would have been so… gauche.)  Then came Hurricane Katrina.  In New Orleans, I learned that it wasn’t just the Bush administration that was flawed but my worldview itself.

The enormity of the advantages I had always enjoyed started to truly sink in.  Everyone begins life thinking that his or her normal is the normal.  For the first time, I found myself paying attention to broken eggs rather than making omelets.  Up until then, I hadn’t really seen most Americans as living, breathing, thinking, feeling, hoping, loving, dreaming, hurting people.  My values shifted — from an individualistic celebration of success (that involved dividing the world into the morally deserving and the undeserving) to an interest in people as people.

In order to learn more — and to secure my membership in what Karl Rove sneeringly called the “reality-based community ” — I joined a social science research institute.  There I was slowly disabused of layer after layer of myth and received wisdom, and it hurt.  Perhaps nothing hurt more than to see just how far my patriotic, Republican conception of U.S. martial power — what it’s for, how it’s used — diverged from the reality of our wars.

An old saw has it that no one profits from talking about politics or religion.  I think I finally understand what it means.  We see different realities, different worlds.  If you and I take in different slices of reality, chances are that we aren’t talking about the same things.  I think this explains much of modern American political dialogue.

My old Republican worldview was flawed because it was based upon a small and particularly rosy sliver of reality.  To preserve that worldview, I had to believe that people had morally earned their “just” desserts, and I had to ignore those whining liberals who tried to point out that the world didn’t actually work that way.  I think this shows why Republicans put so much effort into “ creat[ing] our own reality ,” into fostering distrust of liberals, experts, scientists, and academics, and why they won’t let a campaign “ be dictated by fact-checkers ” (as a Romney pollster put it).  It explains why study after study shows — examples herehere, and here– that avid consumers of Republican-oriented media are more poorly informed than people who use other news sources or don’t bother to follow the news at all.

Waking up to a fuller spectrum of reality has proved long and painful.  I had to question all my assumptions, unlearn so much of what I had learned.  I came to understand why we Republicans thought people on the Left always seemed to be screeching angrily (because we refused to open our eyes to the damage we caused or blamed the victims) and why they never seemed to have any solutions to offer (because those weren’t mentioned in the media we read or watched).

My transition has significantly strained my relationships with family, friends, and former colleagues.  It is deeply upsetting to walk on thin ice where there used to be solid, common ground.  I wish they, too, would come to see a fuller spectrum of reality, but I know from experience how hard that can be when your worldview won’t let you.

Another term to throw around at this point is: Reality Tunnel, “a subconscious set of mental “filters” formed from… beliefs and experiences”.

The first step is to understand that this exists. Only then can you attempt to take control of it and progress.

In this Harper’s Magazine piece from 1997, the recently passed Earl Shorris relays his own journey in Understanding, thanks to a meeting with a remarkable female prison inmate:

She didn’t speak of jobs or money. In that, she was like the others I had listened to. No one had spoken of jobs or money. But how could the “moral life of downtown” lead anyone out from the surround of force? How could a museum push poverty away? Who can dress in statues or eat the past? And what of the political life? Had Niecie skipped a step or failed to take a step? The way out of poverty was politics, not the “moral life of downtown.” But to enter the public world, to practice the political life, the poor had first to learn to reflect. That was what Niecie meant by the “moral life of downtown.” She did not make the error of divorcing ethics from politics. Niecie had simply said, in a kind of shorthand, that no one could step out of the panicking circumstance of poverty directly into the public world.

Although she did not say so, I was sure that when she spoke of the “moral life of downtown” she meant something that had happened to her. With no job and no money, a prisoner, she had undergone a radical transformation. She had followed the same path that led to the invention of politics in ancient Greece. She had learned to reflect. In further conversation it became clear that when she spoke of “the moral life of downtown” she meant the humanities, the study of human constructs and concerns, which has been the source of reflection for the secular world since the Greeks first stepped back from nature to experience wonder at what they beheld. If the political life was the way out of poverty, the humanities provided an entrance to reflection and the political life. The poor did not need anyone to release them; an escape route existed. But to open this avenue to reflection and politics a major distinction between the preparation for the life of the rich and the life of the poor had to be eliminated.

“You’ve been cheated,” I said. “Rich people learn the humanities; you didn’t. The humanities are a foundation for getting along in the world, for thinking, for learning to reflect on the world instead of just reacting to whatever force is turned against you. I think the humanities are one of the ways to become political, and I don’t mean political in the sense of voting in an election but in the broad sense.” I told them Thucydides’ definition of politics.

“Rich people know politics in that sense. They know how to negotiate instead of using force. They know how to use politics to get along, to get power. It doesn’t mean that rich people are good and poor people are bad. It simply means that rich people know a more effective method for living in this society.

“Do all rich people, or people who are in the middle, know the humanities? Not a chance. But some do. And it helps. It helps to live better and enjoy life more. Will the humanities make you rich? Yes. Absolutely. But not in terms of money. In terms of life.

“Rich people learn the humanities in private schools and expensive universities. And that’s one of the ways in which they learn the political life. I think that is the real difference between the haves and have-nots in this country. If you want real power, legitimate power, the kind that comes from the people and belongs to the people, you must understand politics. The humanities will help.

“My T-cell count is down. But that’s neither here nor there. Tell me about the course, Earl. What are you going to teach?”

“Moral philosophy.”

“And what does that include?”

She had turned the visit into an interrogation. I didn’t mind. At the end of the conversation I would be going out into “the free world”; if she wanted our meeting to be an interrogation, I was not about to argue. I said, “We’ll begin with Plato: the Apology, a little of the Crito, a few pages of the Phaedo so that they’ll know what happened to Socrates. Then we’ll read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. I also want them to read Thucydides, particularly Pericles’ Funeral Oration in order to make the connection between ethics and politics, to lead them in the direction I hope the course will take them. Then we’ll end with Antigone, but read as moral and political philosophy as well as drama.”

“There’s something missing,” she said, leaning back in her chair, taking on an air of superiority.

The drive had been long, the day was hot, the air in the room was dead and damp. “Oh, yeah,” I said, “and what’s that?”

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. How can you teach philosophy to poor people without the Allegory of the Cave? The ghetto is the cave. Education is the light. Poor people can understand that.

The question then becomes: what do we do with our new knowledge? Our post-awakened existence?!

Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. ~ Rumi

This epic, three hour interview with Chris Hedges wherein he recounts his own personal evolution, a progression towards the twin asymptotes of self-knowledge and worldly-understanding, was revelatory for me as both a path to follow and a better life to lead:

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Liberalism is Domesticated Protest.

Now here’s an elderly Situationist with some news about Utopia to temper the notion that Humanism might save us all:

 Utopianism? From now on, that’s the hell of the past.
(((There may be snow on the roof, but there’s still fire in the furnace.))) We
have always been constrained to live in a place that is everywhere but,
in that place, we are nowhere. That’s the reality of our exile. It has
been imposed on us for thousands of years by an economy founded on the
exploitation of man by man. Humanist ideology has made us believe that
we are human while we remain, for the most part, reduced to the state of
beasts whose predatory instincts are satisfied by the will to power and

Our “vale of tears” was considered the best possible
world. Could we have invented a way of living that is more
phantasmagorical and absurd than the all-powerful cruelty of the gods,
the caste of priests and princes ruling enslaved peoples, the obligation
to work that is supposed to guarantee joy and substantiate the Stalinist
paradise, the millenarianist Third Reich, the Maoist Cultural
Revolution, the society of well-being (the Welfare state[4]), the
totalitarianism of money beyond which there is neither individual nor
social safety, [and] finally the idea that survival is everything and
life is nothing? (((Take note, philosophy students: this is how one
asks a “rhetorical question.”)))

Against that utopia, which passes for reality, is
opposed the only reality that matters: what we try to live by assuring
our happiness and that of everyone else. Thenceforth, we no longer are
in a utopia, but at the heart of a mutation, a change of civilization
that takes shape under our eyes and that many people, blinded by the
dominant obscurantism, are incapable of discerning. Because the quest
for profit makes men into predatory, insensitive and stupid brutes.

Eschatological signs and portents may abide, we may succeed in lifting the veil ourselves and see things as they truly are, we may learn that the secret of the universe is All in the Eye of the Beholder…  but one thing is certain: this is not how the world ends!


The Revolution Has Begun (Love or Fear? The choice is yours.) #anon

Posted by on April 23rd, 2012

I fully endorse this message:

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UPDATE: On reflection, it seems there’s a bit of THRIVE snuck into that vid. To balance that out, watch Guy Ritchie’s excellent #blankbadge movie REVOLVER.

Shiny happy Water Towers with no hands

Posted by on September 7th, 2011

Forgive me some gallows humor, but sometimes a smile is the best weapon against despair. Texas may be in the middle of its biggest ever recorded wildfires, but that didn’t get this water tower down. Here it is, despite the futility of its existence, putting on its happy face.

You can see more stark photos of our present of environmental collapse at the Austin American-Statesman’s photo blog, but remember the example of this lone piece of infrastructure, gifted to us from the past; the power of nightmares may have ruled our lives since the 1980s, but the future can belong to those who buy into it with a currency of optimism; it’s there waiting for us, we just have to take ownership of it.

via Bruce Sterling

A 21st Century Enlightenment

Posted by on May 6th, 2011
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Tim Flannery on humanity’s future as a super organism

Posted by on May 4th, 2011

From the Guardian, where it appears Flannery is updating the Gaia hypothesis:

Tim Flannery argues that humankind is evolving into a ‘super-organism’ where interdependence has profound consequences for the individual.

Look for an expansion of this in his Long Now seminar.

Defrag mag: Meet Your Planet

Posted by on April 25th, 2011

Today’s worthy Kickstarter project:

Defrag is an iPad magazine that features creative writing, music, visual art, multimedia and music videos from around the world, introducing you to the vibrant, multifaceted cultural life of your planet. No political soundbites, no celebrity profiles and no corporate propaganda.

In the first issue you’ll discover an indie rock scene in China, fine artists from India and a Heavy metal band from Iran. You’ll read poetry from Egypt, participatory fiction from California and see what club VJ’s are doing in Sweden. You’ll also hear experimental music from the UK, psychedelic blues from NYC, and experience multimedia hip-hop from the West Bank. Not the sort of content you’re likely to find on Fox News or in People Magazine.

It’s Cyberpunk Future Present, and full of There Is No They. And Phase 3 is to move it to Android tablets & PC. I like this a lot.

One megadose of Optimism

Posted by on April 13th, 2011

In these seemingly dire times, optimism can be a revolutionary act.

Today’s mega-dose of optimism is a veritable Proton Energy Pill of zeitgeist-channeling, Future Present reflecting art. (Side note: how freaking weird is it for those of us who grew up watching Roger Ramjet to re-view from today’s perspective? Just me. Cool)

It’s the full-length film of TV on the Radio‘s Nine Types of Light; a 60min epic that features all of their film clips, each in a unique style by a different director, bound together by interviews with various New Yorkers.

You may have already seen the video for Will Do. That’s just a taste. This is the full dose, which I strongly encourage you to view in the maximum possible resolution:

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(Warning: contains occasional traces of melancholia, some swear words, occasional nudity and zombies)

Award winning campaign of revolutionary optimism: Tunisia – June 16th, 2014

Posted by on April 1st, 2011

Now this is my kind of advertising campaign, stimulating collective Futurism by the citizens of Tunisia after re-claiming their country. Sure, I’m far more in favour of the envisioning process than the brand promotion involved in this, but I’m nonetheless happy to see it being recognised with an award.

JUNE 16th 2014 – the idea that moved Tunisia wins gold at Dubai Lynx

Let’s see what the next version looks like, as this idea spreads.

Update: Futuryst has dug further into this.

JR’s street art project to turn the world inside out

Posted by on March 21st, 2011

French street artist JR presents the evolution of his art projects here in this recording of his TED Prize wish:

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There’s a serious amount of ThereIsNoThey‘ness to his work and I hope his new insideoutproject is even more successful in achieving these goals.

Bruce Sterling interviewed by Andrew Keen @ SXSW

Posted by on March 18th, 2011

Here’s a selection of short clips from TechCrunch TV’s Andrew Keen interview with The Chairman, Bruce Sterling, at this year’s SXSW.

Watch the full selection on Tech Crunch: part1 & part2.

via Technoccult & @doingitwrong.

“No es una guerra, es una misión de rescate”

Posted by on March 15th, 2011

He posted it in the comments, but I thought it deserved a post of its own; @Rabbitz has translated my recent essay “It’s not a war, it’s a rescue mission” into Spanish.

Thank you kind sir!

Here it be, on Google Doc, Scribd and Issuu:

“It’s not a war, it’s a rescue mission” Part 3

Posted by on March 9th, 2011

This is the final part of a three part essay on the state and the fate of the world. If you missed it, the first part is here and the second part is here. Events discussed within it were true at the time of writing, but may already be out of date. Things move pretty fast when you’re in the middle of a singularity.

Pull the threads, weave a new world

Still some might favour a complete and immediate overhaul of the hierarchy to forcibly collapse it into a series of networks. What must be repeated is that great danger lies in this; the huge risk of losing the valuable knowledge stored within that hierarchy and its members.

If instead we can identify the threads that define the problems, we can tease them out; at the same time looking for the places to bridge the hierarchy and the network. If we can argue intelligibly for the change then we can preserve all that knowledge and make best use of it to create a new, hybrid system.

As an example, an effective legal system is incredibly difficult to create from scratch; it’s foolish to ignore the merits of the system in place. But equally important is to clearly identify the problems and work to construct and implement reforms and new strategies to solve them. The burdens placed on the justice system prosecuting victim-less crimes can be presented as an economic benefit.

An extremely important task is the discovery and removal of wider problems that cross multiple boundaries. The privatization of prisons is one case; it creates an incentive to prosecute and incarcerate purely to create a cheap labour force, rather than protect society and ideally reform offenders too. This is a perversion of the goals of the legal system into something based on economic terms.

This reinforces that while some systems require minor reform to be made compatible with current realities, others require a deeper examination, in light of the principles and spirit with which they were created. The foundations of these institutions must be reestablished and any perversions or corruptions of its original intent corrected.

In Public Health the emphasis must be on just that, the best possible health of the public. Some of the current obstacles to that appear to be the high price of medication and the failure to treat patients to full extent provided by current technology and practices. The public shouldn’t suffer only to have corporations thrive. This is a great wrong that must be redressed, most especially in regions ravaged by HIV and other now manageable conditions and diseases.

The Educational System, so clearly based on the factory model, shaped by the Industrial Age, must be updated for a Networked Society. Because it is that which our newest citizens will always live in. Key areas of interest here appear to be the inclusion of gamification and definitely involve taking full advantage of the resources and communication abilities of the internet.

The nature and culture of work must be critically examined. The worst case we face will be people moving from crisis to crisis. The best case would be people engaged in preventative measures, shoring up systems to be more robust and resilient, preemptively integrating them with the network.

Most optimistically this would involve a reexamination of the working lifecycle, moving from a linear progression of education → career → retirement, to nested cycles of repeated re-education, enabling multiple careers, and ideally, mini-retirements too (or extended vacations if you like.) Crucial to this is the abandonment of the notion of ‘jobs for life’, already a vanishing idea; replacing the ideal of incumbency in a cultural shift to venerate true redundancy as an achievement.

There are many existing jobs whose ultimate victory condition should be that they’re no longer required. That people have worked to instead create near-self-sustaining systems that require minimum maintenance; exactly how they can be done requires serious reexamination and reform of our economic systems but, from automated manufacturing, to repairing natural systems. A much less dreary existence would be possible for all humanity, instead of grinding through life waiting for death/retirement. Coupled with the implications of greater public health, and thus increased longevity, such a reexamination becomes all the more necessary.

These ideas are just the beginnings of an attempt to sketch what this better world might be. The sooner we act, the sooner we will discover what it might truly be. The sooner also that we shall reap the rewards, and ultimately, the less effort will be required, because the damage caused by prolonging these dangerous extant systems will be mitigated.

And what better test bed for this than in the newly freed states of the Middle East, North Africa, with Central Asia almost certain to join them.

The Rise of MENACA

What I’m hoping we’ll see in the months and years ahead is a political “leapfrog” in the MENACA region. Where in Africa and Eastern Europe we have seen economic and technological leapfrogging; the feat of being able to skip the intermediate steps of development by being fortunate enough to not be burdened with difficult to maintain infrastructure, simply by having nearly none of it to begin with. It seems reasonable to posit that a similar situation could exist politically here. The ‘benefit’ of 20 to 40 years of rule by dictatorship being that there is no aging democratic infrastructure to upgrade.

Faced with such a blank slate, and being knowledgeable of the faults within current examples of liberal democracies, they have a unique opportunity to figure out what comes next. A Post-Democracy for the 21st Century, to match the Post-Industrial Age, could be rapidly prototyped between these states, as they each test variations on new methods of governance and have a forum to compare results. Also affording the opportunity to directly integrate the peer-to-peer communication technologies that have helped grant them their freedom into their political system. A true network state. A true network of states, perhaps, too.

A lasting alliance between all the states in this region, newly free (perhaps even working together to free their neighbours, if the bloodshed seen in Libya is repeated elsewhere), sharing the same problems, resources and youthful population is reasonable to presume. Owing no loyalty or obligation to outside powers for their freedom. Feeling no compulsion to honour the debts of the old regimes (after all, it wasn’t done in their name.) Not bound to copyright systems exported from America. Following the great tradition of young nations being pirate nations (just as the USA did for the first century of its existence.) Embracing and encouraging the production of generic medication, distribution of 3D printer technologies, building of vertical gardens, wide scale implementation of ubiquitous computing and just about every other ambitious technology we have covered here.

It doesn’t hurt that the very thing that has kept these dictators in place, the vast oil wealth of the region, can give them not just independence, but fund the development of a society independent of it too.

United in change together, able to implement true Free Trade within its borders; one currency, one trading bloc and unrestricted travel within it (a welcome relief after years of internal road blocks.)

Lots of money, a largely young, eager and highly educated population, a blank political slate and on top of all that, positioned perfectly to trade with the rising BRICS nations, given they border all but Brazil. Transportation issues? China is building a railroad from Beijing to London, just plug into that.

Such a place would be a welcome haven for the soon-to-be-broke Boomers, who’d just love to settle in a warm place by the sea with low-cost meds to keep The Grim Reaper at bay. Attracting not just the Gray Nomads, but the young (and young at heart), bright and adventurous folks of the world, understanding that if the resistance is too strong at home, this is the place where they can help build the future and live a greater life.

This might logically start a second, deeper wave of change through the remaining purely hierarchical states. Just as America’s young democracy begat revolutions world-wide, so too this shining example of Post-Democracy will only further to make the extant systems in the West look obsolete, in urgent need of upgrading.

The unheralded, unpredicted rise of the Networked States of MENACA. It could happen, and if and when it does, it is unlikely to be the biggest surprise of this century.

Achievement Unlocked: LEVEL UP!

The chief point I seek to convey is that after years of grinding away, hoping, dreaming of a brighter future, we stand closer than we ever have before to truly leveling up our society. That this isn’t a war to be fought for the future, it’s a rescue mission; we can work together to save ourselves from ourselves. That we can escape the collapse of the hierarchy and a new Dark Age (The Grim Meat Hook Future Present) by building a bridge to the network and rise up to unforeseen heights in a new dawn for humanity, a true Golden Age.

That we recognise that the politics of the Other is a lesson best left in our history books; we can join together as one great humanity. Not as a New World Order, but as a global civilisation respectful and tolerant of all.

The challenges we face ahead are vast and largely inherited from the past (most especially climate change), but humanity can do anything. We have shown we can mount vast and horrible wars; let us now begin the greatest rescue mission ever undertaken. Our greatest resource is not oil or gold, it is human intelligence, ingenuity and action. With this nearly anything we imagine can be accomplished.

To those that resist and say “why? isn’t this good enough?!”, I say, take a good look around. Is it? Can you not imagine any way in which it could be better? Have you tried? Take a moment and think. Because that’s what the people of Egypt and Tunisia and all the other states gave themselves permission to do. So why shouldn’t you?

Once we’re made aware of their existence, we can change the rules of the consensual hallucination any time we like. We can engineer change. Once we all agree to do so, we can acknowledge that, as at the end of The Prisoner, our only enemy is ourselves. That, as The Invisibles concludes, we just have to understand that “our sentence is up!” It is only we that stand in our way; don’t let the promise of a brighter future be stolen from you. Together, we can make this the best of all possible worlds. Who’s with me?

-The end-

* Note: Images that aren’t credited with hyperlinks to their source are unknown, but will be happily credited to, if and when, they become known. (ie I found this stuff on the interwubz.)

As always, any offers to translate of our work into other languages is greatly appreciated.

The complete text of this essay is available on scribd, issuu and gdoc.

“It’s not a war, it’s a rescue mission” Part 2

Posted by on March 8th, 2011

This is the second part of a three part essay on the state and the fate of the world. If you missed it, the first part is here. Events discussed within it were true at the time of writing, but may already be out of date. Things move pretty fast when you’re in the middle of a singularity.

The World’s Most Powerful Man vs a Hivemind

Before we move on to attempting to integrate the network and the hierarchy, let us more closely examination how they function independently. Let us examine the actions, during these events, of two very different super individuals: President of the United States of America, Barack Obama (elected with a platform promising Change!) and Anonymous, the hivemind of unknown people, a flag which anyone and everyone may fly, a mask that all might hide behind, united by a shared philosophy.

As the events unfolded in Egypt, as its people fought and begged to join the Free World, its self-appointed Leader, Pres. Obama, spoke loudly and clearly with a silence that was heard around the world. Because it was not just Mubarak that had a confused look on his face; for US Foreign Policy Mubarak was a key ally in the region, making them completely paralyzed by these events. All their carefully thought-out policies, the result of highly intelligent think-tanks and advisors had nothing to help them deal with this eventuality. It was, to them too, a Black Swan. An event they were unable to deal with, that resulted in incredible scenes such as Pres. Obama being interviewed on FoxNews referring to Mubarak, a dictator, as “a good partner”.

That was how this man at the top of the USA’s hierarchy viewed the man at the top of Egypt’s. Lacking any sufficiently prepared statements, all Pres. Obama had to fall back on was the raw truth.

The truth of liberal democracies is that their existence has been dependent on the deprivation of citizens elsewhere in the world. That it has celebrated freedom at home while effectively supporting repression abroad. This is an inconvenient truth that has been carefully kept out of the mainstream ‘conversation’, which, when questioned at all has been deflected with the tired argument of all being for “The Greater Good.” The implicit statement being that some people’s freedom is worth more than others.

This is the native logic of the hierarchy, where everybody has a rank, but is absolutely abhorrent to the network, where all are peers. These hidden truths are what are kept out of mind, as part of the consensual hallucination that has been maintained in order to affect the status quo. The native logic of the network is not just equality, but also innately demands transparency, because when all are equal, nothing should be hidden.

What these events reveal about hierarchies continues the efforts of Wikileaks to show things as they really are. To explain this further, I shall quote Kevin here on this, from our correspondence on the matter:

Wikileaks’ goal is to not only reveal the nature of the beast, but to directly link the beast’s nature with the efficiency with which the beast can operate in an attempt to change its nature. A governmental organization that is threatened by the nature of transparency, due to its actions, will be a slow and lumbering beast compared to one that can embrace transparency. These things are of course tied to how badly each organization exploits others and how much shady dealings they have. If your diplomatic apparatus only functions at a basic level due to lack of oversight, human rights violations and espionage then, a world where transparency can be forced upon you is a world which you can’t operate efficiently. If a transparent environment can be maintained, then in theory, any government/organization that wants to survive will have to change how it operates.

Nightmares can’t abide the light of day.

Compared to Egypt though, Libya is a different story; Gaddafi has always fit into the West’s narrative of ‘bad guys’; not that hasn’t stopped them propping up their local industrial base by selling arms to him either.

These clips from Quantum of Solace sum up the situation nicely (and are why I hold this film too in high regard):

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Career and trade over values and ethics; all for the Greater Good.

Meanwhile, the legions of Anonymous have been far more proactive, first in helping the citizens of Tunisia be aware of and counter government monitoring of their internet communications, and later in helping distribute care packages to Egypt to defend themselves against repression.

Wikileaks and Anonymous are native entities of the Internet, of the network; both with noble goals to improve the gross human condition. To shine a light on the truth and help their fellow man. Yet, both are opposed and condemned by the existing order. But imagine if they could be integrated, or at the very least not be opposed and condemned, but celebrated. Wide reform it would require, but truly this would be for an honest, greater good.

This reveals just some of the fault lines in the hierarchy that is failing in varying degrees worldwide. The Global Financial Crisis wasn’t an accident, it is the direct result of a broken system. A system that both failed to regulate itself and be effectively regulated by Governments, the best defense against which is greater transparency.

Yet in seemingly every country more energy seems to be spent ignoring or deflecting or overtly distracting attention away from these problems, rather than making a concerted effort to fix them through reforms. Where they do exert energy is to prop up these broken systems; focusing valuable time and energy on trying to control the internet, for example, to placate and protect the vested interests of media companies.

These hierarchical systems will continue to fail in new, unusual and unforeseen ways. Just as the dictators deposed in Tunisia and Egypt had no idea what was coming. The apparatus of Western Democracy appears broken, but the politicians act as though they are completely unaware of it. The Most Powerful Man in the World, as the US President has so often been referred to, unable or unwilling, because of the nature of his own hierarchy, to affect change and support it elsewhere, even though it sits at the core of his own narrative.

Expecting its citizens to sit idly by while the politicians patch the system by adding new policies on top of broken ones, or bickering in the same old ways, is unsustainable and perhaps ultimately, criminal. Unless they address the core concerns and make a concerted effort to fix the faults in the system further collapse is imminent. It becomes the onus of the residents of the network, who add knowledge by seeing things from a radically different vantage point, to help them.

So we return to the question: how can we explain this to them? How can we help them, and in doing so, rescue ourselves from a grim future? Without change it sees a certainty that we will have to endure an ever more disastrous systemic failures: be it another collapse of the financial system, loss of food security or death and destruction from inadequately preparing for the effects of changing climate.

We need to persuade them to proactively face the future, to actively reform everything as fast as we can to create robust and resilient systems that cope with change and prevent crisis. That have built in to them a system of fairness, justice, equality and transparency. That the choice is reform or face full collapse. That it’s them, the Ruling Class, that have the most to loose; they can gracefully transition to a new age integrating hierarchy and network, or be forced aside and left out completely; remembered only as being part of the problem.

There is no They

The biggest card the hierarchy has always played to defend itself has been the demonization of an opposing hierarchy; in fact it’s a vital part of its continued existence. This is what drove the Cold War, the Crusades, and, well, every war really. It’s what a war is: us vs them. Even in its latest form, asymmetric warfare, this remains true.

The great truth of the network is that we are all connected, so there fundamentally can be no Other. Contained within this then is the possibility of a future without war.

Perhaps then it is a sign of its obsolescence that we see governments and political groups still employing the politics of the Other. The UK could appear to have taken V For Vendetta as an instruction manual. Or not, because this perception is being managed through a particular segment of the mainstream media, amplifying a vocal minority, rather than being genuinely and provably representative of the people’s opinion.

Equally, the much publicised rise of the Tea Baggers in the US makes great use of hating the other; appearing to be racist, homophobic and anti-science.

Clearly this is not the way create a brighter future for ourselves and our children; demeaning others, after all, only demeans ourself.

To be concluded…

* Note: Images that aren’t credited with hyperlinks to their source are unknown, but will be happily credited to, if and when, they become known. (ie I found this stuff on the interwubz.)

“It’s not a war, it’s a rescue mission” Part 1

Posted by on March 7th, 2011

This is the first in a three part essay on the state and the fate of the world, to be continued over the next two days. Events discussed within it were true at the time of writing, but may already be out of date. Things move pretty fast when you’re in the middle of a singularity.

The Eternal Battle Between Chaos and Control

Culture is Your Operating System

Cat Vincent wrote this piece a while ago, The Tribe of the Strange, and it perfectly describes how I’ve always self-identified. These past few months I’ve spent a lot of time examining and reexamining the Toolkits left by past members; those grand attempts made by individuals to express their philosophy, most often in a work of fiction, and documentaries on, or thinly disguised fictional re-tellings of, revolutions, attempts at revolution and so on. Trying to understand competing versions of how the world might be; how those attempts to affect this have succeeded and failed in the past.

The work that resonates the strongest with me is still Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, the key message from which I’ve titled this piece. Other philosophical fictional works I’ve studied include UK TV show The Prisoner, Alan Moore’s V For Vendetta comic, the films If…., The Battle of Algiers, Costa Gavras’s Z, The Baader Meinhof Complex and The Weather Underground documentary, combining all that with the more philosophical parts of Sons of Anarchy and Cayce Pollard‘s journey in William Gibson’s latest trilogy.

Trying to absorb it all, have it feed upon each other and basically see what happened. To know why and how people have rebelled, and against what; why they conform, how they cooperate, how they’re repressed and how they’re controlled. An attempt to gain through other’s attempts at understanding and representing the world, how it has functioned.

Now, I’ve had rather random interests over the years; when I was living in London in the late 90s and travelling around Europe it was political theories that held my interest. Having closely observed western capitalism for many years, I countered this by reading Marx, Lenin, Proudhon and Kropotkin. I left that period having decided that Anarchist theories held the answers to how the world could be a better place, but understanding that no magical, overnight transition or revolution could make that immediately possible. For that reason I have since referred to myself as a Utopian Anarchist and frequently wonder how it might be possible to instigate a guided evolution that might bring about that condition.

It is through all this as a lens that I have viewed recent events and believe that this moment is now at hand.

I firmly believe that at each fundamental shift in human society’s evolution, that combination of technological and social change, as we’ve seen in the past, with the beginnings of agriculture, the formation of cities, the industrial revolution and now entering the post-industrial age, that we have a unique opportunity to correct old wrongs. That true equality might exist and a genuine Golden of Age of Humanity could begin. That together we could fulfill our mission as Gaia’s agents and take life with us out into the stars. There’s no reason we shouldn’t, other than in each period so far we have failed to get our shit together.

I firmly believe that this possibility has never been so near, so close to our grasp. That thanks to the Internet more and more people are so closely connected and we understand that, in the words of David Forbes that I have often repeated here, “There Is No They.” As Anonymous said in their Open Letter to the World, ‘We have begun telling each other our own stories’; it’s for this reason that @Glinner has called Twitter “The Conversation.”

The need to bridge hierarchies and networks

Ben Hammersley has this year made an important point, that, for want of a better word, the Ruling Class fundamentally can not grasp this new reality. Where we see networks, they still see and think in hierarchies; competing hierarchies. That it is the mission of that generation that has grown up experiencing this change to explain this new world to the older residents that have largely known only the world of the 20th Century and are basing all their decisions based on experience gained within it. We must ease this transition, because they populate the existing orders of control; our governments, our institutions, our corporations and our families. They are an impediment to this change, but they can be made to understand if we can just manage the task of explaining it to them in their own terms.

Surely this cannot be an impossible task. It is too important not to be fixable, for it’s the best way to avoid the very bloodshed we’re witnessing in Libya, Bahrain and elsewhere, as this change sweeps the world. And it will sweep the world, because the world is connected in one big network now.

As Hammersley said, speaking of Col. Gaddafi, “the pain isn’t from the change, the pain is from the struggling against the change.” In the midst of Egypt’s revolution, Hammersley spoke of the ‘confused look’ on Mubarak’s face. Why was he so puzzled? Because Mubarak did everything straight from the textbook on quelling dissent; use agent provocateurs and false flag attacks, control the media, cut off access to the Internet. None of it worked, because the very textbook he was reading from was out of date; it was written to deal with competing hierarchies and useless when confronted with networks.

The question then becomes: how do we update the textbooks that those controlling the world are reading from?

The existing order is not only entrenched, it’s still, despite recent events, very sure of itself. After all, to their mind, it has gotten them this far, hasn’t it?!

The current conflicts are occurring in regions where the disparity between what is and what could be is greatest: high unemployment, food shortages, lack of political representation, erosion of rights, sadly the list only continues to grow. But in the land of the network, there is no geography. We see struggles around the world supporting each; rumors of Walk Like An Egyptian posters in the UK Uncut protests:

Walk Like An Egyptian

Placards in Cairo’s Tarhir Square supporting the striking workers in Wisconsin, Egyptians buying them pizzas even.They draw strength from each other; Wisconsin protesters reportedly have this picture above their beds to boost their morale.

Photo From Egypt: "Egypt Supports Wisconsin Workers." on Twitpic

To better understand this, in the spirit of Atemporality, I have resurrected the Domino Theory; so popular during the Cold War, when the world was divided between two competing idealogical and economic blocs. Since the fall of Communism in 1989 the entire planet has intertwined into a network of states with varying ideologies and economies, all linked together in complex ways. Rather than visualising this change as countries falling one by neighbouring one, a map of the world slowly turning Red (like an infection), this video helps demonstrate our more complex contemporary condition:


The dominoes represent states sharing similar conditions, as each fall they have an impact on the overall system that can inspire change in any other state. So far they are teetering in states such as Bahrain, Algiers, Cameroon, Azerbaijan and now Syria, whilst the regimes in others, such as Jordan, are attempting to head this off by instituting what they hope are sufficient changes and reforms to avert being toppled. Remarkably, even China is looking rocky.

Also, in the case of Iraq it’s worth emphasizing that had the US and its allies not intervened, we would almost certainly be witnessing regime change there too. That the country might have been spared a bloody war.

The point here is: we are witnessing acts of self-determination. The people are asserting their will, rather than relying on an outside power invading to ‘liberate’ them, make them a client state or the subject of a proxy war. No one is saving them, they are rescuing themselves.

To be continued…

* Note: Images that aren’t credited with hyperlinks to their source are unknown, but will be happily credited to, if and when, they become known. (ie I found this stuff on the interwubz.)

Michael Moore says America is NOT Broke

Posted by on March 6th, 2011

While I put the finishing touches to my own, more general piece on this matter, here’s Michael Moore speaking in Wisconsin:

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via Dangerous Minds

Two doses of optimism

Posted by on January 12th, 2011

In these seemingly dire times, optimism can be a revolutionary act.

Here’s two quick doses:

  • Dose 1: Charles Stross’s Reasons to be Cheerful:

    There’s been enormous progress in genomics; we’re now on the threshold of truly understanding how little we understand. While the anticipated firehose of genome-based treatments hasn’t materialized, we now know why it hasn’t materialized, and it’s possible to start filling in the gaps in the map. Turns out that sequencing the human genome was merely the start. (It’s not a blueprint; it’s not even an algorithm for generating a human being. Rather, it’s like a snapshot of the static data structures embedded in an executing process. Debug that.) My bet is that we’re going to have to wait another decade. Then things are going to start to get very strange in medicine.

  • Dose 2: a fan-made promo clip for NASA:

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