An introduction to the Frankfurt School (Philosophize This!)

Don’t expect any mention of Erich Fromm in this podcast though, unfortunately. Fromm being the Frankfurt School author I’m most familiar with. But it’s still an interesting podcast to listen to, especially recommended for those who have a knee-jerk reaction against anything relating to the Frankfurt School.

Part 1, “Introduction”:

Part 2, “The Enlightenment”:

Part 3, “The Culture Industry”:

Part 4, “Eros”:

Part 5, “Civilization”:

Part 6, “Art As A Tool For Liberation”:

What is referred to therein as “monopoly capitalism” sounds to be the same as what I generally refer to as Corporatism and/or oligopolistic capitalism. The difference being that the market situation has grown and expanded through the domination of sectors by key major (and increasingly global/multinational) corporations that wind up working in tandem to shut out competition from smaller businesses and upstarts (whether via political lobbying efforts or through technological strangleholds, etc.). To me, calling it monopolistic at this point oversimplifies the reality we’re confronting, though I can understand why Marcuse would use that language in the 1970s.

Part 7, “The Great Refusal”:

Pausing at 4:55 in that last clip…yes, and it’s precisely that concern which drives my own interest in the arguments and ideas put forth by people like Dr. Jordan Peterson. Though Peterson is well-known for criticizing neo-Marxists and those he refers to as “postmodernists,” he’s still absolutely right about how one needs to “clean your own room” before attempting to engage too far in the process of attempting to overhaul society. Why? Because “cleaning one’s own room” is about more than just literally doing domestic chores — it’s about developing our own individual selves, grappling with our own limitations and shortcomings, and taking more time to study history broadly so that we can have a better handle on what all has come before and why we humans find ourselves where we’re collectively at now. These are complex matters, not simply bumbling errors brought about by idiot, racist/sexist/”traditionalist” predecessors who gave too little thought to life and living or who were all so blinded by their own destructive agendas that they gave no shits for the fate of future generations. That’s too close-minded and uncharitable of an interpretation of the unfolding of history and the motives of people in the past and the institutions they designed over time. We have to step back and really take time to think deeply about what we’re confronting here today and how it came into being incrementally over the course of the rise of civilizations. Not any easy task. Requires a great deal of personal reckoning as well, due to our own individual biases and wishful thinking and brainwashed programming delivered via mainstream sources, educators (even those who were well-intentioned in their own right), and the wider culture and the narratives it depends on in order to survive.

The further I’ve gone down this rabbit hole over the years, the deeper I recognize the rabbit hole to be. There are no simply answers here. Not even that many clear-cut enemies necessarily. Just a bunch of us humans trying to make sense of reality and to play the games according the rules we understand (or rebel against them if that’s our bag). Domination and power certainly do factor in to the lived human experience, but so does SO MUCH else. It’s not so simple of a matter as destroying hierarchies and we’ll all eventually be free to live in peaceful equality with one another. No, that’s just begging for the creation of a power vacuum which will be filled by the ambitions of other groups of people operating under their own ideologies that will very likely prove even less effective than what’s currently in place. It’s a precarious situation at present, compounded by so much idealism in the hearts of protesters who like to imagine themselves as having the magical, never-before-tried answers to what plagues humanity. And many of them are blind to the lessons of history as well, largely due to ideological obsessiveness and the narrowing of focus that commonly entails. They will not prove to be saviors either, I’m willing to bet.

That doesn’t mean we have to throw our hands in the air and accept the current status quo as the only game worth playing because all else (like communism) likely will prove even more fatal. But it does ask of us to be careful and cautious in moving forward, to pay closer attention and to not be so arrogant as to assume we ourselves and those we politically/socially identify with have discovered ultimate answers to these complex problems and issues. Humility is absolutely essential here, lest history just keep on repeating (or rhyming, rather) in a downward spiraling fashion (thanks, in part, to new and powerful technologies coupled with greater centralization than the world has ever known before). Power available today is like that of no other time in history — be heedful of that fact.

Many of us want to see change be brought about, for human societies to become healthier and less dominated by economic interests solely. Plenty of us grasp the alienating features of modern life and what that can and does do to us psychologically and socially, and how that then spills out to impact all other aspects of society. But the way to bringing about change indeed isn’t going to come through simply protesting in the streets or certain interest groups vying to dominate within academe and the corporate and political world. That’s just a recipe for more disaster, so far as I can tell. I lost all faith in that approach. It’s become more a question of individual development and social evolution, of working with what is within our direct control and making decisions that allow us as individuals (and the communities we choose to devise or partake in) to live more in alignment with the values we claim to hold dear. Not trying to force the hands of others, since that won’t work. Better to find ways around the perceived obstructions and to test our own mettle than to attempt to overthrow society as a whole, especially when no better game plan is yet afforded to all of us on a society-wide scale.

People don’t wish to hear this, because it sounds harder. Much easier to instead try to push for change in the streets or by screaming at people in lecture halls and pulling down audio equipment so as to disrupt speakers we dislike. Much easier to behave destructively, rebelliously, than to take the time to comprehend our own inner tyrants and the consequences that produces in a reverberating fashion across society and on up through history. Much easier to blame the “other,” somebody else, than to recognize our own part played in this due to the human nature we share. Doesn’t matter that we were just born into this and didn’t ask for this. Nobody originally ever asks for anything, and all were born into it. That’s no excuse for refusing to do the heavy lifting required in this life. Turns out that giving in to such destructive tendencies and acting like rebels without a clue winds up doing more harm than good oftentimes, especially to our own selves, though it’s usually years on down the road before we can recognize it for what it is.

There are no easy answers here, and there likely never will be. It’s just us and our strivings and our need to learn to communicate more effectively with one another about our conflicting points of view. And that’s okay. This is what we have to work with. There was never a rose garden back before, no ideal worth returning to necessarily. Just the movement and expansion of Life in all its complexity on up through time. Never perfect, at least not in the rational sense that we humans like to dream about, nor will it ever be. But we co-constructors of this reality, particularly in terms of our own actions and choices herein. So we start there, inside oneself, that being where we have the most control and are capable of reaping the greatest benefit in our lifetimes.

Simple, yet not easy. C’est la vie…

“Jordan Peterson: Why Globalism Fails and Nationalism is Relatable”


Precisely! This is exactly along the lines of what I’ve been pondering in my own unsophisticated way.

“Psychology of Redemption in Christianity”

A lot of truth spoken there…

Dr. Peterson on Existentialism via Solzhenitsyn and the Gulag (2017 Personality course lecture)

That interesting lecture was brought to us by Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, esteemed professor at the University of Toronto. Some of the material he provided there from various authors, particularly that of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, I am familiar with from listening to past lectures by Dr. Peterson; plus, plenty of us internet devotees were already aware of the “Hugh Mongous” fiasco whereby Zarna Joshi made an ass of herself (and the most-modern Feminist movement she belongs to) while trying to demean a man out in public because she felt so entitled to do so. So, having viewed all of that, I personally found the most interesting portion of this lecture to begin shortly after the 1:15:45 mark where Dr. Peterson goes into the biblical story of the flood and then the Tower of Babel, followed by his thoughts on nihilism/existentialism and individual responsibility.

The latter is a topic many of us revisit time and time again as we struggle to get our lives under better control. He’s absolutely correct that a sizeable portion of the suffering we experience in this life is due to our own choices and stubbornly not following our consciences. We know this, and yet we often don’t live as if we know this. “To know and not to do is not to know” — to repeat a quote that dates back across the centuries.

He’s right that each of our lives have a ripple effect on our communities and that one’s own pathology impacts the pathological nature of wider society. It can be no other way since society is composed of individual persons — it’s an aggregate of all of us. That’s all it is and all it ever was. Though it’s very easy for us to try to hide within it, to attempt to blend in so as not to be noticed too distinctly, to shirk responsibility because we’d rather avoid the headaches that go along with that. And somewhere in that equation is where the so-called root of all evil likely resides, at least in its primordial form.

I think we know this deep down, though we like to dismiss it as somehow less relevant than continuing to go along to get along. “Don’t make waves,” some like to say. “The raised nail gets hammered down” — another proverb used to admonish us to not draw attention to ourselves by stepping out of line from the rest. And so the herd mentality gets reinforced…

The biggest problem we humans face is our own humanity and the reckoning it requires of us at this point in our psychological, spiritual, and sociopolitical development. It’s an internal struggle with external consequences, as we can clearly see.

So often we look to others to change so that we might be made happy. But that’s not how it works. Never has and never will.

That was an excellent talk by Dr. Peterson. Glad that I awoke tonight and stumbled back across his channel once again.

“2015 Personality Lecture 12: Existentialism: Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard”

A very interesting lecture from Dr. Jordan Peterson:

Tangled paradoxes

In each corridor I go in search of answers another paradox shows itself. Was just chatting last night with a buddy and this topic arose, since I can’t shut up about it. I’m always left frustrated by how all seemingly good ideas still wind us humans up in what appear to be unwinnable conundrums.

If we fight some other power to keep it from overtaking us (as in the cases of countries waging war), we risk our own society becoming damaged in the process. In the case of warfare: through maintaining standing armies and the risks (and empire-building) that go along with that; through attacking foreign nationals who very often are mere civilians not belonging to the extremist groups said to be presenting a direct threat to us (which then diminishes people’s respect for our nation’s military actions and gives rise to protests among our own citizens); through the exorbitant costs associated with waging war and how that impacts our economy overall, including how the military wound up transformed into a permanent employment sector in its own right; through soldiers potentially winding up psychologically or physically impacted as a result (and how that then impacts their families and the morale of the nation); through corporations finding ways to cash in on the war games via State contracts, which then provides them with an incentive to further lobby to keep us engaged in war where it can prove profitable; etc.

That’s just a cursory look at how ongoing warfare has led to negative consequences with lasting impact on a nation and its people and their way of life. And that’s not even going into how militarization has seeped into domestic police forces and influenced their tactics used.

See, the problem here for me is that I cannot figure out how we’re not ultimately going to wind up in a totalitarian setup eventually, somehow, some way. All roads appear to lead in that direction, regardless of people’s good intentions or what great ideas they might originally be operating with. Because technologies have changed the way the whole game of Life is played anymore, as have modern economics. The complexity is inescapable at this point, and yet history has taught us that the devil is in the details. What this might mean here is that the means employed determine the end outcome, unrealistic utopian fantasies set aside since they hold no real bearing. And it also means that any highly complex setup is vulnerable to corruption and ‘siphoning’ at various levels therein (as in the case of corporations getting into the mix and seeking ways to profit, even though through doing so they add greater complexity, which then further obscures the total reality of the situation, making it all the more cumbersome to apply necessary and effective checks and balances). Economic efficiency becomes a high priority, which comes with its own drawbacks in terms of how we humans are expected to mold ourselves to fit these demands. Before we know it, maintaining the system in question at all costs becomes a primary focus, because we’ve come to depend upon it and are accustomed to it and basically form an irrational attachment to it, even when it’s demonstrably creating more problems than it’s capable of solving.

The dog days are over…

If we minimized the size, scope and roles of our government, we’d potentially leave ourselves open and vulnerable to other nations that fortify and strengthen their own. And if we further strengthen and enlarge our own, this cycle of ramping up never ends — forward to totalitarianism. Can’t truly opt out or escape since the problem’s gone global and shows no signs of slowing anytime soon. This places us in the precarious situation of forcing all other nations to stand down against our demands, lest we wind up being made to stand down to theirs. MAD (mutually-assured destruction) is still with us — it never left and it likely never will.

If we don’t secure our borders, we risk being invaded, if only by an onslaught of immigrants who then wind up dramatically impacting our culture. But if we close our borders, we’re trapping ourselves inside every bit as much as we’re working to keep others out. And, realistically speaking, how does one truly and sufficiently go about securing a nation’s borders? The most determined will likely still find a way, especially along coastlines. This leads back to a massive top-down operation which is only possible under a powerful government. Which then, again, helps pave the way toward totalitarianism.

Another buddy and I were discussing the other day his concerns over climate change and what possible options people have at this point for reversing this trend (if one accepts climate change as a human-exacerbated phenomenon). He speaks of wind and solar power and people growing their own food and living simply. That all sounds well and good, BUT, again, climate change is only one concern among many that humans face today. We can’t put all of our energy toward addressing that, not when that’d leave us wide open in other areas. (See what I said above already about warfare and immigration.) Not to mention that the vast majority of people, here in the U.S. and elsewhere worldwide, don’t view this issue as being the numero uno concern to tackle. Plus, plenty of people are open to nuclear power because they’d rather that than accept drastic changes to their lifestyles and be forced to make sacrifices. Beyond that, these massive wind turbines and complex solar panels are sophisticated technologies requiring corporate manufacturing. Keeps us tied into the money game, which then keeps us supporting this global economic situation, whether we want to or not and likely to humanity’s detriment in the long-run. But it’s inescapable at this juncture.

In continuing our conversation on the matter, I told this buddy that if it came down to jumping on board with a top-down scheme that claims to be capable of handling administering such an undertaking as retooling our energy infrastructure, I’ll personally have to side with not. Not that I don’t care about the environment and not that I don’t think renewable energy is something worth striving toward (or getting back to), but the top-down scheme is yet another avenue toward totalitarianism. It helps pave that road to hell, all good intentions aside. This depresses him to think about, understandably so. But consider how China behaves as if its manufacturing base doesn’t care and how our nation cannot do much to change that. Even if we boycott their products, at this point they’re too powerful and it’s already too late (Thanks WALMART and other big-box stores). Probably shouldn’t have shipped so much of our manufacturing infrastructure to that country in the first place. But what’s done is done — our lack of foresight has screwed us once again.

This all ties in with conversations on how “Leftists” talk the talk when it comes to “green living,” but in reality they’re as tied in and dependent on the current status quo as the rest of us. Driving a Prius doesn’t really change a thing. Small drops in the bucket might make us feel better, like we’re at least doing our part to try to improve environmental conditions, but very often it’s just another illusion. Why? Because we live in a massive infrastructure, a concrete jungle, powered by heavy dependence on oil and coal, and even if we switched over to nuclear power that wouldn’t imply our biggest worries are behind us. Possibly Chernobyl-izing more arable land sounds every bit as folly as anything else humanity has managed to step in thus far.

Sound pessimistic? Yeah, I know. Yet another reason for why I’m not having kids.

Any and all attempts to reverse these trends or to take an alternative path is fraught with equally bad, if not much worse, consequences. We have a massive global population and must contend with the competition that arises over resources as a result. And the complexity of the technologies we in developed nations rely most on are fueled by the big money game. One way or another, major corporations are here to stay (unless we manage to across-the-board knock ourselves back into the Stone Age somehow). Government can either attempt to regulate them or become enmeshed and intertwined with them, the latter already being the case. So big government’s here and big business is here and neither are going anywhere. Any ideas we come up with to try to overhaul life as we know it will depend on these entities aiding us. Because asking them to stand aside and not obstruct us just isn’t realistic anymore. All possible solutions will be handled by some sort of centralized power, top-down system. These entities indeed intend to maintain the power they have already and to expand it where possible. That is their driving goal, for better or worse.

And this is where someone like me can’t sufficiently adapt. Have to so long as I’m here, but really resenting where it all appears to be heading. What other alternatives are feasible? Split this country into several sovereign communities (as it once was intended to be) where each does as it wishes and no centralized power can dictate, and we’ll probably wind up invaded by both Mexico and Canada by next week. Simply because then they could. We’d be rendered defenseless. So the “traditional” dream is dead, folks. I too like the idea of people living on the land and staying out of the muck so long as they’re able. Best of luck to them! I don’t begrudge people for doing what they think is best during what time remains that they can get away with it. But I see limits on the horizon. Eventually the old ways won’t be allowed to fly any longer, and they won’t prove sustainable or practical for most. Not in this setup.

Welcome to modern life.

I don’t know what to say to us right about now. Feels like nearly all advice is pointless. People are going to do what people are going to do. And I suspect some of those unable or unwilling to adjust will turn destructive as a result. That’s to be expected from obstructed people whose lives feel devoid of meaning, made to compete with machines that grow more sophisticated by the year, made to play a game that not everybody can win at (or even nominally succeed at). Such is modern life. Some will give up before even leaving the starting line. And I won’t be surprised if a growing number of people choose not to have children as well…kind of like caged animals in a zoo reacting to being kept in captivity. Won’t surprise me a bit. And there’s where we get into another arm of what will pave the way toward totalitarianism. The trend is already being labeled as “domestic terrorism,” though I prefer to simplify it by calling it what it is at root: insanity.

Insanity, as I prefer to refer to it as, can (and will) take many forms. People today sure do love to diagnose one another with various psychiatric labels, but in truth we’re all struggling to various degrees, pseudo-scientific explanations aside. Some cope better than others, but it’s mostly a matter of putting on an acceptable facade. We really have no idea what goes on behind the masks others show to the world, much as we love to speculate. Some insanity plays out in rather benign ways and is being catered to and exploited by Big Pharma. More severe cases warrant lock-up in mental institutions or prisons (which are fast becoming the same thing). All of that already plays into the power-structure-that-be. And when someone flips out and decides to go psycho on some random group of people, this reinforces the necessity of expanding domestic police forces and is then also used to justify them beefing up their security measures. Which corporations exploit by peddling wares to law enforcement agencies that allow for greater surveillance of the citizenry. This paranoid panic drummed up among the citizens through the popular media encourages us to turn on one another and to snitch to authorities, seeing as how we’re not all on the same team and regard one another more often than not as strangers worthy of suspicion. So we feed the beast, through our own actions or through alerting authorities to “questionable suspects,” and around and around it all spirals.

Where it ends, nobody knows…

Sound like a happy and productive future? Sound like something worth celebrating? Sound like a cause for optimism?

People say that we somehow need to regain the reins of this System, to figure out a way to subdue it and overhaul it, but time for that has passed. We’re now committed to it. We necessarily depend on it while simultaneously fearing its scope and power. The System is entrenched, and we’re entrenched within it, both as employees and citizens dependent on everything it offers in order to maintain our livelihoods. And what alternative is there?

Fight it how? Lobby to change a few laws? ha  Go for it, folks. Try that. As was brought up in a recent conversation, the moderate people do indeed wind up making concessions and compromises that inevitably just dig them deeper into this mess. The so-called “radicals” on the fringes, misguided as they may seem and indeed be, are the only ones willing to make a big stink, and how many do you imagine will wind up imprisoned for their troubles? But, then again, what alternative can the radicals bring to the table either? Thousands of communities going their own ways apparently won’t work anymore. A break in law and order would just result in opposing groups taking advantage of one another and seizing key resources for themselves. Because that’s where we stand today — saturated with several decades of easy living, forever seeking the easy way out, competing and pushing boundaries where we think we can get away with it — yet still up against other powers-that-be.

That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of good people in the world. But it only takes a calloused, self-serving, social-contract-dismissing minority interest to fuck it up for everybody else.

So there we have it. Where can we as individuals go from here when this is the outlook? Is this merely a problem in my own perception? What is still worth looking forward to and striving toward?

Anyway, my break is over and I need to head back to work.

[Lightly edited since for punctuation and greater clarification.]

One critique of the Political “Right” and its fascist potential (part 3 of my inquiry into “Leftists” vs. “Rightists”)

In continuing my look into the American Political “Left” vs. “Right” concern, today I’m offering up an excerpt from Chris Hedges’ book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America (2006), in which at the beginning he includes a segment written by Umberto Eco titled “Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt”:

In spite of some fuzziness regarding the difference between various historical forms of fascism, I think it is possible to outline a list of features that are typical of what I would like to call Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism. These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.

.    .    .

1. The first feature of Ur-Fascism is the cult of tradition. Traditionalism is of course much older than fascism. Not only was it typical of counterrevolutionary Catholic thought after the French revolution, but it was born in the Hellenistic era, as a reaction to classical Greek rationalism. In the Mediterranean basin, people of different religions (most of the faiths indulgently accepted by the Roman pantheon) started dreaming of a revelation received at the dawn of human history. This revelation, according to the traditionalist mystique, had remained for a long time concealed under the veil of forgotten languages—in Egyptian hieroglyphs, in the Celtic runes, in the scrolls of the little-known religions of Asia.

This new culture had to be syncretistic. Syncretism is not only, as the dictionary says, “the combination of different forms of belief or practice;” such a combination must tolerate contradictions. Each of the original messages contains a sliver of wisdom, and although they seem to say different or incompatible things, they all are nevertheless alluding, allegorically, to the same primeval truth.

As a consequence, there can be no advancement of learning. Truth already has been spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure message.

If you browse in the shelves that, in American bookstores, are labeled New Age, you can find there even Saint Augustine, who, as far as I know, was not a fascist. But combining Saint Augustine and Stonehenge—that is a symptom of Ur-Fascism.

2. Traditionalism implies the rejection of modernism. Both Fascists and Nazis worshipped technology, while traditionalist thinkers usually reject it as a negation of traditional spiritual values. However, even though Nazism was proud of its industrial achievements, its praise of modernism was only the surface of an ideology based upon blood and earth (Blut under Boden). The rejection of the modern world was disguised as a rebuttal of the capitalistic way of life. The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.

3. Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action’s sake. Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation. Therefore culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical attitudes. Distrust of the intellectual world has always been a symptom of Ur-Fascism, from Hermann Goering’s fondness for a phrase from a Hanns Johst play (“When I hear the word ‘culture’ I reach for my gun”) to the frequent use of such expressions as “degenerate intellectuals,” “eggheads,” “effete snobs,” and “universities are nests of reds.” The official Fascist intellectuals were mainly engaged in attacking modern culture and the liberal intelligentsia for having betrayed traditional values.

4. The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge. For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason.

5. Besides, disagreement is a sign of diversity. Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.

6. Ur-Fascism derives from individual or social frustration. That is why one of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups. In our time, when the old “proletarians” are becoming petty bourgeois (and the lumpen are largely excluded from the political scene), the fascism of tomorrow will find its audience in this new majority.

7. To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Ur-Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be born in the same country. This is the origin of nationalism. Besides, the only ones who can provide an identity to the nation are its enemies. Thus at the root of the Ur-Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is to appeal to xenophobia. But the plot must also come from the inside: Jews are usually the best target because they have the advantage of being at the same time inside and outside. In the United States, a prominent instance of the plot obsession is to be found in Pat Robertson’s The New World Order, but, as we have recently seen, there are many others.

8. The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies. When I was a boy I was taught to think of Englishmen as the five-meal people. They ate more frequently than the poor but sober Italians. Jews are rich and help each other through a secret web of mutual assistance. However, the followers of Ur-Fascism must also be convinced that they can overwhelm the enemies. Thus, by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak. Fascist governments are condemned to lose wars because they are constitutionally incapable of objectively evaluating the force of the enemy.

9. For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle. Thus pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare. Thus, however, brings about an Armageddon complex. Since enemies have to be defeated, there must be a final battle, after which the movement will have control of the world. But such “final solutions” implies a further era of peace, a Golden Age, which contradicts the principle of permanent war. No fascist leader has ever succeeded in solving this predicament.

10. Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology, insofar as it is fundamentally aristocratic, and aristocratic and militaristic elitism cruelly implies contempt for the weak. Ur-Fascism can only advocate a popular elitism. Every citizen belongs to the best people in the world, the members or the party are the best among the citizens, every citizen can (or ought to) become a member of the party. But there cannot be patricians without plebeians. In fact, the Leader, knowing that his power was not delegated to him democratically but was conquered by force, also knows that his force is based upon the weakness of the masses; they are so weak as to need and deserve a ruler.

11. In such a perspective everybody is educated to become a hero. In every mythology the hero is an exceptional being, but in Ur-Fascist ideology heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death. It is not by chance that a motto of the Spanish Falangists was Viva la Muerte (“Long Live Death!”). In nonfascist societies, the lay public is told that death is unpleasant but must be faced with dignity; believers are told that it is the painful way to reach a supernatural happiness. By contrast, the Ur-Fascist hero craves heroic death, advertised as the best reward for a heroic life. The Ur-Fascist hero is impatient to die. In his impatience, he more frequently sends other people to death.

12. Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters. This is the origin of machismo (which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality). Since even sex is a difficult game to play, the Ur-Fascist hero tends to play with weapons—doing so becomes an ersatz phallic exercise.

13. Ur-Fascism is based upon a selective populism, a qualitative populism, one might say. In a democracy, the citizens have individual rights, but the citizens in their entirely have a political impact only from a quantitative point of view—one follows the decisions of the majority. For Ur-Fascism, however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of humans can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the People. Thus the People is only a theatrical fiction. There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.

Because of its qualitative populism, Ur-Fascism must be against “rotten” parliamentary governments. Wherever a politician casts doubt on the legitimacy of a parliament because it no longer represents the Voice of the People, we can smell Ur-Fascism.

14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak. Newspeak was invented by Orwell, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, as the official language of what he called Ingsoc, English Socialism. But elements of Ur-Fascism are common to different forms of dictatorship. All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning. But we must be ready to identify other kinds of Newspeak, even if they take the apparently innocent form of a popular talk show.

.    .    .

Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier for us if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, “I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Blackshirts to parade again in the Italian squares.” Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances—every day, in every part of the world. Franklin Roosevelt’s worlds of November 4, 1938, are worth recalling: “If American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land.” Freedom and liberation are an unending task.

[All emphases his, both the bolding and the italics.]

That was basically included as a forward in this book by Chris Hedges that goes on to critique the Christian Right and how it’s manipulating American citizens, most notably those within the working class since they feel especially disenfranchised at this point in history. And this new Christian Right movement is nowadays being headed and/or funded by major corporate entities and the wealthy families who derive wealth through them and who also tend to be very well politically-connected. That all matters and is a huge concern worthy of examination, no question.

First reading this book by Hedges probably back around 2008 or 2009, but now re-skimming it for blogging purposes, I have to say that the excerpt I transcribed above does give me pause, because I can clearly see how it presents a “Leftist” slant in its attempt to critique those considered supportive of the Political “Right.” So that presentation bias hasn’t escaped me here. Especially #13 where I must wonder what Mr. Eco expects people to do when we are in fact confronting the reality of a corrupted parliament that does not adequately represent the voices of many of us out here. How are we to engage in the public discourse if our concerns in that arena are viewed as evidence of us being “fascists” in our own right?

That right there leads me to question what isn’t fascism by this stage in the game. Because by that man’s estimate, we’re all potential fascists, and then the word winds up losing its meaning. According to that author, the traditionalists and anyone who could be said to belong to some sort of “cultish” group are all fascists, as are those who are critical of the so-called “liberal intelligentsia” and the current state of our political system. Hmm…  I don’t like that. That’s far too ambiguous to do us much good here. Plus, it gives the impression that the “liberal intelligentsia” nor our politicians are truly deserving of serious scrutiny, when surely that can’t be what the author had in mind. It’s almost as if that assumes that fascism is a “Rightist” phenomenon specifically, whereas I see this trend occurring in both the Political “Right” and “Left.” Neither can claim a monopoly on this tendency.

A deeper question is what isn’t fascistic in this day and age. What could counter fascism; what are its real alternatives?

I’d like to eventually provide more excerpts from Chris Hedges’ book when I feel up to it, because he later on does make some good points that help illuminate the “Right’s” version of this phenomenon. My view has become that both the Political “Right” and “Left” actually share a great deal in common, at least in terms of both supporting the rise of Corporatism and in creating a political atmosphere in this country where ongoing warfare is tolerated and deemed necessary to bolster our own economy. Plus, they share in their desire to engage in what we can refer to as our “culture war” where both sides like to believe they will eventually dominate and subdue those who disagree with their own ideals and preferences. It promises to be an ongoing affair due to irreconcilable differences, though neither side seems interested in accepting this is indeed the fate they’re pushing for.

How does a “culture war” like what we have in the U.S. ever come to an end? What would it take? Would one side have to criminalize and possibly even eradicate the other for it to claim to have won? That presses us eerily closer to the notion of genocide if either side gained enough political power, though I do not think what’s on the horizon will simply be a repeat of what came before back in the WWII era. I doubt this will devolve into trench warfare or even a bonafide civil war — no, I get the impression that this time around technologies will be employed in much more subtle ways that allows for plausible deniability on the part of the offending political camp in question. That might sound odd to some, but that’s where my imagination has been taking me over the last few years. And I personally assume that it will likely be the Political “Left” that winds up “winning out” in this domestic battle, because they hold claim to being more “progressive” than their “traditional” foes, the former holding a great deal more appeal to people of today.

But I’ll keep unraveling my thoughts on this as time goes on.

“Fascism” and “Communism” aren’t opposites but rather analogous parallels (part 1 of my inquiry into “Leftists” vs. “Rightists”)

Finally have a free evening with no work obligations early in the morning. Woohoo!  So there’s time now to delve into a topic that’s been bugging me for years and has been revived recently due to conversations with an online buddy who likes to talk about “left vs. right” politics. I take the stance that this isn’t altogether a useful way to frame the issue, at least not anymore, not since “Left” and “Right” have become so watered down in meaning and casually bandied about to where the terms ring hollow.

I understand that people tend to get attached to their favorite terms and mental frameworks, BUT if it winds up causing more confusion than it’s worth and doesn’t aid us in communicating effectively on these matters, then what’s the real benefit?

So, to kick off what will likely require a few posts to address this topic, I’ll begin by posting up portions of a blog entry that was originally submitted on my old blog back in mid-2008:

totalitarian_extremesI said in a previous post that fascism and communism (as they’ve been put into practice) are basically twins sharing more in common than not.  Nevermind their varying ideological/philosophical justifications and underpinnings, fascism and communism/”socialism” (as these labels have been applied, leaving aside theoretical framework initially paid lip service to) have resulted in similar fates for their societies: single political party dominance and excessive, invasive control and manipulation of the citizenry.

When I refer to them as on “opposing sides” of the economic model spectrum, it might actually be better expressed as a full circle than a straight line, with (real?) democratic systems falling between these totalitarian extremes.u_shaped_commie_fascism

Or perhaps it would be best expressed as a “U-shaped” model where “fascism” and “communism” are represented as belonging on one side of the spectrum, opposing all democratic systems of governance. We know that communist and fascist governments (as labeled and practiced) have conveniently joined forces with one another in attempts to stamp out dissidence, as well as to expand their scope of influence out in the world, so this model makes the most sense to me [or at least it did by 2008].  Aside from their differing theoretical framework and economic arrangements, history shows that their activities and authoritarian tactics become virtually indistinguishable (e.g., compare WWII-era Germany with Italy and Russia).

So what do they consist of and in what ways do they differ? More importantly, in what ways are they similar?  And what exactly do we mean by “democratic systems”?  We’ll try to clarify our terms as we go.

First, both communism and fascism are types of authoritarian rule, where the interests and freedoms of the individual are subordinated to those of the state, and quite frequently a powerful leader.

Let me stop there for a reminder that authoritarian styles of governance are not always unwanted or undemocratic.   Sometimes, it is argued, a touch of authoritarianism is needed or even desirable.   But where do we draw the line, ensuring authority does not become too oppressive?

Quoting from a WikiAnswers page that no longer exists:

Secondly, in many cases both fascist and communist rule are bolstered by a highly powerful military apparatus, as a way to stifle opposition. Thirdly, both types of government are statist, in that the central government has some degree of control over the economic means of production (as opposed to, say a free market, or laissez-faire economy as in the US), and also oftentimes social policy.

Misleading text — the U.S. is most certainly not a true laissez-faire economy anymore and hasn’t been for a long, long time.

However, there are also notable differences.

Fascism tends to be driven by nationalistic or ethnic divisions. For example, Hitler’s NAZI party used populist appeals to ethnic divisions in Germany—especially hatred towards Jews—as a way to gain popular support.

Secondly, fascism has strong corporatist elements, where the government has significant control over private enterprise, but does not entirely co-opt it (as in, say, communism). The NAZIs, for example, considered themselves a “Third Way” between laissez-faire capitalism and socialism, in that rather than completely nationalizing industry and taking over the means of production, the government had a very powerful influence.

According to a post on Strike the Root (from 2005):

[…] The difference between fascism and communism is that in communism, the state owns everything outright; in fascism, a thin veneer of private ownership is maintained while the state exercises absolute control over industry. So the biggest difference between communism and fascism, which are both state socialistic governments, is that communism is complete state ownership, while fascism is complete state control. In economic and political effect, both are remarkably similar, and both oppose true free markets. Both communism and fascism value collectivism over individualism, and see the state as the ultimate expression of good, with the individual only existing to serve the state. Both communism and fascism have given rise to totalitarian police states, where the freedoms of individuals were sacrificed for the good of the state. In both communism and fascism, the state is everything, the individual is nothing. It is interesting to note that though both communism and fascism claim to be ideological enemies and complete opposites, for someone who values individual freedom and free markets, there is really no difference.

Now, let’s turn our attention for a moment to systems labeled as “democratic.”  Strike the Root goes on to say:

In Milton Friedman Unraveled, Murray Rothbard shows that there can be quite a difference between those who claim to support free markets and what they actually support. The section on Friedman’s Chicagoite Egalitarianism is especially illuminating, and contains the following insights: “The idea is that there are two sharply separated and independent worlds of economics. On the one hand, there is the ‘micro’ sphere, the world of individual prices determined by the forces of supply and demand. Here, the Chicagoans concede, the economy is best left to the unhampered play of the free market. But, they assert, there is also a separate and distinct sphere of ‘macro’ economics, of economic aggregates of government budget and monetary policy, where there is no possibility or even desirability of a free market . . . . In common with their Keynesian colleagues, the Friedmanites wish to give to the central government absolute control over these macro areas, in order to manipulate the economy for social ends, while maintaining that the micro world can still remain free. In short, Friedmanites as well as Keynesians concede the vital macro sphere to statism as the supposedly necessary framework for the micro-freedom of the free market.”  This is currently how democratic “free market” nation-states operate, and is very close or identical to the economic model of fascist state control. In truth, democratic socialist nation-states have mostly shunned state ownership of industries (communism), and have increasingly turned to privatization of state assets, while maintaining and increasing strict control of industries through legislation (fascism).

The relationship between the state and corporations that support the state is often termed “state capitalism.” Though there are other terms, like corporatism, that are also used, state capitalism fully denotes the illegal use of the state to fund capitalism. In state capitalism, the power of the state is used to create favorable legislation that rewards the politically well connected with legal plunder by eliminating or reducing competition and requiring that certain products be purchased or funded. State capitalism is the antithesis to free market capitalism. As Murray Rothbard denotes in A Future of Peace and Capitalism, “The difference between free-market capitalism and state capitalism is precisely the difference between, on the one hand, peaceful, voluntary exchange, and on the other, violent expropriation.” Mr. Rothbard shows that claims that capitalism is always the result of free market activity are not necessarily true, and any claims that any capitalistic activity is the result of free market policies needs to be judged solely on objective criteria of the free market itself.

It is clear that what we typically think of as “democratic societies” are actually sliding toward fascism/corporatism, even my own country — the U.S.A. (to be discussed in a future post).

Few can agree on a definition of “communism,” plus what Karl Marx envisioned was never (and likely can never be) put into practice.  We know what came to be known as “communism” were brutal, authoritarian regimes and most certainly not classless societies.

“Fascism” is equally confusing when we hear German Nazism and Mussolini’s Italian regime as well as Soviet Stalinism conflated under the same term.  We can agree though that all of these regimes proved to be brutal and authoritarian.  In other words, what all of these forms of governance have in common, regardless of their attached labels, is that they’re extremely oppressive toward people. They stifled dissent. They reduced or eliminated civil liberties as it suited the leaders’ interests. Their governments, in one way or another, exerted tremendous influence, if not outright control, over the economic sector, or vice versa. Examples provided by history demonstrate all can be considered Big Government models, and each used military might to reach its objectives, both domestically (think paramilitary or secret police forces) and against foreign entities/nations.

The real differences appear to be the means in which the end is reached, but once the end is realized those appear to be little more than nuances since the outcome is virtually identical.  If not exactly identical, they’re perceived as being as much by freedom-loving individuals since all possible ends involve brutal, authoritarian forms of government and result in mass oppression. What’s the real difference in that?  The government oppresses you directly or conspires with Big Business to do so.

Trivialities, if you ask me.

I would argue that all that has ever been put into practice turn out to be essentially fascist systems and that communism and socialism, as originally ideally envisioned, never truly came to be.  Misleading labels have been applied to confuse and manipulate publics.  Fascism occurs when major corporations and governments essentially merge; in this analysis it matters little which one dominates the other when the outcome is lousy either way.

Perhaps confusion would be lessened if we simply called oppressive forms of government what they truly are: totalitarian forms of government.

Wikipedia described Totalitarianism this way (at least it did back in 2008, though the page has since been updated):

Totalitarianism (or totalitarian rule) is a concept used to describe political systems where a state regulates nearly every aspect of public and private life. The term is usually applied to Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany or communist states, such as Stalinist Russia, Democratic Kampuchea, Vietnam, Mao-ere China, Cuba and North Korea. Totalitarian regimes or movements maintain themselves in political power by means of an official all-embracing ideology and propaganda disseminated through the state-controlled mass media, a single party that controls the state, personality cults, central state-controlled economy, regulation and restriction of free discussion and criticism, the use of mass surveillance, and widespread use of terror tactics.

That wikipedia page has since changed a bit, but I’m not interested in delving into more from there when better sources could shed more light on the topic.


Just wanted to post all of the above on here as an opener to this conversation and to use this piece as a segue into the topic of “Rightists” and “Leftists” in the U.S. I hope this upcoming week allows more time to devote to this inquiry and that I can make a case for why the “Left vs. Right” framework obscures a deeper reality which is that most “Leftists” AND so-called “Rightists” both wind up supporting fascist and/or totalitarian schemes regardless of what they may claim as their political ideals.

On why we create enemies and victims — an excerpt from the book “Escape From Evil”

Tonight I decided to read a portion of Ernest Becker’s book Escape From Evil (1975), and I will now transcribe that portion (since the audio quality didn’t turn out too good and I won’t claim to be great at reading aloud). Beginning on page 114 under the section titled “The Science of Man after Hitler”:

Burke recognized that guilt and expiation were fundamental categories of sociological explanation, and he proposed a simple formula: guilt must be canceled in society, and it is absolved by “victimage.” So universal and regular is the dynamic that Burke wondered “whether human society could possibly cohere without symbolic victims which the individual members of the group share in common.” He saw “the civic enactment of redemption through the sacrificial victim” as the center of man’s social motivation.32

Burke was led to the central idea of victimage and redemption through Greek tragedy and Christianity; he saw that this fundamentally religious notion is a basic characteristic of any social order. Again we are brought back to our initial point that all culture is in essence sacred—supernatural, as Rank put it. The miraculousness of creation is after all magnified in social life; it is contained in persons and given color, form, drama. The natural mystery of birth, growth, consciousness, and death is taken over by society; and as Duncan so well says, this interweaving of social form and natural terror becomes an inextricable mystification; the individual can only gape in awe and guilt.33 The religious guilt, then, is also a characteristic of so-called secular societies; and anyone who would lead a society must provide for some form of sacred absolution, regardless of the particular historical disguise that this absolution may wear. Otherwise society is not possible. In Burke’s generation it was above all Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini who understood this and acted on it.

If there is one thing that the tragic wars of our time have taught us, it is that the enemy has a ritual role to play, by means of which evil is redeemed. All “wars are conducted as ‘holy’ wars”34 in a double sense then—as a revelation of fate, a testing of divine favor, and as a means of purging evil from the world at the same time. This explains why we are dedicated to war precisely in its most horrifying aspects: it is a passion of human purgation. Nietzsche observed that “whoever is dissatisfied with himself is always ready to revenge himself therefore; we others will be his victims. . . .”35  But the irony is that men are always dissatisfied and guilty in small and large ways, and this is what drives them to a search for purity where all dissatisfaction can come to a head and be wiped away. Men try to qualify for eternalization by being clean and by cleansing the world around them of the evil, the dirty; in this way they show that they are on the side of purity, even if they themselves are impure. The striving for perfection reflects man’s effort to get some human grip on his eligibility for immortality. And he can only know if he is good if the authorities tell him so; this is why it is so vital for him emotionally to know whether he is liked or disliked, why he will do anything the group wants in order to meet its standards of “good”: his eternal life depends on it.36 Good and bad relate to strength and weakness, to self-perpetuation, to indefinite duration. And so we can understand that all ideology, as Rank said, is about one’s qualification for eternity; and so are all disputes about who really is dirty. The target of one’s righteous hatred is always called “dirt”; in our day the short-hairs call the long-hairs “filthy” and are called in turn “pigs.” Since everyone feels dissatisfied with himself (dirty), victimage is a universal human need. And the highest heroism is the stamping out of those who are tainted. The logic is terrifying. The psychoanalytic grouping of guilt, anality, and sadism is translatable in this way to the highest levels of human striving and to the age-old problem of good and evil.

From which we have to conclude that men have been the midwives of horror on this planet because this horror alone gave them peace of mind, made them “right” with the world. No wonder Nietzsche would talk about “the disease called man.”37 It seems perverse when we put it so blatantly, yet here is an animal who needs the spectacle of death in order to open himself to love. As Duncan put it:

. . . as we wound and kill our enemy in the field and slaughter his women and children in their homes, our love for each other deepens. We become comrades in arms; our hatred of each other is being purged in the sufferings of our enemy.38

And even more relentlessly:

We need to socialize in hate and death, as well as in joy and love. We do not know how to have friends without, at the same time, creating victims whom we must wound, torture, and kill. Our love rests on hate.39

If we talk again and shockingly about human baseness, it is not out of cynicism; it is only to better get some kind of factual purchase on our fate. We follow Freud in the belief that it is only illusions that we have to fear; and we follow Hardy—in our epigraph to this book—in holding that we have to take a full look at the worst in order to begin to get rid of illusion. Realism, even brutal, is not cynicism. As Duncan so passionately concluded his Nietzschean and Dostoevskian exposition of the terrifying dynamics of purity and love “. . . we cannot become humane until we understand our need to visit suffering and death on others . . . The sociology of our time must begin in [such an] anguished awareness . . .”40  It has already begun in the work of Burke, Duncan, Mumford, and Lifton; but its theoretical formulations were already plentifully contained in the neglected work of Rank. From the point of view of such a sociology, the great scientific problems of our time have been the successful and grand social cohesions, especially of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. Burke and Duncan have amply described the religious horror drama of Germany under Hitler, where the dirty and evil Jews were purged from the world of Aryan purity by the Nazi priesthood.41  […]

Leaving off there and then picking back up on page 118:

It took Stalin’s purge trials to show us that the highest humanistic ideals of socialist revolutionaries also have to be played out in a religious drama of victimage and redemption—if one is to have a pure and cohesive socialist society at all.42 The Russians exiled religious expiation but could not exile their own human nature, and so they had to conjure up a secular caricature of religious expiation. And they are still doing it: the magician-priests who give absolution to the clean communist masses now wear the white coats of hospital psychiatrists who transform dirty dissident victims with the latest techniques of “secular” science. It is grotesque, but Burke had warned us to always watch for the “secular equivalents” of the theological formula of victimage and redemption; the scapegoat is not a ” ‘necessary illusion’ of savages, children, and the masses,”43 but now an achievement of the “most advanced” socialist society.

[Italicized emphases his. Bold mine.]

That’s what I decided to read aloud today, though I don’t know how well it will be understood without first reading his arguments and explanations leading up to that portion, but I thought it could stand alone on its own and at least perhaps entice others to consider reading the entire book for themselves. Click to read another excerpt posted from this book.

Thanks to the books of Ernest Becker and his frequent mentioning of the Austrian psychoanalyst Otto Rank, I recently decided to purchase one of the latter’s books titled Beyond Psychology and look forward to delving into it in due time.

For further reading on these and related subjects, you may want to look into Ernest Becker’s book The Denial of Death (considered a companion book to this one — see excerpts 1, 2, 3 and 4) and works produced by the psychoanalyst Erich Fromm (which I’ve also transcribed bits of on here and intend to do more in the future).

Thoughts on why I’m not expressly anti-“socialist” or anti-“collectivist” (as one individualist in the bunch)

That was Larken Rose discussing socialism, communism, and collectivist authoritarian regimes.

Hmmm…honestly, I do get a bit tripped up on this topic. I’m probably 80-90% in agreement with him, but I wouldn’t go so far as to claim to be anti-socialism or anti-collectivist, and here’s why.

As I’ve been studying history, the entire civilization project has resulted in the rise of despotic rulers again and again and again and again. Yet, when we look back to pre-civilized history, humans most definitely did live within tight collectives, and that was the original setting for us as a social species. This notion of individualism, much as I adore it, is a relatively new advent in the ways we understand it to be today. Why? Because people have always relied on one another for our very survival, so interdependence has always been and remains the norm. I don’t see a way around that.

My readings tell me that tribal “primitive” peoples engaged in open exchanges and gift-giving as their means of keeping harmony and promoting bonds, as well as trying to sway the spirits of their ancestors through ritual ceremonies and offerings. Then with the rise of chiefdoms and later kingdoms, a good measure of power wound up being centralized in those figures’ hands so it became their task to collect and redistribute goods among their people. Then came the rise of the city-state, then the nation-state, and there again we see even more power being centralized in the hands of rulers and them being tasked with the job of redistribution among the people. Though plenty of kings kept more for themselves, this was deemed acceptable because common people were attracted to the notion of treating select individuals as gods among man. Why? I don’t think anyone’s really clear on that yet. But we seem to see this whole process ramp up more and more as humans have moved into the future, until we reached fairly modern times where weaponry and technology has allowed governments to claim a monopoly on force and to centralize so much power into its own hands to do with as it wishes, regardless of whether the citizenry is actually on board with the scheme.

It’s a real dilemma, because on one hand the collective interests do indeed matter. A completely individualistic society where no government or ruling body forcefully dictates and enforces laws would leave people to fend entirely for themselves, resulting in a new struggle for “survival of the fittest” where the few who wielded the most power could afford to receive protection and the rest would be left to go without or to turn toward their own brands of vigilante justice. In fact, in this capitalist setup we’re already seeing some of that play out, where the most powerful are at liberty to coerce and exploit the many, backed oftentimes by the power of the State since major corporations have essentially become infused with our government (through campaign financing, massive lobbying efforts, and overlap where key people move between political positions and corporate careers). THAT is fascism, by definition. And though it tends to use the language of collectivism to promote its agendas and to get citizens on board, what it winds up doing is catering to its own special class of rich folks while quashing dissent and creating a very non-competitive environment among the people. Not only is that fascist, but it winds up becoming anti-capitalist in the end as well.

My individual rights don’t matter if your individual rights don’t matter. That’s a collective interest we all hold as freedom-loving individuals. The individual doesn’t truly have much power, not in a country of roughly 300 million or in a world of 7 billion. Hence why we do continue to form collectives, like political parties and activist movements in an effort to come together so as to fight for what we believe is right using our united strength and ingenuity. To be united is indeed to be a collective. So the problem here isn’t with collectivism, per se, nor with individualism, per se. It seems to be with what we do with that or under that guise.

How much power should each individual possess? Limitless? Well, that won’t allow us to have a functioning society. And here again is where I run into trouble with anarchists, because they aim to abolish the State without explaining satisfactorily how these people will remain free if they themselves cannot defend their rights, property and person. Hence why we do have police and militaries — theoretically that is indeed their job to look out for us, most especially those among us who are too weak, too young, or too old to protect themselves sufficiently. While I agree that more power needs to be dispersed back into the hands of the average people, will we use it to defend ourselves and others when wronged? Will we use our power to produce what we need to survive? Or will we abuse power, as our rulers typically do, and aim to exploit others who can’t protect themselves from us? Because that seems to go to the core of all of this: corrupted intentions and drive. And that appears to be quite human and a very dangerous aspect of our natures.

Is it any wonder that destructive human potential shows itself not only in corrupted individuals out here among the masses but also most especially among those who’ve risen in power? To me, it’s more of a question of corruption and how to safeguard against it, because it appears the 20th century has taught us that any kind of government, claiming any kind of ambitions, can and nearly always does wind up proving despotic in the end. How do we change or control for this? I don’t rightly know.

If we as people follow our base desires and wind up corrupted, is it any wonder that our leaders in government do the same, seeing as how we vote for them, arguing that we’re forced to select between the “lesser of two evils”? Evil is evil, that should be plain to us by now. But how do we vote for better candidates when they all lie or wind up corrupted soon after being elected, due in part to the system currently in place that they’re expected to navigate? I don’t know. Seems like we do need a major overhaul here, but in order for that to be an improvement on what we have already we’d all need to be in a better mind-space so as to make more responsible decisions and so as to self-govern to the utmost that we’re able. But that’s not where the majority currently stand. We’ve grown spoiled on the goods and services provided by society, and we’ve lost touch with providing for our own basic needs. So we don’t have much negotiation power at present. A violent revolt will just result in a lot of us dead, injured and imprisoned since the State possesses more firepower. Yet it doesn’t appear we can democratically rectify this situation as it stands today, at a time when it’s anyone’s guess if our votes even count anymore.

There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors obstructing our view on all of this. But the issue at the core is POWER. This is why I keep bringing up the folly of allowing too much power to centralize in the hands of a few. Because human nature is what it is, and people can quite easily get corrupted, even without them realizing it and even while sincerely meaning well. We’re encouraged to drink the kool-aid beginning at such young ages to where we take so much propaganda for granted, never realizing we’ve been molded (culturally, psychologically, socially) to sell ourselves down the river. The wider culture itself has been selling distorted narratives for decades, generations. We can’t even clearly see outside of this programming, so our own good intentions wind up being turned back and used against us, even without us realizing it.

That’s the conundrum, in a nutshell.

I like this man’s videos, but I do think he treated this matter too simplistically. Anarchists have a tendency to want to frame everything in political terms, when really it seems to me what they’re vying for down deep is a return to primitive and/or agrarian living arrangements. And when that’s the case, I do not begrudge them that. I share a similar vision and refer to my own as being “libertarian-leaning,” since we’re all expected to use political jargon or else be dismissed outright as Luddite fools. BUT, I recognize it as a dream that’s many generations off into the future, if ever it does come to be. We lost our independent agrarian infrastructure due to the changing economic climate pressing people toward cities and corporate employment, and I’m not sure how we’d regain that now as a bunch of city-dwellers and property tax-payers limited by zoning laws and countless other regulations. And if we strip those from the books, we’d be mostly enabling major corporations more than anything else since they already claim a ton of land and have enough money to where they’re poised to acquire more before the rest of us even get our pants on. (Not to mention foreign purchasers of U.S. land…)  So we’re kinda in a catch-22 here.

We need the power of the government to harness the power of major transnational corporations. Yet these corporations are already several decades into dominating our government (and many others across the globe), so they are already playing puppet master at this stage in the game. We cannot negotiate with them directly because we, in a very few decades, have been rendered nearly entirely dependent on them for our sustenance and jobs. We common folks are just the last ones to wake up to this reality.

And how much power do you figure any on of us alone has to reckon with the reality? The answer is virtually none. Even when we as individuals take initiative, it is books and articles written by others that we read, courses taught by others that inform us, documentaries and music and art created by others that draw our attention and expand our imaginations. We call ourselves individuals and take much pride in that, but no human is an island, nor can we be. We are a social species. Period. That will never change. We need each other because we can’t help but rely heavily on one another. We eat the foods grown and harvested and processed by others. Our homes are full of goods designed and assembled by others — including the homes themselves. We live in a society with laws concocted by others, reinterpreted by others, enforced by others. Is that not collectivism? Sure it is, and there’s no getting around that whether we live in a modern society or a tribe off in the desert.

Perhaps part of the disconnect here is that we Americans don’t seem to have a realistic grasp on our individual power. We speak as though it is so grand, when really everything we do, all successes that we have are at least partly determined by others. If we go into business for ourselves, it is others who choose to buy our wares or services. If we’re aiming to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, we still depend on others who employ us and work alongside us and who willingly engage in reciprocity with us. No individual stands alone, not really. We wouldn’t even be grown adults today if it weren’t for others who nurtured us as babies and as dependent children, providing the opportunity for us to live to reach an age where we might direct our lives for our own selves. So how individualistic can we really claim to be here? How can one claim to be anti-collectivist and anti-socialism? What the hell is socialism other than a buzzword that can mean damn-near anything depending on who you ask?

We are social beings, and our species developed in communal setups. It seems more of a question of how we direct that, what kind of social systems can we maintain, and how would we bring them into being?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming that individual humans are powerless. I just think that we don’t have a good grip on what power we do possess and realistically grasp how much it is in respect to the whole of power in existence. We can’t seem to put this in proper perspective. We naturally gravitate toward one another and group up because somewhere inside we do sense a lack of power in working at something all unto ourselves. We know we need help from others, yet we like to speak as though this isn’t the case. One reason authoritarian systems are able to rise in power is because we common people are horribly divided. In such massive societies it’s probably unavoidable that people learn to compete more than to cooperate, seeing as how there are so many opposing movements and so many opportunists.

Yet when people do cooperate under a political ideology, very often they check their critical thinking at the door and throw their efforts behind the movement or agenda in question, believing that bringing it into being is what’s most essential. From there follows the push toward their collective’s agenda by whatever means deemed necessary. But the means determine the ends, and people don’t seem to understand that well enough either. We get caught up in abstract concepts and fail to take into account the fallout resulting from where and how we’re pushing. Often enough, what we’re pushing toward is just another unsustainable pipe dream. In fact, I’m very interested to learn of stances that aren’t just that since they appear to be in the definite minority anymore.

That’s why I’m most interested in us growing food again and figuring out ways to do for ourselves and in conjunction with those we willfully create communities with. Back to basics. But at this stage in the game that too may prove to only be a pipe dream as well. We live in a new Economic Era with strange new concrete jungles and more laws than any one person can possibly keep up with. This infrastructure is so expensive to where of course we’re collectively taxed like crazy. All except preferred corporate sweethearts, that is (see: loopholes). We’re being rendered into automatons (i.e., economic slaves) to suit this new way of ordering life and societies. I’m certainly not endorsing it, just stating what I see.

So we’re not going to escape this emerging setup as individuals alone. Yet so few of us apparently can get along well enough to form collectives powerful enough to rival the current status quo. Plus the majority of us are in a poor bargaining position, what with corporations being free to pick up and move elsewhere on the globe, and with other nations working hard toward becoming more economically competitive to where eventually this will allow for the formation of a new consumer base that eclipses America’s. It’s actively underway already. So we either figure out an internal (intranational) solution so as to maintain ourselves or else this will undoubtedly prove to be the twilight hour of our empire.

This is also calling for a major paradigm shift, which can’t help but ultimately be an individual undertaking. And that’s where we individuals do possess a great deal of power. Because we’ve been lied to and misled doesn’t mean we must keep buying into the hype. But the bullshit is acres deep by this point, so no individual alone can analyze and make sense of it all. Concerted efforts do need to be made — yet there we run into trouble as well since nearly all efforts are tied in with seeking profit and/or self-aggrandizement, which can corrupt even the best of intentions eventually.

And around and around we go. THIS is human nature-in-action. THIS is where the search for power has wound us all up at. Not sure how you get around that.

So that’s why I try to sit back and ponder it all, roll it over in my mind since there’s no collective outside of my closest friends and loved ones that I’m comfortable throwing most of my eggs in with, seeing as how most movements are showing themselves as corrupt little microcosms that surely will misbehave (or prove ineffectual) if ever they rose to power. Quite the dilemma. Don’t like watching the world burn and people suffering, but can’t trust most (if any) of the biggest contenders and political parties claiming to be trying to go up against this. So what then? I don’t rightly know.

But I do know I stand up for the rights of individuals to do as they see fit with their own bodies, and I support our natural rights to live in peace, unhindered, so long as we’re not seriously transgressing on others. Our political/economic system at present is doing everything it can to undermine our choices and options and to insert itself more and more into our private lives. This is I do see clearly and take grave issue with. I’m just stumped on what can realistically be done about it.