Sunday, November 29, 2009

Reexamining Convention: Part Three - The Root of All Evil


In this work, I will refer to various rather complex systems with single words. I will define them here to maximize clarity.

Monetary System - An economic system in which currency is used to represent value.

Currency - An artificial representation of value, physical or electronic.

Capitalism - I am referring to Free-Market capitalism when I reference it in this work. In a broader sense, I define Capitalism an economic system based on private, as opposed to state, ownership of capital. In the modern age, a capitalist economy must be a monetary system in order to function. Thus, the two are intertwined inextricably.

Socialism/Mercantilism -I define these as an economic system based primarily around public or state ownership of capital for forwarding the public welfare, or the state's welfare, respectively. As in modern capitalism and all other economic systems of this day and age, it must be a monetary system in order to function in the modern age.

Communism - Quite apart from Socialism, I define Communism as most would refer to "Pure Communism". This is the original, Marxist definition of Communism.

Section One - Production and Consumption in Capitalism

Capitalism functions on an ever-widening cycle of production and consumption, referred to as Cyclical Consumption. This forms the basis of the phenomenon called "Economic Growth"; it is essentially how much "stuff", a given society is producing. Economic Growth is vital for a monetary, capitalist economy's continued survival: they must either grow or die, because the profit motive will always drive an economy to expand to its greatest extent. This has immense ramifications for the society in question, because heightened production must always be accompanied with increased consumption, or an economic depression will ensue, which will reverse the growth gained in a very severe way.

There are three main consequences resulting from this motivation economic interests have to increase consumption.

Section Two - Delusions of Illusions

The first is materialism. Promoted through advertising in every avenue available to the elites, it helps keep people oblivious of what's really going on in the world.

Materialism is a distraction, like religion is, like politics is. They all synergistically react with each other to create imaginary conflicts that distract from the true issues, and as a bonus create mindless loyalties and divisions between people. This, in turn, creates neuroses and thus corrupt and criminal behavior: People kill for their religions and nations in war, steal things they don't need in order to further their social status, and anyone with an opinion is sucked into often bitter debates about things that really don't matter. Things like religious debates between theists of opposing traditions, Democrats and Republicans engaging in a debate about, well, anything, and Kanye West's latest shenanigans.

We talk about this, while billions suffer. While even we ourselves, the privileged and fortunate, suffer mental abuse and clandestine slavery.

Think about it. Does a nation really exist outside the minds of people? If nobody believes a religion, does it exist, either? They're all only tools to help organize our society: and they're now very old, outdated tools. We don't need nations, or politics, or religions to ensure our well-being. We need technology and sound economics.
Can the Vatican provide bread to the hungry? No. A farmer can. Can a politician build a road? No. An engineer can. Can a rich man sail a ship? No. A navigator can.
All of these people: politicians, priests, and the pecuniary-blessed, can ultimately do nothing to help society. They can only enslave it. This is because they are trained to be part of a system that is focused on preserving the institutions of currency and capitalism, and thus a small, unnecessary elite, enthroned at everyone's expense.

Realizing this, we must refocus our human society on these most essential topics, and abandon these institutions detrimental to ourselves, both as a society and individuals.

Now, what are we all being distracted from, exactly? This is an awful lot of effort society seems to be putting into keeping people ignorant of its own workings.

Turns out, what we don't know does hurt us.

Section Three - Planned Obsolescence

The second result of cyclical consumption is called "Planned Obsolescence".

Planned Obsolescence is a relatively simple concept. It's the artificial limiting of a product's potential lifespan or utility, for the purpose of selling more products to fulfill those roles. This can happen either intentionally, with a manufacturer consciously choosing to make sub-standard products that expire right after the warranty does, or unintentionally, as a side effect from the general drive for quantity over quality in a profit-based economy. Either way, the quality of products is far below what it could be.

The Fashion industry is probably the most obvious employer of this tactic, but it permeates the whole system. In the Fashion industry, artistic creation is exploited, sold for profit in large-scale corporate capitalism, and then constantly replaced by a "newer, hotter" version. So, the wealthy constantly put their money back into the system, keeping liquidity in the economy. Still, a "trickle-down" phenomenon does not occur in a significant way, because due to the corporate nature of that system, most of the wealth is kept amongst the owners of the given company: and they are, unfailingly and unsurprisingly, rather wealthy. This process is repeated in every economic sector, including markets that are comprised. Thus, wealth always concentrates itself with the greatest existing concentration wealth, despite the claims of "trickle-down" economics, and the needs of the working/under classes.

Now, the only significant defense a monetary system will have against this is competition between businesses. In theory, one business would take advantage of the sub-standard quality of another businesses' products, by creating better products. Unfortunately, there are several major problems with this 'defense'. First, it is generally unprofitable for a business to create high-quality products, as due to the nature of the inevitable unequal distribution of wealth in a capitalist system, only the very wealthy (an extremely small portion of the population, and thus market) will be able to afford those products. In addition, largely due to the corporate nature of business today, there are only a couple corporations that control the vast percentage of any given product-market. Thus, these few businesses can easily, and will always cooperate with each other to keep quality, and thus costs, low, instead of competing for the consumers' benefit as planned.

Finally, even in the most ideal competitive market, there is always a real-world ceiling on the quality of the products, because the businesses have an overriding drive to extract some profit from any sale: thus, the cost of any product or service in a capitalistic system will be more than what is required to create the product or service. Interestingly, this means that the sum total of all prices will always be higher than the actual monetary value of all the products and services being sold in a system. This creates perpetual debt, as everyone is always trying to profit off of someone else. Thus, at all times, everyone has debts to pay to everyone else. Remember this: it will be important later.

This is the fundamental drive of the profit system for working-class people: the drive to get rid of an unpayable debt. The only way this can be theoretically attained is the temporary siphoning off of the debt on somebody else. It's almost like a game of musical chairs: someone is always left 'out'. In this terrifyingly real game, 'out' means unemployed, broke, and unable to make ends meet. In reality, a whole lot of people are 'out' at once, in various degrees, because nobody can actually get rid of all their debt; more is always coming, because economic growth is continuing. Regardless, this competition naturally creates further division, which weakens labor and other anti-capitalist movements, thus perpetuating the system and its sick 'game'.

Section Four - An Abundance of Scarcity


The third result has been ironically identified as an "Abundance of Scarcity". 

This concept is, again, not a complicated one. It stems from the laws of supply and demand. If there is an abundance of something, the price of individual units drops. So, corporations will always seek to control market share both for the intrinsic value of doing so, and also for the power that is afforded by unilateral control over the supply of a resource. Essentially, if a company is the sole source of diamonds (as is De Beers and its subsidiaries in a large way), diamonds will be quite expensive (the average diamond wedding ring costing several month's income for an average American), despite the fact that diamonds are actually rather plentiful (dozens millions of carats are mined and produced annually, at the very least).
In cases where this can't be achieved, the main corporations of a given economic sector will unfailingly come to an agreement regarding this issue, just as they do with Planned Obsolescence, working together to both keep prices high and costs low.

So, just as there is a limit on quality, there is also a limit on quantity. This may seem to contradict the focus that capitalism places on quantity: but in truth, in capitalism rewards those who limit quantity from what it needs to be, and quality from what it could be. A sane system would produce what needs to be produced, and makes the highest quality products possible. Under this definition, Capitalism is insane, irrational, and obsolete.

Moreover, money itself is artificially scarce. When a currency is abundant, all individual units of currency are worth less, and everyone suffers, particularly the poor. This is called inflation, for the amount of currency in use has been inflated, or increased, from what it was before, relatively speaking. The amount of value represented by all of the currency in an economy is essentially fixed, and is roughly based upon/correlates with the amount of "faith" people are willing to put in the currency. In modern economics, this "faith" is represented chiefly in how much people are willing to invest their currency in corporations and companies. But this is somewhat misleading, for only a fraction of the people in the economy will have wealth to spare in investing, and those who do will generally have an enormous amount of it. This is due to the wealth distribution gradient of Capitalism; for instance, in the United States the wealthiest 1% control 95% of the wealth in the economy. In addition, the amount of currency in an economy is controlled chiefly by the Central Bank of the given economy.Thus, in any monetary system, and particularly a capitalist system, although the economy is allegedly controlled by everyone, it is in fact directed by a tiny, super-rich elite. This is true in "Socialist" China, and in the Capitalist United States; in semi-socialist Europe and Japan, and indeed all across the world where a monetary system has been established. And that's pretty much everywhere.

In a monetary system, currency, and thus wealth, is hoarded by a small elite. The ramifications of this are enormous, for the vast majority are left to compete amongst themselves. This stops collaboration and communication that are necessary to a healthy, progressive society, and reinforces, out of artificially-created necessity, the selfish impulses and behavior characteristic of immaturity. In addition, those born into wealthy positions are also corrupted, though more subtly. People of wealth and privilege are indoctrinated to increase their wealth and power above most other concerns, and thus are also pressured into refraining from mature behavior. This causes society to be lead not by an "enlightened elite", as will sometimes be claimed. It is almost invariably directed by the immature and selfish, and thus society itself remains selfish and sick.

Section Five - The Profit Motive, and Other Consequences Thereof

The profit motive in its current context requires Cyclical Consumption and all it's consequences, and at the root of Capitalism is the profit motive. All three of these grievous issues enumerated prior are caused ultimately by the focus of human society on profit and individual gain: they are caused by our infatuation with capitalism. The Profit Motive also independently accounts for many other plagues on society.

First and perhaps foremost of these is crime. Criminal behavior is fostered, encouraged, and even endorsed by any monetary, and thus capitalist, system. With the perpetual scarcity of money and abundance of debt created by a monetary system, people of the lower economic tiers will be pressured to engage in criminal activity in order to survive in a world of scarcity, and all people in a monetary system will be tempted to participate in such activity in order to progress higher up the economic ladder. This is due to the competitive mentality promoted by capitalism, which ultimately finds root in the scarcity created by a monetary system in all things.

War is, in a different sense, a crime. It is murder, theft, and fraud on the grandest scale possible; it is the greatest of the many cons preformed throughout history. War between nations is unnecessary, and yet hundreds of millions have and continue to die in the practice of it. War is the result of the elite aggrandizing themselves further, by "investing" the lives of their soldiers in a cause. It is capitalism in its truest, dirtiest form.
Moreover, nations themselves are maintained by capitalism, for they are a useful means of division to further prevent productive, collaborative thought that would eventually eliminate capitalism.

Monetary economics also promotes focusing on short-term profits, another immature behavioral pattern. This is at the root of the inevitable "business cycle", a cycle of relative growth and recession characteristic of Capitalism in particular. Due to the decentralized nature of capitalism, although power is concentrated amongst a few people, it is very hard to promote cooperation amongst those few when it comes down to seeing through long-term goals. For although it is attainable enough to reach a tacit agreement on keeping product prices high, it seems that reaching long-term goals, like reducing carbon emissions from factories, that require multiple companies to cooperate and keep sacrificing profit for long periods of time, is usually too much to ask of the "invisible hand of the market". This is probably due to the fact that keeping a Status Quo is much easier for a capitalist system than introducing progressive reforms. This is another way the system remains at odds with fundamental facts about society and the environment, both fundmentally emergent beings.

Finally, one of the greatest consequences of a monetary system is the perpetual necessity of employment. A capitalist system that employs fewer people is one that will collapse sooner. This is due to the fact that people need to feel invested in a society, and this is provided by employment. This is also the reason why the U.S. Government is so keen to provide people with homes, even to the extent of assisting in creating huge economic recessions such as the one we are seeing now: being a homeowner promotes loyalty to the economic system, because you are now invested in that system. A 10% unemployment rate is generally acceptable for a modern economy: not stellar, but somewhat sustainable. The U.S. has currently hit 17.5% unemployment, and it continues to rise. This obviously does not bode well for the nation, for a system that does not provide for the basic bare necessities of life for a significant percentage of its population will be undone by said percentage. This will lead to increased welfare to combat the rise of unemployment. In turn, this will cause the still-employed masses to be squeezed for money, because the rich, vastly more powerful elites will be extremely reluctant to let go of their money. This will in turn cause exponentially expanding, cyclical poverty, and eventually an uprising or revolution in order to deal with the problems that the establishment will not be able or willing to solve. A new elite will likely lead the revolution, and establish themselves at the head of a much less free, totalitarian state that will do what democracy under capitalism could not: provide for the basic needs of its citizens.

The nightmare scenario is made infuriating when you realize that people do not need to be employed, in the traditional sense of the word, in the first place. Most jobs today are meaningless: service jobs, transportation jobs, and production jobs could all be automated to a much larger extent than they are even now. As for command jobs, such as CEOs, Senators, and the like: they would be unnecessary in certain alternative-model systems, where everyone can participate equally in decision-making as is relevant to their lives, as they are essentially the unnecessary by-products of a self-sustaining capitalist-monetary system.

Section Six - Modern Currency

Wealth is represented by currency. Currency, in of itself, is supposed to be worthless; this way, its value comes solely from the wealth that it is supposed to represent. The first currency was created in Lydia, around 500 B.C.E. Gold, however much it is glorified, is generally useless. Barring some relatively new industrial applications of the metal, it is generally not useful for any practical purposes. Silver and Diamonds, being more useful, were relegated to subservient roles in currency. Sometimes used by societies without access to scarcer mediums such as gold, diamonds, and silver, sea-shells and the like were generally avoided by economies with alternatives due to the fact that shells were simply so plentiful; something already established to be detrimental to a currency's appeal in a monetary system. But, since all of these mediums had some value intrinsic to them, eventually paper or cotton money was invented to support and eventually replace these other mediums. Today, all U.S. currency is "fiat", meaning that the value it has is entirely based upon what the economy as a whole says it is worth. For example, when a company raises its prices, it is "voting" to devalue U.S. currency. This has the effect of giving those with more invested capital and property, and thus the wealthy, more say in how the economy is run. This is inherently, and obviously, unfair.

Moreover, the monetary system's method of distributing value not only delivers power and control of all economies under the system directly to the elite, it disassociates value from resources to attribute it to currency simply by the nature of the system. This has vast implications on people's mentalities. Instead of asking, "Do we have the resources to solve this problem?", instead it is asked "Do we have the money to solve this problem?". Because money is an artificially scarce resource, and due to the profit motive's effect of causing selfish behavior even in the face of long-term self-interest, many societal problems will go unsolved. This helps to maintain the status quo, and thus the established institutions dependent on capitalism to remain relevant.

But perhaps most appalling is that current US Currency is, in fact, debt. All U.S. currency goes through the Central Bank of the United States, the Federal Reserve. However, the Federal Reserve is technically a private corporation, and this has, again, broad ramifications for the economy.

Let's say, hypothetically, the United States Government wants to create 1 Trillion dollars, as was done in the bailout. It has to go to the Federal Reserve and ask them to buy 1 Trillion in government bonds (Treasury notes). The Federal Reserve then accepts the money, and gives back 1 Trillion dollars in Federal Reserve Notes, the currency we use on a day-to-day basis, and refer to as "U.S. Currency". The government then deposits the currency in various banks, and the banks invest their money in other corporations. The corporations use that to pay their expenses, such as workers' wages. The workers then use their wages to buy products from the corporations, who use that to pay their workers' wages, and voila! Money has now been added to the economy.

Unfortunately, you can't create value out of nothing. When the Federal Reserve "buys" the bonds from the government, it is actually loaning money to the government, taking the Treasury Notes as a "down payment", of sorts. There is an interest rate attached to the whole transaction.

Which begs the question: where does the money to pay the interest come from? The fact is, it doesn't exist. All the money there is in the whole economy was created by this method! There are only two ways for the government to raise the money to pay for this. One is to raise taxes. This doesn't really help matters, as all the money that people are going to have is going to be less than the debt attached to that money. The second is for the government to borrow even more money. Which it does, especially in wartime. Seeing as the same small elite control both the government, the Federal Reserve, and the corporations, and war is an excellent way to aggrandize the Federal Reserve (Because more money must be borrowed due to war expenses) and the corporations (Because the government contracts out all its' manufacturing and even some soldiering jobs to them), it should come as no surprise that the U.S. has been at war, somewhere, constantly, since the Second World War. That's 64 years of war, and the taxpayers, the common man, gets to foot the bill both through direct taxes and inflation.

It gets worse. According to current banking regulations, the Federal Reserve can create an additional $900 Billion on top of the original $1 Trillion, if it so chooses. The $900 Billion is then distributed to various banks by the Federal Reserve, and loaned and invested out to corporations and individuals. This creates even more debt out of thin air. To make matters worse, 90% of the $900 Billion can again be created out of thin air, if the banks request the Federal Reserve to do it. That's another $810 Billion+ in debt created, and the cycle can continue until only a cent remains of the newly created money.

Thus, it should again come as no surprise that the current amount of debt in the U.S. economy, public and private, is about $52 Trillion, while the total amount of currency in the economy can be generously estimated at around $15 Trillion.

There will always be debt as long as there is money, and thus there will always be huge amounts of coercion, control, competition, and corruption as long as we maintain a monetary system. In fact, if everyone, including the government, could pay off their debts tomorrow, there would be no money left in circulation. As Marriner Eccies, former Governor of the Federal Reserve, said, "If there were no debts in our system, there would be no money".

Of course, that can't happen, because there will always be more debt than means to pay off that debt in a monetary system. This is the driving mechanism of capitalism; everyone always needs more money than exists to pay off imaginary debts.

Yeah. That makes sense.

Section Seven - Closing Thoughts on Capitalism

Organizing society around the profit motive, as capitalism does, creates problems. Problems like crime, corruption, greed, exploitation, near-universal psychological trauma, technological and economic stagnation, rampant scarcity, constant economic/social exclusion due to debt, and ultimately stagnation of societal development.

No wonder the establishment tries to blind us with religion and materialism and patriotism: this is a mess! The only way you can possibly keep the status quo is to first stop people from realizing what a crappy deal the current system is.

Thus, the institutions of class, politics, and religion. All of these are created to preserve the "ultimate insitution", the underlying system of capitalism. So, in a sense, the old saying is right: money really is the "root of all evil". And as a wise man once said, "You can't regulate evil". People are quite innovative: as long as their incentives are to aggrandize themselves materially while disregarding any cost to society, their fellows, the environment, and even themselves, they will find ways to subvert any regulations. The only way to create a sane, sustainable society, is to use incentives to promote these goals. Capitalism and Monetary systems cannot, and do not, do this, as is now evident.

It follows, then, that we must find another way to organize our society superior to our current capitalist catastrophe.

Section Eight- The Constant Social Endorsement of Capitalism

Now, how does this system perpetuate itself in society?

...The rich men telling you their money means something, of course.

It's through all of the intellectual warriors who tell you that society cannot exist without money: that there would be no incentive, that society would collapse, that people would be lazy and do nothing and we'd all starve.
That we'd lose our freedoms.
That it's disloyal to even think about that.
That it's just too idealistic, and we have to deal with the "reality" of the "necessity" of a monetary system.

But, the facts remain. No large-scale society has been without currency. They also have always had war, poverty, and social stagnation in irrelevantly varying degrees of counter-productivity. Correlation does not imply causation, but I believe I have already given extraordinary amounts of evidence to back up that relatively extraordinary claim.
There are also many, many proposed alternatives to capitalism that could work. Sadly, due to this widespread, point-blank rejection of alternatives to money and capitalism, they have been marginalized and ignored in the popular mind.

But even this continual campaign of misinformation is not enough to preserve the system: other mechanisms are in place, the removal of which will cause global collapse.

Section Nine - Capitalism's Enclosing Self-Destruction

Most successful, long-lived societies since the Renaissance, and even before, have had a sizable class of middling wealth, large enough to provide them with a vested interest in society, but small enough to keep them out of the ruling elite, thus concentrating wealth and power to a mostly hereditary, oligarchic group. Interestingly, in the decline of many societies comes the elimination of this class by the ruling elite's machinations for their own short-term profit, thus bringing the system down upon itself.

We see this pattern emerging in the United States today, where the middle class continues to shrink, the wealthiest 1% have more wealth than the bottom 95%, and the disparity between rich and poor continues to grow. Seeing the US as a dying economic power also accounts for the relatively recent development of US currency being, essentially, debt.

You simply cannot form a society on the basis of something as fundamentally destructive as greed, and expect it to sustain itself. Capitalism, being based on profit, actually creates and encourages massive amounts of criminal activity. Sooner or later, the ruling elite will "forget themselves", and move to aggrandize themselves at any cost, without any attention paid to the well-being of the system that sustains them. By the time those in power realize their collective mistakes, if they even do, it is always far too late to do anything. Such is the fate of any system that puts individual profit, power, and aggrandizement over the basic interests of the society itself.

Including ours.

Under the combined stress of the elites' unfettered self-aggrandizement, constant economic growth and thus cyclical consumption, and the usurping of human labor by machine technology, Capitalism cannot survive. It is an obsolete system, unfit for the modern world, its challenges, its resources, and its opportunities.

Fortunately, it's just a tool. Capitalism is merely a means by which to organize ourselves: if we replace it with something more suitable, not only will we continue to survive, but we will thrive on a scale never before seen in human history. Because the only sophisticated system we have ever tried is Capitalism.

And it's time to move on.

Section Ten - Forming A New Society

Those last few sentences may have led you to protest:
"But Communism was tried in Russia, and China! It failed utterly, and led to huge steps backwards in economic and political freedoms and prosperity!"
But this is not true.

The USSR and China, and all their subsidiary puppet-nations, were mercantile-totalitarian states. They were not communist states.
First of all, Communism is a stateless society. A communist nation is an oxymoron in of itself. Second, all of these "Communist nations" used and use currency (the Soviet Ruble, Chinese Renminbi); a, and perhaps the, quintessential hallmark of modern capitalism. Third, their economies were organized in the same totalitarian, dictatorial/oligarchic way that a corporation is. In fact, the only significant difference between those economies and the American economy is the amount of freedom and choice people had/have in using their money, in company with how centralized, planned, and state-controlled the economy is/was.

Don't be afraid of change.

What if we lived in a world that was completely unified: without any nations at all. In this world, all manufactured goods were centrally produced entirely by machines, and managed by a central "nervous system" of a computer mainframe, which would assist teams of human technicians that maintain the system. These production-machines would rarely break down, because there would be no repair industry to profit from them doing so, but when they did, human technicians would work to fix the problem immediately.

These technicians would be all-volunteer teams, working perhaps ten to twenty hour weeks. They would constitute perhaps a gross maximum of 10% of the world population upon the inception of such a system, and that number will steadily decline with time; the rest of the world's population would be free from any kind of traditional labor.

In this world, no money would be used either. With all consumer goods manufactured in abundance and excellent quality, it would be like putting a price on air. Food, water, and shelter would be seen as human rights, and provided on request, along with a dizzying array of manufactured goods. Still, nobody would feel the need to stockpile or accumulate products, because there would be no point. Wealth would disappear as a measure of status, when everyone has the same amount of wealth. All the same, some limits would be placed at least initially, like, only twenty Laptops to a given individual. These would disappear over time, in all likelihood, as the leftover associations of status with wealth ebb away.

Everyone would be equal, and able to participate in the system to the degree that it concerned them. This means that economic decisions on what to produce would be made by the society as a whole, and individual's choices on what to consume would be almost entirely up to the individual. Human liberties to thought, speech, life, personal property, etc., would be preserved. Democracy would finally be established, with what laws that remain to be enacted proposed and voted upon by citizens, without representatives or other.

Without money, crime would fall exponentially, to merely insignificant levels: who would steal in a world of abundance? Police forces would probably fall into irrelevance, and armies into total abolition along with their nations. What little serious crime is left can be managed by society in a constructive manner; instead of prisons, mental hospitals would be built to better understand and hopefully help these individuals.

Education would be refocused onto a grounding in the scientific method, and branch out into generalist education. People would not be bred and trained for jobs, but given opportunities to participate in what interests them as a human being, whether it be art, or engineering, or science, or philosophy. Involuntary religious, political, and ideological associations would be abolished. Constructive debate on all issues of philosophy, sociology, science, etc., would be encouraged everywhere. These debates would drive society forward, in all fields.

And this is just a taster of what this system entails. It's called Participatory Society and Resource-Based Economics, and it is probably the best socio-economic system we can implement right now. It is, essentially, an update of Communism for the opportunities, technologies, and values of the modern era. And, when a better system is developed, this system will freely become the next. This is most unlike capitalism, which will require a struggle to replace.

All suffer under capitalism. From the neuroses it imparts on the richest Richelius, the poorest paupers, and everyone in between, to the false chains of labor it requires everyone to bind themselves with; from the wars it starts, to the lives it finishes, Capitalism is a parasite on every man, woman, and child of the world.

This isn't utopia, or idealism. This is what we could be doing right now, but aren't.

Let's get to it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Maturity and Rebellion

Subcultural conformism by age makes true youthful dissent easily dismissed by the establishment as simply thoughtless, reactionary, and sensational, as opposed to having any true intellectual merit. Unfortunately this is all too true, as these stereotypes have an unnerving basis in fact. Many rebellious youths will burn out or assimilate, out of fear, disappointment, or conversion. They will invariably accept that the stereotypes are indeed true, and those who do not are dismissed as immature.

However, immaturity and nonconformism are two entirely different concepts. In many ways, they are opposing ones as well.

It is the mark of maturity not to come to terms with the establishment, but to come to an understanding of oneself. The oft repeated former talking point is merely propaganda propagated by a set of self-preserving systems, that seek to delegitimize dissent, and thus establish ideological orthodoxy for the purpose of preserving the status quo. Not only is that completely contrary to the reality of an emergent society, but due to that fact it, this philosophy, will invariably be detrimental to humanity on an exponential basis over time the longer it is permitted to permeate our views and rule our perceptions.

We must recognize that at any given time our views inherently cannot be perfect. It is all we can do to strive for intellectual and ideological, individual and social betterment. The best way we might accomplish this is through free discourse and consideration of all ideas, no matter how contrary to established views. We have nothing to lose but outdated viewpoints, for if our current views are the best we have, we shall of course keep them, and if there are some that are better, we may adopt new ones. There is nothing to fear from such freedom and openness of mind.

In this way, and this only, may we form a more perfect union of humanity, society, and nature in which all parties benefit.

The Oft-Shirked Responsibility of the Privileged

People of privilege have a duty to appropriate their economic, political, and ideological power in the most socially responsible, progressive, and beneficial manner possible.

We must do so even to our own cost, to the extent of foregoing some of our own innumerable luxuries we oft take for granted.

We must do so because others less fortunate will be forced to foot the bill for the unpaid sum of our self-indulgence, apathy, and inhumanity, as represented in our choices of institutions.

You cannot separate a corporations' actions from their products. If you watch House, M.D., you support the slanted, sickening, system-preserving conservative infotainment that is Fox News. It simply is not possible.

I do not say that you are wrong for supporting that which is wrong. I only say that you are wrong if you know that what you do is wrong, and yet still do it for personal gain. And even then, being wrong is not so bad, if you can learn and change from it.

We, as our societies, are emergent. We make mistakes, learn from them, and emerge stronger, more perfect. This does not make us any less good, or lesser in worth. In fact, it makes our strikingly unique beings in that we have the capability to make ourselves more perfect, in an inherently imperfect universe.

Knowing this, it is our duty to fulfill that responsibility. We will always make mistakes; but we must also always learn from them, correct them, and thus emerge bettered. It is our obligation.

Capitalism is Dead

The World Bank and IMF only exist to perpetuate a capitalistic system whereby entire nations are subjected to economic exploitation and political submission. Their only real purpose is to further aggrandize the established elites in charge of this clandestine economic empire.

They are necessary for the world economy because the world economy is based around aggrandizing less than 1% of the population over the lower 99+%'s economic well being. The economy is already in shambles, because it's inevitable that a capitalistic economy destroy itself by nature of the greed that drives it.

If you really look around, most of the jobs that exist today aren't really necessary. Banks and Stock Markets produce nothing and yet account for millions of jobs on their own. The vast majority of industrial occupations could be eliminated through automation. Managerial occupations thereof would also vanish, and most of the rest of the service industry could be automated if we put a nominal amount of resources into it. The military is only necessary in a world based around nation-states. But that would leave a lot of people without jobs and cause a total, near instantaneous collapse of the global capitalist economy and hegemony. So people work several dead-end jobs, support their nations and religions and "free market", and are stripped of the leisure time they could be having, while potential alternatives to this insanity are constantly marginalized or assimilated into the capitalist system....

The economy is already dead to everyone except the kings and oligarchs of the capitalist establishment, and sooner or later this will catch up with them too. It's just a matter of time before the system destroys itself, and we had better come up with an alternative before things reach the tipping point.

An Open Letter to the Zeitgeist Movement

I would like to address the treatment of Communism by this movement.

There are many generalizations made about Communism and Socialism in the movement. I wish to point out that there has never been any large-scale implementation of Communism, and certainly not by any nation-state. The various references made to Communism and Socialism by the movement's materials generally cite the former USSR and China as being communist or socialist states: this is simply not true. They are mercantile-totalitarian, or mercantile-absolutist states. Communism as an ideology is a stateless system; there seems to be a basic misunderstanding about the tenets of Marxist theory that is unfortunately perpetuated by TZGM.

In fact, in many ways, ZGM and the Venus Project are a much-needed update for Marxist theory in the 21st century, accounting for new understandings about our emergent society and the ridiculous nature of Utopia, as well as incorporating new technological developments into the attempt to free mankind from needless labor.

I believe that you may already know this. I understand that you wish to separate this movement from the stigma of others. This would explain your decision to differentiate Z-Day from traditional protests quite well.
However, you must understand that by separating yourself from the communist ideology, you separate yourself from all the leftist movements that continue to struggle for, ultimately, the same goals. By dividing ourselves against each other we perpetuate the oldest of problems among leftist organizations: detrimental decentralization. We cannot succeed without having all of our activists on one team, and with the casual dismissals of both communism and participatory democracy (through the plan to delegate all important decisions to computers), you alienate our most basic resources: the already existing and operating leftist activists laying largely dormant.

Use us. Please. Reevaluate these two points of the movement, and the global bloodless revolution that we strive for, and we all so desperately need, will at last come to pass that much faster.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Reexamining Convention: Part Two - Nations, Politics, and Other Human Inventions in Society

Section One - Politik in the USA

The United States is a strange place.

On November 4th, 2008, the United States held an election for the office of President of the United States. 131,257,328 people voted; approximately 60-63% of the total population that was eligible to vote, which was somewhere between 200 and 212 Million. Barrack Obama won the election with about 52% of the popular vote; this would put him at having won about 30% of the total eligible voters in the nation. This was the highest voter turnout in about half a century by a significant margin.

But, as ridiculously unrepresentative these votes were, they were not even counted. Although the office is a national one, due to the convoluted election system in the United States the votes were counted in a far different manner.

When voters went to the polls last November, they were led to believe they were voting between two candidates. In reality, they chose between electoral representatives: though not named on the ballot, the elections were actually to choose this position, not the office of president. These "electors" are nominated by their political parties, and are elected by state, not on the national stage. A prescribed amount of the electors is allocated to each of the fifty states. They technically have the freedom to choose any candidate for President. However, the political parties discourage such behavior, called 'faithlessness', by nominating high-ranking party officials or, more commonly, loyal associates thereof to the office. Then, some time after election day, the electors cast their votes to actually determine who wins the Presidency. However, since their votes are basically guaranteed to go one way or another, we saw who 'won' on election day.

Now, why would this system be utilized? It is immensely and unnecessarily convoluted, and seems to serve no greater purpose.

That is, until you examine the context more closely.

The "Founding Fathers" of the United States established the electoral college system essentially because they did not trust the common people to actually elect their representatives.
"A popular election in this case is radically vicious. The ignorance of the people would put it in the power of some one set of men dispersed through the Union, and acting in concert, to delude them into any appointment." -- Delegate Gerry, July 25, 1787
Essentially, Elbridge Gerry was speaking for the whole convention when he said that he feared the common people could be easily fooled manipulated in choosing their candidates from a very small pool of people, all closely associated and essentially conspiring to control the Union. They feared, basically, that Democracy would undermine itself; so, they created an oligarchy of sorts, whereby the States would choose the President of the United States. In this way, they were sure, no clandestine organization would ever be able to swindle the American public out of their votes: they had already been taken from them, and distributed in such a diluted manner that no organization in 1787 could possibly control the election.

Ironically, this would ensure the total hijacking of American politics by a small, tightly-knit elite. This was also achieved across the world in every democratizing, industrializing nation of the time.

All but one of the Founding Fathers joined two "political parties" by 1792. Alexander Hamilton began the Federalist Party, which recruited most of the Northern states and delegates, promoted banking interests, and was dominant for the first part of the United States' politics until 1800, when it began to fade. Thomas Jefferson established the Democratic-Republican Party, which recruited the Southern states and delegates, promoted the interests thereof (most notably slavery's continued existence), and was dominant from about 1800 to 1824. Thus began the dualistic nature of American Politics.

Do note how incredibly similar this dualistic system is to Christianity's, Judaism's, Islam's, and to a lesser degree all major world religions' systems of ethics and morality. In all of these systems, there is an absolute spectrum of dualistic morality, with the extremes anthropromorphized in the form of deities. This system of morality ignores the complexity of the human condition, and promotes adversity, and thus competition. This will be explored in more detail later on.

Now, there has never been a single time in American Politics where there have been more than two major, dominant parties. There have been many third-party organizations, but their significance has largely been moot. American political history has even been divided up into five eras, with different sets of political parties dominant in each period.

Political power in America has always been controlled by two political parties. And those have always been controlled by the rich.

From the very beginning, the delegates and politicians who became known as the Founding Fathers were essentially synonymous with the richest men in their states; everyone else was too busy with , while their wealth freed them to travel great distances and have their households managed by slaves, servants, and wives (While the Founders generally did little to improve the lot of those who did their share of work for them, they instead empowered and enriched themselves).

As time passed by, a new upper-class emerged from the ruthless capitalists of the late antebellum and gilded ages. As they utilized the "Free Labor" system, slavery was in direct competition with these industrialists' plans for market-share expansion all over the US, and eventually the world.

A short word on the Free Labor and slavery systems: These are just two, generally similar, methods of managing "human resources". Slavery is the ownership of such labor through direct ownership of the human being providing it. It was very inefficient for the antebellum South, because although it requires no wages and provides a monopoly on the labor from the slave, the slaves must be continually housed, clothed, fed and watered, which is an extreme drain on profit margins. Thus, most slave plantation owners were only breaking even year to year by the 1840s, while the slave traders, Northern merchants, and industrialists were reaping exponentially increasing profits annually. In addition, slave labor generally decreases the efficiency of the labor because the enslaved people (rightly) see no benefit to themselves or possibility for their future in the system.
However, despite requiring managers and industrialists to pay wages, the "Free Labor" system allows for the illusion of freedom and a productive future for the participants, thus improving productivity. It also is much cheaper than having to provide all the necessities to the workers, as in slavery, for people can always work more than one job. This spreads the responsibility for wealth around amongst the industrialists, creating reason for cooperation and collusion, as well as increasing overall productivity of the system. In addition, this spirit of collusion among the new business interests will quickly tie them inextricably into the political scene of the United States, without actually having to participate openly or directly in that field until much later, and thus operating without most peoples' knowledge.

Moving back to our narrative, slavery was a direct threat to continued market expansion, and thus the industrialists' profits, because not only did slave labor dominate and thus stunt the economies of half the Union, it threatened to expand even further across the newly acquired western territories the industrialists' had put much money into. They had pushed Congress and various Presidents to put centralized military force into seizing from the natives and the Mexican state, through the use of their political sponsorship and patronage. So, they provided even more patronage to the emerging Republican party, which opposed slavery's spread. (Monetary support for political campaigns will be their main tool for controlling the politics of the state for their own benefit throughout American history).

So, with tensions running high, the Southern states saw their economic system being slowly outmoded and dismantled by the industrialists. It should be noted that the legislative system was engineered specifically to balance pro and anti-slavery political forces by giving roughly equal say to both sides in Congress, rather than favoring one over the other. This is why we have a bicameral legislative system: one where all states have equal say, favoring the smaller states, and another where the more populous ones do, favoring the larger ones. By the 1840s, if one side got one more state than the other, it would upset the balance of power in the Senate and allow one side to pass a law definitively saying yes or no on the slavery issue. Many compromises, large and small, were made until the presidential election 1860 turned up a Republican leader, backed up by corporate sponsorship, whose 30% of the popular vote was barely enough to secure a pluralistic victory in a freak four-candidate race (basically the only one without any major, dominant parties due to various splits in the parties): Abraham Lincoln. At this point the South realized they were on the losing team, and decided to retreat away from the progress happening before their eyes. Thus, they seceded, militarized, and followed through by seizing Federal forts in the South. Thus began the Civil War.

What is important here, though, is that slavery was not abolished through the, undoubtedly tireless, efforts of the abolitionists. They were viewed with contempt in both the North and the South even through most of the Civil War itself, dismissed as dangerous reactionaries and subversives much as anarchists are today. The Civil War was waged because the corporate sponsors of the Republican party, the industrialists, thought it would benefit them. So, they supported it. What's even more sickening is that these are the same people who had swindled the American public out of millions of dollars in government railroad contracts, gold miners out of life savings, the same people who provided substandard supplies to soldiers on both sides through government contracting, and whose sons and grandsons would partake in the unimaginably brutal repressions of striking and unionizing workers of the late 1800s. The Civil War was waged not for ideals, but for profit, as all wars generally are, and certainly all wars the US would take part in afterwards.

But what's even more revealing is that these two competing systems, slavery and "Free Labor", only work to the benefit of the established elite. In slavery this is obvious, in a Free Labor system it is somewhat less so. However, this situation becomes much clearer when you realize that if practically all resources, services, and industries are privatized, and that in a "free market" eventually one party or several closely-knit ones will emerge largely dominant in every economic sector, and have total freedom to squash competition and unions, there will be a very small oligarchy of businessmen that control the economic, and thus political, aspects of the given society. Which is exactly what happened, and how the United States continues to be run; with religion subservient to the nation, and the nation subservient to the economic, or "special", interests. This hierarchy will only grow more pronounced over time.

Thus, there is no real "left" or "right" in American politics, there are only two parties which control politics, which are in turn controlled by established economic interests. There is only the vast majority, organized into two political parties, and backed up by the same economic elites, and the tiny minority which exists only because they are too insignificant politically, economically, and socially to pose a real threat to the establishment. This majority, despite believing that there is an "other" or "enemy" in the other party, are really being manipulated into not recognizing that both parties have essentially the exact same agenda, and very similar platforms. Despite invented issues which are comparatively minor or completely irrelevant issues that play on dividing people based on religious or racial criteria, in the overall scheme of things:
  • Both parties support the war in Afghanistan
  • Both parties support the war on drugs.
  • Both parties oppose freedom of movement into the United States for refugees from the nations that were exploited, corrupted, and ruined by economic interests based out of the United States, acts often permitted and subsidized by U.S. military support
  • Both parties support "free trade", a method by which whole nations are exploited for human and material resources, mostly by American economic elites
  • Both parties oppose socializing any part of the economy when unnecessary for economic stability, and thus domination by the economic elites
  • Both parties support the free-enterprise system
  • Both parties supported the financial "bailout" plan, which further aggrandized the banking industry's failed and corrupt executives who enriched themselves monstrously at the cost of millions of peoples' jobs and homes, as well as perpetuating a failed economic system while making no plans to eventually abandon said system, in addition to being contrary to the very ethics of the "free market" system they aided.
  • Both parties are financially supported by the sitting economic interests
The similarities could go on, and on.

Even more unnerving is that most people would not agree with any of these premises if they were properly educated by them. Unfortunately, the news media is largely controlled by the same establishment interests as support the political parties. This shows just how complete corporate dominance of society really is.

"Left" and "Right" exist only to further play on that system of dualistic morality that has been imposed on people since ancient times through religion. Think about it. How often have you considered people of "the other party" just fundamentally wrong, without even thinking about it? Or perhaps, without even knowing anything else about the person, except that they are of "the other party".

And what of those independent of this system? They are kept well marginalized. This is because the corporations realize that it is easier to control the political spectrum when it is a simple as possible, while still giving the illusion of choice: so, there are only two parties. To carry this out, independent candidates receive little to no funding from corporate sponsors, and thus are, as a group, made politically negligible on the state and national levels.

Basic political power and currency rests in how well advertised a candidate is. This is called a "campaign". The only way to have a good campaign, and thus be politically competitive as a candidate in any "democracy" with a capitalistic economy, is to be backed by the economically influential. Thus, although we all vote on who gets to go into office, our votes are made insignificant in every way, as compared to the CEOs of the Fortune 500 companies. Which makes sense. After all, they're the ones in charge.

So, Capitalism undermines Democracy. "Neither can live while the other survives", in fact.

As for your favorite public figures: no politician belonging to a major party is "too moral" to refuse corporate sponsorship. First of all, the major parties amount to corporate sponsorship in of themselves, taking in billions upon billions in indirect campaign contributions, which are then funneled to their candidates. Second of all, any politician who would refuse all kinds of such sponsorship would immediately become completely unsuccessful, and thus of moot importance. Thus is the nature of corporate control of democracy: clandestine, hard to detect, but ever-present.

There is no evidence or possibility that a capitalistic economic system can coexist with a political system will produce consistently honest, representative, and competent officers of the state. True, lasting, and real reform rarely occurs in capitalism. It costs too much.

In reality, it is the corporations who run all politics, sponsor both parties and candidates thereof, and keep ideas dangerous to the status quo in check. In reality, it is not the Left versus the Right: it is the common people versus themselves. The Left and the Right are illusions, just like God and the Devil, which:
  • Makes people feel part of a team, thus
  • Gives them a sense of moral superiority, and then
  • Establishes an enemy for them, and thus
  • Relieves them from the moral complexity of the world, which inevitably
  • Distracts them from the reality of their social situation.
These are all just illusions, and that's all they've ever been. They're only as "real" as we imagine them to be. Money, crucifixes, flags, they're all symbols. Symbols of the illusions we've grown to accept, become complacent under the weight of.

We can stop living the comfortable lives any time we want, and start making real changes to our mindsets and in our society that will put us all better off, all with what we need, all as one humanity.

It is possible.

Section Two - Global Politics, 1492-2009

These illusions are far from new.

Exploitation based on national, religious, and racial grounds (all human inventions) has been a staple of European politics since 1492.

In the colonial era, dominance passed first from Portugal in the 1400s, to Spain in 1500s, to the Dutch in the 1600s, and Britain for the 1700s to the 1800s, and would maintain major colonial possessions until the end of the second world war. But it didn't stop there.

As early as the late 1700s the U.S. was engaging in counter-piracy operations in North Africa. In the 1840s the United States invaded Mexico, seizing about half of Mexico which today is divided up into the states of California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and many others, doubling the size of the nation. In the 1860s slavery was abolished after a war and the appropriate war-profiteering, eliminating an inferior system for controlling labor. In 1896 the U.S. invaded Cuba, marking it's very first extracontinental military-colonial operation. Cuba would be dominated by U.S. business interests and corrupt dictators for another 60 years. In 1917 the U.S. was motivated by U.S. business interests and German provocations to enter the first world war, ending that final, most destructive war of colonialism decisively in favor of U.S. allies. In 1941 the U.S. entered the second world war, again due to U.S. business interests' encouragements and Axis provocations, and essentially ended Western European colonialism in its victory, beginning a new era of Soviet and U.S. domination of the world.

Throughout the post-war and cold-war periods, the U.S. created an economic empire for its business interests. It supported monstrous dictators and squashed nationalistic movements in nations exploited by U.S. businesses, and even engaged in acts of terrorism, such as assassinations, against leaders deemed unacceptable, and directly invaded or bombed many nations in order to eliminate particularly persistent resistance movements and aggrandize military contractors at the same time.

After the cold war ended with the economic collapse of the Soviet Union, military spending threatened to drop. An entire industry had been developed around military contracting, and they had an obvious vested interest in continuing to militarize. So it came as a great victory for many business leaders in the U.S. when on September 11th, 2001, three towers and part of the Pentagon fell in upon themselves after strikes by airborne objects in the most catastrophic military failure in U.S. history since Pearl Harbor. Clearly, some enemy was at work here, and this surely meant someone would be warred upon until they were defeated. Soon after, the President of the United States declared war: but he did so not on a nation, or an organization, or even an individual. He declared war on a tactic. And thus, the War on Terrorism began.

Why would he do that? That's an inherently unwinnable war, for somebody will always be able to use that strategy. It's very arguable that war in of itself involves terrorism inherently, especially the total war employed in the U.S. civil war and both world wars. The United States itself even utilized terrorism near constantly in it's foreign policy operations for the 60 years prior, and would continue to do so in the War on Terrorism. Something doesn't make sense here.

He did so, for profit.

The War on Terrorism was not supposed to end. It was supposed to provide the military-industrial complex, and all of its contractors, with an extended reason for existence and continued profits. In addition, in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly every part of the war, even some of the actual combat, was privatized. Companies such as Haliburton, Blackwater, and many others ripped off the U.S. government, and thus U.S. taxpayers, for billions upon billions of dollars. Dick Cheney, then vice president of the United States, was a former Halliburton CEO, and many in the Bush administration were involved or had associates in the corporations employed in the war effort.

So really, the corporate media directly demonizing Islam, or giving airtime to open, proud bigots, comes from no different logic than that of the 16th Century Roman Catholic Church, which labeled Africans and Native Americans as inferior, and thus useful only for enslavement. Racism, Nationalism, and Religious bigotry constitute most of the oldest motivations for warfare, and they continue to be used to this day.

It should be noted that all of these ideas are social inventions. They don't actually exist on their own. Nations are socio-political constructs. Races are classifications based on skin tone and facial characteristics. Religions are just as much human conceptions as nations are. There is no ground to the assertion that any of these concepts have a basis in reality. But then, their purpose has never been to based on reality. It has been to appear real, and provide feel-good justification for horrible atrocities and shameless discrimination, for the purpose of profit.

Is that acceptable?

Section Three - Reasons for Illusion

Capitalism is at the bottom of this.

The profit motive is the single most destructive societal concept, ever. It has caused and promoted the vast majority of neuroses that result in common theft and crime, to the grand slaughters of war, along with every single other act of corruption and greed since the very organization of sedentary society.

Religion and Politics were invented to keep people in line, thus preserving the status quo, and also provide justification for ultimately meaningless slaughter. They would not exist in a sane society. Ultimately, they do not solve problems, they create them. In summation, they do not bring people together, they divide them. Consequently, they are not the cornerstones of civilization as they are often touted, but rather the hallmarks of a backwards, capitalistic society.

We must find a way to run our society without all three of these institutions. They are inherently unfixable, because they are not fundamentally built to solve social problems: they are there to create them.

They are no longer necessary.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reexamining Convention: Addendum Two - Utopia and Societal Improvement

Perfection is unattainable.

Yet, we live on. Accepting this, how should we act?

Apathy is simply surrender to the status quo. It is, contrary to popular belief, not the lack of a statement, but the ultimate expression of conservatism.

So, clearly apathy is among the worst of our options, and we can do much better than it. Our only real alternative to apathy, or directly destructive behaviour contributing to problems in ourselves, our views, and our societies, is the perpetual striving for betterment.

It is all we can do. It is all we can do to support progressive causes in our society, discuss different viewpoints with others both with a thoughtful mindset and on a regular basis, and set realistic goals for improving our own behaviour and character. But we must never lose our inner desire for utopia, despite that it may never be totally satisfied.

It is this desire that should provide the driving force for our society. Not profit, not redemption, not debt, not division, but a common desire for betterment. It is possible to form a society around this concept, as others have been along the others. The only difference is that this, as opposed to the others, will provide a more perfect humanity.

Reexamining Convention: Addendum One - Freedom and Responsibility of Thought

It is necessary for the clarity of this essay to address another issue that goes beyond directly examining society, and ventures into the treacherous waters of individual thought.

Among the most treasured of our precious liberties, freedom of thought must never be infringed upon. Each individual must come to his or her own conclusions of their own volition, and be given all ease possible in attaining evidence and information pertaining to these conclusions.

At the same time, with this right comes responsibility.

Several, in fact. For one, the responsibility to continually reexamine one's viewpoints and conclusions on a frequent basis, as impartially as possible. Without this, our opinions quickly become obsolete and irrelevant in our changing, advancing society.

Second, we must engage in a measure of debate with others who hold different opinions than our own. This second measure reinforces the first with exponential force. This is already practiced extensively in the scientific community with respect to their pursuits, a testament to the usefulness of this strategy.

Third, we must always strive for greater truth. Sometimes, this is not easy. It is hard to admit you are wrong. To ease this, we as a society should erase much of the stigma that revolves around being incorrect; in reality, admitting a wrong is only a positive step, and should be encouraged thusly.

Other times, it is difficult for a different reason. Our opinions often, if left untouched, under glass, and regarded as sacrosanct, they become comforting. Opposition to outside ideas emerges not out of intellectual dissent, but an emotional reflex towards 'protecting' the familiar, comforting, old thoughts. If shared between a whole people, they become traditions.

These must be challenged.

In reality, we protect nothing by isolating logic from an opinion. It achieves absolutely nothing besides intellectual stagnation. There is nothing to fear from new thoughts based on rationality, logic, and the application thereof to new and relevant information. In fact, it is a moment of greatness unrivaled by few other events in the human experience.

Traditions must be challenged, but not reflexively rejected; this is merely the same reaction as the one the traditional itself likely originated from. Not all traditions are false; they are simply old ideas that must be examined with all the skepticism that would be given to the most outlandish new idea. They should thus be given respect, but not deference.

Without challenging these traditions, we doom our opinions to unnecessary obsolesence, ourselves to perpetual ignorance, and our society to equally unnecessary and vast ignorance. Therefore, we must question everything.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Reexamining Convention: Part One - Personal Outlook

Section One - Logic versus Anti-Logic

When humanity first ventured into the river valleys, began to farm and become sedentary, create cities and societies, they also invariably created inventions to make their lives easier. Some of them are easily recognizable, common amongst all those disparate societies, and permeate society to this day. We've heard of most of them: The Wheel, Irrigation, Masonworking, and Religion.

The purpose of an invention is to fulfill an end. It is usually, but does not have to, make the life of the user easier somehow. They also must be examined periodically, and replaced if deemed obsolete. The principle exception to this trend is the Scientific Method. This invention is unquestionably the most unique, and certainly one of the most significant of the last several thousand years. Its potential uses are broad. Its current primary use is finding the most accurate truth possible, given known facts. When applied by millions of scientists worldwide, simultaneously, it yields a truth-finding mechanism unrivaled in the rest of human history. It can be applied quite successfully to decision-making as well, although this use has not been explored yet much. The Scientific Method is the product of thousands of years of logical and scientific progress, and has upheld its reputation as the best way humanity has at understanding the universe for hundreds of years with solid, and improving, success and consistency.

Religion, to the contrary, is not based on science or logic. The most fundamental concept common to all Religions is the idea of Faith. Faith is acceptance of tenets or ideas without proof. This is the antithesis of deductive and inductive reasoning, and logic as a whole, which represents the foundation upon which the Scientific Method is built. Justifications for and defenses of Faith usually incorporate a sort of perverted "innocent until proven guilty" concept: that something is true until proven decisively otherwise.

This logic fails within the circumstances for a number of reasons. First, nothing can be proven completely true in Science, largely the real-world application of Logic. Science is, by definition, constantly reexaming itself and its own theories, conclusions, laws, and facts. Things can be proven to be almost certainly true, like Gravity, but still they are not considered beyond reexamination; we continue to preform experiments with modern technology, such as satellites, lasers, and robotics, to review Newton's several hundred-year-old theories. In fact, to dispel all doubt regarding anything, you would have to possess complete knowledge of everything in the Universe, something already being accepted as utterly impossible by recent advances into quantum physics. Nothing is considered sacred, above question, in true Science. This is part of the reason why it is so consistently successful; it takes nothing for granted, and is arguably the humblest of all human pursuits. It is ironic at first glance, but profound and impressive upon further examination, that in the most anal, precise, and calculating of all human activities, nothing is ever considered certain.

Second, the idea of accepting truth until it is proven false is the complete opposite of Science's basic principles. Facts must not be accepted until proven true, and supported with more evidence than any other potential explanation; even then, they may be unseated from their throne of being the accepted truth, or rearranged into a more comprehensive, complete, and true worldview at any time, pending further research and discovery.

Hypothetically speaking, if Faith and the Scientific Method arose simultaneously in human society, culture, and consciousness, it is quite possible that Scientific Method would have emerged the dominant concept and means by which we explain both the most mundane and extraordinary phenomenon in everything from our daily lives to the strangest aspects of the far-flung universe. As it happened, however, Faith achieved a foothold that is only now being slowly, but steadily beaten back by Logic and Rationality's finest champion.

Now, we should proceed to examine, armed with the Scientific Method (it being the most powerful tool for rational discernment currently available to us), what the majority of humanity believes, who have used Faith to explain phenomena and events in their lives.

Section Two - Theistic Tradition

All religions are based upon a belief in one or more gods. A god is a very old way of describing natural forces that, on the invention of this concept, defied all explanation. Literally, it is the manifestation of one or more natural forces. Attributing the unexplainable to a god, or multiple gods, is the simplest, oldest, easiest, and least scientific way of explaining natural phenomenon.

As humanity developed methods of determining how the world worked around them, through progressively stronger and more reliable science and scientific instruments, the study of theology developed as a way to explain why proof of these rather powerful entity or entities rather didn't show up in any in-depth search whatsoever. A sort of arms-race developed, with Science not so much trying to disprove God as merely reporting its findings, and Theology trying, progressively rather desperately, to justify why a god hasn't shown itself in the face of hundreds of years of scientific measurements, or ever had any reliable testimony to its existence as opposed to the usual sensational, unfounded claims and assumptions common of all religions.

Science as a whole has not tried to disprove theistic traditions on the whole. There has been no systemic analysis of the subject, ever. The vast majority of scientists are atheists or agnostics, but on the whole have made little attempt to spread their beliefs. Atheism is the fastest-growing 'religion' in the world, make up close to a fifth of the United States' population, and yet do not send missionaries on their behalf. Despite this, many religious adherents, in particular Christians, have grown increasingly alarmed at this news and redoubled their efforts, as a system, to reaffirm their basic tenets. Thus, the relatively recent reemergence of religious fanaticism in Islam and Christianity over the past few decades.

Imagine how these theistic traditions would react if atheism acted like they have done over the past millennia. If they sent out missionaries, centralized, indoctrinated billions of children to (in this case, not) believe.

The fact is that there never has been, and there isn't, any significant proof for the existence of any deity. The belief systems that affirm this belief in spite of this complete lack of evidence exist only for two reasons. First, they have simply existed for so long, and have been passed down from generation to generation by essentially manipulating childrens' natural openness to ideas and trust of their parents, that they have stuck. But even this would not have been truly sufficient without societal intervention. For the second reason religion has existed for so long is because it is a vital part of a larger system: society.

This is not to say that society could not function without religion. It is certainly possible, and perhaps far easier, to run a just, peaceful, and kind society without religions. Religions are used to divide and unite people on essentially rediculous, arbitrary distinctions the same way race and nationality are; in addition, all three are also destructive human inventions that society would be far better off without.

What role does religion serve in society? Its function is to organize the collective morality of a group in ways that benefit the society. From this we get some beneficial shared morals, general rules like not to kill or steal. However, this is not all a religion does. It also plants psychological cues, enables appeals to irrationality that may override all other reasoning. This is evident from the various crusades, holy wars, and general 'special' circumstances in which the usual laws of morality are completely subverted under direction from the institutions which provided them in the first place. Finally, the last major 'contribution' that religion has given to society is the dilution and compartmentalization of logic. Through its sensationalism it works to disassociate rationality from individual's opinions and perceptions of society. In this way it is extremely similar to the way capitalism's inevitable and excessive materialism functions in society. The irony is that the two systems are often at loggerheads; which only serves to further distract people from important issues, which is simply the shared purpose of both subsystems. In this way, they fulfill their function, purpose, and niche within society as a joint unit: a rarity in the natural world.

Section Three - Concluding Thoughts about Morality and Logic
God is Dead.
These are the words of Friedrich Nietzsche. To many, shocking and vitriolic despite its brevity, its simplicity. It has been repeated often by many, too many of whom do not understand what meaning they were intended to convey.

The phrase does not intend to impart the belief that a literal God had existed, and now has died; rather, the implication is one of a serious, yet momentary moral crisis that all those who reject theistic tradition generally face. He means to say that now that religion has served its purpose, and has become obsolete, we now must find some other source for our morality and sense of purpose. This temporary confusion inevitable from any major values shift is often cited by the religious in order to casually dismiss the rejection of their value system as patently ridiculous.

However, that choice remains as serious, legitimate, and possible as ever.

Despite scare tactics and claims to the contrary, it is an achievable, and even necessary, goal for every individual to separate their own morals from any unnecessary and useless societal controls like religion. Such controls are used by society to manipulate personal convictions, and thus public opinion, to positions that will promote the society's interests. Unfortunately, this usually does not coincide with the best interests of the majority of individuals in that society. This will be explored in following essays with greater detail.

Now, allow me reiterate the conclusions of the following chapter:
All theistic traditions are outdated belief systems that have been, since their inception, used by societies to control and conquer hearts and minds. This turns thinking individuals into unquestioning believers, flocks of sheep with subliminal and emotional triggers that may be invoked to control them.

Knowing this, it is unavoidable that we must confront the problem of morality in an non-theistic mindset. Morality must be based off of certain basic principles; that much, society may and must provide. This includes basic things like a certain respect for living things, teaching not to steal or kill, and a desire to do no harm. However, beyond these principles society must not indoctrinate or train its citizens, especially children. It may and must educate, but only with a cautious air and constant encouragement of free thought at all times. Children are most susceptible to indoctrination; their minds must be protected from authoritative learning environments of all kinds.

So, morality should take the form of a few basic principles, necessary for societal preservation and individuals' safety, and many subtle ones, which individuals are free to decide for themselves without any social pressure whatsoever.

This is only possible in a society without mainstream religions, nation-states, and capitalistic economies. Even then, it will require diligent vigilance on the part of its citizenry.

But we can do it.

Section Four - Exhortation to Moderation

There has been some deception in the above essay.

I do not wish to use secrecy or deception to get points across, so I will be open with you. Let me show you at least some of the biases in this paper.

Faith is not an inherently bad thing. In fact, it is necessary to function in society. Without it, we could not get beyond Rene Descartes' conundrum; how do we know what we sense, exists? We cannot; thus, we take it on faith, and function in the world based on that fundamental leap.

However, beyond that initial leap, faith is unwarranted unless backed up by evidence. It is impossible to know everything about the universe, or even a particular situation, and all too often not even enough to make a confident decision. However, we must minimize how much faith we use in all circumstances. Unnecessary faith is the crutch of intellectually dishonest, weak cowards. Some faith will always remain; and that is acceptable. Nothing is entirely certain; but that must not dissuade us from the pursuit of knowledge and rationality, despite the impossibility of total certainty.

We must not be driven from the pursuit of perfection, merely because the ultimate goal is unattainable. The path is its own reward.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A New Kind of Union

Here's another UYA piece.
In the late 1800s, workers in many industrialized countries began to organize to better their terrible working conditions. They were able to organize because of the very thing that gave them their terrible working and living conditions; the factory. It was a new concept born in the efficiency-driven gilded-age mindset of that time. The Unions were able to change a great deal. Not everything; there were compromises made. But where they left off, we can continue.

This world needs a new kind of Union.

Let the history textbooks fifty years from now read thus; That in this new millennium, with it's consumer culture that supposedly sedated America, this sleeping giant arose again; That the consumers, lead by the youth, organized to better their own lives, countries, and world; that they used the very things that bound them to their circumstances, the internet and all their electronic communications, to organize themselves into a fierce consumerist economic-political machine; That in this decade, century, and millennium the masters became the servants, the new surged past the old, and the Youth were the ones to teach their elders.

Welcome to the United Youth of America.