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loquax
08-28-2008, 04:04 PM
Richard Dawkins raised the point about how atheists have very little political power, and that this should be changed. He also said that getting atheists together is like herding cats. Technically atheists share nothing in common about their beliefs - they all share a lack of belief, and that's it.

So we have a conundrum. How can we attain power if by nature we steer away from grouping? I know very little about anarchism, but it's hard not to make parallels. Could it be that in the future we might find ourselves gaining anarchic power (that might evolve into pseudo-political power through influence), or do you see atheists grouping together?

And if the former, aren't we, the writers, the political voice of the movement?

Sarpedon
08-28-2008, 05:14 PM
Why should we want power? As long as we have enough power to protect ourselves from oppression, why should we seek more of it?

A side effect of empowering a group is that it also empowers the leaders of the group. I'm extremely leery of the idea of making anyone the 'leader' of an atheist movement. One-issue voters are the foundation of totalitarianism. The essence of atheism is skepticism. (In my opinion) Skeptics are natural opposers of political orders. As it should be. To attempt to impose our own order, would be to lose our skepticism of ourselves (and our leaders).

Higgins
08-28-2008, 05:33 PM
Richard Dawkins raised the point about how atheists have very little political power, and that this should be changed. He also said that getting atheists together is like herding cats. Technically atheists share nothing in common about their beliefs - they all share a lack of belief, and that's it.

So we have a conundrum. How can we attain power if by nature we steer away from grouping? I know very little about anarchism, but it's hard not to make parallels. Could it be that in the future we might find ourselves gaining anarchic power (that might evolve into pseudo-political power through influence), or do you see atheists grouping together?

And if the former, aren't we, the writers, the political voice of the movement?

There are atheist groups you can join. I'm not sure there is really much of an atheist movement. Maybe atheists are often people who are as fed-up with Big ideology as they are with Big Theistic religion...as a writer...my interests have little to do with addressing political issues. I just drop in fascists as bad guys as needed and let it go at that.

loquax
08-28-2008, 05:34 PM
Exactly, grouping atheists doesn't work. I would define atheistic political power as the lack of religious political power. How that might come about is the topic of interest.

Higgins - I'm a member of the "brights". Just not sure if these groups will ever get anywhere.

Higgins
08-28-2008, 06:56 PM
Exactly, grouping atheists doesn't work. I would define atheistic political power as the lack of religious political power. How that might come about is the topic of interest.

Higgins - I'm a member of the "brights". Just not sure if these groups will ever get anywhere.

I kind of agree. I have nothing against religions, I just am very tired of ideologies masquerading as religions.

veinglory
08-28-2008, 10:57 PM
I personally would doubt that atheists are more or less group-minded than religious people. It may just be that atheism is not an easy thing to form an instituion around--although a few such entities do exist. I personally am a dues-paying member of a dozen difference guilds and societies.

SPMiller
08-29-2008, 04:36 AM
Sarpedon's post is excellent.

Unfortunately, faction inevitably rules politics. Always has, always will. I've always said anarchism couldn't possibly survive in any human society because some set of people will gather power and rise to the top. Violently, as they always do.

AMCrenshaw
08-29-2008, 04:56 AM
"Always has, always will. I've always said anarchism couldn't possibly survive in any human society because some set of people will gather power and rise to the top."


You've heard of Swords into Plowshares movement? The Phil Berrigan Institute? The Catholic Worker movement? Intentional communities? Most of these are anarchist movements, some of which still operate now. Without formal leadership. Many, being NPO or registered religions pay no taxes either. An interesting thing to think about.

But the difference is that on a large-scale, like that of a nation, neighbors aren't always as interested in another's intention, just their resources. Consider Guevara and Castro and Russia.

AMC

Sarpedon
08-29-2008, 04:45 PM
I'm wondering if modern communications technology has once again made direct democracy practicable.

I'd hesitate to try it with our current educational/legal system though.

Niniva
08-30-2008, 10:06 AM
We actually had a leader once, Madeline Murry O'Hare, the very first guest on the Donahue show. She was an awfully unpleasant woman who died an awfully unpleasant death, along with her awfully unpleasant son and awfully unpleasant granddaughter, immediately prior to her scheduled appearance as the last guest on the Donahue show.

Ms. O'Hare siphened money from her charity for personal use. And, an awful lot of it. Which wouldn't have haunted her so much, except she refused to pay taxes. It was her own haunted persona that lead to police not taking her seriously when she was in danger. ...Her own nasty nature that made a fired employee target her for a brutal, weeks long detention followed by execution.

That ex-employee and his buddies put millions in gold coins in storage, protected by a cheap, generic masterlock. Someone went through the entire storage area, trying locks, and took that money so they had nothing to show for one of the most heinous murders I've ever heard of... the heinous murder of one of the most heinous people that I've ever heard of...

Bartholomew
08-30-2008, 07:27 PM
Her own nasty nature that made a fired employee target her for a brutal, weeks long detention followed by execution.


It always fascinates me when people blame the victim of a violent crime FOR the violent crime.

Tor Hershman
10-26-2008, 02:08 AM
Our human CULTure bandies about powerlessness and power to take its wee collective (and individual) mind(s) off the inevitability of death.

Stay on groovin' safari,
Tor Hershman

fullbookjacket
10-26-2008, 07:50 AM
Speaking as an atheist, I'm not interested in atheists achieving power. What I want to see is atheists being welcome to sit at the table of power. Right now, an atheist can't even get elected Dogcatcher in America. All because of religious hostility.

I also don't necessarily agree with other atheists on important issues. I'm a liberal and an atheist. Some think, "liberal atheist" as if the two are joined at the hip. I've debated the issues with plenty of conservative atheists. I'd rather vote for a Jewish or Christian liberal than a conservative atheist (provided the former are committed to not confusing religious dogma with the law of the land).

Ayn Rand Objectivists are all off-the-chart conservatives. They're also atheists. They're convinced of Rand's near-Godhood and of their own moral and intellectual superiority. I find them shallow, self-centered, and pretentious.

Ruv Draba
10-26-2008, 09:01 AM
What would you do with more power? Dawkins might want to use it to eradicate religion perhaps, but why? Religion is just superstition tied to morality. We can't eradicate superstition - it fulfills an emotional need for many people; and any change to morality must involve the whole culture, not just some rationalist elite.

It would be nice for atheists be able to run credibly for significant public office without lying about their views. But that's just because our views are minority views. Other groups have the same problems; the median tends to attract popular vote.

fullbookjacket
10-26-2008, 11:49 PM
Religion is just superstition tied to morality.

Ever the editor, I shall whittle this statement a bit.

"Religion is just superstition."

AMCrenshaw
10-27-2008, 12:50 AM
It would be nice for atheists be able to run credibly for significant public office without lying about their views.

Sure it would be nice. But why? I would rather not waste new oil in and old machine; I'd sooner save it for a new machine. It's my opinion that people abandoned by their state's ideologies should form their own communities and allow them to thrive. Outside of this possibility, there is an old statement: "A big ship turns slowly".

...

So is there a hope that there might be small steps toward tolerance (as if atheists haven't proven enough that they are in fact human), despite the fact that it's BS that a group has to work to be "accepted," essentially, as human in the first place. It's what W.E.B. Dubois called "twoness" or "double-consciousness" when he wrote of the black culture during the New Negro movement. Atheists for some reason seek assimilation into a culture that does not readily accept them. They are other. So they seek to either change the ideology-in-power, or overthrow it, both of which are nearly impossible (Prospero is invincible, after all).

People might argue with me that blacks have had it much differently, that the "twoness" of Dubois could never fully apply to atheists. I agree. But I also think sociologically speaking, the atheist has been a deviant to a lesser degree and so is to a lesser degree ostracized, and like any social deviant, the atheist carries that social status as a burden.

AMC

fullbookjacket
10-27-2008, 04:14 AM
I have confidence that atheism and agnosticism is slowly growing in America. My unscientific observation of my kids' generation is that atheism is widespread amongst them. As you say, the ship turns slowly. But it does turn.

First things first. We must stop the spread of religious dogma being peddled as science.

Death Wizard
10-27-2008, 04:17 AM
First things first. We must stop the spread of religious dogma being peddled as science.

This is absolutely true.

veinglory
10-27-2008, 04:17 AM
I think, and I would have to look it up to be sure, that each generation gets more religous and more conservative as they age.

Ruv Draba
10-27-2008, 05:16 AM
Sure it would be nice. But why? I would rather not waste new oil in and old machine; I'd sooner save it for a new machine. It's my opinion that people abandoned by their state's ideologies should form their own communities and allow them to thrive.If I got an invitation to become a citizen of a developed atheist-only society I probably wouldn't join. I much prefer a pluralist society -- they produce better art, prettier architecture and have more interesting dinner conversations.


So is there a hope that there might be small steps toward tolerance (as if atheists haven't proven enough that they are in fact human), despite the fact that it's BS that a group has to work to be "accepted,"It's long, slow work to teach others to tolerate us. The most important step is to actually be useful to them; the next most important step is to have that use acknowledged, and the last step is for others to realise that you're no danger to them. (Of course, having atheists rant about the need to destroy other belief-systems does nothing for that last thing.)

Anyway, much faster is to learn to tolerate others -- including their myths about us. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus -- heck, even some New Agers -- can be very interesting and worthwhile people because of their beliefs, not just despite them.

People might argue with me that blacks have had it much differently,The average level of education among atheists is way higher than just about any other social minority you can think of. Atheism is less than 10% of most societies, but it's a very well-educated 10%. We don't have the same economic problems that many other minorities have, and our 'differentness' is only apparent if we choose to make it so. Other than at the margins I don't think that anti-atheistic sentiment compares to what other minorities experience.

AMCrenshaw
10-27-2008, 07:12 AM
The average level of education among atheists is way higher than just about any other social minority you can think of. Atheism is less than 10% of most societies, but it's a very well-educated 10%. We don't have the same economic problems that many other minorities have, and our 'differentness' is only apparent if we choose to make it so. Other than at the margins I don't think that anti-atheistic sentiment compares to what other minorities experience.


I agree.

:)



(Of course, having atheists rant about the need to destroy other belief-systems does nothing for that last thing.)

I agree 100% with this statement. Another poster mentioned that religious dogma is peddled as science-- and while that is true, I think it is more important at this point in spreading the awareness that groups (not only religions) peddle absolute truth where truth is fragmentary at best, superstitious and/or suspect, and dangerous at worst. With awareness and education comes critical thinking - one hopes - and with that the ability to discern which institutions are healthy and which are leading us to doom. "Stopping religions" is in my opinion an old point that needs reworked. Institutionalized ideology of all sorts is what needs to be "stopped", and a lack of demand might end its supply...


If I got an invitation to become a citizen of a developed atheist-only society

You assumed I meant atheist-only, which, of course, I didn't.


I much prefer a pluralist society -- they produce better art, prettier architecture and have more interesting dinner conversations.

So why couldn't the new community be pluralist? If the intention is to cultivate diversity and tolerance, atheists and theists could certainly belong peacefully to the same community. And you said it: pluralist societies produce better art, etc. because art, etc. is a better outlet for conflict-generated creativity than, say, hate-language or outright violence. Wouldn't you think?

You can stop reading now. The rest is half-rant.





And if the intention of the new community is yet a step further-- that is, not just tolerance of one another, but the cherishing of one another and the mutual esteem of one another, why should humanist atheists and God-loving human-loving Christians (for example) not be capable of belonging to the same community? Well, you know it's possible on paper, and I'd admit I'm talking about one of those ideal situations, but I have seen these communities run for my whole life and am convinced they're not only possible but more desirable than the overarching government/power/system of domination. If George Bush, for example, wasn't "fulfilling his purpose", more would simply call his administration a tyranny. For the most part, there isn't another word for it (how many people has he and his buddies sent to die in Iraq on false pretenses?). Yet, it's not that bad, so the average American tolerates it. Why should they not? Some high % of Americans believe in God, much of that % being a personal one who communicates via prayer. It all works. Why should atheists (or whoever) seek to make themselves part of that community when if they created one on their own, they'd not only have nothing to complain about, but they would exemplify "virtues" (for a lack of a better word) that for the most part the system-in-power is lacking.

AMC

p.s. Sorry about the other thread. I enjoyed it.

Ruv Draba
10-27-2008, 03:15 PM
With awareness and education comes critical thinking - one hopes - and with that the ability to discern which institutions are healthy and which are leading us to doom.
Critical thinking doesn't take for everyone and I don't believe that it will any time soon. Some people do not grow to become critical thinkers. Some seek harmony in preference to truth. Others seek sensation and experience. Others seek conformity and stability. It's from the unity of such people that society gains its strength, resilience and adaptability. Critical thinkers have an important job to do, and part of that job is to communicate effectively to people who do not think as critically. In the same way, we're lucky to have people who can build harmony between any two viewpoints -- no matter how conflicted.


Institutionalized ideology of all sorts is what needs to be "stopped", and a lack of demand might end its supply...
If for no other reason, institutionalised education produces ideology because of the logistics of educating large numbers of people. The reality of education is that it will remain institutionalised in the main just because demand will continue to exceed supply. Some groups will always take advantage of that to conform ideology to suit their purposes.

I'm not holding my breath waiting for a large subculture of 'free-thinkers' any time soon.

So why couldn't the new community be pluralist? If the intention is to cultivate diversity and tolerance, atheists and theists could certainly belong peacefully to the same community.My community (urban Australia) is already reasonably pluralist. Australia has around 17% non-religious folk as of last census -- which is about twice as many as some of other developed countries. We have twice as much tertiary education as many other developed countries. It's far from perfect, but perhaps easier to work with and nurture than to start some alternative. True cultures take lifetimes to develop -- so one can't hope to harvest the fruits of cultural seeds that one plants.


And you said it: pluralist societies produce better art, etc. because art, etc. is a better outlet for conflict-generated creativity than, say, hate-language or outright violence. Wouldn't you think?I wish I had a clear answer. Pluralism admits multiple sources of inspiration. Communication from multiple perspectives offers contrast if not conflict... but the price you pay is that individual 'schools' of style and thought may not develop so far.

At least with pluralism, if you don't like one thing you can hope to find something different. :)


And if the intention of the new community is yet a step further-- that is, not just tolerance of one another, but the cherishing of one another and the mutual esteem of one another, why should humanist atheists and God-loving human-loving Christians (for example) not be capable of belonging to the same community?Of course they are. Such communities already exist as communities of interest. For a while I spent time in an online humanist community including secular and sectarian members. We had no problems discussing things and enjoying one another's perspectives. We had far more in common than in difference, and I think that we all found our differences stimulating rather than irritating.


Why should they not? Some high % of Americans believe in GodFrom recollection, around 92% of US citizens have some religion, which means that 8% either don't or aren't saying.

Why should atheists (or whoever) seek to make themselves part of that community when if they created one on their own, they'd not only have nothing to complain about, but they would exemplify "virtues" (for a lack of a better word) that for the most part the system-in-power is lacking.Well, if 'virtues' mean anything then they're valuable for their own sake. If we exemplify them because they're valuable then they change our culture and that filters through to our expectations of leadership.

And there's no community on earth that has nothing to complain about. :)

Sorry about the other thread. I enjoyed it.I was getting a lot of valuable thought from it too - but all the forums here are purpose and community-oriented. I trust and respect the moderation on AW, which is far better than my experience of many other forums. AW comes with no guarantee that a subject -- however legitimate to discuss -- fits into a particular forum. That really depends on the community's interests and sensibilities. If it doesn't fit, well there are non-AW forums too of course.

Higgins
10-28-2008, 08:07 PM
I think, and I would have to look it up to be sure, that each generation gets more religous and more conservative as they age.

This is what the urban legend is on this, I guess...but given that everybody is born an atheist and a free-thinker...perhaphs they are at their most religious and conservative just before puberty.

veinglory
10-28-2008, 08:23 PM
I know it is a little more than just an urban legend as I was introduced to the effect at an epidemiology conference. But I was pretty bored at the time and cannot remember the name fo the researcher who was showing data or remember exactly what it was.

Certainly republican voters skew a lot older and have for some time, suggesting it is not a generational effect.

fullbookjacket
10-29-2008, 04:25 AM
I know it is a little more than just an urban legend as I was introduced to the effect at an epidemiology conference. But I was pretty bored at the time and cannot remember the name fo the researcher who was showing data or remember exactly what it was.

Certainly republican voters skew a lot older and have for some time, suggesting it is not a generational effect.

I tend to agree with you that individuals become more conservative and religious as they age.

I'm the opposite. I was very conservative and pretty religious in my misspent youth. I'm 51 now. And very liberal and confirmed atheist. Clearly, I've gotten smarter and wiser with age.

AMCrenshaw
10-29-2008, 06:31 PM
If you want to live Republican, vote Democrat!

SPMiller
11-02-2008, 05:57 AM
Although it's still illegal for atheists to hold public office in Texas, I maintain some faith in the US political system. It's designed to change slowly, but change it does. Eventually.

Thus, even though there's no chance Obama can possibly win Texas, I'll still be voting Obama on the 4th.

But we've run far afield of the topic, haven't we? Voting isn't a very anarchistic practice.

AMCrenshaw
11-02-2008, 08:43 AM
I don't vote. I'd sooner vote for someone like Charlie Sheen, who makes no claims to be anything other than a clown -- in the actual American sense.

AMC

Ruv Draba
11-02-2008, 09:34 AM
Ever the editor, I shall whittle this statement a bit.

"Religion is just superstition."That's not really true. Religion also carries morality, ethics, politics and myth -- although not all morality, ethics, politics or myth is religious. Religion has contributed a lot of thought to all of these areas -- and some of this thought has subsequently been adapted by secular institutions.

The reverse is also true of course: religion borrows from secular thought too. I remember watching an early-morning televangelist for instance, who claimed that whatever you 'give thanks for', God gives you more of. In other words, God responds to prayernomics. :D

fullbookjacket
11-02-2008, 10:22 PM
I defend my case thusly:

If you substitute the word "superstition" everywhere you used "religion" in that last post, it still makes sense.

I guess I could accept a definition of "religion" as, "a body or canon of collected superstitions." That's really all it amounts to. Walk on water? Superstition. Live inside a whale? Superstition. Burn for eternity? Superstition. They're all irrational beliefs, i.e. superstitions.

SPMiller
11-02-2008, 10:28 PM
I can't object to that definition. Superstition carries a negative connotation to emphasize the otherness of someone's beliefs relative to the speaker's belief system. Therefore, the only reason I can see to separate religion from superstition would stem from a misguided attempt to distance oneself from the negative connotation such an equation would bestow upon religion.

Ruv Draba
11-03-2008, 05:25 AM
Walk on water? Superstition. Live inside a whale? Superstition. Burn for eternity? Superstition.Those are myths - stories that one may or may not believe. And indeed, many pious people don't believe all the myths of their religion. Superstition derives from a Latin term meaning "standing over", and originally connoted "an excessive fear of the gods". Still today it means "unreasonable belief" (and often, a belief formed of ignorance or fear) -- though people don't really agree on what reasonable means.

Religion certainly comes with superstition -- in the sense of some faith in the supernatural dictating decisions. But it also comes with a lot of other things. The myths often contain morals -- and the morals teach behaviour. There are often laws and ethics buried in religion -- either as myth or direct injunctions by past thinkers.

Calling moral or ethical injunctions 'superstitions' is misleading. Very often, those injunctions are tied to emerging and quite practical societal needs. They may be backed up by myths or superstitions, but they're also backed up by law and material consequence as often as not. Whether it's Ten Commandments or an Eightfold Path, you can see social thought emerging -- not just new stories developing.

I would also point out that myths are not confined to religion. Every society has them. Atheists have them too. I've mentioned the following secular myths before: You can't pregnant the first time; if you work hard, you can own your own home; every citizen can become president.

AMCrenshaw
11-03-2008, 06:10 AM
Those are myths - stories that one may or may not believe. And indeed, many pious people don't believe all the myths of their religion.

Or any. I may be one of them.



if you work hard, you can own your own home

A beautiful American superstition. Is capitalism a religion too?

I would also point out that there are religions and philosophies that are lacking, you could say, in superstition.


AMC

SPMiller
11-03-2008, 07:44 AM
I would also point out that myths are not confined to religion. Every society has them. Atheists have them too. I've mentioned the following secular myths before: You can't pregnant the first time; if you work hard, you can own your own home; every citizen can become president.I have a very hard time swallowing that anyone with a pulse believes those particular myths. Unlike deities, which can't conclusively be disproven by their very nature, each of those propositions is directly contradicted by extensive bodies of facts.

Of course, I don't believe in deities either. I'm just sayin'.

Ruv Draba
11-03-2008, 07:54 AM
I have a very hard time swallowing that anyone with a pulse believes those particular myths.I chose them for exactly that reason -- to illustrate things that aren't true, but which we'd often like to believe.

But just to show that not all secular myths are trivial here's one that is falsifiable, but which people certainly do believe and which it may take some scrutiny to overturn:

Democracy is the fairest form of government.

As for deities being disprovable -- deities are characters in myth and they do certain things which we can frequently test. Deities are often tied to creation myths, miracles and other mythic historical events -- which are themselves often testable -- and have even been tied to specific locations (e.g. the top of mount Olympus), which we can also visit.

SPMiller
11-03-2008, 07:55 AM
I chose them for exactly that reason -- to illustrate things that aren't true, but which we'd often like to believe.


But just to show that not all secular myths are trivial here's one that is falsifiable, but which people certainly do believe and which it may take some scrutiny to overturn:
Democracy is the fairest form of government.The US isn't even a democratic system in any meaningful sense--more like a constitutional federal republic--but I see your point.

AMCrenshaw
11-03-2008, 08:14 PM
The US isn't even a democratic system in any meaningful sense--more like a constitutional federal republic--but I see your point.

It's true. And if it did, it would probably resemble anarchy.

If anyone's interested in reading about it, this book is cheap and informational:

http://www.amazon.com/Patterns-Anarchy-Leonard-I-Krimerman/dp/0384599354/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1225728795&sr=8-1

This one is about "Christian Anarchy":

http://www.amazon.com/Anarchy-Christianity-Jacques-Ellul/dp/0802804950/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1225728855&sr=1-2


AMC

Ruv Draba
11-03-2008, 10:49 PM
The US isn't even a democratic system in any meaningful sense--more like a constitutional federal republic--but I see your point.There are various democratic forms in the world though. There's an illuminating picture on forms of government here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Forms_of_government.svg). The key is here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Forms_of_government.svg#English:). A fairly comprehensive list of governmental forms can be found here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_forms_of_government). I'm not persuaded that any of the democratic forms are especially 'fair' -- especially for any group who are in small minorities, but there is an historical case to make for 'least worst form' of government. :)


It's true. And if it did, it would probably resemble anarchy.Anarchic systems look very unstable to me. People create governance structures to bring social order and safety. If order breaks down, they just build it up again with more governance and I for one am glad of that. While anarchy might convey more atheistic 'freedoms', I have no idea how I'd exercise those freedoms, but I'm dang sure that I don't want my neighbours to adopt a lassez-faire approach to their sewage.

I also want to state, having worked as a consultant for over a decade that consultation is the most inefficient form of human activity I can think of; the inefficiency grows combinatorially (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combinatorial_explosion_(communication)) with the number of people involved, and consensus is generally impossible for any group that has members. For anything you want done quickly and effectively, there's no going past a benign dictatorship for doing it.

Every form of decent, effective government I can think of boils down to setting up benign dictatorships and then either dismantling them, crippling them or staging orderly rebellions before they get too malignant. Democracy has both construction/enabling and destruction/disabling phases embedded (though there might be other ways of doing it); anarchy only has destruction/disabling, which seems to me like trying to run on one leg.

AMCrenshaw
11-04-2008, 09:00 AM
Anarchic systems look very unstable to me. People create governance structures to bring social order and safety. If order breaks down, they just build it up again with more governance and I for one am glad of that.

Many people have a very limited view of anarchism. And that's OK. They haven't seen productive forms at work. Believe me I've seen some real disasters. All of the intentional communities I've described in the past (and to you personally) are perfect models of peaceful, diverse, pluralistic anarchism. Just remember that lack of rule does not mean lack of order.



the inefficiency grows combinatorially with the number of people involved, and consensus is generally impossible for any group that has members

Which is why you keep the numbers low. 1 global (or even statewide) anarchy would surely fail. But smaller communities (even up to 100) have relatively fewer problems with consensus because in many issues they are quite like-minded about one thing: they want what is best for the whole. If they want what is best for the individual only, why did they enter into a community in the first place?

Now, I have to say that intentional communities have been, in the past, susceptible to "leadership" problems-- that is, people naturally have leadership gifts. Usually this isn't a problem since most people don't care to organize events, dinner times; they'd rather get the jobs done and enjoy their free time. But sometimes charismatics come along.

Take the People's Temple, for example. Since I've studies NRMs for a while now I feel half-qualified to discuss them. :)


If you look closely at the case study, you will see that Jim Jones' charisma (and later madness) is the sole reason for the breakdown of the intentional community. When he came to Guyana, he became possessive of the ladies and because he paid for the construction of the whole project, and because it was his "genius" ideals that led the people to where they were, they allowed him to rule over everyone. Sooner than later, people who once danced and prayed and sang and told stories were all working long hours deep into the night. The medical supplies (mostly medicine) went missing, because Jim Jones was a control freak and an addict. You know where it went. But what most people don't know is that before Jim Jones actually showed up in Guyana, the people were very happy. They had enough food despite the infertile ground. They had time off their feet to think, write, play music. Most people really believed they were in paradise...but that's where atheism comes in! ha!

AMC

Ruv Draba
11-05-2008, 04:49 PM
Many people have a very limited view of anarchism. And that's OK. They haven't seen productive forms at work. Believe me I've seen some real disasters. All of the intentional communities I've described in the past (and to you personally) are perfect models of peaceful, diverse, pluralistic anarchism. Just remember that lack of rule does not mean lack of order.I've seen anarchies work just fine in situations of surplus -- e.g. in groups on vacation when people don't need much from one another and just share one another's company when they feel like it. Whether they opt in or out it's win/win, so there's harmony.

But I've also seen situations where anarchies fail with even three people. (Like virtually every shared student household I've seen or heard of. :)) The moment that there's deficit, or needs or circumstances change and opt-in, stay-in or opt-out produce win/lose, watch the anarchy fall apart or mutate into something else. This is what I mean to say that it's unstable.

AMCrenshaw
11-05-2008, 07:38 PM
The moment that there's deficit, or needs or circumstances change and opt-in, stay-in or opt-out produce win/lose, watch the anarchy fall apart or mutate into something else. This is what I mean to say that it's unstable.

And I have to agree that this is the majority, but not the whole. For example, there is an intentional in my hometown (that, despite the fact I live in a very small town, I never knew about until fairly recently) that has operated since the founding of the town, which dates well before Sherman's march. After Reaganomics, or the tax cuts in the 80s, during prosperous times for the U.S. middle-class, guess what happened to the intentional community? It went from 70+ members to less than 20. The reason people live communally, I have found, is precisely because there is a time of deficit, precisely because they have to share to survive. The numbers are steadily rising in the past 10 years (but I blame that on new-hippies :)). And I should also add that this community is open to any and all religions or lack thereof, any and all sexual orientations, to any and all races or ethnic groups and there is absolutely no authority.

On a side note, have you read Eros and Civilization by Herbert Marcuse? If not, I think you would; he treats Freud like a myth-maker and takes liberties to misrepresent him. But a discussion of his obvious, but interesting alternative to the "repression-based society" might have a place here...

AMC

loquax
11-05-2008, 11:39 PM
I've seen anarchies work just fine in situations of surplus -- e.g. in groups on vacation when people don't need much from one another and just share one another's company when they feel like it. Whether they opt in or out it's win/win, so there's harmony.

But I've also seen situations where anarchies fail with even three people. (Like virtually every shared student household I've seen or heard of. :)) The moment that there's deficit, or needs or circumstances change and opt-in, stay-in or opt-out produce win/lose, watch the anarchy fall apart or mutate into something else. This is what I mean to say that it's unstable.Reverting back to the discussion of atheism and anarchism, different rules apply. There's no surplus or deficit, just ideas. A religion is in effect a governing body of ideas, and on the whole they work VERY well. With no governing body, atheism is, in a way, already "anarchistic". And strangely it's exploding. No governing bodies, just the free spread of ideas.

I'm wondering if anarchism can be more powerful in affecting change than organisation when there's nothing to lose.

SPMiller
11-05-2008, 11:48 PM
It may be exploding in Europe, but by all studies I've seen, a similar phenomenon is not occurring in the heavily religious USA.

Ruv Draba
11-06-2008, 12:26 AM
And I have to agree that this is the majority, but not the whole. For example, there is an intentional in my hometown (that, despite the fact I live in a very small town, I never knew about until fairly recently) that has operated since the founding of the town, which dates well before Sherman's march.
After Reaganomics, or the tax cuts in the 80s, during prosperous times for the U.S. middle-class, guess what happened to the intentional community? It went from 70+ members to less than 20. The reason people live communally, I have found, is precisely because there is a time of deficit, precisely because they have to share to survive.Actually, I don't think that you've demonstrated that, but the reverse -- that wealth and jobs lure anarchists away, but not that need binds people to anarchy. I'd suggest that anarchy only sustains when the need for cooperation remains loose and infrequent.

We know from history that anarchistic collaboration can form spontaneously -- we often see it in frontier or rural areas for instance. But the units engaged in it are not themselves anarchic. Frontier families and rural businesses are often individually very organised because they need to be to survive. However they don't need to organise between units because every unit has similar needs, and the need for cooperation is infrequent.

But then, if you watch frontier families or rural businesses trading with distant communities, what happens? They invest in infrastructure to do so (roads, transport, towns etc...) and suddenly they organise themselves. Some people become producers; others become distributors. Price-setting and price-taking occurs. Balances of power appear... Councils form.

Anarchy is often a natural stage in the development of social systems, but in the main, systems develop out of it as soon as circumstance or need press. One can artificially induce anarchy perhaps by idealogically 'setting' need, living in sheltered circumstances and manipulating economy, but that's no more robust than the micro-ecology of a terrarium. Close the living-room curtains and the terrarium hasn't the means to open them again. :)

My NaNoWriMo (http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/node) WIP is set in Afghanistan and for the last three months I've been researching the culture of the Pashtun (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pashtun) people there, who make up 40-50% of the Afghan population. The Pashtun people are arguably the most anarchic people on earth. Everyone from Alexander the Great to Genghis Khan to the British Empire to the Soviet Union has conquered their country but nobody has found a way of telling them what to do. In some parts of the country, each family lives in a fortress that would make the most hardened survivalist proud. 80% of Afghans are agrarian, so most families are self-sufficient in food and textiles.

In rural and regional Afghanistan they're divided into eternally-feuding tribes who happily set aside their feuds to repel invaders (as they did with the Soviets), only to get back to feuding afterwards. They may well have the highest weapon ownership per capita in the world (in tribal Pakistan, Pashtuns manufacture Kalashnikovs by hand). Between families or tribes, the natural form of decision-making is democratic (though within families it's autocratic). By tradition, every family or tribe gets a say, decisions are consensual and dissenters may opt-out and may suffer sanctions for doing so. This has been going on for hundreds and possibly thousands of years.

But in the cities that's not how these people work. They do what every other city does -- concentrate power and authority, because that's the only way they can build the level of interoperation necessary to run a city -- and cities produce huge economic benefits in terms of external trade. But over time, the cities determine national and regional policy because they have the economic power. The regions may resist that policy (e.g. decisions to eradicate opium growing), but when there are economic benefits they often just decide how to implement policy instead.

AMCrenshaw
11-06-2008, 12:37 AM
Actually, I don't think that you've demonstrated that, but the reverse -- that wealth and jobs lure anarchists away, but not that need binds people to anarchy.

Sorry I didn't mention that the Civil War was going on! It may or may not be obvious, but that was probably a trying time...



Frontier families and rural businesses are often individually very organised because they need to be to survive.

I will try not to repeat myself more: A lack of Rule does not mean a lack of order. Organization is necessary or else no one would know what they were doing from day to day. That extraneous councils must form is really a point of view, an opinion, and not a point of fact. Social theorists can theorize, but I can show you an actual example. And that's all it takes for me to believe it's "possible", and, if done right, more desirable than systems of power (systems of domination).

For a hundred years this community I discussed has existed. No council exists (yet). Not to say people don't have roles, like producer and distributor, doctor, etc, but that there are no "laws"; there is no "authority" that mandates anything. They do what needs to be done for survival and still have time to do what pleases them.

More than a hundred years...

AMC

Ruv Draba
11-06-2008, 01:35 AM
Reverting back to the discussion of atheism and anarchism, different rules apply. There's no surplus or deficit, just ideas.Sociologically, ideas are the warp and weft of culture. A culture's values and ethics are normally enshrined in its myths. In sharing the myths we propagate the values and thus perpetuate the society.

Atheism is not of itself a cultural movement because its ideas don't derive from what people hold to be true, but what they hold to be false. Atheism is therefore a counter-cultural movement -- it doesn't really have identity except as resistance to a larger cultural movement. Arguably, if 80% of a population were atheist, the term 'atheism' would fall out of use in favour of the genuine cultural movements to which atheism sometimes allies -- like materialism, rationalism, secular humanism. These latter have their own core values and increasingly their own myths, so they're genuine cultural movements.

Counter-cultural movements operate by resistance, and so they inherently look anarchic. But that doesn't make them a movement towards anarchy but away from whatever they're resisting.

These facts disturb religious commentators quite a lot, and understandably. 'We know that atheists want to challenge our values and dispel our myths', they'll say. 'But what are you actually replacing them with? And do you really think our culture so terrible in the first place that you'd want to destroy it without regard for what might follow? Surely, before you assert your right to overturn something, you owe it to your community to put up a constructive proposal for its replacement? What vision for a better society are you hiding behind your atheism?'

Many atheists don't know how to answer that. Religion offends them or bores them and that's as far as it goes. So they opt-out without necessarily opting-in to anything else. That's how counter-culture works.

Lacking a clear sense of atheistic vision, religious commentators will often try and guess, so we get comments like 'Atheism is support for Communism.' or 'Atheism leads to anarchy' or 'Atheism is support for materialism' or hedonism or satanism or.. whatever the bogey-man of the day is.

It's impossible to defend against that because atheism is about what you're opposed to, not what you support. So if you want to be a constructive shaper of cultural values, it's really not enough to say that you're atheist -- you need to say what it is that you endorse, not just what you oppose.

For me, endorsing anarchy would be like endorsing the number five. Anarchy emerges under certain circumstances, is practical under certain circumstances, but is no more an ideal end-state to my mind than five is the only number I'd ever count with.

In my personal experience the most fervent anarchists I've met are either very irritated by the political status quo but don't know what to replace it with (so they're like the atheists of politics :D), or they're introverted individualists who've projected their desire to be left alone onto the whole of society. [Or they're extraverted individualists who just like the fashion. :)]

I don't see anarchism as a political movement any more than I see atheism as a cultural movement. I see it as either irritation with politics (so it's counter-cultural), or code for some more complex sociopolitical ideology that has its own very specific structure.

To give an example, the Pashtun tribes I mentioned in an earlier post are quite anarchic, but they're also very strong on cultural conformity. The Pashtunwali (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pashtunwali) code that underpins their culture is thousands of years old and very prescriptive about behaviour; Pashtun tribes have been known to enforce it spontaneously and assiduously on one another. Most anarchists of Western persuasion wouldn't enjoy living a tribal Pashtun lifestyle I think -- they prize their individuality too much.

Ruv Draba
11-06-2008, 01:47 AM
I will try not to repeat myself more: A lack of Rule does not mean a lack of order.I concur -- please see my Pashtun examples above, f'rinstance. When Pashtun tribes need to make a collective decision, they form a loya jirga or Grand Council representing virtually every family somehow. Everyone speaks, everyone listens. They make the decision; representatives state their position on the decision and then it dissolves. Tribal Pashtun have been called the most democratic people on earth (although traditionally, only the patriarchs participate). On the other hand, they also have a reputation for being among the more militant, chaotic and unmanageable cultures on earth (these are the people said to be sheltering Osama bin Laden). Lots of people respect them, but nobody (except maybe a few American survivalists) wants to emulate them.

The problem with your example AMC, is that it's not specific, detailed or referenced -- which makes it look mythical (I don't mean 'invented'; I mean mythic in the sense of 'I knew a man once who could walk on water'). I can't respond to it because you've only supplied uncited information and only revealed such information as supports your argument. So since I can't respond to it, I'm just doing what I every rational materialist does when he hears tales of a bloke trotting on white-caps: ignoring it until it's substantiated. :tongue

(Sorry for your frustration -- I should've made that clear sooner. :D)

AMCrenshaw
11-06-2008, 03:10 AM
I understand! Until I turn my evidence into a paper or something, I literally can't cite for you. Except that my only evidence is direct experience. And it's quite specific. (Maybe you inspired me to invade their community with a camera, and create a documentary).



or code for some more complex sociopolitical ideology that has its own very specific structure.

Yes! With the same susceptibility to weaknesses and strengths, yes. It just doesn't have Government or Rule. But it does have ideology and structure. Good. We've come to an agreement.


In my personal experience the most fervent anarchists I've met are either very irritated by the political status quo but don't know what to replace it with (so they're like the atheists of politics ), or they're introverted individualists who've projected their desire to be left alone onto the whole of society. [Or they're extraverted individualists who just like the fashion. ]


Which am I? :) I can save you the trouble of saying I don't know, AMC. "Both." The fact is that when any form of government has more power than its people, I do not want it. It's more than irritation. It's oppression.

In the interim between "this" government and "that" (by which I mean the government my oppression and irritation will urge me and others to imagine and then precipitate into action), anarchism on a small scale is ideally practical (oxymoron, ho!), especially for persons my age. Personally I don't think it can work on a grand scale; call me cynical, but people have their streaks of depravity. It's human to be "imperfect", or co-mingled of "good" and "evil". On a small scale, however, it is much easier for people with like-minded intentions to manage this co-mingling.


I don't see anarchism as a political movement any more than I see atheism as a cultural movement.


You shouldn't see anarchism as a whole as a political movement. But there have been counter-cultural movements (haha, like the hippies) that have included anarchic political motives, which makes them political movements, in a sense. In another, calling them political movements only encourages their bad behavior (ahem, black clad anyone?)

AMC

Ruv Draba
11-06-2008, 05:03 AM
Maybe you inspired me to invade their community with a camera, and create a documentaryThat sounds like it could be very interesting.

It just doesn't have Government or Rule. But it does have ideology and structure. Good. We've come to an agreement.Transient structure -- like the difference between pup tents and skyscrapers, yes.

But transient power-structures are only good for operating and maintaining transient infrastructure. Pashtun tribes do just fine with anarchy because they occupy a geographical and economic niche that neither requires nor supports complex infrastructure. They sat for thousands of years amid mountains and deserts on the Silk Road, got invaded every generation or two, and learned to cope with that. When these guys manufacture they always use cottage industry techniques, because that's what their anarchy best supports. They're a very practical and inventive people. They make Kalashnikovs using drills, hand-files and simple one and two-man forges. They process opium into heroin using car-jacks, 44-gallon drums and bagsful of chemicals. But as their desire and need for permanent infrastructure increases (they love electricity for instance), their anarchy breaks down.

Indeed, there has been a Pashtun diaspora, and you can read blogs of expat Pashtuns in urban professions as diverse as medicine and systems engineering. The common theme I've been getting is that while Pashtuns are very proud of their heritage, urban Pashtuns have no desire to return to traditional sociopolical structures, thank you.


The fact is that when any form of government has more power than its people, I do not want it. It's more than irritation. It's oppression.Perhaps everyone feels that oppression to some degree, but I think that most people would agree that it also gives us roads, telephone systems, sewage, clean water -- all of the valuable infrastructure that promotes longevity and enables individual freedoms. (Yes, it's paradoxical but it's also true.) I contend that you can create an anarchy that exploits this infrastructure just by creating a niche within a broader society, but you can't create an anarchy that preserves and develops this infrastructure. Hence my earlier comment about 'microecology'.

You shouldn't see anarchism as a whole as a political movement.Good. I don't - any more than atheism is a religious or ideological movement. :)

But there have been counter-cultural movements (haha, like the hippies) that have included anarchic political motives, which makes them political movements, in a sense.Just as there are religions and philosophies (like secular humanism) that embrace atheism.


In another, calling them political movements only encourages their bad behaviorJust as calling atheism a religion incites some atheists to extreme preciousness and others (like me) to violence using the nearest sporting equipment I can find. :)

AMCrenshaw
11-06-2008, 08:06 AM
My final thoughts:



Transient structure -- like the difference between pup tents and skyscrapers, yes.

No structure is not transient. That's not me speaking; it's the Buddha! :)



I contend that you can create an anarchy that exploits this infrastructure just by creating a niche within a broader society, but you can't create an anarchy that preserves and develops this infrastructure.

This is the only point of real departure between us (from my point of view). If you can create it, you can create it again (which is the semantic vision of preservation, not so absurd as I am allowing it. You can keep creating. If people had the motivation to do it once, why, logically-speaking, wouldn't they want the fruit of their actions to last? They would, and it seems to me, in an ideal anarchy, they would because they wanted to) and this continual process of creating would give way to advancement and development (how can we do this more efficiently and more effectively)? These concepts (which I admit they are in fact concepts, idealizations, what-have-you) are natural exhortations. Sure, they do not have to be done, but the people understand that it should be done, and so they do it.

And soon I shall click my heels together and return to Kansas.

AMC

Ruv Draba
11-06-2008, 11:51 AM
No structure is not transient. That's not me speaking; it's the Buddha!Well, the Buddha should have asked me what I meant first. :)

Institutions create structures that propagate past the tenure of their founders -- that's almost a definition of institution in itself. Institutions can sustain and renew themselves, and the effort to sustain and renew is generally far less than the effort to recreate. Moreover, the risk involved in recreating a structure with no previous experience is often very high (how many bad legal systems would we have to invent before we invented a decent one? How many bad ways are there to build a road?)


If you can create it, you can create it again (which is the semantic vision of preservation, not so absurd as I am allowing it.While that's true on paper with infinite time to experiment, unlimited resources who are all very capable, in a perfect vacuum where every object is a sphere... in practice if you've worked in any management discipline at all, you'll know that it just doesn't happen, no matter how cooperative and well-motivated are the staff.

Amateurism and temporary organisations do not generally create sustainable, efficient infrastructure -- and often the infrastructure they build isn't even terribly effective. I work in management consulting and have a list as long as your arm of failed amateurish attempts to achieve complex things. I could bend your ears for days about why these fail. A common problem is that people don't know what they don't know until they try to do it -- and then it seems immeasurably harder than when they started. Another problem is that they simply don't have anything like the expertise to meet the challenge, but are in denial about this fact. A third problem is that often, their reason for attempting it nowhere meets the real cost of execution -- some tasks can only be accomplished by large, organised groups working multi-generationally. The human genome project is a recent example, but you can find examples all through science, law, medicine... pick a profession.

Institutions at their best provide services at an efficiency and efficacy that amateurs can't hope to match in a dozen lifetimes. They do so because they build on tens, hundreds or thousands of man-years of expertise -- expertise that an anarchy of amateurs can't hope to build, much less sustain.

Institutions also concentrate power as part of their self-interest in self-perpetuation and as a by-product of individual ambition. There's no doubt that this does harm at times. But there are also social mechanisms one can use to limit, contest and dismantle that power. Often, that's far preferable to destroying the concentration of expertise.

AMCrenshaw
11-06-2008, 09:08 PM
While that's true on paper with infinite time to experiment, unlimited resources who are all very capable, in a perfect vacuum where every object is a sphere... in practice if you've worked in any management discipline at all, you'll know that it just doesn't happen, no matter how cooperative and well-motivated are the staff.

Most people in a pseudo-capitalist society may be cooperative and well-motivated, but the actual product isn't necessarily going to directly affect their survival. People in an anarchist community aren't working for wages, for paper money. One could argue about how that affects their capability; I don't need to. I will say this: They're working for health, food, shelter, and time-- not money.


expertise that an anarchy of amateurs can't hope to build, much less sustain

Oh. All anarchists would be amateurs? I see!

Regardless, many anarchists would never hope to sustain their own institutions they way you might imagine. Mostly self-sufficient communities (such as the one I'm not allowed to cite :)) have no need of roads; they have no need for laws; they have no need for many of the things an institution of a greater size would most certainly need. However, the other thing you might forget is that anarchist communities do not necessarily have to cut themselves off from the rest of society (and from society's wealth of information and resources).

If it wasn't implicit before, I'll make it explicit now: an anarchist community would have to live simply to survive. You seem to understand that (puppy tent versus skyscraper); the other thing is that people would have to want to live simply for the community to first function, and second function peacefully.

AMC

Ruv Draba
11-06-2008, 11:41 PM
Most people in a pseudo-capitalist society may be cooperative and well-motivated, but the actual product isn't necessarily going to directly affect their survival.That's true exactly because of specialised secondary industries (e.g. manufacturing) and services sectors (e.g. education, medicine, IT) -- and it's not just true of capitalistic societies, but any society bigger than an agrarian village.

It seems to me that you're advocating that your anarchist society must do without those sectors to meet your ideal. This to me seems like some sort of neoprimitivism (http://neoprimitivism.blogspot.com/). Even the Amish have specialised crafters who don't grow their own food, y'know -- an uncle of mine trades horses with Amish saddlers and buggy-makers for instance. :) I'd suggest that most atheists in the world do not consider neoprimitivism as the culmination of disbelief in religion -(although I know a few religious sorts who possibly do. :roll:)


Oh. All anarchists would be amateurs? I see!Well, you're the one who wants to destroy manufacturing and services institutions. With no professional services, everyone's an amateur.


the other thing you might forget is that anarchist communities do not necessarily have to cut themselves off from the rest of society (and from society's wealth of information and resources).I didn't forget it -- I mentioned economic niche before. Alternative lifestyles do that all the time, but in doing so they admit some degree of centralised authority in exchange for access to little luxuries like anaesthetic, disinfectant, X-ray machines, modern surgical skills, and a pharmaceuticals industry. :)


an anarchist community would have to live simply to survive.That definitely seems like neoprimitivism. I'm not picking on it as an alternative lifestyle, but I would point out that it's not necessarily anarchic either. Some primitive societies are very rigidly ordered. Consider Indigenous Australia for instance, in which by tribal custom where and how you sit is determined by your age, gender, moiety and blood relations in the tribe, and failure to honour custom might get you speared in the leg for disrespect. Cooperation born of necessity does not necessarily lead to egalitarianism, kindness or liberty.

AMCrenshaw
11-07-2008, 12:43 AM
Almost. Except that neoprimitivism includes an abandonment of all sorts of technology, which is not necessary for anarchy. The one type of anarchism I am discussing may have those elements, but there is an openness left to the people who begin the communities about technology, or about whether or not to


destroy manufacturing and services institutions

AMC

SPMiller
11-07-2008, 02:00 AM
That definitely seems like neoprimitivism. I'm not picking on it as an alternative lifestyle, but I would point out that it's not necessarily anarchic either. Some primitive societies are very rigidly ordered. Consider Indigenous Australia for instance, in which by tribal custom where and how you sit is determined by your age, gender, moiety and blood relations in the tribe, and failure to honour custom might get you speared in the leg for disrespect. Cooperation born of necessity does not necessarily lead to egalitarianism, kindness or liberty.When I write about tribal societies, I have the hardest time getting readers to accept the tribe's customs and mores and such. They just refuse to believe that people could act that way. I guess that's why a lot of fantasy writers choose to go with that old standard, medieval Europe, in which little explanation is necessary.

Also, I wouldn't assume AMC is necessarily arguing this case from his own personal beliefs. I'm guessing he's playing devil's advocate. Otherwise, he wouldn't be using teh intarwebz, among other things.

AMCrenshaw
11-07-2008, 04:38 AM
What case I'm arguing from is that anarchism is plausible (even if not greatly) for peaceful, healthy, intelligent living. Not that I subscribe to it, entirely. The possibility is well within reality (I've seen it with me-own-two eyes! Just like Ruv's seen institutional business efficiency and inefficiency with his). Not that it's really a point of argument. En el mundo no cosa es imposible, including spanglish.

AMC

SPMiller
11-07-2008, 04:48 AM
That's too close to valid Spanish (ignoring the no/ninguna bit, for example) to be Spanglish, IMO. I'd have spelled en/es as in/is.

Sorry for spoiling your play, AMC.

Ruv Draba
11-07-2008, 07:38 AM
What case I'm arguing from is that anarchism is plausible (even if not greatly) for peaceful, healthy, intelligent living.I'd agree if you restrict the claim to a few occupying boutique economic niches inside a peaceful, healthy, intelligent, ordered society whose institutions support and protect them.


The possibility is well within reality (I've seen it with me-own-two eyes! Just like Ruv's seen institutional business efficiency and inefficiency with his)Well, my examples are citable.

I know I'm pushing the point here and I don't want to be dogmatic, but a society's institutions are often more valuable than any product of any individual member. MIT for instance, boasts connection with no less than 63 Nobel prize-winners (http://simile.mit.edu/exhibit/examples/nobelists/nobelists.html). Until one can reproduce MIT's output and humanitarian benefit using an array of neoprimitive agrarian hamlets (and that could make a fabulous SF story!), I'd strongly suggest that the proposition 'all institutions are evil' gets relegated to the same corner as leprechaun-juggling and hamster haruspication. :tongue

SPMiller
11-07-2008, 07:41 AM
I know I'm pushing the point here, but a society's institutions are often more valuable than any product of any individual member.And where do storytellers fall? Valuable? Worthless?

It's worth pointing out on a writing site, anyway, that writers can still make a living all on their lonesome, disconnected from society (but not necessarily from other texts/stories).

Dommo
11-07-2008, 08:08 AM
How many writers SPM can make a living disconnected from society? The vast majority can't make a living(hence they're here on this board :P), and it's simply a side job, or hobby.

Writers(storytellers) as far as they are valuable in societal terms, are on average of very low value, but those that are influential have A LOT of impact on society. However, there's about 10,000 writers for every writer that is that successful. I'm not dissing writing, but I'm just stating a fact. A country could happily churn along with a few hundred writers, but it couldn't exist with only a few hundred doctors or engineers.

The ability to actually live needs to count in here some where. Anarchy has been shown time and time again, to not work. When societal order breaks down, then it's a totally dog eat dog type situation. For those who advocate anarchy, I'd welcome them to try to survive for a few years in darfur or in somalia. In those places, only the strongest, cruelest, and smartest will thrive. The rest die, or live miserably, and unless I'm absolutely sure that I'm the baddest mofo around I've got no incentive to want to live in any sort anarchic situation.

SPMiller
11-07-2008, 08:10 AM
To be fair, I said they can, not necessarily that they often do. And be aware, there are several writers on AW who make a solid living at their work. Very few other jobs in the world have no direct dependence on other jobs. I was merely pointing out that it's possible for a writer--an individual person, not beholden to anything except the market and in some cases not even that--can still produce a powerful product.

I personally don't consider anarchy workable even on a small scale, as I made clear earlier in the thread.

Ruv Draba
11-07-2008, 08:19 AM
And where do storytellers fall? Valuable? Worthless?Separate topic. :)



It's worth pointing out on a writing site, anyway, that writers can still make a living all on their lonesome, disconnected from society (but not necessarily from other texts/stories).May I point out that anyone who participates regularly in AW is a member of an institution. With rules and policies and centralised power and autocrats called moderators and everything. :)

Likewise any writer who tries to sell to a publisher, to distribute through a bookstore or even self-publish over the Internet, who uses Wikipedia or a public library to research -- indeed, anyone who doesn't cut his own trees, pulp his own paper, grind his own ink, carve his own gutenberg press, trim his own quill, research only from first-hand accounts, shun writing in any language he was taught in school and then get paid only in barter, is highly dependent on institutions as enablers, facilitators and logistical support for his craft. :D

My point: individuality is not anarchy; neither is social order necessarily conformity; nor are institutions necessarily evil impediments to the creative spirit.

Heck, in a very real sense, stories are themselves institutions.

SPMiller
11-07-2008, 08:32 AM
I read that, Ruv, and my reaction was that you'd totally missed my point. I don't, however, see any objective value in continuing to debate. I guess I'm going to be a drive-by kinda guy tonight.

AMCrenshaw
11-07-2008, 07:37 PM
My point: individuality is not anarchy

That would be my point as well. People might imagine the anarchy I envision to either be wholly "idealistic" to the point of irrationality, but the balance between the empathetic and rational capabilities of humankind is where the strength of a successful anarchy lies. Total Individuality would destroy anarchy because some would be favored over others...Anyway, the value of a storyteller, for example, is decided by the community -- small or large. Side point, true.


I know I'm pushing the point here and I don't want to be dogmatic, but a society's institutions are often more valuable than any product of any individual member. MIT for instance, boasts connection with no less than 63 Nobel prize-winners. Until one can reproduce MIT's output and humanitarian benefit using an array of neoprimitive agrarian hamlets (and that could make a fabulous SF story!), I'd strongly suggest that the proposition 'all institutions are evil' gets relegated to the same corner as leprechaun-juggling and hamster haruspication.

IF an institution centralizes power, its function is domination of something. I would never call it evil-- but institutions that dominate some things in favor of others can very possibly, very easily veer into the lands of oppression. It's something we don't even need to argue about, since we both share a citation: the institution of church.

Ha. But speaking of which: How many of the MIT nobel prize winners populate the streets of NY or Philadelphia or Chicago handing out food to homeless people in the winter? How much money do you think they raised for others? Need I remind you of the thousands of Catholic Workers around the U.S.? Each Catholic Worker house is an anarchic community (but I won't lie: there is a board, a council, that plans for the future, works on innovating programs, etc) that gives to the community but that also relies on the community for its survival.

http://www.foodnotbombs.net/ This is an anarchist movement, cited. You can explore all you wish.* I met with these ladies and fellows on many occasions. The video about one of the founders (and frontmen, you could call him; he's a lecturer) shows an African calling him the President of foodnotbombs; there is a quick correction. The group has no president, no authority, no hierarchy. Chapters exist all over the world. Maybe even in Australia now.




AMC

* What argues my point:
http://www.foodnotbombs.net/webcollective.html
http://www.foodnotbombs.net/story.html
http://www.foodnotbombs.net/z_25th_anniversary_1.html

AMCrenshaw
11-08-2008, 07:41 AM
Anarchy has been shown time and time again, to not work. When societal order breaks down, then it's a totally dog eat dog type situation. For those who advocate anarchy, I'd welcome them to try to survive for a few years in darfur or in somalia. In those places, only the strongest, cruelest, and smartest will thrive.

Of course, this is one type of anarchy that forms under very specific circumstances. You said, "when societal order breaks down" and the anarchism I'm discussing has nothing to do with societal order breaking down, rather societal order being agreed upon by a self-selected, ideally few (by that, I mean people join/create a community around an intention and live by that intention; if their personal intentions change, they either destroy the group or, in the more likely case, decide to leave) so that there never needs to be "leaders" or "laws" because people have chosen to live together precisely the way that they want to live! Dog eat dog comes from a group of people who know no other way but violence. It has its logic doesn't it? You have my food and guns and disagree with my ideology. What's the quickest way to fix this situation? Well, let's kill some people. But I must strees that a group that dissolves under the "might is right" ideology is not a group of people working for one another. It is a collection of individuals who act for themselves. That is--I do not and cannot disagree-- one type of anarchy. One.

The vision these certain people have is that by working for others, they are working for themselves. They devote their lives to it. And I have seen this type work splendidly (one for an extended period of time, and which is still going), and have now cited one for Ruv's (and your) personal enjoyment.



AMC

Ruv Draba
11-10-2008, 06:17 AM
IF an institution centralizes power, its function is domination of something....such as infrastructure, yes. We know from repeated example that infrastructure, if not managed, frequently degrades through over-use and under-maintenance in what is sometimes called The Tragedy of the Commons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons). There are lots of different ways to manage infrastructure; some work well via collective management, but many kinds need central management to be at all effective.


I would never call it evil-- but institutions that dominate some things in favor of others can very possibly, very easily veer into the lands of oppression.Yes, but loss of infrastructure or environment can sometimes be far worse. Consider the American and Canadian Dustbowl (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust_Bowl) of the 'Dirty Thirties' for instance. That was created by bad individual activity, and only remedied through central management.


How many of the MIT nobel prize winners populate the streets of NY or Philadelphia or Chicago handing out food to homeless people in the winter?I don't know; perhaps the same proportion as ordinary people do?

How much money do you think they raised for others?Truckloads! Innovation is a great enabler of productivity, which in turn contributes to both quality and quantity of life. Many innovations are worth trillions of dollars to the world economy -- not that the innovators necessarily get paid trillions of course.

Thanks indeed for the foodnotbombs links. They appear to be a franchise-model activist group. I'll agree that the foodservice structure is anarchic, but their marketing and promotional infrastructure (Web-site, DVDs, T-shirts, books and buttons) clearly is not. Like every other franchise model that I've seen they manage their intellectual property (specifically, branding and know-how) centrally -- and I imagine that much of the 'borrowed' infrastructure (vehicles, cooking applicances etc...) aren't managed anarchically either.

I don't see it as revolutionary -- just a sensible notion of efficiency with a semisecret political agenda, franchised to reduce start-up costs. Even large corporates for instance may adopt such methods at times. An example is 'communities of practice' often formed within knowledge-service organisations, for instance.

What's most interesting to me about this group is possibly the same thing that interests you, AMC -- they create some efficiencies by re-organising infrastructure and re-distributing product. Of course, the main reason they can do this at all is because of the high levels of productivity and efficiency we have in the first place -- excess food production arising from growth and manufacture methods; cheap storage, cooking and transport arising from technological innovations.

It's hard to imagine 'Foodnotbombs' working in medieval Britain, say, where yields were poorer, storage less effective, and transport so inefficient that the food would often spoil before you could redistribute it; or in a poor country where agriculture is largely at subsistence levels. Really, this business model will work best in places where food should least be a problem -- so it probably accomplishes more symbolically than practically. The problems of distributing food to (say) Niger are no better resolved.

In terms of infrastructure management, business model and value delivery this looks like another example of 'niche' anarchy to me, AMC. While it claims to be 'revolutionary', in fact it's dependent on its parent society because it capitalises on goods and services that the parent society supplies, which it could not itself replace.

I don't have a very strong link back to atheism writing from all this, except to point out that the social definition of atheism (as opposed to its philosophical definition) is as elusive as the social definition of anarchism.

I'm reminded of the punchline of an old joke from the IRA days: "Ah, but are you a Catholic or a Protestant atheist?"

AMCrenshaw
11-10-2008, 07:14 PM
Like every other franchise model that I've seen they manage their intellectual property (specifically, branding and know-how) centrally -- and I imagine that much of the 'borrowed' infrastructure (vehicles, cooking applicances etc...) aren't managed anarchically either.

I don't see what you mean. Anybody is allowed to drive vehicles, use appliances; the group, as you can tell, partakes in the "intellectual" property. For example, if the books and DVDs sell, all the chapters gain from it, not just those who wrote the books.

Remember too that the know-how is part of the intention - that is, we all agree to try to do what is most efficient (since that is what will help the most people). Just as I wouldn't really argue with a doctor about the treatment of a broken bone, I won't really argue about the efficiency of using other people's "waste"...


It's hard to imagine 'Foodnotbombs' working in medieval Britain, say, where yields were poorer, storage less effective, and transport so inefficient that the food would often spoil before you could redistribute it; or in a poor country where agriculture is largely at subsistence levels.


I think this takes me to my most important observation about this sort of anarchism: the methods are not universal. People will have to innovate. I imagine that there will never be a global anarchism. But for those who wish to have one [edit: not a global anarchy- just an anarchy in general], they will have to invent ways of getting by. Can I invent a way to get by in medieval Britain? Probably not. But they might exist, anyway.




The problems of distributing food to (say) Niger are no better resolved.

http://www.foodnotbombs.net/africa_middle_east.html

Seems someone has ideas.


amc

AMCrenshaw
11-11-2008, 01:01 AM
OK so I refreshed my memory about what the franchise model is you're referring to. It's been 5 years since I've even heard the phrase. Ol' business textbook to the rescue!

I want to remind you and everyone that independence and individuality is not all types of anarchy! Anarchy does not necessarily exclude resourcefulness of ideas or of materials. Whatever will allow the community to survive and flourish (whatever brings the most peace according to their agreed-upon intention) the most efficiently will remain in consideration, and often in practice.

But how do they centralize management of intellectual "property"?



Revolutionary is the recycling of goods, ideas, etc. -- of course that's my latent disdain for revolutionary models of anarchism, including foodnotbombs (but it's a slight one- the consequences of their action is much more important); for me, revolution isn't a goal; ideologies that undergo revolution return to themselves eventually. That nature of revolutionary is hinted in the word itself. Round and round they go (because I like Zen so much, you might imagine what I have to say about endless cycles :))

AMC

Ruv Draba
11-11-2008, 01:35 AM
I don't see what you mean. Anybody is allowed to drive vehicles, use appliances; the group, as you can tell, partakes in the "intellectual" property. For example, if the books and DVDs sell, all the chapters gain from it, not just those who wrote the books.And when MIT publishes a paper, anyone who reads it can benefit -- but control of what's in the contents and distribution of the paper remains with the publisher. Institutions are more than bricks and mortar (and some aren't even that). They're Intellectual Property like branding, know-how, ethics, materials and methods -- all of which we can see in the FnB website.

It's instructive that FNB is represented by an 'owned' Website -- not a Wiki site, for instance. The franchise (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franchising) (link supplied for reference) is exercising central control of its intellectual property. Why? Presumably because the 'co-equal' originators know exactly what they want to achieve, and don't want their core vision to be altered by those who join. Their infrastructure is their Intellectual Property, and it's being managed centrally.



I think this takes me to my most important observation about this sort of anarchism: the methods are not universal. People will have to innovate. I imagine that there will never be a global anarchism. But for those who wish to have one [edit: not a global anarchy- just an anarchy in general], they will have to invent ways of getting by. Can I invent a way to get by in medieval Britain? Probably not. But they might exist, anyway.This looks like cart before the horse, AMC.

Volunteerism is anarchic by default -- unless it gets a better idea. I once saw some people in Vanuatu deal with a fallen bridge this way. The bridge had fallen in a recent cyclone, and it was key to the ring-road running around the capital island of Vila, -- a road which if memory serves me, was built by the Chinese government - I mention this because Vila itself had little facility to build and repair its own roads. Perhaps for this reason, there was no official response to the bridge collapsing, and drivers banked up on both sides, staring at it.

No leader emerged to coordinate here. Drivers just stood around staring until one got the idea to toss a rock into the water; then others started tossing logs and stones into the water until it made a sort of causeway. Then a driver tried to get through, and the water was in spate, and came up to his door-handles and he looked like getting swept off. So a bunch of people piled onto his vehicle so that he wouldn't be swept away. Then some other brave soul did the same, and other people piled onto his car and so on. Most of the vehicles were 4WDs or pickup trucks and were able to cross in this way -- which is what we did too. It was immensely dangerous, but very good-spirited and semi-practical in an amateurish fashion. Your anarchistic dollar at work. :)

The point is, it arose from necessity and came at risk. Nobody would have done it that way if there had been some army personnel with bridge construction equipment present. The moment you have significant investment in infrastructure, you need institutions to manage it, or you get... that sort of craziness. :D

In the same manner, there are many other food redistribution groups and have been for centuries. FnB happens to use a franchise model -- so that individual groups may be more or less anarchic, but its Intellectual Property is not managed anarchically. It's yet to show its ability to do the difficult stuff -- like moving US food to Africa say, which is something that organised agencies can already do because they organise themselves to invest in infrastructure. FnB's business model looks like franchised symbolism to me -- and they sell their merch over the Internet anyways (http://www.foodnotbombs.net/bookad.html) -- presumably to franchisees (cos who else would buy it?) It's anarchic in principle, but in practice they're building institution. :)

Fighting furiously to keep this on-topic for the forum... people who say that religions are okay but religious institutions 'are evil' are perhaps a bit confused. Institutions emerge whenever religions try to create and sustain change. At a societal level, it's really hard to separate religion from institution -- even if the institution is not bricks and mortar.

AMCrenshaw
11-11-2008, 07:21 AM
Their infrastructure is their Intellectual Property, and it's being managed centrally.

But the center is also everywhere. There is no real center. It would be more appropriate to say that the Intellectual Property is the center. It's what I originally called "intention".



It's anarchic in principle, but in practice they're building institution.

I agree if people obey bylaws and such. However, using the internet does not make you un-anarchist. In the lecture I attended, they mentioned how most of their stuff is pirated; pirate radio (on unique frequencies and such; they've been in trouble), etc. How does the internet site break their intention, which is what the community is centered around? It doesn't. I would also say that they use a communistic model-- but that makes them communistic anarchists. I said already that this type of anarchy forms around intention; the infrastructure follows; if there is an institution formed, then fine (I volunteer for the Phillip Berrigan Institute; it's purely anarchic; no rule). But institution may or may not include a system of rule --- if it does, it isn't anarchy anymore. Period.

AMC

Ruv Draba
11-11-2008, 03:10 PM
It would be more appropriate to say that the Intellectual Property is the center. It's what I originally called "intention".Exactly my point. Who controls the web-content? Who controls the design of merchandise? Who reserves the right to contest the use of branding? If a large corporate (say a burger chain) decided to co-opt the FnB name, logo, and methods to create viral advertising, do you think they'd be sanguine about that?

It's an institution, AMC; a franchised business with zero licensing costs. No bricks or mortar, but built on IP whose content including branding, merchandise and maintenance of contact-lists are controlled by a select few. Some of their products and services are distributed without charge; some are sold commercially.

In fact, the model works much the way that some religious institutions do: a manifesto, some merchandise, some suggested activities that eventually become traditions and some central coordination that eventually (after dispute over values and brand-ownership) mutates into management of canon.

AMCrenshaw
11-11-2008, 07:50 PM
Who controls the web-content? Who controls the design of merchandise? Who reserves the right to contest the use of branding? If a large corporate (say a burger chain) decided to co-opt the FnB name, logo, and methods to create viral advertising, do you think they'd be sanguine about that?

And they run into other nations' laws, not their own. Perhaps you should try that and see what happens; someone must own it (but let's face it, that only means they have legal control. If they are in the group, following the intention of the group, the control is in the hands of everyone in the group).



some central coordination that eventually (after dispute over values and brand-ownership) mutates into management of canon.

Where is the central coordination? None has formed. It simply hasn't happened. Chapters all over the world and it hasn't happened yet! Until it does, I won't be convinced of its status as anything other than an anarchy. It has no system of rule. That is what qualifies it as an anarchy- institution or not.


AMC

Ruv Draba
11-11-2008, 11:51 PM
And they run into other nations' laws, not their own. Perhaps you should try that and see what happens; someone must own it (but let's face it, that only means they have legal control. If they are in the group, following the intention of the group, the control is in the hands of everyone in the group).The web-site isn't editable by franchisees. Franchisees can't develop and sell their own FnB content on the web-site without approval of the web-site owner. The contact lists show email and physical addresses - not links to other pages. This is infrastructure under central control. It's a franchise business model couched in anarchic language; infrastructure supporting the central vision is controlled because, to the founders, the central vision is more important than individual franchisee membership -- which is exactly what 'institution' means. :)

We know from experience (with religions in particular and cultures in general) that if cultures last, vision divides. The culture either remains one society with dissenting subcultures (as happens with atheism in a largely Christian society for instance), or splits into separate societies (India and Pakistan as examples). It's instructive to see what happens to institutions and infrastructure in each case.

In the case of FnB, let's imagine that two factions appear: one who are vegetarian and strictly non-profit; the other who are carnivores and like the idea of profiting from merchandise. Both groups want to use the brand; both groups don't want the other group contesting their claim. As things stand now, which would be the 'authoritative' group?

The one who controls the web-site of course. And yes - there is already central coordination. There's a list maintainer who can choose not to list some groups. There's a person who decides what merchandise goes onto the web-site for sale and distribution - who can refuse to carry certain merch...; and someone holds the trademark rights -- and under provocation could choose to exercise them. (Though I agree that holding the rights isn't of itself their fault, I can easily conceive of cases where the holder would be sorely tempted to exercise those rights.)

The group doesn't claim that the brand is freely usable. In fact, it's quite clear what things the group does and doesn't want the brand to be used for. So if someone does something outside the brand values (like a chain selling burgers through a franchise, or someone recruiting for the military), do you believe that they'd be listed on the web-site? I not only think that they wouldn't be listed, but the web-site would denounce them as subverting their own subversion. :) And I can imagine that if there were a fat burger chain co-opting the brand there would be strong temptation to litigate the chain for abuse of trademark, noncompetitive practice etc... -- though of course I can't prove that.

But the above tell me that it's not really an anarchy and it's certainly not democratic; it's an oligarchic franchise business with no licensing costs but central control of brand endorsement calling itself an anarchy.

But all popular movements tend to do this... one day, people are helping each other get their cars across a river where a bridge has fallen; the next day a guy with some logs and a hand-winch is charging for the same service. One day, a dozen people of a new splinter faith get together as equals and say 'Let's try and be kinder to one another'. Three hundred years later, bishops are fighting for primacy and control of canon.

AMCrenshaw
11-12-2008, 03:11 AM
The web-site isn't editable by franchisees. Franchisees can't develop and sell their own FnB content on the web-site without approval of the web-site owner.

No I only showed you one site. People have their own sites if they wish-- just as they have their own anarchic communities. http://www.myspace.com/austinfoodnotbombs This is an example of what happens.

It's up to the chapters to establish them. They also put out their own literature, etc. all under the foodnotbombs "logo" (to use the franchise model :))



We know from experience (with religions in particular and cultures in general) that if cultures last, vision divides. The culture either remains one society with dissenting subcultures (as happens with atheism in a largely Christian society for instance), or splits into separate societies (India and Pakistan as examples). It's instructive to see what happens to institutions and infrastructure in each case.

In the case of FnB, let's imagine that two factions appear: one who are vegetarian and strictly non-profit; the other who are carnivores and like the idea of profiting from merchandise. Both groups want to use the brand; both groups don't want the other group contesting their claim. As things stand now, which would be the 'authoritative' group?

This is another really important point: the name "foodnotbombs" is the name behind the philosophy. So a group of carnivores is absurd (you can feed 50x more people through vegetarianism; no animals are killed, etc) and so is profit! Sure, I agree that the latter group could use the name "foodnotbombs" but they wouldn't be practicing it. That's what matters.



The one who controls the web-site of course. And yes - there is already central coordination. There's a list maintainer who can choose not to list some groups.

But because they don't choose groups over others, this point is moot. What is possible is not necessarily what is real. Because they do not practice authority, there is no authority.



The group doesn't claim that the brand is freely usable. In fact, it's quite clear what things the group does and doesn't want the brand to be used for.

RUV! I mentioned this already: People join the group precisely because they have similar intentions, generally surrounding a few basic/fundamental agreements, for example vegetarian meals rather than meals with meat. When the intentions of individuals change, those members withdraw from or destroy the group. Indeed, vision divides. But that doesn't change the original intention.



the above tell me that it's not really an anarchy and it's certainly not democratic

Again, you join with the like intention. Why would you join that group if you don't agree with anything - or at least the main things - that they do?

All members have their say. It's easier to manage, too, since FnB is broken up into smaller groups, each of which lack a system of rule and base decision-making on consensus.

AMC

Ruv Draba
11-12-2008, 06:27 AM
RUV! I mentioned this already: People join the group precisely because they have similar intentions, generally surrounding a few basic/fundamental agreements, for example vegetarian meals rather than meals with meat. When the intentions of individuals change, those members withdraw from or destroy the group. Indeed, vision divides. But that doesn't change the original intention.(Ow my ears)

AMC, people do not just join groups for the same intentions. They join groups to use their infrastructure, their expertise, to take advantage of their services, to promote their own interests, to associate with people in the group. We see this in all associations - families, communities, businesses, volunteer groups, social clubs and religious societies. I used to know guys who'd go to Christian vacation camps each summer just to hit on the girls there. I know people who've joined community radio just to use their photocopier. The only way to control 'intention' as you call it is to control access to the infrastructure that supports it -- who uses it and how it's used.

Probably, you wouldn't join or remain in a group without sharing its core values and intentions, so the idea might be alien to you. I don't do such things either, but plenty of folks do. Try and lead or manage anything and you see it right away. In terms of people-management, you can generally find four levels of engagement in any group:


Volunteers - throw themselves behind the values and intention, commit solidly to activites and make sacrifices;
Whiners - support the values and intention, but with conditions and complaints;
Survivors - pretend to support the values and intention, but actually cruise on the efforts of others; they're there because of existing benefits, or expectation of future benefits;
Prisoners - feel trapped in the community because they're bound to something that it provides. They hate the values or how they're implemented or who has what role, but feel powerless to change things or leave. So they walk around with a spanner in their pocket and resist activities or break things when nobody's looking to punish the people who keep them trapped.


Of these, only volunteers and whiners do anything useful in terms of getting consensus and promoting group activities.

You might think that volunteer groups are full of volunteers and perhaps sometimes they are, but it's often not so. I've had plenty of experience of volunteer groups full of survivors and whiners, with a few prisoners thrown in for good measure. You might think that heavily organised and controlled groups were full of survivors and prisoners with a few whiners, and while every large group has some, it's not always true in small, well-managed groups. I know one group where everyone volunteers, almost nobody whines and people only fall into a 'survivor' mode under rare and exceptional circumstances. But that group actively kicks out its dead-wood (something easier to do by central management than by consensus).

There's a lot more going on in group behaviour than a naive theory of intention and participation would credit. It certainly pertains to religion, community and volunteer organisations (whether theistic or not), and I'd be happy to discuss further with citations if you have interest.


All members have their say.That doesn't prevent whiners, survivors and prisoners. A belief that it does is equivalent to the 'democracy is fair' myth -- a myth that any atheist or other minority group can easily refute.

Dommo
11-12-2008, 07:25 AM
You're forgetting a group Ruv. The mercenaries.

They're the folks who don't always care about the values or intention, but are out for their own self interest. This isn't always a bad thing, as often times a person's self interest might align with the groups, but at the same time they're really only out for themselves. The difference in my book between them and survivors, is that a survivor is a leech who just takes, where's a mercenary is more like a volunteer who also wants to profit from their work. It's like a neighbor who will gladly help you out, in exchange for you watching their dog while they're out of town.

I would put myself into this camp. While I do volunteer for things, I'm pretty much a mercenary in how I approach life. I'm not out to screw people or profit off of others misfortune, but I am out to further my own self interest. It's kind of like what keeps me from doing the peace corps. I'd be up for it, if the benefits were good enough to justify spending two years of my life. Sure the personal reward/life experience is high, but the monetary reward is low enough that I can't rightly justify it. Perhaps if I could go to gradschool for free after doing my tour, I'd be up for it.

I like to help people, but if I can't profit from doing it, I'm a lot more reluctant to do so. Unfortunately life is largely like that. I teach underprivileged youth during the summer, but I do get compensated for it(not much, but enough to cover my expenses, and free food). I do this job that's very difficult(it's like a teacher/camp counselor), has extremely long hours, and pretty low pay, but the pay/benefits are just good enough for me to justify doing the job financially. I get a lot of personal benefit out of it, but I also get paid enough to make sure that I can pay bills too. There's other work I could do that would pay more, but I still choose this job for the rewarding aspect of it. Yet I can assure you, that if I wasn't paid for it, I wouldn't do it, because I do need to support myself.

I guess, that's the categorization that I put myself into. I want to both help people, and profit from it(or at least get enough to cover my expenses, and maintain my lifestyle). Best of both worlds, and if I can't do both, then I'll probably do something else.

Ruv Draba
11-12-2008, 08:12 AM
You're forgetting a group Ruv. The mercenaries.An interesting thought, Dommo! (And I'm glad that it's not just AMC and I participating) It opens up a whole range of philosophical questions.

The four-category theory of participation is not mine, but that of a consulting group based in Melbourne, Australia. I've found it extremely useful in management consulting (especially in dealing with change management and dysfunctional organisations).

In my experience, one doesn't need to be altruistic and selfless to be a volunteer. One can be mercenary and still do a great job. (Indeed, some might argue that whatever ethics capitalism may subscribe to is founded on this premise.)

It's also true that when a mercenary doesn't get paid, he often turns into a whiner and depending on circumstances, a survivor or a prisoner. In my experience, many survivors and prisoners are in fact unpaid mercenaries who are either waiting for their pension, or don't believe that they're going to get paid at all but don't want to forego what they feel they're owed.

Really, the question of mercenarihood (as compared to altruism, idealism etc...) is perhaps more about the ethics of service, and the sustainability of engagement than anything else. I don't think that it has direct bearing on organisational structures (mercenaries can be found in every political structure from anarchy through to autarchy), or modes of behaviour (mercs can be volunteers through to prisoners).

Perhaps it has something to do with interpersonal vs transpersonal morality. There could be a very interesting side-thread or two on this, if someone has a question or topic for discussion.


The difference in my book between them and survivors, is that a survivor is a leech who just takes, where's a mercenary is more like a volunteer who also wants to profit from their work.One of the problems I see in organisations is when mercenaries get put in places of authority and trust, they often cease to be volunteers, but drop straight into survivor mode. An example is ambitious young turks who break their butts to get a middle-management role with staff under them, then aim for 'the good life'.

Not all mercenaries are like this though. It could be argued that the work I do -- consulting -- is inherently mercenary work. We provide fee-for-service work on a project-by-project basis. In my experience though, if mercs keep their tools sharp, subscribe to some sort of ethics of fair value and professional conduct, they don't slump; many do though.

I also think that there may be some blur here -- many 'payment expectations' are not material. For instance, my company contributes to the community in various ways and we gain no commercial benefit from that at all (though we may individually feel that we have seen personal benefit).

Some of this could come down to how we see ourselves.

Dommo
11-12-2008, 10:03 AM
As a consultant you are a corporate soldier of fortune :P. You're not really associated with anyone, and are pretty much a freelancer who goes to those who can afford your services. That's a merc by definition.

Honestly, why work for a living? Once you do get into a seat of uncompromisable power(Tenured position for example) why bust your ass anymore than you have to, especially if prospects for advancement are non-existent? How well I work, is directly proportional to how much I'm paid, how much I'm rewarded in other ways, and if the work will lead to future opportunities. If I'm working at place where I really like the people, and the job, I'll probably put more effort into ensuring its success. The point being, that I'm NEVER going to put forth anymore effort than I feel is necessary to achieve my goals. If I don't think that I've got anything gain, why work harder?

Giving a 110% isn't worth it, if you don't gain something for the effort. This is the fundamental reason why capitalism works in general, and it's because there's always someone out there willing to take your spot if you slack off(unless you're in a position of protected power, like a tenured one, and is one of the reasons I oppose unions in a lot of cases). Thus the mercenary problem is often self correcting, except in certain circumstances(e.g. you've got 1 doctor who knows how to perform a certain life saving surgery, you've pretty much got to appease the guy).

If someone wants effort from me than they need to meet my terms. If they meet my terms, then they've got a hell of an employee who's completely loyal, but if they screw me, I'll do whatever I can(legally) to screw them (often by competing with them, or by directing people away from them). By being a consultant you're pretty much doing exactly as I would do, and that's provide an excellent service on YOUR terms.

The trick I think is to ensure that compensation is almost always offered in some form. Here's an example. If I volunteer, I really appreciate getting a free meal in the deal. Doesn't even have to be the best food(although good food makes want to go back), but its the "idea" of compensation. When I volunteer, and then I'm just tossed like a used diaper, then I can assure you that I will be a lot more reluctant to help out next time. It's the same thing with me working. If I do good work, then I expect to be compensated in some way(be it respect, or a coffee mug, etc.). It's a validation of worth. If I feel like I'm valued in some way, then I'm probably going to be a better worker.

I guess it comes down to this.

Mercenaries have a real sense of self value. We put a value of some kind on our time and efforts in everything we do. If things don't meet that value, then we'll try to change the situation so that we get what we want(turning into prisoners, survivors, whiners, or simply just going elsewhere). When I volunteer, I expect my help to be appreciated because I'm NOT asking for monetary pay. In this case I expect a personal payment(be it a t-shirt, free meal, a pat on the back, etc.). Personally I think just about everybody falls into being a mercenary to some level, because even a priest gets validation from his position in a community.

One last thing. I don't want anyone to think that I'm outright hostile to my employers, it's just that loyalty and respect are two way streets. If they want something from me, I want something in return. I don't feel entitled to anything, but figure it's a quite a stretch to ask for someone to bust their tail for you, if you don't give them some kind of reward for it.

AMCrenshaw
11-12-2008, 09:27 PM
AMC, people do not just join groups for the same intentions. They join groups to use their infrastructure, their expertise, to take advantage of their services, to promote their own interests, to associate with people in the group.

That's precisely why I joined the Phil Berrigan Institute; it's precisely why I am a Catholic Worker. What expertise, services am I really taking advantage of? The "infrastructure" and "interests" are part of my intention, which they share. I had no other reason to join those groups.


Volunteers - throw themselves behind the values and intention, commit solidly to activites and make sacrifices;
Whiners - support the values and intention, but with conditions and complaints;
Survivors - pretend to support the values and intention, but actually cruise on the efforts of others; they're there because of existing benefits, or expectation of future benefits;
Prisoners - feel trapped in the community because they're bound to something that it provides. They hate the values or how they're implemented or who has what role, but feel powerless to change things or leave. So they walk around with a spanner in their pocket and resist activities or break things when nobody's looking to punish the people who keep them trapped.

This is the most useful thing you wrote, but nothing new to me. A consensus-based community means the openness to being heard, but that doesn't ensure people will speak. How true. But unless their actions betray their intentions, people in a consensus-based community will assume that people who don't speak up still have like-intentions. The challenge is to the community to open up to prisoners and survivors, not to ignore them. In my experience, I've found that these people are easy to spot and just as easy to engage.


I know one group where everyone volunteers, almost nobody whines and people only fall into a 'survivor' mode under rare and exceptional circumstances

And my argument is precisely that it is possible.


But that group actively kicks out its dead-wood (something easier to do by central management than by consensus)

I agree with the former; but a tight-knit group that forms outsiders is alienating in itself, and generally has obvious consequences, ie withdrawl from the group. That is my biggest grief with anarchist communities. "If you don't like it, leave. Now. GO!"

:)


There's a lot more going on in group behaviour than a naive theory of intention and participation would credit.

No need. But intention-based communities are possible and do exist. There is no evidence (either way) that FnB is full of whiners and survivors and prisoners, though they claim to be volunteer-only. But my experience with it is that when people are "whining" about inefficiency, they innovate to satisfy their whining. It's for the good of the group, sure, but it's more for the good of the people the group is serving. The religious group I am a part of runs into problems with certain members who are not...let's say...ecumenical; the solution in years past has always been to remind everybody of the intention of the group. (I am a part of a long-standing ecumenical organization based on both the Jewish "open tent" and Catholic ideals; you can find either online. The structure of the PA community is, of course, anarchic and has been since it's birth in the 80s.)

AMC

Ruv Draba
11-13-2008, 01:01 AM
Honestly, why work for a living? Once you do get into a seat of uncompromisable power(Tenured position for example) why bust your ass anymore than you have to, especially if prospects for advancement are non-existent?
It's a legitimate position, and one that I think many people take. It's not mine though.

From observation, I think that how well I work comes down to how much the work challenges me, how necessary or useful it is, and how competent I am at it. Overpaying or underpaying me doesn't directly motivate or demotivate me (actually, I find overpayment a bit insulting), but whether the work is boring or interesting makes a huge difference. :)

On the other hand, I run a consulting company. Part of my job is to know what our work is worth and charge that. (Though for my own work I sometimes charge less than that, or nothing at all). Anyone who charges fee for service in an open market is under constant pressure (competitive pressure, commercial pressure) to lower rates. You can't do my job without knowing how to push back.

But if money were my principal motive I'd never write fiction. Consultancy remunerates you by the hour at a whole lot better rate than any but some bestselling authors and sought-after screenwriters can manage. But fiction-writing is challenging -- so much so that while all my staff get paid six-figure salaries, I pay myself below the minimum wage, just so I can spend as much time as possible writing. :)


How well I work, is directly proportional to how much I'm paid, how much I'm rewarded in other ways, and if the work will lead to future opportunities.As a departure point, people often talk about 'work/life balance' but everyone I know personally who thinks that way doesn't seem to have much of either. Life [I]is work -- the reason we have body temperatures of 37C or so (98F or so) is that we have to work hard to stay alive. But work can be funny, entertaining, stimulating too -- if we bring our whole self to do it and believe in what we do. It can also be boring, frustrating and soul-destroying if we withhold ourselves or don't believe in what we do. Perhaps the hardest career challenge is to find or carve a niche that you believe in; and perhaps one of our harder personal challenges is to then grow to fill it. :)


Giving a 110% isn't worth it, if you don't gain something for the effort.Nobody gives 110%; they just get resentful after 90% (or more realistically, 60%). :) I'd argue that learning to work and live at even 95% is a major gain for most people. [How else do coaches, motivational speakers etc... get paid?]

My staff tend to work at around 90-95% of what I believe to be their capacity -- which means that they often outperform their customers by around 50-100% (depending on whether they're working with ill-trained volunteers working at 60% or survivors working at 45%). They don't do that because they get paid well; rather I can pay them well because they do that. Indeed, I wouldn't hire them unless they were people who naturally try to push themselves. We're full of alpha or type-A personalities -- exactly the sort of people who'll push themselves, but by the same token such people work much better by coaching than by having a drill-sergeant bark at them. So in fact, the company is an autocracy, but I seldom exercise autocratic power. It looks a lot more like a well-behaved anarchy, except when individual performance drops below 90%.


This is the fundamental reason why capitalism works in general, and it's because there's always someone out there willing to take your spot if you slack offThere's this economic myth that 'the free market provides'; it's largely untrue. My customers would love it if the free market would provide the expertise and help they need; it doesn't, at any price. As an employer I would be delighted if the free market would provide abundant staff of the quality I need -- it doesn't do that either, at any price. I have to grow the staff I need and it takes years. Even for employers who want semiskilled or unskilled labour, the times when you want it (when the economy is in growth) are exactly the times you can't get it. The times when it's available (e.g. in recession), you can't use it.

Having been both an employer and an employee, my perspective is that the best employment relationship is one where you both need each other (but not too much), can understand what the other wants, and are willing and capable of giving that. In my particular industry and market, and for the particular knowledge-work we do, that effectively limits my company size to around 12-15 people. If I push it any higher, staff quality, the quality of their work, or the quality of their employment will begin to deteriorate. We'll drop from being 90%ers to 80%ers etc... In the limit, if I went large corporate, I'd be running a company of mainly 40-60%ers like many other large corporates. :tongue



The trick I think is to ensure that compensation is almost always offered in some form. Here's an example. If I volunteer, I really appreciate getting a free meal in the deal.Yep. I call that 'respect' and 'reciprocity'. It's not about the material benefit, but the social relationship that accrues (or should accrue) from someone bringing their whole self to the job. That creates intimacy, trust, friendship and should create mutual commitment that outlasts the job itself. Feeding the other guy's face is symbolic of that. :) Treating people like functions is a big demotivator. However...

There are some kinds of work where you simply can't offer staff bribes, gifts or tips to keep them motivated -- positions of public responsibility for instance. It's still possible to run those places at high capacity, but it requires very strong leadership. One of our clients is a large government agency whose staff routinely go into life-threatening circumstances, and I'm always impressed with just how much commitment they display when ultimately, each person must operate as a function. I think that it's good training, great leadership, public recognition, mutual respect and pride in the job they do that produces this. their lives for their work, so I must conclude that the intangibles count for much more than the occasional meal on the boss. :)]

To the extent that supporting things beyond ourselves is evidence of spirituality, we know that nontheists can be spiritual folk. As I hope the above examples also demonstrate, even working as a function in an autocratic organisation can potentially be spiritual -- even if it's not a countercultural anarchy. :) On the other hand, mere membership in a countercultural anarchy is not in itself evidence of spirituality. [They might just be there to hit on the chicks, or use the photocopier. :)]

The key here seems to be in how much of yourself you bring to what you do. My personal preference is to try and bring all of myself to whatever I do, and to try and avoid splitting myself into pieces (consultant-Ruv, writing-Ruv, husband-Ruv, friend-Ruv) with different values and levels of effort. But that means I have to choose carefully what things I do and who I do them with and how I do them -- because values don't always align.

By way of example (and AMC will surely accuse me of closet anarchy here), I'm presently spending most of my time 'being' (really 'doing') writing-Ruv for NaNoWriMo. However, because I'm also manager-Ruv, I need to help my unengaged staff look for new engagements. We have a perfectly good, corporately-appointed office up the road from my house, but one of my staff prefers to work in my dining-room at the moment, while I'm writing, so we can chat from time to time. He does his work, I do mine and from time to time we hook up and have a cuppa or lunch. We normally wear suits to work, but at my place we turn up in shorts and T-shirts. When we both get bored and frustrated, I teach him guitar. :) I have an interest in boxing, and he's interested too, so we might work out in the back-yard for a bit, then back to our slog. Is it work or is it play? Who is working for whom? You tell me. I'm his boss, but he gets paid more than I do. I do more work for him personally than he actually does for me, but he spends more time working for my company than I do.

Dommo
11-13-2008, 06:14 AM
I guess you largely hit my point. I didn't say the pay had to monetary, but that whatever work I was doing, had to be worth something to me.

I can live with mediocre pay, if the work environment is great. If it facilitates me living a happier lifestyle, by all means I'll take a big paycut and do that job. However, I'm still getting paid, but in a different manner(internally I think we all put some kind sort value on everything we do).

That's why I sort of categorized it, up above in my previous post.

1. Get paid monetarily(Show me the money $$ :P)
2. Get paid through some form of personal gain(be it friendships, happier life, etc.)
3. Get paid through self betterment (Self esteem type things, like knowing you're the best at something, or knowing you're respected etc.)

Ideally I'd like to hit all three of these when I'm working somewhere, but if I volunteer, I better damn well hit the latter two. If obviously it gets a bit more complicated, since for me I kind of weight the enjoyment of the job vs. the pay vs. my own self worth(self esteem type things). Personally I weigh options 2 and 3 the most, but for me everything is reciprocal. I'm loyal to a fault, if someone else is loyal and honest with me. I expect the same from an employer. If they're good to me, then I'll definitely be good to them.
That might seem a bit callous, but I think that it's important that it be said.

Ruv you seem to be a guy that your subordinates respect, but it's because you respect them. You seem to be one of the rare managers who is actually really competent in the field that their subordinates are working in(Read the Dilbert comic strip. The pointy haired boss is an accurate representation of managers for about 80% of engineers out there). Don't get me wrong, I've had a few good managers, but the majority have been a pain in the butt to work with because they make decisions without consulting us engineering folk first(which in turn leads to unrealistic expectations/deadlines, and it snowballs from there).

In the context of anarchy, I think the "do unto others type thing" is really what determines if anarchy could ever work, at least at some kind of larger scale(say larger than a small group of a dozen people). I think what happens though, is that at some critical mass you start to get enough assholes who will take advantage of any situation they run into, that the anarchy model falls apart. The people who try to further their own power/goals, if they're cunning, intelligent, and ruthless will eventually take over. I think history has proved my right on this. I've yet to see a place where there was a real anarchistic existence for any substantial number of people. No matter where you go, there is going to be a hierarchy that evolves, and from there you start to get your proto-governments.

Ruv Draba
11-13-2008, 07:28 AM
Ruv you seem to be a guy that your subordinates respect, but it's because you respect them.Respect costs nothing. People have to work quite hard to earn my deliberate disrespect. They pretty much have to be dumb, selfish, dishonest cowards fairly reliably cos I can respect almost anything else. (Actually, the pointy-haired Dilbert boss is a great model of a creature utterly worthy of disrespect. :D)



That's why I sort of categorized it, up above in my previous post.

1. Get paid monetarily(Show me the money $$ :P)
2. Get paid through some form of personal gain(be it friendships, happier life, etc.)
3. Get paid through self betterment (Self esteem type things, like knowing you're the best at something, or knowing you're respected etc.)In my field (computery stuff) there are around 5-7 key motivators for staff, with the amount of motivation varying from person to person. From memory, it's something like:

Cool toys to play with
Responsibility
Remuneration
Respect of your peers and management
Challenge
Somethingorother
Something else

But that's computery people in general. Other folk have other motivators, like being able to make a difference (that's one of mine and some other computery people I know), working with fun people, perqs etc...

Don't get me wrong, I've had a few good managers, but the majority have been a pain in the butt to work with because they make decisions without consulting us engineering folk first(which in turn leads to unrealistic expectations/deadlines, and it snowballs from there). Heh. Indeed! Generalists and specialists have lots of funny stories they can tell about one another. Dilbert is full of jokes that specialists can tell about generalists. (like: start developing the solution and I'll bring you the problem soon), but generalists tell jokes about specialists just as much. I started life as a specialist and these days work as a generalist (as most managers must), but having a bit of both really does help bridge that gap.

(I feel the need to link this back to N-T Spiritual writing and anarchy in spirituality... um... okay...)

Some kinds of problems respond very well to anarchic, competent teams. Creative problems -- whether technical or nontechnical -- are often like this. As a manager, I find that if you can get the team to work as a team at the 90%+ range, they'll often rip tough problems to shreds. But they need to all be there for the same reason (what AMC would call 'shared intention'). For such problems, mostly a manager's job is to define the problem, define the success criteria, supply the cola and clear the obstacles out of the way. :) I'd argue that the manager needs authority, but doesn't need to exercise it terribly much -- unless the team gets dysfunctional, or the problem proves intractable and needs refocusing etc... I love that sort of work (so maybe I am a closet anarchist).

But there are also situations where it's structure or death. You can't build something complex and intricate reliably with anarchy -- in fact, my company is called in a lot of times just because well-intentioned amateurs are failing at just that.. Engineering is full of process, and the process has steps with roles and responsibilities, and we do it that way because it's the only way that has a hope in hell of working.

The trick is to know which to use when, and when to change it. :)

I like institutions that build expertise and keen infrastructure; I'm willing to support their claims to power, where the power is justified to develop and preserve the infrastructure. I don't like institutions that have forgotten their infrastructure and services and simply entrench power. (That's another problem we sometimes encounter as consultants)

I'm very relaxed about using anarchic techniques to get results -- but for me it's a tool in a toolbox, not a way of life. But neither is authority, process and institutionalism a way of life... things serve functions. If they do their job well then leave them alone say I. If they don't then fix 'em. I still feel that anarchy is intrinsically unstable, but it's very handy for certain tasks. I'll deliberately create anarchy on some projects just to get the right sort of thinking happening (but I try and restore order afterwards.;))

Dommo
11-15-2008, 10:16 AM
One thing I was kind of thinking would be interesting to figure out is my comprehensive theory of "asshole critical mass". I'm curious as to how many people it takes before someone shows up who's able to start consolidating the power of the group.

I'm thinking it's got to be in the ballpark of perhaps 20-30 or so people. Like a classroom size. Even in an elementary classroom, you've got enough kids that a few start to rise to the top and take positions of leadership and power. Often times this ascension is natural, but I think other times it's orchestrated.

Case in point is high school. I remember being in high school, and being in the Neutral caste(We were the kids that were neither loved nor hated by everyone because we weren't seen as competition in the popularity race). I was actually moderately popular(as in everyone knew me and talked to me), but I wasn't particularly favored by any one of the big cliques(jocks, druggies, etc.), but I wasn't disliked either(In other words I had peripheral friendships in most of the groups, but no close friends in any of them). My friends and I were mostly in the same boat. We interacted with everyone, but we never really were into the popularity arms race that so many of the other teenagers were pursuing. What this kind of let us do was see the maneuvering that happened in different groups, because we just kind of sat on the sidelines and had no real stake in anything that was going on.

What I remember seeing that was interesting was how different people would be making plays for leadership positions in the different cliques. With the jocks for example, it often came down to who was performing the best in different sports. The star players garnered influence this way. With some of the female cliques it was a bit more interesting. The male power plays were almost always direct challenges. Like a male would sort of boast themselves up(or in some cases get in a fight), and if they met a certain level of social respect(in the case of a fight won), then they moved up a notch on the social ladder. With the women on the other hand it always seemed more like a coup.

I can remember one incident where a girl had deliberately spread misinformation about a competitor(one of the alpha chicks moved out of town, so it left a power vacuum for clique leadership), and through the use of a few subordinate friends managed to torpedo the other girl's bid for power(by making her appear to be "uncool" through the use of rumor spreading). I remember this because of the drama associated, and because the "loser" ended up joining my group of friends after her backstabbing episode(She had enough of that crap and wanted no more of that business).

Now my group was a bit different. We had our more influential members, but we tended to do things by consensus. It was less about the demands of one person(in other words we didn't have a "chief" like most of the other cliques had), and we tended to be pretty open to who came and went(I can't think of one time we didn't let people sit with us at the lunch table).

So how's this related?

Well what I'm thinking is that naturally people gravitate towards others who are similar to them, and secondly once these groups form, most of the time some kind of leadership tends to establish itself. What then happens is that in the bigger context of things(the overall high school population in the above example), is that these groups start to try to exert influence over other groups. Because of the overall human tendency to seek social acceptance, most people tended to bow to the will of the stronger cliques and groups, and through them the individual leadership of those groups. Those that didn't either were ostracized socially(these were often the people trying to get back into the popularity race), or you ended up in the Neutral caste (for those who said "Fuck it" to trying to be popular and just sat it out).

In a real world sense, what it could be compared to, are the one group of people being politically persecuted, and the other saying "screw politics" and leaving for a different place to set up camp there. The reason why us Neutrals were treated decently by everyone, was primarily because we weren't seen as a threat to any of the mainstream cliques, and secondarily because we had allies in all of the cliques. A clique knew they had to treat us decently or risk seeing their influence decline as we pulled strings in the rival cliques.

How is all this stuff related to Anarchism?

Well it's related because I think that most of the stuff I saw in highschool carries over to any group of individuals. The more isolated the population, the more clearly defined these groups become(this is these types of cliquish activities don't happen quite as much in college, because people are always coming and going). Thus, when people are isolated, and there's enough to where you can't really rule by committee(say more than like 10-15 people), governments will always form around some individuals through their leadership(usually through social pressures). Now I'm not always saying that the person in a leadership position is an asshole, but often assholes are the ones who end up in the top spot(In other words the most aggressive, and dominant types of individuals).

I'll go out an limb and put the number at perhaps 20-30 people before some form of government naturally forms. It's at that number that I think you can't really try to get universal consensus, and where people will start to gravitate towards people of similar worldviews.

Ruv Draba
11-15-2008, 11:29 PM
I'll go out an limb and put the number at perhaps 20-30 people before some form of government naturally forms. It's at that number that I think you can't really try to get universal consensus, and where people will start to gravitate towards people of similar worldviews.20-30 is far too high; people form factions at the family level. 5 people make factions virtually inevitable.

I think that it's worth distinguishing leadership (a function created by general group agreement) from government (an institution that sets and enforces rules, and implements policy).

Leadership always has a consensus element to it. People can contest leadership, but it's followers who choose leaders. Human society is constantly shaped by our desire to congregate, and tempered by our desires to either lead such congregations or be nourished by them. Those who want nourishment and protection seek those whom they feel will do that for them. Followers create leaders.

Government is what happens when leadership becomes institution. Individualists might argue that government is imposed by leaders on the populace, but in many cases the populace chooses to institutionalise its leadership to provide some continuity. A village congregates for nourishment and protection -- it may not need a 'head' or a 'council of elders' until external threats or internal divisions risk harming that; then it does. It institutionalises the role by building custom and law around it; then different people fill that role over time. Larger societies (towns, cities, states, nations) do similarly, while smaller societal units (like families and groups of friends) sometimes institutionalise roles, and sometimes don't.

If institutions hold power then those who want to lead gravitate toward them. Leadership accrues privilege, so there's an immediate ethical challenge: to what extent do you serve the institution as instrument to protect and nourish, and to what extent do you seek privilege? If you jump one way then you're delivering public service, regardless of the form of government; if you jump the other way then you're corrupting the populace's expectation of governmental benevolence. The 'asshole factor' (if we're talking about abuse of power and trust) is very common at the family level (in sibs, parents, spouses), so it's intrinsic to all human societies -- including, I would argue, anarchic communities.

AMCrenshaw
11-16-2008, 09:54 AM
The 'asshole factor' (if we're talking about abuse of power and trust) is very common at the family level (in sibs, parents, spouses), so it's intrinsic to all human societies -- including, I would argue, anarchic communities.

It's not quite the same, at all. I agree that it's common at the family level (statistically, 97% of intimate violence is caused by men, who are of course at the head of the family in patriarchal society). But the family, specifically the nuclear family, is structured in such a way that it is not consensus-based, though I've known quite a few to be exceptions to the rule (and they, interestingly enough, tend to not have children, both work, etc). I can only speak of U.S. family sociology [http://www.amazon.com/Family-Transition-14th-Arlene-Skolnick/dp/0205482651/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_k2a_2_img?pf_rd_p=304485601&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-2&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=0205418236&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=05AZJGSRSMDWANGYYVRX], but odds are that there is someone who makes decisions and who is in charge of rewards/punishments. Though this isn't institutionalized the way government is, it's certainly an institution- a century of learning, Mark Twain would say. The difference between the family and, say, an intentional anarchic community is that most families are either unaware (not actively conscious) that "power" is in one person (usually the father, though that's slowly changing - but that children will never have "power" or "authority", I don't really think) or they know and don't care. My grandmother is a good example of the latter. Individuals, it's been suggested by modern psychology, who are actively aware of certain statistical probabilities (for example, 1 in 4 women are abused) are more likely to avoid them. It might be possible for communities to apply: that knowing how power works, a group of people can avoid its traps.

I'll use your example:


Individualists might argue that government is imposed by leaders on the populace, but in many cases the populace chooses to institutionalise its leadership to provide some continuity.

I think it's too easy to say that government is imposed by leaders. Studying NRMs, I'd tend to agree with you about leadership, especially charismatic. But the anarchic communities I've discussed with you haven't followed any cited models, either; they are true exceptions to the statistic rule. One thing I like to remember is that the "saint" is as rare a person as "the truly wicked". More important that I say extremes are rare. More important yet to say that a community that believes that peaceful living can only happen without institutionalized law in the form of government or rule and that practices what is preaches is exceptionally rare - but that foodnotbombs, the Catholic Worker, the Phil Berrigan Institute[s] (et al) exist in this precise vein of anarchism and haven't succumbed to what you believe is inevitable. This could mean any number of things:

1) That not enough time has passed
2) The members are actually just so dedicated to make it work
3) They're lucky to have the surrounding society
4) They're lucky to have had no "assholes" rise to "power"
5) They're very good at hiding "The Truth"

My beliefs (which is what they are, no more no less :)) lie in 2. Until I see otherwise, in those exact situations, I will continue believing it. Even if 99% of anarchies form government, if any of those stand I know it will be possible, and, for me, desirable -- since, well, no one has showed me a really eithical, working government yet!


AMC

SPMiller
11-16-2008, 11:45 AM
The asshole factor usually kicks in at populations as low as two.

Just wanted to drop in a little reality check ;)

Ruv Draba
11-19-2008, 02:02 AM
1) That not enough time has passed
2) The members are actually just so dedicated to make it work
3) They're lucky to have the surrounding society
4) They're lucky to have had no "assholes" rise to "power"
5) They're very good at hiding "The Truth"
Or they just don't have enough skin in the game.

Perhaps ethical society arises from ethical citizenship -- government normally just being made of citizens anyway. One sign of ethical citizenship (as with ethical relationships) is commitment: that one doesn't just bail when the going gets tough, or more is asked of one.

With that notion in mind, I'd observe that it's easy to have a pleasant anarchy on a picnic in good weather when someone else has paid for the food. It's equally easy to promote anarchy when one takes infrastructure for granted, is prepared to shift the cost of sustaining it onto other citizens, and feels free to leave when one is asked to commit more than one sees in direct benefit.

It's hard for me to imagine ethical citizenship without commitment; and it's hard for me to imagine commitment that doesn't entail some sacrifice of self-interest and individualism, some delegation of power and resources to others in trust. (Otherwise, what is being committed?)

I'd accept then that an ethical society may sometimes support anarchic operation (e.g. early disaster response; school fêtes etc...), but may also sometimes (I really think frequently) require other structures to function (e.g. show me a high quality road-system designed, built and sustained entirely by anarchy). I'd also suggest that sustained anarchy is not in itself a sign of ethical citizenship, but more likely, of low social commitment.

AMCrenshaw
11-19-2008, 07:11 PM
Two things: First, Ruv, I essentially agree with everything you just wrote. I never once mentioned that anarchism would be easy...

Second,


This is from Atheist Manifesto (it might not be the Good News, but it is great news! --Colbert):



Michel Onfray Deconstructing the monotheisms, demythologizing Judeo-Christianity and Islam, deconstruction of theocracy: these are three initial tasks for atheology. The next step is to formulate a new ethic and produce the conditions for a true post-Christian morality in the West.


Atheistic atheism would place morality and politics on a new base, one that is not nihilist but post-Christian. Its aim is neither to reconstruct churches nor destroy them, but to build elsewhere and in a different way, to build something else for those no longer willing to dwell intellectually in places that have already done long service.

For one, I didn't want to rekindle a New Atheism discussion (but I did want to poke fun at my own expense). In reality, I am interested in what people think of the second quote in light of the first. My first visions, the first systems- you could say- that popped into my head were anarchism and socialism, but when I thought about it, I realized that neither would be "Atheistic" or "post-Christian" - those systems would be "Christian Atheistic", as Onfray would put it (if it's not obvious: atheism in that it denies/negates God's existence, Christian in that it believes in a lot of "Christian" virtues-- ie, "charity, temperance, compassion, mercy, and humility") because my vision is, admittedly, filtered through what I theoretically know -- Christian mythology up and down. I'm not necessarily convinced that's the case. But it's an interesting point to ask ourselves, and to ask Onfray: is starting anew possible without being too reactive? Is changing a society from within going to lead to more "Christian atheism"? Is that a negative thing?

AMC

Ruv Draba
11-20-2008, 02:01 AM
In reality, I am interested in what people think of the second quote in light of the first.I don't know what they mean. I think that the term 'post-Christian world' makes some sense -- there was a time when the developed world was largely Christian; that time is either ending or has ended as large non-Christian countries develop their economies. 'Post-Biblical morality' also makes sense to me; but 'post-Christian morality' makes no sense. It seems to confuse deprecation of dogma with estrangement of people.

I've expressed on the Christian writing forum my concern about the high levels of punitivism in Biblical notions of good and justice. I feel strongly that our best social thinking is long past that. While some Christians still like the notion of a punitive but benevolent moral authority, many are finding it increasingly uncomfortable; I can only imagine that discomfort increasing in a post-Christian world.

What is clear to me though is that even if our sense of morality is reframed away from Biblical principles (and I for one would be glad of that), it can only be done within the cultures that we have. And shared morality requires shared myths and I'm not sure how we do that. How do China and the US build a myth together? Or India and the European Union? It's the sort of thing you can speculate about in SF or fantasy -- and it could be a lot of fun to try; but it's hard to imagine it occurring spontaneously.

As for setting new political paradigms in consequence of moral changes, that seems too far over the horizon to even talk about. Society updates its morality all the time. Very often, such changes just mean that policy and legislation change. Sometimes -- rarely -- a new idea takes and revolutionises both thinking and political structures. The swing from European monarchies to democracies in the 1700s is one example; the swing from plutocracies to socialist oligarchies in the 1900s is another. Such things typically occur after prolonged oppression; they incur multi-generational costs and as we have seen, they sometimes fail.

There's a lot one could say about how oppressive it can be to have foreign policy that fails to accord domestically-supported rights to the citizens of other nations, or economic policy that privatises profit and socialises loss. But when the oppression is at a safe remove from the bulk of one's own populace, the populace has little incentive to amend it. :(

SPMiller
11-20-2008, 02:21 AM
(if it's not obvious: atheism in that it denies/negates God's existence, Christian in that it believes in a lot of "Christian" virtues-- ie, "charity, temperance, compassion, mercy, and humility")I'm still not looking to contribute much to this discussion, but you appear to have left out perhaps the most important Protestant Christian virtue: the work ethic.

I suspect this is one virtue atheists would want to keep intact, in the interests of maintaining the excesses of Western society.

AMCrenshaw
11-20-2008, 09:02 AM
The swing from European monarchies to democracies in the 1700s is one example; the swing from plutocracies to socialist oligarchies in the 1900s is another. Such things typically occur after prolonged oppression; they incur multi-generational costs and as we have seen, they sometimes fail.


Well, considering "theocracy", I think this is what Michel Onfray is referring to. Either a multi-generational change from within or the multi-generational generation of a new generation! Ah...hah?

And I don't know. It seems that you feel that a change could come within. But he argues that a change within uses (is implicated in) too much of Christian mythology to escape it when creating and perhaps installing a post-Christian, post-theocratic, post-God ethic.


'Post-Biblical morality' also makes sense to me; but 'post-Christian morality' makes no sense. It seems to confuse deprecation of dogma with estrangement of people.


His question (not mine) might sound like: How can the Christian ethic, which is based on the God-myth, the "morality and law revealed by the Divine," be atheistically ethical? How can a post-Christian (post-monotheistic, etc) society be ethical if it still follows the Christian ethic?

It seems to me that Onfray suggests atheists build a foundation for themselves, intellectually or otherwise. But he also suggests that staying within a monotheistic society only impedes the progress of a purely atheistic ethic...

*blah*


But you appear to have left out perhaps the most important Protestant Christian virtue: the work ethic.

That was Onfray's doing, not mine; I should have said as much.

AMC

SPMiller
11-20-2008, 10:18 AM
Then I would suggest any argument Onfray makes is therefore flawed and not much worth discussing. The work ethic is the lynchpin of Western culture. An odd oversight, but that probably speaks to the pervasiveness of that particular virtue in our culture.

Ruv Draba
11-20-2008, 01:15 PM
The work ethic is the lynchpin of Western culture.Marx and some others might disagree with that, SPM... He might argue that dreams of 'independent wealth' drive most business investment; that the ultimate goal of capitalism is a (corrupt and selfish) end that has others work for you while you do nothing yourself.

If you consider dot-com speculation, property speculation, and superannuation for instance or the way that many people now think of a work-free retirement as a 'right' that is 'earned' by steadfast labour, those are beliefs that were not endemic to Christian thought for much of its existence -- but are rather functions of the sort of capitalism societies nowadays embrace.

The Puritan work-ethic (also sometimes called the Protestant work-ethic) refers to a specific line of Christian thought which holds that work 'purifies' us. While it still holds the name, I don't believe that it's devout Protestants who practice it nowadays so much as the poor (who must work hard) and the greedy (who seek either independent wealth or a comfortable middle-class lifestyle), and those insecure in their jobs (who may confuse longer hours with working more effectively).

I don't believe that a post-Biblical morality would necessarily change any of that. Rather, I think that those issues relate most of all to how we see work and wealth in relation to our self-esteem and social identities.

There's some thought I could offer on this topic from a humanistic perspective, but I'm not sure that atheism can offer anything other than the question itself: why are we working so hard? :) [But in fairness, Christian family advocacy groups are already asking this very question.]

Ruv Draba
11-20-2008, 05:36 PM
Well, considering "theocracy", I think this is what Michel Onfray is referring to.There aren't too many theocracies in the world. The Taliban in Afghanistan was possibly one; the Dalai Lama regime in Tibet might have been another. Wikpedia suggests that the UK, Norway and Israel have vestigial theocracies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theocracy) (in the UK it's in name only).



His question (not mine) might sound like: How can the Christian ethic, which is based on the God-myth, the "morality and law revealed by the Divine," be atheistically ethical?Well, if all it had going for it was mythology then it probably wouldn't have lasted as long. Christian ethics -- and Christian morality -- have been strongly influenced by secular thought since at least the time of Galileo. As accepted myths fall away, often so do any moral encumbrances that they propped up. For instance, nobody these days uses the myth of Ham (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamitic) to justify slavery.

I don't believe that it matters who created the ethic; ethics can be adjudged on whether they support a moral understanding and are effective. I'd argue that many Christian-derived ethics support non-Christian morality just fine and are very effective in doing so. I'd also argue that many Christians have adopted secular ethics in supplement of ethics informed by specifically Christian morality -- and that they've done so in many cases without internal conflict or qualms.

For me, the moral question 'what is good' is where the conflicts between Biblical and non-Biblical doctrine get tricky -- and these can lead to ethical problems further along. Christians and non-Christians don't argue about kindness, forgiveness, humility etc... from an ethical perspective (though they may disagree about the moral implications of these things), but I've argued for instance, quite strenuously with some Christians (like the most delightful Pat~) about the role of punishment and the exercise of force from both moral and ethical perspectives.

(I don't believe in a good, punitive deity, see -- so I don't have to believe that certain punishments are morally good. I don't believe in a 'spirit of evil' in the world, so I don't have to believe that armageddon is the best thing since velcro.)


It seems to me that Onfray suggests atheists build a foundation for themselves, intellectually or otherwise. But he also suggests that staying within a monotheistic society only impedes the progress of a purely atheistic ethic...I don't believe that atheism is a foundation for any social structure beyond the occasional interesting dinner-party. :)

You need positive assertions for a moral foundation. I can believe in a secular humanistic morality for instance -- which also happens to be atheistic. Or I could recognise (if not believe in) some rationalist/materialistic morality which might also be atheistic -- though I don't think that the two moralities would be the same.

Dawnstorm
11-20-2008, 10:09 PM
I don't believe that atheism is a foundation for any social structure beyond the occasional interesting dinner-party. :)


Isn't that pretty much the basic tenet of the original post? If we base a government only on atheism, that's anarchy by default. So what does it mean if we say "atheists" want more political power? To illustrate the point: how do we read "separation of church and state" under such a heading? How do we detect the seamlines of religion and culture and how do we undo them without falling apart ourselves?

AMCrenshaw
11-21-2008, 12:53 AM
There aren't too many theocracies in the world.

God Bless America. God Save the Queen!

Yeah, sure.


I don't believe that atheism is a foundation for any social structure beyond the occasional interesting dinner-party.

A new ethic entirely without God? Ethics do have their part in foundations for social structure? Or am I wrong? Is it the other way around?



Then I would suggest any argument Onfray makes is therefore flawed and not much worth discussing.

Then I'd suggest leaving Texas. Protestantism isn't the only monotheism, and certainly not the only Christianity, nor did he discuss merely American culture - Western includes countries like Spain and Italy (really? you might ask. Really.). If you need, research labor laws in Spain, for example. Tell me what their culture's sense of work is like...


If we base a government only on atheism, that's anarchy by default.

Not necessarily true, though: a system of politics could form, but it sh/would form on the basis of an ethical code that...well... does not include God, or even Christian virtues? I myself dunno.



You need positive assertions for a moral foundation. I can believe in a secular humanistic morality for instance -- which also happens to be atheistic. Or I could recognise (if not believe in) some rationalist/materialistic morality which might also be atheistic -- though I don't think that the two moralities would be the same


Yeah, you are not disagreeing with him. Rationalist, materialist, humanist, secular: atheism, according to Atheist Manifesto includes all of these. (You can't really be materialist, humanity, or secular if your sense of morality is mandated by God (who is immaterial, beyond reason, and transcendent).

AMC

Ruv Draba
11-21-2008, 01:00 AM
Isn't that pretty much the basic tenet of the original post? If we base a government only on atheism, that's anarchy by default.Dawny, atheism itself has no direction; but that's not the same as having direction but then giving it no structure. :)

Hmm... perhaps people have been confusing anarchy with anarchism? Anarchy is what happens to teen kids at home when their parents leave for the weekend. Anarchism is saying 'we always want to live that way'. :D


So what does it mean if we say "atheists" want more political power?Well, atheism may have no direction, but atheists may have plenty. In the US and Australia for instance it's virtually impossible for a self-confessed atheist to be elected as a head of state/head of executive function. In the US for example, a female president or a dark-skinned president are credible options; an atheistic president is not.



To illustrate the point: how do we read "separation of church and state" under such a heading?That fight was actually kicked off by theists, who fought on both sides of the question and still do. Atheists don't need to initiate that question; they just need to pick a side and perhaps redraw the lines a bit. :)


How do we detect the seamlines of religion and culture and how do we undo them without falling apart ourselves?My argument is that it's not possible. We're all in the same soup. What is a culture after all, but a society sharing its myths, its morality, its ethics toward common ends?

I'd argue that people are more important than their beliefs. We all (theists and non-theists) must learn to work with the people we're privileged to share the world with -- rather than deciding which people we'll share the world with.

So atheists must learn to swallow their gorge when they hear about God winnowing non-Christians from the world and what a great time that will be. As offensive as that myth is, we need to have faith that peoples can grow out of their xenophobia -- they don't always slip into fascism. And Christians need to accept the historically-demonstrated fact that neither Bible study, Christian fellowship nor prayer -- as comforting as they may sometimes be -- are necessary or sufficient to overcome the fear, ignorance and gross stupidity that repeatedly plague us.

SPMiller
11-21-2008, 01:25 AM
Then I'd suggest leaving Texas. Protestantism isn't the only monotheism, and certainly not the only Christianity, nor did he discuss merely American culture - Western includes countries like Spain and Italy (really? you might ask. Really.). If you need, research labor laws in Spain, for example. Tell me what their culture's sense of work is like...Honestly, it wouldn't surprise me if I had as good an idea of Spain's culture as you do. Among other things, my Castilian Spanish is decent. That said, Spain and Italy have notoriously weak economies relative to many Western European nations. Is there a causal relationship between, say, the Spanish siesta and that weak economic performance? I can't say; I'm neither an economist nor a sociologist. But it's worth pointing that out.

I do happen to agree that the US is a de facto theocracy--not so much the UK--but for a different reason than a slogan :D

AMCrenshaw
11-21-2008, 01:55 AM
Sure things, all. I'm not commenting on the value of Spanish and Italian economy, either, but the mere fact that they are Western cultures with Christian backgrounds. The work ethic, as you described it, is not over-arching-ly Christian nor over-arching-ly Western. Is all I meant; I took the liberty of jabbing at you because we're in more-regular contact and it's hard (impossible) to offend you. HA

AMC

SPMiller
11-21-2008, 02:11 AM
Ha.

Ruv Draba
11-21-2008, 02:11 AM
God Bless America. God Save the Queen!

Yeah, sure.So if there were a nation of New Agers who believed in tarot, you'd call that a Tarocracy?

I think that having faith in something is very different to giving it political power. The guy who mows our lawn is very good and I trust him, but I wouldn't give him office. :)


Ethics do have their part in foundations for social structure? Or am I wrong? Is it the other way around?Ethics are absolutely required for both society and culture. But atheism per se can't give rise to such ethics, because atheism is an umbrella term for unrelated beliefs that pull in every direction bar that of religion. You'd have to begin by picking a particular atheistic direction and go from there. And while you could say that it is 'atheistic', you couldn't claim that it represented the interests of atheists -- because many atheists would be pulling somewhere else entirely.

SPMiller
11-21-2008, 02:27 AM
Only time I saw a bunch of New Agers in one place was the tarot readers around Jackson Square in NOLA. I think we're fine for now ;)

AMCrenshaw
11-21-2008, 02:36 AM
Ethics are absolutely required for both society and culture. But atheism per se can't give rise to such ethics, because atheism is an umbrella term for unrelated beliefs that pull in every direction bar that of religion. You'd have to begin by picking a particular atheistic direction and go from there. And while you could say that it is 'atheistic', you couldn't claim that it represented the interests of atheists -- because many atheists would be pulling somewhere else entirely.

Which is precisely what Michel Onfray is doing in Atheist Manifesto, trying to create --what he calls-- an "atheistic" atheism. Whether or not he succeeds is up to interpretation. But from what I gather he doesn't seem to separate all the beliefs the way you do-- he sees them as very much so connected. And I think to some extent you might as well.


So if there were a nation of New Agers who believed in tarot, you'd call that a Tarocracy?

Yes. Would you want people deciding on the Iraq war/or any war or any matter by using Tarot cards? What makes you think they wouldn't? Remember that the U.S. went to war in part because George Bush claimed it was his fate, his destiny, his God-given purpose. Or does that not play a role, do you think? I very much so think that it had something to do with it, even if only to manipulate people who do believe in God and who do believe in God-given purpose.

So admittedly, the results of that reading probably would have produced better results than anything George Bush, the junior would have thought on his own. But. Well.


Do you not think that people's religions are at the forefront of their politics? Or are their politics really somehow separated? On one hand, you might argue that the line is impossible to discern. On the other, you seem (I could be wrong) to suggest that it's absurd to call George W. anything other than a theocrat. The fact that he, an utter failure in general, held office for two terms speaks at least in some way about the absolute connection between religiosity- and more specifically- theism and (U.S.) politics.

I'm not sure if you've visited the U.S. or not; I won't assume you have or haven't. But do you not see or hear of people who have "God Bless America" bumper stickers? Or of people who still believe America is the "blessed" nation; if you listened close to Obama's acceptance speech, he said something very similar, and to that effefct. How can you say, when most of the leaders of a country believe in God, and that they believe their morality (and perhaps thus political sense of obligation) comes from GOD HIMSELF, that this specific system of politics is not a theocracy. One of the original points here was that ya don't see or hear about many atheists in office, not in the U.S. at least.

AMC

Dawnstorm
11-21-2008, 06:22 AM
Dawny, atheism itself has no direction; but that's not the same as having direction but then giving it no structure. :)

Hmm... perhaps people have been confusing anarchy with anarchism? Anarchy is what happens to teen kids at home when their parents leave for the weekend. Anarchism is saying 'we always want to live that way'. :D

I agree with the latter distinction, but I'm confused with the spatial metaphor in the former. My intuition is that atheism is all direction and no structure. As soon as we're referring to ourselves as atheists, we're joining the lines of brave little soldiers whose only means of navigation is the breath of god in their face. They're not very effective in marching as they stumble over each other. Should God keel over and die, we'd all lose sense of direction and just fling our sticks and stones at each other. Anarchy, until structure emerges (bullies at first, alliances later).


Well, atheism may have no direction, but atheists may have plenty. In the US and Australia for instance it's virtually impossible for a self-confessed atheist to be elected as a head of state/head of executive function. In the US for example, a female president or a dark-skinned president are credible options; an atheistic president is not.

But life, generally, isn't atheists vs. theists. That's a world for radicals. In practise, I suppose, Secular Humanists would rather ally with, say, Roman Chatolics, than with Nihilists. (All you have to do is notice the "Secular" before "Humanist".)


That fight was actually kicked off by theists, who fought on both sides of the question and still do. Atheists don't need to initiate that question; they just need to pick a side and perhaps redraw the lines a bit. :)

Yes, because "Christianity" is not a "church", but a "faith". It's something easy to forget. If Austria, for example, did not have separation of Church and State, we'd be bowing to the Pope and have a lot of angry Protestants. I also think we'd have a higher number ORBs ("Ohne Religiöses Bekenntis" - "Without Religious Denomination"). More atheist lobbying? I wonder how that would look. In any case, they'd probably remain a fringe group, most atheists subverting the existing system rather than rebelling. (I often feel that political activists underestimate the value of hypocracy for a nation state.)


My argument is that it's not possible. We're all in the same soup. What is a culture after all, but a society sharing its myths, its morality, its ethics toward common ends?

I'd argue that people are more important than their beliefs. We all (theists and non-theists) must learn to work with the people we're privileged to share the world with -- rather than deciding which people we'll share the world with.

So atheists must learn to swallow their gorge when they hear about God winnowing non-Christians from the world and what a great time that will be. As offensive as that myth is, we need to have faith that peoples can grow out of their xenophobia -- they don't always slip into fascism. And Christians need to accept the historically-demonstrated fact that neither Bible study, Christian fellowship nor prayer -- as comforting as they may sometimes be -- are necessary or sufficient to overcome the fear, ignorance and gross stupidity that repeatedly plague us.

I'd agree that we can't really separate religion and culture, and I agree that people are more important than beliefs. But, you know, I don't think that the hardest part is swallowing Christian rhetoric. The hardest part is finding and accepting your inner Christian (local version/s). If you can't spot the seamlines between culture and religion, how do you know you're not believing in God (despite your claims to the contrary)?

Apparantly, though, I'm in a different situation than you are. Nobody has ever tried to winnow me from the Earth (though the good-natured conversion attempts do get annoying; they see life's terribly complicated for me, then they think believing God would make things easier, not seeing that yet another element in the soup has quite the opposite effect... ;) ), and I have fairly little contact with non-Christian traditions (most atheists around here are Christian atheists [in a culturally homeopathic sense], and - since culture and religion are really one big mess - its hard to assess the impact on Celtic pagan traditions [the local Christians don't talk much about their inner pagan ;) ]).

Ruv Draba
11-21-2008, 03:20 PM
Yes. Would you want people deciding on the Iraq war/or any war or any matter by using Tarot cards? What makes you think they wouldn't?Well, I'd trust a smart pagan reading tarot before a dumb atheist getting a science brief -- but that's because smart minds don't generally follow dumb advice, whatever the source. And even faiths that I consider irrational have smart, rational people supporting them.

Bottom line: I trust people more than ideologies. Ideologies all break at the margins -- but the margins are where people excel.

Do you not think that people's religions are at the forefront of their politics?No, I think that peoples' consciences and cultures shape most of how they organise power. Pick a religion and you can find an inclusive, humanistic strain of it; and a xenophobic, punitive strain of it. Pick a political theory and you can do the same.

But do you not see or hear of people who have "God Bless America" bumper stickers?Is it unreasonable for people to feel thankful and connected to their land and folk? I don't think so. In my home, our indigenous people feel immensely connected -- and after 40,000+ years of habitation, who can blame them?

The issue isn't that people feel warmly toward this or that place or folk; that's an immensely human foible. It's when we start feeling that it's our job to reform others; to deliver benison or sanction according to how well they conform to our way that our conflicts of interest begin to arise. It's not that we love one place or people that defines us; it's what else we love in addition.

It's not my place to comment on American culture. There is perhaps a concern of educational isolationism though, when very many Americans can't tell Australia (my home) from Austria (Dawnstorm's) and couldn't find either of them quickly upon a map

AMCrenshaw
11-21-2008, 07:06 PM
Pick a religion and you can find an inclusive, humanistic strain of it

This is interesting. Sounds something like you'd drink cola because you like cola-- it doesn't matter the color the of can, or what the label is...if it's cola, it's cola.



Is it unreasonable for people to feel thankful and connected to their land and folk?

It's more than that. People go to the voting booths with something like "God Bless" in mind. That is how they vote, a political act. Their religion directly influences how they vote. Do I think it's wrong? Perhaps it's unavoidable. Likewise, the way religion affects these political actions affects them all.

AMC

Ruv Draba
11-22-2008, 04:00 AM
This is interesting. Sounds something like you'd drink cola because you like cola-- it doesn't matter the color the of can, or what the label is...if it's cola, it's cola.I tend to have regard for people who care about people, and who understand people (or seek to) in their own frame. I really don't care what their faith is; if they do that then I'll consider them to be good people.


People go to the voting booths with something like "God Bless" in mind. That is how they vote, a political act. Their religion directly influences how they vote.We give people power in trust. It takes a lot more effort to trust someone different to ourselves than to trust someone similar. But whether the 'someone similar' is worthy of trust just because they're similar is another question.

There are plenty of atheists that I don't trust much and plenty of theists that I do. If Richard Dawkins were to run for office in my electorate, say, I doubt that I'd vote for him. Although I respect his education and agree with many of his beliefs, I don't much like how he views people, and I don't trust his ability to look after a whole community. But there are plenty of theistic candidates that I would and do vote for. Although I disagree with their beliefs, I also believe that they are both well-intentioned and capable of looking after a community and not just narrow factional interests.

In a pluralistic society, I think that government must be about whole community, not little subcultural divisions. I know that certain groups see it differently -- as though society is a war between subcultures for control of government; I think that they're wrong.

fullbookjacket
11-24-2008, 04:25 AM
There are plenty of atheists that I don't trust much and plenty of theists that I do. If Richard Dawkins were to run for office in my electorate, say, I doubt that I'd vote for him. Although I respect his education and agree with many of his beliefs, I don't much like how he views people, and I don't trust his ability to look after a whole community. But there are plenty of theistic candidates that I would and do vote for. Although I disagree with their beliefs, I also believe that they are both well-intentioned and capable of looking after a community and not just narrow factional interests.

In a pluralistic society, I think that government must be about whole community, not little subcultural divisions. I know that certain groups see it differently -- as though society is a war between subcultures for control of government; I think that they're wrong.

Sadly, if polls are to be believed, theists don't have as magnanimous view of you as you have of them. They would poke their eyes out with a pencil before they'd vote for an atheist.

Ruv Draba
11-24-2008, 06:27 AM
Sadly, if polls are to be believed, theists don't have as magnanimous view of you as you have of them. They would poke their eyes out with a pencil before they'd vote for an atheist.Not all theists, fortunately. Some -- perhaps a rare few -- can see past ideology to the person, the values and the behaviours. Such people often come to realise that more than one dogma supports good, and that many ideologies are blind to their own bad.

I have long conversations with some theists about xenophobia and punitive belief-systems -- and what that does to society in the long term. Some -- perhaps most -- can't see that there's a problem at all. Of course, some atheists are like that too.

Here's a question that I asked recently of a Christian regarding Christian tolerance of persecution, but it's equally applicable to atheists:

Suppose that a mosque were burned down in your neighbourhood by some anti-Muslim group (and apologies to any Muslims reading; the issue here is not Islam but tolerance). Would you most support: rebuilding the mosque, leaving the land fallow, or building (say) a museum of evolution there?
On the surface we'd normally seek to only build the institutions that most reflect our own beliefs. But if we let ourselves benefit from persecution then aren't we are condoning it? In that way, doesn't opportunism make us friends and beneficiaries of intolerance?

I personally believe that the only moral and ethical thing to do in a benevolent, pluralistic community is to rebuild the mosque. If we genuinely support someone's right to believe something, then that must influence what we do -- not just what we say.

Dommo
11-24-2008, 11:47 AM
Well Ruv, that's kind of a rigged question. Honestly, it's the responsibility of the Mosque's congregation to rebuild itself or if need be put the property up for sale. It's not the public's responsibility to do really do anything other than try to track down and prosecute the people who burned it down. Supposing that land is a valuable commodity in that area, and if a Museum of Evolution has been looking for a place to build, why not allow for them buy that property if the land becomes available? Churches do this on a regular basis with old commercial properties, so I don't really see the issue.

The problem would only arise when the persecution is condoned, and the people involved in the arson were trying to replace the mosque with a different structure. I don't see anything inherently unethical about benefiting off of the misfortune of another, as long as the person isn't being malicious(e.g. indirectly, or directly caused the issue). Is it wrong to buy a house that's been repossessed by the bank, and is up for sale? Suppose that the person who lived there lost his job through the corruption of his boss, is it wrong for me to buy the house or for the bank to repossess it?
That's the real issue here. Is it wrong to benefit off of the misfortune of another. I say it's not, as long as you aren't doing anything outside of the law, and as long you didn't indirectly or directly cause the problem.

I personally have no objection to people believing in what they want to believe, however I don't think that I should have to pay to support their beliefs. In other words, I shouldn't have to subsidize them. If the bank forecloses a church on prime real estate, then I have no objection to a developer buying it out and tearing it down to put up a different building.

Ruv Draba
11-24-2008, 01:01 PM
I don't see anything inherently unethical about benefiting off of the misfortune of another, as long as the person isn't being malicious(e.g. indirectly, or directly caused the issue).You've really nailed the Persecution by Neglect argument here, Dommo. I think that it's a very popular view. Let me spell out why it I think it falls down -- at least in the sphere of tolerance and inclusion. I should also admit that I hadn't thought about it much until recently.

Suppose that we're a large cultural majority -- let's say that we're the loose aggregation of Christian churches. Suppose that a charismatic leader arises who gains community support to persecute a number of minorities. For argument's sake, let the minorities be atheists, Jews, Gypsies, gays, communists and dissident intellectuals -- people that many members of society either don't like or don't understand, and that some societies might not really miss.

Your argument says that we're not morally obliged to oppose that persecution as long as it's not us persecuting. That in fact, if that persecution aids us (e.g. by redistributing wealth and property from unpopular parts of society to more popular parts) then it's neither immoral nor unethical to jump in after it's complete, to tut and cluck and then gain such benefit as we might gain from it. Of course, we'll want punish the culprits after the fact -- perhaps even demonise them -- but of course, we don't have to return the property then either, because there's nobody to return it to. They've fled or died already.

In failing to not just oppose persecution but redress it, we create a situation where mainstream society benefits from the actions of a xenophobic minority, but can retain the moral high-ground, and wash its hands of culpability. In fact I think that we've created a society that can credibly say that it embraces pluralism while actually embracing something a lot nastier.

Neat, huh?

That's why I think that we have to oppose persecution even of people whose values we don't much understand or like -- and rebuild their social centres if persecution should damage them.

A community doesn't have to be pluralistic. You can insist that only people born into the country can be citizens. But once we embrace other cultures as part of our greater society, I feel that our community incurs an obligation to protect and preserve them. Failure to protect pluralism is a community failure. The cost of that failure is not just the cost of its victims to bear -- and indeed they may be least able to bear that cost.

To my mind, when a community helps rebuild a firebombed mosque -- or any other social centre that forms part of its fabric -- it's not charity, but justice.

Dommo
11-25-2008, 01:55 AM
It is charity. I should NOT be forced to do anything.

I never said that we shouldn't oppose persecution, I merely said that I shouldn't have to be the one to pay for a new mosque. I'll gladly pay to ensure that hateful actions like that are prosecuted, and groups that are considered hate groups feel the full wrath of the law. I'm saying that I shouldn't have to pay to rebuild the mosque, but I'm more than happy to pay to ensure that the assholes who burned it down, and others like them can't continue their arson spree(through improved law enforcement, social services, etc.), and that other hate groups are persecuted.

That's a big difference from neglect. It's like if I see a person with a flat tire on the road, I'll gladly give them a ride to a local gas station so they can call a tow truck, but I certainly am not going to pay for a new tire. That's my view on the persecution thing(I'm coming from the perspective of a persecuted minority American Indian). The community should help by being supportive to the people rebuilding the mosque, but the community itself shouldn't be forced to do anything.

Societies are in a constant cycle of birth and decay, and sometimes its better to simply change what something was used for. A lot of commercial spaces are turned into churches, and I don't the see the issue of a religious property being used for other purposes. Suppose that a mosque got burned down. If that mosque was insured, perhaps it might give the mosque the financial means to build a better facility in a different location. Suppose their patrons are moving to suburbs, it might be favorable for the mosque to relocate to better serve who worship there. In fact such a thing happened not too long ago in my hometown, a church burned down, and they used the insurance money to relocate to a different property which was closer to the majority of the congregation.

Ruv Draba
11-25-2008, 10:47 PM
I'll gladly pay to ensure that hateful actions like that are prosecuted, and groups that are considered hate groups feel the full wrath of the law. Do you believe that prosecuting hate groups prevents hate? Do you believe that it builds community? Or is community unimportant -- it's every man for himself as long as the law is obeyed?

AMCrenshaw
11-25-2008, 11:01 PM
Originally Posted by Dommo
I'll gladly pay to ensure that hateful actions like that are prosecuted, and groups that are considered hate groups feel the full wrath of the law.




Do you believe that prosecuting hate groups prevents hate? Do you believe that it builds community? Or is community unimportant -- it's every man for himself as long as the law is obeyed?

His view of law is law as the punitive, fatherly God. Imagine it: the omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent system of law. You don't want that, Ruv?

Me either. But as such, my good internet friend: Prospero is invincible! What else do you expect? How do you "enforce" what you expect?


AMC

Ruv Draba
11-26-2008, 03:33 AM
When someone bombs a community centre, it's not the damage to the building that they really want -- it's damage to the sense of belonging of the people who use it. They want those people to move elsewhere. Bombings are cowardly attacks -- the perpetrator is seldom around to be caught or to apologise, and I'm not persuaded that such prosecution -- even on the rare occasions that it proceeds -- does much to repair the damage to trust and belonging.

A community that only prosecutes crime says: we're not really against hatred -- just violence. A community that repairs the building says: actually, we're willing to put in skin to protect your belonging.

The question of 'forcing' members to pay for it is hardly the issue. We get taxed anyway as part of community membership -- it's just a matter of deciding how those taxes are best spent. I personally think that spending community taxes on strengthening community isn't a bad thing -- if the community isn't already privately doing that. Or, if you're opposed to taxation entirely then that's a much bigger matter. But note that I didn't actually suggest that it was government that should pay -- I think that private citizens from outside the group paying makes just as much sense. I donate occasionally to the Vietnamese Buddhist monastery just behind my home, for instance, and I'm nothing like Buddhist or Vietnamese. I just like seeing bald guys in saffron robes wandering around the shops and catching buses in the middle of what is otherwise a conservative government town. I think it's great. :)

Of course, none of this makes sense if community doesn't exist for us. If we just have society without community -- co-habitation without commitment to one another... well, we could pass that off as tolerance, but I think that a better name would be self-centered indifference.

As for playing the 'I'm a minority' card... it's the atheist/non-theist forum. We're most of us a persecuted minority. ;)

AMCrenshaw
12-20-2008, 01:46 AM
Ruv, I wanted to mention to you a book that is quite clear about the anarchism I support (well, minus a lot of the religious aspect): it's called Anarchy and Christianity by Jacques Ellul; he also wrote The Subversion of Christianity. Both are excellent.