Mesoscope

For the self-emancipation of communities by reason.

Archive for January 2017

A few talking points on specious comparisons between Trump’s Muslim Ban and Obama’s 2011 actions

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The next time someone blithely tells you that Trump’s Muslim ban is no different from Obama’s 2011 order, here are a few things to note.

  • Obama didn’t make a major decision with sweeping consequences without any consultation or vetting by the people responsible for implementing the policy on a Friday, leaving it to individual CBP personnel to figure out at airports what the order did or did not say. The result has been chaos and numerous lawsuits.
  • Obama did not take action that directly contradicted the consensus of the State Department and intelligence community in the name of fighting terror.
  • Trump kept his own national security officials out of the loop – his Defense Secretary, Homeland Security Secretary, and State Department nominee have all reported that they were not aware of the details of the directive until Trump signed it.
  • Trump worked with GOP House Judiciary Committee senior staffers on the language and directed them to not tell GOP leadership.
  • Obama did not act in the absence of an actual, concrete threat.
  • Obama did not violate statutory obligations of the Geneva convention on refugees by arbitrarily banning vetted refugees from entering the country.
  • The Obama administration did not target permanent residents as well as new applicants. The Trump administration specifically clarified to the DHS that their ban does apply to green card holders, and only pulled back after massive outcry.
  • Obama was not enjoined by a Federal Magistrate from committing “further acts and misconduct in violation of the Constitution.” No president has EVER been thus advised from the bench in our nation’s history.
  • Obama was not following up from a campaign in which he specifically called for a ban on Muslims. For example, from the official Trump campaign website: “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
  • Obama does not have a history of repeating falsehoods and ugly, bigoted, false stories about Muslims.
  • Statements that the seven countries targeted by the Executive Order were identified by Obama are misleading at best.

The Washington Post has some additional discussion.

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Written by Mesocosm

January 30, 2017 at 12:27 pm

Posted in Trump

Possible Constitutional Crisis Brewing in Dulles Airport

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It’s late and I’m traveling for work, but I want to put something brief out on a story that is insanely under-reported at this time. I’m way beyond baffled – this may well prove to be the biggest story of the last ten days.

In brief, CBP officers at Dulles airport refused to comply with the orders of a Federal Magistrate and allow attorneys to see detainees who are in their custody pursuant to the Trump Executive Order. Attorneys for the detainees were told in a handwritten message “It’s not going to happen.” I cannot overstate the gravity of this situation.

Four members of the House of Representatives attempted to meet with the CBP and were turned away.

Rep. Don Beyer tweeted earlier today:

We have a constitutional crisis today. Four Members of Congress asked CBP officials to enforce a federal court order and were turned away.

If the Trump administration supports the CBP position, this will constitute the greatest Constitutional crisis since the Saturday Night Massacre in 1973.

For some insane reason that is completely crazy and totally opaque to me, this story hasn’t been picked up by major national media. I have been reading about it for hours from blogs and Twitter before Slate finally wrote about it, followed by the Guardian late this afternoon.

More coverage

Update
Now CNN is covering this issue (finally). It appears to be ongoing.

Written by Mesocosm

January 29, 2017 at 11:21 pm

Posted in Trump

Bannon and some matters of life and death

with 3 comments

In my view, one of the most disastrous actions of the Obama administration was claiming power to target American citizens for killing if a classified Executive Branch review with no public notes or records of any kind determines that that citizen is a serious enough threat and cannot be arrested by conventional means.

In rather Orwellian logic, Obama claimed that confidential review by his branch meets the standard of due process. Unfortunately, that review is carried out by subset of the National Security Council.

Steve Bannon is now a full member of the National Security Council – he has more access to it than the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence, under Trump’s recent Executive Order. John McCain characterized his move as a “radical departure” from precedent, and a cause for serious concern, noting that the “one indispensable” member of the Council is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff.

I am sure the NSC, which is largely staffed by Trump appointees, will use their powers with the administration’s typical sobriety and prudence.

When Anwar Al-Awlaki’s father appeared in court to challenge the targeting of his son, the DOJ argued and the courts agreed that he lacked standing to do so. In other words, he couldn’t bring suit on his son’s behalf. His son, who would be killed if his whereabouts were known, would need to come to the courts and file suit himself.

It is possible that a U.S. citizen Obama had killed far from any battlefield, Anwar Al-Awlaki, may have been engaged in Constitutionally speech. Anonymous officials admitted that the evidence linking him to operational planning was “patchy.” We’ll never know now, of course, because he’s dead.

Note that, according to the confidential memo the Obama White House used to formulate their legal theory on this issue, “the condition that an operational leader present an ‘immanent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” (page 7).

For me, and a surprisingly tiny handful of others, at the time, this was a very serious issue. I wrote about it repeatedly, but very few people seemed particularly concerned at the time.

Here’s what I said about this in 2010:

Perhaps the greatest danger of Obama’s attempt to order the extrajudicial assassination of Al-Awlaki is that if you follow how the White House is playing it, it is clear what they’re trying to do is establish a precedent, using a case that’s (in their eyes) relatively unproblematic. Just wait till a Republican president holds this power, hippie.

Well, that day is here – Trump is in the White House stacking that very same panel, which can apparently target suspected enemies of the US for death without any public visibility or judicial checks, with his political allies. Like Steve Bannon. The guy who published stories like “How to Talk to your Crazy ISIS Relatives about Global Warming at Thanksgiving” and “Hillary Clinton’s Muslim Brotherhood Problem”.

Update

Annnnd two days after I posted this, Sean Spicer said “no American citizen will ever be targeted” at a press conference, only to see the White House walk that assertion back hours later, citing Eric Holder’s justification for using lethal force.

Written by Mesocosm

January 29, 2017 at 8:12 am

Posted in Rights

Arendt, again, on post-truth

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This selection of highlights from an interview with Hannah Arendt by the always-excellent New York Review of books is well worth reading in its entirety. This quote jumped out at me:

The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie—a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days—but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.

Written by Mesocosm

January 28, 2017 at 11:04 am

Posted in post-truth

The Ecstatic Emancipation of the Alt-Right, and How to Destroy It

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Les extrêmes se touchent. – French proverb

I have been hard at work during the last horrible week, watching and trying to understand what is going on in the world. Encountering Jordan Greenhall’s Situational Assessment 2017 was a revelation, not just in what it said, but in how he thinks about social problems. I feel like he “woke me from my dogmatic slumber.”

Looking at things with fresh eyes I want to extend my critical engagement with that piece and offer several new observations, and some recommendations.

THIS IS MY DEATH STAR PLANS. The Republican behemoth is neither as monolithic nor as invulnerable as it appears at a glance – it is a fragile coalition of extremely heterogeneous elements that are in extreme tension. I’m going to tell you where the major fault line lies, you bring the proton torpedoes.

1. The Alt-Right is a Dionysian Frenzy of Ecstatic Rupture

Just before the election I read this characterization of Trump’s base by the philosopher Judith Butler – I think it conveys something urgently important about the character of the Trump Insurgency:

I think they have an enormous rage. Not just against women, not only against racial minorities or against migrants – they are thrilled that that their rage is being liberated by his public and uncensored speech. We on the left, we are apparently the superego. What Trump has managed to do, rhetorically, is to identify not just the left, but liberalism – basic American liberalism and the left – as just a bunch of censors. We are the instruments of repression and he is the vehicle for emancipation. It is a nightmare.

Butler is quite right in characterizing the tone of the Trump revolution as one of liberation from a repressive force, but she is mistaken in her contention that Trump has “managed to do” this “rhetorically”. He has tapped into a reservoir of resentment that was already widespread.

I have previously called out the importance of the Reddit poster notjaffo’s characterization of the pluralistic left and the Trump Insurgency, but it is critical and warrants repeating:

Blue Team Progressivism is a church, offering you moral superiority and a path to spiritual enlightenment. As a church it’s got a lot going for it. It runs religious programming on television, all day every day. Every modern primetime program is like a left-wing Andy Griffith show, reinforcing lessons of inclusion, tolerance, feminism, and anti-racism.

Watching a 90-pound Sci-Fi heroine beat up a room full of giant evil men is as satisfying to the left as John Wayne westerns were for the right.

The Blue Church controls the HR department, so even if you don’t go to church, you have to act like a loyal churchgoer in every way that matters while you’re on the clock. And off the clock, on any kind of public social media platform.

Jon Stewart and John Oliver are basically TV preachers. Watching them gives the same sense of quiet superiority your grandma gets from watching The 700 Club. The messages are constantly reinforced, providing that lovely dopamine hit, like an angel’s voice whispering, “You’re right, you’re better, you’re winning.”

A crucial point to note is that Trump and the alt-right do not represent a return to the old Christian conservative stance of the Culture Wars, it represents a new political morality that is primarily focused on rejecting what it regards as the oppressive character of the Blue Church:

The Blue Church is panicking because they’ve just witnessed the birth of a new Red Religion. Not the tired old Christian cliches they defeated back in the ’60s, but a new faith based on cultural identity and outright rejection of the Blue Faith.

For the first time in decades, voters explicitly rejected the Blue Church, defying hours of daily cultural programming, years of indoctrination from the schools, and dozens of explicit warnings from HR.

We’ve been trained since childhood to obey the pretty people on TV, but for the first time in decades, that didn’t work.

Donald Trump won because flyover America wants their culture back, and Blue Team has not been rejected like that before.

The younger ones have grown up in an environment where Blue Faith assumptions cannot even be questioned, except anonymously by the bad kids on Twitter.

But now the bad kids are getting bolder, posting funny memes that make you laugh even though John Oliver would not approve, like passing crude dirty pictures under the table in Sunday School.

Meryl Streep is panicking because for the first time voters have rejected HER, and everything her faith has taught her to believe.

As I noted before, this is not the same as classical conservatism – it is not socially-conservative Christian values, it is an altogether new social expression that takes the rejection of pluralism as emancipatory-as-such.

It self-consciously positions itself outside of the conventional norms of mainstream discourse, and that act itself is celebrated as a jubilant expression of boundary-breaking.

Not convinced? Check out the DeploraBall. Really, look through the FAQ:

Before you avert your eyes, I want to point out something important, which I don’t think has been widely appreciated before.

The way this movement operates was anticipated by counter-culture movements in the 90s, exemplified by people like John Perry Barlow and Hakim Bey, who predicted that a new form of social space would be created by the Internet, with a completely novel set of underlying dynamics, which the traditional establishment would be completely unable to understand or control. Sound familiar?

From Bey’s influential “The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism“:

Everything in nature is perfectly real including consciousness, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. Not only have the chains of the Law been broken, they never existed; demons never guarded the stars, the Empire never got started, Eros never grew a beard.

No, listen, what happened was this: they lied to you, sold you ideas of good & evil, gave you distrust of your body & shame for your prophethood of chaos, invented words of disgust for your molecular love, mesmerized you with inattention, bored you with civilization & all its usurious emotions.

Or take John Perry Barlow’s much-loved A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace:

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.

You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.

You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don’t exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract. This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.

Notice the tone and the style. Then compare it with notjaffo’s statement above.

From the DeploraBall FAQ:

Q: Are you an alt-right group?
A: I don’t think we qualify as a group. We are a ragtag band of tech savvy creatives and INDIVIDUALS who work on projects together… me the person typing can’t answer for anyone else I work with, but I don’t think any of them have formed into a group. Plus groups have membership requirements, I’ll defer to Groucho: “ I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT PEOPLE LIKE ME AS A MEMBER.”

The digital revolution has come at last, but it does not bring with it the values we’d hoped for. Where we had hoped for play and connection, they delivered authoritarianism and xenophobia.

Their dynamics are fluid and improvisational, and they laugh at contradiction and constraint. If you fact-check them, they will only laugh harder, because you don’t get the joke.

2. We are not post-phase-transition, we are far-from-equilibrium

This is the alt-right, the Trump Insurgency, and they have only a superficial similarity to the mainstream GOP, with whom they are often at war.

The Trump Insurgency represents a new challenge to prevailing institutions of state, finance, and media, and is, by and large, opposed to status quo structures as such. As Greenhall puts it:

In ordinary politics, an elected candidate is expected to integrate with and make relatively small fine-tuning changes to the existing state apparatus and the mass of career bureaucrats that make up most of the actual machinery of government (AKA the “deep state”). Thus, while the Obama Administration might differ quite significantly from the Bush Administration in political theory and intent, the actual impact of theses differences on the real trajectory of the “ship of state” is relatively small.

My assessment is that the Trump Insurgency has identified the Deep State itself as its central antagonist and is engaged in a direct existential conflict with it.

Insofar as the mainstream GOP also desires to torch federal regulatory agencies and the social contract, they make common cause, but that’s it. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and the other of the barking dogs of the GOP are not anti-globalization, they’re pro-globalization, with the understanding that America should be hegemonically pre-eminent, per their embrace of American Exceptionalism. When Trump tries to burn down the framework of internationalism, he’s trying to burn down the house that they live in.

Their fundamental differences of ideology and purpose place them at odds far more than their shared interest in deregulation and regressive taxation hold them together. More importantly, Ryan and McConnell will never understand the point I have made above. They will never understand the nature of the Trump Insurgency, or its novel dynamics.

This weak coalition is currently held together only by a fragile compromise, but the things the Trump Insurgency adores, the mainstream GOP hates – the bald lies, the madness, the extremes, the drama, the leap from position to contradictory position.

It is a weak coalition of locked-together elements that are in extreme tension, because they are moving in opposite directions. And the tenor of recent events is a direct reflection of this.

The body politic is in an extreme state of turbulence, it is far-from-equilibrium, and systems under that condition are multi-stable until they settle into a new stable homeostasis. That is, they leap from center to center, suddenly, all at once, until the whole thing collapses and takes new shape.

That collapse and re-ordering is the phase transition that Greenhall is looking for, but I think we are not there yet – I think we’re in the turbulent times that precede it.

3. THE ENEMY IS VULNERABLE

The GOP has swept the federal government, and two dozen states. They appear to be unstoppable. They are not, because they are or soon will be at war with themselves.

They will attempt to hold the whole thing together to ram as much of their regressive billionaire ideology through as they can before the whole thing goes to hell, but they cannot, because the contradictions of their coalition are extreme. This madness we’re seeing is not just caused by Trump’s ineptitude and apparent derangement, although that plays a key part – it is also the unraveling of the newly-installed ruling coalition.

The mainstream GOP will never understand the alt-right, and the alt-right views the mainstream GOP itself as the problem.

Trump’s inauguration address:

For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished — but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered — but the jobs left, and the factories closed.

The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

He is not just talking about Obama, he is talking about the Republican-controlled Congress as well, and they know it.

The fault lines are there, and the tension is explosive. They are far, far from a stable state.

4. ATTACK

It is not that the right is strong, it is that the left is weak. Corbyn, Hollande, Clinton, Merkel – weak. Trump? Le Pen? Boris Johnson and Farage? These are silly people. Absurd. The right is weak, and it is vulnerable.

ATTACK.

Their coalition is founded on contradictions. Anti-establishment versus establishment. Libertarian versus social conservativism. Neoconservative versus unilateralist nationalism. The GOP wants to expand US supremacy in global trade and security, the Trump Insurgency wants to end it. Steven Bannon and Paul Ryan have nothing in common.

HAMMER AT IT, force them to confront the paradox of their own position. Trump is trying to burn down the house that most of the GOP lives in, do not let them forget it. Bring it to the fore. Force the issue. Push for trade policy to come to the front of the agenda. Confront the mainstream party with the absurdity of the alt-right at every opportunity. Push them on Trump’s weird man-crush on Putin and moves toward lifting sanctions. Don’t let them forget he compared the CIA to Nazis.

Demand that the Republican congress respond to and answer for Trump’s statements.

DO NOT waste time confronting the alt-right with facts, moral judgement, or refutations – IT IS WHAT DRIVES THEM.

ATTACK.

Written by Mesocosm

January 27, 2017 at 1:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

A critical engagement with Jordan Greenhall’s “Situational Assessment 2017”

with one comment

In Situational Assessment 2017: Trump Edition, Jordan Greenhall wrote a one of the most fascinating and novel analyses of recent events that I’ve seen to date.

I will review and critically extend what I take to be its principal arguments, but I very much recommend reading carefully through the full article yourself. It explodes with ideas, and illustrates a new style of political thought that may in fact be necessary to understand and confront the new political situation.

Combining elements of political theory, systems analysis, and semiotics, Greenhall analyzes the character of what he takes to be a phase transition, or fundamental shift, in the political domain. In his view, the very rules of the national political situation have changed, and if we fail to recognize the new dynamics at work, we cannot effectively engage.

A failure to recognize what is happening is, in fact, precisely the response that he expects from the old guard. And indeed thus far the institutional response by vested interests opposed to the Trump campaign have proven to be astonishingly ineffective at halting his advance. Attempts to marginalize, critique, exclude, attack, and defend using the standard playbook have all failed, and in order to move to a more effective strategy of engagement, we need to understand why.

The Trump Insurgency, as Greenhall calls it, represents a new challenge to prevailing institutions of state, finance, and media, and is, by and large, opposed to status quo structures as such. As he puts it:

In ordinary politics, an elected candidate is expected to integrate with and make relatively small fine-tuning changes to the existing state apparatus and the mass of career bureaucrats that make up most of the actual machinery of government (AKA the “deep state”). Thus, while the Obama Administration might differ quite significantly from the Bush Administration in political theory and intent, the actual impact of theses differences on the real trajectory of the “ship of state” is relatively small.

My assessment is that the Trump Insurgency has identified the Deep State itself as its central antagonist and is engaged in a direct existential conflict with it.

Trump does it seek to engage with or hegemonically dominate the established world order as such, but to bulldoze it, and to replace the internationalist framework with a series of bilateral treaties. Similarly, he does not seek to engage with or effectively utilize the press, but to marginalize and destroy it, organizing its communications around social media and the alternative Internet-based press. And it is quite obvious from several of his cabinet appointments and federal hiring freeze that he would similarly like to bulldoze the federal bureaucracy.

This is a fight that traditional institutions are unprepared for – they are accustomed to takeover bids, not scorched-earth attacks of their foundations and legitimacy. And their bureaucratic responses are of the wrong order. Attacks coming from the Trump Insurgency are fast, agile, and eschew the traditional norms of discourse, bounding fluidly from perspective to perspective, always exploding from one conflagration to another with no concern for coherence or consistency. They cannot be adequately repelled by central committee.

Rather than organizing around a traditional platform, the Trump Insurgency is a confederation of positions that is largely coordinated by their shared targets – establishment elites that are perceived as marginalizing or suppressing people in the name of a ossified vision of globalism and an accompanying set of overbearing pluralistic values that seek to regulate and normalize individual thought with the fervor of an inquisition.

This last analysis of what Greenhall calls the “Blue Church,” following a heavily-read Reddit post, is invaluable to liberals who are unable to understand why so many Americans feel oppressed by the ethics of multiculturalism. This post, titled Why Hollywood is really freaking out over Trump, is incredibly illuminating and also well worth reading.

Its pseudonymous author notjaffo characterizes American pluralism thus:

Blue Team Progressivism is a church, offering you moral superiority and a path to spiritual enlightenment. As a church it’s got a lot going for it. It runs religious programming on television, all day every day. Every modern primetime program is like a left-wing Andy Griffith show, reinforcing lessons of inclusion, tolerance, feminism, and anti-racism.

Watching a 90-pound Sci-Fi heroine beat up a room full of giant evil men is as satisfying to the left as John Wayne westerns were for the right.

The Blue Church controls the HR department, so even if you don’t go to church, you have to act like a loyal churchgoer in every way that matters while you’re on the clock. And off the clock, on any kind of public social media platform.

Jon Stewart and John Oliver are basically TV preachers. Watching them gives the same sense of quiet superiority your grandma gets from watching The 700 Club. The messages are constantly reinforced, providing that lovely dopamine hit, like an angel’s voice whispering, “You’re right, you’re better, you’re winning.”

A crucial point to note is that Trump and the alt-right do not represent a return to the old Christian conservative stance of the Culture Wars, it represents a new political morality that is primarily focused on rejecting what it regards as the oppressive character of the Blue Church:

The Blue Church is panicking because they’ve just witnessed the birth of a new Red Religion. Not the tired old Christian cliches they defeated back in the ’60s, but a new faith based on cultural identity and outright rejection of the Blue Faith.

For the first time in decades, voters explicitly rejected the Blue Church, defying hours of daily cultural programming, years of indoctrination from the schools, and dozens of explicit warnings from HR.

We’ve been trained since childhood to obey the pretty people on TV, but for the first time in decades, that didn’t work.

Donald Trump won because flyover America wants their culture back, and Blue Team has not been rejected like that before.

The younger ones have grown up in an environment where Blue Faith assumptions cannot even be questioned, except anonymously by the bad kids on Twitter.

But now the bad kids are getting bolder, posting funny memes that make you laugh even though John Oliver would not approve, like passing crude dirty pictures under the table in Sunday School.

Meryl Streep is panicking because for the first time voters have rejected HER, and everything her faith has taught her to believe.

There is a new faith rising on the right, not an explicit religious faith like old-school Christianity, but a wicked kind of counterculture movement. We laughed at the hippies in 1968, but by 1978 they were teaching in classrooms and sitting behind school administrator desks.

If you get one takeaway from this post it should be this – these aren’t your grandfather’s conservatives. They are not merely Archie Bunkers and old-style racists. That element probably does exist, but it’s also in solidarity with something new. 

In a recent interview in Die Zeit, Judith Butler offered this observation about the culture of Trump and his supporters:

I think they have an enormous rage. Not just against women, not only against racial minorities or against migrants – they are thrilled that that their rage is being liberated by his public and uncensored speech. We on the left, we are apparently the superego. What Trump has managed to do, rhetorically, is to identify not just the left, but liberalism – basic American liberalism and the left – as just a bunch of censors. We are the instruments of repression and he is the vehicle for emancipation. It is a nightmare.

I believe notjaffo tells us exactly why this release from the super-ego of the Blue Church is experienced as emancipation, and we need to listen.

Greenhall greets the probable destruction of the Blue Church as a potential source for good – a dangerous time that carries with it the possibility of releasing us from its hegemonic normative force, releasing us into a plurality of ethical possibilities:

Right now, the Church is killing us. While it is holding many important, necessary values, it is also holding a ton of stuff that is deeply dysfunctional. But by monopolizing the instruments of culture and power, it inhibits us like a well meaning but overbearing parent from being able to form the new innovations in culture, practice and value that are necessary to our age. The collapse of the Blue Church is going to lead to a level of “cultural flux” that will make the 1960’s look like the Eisenhower administration. As the Church falls away, the “children of Blue” will explode out in a Cambrian explosion and reach out to engage in all out culture war with the still nascent Red Religion.

This keeps with his general model, in which he compares the monolithic, enormous, slow, conservative, traditional structures of the past with the heterogeneous, mutli-nucleated, rapid, novel, innovative forces of the future. The Trump Insurgency instantiates this new model more effectively than any major political force of our age.

It is terribly ironic – the technocratic left has been predicting the emergence of a political phenomenon like this since the 90s, and now that it’s here, we find that it encompasses values that are antithetical to those desired or expected by the prophets of the information age.

The rate of acceleration of social change has itself accelerated, and we have reached a weird tipping point, where everything is in flux. The bombshells are dropping hourly, and we race bewildered through a hall of mirrors while everything becomes everything else. And the mercurial Mr. Trump, without a care for hobgoblins of consistency, is right at home, always in action.

Insofar as this is true, the new political order is expressive of novel dynamics that cannot be countered by the old strategies, which are too slow, and too monolithic. You cannot fact-check away claims more rapidly than they’re being made.

The conflict of the 21st Century is about forming a Collective Intelligence that can outwit and out innovate all of its competitors. The central challenge is to innovate a way of collaborating and cohering individuals that maximally deploys their individual perspectives, capabilities, understandings and insights with each-other. Right now, the Insurgency has the edge. It has discovered some key ways to tap into the power of decentralized collective intelligence and this is its principal advantage. While it is definitely not a mature version of a decentralized collective intelligence, it is substantially more so than any collective intelligence with which it is competing and unless and until a more effective decentralized collective intelligence enters the field, this advantage is enough.

What we’re talking about here is dynamical systems thinking, essentially.

It is my extrapolation that we are in a time of chaos, when many effects are at play that are extremely difficult to pin to specific causes. To manage or engage with such a system, you need to reduce complexity to the level at which it is possible to identify the control parameters that govern the system. Until you start to have a theory about what will happen when you pull a particular lever, in other words, it is very difficult to act. That is our challenge right now.

I think this position is, at the very least, an enormously stimulating interpretation that demands careful consideration. Greenhall concludes with three specific strategy recommendations which I largely agree with, but would supplement with a long-term political strategy for forming international liberal solidarity for more politically and economically just forms of globalism. I’ll be getting more into that soon.

Written by Mesocosm

January 26, 2017 at 10:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Nonviolence

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I intend to write more on this later, but I do want to take a moment to state my unequivocal commitment to the principles of nonviolent resistance as exemplified by Dr. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and the Dalai Lama. In my view, violence is a tool of the last resort for self-defense, and is never a legitimate part of political resistance.

As Dr. King stated with his customary eloquence in Nonviolence, The Only Road to Freedom:

When my home was bombed in 1955 in Montgomery, many men wanted to retaliate, to place an armed guard on my home. But the issue there was not my life, but whether Negroes would achieve first-class treatment on the city’s buses. Had we become distracted by the question of my safety we would have lost the moral offensive and sunk to the level of our oppressors.

I must continue by faith or it is too great a burden to bear and violence, even in self-defense, creates more problems than it solves. Only a refusal to hate or kill can put an end to the chain of violence in the world and lead us toward a community where men can live together without fear. Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.

Nonviolence strikes at the root of hate, which is the cause of violence and oppression. All human life has value.

Written by Mesocosm

January 22, 2017 at 11:29 pm

Posted in nonviolence