Slotrocket

Being in a band is hard. It’s like being married to a bunch of partners, and if you are a band and not just some cat with some supporting characters, you’ve got artistic differences to consider. This is where I soured on direct democracy.

Slotrocket is the name of one of the bands I performed with. We played under this name exactly once, but let’s rewind to the democracy bits.

Skipping a lot of the details, I played bass in this line-up. It was a 3-piece with a focus on alt-post-grunge-nu-metal, but we all came from different places musically. The drummer came from speed metal, death metal, and maths rock. The guitarist-vocalist came from Classic Rock, Grunge and Nu-Metal. I came from all sorts of places, but I wanted to focus this project on the post-grunge thing. For the uninitiated, this is the likes of Seether, Three Days Grace, Breaking Benjamin and so on.

We didn’t have a name. Since we only played with friends and at parties and sometimes provided the backing for live karaoke, it was just us. We did arrive at the name of Breached, but it turned out that a Canadian band was already calling dibs on that, so we just let it slide—especially when they released an EP in the vein of early Incubus.

But then the guitarist-vocalist didn’t want to hold both roles. Too much effort. He didn’t care which. In the end, they found a female singer who was interested. It seems that there was a mixup in communication. They asked if I minded if she joined us during our next rehearsal. I figured it was just another live karaoke session, so when I said yes, it turns out that she was now a member of the band. Truth be told, I didn’t think a female would cop the vibe I was seeking. She was no Lacy Sturm or Amy Lee. She didn’t know any grunge material as she was more of a Country gal. But that’s not the story.

The story is the name. We deliberated for well over a month to settle on a name. We decided to create a spreadsheet. We’d all force rank the entries. And each of us had infinite veto votes to kill an offending entry from the list.

Skipping ahead a few chapters, I liked Rapeseed. It was a benign word that sounded edgy. The boys were fine with it. Notsomuch, the girl. There was no particular rush until we booked a gig—the gig. We’d need a name to promote.

I came up with Slotrocket. Again the boys were fine with it; her notsomuch. However, she didn’t veto—later claiming that she didn’t think we could possibly be serious. Since I booked the date and created the adverts, everything seemed to go under the radar—or under the rug.

A bit before the show, I was distributing material and advertising on our media outlets (as it were) and she caught a glimpse of the promo mats. Let’s just say that she was not amused. Still, when the time came, we performed.

OK, so I skipped over some stuff—the months of pouring over a spreadsheet. Our goal was unanimity. The name didn’t have to be everyone’s top pick, but we did need to attain a consensus view. As it happened, two of the biggest decisions came about by accident, and they both resulted in hard feelings.

It’s not that the 3 or 4 of us couldn’t have eventually come to a unanimous decision amounting to all of our first choices, but this would have taken time—and who knows how much.

One may feel justified accusing me of allowing perfection to be the enemy of the good, but that’s just something apologists tend to say, as they defend their preference for democracy.

Anarchy at Scale

Anarchy exists in the world today. It always has. Macroscopically, one needs only step back to see the forest for the trees—or zoom in for microcosms. The only place it’s rare is in the middle.

As far as scaling, political states are anarchy at scale. They hide behind sovereignty and do as they please. United Nations and such try (meagerly) to herd the cats—say, the US—, but the Big Cats still do as they please. So when you hear that anarchy is untenable, remember that it is more prevalent than not.

In the domain of physics, we hear the quaint Aristolenian adage that nature abhors a vacuum, but in fact, it doesn’t. Without engaging in a quantum debate, the universe is more vacuum than not. This belief is a projection centred on human narcissism, viewing itself as the centre of the universe: some humans seem to abhor a vacuum—as do many dogs abhor vacuums, but that’s a horse of a different colour.

Nature abhors a vacuum

And when you hear that anarchy doesn’t scale, remember that it can be seen on both micro and macro scales. The question is: what happens in the middle?

To be fair, there are many small-scale human endeavours where power structures still decimate the ‘natural’ anarchy, but this is imposed—whereby I use the term natural to mean without intervention.

To be continued…

It’s People

No, this is not some riff on Soylent Green. At the end of each year, like Janus, I tend to reflect to then look ahead to the next year. My interest at this juncture is anarchism. This is not a new interest. As I’ve written, I consider myself to be an anarcho-syndicalist or anarcho-communist, save for a few fundamental problems, each of which might just distil down to the same root cause.

My issue with syndicalism is that it centres on the worker. And whilst some workers remain relevant and pivotal to the system, it seems that workers may become less and less critical in the operation of the economy and of the society at large. As I work in a place where I can witness the immaturity and incompetency that sees this further in the future than some, I can still interpolate some speculative future where the vast majority of humans are no longer necessary cogs in the machine. This obviates anarcho-syndicalism in favour of anarcho-socialism.

Whilst anarcho-syndicalism centres on the worker, anarcho-communism is focused on the person without regard to their state of employment. This sounds even more equitable. So what’s my problem? It’s people.

These days, many people whitter on about democracy. Many are disappointed by republican apparatus and seek something closer to direct democracy. This is not the exclusive flavours we’ve witnessed in history—where the landed gentry get a vote. It’s a full-on participative democratic free-for-all—save for children and animals and non-sentient beings, it goes without saying.

The core problem is the same, whether archy or anarchy: people are the weak link. Arguments have been made that bringing decisions close to the source of the problem yields a better solution, if one defines better are more equitable, but this doesn’t translate into something universally or categorically better outside of this particular dimension. If equity is your sole goal—and I’m neither sure that it’s the right goal to optimise nor a particularly interesting goal in the first place, as it feels that this is merely a local solution to a global challenge; so equitably distributing deck chairs on the sinking titanic or sharing the wealth as the climate tips well beyond any hope of recovery.

Moreover, if each social unit—however that’s defined—is sovereign and autonomous, then this might operate OK on an intrasocial level, but how are intersocial conflicts resolved? What if a predacious 100-count society encounters a 50-count society over access to some local finite resource? It seems that numbers will prevail—the tyranny of the majority.

The other challenge I have with democracy and anarchy is that political interests will coalesce and power systems will emerge. To prevent such eventualities could be considered fascistic or authoritarian, so how is this resolved. Returning to the 100- versus 50-count societies, what if the 100-count wished to install a leader, so they vote for their leader to rule over the 150? This seems all but an inevitability.

I don’t have an answer. And though I am familiar with governmental and societal structures as well as with anarchy, I’ve not seen this addressed beyond hopes and wishes, attempting to move an ought to an is.

What wrong with anarcho-syndicalism?

What’s an anarcho-syndicalist supposed to do in the advent of artificial intelligence, process automation, and robots?

Wikipedia relates anarcho-Syndicalism as follows:

Anarcho-syndicalism (also referred to as revolutionary syndicalism)[1] is a theory of anarchism that views revolutionary industrial unionism or syndicalism as a method for workers in capitalist society to gain control of an economy and thus control influence in broader society. Syndicalists consider their economic theories a strategy for facilitating worker self-activity and as an alternative co-operative economic system with democratic values and production centered on meeting human needs.

The basic principles of anarcho-syndicalism are solidaritydirect action (action undertaken without the intervention of third parties such as politicians, bureaucrats and arbitrators) and direct democracy, or workers’ self-management. The end goal of syndicalism is to abolish the wage system, regarding it as wage slavery. Anarcho-syndicalist theory therefore generally focuses on the labour movement.[2]

Anarcho-syndicalists view the primary purpose of the state as being the defense of private property, and therefore of economic, social and political privilege, denying most of its citizens the ability to enjoy material independence and the social autonomy that springs from it.[3] Reflecting the anarchist philosophy from which it draws its primary inspiration, anarcho-syndicalism is centred on the idea that power corrupts and that any hierarchy that cannot be ethically justified must either be dismantled or replaced by decentralized egalitarian control.[3]

As a matter of preference, I’ve leaned toward anarcho-syndicalism. I don’t have a lot of faith in humans or humanity to govern or self-govern. The arguments for this, whether monarchies, democracies, plutocracies, or even anarchies are each rife with its own sets of problems. Still, I favour a system where there is no class of governors, though I am more of a fan of Proudhon over Marx.

Mind you, I don’t think humans make very good judgements and are as bad in groups as individuals but for different reasons—and especially where complexity or too many choices are available. That we’ve survived this long is, quite frankly, a miracle.

This said, it isn’t my problem. My contention is with the syndicalist aspect. If all of this human as worker displacement occurs as some are forecasting, there will be precious few workers. I am not saying that this is inevitable or will ever happen. My concern is merely conditional. If this were to happen, the idea of a worker-centric system is daft.

Do we just defer to people categorically, where we arrive at simple anarchism? Without delving, there are different flavours of, and I have neither the time nor the inclination to debate, for example, the merits of anarco-capitalism (an oxymoron if there ever was one) versus anarcho-communism or anarcho-transhumanism for that matter.

Although, I like how Kant identified four kinds of government…

  • Law and freedom without force (anarchy)
  • Law and force without freedom (despotism)
  • Force without freedom and law (barbarism)
  • Force with freedom and law (republic)

…the whole notion of freedom is another weasel word, and laws without force are unenforceable—pun intended. At least the syndicalism felt like it was intentional or purposeful. I understand why Plato despised the rabble, but as with the sorites paradox in the heap-hill distinction, where to the rabble distil down to something meaningful?

An Inconvenient Truth

Ghost in the Machine - Jacob Sutton (Photographer)

It seems to me that the largest or largest complaint people claiming a realist, objective moralist perspective is:

How would it work if morals were not objective?

This is also a common defence by Christians who claim:

If there were no God, then people would just be mindless hedonists.

This is the same line of defence used by statists of all stripes, whether Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, Monarchist, Oligarch, or otherwise.

Anarchy can’t work because everything would just be chaos.

It is also the same argument mounted, as Steven Pinker points out in The Blank Slate, against a strong genetic component to human behaviour.

If we believe that, then what will prevent the next Nazi Holocaust?

In the end, because these people cannot fathom how it might work, it is easy to assuage cognitive dissonance through self-delusion. It’s as if the people defending actually know that they are wrong, but that if they deny it loudly enough, then, like religion, others will believe it’s just so, that they’ll follow the deceiving confederate in a psychology experiment.

The problem is that there is no god, there is no objective morality, government is unnecessary, and much behaviour and temperament have significant genetic foundations unaffected by environmental factors.

Completed Anarchy

I finished the first section of Nozick‘s book—the Anarchy section—, and I am not in a better position than my past two posts. Nozick and Libertarians are obsessed with a normative, teleological world, where there is some objective, absolute truth and reality. I can’t argue whether there is some absolute truth, but I feel I can argue, like the God argument,  there is no reason to believe that we can know what that truth is, absolutely.

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M0Я3 Anarky

I am still reading, having just finished chapter 5 of Nozick‘s Anarchy, State, and Utopia, and I am still concerned that he invokes normative morality and the invisible hand (even ignoring the religious implications of this) as de facto premises and without justification. He eviscerates so much, parsing so much finely, and he hamfistedly adopts these concepts without pause or discussion.

Still reading…

Anarchy, State, and Utopia

I’ve been reading Robert Nozick‘s Anarchy, State, and Utopia because it was recommended by Ian Shapiro. Although I am only about a quarter way through, and he seems to have tried to hit all the angles; unless I missed it, perhaps hits these bits later on.

He thoroughly raises issues and works to resolve them, but, as with Descartes with his Discourse, Nozick seems to exogenously accept certain aspects in an appeal to tradition sort of way. With Descartes, he stripped all belief in the truth of his senses, but then he injects God into the equation from out of nowhere. For Nozick, he just takes property and value as given.

I understand that the Western Enlightenment tradition has a thing for life, liberty, and property—especially Libertarians—, but these are just philosophical notions derived from nowhere. (Wittgenstein, stage left) That he uses utility theory instead of prospect theory as a foundation can be forgiven, but that is shaky ground, too.

And so it goes…