Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Won't Let Nobody Turn Me Around

In a recent exchange with a self-described anarcho-transhumanist pseudonymously-monikered "Summerspeaker," I defended the demanding project of democratizing the state over the reactionary-narcissistic fantasy of "smashing the state." (By the way, to be clear, when you see the phrase "anarcho-transhumanist," you should take care properly to translate it to "still-mortal, still-aging, still-vulnerable, still-finite death-denialist, eugenics-facilitating, digi-utopian hence anti-environmentalist, facile techno-deterministic, hyper-consumerist, gizmo-fetishizing corporate-militarist apologist and self-congratulatory pseudo-radical.") Most of this exchange is available only here, since "Summerspeaker's" much vaunted devotion to freedom and liberty did not extend to actually allowing my comments to appear on their blog even on posts that directly engaged with me by name. While I recognize the necessity of moderating those who commandeer threads and the fitness of moderating those who indulge in rank abuse, I daresay reading the exchange as it plays out here will reveal these are likely not the motives that drove "Summerspeaker's" censorship in this case (in a move fairly typical of Robot Cultists).

In a nutshell, I argue in that exchange that violence both precedes and exceeds the state form and hence it is a double fantasy to imagine one can dis-invent violence through smashing the state, quite apart from imagining it possible to dis-invent or smash the state form altogether in the first place. Further, while it is obviously true that historical and existing state-formations have facilitated and exacerbated violence, exploitation, war, and crime, it is also true that the democratization of the state-form is indispensable to the work of disabling and redressing such violence, exploitation, war, and crime, as well as the work to create and maintain spaces for the nonviolent adjudication of disputes, the provision -- through general welfare and recourse to accountable law -- of a scene of informed nonduressed consent to the terms of everyday commerce, and to overcome the structural violence of the abuse of common and public goods.

While I admit this isn't the easiest argument in the world to understand neither is it the hardest, and certainly it is not contradictory or impossible to grasp. I admit mine is not a common view in all its points, but neither is it so far afield from democratic commonplaces that it cannot eventually prevail as I hope it will. I also admit that very spoiled, lazy, or ignorant people may enjoy contemplating the smashing of the state in its patent imperfection, or the accomplishment of the democratizing ideals of sustainable consensual equity-in-diversity without engaging in the slow, heartbreaking, compromised work of education, organization, and reform that are actually demanded in a world shared by an actually existing diversity of stakeholders. But I do not grant that there is anything particularly idealistic, admirable, or useful in such denials of the political realities actually at hand.

Anyway, I just noticed that the title of the post in which "Summerspeaker" reviles my position (idiotically falsely claiming that my views amount to an endorsement of Native American genocide and a host of other crimes I quite obviously do not endorse at all -- and no good faith interlocutor would imply otherwise, while no one with the meanest intelligence would mistakenly regard such an endorsement as even remotely entailed or implied by my actual positions, my stated views on such historical and ongoing state-sanctioned state-facilitated violence clearly condemning them) is "Treason to the State Is Loyalty to the Species."

About this title I have to say that in addition to all of the other egregious errors and revolting hypocrisies it countenances, this view seems to disregard that democratization is the work to give ever more people ever more of a say in the public decisions that affect them (including decisions concerning what counts as public), and that to the extent that the state is democratic it is a state of by and for the people and hence that the desire to smash it is the desire to smash the people, hardly an expression of loyalty to them, and represents the profound disloyalty of a person who disdains the work of education, organization, and reform through which the people's say is vouchsafed in the world.

To this I would add, further, that the democratic value of equity-in-diversity is not one that is exclusive to human beings (presumably "the species" loyalty to which is somehow supposed to be demonstrated through throwing a useless anarchic tantrum against the state-form as such), and that the work to ameliorate the mistreatment and exploitation of nonhuman animals by human ones is (or certainly should be and often is) recognized by democratically-minded citizens at any rate as indispensable to the work of ensuring the standing and flourishing of human beings in the world. Just as cruelty to nonhuman animals tends to correlate to criminality in humans, so too indifference to the suffering and exploitation of nonhuman animals tends to facilitate indifference to the suffering and exploitation of human beings -- through the creation in the ethical imagination of a category of beings whose suffering is real but does not matter, the creation of a category that then attaches promiscuously to "bestialized" humans via racism, misogyny, anti-gay bigotry, xenophobia, disdain for the poor, and so on (about which I say more here).

Loyalty to the spirit and interminable work of democratization is loyalty to justice, diversity, sustainability, nonviolence, secularity, and peer to peer polyculture. Don't let anybody turn you around.


jollyspaniard said...

During the 20th century men faced a lower probability of death due to violence than in any preceeding century.

In a lot of non-state cultures men had a 20-40% chance of dying violently. You don't have to go that far back either, a lot of hunter gatherers (I can't say tribesmen because some of those cultures don't organise as tribes) in New Guinea were slaughtering each other well into the 20th century until a state came along and outlawed murder.

There was an interesting episode of a show called Tribe where the presenter interviews people living in bands (small groups of less than 10) about the outlawing of murder. All the people he interviewed were appreciative that a state had come along and banned the practice.

It's a popular misconception that governments increase violence but a sober and realistic view of history states otherwise.

jimf said...

> It's a popular misconception that governments increase violence but a
> sober and realistic view of history states otherwise.

Obligatory Pinker reference here:


Of course, everybody knows that modern, government-**organized**
violence (aided by modern technology) has the potential to waste
millions of lives in a matter of minutes (and more millions in
the aftereffects of such an event).

Maybe the world is moving, tentatively, away from such abysses.
Even if so, there's no guarantee it won't yet lurch in the wrong
direction and fall over the edge of one of them. Again.
And again? And. . .

I do often wonder what the "realistic view of history" will
look like, say, 10,000 years from now.

Summerspeaker said...

Hi Dale. I think you've run into technical difficulties. Your comments should appear automatically on my blog without any action from me as you're already an approved commenter. I don't see any unapproved comments from you my clue. Feel free to try again.

P.S. Pinker's book on violence exemplifies intellectual dishonesty and/or devotion to preconceptions. Ey's no better than Kurzweil in that regard. Eir numbers for the supposed ancestral hunter-gather don't even come from hunter-gatherers.

Dale Carrico said...

I'll give you the benefit of the doubt about the memory hole being a technical difficulty rather than a censorship policy -- since you've posted my comments in the past. Also, I'm not a fan of Pinker's panglossianian parochialism either.

On your blog you boggle at the charges that you are a "death-denialist, eugenics-facilitating, digi-utopian hence anti-environmentalist, facile techno-deterministic, hyper-consumerist, gizmo-fetishizing corporate-militarist apologist," but of course that is a perfectly apt, and urgently necessary, critical characterization of the transhumanism you have decided it is cute to embrace and identify with, all the while snarking at a queer green democratic socialist teacher writer and activist working for equity-in-diversity. Everybody buys things in a consumer society, but not everybody is a tragic gizmo-fashionista genuflecting to wish-fulfillment technofixes for aging, death, poverty, climate catastrophe, while indulging in an orgy of world destruction premised on the lie that the world is infinite and progress and freedom for all will come from consumption amplification rather than stakeholder struggle. That's the clubhouse you reside in by choice, even if you think you are some kind of "loyal opposition" critiquing the boys and their toys from the inside. The shoe hurts because you are wearing it.