Monday, June 7, 2021

Good Vs. Evil

- What are you reading? Let me see.
The fundamental elements of the theory are tasks, i.e., the abstract specifications of transformations in terms of input/output pairs of attributes. A task is impossible if there is a law of physics that forbids its being performed with arbitrarily high accuracy, and possible otherwise. When it is possible, then a constructor for it can be built, again with arbitrary accuracy and reliability. A constructor is an entity which can cause the task to occur while retaining the ability to cause it again. Examples of constructors include a heat engine (a thermodynamic constructor), a catalyst (a chemical constructor) or a computer program controlling an automated factory (an example of a programmable constructor).Who is that by?
- David Deutsch, the British physicist. Keep reading.
Feelings and moods will ultimately prove to be brain activity, and since brain activity is physical, and all physical acts are computable, feelings must also be computable.
- David Deutsch again?
- Yes, paraphrased. Keep reading.
The time is out of joint. O cursèd spite, / That ever I was born to set it right.
- This one I know: Shakespeare, Hamlet.
- Yes. Keep reading.
Let us, then, be up and doing, / With a heart for any fate; / Still achieving, still pursuing, / Learn to labor and to wait.
- I'm laboring and I'm waiting to hear from you the point of all this.
- Longfellow, the end of his famous poem The Psalm of Life. A couple more quotes and you'll be done. Read.
Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence. From these contraries spring what the religious call Good and Evil. Good is the passive that obeys reason; Evil is the active springing from Energy. Good is heaven. Evil is hell.
- I don't know. William Blake maybe?
- Correct. Continue.
There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.
- A billionaire speculator said that, can't remember his name. The one that said it was not right that his secretary paid a higher rate of tax than he did but didn't offer to pay his secretary's taxes or to pay more taxes himself.
- Correct again. The name's not important.
- So what is all this about?
- I've been inspired to concision by David Deutsch's attempt with constructor theory to give a theory of everything: computers, quantum physics, evolution, explanation. He says that good will win out against evil in human life because good's creativity will find a way to beat evil's ignorant conservative attempt to deny individuals freedom.
- Do you agree?
- No. Conservative evil has only one job: by enslaving the good blocking its ability to make use of the advantage of creativity. Good has two jobs: being creative, and dealing (unwillingly) with the threat evil represents to creativity.
- Hamlet!
- Yes. The good hesitates, and evil quickly moves to get in ahead and remove conditions necessary for freedom, making the good slaves, working in repetitive, deadening occupations, convincing them they are machines, that there is nothing to life but ever progressing technology eliminating thereby even the imagination of creativity.
- Let us be up and doing then what?
- Let us be good, which according to Blake is to confine the energy of doing within the bounds of reason.
- The not doing of contemplation: of truth, beauty, or good.
- Yes. Read, last time:
A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background is necessary for a scientist to become free of the prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering. This independence created by philosophical insight is - in my opinion - the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth.
- Einstein?
- You are correct. If good is to win over evil good must know what evil is.
- Wouldn't David Deutsch say he does know? It is a constructor that launches a first strike to make the practice of creativity, progressive improvement in the constructors of the good difficult or impossible.
- But if creativity is only another, more comprehensive constructor, feelings and moods only a different program a computer might run, why not become evil oneself since evil clearly has the advantage over good of being on only one track?
- Then how does good win?
- By knocking aside this attempt of ignorant evil to make good believe human life may be reduced to, explained as a mere progress in technical mechanism.
- How?
- Constructor theory can make itself useful here by showing us what human life is not. Constructors repeat, unchanged, and make repeatedly the same change in the world. In an individual's life, learning, progress is the same as in science - conjecture and testing - but success for an individual is not a new technology, but return to harmony within, in another step forward along a personal, unique path through the world. Learning we don't acquire a technology, we don't repeat ourselves and don't situate ourselves within a world we make repeat.
- We capture energy of action within the rest of beauty.

Further Reading:


Monday, May 3, 2021

Repetition & Reality

- We have time. Give me an update on the people in your life.
- Well, fierce and beautiful Michelle, pushing her cart of possessions in West Hollywood, got herself arrested she says for attempting to defend herself with a pipe against another of those tens of thousands who sleep on the streets here. The story came out in her constant stream of talk of herself and my silent listening which constitutes my conversations with her. The Jewish kids from the religious school?* I'd told myself after refusing their one hundred dollar bribe to undergo their ritual that I'd find within a week much more, I'd calibrate myself to that task. 
- And did you?
- Calibrate and find. Yes.
- Of course you did, you being you. Enough about you. This morning I watched a YouTube video, made by the people at the School Of Life that says that aliens visiting our planet in the future will conclude we humans destroyed ourselves because our brains made us hate strangers, not like to think ahead and hate truth anyway. All we have to do is love strangers, think in the long term and love the truth.
- So we've solved the world's problems.
- Hardly.
- Why not?
- Wouldn't we have to know how to love strangers, think of the future and love the truth?
- And we don't know how?
- No.
- What would you say is the problem?
- This is what I want to talk to you about. Throughout our ten years of conversations we've come back to the idea of repetition. Repetition in work, repetition in the image making of language, repetition in the social reenactments of ritual. All three forms of repetition play a prominent role in capitalism.
- The capitalism that is leading us to destruction and the future dismissive judgment of aliens.
- Yes. You don't mind if I go over what we've gone over many times before?
- I won't object to the repetition.
- We told a story about how when our hunter-gatherer ancestors became farmers they first encountered repetition, the countable number of grains grown. Language supplied familiarity with symbols, so high numbers began to symbolize strength, power over future contingency, high numbers both of grains and of farmers to be themselves farmed or mastered by others. Ritual operates to make acceptable a relation of master slave. The ceremonial repetition of ritual expresses the establishment of power of a ruler over the ruled that offers security for both master and slave participants. Primary among capitalist rituals is the market exchange, in which the pain each naturally friendly being feels in becoming the enemy of the other somehow is supposed to turn out to be to the benefit of all, and the rich who reap most of those benefits become the natural leader of the ritual. Rituals establish roles.
- And do you still buy this story told all those years ago?
- Do you have a better one? Here we have our capitalism, leading us to our destruction, capitalism that essentially is a perverse form of slavery in which the slaves are made to buy the products they themselves have made. Like grain to our ancestral farmers, the slaves are the countable products of their master, grown to produce and consume as required in ever greater numbers. When not producing at work numerous items for sale, in their private lives they consume, that is to say, they have a passive relation to what happens to them, whether it is news delivered over the internet or entertainment. Each act of consumption increases the symbolic power of the built up self image associated with the objects consumed. All three forms of counting are present: repeated acts, symbols, social relation.
- The worker watching his violent pornography, each view counting up, repeating symbols of his power to maintain a social position.
- Yes. Slave in production, slave in consumption. Told what to repeatedly make in work slavery, repeatedly consuming images of his self. 
- The worker is a slave even when not working because the world of news and entertainment acts on him to construct his self out of repetition, symbol and social relations. Self containing, he is unable to act on the world of news and entertainment that acts on him to make him what he thinks himself to be, his 'self'.
- All that was ten years ago. Is it as obvious to you as it is to me that to save our species we should figure out how to stop all these repetitions that establish slavery of production and consumption? 
- What can we say to the McDonald's worker watching his pornography in his free time, the worker made into an image expressive of his employer's power, a slave to his consumption of images of his own power, unable to act on the world that delivers to him his self image: advise him to love strangers and rationality and truth? Would that do any good?
- Not likely. He is living in a world that is a numerical, symbolic social construction. He thinks he is a more or less powerful kind of thing, his employers / slave masters think the same of him and think the same of themselves. Not interested in acting on the world, no one is listening to anyone (except on the subject of themselves) any more than your friend Michelle listens to you.
- Do you know, in the past couple of weeks I discovered I was in regular contact with two Holocaust deniers, one a computer chip salesman originally from Iran who'd asked me to do some editing for him, the other the very same Michelle. They acquired the view like an article of clothing, adding substance to the thing they call their 'self'. Tell them there are no objects in the world, including the self, independent of their perception of them? Alan Watts, speaking also about alien visitors, said they would see that on our planet even rocks have a share in consciousness: that as a tree 'apples', rocks 'people'; consciousness is not a complicated form of mineral, as people like to think these days; rather in the past a mineral had within it the future of consciousness. In a moment of strange, unaccountable beauty, listening to Michelle go on as she often does about the gangs identified by colors that were stalking her suddenly she fell silent, looked me right in the eye and asked me, 'Is this real? I used to have a house, a job, family. I don't know what this is'. 
- What did you answer?
- That it wasn't real. Really? she asked: not real like we can wake up from it? No, I said, unreal in the sense it is an imitation of life. I started to tell her about the ancient Greek philosophers, Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus** who were clear on the point that there were no objects outside of our active attempt to get to know them. Or again, as Alan Watts put it, no walking without the floor to walk on. When we are acting creatively we can actually see how objects take on their shape as we make our way through our thinking of them, applying what we have seen of them to the purposes at hand. This is especially clear in writing, where the words seemingly on their own snap down on the page of text out of mists of hard at work consciousness.
- The 'tree that apples', the 'rock that peoples'. Money refused then finding more. Consumers of Holocaust Denial. What a conversation. What times we live in. It's interesting that right at the beginnings of our civilization the problem of objects had been raised, but I don't see how it helps us with the world we live in now of slaves who are countable objects to their masters and to themselves. I assume Michelle didn't follow a word you said. The repetitions in production and consumption somehow must be stopped despite capitalists, governments in their pockets, dedicated to keeping the repetitions going. 
- Let's conclude with a vision of what aliens visiting us now might understand us as believing:

The second axiom of economic ontology: that which is not profitable does not exist...Compared to the real existence of assembly line products, intended to satisfy needs (or which “foresee” these same needs that they will then satisfy), in the view of the ontologist of economics, nature as a totality, despite its immensity, lies outside the boundaries of the foreseen, outside the boundaries of what for him represents the field of “providence”. For him, nature is in itself only κατὰ μβεβηκός, only accidental, although, as a raw material for products, it, too, participates in “existence” and “value”, but both only in the form of loans, that is, that they are borrowed in advance by the products, which can acquire part of them. However, what nature really conceals that is unprofitable, that is, those pieces that the producer not only cannot use, but which he cannot even eliminate, the excess of the universe, for example, the Milky Way, represents in the view of this ontologist, to the extent that he will admit its existence, a metaphysical scandal, a material outrage, that nothing can justify, installed without any reason and, in a certain way, only explainable by entrepreneurial incompetence on a cosmic scale. Probably, the current nihilist complaint about the “meaninglessness of the world” is the expression, at least, of the cosmic sorrow of the industrial era; a cosmic sorrow that is precisely founded on the suspicion that, when all is said and done, the excess of the universe is neither usable nor profitable, it is superfluous, a waste and it exists for nothing; and obviously it has nothing else to do but to metaphysically loaf around in space, which has been put at its disposal for incomprehensible reasons.***

Further Reading:
Abel Is More Able
** See: Eric Perl, Thinking Being: Introduction to Metaphysics in the Classical Tradition
*** Günther Anders, The Obsolescence of Man

Thursday, April 15, 2021

L.A. Now

- Tell me about the mood in L.A.
- As the epidemic winds down one thing I've noticed is the return of the traffic of prostitutes in and out of the high rise residential buildings on Wilshire.
- The significance of which is?
- Capitalism involves torture, being forced to go against our desires and dissimulate our thoughts, just as prostitution does.
- So you think in the reappearance of the public sight of prostitution you are witnessing signs of a resurgence of capitalism?
- Yes. Nothing changed, nothing learned. I think this accounts for the macabre, doom laden feeling I get these days: prostitution is a form of capitalist alienation that develops directly between people, in which people are the product bought and sold. If we want to tell a neuroscientist why the brain will never explain the mind we have to say something like this: explanation relates one regularity to another; even in quantum mechanics, one state of the world is related to another, though we cannot give an account of the mechanical relation between cause and effect.
- Our feelings are unlike rules, so they cannot be linked with rules defining what's happening in the brain.
- Yes. What the mind in fact is, what the neuroscientist wants to link with the brain, is defined by rulelessness, openness, and nothing can ever change that because the feeling of openness is precisely what is to be explained.
- Except a life in which feeling has become absent. 
- Yes. As I said, I think what I see happening in L.A., with the reopening of public transactions, is the return of the mutual torture of everyday life in which a claim of ownership of each other is reasserted. The neuroscientist, living in our times of commercial mutual prostitution, thinks that the brain will 'own' feelings, have an attachment to them, like the vain* buyer of a prostitute thinks he owns the imitated liking of him that he has acquired from the prostitute, owns an image of himself updated with the heightened social status associated with the attractiveness he thinks he has bought.
- Feelings owned by the brain like a prostitute is owned by her buyer! Macabre is right!
- Well, you asked. I think here in L.A. we can feel the return of the material basis of our lives of buying and selling, of our personal mutual entrapment in our economically defined lives. I look around and feel regulations again being imposed on my feelings, I feel the torture of it, the pressure to pretend to like what I don't like, the feeling that I am a thing defined by rules that can be linked to rules governing things in a world of things.

Further Reading:

Friday, April 2, 2021


- Why did you want to meet here? 
- This is where you demanded a hundred dollars* from the religious school students to allow them to perform their ritual on you?
- Yes, they come here Friday afternoons. Do you think, when you try to talk to our countrymen and find it impossible, it is because they are stupid, or deliberately misinformed, or because they have thrown themselves head over heels into the pursuit of bad intentions?
- All three at once. They're been deliberately misinformed into a state of stupid self-absorpsion with their own evil intentions. 
- On my way up to the University this morning I stopped near the new medical school building to talk with a man adjusting a remotely operated quadcopter. I asked him what he was doing.

- I'm setting up a shot for a video I'm making.
- For what?...You won't answer?
- Starbucks, actually. I'm making an instructional video.
- Instructing what?
- Kindness.
- I'll tell you about Starbucks and kindness. A bent over little woman in her 60s with nothing more than the clothes she is wearing, not so much as a plastic bag of possessions, used to fall asleep nights on the bench built against the outside wall of the West Hollywood Starbucks for the few hours they were closed. To get rid of her Starbucks took to hosing down the bench at closing time. This woman now spends the night in Westwood, Village, outside Dennys down the street from here, on the public sidewalk, throwing herself down on the sidewalk pavement, cheek directly on the concrete, no bedding of any kind, restaurant customers carefully stepping around her and the puddle of liquid streaming from her. At the Beverly Hills Starbucks a few mornings back the manager told to leave a emaciated black man who protested to her that he was cold and wet, had been sleeping on the grass outside the church when the sprinklers turned on. He was cold! Didn't she understand? Can't he stay a few minutes? No, if he doesn't go she'll call the police. Why couldn't she let him stay? I asked the manager after the shivering fellow left. She can't lose her job, she answered. She can and does help people like this man, but she can't do it on the job. That is the truth about Starbucks kindness: company policy is to turn a kind person into an unkind person.
- The tens of thousands on the streets is a problem that has to be addressed by the government, not Starbucks.
- Starbucks and the other large corporations bribe the government into policies that create the problem. The stockholders of Starbucks and of other corporations want the company to talk about kindness but don't want the company to talk about why there is a need for kindness, about the unkind behavior of the rich, the corporate stock owners.
- That is one point of view. I've got to go to work and earn a living.
- A requirement for your earning a living is not talking and not thinking.

- And you let him go?
- No, not before I revealed to him that he was stupid, had been deliberately misinformed by his slave master employers, that he was selfishly evil-intentioned. 
- Do you think what's happening here is related to what we were talking about last time, consciousness and homeostasis?**
- I do.
- We respond to the world, then respond to the responded to world, then respond to that world. A cycle, or a spiral, if we imagine ourselves advancing, like in science, or retreating, which is what we are seeing here maybe. But how does it happen we get locked into this downward spiral?
- Simple: it is the familiarity of deadlock itself that is the attraction, that provides the adhesive force. As the people stupidly repeat the evil hatred deliberately sold to them they feel safe in the habit, and the more they rely on this repetition the less able they are to see the world clearly and therefore respond to the world creatively. The more the rich impoverish everyone else, making them insecure, the more stupidly the people repeat the indoctrinated ideas, the more they admire the rich for the security represented by money that has become their sole goal. Locked out are intelligence, sympathy, understanding, the result of an economy become religion enforcing its own cycles of destructive repetition: in the violence inherent in accepting the status of slave working as a employee, in the violence of being a consumer seeking the lowest price from sellers seeking the highest, in the violence of being locked in a system itself suicidal in always requiring new external populations to buy the products in excess of what the slaves can buy with their salaries, the collective slave wages being less than the price of the collected products they have made because the employer's profit has been added. Only the additional buyers outside the home market in a colony can buy those products with the money earned from raw materials sold to the colonizing country. When the colonized cannot buy more because their raw material income has run out, and there are no more populations to colonize, the employers begin to colonize their home populations, getting them in debt by manipulating unemployment and prices, then repossessing collateral of defaulters.*** The slaves continuously fight their masters, buyers continuously fight sellers, each economically trapped individual continuously fights the collective fate of the economically defined civilization, seeing danger everywhere, and feeling safety in repetatively seeing danger everywhere, becoming paranoid in work, consumption and national destiny.
- Ending with the rich having everything and the rest with nothing, with what the rich exclusively live for - selling to their slaves the products they themselves have made - become impossible, exposing the rich as being as stupid, self-indoctrinated and evil as their victimized slaves, locked down like everyone else in their death cult of money. When do the Yeshiva students usually show up here?
- Just before sunset and the beginning of Sabbath.
- And do they exhibit too all three characteristics of our time and place? Stupidity, self-absorption, indoctrination?
- You decide. Last week when the two kids showed up and I demanded again my $100 and refused otherwise to submit to their ritual a whole crowd of their fellow students surrounded me, and while trapped within their circle, my cap whipped off my head, one of my imprisoners recited the required prayer.
- So you were gang ritualed! We're they laughing?
- No, but I was. They were deadly serious and dispersed without a word.

Further Reading:
*** See: Michael Hudson, America’s Neoliberal Financialization

Saturday, March 20, 2021

How Do You Feel?

Image result for mind
- What if I told you there's a brain scientist* who claims that consciousness is a feeling, and that feelings are about conditions getting worse or better, and that consciousness has been "localized' not in the brain's areas of rationality but in an area of feelings and homeostasis, of returning to optimal from too much or too little.
- If you told me that I'd say, interesting.
- Only interesting? The brain scientist claims that the fact that same homeostatic mechanism is operating in the brain as in consciousness shows that mind and body, brain activity and consciousness, are two ways of looking at the same thing.
- That same thing being the homeostatic activity.
- Yes.
- I'd say further that brain science seems to be catching up to 19th century Russian novels.
- Because I see you have in your hand Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, and the brain scientist would explain that you're bringing into balance the unsettled state raised in your mind while reading the book.
- If you like. Listen:
“Why is it all over with me? H'm! ... The fact of it is ... if you take it as a whole, I am sorry to lose God—that's why it is.” ... “What do you mean by ‘sorry to lose God’?” ... “Imagine: inside, in the nerves, in the head—that is, these nerves are there in the brain ... (damn them!) there are sort of little tails, the little tails of those nerves, and as soon as they begin quivering ... that is, you see, I look at something with my eyes and then they begin quivering, those little tails ... and when they quiver, then an image appears ... it doesn't appear at once, but an instant, a second, passes ... and then something like a moment appears; that is, not a moment—devil take the moment!—but an image; that is, an object, or an action, damn it! That's why I see and then think, because of those tails, not at all because I've got a soul, and that I am some sort of image and likeness. All that is nonsense! ... It's magnificent, Alyosha, this science! A new man's arising—that I understand.... And yet I am sorry to lose God!”... It's chemistry, brother, chemistry! There's no help for it, your reverence, you must make way for chemistry... But what will become of men then?’ ... ‘Without God and immortal life? All things are lawful then, they can do what they like?’
The conscious mind, the conscience of Dmitri Karamazov: 'The sense of their own degradation is as essential to those reckless, unbridled natures as the sense of their lofty generosity.' If consciousness is a feeling of making good a lack, and that is what is happening in the brain too, the implication is that the priorities of morality have no basis in reality. But Dmitri can't help thinking that though the mind might like the brain be conducting a homeostatic balancing act, a thought is not a thing, it is not in space, not "extended" as philosophers put it. And that the quality of thought of being not in space is associated with morality, that is, with a way of deciding which feelings are to be brought into balance and which not. Related words stimulated my brain stem this morning, I'll call them up on my computer. From The Sabbath by Rabbi Abraham Hershel:
To gain control of the world of space is certainly one of our tasks. The danger begins when in gaining power in the realm of space we forfeit all aspirations in the realm of time. There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord. Life goes wrong when the control of space, the acquisition of things of space, becomes our sole concern.
Sorry, I might have told you sooner, but I know of your brain scientist and have written to him.
- Always playing games. What did you write?
- First in some detail, then more simply, this:
In a long philosophic tradition the homeostasis that is associated with the mind differs from that which is associated with the body by having the additional element of the infinite. Of course the tradition does not have to be right, but I think it does the job of describing consciousness better than a bare mechanical act.
- Did he answer? 
- He politely informed me his philosophic education was not sufficient to give me an answer.
- You yourself of course have worked out your own way of getting the infinite into the homeostatic activity of consciousness,** to give back Dmitri Karamazov his god, the authoritative Chomsky's judgment on which was what you had produced had no place in the history of scientific investigation of the subject. Didn't it seem like some kind of vindication of your ideas, your story of mechanism and feeling, that consciousness had been identified with an area of the brain that provides for feelings and the course of their regulation, albeit without including the feeling of the infinite?
- It did, but only for a moment. It makes a little less arbitrary that something as specific as a story of return be at the foundations of our mental life.

Further Reading;

Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Hundred Dollar Ritual


The arm tefillin is put on first, on the upper part of the weaker arm. A blessing is recited and the strap wrapped round the arm seven times. Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to put on Tefillin...

- Sunny, fierce Michele came to find me at Starbucks this morning. The first thing she tells me is yesterday walking by the art gallery with an exhibit on angels seeing her ran out and handed her a hundred dollar bill. Astonished, I ask her, What time was this?
- Slow down. Why astonished?
- At the very moment she was grasping her hundred dollar bill firmly in hand I was letting a brother hundred dollar bill slip away,
- Which Starbucks was this?
- Beverly Hills.
- Ok. Go on.
- I'll start over. Michelle is an always beautifully and colorfully dressed, self confessed spiritual women in her forties. For the past few weeks she's been sleeping on the steps of the Catholic Church down the street. She's told me how she has to fend off the attentions of the drug addicts, alcoholics and schizophrenics that hang out there. Shouldn't she go someplace else? I ask. Where was she before? It doesn't matter, she answers, everywhere she goes she is persecuted by shadowy organizations. Anyway the story I want to tell you is not about her, but about the hundred dollars, because right about the same time she was pocketing her cash I was being accosted by two college aged kids in black suits, white shirts and broad brimmed hats, students at a local Yeshiva (a Jewish religious school). They wanted to perform a ritual on me that involves leather straps being wound around your arm and a box strapped to your forehead. I was familiar with the sect they belonged to, I told them, and I didn't want them to work their magic on me. The taller young man asked me:
- Why not?
- I believe rituals are harmful.
- Why?
- Can I show you what I reading? I'll turn the computer around. I'm about three fourth through this book, Henri Bergson's 1922 published detailed argument against Einstein's claim time is an illusion. Time rather is one more dimension with the three dimensions of space in a four dimensional universe. Do you agree with Einstein, believe time is an illusion?
- No. Why are you reading on this subject?
- Obviously Einstein wasn't stupid. What went on in his mind: why was it not obvious that the statement he was making that time is an illusion was being made by him in time? Should I tell you why?
- Can I put on the teffillin?
- No. I'm in progress explaining to you why not. In philosophy since before Plato, from the time of Parmenides, movement has been a problem. We experience movement, but we have a problem knowing we do because knowledge is always static. If we want to picture how an object moves between two points, we have to imagine the object instant by instant a bit more in a forward position. Do you understand? I see you don't. Try to imagine something moving now. Well?
- What do you do for a living?
- Nothing. Listen. Here is what I want to suggest. When you say your words, do your rituals, you are doing much the same as Einstein did when he said time is an illusion. In ritual, you reenact a story of death and rebirth in the company, present or imagined, of others doing the same. You forget your weak, dying self in the group performance, and then with the ritual over, see yourself reborn strong. The movement that got you to that point was performed by a dying self, and is left behind once you are reborn in strength. Your past is forgotten in ritual. Einstein's claim that time is an illusion is an example of ritual thinking. It hides the problem of movement in forgetting and ranks the whole world, oneself included, in a complete immobility that allows all potentially to be known.
- Ritual is our way of reminding us of god's love and his commandments.
- Yes, you wear an outfit whose difference from fashion works to remind you: but this way of dressing is not a ritual, rather is a practice: no initial weakness, group not required, and as you say, no forgetting.
- What do you say I am forgetting? Let me put on the tefillin and tell me what you feel.
- You would be harming me.
- But how?
- Because you are practicing ritual. By forming a destructive relation between us, by me being used by you to achieve, you believe, a reward by god, as he raises you from weakness to strength.
- No, it would be good for you too, and good for the Jewish people as a group.
- It works even if one doesn't believe in it? Despite my disbelief I'd be closer to god? It seems that way because in the movement of ritual the participation of an complete stranger is forgotten in the outcome. Maybe if first you compensated me for the damage you'd do establishing an destructive, distancing human relation with me. How much are you willing to pay? A hundred dollars?
Now the other young man who has very apparently been bored pulls out of his front pants pocket and unfolds a new hundred dollar bill. I ask:
- Is that real?
- Yes.
- You want to give me a hundred dollars?
- Yes.
- Is there more where that came from? Where did you get it?
- From my father.
- A gift from your father. Pocket money. If you give me your money will he give you more?
- I don't know. I'll call him and ask...
- Well: what is did he say?
- He said he wouldn't.
- Ok then. I'm tempted, I have to admit. One hundred dollars. Look, here comes a customer for you.  
I make my escape.

Further Reading:

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Illusion Of Time

- We don't seem to talk much anymore.
- This year of epidemic lockdowns in L.A. is getting to me. Even now most stores and restaurants are still closed, and the restaurants that are open are outdoors only. No comfort to be found in public life. Days pass without my speaking a word. 
- What about the construction site guard you told me about a few months ago.* Have you kept in contact with him? 
- I have. I tried to see if I could wean him off conspiracy theories and his liking for our doubly impeached ex-president. It's simple. All he had to do was ask, Where's the evidence? He quickly took me up on this game. He began writing to me asking me if the explanation for this or that wasn't conspiracy, what was it? Was it true, for example, that Einstein more or less said all knowledge was a kind of conspiracy because time was an illusion? I wrote back to him that yes Einstein had said that, but it applied only to the physical world, not the world of human consciousness. Explain that, he ordered. Think of our world completely described by an equation, I said, and the years no more than different numbers substituted for a variable in that equation. Think of the fellow doing the substitution of numbers for the variable as having a life also describable by an equation, with each of his years a variable also plugged in, and then think of another guy who sees that fellow's life laid out for all time by this mathematics. See the problem? No, he didn't. The problem is that the act of changing and plugging in of the variable's value is not part of that unchanging physical world. The reason we think time is real is because for us time only goes one way, past to present to future, whereas in Einstein's world the only difference between past present and future is the quantity of the plugged in variable. It would be possible for us the go back in time, if it weren't that our actions have a multitude of effects which have themselves multitudes of effects, with the result that simply turning around and going back the way we came requires also pushing back on all those separate results of results of results. A dropped and broken wine glass to be put back together requires not a simple elevation back from the floor to our hand but a retracing upward every drop of wine and shard of glass. What if we could do that? you ask. Do you ask? I asked him. Yes, he said. But you can't do it, because that would involve actually going back to your exact past state. All the different reaches and grabs for drops and shards themselves would have to be retraced with all their proliferating results of results. Wow, he replied: So time is an illusion for the physical world but not for consciousness? It can be that too, I said. Give up on the project of trying to understand what's happening with you and you might come up with a theory like our neoliberalism where time in our economic world is indeed an illusion because its progress is assumed to be known in advance and necessary. Very strange, really complicated, he complained. Why do we have time in consciousness but not in the world? That's weird. Maybe, he suggested, Einstein was wrong. Maybe, I replied. We count out time by finding something in the world that regularly repeats: the movement of the sun, or the vibration of a quartz crystal in a watch. But think about this: what are we measuring with that repetition? Isn't it first some movement in our consciousness?** Against the background of that movement we see the sun rise, then we see the sun set, then we see the sun rise... I think time is illusory in Einstein's world because he left out the story of observing consciousness - both measuring and measured - which like with the dropped glass of wine adds back the hidden movement of the replacement of variables and in doing so makes physical time one way and real.
- Did the construction site guard understand?
- I think he did. What about you and me? Does our remaining in touch on and off keep illusion from our past and keep it real? Who are you going to believe, me or Einstein?

Further Reading:
** 'It is therefore the simultaneity between two instants of two motions outside of us that enables us to measure time; but it is the simultaneity of these moments with moments pricked by them along our inner duration that makes this measurement one of time.' (Duration and Simultaneity, Henri Bergson, 1922)

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Capitol

Great Seal of the United States (obverse).svg
     (Not A Government Publication)

- Like many people I was expecting something very like this and yet, happening as it did, it was at the same time astoundingly strange. Was the storming of the Capitol a post-modern revolution of alternative facts, was it a revolution-spectacle of imitation facts? Why were there so few police at the Capitol on a day it was known a crowd of tens of thousand would be gathering, only a skeleton crew of 500 out of a force of 2,300, no barricades, no battle horses, when we private citizens, not a mob, are under constant surveillance here there and everywhere by guards, spy cameras and on the internet, and normally would never be allowed near this seat of power?
- There appears to have been two separate groups acting at the same time.* A violent group organized on internet message boards, populated with Neo-Nazis and white supremacists, that converged on the Capitol with the goal of stopping the certification of the electoral college votes, taking Congress members hostage and killing the Vice President. If not by prearrangement, they had the luck to be let in by sympathetic Capitol police (this standing aside by forces of order a common feature of successful revolutions) and were only stopped from entering the inner chamber of the house by gun wielding, physically fit, civilian clothed dark suited men who I guess were (just a guess) secret service agents present because the Vice President was presiding over the joint session of Congress, the supposed agents shooting and killing one of the insurrectionists. This violent action occurring under cover of a separate group, the thousands of more ordinary supporters at the Trump rally near the Washington Monument with no obvious taste for violence, instructed by their leader to come with him to the Capitol Building. 'It's going to be wild,' he said.
- So then: violent insurrection and spectacle insurrection at the same time, the insurrection was expected, the strange form it took was not. 
- Also giving us the appearance of spectacle was the deliberate lies the revolutionary attempt was based on: that the election was fraudulent, that the President's opposition were totalitarian socialists trying to take away the people's freedom. We watched with astonishment violent dupes, performing the actions scripted for them by others not on stage, witnessed by a crowd worked up by the President's rhetoric of revolution, equally duped, sent over by him to be audience to the violent action. 
- Real revolution under cover of fake revolution. But I think you left out what makes this seem most unreal: that the lies told were believed. How do you account for that?
- In Trump's extortionist recorded telephone conversation with the Georgia Secretary of State threatening him if he doesn't find him more votes, the President said: 'They are shredding ballots, in my opinion, based on what I heard.' You know how money laundering works? Dirty money is moved from one bank to another, to another, to another, each transaction by the book, making it difficult in the end to trace the clean transactions back to the original dirty one. Think of the lie, 'the stolen election', as the dirty money, and each new presented bit of evidence a seemingly clean and honest confirmation. We know the election was stolen, this evidence proves it, we have thousands of affidavits.
- There are photos of ballots being trashed, photos which when investigated turn out to be from the previous year's election. Those thousands of affidavits when read are no more than statements that someone had witnessed others who filed affidavits or made statements of being eye witnesses to voting fraud.
- That would be tracing the evidence back to the original dirty laundry, something the liars take care, constantly shifting attention to another path of primed evidence, their audience doesn't do. Remember when we talked about the two paths taken by artificial intelligence programmers to recognize language: probabilities, or models? Both ways work to produce knowledge. Knowledge based on probability doesn't involve any picture or model of the world, only a mathematical relation between one part of the world and another, expressing how likely it is that when this happens, that is likely to follow. 
A model involves a whole with parts, each part having a known relation to the world and to other parts. Think of evidence laundering as a kind of prearranged build up of evidence, each piece of which increases probability the view of the follower of the path is correct, without there being an explanation of how any piece of evidence relates to others and to the world.
- Explanation which, having no character, forming no model of the world, these followers of the path of laundered truth never arrive at. Is it probable the President's own Attorney General resigns after announcing that there was no significant electoral fraud means he was 'gotten to' by the other side? Is it likely that the Georgia Secretary of State, a Republican Trump voter and Trump donor, likewise willingly betrayed the President, even after being threatened and cajoled by him to find him more votes? 
- When we say someone has character we mean we can make a model of his behavior showing how parts of the mind are related to each other and each part is related to the world. There is a relation between imagination, sympathies, knowledge, intentions, and how each is applied in the world. The character of Trump believers is broken down, disintegrated by always seeking the changing gain of the moment, acting on probability of getting what they want, or through consumer products or fantasy entertainments getting in the habit of imagining they have achieved maximum probability of getting all that they want. Without character, life that should be a matter of holding together of self in harmony and moderation, and of better relation to the world instead is a sequence of adjustments, pursuit of the advantage of the moment, doing which nothing of one's self persists, therefore no character. People with no character are ripe for propaganda and conspiracy theories,** open to be guided down the path of primed evidence never to be followed back all the way to the dirty secret of intentional dishonesty.
- But what about the equally unsurprising but still really strange behavior of Congress? Nancy Pelosi, the hundred times millionaire House leader says we are in a state of existential threat, the president must go, then adjourns the deliberative body for the weekend.
- There's more than one kind of bad character.
** Conspiracy theories are identifiable by the fact that they are not theories at all: not models of the world but assemblages of probability.

Thursday, December 24, 2020


Last night, around ten o'clock, I shut my computer, got on my bike and set out down the sidewalks of Beverly Hills towards Westwood. I stop when I hear, "Hey, hey' from somewhere behind me. It's a young man leaning against the windows of Yves Saint Laurent. I ask him:
- What are you doing there?
- I don't know.
- Where are you coming from?
- Texas. El Paso.
- How did you get here?
- I walked.
- How? By the highway? Hitchhiked?
- Walked. I got picked up by a nice couple in New Mexico who had me stay at their house for two days.
- Where do you stay?
- I don't know.
- Where will you go when we're done talking?
- The psych. ward.
- To ask yourself to be locked in? Why? Do you go crazy?
- Yes. Sometimes.
- What do you do?
- Last time I walked onto a freeway and stood in the middle.
- Why?
- I thought people were after me.
- And they wouldn't follow you to the middle of the freeway? Was it the lights that attracted you? I've noticed here in L.A., late at night, solitary figures step up to the corner of a brightly lit empty intersection and start shouting apparently at nothing but the lights.
- I like that.
- You're not planning on doing that too?
- No.
- Good.
- You look like someone famous. You're not in the movie business?
- I'm in no business.
- I don't know who. Not Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, somebody like that. But somebody famous.
- I'm nobody. Sorry to disappoint you. Maybe I could've been somebody but like you I probably have more craziness than is good for me.
- How are you crazy? You shout at lights?
- Not yet. Isn't it crazy to be so impractical that you just can't stand the company of almost everyone?
- No. Everyone's like that a little.
- You too?
- Yes. You are talking to me now. What happened?
- I wrestled the shyness out of myself.
- How?
- Living among strangers in foreign countries.
- It's good you were able to do that.
- Except that it took me a few decades to accomplish. People think I must be crazy to have achieved this advanced age having accomplished nothing other than getting ready to accomplish something.
- You must have done something. How old are you?
- Getting along in years.
- If you're not an actor, you're some kind of writer.
- Some kind.
- What kind?
- Hard to say.
- You've got something, some spirit to you.
- Nice of you to say. And same to you. Well, you've got your freeway waiting for you and I've got the sidewalks waiting for me. See you!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Meow, Meow

- On the last evening before my exile from her life - the second exile, or was it the third? - she made the accusation: you think you are better than other people.
- And you answered?
- I answered No. I was upset. The City of Los Angeles lockdown and curfew orders had just been issued by the mayor. The police, he threatened, would be roving the streets to pick up scofflaws. There's something I have to explain to you, much as I don't want to.
- You don't want to explain.
- No. My friend has two cats she takes care of. Why didn't she understand?
- Understand that you are like a cat?
- The deal with cats is that they let us witness their beauty in exchange for us taking them into our lives and taking care of them.
- Feed them, play with them.
- Cats don't explain. Or rather, not to each other. They meow only when kittens, before they develop the self-awareness that makes the visible state of the bodies of other cats express what's going on with them.
- A body language.
- Not a language at all, more like mind reading. Cats don't make an effort to say anything or listen to anything.
- They see and know.
- But here's the thing. With us humans, they know we can't read minds, can't do what they do with each other, so with us they regress to the meow. They baby talk to us. Meow: Feed me! Meow: Play with me!
- And we should do what they tell us?
- Yes. Because that's the deal: we give them care, they give us beauty.
- Which beauty is that very ability to effortlessly express themselves in every bodily movement.
- Now the reason I go into this, as you guessed, is that I see a lot of myself in these cat behaviors. Though I'm really more a stray cat than house cat I'm still meowing against the human world, always telling humans what to do, telling them everything they are doing is wrong.
- And that is why your friend, who let you, the stray cat, into her life occasionally, told you you think you are better than everyone else.
- Yes.
- Let's hear some meowing them. We don't have these talks much any more.
- What can I say? The life of a stray cat in these epidemic times of lockdown and curfew is not easy.
- So meow.
- Fine. I'll do that. You humans, in this city, this country, you've got your epidemic upside-down. You've got the sick, who can't afford health care or to stop earning, going around in public, working at the supermarkets and take-out restaurants and out on the streets doing deliveries, coughing and feverish for all stray cats wandering the streets to see (humans apparently don't), these sick doing deliveries to and making sick the well who cower at home in lockdown deluded they are safe.
- When obviously the sick should be somewhere private in quarantine and the well should be out and about in pubic taking care but going about their business, an arrangement that the overcrowded slums of Bombay managed to get right and were able to successfully take control of their epidemic.
- Instead we have the corporate media with their daily death counts scaring everyone to compliance and into hiding themselves away. No one bothers to observe that if you are thirty-five you have one in a thousand chance of dying within a year, when that is the epidemic ratio of death to population for our county, the country with the worst record of all large countries. Ever hear a thirty-five year old express fear of dying?
- No.
- Meow. Meow, you idiot humans. Good for nothings, except maybe giving us food.
- So in your view, the stray cat view, how did we humans get so stupid?
- By being without beauty, living lives without beauty.
- It's not polite of me to observe, but I wouldn't say your beauty is exactly jumping out at me.
- Yes, a loss that goes with being a stray cat. The argument still stands.
- You haven't made the argument yet.
- Alright. You want to know, how did human beings produce for themselves lives without beauty? Answer: capitalism, the religion of capitalism, doing for the sake of doing, in which only success has value, all else has mere derivative value. Love? Relax? Meditate? Sure by all means, if the show of it makes you seem more compliant, worth more money to your employer. Beauty is a rest after an activity of learning. The free use of language depends on there being beauty in our action.
- How?
- Because we rest in having learned to perceive the world, in developing habits that piece into recognition something we give a name to; we rest on those habits of relation to the world. Understand?
- You're talking phenomenology. You were supposed to be Meow-ing.
- I am! You think I want to talk this way?
- You want people to look at you and know.
- That's right. But who are these people I live among? Idiot slaves, seventy-four million of whom voted for our epitome of ugliness and incoherence president, either because he plays the role that tickles their fancy of a slave talking back to his master or because they, the richer classes of our country, find themselves attached to that defeated clown because they think this monstrosity will make them richer, the rest of the world and life be damned.
- Meow meow. Let's not get into politics.
- I don't see how we can avoid it. Our upside down epidemic is happening because it benefits big business at the expense of small. Big business consolidate their monopolies, small business goes bankrupt. People are ugly because they never can rest in perception of something good or beautiful or true: there is only what conduces to more money and more success, an endless chase. You interrupted me before I got to the important point: a perception is a word: that bit of the world we've developed a habit of relation to, given a name to.
- We human capitalists, therefore, you say, having no rest have no language. We're speechless. In addition to being without beauty.
- Yes! Meow meow! We cats read minds. But you humans, speechless and restless, what sick monsters have you made of yourselves? Who's going to take care of you, ugly beasts that you are? 
- What are we doing if we are not talking?
- We? You are pushing each other's buttons, operating on each other according to program, like a machine, a computer.
- Without self awareness, understanding, consciousness.
- Yes. You humans, you've regressed so far into ugliness and speechlessness, it's hard to say whether you are even competent anymore to be our care givers, to feed and play with us. Soon we'll all be strays.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Trump Look

Great Seal of the United States (obverse).svg
     (Not A Government Publication)


- Let's talk about the appearance of the president.
- You've noticed how his bronze face, orange hair have recently been changing? Losing color, becoming more metallic. For him, somehow, this seems absolutely normal. The man seems hardly human.
- What do you think is revealed in his appearance, if anything, expressive of his character, the way he lives his life?
- Maybe nothing. Maybe that is why he is so uncanny to look at.
- Would you say he makes a masculine appearance or a feminine?
- Strangely, I think both. The tough guy Trump rushes death row executions before he leaves office, the soft, soliciting, caring, feminine Trump begs his supporters in a low, wheedling voice to see how much he loves and takes care of them. Both behaviors come off to the not like minded as posturing, not revealing anything true about him.
- Why do you think he is so obviously unconvincing? Because he so unpredictably shifts from tough guy to soft gal?
- I don't know.
- We know what Trump and his supporters have in common: placing making money, 'success', ahead of any human concern; any means to the end of moneymaking are acceptable. How does that behavior show itself in personal appearance?
- I think I can often, not always, recognize in their appearance, their gestures and language, people who are strong and people who are caring. Do people who have no character, because changeable with the changeable requirements for making-money and success, ready to be all things to all people, have any particular appearance?
- Think of it like this. The tough guy, the masculine, the ambitious man is ready to do what it takes. We have a theory,* you'll remember, that our action as human beings is always aimed at learning the world we live in, something particular about it, and that learning involves learning how to see the world, involves developing habits of perception that place our bodies, our agents in that perception, in regular relation to the world's habits, or laws, to its regular behavior. The correspondence of habits, our own habits to the world's, allows us to rest, and the particular name we have for this experience is awareness of beauty.
- A theory that traces back to Plato.
- So someone who has no character, is shifting behavior constantly in response to the shifting demands of other people, whose behaviors have no law or regularity, cannot rest in perception of beauty. Looking on at this, what do we see?
- We see ambition that never gets a rest.
- Yes. Similarly, our president's feminine 'please love me I love you so much', his feminine holding to beauty, holding his relation to the world steady because that relation is supposed to be good, is not good, not beautiful, because it is without a history, or even a future, of establishing habits of relation to the world. Masculine and feminine are characteristics more fundamental than those that fall into place as common sex roles. They are names for two phases of our relation to the world: learning in action, resting in beauty. When we look on at our tough guy attention begging gal president we are seeing a break down of this cycle into unrelated fragments. Ambition goes nowhere, rest is without beauty.
- And because this is fundamental to our nature as human beings when it is barred from practice by a money/success ideology what we see is what we see: neither a man nor a woman nor even a human being, a chameleon lizard whose hair and skin tones adapt to background colorings.


- Though on the whole I like your definition of capitalism - a form of slavery in which the slaves are expected to buy back the products they make for their masters - still it doesn't sit well with me.
- What bothers you, if it is an accurate description of what happens in capitalism? 
- I don't know what perversity could account for it being thought up and adopted. Not to mention systemic problems, like the fact that since wages are less than the price of goods that include slavemasters' profit, there must be found consumers outside the capitalist world to buy the remainder, an expedient that fails when the whole world has gone capitalist. But now, what you explained about our president, never able to rest unchanging in what one's done, I think also explains the 'why' of capitalism. Capitalism is a tool people like Trump use to manufacture people like himself, remaking the world, at least the human world, in their image. Marx gave psychological and economic explanations of what it's like to be a slave in its class war: the worker's alienation from the product of his labor, the work's surplus value stolen by the employer. But what's in it for the masters? Profits? Do profits explain the craziness? What if instead capitalists desire to alter the fundamental human nature of others as they themselves have been altered? 
- Why would they?
- Because a character broken down to a condition like theirs is a character that can be made, when propertyless, to accept slavery and put money acquisition ahead of everything else. 
- Why accept slavery? 
- If money making at any cost is the goal then there is nothing wrong with slavery that makes money. Slaves might rather be masters, but with broken character they are unable to give a good reason why their enslavement is wrong. Look at how Americans act in this epidemic. I read today that one billion hotel room days have gone unused. That works out to millions of empty hotel rooms every day in the past eight months. Unemployment is in the tens of millions. The labor force is there to find the sick, hotel rooms available to offer at no charge for quarantine. But instead of identifying the sick and keeping them separate from the healthy, we get lockdowns, business closures, curfews, virtual house arrest. Commandeer hotel rooms? Offer free meals to residents while there? No, these are crimes against the supremacy of money making. Keep people locked up at home, close independent businesses? Yes, of course, but keep open big business owned departments stores, supermarkets, drug store chains, keep airlines flying and airports open, trains and buses running. Break the will of individuals and drive small business into bankruptcy. 


- I'd like you to sum up our discussion that began with what you thought the president's appearance reveals to us about capitalism, in one sentence if you can.
- Capitalism, far more than an economics of profit, or a psychology of greed and alienation, or a sociology of slavery, or a politics of class war, is a complete disarticulation of every thought, word, and act from ending resolution, statement, and deed. It scares me to death.

Further Reading:

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Big Brains

Image result for mind


Whose plan was it? It was Capitalism’s. Not, of course, the plan they thought they were implementing. All these percolating disasters are unintended consequences of an economic system the sole purpose of which is to grind the living world to powder for money; a system without one single provision for the care and preservation of life in any form other than as a source of monetary gain. It is a system for which life itself has no intrinsic value. With this as its foundational principle, it followed that whatever was done to humanity and the living world was of no concern to Capitalism. And it hasn’t been. The fouling and pillaging of the living world and the evisceration of our society are simply collateral damage.*

- What would you like to talk about tonight?
- Counting lives. Last time** we said that supporters of our president wouldn't look for evidence of his claims because appeals to evidence were restraints on their freedom to improvise their way to acquiring money. While many among them oppose lockdown as another infringement of their freedom, the majority of Americans accept the restrictions in the cause of saving lives. They watch the numbers of deaths each day lessen with lockdown, but don't consider the costs, the untreated diseases, evictions, domestic violence, depression, suicides, the small business and individual bankruptcies, the trillion dollar bailouts of big business and banks, nor will they consider the possibility that, in the absence of closed borders and effective tracking down the contagious and then their isolation, lockdown only delays deaths from the epidemic which rapidly increase when restrictions are lifted. Lockdowns repeatedly are imposed and relaxed, deaths pile up while waiting for a vaccine. I don't want to go into this now.*** What interests me is that countable lives are functioning to the lockdown supporter like money does to a supporter of our president: more money is better, no matter how acquired; more lives saved is better, no matter the lessening quality of lives, no matter that it is not certain that more lives are actually saved, just as it is not certain that with indifference to evidence more money can be made.
- Wanting more at the cost of better. Americans, both supporters of our president and the president's opponents, suffer from this disease.
- Yes. We're dealing with mind breaking down, and this being so, permit me to look to our physical nature for an illustration of our predicament.
- Our predicament of mindlessness.
- Yes. It seems reasonable to assume that a larger brain makes for more intelligence, but there are too many exceptions to take this seriously. The same fate meets the suggestion that a larger brain in proportion to body size supports greater intelligence. It appears now that not brain size, but number of neurons, counted in the cerebral cortex, site of decision making and problem solving, and perhaps the density, speed and means of communication between neurons in general, is what is correlated to intelligence. A big dog and a little dog have different size brains, roughly the same in proportion to body size, but big or small, they have the same number of neurons in their cerebral cortex. Do you see what I am getting at?
- Thinking that big brains means more intelligence is like thinking that the more lives saved today the better and the more chance now to make more money the better. Behaviors that make little use of decision making and problem solving.
- And explain the depths of nullity and dullness we are drowning in.

Further Reading

Monday, November 9, 2020

Reasons Of State

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The Trump administration has been the worst U.S. presidency in history with an extraordinarily fierce approach to class warfare. But let us consider what fascism is: At its most basic level, fascism is a dictatorship established through and maintained with terror on behalf of big business. It has a social base, which provides the support and the terror squads, but which is badly misled since the fascist dictatorship operates decisively against the interest of its social base. Militarism, extreme nationalism, the creation of enemies and scapegoats, and, perhaps the most critical component, a rabid propaganda that intentionally raises panic and hate while disguising its true nature and intentions under the cover of a phony populism, are among the necessary elements.* 

- Finally, after a nerve-racking five years, the horribly fascinating spectacle of human degradation flourishing unchecked is coming to a close.
- With no reason to expect, in economics or politics, the monster in the White House's replacement will be any better. In fact, as the outgoing monster started no new wars we probably should be readying ourselves for worse.
- For the moment though you have to admit you're relieved.
- I am. A little. Or was. Now I'm trying to understand how the monster's behavior was so easily and commonly and is increasingly accepted: by sixty three million voters in 2016, seventy million this year.
- And what are your conclusions?
- Sitting at the picnic tables this morning I looked up from my computer thinking I heard distant shouting. I swiveled around on the bench, located the source: the seventy year old black man with whom I'd had a conversation with a few months back: one of the city's tens of thousands who sleep on the street or in the bushes, he was by the trash bins collecting cardboard to be used for the night's bedding arrangements. He wore a large set of glaringly white headphones all day tuned in to talk radio, and, considering himself a godly man he was a supporter of our president, god's messenger on earth. He was at work on a mathematical magnum opus which he believed would make him famous and allow escape from his present circumstances. When I questioned the godliness of anyone who could support a man of constant evil conduct and enumerated examples, the first that came to mind, he shouted 'fake news' and rushed away in a rage. He approached me now, the stack of cardboard held against his chest, at the picnic table and repeated what he'd been shouting:

- Congratulations! You're happy now. 
- That's true.
- They were after the president for five years and now they've stolen the election. 
- How stolen? But wait, before you answer, be forewarned that after every claim you make I'm going to interrupt you and demand evidence. 
- Do you want to hear my explanation or not?
- Go ahead.
- China created the virus.
- Evidence?
- They deliberately sent the virus to the US to destroy the economy,
- Evidence?
- To force us to lose our freedom, make us have to wear masks and force us to allow mail in ballots.
- Evidence?
- And mail in ballots are more easily faked.
- Evidence?
- There's lots.
- Where can I find it?
- Everywhere.
- Tell me where.
- I've got to go. I'm carrying a heavy load.

- A load of conspiracy theories. Why do you bother talking to people like him?
- I have the idea, was in fact trying to work it out when the poor fellow made his appearance, that our money worshiping country's insistence on placing money making ahead of all other human concerns involves a technique of argument or persuasion that is directly opposed to the gathering of evidence, is actively averse to it, as evidence would delay, undermine the adding of one possible claim after other. As: China deliberately created the virus. China deliberately sent it to the U.S. The economy is deliberately being destroyed by lockdowns. The virus is being allowed to rage uncontrolled so as to allow mail in voting. Mail in voting is more easily corrupted. Mail in ballots were corrupted. Repeating one claim after another, aware that others like minded are doing the same, produces a sense of security, safety in numbers. Each individual, being wise to what's going on, feels the build up of assurance with each reiterated claim, considers himself individually knowing and empowered. The demand for evidence could only interfere with this process of unanimity within the group of other individuals similarly crediting themselves with being wised up. In normal speech we construct a sentence out of verbs, nouns, adjectives, elements that have specific relations to each other. Looking for evidence is something like setting a verb into relation to a noun, an adjective in relation to a preposition. Those who place money first, before all other human relations, see the demand for evidence as an inadmissible limit to money making, forcing the necessity to make complete statements that would inevitably reflect the world that is being acted in, each statement reflecting the same world and accordingly having some relation to other statements. Commit yourself to a relation between verb and noun, between something done and the someone who did it? No! There must be complete freedom to do what it takes to make an impression, get a job, keep a job, to make a sale.
- The refusal to provide evidence isn't a matter of bad education, remaining in ignorance how to reason correctly, but a structural necessity to the kind of thinking that results from a belief money making must have precedence over all other concerns. That's what you're saying?
- It is.

Further Reading:

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

David Graeber & Combinatorials

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The great merit of structural analysis is that it provides a well-nigh foolproof technique for doing what any good theory should do, namely simplifying and schematizing complex material in such a way as to be able to say something unexpected.* 

Like many others I guess I've been reading bits and pieces by David Graeber, the activist/anthropologist who died this month, much too young at the age of 59. He had just finished a new book in collaboration with an archaeologist colleague presenting the evidence that 10,000 through 40,000 years ago human beings alternated seasonally the way they organized themselves: hunting and gathering in small bands or even single families, then assembling together in small cities. The bands and cities could be either egalitarian or hierarchical. All variations had been found, all four possibilities: equal in both moving and sited communities; hierarchical in both moving and sited communities; equal in moving, hierarchical in sited communities; hierarchical in moving, equal in sited communities.The story that human beings were noble savages living free and equal but were corrupted when settled down with countable and transferable agriculture and accumulation is therefore false. And therefore false is the claim that modern life must be hierarchical as the only outcome of development.** Yes, but.... aren't the newly opened up possibilities arriving too late? Hasn't our falsely claimed to be necessary way of life a firm enough hold on us to guide us to our destruction? 

Graeber argues that living with recurrent fundamental changes in way of life made us human beings able for the first time to create art, made us self conscious, and able in some cases to organize ourselves with procedures to protect ourselves against inequality. So what happened? 10,000 years ago we'd worked this out, and now we fall victim to the apocalyptic global warming and the threatening nuclear and civil wars of Neoliberalism?

The combinatorial system of our species' early life - movement and rest, free or unequal world - was uncomfortably familiar. It was very like my very own,*** I fear, overused system to explain the differences between lives of ritual violence and power mad conformity and lives of creativity and beauty. Could it be that what is left out in our social combinatorial, leaving us vulnerable, is the relation of the individual to the social world, in both movement and rest? With the addition of these elements it becomes possible to identify what kinds of personal life fit in with equal or unequal social life, and might not that knowledge offer not just artistic ability and consciousness, but protection against getting stuck like we are in a world that likely is going to be our destruction? Knowledge of the alternatives of social life without self knowledge has not turned out well. 

Here are the combinations, taken from out of the set of possible combinations, that seemed to me to define basic moral categories: 

Ethical Life:

movement: self defined, world open

rest: self open, world defined

We create playing ourselves through a world undefined in the movement of change.
We rest in the defined world of beauty, with no awareness of self. A society of people seeing the world as beautiful and with no fixed sense of self is likely to be equal.

Vain Life:

movement: self open, world defined

rest: self defined, world open

We are impelled in our movement by passions, unaware of what is driving ourselves, only knowing what world we want to return to or create.

We rest, glorying in the power of our selves, we who have created a world that appears to us only as a reflection of our power.

An Example From Recent History

The French philosopher Michel Foucault, also at the end of his life, was working both on the history of Neoliberalism and the history of care of the self. He had the idea that because in Neoliberal doctrine any interference, any attempt to regulate the marketplace would create inefficiencies, the lack of government intervention in a society defined by the market would allow individuals to 'change, purify, transform, and transfigure' themselves in relative freedom.**** Here was a world defined by the inequality of employer and employee, chained to the movement of markets, in which individuals could care for themselves, remaining to themselves undefined. That is what he thought might be in the future of Neoliberalism. Instead, as we ourselves experience today, rather than engage in self examination and moderation, individuals were pressed to invest in themselves, market themselves, assign themselves a place, a person, and a price.

Further Reading:
Debt Of Conversation
**** Michel Foucault. The Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1981–1982) Care of the self might involve, among other things, 'nightly examination of conscience to prepare restful sleep, the drilling into memory of key precepts so as to have them ready for action, daily meditation to withdraw from the world and remain undisturbed by what is taking place, regular trials of endurance to help resist temptations, arts to cultivate listening so as to better receive instruction, and daily reflection on one’s own death in order to better appreciate what you have and to bear what is to be expected.' 

Sunday, September 13, 2020


(Charles J-H Macdonald, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, UMR 6578 - Université de la Méditerranée)

It is our purpose to study the sentiments and motives which draw people to each other, keep them together, and induce them to joint action. We wish especially to investigate the products of human thought which, resulting therefrom, make possible and sustain a common existence. (Ferdinand Tönnies, Community and Association, Engl. transl. London: Routledge and Kegan, 1955)

…neither of these contrasting poles [serenity and turbulence] can be chosen to the exclusion of the other, because the poles are mutually dependant. This profound and general truth is simultaneously asserted for the fields of sex, social organization, and death. (Gregory Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind, University of Chicago Press, 1972


I started doing fieldwork among a tribal group in the southern Philippines in 1970. I investigated this people, on and off, for the next 37 years. This is an indigenous cultural community (as the official label goes in this country) named “Palawan”. They are agriculturists who live in scattered small settlements. Their peacefulness and egalitarianism was immediately obvious and not something new: other anthropologists had encountered a similar situation in this part of the world and elsewhere. There was no problem with that and a number of books and studies were to be published on non-violent, peaceful, and egalitarian societies by a host of anthropologists during the 80’s and 90’s (see Howell and Willis 1989, Boehm 1993, Silverberg & Gray 1992, Sponsel & Gregor 1994, Kemp & Fry 2004) But there was a less conspicuous aspect of the situation that bothered me somehow. No matter how hard I looked there was no “group” or “social unit” to speak of, outside the domestic family. The only entity that could be called a “group” was the local group or settlement. This was the usual situation, actually, and many other similar cultures in the Philippines, Borneo and the Malay Peninsula, display a local group, hamlet, village, settlement, neighborhood, seen as the 2 basic locus of social interaction defined on a face-to-face basis (see for instance Jocano 1968: 35-37, Eder 1987: 28-31, Gibson 1986: 71-76, Schlegel 1970: 10-11, Nimmo 2001: 135-7 on the moorage, Dentan 1968: 79-80 on the “band”). I have rather stubbornly pursued the study of this “local group” over many years and I have shown that it had some kind of weak corporate reality (Macdonald 1977: 175-179, 2007: 23-25). I am now of the opinion that its corporate reality is indeed so weak as to be nonexistent. So here we are, with supposed societies which have no groups. What kind of “society” is that? If a social organization is that which can be analyzed into separate collective units that interact with each other (see below), then this hardly looks like a social organization. Put another way, as Gell remarked of the Chewong: “In the absence of almost all the features of social organization” it is hard to use an “orthodox approach”, and to make sense at all of their way of organizing themselves (Gell 1985: 366). In his book Individual and society in Guiana, P. Rivière describes a local society as “little more than the aggregate of individually negotiated relationships” (Rivière 1984: 102). A reviewer has this to write about it: “For societies that are so minimally constructed we shall surely need to improvise a special anthropology if we are to understand them adequately” (Goldman 1986: 161). A “special anthropology” indeed is what we need. I shall say more on that later. Another and more telling aspect of interpersonal relations among the Palawan people became an object of puzzlement and thinking. Their incredible propensity to joke, jest, tease, laugh and, in other words bond through merriment, gaiety and humor. Actually if you really want to know what’s the difference between a Palawan and an outsider (Christian lowlander or Westerner) you will be explained that 1. A Palawan person is poor, 2. A Palawan person knows how to make jokes. The rest of the world is rich and serious. One aspect of their humor is its heavy sexual content, so lewd indeed that literal translations need some softening and disguise, lest these people be exposed as depraved and immoral in the eyes of a Western audience. But let me tell you this. In many cultures, mine in particular, sexual innuendos or explicit references to genital parts and sexual practices are used to insult and to offend. This is never the case in Palawan discourse. Far from being offending, sexual matters seem to be innocent and amusing facts, tools to smooth interpersonal relations. This gave me cause for reflection. Through some minor twist in my academic career I came to participate in an International Conference of Inuit Studies in Paris and this gave me an occasion to meet colleagues – inuitologists and Inuits as well—with whom I discussed this. Inuit people, as I was to discover, make fun of a lot of things, they laugh uninhibitedly while practicing all sorts of 3 clownery, good-humored taunts, and hilarious buffoonery. I could thus discuss this topic with some serious specialists in laughing- matter. I came out of these meetings realizing that interpersonal relations among the Inuit –an Arctic people of hunters and fishermen- and among the Palawan –tropical agriculturalists and forest people- had something essentially similar that was not completely understood by us, Western anthropologists, something that was downright excluded from any academic discussion. I came to understand laughing and joking as a basic mode of relatedness, not as superficial decoration of social intercourse. As you can see, I was already lured into disreputable borderline grounds where sociology fades into psychology 1 . The research I conducted on suicide amongst the Palawan people and a comparative attempt at theorizing this phenomenon, led me also into some basic and unorthodox views on human behavior. I became convinced that explicit values and institutions are sometimes of little help in explaining what makes people do what they do. One should probe behind cultural artifacts and pay attention to the emotional life and narrative identity of those one whishes to understand. Most of all, one should acknowledge the value of personal autonomy.


My overall thesis is quite simple. Humans are not necessarily social beings. They are not solitary animals either. They want personal autonomy and cannot live alone. They are fierce individualists who cannot dispense of the company of others. In absolute isolation, humans disintegrate. They need the presence of others, which is highly stressing to them. Humans need to interact but not to always form societies. Such is, I guess, the basic paradox of the human condition. So then, what is the accepted definition of a social organization (a society)? There are many definitions of course, let me use one that is given by the Dictionary of Ethnology and Anthropology edited by a French team (Bonte, P. and Izard, M. 1991) The entry “social organization”(Lenclud 1991, 527-8) starts with the property of “internal division” of society into “social units” that are enduring and have an institutional existence. The study of social organization is furthermore defined as one that deals with the relations between such units. Examples of such units are families, domestic groups, kin groups like lineages and clans, etc. 1 Psychology has been separated from sociology by Durkheim and his descendants. By doing so sociology and to a large extent social anthropology have become incapable of understanding not only what I will call “gregarious harmony” but even social order. As Herrernschmidt so aptly remarked on the sociology of caste: “Tout se passe comme si l’on refusait d’introduire la psychologie (sociale, et plus encore individuelle) et, avec elle, la conscience (de caste).” (Herrenschmidt 1996:19) 4 One should, it says, pay attention to the “membership principle” (“principe d’appartenance et de recrutement” in French) in the guise of consanguineal ties, age, rank, professional activity and so on. If those conditions are not met, then we do not have a “society”, but just a “collection of individuals” (id. 527). All this is established and accepted truth. But what is implied and which I strongly question is the fact that ALL human beings live in “societies” so defined (with permanent and preferably discrete social units to which one must belong according to a criterion such as birth, rank, residence, or whatever). The Palawan situation points to a state of affairs where no social units whatsoever ever come into existence, except the domestic family (usually man, wife, and children) the existence of which does not last longer, by definition, than the life of its senior members 2 . An identical situation can be observed elsewhere in the Philippines and the Malay Peninsula among such people as the Buid of Mindoro (Gibson 1986) the Semai (Dentan 1968), the Temiar (Benjamin 1993, 2001), and many others. Likewise the Inuit social organization seems to dispense of any established permanent groupings. Instead it is characterized by overlapping aggregates in the form of series of ego-centered circles not resulting in corporate structures (Hippler 1974: 260, Kublu, A. and Oosten, J. 1999: 75-76). The same situation can be observed with bands of foragers in a constant state of fission/fusion (Wilson 1975: 10). The point here is that many cultures the world over, whether nomadic hunters-gatherers, or sedentary agriculturists, whether forest people or Arctic dwellers, do not institutionalize clear-cut and durable groups outside the domestic family. The concept of group is so basic as to have become subliminal. One does not spend time paying epistemological attention to it 3 . Discussions on the State, hierarchy, dominance, bonding, cooperation, status, role, etc. fill libraries. Networks and many kinds of aggregates are discussed at length in the anthropological literature. The concept of group has, to my knowledge, been seriously discussed and defined by British functionalists only, under the caption of “corporate” entities with three defining criteria: property, perpetuity, and a chief or representative (Radcliffe-Brown 1953:51). Anthropological literature does not stray very far away from this concept, so defined, although it is widely recognized that problems arise when things are not so clear-cut. For instance, one makes a distinction between “group” and “category” when discussing the “kindred” (see Freeman 1960). The importance of the 2 Freman describes the Iban bilek, however, as a “perennial corporation aggregate” (Freeman 1960, 67). The family can thus acquire symbolic continuity. 3 For instance the dictionary I have mentioned above has two entries on special kinds of groups only (“descent groups” and “domestic groups”). The notion of group per se is not discussed. 5 corporate group concept remains however paramount in the way we conceptualize human organizations. The mental and cultural counterpart of the “corporate group” idea is clearly its identity in the form of a symbol, or some kind of emblematic activity or thing (one could think of so many from a flag to a ritual, from an anthem to a myth, from a muddled idea of “way of life” to a territorial boundary, from a religion to a style in dressing). We should have then an identity, that is a mental representation in the minds of its members 4 . This happens of course and we all have a definite representation of what our nation is (with its name, boundaries, official language, etc.). Actually we tend to have clear group identities, or at least we think it is important to hold such an awareness. I submit that quite a number of people proved to be totally indifferent to it. Taking for instance the much debated question of “ethnic identity” (which obviously refers to a group) some tribal groups have it, like the New Guinea people Godelier is discussing in his latest book (Godelier 2007: 95-6), some don’t. In France today the question of “national identity” is a much debated and politically important issue. Probably a majority of humans outside the historically modern nations had no idea that they were forming groups of any sort, ethnic or otherwise 5 . The need for a national or ethnic identity is a creation of what I call the social order. Some proof of that is that so-called “ethnic names” (ethnonyms) are quite frequently either exonyms (like Eskimo) with no meaning to the people themselves, or endonyms (like Inuit) meaning “humans”, or “persons”, or just “us”.


I would like to look at another aspect of this “group” concept and its corollary in terms of how we conceive of society. Remembering the famous distinction made by Durkheim between two kinds of solidarity, ‘mechanical’ and ‘organic’ (Durkheim [1897] 1967) social anthropologists seem to think as this being a real alternative: on the one hand the night crawler, on the other the more evolved organism, say, well…Man himself. I am of the opinion that the “organic” and the “mechanic” are metaphors that amount to the exact same thing as far as their meaning in the social sciences is concerned. They both suppose moving parts (cogs and wheels, organs and limbs) with different and clearly defined functions. In other words you need “groups” (corporations and professional groups for Durkheim’s Division du Travail Social [1897]) with enduring and distinctive qualities and functions. Whether organicist or mechanistic, this vision of society is rather simple-minded, ethnocentric and irrelevant for a number of cultures. 4 See Hirschfeld 2001 5 There are and were ethnic traits and features, but not necessarily an ethnic identity. 6 It amounts to viewing the social “machine” or “body” as made up of “body parts” (i.e. “groups”) interacting this way and that way, having different functions. If you have no “groups”, particularly of the corporate kind, what are the parts or the elements with which is built the whole machine or organism? One is usually led to believe that modern societies are “complex” whereas those dubbed “primitive”, or “archaic”, are “simple”. I offer the view that this is untrue. Complexity is also on the side of “simple societies”. We could say that there are two kinds of complexity. How is that? In his writings the French sociologist and philosopher Edgar Morin called our attention to the concept of “complexity” and “self-organization” (Morin 1977: 145, 2005: 23, 45-49). This entails looking at natural systems, especially living organisms as “open” systems, never closed upon themselves, never separated from their environment, and functioning on the basis of a random distribution of elements in a state of unbalanced equilibrium. Complexity is thus more like life itself, not at all like a machine. So when we think of the metaphor of society as a body we still think in mechanistic terms. Morin uses a very apt illustration of this (Morin 2005: 43-4). Quoting von Neumann he reminds us of the fact that in a machine the parts are more reliable than the whole, while in a living organism the reverse is true. An engine is made of well-manufactured and solid parts, in themselves more durable than the engine. Our body is made of millions of cells and molecules that are constantly degraded and replaced by new ones. But we still go on living. The whole in this case is much more durable than its constitutive elements. Why not use this concept of complex, self-organizing, open systems and apply it to human organization? There is an extremely viable way for humans to relate to each other into randomly arranged6 , open aggregates, not defined as mutually closed and exclusive sets. The unity of the whole is not holistic (an organized set of individual parts complementing each other in perpetuity) but belongs to the universe of open, complex, life-organizing, self-regulating systems. Such I believe are the Palawan local communities, the Inuit bands, the moorages of sea nomads, and possibly the Rom communities, as well as many others: Piaroa, San, Kung Bushmen, Temiar, Semai, Hanunoo, Buid, Chewong, Mbuti, Hazda, Inuit… My contention of course is that this form of collective life caters to something deeply human and probably very ancient in the make-up of Homo sapiens (see below). Social order, with its mechanical equilibrium and closed sets, runs contrary to it. I shall come to that later again. Here we start to understand the 6 Statistical arrangements resulting from individual choices. 7 difference between two completely opposed realities: social order which is in a way simple, and anarchic harmony, which is complex 7 . In sum then, non-social organizations, or what I like to call maybe anarchic, egalitarian, and gregarious communities, function on the basis of open ego-centred networks (on the model offered by cognatic kinship systems), forever changing in composition, having no real focal identity, no clear boundaries, no chiefs or representatives, no property, especially in land, no corporateness whatsoever. Their members have no needs for “embeddedness in group structures” (Maryanski & Turner 1992: 163). Since we, Western social scientists, think in simplistic terms of boundaries, of closed sets, of mechanical/organic 8 functionality, of finite systems, and of subjects driven by “social instincts”, we have difficulty grasping the very real complexity of this kind of communality which is absolutely not --as quoted above-- a mere “collection of individuals”, but communities of eagerly and intensively interacting, cultureproducing, humans.

Yet again, the idea that a “collection of individuals” is not a society could be investigated from another angle. Non-social, gregarious, anarchic communities, might indeed be conceived of as collections of individuals intermingling in an array of overlapping aggregates and networks. The Hobbesian and popular idea that primitive man should fall into tightly-knit, permanently and fiercely bounded groups, like “tribes’” and “clans”, is dispelled by ethnographic facts and rests on naïve assumptions (Hirschfeld 2001: 112-3, Fried 1975), such as the inherently aggressive nature of human beings possessed by the urge of waging war against each other, or –even more naïve and ill-informed—appropriating territories 9 . The constant realignment of individuals into labile aggregates that forever overlap, intersect and change in form and content is probably what a large section of humankind has known for the major part of its life on earth, and human sociality is thus enormously complex. How? Precisely because it requires management, monitoring, calculation, understanding, 7 Complexity in modern urban industrialized State societies refers to two different ideas: one, that those societies are huge and made of many groups, institutions, categories, functions, etc. Complexity in this sense refers to the number of elements and distinct functions the social machinery is made of. The concept of “many-stranded social activities” defined by Gellner (1988) belongs to the same paradigm. Single-strandedness (in other words “specialization”) goes with increasing societal complexity. The more complex a society, the more specialized the tasks and the functions, so that one individual is incapable of grasping and mastering the whole range of societal functions. The second idea is that various arrangements --like the entire range of marriage preferences-- are the statistical and unintentional result of individual choices. 8 Morin aptly describes this view as « syncretic, historical, confused , romantic” (Morin 2005: 39) 9 Observations on actual, living communities such as the Temiar (Benjamin 2006: 7), or Palawan (Macdonald 2007: 48), show that to such people the very concept of landownership is totally alien. 8 negotiation, and maintenance of individual affiliations and bonding into a forever changing landscape, at the centre of which lies the precious core of all human sociality: the domestic family. Collective life is thus an arrangement of individuals, that is human organisms endowed with the most complex object in the universe: a central nervous system. Putting a number of such enormously complex objects (brains) together is an even more dauntingly complex task. That is why complexity is on the side of what looks to us as simple. Actually we are all aware of this. We spend our entire lifetime negotiating personal alliances, friendships, and enmities. We constantly bond and fall apart, unite and then separate, and unite again. And we know this for being a full-time job, at home, in the office, wherever. We scheme endlessly to belong to cliques, coteries and clubs, or exclude others as the case may be. We obsess over getting ahead or a least not being left behind other individuals (colleagues, neighbours). We exhaust ourselves dealing with sex so as to conform with moral rules or other persons’ affects –an impossible order of course--. We are kept alert and interested in such dealings throughout our lives. Compared to that, the relationships to the State or to other institutions in our so-called “complex societies” are actually quite simple. You pay or you don’t pay your taxes. You obey or don’t obey the law. You put one ballot in the box. You follow written, fixed rules. Of course all these activities and decisions involve complex reasoning, and they are the products of a long and complex history, but they probably do not entail the kind of highly developed inherited skills that are required to solve relational problems between individuals, because interpersonal affairs involve the total human person, both as a rational and emotional agent. Will you ever compare choosing a spouse or a friend to choosing a candidate for public office? 


 I will examine briefly the question of dominance and/or hierarchy, a question that has been discussed by many authors, but one that needs to be re-examined anyhow within the purview of this presentation. Whether you call it dominance, hierarchy, inequality, this principle permeates as well as constitutes the foundation of the social order. Inequality is supposed to be ubiquitous in modern and primitive societies (Béteille 1977) and it has been construed as the true and only foundation of civilized life. Louis Dumont, for instance, influentially argued not only that holistic cultures must be based on some kind of hierarchical principle (Dumont 1977: 12), but also, quoting Parsons, he hailed the “universal rationality of hierarchy (Dumont 1966: 33). Compared to the need of having a system of graded values, and therefore graded agents in a graded society, “the egalitarian ideal itself is artificial” (id. 34). The presence or 9 absence of the State as the one central and paramount institution that supposedly separates the primitive from the civilized is the embodiment of the encompassing hierarchizing order of society. Now “order” is a very precise concept, mathematically defined as a transitive relationship between elements of a set. If A>B, and B>C, then A>C. If you apply the formula to social groups you obtain things like a chain of command in an army, or a bureaucracy. The mathematical definition of inequality is the backbone of social order and can be put to many uses. You may thus define the relation as “contains” (c), then if AcB, and BcC, then AcC. This could serve as an administrative mapping of territorial units (municipality, province, region, state). Descent groups can be used to such double effect: their paradigmatic hierarchy serve to recruit warriors in sets of ascending or descending magnitude, fix positions of subordination in a graded scale, and map territories as well (Sahlins 1961). This kind of segmentary/hierarchical thinking has been used by pastoralists like the Nuer and by developed civilizations like the Indian caste system. There is something almost primal in hierarchizing things: a simple binary opposition, right and left, up and down, male and female, moon and sun, is usually conceptualized as containing a superior and an inferior term. Anthropologists have demonstrated that at length (Hertz 1909). Hierarchy in this sense is a highly valuable tool to simplify and organize relations, create groups, and establish order in a broader sense. It is both a sociological reality and a basic mental tool. The human world is a natural world and probably a mathematically ordered world. We might have confused hierarchy (associated with the idea of power) with asymmetry (associated with the idea of difference). Let us admit first that communities with no chiefs, anarchic in the literal and etymological sense of the word, do exist. They have definitely been observed and described by a host of ethnographers. The paradox is that they do acknowledge, significantly, a certain measure of asymmetry, usually one between elder and younger members of the community, parents and children. Sometimes between male and female, but less so. The point is that non-hierarchical communities recognize dyadic asymmetrical relations, but tend not to develop single asymmetrical pairs into transitive chains of relations. Let me give you an example. Amongst the Palawan there is clearly a relation of asymmetry between elder and younger members of a cognatic set (let’s say an uncle an a nephew) and between in-laws (let’s say BW and WB). Now this asymmetrical relation is limited to immediate affines or close kin. If A is uncle (therefore senior and as such somewhat “superior”) to B, and B uncle to C, A is NOT necessarily uncle to C. Ego must be somewhat subservient to his wife’s elder brother, but not 10 to her cousin. I have argued that the deepest substratum of the Palawan ordering of statuses and roles, is hierarchical or asymmetrical in nature, but does not result in an unequal social order (Macdonald 1977: 252-3 , 2007: 72). It is a huge paradox, illustrative of a complex order of reality, that an underlying asymmetry results in a radically egalitarian kind of system. Since I am dealing with age and seniority, an important remark must be made. Careful comparison will show that non-hierarchical, gregarious, anarchic, egalitarian communities do usually display symmetrical gender relations compatible with a non male-dominated, division of roles 10 . Why then would the age/generation principle be preferred to the gender-based principle? One reason to my mind is that a modicum of hierarchy based on age is by definition temporary, as far as the members of the ages-sets are concerned. If you are born a man or a woman, you usually remain man or woman until your death. Whereas you do not, alas, remain young, and after being in a subservient position as a junior person, you will eventually be upgraded to a senior status. So do anarchic and non-social communities operate, creating equality by using and at the same time subverting hierarchy11 . Let us for the time being keep in mind that hierarchy and dominance are seen as functions of closed groups 12 . 


One of the prime concepts of 20th century anthropology has been, I guess, exchange and/or reciprocity. This notion, starting with the seminal essay by Mauss’ Essai sur le Don (1925) has spurred fruitful anthropological theorizing into many different fields: economics, communication, kinship, social dynamics, etc. Exchange has thus become the “primitive social contract”, the “condition on which are based the production and reproduction of social relations” (Godelier 1996: 69) and it remains I guess one of the three major concepts around which we organize our anthropological thinking, together with group formation (the basic 10 Quite a number of tribal societies, in New Guinea and elsewhere, do present us with strong, violent even, male dominance and female subservience. They are clearly on the path of social order, with corollaries of corporateness, closure and warfare. The systems I am referring to in this presentation as “non-social, anarchic, etc.” are of a different kind. 11 Societies that use age and age grades as a basis for a political order are not numerous. Those in the so called “Karimojong” circle in East Africa are rather unique cases where this occurs. One very clear outcome of the age grade system is to rotate positions of power between sections of the population in more or less even cycles (Tornay 1995). 12 Allegiance to the same master binds members at the bottom as well as at the top. There are other practical advantages of having chiefs, one being that cooperative work on a large scale can be more efficiently organized and monitored. A good deal of cooperation on a small scale (a dozen people or more) is quite possible without any supervisor or boss telling people what to do. When it comes to organizing hundreds and even thousands of people, anarchic cooperation finds its limits. Cooperation together with a rigid pecking order is a formidable device for putting together large working groups like, for instance, armies. 11 units of social organization) and dominance or hierarchy. Here again my thesis will be that a number of communities do not fit into an “exchange theory” of society. Let us be reminded that the core of Mauss’ theory on the gift consisted in three successive and tightly linked “obligations”: one must give, one must receive, one must give back. Behind a single act (giving) there was a whole chain of relationships between social actors. Actually there are no free gifts and what goes round comes round. Mauss’ essay was the object of many comments and revisions among which are those of Lévi-Strauss (1950), Sahlins (1965), and more recently Godelier (1996). Mauss indeed focussed on competitive exchange and his theory of the gift might have been more a theory of the potlatch than a theory of giving or sharing. Subsequently Sahlins proposed a spectrum of reciprocities, with the “generalized” (the idea of pure or generous gift) at one end, the “negative” (akin to the idea of swindle) at the other end, and the “balanced” (direct, simple exchange of like for like) in the middle (Sahlins 1965: 147-9). Realizing that the picture was not complete, Godelier following Weiner (1992) more recently proposed distinguishing between transferable and nontransferable goods, between material and non-material exchange, thus explaining the paradox of why certain objects are kept while circulating. Godelier was resting his argument on the kula, Mauss on the potlatch, Sahlins on the market and on non-ceremonial goods. The major fault of these theories on giving, exchanging and reciprocity is that they lack one basic dimension about how people in a number of cultures distribute material objects among themselves, and particularly food. And that one major dimension is sharing. Sharing has been shown by some authors like Gibson (1985, 1986: 44-48) to be of an independent order, a pattern entirely distinct from reciprocity, entailing a relation between persons that is in no way coterminal with giving and exchanging. This is actually so obvious that one wonders why anthropologists could have been so blind as not to recognize this before, and give it the theoretical status it deserves. For an exchange to happen, you will probably agree that something must be given to begin with. In order for something to be given, that something must be “owned” in some way by the giver. I do not see how anything can be “given” if that thing is not somehow in the possession or control of the giver. I suppose we would agree on that. Now it just so happens that certain objects –particularly one of the most important category of all, food— are oftentimes, in communities such as the Inuit, San or Buid, just shared. Sharing is this: an Inuit hunter catches let us say, a bearded seal, or a San Bushman gathers tsi nuts, or a Palawan gets a wild boar in his pig-trap. The seal, the boar, the nuts are brought back to the village or camp and everyone is given a share (according to some specific rules: Robbe 1994: 272-5, Marshall 12 Thomas 1989: 211-2, Macdonald 2007: 77). The hunter, trapper, and gatherer who have harpooned the seal, trapped the wild boar, or gathered the nuts, do not own the seal, the boar, nor the nuts. They own maybe part of it, which they keep. But the rest they do not give away, because rules state that it does not belong to them. It is not up to them to decide what shares and how many are going to be distributed in the community, and to whom. The Inuit hunter owns a certain portion of the seal --which by the way he keeps before actually sharing it; other hunters, who have touched the animal while it was still in the water, own the rest which is to be divided according to precise rules and preordained cuts (Robbe 1994: 273, Freuchen 1961: 153). The tsi nuts gatherer puts his nuts in a net, the owner of which has a primary right over the nuts (Marshall Thomas 1989: 211). The successful Palawan hunter has to give at least half of the whole boar to his father-in-law who decides what is to be given to whom (usually on a strictly egalitarian basis: everyone in the group gets something). There is no exchange because the hunter, the trapper, the gatherer do NOT own what has been caught or collected, at least do not own it completely 13 . What goes to whom is either decided by someone else, or has been already partitioned by pre-existing rules. Nobody gives anything to anybody. There is no exchange of any sort at least between humans: what is shared is not given. If there is a gift, it is one bestowed by nature, by unseen forces of the universe. Inuit say the seal has given himself to man. The only giver is the seal or the spirit of the seals. The Palawan say the Master of the pigs has given them one of his children (Macdonald 2007: 121) Anthropologists tend to think that reciprocity can be a foundation for social order, a true pristine ‘social contract’ in itself as I said before. Indeed, behind the gift there is truly a moral basis for society, whether the gift is generous or whether it is interested. If it is generous one tends to associate giving, in the “generalized” sense of Sahlins, with a primitive sphere of domesticity, intimacy and nurturing. If it is “negative”, one tends to see its presence in the wider sphere of hard, selfish, but realistic dog-eat-dog relations. The patron-client model, so frequently used by sociologists and anthropologists to explain rural societies in different parts of the world, is just that: a giving that entails a debt, and a debt that entails dependence. Some people are so aware of that, that they absolutely reject the spirit of reciprocity and base their 13 I must disagree on this with Testart who is misconstruing the reality in believing that the hunter « gives away» his catch and that, therefore, he owns it (Testart 1987: 288). In other words he infers ownership from what he thinks is the act of giving. He does not, like the great majority of anthropologists, realize that sharing is not a special instance of giving. The hunter may just be said to “bring over” his catch, rather than “give” it. So does the Palawan trapper who physically delivers or carries the boar to his father-in-law. He does not give it away. Once the game has been so shared, then the shares are owned and can be given. Freuchen describes the apportionment (sharing) of a walrus on the principle of “first weapon, “second weapon”, etc. and adds “…but ownership is ownership” and he who has received a larger portion will “have the pleasure” of giving it away (Freuchen [1935] 1976: 96). 13 communal life on its opposite: sharing. Inuit people don’t say “thank you”, because to say thanks acknowledges a debt, and acknowledging a debt is the first step to slavery. “With gifts one makes slaves like one makes dogs by lashing them with a whip” (Testart 1999:11, quoting Freuchen)14 . Astoundingly we are now brought back to a dimension of collective life which I have mentioned above: the autonomy of the agent. Reciprocity (the “obligation” to give and to receive) jeopardizes autonomy. Non-social, anarchic, and gregarious communities reject reciprocity as the moral basis of their mutual dealings, they are reluctant to give and to create a debt, save to the powers of nature. Obviously Inuits, San, Semai, Palawan, Buid and all the others borrow and lend, give and take, they barter, swap, buy, and sell. There are free gifts, some haggle, others might take away things and ‘forget’ to return them. All sorts of transactions and reciprocal activities take place. There is no such thing as “primitive communism” and Palawan or Inuit people definitely have a sense of ownership, albeit one that is not exactly like ours. The point is, in some groups the social contract is not based on the “spirit of the gift” but on the law of sharing. And this is because people like their freedom to remain intact. Let us make a brief pause here and gather some loose threads. So far I have tried to discuss three propositions: 1°) that the common definition of social organization rested on an idea of a division of the social body into closed, self-contained, corporate-like groups; 2°) that it was difficult to think of a social order of any kind without using some measure of dominance or hierarchy; 3°) that exchange and reciprocity was of paramount significance in understanding human affairs but particularly those of technologically simple and culturally conservative societies. Against these accepted truths I have made three objections: 1°) that a number of human communities had no groups except the domestic family, and actually had no need nor desire of creating self-contained, exclusive, corporate groups in perpetuity 15 ; 2°) that a good number of living communities had been closely observed by professional anthropologists, not showing the slightest tendency toward any hierarchical organization, and having no manner of chiefs; 3) that exchange and reciprocity as the only or main method for distributing goods and creating basic bonds of sociality was a seriously mistaken idea that did not account for 14 The full quote is this however : «You must not thank for your meat; it is your right to get parts. In this country, nobody wishes to be dependent upon others. Therefore there is nobody who gives or gets gifts, for thereby you become dependent. With gifts you make slaves just as with whips you make dogs!” (Freuchen 1961: 154, my emphasis). See note 12 above. 15 Thus dispensing with the need of developing the kind “group identity” that is apparently so much in demand in our modern nations-states. 14 another equally fundamental and pervasive principle, that of sharing. Along the way I mentioned the concept of complexity, which, paradoxically, sits better with supposed simple, stateless, “primitive societies”, than with modern State societies. Another recurring theme was personal autonomy. I ought to tackle two other hurdles in the classic anthropological jumping contest: violence and the State. I will not have time do it here. Instead I would like to consider some propositions in evolutionary theory that may lend some strength to my general argument. 


Evolutionary theorizing is all the rage today in some quarters and I am not inclined to blindly follow any of its pronouncements, heeding Ingold’s warnings on that (Ingold 1989). The unquestionable fact remains however that Homo sapiens (HS) is the result of evolution, that he is a zoological species sharing his direct ancestry and almost all of his DNA with apes such as Pan. Primatologists (like Rodman 1999 and others) and paleoanthropologists (like Sussmann, R. and Garber, P. 2004, and others) have accumulated a wealth of data on primate behaviour and some serious clues about the beginning of Hominids’ way of life. All this requires some attention on the part of the social anthropologist. If HS and his direct ancestors have been shaped by evolution, then chances are that branches of the Hominid evolutionary tree diverge in some significant manner. The law of evolution indeed is that phylogenies are diverging and not converging. Another law is that, through adaptation and chance, a number of diverging organisms that branch out, disappear. Others remain. Those that remain retain certain features inherited from ancestors. Within HS evolutionary prehistory, chances are that several diverging forms of adaptation survived and still exist side by side. I hypothesize therefore that two branches on the hominid terminal ramification, not in the form of biological speciation, but in the form of societal speciation (resulting from selection at the sociocultural level), are surviving from ancient adaptation of hominoids to specific conditions. One is the gregarious, anarchic, egalitarian, non-social type of collective life, which proved to be adaptive and successful over tens of thousands of years (more than 90% of HS life on earth). The other one is the socially structured type of collective life, extremely successful in a different sort of way, nowadays eradicating relentlessly all survivors of the other option. According to this perspective, both the “social” and the “gregarious” forms of collective life are present from very ancient times, when hominids started to create a new sociality. I believe these adaptive responses to the challenge of survival are much older than the Neolithic/Paleolithic forking out of man’s ways. It started when 15 hominids adapted to a double environment: the natural environment with its physical properties, requiring biological and technological adaptation, and an newly emerging human environment with its demanding, complex intraspecific relations of increasing importance requiring sociocultural, mental and emotional adaptation. Social order and gregarious harmony offer two satisfying responses: the first because it fights entropy by enhancing control in a mechanistic way, and eventually creates an enormously powerful machinery of domination (it creates order) and mastery of the environment, the second one because it enhances felicity and reduces anxiety among peers (it seeks harmony), while playing along with entropy. To borrow a phrase from linguists (Austin 1962), I shall term such requirements the “conditions of felicity” of hominian collective living. To meet these conditions, one way or the other, is the business of HS. War or love, as it were, have been and still are two diverging paths followed by various sections of mankind, and two broad responses to the demands of collective living. This can be understood only if we fully recognize the emergence of personal autonomy. If evolutionary sociologists are correct (Maryanski 1994, Maryanski and Turner 1992) hominoid sociality, going back to the Last Common Ancestor of apes and humans, evidenced a “fluid organizational structure, consisting of a low level of sociality and a lack of intergenerational group continuity over time” (Maryanski 1994: 384). The reasons for that lie in several forces, one being the dispersal of females and another in the low level of bonding between males, characterized by high individual autonomy and high individualism creating fluid social networks (id ., 385)16 . To quote again the same author: “A richness of weak ties over strong ties….provide humanoids with a degree of integration at the macro-population level in contrast to monkey populations where a richness of strong ties over weak ties is seen to provide integration at the micro-group level of organization” (id., 386). In other words humanoids and their descendants were successful because they acquired great individual agency enabling them to produce large but loose aggregates. The benefits of that for a farroaming animal like Homo, are several. Ranging far and wide, being highly mobile, he needs to frequently associate and disassociate himself from his conspecifics. So here we are, HS is not essentially a “social” animal. He is gregarious in the sense that he needs to interact and cooperate with his conspecifics, provided he maintains a great deal of personal autonomy. 16 Wrangham –quoted in Boehm 1993: 238-- reached different conclusions in a previous reconstruction from humans and African apes. His are closed social networks and some dominance but no female alliances and hostility between groups (Wrangham 1987). 16 


From what was said above one could conclude that HS is nothing but a “friendly animal”. Actually I am inclined to believe that HS is a complex animal, mentally and emotionally, and that he is possessed with peaceability as well as with aggressiveness, a great capacity to bond and an equal capacity to hate and destroy his conspecifics, a profound longing to live in smooth harmony with his equals and a fierce desire to dominate and enslave them. I suppose both aspects are always present17 , but one is selected as a dominant device to regulate interpersonal behaviour in one or the other form of collective life we have examined. My guess again is that members of the social order are virtual anarchists (this is evidenced by many attempts at communal non-social living) and that an urge to dominate others is present in the most egalitarian and peaceful peoples. The name of the game is rather to negotiate conflicting drives in what I called a “maximization of the felicity conditions of collective existence”. There are, again, two ways to do it: one by maximizing personal autonomy and bonding between equally free agents, the other by ordering relations in a pecking order, creating groups and reducing personal autonomy. Within the first option (gregarious and anarchic) certain moral rules must be followed. Paramount among these rules is humility and control over anger. An ethnographer quotes a saying from a native population of the Malay Peninsula, the Chewong, that goes: “To be angry is not to be human, but to be fearful is” (Howell 1989: 45). Among the Caribou Inuits the one thing that was not allowed was to give way to one’s anger (Mowat 1980: 166). The Buid of Mindoro (Gibson 1989) and the Semai of the Malay Peninsula (Dentan 2004) highly value tranquillity and a peaceful demeanour, while valuing aggression and self-assertiveness negatively. The Palawan hold exactly the same opinion. The way Palawan people and many others describe themselves is always self-disparaging. An Indian group in Mexico, the Teenek, speak so ill of themselves that even anthropologists did not want to study them (Ariel de Vidas 2002). Gregarious and anarchic people constantly joke and tease each other, belittle themselves, using irony and ridicule, holding that the most hateful and despicable of all defects is arrogance. This is the way Palawan people describe Christian lowlanders for instance. Self abasement together with an absolute commitment to nonaggression seem to be a constant factor, one that we have a hard time to conceive of, as it does not appear to being “socially” acceptable. What would you think of people who claim to be cowards and approve 17 The argument has been put in similar terms by Fuentes (2004) discussing cooperation versus competition and proposing a “scenario of mixed cooperation and occasional competition” (Fuentes 2004: 715). Although my argument may appear as a definition of “ human nature”, I would rather like to think in terms of “behavioral predispositions” entailing a probabilistic dimension as well as an inherently dialectical foundation. 17 of it, claim to prefer to run away than retaliate? Claim to be “poor”, “incapable”, “stupid”, and “losers” as a positive option? How would a self-respecting Durkheimian creature consider joking as a foundation of sociality? Many other traits characterize bands of hunter-gatherers, their volatile and emotional interactivity, their great sense of humour and their quick tempers, their constant oscillation between expansive laughter and bitter tears (Wilson 1975). Their “gemeinshaftness” has been noted by many observers (Dentan 2004, Benjamin 2006) but the view that they live in harmony is probably a mean result, an average or ideal situation inferred from of a series of situations of conflict and their resolution, rather than a stable condition of unchanging and serene equanimity. As I said, people seek harmony, they do not necessarily live in harmony all the time. They obtain it at times through a policy of extreme humility and strict control over aggressive impulses. There are several aspects to this “culture of timidity” that one should examine. One is the particular psychological or mental state with which it is associated, which Dentan (2004) calls “learned helplessness”, a kind of surrender, a feeling providing the subject with serenity, or tranquillity, as Gibson says of the Buid. It is also akin to a mildly depressive state of withdrawal (Gibson 1989: 67). This should be probed further. Another one is of course the reason for such a non-violent, non-aggressive attitude which Dentan (2004) and Gibson (1990) see as a response to external violence. The fact is that such communities have been preyed upon and victimized by slave traders or by neighbouring tribal groups (the Inuits by North American Indians, the Semai by the Malays, the Palawan by the Maranao (Ilanun), etc.). But in my opinion, non-aggression and suppression of anger is not a response to an external environment but to the internal human environment in which these people spend their life. Non-aggression is just a function of non-hierarchical relations and, for that matter, the other main aspects of egalitarianism, the ethos of sharing or the respect for other persons’ autonomy. All these features together form the conditions of felicity on which their collective life is based. In any case one must recognize their conscious commitment to a way of life that is distinct ---they sustain “a radically alternative mode of relatedness” (Ingold 1990: 130)--, and not something imposed upon them, or something that they would relinquish willingly. As Richard Lee wrote of hunters-gatherers “such societies have social and political resources of their own and are not just sitting ducks waiting to adopt the first hierarchical model that comes along.” (Lee 1992: 40). 18 


 Time does not allow me to consider a number of other important questions raised by this approach. One that remains unsolved so far (in this presentation at least) and gives ground to objection is again the question of aggression and violence. Violence is present in gregarious egalitarian and anarchic communities under various guises. This needs to be carefully examined and interpreted. In some cases violence erupts or is enacted without assuming any social function. One of the most striking examples I know of, is presented by the Ilongot, a people from the Philippines who are apparently anarchic and gregarious, but who practice a strange form of head-hunting fostering equality among peers rather superiority over one’s enemy 18 . A number of corollaries and associated traits are worthy of serious investigations: what G. Benjamin calls ‘indigeny” (2006) and the unique and specific relation to place it entails, the “monophysite” conception of man an his environment (id.), the notion of non punitive justice (obviously tribunals are not welcome amongst primitive anarchists), the inherently non religious ethics and frequent areligiosity of gregarious people (who recognize and deal intensively with unseen forces and spiritual entities but are not subservient to them in the fashion of Christian or Muslim obedience to a supreme deity), and many other aspects that must be considered. Also, we would need to look at the limitations of both kinds of collective living. Clearly, although not restricted to foragers, the non-social and egalitarian way cannot survive under conditions of heavy demographic pressure. One thing is clear: gregarious communities are demographically small, need a lot of space and are easy prey to strong military orders. Their chances of survival depended during the last millennium on their capacity to find refuge in secluded areas (like high mountain valleys, ice banks, deep forests, deserts) in order to escape the murderous pursuit and utter devastation foisted upon them by social orders, whether tribal and stateless, or with a State apparatus. Social order is efficient and destructive at the same time. With its mechanistic order it has conquered the planet and laid it bare. With their obsessive pursuit of bonding among equals and preservation of personal autonomy, 18 The ethnographers who studied them (Rosaldo M. 1980 and Rosaldo, R. 1980) had to account for it on the basis of symbolic values and animus (Rodaldo M; 1980: 176, 233). The main problem was that the victims did not fall clearly within the structural lines of feuding (with conflicting segments of a society retaliating against each other) although R. Rosaldo interpreted it in terms of revenge killing (Rosaldo, R.: 63, 276). 19 gregarious anarchic communities were doomed and are now all but extinct, taking with them a good part of what humanity is all about19 . 


 I am not the first one, by a long way, to have dealt with the notion of “ordered anarchy”, “stateless societies”, “people without government” (Barclay 1982), or “peaceful and nonviolent people”. I am advocating an integrated picture of what I see as a complex mode of communality –for which I would like to avoid the word “social” and its many compounds--. Studies mostly focussed on one aspect or the other: the State (stateless societies), or violence (peaceful societies), or hierarchy and dominance (egalitarian societies). Look at the work of Clastres for instance (Clastres 1989). His exclusive focus on the notion of State renders his demonstrations naïve and ineffectual (Graeber 2004: 23). Selecting just peacefulness or nonviolence as the main foundation of a stable collective life is equally insufficient. One must take into one’s purview the entire sphere of collective living and integrate the economics of sharing, the “conditions of felicity” of communality, the subtle and paradoxical enforcement of equality, the creation and maintenance of loose aggregates and networks, the principle of individual autonomy, the moral basis of the whole, as well as the unique kind of symbiotic relationship with nature sustained by these people, all of it in one cohesive model that mirrors the complexity of this way of life. Besides one should remember that people are not only moved negatively to just refuse something (the State, submission, lack of freedom) but are also moved positively by a desire to keep and defend something they value. So, some people prefer harmony to order. 


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