The following was written in response to internet questions regarding the Sui Generis and in particular this post here- http://songsfortheotherkind.com/blog/?p=306 I’m now going off to work on the ‘sui generis authority is not externally based’ essay, because I’ve realised greater explanation is required as to what sui generis *is* and *is not*.
You write that you are “the wrong individual” of whom to ask questions of the practicalities of Sui Generis anarchism.
I am genuinely open to the possibility that anarchism is practical, and I am very interested in your arguments to that effect, so your unwillingness to provide any is… well, disappointing. I wonder too why you would reject the opportunity to put forward those arguments not just to me but also to other readers of your blog, when from what I can tell the point of your blog is to advocate for social, not just personal, change.
To be fair, you have given *other* reasons why you think that we should adopt Sui Generis anarchism, they just don’t move me. You write that it is justified by the principle that no being has authority over any other being. In my view, the almost paradoxical truth is that the best way of upholding this principle is to maintain, rather than to dissolve, collectively-recognised external authorities – without them, there is nothing to prevent dog-eat-dog behaviour, vigilante justice and the unchecked spiral of violence/counter-violence due to unresolvable disputes. Without external authority, nothing prevents beings from regularly exercising self-appointed authority over other beings, very probably leading to more, not fewer, violations of this principle.
There is also another principle: that we should organise society in the way that best achieves equity, harmony and safety, and that best meets the needs and goals of its members. I am not convinced that Sui Generis anarchism satisfies this principle better than democracy.
You imply that our democratic system is being forced upon you – “if they all want to get together and do something their way that’s fine and hunky dory, *as long as they don’t try to enforce it on everyone else*” – yet if you get your way, Sui Generis anarchism will be forced upon those of us who believe that democracy is a better solution, so I don’t see much validity to this complaint.
I agree with you that there are serious problems with our current political system, including its leadership. The Abbott government appals me. I am also 100% in agreement with you as to the abhorrence of the (continuing) dispossession and mistreatment of the indigenous peoples of various lands, including “our” own, in the course of the illegitimate and brutal colonisation by Europeans. Yes, the system under which we still live permitted those injustices. Injustice though is not an inevitable consequence of democracy, it is a consequence of unjust humans and human attitudes. I don’t see how anarchism would better save us from bad attitudes than democracy.
My favoured solution to the problem of abuse of concentrated political power is direct, participatory democracy, especially in both local communities and businesses/corporations/
organisations, and especially internet-based, by which the public can propose and vote on the same legislative and executive decisions that political representatives can, and by which it can, given a majority, override parliamentary decisions. This could, I believe, achieve the (social) evolution you seek without the problems that anarchism has, and would even in itself be an example of that evolution.
I will never consent to rule by domination; I will never consent to be RULED by anyone, no matter how many rationalisations are presented to try and convince me that it’s ok for someone to take my own authority from me. It’s not and it never will be. You’re free to try doing what was attempted over and over in the past- ‘democratic rule by citizen participation’- and you WILL leave me out of it, because anything else would be exactly the same as the action of Empire’s colonisation that you say you find abhorrent and ‘illegitimate’. Again, if I don’t consent, what are you going to do? Send enforcers? Penalise me through use of force and the rule of law?
Re “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”: I have read it before, but it is a great read, and at your prompting I enjoyed it a second time, so, thanks. To put things in context: I have been coding since I was ten, using Linux and other free/open source software since 1995, and I fell in love with the free/open source way at first sight. Yes, the free/open source community is very effective at what it does. The problem is in scaling it up to the level of an entire society: in the open source community, there is nothing that particularly *needs* to be done, and people are thus free to solely “scratch their personal itches”, as Eric puts it, without any particular problems arising from this approach; in society at large, however, certain tasks, sometimes unpalatable, *do* need to be performed independently of whether they scratch any personal itch – in particular, the development and maintenance of communal infrastructure and agriculture. These tasks neglected, society fails or at least degenerates, and it is not clear to me what under a moneyless anarchism would motivate people to perform them given the absence of a financial incentive: the financial incentive stems from a need to survive personally, such that one’s personal survival is linked with collective survival in the sense that socially necessary tasks are almost guaranteed to be undertaken because by paying people to do them, often out of public funds, we satisfy their survival needs. At least, that’s the way I see it.
The RBE/TZM/TVP/Automation Socialism folk seem to believe that automation would save us from the problem of lack of financial incentive. Perhaps they are right – it is certainly a seductive possibility, however, it is not yet a reality, and, in any case, I think that there needs to be a broader conversation about whether a highly industrial, technological and/or automated society is even preferable or a good idea given the harm it does to ecologies, environment and other life, as well as the way that it tends to isolate humanity and individuals in materialism rather than connecting them in a more natural and spiritual existence. Deep Green Resistance have certainly taken a strong stand on this.
I don’t know how this came up: I’m not into the ‘technology will save us all’ view of the world. I’m not an advocate of RBE’s and the current state of the planet demonstrates that we don’t really have time for ‘broader conversations’ about preferences when species are dying every day. I’m mentioned in my writings that I’m a fan of Derrick Jensen’s perspective on the current state of play and that it’s civilisation that has to go; there’s no question of that for me. I’m interested in creating *what comes after* on a better foundation than the rubbish that has gone on before.
Re spiritual authority, have you looked into near-death experiences (NDEs)? They strongly suggest that there exists a spiritual being (or beings) who knows better than we do what is best for us, yet who allows us to exercise our free will anyway, which in turn suggests a benevolent and freedom-loving spiritual authority.
You write of my “own subjective experience” as if to suggest that it cannot correspond to an objective truth, and in one of the essays you link to you dismiss as “a personal choice” the idea of God, an empirical matter, apparently because it conflicts with your notion of Sui Generis, an abstract principle. I think, instead, with respect to truth claims, that empirical evidence takes precedence over abstract principles, and that there is enough evidence for the existence of God that it cannot be dismissed simply because it is (perceived to be) inconvenient to Sui Generis.
Your perspective seems to be (and please correct me if I have misunderstood you) that all “spiritual” phenomena are really manifestations of Empire, so that it is quite simply humanity versus Empire. Does it really seem likely though that we are battling Empire alone? What a depressing thought! In fact, countless reports of individuals across the ages attest that we are *not* alone in our battles. I am not sure why you would dismiss this positive news!
Re your response to the challenges I raised: some of our disagreements seem to stem from (what I see as) your exaggeration of the differences between certain words/concepts. Perhaps you do this to establish a unique identity for your thought, which would be understandable, but whatever the reason is, it makes communication more difficult. A few examples: change versus transformation; (formal) agreements versus contracts; principles versus philosophy; disagreements versus different wants. Because of this (that we might not disagree so much in principles as in definitions), and because this email is already long enough, I’ll avoid responding in that part of our exchange, with the exception of what follows.
Your inability to recognise distinctions between seemingly similar appearing things is, to be frank, not my problem: there is a great deal of information on the net regarding the deep importance of distinction between similar linguistic forms and how much of Empire’s ability to slide wrong through the cracks is via its ability to distort linguistic forms. I make these distinctions not because I’m trying to “establish a unique identity for [my] thought”, as you suggest, but because these distinctions are IMPORTANT. Do you have a background in law studies and trusts? Do you know the distinctions between a contract and an agreement? Do you know WHY they’re important distinctions? Do you know what a contract *does* in terms of evolution? Do you know that contracts require an entire infrastructure to enforce? I’ve written extensively on the issue of contracts in the past and why they’re problematic.
I don’t think that you have adequately answered the following question: if you reject collectively-recognised external authorities as a means of last resort of resolving disputes, then, when a dispute between two parties becomes intractable – as some inevitably will and do – how do you propose that it be resolved? In one of the links that you offer, you write “I’m not in the least bit interested in appealing to any external authority to take care of any situation that I’m facing- I want to do that on my own”. This is admirable but unrealistic: sometimes, the person/group with whom you are dealing will not be reasonable, or will even be actively exploitative. Without an external authority, your “taking [personal] care” of such situations might amount to accepting being exploited, or, alternatively, to gathering together a group of supportive friends and exacting vigilante justice upon the exploiter, potentially leading to a protracted and ungoverned conflict between your supporters and his/hers.
In this respect, you conclude your post with: “If something happens between mySelf and another individual, then it’s up to me to go to them and attempt to sort something out; if that doesn’t work, then I just let it go and get on with my life *unless they’re harming me*, in which case entirely different principles come into play”. It would be very helpful for you to elaborate on these different principles. If they do not amount to vigilante justice as I have just suggested, then what exactly are they? Also, do you acknowledge that having to sometimes accept being taken advantage of (which “just let[ting] it go” might, amongst other things, cover) is a serious drawback to your proposed (a)political system?
You also write, with respect to the specific example I offered: “If, in your example, the sports group decides they have more ‘right’ to the resources than the second, then the sports group has just moved from Sui Generis to heteronomy, in which case the second group has a stronger base of engagement: does the sports group *really* wish to divest itself of the myriads of advantages that Sui Generis gifts them?”. In fact, I have no doubt that some individuals/groups *would* be unscrupulous enough as to adopt and advocate Sui Generis where it benefits them, and to dispense with it where, as in this case, it does not.
It would be very nice to believe that this would never occur, but again, not very realistic. As I wrote in my last email, there are so many damaged people in the world that anarchism is currently probably not a practical choice – but again, I am open to examples of effective anarchist methods that could avoid this problem, should you change your mind about choosing to present them.
Finally, just to be clear: I am not antagonistic to either yourself or Sui Generis, in fact I like you both, I am just not (yet) convinced that the anarchism you say Sui Generis lays a foundation for is practical, much less that it is preferable.