Friday, June 22, 2012

A comment on "The PR Crisis of Democracy"

It is incredibly refreshing to see someone challenge something as fundamental to North American culture(s) as democracy and Neuroskeptic did an excellent job of just that. In a nutshell, how can the growing discontent driven, in many ways, by our adoration of immensely reified and misused concepts like "Freedom," continue to be touted as the 'ideal.' As that link illustrates, I am not entirely sure I know what Freedom means anymore: differentiation to the point of emptiness.

I would liken the current uproars in various countries to the "terrible twos" of childhood where the budding personality, to the 'horror' of everyone, learns to say, "No." I draw this connection not to mitigate the effort and sacrifices made by these groups. But, rather, to highlight the conflict in a developmental sense: many of the ideals we hold are incredibly naive and incompatible with the way we live our lives. They are juvenile in the sense that they lack subtlety and tend to approach a problem in the most direct route (e.g., by creating a false, black-white dichotomy). That is, one could arguable describe a network, in an anthropomorphic sense, as juvenile if it lacks the appropriate complexity of connections necessary to approach a particular problem in a non-dichotomous framework. Democracy, then, is a cultural celebration of that era. And no, I'm not secretly suggesting a silent recapitulation theory here. The comparison is just interesting.

I have, in the past, drawn the association between cultures and individuals of varying age groups. That is, if, for example, countries were people then you can get some interesting implications on the basis of age alone.

India, China, Japan, etc. as older cultures might be the grandparents of the circumstances. Though some may be decrepit and need to be institutionalized, every once in a while they can toss a kernel of wisdom your way. At very least, they tend to be more patient and slower moving.

Europe, in contrast (and you can see my North American bias here as I lump all of Europe into one category), can be likened to an individual in their late 40's, maybe even into their late 50's. They're old enough to 'know better,' but still young enough to do unintelligent things. Arguably they are currently experiencing a mid-life crisis.

The U.S. is in the end of its rebellious teenage years: still vigorous and aggressive but starting to catch on to the subtleties of the world. Canada is the younger brother that cannot help but follow its older sibling's often terrible advice. Australia is the youngest and, due to their position and temperament, still think its 'play time.' Russia and Mexico are the ever budding bullies on the play ground.

And where does everyone else fall? Who knows. Many of the other cultures are the remains of ancient civilizations that have become so prolific that they are best taken as the ground of the rest of the world. A ground that is ripe to be raped, pillaged, and set on display at the whims of the 'family.'

Democracy, in this framework, is merely an appeal to the beauty of a freedom that was always hoped for, pseudo-achieved, and difficult to let go. Though this story is entirely implausible, a bad rendition of an Eikos Logos at best, it does illustrate something important here: self-regulation is a process that operates and/or needs to operate at all levels of organization and it is key to development. Development means change and even something as apparently permanent as democracy will come to an end.

In an effort to motivate a conceptual shift that operates more smoothly in non-democratic frameworks, I offer the idea of machinic organization (you have to read a bit to get to the reference). Note that, though elements of the ideas I will set forth may look like other familiar architectures like communism, totalitarianism, etc. They are not the same much like a pendulum is not the same for a clockmaker and a scientist.

The best description of what I mean by machinic and how it applies here is illustrated by William Gibson's Neuromancer. Though, the association is not my own. In this fictional universe, heads of corporations are regularly assassinated by other corporations, but to no consequence. As soon as one body dies, a new one takes its place and a database of memories are waiting to help reintegrate the new body with the role.

By suggesting the concept of machinic I am neither trying to perform an upward causal reduction (extreme top-down framework) nor am I trying to suggest that we will one day be some rendition of the Borg. A technological singularity, though plausible, is not what I am referring to. The goal is to illustrate that highly individualistic concepts in the standard Western context like freedom, prosperity, wealth, justice, progress become extremely unfamiliar when the framework shifts. As I said in a previous post that is particularly relevant here: when your individuality is no longer relevant and you assume the role of a statistic, all these concepts drop away.

I will reinforce the fact that this does not mean you are not free, prosperous, wealthy, just, or progressing (though this latter one is a tad odd to be combined with the rest by Neuroskeptic). It simply means that these concepts no longer have application in this domain (much like dividing by zero in most mathematics). Neither does it mean that one cannot examine these properties--this is not a moral or ethical discussion. It just means that in a machinic framework, the end of democracy makes sense. At the extreme point, it never existed in the first place (I'll evade the "problems with ontology" rant here).

Naturally, given that none of these activist groups are likely to cease their activities, even if they were to read my blog for some reason, the efficacy of this shift in framework is likely at question. But, the intention is not to change these behaviours in any practical sense. It is to begin adopting a framework where they simply no longer are relevant. I do not protest them. I do not suggest we ignore them. I am really not saying anything about them at all.

How do you destroy a product? You stop buying it. How do you stop buying it? You eliminate the ideology that justifies its use. Remember, people are irrelevant. One extremist group can and will be easily replaced by the next. But, if we change the ideology such that it removes the efficacy of that maneuver, then there is nothing to be gained. People simply will not even think about it. This is the goal.

Let's stop attacking the symptoms and acausally deligitimate the framework that non-linearly supports the problem.

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