The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Category: Revolution

Circles of Belonging

Fractals and CirclesI’ve recently been reading about some Hollywood folks who are very concerned with how women are treated.  One of them, the director Lexi Alexander, tweeted the following:

A crew guy just said that he follows me on Twitter & wanted to thank me because he has 2 daughters. Will it always take daughters to care?

This is the fundamental problem suggested by my article on ethics vs. morals, and discussed by more philosopher and social scientists than one could possibly list. What does it take to care about people we don’t and will never know?

I care about how women are treated because they’re humans.  Why wouldn’t I care?

But why stop there? The murder of dolphins and whales, who are sentient, offends me greatly as well. Why prioritize human intelligence?

Where does the circle of belonging, of inclusion, stop?  Where do we say “That person’s problems are not my problem?”

It’s perfectly natural to care about our families, our loved ones, and especially our children, more than we care for others.  We are responsible to them to an extent we aren’t responsible to someone who lives half the world away—responsible for feeding them, housing them, clothing them, and indeed providing love to them, a need that virtually all sentient creatures have. (Remove whales or dolphins from their mothers and they are profoundly effected; while elephants clearly mourn their dead.)

At the same time, to overly prioritize those we know is to become monsters.  To say “my child is worth a hundred other children’s lives” is to have crossed over the abyss and descended into hell. The hells created by those in the “I’ve got mine, screw you, Mack” crowd are legion.

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The history of human civilization can be read as expanded circles of belonging—from bands (not families, bands) to tribes, to kingdoms and empires and on to nations.  The national impulse, responsible for so much evil, also saw the rise of benefits like pensions and unemployment insurance and universal healthcare.  Those who belonged to my nation deserved such things.  They were “one of us.”

For the longest time much of this was done through religion: The Zeus cult allowed those who belonged to it to not be strangers. People who belonged to the cult, even if of different polis or tribe, could trade together, because they were members of the same cult. If they did not treat each other properly, they believed Zeus would punish them.

Powerful, self-identifying groups of this nature, from followers of Confucius to Christians, from secular humanists to enlightenment thinkers, have brought people together and forged bonds of trust, duty, and belonging that crossed barriers of tribal, local, or even other religious circles.  The humanist claims a duty to all of humanity, believing that everyone has certain rights, including to food, shelter and fair law (justice).

There are those who go further, giving rights to non-human sentients and even animals that are traditionally our food animals.

One can make a full ethical case for all of this, but one can also make a pragmatic argument. Healthy, happy people are better to live around. Economic cripples don’t contribute to civic or economic life nearly as much as they could; the poverty of others, whether material, spiritual, or ethical impoverishes me, because I lack whatever they could have given to the world, were they able.

The same is true of the larger web of life. As animals and plants die, what they contributed to the ecosphere is lost and that loss diminishes the world in ways that will effect me, whether through loss of seafood, loss of oxygen, loss of key nutrients, or loss of potential scientific discoveries, now impossible. Every dead species is lost genetic code, code which may have held secrets to make us much richer: medicines, chemicals, genetic modifications, and so on.  We are killing the web of life which supports us and killing the wealth that nature has created for us.

The pragmatic argument is important, but pragmatics alone are never enough: Without an ethical argument, many people will violate the norms as soon as it is convenient to them; while without the pragmatic argument others will violate the norm because it makes no sense to them. (Why not kill if it’s in my interest?  Sure as heck the people who lead us have no qualms about doing so.)

To manage an ecosphere, and to manage a world full of sentients, requires valuing them intrinsically, as well as functionally—both for what they do for us and for themselves, irrespective of their utilitarian value. Until we create an ethics which does this, not only will we be far less happy and prosperous than we could be, but we will lurch from ecological disaster to ecological disaster.

The creation of an ethics of inclusion, a broad circle including all life and much that is not alive, is one of the key tasks before us.

Do NOT take Western Help for your “revolution”

The BBC has admitted that Assad will remain in charge of Syria.

Now I have no mandate for Assad, by all evidence he’s a profoundly evil man who delights in torture as a way to send a message.  His excesses in this area are such that I wouldn’t be surprised if he personally gets off on it, but the fact of the matter is that the rebellion has made Syrians worse off.  Period.

I will note that when Hezbollah committed its forces I said then that Assad would probably win.  What’s worse is that any moron ought to have known that Hezbollah could not allow Assad to fall because if Assad fell, its lifeline to Iran would be severed.  The forces which were arrayed against Assad either had to win quickly enough that Hezbollah couldn’t turn the tide, or they had to cut a credible deal with Hezbollah, which due to both ideological reasons and because of the preferences of their backers, they never could.  Well, or they had to intervene directly: Western air support as in Libya.

There is no point, if you are are unhappy with your domestic regime, in accepting Western aid to overthrow it at the moment, not unless you’ve got a plan to bite the hand that feeds you.  The reason is that the West is no longer exporting prosperity, and hasn’t been for some time.  Excepting (sort of, very sort of) China, the last countries to get prosperity from the West were a few Eastern European ones; before that, the Asian Tigers.*  Instead the sphere of prosperity based on the West is in contraction, just ask the South of Europe, or Ireland.  (The Chinese sphere is another matter, though they have problems too.)

Even if you win your revolution with foreign aid, a la Libya or the Western Ukraine,  you aren’t going to be offered a good deal: the Ukraine is still going to get shafted by the IMF to the tune of a 50% cut in pensions, a 50% increase in gas prices even before Russian price increases, government austerity and selling off the crown jewels of energy companies and arable land to foreigners.  Libya is a bloody mess: again, however bad Qaddafi was, he was better than the current situation.

There is no real money; no real resources, for prosperity to be spread to new nations by the West and its allies (like Japan).  The new money being created is heavily leveraged debt piled on the back of countries who already can’t pay, money they’d be better off without.

So, don’t play with the West.  Don’t take their money and aid in overthrowing your corrupt government, unless you know exactly what you’re doing and plan to to turn on them and align with someone else.  If you do, your country will be worse off.

Though, perhaps you should take their money.  Personally, I mean.  You can get rich yourself and then escape your country, if you’re a traitor.

Non-traitors, however, shouldn’t touch Western or Saudi money for revolution.

*One might argue that the West has rarely offered prosperity to those it backs in revolution, Latin Americans would certainly agree, but it’s not quite true: the Koreans did, the Poles did, some other East Europeans.  However, now they not only don’t offer prosperity, they offer the prompt austerity and debt driven destruction of your economy.

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How to Create a Viable Ideology

The most important question about any ideology or social structure are: “Does it win?” and “Can it defend itself?”

Hunter-gathering, if the land-capacity isn’t close to carrying capacity, is usually a pretty good way to live. What we see in the archaeological record is that when the land gets close to carrying capacity, there is ton of violence, the number one cause of death of adult males becomes violence. Enough below the carrying capacity and there is very little violence. This is a generalization, there are exceptions, but the data seem to indicate it is generally true.

Hunter-gatherers are, generally speaking, healthier than agriculturalists and pastoralists. They live longer, suffer less from disease, are taller, the women have wider hips and suffer less from childbirth, they have better dentition and so on. The societies, again with some exceptions, are more egalitarian than most agricultural societies (though very early agricultural societies are more egalitarian than late hunter-gatherer societies, again, in general). They also have vastly more free time than agriculturalists.

Basically, being a hunter-gatherer is about as good as it gets for most of human existence. There are some better agricultural societies to live in for brief periods (certain periods of Roman history, say) but they are rare. Industrial society produces better medicine and goods, but we work harder and have vastly more chronic disease even at the same age, and industrial society includes, as its concomitant, things like the widespread rape in the Congo and African poverty–that’s a requirement of our society, it’s not incidental.

But hunter-gatherers lose confrontations with pastoralists and agricultural societies. It’s a great way to live, but more dense societies were better at violence, so hunter-gatherers were forced to the margins.

Whatever your society is like, it has to be able to win confrontations. However your ideology organizes your society, even if that ideology produces a much more enjoyable society in which to live than your competitors, it must be able to persist in either the long or short term against its competitors. Otherwise, you’ve got a problem.

Time-scale matters. An ideology that produces a society that lasts for 150 years of pretty wonderful life then loses to someone better at violence might look pretty damn good to most of us.

An ideology may also have internal contradictions which doom it. The Soviet form of Marxist-Leninism was vastly successful in its early years, something we forget now. During the Great Depression, the USSR was doing far better than most of the rest of the world (except the fascist bits). The USSR is the only country larger than a city state to industrialize using anything but mercantilism. I am aware of no other exceptions.

But the USSR’s control mechanism could not deal with the information problem. It worked gangbusters at first, but then parties formed who were able to control information flow to the central planners, doomed it. Mancur Olson, in his book Power and Prosperity, deals well with both the rise of the USSR and its fall.

Neo-liberalism has amongst its internal contradictions the complete inability to manage climate change. This contradiction comes from its insistence on short term interest and its refusal to deal properly with public goods. To neo-liberalism, the future exists only at the point a market starts discounting that future. Unfortunately for the world, markets suck at recognizing the future beyond a few years out, and by the time a market notices, the key decision points for heading off an undesirable future may well be long past.

(Neo-liberalism also has a pile of other internal contradictions, but this isn’t an article on neo-liberalism, so we’ll pass them by for now.)

Within an ideology are prescriptions for internal vs. external power relations. So a society must be able to win its fights with outside societies running different ideologies, but it also includes prescriptions for how power is divided internally. In the European Middle Ages, most of Europe was ruled by rapacious nobles, but the Swiss Cantons had male suffrage. This was based on the fact that Swiss Pikemen could beat the pants off feudal noble cavalry. But the requirement for Swiss Pikemen was economically prosperous men who could and would fight, not starved peasants. And men who could fight, and had to fight together, insisted on having power.  There is a direct analogy between this and classical Greek Democracy (made up exactly of the fighting population), and the Roman Republican period, where citizenry is divided into three classes, based in part on how they fought (the Equestrian class, above the Plebes, could afford to fight on horseback.)

Power comes in a number of flavors. You have violence. You have productive capacity.  You have consumptive ability. You have social ties. You have ideological production.  The more of each of these any group has, the more power they have. The more power they have, the more of the surplus production of their society (or, in many cases, the non surplus production) they are able to control.  If you want prosperity, you want power spread as evenly throughout your society as possible. You never want complete equality in outcome, because you do want some competition, it helps drive society forward, but right now our problem is the exact opposite: too much concentration of power, too little equality.

Each of those groups, and they will exist, will compete against each other. Different people have different interests. If one group or a coalition of groups gains more  power, they will also gain more of the productive surplus. Part of an ideology’s job is to make it so that, as much as possible, everyone’s interests in society are similar.

John F. Kennedy once said “a rising tide lifts all boats.” People took that as a descriptive statement, but in a society it is not, it is a prescriptive statement: if you want any increases in production to go to everyone, you have to make that happen, and to make it happen you have to believe it should happen. But the step before that is making sure that power is divided relatively evenly through society, so that it does happen. But, again, that is an ideological choice: many people don’t believe that everyone should have relatively equal power.

To have relatively equal power you cannot allow the means of production or violence to be overly concentrated.  Jefferson was making a profoundly practical statement when he warned that banks and standing armies were dangerous to a republic and democracy. Banks allow people to print money, those who print money make money, it gives them a powerful advantage over people who cannot do so. Those who control violence: well, I’m sure I don’t have to make that point.

It is for this reason, for example, that I believe everyone (male or female) should have military training.  It is not an accident that Switzerland, where every male has an assault rifle and military training, has such a high standard of living or voted on whether to have a guaranteed annual income. It is also why I believe in cadre armies and that no large standing armies should exist.  (The solution for money creation is more complicated, and I’ll go into it at a later date.)

If you want a society, then, which is prosperous and egalitarian, with the proceeds of increased production going to everyone and not just a few, you must have an internal structure of power which gives ordinary people quite a bit, makes concentration of power in private hands difficult, makes the government unable to use too much power against its own citizenry while (and this is the important bit) still being able to defend itself externally, and able to resist internal putsches. Egalitarian societies which cannot defend themselves get overwhelmed by hierarchical societies which are better at violence.

This extends to monetary matters. If outsiders with money can buy up your society and upset your internal political and productive relationships because they are more efficient, or just bigger, or have their capital more concentrated, if you will let them buy you up because some part of your society wants to cash out, then whatever internal relationships you have are vulnerable. This has happened to vast swathes of the third world, where Westerners come in and buy out traditional relationships. NAFTA pushed millions of Mexicans off their farms, made Mexico weaker because those people now needed to pay for food (often foreign, and also less nutritious), and made Mexico, objectively, worse off than before NAFTA. But some Mexicans got very rich by selling out.

This is a particular problem for smaller groups trying to create societies within larger societies. If you can be bought out, if some of you want to sell, take the money and run, you are not viable. Quakers and so on have an ideology which doesn’t allow for selling out this way, thus they are viable in the long-term, whatever one thinks of them.

So, an ideology, a belief system, among other things, tells you what is and isn’t legitimate to sell for money. A stable system says you can’t buy key parts of the social structure. In a functioning democracy, anything that comes even close to buying a vote, for example, is verboten. When we moved from late Feudalism to early industrialization, feudal rights were done away with–including the commons. Enclosure of land took away rights from people who had them before and gave those rights to other people. Serfs, for all we sneer at them, had rights. Those rights were taken away. The ex-serfs who flooded into early industrial cities after enclosure lived far worse lives than they had under late feudalism (this is WELL established). They lived shorter, unhealthier lives, worked harder to earn money which left them living in worse circumstances than when they were back on the land.

So when you’re creating a new ideology, or modifying an old one, you have to consider these points: the relation to the means of production, the ability to generate violence in defense or offense and the effectiveness of that violence, the question of whether the system can be capsized by money or if the key parts of the system are off-limits (due to irrational attachment, absolutely it must be irrational) to capsizing through money or equivalents. If you want an egalitarian prosperous society is power objectively divided up so that the masses have the ability defend their share of surplus production? How will those who do get a little extra (and they will always exist) or who control a little extra, try to capsize that system and seize more? What are the protections against what they will try and are those protections based on strong, irrational beliefs and backed up by a willingness to employ violence? (If you aren’t, and they are, you will lose. Period.)

Note, finally, the use of the word irrational. We think of irrationality as bad, but rational decision making leads to betrayal. If someone’s going to offer me more than I can otherwise earn to betray the rest of my people, a lot of folks are going to take that deal unless they have the irrational belief that it’s wrong, and a rational belief that if they do it, those who have an irrational belief in the system will hurt them, or even kill them.

This is ideology. Any ideological system that doesn’t produce people willing to die and kill for it, will lose to an ideology that does. The question is not whether violence is permitted, the question is when it is permitted. Most of us want to live in a peaceful society; I certainly do. But that peace is always and everywhere under-girded by rules about when to commit violence, a willingness to do so and an ability do it well. Societies and ideologies that do not do violence well exist at the sufferance of those who do, and live under the conditions and in the places that those good at violence permit. Generally very bad conditions.

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Baseline Predictions for the Next Sixty Odd Years

Today, I read this article on how the Ocean is dead: How the fish and birds are gone from huge swathes of it. You should read it.

Most people are absolutely lousy system thinkers, they don’t understand break-points: How you get long trends that suddenly break up or down, how self-reinforcing cycles work, and so on.

For some time, my baseline scenario has been as follows: We are so screwed.

We can expect a complete collapse of the ocean’s ability to provide fish. Japan, the worst offender in this, will also be the worst hit. That doesn’t make me happy, but it does make me laugh. This affects the oxygen cycle and, in the worst case, we could kill ourselves off entirely. Assuming we don’t, however…

We are currently seeing a hiatus in climate change. My friend Stirling predicted this years ago, and predicted it would be used simply to double down on stupidity like fracking. And it is being used thusly. If/when the sun warms up, we are fried. Various processes are past the point of no return; we are going to see huge methane releases from Russia, for example. We are going to have worse global warming than the worst mainstream predictions.

Climate change will continue to present itself as more and worse extreme weather events, like the nasty hurricanes we’ve been seeing hitting further and further north. We are going to also see changes in rainfall patterns; these will continue to devastate agriculture.

Aquifers are being drained dry, in ways that permanently damage them. This is happening in China, the US, India, and other places. This water will not come back. Large areas that are currently agriculturally productive will cease to be so, independent of climate change.

We will see huge dust bowls form, including in India, China, and the US.

There will be widespread hunger, because agriculture is going to fail. Period. Right now, hunger is due to distribution issues: We grow more than enough food to feed everyone, we just don’t care about feeding everyone. In twenty to thirty years, this will not be the case. Instead, we will just not have enough food.

Water will be as precious as hydrocarbons, which is, in part, because creating hydrocarbons requires water. Expect much of the world not just to be hungry but thirsty.

All of this is baked into the cake. We are past the decision points on all of these items—they will happen. They can no longer be stopped. Even if you concoct the most optimistic scenarios, we would need to act radically, right now, and we aren’t going to.

Let us now move the social sphere. We are creating an unprecedented panopticon state, one in which various technologies will conspire to make it so that individuals are tracked nearly 24/7, not just online but physically. Linking all the various cameras, RFID tags, aerial drones, satellites, phones that act as spies in our pockets, and so on, with algorithms which recognize our gait, our heat profile, our face, and so on, is a project which is well underway. The NSA may be the best at this, but every major Western government is playing this game, the NSA is merely the worst offender or the best at its execution. Private tracking is likewise ubiquitous: Companies have cameras which link your face to your credit card and purchase as you pay at the cashier, for example. Everything is tied together, and anyone stupid enough to think that these companies don’t share your information is a fool.

The preferred business model today is to make it so that no one owns anything. Everything is unbundled, and instead of owning it, you lease or rent it. The moment you can’t pay, it all goes away.  This is what “cloud” computing is about: a revenue stream. Lose your revenue, lose everything.  Ownership of DNA sequences, ownership of seeds, effective ownership of your intellectual property because it appears in someone else’s pipe (like Google using people’s endorsements without compensating them), you will own nothing, and all surplus value you produce in excess of what you need to (barely) survive will be taken from you.

To put it another way, the current business model is value stripping. All excess value is stripped from the social sphere (as with Google taking almost all of the value that content producers create by taking almost all of the value of ads, and they control almost the entire ad market). People who cannot gain enough of the excess value they create become economic cripples. Because the companies that make almost all the profit today are either financial companies, IP exploitation companies, or are taking value from the environment (like oil companies), there is not enough real economic growth, whatever the GDP numbers show (financial innovation isn’t, and JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs’ profits actually damage the real economy, stripping out value, not creating it).

There is no coherent ideology opposing this, no coherent alternative. Marxism died with the USSR, whether it should have or not. No new alternative to what is laughably called “capitalism” (what we’re seeing now isn’t) has arisen. The closest we have seen is the Pirate Party, but their ideology is too far from comprehensive and has too many holes in it, as they are concerned almost entirely with a set of issues around IP and privacy, which, while important, are not sufficient to create a new society complete with a new, humane, and ecologically sensible mode of production.

So we have runaway asset and value stripping, combined with truly insane damage to the conditions for production of food and energy. And no, photovoltaic solar is not going to save us. Certainly it is better than coal, natural gas, or oil, but most energy use in the world is not electrical, and Solar PV cannot produce the necessary baseline. Thermal solar and improved nuclear power made in breeder reactors are probably necessary for the transition, but the word “nuclear” scares everyone spitless (not without reason), so that’s off the table. And we’re going to burn.

There are always counter-reactions. I expect one when the Millennials come of political age, in the early 2020s. And I expect that the first round will fail, since it will be run by Millenials picked by their elders. The second round may succeed, but at that point we are into the 2030s.

While much of this is unavoidable, the amount of death and suffering is variable. We could lose a few hundred millions over the next eighty years whom we shouldn’t have lost, or we could lose a few billion. We could see billions descend into hunger and poverty, or we could find solutions which avoid most of that.

We will not avoid it if we continue with our current ideology of, simply, Greed. As long as we put ourselves first, as long as we decide that what is good for someone is what they’re entitled to do so long as the courts don’t actually put them in jail (and we don’t even enforce the laws on the book), we are not going to manage this chain of events to come down on the optimistic side of estimates.

We will need to create a whole new ideology, we will need to radically revamp our societies , and we will need to give up much we have cherished. Fortunately, much of what we have cherished has been, objectively, bad for us. People may want to live in suburbia, but it isolates them socially and makes them fat, sick, and unhappy. People may think they want pretty plastic packaging, but it’s why they eventually won’t have fish to eat that aren’t lice infested. People may think they want healthcare, but what they need is to be healthy, and that means healthy food and an environment that isn’t laden with unhealthy chemicals. People may think they want jobs, but what they need, and what they would be happier with, is the ability to produce what they need without working for a pointy-headed boss.

We’re going to run into this wall. Whether we run into it at a hundred miles an hour and go splat or hit it at ten miles an hour and get bruised and pick ourselves up is our choice. So far, our choice has been to run faster, but we can make another choice.

Most people who read this website are middle aged or older. If so, you’ll miss a lot of the worst of this. Your kids won’t. Your job, if you’re old, is ideological: To help create the ideas that are lying on the floor, the ideas that are used when people are desperate. When things change in crisis, they change fast, and the ideas that are used are the ones lying around. If all that’s lying around is neo-liberalism, that’s what will be used. Of course ideology isn’t enough, people can still choose the wrong ideology, the wrong ideas (and often have, don’t tell me otherwise), but if it isn’t there, all they can do is pick up what is there. That’s when you start getting idiots talking about “bending the curve,” as if slow incremental change won’t be overwhelmed by vicious cycles already in play, as if we aren’t already past key decision points, as if we shouldn’t already be in crisis mode and doing not dishwater reforms, but a radical remake of our societies.

We’re going to hit the wall. We’re going to have to fight a dystopic panopticon police state in which ordinary people are not allowed to own anything of real value, let alone keep any of the real value they create. We’re going to do this while the environment comes apart, while we get battered by “extreme weather events,” droughts, water shortages, and hunger.

That’s the baseline scenario. That’s what we have to be ready to deal with, to change as much as we can, to radically mitigate to save hundreds of millions or billions of lives, and to make billions of lives good, instead of meaningless existential hells.

Public opinion is irrelevant

When Occupy started, there were polls that showed the public supported it.  Later, polls showed that support had dropped and a majority no longer supported Occupy.  In the first case progressives were pleased, in the second upset.

I didn’t care either time.  Repeat after me:

Public opinion does not matter.

It is irrelevant.  A large majority of the population wanted a public option added to the healthcare bill.  A small majority wanted single payor.  Calls against TARP were running 100:1 to 1200:1 against.  There is no public option, there is no single payer, and TARP passed.

In Europe every government other than Iceland has been sure to never allow a referendum on austerity.  Members of the Euro-zone like Spain and Greece and Italy have not had referendums on whether to leave the Euro.  They have had elections in some cases, but both major parties are FOR austerity (it’s not clear that citizens entirely understand this, watching Spaniards talking about how they had voted against austerity in the recent election was pathetic.  They elected a government which will go even more hardcore on austerity.)

Most countries in the developed world do not have functioning democracies in any meaningful sense.  You can vote for party A, B, or C, but they will all do substantially the same things, differing only in how fast they do them and the degree of gratuitous cruelty they engage in.

Your opinion does not matter.  Politicians are almost entirely in the thrall of a neo-liberal ideology, and are almost entirely the bought and paid servants of the very rich.  If a politician does what the oligarchy wants, he or she will be taken care of, even if thrown out of office.  If they don’t, money and influence will be used against them, and once out of office they will be on their own.

Politicians do not work for you.  Neither, just to be clear, do the police.  Nothing is more pathetic than watching folks at Occupy who seem to genuinely believe the cops are on their side.

Our elites will do what they will do regardless of what public opinion is.

What matters is not “opinion”, but action.  So with regards to Occupy, all I cared about is how many people were being radicalized—whether a cadre was being formed; and how much of the population supported them in real terms.  People who would donate goods, would donate money, would spread the message actively, would go down during the day.

What I care about in general, is how many people are willing to impose costs on the oligarchy.  These can be financial costs (as when French protestors occupied a refinery), or they can be personal costs, such as heckling politicians and the rich, slashing the tires of their cars (the Argentines did that, by the way) or, if rioting, rioting where they live and work.

Understand, the true rich live in the bubble.  They fly on private jets, they travel by helicopter, if they stay in hotels they cost tens of thousands of dollars a night and have private entrances, check-ins, elevators and so on that you as a peon never see or use unless you are part of their direct servant class.  Being in the bubble means never having to deal with a human being who isn’t directly financially dependent.  These people do not care what you ‘think’, they only care if you can damage their interests.

Politicians live less in the bubble.  You can reach them, and let them know what you think.  Loudly and insistently.  At their homes.  Their restaurants.  Their fund raisers.  Everywhere they go.  Don’t “occupy Wall Street”.  Occupy Bloomberg.  Go everywhere he goes, and make his life living hell.  That’s a cost to him.

Until politicians fear you more than they fear the rich and covet the favors and money of the rich, they will continue to serve the rich first.  Their salaries are not that important to them, they do not work for you, and they don’t fear you enough.

But that won’t change because of “opinion”.  Opinions don’t matter in aristocracies or oligarchies, and that’s what we are creating, what we’re heading towards.  What matters isn’t what the public thinks, what matters is what the public does which has a tangible, real, cost to politicians or their masters.

So I no longer care about polls in almost all cases.  They don’t matter.  Likewise most elections: elect whoever you want, the policies will remain the same except on the margins as long as the politicians don’t work for you, but for the rich.

Your “opinion” is irrelevant.  The powerful do not care what you think.

Revolution Basics #1: Who cares what you think?

Once upon a time, a man informed George Bush Jr. that he didn’t like the President’s policies.  Bush then said “who cares what you think?”

Bloomberg and Wall Street may not like Occupy Wall Street, but they aren’t going to negotiate in any meaningful sense.

Why should they?

What are the consequences, for them, of not cooperating?  They have to see some noisy people.  Does it appreciably reduce their income?  No.  The men or women they get to sleep with?  No.  The amount of power they have over DC? No.  Their actual physical safety, or the safety of those they care about?  No.

For Occupy to be successful, on its own terms, will require shutting down Wall Street and probably all of NYC.  There must be so many people on the street that it is impossible to arrest them all or to get rid of them without resorting to a lot more than a whiff of grapeshot.  The elites must be be faced with a decision tree “negotiate or lose a ton of money and be massively inconvenienced or shoot hundreds of thousands of people and build mass detention camps.”  That will require two or three million people occupying New York City.

Remember, modern elites are trained to think in terms of cost-benefit analyses.  If the cost to them of not giving in is less than the cost of not giving in, they won’t give in.  It took trillions of dollars to bail out Wall Street.  They take home billions of dollars in personal bonuses.  You must cost them, personally, more than that, for them to want to give in.

If you want politicians to take out Wall Street for you, it has to be worth their while.  Either the Koch Brothers have to pay them to take out one part of the elite on behalf of another part of the elite, or they have to know that not only will they lose their positions if they don’t do it (remember, the Soviet Politburo had more turnover than the Senate does) but that they will never have a good job afterwards, that whatever monied interests they have served either will not be able to give them a good life afterwards, or they will be unable to enjoy that good life.

You want a velvet revolution?  A revolution in which you never so much as throw a punch?  You’re still going to have to make the elites decide to give you what you want, or you will have to have the unilateral power to remove those elites and replace them with your own leaders.

Rephrase Bush’s “who cares what you think?’ as “Why should I care what you think?”

Don’t bother trying to appeal to shared morality, ethics or fellow feeling.  These people were selected because they are functional sociopaths.  They do not care about your suffering.  Their ideology labels you as worthless eaters and them as the only truly productive people in society.  Everything they have is because they earned it, and everything you have is because you sponged off your betters.  That is what they believe.

They will not give you what you want, whatever that is, unless they either have no choice, or you make it rationally their best choice (and then they’ll screw you on the reverse side, everything they give you they will take away again, which is what you get for thinking you can cut a deal with such people).

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