Well, the inter-dimensional magic is at play, again, so we’ve got a Mystery Episode. I dunno what’s in it, and i dunno what the questions are. But I’m sure it’s good…. well… you know… for us. Enjoy!
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Doctor Who theme whistled by Tony sounds like it’s being played on a saw.
I think you guys are the best podcast about people who pull questions out of a hat and answer them.
Holy SMOKES you guys are DARK today.
All excellent points Bloodsparrow. I, for one, am tickled by the fact that Tony answered my one question right away, with an answer deemed perfect by both Tony and William, yet, triggered a conversation that lasted the entire episode.
Alternate universes explained:
Forced to make the AU podcast? I thought you guys got paid $10?
Perhaps The Magical Talking Hat’s actual magical power is to link all the multiverses together? And so when questions are drawn from The Magical Talking Hat they could theoretically get pulled from another universe?
Jet Li’s The One: That was a horrible remake of Highlander.
Gravy flavored frosting: Mmmmmmmm.
Evil William is eeeeeeeevil.
Willing/Able: If you’re willing to do something but you know as fact that you can’t do it; then you have to decide if the journey to try to do it is worth it even if you never reach the goal.
Tony/Unicorn: Impossible? Bah, he could wear a costume or get surgery to resculpt his face into a horse head with a horn on it.
Sociological argument stuff: I’ve listened to this bit of the podcast multiple times and I keep getting distracted each time without writing down any notes or comments. So I guess I’m just going to say: people suck, individuals may or may not suck. 🙂
The Quit/Give Up line was supposed to have this Youtube video embedded after it. Guess I don’t have enough permissions to do something like that (or I grabbed the wrong bit of embed code).
Lots to say in a short time so a somewhat abbreviated response:
I think the relationships William names are a basis for analyzing the problem (why is a bullying relationship so prevalent in our [U.S.] culture), but I think it’s too simple to say we have a tyrannically based culture and that it’s because of our size. And I’m not sure he was saying the corollary was that small groups do not have this problem–but if it is, I’d dispute that.
First, on the question of other cultures/civilizations that are not tyrannically based: the Seneca (before European contact). http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF00287408#page-1
Or look at Iceland today. And this is not to say that there are no tyrannical relationships in either of those, or that they don’t show up in their politics or that they are/were completely peaceful.
Which I think is part of my problem with the way the analysis went–it seemed too single-caused and single-effect. Big population–>>tyrannical relationships. So with the U.S. for instance, I’m not certain about how we came to be who we are, but I think it has to do with things like certain economic systems which tend to make tyrannical relationships emerge, certain religious systems ditto, etc. And I think all the relationship types (including solidary) are still there and still at play so I don’t see the outcome as so absolutely determined (social apocalypse).
What is it that interferes with empathy–I agree with Tony that it is often how we have been raised. But to me one of the biggest things that interferes with empathy is a system which defines the other person as not human, not enough like me to feel empathy. And I see that occurring very often as the result of tribalism. So one could counter that this is tribalism within a larger tyrannical society, but if you go back in time you still find this tribalism at work. If you know of or have ever read “Njal’s Saga” for instance–it tells the story (from about the 900s AD) of a cycle of blood vengeance between families that leads to the establishment of the legal system. So in that story, tribalism fuels violence as a means of settling disputes; a larger system comes into play as a means of stopping the blood feud cycle.
On the question of self-knowledge and the ability to change oneself and alleviate suffering–I think both that self-knowledge alone doesn’t lead to change and that it’s really hard to do because we tell ourselves a story about ourselves which begins to dominate what we can and cannot see (maybe explaining what Tony was saying about breadth/depth?). There are things I knew about myself for a long time but couldn’t change without a lot of practice/experience. It’s kind of like doing a physical activity like a sport and someone says–no, you’re doing this wrong–and now you know you are but it takes a lot of repetition and practice before you can actually change. Plus which I think our conscious control of what we do is very far from perfect. And then–kind of like the invisible gorilla story–our dominant narrative keeps us from seeing a lot of things. And so I continually find myself finding out something that I didn’t know, particularly from interaction with others and being able to–albeit in a very limited way–see myself from the point of view of their story and not mine.
Of course, tyrannical relationships have existed since the dawn of man, and they’ll continue to exist everywhere, really. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.
oops, my response to you is below–hadn’t quite got the hang of the interface yet
Right–wasn’t giving the example of tribalism in Njal’s saga as a way to argue that tyrannical relationships have always existed. I was replying to the size-causality claim not a claim about when the relationships occur.
I see a lot of bullying at the moment related to tribalism. And while the internet does help make connections and support diversity, it also has the opposite effect of letting people only talk to those who agree with them and demonize others.
The reason I brought up Njal’s saga is that I thought one reply to tribalism and bullying in U.S. culture would be to say–well it’s tribalism within a larger society, so the large size is still to blame.
And in anticipation of that reply I was pointing to examples of tribalism outside of a larger society–and one of the ones I happen to know of is the feuding family groups chronicled in Njal’s saga. The fact that it’s 900 AD not really important except that it’s probably easier to find tribal groups outside of a larger society by going back in history.
Certainly tribalism has always existed and will always exist. My observation has been, though, that attempts to combat tribalism with larger-scale government at best does nothing to help the problem, and at worst makes the problem worse. The truth is, human beings are tribal. There’s no getting around it. Nothing we do can or even should engineer the tribal character out of human beings. But while tribes are inevitable, tribalism isn’t. However and wherever tribalism (which is just a kind of tyranny) rears its ugly head, whatever strategy we choose to oppose it, establishing some larger-scale “unifying government” doesn’t seem to work. Well, of course, in the short-term, it works for the elites who run that government — it’s often their idea to “unify” all the tribes into “one people” in the first place.
And please understand… I’m not advocating the notion that people are only capable of caring for fellow human beings who belong to their particular tribe. I’m saying that, by logistical and sociological necessity, we organize ourselves and act tribally. There’s no logic that takes this to a place where we think our tribe is better than any other tribe, or where we have no humane concern for humans who live on the other side of the globe. But just as fear can infect an individual and drive him to attempt to establish a tyranny over others, fear can also infect a tribe. And, yes, some very bad things can happen when a tribe succumbs to tribalism. But installing a coercive over-government as a solution is just an attempt to make two wrongs equal a right.
As an anarchist, I never argue that a system that’s fully anarchist won’t have some of the same problems we have now. But the question I ask is, whatever problems an anarchist system has, is a government system better? And when I explore this question, I find that there’s nothing good that government does that anarchy can’t also do, that there are some terrible things that government does that anarchy couldn’t do, and that there are many things that just stay the same. So where’s the benefit in government? Even if I could accept that government doesn’t make things worse, if it doesn’t make things better, then what’s the point of having it?
I guess where I come from is this… no matter how bad people can sometimes be in an anarchy, the burden still falls to statists to prove that their system will be better. And nothing I’ve ever heard from statists makes a compelling case.
Putting it yet another way… I’m willing to bet more people have been killed by wars and other murderous state actions than in all of history’s tribal blood-feuds combined. There’s no way to prove it, I know. But it’s how things seem to work, from what I’ve observed.
Good points all–and I’ll briefly reply at the end here. However, I think I’ve failed so far to get my main point
across. I think I should have concentrated from the beginning on talking about the structure of the discussion
between you and Tony rather than the content so much (though content important too).
What I heard in this part of the podcast (and feel free to correct) was a kind of proof that led to the conclusion
that the only way things can get better for our society is a social apocalypse. The structure of the proof was very
linear and like a lot of linear, single cause-single effect narratives–tragic in outcome. This is probably why I
don’t like tragedies–I want to interrupt and say, but what about alternative X?!
Here’s how it seemed to unfold and some of what my interruptions might have been:
A. William asks why people often will tell someone to give up on a goal–it doesn’t make logical sense. Tony asserts this is from some kind of bullying or competitive tendency that overrides empathy and both come to the conclusion that the cause of this tyrannical relationship is our culture/civilization.
(First, I’m not sure I agree that this tendency is as universal in our present day culture as seemed to be implied. However, I’m only going on personal experience. Next–what might be the cause? I generally agree that it is our culture. However, I’d disagree about what causes this. It seemed like the cause was defined as the fact that our culture/civiliation is large and that all civilizations being large-scale institutions, they will of necessity by tyrannical and will have the effect of discouraging people to follow their goals. To me, what causes people to assert “reality” over a future goal (and this is related to the conversation about geeks, btw) has more to do with changes brought about by the Enlightenment. I bet if you could go back 500-600 years you’d find a somewhat different outlook. So–not to get too tied down in content again–I think the problem with the argument here is that the definition of culture/civilization is too global and the causal relationship too singular.)
B. Civilizations are tyrannical because they are large. There are no civilizations not based on tyranny. Only small tribal groups can escape from being governed by tyranny (though as Will clarified above, they will not necessarily by their smallness do so).
(Again, this seems too global to me. I tried to give some alternative civilization examples (the Seneca in the past,
Iceland in the present)–though I’m sure they have tyrannical elements as well.
But here’s what I think gets missed with global definitions like that–ways in which anarchy emerges outside of a total apocalypse scenario.
Being a bit more specific for example–under monarchy you have a concentration of power and usually extreme violence
in the application of that power. However, because it is so concentrated–a lot of stuff that goes on at the margins can be anarchic. In our present system (which I think struggles between democratic and oligarchic tendencies, with oligarchy a lot in evidence at the moment)–power is at one at the same time held by an elite, but distributed across society in a far-reaching way. The effect on day to day life is more pronounced, though the application is not as severe (generally). So the difference between monarchy and present-day is that we don’t have drawing and quartering
as a way of disciplining behavior, but discipline is much more everywhere rather than on display at the execution block in the
public square. So then the question becomes–how can one use the scope of power in the present day (through various institutions and technologies) so that anarchic elements can emerge?)
c. Apocalypse and Anarchy
(I think I like to focus on the meaning of anarchy as without a leader (an-archon) rather than without governement–for
this reason–hopefully we all to one degree or another have government within ourselves (a way of governing our
actions). Anarchy (I think) promotes a natural government emerging from a group rather than a government imposed from above. I do understand the sociology behind the idea that there’s an upward limit on how large a group can be for
this to happen. However, to conclude that the only way this can happen in the present is an apocalypse which gets rid
of the current system makes a fundamental error–which is to think of power localized as in a monarchy–getting rid of
the leader a necessary step. While I do think we have an oligarchy, I think that oligarchy is subject to systemic
change. And something that is the source of trouble–the pervasiveness of the application of power in our every day
lives–is also the place to look for change, the fact that power is all around us and to varying degrees accessible to
us in ways we can turn it against itself. I’m not saying we call all become CEOs–but that there are means to attack the various systems which result in concentrations of wealth and political power. And perhaps a more minor
point–but if there were an apocalypse (which actually I don’t see signs of)–the small groups of people left would (I
would think) be much more likely to organize around strong/tyrannical leaders. I mean–why would the influence of
patriarchy end with a social apocalypse? I think rather that cultural change will come about through continued
systemic effort. So don’t y’all be telling me to give up on my goals and wait for some cataclysm. K? :))
First, let me just say… there’s a lot of context left out of the conversation Tony and I had in this podcast, stuff we’ve discussed both on and off the air. Out of context, I realize it seems like we’re making some questionable cause-and-effect connections, but… well, there’s much contextual material that makes the interaction not quite so linear to us. For example, I’m certain neither of us intended to suggest “largeness of our society” was to blame for the stated behaviors, even indirectly. I think this point came up more as “just one more of those cultural things” that reinforces the idea in our culture that bullying is a more fundamental human behavior than, say, cooperation. But even this point doesn’t encapsulate the entire problem or how I (or Tony, I suspect) see the entire problem. Certainly, I agree that many of the factors you bring up are also in play.
Also, just as I would assert that tribes are always forming and we never eliminate the tribal from human life, anarchy is always functioning and, indeed, it’s the only reason anything ever gets done in human endeavors, in spite of the tendency of governments and large businesses to take credit for them.
And finally… the truth is, I do think an apocalypse can and will be averted. But I also can’t escape the conclusion that an apocalypse *could* happen, and its probability of happening is high enough for me to sometimes feel a significant amount of anxiety about it.
That said, I do think that many who survive an apocalypse would actually not feel the need to rally behind a tyrant, so… even if there is a catastrophe, I still have hope.
OK, understood 🙂
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