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Alyssa Battistoni is a PhD candidate in political science at Yale University and an editor at Jacobin magazine.
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Too Long; Who Will Read:
We sit in a metaphorical theater
compelled by circumstance and the will of our "betters" to watch the sh*tshow they perform.
There are exits from the pit, lit with the fading candlelight of past ideals.
Most of those are "False Gates":
multifarious Religions and other addictions of various kinds.
The true exit lies within
and among us;
but who believes we can turn from the squalid play that is meant to distract us?
Who believes that we can educate ourselves,
discuss our ideas and differences,
reach some consensus about the future?
If we did, could we organize and collectively bring down the walls that surround and imprison us?
Could we turn from the Spectacle and live in the world again, authentically?
Could we drive the 1% from power, absorb them and become them,
and live our Daily Lives as free people,
encumbered only by our assembled and creative Will?
Is there any hope of this?

As long as I can still say it,
and imagine it,
there is a sliver of hope.

BUT every person who exits by a false gate comes back to the theater sooner or later
diminishing that sliver of hope by a bit.
I read the work of thoughtful, knowledgable people and
then I express my opinions and write my novels and stories;
and I hope.

A Fool's hope, perhaps, but it is still there.
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So, I was awake for most of the night on Election Day, but not for the reasons that many of my friends were. I spent a long time staring at the walls and ceiling trying to figure out: “Why am I so blasé about this disaster?”

That’s right: I felt so disgusted at the choices people had made when filling out their ballots that the next day I posted a rather insulting status to several sites. But what was really on my mind was wondering why I wasn’t in worse shape.

Wednesday night my friends Paul and Julie and Tony invited their friends list to come to our local pub and ‘co-miserate’ (their sp) with one another and a stiff drink. I thought it over and decided to attend. They three, and me, and after a bit, Sue and Steen, showed up and had some booze.

And after listening to the expected disappointment and rage and despair etcetera, I asked politely if anyone would be offended if I gave my own (different) take on the events. Those present assured me it would all be well, so I held forth.

In the process, I found my own way to making sense of the weird way I act around election time.

Here it is, highly elaborated from what I actually said that night:

Read more )


Nov. 9th, 2016 08:11 am
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By all the gods above and below, what a bunch of redneck morons.

(If that shoe doesn't actually fit you personally, just don't even try to put it on. You ALL know who I'm really talking about.)


Say goodbye to your Social Security. I hope for your sakes you got a bunch of money saved up for rent and food and medicine in your retirements, cuz Medicare and Medicaid are on the block as well.

Say goodbye to your VA benefits, too. The last time the Rs had full control they cut the sh*t outta that while illegally invading two countries.

But hey, at least your personal firearms are safe for another few years.

Sh*t. See ya, I guess.
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What is the difference between "Obedient" and "Cooperative"?

Into which category do you usually fall?


—Bureau of Nosy Statistics
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Well I'm winding up for a Sam Bond's night, right now.

I made what I think is invisible progress on both books today. (Translation: it's all still in my head.) However, I'm beginning to get antsy for the next Big Moment, which is either an entire chapter for one book (or both) OR that moment when the arc of one story becomes Clear To Me and I suddenly type all the Chapter Titles and add the summaries of each and then the Book is done except for the actual writing.

Ideas about the essay: "Some Thoughts on Utopia" also have intruded. I hope that continues, I'd like to see that written all the way through to the end.

At any rate, I hope to see you all there, every last one of you. Rumor has it that a face from the past will appear.

Gotta go. See ya!
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I had this idea. I’m gonna write it down, and maybe publish/post it, just so I can say I did it. So I can know that at least I tried.

Get some big boxes and crates. They should be the kind that the military uses to drop ammo and stuff into war zones. Don’t put ammo into the boxes and crates.

Put into the crates: food and drinks and clothes; medicine and small helpful machines (like pedal powered lathes and sewing machines and drill presses and the like); those cook-stoves made by Stove-tec, or butane cookers for areas w/out firewood; cell phones, with batteries, and solar and pedal-powered charging devices; seeds, and tools for farming; and other needful or useful things.

You can think of things I didn’t, I’m sure.

Then, in all the places where the US Government thinks they are making things better by bombing the shit out of “bad guys” (“evildoers?”) airdrop these crates and boxes instead.

Here are a couple of important points:

First, drop a lot of boxes. Drop so many boxes, with so much stuff, that it becomes worthless except for its ‘use-value’. That way, the various government, proto-government, pseudo-government, and bandit organizations will not be able to steal the goods and sell/profit from them.

Next, make sure there are no identifying labels on the boxes, or on the planes and choppers that deliver them. An act of charity that one claims and profits from is not pure. Tricky stuff, like the Peace Corps and USAID? That stuff has to be right out. NO STRINGS ATTACHED!

People like me call that ‘the economy of the gift.’ The only reciprocity we should expect is non-specific. (‘Non-specific reciprocity’ is also a thing. It’s the real answer to that stupid question from Econ 101. You know the one I’m talking about…)

(Yes, of course the people on the ground in these various regions will know it was the US gov’t (or people from the USA) that did the deed. That’s part of the point, after all. But we should learn from the nobility of the European Middle Ages something about noblesse oblige, and not braggin’ on ourselves all the damn time.)

This could be done for a small fraction of the cost of a small number of bombs and war machines. Dropping such needful and helpful things upon the killing fields will do more to undermine the power of the elites in places like Saudi Arabia and Iraq and Syria and Egypt than all the ‘targeted killings’ in our History have ever done.

It wouldn’t be hard to get the stuff, either. After all, the world is in a “permanent crisis of Overproduction” as the old ICC pointed out. Anything we need or want, we can produce in quantities far beyond what anyone would (or could) purchase. Factories and mills all over the States sit idle because no one can find a way to sell their output.

Call me what names you will: hippie, commie, socialist, peacenik, idealist, utopian. I don’t even care anymore. (for the record: an Anarchist-Syndicalist with a strong influence from the Situationists.)

The gov’t can even keep all of the war machine shit, let it sit there quiet and cool. Just in case, y’know.

But I bet my plan would work way better.
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I am working (once again) on “MEDUSA: a Tale Of Vengeance”.

Possibly, I should have taken a longer break after the nightmare of format-foo that SALTARAE turned into at the end. But, I found myself with the energy so I re-wrote parts of the Prologue, and a bit near the end…and wrote the actual ending of the story, to my satisfaction.

Okay, some background: I started this book shortly after publishing my first novel (LEONTARI: a Polemic Romance) in early August of 2010. I thought it was Book Two of my Alternate History series set in the 13th Century of the Christian Hypothesis.

AS it turned out, I was wrong. One of the major characters in MEDUSA is a 15-year-old named Selos, son of Xenos and Marisi. About halfway through the book I began to wonder: “Given that he survived the sack of his hometown when he was eight and he’s the son of two high-achievers, and that ‘kids’ in the Commonwealth are way mature by our standards due to their superior upbringing…even given all of that, this guy is a badass. How’d he get that way?”

One day I wrote an outline. Then I was working on “VIASMAE: an Intrigue” which is ACTUALLY Book Two in that series. For a while I worked on both books, but that got harder and harder to do, and I put MEDUSA ‘on the back burner and finished VIASMAE. That book I published in early 2013, final edition in May of that year. Whew.

I went back to work on MEDUSA, and by January of 2014 I was feeling pretty good about it: maybe 90% finished.

HOWever: Shortly after the second book went live, Chris Watts asked an innocent question: “What would people from that Timeline be like in a time parallel to ours?” It implied a question about what would such a culture be like after 800+ years without Church or State. How much faster would they have advanced technologically? (A lot faster, as it turned out.)

So thoughts about that were swirling around in my brain when Erika Milo said something about how hard it would be to write a description of the Oregon Country Fair, especially at night, that wouldn’t seem utterly unbelievable. Then I remembered talking to Marleda Jones about how if aliens or time travelers *were* using the Fair as a crossing point, no one would ever notice. Which meant that all that mixed together in the salad spinner of my mind, and out popped the idea for SALTARAE: an Adventure Across Timelines.

It turned out that I had to write that (and serialize it) and then publish it, before I could finish MEDUSA.

NOW, however, I AM gonna finish it, and before I write even ONE WORD of the Sequel to SALTARAE!

So there.

Now I’m gonna post this, and then go to Sam Bond’s Garage for some booze. I hope to see you all there: every damn one of you!

Gotta go. See ya!
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Arrenji leaned back in the chair, until she looked precariously close to tipping over. She smiled, her dreadlocks bouncing a little as she nodded in time to the music drifting in from the street in front of the pub.

“I like this music,” she said: “Regay, you called it, right?”

“Reggae,” he said, then spelled it: “That’s funny,” he added.

“What is?”

He gestured: “Your hairstyle, the slight accent that you still have, the graceful way you move: people assume you are from Jamaica. That’s where reggae comes from, originally.”

“Ah,” she said: “That is amusing, isn’t it? I knew about Jamaica and the dreads even before I met you, from studying the US Imperial Lines. I hadn’t heard any of the music, though.”


“But it’s really the lyrics that I admire. Listen to her plea for community; the first thing Commonwealthers notice when we visit US Imperial Lines is the lack of true community among your people.”

“Tell me about it,” he said, in an ironic tone.

She ignored the irony: “Sure. The money economy is what fosters it, of course. All of your interactions, even gifts and conversation, become infused with the spirit of exchange. This for that, tit for tat. Mine and yours, I owe you. You owe me. You pass someone in the street, and because she owes you naught, she exists only as a face passing by. She…and you…both adopt an expression of neutrality, showing no emotion: she cannot ‘afford’ to show respect for your apparent age; you may not even hint at an appreciation of her youth and beauty. This is not one encounter in the course of a day, but hundreds, thousands. Then you see a friend, and for a moment the spell is broken and love fills the void between. But your respite is brief: your affairs call you on. One by one the people you must ignore pass you by, each one placing a weight upon you: a gram of unresolved and unrealized debt. The alienation each of you feels from the others turns inward…and outward, slowly crushing your spirits and driving your humiliation in the face of the System. One man snaps and shoots up a stoa…a shopping mall; a child cries herself to sleep because of bullies in her Skolo, a boy twists a rope around his arm and shoots the drug into himself, secretly hoping to wake not at all, to escape the blank faces all around him.

“Here in this Line, even in best of times, even at a festival like this…” She looked at him quizzically.

“Benham Avenue Block Party,” he supplied.

“Yes, that,” she said, nodding. “Even here, while the neighborhood pulses with the sound of song, and dancing people fill the alleys and yards, and that singer cries out for love and understanding, lamenting the fate that holds her separate from her sisters and brothers, still the instruments of exchange rule, driving your interactions with others.”

“I know that. I’ve railed against it most of my adult life.” He grinned: “You talk like Vaneigem, you know.”

She closed her eyes, seeking the knowledge imparted by RNA induction: “Yes,” she said. “Yes, I do. Most Commonwealthers would, you know.”

He grinned: “I do know.”


They sat unspeaking, nearly immobile, while the broken rhythm of drums and bass pounded at their ears. He could feel the bass vibrating in his ribs; the singer began again, one love, candles in the darkness, I and I.

He got up and went to the bar, where he got Arrenji another beer, and himself a shot of Jameson’s. He pushed the cash across the bar until the woman’s fingers touched it: he thought of Vaneigem’s story, the waiter, so long ago in Paris.

“Thank you,” he said, deliberately, smiling. He caught her eye, nodded; he tried to break the spell, to cross the void between them, to make the money disappear for a moment.

She looked into his eyes: “You’re welcome,” she said. She searched his gaze for flirtation or other hidden motives, and didn’t find it. He smiled again, and she returned the expression. “You’re welcome,” she repeated.

“One love,” the singer cried: “Let’s get together and be all right…”

I’ve been reading The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord and The Revolution of Everyday Life by Raoul Vaneigem. In case you didn’t notice.

AND I’ll be at Sam Bond’s tonight, 4th of July or not.

Gotta go. See ya.
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What if the biggest debate in global society was between Egalitarians and Meritocrats?

Instead of what we have: long and winding non-sequiturs and ad hominem attacks from various factions of the ruling class and their paid (and unpaid) dupes. Attacks upon each other—but also, very vicious attacks upon those who try to pull the curtain aside and reveal the little men who pull the levers.

If we could shake off the baleful influence of Church and State, take control of the media, and speak directly to one another, could we settle on a balance between the birthright of every human being and the rewards due to those who do more? Or might we reach an 'unsettled balance', such that variations in time and place might occur, but the principle was clear and strong?

I think that we could do this, that we *can* do it. Will we? Or are we extinct, and don't know it yet? This is what I write about, (mostly) in fiction.

(Arrenji sits in the back of my mind, laughing. She shakes her head. Her dreadlocks, fine as worsted yarn, slide across her shoulders. "Get it together, people, or it will be too late. All too soon, it will be too late...")

The Situationists began (about 1954) with conversations in cafes and pubs. In 1968 they nearly (so nearly!) *changed the world*.

I'll be at Sam Bond's Garage tonight. 6-ish.

Gotta go. See ya!
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I posted this elsewhere, in response to blather. I'm reposting it here because why not.

OPINION ALERT. The emerging global ruling class is polluting and heating the planet into an uninhabitable swamp, for the sake of their (short-term) profit and standard of living. Even those profits are mostly expressed as dots and dashes in mainframe computers around the world: their money doesn't exist, it's an illusion, a scam. Dissatisfied with the current absurd level of inequality, unfazed by the likely outcome of their course (the extinction of this planet's population of the human species) they continue to extract wealth from both the planet and the poorest people on it. How does arguing about the details of election law in a corrupt system serve anything other than the interests of our rulers?
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I’ve seen this meme. I will participate:

1. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
2. The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord
3. LOTR (of course)
4. Jurgen by James Branch Cabell
5. The Gormenghast series by Mervyn Peake
6. Mutual Aid by Peter Kropotkin
7. On the Poverty of Student Life by the Situationist International
8. The Chanur series by C.J. Cherryh
9. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
10. Serpent’s Reach by C.J. Cherryh
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One of the ‘minor’ characters in my latest project has me wondering: when you see (or interact with) a ‘party girl’ (boy?), do you automatically assume that she (he) is less than you?
This is what I’ve noticed:
She has a drug of choice, which she enjoys a lot. Sometimes (often?) she overindulges.
She is more emotional than intellectual: feeling, laughing, crying, pouting. It’s all ‘on her sleeve’ and in your face.
She is sexually aggressive: she knows what she likes and by her mid-20s she will take emotional risks in order to get it.
If she has a ‘real job’ (most of her cohort do), it is not her real life. She works for that party: then she can stay up late, use her favorite drug(s), persevere until she obtains the sexual (sensual?), and emotional gratification that she really desires, or until she knows that such gratification is out of her reach for the night. Then she will sleep in, and do it all again.
Is she a lesser person than me? Than you? Why?
As I struggle to understand the world and write about it, looking in the odd corners of history for moments of clarity, I wonder: “Why Bother?” If, as I fear, there really is no hope for the human species, & we really are going to extinct ourselves, then how is my ‘struggle to comprehend’ any more than an indulgence? If it is something I am doing because the process attracts me, how is that different from her desire to party?
AND suppose she actually once said to herself: “This is ridiculous. The system is rigged. We’re killing the planet and ourselves. Nobody is listening to me. I’m gonna get high, and get laid, and sleep in. Screw the rest of it.” Is that analysis less sophisticated than mine? Or yours?
OR is it just more elegant? “Efficient,” says hrothgar1.
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Tonight at Sam Bond's I wound up in a long conversation with a woman who is part of Community Village at the Country Fair. She tried to get several different people to advise her about internal politics in the Village. Every one else was like: "back away from the politics". How weird is it that after listening to her for 45 minutes and making some (rejected for good reasons) suggestions, I suddenly saw through the situation clearly? The whole argument is not about consensus, but about who is the executive. Apparently committees and councils have been taking decisions that could and should have gone to the assembly. I was able to apply anarchist theory and use historical examples and blah blah blah. Maybe she can use that to become more effective in advocating for her positions.

Moreover, since I am now writing a story that takes place at least in part at the Fair, I have a potentially interesting conversation to put into Mr. Rothakis' experience. Woo hoo.
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I keep hoping to have a moment of clarity, where I could write down one short, pithy sentence that would cut through the BS and make my thoughts clear to all. I'm not getting there, and I guess I won't. The situation is too complex for sound bites. Suffice it to say, I don't agree with any side of the debate. "They will never agree, for they argue from different premises". And, sadly, I believe they all argue from false premises. No amount of logic will save your house of cards if one of the cards on the bottom is bent. And ALL of the ‘cards’ at the base of our society, the foundations of our politics, economics and culture, are so warped by madness and untruths, that I fear for the future of our species. (I'm not talking about America here, but about Humanity.) Clackamas, Connecticut, Vegas; and Iraq, Afghanistan, China, Mali: these are the Symptoms, not the Disease. It was the Situationists who pointed out that no one can, by any means, create the revolutionary situation. Instead you must think, study, practice, and await the moment. Is there any small chance that that Humanity will complete its evolution towards clarity before our Rulers destroy the planet's ecosystem and all of us with it? Perhaps a very small chance. If so, then what is to be done?
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I didn't add much this time, I'm pressed for time. The new bit is in the third paragraph, isolated and in brackets.


Part I- An Introduction; Some Definitions

First of all, the following essay is chock-full of opinions, that is, unsupported assertions. Some of them (most of them?) I could support with citations, and perhaps in future versions of this essay I will do so. Right now, I’m doing a first draft, and sharing it with some of my friends.
When I mention historic events, such as the Paris Commune, I am interpreting those events from an anarchist-syndicalist perspective. ‘Utopias’ that begin with non-anarchist premises, such as philosopher kings or a technocratic ruling class, I will dismiss as non-utopian. If that troubles you unduly, you should read some other essay.

[AT SOME POINT in this essay, I need to write about how and why money economies are irrational. For now, I will state that I’ve never researched any part of history where money economies did not constantly and consistently move resources or the access to resources from the Whole to a small class of people at the ‘top’ of the social scale _who no longer needed more resources_, which is (I hope you see), a *fundamental* irrationality.]

In this essay, when I speak of “the System”, I mean to indicate the economic, political and cultural complexes that control our lives, whether through limiting access to resources, via outright regulation, or by Spectacle and censorship.
Now before I go any further, I suppose I need this disclaimer: when I say that the whole world is now run by crony Capitalism and Stalinist bureaucracies, I mean the Whole World. And I don’t mean that some places have one and others another of those Crimes Against Humanity, but that every nation on the planet has both, to one degree or another. Everywhere I look, I see Stalinist-style bureaucrats ‘regulating’ incestuous profiteers or the profiteers buying off the bureaucrats.

The System we live under is fucked up in a lot of depressing ways, but trying to enumerate them all is a waste of time. In a nutshell, though (or in a nutcase, if you’ll have it that way): we are suffering from our politics, our economy, and our culture. Together, these three constructs* are destroying the ecosystems on which we and all other living things depend. To save ourselves and advance the cause of human freedom and, indeed, the survival of the species, we need to advance on these three fronts simultaneously. I was going to write that ‘it goes without saying’ that these three problems are deeply intertwined, making it necessary to advance upon all these fronts together.

*We humans constructed our politics, economy and culture. Politics is the only part that we have even begun to see as a construct, that is, as something we can consciously alter. Think: "the right of the people to alter or abolish", applied to an economy or a culture.

Past suggestions for utopian societies have usually been too limited. That is, one or the other of the three problems mentioned above is seen as paramount. Also they have been too narrow: early risers think everyone should be up at the crack of dawn, philosophers think the world should be run by philosophers, jealous spouses... well, you get the idea. And yes, Ursula Le Guin and William Morris have done better on those particulars.
I ask myself what would constitute a Utopia in my opinion. So far this is what I’ve come up with:
The basic anarchist/syndicalist/situationist project is ‘generalized self-management in a moneyless economy’. As a minimum program this still strikes me as usable. The idea that those working on a project have the best chance of completing it if they control it themselves seems to me obvious. (Of course, if your project is going to do harm to other people, those other people will have something to say about it.)
The fact that I felt like I had to put that last sentence in tells you how truly absurd the System is.
So anyway, here goes:
I. Politically I think we can’t do much better than the old French revolutionary slogan: “Liberty, equality, fraternity”. I know we need a better, more inclusive word for ‘fraternity’. I also realize that I am writing this in a country where we have a modicum of liberty. I can write and even publish something like this and not get gitmoed for it.. Yet. But equality, even just equality before the law, is a bad joke in America, and I would say we haven’t ever really gotten started on fraternity.

***Fortunately, or inevitably, depending on how you view History, an organizational form has already emerged which can be adapted to the administration of a truly free politics. Called the ‘Assembly-Council-Committee’ system, its advocates have carried it into many anti-establishment movements in recent years. The ‘councilists’ or ‘assembyists’ as they call themselves, have done a fine job so far of explaining (in theory) what they envision, and have made progress in practice in a number of different places, and within various organizational settings. For now, suffice it to say that the Assembly is also the executive; no power inheres in Council or Committee; and members of the Council or the Committees can be removed, individually or all at once, at any time, by the Assembly.
The details of how such a politics would function, I leave to my readers to imagine or research. But if every neighborhood has an intentional character, with such an assembly for solving problems, and every workplace, every school, every city and village, every institution whatsoever also have such, then they can federate regionally and ecosystem-wide, or even globally for the solution of the few really global problems that exist.
This organizational form, Assemblyism, is not something that sprang from the fervid imaginations of anarchist cranks, but is rather seen in its early form in every rising of the people since it first appeared in the mid-nineteenth century. More precisely, in 1871 in Paris, during the time of the Paris Commune, the people of that city took significant steps forward; and even so biased a source as Wikipedia cannot hide the inspiring nature of the various actions that the people there took in support of one another in a time of great stress.***

II. Economically we need to emphasize such production as will fill human needs first, and then seek to fulfill our desires. We may indeed never obliterate greed from our hearts individually, but we can at least not encourage it collectively (more on this under ‘Culturally’ below). We also need equity, which is not the same as equality; which is to say: only once everyone’s real needs (food, drink, housing, clothing) are fulfilled do we individually or collectively seek to fulfill our desires, and never in such a way as to deny others the opportunity to do the same. And finally, I think that economically speaking we need a good way to estimate Status, by which I mean the esteem or lack thereof in which others hold a person. I think Geoffrey de Charnay’s slogan, “whoever does more is better, whoever does the most is best” at least gives us a clue there. The key, I think, is to reward effort with regard, with reputation, rather than with unequal access to resources. And the increase in one person’s Status must not lower someone else’s. Status should not be seen as a zero-sum game.

III. Culturally, in my Opinion, no society could be a Utopia that did not emphasize, in it’s cultural institutions, (including most crucially the educational system): Logic, Emotional honesty, and Empirical evidence in the service of individual choice. And no society could approach Utopian status if the use of these virtues led any large number of people to feel Greed or Jealousy of the attainments of others.

***Another requirement of such a culture is that it be mostly at peace, within and without. Many theorists have questioned whether such a culture could even exist without being global in it’s reach; not necessarily identical worldwide, but with at least the vast majority of the populations of the sundry regions of the planet committed to the basics of the project. A fistfight, or even a more serious duel, would not perhaps be a threat to the Whole. More general violence would be, and some means to alleviate the threat of that would be in order. I trust that people, given the advantages of real freedom, from want as well as from coercion, will find a way forward that does not involve war. It is want, poverty, lack of security, or the fear of these things that inspires Greed and leads one group of people to attack another, hoping (mostly in vain) to wrest these things from them. Only when the world is free of want can it be free from coercion and the waste of large-scale warfare.***

***A culture that expects some level of effort from all people and rewards extra effort in non-material ways, embedded in an economy where everyone’s basic needs are the first priority of the whole people and within a politics based on real equality, and where decisions are made, as a matter of principle, at the most local level possible, seems to me to be as close to the idea of Utopia as humans are likely to conceive, at least at first. What people would be like who would be born into and raised within such a culture, economy and political system is probably beyond our limited capacity to imagine. Surely they would at least regard us as profoundly insane; and before we could incite and carry out a revolution to establish such a society, we would have to first imagine it, not just a few of us, but ALL, (or nearly all) of us. Then we would have to learn to live in it. I expect it would be a tumultuous time, with plenty of disagreements, and lots of errors and starting-over moments. The details of ‘anarchist’ organizational principles I leave to you to imagine or research. (Opinions and proposals on such matters are not very hard to find, especially in the modern world. A few keystrokes and you are at an article about the Paris Commune. I invite you, then, to follow the links and learn.)***


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