A materialist understanding of inhumanity and archism

So, I think stress is often (always?) the “stuff” that people “take out on” others. Part of this taking out entails all sorts of cruel/imperious behavior: bullying, manipulating, abuse.

And I think pretty much everyone, under capitalism, is stressed out. We all have to never stop worrying about how we’re going to keep eating in the short- and long-term. Even the bourgeoisie and the labor aristocracy face “social death” and a vastly reduced material existence should they hit $0.

Socialism takes away that really fundamental and primordial stressor of capitalistic life: it’s much harder to really, totally relax if in the back of your mind you’re not trying to figure out something about work, which is always ultimately about keeping afloat economically and thus biologically.

So I think a lot of the dominator culture in today’s world would disappear when that huge amount of stress disappears.

And then we can also work on everything else that’s generating counterproductive/pernicious stress.

If you go back and look at our oldest living ancestor, a tiny bit of RNA protoplasm somewhere–something now almost modelable by a computer–all of human society and the infinite diversity in human psychological experience was tremoring in that jelly, that smallest and thinnest of tissue.

Molecules evolve because they take some shape and that shape gives them a unique set of pronenesses to interact with and fit together with or not fit together with all other molecules in specific ways. Their attraction to water on each hinge of their molecular shape changes–each atom has its own unique shape based on electrons. There is always a puzzle to solve, one which enough time will always solve, about how to hook new hinges on enough types of molecules to create a new layer of complexity, a new network of inter-catalyzings.

And these molecules grew in complexity and regularity of larger and larger sets of more-or-less fungible physical structures until it reached the size of the organism.

* * *

And now human beings are, in certain ways, fungible (or at least sufficiently reliably commensurable)–if not quite as fungible as electrons–to something, some geometric fitting ecosystem that is now existing and playing out as an emergent phenomenon upon mass human populations.

* * *

But it is not as though what “emerges” at that level–i.e., societies/classes/memeplex-populations/multitudes and all the layers above those–could have been anything at all, with any kind of form at all. Carbon-based life is written into the most basic laws of the physics of our universe. Evolution is, competition is, sociality is, politics is, economics is, psychology is. That what exists right now would arise in this specific way is written in the dynamics of matter-energy in spacetime in the smallest drop of water, in the smallest superstring or brane or brane-set or whatever.

* * *

If space and time are not units but are infinitely dividable, are smooth–or if quantum smearing makes that so somehow–then there is no “same slot” of space-time. Everything is eternally, from each infinitely-thin moment to the next, smoothly, reliably, infinitely finely different. And this happens such that anything that arises within the universe that is capable of trying to observe how the universe is will never be able to be totally sure about what will happen–and will at all times be forced to rely at least to some degree on their senses.

* * *

This is the one and only time this is going to play out exactly how this is playing out. All experiencings of what you are currently experiencing are taking place exactly where you are. You are in this exact moment all of the beings that will ever experience the exact thing that you are currently experiencing.

* * *

Mind is a property of universes. Or universes are a property or a sub-phenomenon of mind. Regardless, they are the same thing. That nothing/void, Brahman, which even Brahma the Creator sinks into, that is mind or is somehow the same thing as mind. The perfectly quiet mind is not different from Brahman. All posings of puzzles and all responses to them are found or are implicit in the smallest, shortest thought. All scenarios are harbored in the consideration of each scenario. Every other human you encounter is just you who landed in another body with another brain in another family/location and is trying to figure it out just exactly like you would if you were tossed into that brain and body and place. It is the same “person” looking out at the world in each face, and perhaps in each organism and photon.

* * *

We say that humans, geometrically, contain the space-time area where consciousness is “happening” or at least where an amazing phenomenon of consciousness, a self, is happening. And then we also say that the nerve cells, the ones throughout the body but especially those located in the brain, are even more specifically where the self is happening in space-time. But my question now is, can we get even more specific. Is it a certain part or region of the neurons in particular where the self is happening? The sensitive tips waving out the in world eternally ready to devour and respond to each infinitely thin (or whatever the FPS of human consciousness is) moment’s stimulus? Is it the junctions, the “voltage-gated calcium channels“? Or is that naive and it’s actually much stranger and more complicated than that?

Think of the conditions in the gulag and the concentration camp.

Now think of the conditions in the areas where 3 million children under five die every year. Now think of the conditions of the world’s 27 million slaves.

Now think of a high-ranking, competent, charismatic official in the Nazi Party or a wealthy, competent, charismatic businessman in the same regime. Proud, justified—men.

Now think of a high-ranking, competent, charismatic official in the U.S. government or a wealthy, competent, charismatic businessman in the same country. Proud, justified—men.

Think of the relationship between those living in hell on earth and those powerful men. Both necessary parts of the same system.

Just think about how you feel about the Nazis who got rich in their system. That same look is in Republican faces. They’re right. The patriarchical Euro-American capitalist market system is right.

We live in the trap, too, but we as a population are relied on to be sufficiently anti-immigrant and white supremacist as a whole to act as a vast system of informal prison guards who police the imperialist capitalist heartlands as supporters, preservers, and reinforcers of our country’s imperialism.

Racism is a kind of imperialism, only there is no white motherland anymore. Nonetheless white people gather in enclaves and associate selectively only with other white people and thereby continue to think as a white nation.

One might think one will see the pure communist arise in history, someone from the future who will do the exact right, most enlightened and simultaneously strategically flawless, Marx-wise thing at every point. But who is that pure person? The Buddha? Jesus? Lenin? Mao? These all did very different things, but they seem to have pushed the world toward communism.

The exact rightest, most Marx-wise thing for an individual person to do differs a great deal from person to person. One can’t live as a memory–one has to live life as a person, moment to moment in a line of very specific places and times, so to seek to be titled like those are doesn’t make sense. What makes sense is realizing that, as foundational communist theoretician Marx pointed out, the system that exists can only be taken as a whole, and each person’s behavior influences everyone else’s–so one should just be a good presence-seeker and a good communist as best one can determine for oneself. Nothing more is required or even possible.

It’s true that to equalize the per capita wealth of this planet and equalize access to the means of production, the material standards of life for workers in the developed world would fall, at least in certain ways. No more car life. No more cheap consumer goods. There’s really just no getting around that. We are bribed (how, exactly, specifically, I am still trying to figure out), and under global socialism we would have to give up the bribe. Otherwise we will be the capitalists.

So how can you get a working class of whom that is true to nevertheless organize against capitalism?

Well, how do we stand to gain? In meaningfulness of life, work, and politics; in personal liberties; in material security; in freedom from fear, violence, and oppression; in the ability to have realistic hopes for the future; in the flourishing of all other individuals; in conscience in knowing our existence is not contributing to or complicit in someone’s oppression.

For us to be patriotic in any way is to be traitors to earth’s working class.

Is there such a thing as healthy masculinity? What about healthy butchness? Is sex a social construct? Is transness a spectrum? Should we abolish gender or just spectrumify it and dehierarchize it?

I made this post in /r/feminisms, /r/SRSSocialism, and /r/asktransgender.

Hey, you all. I know there can be a lot of tension around these questions and I hope it’s okay that I bring it up.

What I want to ask is not exactly one thing, but I wanted to start a discussion by raising multiple questions. So here’s where I’m coming from in making this post:

About 1.5 years ago, I read in John Stoltenberg’s Refusing to Be a Man and The End of Manhood that sex, in addition to gender, is a social construct. This blew my mind–I realized that even as a feminist I’d been treating women as sort of a different species–a group whose mentality was utterly alien to me.

After that, I started a thought experiment where I would imagine the women I interact with are “actually” men–and sometimes also imagine myself and everyone I’m interacting with as “actually” being women. It’s definitely helped me observe and work on my own sexism to try these out. Before you say anything, I know it’s messed up that I have to think of someone as being a man before my brain accords them certain kinds of respect, but at least it’s less true now as a result of this exercise. Anyway.

I’ve continued studying and thinking about sex and gender since then. I’m a communist, and I want to completely overturn all oppressive systems. I also want to liberate myself from the gender-cop in my own head.

With all that said, I find myself at an impasse. A Facebook page I’m subscribed to turns out to be TERF, and I’ve been reading a few articles they posted that took the TERF position. One of the most striking points one of them made was that all people who appear to be cis women are viewed as capable of being impregnated, and that this means that oppression against them plays out differently than it does against trans women.

Sex may be socially constructed, but the ability to get pregnant obviously is not. So I thought that was a good point. It doesn’t necessarily make trans women not actually women, but it gave me pause.

Then, I recently read this article that argues against TERF from a marxist/proletarian feminist perspective, “Trans People and the Dialectics of Sex and Gender: Against Radical and Liberal Feminism.”

Unfortunately, this article takes an anti-trans man perspective. I did find some of the ideas in it useful, however. Here are some things it claims:

We should thoroughly reject the chauvinist practices of both liberal and radical feminism, and instead adopt a praxis informed by a nuanced, dialectical view of the world.

This means staunchly combating the reactionary subsections of the trans population overtly influenced by gender roles in their decision to transition as this only serves to reinforce gender roles and provide a smaller space in which womanhood or manhood can reside. Radical feminists rightly criticise this to some degree but draw the wrong conclusions, and liberal feminists fail to engage with this at all. We must be very careful in our own criticisms, however, as some people take any trans woman’s display of femininity as automatically illegitimate, as a sign that they’re “faking” or “appropriating” womanhood, or that they’re some sort of drag queen.

This means wholly rejecting the biological-essentialist “brain sex” framework that liberal feminists cosy up to, but radical feminists rightly oppose.

This means wholly rejecting the notions of a hard divide between cis and trans people. It’s both theoretically and experientially unsound. A recent study[2] found that:

  • About 33% of men and 38% of women felt both as a man and as a woman

  • About 30% of men and 45% of women expressed a dislike of their sexed body

  • 41% of men and 46.8% of women experience themselves to some extent as two genders

  • 36.6% of the [non-trans] subjects reported that they sometimes feel like the ‘other’ gender

  • 63.7% reported that they sometimes wish to be the ‘other’ gender

  • 41.9% were sometimes discontent with their sexed body

Wow. Does that mean that transness is a spectrum? That there is no trans/not-trans binary just as there’s no gender binary?

Does this mean that there is some biological underpinning in what makes those individuals whom society currently refers to as “cis” and “trans” feel the specific way they feel? Does this idea threaten to resurrect notions of “brain sex” that should stay dead? Or should we actually believe in brain sex so long as we do it in a non-hierarchical, spectrum-based way?

This article also says,

The only progressive way forward is for men – cis and trans alike – to give up manhood, to abdicate their patriarchal throne. To consciously decide to fight sexism at every opportunity and to disassociate as much as possible from their privileged position, masculinity, and exploitation of women. To strive to undermine their social position at every turn. Progressive men should stop trying to envision a “better” manhood or a “better” masculinity, men hurt themselves, other men, women, and non-men when they assert their masculinity, and they should stop trying to imagine ways to redeem themselves without fundamental change.

I’ve been thinking about this, too. It makes sense to me to get rid of the category of “manhood” or discrete “maleness.” Less clear to me is the idea that we should get rid of “butchness” as one end of a gender spectrum.

I don’t know, hopefully I’ve raised enough questions to let you know where I’m looking at all this from and what sorts of things I’m hoping to understand.

Also, if you couldn’t tell, society has always treated me as a straight white cis male, so I apologize if I’ve said something foolish and hurtful in the process of writing this post.

Communism clearly advances human flourishing, in Marx’s view.

“Karl Marx,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

This is central. We believe that what capitalism began, in its finding a way to produce so many means of production–the construction of material abundance–must now be completed through socialism. That capitalism did create good in some ways / from some perspectives. But that something else has been trying to break through just as bourgeois democratic republics and capitalism broke through monarchy and feudalism. The communist movement is a trans-historic phenomenon, of the same if not greater world-historical significance than capitalism. The drama between capitalism and communism is probably built into nature in that it probably (in my opinion) occurs in many if not most intelligent species that evolve in the universe.

Liberals would be communists if they realized that we can be most liberal under communism.

Libertarians would be communists if they realized how much freer each soul is and all souls are collectively under communism.

Conservatives would be communists if they realized that the morality they’re trying to preserve can be most fully and beautifully realized under communism.

Why and how socialism creates true democracy

Edit on September 19, 2016: I can no longer fully endorse this article. While I think it provides some important food for thought about how different socialist society can be from capitalist society, some of the ideas in it are still very steeped in capitalist thinking, such as paying people to participate. Nonetheless, I’ll leave it up both to show how my understanding of what communist revolution really has to look like has evolved, and also in case it is still useful to some. I also think much more criticism of LLCO ought to be offered–but I should still say that article gave me some good food for thought at the time, so I’ll leave that link as well.

So why does socialism bring true democracy? What aspects of it allow for that?

1. Wealth is power. Wealth can be used to bribe people (and “bribe” them) in countless imaginative ways, many of them technically legal. Hell, the complicity of the American working class to American imperialism could be considered the result of a type of bribe. A near equality among everyone’s personal wealth is utterly necessary if we’re going to have actual democracy as opposed to democracy in name only.

2. Socialism empowers all people. Everyone has equal access to training, to information, to new resources and methods. It gives everyone the same concrete material opportunity and incentives to pursue this information and training. In short, socialism creates a well-informed and judicious population.

3. Socialism proposes that the people become the state. That we all become armed and we all do protection service. If the state is no different from the people, there can be no threat of outside oppression.

4. Under socialism, citizens could be paid or otherwise incentivized to attend lectures on topics that are important for understanding politics–to attend political debates. Hell, to vote.

5. Many forms of voting and decision-making that have not been tried could and would be instituted. We could vote monthly or even more often on all sorts of projects and policies at many different scales.

6. Under socialism, there would be no hereditary class of people more likely to be lawyers and politicians. We would all have access to as much highest-quality education (including job training) as we like. The know-how of running society would be as evenly distributed as the capital.

7. Certain things under socialism are non-negotiable. Everyone would be guaranteed the basic needs of life and fundamental freedoms. These could never be voted away.

Why all this? Why make it as democratic as possible?

Because in essence, the lack of democracy is capitalism. The more power an individual has, the more they can use it to seek economic rent. As this compounds, it leads to a concentration of wealth, which increases power, which allows one to get more rent, getting one more power, etc.

This is not to say that each individual should get exactly what they want. That wouldn’t be democracy, nor would it be possible. The point is ensuring that power is more or less evenly distributed, and that when power is entrusted in an individual, it can be removed from them just as easily if they betray the entrusters’ trust.

This is the democracy that we will require in order to resolve the incredible complexities of contracting our global economy and developing real, real sustainability.

Edit on January 20, 2015:

For a good article that describes one of the greatest innovations of the Chinese socialist revolution, the idea of cultural revolution, which answers the question of how to achieve, sustain, and expand democracy under socialism, check out this article by the Leading Light Communist Organization, “Beginning talking points on the Cultural Revolution era.” This does not in any way constitute a complete endorsement of the LLCO’s platform, but this article is excellent.

On the end of the world, which will happen in your lifetime if we don’t replace capitalism with socialism

Due to peak oil and peak everything else, the economy will never recover—it will only get worse and worse. We must all realize this.

If what I’m about to say sounds overly dramatic, it’s because the truth is so shocking. Within 10 years, the global economy will begin a steep decline—that is, a deep and ever-deepening recession. Virtually every aspect of the modern economy depends on the availability of cheap liquid fuel, cheap energy (from fossil fuels), and cheap other resources. Literally everything is about to get more and more and more expensive, and in certain parts of the world, many things are going to just plain run out. And it’s not just fossil fuels—there are dozens of resources (including water) that are about to become extremely scarce.

* * *

“In July 2008 oil prices spiked 50 percent higher than the previous inflation-adjusted record, set in the 1970s. As a result of that price spike, the global airline industry went into a tailspin, and the auto industry has been on life support ever since.
. . .
While the oil price run-up was hardly the sole cause of the ongoing world economic crisis, it has effectively imposed a limit to any possibility of “recovery”: as soon as economic activity advances, oil prices will again spike, causing yet another financial crunch.
. . .
Instead of being a continuation of the upward trajectory we have all grown accustomed to, the 21st century is destined to be one long downward glide punctuated by moments of financial, political and geopolitical panic. And in retrospect, we’ll all probably eventually agree that our descent began in 2008.”

Richard Heinberg, Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines

* * *

If you think there is some technological magic bullet to solve oil shortages (say, algae biofuel), think again. We’re way too short on the resources we would need to make it work—we’re way too short on all of it:

* * *

“It is no happenstance that so many [resource] peaks are occurring together. They are all causally related by the historic reality that, for the past 200 years, cheap, abundant energy from fossil fuels has driven technological invention, increases in total and per-capita resource extraction and consumption (including food production), and population growth. We are enmeshed in a classic self-reinforcing feedback loop:”

Feedback loop causing simultaneous resource peaks

Richard Heinberg, Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines

* * *

As you may well be aware, capitalism cannot solve this problem—only exacerbate it. And it’s not just a question of the greed of individuals, either. The system itself puts relentless pressure on anyone with decision-making power to promote short-term corporate profit at all costs. The corporations that make any attempt to conserve the world’s resources are outcompeted by those that willingly burn through them. Any CEOs who prioritize conservation tend to decrease a company’s profits and will soon be replaced by the board of directors with a CEO who keeps the greatest profits coming in, however short-lived they may be. The politicians and government officials who refuse to do what corporate shareholders want are replaced by those who will. Countries and regions with laws that don’t favor corporate profit are starved of investment capital in favor of more corporate-friendly areas. Under capitalism, wealth is power, and the corporate shareholders rule the planet. Those who won’t promote short-term profit for corporate shareholders are pushed out of power. Capitalism has no solution—can have no solution.

* * *

“Corporations tend to behave as if their sole—or, at least, primary—goal is to maximize profits. That is true not because corporations have dispositions, but because of . . . situational factors. … Firms participate in a number of market competitions. … These markets work to winnow out those firms and managers that do not effectively profit maximize. Firms have charters and bylaws . . . that typically set profit-maximization as the firm’s stated goal, and they operate within a legal environment that places, according to most corporate law scholars, fiduciary duties on managers to maximize profit.

Moreover, [those] who work within firms face strong cultural norms to maximize profits and are given extensive training in business schools or by the firms themselves. The American business culture promotes the idea that “business is business” and considerations other than profit are irrelevant to decisions.”

Hansont and Yosifon, “The Situation: An Introduction to the Situational Character, Critical Realism, Power Economics, and Deep Capture”

* * *

“The market does not respect the carrying capacity of natural systems. For example, if a fishery is being continuously overfished, the catch eventually will begin to shrink and prices will rise, encouraging even more investment in fishing trawlers. The inevitable result is a precipitous decline in the catch and the collapse of the fishery.”

Lester R. Brown, Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization

* * *

What the world needs, as soon as possible, are huge programs to fundamentally change the global economy. We need a bigger-than-wartime effort to create a new economy and culture that uses vastly less energy and resources, and to move the world to renewable energy and complete global sustainability. We need to train hundreds of millions of people how to set up organic and permaculture farms. Capitalism can’t do these things because they don’t provide the shareholders a short-term profit. But we could do them if we actually had a democracy.

Socialism—and the genuine democracy it will bring—is the only answer.

We should bring this idea into the public consciousness and hammer on it relentlessly and never let up. The longer people have been hearing that socialism can give us control over what capitalism necessarily keeps out of control—and the more deeply they understand how and why socialism will give us the true democracy we’ll need to guide the global economy in a coordinated, just, and rational manner through economic contraction toward complete sustainability—the easier it will be to make the change as the situation worsens.

Get serious about it. Tell the “communism through the coming automation economy” people that there won’t be enough liquid fuel to run all those driverless semi-trucks or enough plastic for the 3D printers. Make the universal basic income people understand that no reform can provide a solution because the problem lies with capitalism itself.

It is incredibly easy to put these facts out of your mind, but that is the one thing you must not do.

Tell everyone who will listen. Post about it on all your social media feeds. Write articles about it and submit them to newspapers and magazines. Get your organizations to focus on it. There is no solving this problem under any form of capitalism, however reformed. The world is going to hell in your lifetime if we don’t bring about global socialism.

Edit on January 20, 2015:

Questions or concerns about socialism? Check these out:

“Debunking anti-communism masterpost”
“/r/communism101’s Frequently Asked Questions”

Edit on February 21, 2015:

I recently wrote more on the closely linked subject of capitalism and the growing ecological disaster in another post, “The ecocide at the heart of capitalism.”