You are John Galt

Ayn Rand’s failure to achieve objectivity doomed her philosophy, and infests both Republicans and Libertarians with lunacy

For readers whose lives have been blessed by a complete absence of awareness of Ayn Rand’s writings – for Lack of God’s sake, don’t read them! – a brief ‘splanation is in order.  (Thus a running joke I keep telling; that I can be brief about anything.)  Ayn Rand was a Russian-born American writer of repellent romance novels in which she indulged in entirely emotional political observations disguised as ‘objectivity’ that brought the action to a halt while we are expected to stand in awe of her brilliance.  She believed, over her long, tedious life and with consuming passion, in the inalienable right of every man, woman and child on the planet to be completely free to completely agree with every single thought Ayn Rand ever had.  And that pretty much sums up her philosophy; all the rest is merely her personal history warped into small-minded political theory.

She grew up under the domination of an emotionally distant and autocratic father (boy, there’s a rare thing upon our Earth) who she loved with her whole mind and soul.  This love shaped her thinking in ways she entirely failed to understand or appreciate.  Her philosophy of selfishness became a worship of the rich and powerful over every other consideration.

She was a stunningly bad writer.  I was attracted to Libertarian philosophy as a teen, based on things I’d read, and so came to her novels with an already-forming appreciation for the importance of liberty, and of the ‘voluntary society’ as I’d heard described in Civics classes since the fifth grade.  After high school, when I had become friends with several students at an upscale Liberal Arts college near the lower-middle-class neighborhood we lived in, I read ‘The Fountainhead’ and ‘Atlas Shrugged’ to understand her ideas at the same time my friends were encountering – well, to be more honest, forced to read – her novels in their Literature classes.

We all had pretty much the same reaction to her thick, foggy, unreal characters with their bizarre motivations and twisted sexuality – never two people making love, always a man taking a woman by force with the woman resisting until she became Overwhelmed by His Masculinity and willingly Gave In to His Domination.  What decent human being would want to be either part of this ugly kind of – well, you can’t really call it ‘love’, can you?  Fine for those warped souls who are into Dominance and Submission, but not much there for human beings.

We all thought this was yucky and not believable at all, so much so that it became a running joke with us.  “I love you, Pamela!  You are my heart, my soul.  You consume my mind.  You are everything to me!  And so I must leave you, and become your mortal enemy!  I must spend my life destroying everything you stand for, until you lie before me, bereft of all that you have achieved!  Because I love you!”  “I hate you, Theodore!  I despise you and everything you stand for.  Therefore I will marry you, and make our lives together an endless chain of worthless accomplishment until we grow to be empty shells of once-human wreckage, until your love for me turns to hate!”  I promise you, if you read her muck – please don’t – you’ll see this mocking is accurate.

I had a lot of trouble finishing Fountainhead – I’m not sure I ever did – because of this very unattractive vision of inhuman human relationships, but more than that, because I had no sympathy for the central character’s motivations.  I had known since an early age that I wanted to be an artist, and had already formed ideas that I have kept all these long years since; that nobody’s concepts had any importance at all except mine in what I should make, what it should ‘mean’, how I would work or what vision I should create – up until I was done, until I had presented it to the world, at which point I had had my chance to speak, and had to shut up.  My artwork would be about me and only about me; but once I’d finished, it had to stand on its own, and then only other people’s ideas mattered.  If one person thought it was wonderful, then it was wonderful; if another thought it was garbage, then it was garbage.  I’d had my chance to speak; if I’d failed to say what was in my mind and heart, so much for me.  Art is a deeply personal experience, belonging entirely to the person having it, and at that point, to hell with the artist.

That might seem, to anyone who has encountered this thick, ugly book, to be pretty much what the architect at the center of the hopeless BDSM apologia that is ‘The Fountainhead’ believes.  Here’s the thing:  He’s an architect!  He imagined that the tall apartment tower he’d designed was his and his alone, and when the people who paid for it to be built had the gall to add balconies to his design, he had the right to burn it down.

This repelled me.  If he wanted, like me, to be the only one whose ideas mattered, he would have been, like me, a sculptor, an individual working alone; or a writer, or painter.  But there simply are some artistic fields that are – that must be, by their very nature – collaborative.  Even writers and composers have publishers, editors, musicians, conductors, people who make contributions to the end result, people who the artist cannot create without depending upon.  The great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who some say was the inspiration for Rand’s Howard Roark, was the kind of arrogant goober that she admired, and he created buildings whose designs will stand forever as monuments to inspired creativity, to the brilliance of his mind – but his buildings won’t, because he didn’t listen to his contractors and builders, and so his roofs leak, his beams sag, his foundations crack and shift.  Richard Wagner was also this kind of dismissive, selfish composer, and wrote some of the greatest music ever heard – but he over-estimated its worth, especially in his endless, moronic Ring cycle, where half an hour of greatness is stretched into nine hours of butt-numbing tedium.

So I was repelled just where I ought to have sympathized.  So much for The Fountainhead; mindless dribble.  So much worse was ‘Atlas Shrugged’.  In it, a man named – well, crap, folks, if you’ve read the thing, you know what happens, and if you haven’t, there’s only one thing I can say, one word of advice –


It’s Ayn Rand at her power-worshiping, dominance-dependent, father-adoring worst.  Hopeless.  But in a strange way, not really her fault.

Rand simply couldn’t understand the basis for her own ideas, for two regrettable but inevitable reasons.  First, she was so lost in her own endless worship of her father, and for any emotionally distant, dominating, abusive male figure, that she was unable to see how deeply it affected her philosophy.  Can you say that you truly understand how your own philosophy has been shaped by emotional need?  I’ve tried; I’ve been aware since childhood that my own deep rejection of authority, as much as I might justify it with logic and reasonable argument, is a reflection of an emotional reaction to anyone who tries to tell me what to do, say, or believe.  There’s no way around it – so admit it, right up front, don’t lie or deny, either to the audience or to yourself.  I try – but if you conclude that the philosophy herein described is merely an outgrowth of that resistance, can I argue?

Ayn Rand didn’t even get that far.  Her father, who must have been a repellent sumbitch, shows up in all her characters; her heroes are like him, her villains his opposite.  As much as she wished to state her philosophy in her works, her message was hopelessly clouded by these sods she couldn’t help but write about.  Thus did they creep into her ideas of the Ideal Community, where men – in her mind, always men – of great wealth and power, Titans of Industry all, should dominate, and where the rest of us should willingly submit to them.  Thus her ideas of ‘liberty’ – that each one of us should be free to find, and kowtow to, our own Dominant Father of wealth, our own John Galt.

Even among her own followers of ‘libertarian’ thinkers, called, snarkily, ‘The Collective’, she maintained this mad exclusivity of the right to think, bizarre in a philosophy that is supposed to be about the importance of the individual.  Members could belong as long as they kept agreeing, as long as they always parroted every word, every thought Rand uttered; challenge her on any idea, even slightly, take a position that was one degree away from hers, and you were out on your ass.  She never could see this was true, never could account for her own sick emotionally-distant-hero-worship and its effect on her thinking.  She was trapped, and so made a hollow, unsuccessful advocate of anything that could remotely be called ‘liberty’.

Even sadder, even more important to understanding Rand’s complete failure to create any useful philosophy out of her rejection of what she called ‘collectivist thinking’ (a rejection I share) and the second of the two important reasons she couldn’t understand her own concepts of libertarianism, was simply that she was born too soon – just a bit too soon.  If she’d been at all open to developments in science that were taking place in the 1950’s, by which time she knew everything she was ever going to know and had completely closed herself off to further introspection, she might have seen the growth of a field of mathematics that explains what she was trying to find in her search for an ideal of society that might have been worth fighting for.

She grew up in a time of determinism, a time when science was the investigation of how this clockwork universe ticked.  Science assumed that there was a way that all things worked, nested simple machines under all of nature, linear mechanisms hidden from our view, and that once these linear processes were understood in detail, we could control all things and perfect our world.  This was Science as she was taught to understand it.  I’ve always found Firesign Theatre’s statement of this inevitably flawed concept the most compelling, in Fudd’s First Law – ‘If you push something hard enough, it will fall over.’  Thus the trap she could not avoid; she truly thought that, if only everyone would learn the joy she felt at giving in to the strong male, society could be perfected, a simple mechanistic world greased by wealth, an orgy of selfishness – with self-interest assumed to mean a slavish worship of the kind of unfeeling masculinity that made her knees weak.

Thus the Atlas who, in her fevered imagination, held up the world; the Captain of Industry who she imagined was responsible for creating the ever-increasing wealth and power of America and the West.  She simply didn’t know enough about those Captains and their weaknesses, accepting as she did the propaganda that surrounded them: Henry Ford displayed his wisdom about industrial processes while hiding his abusive dismissal of the rights of the human beings who made his wealth, and whose inventiveness at every level added greatly to it; the inventive genius of Thomas Edison, who hid so well the actual inventors who really made his breakthroughs that few were aware that it wasn’t really him who ‘learned 88 things that didn’t work’ when trying to find the right filament for ‘his’ light bulb; the cruelty and ruthlessness behind the monopolists who made vast fortunes in railway, steel and oil – these users of other’s creativity, who made great wealth from the blood of others and left them crushed and impoverished, she imagined to be themselves the creative force of human accomplishment – the determiners of her deterministic world.

If she had been more open to new ideas, she might have learned and grown in her thinking – but she never did.  It’s the application to politics, to cultures, of this new understanding of how rare and how common is randomness, how the smallest things shape the largest systems – the science of complexity – that I try, and doubtless fail, to apply in what I call ‘organic politics’, and in my Three Laws of Advanced Civilizations (You can’t tell people what to do; you can’t tell people what to do, even if you are right; you can’t tell people what to do, especially if you are right.)  The linear science of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the deterministic processes she was taught were the basis for all things, whose precise understanding must lead to human greatness, fooled her into thinking too simplistically about the nature of cultures, and the motivations upon which people act within them, the vital complexity of human experience.

‘Atlas Shrugged’ portrayed just such a deterministic world as she grew up in, in which the source of human creativity was imagined to be a small number of powerful men – again, in her world, it was always men – who the rest of us unworthies depended upon for all things, and who we, in our petty delusions of importance, oppressed with our imagined equality; and just as a clock depends on its mainspring, if only we had the insight to yield to and be controlled by these Great Men, ours would be a better world.  In her thick novel, saturated with sickening domination sexuality, a man named John Galt conspires to remove from society all these ‘mainsprings’ upon whom Rand, in her own confused deterministic thinking and bondage-fantasy imaginings, pictures as being vital to the workings of our world.  By taking away these all-important men, Rand’s Galt would prove their necessity, which would – well, I don’t know, result in all of us worshiping them as she does?

I’m not sure where she was going, because I threw the book down at the end of John Galts’s endless rant, a swamp of foggy thinking in an opaque mess of a speech at a party of VIP’s that Galt visited, theoretically to explain why more of these movers and shakers should follow him into exile, but actually to give Rand an opportunity to lecture the rest of us peons on our failure to get all moist at beholding these Gods, as she did.

It was a tangle of weak argument and improbability.  These titans of industry were supposed to be standing around this big room at a party of vast wealth and privilege, dumbstruck by the magnificence of this speech, overawed by the stunning philosophy displayed.  I’ve known some of these powerful; there’s not one chance in hell they’d have let this clod rant on for more than about a minute and a half.  Movers and Shakers aren’t interested in what you or I or the Lord Gawd Awmighty might think or say about anything.  As I read through this clotted glob of speech, I couldn’t for an instant suspend my disbelief; I kept thinking that about now, one of the Rich and Mighty would clock the twerp.  A friend, as an exercise for a sophomore speech class at this college I hung out at, gave a dramatic reading of the speech; it took more than an hour, and not the most impassioned intonation could make what was being said clear.  Oh, yeah, sure; the Powerful Elite is going to stand for that.

As my own writings constantly betray, if you can’t say something succinctly and clearly, if you can’t express your ideas understandably, and have to keep backing up and running at it again and again, it is because you yourself don’t really understand what you are saying.  It’s not that all ideas must be simple ones to be good – far from it; but if you have to keep hacking at them again and again, adding more and more words instead of clarity, then you should give it up as a loss and rethink your message.  We lecture ourselves inside our own brains about what we wish others would understand, and are too willing an audience, too easily persuaded by our own arguments; but if you can’t make a sensible presentation of your ideas in writing, it’s because you’ve too easily skipped over some vital bit of logic, just as she did.  I got to the end of his great speech, this distillation of Randian Objectivism, and threw the book across the room, never to pick it up again – not out of rejection of her argument, but because I was aware that I’d just encountered her most important exposition of her reasoning and yet hadn’t an idea in hell what it was.

The true creators of our world are the poor, the used up, the weird, the desperate.  The rich who control all things are seldom of any creative importance; invariably they are users of other people’s creative genius – though I would at the same time insist that the using is itself an ability of great value.

Consider Microsoft’s Bill Gates; his entire fortune was based on his theft of the operating system known as CP/M (after all these years, I had to look up where that name came from; it stood for ‘Control Program/Monitor.’)  My first programming in personal computers, on the brilliant Eagle II business desktop that I learned to build batch files and a few machine-language programs on, ran on CP/M, and for many years – and wouldn’t I give a lung to still have these! – I had both CP/M and a very early, pre-commercial-release copy of MS-DOS on the old 8-inch floppies, which were very floppy indeed, and knew how to look at their hidden machine language code that both showed the same ‘boilerplate’ that gave credit to the designers of CP/M.

Thus the Gates fortune was based, unarguably, on the stolen work of others; and from there, by practices that John D. Rockefeller would have recognized and admired, he bought out, stole or forced into submission or bankruptcy the efforts of thousands of creative people, holding back rather than moving forward the progress of computing by many years by imposing on us a broken, weak operating system.  It is for these very reasons, as the unavoidable result of just these piratical activities by a man who hardly deserves his reputation, that Windows is today such a mess, so leaky of privacy, so open to viruses.  From the influence of his manipulistic nature, the Internet developed practices so abusive that the user has become the used, the product to be consumed rather than the consumer of the product.

And yet, might it not have to be so?  Since this story is repeated over and over in the development of our advancing technology, might it not have to be that the ability to create is a different skill set than the ability to generate wealth out of that creativity?  Might it be that those two abilities – creativity and business acumen – might be, at least in most individuals, mutually exclusive?  I think about whether I could get up every day and go to work knowing that the jobs of thousands of people, the interests of thousands of stockholders, the continued existence of a world-wide corporation depended on my ability to make the right decisions.  No, I couldn’t; could you?  Doing so depends, I think, on a focus of mind and a domination of personality that cannot exist in a brain that allows itself to wander about and see strange, often illogical connections – and that’s the essence of creativity, to ‘believe six impossible things before breakfast.’

And so our politics is haunted by Rand’s flawed reasoning, the unreal wanderings of a sexually deviant mind (not that I have anything against deviancy, mind) who didn’t know enough about complexity to guide her own thinking about political systems.  We are plagued by her legacy and the warped thinking it has led to, of the wealth-worshiping Republican Party, of the Speaker of the House who cannot see beyond his sycophantic obedience to obscene wealth to even imagine that the poor, the sick, the unfortunate might have any contribution to make that could possibly compare to that of the Kochs, the Rex Tillersons, the Rupert Murdochs of this world.  To his small mind, all these huddled masses with their plebeian yearnings are clogging up the system, and he’s here to scrape them off, to get them out of the way of the John Galts of this world.

The Republican Party may or may not be able to get rid of the ACA, to defund Planned Parenthood, to end government welfare, NPR, regulation of the stock market, to overwhelm resistance to oil pipelines, to allow corporations – ‘people’ in their minds – to foul the air and water, enslave workers, remove any trace of power from the lower classes – and they might actually not give a damn if they do; but certainly, they will reduce the taxes of the rich.  That, they can be depended upon to do.  Your Republican Party; comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted.

So who is John Galt?  What is the creative force we so desperately depend upon to keep us from drowning in a sea of the waste-product of our technologically advanced, extractive-industry-dependent culture?  It isn’t the rich and powerful; being rich is almost never the result of creativity but rather of knowing how to use the creativity of others to advantage.

No, the rich are not, are never, the force that moves us forward, never Atlas holding up the world; they can shrug all they want, and only their own privilege will suffer, nothing else.  You are John Galt.  So is everyone who solves problems, works to improve lives, educates themselves or others, volunteers, gives, contributes to a food bank, drops their coins in the little box that sits next to the machine that gives change.  Every act of decency, every bit of creativity applied to any thing you do, whether done selfishly or selflessly, each thing done to make your life or someone else’s better, easier, healthier –

That’s how John Galt acts in this world.   You are Atlas, and if you shrug, the world falls.

In ways Ayn Rand could never imagine, every small act of creativity in this non-linear world we live in – these are the things that make our world work, in ways far beyond anything that can be done by the wealthy elite that Ayn Rand, and today’s make-believe Conservatives, could ever imagine.  Be John Galt.  We all depend on it.




The View from Space

We spin out of control – because we tried to control.

So here we are, sitting in space, looking down on the Earth from the comfy confines of our alien hosts’ ship, and viewing this massive power shift in the civilizations of the planet beneath as our green friends chuckle, in their weird subsonic way, at our bewilderment.

They are used to it, you see.  They have the histories of many civilizations at their suction-cup-covered finger tips.  They know that civilizations of sentient beings are the most complex organisms in the Universe, and so follow the rules of such.  They know that complex systems known as ‘cultures’ can display great peace, calm, civil behaviors as the norm in those that are healthy, stable, and productive for all its members as long as they obey this rule: Order must self-arise from the voluntary interactions of its parts, not from imposed ordering.

They also know that this realization – that trying to act globally to impose Order, no matter how wise the ordering, will always, must always destroy order and collapse the productivity of the system – is always going to be anti-intuitive to any civilization that has grown in its power to the point that the issue becomes important.  It hardly mattered if the Romans or the British Raj understood the dangers of the Unintended Consequence when merely the lives and cultures of the lowly millions were at stake.  They are just so much empire-fluff, History’s dust-bunnies.  Or so the Great Powers thought; deterministic, top-down ordering got them what they wanted, so what matter the blood beneath their wheels?

But as power is spread to more and more of those dust bunnies, comes a different time, a time when technologies bring the lives only lived before by the powerful within the reach, or at least the dreams, of all – when the entire planet has enough wealth that all intelligent beings on it come to want control of their own lives.  Things become very different then, and very dangerous: The mistakes a technologically advancing culture can make are powerful enough to snuff out their civilization, and their populations, entirely.

Klaxa and Quionxilla have seen this happen.  They know they are watching a tipping-point as the system as a whole behaves in predictable, but to those living it out, bewildering ways; that is, the stable patterns will increasingly wobble nearer to instability until a point is reached where new mass behaviors start to emerge, where behaviors previously accepted as generally the ‘norm’ break into many different streams – bifurcation patterns – including many behaviors followed by large minorities of individuals that are far outside the previously acceptable – and invariably violent.

The entire civilization could collapse, and that’s what Klaxa wants because he’s a blood-thirsty sod, and when Great Civilizations fall, they fall hard, killing many as they do and returning that minority that survives to live in the nature that is left, if any.  Quionxilla is a sweetheart – not ‘heart’, exactly, more of a smear of sponge all over the – well, let’s not talk about it, it’s not too pleasant – she’s a sweetwhatever, and she is hoping for the best; that a new norm arises that more effectively meets the needs of that large mass of individuals who tipped it all into chaos in the first place.  She wants the silly, rather ugly flesh-lumps beneath to discover that world of peace, decency and comfort that can only come about when its members quit trying to force these good ends on others and instead act locally, and live them themselves, doing what they can for those around them rather than imposing global commands.

But she’s not expecting it either.  On their version of the Internet, the Universe-Wide-Snotglob, they’re both betting the same way; they’re shorting Mankind.  With Klaxa making a side-bet that the result is an irradiated planet, the slate wiped clean, see what the lower forms can build back up to.  I don’t much like Klaxa, really, but I gotta suck up or he’ll throw me out.

That’s why they’re here just now, inviting me along to view in noble ease and with blissful detachment as the World’s Most Powerful Nation decides it doesn’t want to be that any more, and maybe not this messy Democracy crap either.  Will we hoomans wake up in time?  Will we keep this experiment in self-government going?

They’ve made big bets against.  The race doesn’t always go to the swift, but that’s the safe play; and we’ve shown, as the great Walt Kelley once said, all the wisdom of a back molar.  Very un-swift.

What they are expecting is that among the individual parts of the evolving culture, with its predictable but wrong-minded dependence on control mechanisms, there will grow an increasing sense of unease, of dis-connection.  The particular cause of this for any one individual could be many things, many local conditions, but taken together they emerge as fear, anger and hatred – themselves fairly standard patterns across galaxies.  Beings led by intelligence must arise from beings led by emotion, or some analog of it, and will become overwhelmed by that emotion when under stress.

Self-awareness always arises from a state of ‘nature’, whatever that might mean on any given planet, and inevitably comes to see itself as internally a hierarchy with whatever that being pictures as ‘me’ atop it, ordering the brain and body ‘below’ it.  I propose that idea as an observation in how all intelligence arises anywhere in the Universe; all organic intelligence must evolve in such a way that it believes itself to be a single entity in hierarchical command of all its processes, even though that isn’t, and cannot be true – intelligence can only be a productive, orderly manifestation of a highly complex system in which that order has naturally arisen, not remotely hierarchical but distributed and variable.   Because of this it’s always hard for those beings to resist the urge to see that need for top-down control, that false but needed illusion of internal command structure, in the patterns it sees around it.  Our hosts see culture after culture making just this mistake; that the self-arising Order that brings so much productivity doesn’t behave at all like the simple systems needing top-down ordering that the culture is getting so good at making.


That’s why mayhem-loving Klaxa and sweet-natured Quionxilla are here.  They see this Drumpf fellow (they have a tradition in their culture of maintaining family names) as hilariously unhinged, but inevitably unimportant.  He represents little more than the unintended consequence, important only as he represents the disorder that always follows attempts at imposing order.  He is simply the way in which this particular culture spins into deconstructive insanity, himself of no real significance beyond what he represents – the disordering of a culture that had become dangerously dependent on centralized control for the imposition of an order that had become, for too many individuals, constrictive and unresponsive, a false order too removed from the lives of its members as they wanted the freedom to live them.  They’d seen it all before, and it seldom works out well; and again, with Klaxa’s side-bet that the funny little Great Orange Prune will, in his comical flailings and rantings, set off the planet’s primitive nuclear weapons.

In fact, Klaxa expects that, within fifty of our planet’s orbital rotations around its star, he will be able to return to a sphere that is little more than a snowball.  That’s okay with him – he likes snowballs, and expects to profit from this one.  Quionxilla hopes she sees an advanced civilization at peace with itself, with its parts willing to let the other parts be wrong without trying to force rightness on them.  She’d like to see that, so that’s her side-bet.


She hasn’t won one of these side-bets yet.  She lives in hope.


My bet?  That she loses.  That Klaxa and Quionxilla don’t exist; that I just made them up.  That when we turn our high-powered listening devices upon the Infinite we hear no trace of any other technologically-advanced civilizations because there are none, not anywhere in the Universe.  That it’s an unavoidable consequence of the nature of organic intelligence that it will not, can not see beyond its own dependence on the false assumption of an internal top-down ordering far enough to imagine that others might possibly come to do The Good and Right because it is good and right, and not because they’ve been forced to.  That no matter the kind of being and the nature of its ‘mind’ it is just too seductive to see itself as a unitary, hierarchical intelligence rather than the distributed one it actually must be.  That this always leads to essentially insane beings.  That technology will always arise to put great power and force under the command of that internal insanity; unable to imagine that the world can exist without this mad desire of the powerful to impose order on what it sees, organic intelligence always ends up destroying itself, controlling itself to death.  I bet that the Universe contains only burnt-out shells where creativity once arose, flickering candles whose brightness shone out only for a short time, and died.  That’s my bet.


But they won’t let me bet.  They think our money is ridiculous, and dull.  Such, while it lasts, is life.



A Call for Organic Politics

We can end the Trump mis-administration, but only by giving up a cherished idea – that we need to boss others.

The danger we now face of a sudden lurch into fascism can be averted, but we only have a short time.  The danger is that the very things that people instinctively do with problems, the direct government-centered actions that both Right and Left always fall back on, these attempts at control, are spinning us out of control.

Both sides are simply increasing these control-others actions as the only thing they can see to do.  People’s reactions are driving us further into Fascist madness, which results in more fear and thus more control imposition; we’re stuck in a devastating feedback loop where the very attempt to solve the problem is making that problem so much worse.

Think of what we’ve discovered about the dangers of pesticides.  A field is a highly complex system which humans overwhelm with determinism, in the form of plows and cultivators.  We remove all the other kinds of plants and sow just the one kind we want, and then spray all kinds of chemicals on the field to maintain that seeming control.

This doesn’t work long term, and yet doing this has led to amazing productivity.  We tend to think of systems as determinative when they aren’t, which creates all kinds of problems over time.  We don’t want pests or weeds in our fields, because we get less of what we want out of them; so what problem can there be to using a chemical that rids us of them?  Obvious, right?

But we now know so much more than we used to about the unintended consequences of all that imposed ordering; the problems of chemical use, not apparent at first, eventually overwhelm the good that their use does.  This widespread use of chemicals, as much as it may have done great harm, was done because the farmer wanted to make more food for more people.  The desire to do good by imposing order on a system led to doing a lot of damage.

Once the farmer had to live with the damage that chemicals did – that is, when the unintended consequences of his imposed ordering had swamped the intended good of his choices – he could see that a better approach would be to work with, rather than against, nature, and the organic revolution got started. This movement has done a lot of good; for example, organic foods not only are better for you but are also better tasting, and we’ve discovered why those two things are mutually dependent.  Just as this movement toward a more responsible, more natural food supply, at least where it has been applied, has healed a lot of the damage that modern agriculture was doing, so do we now need a politics of hubris, of accepting the limits of what can be done by command.

We need an Organic Politics.

That’s the theme of the time we are in.  Both progressives and reactionaries, both left and right, have wanted to do good by their own lights to create a better culture.  These farmers in the field that is our culture have tried, and unfortunately succeeded, in imposing deterministic solutions on it.  This seems so intuitive, so obviously the right thing to do – ‘There Oughta Be a Law!’ – and was done out of the goodness and decency of different groups of citizens, as their own judgment best informed them.  Just as the farmer watching the pests die from spreading DDT cannot immediately see the future where all those chemicals destroy the natural balance upon which he depends, so Left and Right have been blind to the long, slow piling up of unintended consequences that their oh-so-obviously-needed rule-making has created.

Nor can you make them understand.  Trascism’s devastation of all that we have built up over these many generations is the political equivalent of Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ – a warning that we’ve pushed the culture too hard in our efforts to perfect it, and it’s now spinning out of control.  The effort of trying to explain to people on both sides that its their attempts to impose order that have created the disorder that fascism needs for it to grow is one that is beyond my poor ability to explain.

And besides – when people are certain that they are right about what you should do, explaining the dangers of imposed ordering on a non-determinative system like the cultures of sentient beings seems to them a surrender to the problem they’re trying to solve.  You become The Enemy.

For example, I can make a much better argument than the Progressives can that the just, caring community they seek is not only a good thing, but the only way we can survive and thrive in the increasingly challenging world we face.  But those very arguments, based as they are on Chaos Theory and the powerful discoveries we’ve made over the last forty years of how highly complex systems work, are invisible to those seeking a more powerful State strong enough to stamp out injustice and want.  Their desire to do good blinds them to the need for allowing people their own ‘Right to Be Wrong’, and anyone resisting their dogmatic approach becomes as evil as those they’ve set themselves to defeat.  Many of these political activists were taught in grade school that we were a ‘volunteer society’, but the lesson didn’t take – and so we’ve become a ‘command society’, leaving them stunned when, as is inevitable, they lose their role as the maker of commandments to those attracted to Governance not by a desire to do good but out of a lust for power.

Right now, if the Left (who are not more or less to blame than the Right, but there is that about reactionary conservatism that precludes thought or introspection) could only understand this one thing – this hard, anti-intuitive idea that you do vast damage when you try to tell others what choices, ideas and actions they should and shouldn’t take – they would find very many citizens on the other side of the political divide who are just as frightened by Trascism as they are, and could create a consensus to remove him from the office he is so disastrously unfit for.  But it will require that Progressives give up the one thing they are most addicted to –


Progressives do believe that there should be limits to the power of Governance.  That’s the true challenge of this moment – Trump is an accident of history, and well deserves being dumped into history’s wastebasket along with Hitler and Mussolini and Saddam Hussein, but he is if nothing else the pinnacle of all the many unintended consequences of the massive ordering that we all labor under.  Not even in the most ruthless dictatorships have there been as many laws and regulations upon a culture, nor have even the worst of them incarcerated as many as we do.  Can the Left come to understand that the regulations and laws they are so passionate about passing, all the good-hearted but unwise ordering of other people they’ve come to depend on as the goal of all their efforts, all these laws stifling and limiting us, have resulted in the ascendancy of the Orange Menace?

That the Orangutan is really the predictable result of everything they’ve been trying to do over generations?  That the Unintended Consequence is about to sink us?  That Trump is just being Trump, and it’s their own chemical spraying of the culture that has given shape to this Silent Spring of a dying nation?

My guess is, no.  It’s just too hard, too complex.  They know they are right about the things they are demanding we all embrace or avoid; and to make things worse, they are right!  And this rightness blinds them to the acid they’ve thrown on the culture.  But if they could – if they could –

It would make all the difference.  We are being choked by the Good Order that both Right and Left have imposed on us, and this has led to the accession to power of a very dangerous group of people who are determined, and well able, to replace our democracy with dictatorship.  This has shocked the Left; and yet the fact that the Right has felt for decades the chains of a liberal dictatorship is invisible to them.  And why shouldn’t it be?  The idea of a Leftist dictatorship is absurd, at least if you already agree with all the commandments the Left hands down; why worry about how others feel about it?  They’re so clearly wrong, and why should we care if they can’t see their own wrongness?  After all, aren’t we right about the things we’re trying to do?  Yes; the Left is as right as was the DDT-spraying farmer who was trying to feed a hungry world.  If the Left could see this, see that all of this is the predictable result of their own choices, and could accept responsibility for the damage they’ve done, it would change the nature of our entire debate about what the hell to do now.

And so I ask you to consider – what do you think are the limits of centralized authority?  What actions do you consider are too intrusive into your own life?  And then think about people you know on the other side of the political divide – that it’s not enough to consider just what you believe to be too intrusive.  What do they feel is too intrusive?

Wisdom comes with realizing that, even if you disagree with the other side about what state actions are too intrusive –

You, and I, and all of us have to live with the results not of where we think the line between ‘me’ and ‘us’ is, but of where other people feel it should be.  Our system spins out of control when too many people find the culture too constrictive, no matter what we may think they should agree to.  Were the Left able to understand this, and generate their own manifesto about such limits, they would find a lot of people they now think are The Enemy are actually their greatest asset.  We must defeat this mad man-child; but to do so, we must first accept our own limitations, and that everyone has the right to be wrong about their own lives.

Trumpism Uber Alles

What we can expect now that we all suffer from Trump Personality Disorder

There is an ultimate, foundational lesson to America’s swift lurch from ailing democracy to Trascist dictatorship.  It is invisible, unseen, but of such importance in shaping this moment in history that it successfully explains and describes these otherwise bewildering times.

Highly complex systems are those in which huge numbers of variables inter-relate over long time periods. Order in such systems can only arise from within, from the relationships that the parts of the system make with each other, limited only by their own natures.  Such systems can be highly orderly and productive, as ours has been; but both order and productivity will decline with any attempt to impose order on such systems.  They can be highly orderly – but they can’t be ordered.

When complex systems are treated like simple systems, those complex systems collapse into disorder.  There’s no avoiding this; treating a complex system as if it were a simple one, or composed of simple parts, ensures the collapse of that system.  That’s what we’ve done, what we’re doing, and we’re doing it for only the best of reasons – our inherent decency.

The attempts of Left and Right to perfect our culture through the force of Law have been the force that has driven the disorder that we have seen, and will see with increasing speed and violence, focused on either supporting or opposing the Great Orange Pimp – the new GOP.

The central, shaping point of this is that, though Trump as the particular clown show of the moment was not predictable, the conceptual mistakes of our shifting political system over the last half century have been predictable – and I know this because I predicted it.

It was in the cards that the Republicans, having adopted since the Nixon administration increasingly fascist viewpoints and methodologies, would have found some clown to nominate as their fuhrer, their Peerless Leader. Trump may be a hideous joke we’ve played on ourselves, but I think we can consider ourselves lucky that Ted Cruz is such a revolting person; Trump may be a buffoon, but far worse is great evil with intelligence.  Every other candidate was running for President.  Cruz and Trump were bidding for Emperor, which was just what the Republican voters were looking for.

That’s the disorder that I have seen over my lifetime; that good and decent people of all political stripes, out of their own goodness and decency, have come to accept the seductive, dangerous idea that very real problems that they wish to solve because they are good and decent people can be solved – increasingly they believed can only be solved – by the ordering of government.  The good people only saw the laws, the regulating of behaviors, the programs, and went away thinking the problems had been solved.  They didn’t see the problems were still there, that problems like poverty and addiction can only be relieved on the purely local level by the efforts of individuals; and they certainly didn’t see the little pool of resentment, disengagement and finally fury that each new law created.  Speedbump by speedbump, the culture has been limited, contained, curbed; as the robots on MST3K so brilliantly put it, with guard rails around the guard rails.

But the anger was there to see.  The good people were blind to it, because it didn’t make sense to them – we’re right about the ordering, so who that we need to respect can possibly object, because we’re right? – but it was there, the little pool that one law created adding to the little pool of the next, until there were puddles, and ponds, and streams, and rivers, and lakes of it.  Now an ocean of resentment and anger has brought the disconnected to vote for someone that many of them know is not up to the job.  Their anger, their detachment from any sense of community, has led them to the unwise but irresistible conclusion that it’s better to knock the whole structure to the ground rather than support more imposed structure, more external ordering.

So what’s next?

Since Trump is not so much a human being as a collection of automatic, defensive behaviors – as described by psychology as Narcissistic Personality Disorder – there will be a churning of aides and assistants in and out of the White House.  They will be bewildered by his behavior; but eventually, either from study or just by accident, one or another of them will discover how to deal with his disorder.

The key to working with a personality disordered individual is to learn a very odd three-step approach – something you must do, something you must not do, and something you must do.  And you have to do these three things calmly, with both warmth and certainty in your voice.  So many stimuli that you or I might not notice at all are, to the PD, intolerable; their reaction is strongly emotional, and the result is what strikes us as a childish temper tantrum, and it is.  Psychologists call this ‘infantile omnipotence’.

When this happens, an individual with some authority in the sufferer’s life must immediately make a calm, reassuring statement of sympathy not with the things the sufferer has said but to the emotion behind it, such as:

“Nobody likes to be misunderstood.” Or: “Anybody would be angry at being treated that way.”

This has the effect of reassuring the sufferer that his emotions are okay to feel.  Part of what creates a personality disorder is that the sufferer has an emotional reaction far more powerful than the rest of us feel, even as his developmental insufficiency makes it harder for him to deal with even normal emotions.  His lizard brain, which is where our emotions reside, creates a much stronger fight-or-flight reaction than others, and furthermore throws it into a personality much less sure of itself.  The immediate need, therefore, is for reassurance, not that the behavior is acceptable but that the emotions that lead to it are.

The second part of this three-step is very important, but is the hardest for us to understand; there must not be a connector.  No ‘but’ or ‘although’.  The first and the third parts must be assured and unconnected.

The third part has to be stated completely devoid of judgment or criticism.  The infantile behavior must not be permitted.  You have to state quite clearly but non-judgmentally that it’s not acceptable to act out in the infantile manner so automatic to PDs.  The sufferer has attempted to gain control – omnipotence – over others through means of tantrums – infantile behavior.  This cannot be tolerated.  Thus:

“It’s not okay to abuse those around you.”

And so the wise handler will wait until the tantrum is over, but not one second more, and say something like this:

“It’s perfectly understandable that you, or anyone, would be angry at being disrespected.  It’s not okay to abuse the people around you.”

Why no connection – no ‘but’ or ‘although’?  Personality disorders bring with them great difficulty at holding two opposing ideas in mind at once; in fact, both short and long-term memory are damaged by their developmental instability.  The sufferer is in a turmoil of emotion, and that emotion is so strong that it frightens him; that’s the only really significant thing about the tantrum to the sufferer, that his emotions are so strong and so scary.  So first the reassurance that the emotion itself is understandable.  After all, your emotions are things over which you have no control; you only control what you do with them.  Telling the sufferer first that his emotions are okay to feel, and particularly that they are a thing that everyone feels and so are not some foreign, inhuman thing –  which is what they feel like to the PD – is the first order of business.

But if you connect them to the last part – the firm but loving and non-judgmental statement that the emotion is understandable but the behavior is not – that ‘but’ serves in the PD’s tortured mind to erase the comfort of the understanding.  If you connect them with a neutralizing word like ‘although’, the last part wipes from the sufferer’s mind the first.  And all of this in as calm and firm a voice as possible.  The emotion, and by implication the sufferer, is all right.  The behavior is not.  Any connector, any ‘although’s, makes the first part disappear, and the PD feels only judgment and censure, which in the presence of the un-comforted emotional state becomes excruciatingly painful.

Eventually someone in his world will either learn this, or stumble across it.  That would be very bad news for the rest of us.  As long as Trump continues to bumble along in that pressure cooker of a job, his essential unfitness for his position will eventually destroy him.  But put some personality, some intelligence and ability, behind him, someone who knows how to guide him, to use him – and we’re all in trouble.

As for the rest, it’s a story easily foretold.  All fascist governments have been alike in their essentials; the slow erosion of rights, the calls to mindless nationalism, the imputation of disloyalty to any opposition, the manipulation of fear of the ‘other’; racism, sexism, regressive propaganda.  Trump has already done what Hitler did in his first few days as German chancellor – rid the foreign service (in our system, the State Department) of all expertise so he can fill it with his own followers, the ‘true believers’.

And progressives will do all they can to help.  They will make a great noise, take over the opposition – in our case, the Democratic Party – and become the most visible face of the anti-Trump forces.

All in ignorance of the single greatest lesson that Trascism has to teach us – that the American public fears the command, the sneer, the shaming, the condescension, the rules and regulations reaching deep into their lives of the Progressive movement more than they care about the problems Progressives imagine they are solving but aren’t, and more even than the possibilities of inept governance.  Trump may be awful, but his awfulness can be seen and resisted; Progressives simply cannot imagine that the rest of us are not thrilled at their snide bossiness, that anyone would be so lost in evil as not to instantly see their good.  Trump’s dictatorship will be obvious to all, and resistible; but from the relentless, humorless dictation of Progressivism, there is no appeal.  ‘We’re here to help – so give us your lives’.

And please note; this is being said by someone who has great sympathy for the goals of the Left.  In fact, I think that a convincing argument can be made based on complexity that the just, loving, caring, nurturing society the Progressives are striving for is the only way we can survive our technological advancement.  We need that future – we’ll devolve into inhumanity and greed without it.  But we cannot get there on the path Progressives insist we go down – that of giving control of our behavior over to Centralized Authority.  The only difference between them and me is that I know, as they do not, this essential, Complexity Science-driven fact of advanced cultures of sentient beings –

You can’t get to a better society by force of law.

Other Versions of the Three Laws

More poetic and precise ways of making the point that you can’t tell people what to do

This idea – that no matter how tempting, no matter how certain you are, no matter even if you are in fact correct, you simply cannot tell others what to do, and that all our dependence on perfecting society through the intrusion of centralized authority into other people’s lives is a mistake that destroys the order upon which society is built – this idea is anti-intuitive. That is to say, it seems so obvious, so natural that if your steps are misaligned, and I can correct your gait, I ought to – I must – help you to see your mistake. And if there are a lot of people moving wrong, there will be joint damage and wasted effort and it will take up the society’s resources, and all the wasted energy, so I have an obligation to society to institute rules that ensure everybody walks straight –

This idea seems, intuitively, true – but in fact is very wrong. The truth is that it takes all our thought and focus and experience to steer our own steps. Not one among us is so wise and all-seeing as to guide the paths of others.  You may well think that you have the wisdom and the calling to command the walk that others take through this terrible, wonderful world. You don’t.

Demanding the Correct Path be kept to will not help others as they find their way through this garden of horror and delight. It can only hinder them, and in hindering, will hinder rather than help society, encouraging anger and resentment that eventually destroys the culture. You have not that wisdom, nor do I, nor does anyone. Your path is yours. My path is mine.

So human intuition is a dangerous guide to how an advanced culture advances further, how it solves the problems those advances create. Since this concept, which the Greeks called ‘hubris’, is in such opposition to ‘reality’ as our top-down-ordering minds so strongly and so wrongly see it that it’s hard to put into words – at least for a non-scientist non-writer like me.

But one can find others who have put it well.

There went out a sower to sow his seed. And it came to pass, as he sowed, that some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up, it was scorched, and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundredfold. And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
– The Gospel According to Mark, chapter 4, verses 3 through 9

A word of apology and an appeal for forgiveness is in order at this point, because I’m going to talk about Jesus as a teacher, and though this may give unintended offense, it has long seemed to me that the best way to refer to his teachings (at least as they’ve come down to us and assuming, in order to focus on the teachings without reference to the religious, that what we read is what he taught; there is, after all, much reason to think his words have been changed and added to, but to consider them as life lessons, that really doesn’t matter here) is to give him his most probable name, Joshua, or as some put it, Yeshua ben Yosef – Joshua, son of Joseph. No Hebrew names ended in ‘-us’. ‘Jesus’ as a name is something of an accident, a romantization of Joshua, from the Hebrew ‘Yeshua’ to the Greek ‘Iesoua’ (var) to the Latin ‘Iesus’ to anglicized ‘Jesus’.

I’m sorry if that offends. I’m not a religious man, nor have I any interest in any spiritualistic discussions; I don’t feel opposed to it, it just bores me. The unexamined life holds no attraction; Occam and his razor are the only thing in which I have any ‘faith’, that all measures of reality are provisional and subject to change. Well, that’s me. Whatever is true for you is just as true, and that’s fine.

I’ve always been fascinated with this parable. The accepted interpretation is about spreading the word, a sort of salesman’s tool. But think of how well it describes what actually happens every day to you and to me. As you go through your day, every act, every word, every snarl or snap or laugh, every joke you tell or oath you yell, the choice you make to give a nice word or complement or complaint, all of it, the things you choose to do or not to do – each has an effect on others, on the world around you, on your own mind and attitude. You encounter someone; do you smile? Frown? Ignore? Avoid? Every one of those things, or any other thing you might choose to do or not do –

Every one of those things done or not done is a little swirl of energy that flows out from you to affect the world around you. Probably any particular one means nothing, changes nothing. Probably it affects no-one. Just another little eddy in the vast river of life. But maybe it means a little something, maybe very much, maybe everything.

A stranger asks for a little help. You don’t help, or you do; and maybe that small act of kindness helps that stranger to find an answer not only to that problem of the moment but touches him so deeply that it goes on to change his life, to empower him to find better answers to challenges that had defeated him. Or maybe that refusal to help makes him realize he’d come too much to depend on begging. Either way, maybe – just maybe, we can never tell for sure – that stranger, so deeply changed by your kind act or kick, goes on to change the whole world. Maybe he was Christ returned, or the Buddha, or a brilliant scientist down on his luck who goes on to invent a whole new way to end disease or hunger.

Or maybe he’s Hitler.

Either way, the parable holds true. Whether you would or not, you cast your seeds about you with every word, every step, every choice taken or avoided, every second of every day of your life. You don’t need religion to see this. The science of chaos theory makes clear that this not only can be, but since we live within a highly complex system we call ‘society’, must be true. Nothing you can do – not even by becoming a hermit – can prevent these tiny or enormous whirlpools of energy from spinning out from your actions or inactions, your presence or your absence.

By now you’ve scattered seed enough to feed a world. Is it good seed? Did it grow beautiful flowers, or nourishing fruit, or brambles that scratch and trip and make others’ lives more painful? Or did it simply drop where it fell and blow away? For the vast majority of the seed you sow – you’ll probably never know what grows.

It’s the way the world works, but it’s hidden from us. It isn’t the way the world appears to us. That’s not at all an aspect of the world. It’s an aspect of our intelligence. For complex reasons, the tendency to see patterns, whether they exist or not, to see randomness as purposeful design and design as random behavior, is an almost unavoidable result of the hierarchy we assume must be responsible for the patterns we think we see, just as we see our own minds as being in top-down command of our bodies and our thoughts when mind in fact exists in a complex negotiation within the brain and body.

Assume Joshua understood this. How does he explain? By parable, like all his teachings. But such an anti-intuitive idea is hard to weave into a homely tale. A farmer who wasted such a vitally importance resource would be shunned, ridiculed, attacked. Even in my childhood, that seemed obvious to me, and as I grew up and thought about it, it seemed obvious also that this difficult lesson meant so much more than the Sunday school teacher wanted me to believe.

And then this question; how do we know if what we do is good and right?

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
– The Gospel of Mathew, chapter 12, verses 33 through 37

You have no choice about this. You scatter such seeds about you as you walk through this life, by deeds both kind and cruel, words both wise and foolish. You can only know which is which by seeing what does, or doesn’t, grow; the only guidance we really get is by the tree that grows from our seeds, tasting the fruit of it.

This strikes me as an elegant way of putting what I’m clumsily claiming as the rules all technologically advanced cultures anywhere must obey or perish. But I agree that this interpretation is arguable, even before anyone has a chance to inject their own pet spiritual belief system into it. There’s another way of putting it that I find applicable, although this one carries it’s own, though not religious, uncertainty. That’s the myth of a Ring of Power, as beautifully presented by JRR Tolkien in his trilogy ‘The Lord of the Rings.’

“And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!”

Thus Galadriel, queen of the woodland elves and herself the bearer of a great ring. Now those of you more schooled than me in Professor Tolkien’s biography, will instantly yelp. We must remember that the good Professor grew up at the end of the Victorian era in England, when just about every other work of fiction was allegory, usually trying to impose some Christian dogma on the reader, and he was heartily sick of it. Still, he was uniquely dedicated to the idea that a mythology, to be of value, must be internally ‘true’ – that is, no matter what fantastical characters and imaginary world the writer creates, the beings within it must behave in ways the reader can identify as human and believable. His creation of Middle Earth, though not meant as a portrayal of the real world, nonetheless successfully held up a mirror to our life, which is to say, we can identify with behaviors, actions, attitudes as those we and others we know might have.

This was terribly important to him, and he put decades of intense effort into its construction, starting as a young man. This is why his works have their power, their endurance; and its absence from the Harry Potter novels, where seemingly random things and arbitrary actions, serving only the author’s needs of the moment and carrying no overarching logic, creates a mythology that fails, mystifying rather than informing the reader.

Thus Tolkien’s great masterwork succeeds, and by so succeeding – by creating a ‘true’ mythology – cannot fail but to represent the world around us, whether he would or no; not in the allegorical literary tradition, but representational nonetheless. And here I would have you consider –

Does the Dark Lord move by magic? It may be that, in creating his minions, he forms them and commands them by his mystic powers; yet when these forces act upon the other characters in his novels, they do so in purely mechanical ways. His armies attack with entirely physical weapons, and even his most powerful followers use blade and knife. His forces attack with all the tactics and weapons of any Earth-bound invading army. He may use terror as a motivating force, as have many very real generals here in our world, but even if his minions use the knife in the dark, its still a very real knife, no matter the unreal hand that holds it.

And isn’t that just exactly as happens here on Earth? His power motivates his forces; is that really any different than the moral certainty and God-given passion of the Crusades? Is the cruelty of the King of Angmar really of a different sort than that of the Trail of Tears and the smallpox-infested blankets we gave to those First Nation victims on their long forced march?

I put it to you that there is not one iota of difference between Middle Earth and the power of the One Ring to rule and to command great armies, and our world with its police so certain of their power and the obligation of the people to respect and obey that the deaths of the innocent are of little moment, actions to be automatically and instantly defended, the killer to be protected at the cost of whatever lie or cover-up is needed.

And for that reason, I see no difference between the Ring of that world, and the Vote in this; once the Ring is put on, or the Vote taken, the result is the same.  It invests its bearer with the right to rule others, a right not to be challenged, a power not to be resisted, leading, as Galadriel well understood – and as you don’t – only to evil and destruction, no matter how good the wearer. Would you have turned away the offer of the Ring, as she did?

Frankly, if you’ve ever voted for a law that reaches into other people’s lives to impose on them your own sense of right and wrong, to define a victimless crime like drug use or contract between consenting adults or the failure to wear a seat belt, then the clear answer is –

No. No, you would not.

Our politics is divided between those who would impel decency according to their God and those who would do so to save the whale and feed the poor. I admit I find the former cause absurd and the latter admirable, but the end result is exactly the same; men in dark uniform, in the night, with all the majesty of Law on their side, destroying people’s lives because of somebody else’s sense of Right and Wrong.

Galadriel passed the test. You failed. Think of this, now, January 20th, as a mentally unstable buffoon takes control of the forces of the State: The bell tolls for thee.

Still, this too is an argument, as any Tolkien scholar would loudly claim. But I’ve saved the best, most beautiful, most telling example of the Three Rules for last:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Because the forces of good and decency in our nation have failed to understand the vital need to defend the first sentence, they have empowered and unleashed forces that will carry out the rest. Because you know yourself to be Good, the reality of your Despotism eludes you. And so you have ensured the mayhem and destruction that is about to follow.

But worry not; cowards – fascism appeals most to the most cowardly of us – always start with the weak, the poor, the defenseless. So you still have time to sit back, comfortable, well-fed, and simply wither them with your (hidden) scorn.

Good luck with that.


And so, good luck to us all.  I say this to you with all the passion I can, as a warning:

Americans need Freedom, but Freedom doesn’t need America.

Three Rules Abbreviated

I attempt brevity – and good luck with that!

I thought I’d try a very brief description of my post on what I consider, doubtless wrongly, are the core observations that must apply to all advanced cultures to enable them to continue advancing.  And then a little hubris.  Not much.  Just a little.  Just a wafer-thin …

Remember, you are free to copy this, use it as you will, even claim it as your own.  That may seem a strange thing to say, but the extreme nature of my insomnia makes it impossible for me to give a damn about it, or in fact damns in general.  This is why, as I try to explain in the first of these demented mutterings, I have comments turned off.  These are thoughts to toss out into the great void.  I must divorce myself from care about what anybody thinks or does with them.  This has to be a one-way conversation; I don’t care because I can’t care, because caring threatens what sleep I do get.  So even if you steal these and copyright them, it’s not a thing I’ll object to.  Such is life.

So –

Three Universal Laws of Advanced Cultures

Law 1:  You Can’t Tell People What to Do

It diminishes true order, which self-arises in highly complex systems, and replaces it with hierarchical ordering, which erodes complexity and diminishes productivity.

Law 2:  You Can’t Tell People What to Do, Even If You are Right

It destroys the sense of self-interest in the health of the community, upon which order and productivity in a complex system depends.  It doesn’t matter if in fact you are right that they should do like all what you say; it’s the telling itself that does the damage.

Law 3:  You Can’t Tell People What to Do, Especially If You are Right

The resentment that grows to replace the sense of self-interest in the community destroys the good that you desire in that community; resentment at being told to do even good things makes those clearly good things seem evil to those resenting them.  The good that people do must be by choice; only evil can be done by force.

And of course I can’t tell you not to tell people what to do – because that would be telling you what to do!  Bwahahahahaaaaa (Evil Laugh pat. pend.)



The Three Rules that All Advanced Cultures Must Obey

An observation in exosociobiology; a lesson in how to destroy a nation

There are rules that all technological civilizations throughout the Universe, regardless of the nature of the individuals in it, must follow to avoid collapsing into chaos.  Obeying these rules leads to further development.  Ignoring them results, in time, in deterioration of the culture.  Whether we speak of humans, intelligent carrots, intellectual fish, wise bags of gas – it doesn’t matter.  These rules apply everywhere in the Universe, because the Universe works on complexity, and complexity demands these rules be obeyed.

Why?  Because the Universe is a highly complex system, and the cultures of self-aware, intelligent beings are more complex than the Universe.  Such cultures, composed of any kind of being, will act in accord with the observations of complexity.  Complex systems, such as the human brain, cultures of any sort anywhere, and the Universe as a whole, are by definition systems in which order arises out of the interactions of individual units whose actions are limited only by the nature of those individuals.

Here’s the most important aspect of highly complex systems and how they are organized.  Allowed to work out their own relationships over time, the effect of all these local negotiations can be a high degree of order and productivity – but when such a system is subject to hierarchical ordering, even the ‘right’ ordering, both order and productivity fall.  This is always true of all highly complex systems; order and productivity rise or fall by the degree to which such systems are, or aren’t, allowed to work out their own relationships, limited only by the natures of the individual parts therein.

Consider a meadow here on Earth.  All the individual parts of it have evolved to play a role that natural selection has fitted them out for.  It’s in the nature of a fox to chase down and eat smaller animals, like rabbits; it’s in the nature of rabbits to run like crazy from danger.  A particular fox may or may not chase a particular rabbit; a fox won’t spread its wings, fly through the air and swoop down on a rabbit, because that’s not in the nature of a fox.  The order we see in a meadow is created from just such interactions; beings in it have evolved to have a place in that system, and though they can evolve to fit better into that system, they cannot act in ways that are outside of the space they’ve evolved to fit.  A caterpillar can change into a butterfly; it can’t change into an owl.

It’s a bit confusing to apply these observations to the cultures of intelligent beings.  Conservatives tend to see culture as being composed of inherently vicious animals whose viciousness must be limited by laws.  This is untrue.  They see the ‘individuals’ of a human culture as if it was composed of wild animals; but a culture is composed of political units.  It’s in the nature of wild animals to obey only their own interests expressed through instinct.  It’s in the nature of intelligent beings to want to live at ease, to not be harmed by others, and when they feel safe, to extend that same respect to those around them.  I don’t kill others not out of fear of being punished – when people do kill others, it’s always in a situation where the fear of punishment has been overwhelmed by the immediate situation, so punishment is never actually a limiter of behavior.  I don’t kill others because I’m self-interested in living in a culture where nobody else kills me.  Thus the ‘nature’ of the individuals in such a culture is not the animal, but the political unit.

Whatever might be the nature of the individuals in any particular culture, however productive or unproductive, orderly or disorderly that culture may be, that productivity and order has arisen from the interactions of the members of that particular culture.  The global is simply the noise made by the local, multiplied over the whole culture moment by moment and situation after situation.

A gangster culture, such as Russia has, will tend toward disorder and unproductive behaviors because the individuals in it feel but scant connection to others, and express little interest beyond selfish behaviors regardless of impact on others; because of its ugly, vicious history – a people who have never ruled themselves but have always been ruled by a hierarchy – it has never developed a strong sense of community.  A decent culture like ours tends to create an inherent, even if unstated, sense of connection; I don’t steal from others because of my interest in living in a culture where others don’t steal from me.  This idea doesn’t, and never will, apply in all situations; certainly we have members of our culture who don’t feel this connection strongly enough to curb their selfishness, but such exceptions are usually limited to the criminally insane (a very tiny percentage of the population, no matter that you greatly enjoy watching entertainment in which those very few are celebrated), the desperate poor, and the very rich and their corporations.  But the difference between our culture and Russian culture is a question of percentages; most Russians feel antagonistic to the interests of others, whereas most Americans feel supportive of others, even though most of us limit that unstated, hidden support to those we feel are like us.

This leads to a universally true factor in the study of the societies of all advanced cultures in the Universe – that is, in exosociobiology.  Successful cultures work within the limits of complexity – that order and productivity increase with the ability of the individuals in that culture to act in their own interests as defined by the individuals themselves, and decreases when order is imposed on those individuals.  It doesn’t matter if that imposed order is a desirable order; the imposition even of ‘good’ order is as destructive of cultures as ‘bad’ order, and the imposition of order by a dictator is no more damaging than the imposition of democratically ordained order.  It’s the imposition that must be avoided for a technologically advanced culture to continue to advance – and a technological civilization must continue to advance, or it will fail to constructively deal with the unintended consequences of that advancing technology.

Thus the three rules that all technologically advancing cultures in the Universe must obey, if they are not to choke on the results of their technology.  Since I’m personally interested in order and productivity on Planet Earth, I will use ‘people’ as the applicable example.



Fisher’s First Law of Exosociobiology:

You Can’t Tell People What to Do

This rule confuses almost all Americans.  It’s the evil that has been done by our addiction to violent entertainment, and by our worship of law enforcement.  Since the days of Jack Webb’s Dragnet, Americans have become more and more addicted to the police procedural, to the extent that network evening programming now has little else, and even public broadcasting depends on these centralized-control-worship indulgences.  This has happened because over time more people have felt alienated by the culture and threatened by others; and that alienation has occurred because we have become steadily less a voluntary society and increasingly a command society.  It’s a vicious cycle; we feel disconnected due to choice being replaced by demand, which increases our angst, and that feeling of disconnection results in more pressure to control others, which results in more support for imposing order on others and thus even more personal choice limitations.

This leads to the absurdity that, in a culture in which actual criminality has steadily fallen for hundreds of years, most of us see murders and muggings and fraud day after day, and soak ourselves in degradation and filth.  You yourself might certainly have experienced victimization at the hands of criminals – but statistically, probably not; yet murder and death and robbery are a part of your world every single day of your life.  Gosh, can’t you see it?  Don’t you believe your own eyes?  It’s right there on the Television Machine!  So of course you imagine it to be endemic in the culture; if this is the way you live your life, your memory contains vast criminality, you see it everywhere, and so there’s no way I or anyone else can convince you otherwise.

Thus most Americans, and apparently other ‘advanced’ nationalities, have become convinced by endless repetition that order depends on law.  Questions of criminality are said to be ‘Law and Order’ issues.  This is clearly, unquestionably backwards.  Law has never, can never, and will never create Order; but Order tends to create Law.

How could it be otherwise?  If there is an absence of order in a community, out of what structure would ‘law’ arise?  Before there can be a lawmaker, there must be some kind of social structure in which that law can be created; there must be a king or a priest or some kind of hierarchical structure.  How could Law even be expressed without someone to express it, and a structure to impose it?  Can’t be done.   The very existence of a Law implies both a Lawmaker and a Law Enforcer, which requires an already-existing Order.

We see this when we compare the legal traditions of the West with those of a dictatorship like Russia has always had, or that has been cruelly imposed on North Korea.  Those are both cultures in which order is imposed – but unavoidably, it is a low, vicious, highly unproductive order which grinds the individual to dust, and which produces little of value.  It cannot be otherwise; the more the culture depends on centralized control, the meaner and more unproductive that culture will be.  This is always true, in all places and at all times; I submit that it is true throughout the Universe.  When the parts of a complex, highly random system are allowed to interact with each other limited by their own natures as political units, a very high degree of order and productivity self-arises; that culture will then codify the arisen order as Law, and even if those individuals imagine that the Law the culture creates is the source of Order, in fact Law will be used not to impose order but to formalized the ways that culture deals with criminality.

Laws can’t prevent you from killing me.  If you want to do me harm, there is no ‘Thin Blue Line’ that will stop you from doing so.  But if you do me harm, the culture we live in will begin a process of judgment; thus ‘Law’ is a reaction, not a preventative.  The preventative exists, but it’s internalized (or not) in self-interest; you don’t want to be robbed, so you don’t rob others, even if in your own mind you imagine it’s your fear of punishment that limits your actions.  When emotion or desperate need or addiction or, in the case of the very rich, unbridled greed do motivate criminality, fear of punishment disappears completely.  In fact, in our culture, the very rich have little fear of punishment, and yet the vast majority of even the richest of us are still decent, loving people.

Thus, telling others what to do is in every case destructive of order.  But I know you don’t believe this, which leads to –

Fisher’s Second Law of Exosociobiology:

You Can’t Tell People What to Do, Even If You’re Right

This rule confuses almost all Americans.  Our politics is divided into three roughly equal parts; people we pretend are conservative who want to tell others to do things because God!, people we pretend are liberal who want to tell others what to do because Think of the Children!, and those who, having no interest in telling others what to do, pay no attention to politics.  And that’s pretty much it; Liberty has no naturally occurring support, and the people who most use that word actually mean their own personal freedom to do whatever they want, especially with guns, without fear of repercussion, of being held responsible for their own actions.

Thus the most common, nearly universal American statement is this: “I don’t need Government to tell me what to do, because I know Right from Wrong; but that guy across the street, the lady down the alley, I’m not so sure of them, so Government needs to write rules for them.  And those people who are different from me, with a different religion, or an accent, or speak some other language, or have a different skin color – boy, you’d better keep an eye on them, because they could do anything!”

And the guy across the street, and the lady down the alley, and the people who are different, all think the same thing: I don’t need to be told what to do and what not to do, but those other people . . .

So we get a country where two-thirds of the population vote in law after law, control after control, out of fear of what others might do, and never see the damage that does because they don’t think any of it is aimed at them – they know Right from Wrong, but fear that you have some different definitions, so you need to be watched, to have your choices limited.  And the other third, just as passionately believing that ‘government’ automatically means ‘telling others what to do’ and not wanting to tell anyone anything, assume it all has nothing to do with them and thus don’t participate.

It’s an addiction, a sick dependence, on believing themselves to be right – because their own personal God says they are, or because terrible things might happen, or because, gosh, if we let you make your own decisions you might make a mistake and do something we just know is wrong – and that being right gives them the wisdom to guide or limit other people’s actions.  Every headline, every atrocity, every bad thing that happens, every act of ungodly or simply accidental behavior begets a new law.  I put it to you that every headline in any newspaper in America results in new legislation to attempt, quite uselessly, to prevent such terrible things from ever happening again – none of which actually prevents anything.

And I also put it to you that you can search as much as you care to through the debates that surround such legislation.  These debates never, never anywhere, never on any account involve whether such a problem is in fact best addressed through law; pragmatics are sooo boring.  What little debate we have is limited to deciding whether a problem exists.  We all simply assume, without question, that Law is the appropriate solution to any and all problems.

So our political debates are limited to this and this only; are we right?  Is this in fact a problem?  Is the triggering event really a bad thing?

Consider global warming.  Why do conservatives doubt the clear evidence of it, preferring to twist logic and reality into a pretzel, to invent impossible, insane conspiracy theories?  Because they are as dedicated to every real problem demanding State action as progressives are.  They don’t want new laws and restrictions on their behavior, but assume without questioning that of course if it’s real there must be such laws and restrictions – so it can’t be real!  Problem solved!

And why is the Left so passionate about global warming?  The evidence is beyond debate – but it isn’t the reality of the threat that motivates them.  They know they’re right; so of course there must be law, there must be limits on other people’s behavior.  This is ridiculous; mankind’s disruption of the carbon cycle doesn’t happen on the level of governments.  It isn’t created by only the big things big organizations do – it’s all of us, each of us, making purely local choices every moment of every day.  It happens on the level of granularity of individual actions, individuals making their own good or bad choices, and one of the cardinal rules of complexity is that a highly complex system can only be affected on the level of granularity upon which it has been created – which is the true meaning of the Butterfly Effect.  It isn’t a question that can be dealt with by telling others what to do, it’s entirely a question of what you do, dealt with or avoided by you personally, through your own actions and multiplied by the number of individuals who do, or don’t, individually change, or avoid changing, their own actions.  Government can help or hinder – but a solution will, or won’t, come from you, multiplied by 7 billion other ‘you’s every second of every day.

We can’t stand that truth; we want to solve problems by telling others what they should do.  It’s just too hard and too scary to change ourselves.  We prefer to demand that others change.  So no debate ever includes any assessment of whether or not we really need a new law, whether or not Law is actually appropriate to a given problem, and especially whether the answer might actually be our own acts and not the actions of others.  American politics is entirely limited to belief – is this a problem or isn’t it? – and the side that believes most passionately (or has the most money) wins.  That there will be a law is a given; the only question we ask is ‘who’s right’, but that there will be Law is never challenged.

That leads us to –

Fisher’s Third Law of Exosociobiology:

You Can’t Tell People What to Do, Especially If You are Right

This rule confuses most Americans.  The only American debate is which side is correct that a problem exists; nobody pays any attention to the damage done by forcing others to change their behaviors at the threat of law, of arrest, of imprisonment.  But what happens when you take so much choice away from those individuals who may believe otherwise, to force a behavior, or the avoidance of a behavior, that others may not see the rightness so manifestly obvious to you; who may not believe in your God, or want something different than you do for their children?

I consider the paradigm of this – the example that demonstrates the concept – to be the laws that will punish you for not wearing a seat belt.  That seat belts save lives is clear; only a fool refuses to buckle up.  Yes, you can, if you so desire, imagine situations where the wearing of a seat belt causes problems; but for every such situation, there are literally hundreds where lives were saved.  There are in fact many situations where the wearing of a seat belt has enabled the driver to stay in control of a car, and its lack has caused drivers, by being physically thrown away from the brakes or the steering wheel, to turn a minor skid into an accidental death.

But what happens when the driver is wearing his belt not because he thinks it’s the wise and safe thing to do but because he fears being ticketed?  A person who believes that seat belts are dangerous would be quite wrong, quite foolish – but people have the right to be foolishly wrong.  If such a fool feels he’s being forced to do something he doesn’t want to do, especially if he is so stupid as to think he’s being endangered, he won’t feel protected – he’ll feel that society is demanding his endangerment.  This will engender resentment, detachment, a sense of estrangement from society, a sense that our culture is demanding he put his life at risk because of the delusions of others.  He’d be wrong, of course; but does it matter that I think so, or that you think so, or even that clear evidence demonstrates he’s being protected and not endangered?

No, it doesn’t.  Multiply that by intrusive rule after intrusive rule and you get an enormous pool of resentment. People think what they think, believe what it comforts them to believe.  We are not really logical beings, as much as we may want to think we are.  The very best of us, the very wisest, lives yet in an ocean of conflict and emotion tugging us this way and that.  Our personalities are a negotiation of opposing forces, of emotion, experience, assumption and prejudice; every possible position, and many an impossible one, is held by someone.  Inevitably, on some subject and likely on many, you are a fool.  And so am I.

So you can demonstrate all the statistics you want to that prove that the fool should wear his seat belt.  But what statistic demonstrates the damage done?  How many acts of road rage are driven by seat-belt laws?  That’s not so easy to demonstrate.  Again, add all the uncountable rules and regulations, even the wise ones, each one of which discounts and disconnects a few.  It adds up to a lot of disconnection.

That’s the biggest problem with telling others what to do – that it destroys the good that it purports to serve.  More and more people feel more and more disconnected, and anger grows and grows and grows, to the point that a great many people no longer feel that society is worth protecting.  Is there any question that this is why a manifestly incompetent and talentless man is about to become President?  It’s an act of destruction, committed by a Party of the angry, the disconnected, so furious at having their own interests denied and dismissed that they choose, like Samson, to pull the Temple down rather than endure more torment.  I’m sure you don’t believe this – after all, you know that people should wear their seat belts; so you simply will not credit that anyone could possibly resent it, or that it matters if they do.

It matters.  This massive disconnection is now the only thing that matters.  It’s destroying us.

Year by year, law by law, over many decades, instance upon instance, control after control; an abscess of resentment and anger and fear has grown, and you haven’t seen it – because how could anyone resent what your rightness has done?  So decade after decade we have seen the Safety Net frayed, public schools under-financed, bridges decaying, reactionary politics chasing thought and respect from the public debate.  The sense of community on which our Democracy depends has frayed to the breaking point.

And who’s at fault in this?  You.

You, because you know that you’re right.  You, because to you, being right is the only limit to your telling others what to do.  You dismiss the damage done, so deeply do you believe in your own rightness, and thus in your own right to tell others what’s right.


But don’t worry.  Your punishment awaits you; the most powerful nation the Earth has ever known is on the verge of being lead into madness by a madman.  Condign (adjective); well-deserved, appropriate, fitting, as in condign punishment – a penalty that is perfectly fitted to the crime.  The snorer who is forced to sleep next to a train track; the pickpocket who loses his hand; every person who voted in all those laws in their hopeless efforts to perfect our union through force watching their country fall into fascism.