Radical Centrism vs. Spectacle/Dialectic

In a previous article, I recently said:

“I believe that our society is governed by Spectacle; which is to say the modern equivalent of “bread and circuses”, designed as an array of deliberately false choices between options that don’t matter, and which only really distract from important issues. Coke versus Pepsi. America versus Russia. Sports Team A versus Sports Team B. Conservative/Republican versus Labour/Liberal/Democrat. Left-wing versus Right-wing… I believe in having consistent principles, respecting the importance of evidence, and remaining committed to helping others where possible. Where that may suggest a Right- or Left-wing view on my part, then so be it… I am not concerned with such labels, but am wholly committed to principle, and thus consider myself a Radical Centrist.”

These thoughts form the context of my general political outlook, which I call Social Futurism. The core ethos of that worldview – The Principles of Social Futurism – can be found at http://socialfuturist.party, but my purpose now is to further explore some implications and the positions they suggest. This article approaches these issues from the perspective of community (temporarily leaving aside state-governance; these being the two branches or aspects of civil society which together comprise a functional whole.)

Intentional Community & The Ajat Imperative

Community is the people themselves, whose interests should be served by state and government. In other words, government and the state itself exist to serve the interests of the community, not the other way around. This thinking is essential to Radical Centrism, which similarly condemns politicians who put the interests of the Left, or the Right, or their own party or other organizations above those of the community as a whole.

Furthermore, I am a Social Futurist, which means that I believe in Positive Social Change Through Technology. In my previous article I explained that I envisage a future-human community with voluntary – actively chosen – membership, defined by peoples’ growth toward a shared ideal rather than the divisions of the past. I call this community the Ajati, being an ancient Sanskrit word meaning not-born, made-rather-than-born, or self-made. This ideal is perfectly and deliberately compatible with Transhumanism, which is a philosophy focused on improvement of the human condition through technology.

What we are talking about here is the creation of Intentional Community on a grand scale, building upon a foundation of explicit Principle. The fundamental idea is of the community as an ideal, process, and work-in-progress, demanding our commitment to its safety and development. That process-ideal is an organism of sorts, a “meta-organism” or individual-writ-large, with its own needs and desires. While it is critical we stress that this is a purely voluntary, individually chosen ideal (and the Principles of Social Futurism emphasise the right of free exit), the ideal itself is communitarian, centred upon the common growth and wellbeing of community members as a people.

Given that, we must ask ourselves about the potential stances and arguments of those who would prefer to not be part of such an Intentional Community. We should expect such people to span a wide range of attitudes toward the Ajati community, which can be broken down into five categories as follows:

1. Fellow Travellers

“Fellow Travellers” are those who sympathise with our own views and choices, but who are not part of our community, for whatever reason. That’s perfectly fine, and in fact something to be encouraged. Fellow travellers are friends, who we will help at every opportunity, after prioritizing community members.

2. Neutrality

“Neutrals” are the vast majority of people, who are not expected to have any deep views about our community (or likely any other, in any systematic manner relevant to our aims).

3. Active Libertarianism

Libertarians ostensibly believe in their personal freedom from control. Taking their sentiment to its logical conclusion, we should expect Libertarians to adopt wholesale Anarchism. The majority of Libertarians are sadly hypocritical in their views, rightly condemning governmental dictatorship, while excusing (and even promoting) exactly the same behaviour on the part of other nations, large corporations, gun lobbies, even churches.

To the extent that someone is a true Anarchist or Libertarian, then we can accept their views at face value, and accept that such a person simply chooses to stand on their own two feet, for good or ill. That is their choice. We consider such people to be Neutrals, whose own choices are theirs alone, and we respect that.

False Libertarians, however, are dangerous. Those who say they stand for personal liberty, but who endorse it under some regimes and deny it under others, cannot be trusted. There is no knowing whose agenda they truly support, and the only thing you can be sure of is that they will lie when it suits them, or worse, they are terminally self-deluded. In any case, we must treat them as probably opposed to us and our way of life, or not standing by their own words when push comes to shove, at the very least. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, we are forced to assume that self-identifying “Libertarians” have not thought this through, and thus cannot be trusted. If they can demonstrate otherwise – that they oppose all forms of centralized control, rigorously and without exception – then we can offer the olive branch of trust.

4. Ineffective Negativity

The world is full of opinions. The internet is largely a relentless ill-thought-out-opinion-machine, because (among other things) it connects and amplifies all the worst, ill-educated, unhelpful tendencies that human beings can muster. Any number of people will oppose a thing just because it is new, strange, or foreign to them, and they’ll invariably do so in a way that draws no distinction at all between their own opinion – however fleeting and baseless that may be – and objective fact, as suggested by empirical evidence.

At the end of the day, such mundane and mindless negativity may not be the spirit we require and cultivate in our community, but it also isn’t necessarily a threat to us. Insofar as negativity toward us is completely inconsequential, then we can afford to tolerate it. The moment someone else’s negativity is likely to create consequences for us, it becomes our problem.

5. Effective Negativity

Finally, we come to the problematic category: Those who would do us harm, for whatever reason, and have the capability to make that happen, eventually, one way or another. If we truly intend to survive and thrive – and we do – then we must be ready to deal effectively with such people and situations, however regretful or distasteful that may be. Broadly speaking, we may consider two types of active and effective opposition to our personal choices and way of life. The obvious type is those clear and “honest” cases of people who don’t like us for whatever reason, and who make it quite clear that they intend to cause us harm. Such people may be no friends of ours, but at least it’s quite apparent what you’re dealing with in these situations.

There is a less direct type of effective opposition, however, which can be more dangerous. This is any situation in which the threat is obscured, thereby discouraging preparation against it. An exotic (albeit realistic) scenario that Futurists should be familiar with is “Unfriendly AI”, being any situation in which an Artificial Intelligence (AI) doesn’t mean us explicit harm, but its drives or goals run counter to our safety or wellbeing in some way. A more prosaic example is that of everyday Capitalism; a system under which large companies may have no particular urge to cause your community harm, but they could (and often do) still do so as an unforeseen consequence of their prime directive, which is nothing more or less than to make a profit. Profit and all other economic phenomena are entirely secondary to us; What matters above all else is the wellbeing of our people.

Peddlers of Spectacle & “Dialectic” are a particularly obscure and devious example of this latter threat category. As mentioned above, ‘Spectacle’ is the “show” of modern consumer society, in which people are offered all sorts of apparently free choices, none of which add up to anything of real consequence… but by accepting the options on the table, people are unwittingly making the serious choice of handing their lives over to those who orchestrate such false-choice-scenarios. It seems benign enough at first glance, this idea of offering all sorts of glitzy consumerist choice, but this ages-old “divide and conquer” strategy runs very deep in our society. After all, they tell us our votes count, but we can only vote for those who agree upon the broad outlines of a pre-approved political paradigm (for more on this, see my previous article on Liberal Democracy). As the old joke goes, if voting really changed anything, they wouldn’t let you do it.

Interestingly, the Situationist notion of The Spectacle shares ‘cultural DNA’ with the older idea of Dialectic, which was co-opted from European philosophy by Marx in the 19th Century, becoming the foundation of extremely repressive Communist ideology in the USSR for 70 years. This academic de-evolution took the simple idea of using opposing viewpoints to explore an issue (in the days of the ancient Greek philosophers), and transformed it into a grotesque fable of “Historical Inevitability” in which mankind was magically destined for Communism.

The common thread here is of illusory choice, with some deeper or even inevitable factor underpinning the illusion. A world in which we are puppets, dancing on the strings of false dichotomies, and the constant call for “choice” and derision of any alternative vision is basically a command for us to stick to the script. United peoples with clear, shared priorities are not so easy to manipulate. If you truly want a positive future in which you are the author of your own fate, then it is best to seek out others who share your values, rather than putting your trust in those whose own goals are at best tangential to your own.

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