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Is this the future we are heading toward?  A new ‘utopian’ state of anarchy?  I certainly hope not.

 

This excerpt describing what the author describes as the ‘woke uprising’ after the killing of George Floyd:

 

“The key scenes in the woke uprising that followed the killing of George Floyd are rituals of purification in which public officials have washed the feet of insurgents, and acts of iconoclasm in which public monuments have been destroyed or defaced. These are symbolic actions aiming to sever the present from the past, not policies designed to fashion a different future.

The only concrete measure proposed has been to defund and disband the police. As some of the insurrectionaries’ placards have proclaimed, there will be no more police violence when there are no more police. Once repressive institutions have been methodically dismantled, a peaceful anarchy will prevail. As could have been foreseen by anyone with a smattering of history, outbreaks of mass looting in Chicago and other cities have not borne out this confidence.

New, ‘transformative’ systems of law enforcement will confront problems not unlike those faced by the police forces that have been dissolved. ‘Autonomous zones’ of the kind that have been announced in Seattle, Portland and Minneapolis will need to resolve disputes and enforce their decisions. Local warlords and prophets — some of them no doubt armed — will become arbiters of public safety. When they overreach themselves and fail to protect even minimal levels of security, vigilantes and organised crime will fill the void. Where this proves costly or unstable, federal government may step in and impose order. In other cases, cities may be abandoned to become zones of anarchy.”

I wonder if the current state of activist politics is the antithesis of the liberation movements that came before them.  With ever advancement in our history there has always been a counter revolution and corresponding steps backward in terms of human social progress.  This current phase shares a fair bit with what Maximilien Robespierre having fun with during his hey-day –

“In his Report on the Principles of Political Morality of 5 February 1794, Robespierre praised the revolutionary government and argued that terror and virtue were necessary:

If virtue is the spring of a popular government in times of peace, the spring of that government during a revolution is virtue combined with terror: virtue, without which terror is destructive; terror, without which virtue is impotent. Terror is only justice prompt, severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue; it is less a distinct principle than a natural consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing wants of the country … The government in a revolution is the despotism of liberty against tyranny.”

The further we descend into the political woke wilderness the more the comparison to counter revolution in France in 1794 seems to stick.  :/

 

 

   This from the latest issue of Harper’s.  I urge my readers to read the entire essay, as it provide a great amount of pertinent history about he American political system and illustrates clearly how the Establishment often acts in concert to dampen the will of the people.

“Further examples from the bitter, costly campaign of 1896 can be piled up almost without limit, but you get the point: we are in the grip of a remarkably similar distemper today. To be clear, I believe that President Trump richly deserves nearly any criticism he gets. He is not really a populist, and I have no intention of building sympathy for him. But the danger of anti-populism is that it goes far beyond objecting to one vile politician. This was demonstrated in March as the anti-populist establishment came together to pummel the campaign of Bernie Sanders. Whatever its target, anti-populism is always a brief for elite and even aristocratic power, an attack on the democratic tradition itself. That is ultimately what’s in the crosshairs when commentators tell us that populism is a “threat to liberal democracy”; when they announce that populism “is almost inherently antidemocratic”; when they declare that “all people of goodwill must come together to defend liberal democracy from the populist threat.”

These are strong, urgent statements, obviously intended to frighten us away from a particular set of views. Millions of foundation dollars have been invested to put scary pronouncements like these before the public. Media outlets have incorporated them into the thought feeds of the world. Just as in 1896, such ideas are everywhere now: your daily newspaper, if your town still has one, almost certainly throws the word “populist” at racist demagogues and pro-labor liberals alike.

Here is David Brooks, making the connection between “populists of left and right” in a New York Times column denouncing Sanders. The Vermont senator, Brooks asserts, embraces

the populist values, which are different [from liberal ones]: rage, bitter and relentless polarization, a demand for ideological purity among your friends and incessant hatred for your supposed foes.

And here is how The Economist made exactly the same point, whining that Americans may soon be forced to choose

between a corrupt, divisive, right-wing populist, who scorns the rule of law and the constitution, and a sanctimonious, divisive, left-wing populist, who blames a cabal of billionaires and businesses for everything that is wrong with the world. All this when the country is as peaceful and prosperous as at any time in its history. It is hard to think of a worse choice.

As it happens, the men of quality did their job, and working Americans will not face the ignoble prospect of voting for a candidate who takes their side against billionaires and businesses. The larger message of anti-populism, regardless of where it comes from on the political spectrum, is always one of complacency. Elites rule us because elites should rule us. They are in charge because they are the best.

And so we come to understand the real task before us today: to rescue from the enormous condescension of the comfortable the one political tradition that has a chance of reversing our decades-long turn to the right.

This essay is excerpted from The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism, which will be published next month by Metropolitan Books. “

As the curve of the current pandemic increases world wide, we need to heed the lessons of the past and not let the less scrupulous among us advance their agendas using the pandemic as cover.

 “The New York Times called the vigilantism “the most diabolical and savage procedure that has ever been perpetrated in any community professing to be governed by Christian influences.” Those arrested for leading the action were found not guilty in a trial. But authorities got the message: quarantine facilities were moved off-shore to a boat named after Florence Nightingale, then two islands off Staten Island, and finally, in 1920, to Ellis Island.

Stephenson argues that the well-prepared arsonists were led by men of property who wanted to “remove an obstacle to development and investment.” The xenophobia of the islanders was also a factor, echoing racist voices today who claim foreigners bring in crime and disease. For all their stated fear of disease, however, locals happily paraded through the smoking ruins and the displaced patients, seemingly unworried about infection. Stephenson writes: “The destruction of the Quarantine was less an irrational act of hysteria than a planned effort to allay community anxieties.[…] These actions suggest a crowd that was more intolerant and cruel than freedom-loving, and more vengeful than afraid.”

 

One of the many calculations going on in the background within varied historical contexts is the relationship between efficiency and resilience.  Consider arch construction from Roman times and now.

The Roman arch has a distinct set of design principles that focus on the utilitarian principles of usefulness and longevity in public infrastructure.

 

The modern arch.

 

Same concept, but now a different formula has been employed, as different ends are in mind. Aversion to overbuilding, a focus on form rather than utilitarian concerns.  Public architecture most certainly, but will these arches last centuries?  Doubtful.

 

So, from here we can extrapolate the notion of the interplay between efficiency and resiliency, the Roman arch being the model of resiliency and the modern arch being the exemplar of efficiency.  Neither is wrong per say but rather, each work displays what qualities are needed at a particular point in societal history.

Fast forward to the present.  And yes, the present we speak of is the Covid-19 Pandemic of 2020.  Like the Spanish Flu before it, the Coronavirus is rapidly burning through the various world populations.

The societal systems we have built are mostly modelled on the basis of maximizing efficiency, as efficient systems with capitalist societies are usually quite profitable.  Jill Richardson writing in Counterpunch describes the model we are using for much of our economy.

“I went to business school 20 years ago. We learned about the efficiency of “just-in-time” supply management.

The goal was to cut costs by ordering inventory “just in time.” That way you don’t pay for all the extra, costly warehouses to store weeks or months of supplies. The example we were given was that if a certain large corporation’s supply chain shut down, they’d only have enough materials on hand to keep up production for four days.

Efficient? Yes. Resilient? No.”

Economic design decisions, like societal design decisions reflect the social priorities and needs of a people at a particular time.  When paradigm shifting events happen, like a pandemic, the shortfalls of the system are revealed.

“My business school taught social Darwinism: survival of the fittest. The beauty of capitalism, we were taught, is that everyone competes for business and the competition drives innovation, while the least efficient companies go out of business.

It was an outlook that Ayn Rand would endorse: the most generous way to behave is to be selfish, because by doing your part to compete, you are doing your part to drive innovation and efficiency for everyone.

This crisis is pulling back the curtain on unfettered laissez-faire capitalism, showing that we are actually interconnected. And it’s far more serious than toilet paper.

A stark shortage of personal protective equipment has left health care workers without enough to go around. In my town, hospitals are organizing to receive donations from anyone who has a box of face masks, hand sanitizer, and gloves at home.

In short, they’re relying on community resilience where for-profit efficiency failed.”

Our capitalism system is a marvelous at maximizing efficiency, but when the base rules and global situation changes, the once successful model (should) quickly lose its lustre.

“In normal times, we justify a form of capitalism in which competition means accepting inequality and suffering in the name of improving efficiency for all. We accept that some face poverty, hunger, and homelessness, and we’re okay with it because of a myth that it’s natural, or better for everyone (or else caused by the moral failings of those who suffer).

Continuing to believe that myth now will cause millions of deaths worldwide. Instead, our only hope is pulling together to help others through shared sacrifice and collective action.

Resilience isn’t always profitable. But we need it now more than ever.”

We will need to adapt our models and societies for this new base set of conditions.  A foundational requirement in the new normal will be building a higher level of cooperation in society and the fostering the willingness to critically evaluate the old paradigm and correct the models that do not jive with the new social reality.  Building resilience into our societies must become a priority otherwise the pandemic lessons of 1918, and 2020 will need to be relearned at a great cost to human life and progress.

 

 

” Whenever we try to rearrange natural systems along the lines of a machine or a factory, whether by raising too many pigs in one place or too many almond trees, whatever we may gain in industrial efficiency, we sacrifice in biological resilience. The question is not whether systems this brittle will break down, but when and how, and whether when they do, we’ll be prepared to treat the whole idea of sustainability as something more than a nice word.”

A new model is necessary to mitigate future crisis, it must revolve around the idea that a formula weighted more toward resilience is necessary for a sustainable future.

 

 

 

 

 

Christopher Given-Wilson writing in Aeon Magazine describes the how the Inkas rise and fell with their system of communication.

 

“Instead of writing, the Inkas’ principal bureaucratic tool was the khipu. A khipu consists of a number of strings or cords, either cotton or wool, systematically punctuated with knots, hanging from a master cord or length of wood; pendant cords might also have subsidiary cords. The basis of khipu accounting practice was the decimal system, achieved by tying knots with between one and nine loops to represent single numerals, then adding elaborations to designate 10s, 100s or 1,000s. By varying the length, width, colour and number of the pendant cords, and tying knots of differing size and type to differentiate data, the Inkas turned the khipu into a remarkably versatile device for recording, checking and preserving information.

The main uses to which khipus were put were, firstly, to record births, deaths and movements of people, thereby providing an annual census upon which local labour, military and redistributive assessments could be made. They were also used to count commodities, especially the tribute payable by conquered provinces such as maize, llamas and cloth (there was no coinage). Maize, for example, might be represented by a yellow cord, llamas by a white cord, and so on. Early Spanish chroniclers and administrators were astonished at the accuracy of khipu calculations: according to Pedro de Cieza de León, writing in the late 1540s, they were ‘so exact that not even a pair of sandals was missing’.

Training in what anthropologists call ‘khipu literacy’ was compulsory for a specified number of incipient bureaucrats (khipukamayuqs) from each province. For this, they were sent to Cusco, where they also learned the Inka dialect, Quechua, and were schooled in Inka religion. Like most imperial rulers, the Inkas conquered in the name of an ideology, the worship of their chief deity, the Sun, and his child on Earth, the Sapa Inka. Sun-worship was mandatory throughout the empire, and vast resources were allocated to the performance of an annual cycle of festivals and rituals, and to the maintenance of the priests who staffed Tahuantinsuyu’s ubiquitous shrines. However, the Inkas also tolerated local deities, which, if perceived to be efficacious, might be incorporated into the Inka pantheon.

It is hard to see how alphabetic writing would have helped the Inkas to administer Tahuantinsuyu more efficiently: this was not an intensively governed empire but a federation of tribute-paying and politically allegiant provinces. In other spheres of government, such as law, writing would doubtless have made more of a difference, leading perhaps to the development of written law-codes, arguably even a ‘constitution’. But since writing was never developed, imperial rule remained weakly institutionalised, leading to a concentration of power and office, which meant that when the Sapa Inka was removed, there was little to fall back on.

So when Francisco Pizarro and his 200 or so conquistadores captured the Sapa Inka Atahualpa at Cajamarca on 16 November 1532, Tahuantinsuyu was left headless and disorientated. The confusion that followed was the crucible in which Spain’s New World empire was forged.”

So if you are homeschooling you have an answer to the question “why do I need to learn to read”?  Answer: So the Spanish do not come from overseas and kick your ass.

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