Thursday, November 01, 2007

Ren|Essentials for A Values Based Participatory Economy

This should be the first of a collection of analysis of another prolific (especially at Thom's Forum) blogger's writings. While this may seem to be a constant attack on him, I truly believe that he is very smart and informed about the issues. The following is the opening statement from his website:
Part of my purpose on the web is to enhance my writing skills and to self publish in our primary, if perhaps only, form of participatory democracy. Most of it occurs as part of Message Board conversations. Sometimes I say something I want to refer to more than once, kind a basic philosophical formulation. That's another reason for this site. Below is a point of view I finally put together to answer a question about what would be involved in a values rather than profit based economy. I've thought about this perspective for years, so it reflects something important to me, that's why I keep it in my base camp notebook.
I have seen his writing skills even better than this web site shows but still acceptable for a blog. Like I have a right to criticize? LOL. So let the conversations begin...
In my view, both the left and the right want the same thing. They want a system of some kind that they can point to, to make themselves feel secure. The marketplace economy with all its pseudo science rules and laws is one such system. It operates in an ideologized framework beyond the participatory and interactive control of the subjects. Decisions about resource development and consumption occur as a result of Social Darwinistic laws that were parsed from a small segment of Darwin's much broader and more comprehensive evolutionary theory, and have been pasted over our innate intelligence by the management oriented intellectual minds who have nothing better to do than sit around and figure all this out.
Strange to talk about "pseudo science" from a guy that believes that Eco-psychology is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Yes, it is strange that both sides of the debate about economic systems compare the "capitalist system" to something like "survival of the fittest". As one of my recent posts point out (Markets W/O States) that people are basically cooperative beings and that for as much competition there is there is actually more cooperation. Just think of how so many people cooperated to create a corporation like IBM, WalMart, etc. And I have the same thoughts about all kinds of endeavors on the left that dreams up Eco-psychology, and the countless variations of Marx's basic thoughts. These endeavors are nothing beyond glorifying Nihilism. Luckily because society as a whole has so much free time on its hand then all these navel gazing get plenty of exposure. Actually complex societies (as some call what we are under) allows such a plethora of pontificators about such trivia matters.
In this context the implication that just about everyone has brought to our current cultural consciousness is that, except for a special few, humans are little more than rats in a box trying to achieve self satisfaction through schedules of reward and punishment. If only they would all just try to be better rats and learn how to maneuver through the box and jump through the hoops, all would be well. If you want to insist on using such concepts, then I would say that both the left and the right are hooked into this dominance system ideology in only slightly different ways. The result is a nation in an increasingly globalized and dangerously interconnected international society -- with occasional warring factions that must be controlled of course -- that is driven by fear and dependency because the people of the nation and increasingly the world no longer have the cultural skills to make their own self determined way through life as we all once did.
Skinner Boxes is a recurring theme in a lot of ren's writings. I just wonder what society does not impose some conditions on individuals? Mostly through social conditioning that even pre-industrialized societies had to maintain restrictions on the individual. For example those unlucky enough to be rejected by society for being elderly. Basically a throwback to the "noble savage" is the dream he is living. Since ren in essence rejects the present value system even if defined as liberal or conservative frameworks and longs for something that impossible, I conclude that nihilism has consumed his thought processes. It is no longer a rational way at deducting the problems but more of a religion that is driven by the first sin.
That segment of the brain that once took part in that activity is hardly used now as people increasingly specialize themselves to fit into the cog of a giant marketing supply/demand side system. If you are an accountant, then from that specialized niche, you would be aware that comptrollers and their department personnel are generally in a position of immense influence in management structures, at least partly because, like the priests of ancient times, nobody knows what the heck they are talking about. Look at how the financial world shakes when Greenspan opens his mouth.
Yes, there is specialization in labor that is continuing unabated, but since knowledge is so deep in every topic then people spend years and years to learn their narrow focus of information. Even generalists have to have secondary masters degrees lately. But without this specialization then eco-psychology and many of the highly educated fields would not be possible. The pyramid needs a strong and stable base to support this specialization process.
The way I see it this whole mindset of dependency on a system needs to go or we are doomed; which means we are probably doomed because I know it won't go easy. In my view, it's the mistaken result of a path taken about ten thousand years ago when, by developing agriculture as a means of controlling the vagaries of ecological fluctuation, apparently first at about where all the turmoil in Iraq is occurring, a whole system of dominance ideology evolved. The variations of capitalism are a recent variant; as would be the versions of Marxism that tend towards centralized control.
As I noted above, there was original sin that humans committed 10,000 years ago was the planting of seeds in the ground. The only other social construction that ever existed then was the 'noble savage' as a hunter-gatherer. Thus not likely any ecopsychologist would be necessary or even possible. I do agree that Marxism tends toward centralized control in practivce but on a theoretical basis it was meant to be anti-centralized.
In relation to all that I want to be a bit more specific, and hopefully much clearer about where I'm coming from on this general attitude of the left/right dichotomy that I’ve heard expressed thusly:
I also notice a common idea that concentrated ownership of resources by corporations is inherently a bad thing.
Yes, please be more specific. Ren also has the basic liberal meme of that Corporations are bad. But even by its basic setup allows non-concentrated ownership. More people own the means of production than any other time in history allowed in much part through stocks. Stock ownership allows the basic division of ownership across broad and varied peoples. Diversification of portfolios also is an added feature of corporate stocks.
You see, it's not the problem of concentrated ownership I am talking about (I don't speak for anyone else) it’s the vast system of hierarchical organizations designed to dominate and control the resources, in a system that is regarded with almost religious awe. The hierarchical systems themselves are the problems. Stockholders are irrelevant, because the systems have a built in ontology that by nature excludes democratically based participatory control. As a system, it fits into the larger ideological market system perfectly. It's efficiency and capacity to garner resources makes it one of the strongest organizational constructs in that system. As a system that engenders ways to develop certain unimportant human capacities, like caring for one another, interactive concern for one's environment, trivialities like that, it is completely deficient.
If anyone is praying to the gods, it would be ren as his god of ecology and science that is only supported by the complexity of our present system as ren defines. Business and corporations are willing to try a lot of different management styles that give results. I had the privilege to talk to some of the people in the development projects at Hewlett-Packard and it was interesting how they were given complete autonomy to work the hours and the way they wanted as long as progress was made. When workers feel free in our new intellectual jobs markets they are more likely to be productive. While I do think that shareholders should have more say in the running of the company, they clearly can not micromanage the corporation. But shareholders are the ultimate participatory democracy as people are free to buy or sell stocks as they so desire.

Ren basically has created a anthropomorphic fallacy by giving human characteristics to corporations. They are only entities that only own assets. Only humans have human traits of compassion and concern for others and the environment. Now if corporations and thus the shareholders that own them want to have alternative purposes for being in business (aside from profit motive) then I say more power to them.
So I'm talking about democracy, and democracy is something altogether different than these externally conceived systems everyone has accepted as a fact of life, and that they allow themselves to be governed by. I believe human beings are inherently democratic in nature. But it needs to be learned and nurtured. If we could wake ourselves up we might just find that "do unto others as you would have others do unto you" is built into the hard wiring of our brain, and would function naturally as a part of our everyday existence.
Yes, we are hard wired to be cooperative in nature, but we also have some sides that desire to compete for competition sake. Some have defined it as The Will to Power. Like why do people climb mountains? Because they are there. Ren's version of democracy is Participatory democracy. While this might have some positive aspects it basically lacks broad support since not many people want to explore every issue in depth. I see that our specialization of jobs is also manifested into the political arena.

Political positions that often do not gather support have followers that believe that if just given enough information that people will make better decisions. But those people somehow think if their brainwashing was more potent that it would counter the present propaganda. If humans are inherently democratic in nature then why does it coerciveness to be so 'learned and nurtured', shouldn't it come naturally?
It's about people getting together and making reasoned choices as a group based on the situations they find themselves in, starting from the truly advantageous point, in terms of survival, of caring for one another and the welfare of the group as a whole, instead of treating each other as competitors in a hostile environment. Each person in a democracy participating, not letting specialists do it. Training ourselves as we go along to do it better and better, thus providing a different kind of evolutionary framework from the Social Darwinist, free trade market competitive evolutionary scheme that has led to this conundrum of a situation, as I see it. That way of being cannot be forced on anyone, it has to be freely chosen by everyone. It is fragile. Systems of dominance have always been able to disrupt and destroy democracy. That's certainly one lesson from the past 10,000 years.
Again ren sees the present system as competing against him personally, instead of a cooperative atmosphere where many people come together to work on the same goals. But the participatory democracy has few that would possibly want to learn about all the nuances of government. I recently heard how a farmer politician had got into politics since he had opposed some taxes. He assumed that everything in the world was ok except that one tax. Obviously his constituents was just himself. While he admits that any system of participatory democracy would take broad support, he also understands that it must be free will for any structure to be sustainable. Which is one reason past communist/socialist experiments ended badly. But if a few scorpions could destroy the system that easily then that system is unsustainable prima facie. As human nature to have Interstitial Characters, then a few each generation would eventually destroy the system without some police state to control them.

This passage I wanted to point out specifically: Each person in a democracy participating, not letting specialists do it. I have known ren on-line for over a couple of years and he has used the argumentum ad verecundiam (Latin: argument to respect) so many times. And conversely questioned my knowledge or training countless times also.
In the end, democracy and corporate globalization are the antithesis of each other. Democracy is a locally interactive process, capable of being environmentally sensitive. Globalization is a system of increasing centralization and autocratization of human beings into larger and more efficient management systems, which could easily end up being a planet of nothing but monstrous corporations one day if it can go to it's logical conclusion. Such entities have already demonstrated their complete lack of concern for the value of life, and disinterest in correcting the wrongs that are left in their wake after a disaster. I submit Bhopal as an example.
How, how are they an antithesis? People get to decide what products or services they want and people in a participatory economics model decides where to spend their income and money. There are all levels of democracy and to say it is only at the grass roots is simply naive. As far as corporations we have more now than ever before and we get more all the time. We have more businesses also. As we create more markets we get more suppliers and thus more businesses and as they mature we end up with more corporations. Thus in the end we end up with more decentralization and with this nation states (police states) have lost some power. This is actually a fear of the anti-globalization fear mongers. They look at the state as their protectorate, and if that entity loses power that somehow they have lost power and freedoms also. But globalization provides freedoms, it is democracy that needs strengthening not the police state. As far as the Bhopal disaster I too think that ultimately Union Carbide is responsible, but this incidence does show that the scorpions can show up anywhere when the person that sabotaged the valves caused the deaths.
What I'm interested in is having the freedom not to be a well trained cog in any of these systems. These systems offer the carrot of security. I don't believe security is possible. I think the idea itself is a mistake. By looking for security humans have developed these huge, unwieldy, passive populations who live lives in which they have very little active engagement. Once they have bought into the concept of security, discover that they have few real alternatives with their lives but to depend on the system, then fear is the easiest motivator that can be employed in the event of some minor ripple in the system of obedience. In other words, everyone scarcely develops beyond the dependency level of a child.
More to the feelings of being caged and manipulated. Obviously a childhood that was not secure and stable. I have struggled to explain how ren sees the world as controlling and how I see it full of freedom but never quite got how to explain the differences. This is clearly a reason for me to categorize his views as nihilism. He has rejected all values as the freedoms we have without a clue to what type of freedoms he wants other than some vague concepts that resemble the bosom of a caring mother.

I can understand the point about fear of security, but then when ever there is a problem ren assumes that the Federal Government is failing. But ultimately ren wants to see humans go back to some noble time like the noble savage period. Talk about hoping for the destruction of humans. Again what compassion is that to think we should allow 6 billion humans to die?
As it stands these days, your choice is to look at the system, figure out where you want to be in that system, and try to somehow get there. In a shifting global marketplace where employers have the entire planet of people in increasingly vulnerable life sustaining environments to move around in, one can only hope the job one has trained for is still worth something in the "job market" when the training is over. The sensation of scale, up and down, is smothering. It permeates all aspects of cultural life. Ask anyone: Do you want your child to grow up to be a fully emotionally mature, self actuated human being or to be a leader? You know most people don't even ask the question. It's always: he or she has leadership potential! with much pride of course. How many are proud to say their child looks like a good empathizer, or a potential synthesizer person. Priority is leadership because we are in a dominator stratified system. Anyway, that's just a side example.
This is funny that now that we have so many more choices in life that that is actually a cage. Instead of being born a noble savage that had the choice to either hunt or die, people now have countless choices. They even have the possibility to create their own job and career. Think Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

As far as empathizers in our society, I had plenty of chances to participate in "Diversity Training". And one had a list of traits on one side and jobs on the other. Corporate CEOs actually scored high on all the traits that we identify with motherhood including empathize and feel for others. Anyway leadership comes in may styles and each has its benefits. I have tried to direct and teach my wife in how to manage people. Many technical people can not manage other people.
If you fit yourself into the scheme of things well enough, chances are you will live a nice, steady secure life, maybe there will even be a little excitement somewhere. All this as long as the system you depend on works.
As we get closer to the end of this paper, we can see the personal touches of 'you' added. Well I am sure he depends on the system also to some degree. He has yet to give me any reason why the 'system' will not work for a long time. Ren feels it is a systemic problem and no matter how many problems are solved the structure itself is unstable. I see stability in two manners that will conquer all problems the first is Liberal Democracy that allows information and voting to be free and widely dispersed. The second is the market system so that allocation of resources can be diverted to the most productive uses. The problems we have is not distribution of resources but increasing the productive capacity of the lowest segments of our worldwide society. Also the people of the world having the negative rights that we have here.
I have no real interest in arguing about how to adjust the existing system one way or another. The way I see it the adjustments from either side are usually necessary, the logic of maintaining business profits for the wealthy to maintain their “incentives” versus the ambiguous logic of health and welfare of the population. Nobody ever seems satisfied so the ongoing struggle seems to suffice to keep some sort of balance. In the course of my life, I have become intolerant of the dominant social institutions and values imposed by an authoritarian system of ideas over human life and freedom. My efforts now go towards opposing processes that negate the self sustaining democratic values I care about, and I do so by emphasizing different goals, values, and aspirations that undermine this system of domination. Basically these entail concepts of participatory democracy and of course participatory economic activities necessary to life. I've been successful in doing this in a private enterprise environment with a group of acquaintances to some small degree over the past 14 years.
Basically more nihilism in the first sentence. A statement to refute all systems that have been devised so far and no replacement except some vague concept of participatory democracy. For a nice analysis of Nihilism within the framework of the movie Pi here.
But ultimately the world is made up of hierarchical constructs of the victor over the victim. And for us to somehow think that humans are going to be beyond even what nature (or God) provided is pure foolishness. Thus it rejects all values that are logical which leads to nihilism and not to the ultimate and dreamed about Übermensch. He is also fooling himself if he thinks that just because he is an independent contractor that somehow he is not in the same system. Thus ren rejects all present value systems as he describes here and prays for a system that is illogical and unstable in his own words. Thus nihilism rears its ugly head...

Essentials for A Values Based Participatory Economy

A Critic Answers Some Questions

Authoritarian Consciousness in American Democracy

rén 's video collection



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