FORWARD BASE B

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Neo-Tribal Mercantilism

Territory on a map, while important, always has been an incomplete indication of actual power.  Many a sprawling country is composed of mostly mountains and desert.  Land is in the crudest sense just a box of earth and air to contain the real source of a group’s power and identity—its people.  After the emergence of rapid transportation and mass communications during the 20th century, geography no longer means what it used to. We no longer spend our whole lives in a single farming village, immersed in a strong communal culture by default.  No one place is inhabited by just one group.  Even Utah, the holy land of a world religion isn’t even composed of 2/3rds of the faithful it is meant for.  Representatives of every people are found nearly everywhere. We might live in several different cities in a single decade going wherever there are jobs.  The capability of movement invites us to play a lifelong game of arbitrage, going wherever we can get the best deal.  As such, political secession based on geographical affiliation is an obsolete idea.  Lines on maps matter less than the invisible lines between class and breed.  The nebulous things we now call “subcultures” begin to coalesce into something more concrete.  The future leads to neo-tribes that rely on no particular place for identity.  The idea of secession will come to mean cultural and economic separation rather than political and geographical.

In less than a century we have transitioned from being farmers to semi-nomads who drift from place to place with no ties to physical territory or traditional cultures that come from peoples who spent centuries in one place.
Scattered nomads must compete for scarce resources but we aren’t yet allowed to fight directly. There’s still a strong state that maintains a strict monopoly on violence, its functionaries oblivious to fundamental changes.  Under a seemingly placid surface of law and order, emerging factions endlessly trade passive aggressive barbs.
When neither war, nor control of land, or even elections decides conflict between groups, conquest and pillage is wrought through the quieter means of economics.  Commerce becomes war by other means.  Instead of launching invasions, colonies are established by dominating real estate and desirable job markets.  From this struggle to control wealth we see the rise of neo-tribal societies from the ruins of monolithic 19th century nationalism.  Everyone who captures wealth is no longer just a free agent, they become steadily more aware that they are soldiers on the battlefield and every gain they make is also a gain for those most like them.
When we pick up a penny on the sidewalk, we capture a unit of wealth.  If we imagine wealth as territory, the Empire of You has expanded by an amount of value worth 1 cent.  Money can be created any time, out of almost anything, and is just a means of exchange, but whether tender is backed or fiat it represents control over forms of wealth constrained by scarcity.  You have that much more force to bring to bear in pushing the world towards your vision.  Whatever group or culture you are part of also gains by that same amount. This increase in strength represents a loss for your enemies.   For you and your tribe every penny is a tiny piece of ground captured after a charge across noman’s land under machine gun fire and artillery.  Wealth is dear because every scrap of it represents victory against all the opposition in the universe—the pitiless impersonal forces of nature and one’s fellow man.

Comments Make Top-Down Journalism Obsolete

On news sites anymore, I skip articles with a gnawing sense of annoyance when I find they have no comments section.  Articles are limited in length and I find there’s no one person that knows so much that other people out there can’t expand on their points and further illuminate the topic.  Even where commenters are hysterical and stupid I get a valuable sense of the mood of the readership.
Comments serve as quality control.  I notice articles that lack a comment section are often opinion pieces with some wordy and smug aristocrat blowing wind out of their ass without having to face the contemptuous criticism they deserve.
When an article is poorly written, commenters point out the problems and shred it to pieces.  And when it’s well written they analyze and expand beyond what any one person has time for.

I often see the comments attract people far smarter and more experienced than the author. The very word “journalism” sounds like something limited to an age before the internet got big. That’s because the author of an article is no longer an authority talking down to the masses. They’re now just an OP that starts a discussion thread. It’s a good public service to start a thoughtful thread that attracts smart commenters, but it’s no longer a pulpit to form others’ opinions for them.
My parents still e-mail me articles from mainstream publications that either have no comments, or its obvious they didn’t read the comments section, where the piece they found value in is convincingly trashed and refuted by dozens of thoughtful people, or at least greatly refined and improved on.

Journalism remains as a sickly presence on life support mainly because older generations are stuck in their habits. But just as actual printed newspapers are disappearing, journalists recognized by society as ceremonial caretakers of truth with “expert” opinions will also phase out.
In a high-information world everyone can see the man behind the curtain and comments make it painfully obvious that average people on the street are often more knowledgable than the sheltered pets that write for big-name gatekeeper institutions. Well-connected mediocrities that have always hidden behind these information monopolies will not survive the transition.
Soon, only those who earn audiences will have them. There still are and will be gatekeepers—but they will only maintain their influence by maintaining their quality standards and jealously guarding their credibility.

I often hear disgust about comments and it’s true mob rule is no good. But the OP always gets to speak first without interruption even if there’s a crowd of thousands. I also find there is a natural justice in commentary. A low quality click-bait article attracts low quality commenters. A thoughtful piece tends to attract top notch analysis while the nature of its content weeds out people who just want to troll or scream in ALLCAPS.
The mob aspect of comments means it is a tool that has its proper uses. I might start out reading an article with its comments and later look up facts and numbers to see if what people are saying makes sense. I might find both the article author and the people are on the wrong track and come to my own conclusions. The psychology of why so many people are mislead creates interesting questions in itself.

The way crowdsourcing has developed through mediums like comments and wikis demonstrates how internet enables new ways of benefiting from the wisdom of the crowd while avoiding the downside of mob rule.
I suspect that the crowd structures we now use for navigating a broad range of opinions, or looking up facts will eventually prove useful to states that will be increasingly pressured to discover means of administration faster and more nimble than traditional bureaucracies.

Rethinking the State

A product of enlightenment thought, the nation-state tried from the beginning to make people into interchangeable citizen-workers. Whether in Japan, France, China, or Italy, no matter when, the program was always the same—to force everyone to speak the dialect of the capital city, wipe out regional differences, and mandate total participation in an impersonalized money economy. It allowed humans coordinate as never before, every citizen with an identification number and papers tracked from cradle to grave, everyone pumped through the same school system to be given the same standardized knowledge and experiences. By the 19th century, homogenized mass states were behemoths able to easily crush other forms of organization. The nation-state craze led to the colonization of most of the planet and culminated in the relentless meat-grinder of senseless world wars. Then an unstoppable force began to come apart.

The one-size-fits-all philosophy of the nation state is its demise. When nationalism stripped away traditional cultures, it never really replaced them with anything of substance. By making all a country one place, all the country became no-place and everyone became no-one. After the world wars, the cognitive dissonance was finally overwhelming. What had all the death and destruction been for? The mass state could grind on like a machine for its own sake and take on a hideous inanimate life devoid of the capacity to care.
The illusion of purpose in the nation-state slipped every time 100,000 young men ended up dead over one mile of ground or a beautiful ancient city was bombed flat for an airy idea. For some decades longer nationalistic zeal was perpetuated by the antagonism between the USA and the Soviet Union. But one could not continue without the other. Without the distraction of threatening outsiders, growing internal divisions could no longer be ignored.
Now, internet and smartphones have made 19th century nationalism obsolete. This is because the advantage of factory-style nationalism is the ability to coordinate millions of people at a time, however clumsily, and overwhelm the enemy.
This is a strategy appropriate for a world where the telegraph, railroads, steamships, and mass production were recent technologies. 1860s nationalism was a way for states to take full advantage of those advances in logistics and communication to crush their competitors. One mistake from a general or bureaucrat could get a million men killed, but so long as the other 10 million made it through, they could win the war.
The problem is communications and logistics have continued to rapidly develop since those days. In an agile world nation states are like drunken giants—mighty, slow, and clumsy.
War has left archaic nation states behind. Paralyzed by the threat of nuclear war, they continue to waste their wealth on massive conventional weapons that just sit there. When they try to use them against small, agile non-state groups, they fail. It’s like trying to swat mosquitoes with missiles.
The world of commerce has left the old nations behind. Corporations have little connection to any nation and they make a profit wherever they can. They are like nomads going from one pasture to the next as they will. When one archaic nation is used up, on to the next.
Culture is leaving behind the nation state as well. With the internet, only language barriers really limit communication any longer. This inherently challenges the ability of each nation to keep a closed off herd with limited access to information. It would be hard for us to imagine WW1 with smart phones. Everyone’s Mom and Dad would see the piles of dead on facebook and everyone would quickly realize the whole disaster had been caused by the machinations of a few effete nobles. With modern communications borders on a map are no longer the main way people determine affiliation. People are still limited by geography, but within their range, they naturally group with others who are like them and share their interests. This is the re-emergence of tribal identity within nations. In United States, politics become increasingly divisive as each faction in a diverse population begins to become more conscious of itself as a separate entity with its own interests diametrically opposed to those of other factions. Elections are thus becoming zero sum competitions to see which groups can screw over the others.

The nation-state became dominant even though it was less efficient and natural to humans than tribal groups because it could operate on a much larger scale. With mass communications, tribal groups can now also operate on a massive scale, neutralizing the advantage of having a monolithic nation.
I have pointed out there will be a state even if it’s just the local gang running things. The difference is there will be tribe-states instead of nation-states. This will mean the rules that could once only be applied to small groups will be applied to large groups.
In my latest articles discussing the ethics of economies, I am applying the rules of small societies to large ones, anticipating what the tribe-state might look like. The enlightenment thought that ultimately devolved into relativism and nihilism in government, commerce, and culture will be abolished. Every action by everyone will be understood to have a purpose in accomplishing a common goal.
It won’t be an order of equality, the most valuable will be rewarded best, though in proportion to what they offer. There will likely be informal castes where different types of people are encouraged to stick to what they’re best at. And I doubt it will be a peaceful time. The world is overpopulated and people are now scrambling to join whatever group they think will help them grab more scarce resources. History doesn’t take breaks and humanity is about to begin another big transition. There could be a dark age for awhile, but it will lead into the next age.

The Obsolescence of the Nation State and ISIS

I found an insightful essay by an Israeli writer, Uri Avnery.  The trends of centralization until the World Wars and decentralization ever since has been a favorite topic of mine.
Excerpts:

“By the end of the 17th century, existing states could no longer cope with new demands. Small states were doomed. The economy demanded a safe domestic market large enough for the development of modern industries. New mass armies needed a base strong enough to provide soldiers and pay for modern arms.”

As I like to say: The main source of national cohesion is the fear of other nations.

“If I am not mistaken, it was Gustave Le Bon, the French psychologist, who asserted a hundred years ago that every new idea is already obsolete by the time it is adopted by the masses.

The process works like this: somebody conceives the idea. It takes a generation for it to become accepted by the intellectuals. It takes another generation for the intellectuals to teach the masses. By the time it attains power, the circumstances that gave it birth have already changed, and a new idea is required.”

“THE OBSOLESCENCE of the nation-state has given birth to a paradoxical by-product: the breakup of the state into smaller and smaller units.
While the world trend towards larger and larger political and economic units gathers strength, nation-states fall apart. All over the world, small peoples are demanding independence.”

“NATIONALISM WAS a European idea.
It never struck deep roots in the arid fields of the Arab world. Even in the heyday of Arab nationalism, it was never quite clear whether a Damascene, for example, considered himself first a Syrian or a Muslim, whether a Beiruti considered himself first a Maronite-Christian or a Lebanese, or whether a Cairene was first an Egyptian, an Arab or a Muslim.”

“The modern Arab nations were invented by European colonialists…THESE imperialist manipulations ran counter to Muslim history and tradition…THE HUGE attraction of the movement now called “Islamic State” is that it proposes a simple idea: do away with all these crazy borders drawn up by Western imperialists for their own purposes…With one swipe it clears the table of the nation-state and its derivatives. It carries a clear, simple idea, easily understood by Muslims everywhere.”

“THE WESTERN response is almost comically inadequate.  People like Barack Obama and John Kerry, and their equivalents all over Europe, are quite unable to understand what it is all about…They are facing a new phenomenon.”

The Obsolescence of the Nation State, Uri Avnery

Ottoman Empire before its non-Anatolian provinces were split up after WW1 into modern nations.

Ottoman Empire before its non-Anatolian provinces were split up after WW1 into modern nations.

Even CNN Understands Jobs Are Obsolete In Post-Industrial Abundance

“New technologies are wreaking havoc on employment figures — from EZpasses ousting toll collectors to Google-controlled self-driving automobiles rendering taxicab drivers obsolete. Every new computer program is basically doing some task that a person used to do. But the computer usually does it faster, more accurately, for less money, and without any health insurance costs.
We like to believe that the appropriate response is to train humans for higher level work. Instead of collecting tolls, the trained worker will fix and program toll-collecting robots. But it never really works out that way, since not as many people are needed to make the robots as the robots replace.
And so the president goes on television telling us that the big issue of our time is jobs, jobs, jobs — as if the reason to build high-speed rails and fix bridges is to put people back to work. But it seems to me there’s something backwards in that logic. I find myself wondering if we may be accepting a premise that deserves to be questioned.”
LINK

Even if it’s an opinion piece, a lone voice in the wilderness, I’m very surprised to see this kind of sentiment in an MSM publication like CNN.

ezpass booth

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