#FreeWillies

free-will-99-steps-of-progress-geek-art-series

Last week, in the wake of the People’s Climate March and the #FloodWallStreet protests that followed it, I was tweebating folks of the “voluntarist” persuasion of libertarianism about the alleged hypocrisy (or irony, at least) of environmentalists using the fruits of capitalism to communicate their presumably anti-capitalist ideas. This was something we used to hear a lot in the beginning of the #Occupy movement from Wall Street’s apologist-propagandists in the media and the grandstands they played to. The argument seemed to be, if you use it, you can’t complain about it. Interesting to me, those who take this argument seriously (and assuming anyone really does, it must be these people), they don’t seem able to see that they could be accused of a similar hypocrisy for criticizing the government when they benefit from government infrastructure, public safety and defense.

But that is not my problem with the voluntarists. My problem is with their fundamental stance, which was exemplified for me in a tweet from one “Jack”:

Jack ‏@oaaselect Sep 23

Did you get tricked into buying your device [meaning what I was using to Tweet with] or did you buy it voluntarily? @ChristofPierson @scooterpie61

via Twitter / Notifications.

On its face, this seems like a good question. The problem is, if you dig just a little under the face, the question falls apart. Do we really buy things “voluntarily”–of our own free will? Is it as simple as that? Consider the millions of people who broke records dumping their current phones for the iPhone 6 recently. Did all of those people need a new phone? Did they need the iPhone 6 in particular? Considering they were surviving fine without it until it went on sale, It’s hard to believe they did.. But the question is not did they need it, but did they want it? Did they buy it of their own free will?

Philosophically, free will is still controversial, of course. It’s a popular belief for obvious reasons, but the jury is still out on whether or not it’s fact. The very unpopular determinist position is that we are restricted to a very limited range of behaviors, based on any given stimulus, and the range shrinks the more habituated to these stimuli we become–unless we are insane, in which case, our behaviors can be frighteningly free-ranging and considered dangerous to society. Of course, just because this is an unpopular (because unflattering) point of view doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

I think it’s prudent to wonder, then, if the millions who ran out to buy the iPhone 6 all really “wanted” the phone or were responding as expected to a stimulus (“new Apple product,” or just,” latest gadget”) they’ve become habituated to reacting to in a specific way. There is no easy way of knowing, except maybe by comparing one’s own responses to these kinds of stimuli. Do we always buy what we want? Do we always take the job, or marry the spouse, or buy the house or car or gadget we want?  If I were a voluntarist–I mean, if voluntarism were something I thought I wanted to believe in–wouldn’t it be important to know if free will were something more than a wish or hope–in other words, a self-flattering illusion? Wouldn’t it be important to know if it were something more like an objective fact?

If it is more like fact, it certainly is not a simple one. But my conversation with these voluntarists was unsatisfying not just because of Twitter’s limitations as a forum for complex discussion. These voluntarists were not interested in complexities in the least. They were quite content with their received opinions about free will, the nature of “real capitalism’ (which according to them is something, unironically to them,  not of this world), or the right (or justice, if you will) of those who critique capitalism partaking in the gadgets the system produces. I have to wonder, who’s less liberated: the person within a system who sees its faults and says what those faults are, or the person whose ideology doesn’t permit more than a shallow understanding of the very thing they think they believe in.

Will the “Final” Revolution Be Started by Second Amendment Absolutists?

Gun-porn kitsch or talisman of the "final revolution?"

Gun-porn kitsch or talisman of the “final revolution?”

“A new American revolution is long overdue. This revolution has been brewing in the hearts and minds of the people for many years, but this Independence Day, it shall take a new form as the American Revolutionary Army will march on each state capital to demand that the governors of these 50 states immediately initiate the process of an orderly dissolution of the federal government through secession and reclamation of federally held property. Should one whole year from this July 4th pass while the crimes of this government are allowed to continue, we may have passed the point at which non-violent revolution becomes impossible.

“The time to sit idly by has passed. To remain neutral is to be complicit, just doing your job is not an excuse, and the line in the sand has been drawn between the people, and the criminals in Washington, D.C. While some timid souls will say that it is too early, that we can solve this problem through democratic means provided by government, that current levels of taxation are reasonable for the services provided, and that the crimes of this government are merely a tolerable nuisance, it may already be too late.

“While there is risk in drastic action, the greater danger lies in allowing this government to continue unchallenged. So if you are content with the status quo, stay home, get fat, watch the fireworks from a safe distance, and allow this Independence Day to pass like any other. But if you see as we see, and feel as we feel, we will see you on the front lines of freedom on July 4th, 2013 for this, The Final American Revolution.”

Signed, Adam Kokesh, May 23, 2013 from a cage in the Philadelphia federal prison.

In the summer and fall of 2011, I watched with excitement as the Occupy movement spread from Wall Street to Main Streets across the nation and, surprisingly, then the world. It was thrilling to watch a movement to change the way everything is done not only launch and spread but so quickly get deep into the consciousness of people all over the globe. Even the most powerful news media, though claiming at first to be uncomprehending of its aims, were taking its ideas about the  politics of inequality and the corrupting influence of money seriously. It felt like a world-historical revolution was being born right in front of our eyes.

Then came the winter of 2012 and Occupy, most of its camps having been forcibly removed from their reclaimed public spaces, seemed to lose its momentum and its influence. Media still talk about the 99% and the tyranny of debt  and pay closer attention to the misdeeds of the bankers, but by and large, Occupy fell out of the public eye. When it resurfaced briefly after Sandy, the media mostly ignored the powerful message it was sending that where the austerity-obsessed governments were failing, people power was succeeding. Occupy Sandy was made to look like a group of civic do-gooders.  Occupy’s radical Strike Debt program to buy defaulted medical debts and forgive them and its ongoing battles against residential foreclosures were all but completely ignored.

It’s easy to forget that just because the revolution is not being televised, there might still be a revolution going on. Continue reading

#TeaParty Patriot Founder: “Why do the politicians and media figures want us to hate each other?”

Mark Meckler, one of the founders of Tea Party Patriots, spoke to a crowd of leftists at Seattle’s Citizen University conference recently (hat tip to Upworthy), and what he said resonates in a way with what I was arguing in my debate  with partisan Democrat Milt Shook yesterday on Twitter:

Meckler’s answer to the question above, if you haven’t watched this brief video, is that it profits politicians and others at the center of the DC power structure to maintain the false divide between left and right: the strategy is called Divide and Conquer. I’m thrilled to hear that Meckler is apparently refusing to play along. Imagine if all of us who were inspired by the occupy movement and all of those who were fired up by the Tea Party came to the same conclusion: our enemies are not among the people. Our enemies are the ones who think we owe them votes and viewership, who manufacture our opinions and sell them retail as the stuff of our national politics.

Here’s hoping this is another sign of a new phase of revolution, one that will enable us to take  back the democracy and make it work for people again.

Another blast from the past

“[M]odern democracy is at the service of global capitalism. We will not be voting our way toward a more humanist redistribution of resources, least of all if the market does not require it. Similarly, when we voted for Obama in 2008, we did not really vote for what we had the audacity to hope we were voting for, nor for change we really could believe in. We were voting, simply, for the choice the Democratic Party, through its intricate, arduous and obscenely expensive vetting process, presented to Democrats and Americans as the titular head of its party. We were not voting for any ideas other than the usual handful that get talked about endlessly in media that also owe their existence and wealth to global capitalism. We get what global capitalism pays for and wants and needs in that office to further its aims and agenda (of enriching the rich and distributing resources toward that end).”

Tragic Farce

I call myself a Democrat because that’s how I’ve been registered all of my voting life. In fact, the older I get, the more disconnected I feel from that label. I don’t want to register as an independent because, Bernie Sanders notwithstanding, I can’t get over the prejudice that American independents are all right-wing at heart. Was it George Wallace’s American Independent Party that instilled this in me? Who knows? It’s beginning to feel, however, that the correct radical stance in this disintegrating context is to not register or vote at all. A vote begins to feel like acquiescence to the corruption.

Did Democrats or any other Obama supporter vote for the fiasco of the last month, culminating in the supreme surrender by our audacious leader last night to the anti-democrats of the Republican Party, bypassing the leaders of his own party to give the (fictional) partisanship-loathing centrists of the…

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Blast from the past, but it seems relevant still

 

“It appears that the inequality gap in the US has been caused by a combination of legalized looting of public resources by the financial class and tax policies that have favored them above all other classes in the society. This is, in effect, a government underwritten redistribution of wealth away from the bottom 99% toward the top 1% and, therefore, it would seem to violate the Paulist principle that starts this article.”

Tragic Farce

4. Government may not redistribute private wealth or grant special privileges to any individual or group.

–from The Ten Principles of a Free Society

Continuing my gradual critique of Ron Paul’s Ten Principles, the next in line is relevant to what I’ve been talking a lot about these past few weeks, the great impetus behind #OccupyWallStreet: income inequality.

It’s significant that the godfather of the Tea Party movement (the original form of it, anyway) includes wealth redistribution in his principles of liberty. It points up an area where these two movements can either come together or get driven apart.  There’s no question about where #ows stands on this point. Income inequality is a key symptom of the disease #0ws arose in response to, and one of its goals, I would argue,  is to force a correction of what it views this to be: a moral wrong. If Paul is…

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Underdog Democratic Opponent to Entrenched CA Reactionary Responds to Homophobia Charge

David Secor, who is running as a Democrat in California’s 50th Congressional District based in San Diego against Republican stalwart Duncan Hunter, has replied at length to my previous post. I’ve decided to highlight it as a blog post unto itself rather than hope it will be read in the comments section. I recommend reading the previous post  first to get a sense of what exactly the candidate is responding to.  I won’t comment on Secor’s response here but will, rather, yield the floor to him and respond later.

Before I turn the blog over to Secor, I want to thank him for taking the time to explain himself. I also want to say a word about why I think this dialogue is important. This conflict interests me because it points to some of the less visible strains running through progressive discourse in the US. Here are two “opponents” (I refer to Secor and Mike Flynn) who inhabit more common ground than this personal antagonism between them would suggest, notably on the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA) that Secor refers to here. But beyond the personal disagreement is a political one, over the notion that the system as it stands is capable of change or whether a new counter-system is required to effect real, meaningful change.  This is a conflict that has raged on the left for a long time–and on the right, as well–but only recently has it come to be a vital, relevant debate beyond the merely academic.

So thank you, again,  to David Secor for his contribution to this dialogue. It follows in full after the jump: Continue reading

Jill Stein on Change: Not Just Something to Believe In

If Pres. Obama and the Democrats talked this talk and walked this walk, they would be giving me something to vote for. Come to think of it, that’s exactly what Jill Stein of the Green Party is giving me.