Gnostiquette

a catalogue of aberrations, major and minor

For compassion-based politics, or: a proposal for anarcho-Mohism

I.

The Chinese philosopher Mozi postulated that the primary ill of humanity is too much partiality in compassion. (A further argument can be made that (post)modern society suffers from a deficit in compassion all around.)
Human beings have a bias toward the members of their ingroup. This bias can be exploited in horrific ways: when the Germans accepted themselves as the 'ingroup' and the Jews, Roma, LGBTQ+ people, etc. as the 'outgroup' in the 1930s-40s, the Nazis were able to provoke them to unprecedented levels of evil and cruelty. This rested entirely on the ingroup-outgroup classification.
(For a much more in-depth discussion of this same topic, please see Scott Alexander's now-(in)famous post at Slate Star Codex.)
The ingroup-outgroup bias can be benign, in the sense that a tumour can be benign, or it can reach the level of fascist atrocity.
Mozi's philosophy, known as Mohism, says that one would need to overcome this crude bias in order to become a truly ethical person; an ethical person will have compassion for all and act accordingly.

II.

We can see how this applies to modern politics on the macro scale with attitudes on immigration.
Note this tweet about a young woman who is supposed to be protected under the DREAM Act (although ICE under Trump is trying to deport her):
Now the response from a self-proclaimed Christian and conservative:
For Natasja, undocumented migrants—even those who were brought to the United States as young children—are the outgroup.
Even if they had no real choice.
Even if they have lived their entire life as Americans.
Her rationale, when confronted with that fact, is that this Dreamer's parents made a choice.
For a Christian, she is surprisingly ignorant of her own Bible. For it is written:

'The soul that sinneth, it shall die; the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father with him, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son with him; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.'

Ezekiel 18:20, JPS Tanakh 1917.

I must note that I do not consider illegal immigration 'iniquity'; rather, I consider it iniquity that we have a system which leaves many with no other choice but to risk life and limb to come here and I consider it iniquity the way we treat undocumented migrants:

'And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not do him wrong. The stranger that sojourneth with you shall be unto you as the home-born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.'

Leviticus 19:33-34, JPS Tanakh 1917.


Were not Natasja's ancestors strangers in the land of America when they came here?
Was my own father not a stranger when he came here, and my great-grandparents before him?
Show me in the Holy Bible, or indeed the Holy Qur'an, or the Bhagavad Gita, or indeed any sage text, where it says that only sojourners or strangers who have had to pass through invasive security theatre are worthy of compassion.
The Oxford English Dictionary says that the word 'iniquity' comes ultimately 'from Latin iniquitas, from iniquus, from in- ‘not’ + aequus ‘equal, just’.' The etymology of 'inequity' is the same.
What, if any, distinction can be made between the two? For this is the truth that has been understood for so long, and which has levelled great empires and laid barren the noblest of republics: Inequity is iniquity, and iniquity can never remain unpunished.

III.

In the Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus Christ says that '[t]he kingdom of God is within you.' (Luke 17:21, Lamsa.) And as Charlie Chaplin expanded in The Great Dictator, 'within you' means 'not one man, nor a group of men, but in all men.'
It is in this spirit, and in recognition of the above principle, that Nikolai Berdyaev, the great Russian philosopher and mystic, wrote:

'There is absolute truth in anarchism and it is to be seen in its attitude to the sovereignty of the state and to every form of state absolutism.…The religious truth of anarchism consists in this, that power over man is bound up with sin and evil, that a state of perfection is a state where there is no power of man over man, that is to say, anarchy. The Kingdom of God is freedom and the absence of such power…the Kingdom of God is anarchy.'

—Nikolai Berdyaev, trans. R. M. French, Slavery and Freedom, New York, Charles Scribners, 1944, p. 147.



IV.

Mozi 'advocated a form of state consequentialism, which sought to maximize three basic goods: the wealth, order, and population of the state' (P. J. Ivanhoe and B. W. van Norden, Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy, Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing, 2005, p. 60). By 'order', Mozi does not necessarily mean hierarchy, but rather the prevention of violence and the avoidance of warfare, which he saw as destructive and pointless; and by 'material wealth', he meant wealth for all, and not merely for a few.
But taking into consideration that we are embarking upon a fundamentally libertarian project, we must reject the idea of the state as part of our ethic. It also does not seem obvious to us that population growth is an inherent moral good.
Let us now turn to the words of the philosopher himself:

'It is the business of the benevolent man to seek to promote what is beneficial to the world and to eliminate what is harmful, and to provide a model for the world. What benefits he will carry out; what does not benefit men he will leave alone.'

—Mozi, Mozi, 5th century a.e.v.; Mozi et al., Basic Writings of Mo Tzu, Hsün Tzu, and Han Fei Tzu, trans. Prof. B. Watson, New York, Columbia University Press, 1967, p. 110.


From this summation of Mozi's moral philosophy, we may deduce that the state is not a necessary part of the ethic of universal compassion; rather, it is the effect upon the world that determines what is right or wrong.
Let us finally turn to the moral philosophy of St. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, martyred by the Nazis, of St. Karl Barth, who wrote much of the Barmen Declaration, which laid the cornerstone for the Christian German resistance to the Hitler regime, and of Paul Tillich, who summarised this philosophy, known as situation ethics, in his statement that 'Love is the ultimate law.' (P. Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1951, p. 152.)
The ideas of situation ethics harmonise with those of Mohism, as situation ethics demands only those actions which produce the most love, the most agapé, and nothing more. Any laws, any norms, any dictates or decrees which inhibit love are to be broken.
Here we see a clear return to that truth which Berdyaev stated so clearly: namely, that 'the Kingdom of God is anarchy.' The law of Love, of universal compassion, being the highest—no, the only law, has profoundly radical implications. The state, being an inherently violent institution, is an impediment to compassion, as is capitalism, which utterly negates compassion in its inhuman logic of profit and growth for the sake of growth ('the ideology of the cancer cell', as environmentalist Edward Abbey put it).
'Think globally, act locally', the slogan of social ecology, is a guide for a Mohist anarchy. Whatever action increases the well-being of a given community will, in a holistic manner, increase the well-being of the whole world.

V.

Only through universal compassion can an anarchist order be maintained and even created, and only through anarchy can compassion be realised.
It finds its purest expressions in the reemerging mutual aid movement, in the credit union, and in the cooperative. Though times are dark, and wars and genocides are raging, and it appears that all promises of a better future are lost, the hope of ages, which guided the Israelites to the Promised Land, which guided the Diggers and the Quakers to endure brutal repression in order to spread a Gospel of love and generosity, which led the Parisians, the Ukrainians, and the Spanish to establish free territories in the face of authoritarian assault, which led the Partisans of Warsaw and Vilna to rise up even when they knew they faced certain defeat, which led millions of black Americans to march against brutal segregation, which led the unemployed and the homeless to camp in Zuccotti Park to demand justice for the poor and destitute, which still leads the poor of Chiapas and Rojava to fight against their oppression, still burns in the hearts of human beings, and if I squint hard enough, I can see the Sun on the horizon ready to rise—but only when we reject all fear and hatred and hold on to compassion.

On punching Nazis

By now, almost everyone has seen the video of white nationalist leader Richard Spencer getting punched.
Notice how he got decked instantly after mentioning Pepe? It appears that Kek has turned on him. Praise Kek!

I've noticed left-wingers. both my friends and random people online, celebrate Dick's decking. Myself, I'm mildly amused by it. He's a hateful white nationalist bastard, and while I cannot condone the unidentified protester's action, I feel like he got what he deserved.
Until I saw this tweet:
Oh dear God.
(Hat tip to Spinosauruskin for pointing it out in his video.)
Leading ethicists have weighed in on whether it is acceptable to punch a Nazi:

Are you familiar with this video of Richard Spencer getting punched?

Yeah. Do you really not know if it's ethical to punch someone even though they have odious politics? I mean, should we call your mother? Or my mother? Or anybody's mother?

—David Cohen, interviewed by Newsweek
Some people have even argued that not punching Nazis leads to genocide:

Let me read to you one comment that I saw on Twitter: “If you don't punch Nazis, Holocausts happen. That's what we learned from letting Nazis speak in public the last time. You have to punch them.”

That’s ridiculous. That's nonsensical. One does not flow from the other. Because one of the most monstrous catastrophes in human history occurred, it is not because people failed to punch Nazis. It simply doesn't follow. Nor does it follow that if you fail to punch Richard Spencer, there will be dire consequences. It would seem to me Gandhi's example or King's example are quite to the contrary. Where even allied against incredibly powerful armed opponents, genuine social change is possible without resorting to the gutter tactics of people like Spencer.

There are two different arguments here. One is: Is the behavior justified on its own terms? Is physical violence a morally justifiable response to the expression of odious ideas. In my view, it is not. The argument you're reading on Twitter is what's called a consequentialist argument. So this person is asserting that the only way to stop the rise of Nazism is with physical violence. And I think that's a quite dubious assertion. Even if one were doing a consequentialist analysis here, this is a dubious assertion. The assertion becomes: It is necessary to punch Richard Spencer in order to halt some impending Holocaust, and I just don't think that's true. It seems to me this fails both on the grounds of moral reasoning and on the grounds of political strategy.

Cohen went on to note that, while the act of punching is itself immoral, there's nothing wrong with laughing at the video and its various remixes (as I have done myself; my favourite remix is the one set to New Order's 'Blue Monday':

This next question is not really an ethical question. But did you personally watch the video of Richard Spencer being punched?

I did not. It wasn't because I was averting my glance; I just didn't see it. I would make one other exception. I have read about images of Richard Spencer being punched set to music. That sort of thing. To delight in a kind of comeuppance when someone is hoisted by his own petard—when someone who advocates violence against others meets a kind of of nonlethal violence—to enjoy hearing about that, that's not a crime. That's not an ethical transgression. That's asking more of human beings than they can resist. When someone who's truly despicable gets punched in the nose, you commit no ethical transgression by enjoying that idea. Now we're describing—

Schadenfreude.

Yes, yes. In the recesses of my heart, do I take any pleasure in this? Well, yes. Would I advocate this as an action or defend the action? Well, no. There are no thought crimes. If in your heart of hearts you're enjoying this, well, you do no one any harm. But no, you do not get to go out and respond to contemptible political ideas with physical ideas.


Now for me, as a lefty and an armchair philosopher, there are two main questions here: ethics and tactics.
I've already stated that my ethical position is one that I call rational extrapolated preference utilitarianism; essentially, everyone's preferences should be fulfilled unless they're in an irrational state, in which case their preferences if they were in a rational state should be extrapolated from circumstance and fulfilled.
It seems to me that Richard Spencer has a preference not to feel pain, and thus his preference to not feel pain was violated. This is unethical.

But there's also a tactical argument to be made here: Most people have no idea who the hell this Richard Spencer guy is. They don't know that he's a white nationalist and they don't know that he's called for a 'peaceful' ethnic cleansing of America. They don't know that he has refused to disavow people within his movement who have advocated violence.
But when Dick got decked, his name and face were plastered all over the media. It gives him a platform to spread his odious views and makes ordinary conservatives start to think that 'the intolerant left' is coming for them next. When Richard spencer gets branded (correctly) as alt-right, and people like Milo Yiannopoulos or Alex Jones are branded (incorrectly) as alt-right, it just muddies the waters and makes it seem that ordinary Trump-supporting conservatives are under attack.
And remember the tweet I embedded above? Well, guess what: he's right.
His being punched makes it seem that his ideas are valid and that the only possible response to them other than agreement is violence. It makes it seem that his 'race realism' is true and his white nationalism is just a normal political position that just happens to provoke 'the intolerant left' to irrational violence.

Let me tell you a little story:
In the 1980s and '90s, there was a Dutch MP named Hans Janmaat. He was vocal in his opposition to immigration based on economic reasons: with immigration having to be addressed, it was difficult to focus on unemployment and slow economic growth for the native population. He had a cordon sanitaire imposed on him by the majority of other MPs, which basically meant that they would walk out of the building when he began to speak and only return when he was finished.
In the early 2000s, Pim Fortuyn became a notable and controversial public figure in the Netherlands. He opposed immigration on cultural grounds, arguing that Muslim immigration into the Netherlands would end up reversing the rights of women and LGBTQ+ people and stated that Islam is a 'backward culture' (the Dutch word for 'backward' can also mean 'retarded'). He was assassinated by a mentally-ill schizoidal left-wing activist who believed he was going to 'save the Netherlands' from the right-wing.
In the late 2000s, Geert Wilders, an outright Islamophobe who has compared the Qur'an to Mein Kampf and advocated for its banning, believes that the European Union and Muslim organisations are conspiring to 'Islamise' Europe, and was convicted of hate speech last December, is now a major political force in Netherlands, having become the de facto leader of the populist right in the Netherlands. The aforementioned conviction has only led to more popularity, since Dutch right-wingers can now claim persecution.

Let me tell you another story:
Holocaust denier Bradley Smith took out a full-page advertisement promoting Holocaust denialism in multiple university newspapers in the United Kingdom. Rather than refusing to run them, those papers ran them alongside an editorial on the opposite page refuting every point made in Smith's advert. Today, his influence is negligible and his group, the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust is minuscule and its influence limited to the fringes of the far-right.

I know I won't convince some people with these examples, but banning or using violence against white nationalists is only going to expand their influence. It'll just help them thrive in the shadows and on the fringes until they can refine themselves enough to mainstream their views.
Violence is not the key. Effective debate is.

Softcore fascism and the policies of Trump

There have been a variety of fascist dictators, and not all of them are Hitler or Mussolini.
One could argue that fascism exists on a scale of severity. I'd like to propose one here.
    Scale of Fascist Regimes:
  1. Straussian/Neoconservative (ex. United States under George W. Bush).
  2. Quasi-Democratic (ex. Italy under Silvio Berlusconi, New York City under Rudolph Giuliani).
  3. Softcore Fascist (ex. Chile under Augusto Pinochet, Singapore under the People's Action Party).
  4. Hardcore Fascist (ex. Italy under Benito Mussolini).
  5. Genocidal/Megalomaniacal Fascist (ex. Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler).
Trump is showing himself to be on the border of №1 and №2. Depending on how much he consolidates power under the Executive Branch, he could develop into a full-blown №2 or even straddle the line between №2 and №3. The worst-case scenario for Trump that I can see so far is that his administration develops into a №3, but that would require nothing short of a new 9/11 and a national state of emergency complete with purges of ideological opponents and extreme consolidation of federal and executive power.
For now, though, we shouldn't worry about that. Our main focus should be on preventing Trump from graduating to №2 and preventing the negative effects of his current policies.

The alt-right mind

It's basically paranoia.
I know that, based on my involvement with deep politics research, I must be a 'crazy conspiracy theorist' and I shouldn't be allowed to talk about this, but there's quite a difference between 'the government is spying on people and has major roles in terrorism' and 'everyone who looks different from me or has a suspiciously Ashkenazi-sounding name is part of a conspiracy to destroy my gene pool'.
Remember when Trump retweeted that image macro from 'WhiteGenocideTM', based in 'Jewmerica'? Believe it or not, the alt-right actually thinks that non-white immigration combined with female promiscuity is a Jewish plot to destroy the 'white race' through outbreeding and crossbreeding. These are a few of the alt-right's obsessions: white identitarianism, immigration, miscegenation, promiscuity, and Jews.
The alt-right gets its origin in two primary sources: the white nationalist wing of the paleoconservative movement and the neoreactionary movement.
The first believes itself to be the legitimate successor to the Old Right from before World War II, in contrast to the moderate social conservatism, economic cronyism, and vehemently anti-communist foreign policy that defines mainstream conservatism. Some parts of paleoconservatism also go beyond the fetishism for Western civilisation to argue that such a civilisation is only possible for the white European gene pool. This is why many alt-rightists have an obsession with crime statistics and intelligence studies, as well as 'debunking' environmental determinism and other (better) explanations. (If you're interested in refuting these claims yourself, try Francisco Gil-White's magnificent online book Resurrecting Racism.)
Neoreaction, on the other hand, believes itself to go beyond conservatism altogether; rather than wanting to return to limited Constitutional government (or the paleoconservative interpretation of such), they want to replace it altogether with monarchy, technocracy, or some other odd scheme. HBD (human biodiversity; essentially repackaged eugenics) and whatnot also play a major role in this ideology, but the main focus is on reviving archaic forms of authoritarianism.
It's also important to note that many alt-rightists transitioned to the alt-right from anarcho-capitalism, a form of libertarianism that holds that the most logical interpretation of the non-aggression principle (N.A.P.) implies anarchy. Most anarcho-capitalists are not socially reactionary, though Murray Rothbard converted to right-wing populism and racism in his last years and Hans-Hermann Hoppe has certainly done quite a bit to push some anarcho-capitalists in such a direction with his extreme anti-immigration beliefs and support for the 'physical removal' of perceived 'degenerates' from society.
The belief in Western civilisation is at the core of the alt-right; the belief in aristocracy is at the core of neoreaction. What is at the core of the alt-right?
The rejection of equality in all its forms.
One of the reasons many traditional conservatives, including secular conservatives, are pro-life is the foundational belief in the dignity of human life. To the conservative mind, hierarchies exist for the benefit of all involved; those at the top use their power to help those at the bottom and those at the bottom work in exchange. Alt-rightists do not share this view, and believe that those at the top are not obliged to do anything for those at the bottom. Wagner's words ring true for the alt-right: 'History proves that man is a beast of prey. The beast of prey conquers countries, founds great realms by subjugation of the other subjugators, forms states and organizes civilizations in order to enjoy his booty in peace…Attack and defence, suffering and struggle, victory and defeat, domination and servitude, all sealed with blood; this is the entire history of the human race…'
It is their rejection of this ideal which allows the alt-right to claim that people such as Ted Cruz are leftists or 'cuckservatives'. While to a moderate conservative or liberal eye Cruz appears to be very far to the right with his theocratic mandates and love of crony capitalism, the alt-right can dismiss him as in bed with the left simply because he believes in the concept of equality before the law.
In order to agree with the alt-right, you must believe that your ethnicity is going extinct, that you are opposed on all sides by people that hate you, and that everyone who isn't at least a civic nationalist is aiding and abetting your demise. Black people that you run into? They want to kill you and take everything you have. Mexican guys walking down the street? They're coming for your wife and kids. Two gay guys kissing? Degenerates polluting your mind and the minds of everyone around them. An Asian man and his white girlfriend? A race traitor providing evidence that whites are dying out. Your nice Jewish doctor? Member of an elite ethnicity trying to take over the world.
This sounds insane. That's because it is. Doesn't preclude the alt-right from believing it.
I've talked to people who believe in shapeshifting reptilians who are not as paranoid or crazy as alt-rightists. Most people willing to believe in shapeshifting reptilians are also willing to admit they may be wrong; this is not true of the alt-right, who buy into racialist pseudoscience entirely. Worse, they tend to be rather skilled in rhetoric, so that when an unsuspecting person reacts to their racism by saying 'What the fuck are you talking about, you fucking racist?' they can use infographs and rhetoric to make it look like they're fact-based and rational when the data they're using is wildly inaccurate and subject to misinterpretation.
To the alt-right, it's a scary, dark world outside of their basements. Everyone is plotting against them. Every look at a woman, a black person, a trans person confirms this to them. Their idea of the 'red pill' precludes them from changing their beliefs until they take a long, hard look at them.
Of course, the real red pill is being able to change your beliefs based on new evidence and not shoehorn the evidence into your ideology.

Geoism and left-libertarianism: a proposal for pan-voluntaryism

I've written and podcasted about the alt-right before, but no doubt Hillary Clinton helped bring it to wider attention with her speech last Thursday.
Unfortunately, she went after the wrong targets: instead of Richard Spencer, who openly calls for 'peaceful ethnic cleansing' of America (and even coined the term 'alternative right'), or Jared Taylor, who manipulates and misrepresents race-related statistics in his advocacy for white nationalism, or hell, even Andrew Anglin, a self-described Nazi, she went after...Milo Yiannopoulos with his trolling and Alex Jones of all people. And most bizarrely, she stated that the person controlling all of this is Vladimir Putin. (Of course, she's ultimately a neocon at heart, so she'll always find a way to antagonise Russia.)
She did get at Steve Bannon, Trump's new campaign CEO, however. It is true that Breitbart (where Bannon was chairman until recently) has open links to white supremacists, going so far as to post a video made by a white supremacist promoting the 'white genocide' meme (something else mentioned by Hillary) and blaming the refugee crisis on the Jews. (They had to do major damage control for this, saying that Jewish support for helping refugees is 'paradoxical'.)
Now, looking at alt-right figures and discussions, it's easy to see that it's a sort of coalition or big tent movement including, in the words of Greg Johnson describing the magazine that coined the term, 'race realism, White Nationalism, the European New Right, the Conservative Revolution, [radical] Traditionalism, neo-paganism, agrarianism, Third Positionism [i.e., fascism], anti-feminism, and right-wing anti-capitalists, ecologists, bioregionalists, and small-is-beautiful types.'
So there's a lot of intellectual diversity, but it mostly boils down to 'I'm white, I'm proud, and I'm angry'. That's the only central principle.

Now, why include so much time discussing the alt-right in a post titled 'Geoism and left-libertarianism: a proposal for pan-voluntaryism'?
Because pan-voluntaryism is my proposal for a counter to the alt-right.
It must be centred around two basic principles, held in balance:
  1. Society should be organised on a voluntary basis.
  2. In order for a true voluntary society to exist, there must be universal equality of opportunity.
But how will these two ideas be reconciled? Simple: I got the idea both from my friend Bob and from this blog, which is definitely going in my blogroll.
Basically, I would like to see a coalition of geolibertarians, mutualists, left-wing market anarchists, agorists, left-leaning anarcho-capitalists, left-libertarians, social minarchists, panarchists, and other anti-authoritarians who hold these two principles in common. These forces combined can produce podcasts as eloquent as Freedomain Radio, Web shows as slick as Red Ice Live, blogs as biting as The Right Stuff or as patrician as Radix Journal, and memes as viral as (((echoes))) or 'cuck'.
Come on, my friends. Together, we shall grab the Overton window and give it a tremendous shove upward toward liberty!

(Some aspects of this will be discussed in today's and tomorrow's episodes of Frequency Resonance Radio.
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