John Gray: Is Human Progress an Illusion?

Is the history of humanity really a march towards the heavens? Towards greater civilization? John Gray isn’t so sure.

‘Those who ignore the destructive potential of future technologies can do so only because they ignore history. Pogroms are as old as Christendom; but without railways, the telegraph and poison gas there could have been no Holocaust. There have always been tyrannies; but without modern means of transport and communication, Stalin and Mao could not have built their gulags. Humanity’s worst crimes were made possible only by modern technology.

There is a deeper reason why “humanity” will never control technology. Technology is not something that humankind can control. It as an event that has befallen the world.’

 

Source: John Gray: Is Human Progress an Illusion? – Linkis.com

The Nature of Mass Demonstrations 

The truth is that mass demonstrations are rehearsals for revolution: not strategic or even tactical ones, but rehearsals of revolutionary awareness. The delay between the rehearsals and the real performance may be very long: their quality – the intensity of rehearsed awareness – may, on different occasions, vary considerably: but any demonstration which lacks this element of rehearsal is better described as an officially encouraged public spectacle.

A demonstration, however much spontaneity it may contain, is a created event which arbitrarily separates itself from ordinary life. Its value is the result of its artificiality, for therein lies its prophetic, rehearsing possibilities.

A mass demonstration distinguishes itself from other mass crowds because it congregates in public to create its function, instead of forming in response to one: in this, it differs from any assembly of workers within their place of work – even when strike action is involved – or from any crowd of spectators. It is an assembly which challenges what is given by the mere fact of its coming together.

State authorities usually lie about the number of demonstrators involved. The lie, however, makes little difference. (It would only make a significant difference if demonstrations really were an appeal to the democratic conscience of the State.) The importance of the numbers involved is to be found in the direct experience of those taking part in or sympathetically witnessing the demonstration. For them the numbers cease to be numbers and become the evidence of their senses, the conclusions of their imagination. The larger the demonstration, the more powerful and immediate (visible, audible, tangible) a metaphor it becomes for their total collective strength.

I say metaphor because the strength thus grasped transcends the potential strength of those present, and certainly their actual strength as deployed in a demonstration. The more people there are there, the more forcibly they represent to each other and to themselves those who are absent. In this way a mass demonstration simultaneously extends and gives body to an abstraction. Those who take part become more positively aware of how they belong to a class. Belonging to that class ceases to imply a common fate, and implies a common opportunity. They begin to recognise that the function of their class need no longer be limited: that it, too, like the demonstrations itself, can create its own function.

Source: The Nature of Mass Demonstrations | Portside

The Open Source Protest To Oust Trump 

They did, however, all agree on one simple thing:  Trump shouldn’t be President.

This agreement and huge size of the protest is what I call the plausible promise of an open source protest.  It demonstrates, to many of the people attending the protest and many on the sidelines, that removing Trump from office through protest may actually be possible.

This is a big deal, a plausible promise makes the likelihood of an effort forming to remove Trump from office through aggressive protest, much more likely.

It’s also a big deal because open source protests are nearly unstoppable. Once a protest like this gets going here, it won’t stop until it drives Trump out of office, just like it ousted the leaders of Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, and Libya.

Source: The Open Source Protest To Oust Trump – Global Guerrillas

The Re-Emergence of Common Wealth 

Our society, communities, knowledge, beliefs, practices, culture, arts, stories, myths, philosophies, psychologies, healing arts, education, innovation, expression, and connection are all forms of common wealth that humanity either builds together . . . or depletes and destroys. I regard these as part of my “true wealth”, and they are all intimately tied to the wellbeing of others. Our common wealth of culture and community is connected to each person’s ability to create, invent, express, live, breathe, heal, nurture, and explore. If my fellow human beings do not have the time or opportunity for these experiences, the “richness” of my own life within our culture and society diminishes.

And, as I wrote in the Billionaire Buddha, our fellow humans are only one small sliver of the total equation. Our human existence is reliant on a vast network of living systems. In this time of climate crisis, our fate is tied up with the vitality or demise of all other species of plants and animals that co-create the ecosystems upon which our own existence depends. No amount of fortune is worth anything on a dead planet. Our human wealth relies on the “wealth and prosperity” of the forests, oceans, plains, rivers, skies, glaciers, mountains, deserts, lakes, and so on. Buddhist perspective (on one level) rests on an understanding of the interconnected web of existence. We make true wealth together or not at all.

Source: The Re-Emergence of Common Wealth | Kosmos Journal

Yes, America Is Descending Into Totalitarianism 

Thus I resist the idea that fascism can happen in Germany, Italy or Russia, but not in the United States. It can happen here, and all signs point in an ominous direction. Moreover, the United States was never a model of liberty or justice. The country was built on slave labor and genocide at home and violent imperialism abroad. It is a first world outlier in terms of incarceration rates and gun violence; it is the only developed country in the world without national health and child care; it has outrageous levels of income inequality with few opportunities for individuals to climb the socio-economic ladder; and it is consistently ranked by people around the world as the greatest threat to world peace and the world’s most hated country.

Furthermore, signs of its dysfunction continue to grow. If authoritarian political forces don’t get their way, they shut down the government, threaten to default on the nation’s debt, fail to fill judicial vacancies, deny people health-care and family planning options, conduct congressional show trials, suppress voting, gerrymander congressional districts, support racism, xenophobia and sexism, and spread lies and propaganda. These aren’t signs of a stable society. As the late Princeton political theorist Sheldon Wolin put it:

“The elements are in place [for a quasi-fascist takeover]: a weak legislative body, a legal system that is both compliant and repressive, a party system in which one party, whether in opposition or in the majority, is bent upon reconstituting the existing system so as to permanently favor a ruling class of the wealthy, the well-connected and the corporate, while leaving the poorer citizens with a sense of helplessness and political despair, and, at the same time, keeping the middle classes dangling between fear of unemployment and expectations of fantastic rewards once the new economy recovers. That scheme is abetted by a sycophantic and increasingly concentrated media; by the integration of universities with their corporate benefactors; by a propaganda machine institutionalized in well-funded think tanks and conservative foundations; by the increasingly closer cooperation between local police and national law enforcement agencies aimed at identifying terrorists, suspicious aliens and domestic dissidents.”

Now with power in the hands of an odd mix of plutocrats, corporatists, theocrats, racists, sexists, egoists, psychopaths, sycophants, anti-modernists, and the scientifically illiterate, there is no reason to think that they will surrender their power without a fight. You might think that if income inequality grows, individual liberties are further constricted, or millions of people are killed at home or abroad, that people will reject those in power when conditions worsened. But this assumes we are a democracy. A compliant and misinformed public can’t think, act or vote intelligently. If you control your citizens with sophisticated propaganda and mindless entertainment, you can persuade them to support anything. With better methods of controlling and distorting information will come more control over the population and, as long the powerful believe they benefit from an increasingly totalitarian state, they will try to maintain it. Most people like to control others; they like to win

Source: Yes, America Is Descending Into Totalitarianism | Reason and Meaning