Making Hay While the Sun Shines

“People need to quit with this nonsense that the internet magically signals an inevitable death knell of the State,” writes “dL” at Liberale et Libertaire, in the course of responding to what he or she interprets as a somewhat triumphalist tone (“teh Intarwebs change everything!)” here at the Center for a Stateless Society. “The hell it does …”

Fair cop, dL. We are well and truly busted. We tend to concentrate on the liberating aspects of technology, the adaptive superiority of decentralized networks versus centralized hierarchies, etc., and this may have led us into forgetfulness with respect to two important facts:

First, the state has a head start of several hundred years on the modern market anarchist movement. It’s got a lot of what I’ll call, for lack of better terminology, “installed plant.” Not just physical infrastructure and internally evolved networks for the maintenance of that infrastructure, but “buy-in” from a significant percentage of the population who either make their livings doing the maintenance, or who just simply can’t yet imagine trading their existing ways of life (however many the down sides) for what’s promised in a pot of anarchist message. It’s definitely an uphill struggle, Internet or no Internet.

Secondly, when considering the probable reaction of the state should it come to understand that it’s losing that struggle, I keep coming back to a line uttered by the Architect in the film Matrix Revolutions: “There are levels of survival we are prepared to accept.”

An underlying assumption in the “liberal West” is that our governments — the same governments which don’t give a second thought to lobbing a few 500-pound bombs into a wedding party in Kandahar or a commuter train in Belgrade, or murdering half a million Iraqi children with disease through starvation sanctions and routine bombing of sanitary systems — would never, ever, ever shut down “their own” electrical grids or nuke “their own” cities or, yes, throw whatever “Internet kill switches” they might have at their disposal, even if doing so represented their last shot at clinging to power for another day.

That assumption is, I think, unjustified.

The purpose of political government is to suck the blood out of the productive class and pump it into the waiting veins of the political class.

The dilemma of the political class is figuring out how much blood it can take without killing the involuntary donor altogether.

And frankly, the political class only cares whether that donor is sitting at a desk fidgeting with sales forecasts in a high-rise office building, versus staring at the rear end of a plow horse a few yards from a one-room shack lit with candles, to the extent that one activity may produce more and richer blood than the other.

If it comes down to a choice between giving up your blood altogether or reverting to extracting it in a pre-technological or even pre-industrial environment, I don’t doubt for a minute that the operatives of the political class will choose the latter course.

In point of fact, a great many human beings — perhaps a majority on the planet! — still live lives that more closely resemble a remake of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (with the anachronisms but sans the humor) than the lives of those pulling this article through fiber optic networks and onto their flat-screen monitors.

They live those lives precisely because their governments fear them too much to let them advance into the 21st century. And our governments, the western “liberal democracies,” likewise consider such freedom as they currently accommodate an “experiment” on which they’re fully prepared to pull the plug if they must and if they can.

On the other hand, it seems to me that our best chance of preventing the state from literally “getting medieval on our asses,” or of undoing the push back to the dark ages should it ever come, lies in maximum utilization of the tools at our disposal while they remain at our disposal. The faster we build the new society inside the shell of the old, the less we find ourselves at the mercy of those who will maintain the old at all costs.

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