The Decline of Neil de Grasse Tyson

Neil de Grasse Tyson has arguably overtaken Bill Nye as the popular face of science.

Photo of Neil de Grasse Tyson from bgr.com.

As one Redditor explained quite eloquently, Bill Nye is losing some longtime fans.

I’ve been a huge fan of Bill Nye since I was ten. Bill Nye the Science Guy was entertaining and educational. Bill Nye Saves the World is neither. In this show he simply brings up an issue, tells you which side you should be on, and then makes fun of people on the other side. To make things worse he does this in the most boring way possible… He doesn’t properly explain anything, and he misrepresents every opposing view.

Another Redditor said:

I was hoping for a science show meant for adults – the audience they had constantly laughing and making sounds looked like adults… but the content of the show was something you’d expect from a grade 6 science class.The show just felt all over the place, using stupid skits, forced audience reactions, and the most basic science concepts.

At first, Neil de Grasse Tyson (NdGT) seemed to avoid this pitfall by being “that chill science guy.” Now some fans are wondering whether he’s any less pedantic than Bill Nye. They complain that he got people excited about science, only to say, “Being excited by science is MY thing! Let me shut you down real quick plebs!”

For example, during the recent eclipse, he told people to stop being excited — because, statistically speaking, eclipses are not rare.

Tyson became the posterboy of /r/iamverysmart, a subreddit dedicated to “people trying too hard to look smart.” It got so bad that moderators were forced to ban any mention of NdGT because such posts are “low hanging fruit.”


If his own fans dislike NdGT’s newfound pedantry, you can only imagine how conservatives feel. (Bill Maher jokingly introduced him to a conservative guest as someone he should be worried about — because he’s “black and a scientist.”) Breitbart called NdGT “an attention-seeking media troll who courts adoration from bloggers, students, and hipsters while picking off low-hanging fruit and mocking people he doesn’t like.”

Not everyone can be a Carl Sagan, the kind of science popularizer who shares his zeal without alienating, politicizing, or self-serving.

When I listened to Carl Sagan speak, I felt like I was listening to a man who had a genuine love for and interest in the material he was sharing. I feel the same when watching David Attenborough, Brian Cox, or even Michael from VSauce. I used to feel that way about Bill Nye. Today’s Bill Nye seems so arrogant and caught up in his own celebrity. He and Neil de Grasse Tyson strike me as two people whose main objective is to feel smarter than everyone they talk to. If that’s how they want to carry themselves, fine, but when it comes to something like climate change, when we need to convince certain people that it’s the real deal, Bill’s demeanour hurts more than it helps.

Brian Cox is an English physicist often described as the British NdGT. Cox, who once “rebutted” Neil de Grasse Tyson’s suggestion that lightsabers wouldn’t work, is frequently suggested as an alternative for the popular face of science.

Science needs popularizers who can share the wonders of science in a way that’s not about proving their intellectual superiority.

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Bitcoin and the Decentralization of Society

In response to Jamie Dimon’s criticism of bitcoin, John McAffee spoke of cryptocurrencies as emblematic of a paradigm shift: “The blockchain is, even now, ushering in a new economic and social paradigm that will rival, if not exceed, the impact that agriculture had in human society.”

People have been talking about the potential of decentralization to revolutionize economics for a long time, but no one knew how to “solve the problem of distribution required to power these decentralized systems” — that is, until the advent of the blockchain, which is “capable of melding ‘decentralized’ and ‘distributed’ into a single unit,” rendering centralized authority unnecessary.

Bitcoin represents decentralization in the realm of economics. How will decentralization work in the realm of politics, or the structure of society itself? The question of decentralization in politics is not necessarily separate from the question of decentralization in economics. In Marxist and critical theory, the economic structure of a society is the base upon which the “superstructure” of culture is built. As the economic base becomes more decentralized via the increasing prevalence of cryptocurrencies, the superstructure — the institutions and culture of society — will become more decentralized as well.

Money is power. If money is regulated by a central bank, then power will be concentrated in the hands of those who control the banks. If the big banks are cut out of the equation by bitcoin, then they will no longer control the circulation of money, and hence they will lose power. In this sense, the decentralization of money and the decentralization of power are the same thing.

Decentralization and democracy go hand in hand. Power was once concentrated in the hands of an absolute monarch. Then monarchs were forced to share their power with nobles, who were in turn forced to share their power with democratically elected officials. In the federal system, power is not centralized in a single national government, or in state governments. The federal government and the various state governments share power with each other. Even within the national government, power is split among three separate branches.

This history, which those who favor democracy call progress, is the history of ever increasing decentralization. However, many people think this trend has reached maturity with representative democracy, and any further advance would be undesirable. After all, the obvious next step is direct democracy, characterized by its critics as mob rule. As the saying goes, “Direct democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.”

Our representatives must forgive us if we do not share their concern. Such fears accompany every step in the evolution of society. Monarchs probably warned that everything would fall apart without a powerful ruler. Nobles probably warned that everything would fall apart if commoners were given a seat at the table. In each case it is obvious that the scaremongers’ real concern is the preservation of their own power. We might say that representative democracy is one wolf and two sheep, and the wolf gets to decide what’s for dinner.

The buck does not stop with representative democracy. The forward march of decentralization must continue. As Max Stirner wrote in The Ego And Its Own, the French Revolution saw power wrested from the hands of the individual monarch and placed in an impersonal State. This was a necessary progression, but it was only an intermediary step. We simply traded one master for another — and, in Stirner’s eyes, the new master was not necessarily better than the old:

The monarch in the person of the “royal master” had been a paltry monarch compared with this new monarch, the “sovereign nation.” This monarchy was a thousand times severer, stricter, and more consistent. Against the new monarch there was no longer any right, any privilege at all; how limited the “absolute king” of the ancien régime looks in comparison!

We must come full circle back to the individual — or rather, to individuals. Power must rest in the hands not of a single individual, but of each and every individual. That is the endpoint of decentralization (unless we want to give power to the cells that make up our bodies). Only then will people be free.

Decentralization is at the heart of several influential political movements. The headless suit in the logo of the hacktivist collective Anonymous symbolizes the group’s decentralized nature, as there is no central nervous system calling the shots.


Similarly, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, and antifa have no centralized leadership. Yet they seem to leave much to be desired. Decentralization leaves these movements vulnerable to infiltration and sabotage. The distribution problem had to be solved for decentralization to work in economics. There are still problems to be solved to allow decentralization to work in politics.

Just as blockchain technology is used for monetary transactions, it could be used for voting and other forms of decision making. It could enable direct democracy. Rather than voting for senators and congresspersons to “represent” (make decisions for) us, we could use our smartphones to vote directly on the decisions. Just as the blockchain prevents fraud in monetary transactions, it could prevent election fraud. And just as the blockchain keeps transactions anonymous, it could keep votes anonymous.

At this point, it seems that it is not a question of if technology will further decentralize power in our society. It is only a question of how and when.

Escape the Goolag

I used to love Google. Their motto was “Don’t be evil,” which allowed me to believe they were different from most corporations. Although some friends tried to tell me that Google is just another corporation, I didn’t want to believe it. I have recently seen the light.

It all started when I read “Google Is Not What It Seems,” an excerpt from Julian Assange’s book When Google Met Wikileaks.

Google is “different”. Google is “visionary”. Google is “the future”. Google is “more than just a company”. Google “gives back to the community”. Google is “a force for good”… Nobody wants to acknowledge that Google has grown big and bad. But it has. Schmidt’s tenure as CEO saw Google integrate with the shadiest of US power structures as it expanded into a geographically invasive megacorporation.

The deeper I dug, the more I realized that if Google was ever the non-evil corporation they claimed to be, that time is long gone. “Don’t be evil” is no longer their motto. It now appears to be, “Define evil…”

My problems with Google fall into five main categories:

  • Relationship with government
  • Monopolization
  • Unethical business practices
  • Censorship
  • Privacy

Relationship with government

Google’s close relationship with the intelligence community and State Department is detailed in Assange’s article.

The meeting of When Google Met Wikileaks fame was initiated by Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who allegedly wanted to interview Assange for a book he was writing. But at the meeting, Schmidt was accompanied by Lisa Shields, Jared Cohen, and Scott Malcolmson. “At this point, the delegation was one part Google, three parts US foreign-policy establishment” but Assange didn’t know that. He was aware that Shields was the vice president of the Council on Foreign Relations, “a US foreign-policy think tank with close ties to the State Department,” but because she was introduced as Schmidt’s significant other, he thought nothing of it.

Assange later learned that Cohen and Malcolmson had deep ties with the State Department.

Cohen worked at the State Department before becoming the director of Google Ideas. He and Schmidt “co-wrote a policy piece for the Council on Foreign Relations’ journal Foreign Affairs, praising the reformative potential of Silicon Valley technologies as an instrument of US foreign policy.” Apparently their pitch was successful: It seems that Cohen now does for Google what he once did for State. Assange jokes that he could be called Google’s “director of regime change,” as his “directorate appear[s] to cross over from public relations and ‘corporate responsibility’ work into active corporate intervention in foreign affairs at a level that is normally reserved for states.”

Scott Malcolmson was ostensibly present at the meeting because he was the book’s editor. But three months later he entered the State Department as speechwriter and advisor to Susan Rice. He’s also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

When Assange realized that the meeting had been more with the State Department than with Google, his initial reaction was “to think of Schmidt as a brilliant but politically hapless Californian tech billionaire who had been exploited by the very US foreign-policy types he had collected to act as translators between himself and official Washington.” He would learn that Schmidt is perhaps more politician than techie.

There was nothing politically hapless about Eric Schmidt. I had been too eager to see a politically unambitious Silicon Valley engineer, a relic of the good old days of computer science graduate culture on the West Coast. But that is not the sort of person who attends the Bilderberg conference four years running, who pays regular visits to the White House, or who delivers “fireside chats” at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Schmidt’s emergence as Google’s “foreign minister”—making pomp and ceremony state visits across geopolitical fault lines—had not come out of nowhere; it had been presaged by years of assimilation within US establishment networks of reputation and influence.

Assange summarizes Google’s problematic relationship with the government as follows:

By all appearances, Google’s bosses genuinely believe in the civilizing power of enlightened multinational corporations, and they see this mission as continuous with the shaping of the world according to the better judgment of the “benevolent superpower.” They will tell you that open-mindedness is a virtue, but all perspectives that challenge the exceptionalist drive at the heart of American foreign policy will remain invisible to them. This is the impenetrable banality of “don’t be evil.” They believe that they are doing good. And that is a problem.

Monopolization

Is Google a monopoly? Tech billionaire Peter Thiel certainly thinks so. He writes that Google’s market share of search is 67%. Since his book was published, that figure has increased to 81%.

Strangely, though, Thiel characterizes that as a good thing. He says that Google’s status as a monopoly means that it isn’t “so focused on today’s margins that it can’t possibly plan for a long-term future.” This freedom from “the daily brute struggle for survival” allows Google to offer its employees “utopian” benefits.

Ok, that’s great for Google employees, but what about the rest of us? Thiel argues that monopolies are good for society because they “drive progress.” That’s ludicrous. In the capitalist worldview, it’s competition that drives progress, and monopolization is the antithesis of competition.

Unethical business practices

Google’s monopolization of search gives it the power to bend other companies to its will. For example, they threatened Forbes with lower search rankings if the latter refused to implement the +1 button on their articles. And Google has for years been under investigation by the European Commission for abusing its power to give some of its own services (e.g. shopping, maps, and flight information) an unfair advantage. The commission recently fined Google a record $2.7 billion.

Censorship

Google can also use its power to “quash ideas it doesn’t like,” as Forbes journalist Kashmir Hill put it. When she published an article exposing Google’s practice of threatening companies that refused to implement the +1 button, she was forced to remove the piece. She later found that it had been removed from the cache.

Perhaps the most infamous victim of Google “censorship” is James Damore, the software engineer who was fired for penning a memo in which he criticized the company for perpetuating an “ideological echo chamber.”

Google owns YouTube, and the company has recently come under fire for teaming up with the Anti-Defamation League to censor content it deems offensive.

Privacy

Assange writes that Google’s “penchant for luring people into its services trap with gigabytes of ‘free storage’ produces the perception that Google is giving it away for free, acting directly contrary to the corporate profit motive. Google is perceived as an essentially philanthropic enterprise—a magical engine presided over by otherworldly visionaries—for creating a utopian future.” But as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Google is a corporation. It’s not providing you with gigabytes of free storage out of benevolence. When you use these services, you are the product. Google collects data on you and sells it to advertisers.

When it comes to privacy, Google is hypocritical. It seems to have little concern for individual citizens who want their information removed from search results. Schmidt said, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” And yet, Schmidt is extremely careful to hide the details of his own private life.

Apple created a stir when they announced that the latest version of their browser, Safari, would automatically block the tracking technique used to track users’ activity across websites. The advertising industry pitched a fit. They wrote an open letter to Apple, begging them not to do it. They said it would undermine “the business model of the Internet.” This is an odd thing to say because the Internet isn’t a company and doesn’t have a business model. The only business model Apple is hurting is that of companies like Google, who make money by infringing upon the privacy of individuals. Excuse me if I don’t feel sorry for them.

Escape the Goolag

What can we, as individuals, do to challenge a leviathan like Google? We can wean ourselves from Google’s teats, which are more multitudinous than the utters of a mutant cow. Listing them all is beyond the scope of this article, but following are the three Google services most likely to be part of your daily life:

  • Google search
  • Google Chrome
  • Gmail

Instead of Google search, use DuckDuckGo, which doesn’t profit from your searches or collect data about you. Instead of Chrome, use an open-source alternative such as Firefox, which can be augmented with plugins to protect your privacy. (Or, if you’re really serious about privacy, use Tor.) Instead of Gmail, use a privacy oriented service like Proton Mail, which automatically encrypts all of your messages.

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon’s Criticism of Bitcoin Sparks Internet Firestorm

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon disparaged the cryptocurrency bitcoin on Sep. 12, calling it a “fraud,” comparing it to the tulip mania of the 17th century, and predicting that it will “blow up.”

Speaking at the Barclays Global Financial Services Conference, Dimon remarked:

When the DOJ calls someone up and says, “That’s an illegal currency and it’s against the laws of the United States… if you do it again, we’ll put you in jail,” it’s over.

Dimon added that an employee who traded bitcoin would be fired “in a second, for two reasons: It is against our rules and they are stupid, and both are dangerous.”

It is unclear whether Dimon considers his daughter “stupid,” as he later joked that she “bought some bitcoin, and it went up, and she thinks she’s a genius now.”

Asked to explain his comments at the Delivering Alpha conference, Dimon warned that while governments presently view bitcoin “as a novelty,” they will “close it down” when it gets too large.

Dimon clarified that his criticism is aimed not at blockchain technology but at virtual currencies that circumvent government control. JP Morgan itself is working on a blockchain, “Quorum,” which is bitcoin’s main competitor.

Dimon’s comments ignited a backlash from bitcoin supporters.

ShapeShift CEO Erik Vorhees tweeted, “My memory is failing, was it Bitcoin or was it JP Morgan that was bailed out by the government?”

Forbes senior editor Laura Shin said the idea that bitcoin could be “closed” is “ridiculous – hilarious, even” because its decentralized nature makes that nearly impossible.

In an open letter to Dimon, Shin suggested that his uneasiness regarding bitcoin stems from its potential to disrupt financial services:

I would be surprised if cryptocurrencies, with their many advantages, don’t prevail over the long-term – especially at a time when everyday people are still angry about paying for the economic crisis caused by financial institutions while bankers made off with bonuses. Since the triumph of cryptocurrencies is the fact that they cut out the middle man… I could understand if you wanted Bitcoin shut down or hoped it was a fraud. I mean, if I were you and if I really understood the disruption crypto assets could bring to financial services, I’d be very scared… It just remains to be seen how much longer people who want to buy crypto assets – or engage in any financial transaction, for that matter – will do so through a middleman like JP Morgan Chase.

Others speculated that Dimon was engaging in market manipulation — causing bitcoin’s value to decrease so that he could “buy low.” The value of bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) did drop following Dimon’s comments, although a causal link has not been established. Many interpreted a widely circulated screenshot as proof that JPMorgan had purchased bitcoin.

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One Redditor even called for a class action lawsuit against Dimon, alleging:

  1. He badmouthed bitcoin.
  2. The day after, prices fell.
  3. His company bought the dip.
  4. Altcoins lost value along with bitcoin.

But a JPMorgan spokesperson told Business Insider that the orders shown in the screenshot “are not JPMorgan orders. These are clients purchasing third party products directly.”

That explanation did not pacify Dimon’s critics.

If the CEO of the financial firm that handles my investments firmly states that a particular investment is a fraud and likens it to the tulip bulb bubble and I felt strongly enough that he was wrong and I was willing to put my own money behind it, I would seriously need to question who is handling my investments moving forward.

While most of those responding to Dimon’s comments were critical, some in the industry defended him. Ron Insana, senior analyst at CNBC, agreed with Dimon’s point that “bitcoin is in a bubble,” while acknowledging that “as in the case of many prior breakthrough technologies, the transformation will indeed be disruptive and extremely important.”

Meanwhile, MGT CEO John McAfee denied that bitcoin is in a bubble. He characterized the blockchain as “ushering in a new economic and social paradigm” that will render centralized control of currency obsolete.

What people see as a bitcoin “bubble,” from the perspective of the new paradigm, is merely the predictable and systematic devaluation of fiat currencies that will continue, with obvious ups and downs, until all fiat currencies reach the zero point.

As the relative value of bitcoin temporarily drops, they will point to this as proof of their understanding. It won’t matter. The reality of this new world is what it is. Those who understand will be the leaders of this new world.

Whatever Dimon’s intentions, his comments clearly had the effect of generating publicity for bitcoin.

Individualist Anarchism: My Personal Revolution

In a recent post, I mentioned that I would begin studying individualist anarchism to determine whether I would be comfortable in applying the label “individualist anarchist” to myself. I have made good on that promise, and based on what I’ve read so far, I can say that I am comfortable with that label, with a few caveats:

  1. I still think that labeling one’s self is problematic because it leads others to make assumptions about you. Labeling others, of course, is equally problematic. It ignores the uniqueness of the individual.
  2. When I say that I’m comfortable with the label “individualist anarchist,” that doesn’t mean that this is set in stone. Learning is a lifelong process. As I continue to learn and grow, my political philosophy is subject to change.
  3. A more accurate or specific label for myself would be individualist veganarchist. (Veganarchism is a portmanteau of veganism and anarchism.) However, I haven’t quite worked out to what extent individualist anarchism and veganarchism are compatible. For example, how can we reconcile the sovereignty of the individual with the idea that individuals should not exploit nonhuman animals? I’m sure this can be worked out, in the same way that individuals should not exploit other human individuals. The key is moving beyond speciesism, and viewing animals as individuals deserving the same sovereignty as us.
  4. All these labels/ideologies are problematic in another way: they are “fixed ideas” or “spooks in the mind,” to borrow from Max Stirner.

I am currently reading Stirner’s The Ego and Its Own. So far, I am in love with this book. Many passages send shivers down my spine, while, admittedly, other parts seem long-winded, clumsily worded, pedantic, and/or obscure. But I suppose they seem that way to me mostly because I am far removed from the historical context in which Stirner was writing.

I’ll try to summarize what I’ve read of the book so far, giving myself the liberty to word it in a way that makes it more relevant to my historical context:

I am told that I must concern myself with many things other than myself. If I concern myself with only myself, then I am selfish, and that is bad. Religious people tell me that I should concern myself with God. Nonreligious moralists, who are really no different from religious people in my eyes, tell me that I should concern myself with the “good” — which, you will notice, is only one letter removed from “god.” There are many fixed ideas, all external to myself, to choose from. I can devote my life to my nation, to the revolution, to capitalism, to communism, to anti-fascism, to social justice, and so on.

But to what external cause or idea does God devote Himself? None. God is concerned only with Himself. So God is an egoist. “The nation” is an egoist, for it does not care if I die fighting for it. To sacrifice my own self-concern is to be subservient to someone or something else which, hypocritically enough, is only concerned with himself or itself. I reject this subservience. Rather than serve an egoist, I will be an egoist myself.

My only concern is myself. I am unique. I am not “human,” I am not “man,” I am not “straight, able, white man.” Those are generalities, and they ignore the reality of my uniqueness as an individual.

I am not the categories into which I have been lumped. I am Johnny Fucking Tisdale. Hear me roar!

My own experience confirms that many “nonreligious” people have not truly freed their minds of religious baggage. They still think in terms of good and evil. They instinctively utter the names of deities in times of great pleasure or distress. They say “God bless you” when I sneeze. But most importantly, they moralize things that shouldn’t be moralized. (What really should be moralized?) They moralize politics, and this has disastrous consequences. Religious zealotry is replaced by ideological fervor.

This moralization of politics is the focus of Jonathan Haidt, a moral psychologist. In his cross-cultural research he has found what he calls “the five foundations of morality.”

  1. Harm/care
  2. Fairness/reciprocity
  3. Ingroup/loyalty
  4. Authority/respect
  5. Purity/sanctity

Haidt has determined that political divisiveness results primarily from the fact that liberals focus on the first two while conservatives focus on the latter three.

To moralize something is essentially to make it “sacred.” And when we view something as sacred, Haidt says, we are prevented from thinking objectively about it. In Stirner’s words, “Before the sacred, people lose all sense of power and all confidence; they occupy a powerless and humble attitude toward it.” Whatever is sacred cannot be questioned. And this is why, in my opinion, nothing should be sacred, especially in the realm of politics, where it is of utmost importance for us to question everything, to use science to determine the best methods for arranging society in such a way to maximize sovereignty for the greatest number of individuals.

Haidt says that in leftist thought there are seven “sacred” groups:

  1. African Americans
  2. Women
  3. LGBT
  4. Latinos
  5. Native Americans
  6. Disabled
  7. Muslims

The more your group has been victimized historically, the more weight your opinion should be given. In social justice circles, if a white man and a black woman disagree, the disagreement is not solved on the basis of the merit of the individuals’ ideas. The white man will be silenced. After all, if he has his own opinion and tries to express it, he is just “whitesplaining” and “mansplaining.”

Obviously, the individualist anarchist will not blindly go along with this, for a couple of reasons. First of all, the goal of anarchism is a world without hierarchies. It doesn’t matter if you invert the prevailing hierarchy to create a new one in a misguided attempt to serve justice. An inverted hierarchy is still a hierarchy. Secondly, individualist anarchism is all about the sovereignty and uniqueness of the individual. In this respect, hierarchical thinking and identity politics are an affront to all, whether you’re at the top or the bottom of the hierarchy, because they ignore your individuality and reduce you to being nothing more than a member of your group.

Post-left anarchism (also influenced heavily by Max Stirner) presents a cogent critique of identity politics:

Post-left anarchy tends to criticize what it sees as the partial victimizing views of identity politics… Accepting the social role of victim — in whatever one of its many forms — is choosing to not even create one’s life for oneself or to explore one’s real relationships to the social structures. All of the partial liberation movements — feminism, gay liberation, racial liberation, workers’ movements and so on — define individuals in terms of their social roles. Because of this, these movements not only do not include a reversal of perspectives which breaks down social roles and allows individuals to create a praxis built on their own passions and desires; they actually work against such a reversal of perspective.

Of course, the right moralizes other things, like sexuality, tradition, and authority. Those political moralizations are to be rejected as well, as will be discussed briefly below. But I focus my criticism on the left, because the left is the tribe to which I have so long been a member, so it is leftist groupthink from which I must liberate myself. Besides, it is obvious enough that tradition and authority must be rejected to maximize individual sovereignty, so there is no need for me to discuss that at length.

I have been dealing with a lot of leftist ideological fervor lately, because I have been openly criticizing certain tactics and ideas trending in the antifa movement. In particular, I criticize unprovoked attacks on people we disagree with (Nazi punching) and any limits on free speech. One friend suggested that I am trying to portray antifa as “evil” (there goes that religious baggage again). Another said that I am not an anarchist but a liberal, and that the “hundreds” of anarchists he knows would laugh me out of the room for the liberal nonsense I’ve been peddling. I sent him a message, saying that I value his input and would love to discuss ideas and tactics with him. But I suggested that his criticism should be a little more constructive if we were to have a productive and meaningful conversation. He obviously wasn’t interested, because he blocked me without bothering to respond.

Given the prevailing political polarization, many are unable to see that I am not engaged in a project of wholesale demonization of antifa, but rather a careful strategic analysis of certain tactics and ideas. Every group, every movement, must be open to criticism, especially from within, lest its members succumb to groupthink. But many antifascists seem to think that if you criticize any aspect of antifa whatsoever, then you must be (*gasp*) one of them — a Nazi sympathizer at best, an actual Nazi at worst.

Stirner says:

What now follows from this for the judgment of the moral man? This: that he throws the egoist into the only class of men that he knows besides moral men, into that of the — immoral. He cannot do otherwise; he must find the egoist immoral in everything in which the egoist disregards morality. If he did not find him so, then he would already have become an apostate from morality without confessing it to himself, he would already no longer be a truly moral man.

In other words, the moral man’s mind is so enslaved to the dichotomy between morality and immorality that he cannot comprehend the transcendence of this polarization — the amoral. Similarly, leftists are so accustomed to assailing the right, and defending themselves from attacks thereby, that they view any divergence from leftist groupthink as centrist or rightist.

At this point, while we’re on the subject of the left-right spectrum, I believe a brief digression is in order. Where in the left-right spectrum does anarchism fit? An answer to this question on the Anarchy101 forum is worth sharing (edited slightly):

Historically, anarchism arose out of left-wing movements; that ground has been covered in other answers so I’ll leave that at that. However, if you’re intent on forcing all political ideologies and philosophies into this narrow framework of understanding, and somehow want to find some utility in it, I think it’s also worth examining and understanding the history of this framework.

The idea of there being a spectrum from left wing to right wing originates from the French Revolution, where those who supported the establishment sat on the right, and those who sought to overturn it sat on the left of the assembly room. Throughout history, movements, ideologies, and philosophies have been categorized as left or right according to a large array of criteria. The definitions from Wikipedia are a pretty good summation of this array. Now if we look closely at that array of criteria for assigning the labels “left” and “right,” the common threads that appear are that leftists tend to be opposed to the establishment, concerned with change and “progress,” whereas the right wing tends to support the establishment and is concerned with opposing change and maintaining existing (or reverting to historical) arrangements of social relationships. Even fascism (which is another ideology which defies the right-left dichotomy) can be placed on this one-dimensional axis using these boiled down criteria.

According to this analysis anarchism is broadly speaking a left-wing grouping of philosophies, as opposition to hierarchical authority (which is the common thread uniting all anarchists) can’t be reconciled with supporting the establishment or conserving existing social arrangements. Anarchism is inherently opposed to the reality we live in.

The question is why would you want to use a reductive framework to try to all-encompassingly organize the history and current reality of political thought when to do so you have to reduce the framework even further? The only use I can see is if you’re trying to make sense of politics objectively, assigning essential meanings to the names of ideologies like “anarchism” and “communism” which are supposed to mean the same thing to everyone. The problem is that politics is subjective and can’t be made sense of objectively. Trying to do so is a particularly bad habit of Westerners, and more specifically Anglophones. Maybe it’s because we’re raised in liberal democracies, and the political language of liberal democracy — the words, phrases, and concepts that liberal democracy uses to define itself, and as it happens our native political language — doesn’t allow for subjectivity. Liberalism after all is a child of The Enlightenment, a period of time when we became obsessed with science, assigning essential meanings to things, and naming them to add to our ever expanding lexicon of nouns; and so it makes sense that the political language (and intellectual technology) that our upbringing equips us with is unable to deal with the fact that ideas and their names mean different things to different people at different times, and so words and concepts like “anarchism,” which are highly disputed and whose locus of ideas (the desire to not be ruled) doesn’t have anything to do with the loci of the objective right-left axis (progress/change vs conservation/stasis), are something that we have trouble assigning essential meanings to.

My solution has been to shed the political language that liberal democracy uses to define itself, to stop using it to try to understand ideas that are opposed to it, to stop trying to assign essential meanings to things and instead look at what things mean to me, what they mean to other people, and acknowledging any differences between the two, instead of trying assert an objective judgement of them. Of course I’ll still assert subjective opinions, like “anarcho-capitalism isn’t consistent with anarchism,” but that doesn’t mean I have to assert an objective judgement — I can say “anarchism means X to me, to me that is what anarchism is, even though you disagree” without asserting that someone else’s anarchism is objectively wrong. Instead of trying to understand an ideology or philosophy from an external locus, I try to understand them by seeking out their own locus. I don’t try to understand anarcho-capitalism by looking at it with anarchist concepts and frameworks in mind; I go to its origin and focal point: classical liberalism. It’s also why I use the term “anarcho-capitalist” instead of some derogatory term, because it’s the label anarcho-capitalists use to describe themselves. Anarchists have over hundreds of years developed their own frameworks of concepts and language to describe and discuss anarchism; they are the most relevant and useful frameworks to anarchism because they originated within it.

I think this entire answer is beautfully written, but a couple of points resonate with me in particular (and evoke some thoughts not necessarily endorsed by that writer):

  1. “Leftists” need to stop using “liberal” or “centrist” as insults for people they disagree with if those people do not consider themselves liberal or centrist. Marxists, in particular, seem especially guilty of this, and it is highly counterproductive to meaningful discussion. Try to understand the person from their point of view rather than forcing their view into a reductive framework.
  2. Attempting to understand people from their point of view is necessary because politics, at least as it stands now, is so subjective. People do not approach politics scientifically. Rather, they approach it ideologically. An ideology is little more than a religion, a dogma. It is a set of “fixed ideas” which one holds to be sacred. Social psychologists have found political attitudes, like religious beliefs, to have an affective (emotional) basis rather than a cognitive basis, which is why it is virtually impossible to change anyone’s mind on any political issue. You cannot reason someone out of a position that they did not reason themselves into.
  3. Perhaps it’s my Anglophone upbringing, but I do believe that this subjective approach to politics can and should be overcome. I believe, like Jacque Fresco, that, “If science has a lot to do with what works, then clearly there’s much about today’s social and economic setup that isn’t scientific, because things aren’t working very well for a majority of the world’s population or the environment. If they were, war, poverty, hunger, homelessness, pollution, etc., would not be so prevalent today. Unfortunately, our social structures evolved with no overall global planning.”

As anarchism doesn’t fit neatly into the left-right spectrum, it’s no wonder that a “post-leftist” strain has emerged in anarchist thought.

Some post-leftists seek to escape the confines of ideology in general while also presenting a critique of organizations and morality. Influenced by the work of Max Stirner, post-leftists argue that the left, even the revolutionary left, is anachronistic and incapable of creating change. Post-left anarchy offers critiques of radical strategies and tactics which it considers antiquated: the demonstration, class-oriented struggle, focus on tradition, and the inability to escape the confines of history.

Now, to return to my critique of antifa. Despite the accusations of tribalistic leftists who have difficulty thinking outside of the left-right dichotomy, I do not criticize antifa because I disagree with the end goal of opposing fascism. My concern is that the decentralization of the antifa movement makes it all too easy for the agents of the capitalist class to infiltrate it and sow the seeds of its destruction from within. We saw this with Occupy Wall Street. Undercover cops infiltrated and performed false flag operations, destroying private property to discredit the movement. It is entirely possible that the capitalist class are doing this with antifa, doing their best to portray the movement as sinister and violent so that it will be discredited. It is also possible that they are using neo-Nazis and the KKK as pawns to steer public opinion in the direction of accepting limits on free speech. I am extremely disappointed in the shortsightedness of many leftists, who seem to think that the limits on free speech would stop with Nazis. The neo-fascist administration would obviously use the limits on expressions of Nazism as a precedent to stamp out other forms of political dissent. Antifa would be next on the chopping block.

Historically, one alternative to decentralization is a vanguard party — a small group of professional revolutionaries who control the movement. As an individualist anarchist, though, I obviously have reservations about such an idea. I don’t want to be ruled by a vanguard party any more than I want to be ruled by the capitalist class. Lenin himself (who popularized vanguardism) was likened to Robespierre by Trotsky because he was unable to accept any criticism, even from his most dedicated followers. And if tomorrow’s revolution is controlled by a vanguard party, then I fear said party would be led by ideological zealots like the ones who have been attacking me for daring to think for myself. I would likely be sent to the gulag, if not outright killed, for my refusal to bend the knee.

Perhaps a vanguard party is a necessary evil. Then again, perhaps not. I think decentralization can work. But for it to work, and indeed for any kind of anarchist society to work, individuals must be just that — individuals. We must remain hypervigilant. We must be willing to call out bad ideas when we see them, because it’s possible that these bad ideas were sown by capitalist infiltrators. But it’s difficult to call out bad ideas when disagreeing ever so slightly with the party line gets you labeled a Nazi sympathizer.

One common thread among individualist anarchists is:

The rejection of, or reservations about, the idea of revolution, seeing it as a time of mass uprising which could bring about new hierarchies. Instead they favor more evolutionary methods of bringing about anarchy through alternative experiences and experiments and education which could be brought about today. This is also because it is not seen as desirable for individuals to wait for revolution to start experiencing alternative experiences outside what is offered in the current social system.¹

That’s the fun thing about individualist anarchism. You don’t have to wait for your fellow wage slaves to achieve class consciousness. Your personal revolution (your evolution?) can begin now. There are many ways in which the exertion of your will can result in a significant change in your experience. To use a very overused phrase, you can be the change you want to see in the world. And doing this is much preferable to sitting around waiting for some promised revolution. Of course, you can also change your lifestyle and work toward the revolution simultaneously, if you so desire.

One major difference between the left and the right seems to be their views on personal (i.e., individual) accountability. The left focuses on social and environmental factors, while the right focuses on personal choice. For example, suppose someone is addicted to nicotine. A leftist will likely focus on the fact that Big Tobacco targets low-income communities. In other words, the leftist will avoid blaming the victim. The right-winger, on the other hand, will likely focus on the individual’s choice to begin smoking cigarettes. While it may be true that the individual was bombarded with tobacco advertisements from a young age, no one put a gun to the individual’s head and forced them to smoke that first cigarette.

The idea that we should focus on either social/environmental influences or personal choice is yet another symptom of this polarized, tribalistic age. In truth, no model of human behavior is complete if it does not take both into consideration. Environmental forces definitely play a role in shaping human behavior, but humans are also capable of reflexivity, defined as “the capacity of an agent to recognize forces of socialization and alter their place in the social structure.”

A low level of reflexivity would result in an individual shaped largely by their environment (or “society”). A high level of social reflexivity would be defined by an individual shaping their own norms, tastes, politics, desires, and so on. This is similar to the notion of autonomy.

I can become aware of the environmental factors that are determining my behavior. Indeed, this ability is central to the definition of intelligence proposed by Robert Sternberg in his groundbreaking triarchic theory of intelligence. According to this theory, intelligence is the ability to:

  1. adapt to one’s environment,
  2. select one’s environment, and
  3. shape one’s environment.

So, while it is important to take note of social and environmental influences, it is also true that focusing exclusively on these influences treats the individual like the hapless victim of external forces. Anarchist education would, ideally, empower the individual by imparting a high degree of reflexivity.

Almost everyone on Earth seems to be addicted to something. Even Zen monks regularly drink green tea, which contains caffeine. More common, at least among Americans, is the daily consumption of coffee, which is not only much more addictive than tea, but also contributes to the exploitation of coffee farmers in the developing world. So by drinking coffee, not only do I sacrifice my own sovereignty by becoming dependent on an exogenous substance, but I am also complicit in the violation of the sovereignty of other individuals. And this should concern me, if not because of morality (which after all is just a spook in the mind), then because a system in which any individual’s sovereignty is threatened is a system in which my own sovereignty might be threatened.

Many anti-capitalists say, “There is no such thing as ethical consumption under capitalism.” And to a degree that is true, but it can also be a cop-out to avoid personal responsibility and to continue making extremely unethical consumer choices when there are less unethical choices available. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. While it might be impossible to spend money in this economy without someone in the chain being exploited, you can still choose to spend your money in ways that minimize your contributions to exploitation.

So, what are some specific ways in which I can exert my willpower to cast off the chains of society and increase not only my own sovereignty but also that of other individuals, both human and nonhuman?

  • Abstain from using all addictive substances — caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, etc.
  • Abstain from using animal products — meat, fish, eggs, dairy, etc.
  • Know where your food and other goods are coming from, and make your consumer choices as “ethical” as possible. Grow as much of your own food as possible.
  • Live as healthy a lifestyle as possible. A state of vibrant health expands your possibilities and frees you from dependence on profiteering medical professionals and pharmaceutical corporations.
  • Escape from mental prisons such as organized religion — particularly the theistic ones, which condition you to submit to “higher powers.”
  • Reject unnecessary traditions such as marriage, monogamy, and heteronormativity. Do not allow your sexual expression to be limited by social acceptability. Just make sure your sexual expression doesn’t violate the sovereignty of other individuals. Consenting human adults only!
  • Limit your exposure to mainstream media, which is a tool used by the capitalist class for mass conditioning and manipulating public opinion.
  • Limit the amount of time you spend on Facebook, as its engineers design it to get you to spend as much time on the platform as possible, even against your will and to your detriment. The red notification symbol activates the brain’s dopamine reward system, thus allowing them to use techniques of operant conditioning on you. If you do use Facebook, and social media in general, avoid creating an ideological echo chamber, as this subjects you to groupthink. Instead of Google, use DuckDuckGo, which doesn’t create a filter bubble and doesn’t profit from your searches.
  • Experiment with technologies of self-liberation, such as meditation. The responsible use of psychedelics is an extremely powerful way of dissolving the rigid mental boundaries created by social conditioning. While LSD is preposterously classified as a Schedule 1 substance, it has no addictive potential whatsoever, as its mechanism of action does not involve the dopamine reward system.

These are just some suggestions to help you get started. The key is to practice reflexivity. Notice when you are being influenced by external forces. If these forces are influencing you in ways that are not in your best interest, then reject them. Don’t be afraid to be selfish. Be your authentic self — unapologetically and wholeheartedly.

Why I No Longer Identify As A Socialist

I do not remember the exact moment at which I started identifying as a socialist. I do remember being turned off by my high school history teacher’s dismissive attitude toward socialism. We’re all familiar with such statements: “It looks good on paper, but it could never work.” If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard that, I’d be a member of the capitalist class by now. This teacher was a veteran who grew up during the Red Scare. Like every good Baby Boomer, he was conditioned to fear socialism, though he seemed unable to define it.

I actually had a lot of respect for this teacher. We were in the Bible Belt, but he was an atheist, and he made no attempt to keep that a secret. But his biased comments on socialism only served to pique my interest in that mysterious political philosophy.

At first, I only knew that socialism was the antithesis of capitalism. I really didn’t understand what capitalism was either, just as a fish doesn’t understand what water is. I was conditioned in a hyper-capitalistic society, so I took capitalism for granted. Simply putting a name on it — “capitalism” — is in itself liberating. It allows you to think critically about the structure of the society in which you were indoctrinated, where before you simply accepted it. “That’s just the way things are.”

And the more I learned, the more I realized: I don’t like the way things are. Capitalism is far from ideal. If socialism was the alternative, then I was automatically attracted to it. I wanted to know more.

Years later, in my mid-twenties, I attended a rally in downtown Montgomery. If I remember correctly, it was hosted by the Montgomery Area Freethought Association, and the purpose was to protest the passing of some new law that violated the principle of separation of church and state. There were several speakers, including a member of the Mobile chapter of Socialist Alternative. I was so inspired by her speech that I approached her afterwards. Along with a couple of other Montgomerians, I agreed to visit Mobile to discuss the creation of a Montgomery chapter of Socialist Alternative.

The trip to Mobile was fun. I was accustomed to being the lone socialist, arguing with capitalists. But now I found myself in the company of like-minded individuals. We met at a bookstore and split into discussion groups. I learned a lot. But in retrospect, the most important thing I learned was that, in fact, these individuals were not as like-minded as I initially thought.

The common thread uniting us was a distaste for capitalism. But, when I began to speak about the alternatives, disagreement ensued. During the drive to Mobile, I was all but ridiculed for mentioning The Venus Project. I was labeled a “utopian” and an “idealist,” and those words were uttered as if they were necessarily insults.

The next day, after we had met the others at the bookstore and split into groups, we were discussing some aspect of post-revolutionary governance. I can’t remember the specifics, but I said, “I don’t think we should do X because [insert practical considerations here].” Someone looked at me and said, with a straight face, “But Marx said we should do X.” Full stop. No practical considerations, just a spineless appeal to authority.

I was so taken aback by this dogmatism that I was rendered speechless. If I was guilty of being too optimistic, my specific crime was not my utopianism, but that I expected a higher capacity for critical, original thought among those who had freed themselves from the mental prison of capitalism.

The priests of the Leftist cults [are] highly suspicious of any individualistic tendencies that might lead followers to think on their own… Book clubs are good, meetings are fine, but none of these things bring you any closer to freedom. There’s something strangely religious to it all, isn’t there? These people with their chosen book getting together to talk about how good everything will be when justice finally sweeps down and fixes everything. They flip pages, or gab endlessly, sure that if just enough people heard the “good news” of one theory or another everything would change. What’s a protest but an old school Protestant revival dressed up in red and black?¹

Just as many apostates simply replace Christianity by making a religion out of science, many socialists have simply abandoned one set of masters for another. They remain slaves. They remain followers. This is the primary reason that I no longer identify as a socialist. My distaste for capitalism is stronger than ever. But I am an individualist. I despise dogma in any form. I do not want to be part of any cult, any religion, any tribe, any party.

Political divisiveness has reached a fever pitch. Democrats and Republicans are more akin to football teams than political parties. Meaningful, productive conversation is off the table; the goal is to “win.” The bipartisan system reinforces dualistic thinking, which has become so hopelessly entrenched that it maintains its stranglehold even on those “revolutionaries” who eschew the established political structure in favor of sexier alternatives like socialism or libertarianism. They have left one tribe only to join another.

So, if I am not a socialist, then what am I? At this point in my life I am hesitant to adopt any label.

First, everyone will assume, on the basis of this label, that they know my stance on a host of complicated issues. After all, if you’re a leftist, then you must favor gun control. If you’re a right-winger, then you must deny human-caused climate change. This is tribalism at its finest. There is no room for nuance. There is no room for free thought. Toe the party line.

Second, to apply a label to one’s self is essentially to claim membership in a group, and every group has its own rigid ideology. The label “capitalist” or “socialist” becomes central to one’s identity, and a psychological event horizon is created, beyond which one’s thoughts cannot pass. I was foolish to think that socialists would somehow be free of these tribalistic tendencies. I was proven wrong, and after suffering such disenchantment, why would I now make the same mistake again?

Perhaps I could call myself an individualist anarchist. But even then, were I to associate with other individualist anarchists, I’m afraid that one of them might utter, “But Stirner said we shouldn’t do X!”

I think a common criticism of anarchists — individualist anarchists in particular — is that their proposals are doomed to fail because their individualism prevents them from cooperating. However, I don’t find this criticism to be valid. I believe that unity can exist without uniformity. In other words, not only can strong-willed individuals come together and cooperate without forming a tribe and succumbing to groupthink, but I believe such a collective of individuals would be capable of much more than your average tribe of loyal, dimwitted followers.

I will have to study individualist anarchism further before I decide whether I want to adopt this label. In the meantime, I will not shrink back from the dreaded u-word.

The reactions of the socialists who might read this are so predictable that they may as well be the robots who will perform all menial tasks in the ideal society. They will call me an “idealist” — and expect me to be insulted.

The problem is that they think idealism and practicality are mutually exclusive. They’re not. In fact, they can and should be complimentary. One can be guided by both ideals and practical considerations. Your ideals are the destination; practical considerations are how to get there.

Political ideologies have two dimensions:

  1. Goals: how society should work
  2. Methods: the most appropriate ways to achieve the ideal arrangement²

The Marxist tribesmen will fail to grasp this, for their dear leader took pleasure in criticizing the “utopian” socialists that preceded him, smugly differentiating his own brand by calling it “scientific” socialism. Despite this, Marx did in fact acknowledge his debt to Saint-Simon.

Just as it is dangerous to assume that we have entered a post-ideological age, as this “can enable the deepest, blindest form of ideology,”³ it is dangerous for Marxists to think that Marxism is free of idealism. Any political ideology is, by definition, an opinion on the ideal form that society should take. The Marxist ideal is a stateless, classless, moneyless society with collective ownership of the means of production.

When a Marxist says that Marxism is not idealistic because it is based on dialectical materialism, this simply means that he believes that class struggle is the most realistic method to achieve the ideal society. When a Marxist says that it is “regressive” to be a utopian, he assumes that anyone who calls himself a utopian rejects the notion that class struggle is necessary.

But this is a faulty assumption, for there is no Utopian Party with a well-defined list of principles. A Marxist defines the word “utopian” on the basis of Marx’s use of that word — as a pejorative to describe thinkers who either had no conception of class struggle or believed that the capitalist class would abdicate if presented with a convincing enough utopian proposal. The “utopian” socialists did not refer to themselves as such. Very few people self-identify as utopian, for in most people’s eyes, that word is a synonym for “impossible.”

What I am doing, in a sense, is reappropriating the u-word. I call myself a utopian because I have not been convinced that any ideology presented thus far got it completely right. I find it especially dubious that an armchair philosopher writing centuries ago had all the answers for this day and age. The Communist Manifesto was written in the 1840s. There is no way that Marx and Engels could have foreseen the bewildering technological advancements, historical events, and geopolitical trends that have occurred since.

That being said, technological utopianism is actually quite progressive, while orthodox Marxism is outdated and regressive. Marx said that our proposals must be based on the actual material conditions of society, and yet present-day Marxists are stuck on the actual material conditions of mid-19th-century European society.

Every organized religion was founded by someone who had a direct spiritual experience. Rather than seek such an experience themselves, the masses huddle around their savior, hanging onto his every word. Buddhists worship the Buddha, Christians worship Christ, and Marxists worship Marx.

I call myself a utopian because I am not a follower. Many people are followers, and for that reason I believe that Marxism has an important role to play. It is a good first step for those who have decided to free themselves from the capitalist colonization of their minds.

But as for me, rather than blindly accepting what a 19th-century European had to say about achieving the ideal society, I will approach the problem with a fresh mind. I will think for myself. I will explore all options, all avenues, all possibilities. I will approach political science as just that: a science. This would be impossible were I the slavish devotee of one particular ideology. I will pick and choose what works from various ideologies.

And perhaps I will create my own.

Cultural Revolution

It is tempting for those who are dissatisfied with the present system, especially those at the bottom of the social hierarchy, to blame everything on those at the top. However, suppose that tomorrow you became the richest person on Earth. Do you think that you would be able to change the system? How would you do it?

First of all, you might be opposed by other, less philanthropic billionaires. But even if all the world’s billionaires joined forces to bring about utopia, they would still face serious problems.

One way of looking at society is that it is nothing more than the sum of its parts. In other words, society is nothing more than a group of individuals living in a particular area. In order to have a utopian society, you need utopian citizens. You need an enlightened populace. And unfortunately, no one on this planet was socialized in a utopian society.

In America, we have a problem with political apathy. Only 55% of eligible citizens voted in the 2016 presidential election. A huge percentage of the global population consists of childlike individuals who want a parental figure to think about the tough issues for them. Capitalists enjoy being ruled by Big Business and communists enjoy being ruled by Big Government. In other words, most people are followers. What we need is a society of leaders.

We need a society of strong-willed, independent thinkers. But under both capitalism and communism, the purpose of education is to produce workers. Although this is disputed, the billionaire John D. Rockefeller, who put a lot of funding into education, allegedly said, “I don’t want a nation of thinkers. I want a nation of workers.”

Malcolm X spoke some relevant words on this issue in an interview with the Village Voice:

“The greatest mistake of the Movement,” he said, “has been trying to organize a sleeping people around specific goals. You have to wake the people up first then you’ll get action.”

Wake them up to their exploitation?

“No, to their humanity, their own worth, and to their heritage. The biggest difference between the parallel oppression of the Jew and the Negro is that the Jew never lost his pride in being a Jew. He never ceased to be a man. He knew he had made a significant contribution to the world, and his sense of his own value gave him the courage to fight back. It enabled him to act and think independently, unlike our people and our leaders.”

While Malcolm X makes the case that people of color have been particularly dehumanized, I would say that this problem is not exclusive to that demographic. Most modern societies are inherently dehumanizing. We are cogs in a machine.

I’m not trying to blame the victim here. I’m not saying that the less-than-ideal status of modern societies is the fault of the masses. But I am pointing out that the masses can, should, and must be a part of the solution. The absolute power of monarchs lasted only until the people rose up and forced the king to sign the Magna Carta. And today’s oppressive systems will last only as long as the people allow them to.

But a revolution in the structure of society is unlikely to occur without a preceding cultural revolution. We need to look within ourselves and uncover the ways in which our minds have been colonized. We must also dare to face the ways in which we are complicit in the injustices of the system.

So how do we bring about this cultural revolution? In many ways it has already begun. The majority of young people in the United States prefer socialism over capitalism. (I see socialism and capitalism as two sides of the same coin. But America has taken capitalism to the extreme so I think that moving toward the socialist end of the spectrum is a step in the right direction.) There are socialist parties springing up all over America. There are plenty of woke people you can follow on Twitter.

But there is always room for improvement. What more can be done to bring about the cultural revolution? The most obvious answer is education. And I don’t just mean college education, because anyway, as most conservatives will tell you, there is a strong leftist bias in academia. We need to start getting people woke at a younger age. When your kids ask you tough questions, don’t give them bullshit answers. When they ask where babies came from, your answer shouldn’t involve the stork. Tell them the truth. Don’t indoctrinate them with stories of imaginary characters like the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and God. Theistic religions wire people to be followers whose first instinct is to appeal to a “higher power” to solve their problems.

But as long as the education system is poorly funded and controlled by the corporate state, it is doubtful that it will produce independent thinkers rather than obedient workers. Fortunately, almost everyone in America now has a smart phone. You have the sum total of human knowledge in the palm of your hand. And yet, how do people use this resource? They waste time keeping up with the latest rumors on Jay Z’s infidelity, watching cat videos, etc. So despite access to information, people don’t use it. You can take college courses online for free from Ivy League schools. Why aren’t more people doing it? Because they were never taught to love learning. They were never taught that learning is a life-long enterprise, not limited to the acquisition of a degree which allows you to get a certain job. They fail to grasp the fact that education is an end in itself, as it empowers the individual.

So how do we get people to take advantage of the amazing resources that are available to them? This is where we have to put the “culture” in “cultural revolution.” We have to make learning sexy and cool. In a way this is already being done with the word “woke.” But again, there is room for improvement.

Enter the tech bros.

Marx criticized the utopian socialists for thinking that the capitalist class could be convinced to adopt utopian schemes, but I think they can. In Silicon Valley, there is already much interest in things like seasteading and fully automated luxury communism. Admittedly, we can’t rely solely on the capitalist class to bring about utopia, but some of its members might be willing to help. Capitalism is a system, and it is a dehumanizing system for all who are caught in it, including those fortunate enough to be in the capitalist class. It is difficult to find true fulfillment in a hypermaterialistic, consumeristic culture, no matter how much money you have. Everyone, rich and poor alike, would benefit holistically from having a more enlightened populace.

So what can the billionaire tech bros do? They are already exerting enormous influence over people’s minds and lifestyles because we are spending inordinate amounts of time in the virtual spaces they create. An early investor in Facebook and Google recently condemned the companies for aggressively hacking our brains to sell more ads. Instead of using their technological influence to keep us locked into a consumeristic mindset, the tech giants could tailor the user experience to influence people in the opposite direction. They could try to turn the people whose brains they’re hacking into utopian citizens.

And if they’re not willing to do that, then we need to initiate a mass exodus from their virtual spaces and create our own.