Learning From Chaos

Once again, the unpredictable and uncontrollable forces of chaos have revealed themselves, this time in Las Vegas, a city that thrives on the unforeseeable nature of gambling. As we have come to expect, members of the mainstream media, politicians, and other apostles for the established order, were quick to remind Boobus Americanus not to lose faith in the power of political systems to bring mankind to order. Again, we hear the endless recitation of the mantra that follows the failures of political intervention to achieve its promised expectations: “we will find out what went wrong and fix it so this doesn’t happen again.” I am reminded of the religions that predict the “end of the world” on a specific date, and when doomsday fails to occur on the predicted date, a new date is then selected.

The institutional structuring of the lives of individuals has its foundations in the belief in pyramidal systems of authority. While we are familiar with this model in most organized religions, all institutional claims of formal authority are grounded in the belief that an orderly world can be realized only through centrally planned and regulated systems of control over people.

The ends sought by most advocates of political structuring are not a peaceful and orderly society, nor conforming human behavior to the demands of nature, nor maximizing the material and spiritual well-being of all humans. Their aspirations, rather, are to be found in the enjoyment of coercive power over others, a purpose that can be found in the manipulation of any conditions. “Environmentalists” began, a few decades ago, with the “threat” of a coming “ice age,” for which state regulation of human behavior would be required. In mid-stream, their hypothecated threat became “global warming,” with government control the only plausible solution. The “threat” was later modified to “climate change,” for which political control was proposed.

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The late William Hutt told me that Keynes – with whom Hutt was closely acquainted – had written a draft of his General Theory and sent it out to fellow economists for their responses. They strongly criticized his work, Hutt A Libertarian Critique... Butler Shaffer Buy New $5.50 (as of 03:05 UTC - Details) said, and so Keynes redrafted it to foster the ends of politically-centralized economic systems. Those who favor mankind being ruled by coercion operate from the premise “on the basis of my conclusions I draw my facts.” One recalls the words of a leading Democrat, Rahm Emanuel: “you never let a serious crisis go to waste.” I wonder if Hillary was awakened in mid-sleep – while the bodies were still being removed from the Las Vegas abattoir – to urge for more gun-control laws!

Bromides, platitudes, and bogey-man fears are the stock-in-trade of the politically-minded, whose ambitions depend upon the superficiality of thought. Television news coverage of the Las Vegas killings has provided little substance beyond updating the numbers of victims as well as the number of guns the killer had in his hotel room (i.e., beginning with 10 guns, the number escalated to 23. Was Keynes’ “multiplier effect” responsible in increasing the extent of his weaponry?). Political classes continue to chatter about the virtues of “brotherhood,” “unity,” and “coming together,” ends that would be fatal to the state. All political systems depend upon conflicts among exclusive identity-groups and other forms of divisiveness.

Shallowness of inquiry – so as not to disturb the factious boundaries of our conflicts with one another – permeates the media, as it long has. On the day of the killings, exchanges between so-called “journalists” and police “experts” came down to this discussion I saw on one channel: the journalist, asking if this slaughter was a “premeditated” act (this question coming after it had been reported that the murderer had ten guns) to which the “expert” replied that the killer was motivated by something. (Gosh, do you suppose?)

Expect little more than this from the voices of authority. Bear in mind the words of Thomas Pynchon: “if they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.” It is the task of most academicians and members of the media, as well as politicians, to control your thinking by framing the questions you are expected to ask. Any network newscaster or editorial writer who might dare to step beyond his or her prescribed boundaries and ask a question that might prove embarrassing to the established order, would likely be summarily dismissed. Expanding individual awareness of the “dark side” that is the nature of all political systems, is what terrorizes statists about the work of Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Ed Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, as well as the free flow of information on the Internet.

But the pyramidal model of social systems is collapsing. The top-down, vertically-structured archetype is transforming into endless patterns of horizontal networks; in the language of solid geometry, the pyramid is being replaced by the sphere. While the pyramid, with its vertical design, serves those with ambitions for power by providing an apex from which to rule others, there is no such preferred position to be found in a sphere.

The dehumanizing and destructive nature of collective systems – wherein the individuality of human beings is squeezed out in order to serve a mythical abstraction – is in a terminal state. Voluntary forms of cooperation, with their interconnected networks containing neither “tops” nor “bottoms,” and with no one enjoying coercive authority over others, are becoming increasingly attractive to men and women. The contrast between the pyramidal and spherical models is best illustrated in the differences between politically-structured systems of economic planning, and the marketplace. The specter of such liberating changes are terrifying to the statists, who want nothing more – nor less – than to enjoy the exercise of power over others, and who are arrogant enough to believe that they are entitled to enjoy such authority regardless of the costs to the rest of humanity.

Those committed to the herd-mentality plead “we must do something” to end the kinds of violence that erupted in Las Vegas. Like a man with a leash looking for a dog, their impulsive response is to propose more gun-control legislation. Such proposals make as much sense as trying to end drunk-driving by restraining the ownership of cars! They also overlook the fact that cities and states with some of the strictest gun-control laws also have some of the highest murder rates.

I was somewhat encouraged by the fact that a few Democrats in Congress intoned “there must be some form of legislation we can enact to reduce gun violence.” Such statements may reflect seeds of doubt beginning to emerge even within the halls of state. When otherwise intelligent minds begin to ask questions that have hitherto been unasked, there may be a basis for optimism. In time, the willingness to go deeper into more fundamental questions may be seen in the establishment media and academia. In the spirit of H.L. Mencken, even editorial writers may begin to take notice of the importance of asking the right questions.

To those who continue to ask “isn’t there something government can do to change the violent nature of our society?”, the answer is “no.” There is nothing that those in power can do to end the conflicts that are inherent in political systems! The life-force has absorbed as much destructiveness as can be tolerated short of extinction of the human species. A paradigm shift is taking place within our culture, with the spontaneous and autonomous nature of living systems replacing the coercive and servile character of the agencies which, contrary to Thomas Hobbes, are making our lives “nasty, brutish, and short.”

The emerging model is found in the study of “chaos.” Our children and grandchildren will become as aware of the orderly  and creative nature of unplanned behavior just as our post-Copernican ancestors abandoned the geocentric model of the universe in favor of a heliocentric one. Our descendants will be found walking away from the madness of collective identities, and will learn how to live with the challenge, not the fear, of complexity in an unpredictable yet orderly world.

Life is individually directed, a fact confirmed in the necessity for the state to resort to violence and threats to increase the costs of our disobedience. Instead of looking to guns as the cause of the violence in our world, intelligent minds would do well to ask whether the state serves as a “role model” for those with coercive dispositions. If those who seek to accomplish their ambitions for power over others by owning and controlling the guns, bombs, and other forms of state weaponry, perhaps the Stephen Paddocks are doing no more than emulating the state.

The mainstream media keeps asking the question: what were this man’s motives? Does it really matter, or is this but another meaningless distraction with which we amuse ourselves? It is our capacity for inflicting pain, suffering, and death – in addition to frustrating the life-purposes of others – that ought to attract our attentions. As Anthony deJasay observed, “collective choice is never independent of what significant numbers of individuals wish it to be.”

As we rethink our assumptions about the nature and source of peace and liberty in our world, we may come to the conclusion that the quality of life is found in the character of individuals who live in society. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “the true test of a civilization” is to be found in “the kind of man the country turns out.”