Politics is downstream from culture. — Andrew Breitbart
Culture is downstream from character. — Me
Last week I wrote that an important job ahead of us is to build parallel systems, and even parallel societies. We need these to sustain ourselves and sustain freedom as utterly corrupted, immoral, self-serving government and corporatist systems crumble.
I promised a series on that. Here it begins.
As with my earlier series, “In Praise of Men” (which ended up running to seven segments), it seems best to lay some groundwork. My premises for everything that follows … follow.
1. Alternate systems are NON-POLITICAL. TPTB will interpret them as political and as a threat, because that is how a totalitarian oligarchy interprets everything it doesn’t directly control. But alternative systems are simply an expression of how people choose to live their lives and create more hopeful futures for their children.
2. Alternative systems are MANY, not one. It is not our job to try to replace thoroughly rotten centralized systems of schooling, justice, medical care, communications or anything else. It is our job to route around the damage (in the parlance of the old, optimistic days of the Internet) done by such bureaucratic and autocratic systems. The systems we create may be citywide, affinity-based, neighborhood-specific, networked across the world, exclusive to a church we belong to, or even confined within our extended family. If they work well, others may join or adopt them. But we shouldn’t try, or even hope, to impose our creations on unwilling others.
3. Setting up alt-systems may be easy or hard, but it is DANGEROUS. Let’s not kid ourselves. Some people who try to do this job may be arrested, killed, or be shut out of the benefits of society (such as they are, these days). Virtually all of us are likely to be demonized or become targets of media-whipped mobs.
4. Therefore, creating alt-systems isn’t just a job to do (though it is that, too). It is an expression of our vision for life. If we fail to hold a larger vision, we may not have the strength to go on.
5. The most potent vision is rooted in what Solzhenitsyn, Havel, and contemporary author Rod Dreher might call a determination to “live in truth.” Totalitarianism is based on the lie that a small, powerful group can control a large, complex society filled with endlessly varied individuals. The most common way to attempt to cope with totalitarianism is to obey, and even loudly proclaim whatever ideology the bosses promote at any given moment — in other words, to submerge your real self into the tyrannical order, to “live within the lie.” Once you determine to step out of the lie (whether your reasons are religious, philosophical, pragmatic, rebellious, desperate, or merely fed up), you enter a new realm. A realm of freedom and perils, but a realm in which you finally, blessedly, get to be true to yourself. Then … culture flows downstream from character.
6. Just as we must hold to the vision to build the systems, once the systems are built, they help us to sustain the vision and continue to “live in truth.”
7. We are here to brainstorm and inspire each other. I do not have solutions. I have ideas to share — as do you, as do people in your life, as do all the members of this blog Commentariat, as do entrepreneurs, inventors, dreamers, and desperate outsiders who are already concocting ways to “route around the damage” tyranny has done, the damage that totalitarianism is worsening. But solutions? We will create those for ourselves and each other, test them, see what works, reject what doesn’t, try, fail, and start again.
8. Part of our mission is to inspire others (including others who may not yet have the imagination, the courage, or the wherewithal to step out of the broken systems). Not only to inspire them, but to create alternatives that will be there to sustain them once they can no longer bear to “live within the lie” or once the lie collapses around them and nobody can live in or with it any longer.
I’ve written before about an analogy I heard back in the day. I don’t know whether this analogy is the work of some famous freedomista forebear like Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand, or Frederich Hayek or whether it’s just some random thing I once read. But it goes like this:
The human race is on a huge staircase, whose risers soar high above our heads. Most people may not even know that the next step is up there. But every once in a while some innovative person, or group of them, figures out how to reach the next step. And up they, and a few early followers, climb.
Then they turn around and pull the rest of us up after them. Thus does our species progress from savagery to the stars.
Well, we are in quite different times now.
Part of our job in creating alternative systems is to stand firmly on the steps to catch those who tumble down as the upper stairs begin to rot and cave in.
We won’t be able to catch them all. Nor should we try. Some, who have collaborated all too eagerly with the oligarchy, may plunge all the way down to the savagery, poverty, and ignominy they wished upon Deplorable Us. But many others will join us to help enlarge and enrich the alternative systems we’ve begun to create.
I say I have no solutions (except the ones I work out with my friends, as we all do). But amazingly, there’s already a surprising richness of options and ideas out there for alternative systems.
Some of these are no more than speculations. Others are commercial ventures that promise greater freedom if they succeed, but (in the way of all new enterprises) are more likely to fail while still leaving a few good ideas behind. Others are small-scale social experiments that may work for one group (say, a tribe) but not for others.
Among the most interesting are ventures being undertaken — sometimes in a spirit of creativity, sometimes merely out of a desperate need to earn a living — by experienced people who’ve dropped out of the broken systems and are looking for (and finding!) better ways to serve everyone involved.
So while I can’t promise any actual solutions (and you should be wary of those who say they can), I can promise that this series will offer food for thought, links to bright ideas and enterprises, good discussion (because we have good discussers hereabouts), tips, how-tos, and generally useful information.