The Reality of Power and the Path to “Liberty”
This Archlogos Podcast is a replay of an episode of Freedom Feens, where Paul Gordon appeared, with host Lou Sander, to talk about his theory of the Reality of Power and how that has framed his approach to working towards tilting the balance of power towards individuals and free associations.
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Here is an outline of the show:
Standing on your preferences-
Mark Twain Poem- Hiding the reality of the brutality of your decisions behind a moral code
From The War Prayer
“O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle – be Thou near them! With them, in spirit, we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it – for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.
To be able to make decisions about my life with the least amount of threat of force from others altering that potential decision.
From this, coming to believe that I have two paths- to live among people with a similar core preference, or to make myself invulnerable to the threat of force.
Conclusion- Community is the realistic path.
Anarchist Axiom- Own Yourself. I say, own your preferences, stand nakedly on them. Become self-aware of what you want. Give yourself a chance to change if you don’t like the answers. If you like the answers, become self-aware regarding what stands in your way, what opportunities exist to increase your opportunity to fulfill your preferences.
From this, I gather, know the reality of power around you.
But what is power?
Power is the ability to take or influence action.
There are, by my estimation, four main spheres of influence-
Ideational, Force, Demonstrable, Social.
Example- Peasants Revolt of 1381
The two groups assembled across from each other at Smithfield, with the King accompanied by a group of 200 armed men. On the other side were what remained of the Peasants, with Wot Tyler representing the group. They numbered around 300-400. But a sizeable number were armed with the dreaded English Long Bow, and they knew how to use that weapon.
Tyler approached the King, either at the King’s invitation or on his own initiative. Referring to the King as “brother” and offering “friendship,” the Royal Party surrounding the King expressed disapproval at the level of familiarity Tyler demonstrated to King. Tyler wanted more than the vast majority of Peasants wanted. He wanted a near total abolition of the aristocracy, save, of course, for the King himself.
It can be said that this core group of Peasants, which, again numbered nowhere more than 400 (of the original tens of thousands that originally marched on London), had made the leap beyond the rest of the Peasants, that it wasn’t a select number of aristocrats that had to go, the whole aristocracy had to go. The words of John Ball echoed into this ideal, “When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then a gentleman?” In other words, it was time to end hereditary “gentlemen,” the aristocracy.
He also demanded that local courts and local constabularies be run by the people, not appointed by, and from, the gentry, or aristocracy. In summation, what Tyler wanted was an end to hereditary special privilege, an end to laws that restricted the market for Peasants, and local right to self-determination, self-rule.
According to some accounts, while Tyler gave this list of demands, he was playing with his knife, either a sign of nervousness, or a subliminal message to the King to meet the demands or else.
The King addressed Tyler, asking Tyler why the “rebels” were still in the city. Tyler responded that they would not leave until the King met the demands of the Peasant Army. Tyler then added that the King should also provide food for the Army before they left.
The King agreed to his demands, citing only that the people should continue to respect the monarchy. He then granted food to be provided, at which point Tyler appears to have decided to leave. However, before he left, Tyler got in a verbal quarrel with members of the King’s Royal Party.
At this point, it is not clear what happened, but someone, either the King or the Mayor of London, William Walworth, ordered Tyler arrested. At this order, Tyler is alleged to have attempted to attack the Mayor. He was then stabbed by a squire named Ralph Standish.
The Peasant Army appeared to be preparing to attack, with bows arched, when Richard then rode out to meet the crowd, inviting them to meet with him at Clerkenwell Fields. He rode out to them shouting, “You shall have no other King but me.” The gambit worked. The Peasants followed the King to Clerkenwell Fields.
Tyler, who was dying in the abbey of St. Bartholemew’s, was beheaded. His head was cut off and displayed throughout the city. It is possible he was beheaded only after he had already died from his wounds. Regardless, the London Militia, in response to the death of Tyler, rallied around the King in Clerkenwell. The militia surrounded the handful of Peasants remaining. Seeing they were not outnumbered, the Peasants threw down their arms and begged for mercy from the King.
This effectively ended the Peasant’s Revolt, especially in light of the fact that many of the members of that army had already headed home, oblivious to this latest series of events.
While there continued to be rebellions throughout England, they gradually diminished and died out over the coming weeks, with no one rebellion ever to muster anything close to the rebellion that marched on London.
Richard, for his part, far from keeping his promise regarding the so-called Charters of Freedom drafted as a result of the meeting at Miles End, and the promises he made to Wot Tyler at Smithfield, gave assent to a program of retribution that would see most of the main leaders of the Peasant’s Revolt executed, including John Ball and Thomas Baker, who was hung, drawn and quartered on the Fourth of July, 1381.
The number of Peasants executed is unknown, with estimates ranging from the hundreds to the thousands. While the Royal Government made authentic efforts to reign in the excesses of officials who were using their office for personal gains, no significant changes to the Labor Laws took place. The one significant change was that the Poll Tax was no longer enforced, and no such tax would be passed in England again. The abolition of the Poll Tax also spurred the English to negotiate a peace in the Hundred Years War (as they saw a significant source of revenue cut off from them).
The ideational power of the divine right of Kings felled a revolt in which the Peasants had all the other advantages.
Social Shaming- the Florida Shooter Example. Parading kids on TV to plead with people to save the kids and count as enablers of murder anyone who supports the continued ability of individuals to own effective tools of self defense
Social Reward- Massive displays of patriotism at Football games in which the most popular sport in the land, in the most popular league for the that sport, gives its massive platform over to grand displays of Patriotism, where thousands upon thousands of people sing the Pledge of Allegiance and cheer vociferously. If you want to be accepted, given such a grand welcome, you best be a Patriot who snaps to attention to salute the flag as you sing the national song of praise.
Demonstrable Influence- https://www.livescience.com/2569-gutenberg-changed-world.html
The Gutenberg Printing Press
Word spread quickly from Germany across the continent about Gutenberg’s remarkable machine. Though the man himself died poor in 1468, losing his savings in a legal battle against a business partner, his system became a commercial success. At least a half million books had entered circulation by 1500, it is estimated, ranging from classical Greek texts to Columbus’ account of the New World.
Literacy levels, still low among the general population in Europe, crept upwards as the cost of books steadily dropped and book fairs became yearly occurrences in most major cities during the early years of the Renaissance.
The printing press was one of the key factors in the explosion of the Renaissance movement, historians say. Access to standard works of science, especially, stimulated and spread new ideas quicker than ever. When Martin Luther nailed his first Ninety-Five Theses to the door of a German church in 1517, launching the Protestant Reformation, he had multiple copies made to hand out elsewhere.
Gutenberg’s medieval machine was so capable that it remained virtually unchanged until the 19th-century and the advent of steam-powered presses.
The power of the printing press demonstrated to people in a powerful way that they could possess knowledge themselves, even disseminate it themselves. The push for self-expression and self-discovery was on, because having access to the books, especially having access to the bible, demonstrated to people that the idea of secret knowledge that could only be possessed by the elites was simply not true.
The Christmas Truce of 1914- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_truce
The Christmas truce (German: Weihnachtsfrieden; French: Trêve de Noël) was a series of widespread but unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front of World War I around Christmas 1914.
The Christmas truce occurred during the relatively early period of the war (month 5 of 51). Hostilities had entered somewhat of a lull as leadership on both sides reconsidered their strategies following the stalemate of the Race to the Sea and the indecisive result of the First Battle of Ypres. In the week leading up to the 25th, French, German, and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. In some areas, men from both sides ventured into no man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs. There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps, while several meetings ended in carol-singing. Men played games of football with one another, giving one of the most memorable images of the truce. Peaceful behavior was not ubiquitous; fighting continued in some sectors, while in others the sides settled on little more than arrangements to recover bodies.
The following year, a few units arranged ceasefires but the truces were not nearly as widespread as in 1914; this was, in part, due to strongly worded orders from the high commands of both sides prohibiting fraternisation. Soldiers were no longer amenable to truce by 1916. The war had become increasingly bitter after devastating human losses suffered during the battles of the Somme and Verdun, and the use of poison gas.
In the first part, the fear of being killed, of being harassed day and night, produced in both sides a desire to reach a truce, and, even beyond this truce, a live and let live strategy.
While some officers were ambivalent about the truce, others quickly tried to stop the “dangerous” peace. As one officer wrote,
“Hearing of the fraternization I hastened to the scene to investigate, and found the whole of No Man’s Land crowded with our men and the Germans amicably intermixed….For a moment I gazed at the curious sight, and then realized how absolutely wrong and dangerous it was, and decided to stop it.”
But the truce did not end so easily. As a frustrated General Smith-Dorien claimed, the only path to peace was more war: “Any orders I issue on the subject are useless, as I have issued the strictest orders that on no account is intercourse to be allowed between the opposing troops. To finish this war quickly, we must keep up the fighting spirit and do all we can to discourage friendly intercourse. I am calling for particulars as to names of officers and units who took part in this Christmas gathering, with a view to disciplinary action.”
Far from being a “war for freedom and democracy,” the First World War was not only launched to defend colonialism but it only continued by repressing the troops sent to fight. It was not human nature but military discipline that enforced the war. French officers replaced some of their soldiers who refused to shoot, while German officers threatened some of their soldiers with the death penalty. But even then, some soldiers did what they could to resist — in a tragic last effort to maintain peace. According to one account,
“The difficulty began on the 26th, when the order to fire was given, for the men struck….Finally, the officers turned on the men with ‘Fire, or we do — and not at the enemy!’ Not a shot had come from the other side, but at last they fired, and an answering fire came back, but not a man fell. ‘We spent that day and the next,’ said Herr Lange, ‘wasting ammunition in trying to shoot the stars down from the sky.'”
On December 29, the German army issued an order forbidding all fraternization, which would be considered high treason (which carries the death penalty). But still ordinary soldiers tried to maintain peace with their real comrades on the other side of the trenches. As a German message to the British trenches said, “Dear Camarades, I beg to inform you that is forbidden us to go out to you, but we will remain your comrades. If we shall be forced to fire we will fire too high.”
It was the fear of force that led men to come up with ways to avoid killing one another, in the truce, and in the live and let live agreements. It was the use of the threat (and sometimes the demonstration) of force that ended the recurrence of more truces and reduced the practice of live and let live.
Understanding the reality of power, understanding the desire to live a life with the least amount of threat of force by others altering my choices, understanding that I am not able to resist these threats of force, for the most part, understanding that having a community of like-minded people around me committed to similar core preferences, I seek to work through the spheres of influence, wherever possible, and to the best of my ability and understanding, to ALWAYS tilt the balance of power towards individuals and free associations.