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News ::
Beyond radicalism, beyond the confines of ideology!
17 Jul 2001
There are more ways than immediately apparent to overthrow any system. Noam Chomsky identifies that we live in a *thought control* system. Lawrence Christopher goes further with that insight and shows how we can deal with the increasing dangers all around with one simple methodology which each of ourselves, individually, control!
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There are more ways than immediately apparent to overthrow any system. Noam Chomsky identifies that we live in a *thought control* system. Lawrence Christopher goes further with that insight and shows how we can deal with the increasing dangers all around with one simple methodology which each of ourselves, individually, control!
Imagine that the world is enclosed in a web made of an imperceptibly fine fabric. Your slightest motion is subtly guided by the pattern of the web, which is so thin and delicate that it could be destroyed with one stroke of a pocket knife. However, most of its captives are not
even aware of its existence, so they continue to be confined by it. Others see the web, but believe it to be indestructible. They, too, are never able to break free of it. This is essentially the way in which the
mass media and political system control the thought processes of people living in modern industrial society.

Consider the worldview implied in any newspaper article or tele-vision news broadcast. I am not speaking of lies and biases here. I am speaking, rather, of the _context_ into which _all_ sides of every public issue are placed. The moment you read or hear terms like "the economy," "the nation," or "society," the essence of the indoctrination
has been effected. What is subsequently said _about_ these entities is secondary. If you accept these entities as objectively existing aspects of ultimate reality rather than as purely subjective (though widely accepted) ideas which _you_ are free to accept or reject, then you've
been taken in already, regardless of what opinions you form regarding the issue at hand.

My objective in this essay is to suggest a method of breaking this web, which is in fact made of nothing but thought. I am going to focus largely on the issue of why most radical strategies fail in this regard. As has been suggested, there are two ways in which the aforementioned
web can ensnare one. The first, which is what keeps the majority of people captive, is simply to not recognize its existence. This lack of awareness on the part of the masses has been pointed out innumerable times by intellectuals throughout the ages. That is why I want to focus on the second, more subtle way this web has of captivating one. This entails the victim recognizing the existence of the web, and becoming so frightened or angry about it that he attributes far too much power to it. This is the trap radicals frequently fall into. They fail to see
what a simple matter it is to eradicate this web.

Almost as soon as I began thinking about societal issues, I defined myself as a radical. My opinions on various issues changed as my ideological position on the political spectrum shifted, but what remained was the conviction that society was controlled by a power elite who ruled over a sheeplike population with force, fraud and indoctrina-
tion. This basic belief remained the focal point of my thinking as I went through the stages of defining myself as a populist, a libertarian and an anarchist.

I have not rejected the premises upon which my radicalism was grounded. More than ever, it seems apparent that we live in a world which is dominated by forces that are antithetical to any meaningful concepts of peace, liberty, or justice. Yet, I have concluded that traditional radical strategies are ultimately a futile pursuit.

I will begin with the assertion that the motivating force underlying all radical thought and action is the desire to exercise _free_will_. Human consciousness innately yearns to realize its full potential; to inhabit a reality of its own creation rather than one externally imposed
upon it. Political institutions are often obstructions in our quest for this freedom. To the extent that we are free of conditioning, we resent these institutions imposing their structures upon our consciousness. There is disagreement among radicals as to the best means of achieving freedom; for example, whether by utilizing the political system in order to gain control over it (as in forming an alternative party), by peaceful protest, or by violent revolution. Radicals also disagree over
what _constitutes_ liberty and justice; i.e. what kind of social system should replace the present one. Yet, all radicals agree that society in its present form stifles liberty and should be either fundamentally
changed or abolished altogether.

Paradoxically, in their very attempt to assert free will, radicals
implicitly hold an assumption which is antithetical to the very concept.
The essence of the problem lies in the fact that true power and energy
lie in _consciousness_. This includes the power of leaders and social
institutions. The power which they wield is almost entirely in the
realm of thought. It only extends into physical reality to the extent
that people believe that it does. When, as radicals, we _believe_ that
political institutions prevent us from being free, we are contributing
to their power just as surely as are the obedient citizens who support
the status quo. THe only difference is that the latter are contributing
to what they perceive as a benign entity, while the former are contrib-
uting to one they believe is malevolent.

Action is taken with the assumption that in order to bring about a
desired consequence 'y', action 'x' must be carried out. If, as
radicals, our 'y' is freedom and our 'x' is, say, revolution, then we
are granting that 'y' is _contingent_. We cannot be free until the
revolution takes place. We are placing a limitation upon our free will,
assuming that, for us to exercise it, external conditions must first be
changed. Consider how much power we are thereby granting our enemies!
We are conceding that they have the capacity to prevent us from existing
as free individuals. Despite the fact that all radical theories place an
emphasis on freedom and empowerment, there is always the built-in
limitation that our liberation is dependent upon the transformation of
an entire society.

It can be argued that it is objectively the case that our government
can take away our freedom. It can impose laws on us, imprison us, kill
us if it chooses. Here it must be stated that this essay is presupposing
a certain view of human nature. I am assuming that the exercising of
free will is an essential condition for a meaningful life; that fully
realizing our freedom is ultimately more important than any physical
circumstances we may be in. I should also mention that it is my belief
that we are ultimately responsible for every circumstance in which we
find ourselves. Although this is not a necessary presupposition for the
rest of my argument, if you fundamentally disagree with this meta-
physical position, it would be difficult to completely agree with my
conclusions.

True freedom entails realizing what freedom is. Without this, no
external conditions can enable one to attain freedom. One can have more
true freedom in a prison cell than in a luxury penthouse apartment
(although, all else being equal, the latter is still preferable to the
former). Governments, of course, do not realize this. Leaders believe
that they can take away your freedom. They believe that if they
accumulate enough wealth and annex enough territory they can thereby
control the lives and destinies of other people. "Leaders" are entirely
ignorant regarding the nature of freedom and power. They desperately
want to feel powerful and they attempt to achieve this by manipulating
external conditions. They do not realize that the only authentic power
lies within.

Two people can exist in virtually identical physical circumstances
and yet perceive and interpret these circumstances in completely
different ways. Evidence of this is widespread in any large city that
contains a variety of ethnic and economic subcultures. For example, the
government of the United States labels all people living within a
certain geographical territory "Americans," and most people accept this
definition. Yet, in truth, white collar middle class people living in
"America" have more in common in regard to lifestyle, values and
overall perception of reality with white collar middle class people
living in, say, England or France, than any such middle class people
have in common with, say, drug dealers in New York City (who in turn
have more in common with South AMerican and Asian drug dealers than
with most of their "fellow citizens.") There are many ways of categoriz-
ing people; they are grand conceptual schemes which structure reality in
a particular way. There are others -- races, religions, economic classes
and ideologies being the most commonly used.

Once it is established that no particular method of categorizing or
structuring human beings has any objective validity, it is easier to
see a way to free oneself from any such category. There is a basic
reason why political movements and revolutions so seldom result in
fundamental long term change. Radical ideologies teach us to define
ourselves and our reality in a way diametrically opposed to that of our
opponents. This, however, prevents us from ever becoming truly free from
those we least esteem. To define oneself against some principle 'x'
forever enslaves one to 'x'. For example, a Satanist is inextricably
bound to the concept of the Christian god. Likewise, communists define
their reality based on their opposition to capitalism, and anarchists
must always have the belief system of government to oppose. In this way,
the political system and its transgressions against liberty are more a
part of the radical's reality than they are of the ordinary citizen's.
Of course, the mindset of the ordinary citizen, who simply defines
reality in _accordance_ with the reigning political structure, is hardly
conducive to freedom. There is, fortunately, an alternative to both: a
belief system which is entirely independent and self generated. This is
a point which requires elaboration.

Believing that I live in a reality constructed by my own conscious-
ness does not imply a schizophrenic state that ignores the existence of
others and their beliefs. It does not entail feeling bound to perceiving
reality the same way that others do. It is possible to recognize the
beliefs of others and the ways in which those beliefs influence you,
while at the same time maintaining your own independence from those
beliefs.

The only way we can live by values that differ from those which the
political system and media represent is for us to live and work from a
standpoint completely independent of these institutions. If politics is
a destructive force, then we will never improve things by working within
a political framework. An entirely different paradigm is called for, one
which does not depend on the "establishment" paradigm at all.

Living in the realm of a particular paradigm, or set of values, does
not imply that there is no contact with other paradigms. Hence, living
in an apolitical paradigm might at times involve confrontations with
the mainstream paradigm. For example, consider war resistance. If we
vote for political candidates who promise to end the war, we are working
within the political, mainstream framework. If we overthrow the
government and put a new, "peaceful" one in its place, we are still
working from the framework of our opponents; we would be seizing _their_
institution, the one that caused the war in the first place, with the
intention of using it for our own ends.

There are ways of resisting political oppression which do not
themselves assume a political framework. Avoiding income taxes, refusing
to be drafted, boycotting corporations which produce weapons for the
military: all of these actions are independent of the political
paradigm. That is, they recognize the existence of the political
paradigm and they are not inhabiting it. On the contrary: they
constitute a refusal to participate in it.

The essence of this strategy is for each individual to remain at all
times aware of his basic sovereignty regardless of societal conditions.
As much as possible, people should create and live in the society they
want, rather than passively accepting the one imposed on them by the
mainstream media and political system. Whenever one is threatened by
another's belief system in a way that cannot be avoided, then action
is required; this action should not, however, entail accepting to any
degree the conceptual framework of the offender.

This can perhaps be seen more readily if we consider the mindset of
a street gang. A gang has "turf" which is won and defended by violent
means. Willingness to commit violent and aggressive acts is the way
status is attained within the gang. If such a gang existed in the
neighborhood in which you lived, preventing you from safely walking the
streets, you would have a variety of possible responses to choose from.
One response would be to submit to the gang's rule. Perhaps if you paid
them a certain amount of "protection" money, they would allow you to
walk the streets unharmed. This would be conforming to the gang's view
of reality. It would be conceding that the gang indeed controls the
neighborhood and that you are compelled to conform to its demands
(although, in reality, one could conceivably pay the protection money
without psychologically accepting the gang's view of reality, just as
one may pay taxes without accepting the government's claim to legit-
imacy; for the sake of simplicity I am assuming in this example that
one's actions are completely in accord with one's belief system).

Another response might be to form a gang of your own; your gang
could then atempt to take over the "turf" for yourselves. This would
also be completely accepting the (original) gang's worldview. You would
be, like the gang, defining the neighborhood as turf to be won and
defended with violence. Calling upon law enforcement authorities for
help would be another variation of this "rival gang" alternative, for
here, too, we have a group with coercive rules, demands for payment, and
violent retribution against those who do not conform.

A third possibility would be to not accept the gang's view of
reality at all. For example, you could organize, rather than a rival
gang, a group of fellow neighborhood residents who may carry weapons,
but who would only use violence in self defense. In this case, you
would not be trying to win turf; you would be attempting to live in a
reality in which streets city streets are not considered "turf" at all.
This would be the only alternative which fully rejects the offender's
view of reality.

{Editor's note: the author has failed to mention the possibility
of moving to a better neighborhood where people behave differently.}

The above analysis can be applied to more organized forms of
coercion, such as nation states. If we regard governments as
destructive, we should not in any manner accept the government's
worldview. We should not try to take over the government, or form
a government of our own. We should not even let ourselves become
preoccupied with the idea of eliminating governments from the planet.
We would do far better if we simply made the decision to live in a
government-less reality, albeit one which may at times have to interact
with others to whom the government's definition of reality is relevant.
Such interaction, however, can be kept to a minimum. For example, in
the above example, the neighborhood patrol would not _seek_ confronta-
tions with the gang. More importantly, it would essentially disband
once the threat had passed. If America had remained true to the military strategy it adhered to during the revolution, the military as we know it today would not exist. There would only be a _potential_ citizens' army, ready to fight when necessary, but not forming an entrenched institution seeking world domination.

Freedom from those with intentions we do not share entails escaping
not only their overt rules but also from the entire conceptual frame-
work in which they reside. Although I entitled this essay "Beyond
Radicalism," what I am really advocating is a truer, more radical
radicalism. A radicalism that has outgrown the desire to rebel for
rebellion's sake; one which recognizes that human nature has the
potential for grander things than brooding over and complaining about
the behavior of the least enlightened members of our species.
See also:
http://www.totse.com/en/ego/on_line_zines/alembic3.html
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