Ground Rules, AKA Spot the Spook
Unfortunately, we do not actually live in a democracy. If this is news to you then you are probably one of the sheeple and you need to either wake up fast or you risk becoming something even worse in the near future – a refugee or victim. I do not mind if you choose to remain one of the sheeple. There will be lots of room outside the walls of any Cloister for a community of peasant farmers with whom the members of The Cloister will interact in a symbiotic relationship. A big part of my idea for The Cloister Initiative is to preserve literacy and academic scholarship in the classical sense. I am going to go for it anyway even though this is a problematic thing to aspire to. It is problematic because my main aim is to attempt to avoid the problem of civilization as we grow forward through the dark age ahead (BTW Happy 100th anniversary of Jane Jacobs' birth on Wednesday). Thus, as was the case in the medieval period the idea is that The Cloister, like the monasteries then, will function as a centre of learning and cultural preservation largely detached from the wider world and providing a defensive stronghold for the community around it in times of need. The sheeple who will be forming the new peasant communities are likely to be too busy scratching a living from the depleted soils to maintain much literacy for more than a generation or two in my opinion. The peasants of long-ago were largely illiterate, why should it be any different in the era of the future as past? I am also well aware that if The Cloister Initiative manages to preserve the literacy and literature of our current civilization, it may well itself end up forming the germ of a new exploitative civilization and thus begin the cycle anew. However, I am willing to take that risk. Perhaps this time we can actually learn from history for once.
Regardless, there are certain aspects of living in a Canada that is not a democracy that affect The Cloister Initiative. In a democracy the individuals who make up the body politic are, collectively, the sovereign power. In a real democracy the elected members of Parliament would still be “civil servants,” not the “lawmakers” of the now universal behavioural conditioning programming the sovereign citizens of Canada are being subjected to. So now we must ask, if Canada is not a democracy then what is it? To answer that question I need to outline Plato’s typology of states. Plato identified the five different possible foundations for a state-level society and gave them names a long time ago. The five types of states are, in order from best to worst as he saw it: Aristocracy, Timocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy, and Tyranny. And yes, that is correct; Plato thought that democracy was the second worst possible type of state. Now bear in mind that a state can call itself anything it likes, but it must necessarily fall into one of Plato’s five categories. For example, many places claim to be democracies but in the formal sense are anything but. The old USSR, like the USA today, used to hold sham elections to pretend it had a democratic basis. So, what are these so-called democracies in actual fact? Well I’m glad you asked. It turns out that there was a study done in the US that pretty much definitively answers that question.
In 2014, two woolly academics at that little old country bumkin of a university known as Princeton released the findings of a major study they had conducted on the impact of public versus elite influence on US public policy making. What they found was very interesting. They tracked public policy making in the US over a twenty year period and compared it to what “We the People” wanted and what elites wanted. Being foolish academics their report is phrased in the language of science. Consequently, what they said was: “Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.” What they really meant to say though was something like “holy s**t, the USA isn’t a democracy at all, it’s really just an oligarchy.” Their restraint, or possibly their love of their cushy university jobs, is evidenced by the fact that the word oligarchy is only used in their paper to describe a colleague’s competing theory. Nonetheless, in nice passive-voice academic prose they do go so far as to admit that: “our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts… But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.” Seriously threatened, right? How about dead, cooked like breakfast, pining for the fjords, etc. At least the venerable BBC did not feel the need to mince words in this case when reporting on the study. Their story ran under the headline: “Study: US is an oligarchy, not a democracy.” Here, as with the proper pronunciation of that light-weight silver metal we make our training swords out of, it takes a Brit to tell us how it really is. Thanks Britannia, now you can go back to slowly sinking beneath the waves.
Well, two things about this are relevant to my discussion here. One, is that I’m pretty sure that if the good ole’ USA is actually an oligarchy even though it claims to be a democracy, then up here in Banana-Republic-North where we prorogue at the drop of a hat, its probably pretty safe to conclude that we too are an oligarchy not a democracy. And, if you are still not sure, just look at the way the notwithstanding clause of our so-called constitution is written. I forget where I saw this clever statement, but someone more astute than me recently said about such bad lawmaker products as our notwithstanding clause: “First it is used, then misused, then abused.” Hey, that reminds me, if what we were promised in the preamble to our constitution was “Peace, order, and good government,” then does that mean the whole social contract is now null and void? Because I’m pretty sure every Canadian can all agree on only one thing anyway and that’s that we’re sure not getting “good government.”
Oh well, returning to the tenuous thread of my argument, one conclusion I make is that Canada is already not a democracy. The second thing is to wonder if we are already an oligarchy, then what form of government are we headed for in the future? Clearly, for Plato its tyranny. Here’ I’ll let him tell you in his own words. He says: “Democracy passes into despotism.” Pretty clear eh? Now this, however, begs the question of which form of despotism? Did you know that both of the extreme ends of the political spectrum are despotic? One is those evil Leftist Commies (sarcasm off here) and that form of despotism is called totalitarianism. However, the far Right is also equally despotic and it is termed authoritarianism. You know, like the product of “lawmakers.” Oh, I forgot, the type of political system on the far Right is known as… you guessed it … Fascism. And, that is exactly where I think, for good evidence-based reasons, that both the US and Bananna Republic North are rapidly headed.
Why is this an issue for The Cloister Initiative when the very aim of the initiative is to retreat from the wider world to a really beautiful garden behind big walls? Well, the old quote attributed to Pericles covers it pretty well. The quote is of course: “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.” And that is the problem, because an oligarchic system hell bent on proceeding into full-blown Fascism is very busy minding other people’s business. Joseph Tainter has the most neutral discussion of this factor I think. What he says is that as a culture passes the point where further increases in complexity yield any further increases in productivity and instead decreasing marginal returns on increased complexity kicks in, the culture changes. What changes is that the little guy correctly figures out that it is not worth their time and effort to keep playing the game, or to keep trying to keep up with the rat race. Then individuals begin to slack off and individually simplify their lives. Unfortunately this has the effect of exacerbating the decreasing efficiency and productivity of the system still further. Tainter points out that when this happens the authorities are now in a no-win situation because all that they can do in response is to try and slow down the successive waves of de-complexification by increasing bureaucratic monitoring of the system. It’s a no-win situation because, ironically, increased surveillance of the system itself means the overall complexity of the system must increase still more.
In everyday terms what this means is that even though your real wages have not increased one bit since 1987 and you are being asked to do twice the amount of work you used to do for less pay, when you try to slack off at work your boss implements some new draconian surveillance system on you, starts to micro-manage you, and then hates you because of all the extra work that means for them. Clear? Now, this increased monitoring and surveillance of the system extends to the government as well. You know it as the war on terror, but it is simply an attempt by the elites at extend and pretend through the mechanism of vastly increasing the monitoring and surveillance of the sovereign citizens of the country. That the attempt to extend and pretend is ultimately doomed to failure and de-complexification – collapse in the vernacular – will inevitably follow at some point does not stop them from cracking down on you anyway even if you haven’t done anything.
Incidentally, it is exactly the inevitability of successive waves of simplification of the system that means that The Cloister Initiative is technically apolitical in the causing-trouble-for-the-system sense. The truth is that the whole idea of The Cloister Initiative is to simply retreat and hide behind some big walls while the system falls apart all on its own without any helping it along by outside forces needed. The trick is actually not to get caught up in the associated upheavals and dislocations as the system and most of its authorities just mostly goes away. Because, like a dinosaur thrashing around in the La Brea Tar Pits, the authorities will likely do a lot of thrashing around and damage of their own rather than accepting the inevitability of the situation and going quietly. In the future I expect I’ll write another posting called “Don’t Be There When It Goes Off,” which comes from Robert A. Heinlein’s admonition that the only way to successfully survive a nuclear attack is, you guessed it, don’t be there when it goes off. And, that is the idea of The Cloister Initiative – gather a big enough group of people together behind walls far enough away from anything that may be called a population centre to give them a chance of mostly ignoring the collapse and shifting to a, relatively speaking, comfortable self-sufficient lifestyle for the post-collapse dark age.
And there you finally have the connection to the “Spot the Spook” part of the title of this posting. When the system is in the phase of collapse where it is increasing the monitoring and surveillance of the system in its attempt to extend and pretend, it starts to plant spies everywhere – again just the same as the old Soviet Union did at the end of its run. Oh yeah and, proof of concept, the Soviet Union collapsed all on its own without any help from troublemakers – well there is that old quote that says “Afghanistan is where Empires go to die,” but lets not quibble. Anyway, there are now so many spooks placed in so many places that even on the campus of a small regional Community College like the one I sometimes teach at it is necessary to try and keep sharp by playing spot the spook.
So, this posting is just to let all the spooks assigned to The Cloister Initiative know the ground rules and that it is ok. I’ll hang out with you, I’ll be your friend, I’d love to teach you longsword fighting and have you pay me for it. But, I won’t be very interesting because I’m not up to anything beyond exactly what I’m saying here in these posts. And, I’m not a threat to the system. That is unless the system thinks my puny attempts to wake people up with these missives constitutes a threat the system, which is entirely possible. I wouldn’t put anything past them at this point. In any case, I also need to say that as a guy who is really good at synthesis and pattern recognition, I won’t ever turn off my brain and forget that anyone with whom I am acquainted could potentially be the spook. I find this situation unpleasant because it is a sign of how far gone our system really is and of how insane the desperation of TPTB is making the world now. But, mostly it is really just sad and it ruins our ability to have trust in anything at all. While in fact, it is actually the spook minions themselves who are the ones with a problem. That is because under our constitution they swore to uphold the rule of law in the service of the sovereign citizens of this country, not to subvert the intent if not the letter of the law in the service of a small cadre of psychopaths who have already seized the reins of power.
Additionally, I need to mention that you are actually all on a snipe hunt just in case you do not already know that and just don’t care. The snipe hunt is the project of looking for troublemakers among the masses, when you already work for the real troublemakers. And, like the various spooks that amazingly and coincidentally fall out of/crash in helicopters, you have more to fear from your own bosses than you do from the masses – especially if you inadvertently end up knowing too much. That is because it is unfortunately true that, by definition, normal people do not resort to violence as their first response when trying to achieve something. For normal people it is actually usually their very last response and many will never resort to violence even in self defence even if it means their own death. It is instead a subset of your psychopath bosses who regularly resort to violent means as their first response to achieving their aims. And, if we the people refuse to act out, its ok. Like the Stop the SPP Montebello protest on August 20th, 2007 where the SQ planted three agents provocateurs in the crowd to start the violence that would allow the SQ to “crack down,” on the peaceful protesters exercising their constitutional right to free speech, the TPTB are not above starting or creating the violence they need in order to justify their repression of the sovereign citizens. That is why one good way to spot the spook is to look for the guy or girl who says things like “Doesn’t that make you just want to get a 50 cal machine gun and go shoot up your school.” “Well…. No actually it doesn’t” say the normal people being infiltrated as they all edge slowly away from the clearly unhinged person in the kitchen of the party who is actually themselves the spook. Or, maybe the spook will be the guy who looks at gun web sites on their laptop while sitting in class. Oops now I’ve said too much, don’t tase me man, I’ll shut up.
And they call me crazy? Well, like Kurt Vonnegut said “A sane person to an insane society must appear insane.” Or if you prefer Krishnamurti, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Ok, so I guess I’m alright with that after all.
Anyway, even though I have clearly stated that I am not a threat in any way to the current system, the system will probably still take an interest in The Cloister Initiative and send in the spooks to infiltrate and check us out. So, come on down, we can still play with swords. I’ll just keep the spot-the-spook program running in the background and we can have some fun together. You can even take a nice break from the hard work of trying to entrap the few poor unhinged people who may actually fall for the crazy schemes you provide to them along with the detonators as you desperately search for ever more patsies to justify your bosses instituting their nice little Fascist regime. Does that sound good? I just want to play with swords, and build a place for me and my friends to hide out until all this insanity is over. And, if any of you spooks also come to your senses and end up wanting to hide out with us as well, you are certainly welcome to join The Cloister Initiative.