26 December 2014

Shock to the system: stateness in crisis

. @hjbentham. #stateness. #police. #policebrutality. #ICantBreathe.

Activists and bloggers who oppose the excesses of the state such as its domestic and international surveillance, the excesses of police brutality and murder in the United States, and unilateral military aggression, do not portray themselves as radicals. This is seen as necessary because openly opposing strongly held global norms and legal concepts to justify global change can be a little politically corrosive to oneself – “bad politics” as one antistatist once told me.

Personally, I have no problem with being seen as a radical or an antistatist, or even involved in “bad politics”. Even at my L’Ordre blog hosted on the mainstream Beliefnet website, I may seem vitriolic in my criticism of the behavior of many states and my rejection of all nationalist icons and affections. Comparable with the same approach taken by controversial protest groups such as FEMEN and Pussy Riot, I am of the view that people have to be shocked and shaken out of oppressive cultural norms in order to mitigate their divisive effects on the only true commonwealth in a globalized world – the commonwealth of humankind.

For the above reason, I often label myself as an antistatist, even though I deplore labels and don’t actually have the anarchist leanings that most self-labelled antistatists exhibit. Although I do my best to convince others to take the same stances as my own, I’m not forcing any views on anyone. My disregard for Her Majesty the Queen, the so-called Sovereign, is my own. I don’t expect others to automatically share it, nor do I fail to cooperate with the people who still hold the Queen to be a legitimate authority.

When I invited J. M. Porup to the Mont Order, a provocatively named and presented club believed by some to be a secret society, and which has no actual political or religious delineations, he let me know that he wasn’t an antistatist. I would argue that he already is, based on the sociology that informs most of my writing. To cut a long story short, I consider antistatism to be not necessarily a rejection of laws and state authority, but of “stateness”: a term I have found especially useful.

By stateness, I mean what can also be termed “police order”: coercion of the people, indiscriminate surveillance, espionage, assassination, torture, the arbitrary violence and cruelty of troops with sham legitimacy and no popular mandate, arbitrary arrests, et cetera. Such things ensue when a state fails to obtain legitimacy from the crowd, as has been demanded of every state since the dawn of political modernity from the blade of the French Revolution. Today, these symptoms of total regime illegitimacy and failing cohesion are growing rapidly in the industrialized world or “West”, but are most severe in the world’s so-called “greatest” country: the United States of America.

The only thing great about the United States is what will happen to it. As the two most transforming events in political history thus far have been the Sack of Rome and the French Revolution, it is inevitable the fall of the “world’s only superpower” will be the third.

I take my definition of stateness from American sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein, who is a strong influence on all my blogging. I wrote an analysis based on one of his longer futurist essays for Dissident Voice, which helped to crystallize my understanding that stateness – including the global political superstructure of the nation-states – is in crisis. We are faced with an abyss, and where we are now is as a tightrope over it. We can either retreat back into old-fashioned nationalistic ways of thinking, or humanity can overcome the nation-state once and for all, and courageously reach the other side. Humanity must transcend the Nineteenth Century nation-state.

As already stated here, the crisis of the interstate system and of stateness itself is witnessed in the declining legitimacy and social cohesion of states, helped along by the unstoppable circulation of people and ideas across flimsy, outdated borders in our technologically enhanced porous world. I break slightly from Wallerstein in my recognition of technology as important. It is the only reason many of us communicate and challenge mainstream narratives and prejudices at all. Without its proven power to reshape the political landscape, you wouldn’t be reading this essay.

A recognition of the centrality of technology in global social change has led me to share many of the aims of transhumanists and social futurists, so I contribute my own theses at their publications. In a way, our lobbying to transcend suffering and death itself through the benevolent use of science and technology cannot be separated from the noble objective to overcome sclerotic political norms such as the nation-state.

Quite simply, it isn’t consistent with the character of humankind to be satisfied with “nature” or “nation” and the limits these constructs place on human potential. It is incumbent on us to dream, to break free of all the narrow structures that have anchored us to this planet to endure so much ugliness, emaciation and conflict.

We must lend our ear to pioneers like Jacque Fresco, who brought us the idea of the post-scarcity Resource-Based Economy (RBE) and M. Amon Twyman, who theorized the Virtual Distributed Parallel (VDP) State. We must transcend these old-fashioned nation-states, if we are to transcend other troubling facets of our present existence. We might never banish our suffering and mortality via the modernities of technology and medicine, if we cannot also overcome scarcity and the division of humankind by this violent prison of nation-states.

By Harry J. Bentham - More articles by Harry J. Bentham

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