I write today’s missive to you from 30,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, en route to New York City.
Once again, there are a couple of events I’d like to check out. One of which involves drinking beer and talking about digital currencies with a team of experts.
The other event will put a cap on what seems to have been the dominant trend last month: psychedelic studies.
Mike Margolies, a libertarian psychonaut and the Expansion Director of Psymposia magazine, and I have travelled tens of thousands of miles together in the past month and a half.
Multiple planes, trains and automobiles have courted us along a weird, odd, very strange trip. And as this particular psychedelic journey seems to be coming to an end, I figured it’s only right to invite Mike to the show.
Today, with that, we pass the mic along to Mike to rap about socialism, voluntaryism, consent and how to look forward to a better future.
The Servant Libertarian Manifesto: Consent, Choice, Compassion and Community
At Burning Man, the Bureau of Erotic Discourse (B.E.D.) distributes informational fliers that essentially say: “Don’t rape.” While this might seem obvious, the conversation is nonetheless integral. Our society has an extraordinarily difficult time communicating about sex.
A recent viral video beautifully uses a metaphor of tea to paint the concept as simple as it ought to be. You can offer somebody tea, but do not coerce her to drink it. If she asks for tea and then changes her mind, do not coerce her to drink it.
Watch it here.
Consent goes far beyond sex. In a society informed by the principle of consent at all levels, one should not be coerced into doing anything at all. I should not be coerced into joining the military. I should not be coerced into a marriage. I should not be coerced into buying pills vs growing my own medicine.
There is somewhat of a disconnect in our society about the nature of law. Let’s make this very clear:
Law. Is. Coercion.
This is analogous to our mental disconnect between that hamburger you ordered at McDonald’s and the meat industry behind it. I’m not saying that eating meat is wrong, nor am I saying that all laws are bad. But I am saying that some more awareness might help.
When you order a burger, it doesn’t fall off of the burger tree. A burger means that an animal was killed.
When you pass a law, it doesn’t magically make the “banned” act/substance/whatever disappear. A law means that use of violence is being authorized against our fellow human beings to coerce a particular behavior.
Laws against drugs and prostitution do not make them go extinct. What these laws actually do is allow the State to use violence and coercion against people who use drugs and sell sex.
This is not to say that violence is never justified. But perhaps we should be a bit more mindful about precisely when we justify violence by passing laws.
And consent goes beyond non-coercion. It must also include honesty and transparency. Informedconsent means that a doctor tells me the risks of a treatment. A sexual partner tells me if she has HIV. A government tells me the full story about the benefits and risks of drugs.
The fabric of consent is woven with the principles of non-coercion and honesty.
In The Matrix Reloaded, the architect muses on previous failed versions of the matrix. “Choice,” answers Neo. “The problem is choice.” The early versions of the matrix without choice were cataclysmic failures. But once people were given the choice (albeit on a subconscious level in this case), 99% accepted the program. The 1% who rejected it were given a release valve to the real world – Zion.
Here’s the clip.
I postulate that any system not predicated on choice is destined to fail.
The so-called “social contract” is a crock of shit. There is no contract if I did not choose to sign it. The society does not have a right to impose its will on me, even if it is purported to be for “the greater good.” I must have choice to opt-in to any system. I must have choice where my tax dollars go. I must have choice what I do with my own body, including both sex and drugs. I must have choice in what is public and what is private. I must have choice in everything, not orders from “authority figures.”
As an example from my work as a drug activist, I am thrilled to see amazing progress in the research on medical uses of psychedelics. Absolutely yes, please build me those structures and containers best suited for a positive therapeutic experience. Give me the guidelines, the best practices, and the experts.
But do not force me to use this paradigm as the exclusive “authorized” container for the psychedelic experience. I must choose my own structure. I may very well choose to use the medical paradigm. But I must also be free to choose others, such as traditional shamanism, a walk through the park, or silent darkness all alone.
The importance of compassion is sadly not as self-evident as it ought to be. So quick are we to de-humanize others.
In extreme cases, we commit genocide on whatever current group is labeled as “the other” – from the Jews in the Holocaust, to people who use drugs in the Philippines, right now in 2016.
In more subtle cases, we simply ignore the people who need help. Like the homeless man you walk past every day without looking him in the eye. Or entire impoverished communities who are structurally dealt a disadvantaged hand and who we sweep to corners of our cities unseen by tourists and commuters from the suburbs.
What if we stopped “other-ing” and started listening? Instead of blaming our international problems on countries suffering the most, and starting wars, what if we actually listened to them and worked together to solve our problems? Instead of blaming our domestic problems on the people most desperate, and structurally pushing them further down, what if we actually listened to them and empowered them to make valuable contributions?
It starts with humanizing. People from different countries. People who use drugs. People who perform sex work. People without stable homes. And yes, even people who have committed crimes.
Only once we truly understand the principles of consent, choice, and compassion, can we start the real work of community building.
And this is where I’m going to pick on Bernie Sanders, and socialists in general.
Bernie clearly understands the compassion part, but not the consent and choice part. The thing is:
You cannot truly have a compassionate community, without consent and choice.
Stop for a breath or two and think about the word for a moment.
Socialism cannot build community as long as it is hierarchical. Community must be neighbor to neighbor, peer to peer. Community must be chosen consensually, not coerced.
This is not to say we get rid of leaders. But our leaders should be part of the communities they serve. They should lead by example, by empowering others through compassion, not by issuing orders through coercion.
I get it, Bernie people. Of course we want people to have healthcare, access to education, etcetera. But building up even more power into an already severely over-bloated centralized authority is not the answer.
Coercing people to fund government programs without consent is not only immoral but self-defeating, however seemingly compassionate the goal is or seemingly evil our favorite other “the 1%” are portrayed. When people are not given choice, it breeds resentment, not community. Even if 51% “voted” for it.
I say no thank you to the political middleman. I don’t need Bernie to help my fellow man. Let me give my money directly to him, look him in the eye, and accept his thank you.
And sorry folks, but Trump isn’t the problem. The problem is that we put so much power in that one seat that we are so concerned who sits in it. A truly community-based system does not depend on electing the “correct” strongman authority figure to show us the way.
We all do the Work, together.
Mesh. Grid. Network.
Neighbor. Family. Brother. Sister.
Call it #VoluntarySocialism.
Or whatever you want, for that matter.
Toward a Better Society
“But that would never work!”
I’m so glad you brought this up. As it turns out, it can and does work.
Burning Man is an example of a temporary voluntary system that runs on a gift economy. Yes it is imperfect (a piece for another day), but it is inspiring.
And it works out here too.
I’m quite fond of the Buckminster Fuller quote, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Good news is, the new systems are already being built. Ideas like the block-chain, the share economy, and crowdfunding are blazing the trails of network-based systems.
Block-chain technology like Bitcoin can take us off monetary systems that are centrally controlled and manipulated.
Uber and Airbnb have transformed the taxi and hotel industries – now more people can provide these services, and more people can be serviced, in ways that are often far more convenient. Like Burning Man, there are elements of Uber etc that are flawed, but these systems are still in their infancy and have much room for improvement and growth.
And the share economy isn’t just about Uber and Airbnb. E.g., does every single person in your neighborhood really need his own lawnmower?
And crowdfunding! Amazing dream projects are actually getting funded by voluntary contributors and becoming real thanks to platforms like Kickstarter.
But it goes deeper.
Crowdfunding is also a viable model for direct democracy. At present, money is non-consensually taken out of your paycheck each month, to be distributed to programs without choice. Imagine if, instead, you actually kept your entire paycheck and then chose with informed consent which programs you want to fund. Perhaps then the more compassionate programs like Universal Healthcare would organically prevail over the military agenda. Without coercion or unnecessary middlemen.
At my psychedelic activism organization Psymposia, we have just launched a crowdfunding campaign of our own at patreon.com/psymposia. If you resonate with the message to make the drug war obsolete, you can choose to help us build the new model, and we will accept your contribution with gratitude.
But it’s obviously not just about all this wonderful new technology. It’s about the little things in how we treat others in our everyday lives. Give a smile to the cashier ringing you up. Look the homeless man in the eyes, even if you are not able to give him anything today. Tell your mom you love her. Tell your best friend what you admire about him. Reconcile conflicts when possible, and if not, walk away instead of fighting. Wish the best for your ex, even though it didn’t work out with her.
And that person you’re afraid of? Listen to his story.
You may say it’s a pipe dream. But I will walk toward it with you.
Mike is Expansion Director of Psymposia. He’s based in Baltimore but prone to nomadic tendencies documented on Walking the Earth Podcast.