A Plan for the Revolution

I say “A Plan” instead of “The Plan” because there are many paths to our goals. What are our goals? One of the first steps for a revolution is to state goals almost everybody can agree on. Almost everyone has a strong sense of justice, fairness. Rather we have a strong sense of unfairness. We easily sense when someone isn’t doing their fair share in any group activity — work, games, life in general. We don’t like cheaters, freeloaders. So if our goals are based on justice and fairness, most people will easily agree with and accept our revolutionary goals. Stated simply we want a political and economic system that fairly distributes the goods and services produced by people working within the system fairly to all people in the system. The first half of fairness is that everyone who can work should work. The other half of fairness is that the system should provide, one way or another, the things people need in order to be productive. In order to be physically and mentally productive, people need water, food, clothing, housing, health care, education, minimal coercion and violence, and maximal freedom to interact with others consistent with the integrity and well-being of others. Any system we build must be consistent with the earth’s limited resources and must be consistent with preserving the natural world. Our goal is to have such a system, to build such a system, to step by step modify our present system so that after each step, the new system is closer to the goal.

Our goal system will not be perfect. No human system is perfect. It is not a utopia. There will always be problems. There will always be things that could be improved. In the real world there are always limits. In the real world nothing is infinite. We cannot know for sure that we will be able to build such a system. We can only change our present systems, move them, one step at a time, in the direction of our goal.

Next we must spread the idea of our goal to a large number of people, to a larger and larger number of people. We must convince enough people that it is possible to take the first steps toward our goal. We can show them that the first steps, and later steps, will already in and of themselves, lead to benefits for almost everyone.

In order to take the first steps we must convince people to give up some of their limiting beliefs such as: 1) There is only one best economic system and it’s the one we have now. 2) It is hopeless. 3) Positive change is impossible. 4) Our present situation is a reflection of human nature and human nature is fixed so we can’t change anything. 5) Nothing’s wrong with our present system. 6) This is the way it was meant to be. 7) We are not smart enough to do it. 8) Our democracy has been high jacked so it’s hopeless. 9) It will take too long. 10) The mass media are owned and controlled by the 1% so it’s hopeless.

These and many other similar beliefs are real and are real obstacles to change. We must use all methods we have, consistent with our goals, to convince people to move beyond their limiting beliefs. To be consistent with our goals we must not use violence, coercion, lies, or any other methods detrimental to mental or physical health.

What are some methods we can use to help people change their minds? Education in the broadest sense of the word. Spread the truth. Expose error. Use the internet, social media. Infiltrate the mass media. The 1% owns the mass media and think they control it, but they don’t control it 100%. Nobody controls anything 100%. Use videos, humor, music, art in every form. Use and further develop memetics, the science of the spread and evolution of ideas. Work on the 1% or the lesser rich. I doubt they are monolithic. They are not all stupid. Some of them (and we would not need many) might see the wisdom of our revolution.

All the while we are helping people get over their self-limiting beliefs, we also work to spread ideas that speed up the process. We spread ideas that improve people’s thinking and decision-making — for example the knowledge about errors in human thinking and decision-making in Daniel Kahneman’s book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”. We spread ideas that improve people’s interpersonal communication — for example the knowledge about how to deeply understand other people and work with them in Marshall Rosenberg’s book “Non-violent Communication”. We spread knowledge about how our thinking and emotions work together when we make decisions and choices — good ones and bad ones — for example in books by Antonio Damasio (“Looking for Spinoza, Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain”, “The Feeling of What Happens”, “Decartes’ Error”), Joseph LeDoux (“The Emotional Brain”), Paul Ekman (“Emotions Revealed”), Daniel Goleman (“Emotional Intelligence”). When people have more correct and useable knowledge about how to think better and make better decisions and choices, and when they know how to deeply communicate with other people, they first of all will be less subject to propaganda. This, if nothing else, will diminish the power of the mass media.

As more and more people learn to think better and make better choices and decisions for themselves they will more easily accept new information and knowledge to replace many of their limiting beliefs mentioned above. People need both — both new knowledge about the social world, knowledge about how the present systems work and what new systems are possible — and new knowledge about themselves, how they can think and choose better, so they can reject misleading and false propaganda, and get out of their trapping and self-limiting thinking.

So the revolution is about spreading new information and knowledge to people about our present social/political/economic systems, how and in what ways they might be changed, the revolutionary goals, the step by step method, the obstacles to change in our present systems, possible ways to overcome all these obstacles, as well as new information and knowledge about how to improve their own abilities to understand themselves and improve their own thinking and choices.

Next we will look in more detail at the obstacles to change and how to overcome them.

Building on what has come before.

In the previous few posts, at the end of the list of chunks of new knowledge, I wrote:

Some ideas, some chunks of knowledge, can spread very fast throughout a whole population, especially if the population has been prepared by being supplied with the intermediate knowledge required so that the new or radical idea makes sense. The foundation is already there and when the new idea is heard even once the reaction in the vast majority of people is “Yes!, Yes! That’s exactly right. That is what we must do.”

Can we analyze this? It sounds great. If we could organize the stages of our revolution so that each stage ended with an epiphany, a kind of revelation in a large number of new people, a revelation of some significant revolutionary truths, that would cause them to accept, support, or actively work for the revolution, then it would seem that the revolution would be very well underway. In the previous posts I was trying to analyze chunks of knowledge, information useful for making a revolution. I was asking what would be a good order to spread these chunks of knowledge, these facts, these truths, these opinions to a big chunk of the population.

The revolution might be more or less continuous. That is progress might be more or less steady. Or it could be like Steven Jay Gould’s punctuated equilibrium in biological evolution — periods where nothing much seems to be happening, separated — punctuated — by, very short periods of great change. And we must anticipate periods of reversal, where there are system changes that take us farther away from our goals.

Since the revolution occurs in people’s minds, the revolution can be progressing during periods of apparent stasis and even reversal. And of course the revolution does not have to proceed through punctuated euphoric revelations either. There may be none. But there will probably be some.

If there are any euphoric revelations — where some significant revolutionary idea/s spread almost instantaneously to a large portion of the population — this will generate a lot of enthusiasm for the revolution. We must keep this new enthusiasm focused toward our revolutionary goals and methods. Mass enthusiasm can be dangerous. Charlatans and those not working towards our revolutionary goals might lead people in wrong directions. But this will be less likely if many or most people have previously inoculated themselves against propaganda and self serving authoritarians/leaders through the methods of improving their thinking we discussed in the previous posts.

So, given that the revolution must occur in people’s minds, how do we see any progress, any changes in our systems? The changes in people’s minds precede changes in their behavior. The changes in behavior will affect the operation of the system directly and indirectly. The changes in people’s minds must be translated into changes in the structures of our economic/political systems. This might happen through changes in laws. It might happen through changes in customs if a large enough number of people change their behavior in consistent ways. For example, if enough bankers, traders etc., change their minds, if they realized that arbitrary credit/money creation is the cause of booms and busts, then maybe they would restrain their indefinite creation of credit/money. This seems very unlikely. More likely more laws and rules would have to be made and enforced. If enough people in general realized that running up big debts on credit cards is unwise (or to be very blunt — costly, foolish, crazy, stupid (or maybe it is none of these things if the person knows the banks will never be able to collect since he has no or little money or property)), then maybe more and more people stop using credit cards and they just fade away. There are many ways in which changes in the individual behaviors of enough people will change the system, will change its structure.

The more basic question: How do we stage the revolution? What do we do first? Then what do we do next? It may be ridiculous to try to plan ahead like this. What we do second may be impossible to decide until the first stage is done. So then the question really becomes: At any point in time, what should we do next? Or: What should we do now? Since the revolution is changing people’s minds toward the revolutionary goals and methods, and since any individual person can only build on what they already know at any point in time, different people will need different new knowledge at any point in time. We must send out multiple messages at any one time. Depending on the specific knowledge an individual person has at any time, only some of our messages will make sense to that person. We can try to direct specific knowledge to specific groups such as bankers, traders, economists, the rich, workers, students, scientists, etc. But we can’t be sure that everyone in a specific group gets our message. And some people in other groups will get messages not specifically directed toward them. This is one reason all our messages must be consistent with our goals and methods. Some politicians make the mistake of sending inconsistent messages to different groups. They may say one thing to one group and the opposite to another group. Information leaks, always. So some people at least will see that the politician is lying. We must be as transparent and truthful and consistent and science based as we can be regarding our goals and methods and in all our activities. Consistent messages are easier to accept than inconsistent ones. Consistent messages will spread farther and faster.

How are we going to spread our revolutionary messages? Now in developed countries there are mass media on the one hand and everything else on the other. The everything else includes person to person conversation unmediated — the people communicating are physically close enough to each other that they can hear and see each other directly. Each can hear the words and see the facial and bodily expressions of the other. There are cell phones. There is the internet with typed words and some videos. Different individuals select different methods of getting information about the society and cuilture, the operations of the political and economic systems. Some watch TV, some listen to the radio, some read newspapers, some read books, some read internet blogs. Individuals select their sources of information.

Some blogs are already more or less dedicated to spreading revolutionary ideas, although they may not see it that way. These are critique blogs. They comment on particular areas of our society — politics, economics, banking, the law, civil rights, particular ideologies, etc. In so far as they point out deficiencies in their area of concern, they are spreading maybe the first revolutionary idea — namely that things are so bad, so out of whack, so dysfunctional, so harmful that drastic changes are needed; a revolution is needed.

So our challenge is to determine which of these methods of communication to use where and when to develop and spread our revolutionary ideas.

It is very interesting that direct person to person communication — the most complete form of human to human communication — unmediated communication — is being used by OWS (Occupy Wall Street) and the other Occupys in their general assemblies. And the repetition instead of electric amplification reinforces the information, the messages, into the minds of those hearing and repeating the messages. This is amazing. Obviously it can’t scale directly to a group of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people. Rather it seems to be scaling like bacterial colonies as new Occupys spring up in other cities like a new bacterial colony can start from a single bacterium wafted through the air.

Within any one Occupy the direct person to person communication with repetition may be a very good way to reach strong consensus. And if the different Occupys have essentially the same goals for changing our systems — towards social justice — there may be little difference in their resulting actions. There may be differences as to what to do first. But maybe that doesn’t matter too much. Try something. Try many different things. Keep trying. This may be a good strategy. Notice I don’t say “the best” strategy because we can waste much time and energy about what the best strategy is when there are many possibilities that as far as we can tell now are likely to be more or less equally good.

Maybe the same applies to our question of which revolutionary knowledge to send out to which people when. Maybe a good strategy is to just send it all out to as many people as possible whatever their class or role in our culture through as many communication channels as we can. For every person we should have revolutionary information that will make sense to them and all our messages must be true and consistent with our goals and methods, with social justice — a fair distribution of the products and services we make from the earth’s limited resources, sustainably, non-violently.

How to Spread Revolutionary Knowledge

There isn’t any one right order. There are many that will work very well. In a complex evolving culture we can spread our revolutionary concepts, knowledge, information in many possible ways. We can’t know for sure how well any particular way will work. We can only rely on general principles — about how ideas and information spread through a culture.

So let’s go back to the original list and first put related chunks of information together.

There are a number of these chunks related to cooperation. Let’s group them under the heading of Cooperation:

It is natural for people to cooperate in almost all situations.

Cooperation can be taught.

Conflict and competition are not the same.

Competition is a form of cooperation.

Conflicts exist but they can be limited.

Next let’s group things having to do with fear and anger:

The specific things we fear have been learned and therefore can be unlearned.

We can learn to control anger and many people can learn to eliminate anger from their lives.

Thinking with too much fear, anger, or hatred can lead to wars.

Fear, anger, hatred, disgust are effective propaganda tools.

Learning:

Almost everybody can learn new things at any age.

Altruism can be taught. Generosity is taught. Excessive selfishness is taught.

We learn and create only by building on the knowledge, the work, of others.

Thinking:

Thinking requires feelings.

Excessive amounts of feelings degrade thinking.

Depression is dangerous, even deadly and anyone with even a little depression should seek professional help.

Mania is dangerous.

Authority is dangerous.

Ideologies can be, and probably most are, traps.

Limiting your thinking is limiting yourself

Force and threats are counter productive.

Some big statements:

Human nature is not fixed.

Perfection is an illusion.

Utility theory is grossly simplistic.

Most economic talk and theorizing is total bullshit.

Propaganda:

Repetition is very effective.

Propaganda works.

Truth has an advantage.

Sense of Justice:

People have a strong sense of, a feeling for, justice, fairness which can be increased or decreased by learning.

Influence and Control:

The superrich run things, or think they do.

No one controls anything.

At most we can have some influence.

Information leaks always.

Individuality:

Most people are not stupid.

We must take care of ourselves.

From the day you are born till you ride in the hearse there is nothing so bad that it couldn’t be worse.

Sociality:

Not everyone is greedy all the time.

Altruism exists.

In everything we do we are helped by others.

We are almost never alone.

Complex Systems:

Complex systems must be changed very carefully one step at a time.

Complex systems can sometimes do very unexpected things.

There are almost always unintended consequences when a change is made to a complex system.

Evolution:

Everything evolves, only faster or slower.

Some knowledge speeds up the evolution, the changes, in a society or culture.

Freedom of speech should speed up the evolution of a culture.

Freedom of behavior consistent with nonviolence should speed up cultural evolution.

Both of these allow for increased spreading of new knowledge.

Secrecy limits cultural evolution.

There are many chunks of knowledge that if spread to enough people could significantly speed up the changing of our present system to a socially just system.

Big changes can occur quickly.

Some ideas, some chunks of knowledge, can spread very fast throughout a whole population, especially if the population has been prepared by being supplied with the intermediate knowledge required so that the new or radical ideas make sense.

OK, so we have somewhat chunked the items on the list. Next we want to put these bigger chunks in some pragmatic teaching/learning order. It would seem that chunks like Thinking and Learning should come earlier on the list. Economics is mostly BS should come later, along with the other “Big Statements” since they require an understanding of Evolution. So should complex Systems and Evolution. Cooperation should occur near the middle. Fear and Anger should be near Thinking, probably before it. Propaganda should come just after Thinking.

There are other considerations besides ease of learning that must be considered in trying to determine a good strategic order for spreading our revolutionary ideas. For example the Economics is mostly BS meme maybe should be spread early because there is already a huge amount of information circulating in the population to that effect. We must remember that not everyone needs to understand all the details supporting the validity of some chunk of knowledge in order to accept and use that chunk of knowledge. You may not need to know and understand all the neurological details of how excessive fear and anger degrades your thinking in order to learn to influence your use of fear and anger. You don’t need to know all the details of how a car works in order to drive one.

Maybe the “Occupy” movements will prepare a large chunk of the population for learning about how propaganda works, or how our democracy does not presently work well, or how the powers that be can corrupt and co-opt popular movements. So then the population has been prepared for different revolutionary knowledge to go on top of what they have just learned from these Occupy movements.

So for now, I’ll leave the subject of the strategic spreading of our revolutionary knowledge. 

Strategic Knowledge part 5

We finish with our list.

In everything we do we are helped by others. We learn and create only by building on the knowledge, the work, of others. We learn our language from our mother and other people. We learn how to interact with other people. We learn almost everything we know from other people. On rare occasions we may discover something new. We may create original art or music. In every case we are building on what we have already learned from others. We are immersed in our cultures and can only combine, rearrange, add to, make implications from things, ideas, knowledge, and information already in our cultures. Very little of what any individual does throughout life is original to her or him. Almost everything we do has been done before by others. Issac Newton, who gave an excellent explanation of gravity and the motions of the planets around the sun, said “I stand on the shoulders of giants”. We all do. We depend on the knowledge and the creations of all those who came before us and we depend on the knowledge and creations of the rest of humanity living today. We freely inherit and use the things built by previous generations — the buildings, the roads, the power plants, the dams, the factories, the cleared land, the irrigation systems, the art, the music, the literature, the sciences, the engineering and on and on —- we get all this for free because of the cooperative work of billions of other people, living and dead.

And some managers of large corporations and some government officials have the arrogance to claim that their contributions to society are so great, so valuable, so important that they should have incomes hundreds and hundreds of times the incomes of the people who actually work to produce useful and necessary physical things or who work to discover and create new knowledge and information for the benefit of all of us.

Considering the interconnectedness, the interdependencies of the activities of all seven billion living people, the contribution of any one individual are almost always insignificant. Maybe J. S. Bach, maybe Michael Jackson, maybe Philip Glass, maybe Albert Einstein, maybe Kurt Godel, maybe Gandhi, —  (feel free to nominate a few others) — have as individuals made significant contributions. But no bankers, no corporate leaders, no government leaders should be on any list of significant contributors to the well-being of humanity.

We are almost never alone. Conflict and competition are not the same. Competition is a form of cooperation. Conflicts exist but they can be limited. Each of these has been discussed in the analysis of cooperation in the post Strategic Knowledge for a Good Revolution.

Thinking with too much fear, anger, or hatred can lead to wars. This has been discussed in the analysis of thinking and feelings and in the analysis of emotions in the post Strategic Knowledge part 2.

 Everything evolves. Everything changes only slower or faster. Every human starts as a single cell. That cell develops if all goes well into a healthy baby in about nine months. That development is a step by step process. That first cel divides into two cells; they divide; and so on. As the cell divisions continues the cells differentiate; they are set to perform different functions. The development proceeds as an interaction between the cells with their genetic instructions and their environment, the mother’s womb. The dividing and differentiating cells get nutrients and energy from this environment. Development continues after birth. The baby learns its mother’s language (almost always). It learns how to interact with other people. The baby, then child, then adolescent, then adult absorbs, learns more and more knowledge and information from the culture it is raised in. This development process is a kind of evolution: each stage can only be built on the previous stages, on what has already been built. The development can always go in various directions depending on the interaction between the individual and the individual’s environment. Societies evolve, cultures evolve. Cultures accumulate things and knowledge and information that was created or discovered in earlier stages, and can only build upon, discover, or create based on what has come before. So they also can go in various directions depending on their interactions with their environments. The earth evolves, planets evolve, stars evolve, the universe is evolving. Even a rock evolves, only usually very slowly compared to us, unless the rock is broken up by us or maybe an earthquake.

One consequence of this is that it is silly for economists to try to find static theories or even equilibrium theories. Any realistic theory must account for change, possibly drastic change, i.e., it must be dynamic; and it must take account of the fact that our societies and cultures and political systems are evolving. The discovery of new knowledge, new methods for doing old things better, brings productivity improvements. Huge productivity improvements have been occurring for more than 200 years, yet there is no or very little place for productivity improvements in economic theories. It is very important to understand that our cultures evolve, our real economic and political systems evolve. To ignore these facts is to ignore large chunks of reality.

We can influence social change. The 99% can and do surely influence social change. We (the 99%) accept and use their (the 1%) money/credit/banking system which is the root cause of business cycles — the booms and busts that have been occurring for the past 200 years (or 5000 years if you read David Graeber’s book “Debt: The First 5000 Years.) The money/credit/banking system is also the scheme which allows the 1% to get richer and richer while the 99% get poorer and poorer. We (the 99%) do not have to use this crooked system. See also previous posts on Control and Influence in the post Strategic Knowledge part 3..

From the day you are born till you ride in the hearse there is nothing so bad that it couldn’t be worse (or better). Depression is dangerous, even deadly and anyone with even a little depression should seek professional help. Mania is dangerous. Authority is dangerous. Mental health is good and valuable and important if we want to make a revolution. Mental health means thinking better. It means not thinking with fear, anger, hatred, violence. It means not thinking in terms of caricatures of other people. (Read “Feeling Good” by David D. Burns, M. D.) It is important for revolutionaries to think better and it is important for the process of changing people’s minds, so that they accept the goals and methods of the revolution, since if we teach them how to think better first, then they will be less susceptible to the propaganda of neo-liberalism, they will be less susceptible to the propaganda for wars and violence, they will more easily understand, accept, and appreciate the usefulness of, the value of, the beauty of our revolutionary goals and methods.

I recently read an interesting, yet unsatisfying, book called “A First Rate Madness” by Nassir Ghamei, in which the he argues that in times of crisis we need leaders that are “abnormal”, a little mad. He cites William Tecumseh Sherman, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, all according to him more or less mad. He looked for symptoms of bipolar disorder — what used to be called manic-depression. He classifies these people as abnormal. He claims that people like Neville Chamberlain and General McClelland were normal people who are fine for normal (I guess peaceful) times, but unfit to handle crises. This all bothers me as being too simplistic. He seems to assume that history just happens and people, leaders simply respond. Is he maybe saying that it takes crazy leaders to start wars? If Roosevelt, Churchill, and Hitler had all been “normal”, might WWII been avoided? Churchill, Hitler, and Kennedy all had regular injections of amphetamines and all three had serious periods of depression and periods of mania. I’m not ready to celebrate mad leaders. If Hitler hadn’t constantly been pumped up with amphetamines might he have seen realistically that his war was lost and given it up one or two years before it actually ended?

What’s this got to do with the revolution we need? Only that we want people to work on their mental health, to develop good thinking practices and stay at or near some sweet spot between depression and mania.

We have already discussed that depression prevents action, and that a real danger of the present deteriorating system, with overwhelming bad news, is to cause people to become hopeless and depressed, and thus unable to help us change the system. We must avoid depression as well as we must avoid mania as we see some successes.

Ideologies can be, and probably most are, traps. Limiting your thinking is limiting yourself. We have already discussed this in Strategic Knowledge part 3.

Fear, anger, hatred, disgust are effective propaganda tools. We have already discussed this in Strategic Knowledge part 2, Propaganda.

Complex systems must be changed very carefully one step at a time. Complex systems can sometimes do very unexpected things. There are almost always unintended consequences when a change is made to a complex system. We have discussed this in the post The Structure of Organizations.

Some knowledge speeds up the evolution, the changes, in a society or culture. Freedom of speech should speed up the evolution of a culture. Freedom of behavior consistent with nonviolence should speed up cultural evolution. Both of these allow for increased spreading of new knowledge. Secrecy limits cultural evolution simply because it limits the spread of new information, new knowledge. There are many chunks of knowledge that if spread to enough people could significantly speed up the changing of our present system to a socially just system. Some examples are the knowledge of how to think better such as not thinking with excessive fear and anger or any excessive emotion; and not thinking in terms of personalities, in terms of the estimated goodness or badness of the person rather than listening to what the person actually says and does. Big changes can occur quickly. Some ideas, some chunks of knowledge, can spread very fast throughout a whole population, especially if the population has been prepared by being supplied with the intermediate knowledge required so that the new or radical ideas make sense. The foundation is already there and when the new idea is heard even once the reaction in the vast majority of people is “Yes!, Yes! That’s exactly right. That is what we must do.”

OK, we have analyzed the items on our strategic list. Now can we put the list into some kind of order that will speed up their learning by enough people so we can make the revolution we want?