Nowhere to Run To; Nowhere to Thrive

nowhereIt’s something of a truism in physics that closed systems tend toward entropy. In other words, building walls around a process will make it degrade faster than it normally would. And this principle clearly applies beyond physics.

An academic named John B. Calhoun famously documented this effect in rat populations. He gave his animals everything they could possibly need but enclosed them in a limited space. Inside their closed system, some males became aggressive, others withdrew psychologically, mothers stopped caring for their young, and eventually their population plummeted, even though there was plenty of food.

Humans are not rats, of course; we are self-referential, thinking beings. Subjected to fully closed systems, we’d break down mentally long before we starved ourselves.

The Human Experiments

The human analog of the rat experiment wouldn’t be constrained physical space, but constrained mental space. And that’s precisely what we’re getting now with mass surveillance. In other words:

Surveillance locks our minds into a closed system.

We know we’re being watched. Every time we look around to see who might be listening, every time we avoid expressing ourselves freely (speaking, writing, whatever), every time we lower our voices so the punishers won’t hear, we are conscious of the fact that we’re living in a closed system. Fear of shame and punishment are the walls around that enclose us.

And we do have empirical evidence on the effects of such closed systems. In a paper entitled The Legacy of Surveillance, Marcus Jacob and Marcel Tyrell wrote this about East German surveillance:

Our empirical evidence suggests that a one standard deviation increase in Stasi (secret police) informer density is associated with… a 10% decrease in organizational involvement, and a 50% reduction in the number of organs donated across the districts in East Germany.

We furthermore find robust evidence that surveillance intensity has a strong negative effect… on current economic performance, and may explain approximately 7% of the East-West differential in income per capita and 26% of the unemployment gap.

So, the surveillance of East Germany produced serious, measurable, and strongly negative results.

Jacob and Tyrell conclude:

[W]e find that people’s experience of living in a regime in which state security informers had their tentacles in every aspect of people’s lives has resulted in a strong and lingering sense of mistrust of members of society outside the immediate family circle.… We furthermore find robust evidence that surveillance intensity has a strong negative effect… on current economic performance in these regions.

So, if we try to imagine that modern surveillance – in many ways much worse than it was in East Germany – will have no negative effects, we delude ourselves.

Closed mental systems – like the most intense surveillance that has ever existed on this planet – is a war on our minds, a war on will. It leaves people unable to make autonomous and ethical decisions. They become truly selfless; that is, they have no solid self that can exert choice, will, and effort… that can strive, risk, defend, and grow.

As Hannah Arendt wrote in The Origins of Totalitarianism:

The disturbing factor in the success of totalitarianism is the true selflessness of its adherents.

When the State Overtakes Society

One of the primary effects of mass surveillance is to suppress individual judgment. We dare not act on our own minds, because authority will see it and disapprove. And that, as I mentioned last week, makes us less conscious, less alive.

Large central structures, like surveillance states, remove initiative, adaptation, and self-reference from individual men and women, forcing them into a fixed structure.

The crucial thing is this:

When regulation is within the individual, complex and beneficial interactions thrive.

When regulation is outside the individual, personal virtues fail.

When people cannot rely on themselves, their patterns of thinking change. Rather than referring to their own perceptions, their own knowledge, and their own analysis, they defer to the judgment of an external voice. They lose themselves in the process.

The inevitable product of this is denuded individuals and non-adaptive structures.

Coming to a Closed System near You…

Having nowhere to run has always meant death to the finer elements of human nature, and it remains true now.

Over time, mass surveillance will cause motivation and production to fall and human happiness to decline. We are thinking creatures, and if we are prevented from acting according to our natures, we will fail to thrive. And once that point is reached, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men won’t put it back together. They couldn’t in East Germany and they haven’t in North Korea.

Mass surveillance is a war on the best within us. It is already bearing bad fruit, but the worst is yet to come.

Assert your will. Now.

Paul Rosenberg

Will Government Tyranny Be Completed Before Humanity Wakes Up Again?

government tyrannyAll of our lives have occurred in an era of peak somnambulism (aka sleepwalking), and those of us who enjoy being awake have suffered mightily because of it. Using your mind has come with a price in our time, which is pretty sick, really. You can thank growing government tyranny for that.

Humanity, however, does not sleep forever. Eventually humans get tired with the permanent suspension of thought. I know that none of us have ever seen that in our lifetimes, but I study history, and trust me, it has happened in the past.

Can you imagine people traveling a hundred miles on foot, over muddy roads and fields, with bad shoes, and sleeping outdoors, just to listen to a teacher who the authorities had recently defrocked for immorality and cast out of the city? And this teacher wasn’t a religious guru or the leader of a revolution: he was teaching things like history, philosophy and logic.

Well, hundreds of people, even thousands, did this in the early 12th century. (The teacher’s name was Peter Abelard, and he wasn’t the only one.) Europeans had been cut off from learning by their ruling systems for hundreds of years, and yet at this moment they remembered that they were human and woke up.

I’m promising that this will happen again anytime soon, mind you, but it does happen on occasion.

History Shows the Way

From the 12th century through the 19th century, Europeans and Americans generally used their brains, and life in the West improved massively; far beyond anything ever seen in the historical record. But then, it changed. Knowledge didn’t go away, but humanity forgot that it mattered and decided that sleepwalking was easier and better.

It’s not often that you get personalities as diverse as F.A. Hayek, Virginia Woolf, Ayn Rand, and the Bohemian artists of London to all agree, but there was one subject on which they did concur: All of them said that there was a distinct change in the nature of humanity in 1911 or thereabouts. Virginia Woolf, for example, was very precise, placing it in December of 1910 and writing that “human character changed.” Ayn Rand, who was very young at the time, placed it “before World War One” and said “the West lost its nerve.”

Whatever it was that happened, it is very clear that since that time, the men of the West have tried very hard to sleep and have fought to remain in their slumbers. Yes, they were scientifically trained to be that way in government conditioning centers (aka schools). And yes, they spent decades of their lives in factories where thinking was taken as a threat. And yes, it’s true that they were subjected to millions of advertisements that grasped at their minds and wills. But even all of that doesn’t account for a hundred years of slumbers.

There’s a Reason it’s Called the Idiot Box…

The big factor in all of this was the great god of the age: Television. After all, to most people, television is simply what we do. Try telling people that you don’t watch TV some time and see what happens – they’ll treat you like a space alien. And if you persist, they’re likely to see you as a threat.

TV is simply what modern humanity does. Americans watch better than 150 hours of TV per month these days – on average. And when they’re not watching flashing images on their awesome new flatscreen (bigger than their neighbor’s!), they’re plugged in to some kind of iPod, iPad, or some other trendy new iGadget. Anything to avoid thinking.

And the more bizarre the world gets – like presidents and courts agreeing that droning citizens to death without a trial is not a Constitutional problem – the more they avoid thinking. The more the need to think sits in front of their faces, the more they crawl into TV, music, tabloids, booze, and anything else that will allow them to avoid it. Their ignorance must be preserved, or else they’ll have to face the thing they’ve been running from all their lives: responsibility.

But, as I say, this will not last forever. Whenever it is that the hypnosis breaks, those who have been using it as a slave drug will have a problem.

And that may be why they’re in such a hurry to build a fast, cheap tyranny. Once humanity turns again, the elite life-skimmers will need the ability to remove troublemakers quickly and easily, and to lead with it on the nightly news… presuming that anyone still watches the insulting drivel. There are signs of humanity waking up, after all.

Who would have dared to predict thousands of young people following an old doctor like Ron Paul around the country, eagerly waiting to hear about the Federal Reserve scam? I’m not at all sure that will be enough, but it did involve numbers of young people opening their eyes, and it was a real surprise.

Government Tyranny in Action

So, if this continues, the power-mongers will need cheap control, which is why they’ve been procuring drones and computers. Drones and 24/7 monitoring make for excellent, cheap tyranny: A world-wide surveillance web to see what you are thinking about, a world-wide manipulation system to nudge you in the ‘right’ directions, and drones to intimidate you… and, if necessary, to take you out. (Once your worst texts and emails have been worked into an appropriate story, of course.)

So, we’re in a race between cheap government tyranny, and humanity deciding that a hundred semi-comatose years were enough, and that it’s time to wake up.

Which side will win the race? I dunno.

Paul Rosenberg