40 – #MUTINY


Brothers and sisters, band together for solidarity’s sake! Reject the attempts to let power control you! Turn your back on them and join us out on the lines! Strike!

Whether Wat Tyler, Mother Jones or Lech Walesa, the cry has always been the same, drawn from the beating heart of human misery, striking out against arrogance and pride, avarice and greed, force and brutality. We will not be moved. Stand united never be defeated. Together, we shall overcome. Someday.

Set against one another, the forces of labour and the power of capital forged the modern world, a dialectical stamping press producing an endless supply of conflicts all cast from the same mold: workers and owners; poor and rich; proletarians and capitalists.

If there had never been accumulations of capital, there would be no proletarian uprising. Hunter-gatherer societies have no property nor any property needs beyond the essentials of food for today and shelter for tonight. They organize around the normal lines of primate power structures – alphas dominant and betas subservient – but no power persists, generation upon generation. That innovation comes with civilization, when the enclosure of the city created the storehouse of wealth. Poverty is a product of the urban revolution – as are riches.

These two extremes exclude the middle: neither rich nor poor, neither invested nor immune, never the actor, only acted upon. A revolution rises and falls with the sympathies of the middle class, so each side seeks to capture the middle ground, with promises of power and wealth, or assurances of equality and freedom, all groundless, insubstantial, wrought from the insincerity of aspiration or the earnestness of self-delusion. It is not that the situation never changes, rather that it will not change for those who do not change themselves. The middle must rise up or sink down. Where it remains in place the tumult continues unresolved, wheeling around a fixed axis, generating heat but no light.

During the last half billion seconds, labor and capital remained in rough balance throughout the world: wherever capital exploited labor, reaction to that exploitation expressed itself in resistance, from the petit sabotage of casual vandalism through to the sit-in, the lock-out, and the general strike. These weapons cut both ways; the workers can blockade the factory, or the owners can lock the workers out. But always one or the other, acting or reacting, thrusting or blocking. Each seeks to get the middle onside, fighting another battle for hearts and minds, wanting a sudden end to the forever war.

The middle, always acted upon, now acts for itself.

Call a general strike on a public transport system, to prevent the white-collar workers from getting to their city desks and city jobs, and someone, somewhere writes an app that allows them to carpool with greater efficiency than ever before. The sting gone, poison sucked clean from the wound, the effort collapses.

Mistreat labor, then try to suppress news of this action: the Age of Omniscience guarantees that someone, somewhere will learn of it, sharing this news until it becomes pervasive knowledge. Someone, somewhere writes an app that allows everyone, everywhere to walk the aisles of any shopping mall, specifically highlighting the products of that mistreated labor, so consumers can easily avoid them. The power of capital to cover its own actions has vanished. All is known, all is taken into account, and any effort to suppress either truth or labor collapses.

Hyperintelligence means each of us lives within everything everyone else knows. This is not mere trivia — the population of British India at the fin de siecle, or the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin. This is the concrete, the useful, the salient. The things that matter and the things that can be made to matter: as we know more our priorities change. Things that might never have concerned us in our ignorance will vex us endlessly in our understanding.

There comes a point when one knows too much. Ignorance is bliss; it’s opposite is the moment when the interconnectedness of one’s knowing and one’s actions results in a liberation from habit and expectation, a mutiny from the mundane, crying non serviam to the quotidian.

Everything gives you cancer; everyone is corrupt; everything is corruption. It was ever thus, and will ever be, failure without end. This moment of utter damnation is the price of omniscience; to know everything is to bear witness to the sins of the world.

But equally this looms as the moment of utter revelation, and in that light all things become possible. Nothing is certain, not even the past. There is no pattern, only inclination, and we can choose to incline ourselves toward the parts of one another which affirm and strengthen. The darkness comes only from knowing and keeping our eyes tightly closed.

There is no top, no bottom, nor any middle, anywhere. There is no power, nor force. It is all finally in our heads, all of it: not just the psychological projections of fantasy and forethought, but the collected knowledge and experience of everyone, everywhere.

We are all unspeakably rich; we are all in fetters and rags. We are each of these things simultaneously, and this is why our knowing pains us. We are free, but conscious of our enslavement; we are powerless, yet swollen with capability. We confuse ourselves because we have always thought ourselves one-or-the-other, but have suddenly achieved both, or rather, gained all.

This is the triumph of the milieu, the accelerating middle which sweeps both top and bottom into its current and carries everything in its path toward some common destiny. It is not the end of difference, but its quintessence, because each point of difference is held in common. Our minds reject this as inconceivable; we find the mutiny even within ourselves. But we can not turn our back on the way the world now works. We can not divorce ourselves from hyperintelligence. It has become the spirit of the world, the hammer to our anvil.

4 thoughts on “40 – #MUTINY

  1. I don’t get it Mark. The general public has always possessed the means to circumvent strikes. In an actual general strike – i.e. a strike across all industries – I would bet that you’d find a pretty high level of inconvenience and dispute no matter what clever fixes are eventually introduced. The idea that a technology can remove the need for public service X is certainly an appealing one. But if it did, then we’d be using it.

    If the app really truly makes (say) public transport services redundant, then there would be no need to wait for a transport strike to prove it. It would just work.

    Strikes also aren’t just about inconvenience. They’re also about who wields power, and power comes in more than one form. Not all strikes are effective. But if a service that people use is withdrawn, then there is still a level on which the employer is being set back. A strike doesn’t have to be perfectly, absolutely effective – just effective enough.

    More than the practicalities, though, I’m deeply disturbed that this narrative of individual empowerment is apparently taking a turn into “empowering consumers to help employers screw over their staff” rather than “empowering workers to take action to support each other across industries”. Don’t wage earners have an interest in disempowering the vastly most powerful institutions in these situations – the employers? Putting the question of “what you are doing is redundant” to one side, is there any point to not being a dick about other people their exercising legitimate right to strike?

    In any case, it’s hard for someone to buy a smartphone when they’ve just lost a job. if we want to do everything without using or respecting anyone else’s labour then who will respect ours? Are we all going to be futurists?

    • The general public did not possess the means to circumvent strikes, because alternatives were too friction-filled to be actually useful. Now the strike is easy to organize, and efforts to route around the damage produced by the strike are just as easy to engender. Gilmore’s Law in practice.

      I am pleased that you are deeply disturbed about the turn this narrative has taken. Hyperempowerment – which is the last of our four themes to be covered in THE NEXT BILLION SECONDS – presents faces that are both very pretty and fantastically ugly. You can not simply accept one while ignoring the other.

      It is not merely ’empowering consumers to help employers screw over their staff’ – by the time we’re through here, it will be the Hobbsian Bellum Omnia Contra Omnes – the war of all against all.

      Power is always taken. It is never given. We can choose to negotiate about power – this is what we call ‘rights’ – but it remains power undilute.

      Thanks very, very much for this insightful comment!

  2. Mahalo Nui Loa (thank you very much) for expanding everyones world view. Not everyone can wrap their heads around your #MUTINY
    Do you want the Aladeen news or the Aladeen news?


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