[Original post title: Is Collectivism Relative?]
At times I become totally disillusioned by the track the Paleo community seems to be taking, on pure momentum. Perhaps it's just my perception.
While the Ancestral Health Symposium was a tremendous breath of fresh air in this regard, by no means do I think it made even the slightest dent in the overall trend. Paleo, for the vast, vast majority, is just a way to lose fat, feel better, build a bit of lean mass, learn not to obsess over hunger, and gain a measure of normal health.
And that's a lot. There's no denying that; everyone comes from their own place; everyone has their own level of outrage and euphoria. For some, the differences are really so profound that it might come as a shock to them that it's only a third of the deal.
Yep, because all these things address mostly your body; not mind, not society. All that is not the direct aspect of what relates to mind and society in the former are dismissed as irrelevant, if they're even thought of at all, which I tend to doubt. Everyone still goes to their cubicle, spends hours per day in auto-commute, shores up and maintains relationships that are toxic or a hindrance to happiness, sleeps like crap and...and...stands in line at a polling place to get a micro sliver of a say in his or her own affairs with absolutely zero hope of ever swaying society to his or her way of thinking in his or her own lifetime...and this is after spending countless hours watching cable news and ingesting the mind poison of the political pundits in print.
Talk about stress, if stress is taken to mean being subject to means and situations totally out of your control or practical influence.
But it doesn't seem to stop many, if any, and this an eternal curiosity to me.
I have blogged it so many times it's probably already boring. We didn't only evolve not eating grains and processed food. We also evolved in small groups of 30-60, where each and every adult individual could account for the values and actions of each and every other member, and had a real, important influence on the direction and behavior of the group as a whole.
We evolved with real social power. Did you read that? We evolved with real social power. And now, modern human animals -- as though in a lab, having learned to press a lever to drop a few more pellets of food in the bowl -- delude themselves into believing they have great power, when in reality they haven't a scintilla of a microscopic particle of it. Nobody who's not already morally depraved enough to do something like run for an office so they can "practice public policy" can hold a candle to an average human animal hunting and gathering in terms of power and influence. Both are true masters of their domain and society: one based upon force and coercion, the other on mutually earned respect.
Well I've used the word collectivism in my title which is an end result of political centralization, and there's a small point to that. It's relative. Family units, for example, are small collectives, which means: the ways, means, resources and spoils are generally shared without an exhaustive accounting of each member's contribution. Which is to say: from each according to his ability; to each, according to his need. Ah, context.
The rub is that in the family unit or small social circle, you have the power to cut someone off any time you want, if they don't pull their weight or worse: become parasitical in all the ways that can turn from outright laziness to self-destructive behavior culminating in utter dependence on many levels.
OK so let's get to some excepts from Donald Livingston, professor emeritus of philosophy at Emory University.
There is nothing “inevitable” about centralization. Man is a social being. There is an inbuilt disposition of human nature to form small scale polities composed of federations of extended families, kinship ties, and accepted foreigners. This is natural. Vast scale centralized regimes are not natural. They are artificial. Modern theorists such as Hobbes, Locke try to say that these large states are rationally formed because the aggregate of individuals under them choose this condition for peace and security (Hobbes) or to enhance liberty (Locke). Both Hobbes and Locke are wrong. The truth is that all large states are the result of conquest and a rough process of digesting the smaller polities consumed. A story about “peace” or “liberty,” or the later ones about “equality,” “human rights,” “democracy,”etc. are noble lies told after the fact to reconcile us to the modern state.
Shorter Livingston: The state is in no way "Paleo." It is as Neolithic as grains and actually, far more toxic and lethal, with hundreds of million deaths of innocents under its belt. It is all a big fat lie, and that goes for America the Beautiful as much as for any other.
A look at ancient history might suggest that centralized empires are inevitable. Everywhere in the ancient world we find empires: the Hittite, Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian, Egyptian,etc. Everywhere except Greece. The Greeks built a world class civilization from which we still draw inspiration which was completely decentralized. It was composed of over 1,500 tiny republics, the largest of which was around 160,000 or so.
"It would never work."
What of defense? The Persian empire commanded the resources of some 40 million. The Greeks had around 8 million, scattered from Naples to the Black Sea. Surely the big boy could pick these little states off like fruit. But the Persians were never able to do so. History is filled with David and Goliath stories of this sort. Eg. Switzerland founded, as I recall, in 1291 and surrounded by large intrusive monarchies.
"But it would never work. Plus, what of those who want to kill us for our 'freedoms'?"
[...] And are large modern states safe? European states were centralized under monarchs and even more so under mass democracies; each seeking to grow larger to be able to overwhelm the other. In the process of centralization, peace could be enforced within the state–though at the price of “digesting” the hundreds of smaller units crushed into it to create its huge bulk. This left a rootless mass of timid and obedient subjects under central control.
"This left a rootless mass of timid and obedient subjects under central control." Very Paleo, but that's what I see the movement coming to by raw momentum of mass, after being initially husbanded by a lot of folks with libertarian and individualist sentiments. Well, there's always raw milk activism. There's that. And look, I'm not saying these battles aren't worth fighting. I'm making a plea merely to look far beyond it to, in the words of Thoreau, "strike at the root."
Nevertheless, there was peace of sorts within the state’s border. But what about outside? The first global war was the Seven years War, then Napoleon, then WWI, WWII, the Cold War. Have Germany, France, Britain, Russia been safe places to live in the 20th century? No, they have not been. And you know Rummel’s figures that nearly four times as many people have been killed by their own governments as in all the wars fought around the globe, foreign and domestic, in the 20th century.
And he even makes a moral argument, surprise surprise. For someone who reads almost nothing but how well "it will work" [for whom?], this was quite a surprise.
[...] Still our moral judgment should be about whether decentralization of a modern state is a good thing or not. Not whether modern states are superior in some respects to pre-modern ones. They obviously are in some respects and not in others.
Translation: Freedom can actually really suck sometimes on a practical level, but that doesn't give you moral right to make others your slaves because you're an insecure little pussy with big investments in status quo who can't take what life dishes out.
Much of the rest engages or envisions how decentralization could work and I never engage in that. I don't really care if freedom is totally "unworkable." It's who and what I am, so fuck your utilitarianism.
There's only one thing more pathetic to me than the 300 pounder with a shopping cart full of crap in a box and bottles filled with sugar water: it's the picture of the lean and ripped Paleo standing in line to get his 1/300 millionth say in his own affairs at the voting booth. Testifying before Congress might come in a close second.
We have no demands to present to you, no bargains to strike, no compromise to reach. You have nothing to offer us. We do not need you. - John Galt
Never forget that you...you...are more moral, more benevolent, more competent than any single office holder in the entire world. You live by the means of your ability to produce and voluntarily trade value for value. They live by means of force and coercion. There are no exceptions, no qualifications.
You're better than that, and I wish everyone in mass would just simply start really acting like it.
Update: For much more information on this general topic including references, see Andrew at Evolvify: Foundations for a Hunter-Gatherer Philosophy II: The Libertarianism Question. Even libertarianism isn't even remotely close to Paleo, much less far more intrusive states or so-called "lands of the free."