Who will find the key to power: America or the Middle East’s jihadists?

Summary: We dream of superempowered individuals, seeing ourselves as Ayn Rand’s Übermensch or comic book superheroes while we ignore the methods that made us powerful. Meanwhile, Islamic fundamentalists seek to recover formulas from their past that made them world leaders. We have the machinery yet not the will; they have the reverse. Which is more likely to see a successful mass movement? The answer will channel events in the 21st century.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“We are gods. Our tools make us gods. In symbiosis with our technology, our powers are expanding exponentially and so, too, our possibilities.”

— Jason Silva, keynote speaker at the 2012 Festival of Dangerous Ideas.

Superhero

Contents

  1. Our fantasies of superempowerment.
  2. The Islamic Crusade simmers.
  3. America: eagles who think they’re sheep.
  4. For More Information.

 

(1)  Fantasies of superempowerment

Our fantasies take many forms. Some are explicit, like the stories of superheroes that dominate the Hollywood boxes offices. Some are sublimated, such as the hundreds of articles describing how technology creates super-empowered individuals capable of changing the course of history (for good or evil).

This is nothing new. Individuals can destroy cities as easily as Mrs. O’Leary’s cow destroyed Chicago, or create new ideas for technologies that change the world. History is the record of these things.

Technology provides new capabilities, such as allowing individuals to release vast troves of secrets (e.g. as did Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden). But information means nothing by itself. We have no technology allowing better development of common goals and deep trust among people any better than the mail used by the Committees of Correspondence to start the Revolution during 1764-1774. It’s the will that matters, not the tech.

Humanity’s god-like powers come from mass movements — collective action of cities, religions, nations, and political revolutionary groups. Such a movement can coalesce in an eye blink and spread at warp speed, becoming an irresistible force that overturns immovable institutions.

 

It’s the nature of our backward-looking experts and journalists to remain blind to these things until a late stage. On the FM website we prefer to look ahead, studying sparks that might start flames. There are two movements today that deserve close attention, each a potential hinge of world history.

Islamic sky

(2)  The Islamic Crusade simmers

“All fantasy should have a solid base in reality.”
— Max Beerbohm’s novel Zuleika Dobson (1911).

The most obvious mass movement to watch is in the Middle East, as their people seek to find a formula to unite them on a path to prosperity — making them again world leaders. The 1960s secular nationalist revolutions burnt out (with the assistance of the Saudi-Israel-US coalition). Al Qaeda was the Mark II, using Sunni Islam as the focus. While our national security elites were telling us to wet our pants daily in fear, readers of the FM website read in 2008 that it too had burnt out.

The Islamic State has built the Mark III model, with an even more extreme fundamentalist version of an Islamic political regime. I doubt this will work. But the path is more important than the individual steps. They’re seeking to create a spark that sets their people aflame. The Darwinian Ratchet — driven by our killing — produces ever more competent leaders. They’ve adopted the West’s powerful technology and business methods. All they lack is a Unique Selling Proposition, the proper feature mix that both sells and functions. The group that gets that right will sweep the Middle East — and perhaps even into the wider Islamic world.

They’re powered by our opposition (we’re the perfect scary enemy to unify them) plus the oppression of their corrupt national leaders. I believe that someone, somewhere, sometime will put the pieces together — and the world will change.

Bald Eagles congregate on Homer Spit
Not a group for a predator to lightly mess with.

(3)  America: we are eagles that think we are sheep

Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To gain anything, something of equal value must be given. That is life’s First Law of Equivalent Exchange, and applies to thing tangible and intangible — matter, energy, and spirit.

— From the Fullmetal Alchemist (see Wikipedia for details).

America was built by collective action. America is a collective action by each generation. The Founding was an act of collective action with few or no precedents, a diverse collection of colonists (mostly 1st or 2nd generation) that found common cause to create a nation based on untested political ideas. The Civil War was won by men who found common cause to defend the Union and defeat slavery despite the horrific cost. The middle class was created by 4 decades of often bloody struggle by unions (see Prof Eric Loomis’ this day in labor history series). The triumphs of the civil rights era were the true conclusion to the Civil War (ending the Southern Whites’ successful post bellum insurgency).

Somehow we lost this vision. Inevitably the 1% organized its vast resources, including its brilliant servants, to rollback generations of gains. As a nation of individuals we’re chaff — pawns — before them (Ayn Rand wrote some of the 1%’s finest propaganda, fantasies for proles — like Cinderella is for young girls or pro basketball for inner city boys).

I have written 50+ posts about ways to start the reform of American politics. The machinery bequeathed to us by the Founders remains idle but still potentially decisive. It needs only our will to work it. Until then the outer party will read National Review and Naked Capitalism for entertainment (Boo! Yea!). The proles will watch TV. The inner party will laugh at us.

Will somebody find the formula that inspires us to action, or forge a coalition that provides a nucleus around which a mass movement can form? What will make us pay the dues required of a free people? Much depends on the answer.

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.

— Patrick Henry’s “The Crisis“, 23 December 1776.

(4)  For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See my record of past predictions here. See all posts about super-empowered individuals. See all posts about our heroes, especially these:

Golden Eagles flock in the sky
Golden Eagles flock in the sky.

 

 

6 thoughts on “Who will find the key to power: America or the Middle East’s jihadists?

    1. Additional information on Femme’s comment —

      The Discourse on Voluntary Servitude” by Estienne de La Boétie. From Wikipedia:

      Étienne or Estienne de La Boétie (1530 – 1563) was a French judge, writer, and “a founder of modern political philosophy in France.”

      This essay asserts that tyrants have power because the people give it to them. Liberty has been abandoned once by society, which afterward stayed corrupted and prefers the slavery of the courtesan to the freedom of one who refuses to dominate as he refuses to obey. Thus, La Boétie linked together obedience and domination, a relationship which would be later theorised by latter anarchist thinkers. By advocating a solution of simply refusing to support the tyrant, he became one of the earliest advocates of civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance. Lew Rockwell summarizes La Boétie’s political philosophy as follows:

      “To him, the great mystery of politics was obedience to rulers. Why in the world do people agree to be looted and otherwise oppressed by government overlords? It is not just fear, Boetie explains in “The Discourse on Voluntary Servitude,” for our consent is required. And that consent can be non-violently withdrawn.”

  1. Neither.
    While both these failed societies flail away at each other fruitlessly in a frantically futile effort to destroy one another, China will rise, dominating the 21st century.
    The Soviet Union proved once and for all that communism doesn’t work. Now America is in the process of proving once and for all that capitalism doesn’t work, while the middle east is proving once and for all that theocracies don’t work.
    Social scientists of the 22nd century will have a field day.

    1. Thomas,

      All we know from history is that such overconfident — even bombastic — forecasts are beyond the ability of anyone to make reliably.

      Plus some of the world’s top China experts — such as economists Patrick Chovanec and George Magnus — see China as having large and potentially crippling flaws.

  2. It’s not that Americs lacks only will. Even if America had that it’d still need to get some military leaders that have half a clue. America hadn’t had a Geopolitically successful Milirary campaign since Panama. It’s been seriously down hill since 2001. I’ve lost hope. You’re doomed to continue repeating your errors all the while with your heads held high upon your incongruent sense of infallibility. I feel sory for any American that dies for their country. What a waste.

    http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175977/tomgram%3A_anand_gopal%2C_how_to_create_an_afghan_blackwater/

    1. Jimmy,

      “America hadn’t had a Geopolitically successful Milirary campaign since Panama.”

      That’s good news and bad news. It means that we’ve fought small wars against local insurgencies. Which we lose. But everybody loses these wars, as local insurgents have consistently defeat foreign insurgents since Mao brought 4GW to maturity. The good news is that since the Vietnam War we’ve avoided State-to-State war, perhaps the most destructive activities of our species.

      For details see A lesson about counterinsurgency that could change America’s future.

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