There has been a lot of talk in the Zeitgeist Movement about our principles and how we should be holding to them. Some people go so far as to saying that we should be implementing the proposed policies that the Venus Project advocates for society right away. There is a good deal of mistrust and fear of authority figures in this movement because we recognize that authority has been abused, and it has lead to a lot of societies problems. And in many cases even taken lives. I am on board with that and I completely understand. However, are we ready to eliminate authority within the Zeitgeist movement? Some people have suggested that we should for example remove moderators on our forums and other communication mediums. I have heard similar arguments for why we should have no rules. And that there should be no kicking or banning of anyone using our communications systems no matter how rude, crass or outright destructive they have become.
They site the Venus Project's eventual goal of having a world with no laws or government as reasoning for this. But they are missing a very important issue, and putting the cart before the horse. Our goal is to eliminate the need for these institutions of authority by addressing the root causes of the behavior in question by controlling the environment in such a way that eliminates destructive behavior before it starts. When it comes to our moderators and administrators in the Zeitgeist movement, we don't have any control over what the environment of those who participate in communication mediums is like at home. So it is impossible for us to solve these problems in that way.
Authority is a natural phenomena in our current society. Lets examine for a moment what authority is.
n. pl. au·thor·i·ties
a. The power to enforce laws, exact obedience, command, determine, or judge.
b. One that is invested with this power, especially a government or body of government officials: land titles issued by the civil authority.
2. Power assigned to another; authorization: Deputies were given authority to make arrests.
3. A public agency or corporation with administrative powers in a specified field: a city transit authority.
a. An accepted source of expert information or advice: a noted authority on birds; a reference book often cited as an authority.
b. A quotation or citation from such a source: biblical authorities for a moral argument.
5. Justification; grounds: On what authority do you make such a claim?
6. A conclusive statement or decision that may be taken as a guide or precedent.
7. Power to influence or persuade resulting from knowledge or experience: political observers who acquire authority with age.
8. Confidence derived from experience or practice; firm self-assurance: played the sonata with authority.
Now, we do give our moderators and administrators authority in the following sense.
"a. The power to enforce laws, exact obedience, command, determine, or judge."
Our moderators have the ability to enforce the rules of the forums they preside in, to exact obedience from people who are not following those rules. To determine and judge if someone's behavior should cause them to be removed from those forums.
The rules that they enforce are there to prevent people from being abusive to other users. Or destructive to conversation and the exchange of ideas.
Some might argue that we shouldn't need those rules or the moderators in a chat room devoted to enforcing them if we really believe what we do about society. The problem is, and this is proven all the time in our forums, chat rooms, etc. is that even within the Zeitgeist movement we have not yet changed our own values enough to be able to do this. If we had, there would be no conversations or arguments about banning. Not because there would be no mods or rules. But because no one would be behaving in a way that would lead to anyone wanting them to be banned in the first place.
Now there is another way that we see authority in the Zeitgeist Movement. For example the authority that Jacque Fresco has as the progenitor of the Venus Project.
"a. An accepted source of expert information or advice: a noted authority on birds; a reference book often cited as an authority."
Or the authority we get when we quote his work:
"b. A quotation or citation from such a source: biblical authorities for a moral argument." (Don't panic anti-religion folks, it's just an example.)
There is also the authority that we give Jacque based on his credentials.
"7. Power to influence or persuade resulting from knowledge or experience: political observers who acquire authority with age."
So, we have people with authority within the Zeitgeist movement. All of that authority exists specifically to help us achieve our goals. Whether it be preventing someone from being disruptive and preventing us from being able to have good discussion or being knowledgeable on the subject of the Venus Project. We defer to Jacque Fresco on the subject, because he is an "authority" on the subject.
Now that we have touched on what authority is, let us explore what being an "authoritarian" is.
1. favouring, denoting, or characterized by strict obedience to authority
2. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) favouring, denoting, or relating to government by a small elite with wide powers
3. despotic; dictatorial; domineering
Now, there is a lot of this word being thrown around. Generally in a derogatory manner. There are people who believe that no authority should exist, and anyone who uses authority should therefore not exist either. I don't believe we have any authoritarians in the Zeitgeist movement's group of moderators and administrators. We do have people who are an "authority" in this sense:
(Stating both so that this quote makes sense)
"a. The power to enforce laws, exact obedience, command, determine, or judge.
b. One that is invested with this power, especially a government or body of government officials: land titles issued by the civil authority."
Usually when people are using the word "authoritarian" are usually using it as an attack on people who they feel are abusing authority. They point to people like Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, etc. We don't have any authoritarians in the administration of the Zeitgeist Movement. We do have some authorities.
I understand why people in the movement have prejudices against people in positions of authority, as they sometimes turn into authoritarians. But lets take a moment and think why authority actually exists.
Authority, and power over people ebbs and flows all the time in a natural setting in the value system we currently have. When a group of people engage in a conversation at a table in a restaurant there are still roles assigned. Some people are more dominant then others. Sometimes this is just because someone might be more knowledgeable about the subject everyone is talking about. So therefore people are deferring to that person as an "authority" on the subject based on their knowledge. Like the example I presented earlier of Jacque Fresco. Eventually in a Venus Project society we hope that everyone will be "authorities" in this sense on most subjects. And that people will naturally defer to people who know more then them about a given subject because they are anxious to learn.
Sometimes however someone takes control because they are an authoritarian. Generally that person will dominate the conversation, engaging in debate but using intimidation and social pressures to dissuade any argument from the rest of the people participating. They will use Ad Hominem attacks, making fun of anyone who is their opposition. People will let these people run the conversation out of fear that they might be the next victim of those tactics. And in fact sometimes might even help him enforce his "rule by humiliation of all opposition" to further try and secure their own position.
Now this effect is very subtle. And most people don't talk about it. Many people don't even think about it. But it is there. And you will find people will be very uncomfortable when you point out that behavior. Rather then rewarding you for pointing out the problem with communication and how one person is kind of dominating the conversation you will find yourself looked at very strangely.
It is much more subtle at a dinner conversation. But there are other applications of authority that people have problems with. Lets take violent behavior. There are people who would prefer that there were no police. They vent all sorts of negativity at police officers and talk about how much the world would be better without them. They think back to the last time they got a parking ticket or whatever and sigh. So why do police officers exist?
Because of our value system, people struggle and fight one another as second nature. The fight for dominance in of itself is a reaction to scarcity. If your the strongest animal in your pack or group you will always eat first, and the most. This is not "human nature" but a reaction to the circumstances in our environments and we in the Zeitgeist Movement know that. However to simply rid ourselves of police officers right now would not somehow make authority go away. Because police officers were created to protect people from the abuse of authority that can go on in every day life. People who have a problem with police officers are failing to look at the root causes of why police exist.
I know very well that the power that police officers have has been and will continue to be abused at times. The police officers are also products of their environment. Their environment includes dealing not only with the freedom loving people of this society, but constantly dealing with the absolute worst people of society. Rapists, pedophiles, etc. Their duty is something very dangerous, they are underpaid, and under-appreciated. And in fact in some cultures you are glorified for killing them. Their duty often includes getting shot at, chasing criminals down busy streets to try and get them off the street so they don't hurt anyone, etc.
So why do police exist? They exist as an "authority" to protect us from people who would try to use authority gained over us with violence or coercion.
Removing all of the police and laws in the world without eliminating the value system would not suddenly rid us of all authority. The authority instead would be given out to he who had the biggest gun, the strongest punch, or the biggest gang. I was a delegate to the Libertarian National convention, and ran for Congress as a Libertarian. I am well aware of many silly laws. But there are still plenty of laws that are there to protect people. And until our value system is changed removing those laws would not protect us from authority.
Lets take the law against assault. If there are no laws and no police that means no specific entity has the right to defend you or attempt to protect you from being assaulted. So that means in this fist fight your having the person with the authority is whichever of the two of you happens to be more skilled in hand to hand combat, or maybe just bigger. And the "authority" is not removed from the situation. It is handed over to the person who beat you up. And with no law or police there is no "authority" to punish your attacker. And they will be free to head out into the world and find another victim.
So, what does this mean for the Zeitgeist movement?
Recently we have had a few interesting controversies concerning some people who have made it their hobby to find new and inventive ways to victimize people on our Ventrilo and Mumble voice chat servers, and in our IRC chat rooms. There are people who are fed up and want to see people banned for obviously destructive behavior. There are people who argue that banning people goes against the principles of our movement.
Lets clarify something. And this is very important. The Venus Project does not condone aggressive, abusive, and destructive behavior. The Venus Project's position on that is very clear. And while we feel that laws and police are not good long-term solutions, it doesn't mean that we should remove these protections until we can change the environment in such a way that eliminates this behavior at it's root cause. And as previously stated we cannot control the environment that the people who come into our chat rooms and other communication mediums live in there really is no way for us to apply our principles to solving that human behavior.
There are people who say they don't like the behavior or our mods, but they are not looking at the root causes of that behavior. And that is the behavior of the people they are banning. If people were not behaving in a destructive fashion in the first place nobody would be getting banned. If you don't like the behavior of the moderators then the way to change it would be through changing the behavior of the people who are being disruptive. You will see less and less "authority" being used when people truly are enlightened.
The answer to the question of "So when are we going to get rid of all these moderators and rules in the Zeitgeist movement?"
When the value system of all of the people who participate on our forums is such that nobody would ever think of being intentionally malicious in debate. When every member of the community takes responsibility for actively confronting that behavior when it happens and makes it clear that it will not be accepted or tolerated.
So take a moment and think about the nature of "authority" and how it develops in typical community setting. Just like at that dinner table we described earlier some one will have the authority. And when there is no rules to prevent that authority from being abused it will simply be abused. When you take the authority away from the moderators, you are just handing it to the people who are the reason the rules and moderators exist in the first place. At first you will think there is no authority and everything is working fine. But eventually the pecking order dominance will be established. And that won't be settled by rules that are set up to try and protect equality and fairness. The rules will be like they are in any primitive social circle. Complete with "popular" and "unpopular" people. People who pick on others and people who are picked on.
And in the name of protecting "free speech" for the person shouting obscene language and slinging personal attacks we will lose a dozen or so participants who might of constructively added to the conversation. Because most people will be too intimidated to take part in the conversation out of fear of being pushed around by the actual authoritarians. Or they will just get fed up and leave. Effectively the "troll" will have more power to ban and mute anyone they see fit. And they will be quick to single out anyone who stands up to them. And with no system in place to protect the masses from any backlash the "troll" would dish out nobody will stand up for anyone brave enough to stand up to them. And in the "troll" system of doing things people will actually be socially rewarded for helping the "troll" punish those who confront him. Does any of this sound familiar?
Coercion, force, fear tactics? Isn't that the authoritarians we are actually worried about?
Some of the behavior of "trolls" reminds me of the description of the mental illness known as Conduct disorder.
"Conduct disorder is a psychiatric category marked by a pattern of repetitive behavior wherein the rights of others or social norms are violated.
Symptoms include verbal and physical aggression, cruel behavior toward people and pets, destructive behavior, lying, truancy, vandalism, and stealing.
Conduct disorder is a major public health problem because youth with conduct disorder not only inflict serious physical and psychological harm on others, but they are at greatly increased risk for incarceration, injury, depression, substance abuse, and death by homicide and suicide. After the age of 18, a conduct disorder may develop into antisocial personality disorder, which is related to psychopathy.
For more information on that, follow this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conduct_disorder
I had completed this entry but I decided to add another very important insight I have had with regards to freedom movements in general. As many of you know, I was a delegate to the national convention of the Libertarian party, and ran as a candidate for Congress under that same banner. I learned a lot from the election. And the reason I had initially become attracted to the ideas of Libertarianism because of Congressman Ron Paul and his bid for the presidency. Congressman Paul had started his political career as a Republican, and then went to the Libertarian party for one run for president there. He returned to the Republican party afterward, and I often had wondered why.
My understanding of that became very clear when I attended the convention. Here was a group that was so concentrated on fighting authority that they were utterly unable to do anything meaningful to that end. They were all so paranoid about authority that they couldn't even accept leadership within their own movement for the purpose of fighting the abuses of authority. What his has lead to is that the Libertarian party though well intentioned is wrought with constant infighting as a "mob" of people all fighting for their individualism can't accomplish anything that requires more then a few like minded people to achieve.
I have seen fear of authority go so far as to blind someone to the fact that they are fighting authority up to and including the authority of anyone to stop them from hurting other people. One anarchist in particular who I remember being a leader in the Libertarian party was constantly talking about the evils of authority and authoritarianism that he would call it out anytime he saw it. But when I got to know this person I found out that he was a horribly abusive and controlling to the ladies in his life, committing acts such as stabbing his wife over the use of the computer. It was evident to me why that person hated authority. He hated the idea that anyone might stop him from doing whatever he wanted whenever he wanted to whomever he wanted. I also remember very clearly arguing with people that stated the government should not of used it's authority to end slavery, as they were violating the private property rights of slave owners. To hear that spoken out loud by a cognitive human being was another major proof to me that we must be careful in our pursuit of freedom.
We are a movement who works together towards specific goals. This means that on projects there are still going to be project mangers and people with the responsibility to organize information and ensure that meetings and conversations go smoothly. If we ever want to accomplish anything as a movement we are going to have to recognize this fact. We of course will watch our authority figures and ensure that they are not abusing their authority, but we also need to watch ourselves and make sure that our own insecurities are not clouding our minds on the issue.
My mother raised me to be a critical and analytical thinker. She taught me to question authority, she cited the example of the platoon of soldiers that were commanded to go to ground zero when we tested our first atomic bomb and what happened to them. However, she also cautioned me not to reject authority out of hand. The cause of liberty is a great one but liberty from tyranny and liberty from sanity are two very different things. And it is not sane to think that we can proceed without a lot of cooperation, organization and some authority.