Death by Abstraction – Whole Being and Personal Agency
The grocery store has replaced the garden and the farm.
The city utility has replaced the spring and the well.
The air conditioner has replaced the hearth and the well designed house.
The mortgage has replaced the self-built home.
The mobile device has replaced human connection.
The video game has replaced bodily risk and personal challenge.
The digital social network has replaced the meeting place.
The degree has replaced usefulness.
The bank has replaced self-custody.
The car has replaced human mobility.
The work needed to pay for these things has replaced our purpose.
The necessity of it all has replaced our freedom.
Each of these is an example of an abstraction. Abstraction occurs when the State or any other entity stands, as an intermediary, between a human’s need and his or her ability to self-satisfy that need through direct and prolonged interaction with the host environment, planet Earth.
I contend that any government that imposes such bodily abstractions on its citizens, by means of regulated markets or otherwise, will inevitably tend toward authoritarianism and is doomed to fail.
Whereas, those individuals who insist on meeting the broad swath of these needs for themselves, measuring carefully the links between themselves and the satisfaction of each need and keeping that number to a minimum, will tend toward human flourishing and an amoral acceptance of natural order. These individuals and the communities they create will be the most resilient on Earth.
“Virtue is free, and as a man honors or dishonors her he will have more or less of her; the responsibility is with the chooser—God is justified.” – Plato, The Republic
The Great Disneyland of the West
Whole Being and Personal Agency to directly satisfy his or her basic needs and accountably manage the course of his or her affairs.
Dissecting the Layers
By examining the illustration above we can see the many layers of intermediaries that exist between a person’s abstract bodily need and the concrete satisfaction of the need.
Institutional Layer – Within this layer we see the financial sector, oil and gas, university gatekeepers, federal and local authorities, city planners, plus water and electric utility providers. There are many, many others. These are the titans of crony capitalism and the elected weasels and technocrats of the socialist bureaucracy. Predators, rent seekers, and your run-of-the-mill, unwitting, everyday enemies of human freedom abound here.
They seek to minimize the human experience and funnel it predictably along a prescribed path, as a hunter might funnel prey toward set traps. Each trap an opportunity to exploit the life-force of their prey for their own gain.
Take a look at the institutional layer. How many traps have you personally fallen into? Which were you born into? How many of these do you justify as being necessary? While some might choose to live this prescribed life, what of those who would choose otherwise? Where in this chart of abstractions that make up our “great economic miracle” lies the path to human freedom?
Human Energy Mining Layer – Most are here. Moving from the cubicle, to the car, to the couch, to the coffin. Their life-force being spent in non-contracted service to their incumbent institutional overlords. Incidentally, the closer a person’s proximity to the power structures of these institutions, the more special they tend to feel; the allure of power being intoxicating as it is. How worthy and entitled one must feel when proximate to the printers of money and the brandishers of lawful violence?
In this layer modern man exists as a Sim, his behavior probabilistically controlled by the intermediaries in the layer above. He is funneled human prey searching for meaning and community in a prescribed life, finding it for a tithe perhaps, or from a televised political sophist whose rants are flanked on both sides by commercial advertisements, or most likely both, chewing his cud.
His friends, his neighbors, his family, and perhaps himself all work as drones for the institutional intermediaries, whether directly as employees and principles, or indirectly as units of tax and profit generation. And none of these, statistically speaking, not even the farmers, will ever enjoy the lived experience of human freedom.
Bodily Dependence Layer – Modern humans depend on a system of local utilities and commercial enterprises in order to meet their basic needs. Indeed, earning money to pay for it all keeps the population very, very busy.
Rube Goldberg himself would marvel in appreciation at the machinations with which a person must engage to acquire a carrot, a roof and some walls, a drink of water, or a cut of beef.
Abstractions and Whole Being
Citizens of modernity, exist at the mercy of layers of abstraction through their unequivocal dependence on a network of functioning intermediaries. Should those intermediaries falter, the abstraction will collapse leading to an abject humanitarian crisis of unfathomable proportions.
Let others define freedom as they like with all their nationalistic ardor. But what human is free who is incapable of satisfying his own needs and those of his family without a paid reliance on a thousand desperate strangers having little in common and less love between them?
Remember well what it is we as sovereigns and sovereign seekers are discussing here; self-determination, self-reliance, self-sovereignty, and the ability to form self-governed communities, both physical and virtual, through duly incentivized cooperation. Collectively we call these four ideals, human freedom. These are the ideals we value above all else.
Not comfort, luxury, security, convenience, tribal inclusion, or some poor attempt to identify with “the good”, but the ability to explore one’s own being-of-consciousness within and without while not differentiating between oneself and one’s environment. For every living species, these internal and external aspects represent the whole being. What was once an interconnected dependence between humans and the natural world, has become a bodily dependence on the institutions of men.
Let us give a moment of consideration to the resonant story of the Garden of Eden. If the garden represents the bounty of the natural world, then which element in the story best represents modern institutions? For which gifts from these institutions do we so eagerly abandon our faith in the bounty of our garden by birth?
Within the garden, our lives are built on rock in the literal sense; minerals and nutrients – found in the soil that supports all life – are made available through the slow degradation of subterranean rock. In the abstraction, our lives are built on the temperamental institutions of men, and in a metaphorical sense this is akin to building our lives on sand. The former brings us closer to reality, while the latter tears us from it.
In the abstraction, Truth is obscured; perceived directionally, but not fully known. Not known as it is by one with knees in the dirt, hands in the stream, lungs full of life, and a mind like a ruby with its prism of present thought.
I posit that all wisdom we know of that can be interpreted literally, ought to be. From this first principle of building our own lives upon rock rather than sand, may we experience the seismic shift of change within and without ourselves over time as we pursue human freedom. Alternatively, should we reject the notion outright, preferring the metaphorical interpretation, we can watch anxiously as our lives are washed over by a great dune of sand.
Abstractions and Personal Agency
“Behold, the body includes and is the
meaning, the main concern and
includes and is the soul” – Walt Whitman
Bodily abstractions are absolutely ruinous to personal agency. Such a life leaves a person constantly vulnerable to the circumstances and consequences that result from the proclivities of others. Others whose actions are dictated by the incentives of the socio-economic system within which they operate; and in the modern economy under U.S. dollar primacy those incentives are horrific, as we’ll discuss later.
Consider that your very ability to acquire food requires the ongoing good decision making and cooperation of those around you. As any one of them begins to behave unscrupulously by exploiting a flaw in the system, others will follow and normalize that behavior, corroding the efficacy of the system. The more corroded the system becomes, the more vulnerable to destitution you become in a very real and physical sense.
Because he cannot fend for himself, a person living in the Human Energy Mining Layer must wholly abandon any meaningful sense of self-determination and exist at the mercy of his fellows; most of whom regard him as little more than a unit of economic energy to be mined and extracted.
His utter, inescapable dependence on the abstraction is the goal of the institutional intermediaries. If they can fill his mind with notions of great self-fortune despite his depleted life-force, with abstract notions of freedom despite his unwitting subservience, and with a fear of stalking enemies both foreign and domestic despite the evidence of his experience, then his life is forfeit; he is theirs.
The Taxing Town and the Hunting Ground
Value exchange in the abstraction differs greatly from free market value exchange. In the abstraction, life-force is extracted by means of entrapment and compulsory agreement. Taxes and monetary debasement are two examples of financial compulsion. Yet, physical compulsion is also prevalent. Examples of which can be found in the built environment itself.
For instance, a city that has been designed for cars rather than people requires a person to purchase a car in order to access the services of the city. The purchase of a car requires the driver to be licensed and for the car to be registered yearly as well as insured and maintained continually. So at the outset, a citizen of such a city is expected to provide an outlay of his or her life-force in order to access basic services.
A car for a carrot is a boon for the automobile industry and tax base, but a bust for human freedom. There are many similar examples of physical and financial compulsion that demonstrate how government serves to necessitate and enforce rent seeking behavior.
The modern world is shaped by an informal, self-organizing triangular partnership between corporatists, technocrats, and bureaucrats. The corporatists and technocrats bring the bad ideas. The bureaucrats cement them. Government is generally always the arena in which flaws in the socio-economic structure are exploited and made permanent, rather than being repaired and obsoleted.
All manner of equivocation can be deployed to minimize the impact of this argument. But a system built entirely out of such compulsory trade-offs eventually erodes every aspect of human freedom to the extent that humans end up serving the system, rather than the other way around. We have been conditioned to believe that things like cars, careers, credit scores, mortgages, inflation, and recurring bills are facts of life. They are not.
Let us keep in mind that it is human freedom we value, and the footpath to human freedom is uncovered by reducing the intermediaries that impede the rightful satisfaction of one’s own human needs. The individual must choose between consciously pursuing a self-guided path out of the abstraction and back to the earth, or remaining asleep in the abstraction until it collapses under its own weight. To believe that the abstraction can grow and be sustained without collapsing… THAT IS THE AMERICAN DREAM.
Aurora, it’s time to wake up…