Collective Movementism: The Fallacy of the Mass “Awakening”

Note: The following is an article by TVP host, Kyle Rearden, published on his blog, The Last Bastille

“Do you think I’m a hypocrite? Well, you should; I wouldn’t disagree with you. The road to power is paved with hypocrisy, and causalities. Never regret.”

Frank Underwood (from House of Cards)

Individuality is not only argumentatively justifiable (a priori), but also empirically provable (a posteriori). Just as a “society” cannot argue with another “society,” the very existentiality of “society” itself is falsifiable. At best, “society” is nothing more than a convenient linguistic descriptor for a collective aggregate of individual units; missing the trees for the forest, as it were (to invert the original adage).

That being said, what does this imply for popular “movements?” As I’ve mentioned before, the reason sociopolitical movements rarely achieve their stated goals is, more often than not, due to the simple fact that with the greater adoption of their professed values, their principles become diluted as the sheer number of self-identified adherents grow, hence the derisive phrase, “cultural bowel movement.” What is this suggests is that all “movements” are doomed to failure because collectives do not exist.

Upon reflection, “activists” are just individuals who act in order to satisfy certain ends. Given that human action is purposeful behavior, then it is obvious to perceive that humans choose some means rather than others in accomplishing their goals. Not all individuals try to achieve the same goals, however, largely due to the exercise of free will; this inevitably results in men acting contrary to the wishes of other men, quite often at times.

Just because someone claims to be an “activist,” does not therefore mean he is automatically a genuine person who wants to change the world for the better, no matter how naïve or foolish he may very well seem; there is such as a thing as having ulterior motives – an esoteric agenda, if you will. Political science, as an intellectual discipline, is not only a study of government and its coercive power, but also of the various special interests who play games of realpolitik at the expense of individual liberty.

A rather uncomfortable question to ask would be, is there more to politics than pure spectacle? Philosophers have endlessly debated this very question for many decades (at least!), yet if it was true that the “politics of appearance” were quite Machiavellian, then why should you further presume that “activists” would be wholly untouched by this reality? If power politics (not idealism, whether good or bad) is the reality of the situation humanity finds itself in, then why would “activists,” as just one more type of political actor on the public stage, be any different?

The more I look around, the more obvious it is to me that “activists” are usually nothing more than just wannabe politicians. Both of them spew hollow rhetoric, offer false solutions, and more often than not, outright betray their own followers the very moment those poor souls become an inconvenient liability. Making this a bit more concrete, a recent event in Miami that took place between two “celebritarians” reminded me that what’s more important than the differences between two alleged sides are their similarities.

Perhaps not so surprisingly, Rayo equivocated collective-movementism with political crusading back in 1970. Later in 1973, he uniquely criticized both the advocates of limited government and no government with perpetuating the myth of a “cultural revolution” in furtherance of their respective goals. As he put it:

“Both ‘limited government libertarians’ (LG) and ‘anarcho-capitalists’ (AC) believe in deux ex machina [NOTE: “God from the machine”] which will keep their idealized open-market capitalism pure. For LG the deux ex machina is a Constitutional Government which has powerful military/police forces to discourage foreign and domestic aggressors yet which somehow abstains from harassing the peaceful. For the AC the deux ex machina consists of various protection agencies and insurance companies, which remain peacefully competitive and cooperative on the whole, rather than fighting each other, forcing people to do business with them, staking out territories, and becoming States. Both hypothetical systems are contrary to historical experience.”

Why would these different types of “activists” share quite a similarly fundamental baseline? Rayo explicates that:

“Achieving freedom and preserving freedom are really the same thing – States can be thought of as bad protection agencies (or whatever). But most LG and AC try to separate the problem of achieving utopia from that of preserving utopia once achieved. Few LG are seriously running for legislatures (other than for publicity) or testing the constitutionality of laws. Even fewer AC are attempting to organize protection agencies capable of defying existing States. Instead, to achieve their utopias, both LG and AC invoke another, higher-order deux ex machina – a ‘cultural revolution’ – a fundamental change in the world-views / ethical values / political attitudes of most people. Certainly popular attitudes can and do change, and can and do affect political systems. But LG and AC err in thinking of popular attitudes as something independent of and antecedent to a political/economic system. A person’s world-views depend in large part on the opportunities and problems he perceives for himself; so long as he feels subject to the State and powerless to change it, he will rationalize that the State is really necessary if not good, and will reject out-of-hand arguments to the contrary.”

This observation of his does seem to jive pretty accurately with my own, given that the constitutional patriots have set up nearly as many local Committees of Safety as the propertarian anarchists have established dispute resolution organizations (although to be fair, the patriots are edging out farther ahead, but not by much at all). Rayo also says that:

“Long range cultural revolution activities are not, of course, to be deprecated merely because they will not bring freedom in our lifetime…[w]hen making career decisions the individual is, of course, primarily concerned not with the benefits that a cultural revolution will bring to everyone sometime in the dim and distant future, but with the benefits he will personally gain as a result of his work…[a]re there ways to bring about a cultural revolution much more quickly than have been thought possible? Say within a decade or two?”

Unless you resuscitate Simon Jester, I’d just as soon go ahead by saying no. The following insight by Rayo was also revealing as well:

“I have come to question not only the LG and AC approaches to the problem of institutionalized coercion, but their ideal as well – open-market capitalism (which is not what is commonly called “capitalism” in that society). Even if pure open-market capitalism were achieved through some fortuitous circumstances, I believe it would be hopelessly vulnerable, both to outside enemies and inside power-seekers. U.S. economic and political history from about 1880 thru 1910 comes close to being an example of decay of capitalism by internal forces…[t]here already existing a central government for the ‘capitalists’ to manipulate and expand. But some large companies also hired private thugs to harass competitors and unions. If there hadn’t been a State, it is difficult to believe that these forces would not have evolved into States.”

Notice it’s the vulnerability he’s concerned with, not endlessly quibbling with statists as to whether the market process is at odds with the non-aggression principle (hint: argumentation ethics settles this dispute). Again, what the critical takeaway here is that the similarities between limited government and no government advocates are more important than their differences, and their chief similarity is their faith in the so-called “cultural revolution.”

Why is the “cultural revolution” significant to collective-movementism, at all? Serving as its baseline, the role of the “cultural revolution” is to inculcate a false hope that drives the motivation for sustaining collective-movementism itself. Much like perpetual warfare, the goal of collective-movementism isn’t to accomplish its stated goals by solving problems in the real world (aka, “winning battles” or “winning the war”), but rather, to perpetuate itself endlessly, if at all possible; failing that, it will then continue perpetuating itself as long as possible until inevitably the gravy train of monetary support dries up.

Controlled schizophrenia also plays a role in perpetuating collective-movementism, such as it is. Rayo observed that:

“The two most fundamental problems of any genuinely-libertarian political movement are (1) its dependency on collective incentives and (2) the dichotomy between means and ends. Strangely, a free-enterprise economist, who understands that voluntary large-scale collectivism will not work in industry, believes it can work in a revolutionary movement. And strangely a revisionist historian, acquainted with many well-intentioned ‘reform’ movements and revolutions which brought forth only more tyranny, believes that political activity can be bring liberty.”

Again, maintaining integrity is essential so that you don’t contradict yourself all the time, as many activists (and politicians alike) are wont to do. Rayo wrote:

“So any talk about continent-sized free societies, of whatever kind, brought about by whatever means, is strictly utopian. Such talk may be a pleasant diversion and may help ‘convert’ the few who have libertarian potential. But in the real world, liberty will be limited for a long time to come to self-liberated individuals and (perhaps) libertarian mini-cultures and freeports. But this is not the grounds for pessimism or defeatism. One can forget about the herd and become free, once he exorcises the collectivist spooks from his head.” [emphasis added]

Due to this is largely why there is no such thing as an individualist “movement,” an anarchist “movement,” or even a liberty “movement.” Truth is, freedom and liberty are intensely personal elements of one’s very humanity. Subjecting them to the whims of others is not approaching those who falsely imagine themselves to be our rulers from a position of strength, to say the least. As a prescription of sorts, Rayo advised that:

“Vonu, while difficult, is easier now that is has been since the neolithic period perhaps as high as one or two percent of the population, through accidents of heredity and environment, have values and abilities sufficient to achieve it. To become vonu we must disentangle ourselves from those who won’t or can’t achieve it – reject all ‘reform-society-as-a-whole’ schemes, put aside utopian dreams of world-wide free societies, and get with ourselves and each other – build our vonuums and vonuist mini-cultures.” [emphasis added]

Notice that the admonition to dispense with utopian daydreaming is rejected in practice by those individuals who promote collective-movementism of any kind, many doing so inadvertently. Hopefully, it is clear now that such is a path leading absolutely nowhere except deep into the abyss from which there is no escape.

Despite propaganda to the contrary, there is no mass or collective “awakening” of any kind occurring on the North America continent today. Bernard Alvarez, Fausto Petrone, and Arjun Walia each propagate the insidious myth that “we” are on the very edge of “waking up” from “our” collective slumber, or some hogwash to that effect. Similarly, it’s a little hard to seriously argue, “You’re hurting the movement!,” when there is no movement in existence to “hurt” in the first place.

If anyone was being really honest, the truth is that there is no unity, there is no solidarity, and there never will be; the best you can hope for are collaborative relationships with other truly like-minded individuals, and that’s about it. As I’ve mentioned before, everything I’ve done to free myself has been done either alone, or in concert with other individuals through fluid peer-to-peer relationships, which is why I’ve said that organizations don’t matter, but relationships do. My own experience within the alternative media (such as it is) has been largely filled with conflict, strife, and backstabbing over the years – cooperation has been the exception, not the norm; hence why my colleagues and associates are necessarily few yet invaluable (quality over quantity, as it were).

Collective-movementism is not a reaction to tyranny, but rather, a feature of tyranny itself. Astute rulers love how “movements” siphon off wealth and effort into the downward spiral of a time-sink that would’ve otherwise put individuals to better use. Instead, follow the dictates of your own conscience, do what you think is right on your own timetable, and take whatever comes according to your own style, not that of some self-anointed guru trying to sell you a bill of goods before he sells you out.

Click the image to find the podcast!