Dear reader, let’s get into something personal right off the hop.
I want to talk to you about resistance. Resistance is what people feel when they just can’t face what needs to be done. Something important is right in front of them, but it’s so hairy, so scary in its implications on their life, their cozy way of keeping on keeping on, that they can’t deal with it. They resist. The more fear, the more resistance. The more they know deep down that this needs to happen, the more they resist.
Resistance grips us when our very soul recognizes just how much is on the line.
Like now. In the world. A convergence of human-made problems that have brought us right to the brink of utter chaos. This is such a humungous, overwhelming, shit-in-the-gears existential crisis that we cannot see it for what it is. Sometimes it takes a metaphor.
My mind goes back to John Calhoun’s mouse experiments from 60 years ago. He was an animal behaviorist, and one day he built a metal pen in a neighbor’s yard in suburban Maryland, not far from the National Institute of Mental Health where he worked. He plopped four pairs of breeding mice in there.
At first they thrived. But then as their numbers grew and grew, in that finite space, they started acting strange. They turned on each other. Dominant males formed roving gangs that attacked others. Mothers abandoned their pups. The weaker mice stopped eating and died. Others turned into cannibals, feasting on the dead.
And the surviving mice were never quite right again. Something had happened to them. They weren’t really mice anymore. The ones that hadn’t died in body had died “in spirit,” Dr. Calhoun said.
It’s obvious where I’m going with this but I’ll say it anyway: We are those mice. All eight billion of us and counting, in an experimental pen called Planet Earth.
Ecosystems are crashing. Social structures are breaking down. We’ve polarized into ferociously opposing camps. Gangs roam in a growing number of failed states. A mad rush is on for what remains of the planet’s resources. And lately: brutal crazy stuff. The rise of evil monsters like Assad, Sisi and MBS. Rape and torture are now routinely used as weapons of war.
We are plummeting into a dire, might-is-right kind of future.
World War III will be nothing like World War II. It will be disintegrated, invisible, everywhere. It will start — some say it has already started — with skirmishes erupting in impoverished parts of the world. As temperatures rise and natural systems collapse, there’ll be water shortages and food riots. The number of failed state will jump from the current 20, to 30, then 40, then 50+. Refugees by the millions will first beg and then fight their way into every corner of the rich world.
And then in a geopolitical moment of truth, a conflict will escalate out of control in the South China Sea. Or Israel will suddenly take out Iran’s nuclear facilities. Or Pakistan, prevented access to the Ganges, will launch a nuclear attack on India. Then the planetary endgame will truly begin. Rage will ignite even in the most tranquil minds. All hell will break loose. Nobody will be able to control it. Hundreds of millions will perish in a global die-off, and those who remain will slip into a very long dark age.
This is not hyperbole. We’re at a planetary tipping-point. The fate of this six-million-year experiment of ours on Planet Earth is on the line, if only we had the clarity of mind to see it.
Things could go either way. Right now it’s a coin toss.
But that word “resistance” has another meaning. A more positive one. This second kind of resistance is a social movement.
We often think of it in the context of war. The “resistance” is a groundswell of folk who scheme and fight to overthrow an occupying military power – think of the French underground against the Nazis.
But this kind of resistance happens in peacetime too. Really it’s just the struggle, by a significant portion of the civil population, to oppose a state of affairs that’s become intolerable. The authority figure or system in power has shown, by its corruption or incompetence or the grievous harm it has done, that it’s lost any right to that authority.
When the resistance that topples the paradigm is nonviolent, it’s a devilish bit of judo. Everyone comes out alive, but changed.
Today we are witnessing the birth of a new kind of resistance, a movement that operates completely outside of geographic borders and political structures. A Third Force.
People are coming together online to craft new ways of influencing policy, wielding power and governing ourselves. We’re moving beyond any domestic political paradigm and starting to think and act as a global community.
We are the ass-kickers and care-givers and culture jammers. The ones who took the shit and waited on hold on our own dime. Who trekked up the mountain, ate the mushrooms, trod on the grass. Who dangled from the bridges, leafleted the neighborhoods, volleyed the tear-gas canisters back at the goons. Who bought a random kid a banana. Who cried their eyes out the night Charlie Parker died.
We are the artists, the poets, the philosophers and punks.
The homeless vets, the women who’ve been raped, the refugees floating on the ocean. The “deplorables” who come to mind when the poet says: Everyone dies, but not everyone lives.
The Third Force is the most diverse, truly democratic voice the world has ever heard – really the only one that that speaks for everyone’s interests. We play a truer music, the way a huge choir of untrained singers is, collectively, perfectly in tune. It is the music of no one in particular but the planet in general.
We are the great yawp.
We are not a political party. Nobody voted for us. We don’t identify as Left or Right.
Like any real breakthrough has to be, we are a synthesis of opposites. From now on, politics will no longer be the usual slugfest between ideological shadow-selves. A third player with a radical new agenda has joined the fray.
Politics will look like this:
Our elected governments, the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, etc. will continue to govern much as they always have. They will build the highways, collect the taxes, run the courts, deliver the mail. But now they will have to deal with this unsilenceable new voice demanding systemic transformations on multiple fronts.
When we the people feel our leaders are not paying attention, not handling things right, veering off course; when the gap between the rich and poor grows too wide; when corporations become too arrogant, Wall Street too greedy, secrecy too pervasive, surveillance too invasive and debt-collectors too fucking rude; when the norms, values and precepts that underlie our way of life are violated . . . that’s when we the people will come together as one and set things right.
Our power is in our numbers. Get enough people aligned — regular people with their sleeves rolled up and their feet swollen from standing all day — and their shouts become a kind of flocking signal. Like the spasm response of a kind of global immune system, triggered by a massive insult to the planet itself.
The Third Force is a new “evolutionary cluster,” a group that forms, when historical conditions are right, because it has to, to accelerate change and give humanity a chance. The difference this time is that the resurgents have a new tool, the first jungle telegraph that spans the whole world.
The internet has reversed a centuries-old power dynamic. Social media platforms are now a third arm of democracy, along with the law and government checks-and-balances. It’s not inconceivable that a couple of years from now, we can get millions of people to converge on hundreds of activist websites like abillionpeople.org. That’s enough to launch massive boycotts that bring wayward corporations to their knees. Enough to organize global big-bang moments when people swarm their cities demanding systemic change. We the people can now poke our noses into every policy debate, every election, every UN Security Council decision, every military conflict.
And we can penetrate deeper still, right into the beating heart of our global system, shifting paradigms, reversing money flows, triggering reformations, preventing wars.
The Third Force will burn its initials into the culture with this new tool — this holy fire you’re holding in the palm of your hand.
The Net is what we make of it. It can be a quagmire where you’re sucked in, submit to someone else’s agenda for awhile and come out feeling diminished. But we’ve also seen flashes of what the Net can do when it’s wielded as the sword of resistance. How quickly it can whip up a social transformation: The Arab Spring, #OccupyWallStreet, #MeToo, #BLM.
We’re just learning how to harness the power of the Net. Not in a surface way, reacting every few minutes to chaos, but slowly — learning to be agents now — burrowing down to first principles to prevent chaos from happening in the first place.
If we play this right, maintain clarity of mind, all the while keeping it loose, keeping it nimble, improvising riffs, being systems thinkers of the highest order, then we can become the dominant political force of the 21st century.
Dana Meadows, the environmental scientist who co-authored The Limits of Growth, urged us to think below the surface. In her iceberg model of systems thinking, the events we see unfolding, the stuff that makes the news, are only a small part of life.
One level down lie trends. Repeating patterns.
Beneath that are systems, paradigms, forms, cools.
The whole iceberg is shaped like a turnip. The deeper you get to the root, the more leverage you have. It takes pressure applied at the
bottom — the level of our most ingrained values, assumptions and beliefs — to bring about meaningful, lasting change.
We are now waking up to the fact that the world runs on a handful of well-entrenched, largely unquestioned precepts.
Most of us take it for granted that economists know what they are doing. That toxic financial instruments like derivatives and credit default swaps are business as usual. That flash trading is an efficient way to run stock exchanges. That money can move freely across borders but people can’t. That advertising is harmless. That secrecy is a normal part of democracy. That arms trading cannot be stopped. That no matter how heinous a crime a corporation commits, it’s untouchable.
But now, caught in an existential crisis with no obvious way out, we begin to question these hidden coordinates of our reality and start thinking about a new operating system for Planet Earth. We hatch a new grand narrative, a set of ideas so fundamental, so systemic, so profound that a sane sustainable future is unthinkable without them.
And then we deploy them.
We crack the global mind on seven critical fronts:
On the psychological front, we expand our concept of human rights beyond our physical bodies into the digital realm. Your data becomes part of your person. Then we launch the Mental Liberation Front (MLF) and start taking our mental space back by force — hacking into the network and monkeywrenching the algorithms that are manipulating us.
On the ecological front, we get Adam Smith’s invisible hand to work for us instead of against us. We pull off a capitalist reformation — a painful but necessary move towards a new kind global marketplace in which the price of every product tells the ecological truth.
On the corporate front, we launch the mother of all boycotts against one of the most criminal corporations in the world — ExxonMobil — and wipe it off the face of the earth. Once the mightiest has fallen, the rest will follow and a Corporate Charter Revocation Movement will be born.
On the financial front, we force our leaders to eliminate all tax havens. We march worldwide for a 1% Robin Hood Tax on all stock market and currency transactions. We push for new rules to cool down insanely feverish bot-run trading. We propose an elegant idea: that you must hold a stock for 24 hours after its purchase before selling it.
On the economic front, we set up subversive cells in the economics departments of universities around the world, and start disrupting classes, plastering posters and nailing Kick It Over manifestoes on professor’s doors. We expose the current science of economics as a hindering profession, disastrously out of tune. We pull off a revolutionary leap in economic thinking — a paradigm shift toward a new model that works in the real world.
On the political front, We make secrecy taboo in all but the most sensitive areas of national security. We clamp down on the arms trade. In nation after nation, we pass constitutional amendments requiring referendums in which no war can start without the assent of the majority of the people.
On the aesthetic front, we transform the ambient tone of the world. We step off the godless and immoral straight line we’ve been stuck on for the past century and learn how to wobble again.
With these metamemetic transformations, we nudge this experiment of ours on Planet Earth back onto a sane, sustainable path.
At this point some of you are thinking this is crazy, impossible stuff. Monumental social, political and cultural heaves like this take generations — sometimes centuries — to kick in if they ever do at all.
But, dear reader, this is the crux, the mind-twist of this vision. What we are saying is that as our ecosystems crash, as our minds become more muddled, as the center gives way and we start spiraling into a dark age, opportunities will arise.
This is the irony. Once we realize that we’re doomed if we do nothing, that’s an oddly liberating place to be. It means we have nothing to lose. And when you have nothing to lose, you have everything to win. That is when anything and everything suddenly becomes possible, when all the homilies, precepts and paradigms we’ve taken for granted for centuries begin to heave.
When corporations control the world, a charter-revocation movement restores sanity.
When the mother of all financial meltdowns hits, a fundamental rethink of capitalism begins.
When refugees start swarming around the world by the hundreds of millions, Us and Them become indistinguishable, and the fear of The Other subsides.
When anxiety, mood disorders and depression reach epidemic proportions, a Mental Liberation Front is born.
We’re in a geopolitical power-shift moment.
The hierarchical, top-down power structures that have ruled the world for thousands of years are collapsing before our eyes. The street now has unprecedented sway. We know what we want. After centuries of rule by kings, emperors, tyrants, mad men, fascists, communists, military dictatorships and mega-corporations, we the people of the world are now ready to take charge of our own destiny and start calling the shots from below.
And if the leaders, politicians, intellectuals and pundits of the old world order refuse to listen to us, then, armed with our metamemes, we rush into the streets and get the job done by the sheer power of enraged swarms of humanity howling for deliverance from a future that does not compute.
This is the Third Force!
I’m about to give you the codes.
Are you ready?