est: The Steersman Handbook, by L Clark Stevens

(I'm borrowing it right now)

archive.org/details/eststeersm

Guy might have been crazy, but he wasn't necessarily *wrong*

<< Electronic information can now cope with vast ranges of data in extreme detail. This flow of information "softens" apparently rigid forms into changing patterns. The overall field of observation is now the planet earth. Social processes covering the planet are no more fixed than are cloud-cover systems observed by satellites. >>

Aha! And another thing just clicked into place.

Now I understand why New Age literature is full of references to "transformation".

Stevens deliberately pitches "Transformation" here as a cybernetic alternative to the Marxist concept of "Revolution".

Oddly enough I hadn't picked up on that until now. But the Evangelical Christian anti-New Age literature certainly did (except they wrongly assumed New Agers were just Marxists and also Fascists, because to conservatives those are the same thing)

<< Transformation differs from revolution qualitatively. Transformation does not arrive at a fixed, rigid, linear entity. Transformation transforms and continues to transform. It does not stop. It is the on-going transformative process of change itself, ever changing. >>

Reads like a manifesto for a capitalist reimagining of Leftist ideas through a cybernetic-ecological framework...

...which is exactly the Silicon Valley doctrine, isn't it? Can almost hear "you weary giants of flesh and steel"

But the accumulation of wealth generated by Silicon Valley hypercapitalism is gonna stop all this transformation.

How can anything transform when the 0.00000001% are the only ones owning all the extremely literal property, ie, the houses people can't live in because they now cost a million dollars that people don't have because wages got all Uber-ized? (massively accelerated by COVID)

Something's gonna give and if not Revolution, then capital is gonna get Transformed in a way it won't like.

Lol ok Boomer. How's that Youth Revolution going fifty years later? Still absolutely separate from The Establishment?

That was a fun weekend. and then they stopped cosplaying and cut their hair and got back to work.

Some parts of it did stick. Just not the "not doing capitalism" part because they figured the USSR was scarier, and, frankly, they weren't entirely wrong on that point.

But now capitalism is getting back to USSR-scary levels again, like it was in the 1920s.

Some things, like the imminent ecological crisis about to destroy all life on Earth unless we ACT NOW, haven't changed in 50 years.

Again: maybe crazy, certainly way over-optimistic about Boomers; not necessarily wrong.

But having heard this message repeated for literally my entire life while the planet's population has doubled, I'm not sure how effective it actually is.

The 1970s: that decade when even Richard Freaking Nixon was a longhair hippie environmentalist.

It's all those darned screens what's doing it to our kids

(and to our grandparents, now)

Facebook used Algorithms against World-Wide Consensus. It's super effective!

World-Wide Fragmentation: Achievement Unlocked

<< Today, when we have extended all parts of our bodies and senses by technology, we are haunted by the need for an outer consensus of technology and experience that would raise our communal lives to the level of a world-wide consensus. When we have achieved a world-wide fragmentation, it is not unnatural to think about a world-wide integration.... Marshall McLuhan >>

In some ways this very optimistic reading of the situation in 1970 is even more true now that we have Youtube and Tiktok

and in a lot of ways it also turns out that the hairy patchwork grab-bag of uncivilization can also have downsides to it, like literal apocalyptic cults eating people's brains

also I shouldn't type in all that text so someone who's blind can read it, because text is a limited, linear mode of perception and conception, imposed by the Establishment to keep the Movement down.

<< Design-systems, controlled-environments, climate control, geodesics, bionics, recycling systems, cybernetics, synergetics; all are achievements of the electronic era and cannot be attributed to the Industrial Age when hardware ruled supreme. >>

I mean maybe, sorta, but also, no, the age of "hardware" was just as disruptive and innovative as software. Though software is *faster* at it.

Also it's sad to be reminded that "synergy" once meant something more than "increasing shareholder value".

But I love being reminded just how freaky far-out science-fictional 1970 was. Compared to, say, the 1990s, or even the 1980s.

I mean humans were landing on THE FREAKING MOON. The impossible had just become possible. Rewiring the human sensorium with electronic media, compared to that? Child's play.

But it's taken 50 years for what was imagined then - constant always-on contact in our pockets to the whole globe - to become something we just

(ping!)

deal with

(ping!)

every

(buzzz!)

day.

teh

What in heck spelling this is I don't know. I *think* by "teh" he probably means 德de as in "virtue". Even in Wade-Giles, that's "te", not "teh".

Petty, I know. But this sort of thing just annoys me. Still, this was 1970, and Americans knew less about China than they did about the Moon, because they'd at least landed people on the Moon.

On the other hand, I only know enough to be petty because of Wikipedia. Which again: electronic social transformation.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tao_Te_C

A quick status check on where we're at, 51 years later, in terms of achieving Leslie Clark Stevens' requirements for "est people":

* capable of handling technologies necessary to the whole earth: LOL NOPE ZERO COMPETENCE WE'RE ACCELERATING THIS BIG MACHINE TOTALLY BLIND DRUNK

* not specialists: um maybe? Still plagued by silos, but a LITTLE more cross-communication

* dedicated to construction not destruction: LOL NOPE NOT YET

* willing to give love and care: not significantly more, no

A glimpse into how labour unions lost the hearts and minds of the Baby Boomers, which is why 10 years after this manifesto the "Movement Generation" had become Reagan-voting capitalists, and 50 years later, Silicon Valley VCs who grew up on this kind of rhetoric could cheer Amazon and Uber and promise "disrupting" the entire world into a Gig Economy hellscape without once asking "did we become the actual baddies?"

I guess the unions did it to themselves, but, this is how the USA's Left died.

The influence of Stewart Brand and the Back-to-the-Land movement still strong in 1970. I guess everyone was expecting civilization, and especially cities, to implode overnight, which wasn't that unreasonable a thing to expect.

Growing up as a child of the 70s, I guess I'm still haunted by this; it's just been my default expectation all my life that there'll one day be The Big Crash where centralised tech just stops working.

This is why the Cloud scares me.

Oh you sweet summer child, you thought it would all be happening by 1980

Well, the mass arrests didn't really come as expected because "The Movement" just fell apart in the 1970s due to its own internal incoherencies and increasing disillusionment with the crime and drugs that came with it. Instead of intensifying as Clark expected, it faded away and they all went into business.

But the crime and drugs, then, did become the excuse for a massively expanded prison system.

So sort of one out of two for prediction, here?

1976 as year zero. Lol. Complete miss. As we all know, it was 1977 - the release of Star Wars and the TRS-80 - that shattered America and changed everything. That's why Radio Shack jetpack stormtroopers patrol the superhighways even today.

But! A lot of US conservatives sure were worried also that the election of Carter would end the world.

(It probably didn't help here that longstanding spooky Theosophical tradition held that 1975 would be some kind of massive change point)

I reckon probably if Nixon had served out his second term, he could have succeeded in uniting the hippies for a thousand years.

But he didn't, and Jimmy Carter happened instead, and the rivers of blood didn't flow. Except in Afghanistan, and nothing bad ever resulted from that.

It remains absolutely wild to me that this kind of rhetoric pivoted *immediately* into extremely corporate-friendly training seminars via Werner Erhard becoming inspired by the word "est" and making his own thing.

And in fact that it didn't even have anything to pivot *from* because Stewart Brand and Buckminster Fuller were both happily doing extremely capitalism (Fuller never saw a patent/copyright he didn't love) even while raging at "money" and "corporations".

And yet there's still something deeply inspiring about this passage, I guess probably the closest to the kernel of a manifesto - why "Electronic" Social Transformation.

OMG "Flash Mobs" in 1970!

Nothing is new in the last 50 years is it.

(looks at Apple Computer)

Empathize With and Take on the Vibrational Frequency of the Establishment: Achievement Unlocked!

New Achievement begun!

Gradually Destroy the Establishment (0/999999)

$5 trillion more in iPhone sales required before you can progress this Achievement to 1/999999

The libertarian-hippie coalition capture of California worked out great and certainly didn't just end up giving vast tax breaks to insanely wealthy computer corporations while homeless set up tent cities next to unaffordable houses. And definitely at 62 in 1974, California Governor Ronald Reagan was WAY too ancient to ever participate in US politics again so whew, dodged two bullets there.

I mean seriously, if California is America's "Left" then... uh...

... what, actually, does a "capitalist" run state look like?????

one where there are playboy pentillionaires? actual hereditary aristocrats? Every city is run by a King?

I suppose my mistake is to start by assuming that the American "Left" in 2021 even has any aspirations of defining itself in opposition to Capital rather than as Capital's HR Department.

Truly an inspiring vision, and absolutely the opposite of what happened when Stewart Brand's flavour of Movement gained control of California.

I suppose tougher environmental protection laws (started by Nixon!) did happen. But reining in corporate money power? Lol.

Would sure have been nice if it had happened, though.

Follow

I admit back in the late 1990s, early 2000s, with Open Source becoming a thing, I did feel like there was a chance for the Internet to truly decentralise and for money to not be its motivating power.

But now cryptocurrency has hijacked the brains of even the people who once were interested in decentralised systems.

There's got to be a new way forward from this whole mess somehow. But how?

· · Web · 3 · 14 · 9

@juliana

(points at the USSR, 1917-1989)

No, I... don't believe I will.

@juliana

Like that's a good half of the problem right there:

the biggest argument for the continued existence of capitalism IS communist revolutions and how they went.

@natecull I see you've never bothered to learn what communism actually is, and that I've found myself on the wrong part of the Fediverse. My apologies. Let me try again.

Restructuring society to center the needs of communities and the individuals within them rather than the empowerment of a small elite.

@juliana

That's certainly a good *ideal*.

But if you want your revolution to end up looking like something different than Actually Existing Communist Revolutions of the 20th century, you might want to start by calling it a completely different name.

Because if you call it Communism, you will be tempted to just try to repeat what Actually Existing Communists of the 20th Century thought and taught and did under that name.

And then you'd recreate the thing they made.

@juliana

But yes, if you thought you'd found yourself on "the Tankie part of the Fediverse" by following me, that is not what I am.

@juliana

So yeah.

If you want to restructure society to centre the needs of both communities and the individuals within them rather than a small elite, that's good.

However, the trick is how to get there without actually creating a small elite that uses violence to force its preferred vision to happen, and then doubles down and uses more violence when the vision fails and it receives pushback.

That's the part that Actually Existing Communists failed to get right.

@natecull I don't have the energy to have this conversation because it would require me to work against over a century and a half of capitalist propaganda and almost as long of Leninist propaganda. But I will say, tankies support the fascist empire known as the USSR; I do not.

@juliana

Well, at least you're not a Leninist. That's good.

But again: if you don't want to be taken for a Leninist, maybe don't use the word he used to describe himself.

It is a very loud word, it doesn't mean for most people what you want most people to think it means, and as long as you use that word, you will be misunderstood.

And you'll probably confuse your own thinking, because Lenin's usage will keep colouring your thoughts.

@juliana

By the way, Lenin was also not a fascist, so that's two words you're now redefining.

Using a different dictionary from everyone else makes communication exhausting, so if you want to reduce your exhaustion, try not deliberately making your liife harder.

Best.of luck.

@natecull @juliana Far as I know, Stalin was the fascist, not Lenin. Lenin was just your average crooked thug. Stalin was the one with the massive propaganda campaign, and the fearmongering about the secret enemies among us who are not true porridge loyal to the Father Figure of the country, with panoptic civilian surveillance to bully everyone into line. I could be wrong though. How do you define fascism?

@cy @juliana

I define fascism as "literally the movement called Fascism, which was a real historical movement in 20th century Italy and Germany".

Fascism was not Communism. This is an important distinction if you want to understand the actually existing world we live in because the two systems *literally fought World War 2 against each other*.

Some Fascists were ex-Marxists, however, so there are structural similarities. Fascism is MAYBE a "Spinoff of Communism that rejected much of Marx".

@natecull I agree that Russia hated the other fascists, but that historical context doesn't change the fact that their government was doing the same damn thing. Nazis called themselves socialists, while murdering socialists, and the Soviets called themselves communist, while murdering communists. I don't see any structural difference, or any reason to trust Stalin at his word that Russia was Communist, if we shouldn't trust the word of Hitler, or Mussolini.

I mean I literally don't see it. I don't think anyone ever taught me about the purported differences between Stalin's empire, and that of the Axis powers, so if you know them, I'm curious what they are.

@cy

Both Lenin/Stalin (and all the other self-declared Communists) and the Fascists were doing some similar things, yes, in terms of being authoritarian, doing mass surveillance, focusing on "enemies", having a collective group focus, with more or less focus on "race" (for Fascism) vs "class" (for Communism).

But it doesn't help to say "Communism was really Fascism" any more than (as the conservatives do) to say "Fascism was just the most extreme but inevitable form that all Socialism takes".

@natecull I think it helps, because it shows how two very different systems of governance, the Czarist Regime, and the Weimar Republic, both ended up controlled by authoritarian dickbags. Well I guess the Czars were authoritarian dickbags, but they didn't have the psychological manipulation through propaganda and fearmongering going on, far as I know.

It also robs corporate politicos of the argument that everything not-Capitalist is always awful.

@cy

I think it's fair to say that "Marx didn't envisage what the USSR ended up becoming"

but I also think it's fair to say that "Marx's ideas of what the True Communist State would be, and specifically the path to get there being based on class war, led DIRECTLY to the USSR becoming what it did, because Marx's ideas were actually wrong in some serious ways that he hadn't thought through the consequences of at all, really. And so we should be very skeptical of all writers following Marx."

@cy

I mean Marx thought Revolution would happen in Germany not Russia so he was pretty darn wrong about a whole lot of things, as far as I can tell.

So I don't get why he still has such a following.

He might have been right about capital but it's the prescription for dealing with it that I think needs to be utterly torn up and thrown away.

@cy

But I guess that's why I'm quite sad about the 1960s New Left which seems to have failed from the start by not even considering capital at all. Or maybe they were just overconfident and thought (like Clark) that they could go into businesses and not be touched by the influence of money.

It's particuarly New Left companies like Apple (post 2000) that annoy me.

At some point surely you have to ask "does us having a trillion dollars mean we're no longer actually the Revolution?"

@cy

I guess rock stars like the Beatles went through this back in the 60s even. You start out being the Counterculture, then suddenly you're swimming in piles of money, so.... what then?

And this seems to have happened to San Francisco with a vengeance now. All these cyber-hippies now are billionaires and... some of them still think of themselves as part of a Counterculture fighting a great war.

which is actually quite worrying! a cultist type mentality, but with the power to do stuff.

@natecull Yeah, that's true too. The Weimar Republic were also total dipwads, but that sort of "let's have a Communist revolution OH MY GOD EVERYTHING'S GONE HORRIBLY WRONG" thing in Russia indicates that whatever people did to try and bring about a better government in the wake of the Czars, it failed miserably and they were all executed or assassinated. So whoever wants to do it right needs some... adjustments to their strategy.

@natecull @cy Hmm, not that you're wholly off the mark there but there's a reason why "Leninism" is its own thing, Marx had some very specific (often too specific, I reckon, as you also mention in part in a later comment, but anyways) ideas about what economic progressions were necessary before a successful socialist revolution was possible, and Russia skipped *many* steps on that.

It really didn't help that the western powers sent deniable armies, and oodles of supplies for the proto-fascist counterrevolutionaries, forcing the nascent USSR to become a very militarized state and deal with being under siege right from the beginning.

I also just think any revolution runs a real big risk of being hijacked by the absolute worst opportunists in it only for the unique opportunities at seizing and wielding power. Stalinism comes in the wake of the Russian Revolution in much the same way Napoleon does after the French Revolution, and we don't take that as an undeniable indictment of democracy! There are real lessons to be learned from both failures, however, especially when generalized as a failure condition easy for almost any massive well-intentioned societal upheaval to fall into (and maybe as ways to learn how to hijack bad-intentioned versions? that seems less viable though).

@keithzg Yeah, Napoleon, or even Robospierre... people accuse Communists of secretly plotting to resurrect Stalin's reign of terror, but I don't think anyone would accuse someone championing the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (and Jefferson's Declaration of Independence) as plotting to recreate Robospierre's brief reign where he undid all the good the French Revolution accomplished, executed anyone with any good ideas, and paved the way for Napoleon to take over.

@keithzg Huh, now that I think on it there are a lot of parallels between Robospierre -> Napoleon and Lenin -> Stalin. I wonder if Lenin had Robospierre in mind when he planned his campaign of lies and betrayal.

@natecull
> how to get there without actually creating a small elite that uses violence to force its preferred vision to happen

Ahem:
"Workers, your city is for the present occupied by the Revolutionary Insurrectionary (Makhnovist) Army. This army does not serve any political party, any power, any dictatorship. On the contrary, it seeks to free the region of all political power, of all dictatorship."

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makhno

@juliana

@natecull Stay true to the idea, not any celebrities. Be welcoming to those who wish to join us without placing expectations upon them (beyond calling out toxicity). Consider who the projects you choose to tackle benefit. Explore how software freedom can benefit other movements. You have acknowledged there's no good mainstream platform to build upon, select from the bad options are make freedesktops more attractive.

Do what interests you & what you think will make a difference!

@alcinnz

All good answers!

I guess the Free Software and Open Culture movements of the 2000s did make a difference; it's just the vast roar of money sploshing into Mobile and Social Media in the 2010s kind of drowns it out.

But Wikipedia is still good. Even Youtube, despite that I hate it's controlled by one company, is better than what we used to have which was nothing

(well we had plenty of alternatives but they were ruled illegal and that was that)

@natecull They made a difference alright! They waked a lot of people up to their own artistic and engineering capabilities, gave them the tools to create outside corporations!

I enjoy the fruits of this labor every every single day! I adore this creativity, we've created some gorgeous stuff! But the shouts of the largest wallets does drown this out to the extent you have to explicitly go looking for it.

@alcinnz

Mmm. Wikipedia has helped my wife and I communicate across a language barrier. I love the Internet Archive because of the books that I can find on it which are no longer available in libraries. Wordpress still keeps blogging alive.

I have a deep dread of the concentrated reality-warping wealth of the Silicon Valley unicorns, but at least the free web is still out there and lets us make and remix things.

Without Creative Commons we would have all been far worse off now.

@natecull I like telling the story of how much higher the production quality is on the homemade ~2005-~2015 Red Panda Adventures than the professionally-assisted ~2000 pilots. Same writer/director/star Greg Taylor, much the same cast.

I like the story of how Daniel Fore wanted to contribute to Linux with his artistic talents, and attracted a snowball of talent creating a beautiful desktop environment.

@natecull not sure but you are with like minded people here so we can probably at least come up with a few ideas.

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