March 20, 2011


Filed under: American Revolution, Freedom, Nietzsche, Tower of Babel — Russ @ 3:22 am


Today’s this blog’s second birthday, and I’m feeling good about the new Spring. I think I’ve largely completed my work in laying out the basic ideas, as I see them, regarding where we are, how we got here, and what we’re up against. While there’s still some arranging and polishing to be done there, from here on most of what I write’s going to be about where we need to go and how to get there. I’ve laid out my basic ideas there as well. Now it’s time to organize it all and flesh it out in detail.
The road to our transformation will likely be long and hard. But we can have confidence in humanity’s eventual triumph, because:
1. This system is physically and fiscally untenable, a Tower of Babel, which is caving in upon itself and must soon topple once and for all.
2. Every tyranny, the more intense it becomes, generates an ever more intense resistance against itself. This gathering resistance, which may for a long time remain clamped under the lid of a bulging pressure cooker, or may exhibit itself in what seem as first like disconnected outbursts, accelerates the process of the tyranny’s self-destruction.
This dialectic of revolution also evinces in the growing pains of the democratic movement, as it finds its historical way. It reminds me of what Nietzsche wrote about self-overcoming.
In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, “On Self-Overcoming”, Nietzsche wrote of the inner conflicts as an individual or movement evolves from one wellspring of action to a higher one.

But that you may understand my word of good and evil, for that
purpose will I tell you my word of life, and of the nature of all
living things.
The living thing did I follow; I walked in the broadest and
narrowest paths to learn its nature.
With a hundred-faced mirror did I catch its glance when its mouth
was shut, so that its eye might speak unto me. And its eye spoke
unto me.
But wherever I found living things, there heard I also the
language of obedience. Whatever lives, obeys.
And this heard I secondly: Whatever cannot obey itself, is
commanded. Such is the nature of living things.

This transcendence often involves a rising but still subconscious force having to enlist the conscious ego as a taskmaster against the inertia of the superannuated habits and thoughts of the old force. In this case, in N’s description (“On War and Warriors”), through the device of the ego one is commanding oneself in a consciously top-down sense, rather than obeying oneself from the soil of one’s being.

Recalcitrance – that is the distinction of the slave. Let your
distinction be obedience. Let your commanding itself be obeying!
To the good warrior “thou shalt” sounds more pleasant than “I
will.” And all that is dear unto you, you shall have it commanded
unto you.

But as the new wellspring surges and the old one runs dry, the organism completes its psychic movement, and the new stage of the movement becomes the bottom-up imperative, upon which ego only floats as a passenger.
To make it more clear what he meant, I’ll give two examples from my personal life. Years ago, after years of failing to exercise, I started running again. At first it was a chore to nag myself into going out each day, especially if the weather sucked. But as I got used to it and felt stronger, and as I realized that running wasn’t a necessary chore I was doing for the sake of getting back in physical shape, but a symptom of an evolutionary spiritual change, it felt more and more natural and effortless. By now I’ve long been at the point where not only is it not a psychological chore to persuade myself to get going, but if for whatever reason I miss a run that’s what causes me to feel weird. The chore is failing to act.
To put it in Nietzschean terms, at first my ego commanded my body, now my body commands. It’s the same with writing this blog. When I finally broke my years of silence/lethargy, it was often a chore to write or even to figure out what to write. At first the ego was commanding me to write, commanding me to feel my way toward what I was really going to try to say. Now my body commands.
This is the key to everything. Keep struggling, however much psychological drag you feel, until you feel yourself driven by necessity. This is when we attain the fullest positive freedom.
It’s not just a subjective concern. Everywhere we see uncertainty and hesitation in the face of fear. But this mass feeling can be overcome only by each of us forcing ourselves to assert ourselves democratically and fight for our freedom until it becomes our massing, coursing life blood. 
Nietzsche wrote primarily about the evolution of the individual. But the description is just as true of the movements of history. The democratic movement must now overcome itself, outgrow what is superannuated. Specifically, democracy must forever renounce all compromises with elitism – political, economic, spiritual. We know now that elitism is inherently totalitarian and can never be compromised with, never appeased. This is true of centralized government power, and it’s true of corporatism. It’s the final conflict between these and democracy. One force, the human or the criminal, must win absolutely. This will decide the fate of humanity, to triumph or perish.
This means the democratic movement, still cluttered with every kind of halfway measure and regression, must achieve self-discipline. In Beyond Good and Evil (section 188) Nietzsche described how artists and thinkers face the same need to discover necessity in freedom.

In every people how much trouble poets and orators have made for themselves!—not excepting some contemporary prose writers in whose ears a relentless conscience dwells—“for the sake of some foolishness,” as utilitarian fools say, who think that makes them clever, —“out of obsequiousness to arbitrary laws,” as the anarchists say, who think that makes them “free,” even free spirited. The strange fact, however, is that everything there is or has been on earth to do with freedom, refinement, boldness, dance, and masterly certainty, whether it is in thinking itself, or in governing, or in speaking and persuading, in arts just as much as in morals, developed only thanks to the “tyranny of such arbitrary laws,” and in all seriousness, the probability is not insignificant that this is “nature” and “natural”—and not that laisser aller! Every artist knows how far from the feeling of letting himself go his “most natural” condition is, the free ordering, setting, disposing, shaping in moments of “inspiration”—and how strictly and subtly he obeys at that very moment the thousand-fold laws which make fun of all conceptual formulations precisely because of their hardness and decisiveness (even the firmest idea, by comparison, contains something fluctuating, multiple, ambiguous—).

It’s ironic that he chose that passage for one of his ignorant jabs at anarchism (a term he understood only in the dumbest MSM sense), since on the contrary this description of the body’s command of itself has always been the ideal toward which anarchism strives through all forms of direct action. We seek freedom in necessity. This is the dialectic of democratic self-organization and self-discipline.
I’ll close with one more quote (section 213) describing this freedom/necessity dialectic:

And so, for example, that genuine philosophical association of a bold, exuberant spirituality, which speeds along presto, with a dialectical strictness and necessity which takes no false steps, is unknown to most thinkers and scholars from their own experience, and hence, if someone wishes to talk about it in front of them, they find it implausible. They take the view that every necessity is a need, an awkward requirement to follow and to be compelled, and for them thinking itself is considered something slow, hesitant, almost labourious, and often enough “worth the sweat of the noble”—but under no circumstances something light, divine, closely related to dancing and high spirits! “Thinking” and “taking an issue seriously,” “considering it gravely”—among them these belong together: that’s the only way they have “experienced” thinking.—In such matters artists may have a more subtle sense of smell. They know only too well that at the very moment when they no longer create “arbitrarily” and make everything by necessity, their sense of freedom, refinement, authority, of creative setting up, disposing, and shaping is at its height—in short, that necessity and the “freedom of the will” are then one thing for them.

This is synonymous with the dialectic of direct democracy and self-discipline. Elitists have always been wrong in thinking that only superior (generally meaning, financially rich) individuals and organizations could allegedly discipline themselves this way. Soon humanity in the mass shall prove its own self-organizational skills and spirit, far beyond the dreams of any technocrat. This shall be the self-overcoming of democracy, and the redemption of humanity.
I’m going to be taking a partial Internet break for a week or so, but I’ll be around to respond to comments.


  1. Russ,

    Other than the last sentence that you’ll be taking an Internet break, I haven’t read your “Spring” post yet, but will come back and read it later. I hope you enjoy your break.

    In the meantime, last night I came across an old article that Bill McKibben wrote for Harper’s in 2005, entitled: “The Cuba diet: What will you be eating when the revolution comes?”

    You probably know all about this, but in case you never saw this particular article I thought it might be of some interest to you, and here’s an excerpt:

    “What happened was simple, if unexpected. Cuba had learned to stop exporting sugar and instead started growing its own food again, growing it on small private farms and thousands of pocket-sized urban market gardens—and, lacking chemicals and fertilizers, much of that food became de facto organic. Somehow, the combination worked. Cubans have as much food as they did before the Soviet Union collapsed. They’re still short of meat, and the milk supply remains a real problem, but their caloric intake has returned to normal—they’ve gotten that meal back.

    In so doing they have created what may be the world’s largest working model of a semi-sustainable agriculture, one that doesn’t rely nearly as heavily as the rest of the world does on oil, on chemicals, on shipping vast quantities of food back and forth.”


    Comment by Frank Lavarre — March 20, 2011 @ 7:43 am

    • PS – Just to be clear, what interests me here is what’s happening in Cuba, not so much McKibben’s observations, as he seems to take it for granted that Americans are more free than Cubans.

      But even if he draws the wrong conclusions, at least McKibben is asking some of the right questions:

      “Is it also possible, though, that there’s something inherently destructive about a globalized free-market society—that the eternal race for efficiency, when raised to a planetary scale, damages the environment, and perhaps the community, and perhaps even the taste of a carrot? Is it possible that markets, at least for food, may work better when they’re smaller and more isolated?”

      As for that terrible article at NC this morning on the stigma attached with unemployment, it looks like Americans could learn a lot to learn a lot from the system of small farms and organic gardeners in Cuba.

      Comment by Frank Lavarre — March 20, 2011 @ 8:24 am

      • Thanks, Frank. I’ve read that McKibben piece, and I agree that it’s informative but that we can skip his reformist tone.

        Here’s a far better piece on the Cuban experience.


        If we were to reorganize agriculture along similar lines, it would be, not perfect (there’s still too much statism involved), but a tremendous improvement.

        Comment by Russ — March 20, 2011 @ 11:42 am

  2. Russ,

    Enjoy your break, look forward to what actions and plans are coming.

    Watched a 1988 John Carpenter sci-fi political piece called “They Live”, and it is funny, but so applicable to this moment in time. If you have not seen it, it is a left wing director responding to Reagan era political direction, somewhat prescient.

    Comment by kcbill13 — March 20, 2011 @ 9:41 am

    • Thanks, kcbill. I’ve heard of that movie but never seen it.

      Comment by Russ — March 20, 2011 @ 11:43 am

  3. Well, happy birthday to the blog! Enjoy your break, Russ. I’ll be looking forward to the solutions you offer in your coming work.

    Comment by Johnny D. — March 20, 2011 @ 10:11 am

  4. Hi Russ! Thanks for this piece. I wish I had realized how important self-discipline and self-mastery were when I was younger, as I struggle now as an adult to keep myself focused and on track in just about everything I do. Nietzsche’s thoughts on the matter are interesting, I hadn’t realized he’d written so extensively on the topic. Anyway, it’s nice to read something on a more personal note, and encouraging to hear of the obstacles you’ve overcome.

    Comment by paper mac — March 20, 2011 @ 10:52 am

    • Thanks, paper mac. My obstacles weren’t much compared to real hardship, but I think the same principles apply, so I figured my personal example might be worthwhile to relate.

      Comment by Russ — March 20, 2011 @ 11:46 am

  5. I am reading Terry Bouton’s book titled ‘Taming Democracy…….’ and thought you may wish to check it if you haven’t already. I have learned that the history I learned as a youngster was pretty simple propaganda.

    On page 111, Chapt 5, ‘Taming Democracy. “The People,” the founders, and the Troubled Ending of the American Revolution’
    Terry Bouton says:

    ‘William Findley (an Irish emigrant who became an influential politician after serving in the Revolutionary War was concerned with the severe depression which followed the war) explained, “The government of Pennsylvania being a democracy, the bank is inconsistent with the bill of rights thereof, which says that government is not instituted for the emolument of any man, family, or set of men.” The legislature had “no right, no constitutionalpower” to grant the bank corporate status and thereby hond out “special privilege” to or hand out “privilege, profit, influence, or power” to “congregated wealth.” The Revolution, he said, was about equality and uplifting ordinary folk, not about the “principles of united avarice.”12

    12. Pennsylvania Evening Herald, Feb. 23, 1785: Feb. 10, 1786; Debates and Proceedings, 65, 123, 125, 130.

    On page 74, Bouton mentions in the context of the influence by the ultimate insider, wheeler-dealer, Robert Morris:

    ‘……Alexander Hamilton, who took the position, had learned at Morris’s feet, and financial ideas, often called “Hamiltonian,” were in many ways a repackaged version of Morris’s philosophy. In short, his ideals became the ones around which most of the nation’s founding fathers rallied during the postwar decade’


    ‘When the gospel of moneyed men went into effect, the consequences for ordinary Pennsylvanians (and Americans) were tragic. ………….’

    Your readers may wish to check this book as it appears to be well researched.

    Comment by William Wilson — March 20, 2011 @ 11:15 am

  6. Oops! should have read:

    ….hand out…


    ….hond out…

    And I should mention that Robert Morris was the owner of the Bank of North America which failed miserably as Morris pursued exploitation of the citizens of the new republic.

    Comment by William Wilson — March 20, 2011 @ 11:21 am

    • Thanks, William. That sounds like an interesting book. I’ll make a note of it.

      Regarding Pennsylvania democracy, I’ve been meaning to look up their 1776 state constitution, which I’ve heard was far more democratic than the eventual federal document.

      They also had to physically kidnap legislators and drag them to the state house to achieve a quorum to ratify the Constitution, as the more democratically minded members wanted to prevent ratification.

      Comment by Russ — March 20, 2011 @ 11:50 am

  7. Russ,

    Now I’ve read your “Spring” post and, like paper mac, I also appreciated the more personal note about overcoming obstacles. I completely agree with you (and the Nietzschean terminology) that we have to get beyond the point where the “ego commands” to the point where the body commands instead. This can be quite a struggle as it means not only overcoming years of indoctrination, one must also overcome very strong social pressures to conform.

    Thanks for the article on Cuba (although I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.)

    Enjoy your break and I’ll look to reading your posts in the future!

    Comment by Frank Lavarre — March 20, 2011 @ 2:12 pm

  8. Great post. Congratulations. I have nothing really to add – it’s been a difficult few years for me personally, but I have finally started to command myself in various realms, as you (and Nietzsche) describe so well.
    Keep up the good work. The political, economic, social, and ecological systems are all in tremendous flux. We need your hard work and inspiration to inspire us to work hard!

    Comment by Publius — March 21, 2011 @ 12:44 am

    • Thanks Publius, and my best wishes to you too.

      Comment by Russ — March 21, 2011 @ 3:49 am

  9. Hello,

    Still reading and enjoying the discovery of more and more of the history and climate of our current social organization.

    I am happy to know that you have reached a state of being attuned at a high level that grants you the energy to pursue what your goals of justice and your vision of a better social organization.

    I’m still working away on my own project and I hope that we can work together, in different areas, physically and mentally, to provide the basis of a new form of society that will be conducive with the flourishing of humanity.

    Enjoy your time off,

    Strieb Roman

    Comment by Transcent — March 21, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

    • Thanks, transcent.

      Comment by Russ — March 21, 2011 @ 7:49 pm

  10. Russ, Enjoy your respite! Please hurry back: Can’t wait to get cracking on our new constitution, and establishing our human being based government, taking over the city commons first by gardening on unused land.

    Without Love in the Dream it will never come true, tawal

    Comment by tawal — March 22, 2011 @ 3:25 am

    • Thanks, tawal.

      Comment by Russ — March 22, 2011 @ 9:00 am

  11. A word to the wise on internet protections provided by third parties, Please post wherever you can. This story is on Tor systems.


    Comment by Paul Repstock — March 23, 2011 @ 11:33 am

    • Thanks, Paul.

      Comment by Russ — March 24, 2011 @ 6:33 am

  12. Here’s something that could blow up the likes of JPM and Goldman Sachs in Europe:

    KARLSRUHE, Germany (Reuters)—Germany’s top appeals court has found Deutsche Bank liable for damages on high-risk interest rate swaps it sold, a landmark decision that could set off a wave of other claims.

    German paper company Ille Papier Service sought €540,000 ($766,000) damages, alleging it had not been adequately informed about the potential risks stemming from complex financial products sold by Deutsche Bank.

    The ruling on Tuesday [March 22] by the Bundesgerichtshof, Germany’s final appeals court, is being closely watched by a host of European cities and municipalities that are also seeking damages from a raft of banks including JP Morgan and Commerzbank over the way they marketed similar sophisticated swap deals that ultimately unraveled.

    The court held that Deutsche Bank had consciously tailored the risk profile of the product “to the detriment of the investor.”

    “This could set off a wave of other cases,” said Jochen Weck, the lawyer representing Ille said, adding that banks could face billions in damages.

    Presiding judge Ulrich Wiechers said the products sold by Deutsche Bank were extremely complex and did not amount to a mere speculative product, given the downside was unlimited. Mr. Wiechers said the risky nature of the products, known as spread ladder swaps, could result in clients being “ruined” and, given their complex nature, the onus was on the bank to explain the risks.

    “Just because I can read a poem does not mean I have understood it,” the judge said in his ruling.

    Deutsche Bank said it needed to review the judgment before being able to tell “to what extent this affects other financial transactions.”

    Comment by black swan — March 23, 2011 @ 1:56 pm

    • Thanks, black swan.

      Comment by Russ — March 24, 2011 @ 6:34 am

  13. I get a lot of my resistance to my calls for corporate boycots as in Walmart, Target, and Home depot. People will claim they cannot survive without these discount outlets.

    I maintain that this corporate machine is what underpins the very government we are fighting against. The only relevant question to ask is, “Will you starve if you don’t shop at Walmart?”, or does it just allow you to buy more ‘stuff’??

    BDS has stacked up a number of successes, which is one reason the Israeli Knesset is trying to pass a bill, known as the Boycott Law, that would effectively criminalise Israelis who join the movement, subjecting them to huge fines.


    Comment by Paul Repstock — March 26, 2011 @ 1:44 pm

    • Thanks for your efforts, Paul. Keep at it.

      Comment by Russ — March 27, 2011 @ 6:10 am

  14. Russ, you and your readers may appreciate this writer’s work… I only just came across him recently, and found out he has just passed on.



    Leaving for you to read the bits about tortilla sovereignty and Mossad agents with dynamite in the Mexican Congress…

    Comment by Lidia — March 29, 2011 @ 2:28 am

    • Thanks, Lidia. I’ve read Bageant before. I heard he’s ill.

      Comment by Russ — March 29, 2011 @ 5:11 pm

  15. Thanks for the article by Joe B, Lidia. He’s gone but not forgotten. I once sent him some pdf on local biogas digester designs sponsered by the FAO. If anyone would like them drop me a line in this thread. Cheers, tawal

    Comment by tawal — March 31, 2011 @ 5:11 pm

  16. I’m sorry to hear that Bageant died.

    I’ll be back to my own regular schedule next week.

    Comment by Russ — April 1, 2011 @ 7:13 am

  17. Russ,

    You sort of fell off the radar there, so I’m just checking in to make sure you’re OK.

    Comment by DownSouth — April 1, 2011 @ 9:07 am

    • Thanks, DS. I just needed my own version of spring break from all the internet stuff. I’ll be back to normal next week.

      I was wondering if anyone at NC missed me, or were they saying “we finally got rid of that nut clogging the threads?” 🙂

      Comment by Russ — April 1, 2011 @ 6:37 pm

      • Well, I have missed you and look forward to seeing you back.


        Comment by LeeAnne — April 2, 2011 @ 5:27 pm

      • Thanks, Lee. I’ll be back this week.

        Comment by Russ — April 4, 2011 @ 1:23 pm

  18. Russ, here’s an image I found on another blog… I hope it helps sustain your resolve!

    Time for some mental spring-cleaning and re-charging.

    Comment by Lidia — April 1, 2011 @ 9:54 am

    • Thanks, Lidia. I’m just about re-charged.

      Comment by Russ — April 1, 2011 @ 6:38 pm

  19. Lidia,

    Thanks for that Bennite link and the one to Bageant. I spent a lot of time reading his posts. The world lost an independent voice and we can’t spare any!

    Comment by janice — April 1, 2011 @ 3:14 pm

    • I hadn’t read Bageant in awhile, but I used to. I agree that he’s a loss.

      Comment by Russ — April 1, 2011 @ 6:39 pm

  20. Russ, I found another piece that may have some value to you: http://www.counterpunch.com/mokhiber04012011.html

    It discusses some of the psychological barriers to action, with a paragraph or two on each of the following:
    Learned helplessness.
    Abuse syndrome.
    Social isolation.
    Self-respect vs. self absorption.
    Comfortable/Afflicted Dichotomy.
    Depressed reaction.
    Bridging the Left/Libertarian Populist Divide.
    Individual self respect and collective self consciousness.

    Maybe there are some insights there that can be incorporated into your own projects as you develop them.

    Comment by Lidia — April 4, 2011 @ 9:42 am

    • Thanks, Lidia. I’ll check it out. And I’ll have new posts in a day or so.

      Comment by Russ — April 4, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

  21. […] rejection of them.   Thus humanity strides a tightrope between beast and self-transcendence, self-overcoming.   Again, with Nietzsche such concepts are always to be taken primarily in a spiritual sense. The […]

    Pingback by The Nietzschean Ascent to Democracy (2 of 2) « Volatility — July 7, 2011 @ 4:19 am

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