(from Pendleton Book Blather circa August 2014)
For a little perspective on things political (De Toqueville and some Jared Diamond), I am re-reading 'The Dispossessed', by Ursula Le Guin.
Odo, the founding intellect of the 'dispossessed' citizens of Anarres, called herself an anarchist....but her followers never denied they could get along without some kind of collective culture. In implementing her 'anarchy' the Odonians had to introduce the idea of permanent revolution, self-criticism, and a moral conscience that constantly fought against the human tendency to dominate and own.
Since Odo asserted that most of human suffering came from the greedier tendencies of humanity, and the more overt long-term manifestations of that greed such as the accumulation of power and influence, the dogmatism of religion and nationalism, the growth of status structures, the enshrinement of property; and since she, (Le Guin that is), unlike Marx, clearly realized that all these traits were the downsides of well-ingrained survival traits of homo sap...the Odonians realized that their non-very-utopian utopia would be threatened by the tendency of their own creed to become a dogma.
The constant parallels between this struggle, and the similar problems with libertarianism and socialism, cannot be denied. And science, in order to progress, seems to have the same troubles: the constant battle against the rigidity of ideas, the disruption caused by new situations, the recurring ignorance of the less empathetic members of society.
To me, building a civilization is concisely this: Educating a culture to accommodate it to the realities of the universe, against its baser instincts. Any reaction or emotion that is 'natural' should be held in vast suspicion.
'..we didn't come to Anarres for safety, but for freedom. If we must all agree, all work together, we're no better than a machine. If an individual can't work in solidarity with his fellows, it's his duty to work alone. HIs duty and his right. We have been denying people that right. We have been saying, more and more often, you must work with others, you must accept the rule of the majority. But any rule is tyranny. The duty of the individual is to accept no rule, to be the initiator of his acts, to be responsible. Only if he does so will society live, change, adapt, and survive. We are not subjects of a State founded on law, but members of a society founded upon revolution. Revolution is our obligation, our hope for evolution. "The Revolution is in the individual spirit, or it is nowhere. It is for all, or it is for nothing. If it is seen as having an end, it can never truly begin." We can't stop here. We must go on. We must take risks.'
- the 'old miner from the south'
Notice that this does NOT advocate laying around, doing nothing. There is a very strong impulse here to contribute, to improve things, to never be satisfied that you have done enough. 'Freedom' and 'Revolution' for Odonians did not consist of sitting on the front porch drinking beer, bitching about the price of gas, and shooting at the neighbors with an assault rifle.
I would assert that the ultimate goal of libertarians and socialists is the kind of freedom described above: a 'withering away of the state' when all individuals know their responsibilities and their duties, and rules are no longer necessary.
Critics of anarchism, libertarianism and socialism bitch about the problem of pure human cussedness. In response, Le Guin also asserts that there are two kinds of human ambition: the outward one (dominance over others) and the inward (self-sacrifice). Odonians tried to channel natural human aggression into the latter rather than the former. She seemed to think that, in the absence of examples of 'better people', most energetic types would dissipate their excess obnoxiousness by trying to put more English on the universe, and therby improving the lot of everyone.