Hey beautiful people,
I hope everyone had a great weekend!
Stoic Breath w/ Steve Beattie. Every Monday @ 5:45 AM ET. RSVP here.
Intentionality Amidst Chaos w/ Ben Mosior. August 31st @ 6:00 PM ET. RSVP here.
Dharma Inquiry w/ Daniel Schmachtenberger. August 31st @ 7:30 PM ET. RSVP here. 75 mins.
Our “Sensemaker in Residence” series for September and October are going to be dopeeeeee …
Newly posted events:
Metamodern Masculinity w/ Arran Rogerson. September 7th @ 6:00 PM ET. RSVP here.
The Cultural Theory of Everything: Exploring 4Game Dynamics w/ Jamie Combs & Eric Brown. September 16th @ 6:00 PM ET. RSVP here.
The Fourth Political Theory w/ Alexandr Dugin. September 21st @ 12:00 PM ET. RSVP here.
The Digital Porch w/ Daniel Schmachtenberger. October 5th, 12th, 19th, and 26th. 7:30 PM ET. RSVP here.
Metamodern Deep-Dives: Art, Spirituality, Sexuality, and Faith w/ Daniel Görtz. October 5h, 12th, 19th, and 26th. 10:00 AM ET. RSVP here.
A 21st Century Vision of Wisdom w/ Gregg Henriques. October 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th. 2:00 PM ET. RSVP here.
August 30, 2020
We ended The Memetic Tribes Of Culture War 2.0 white paper with this passage:
These and other creative measures will be necessary to generate functional alternatives to the maladaptive solutions offered by memetic tribes for the six crises. If they are not taken, we expect Culture War 2.0 to slink closer and closer to kinetic warfare, whether ’60s style showdowns or more dramatic escalations. The worst angels of our nature are leering from our shoulders. It’s on all of us to refuse the easy solution of blind tribalism in favor of considered thought and embracing the unknown.
This was written two years ago in the summer of 2018 and it was informed by being a passive observer to all the culture war noise that was occurring during the build-up and aftermath of the 2016 election in America. Looking back at those times, the confrontations on the streets were cute in comparison to what is happening now.
You had trollish alt-lite figures like Milo Yiannopoulos and Lauren Southern triggering social justice warriors into saying things like Trump is “literally Hitler.” There was an edgy intensity in the air then, but with this upcoming election the energy is darker. Much darker. Cities are burning, statues are toppling, and people are being killed in the streets.
Memetic warfare has turned kinetic, and regardless of which way the elections go, it seems things will only get worse. Pick a memetic tribe that is currently active on the streets: Antifa, BLM, Proud Boys, QAnon, or militias such as Three Percenters and Oath Keepers; with these tribes there is a sense that “everything is political”: you have to choose sides.
You get the more brainy tribes on Twitter arguing over if wokeism or capitalism is more of a problem, but they are just talking past each other—with an essence of a narcissism of small differences—signalling to their own tribe for the likes. The culture war throughline is that there is no dialogue, because there is no time for dialogue, and if everything is political then being apolitical is political, and you are either a Nazi or Communist or whatever.
I have been in a state of political aporia for a while now, which is a state of unknowingness towards the is and ought of politics. It is not that I am apolitical, it is more about me not knowing what the fuck is going on. I do know there are mass psychological manipulation campaigns happening though, from all sides.
I am sovereign enough to sense and resist this political gaslighting, but it is beyond my paygrade to know what really is going on or how to effectively respond to it. I am suspicious of any one person who claims otherwise. This is the whole point of John’s dialogos project. We need to get into deep dialogue with each other to figure this out.
In a utilitarian sense, I want to address the slew of existential risks that collectively threaten our existence, the meta-crisis, and I want to address the forces that are corroding our will to address them, the meaning crisis. Most sensitive Stoic sensemakers can get behind this telos, but these are pretty abstract things, and they do not have that visceral punch-in-the-gut response that would make one want to protest in the streets.
I was reflecting about “noopolitik” the other day. Military analysts John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, who coined the term, visited The Stoa earlier in the week to discuss it. Noopolitik is about using soft power and other means to influence the spread of values in the noosphere, our collective mind. They argued that the United States is sorely behind in noopolitik operations compared to the likes of Russia and China.
Reading this I was reminded of the 2014 book Can Jokes Bring Down Governments?: Memes, Design and Politics by Metahaven, a politically left design collective. The authors of the book were excited about the potential of consciously using memes to move politics in a leftward direction, inspired by movements such as Occupy. In retrospect this book was pretty naive, because they did not predict how the same operations could be used by those who hold alternative politics, aka the Pepe-fueled “meme magick” that helped Trump win.
Everybody can use “noopolitik” against each other, in service of their own values, but the commonality here is a certainty of what their values should be, and how these values should manifest. What if we used noopolitiks in service towards something more philosophically radical, and created memes that spread political aporia far and wide.
My sense is that for people to get in a state where dialogos can become possible, we need a cognitive reset, and to get into the right relationship with aporia. You have to be cool with not knowing, before you can properly know. It is possible that The Stoa may one day engage in its own noopolitik operations, spreading unknowingness in the noosphere, with an attached invitation: come to The Stoa and let us first celebrate our unknowingness, then let us move towards knowingness together.
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