Please join us in welcoming for May 2014 Author of the Month, entrepreneur, writer and researcher Gregory Sams. Gregory has been changing the culture from the age of 19, when he operated the historic natural and organic Seed Restaurant in 1960’s London. Within a few years he was running the nations first and foremost natural and organic food enterprises. In 1982 he created and christened the original VegeBurger, initiating the market for vegetarian food. In 1990 Greg moved from food to fractals, opening the world’s only shop dedicated to new science ‘chaos theory’, publishing and licensing fractal art worldwide. He then turned to writing, with his first book Uncommon Sense, published in 1998, exploring the lesson chaos theory holds for humanity. His next book, Sun of gOd, explored the profound implications of what was once common knowledge throughout the globe. In 2013 it was time to re-release an upgrade to his first book, re-titled The State is Out of Date – We Can Do It Better. Greg will be available on the AoM Message Boards during the month of May.
There is a remarkable discovery that has not yet emerged from our renewed interest in ancient civilization. Yet few comment upon this glaring omission from the relics and records we dig up and discover. I first recognized its absence at a visit to the British Museum, and made a point of going back a few years later for another check. Their Mesopotamian rooms begin at 6500 BCE, and as you wander through the exhibits and look at the artifacts and depictions of their culture there are none depicting warriors or warfare, chariots or combat, clubs or swords until around 2700 BCE. As for kings and rulers, there was a single image thought to be a king because it looks like he’s wearing a crown. And what is this king doing? He is feeding flowers to sheep.
Countless historical works chart the rise and fall of dynasties and empires across recorded history, with the British media trumpeting the discovery of a king’s skeleton in a car park. Other works explain the architecture and explore the purpose of ancient monuments. But the peacefulness of the earlier ancient world is rarely, if ever, noted and because it is unseen we make unfounded assumptions about the workings of our own world.
How many times do we hear it expressed that people have been killing each other since time immemorial? The Old Testament, and Hollywood, would have us believe as much. We see our worldwide collection of coercively run states as a necessary evil – what would we do without them…right? Who else has the power to impose peace and harmony upon the world? Without that regulation from the top down many fear there would be total chaos.
Hasn’t it always been this way? “No” is the simple answer to that. We have lived together in the past, successfully, without need of shepherds and sheepdogs directing our behavior from the top down. Civilization in ancient Mesopotamia pre-dated the first evidence of a coercive state by some four thousand years, probably much longer. Independent city states produced goods and traded with each other, built irrigation canals and temples, traded incense and salt and foods – living comfortable civilized lives. They were self-governed by free men and women who left no evidence of military culture along with all the other relics of their existence. The first record of war, perhaps lasting a single battle, was in Mesopotamia, 2700 BCE, between a few hundred soldiers of Elam and Sumer. Five hundred years later a psychopath named Sargon carved out the world’s first empire, and slowly the idea of conquest by force spread, by force.
The Indus Valley Civilization grew from small beginnings around 7000 BCE to become a large and highly organized civilization by 3000 BC, covering most of modern day Pakistan and parts of India, and Afghanistan. There were some five million inhabitants in over a thousand cities and settlements that traded extensively with each other. Cities were well planned with dockyards, granaries, places of worship, and public baths. Their architectural skills produced well-built houses with courtyards, serviced by sewerage and drainage systems that are superior to many in Pakistan and India today. It was very highly developed and stable, yet left no palaces or other evidence to indicate hierarchical command structures or militarization. The underlying cause of their decline from 1800 BCE is believed to have been climate change.
The great Tiwanaku civilization in Bolivia was in place by 300 BCE and thrived for fourteen centuries, expanding into (today’s) Peru and Chile during its last 500 years. The relics indicate that did this not involve coercion or a ruling class, with cooperation and community being key elements of the culture. An advanced self-governing culture arose, highly skilled in agriculture and architecture, expressing spirituality through joyful worship of nature spirits and the Sun Maize beer and sacred medicinal plants were part of the culture, involving festivals tens of thousands strong. People wanted to be part of the Tiwanaku culture. It came to an end because of climate change, not conquest, after decades of drought.
From the 10th century on, hundreds of Medieval European cities grew strong and vital enough to unshackle from the local nobles demanding taxes at sword point. Peasants’ communes ran these cities from the bottom up, peasants being untitled persons including bakers, architects, builders, artisans, and all those who were part of the city. Trades and professions formed guilds to safeguard their reputations and quality control. Cities built fortified walls, rebuilding them as the city expanded, in order to protect themselves from greedy nobles. Florence, heartbeat of the Renaissance, was one such city, which in 1342 had 8000 boys and girls in primary education with 600 attending its four universities; thirty hospitals provided 1000 beds. It worked.
After Sargon in 2200 BCE, the raison d’etre of every new coercive state was to protect us from a more frightening version of itself. Otherwise why on earth would anybody agree to finance a bunch of armed men with the ability to tell them what to do, or else? Fear is still the tool that secures our allegiance to those running this protection racket, with the War on Terror having filled the fear gap left by the Cold War. In the past century the cost of government has skyrocketed, largely because we, through our own undirected efforts, have created a greater wealth for the state to feed upon. When adding together all the taxes from income tax to VAT, from green taxes to airport tax, from excise duties to death duty, together with charges and fines for things once free, like parking, we find that 60% or more of all the wealth we create is consumed by the state. After the ravages of administration and wars, some of it sprinkles back, of course, in subsidies and benefits that accrue both to rich and poor. Now imagine, if we self-governed, that for every 100 units of value in free circulation today, we instead had 250. It is reasonable to suggest that poverty would decrease and charity would increase.
We are by nature community animals with empathy, intelligence and all the built-in skills needed to live together without standing armies and top-down government, let alone arsenals of nuclear weapons threatening us all with obliteration. What if living together in peace and harmony is actually a more natural state for humanity than that of conflict which we experience today? Peace and harmony cannot be drafted and enforced from above by rulers who have one basic tool in their toolbox – coercion. The threat of coercion underlies the state’s core modus operandi; “Do what we tell you or we will damage you.” This is not the way that human beings successfully develop and evolve.
All of those things that we value and rely upon in life arose from within our culture and not through any state initiative or directive. We did not need a state to invent or produce shoes or iPads, cars or canals, bread or music, trains or airplanes, movies or literature. They all arise from the network of feedback loops that connect us all when we are making choices and decisions freely and independently, responding and reacting to a joined-up world.
We can see, in the free and borderless new continent that is the Internet, methods of self-government evolving which do not involve police, fines, or prisons but which do detect and exclude rogues from the system, whether they be buyers or sellers. Sellers strive to satisfy customers and attain a five star rating; their reputation for service and honesty is precious. We witness our true human nature coming out after natural disasters, when people instinctively help each other, sharing what they’ve got. I have been to free festivals where, unconstrained by regulation, thousands will create and self-assemble a fully featured community over several days or weeks, with cafes, performance, workshops, music, and a safe environment.
Of course, this is how most of the world works, as billions of people’s feedback loops link in and out of everything else that happens, creating the weave that forms the fabric of our civilization. Out of this magic weave come synchronicity and harmony, flexibility and sustainability. When we have problems we figure them out; we don’t turn them into institutions and feed upon them, as does the state. And we evolve and develop, taking our communication from the telegraph to the smart phone, our transport from the bicycle to the jumbo jet, our lighting from candles to the laser beam and LEDs. Meanwhile, with the state managing our security what has evolved? Well, they still bust criminals, judge and sentence them, fine and/or jail them just like they used to. But little has fundamentally changed other than a growth in the number of deeds deemed criminal. The more crime, the more our security apparatus prospers. I acquired a criminal record for non-completion of a government census form.
Many view corporations as the big problem but it is through engaging the power of the state that they do their worst. There could be no nuclear power plants or arms industry or GM foods without the state. Big Pharma could not mass medicate, ban the competition and shape health policy without the state. Police and military would not be available to sweep away protesters and populations whose ancestral lands had been sold, by their state, to a mining company. Today we see some giant corporations pulling the strings of those who pass legislation but to attack the corporations is to miss the bigger picture.Natural feedback loops are better able to monitor corporations when there is no state for them to manipulate. It is illegal in many US states today to exercise your feedback muscles by showing pictures of meat production, or saying bad things about Monsanto. There would be many more “standards” organization such as Fairtrade and the Soil Association had the state not taken over responsibility for trading standards and product purity. It would he hard to do a worse job.
Today in the West, it is corporations. Religious fundamentalists, military juntas, oligarchs, psychopaths, and an assorted multitude of power freaks have run nations, conquered empires, and hacked at the feedback loops for many centuries before the likes of a Halliburton or Monsanto appeared upon the planet. Rome wasn’t run by corporations, but stole wealth from other nations and made slaves of those they conquered. Corporations don’t run Saudi Arabia, where you need a penis to drive a car; can be executed for rejecting Islam; and face prison and savage lashings if caught being gay. There are always going to be bad dudes getting their hands on the controls. I mean, you get to extract money from resources and people without even having to drill a well or hold a knife to anybody’s throat – duh!
Today, public attitudes are changing across the world as IT and social media allow more and more to see through the mask of the state. It was once just students and youth who were out in the streets making their voices heard. Today we are seeing all ages and classes out protesting at the iniquity of the state. In established democracies, growing numbers refuse to acknowledge any value in having a vote, wanting something beyond another change of faces and policies or some new way of picking who gets to interfere with the feedback loops.
The top-down state holds its power because we believe in it. Ultimately it is as simple as that. There is a Native American saying that goes "When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount." There is no point in getting another rider, changing the horse’s diet, or buying a stronger whip. The state is out of date, and just how we can do it better is a key element of my book. The first step is to diagnose the disease and stop expecting the state to ever legislate us into peace and happiness. – that is not what they feed upon. Then get my book, in print or inexpensively online.
See The State is Out of Date: We Can Do It Better, an interview with Gregory Sams