Monday, December 3, 2012

Why Luddites are pro technology

There were many good reasons for the US to adopt slavery. It was more efficient to have slaves for agricultural and domestic labor than paid employees. Though it was not very good for the slaves, rationalizations were made by the non-slaves that it was actually for the slaves' benefit as well. The whole economy of the South depended on slavery. There were those that would demand better treatment for slaves in a particular plantation. But to demand and implement the abolition of slavery occurred to only very few people. Once people get used to a system, whether it is economic, moral or technological, it is hard for them to conceive of another system. It is easier to conceive of changing bits and pieces of the old system, even if the changes do not solve any fundamental problem. It took a bloody civil war to end chattel slavery. People died rather than recognize that the whole nation made a mistake in accepting slavery. The benefits were too good (for the whites), the alternatives unknown in their effects and too scary to try.

Luddites are like modern day abolitionists. They believe (and some know from personal experience) that the industrial revolution was largely a mistake. That the benefits of mass production/efficiency are offset by the effective slavery of people working in factories, the conversion of skilled labor to purely menial labor (The so-called Luddite Fallacy says that jobs will be lost, which is not necessarily true. What is true is that the percentage of skilled work that promotes creativity and initiative decreases), the destruction of nature, the destruction of communities and the centralization of political control by economic means. There are some Luddites that focus on the negative psychological effects of some modern technologies like computers and TV (e.g. Chellis Glendinning, though she also understands the systemic nature of the problem with the industrial mode of production and consumption). Generally, Luddites are not interested in boycotting a particular company for ungainly practices (the historical equivalent being asking the master of a plantation to treat his slaves better). They are interested in providing an alternative system of production, based on small-scale craft (artisanal) and agricultural production (i.e. abolition of slavery). That this non-industrial system existed for most of humanity's history and was superseded by the industrial one does not mean that the industrial one is better. Mistakes can be made, just like with slavery. The religion of Progress gets in the way of admitting that one of its gods is a mirage. The simple minded slur "you want to go back" is often hurled at Luddites. It is partially true, in that the pre-industrial mode of production is something they aim for. But innovations are welcome, as long as craft-based technology can be used.

Does prosperity demand either slavery or industrialization? This is debatable. I think not, but I am not sure. I would be willing to be less prosperous and more connected, more creative, more free, more useful to those around me, giving freely of my gifts. I would think that if a craft and agrarian based technology was combined with political freedom and equality and with a gift economy or some approximation, that prosperity and full, MEANINGFUL employment could be shared by most.

In this essay, I'd like to dispel some myths about Luddites. Though some Luddites will disagree with me about some things, I hope the views I present are generally accurate and that I point out where differences arise among Luddites. I also want to explain myself, how I can be a scientist, an engineer and a Luddite. How I can believe that both the use and production of computers can be justified despite some serious issues, yet that most of industrial technology is more destructive than life-giving and needs to be replaced with something else, mostly craft and agrarian-based technology. I want to explain how being a Luddite is an intelligent and nuanced position vis a vis technology, that Luddites do not dislike all technology, only the kind that is more destructive to life than creative, and why most industrial technology falls under the former category.

The original Luddites were skilled weavers who were being displaced by machines. Some were farmers who were pushed off common land by the Enclosure movement. The machines also displaced the looms that the skilled weavers previously used. They could weave faster and needed workers with much less skill to operate them. They also could only be afforded by a few wealthy individuals. People who could previously make a living farming and weaving, who could have edifying, skilled work, who could take pride in their work, lost their livelihood to machines and became cogs in an inhumane system which required little creativity or initiative from them. It was not done with their consent. This is the pattern that repeated everywhere to turn craftspeople and farmers into factory hands, and eventually office workers and other modern jobs (including beggars) which are mostly an insult to human initiative, creativity, labor and connection. The domestic crafts (which were mostly not part of the money economy) somehow mostly endured this shift, though they too suffered.

The industrial revolution destroyed nature, communities, creativity, while creating efficiency. It promised a paradise of leisure and wealth, but most people work harder with less satisfaction in their work, and I think this is a direct result of the industrial paradigm. In the popular mind science is somehow linked to the industrial revolution, but the scientific revolution was fueled by a craft and agrarian-based technology (printers, lens grinders, glass workers, carpenters, gardeners, chemists and blacksmiths) For a few engineers, scientists, scholars, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs and other middle-class professionals the industrial revolution enabled creative jobs, but even for those few the cost was a loss of connection with their families, communities, nature and their humanity. Perhaps this is too extreme a rendition of history. But I have seen all three worlds (the privileged work world, the work for a paycheck and the work in a non-industrial, gift economy setting) and I think I am fit to judge. I worked for a while in the industrial global economy as a physicist, an engineer, an assistant custodian, and a molecular biologist. I also worked as a gardener, a caretaker of mentally handicapped people, a construction hand and as an alternative technology installer and inventor in gift economies in intentional communities (guess which work I like better).

There are many famous Luddites, though most people don't know it. Gandhi is famous for his non-violence and peace (whereas the original Luddites advocated smashing industrial machines), but he worked hard to promote local, craft and agrarian based technology. Unfortunately, Nehru did not carry that work forward after Gandhi's death (see J.C. Kumarappa's Why The Village Movement). Other famous Luddites are Wendell Berry, Leo Tolstoy, Ursula LeGuin, Kurt Vonnegut, Henry David Thoreau, Peter Maurin, EF Schumacher, Lanza del Vasto, Ivan Illich, and J.R. Tolkien (the LOTR is allegorical of the battle between luddites and the military-industrial-academic complex), John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Aldous Huxley, Paul Goodman, Max Weber, Rachel Carson, Lewis Mumford. Most of these also believed in economic (and some in personal, spiritual), not just technological reform. If being a Luddite is not a binary state, but an analog continuum, it would be more accurate to say that these folks are more or less Luddite on some scale.

Luddites are pro technology which is more life-giving than life-sapping. They are interested not only in how technology is used (or to use the industrial term, "consumed"), but how it is produced and what happens after it is used (end-of-life analysis). It is no coincidence that most luddites also believe in and practice non-violence. Industrial technology promotes a violent way of life. Here is how:

It enables the control of people by centralized institutions. If people can't take care of their basic needs except by participating in a centrally controlled system. whether it is market driven or not, well, they can be controlled without their explicit consent. A clever form of coersion.
It promotes an "I want it now" instant gratification mentality, a click of the mouse away. Whether it is a gratification of wanting to know, wanting to get something done, wanting sex or wanting to kill someone is irrelevant for this discussion.
It allows violence (see complaints against oil companies destroying not just the environment but communities) resulting from consumers' demand to be abstracted because it is happening somewhere else.
It creates enemies of nature and other people, because instead of trying to gently work with them when an apparent conflict comes up, we would rather annihilate them, since we have the technological power to do so. So we remove mountaintops, spray insecticides and herbicides, shoot those who make us angry (or their kids), bulldoze houses of "terrorists", napalm the "enemy", kill, flippantly diagnose as "insane" and dehumanize "criminals".

By contrast craft-based local technology is less violent:
It allows small groups to take care of their basic needs. This makes them harder to be controlled.
It develops thoughtfulness, patience, resourcefullness and more gentle attitude towards the material and social world.
It promotes relationships with one's neighbors and makes consumerism less palatable (because of the feedback between production and consumption)
It promotes peace because one is involved in being useful and productive to one's community instead of  just dealing with the abstraction of money. Also because there is less material power. The power of craft tools and machines are on a human scale, not a super human scale.

Unfortunately there is also a violent strategy brand of Luddites, such as the unabomber and the original weavers. I would like to say they are just angry and not thoughtful, but that does not seem to be true.

Human and animal-powered tools which enable us to produce our own food, science, shelter, music, art, dance, games, and tools for these, that enable us to have face-to-face relationships with our neighbors and nature, that create balance and beauty in nature, that can be recycled are life-giving. Machines that enable us mostly to make money, that we can't manufacture or maintain ourselves (hence make us easier to control by the owners of said machines), that force us to buy our basic necessities from far away and be dependent on other machines and impersonal markets, that force us to be complicit in the destruction of nature and war, terrible working conditions and inhumane treatment of other people far away are life-sapping. If a community can extract and produce its own petroleum with local materials, with little environmental destruction, and use it for life-giving purposes, then most Luddites would probably support that technology. Life-giving attributes of a technology include edifying the human who produces it and the human who uses it, encouragement of his initiative and creativity, enhancement of the natural systems around that human.

But there is a bigger issue and a bigger system to consider than an individual technology. Luddites believe that the industrial revolution was largely a mistake(despite the bigger efficiency), that the whole industrial system is in the balance life-sapping and needs to be replaced by a more life-giving system such as a craft and agrarian local system. They are distinguished from economic reformists (e.g. Charles Eisenstein) in that they believe that though the economic system may or may not need to be replaced, the technological system underlies the economic one and needs to be replaced in order for any economic reform to be effective.

One would think that a technology can be both life-giving and life-destroying and then a calculation of the net must be done. But this is not something that can be computed in isolation from the rest of the system, since every technology interacts with the whole system.  Since technology, like economy and ecology is an ecosystem/network, changing just one part  usually does not improve things. Though Luddites may engage in a tradeoff analysis for individual technologies, for most Luddites, it is useless to (except strategically) focus on the pros and cons of any one industrial technology like TV, cell phones or computers, since according to Luddites, the whole industrial paradigm is basically sick and must change.

As far as particular technologies, the pros and cons can be debated with regards to strategy--does the use of a particular technology promote the Luddite goal better than another technology?

Putting aside strategy for the moment, and with the caveat that it is difficult to measure net life-giving or life-sapping of any particular technology given the systemic nature of technology, I still like to consider the question of whether any particular currently industrial technology is worth keeping if there were a functional craft-based technology ecosystem. It may be that a particular technology has many life-giving aspects in its use, though the net may be debated. A fundamentalist Luddite may still consider that technology as ultimately to be disposed of, but some Luddites might think that even if that technology can't be produced through local, craft-based means, that it should continue to be produced by a limited industrial system. I think that about computers--though their production is environmentally destructive, and a lot of people use them as escapism and they can create alienation and ADD, their existence can be justified by the information exchange, and the powerful computation they enable. I wonder if there could be an industrial system for just a few things like computers, with most other things being manufactured by crafts and agriculture. Computers definitely enhance some forms of connection. They allow for the exchange of ideas among people far away from each other. The connection may not be as satisfying as a face to face connection, but it can be useful and life-enhancing. Computers can also do computations that would be tedious and too slow for humans--I use Mathematica to do General Relativity computations in a few seconds that might take me weeks to do otherwise.

Besides assessing the pros and cons of individual technologies, we can compare the production of goods as livelihoods for different technologies. A cooper or a blacksmith can usually not make a living in an industrial technology ecosystem (blacksmiths can make knick-knacks for a few wealthy people and thus survive, not very satisfying), so it would not be fair to compare coopering with, say, computer programming within the industrial system. A cooper surrounded by hundreds of different craftspeople and farmers who are all producing for each other can rightfully compare with working as a computer programmer or whatever else in an industrial technology system.

Luddites can be knowledgeable not only of pre-industrial technology, but modern high-tech (I went to MIT and got a degree in EE and one in Physics, then a PhD at BU in Physics, then worked as a process simulation engineer at Motorola). Understanding both modes of production gives one more authority to choose between the two. Ironically, some Luddites are motivated by similar sentiments of abundance and altruism that some of the engineers (and the few entrepreneurs who weren't motivated by greed) of the industrial revolution were motivated by. We want the earth and the human spirit to flourish. We want material, cultural and spiritual abundance, connection, scientific exploration, edifying work as a manifestation of love and our unique gifts, art, music and dance. Based on history, a calling (from the future?) and our own limited experiments, we think these could be better encouraged through a craft-and agrarian mode of production. Our recent ancestors saw only the benefits of industrialization and were bamboozled by efficiency and convenience.

We are just beginning, as a culture, to see not only the benefits (convenience and efficiency) of industrial production, but also the costs. The logic of machine/industrial/capitalist production is the logic of efficiency and convenience. This is the logic not only of monocultures in agriculture, but also of standardization and robotization in industry. It is the logic of turning life into death. It is not true that industrialization kills diversity. It only kills diversity in local production, but on a global scale, and with the help of petroleum, a diversity of goods becomes available to the local and global consumer. Pre-industrial production was more diverse than industrial production (think not only agriculture, but the hundreds of crafts that existed in thriving villages), but with less trade, consumption was in some ways less diverse. Since we are a part of nature, the law of nature which says that a locally diverse production is more resilient than a local monoculture production (even if globally there is a diversity of monocultures), applies to us as well.

Just for fun, I am starting a list of "backwards" industrial technologies vs "progressive" Luddite alternatives (I am using these words facetiously, in a mock anti-religion-of-Progress. In reality I think that Luddism is more adaptive to the present time than industrialism, not more progressive). Remember that no one Luddite technology can be switched to to make things better. All these,  a large enough subset have to work synergistically to make things better.
Inustrial                                           Luddite

lawn mowers                                   scythes
Facebook                                         face to face gatherings
power looms                                    hand looms
combines                                          threshers, winnowers, dehullers
cnc lathes                                         foot or hand powered lathes
computer                                          brain plus pen/paper
petroleum/electric power                  human (sometimes pedal) or animal power
car                                                    bicycle or horse (with carriage if needed)
oil furnace                                        wood stove
refridgerator                                     ice house or rootcellar or stream
machine shop                                   blacksmith shop
shoe factory                                      shoe maker shop
hostpital with megamachines            clinics of various alternative medicine modalities
monoculture+pesticides                    polyculture+predators of pests
chemical agriculture                          soil health agriculture
factory animal processing                 free range animals
multimillion dollar                     barn dance, porch jam, sing-alongs,
film, video games                              storytelling, live games

Besides the Possibility Alliance, which is a real present day example of a Luddite community, there have been depictions of such communities in fiction. My favorite is the scholarly, monastic (understanding the value of cultural isolation) "Maths", in Neil Stephenson's Anathem. It shows how people can continue to do science, math and other scholarly pursuits, while being judicious about which technologies are worth having.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Disadvantages of grass roots approaches to cultural speciation

Grass roots initiatives are naturally appealing to anarchists and all lovers of freedom. They are great for getting things done that people mostly already know how to do. But if a project requires a high level of expertise, and a complicated level of coordination of many people, another approach is needed. A combination of a hierarchical system and a grass roots system may be more appropriate. Information can flow in both directions: from one (or few) top coordinating person(s) to many experts and from the experts back up to the coordinator(s).

A grass roots approach to culture change is somewhat like a "random walk" or diffusion in physical systems, or random mutations in biological systems. It takes longer to find the mountain pass with a random walk than if one is able to see the fitness landscape and the direction of the pass and head that way. This is a kind of conscious speciation, where a master meme (the direction of the pass) is identified and then selected for consciously, not by natural selection (which would select against it before it made it through the pass). Natural selection/genetic algorithm/random walk/diffusion would eventually work, but it might take too long, unless the fitness landscape changes significantly so that the  fitness or entropic barrier becomes small.

To bring it back to concrete reality: The culture of empire is not going to change by grass root approaches unless something drastic happens (economic, political or ecological collapse, or a slow decline of industrial civilization due to peak oil or such). If industrial technology and capitalism are master memes, then changing them in a small, coordinated group with the help of expert craftspeople and farmers is a more pragmatic and quicker  approach then letting a craft/agrarian based technology evolve by a grass roots approach (what the Possibility Alliance is doing). Hence the Luddite Manhattan Project. Imagine trying to build the atom bomb with a grass roots approach--it won't work. A craft/agrarian-based technology and a gift economy are even more complicated tasks (more memes are involved that need to be coordinated in a network). That kind of technology evolved from earlier technologies over many generations because there was a path almost always going downhill, but the path to it from where we are now has a large fitness barrier. No single farmer or craftsperson can get there.

The problem right now is to convey the meme of creating a local technology ecosystem. It is too much for most people to understand this--crafts are for art and luxuries and technology is magic and not to be tampered with in any drastic way in most people's minds. Rather than understanding it, it might be possible to pay some expert craftpeople (not tradespeople, like plumbers, electricians, builders, etc. since these are too tied to the current industrial production) and farmers to just figure out what they need in order to produce what someone else needs and enlist the help of a computer program to do the necessary computations and display the missing links. Some pre-industrial crafts do not have any more living practitioners (e.g. coopering in certain places). Most people have no knowledge of these crafts. The few pre-industrial craftspeople that exist can't make a living because they don't have a supporting infrastructure (other craftspeople and farmers), except making foo-foo artsy stuff for wealthy people. Also, they are using much industrial infrastructure in their craft because it is more readily available. To create a local technology infrastructure is a challenging networking problem.

There are those, like Charles Eisenstein, who think that the whole technological question can be bypassed with economics. But technology underlies economics. A global, centralized technology that devalues human craftsmanship, nature, relationships and creative work will create a global economy with the same values, even if the values that people want are different. We can give lip service to a gift economy, but our technology does not support it. In the production (less so in the consumption) of the goods we need to live, we produce slavery, war, toxic waste, alienation, a gross misuse of human creativity, destruction of nature.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Communal Tragedies

We've all heard of the Tragedy of the Commons, where people don't take good care of common resources because they assume the responsibility for a shared resource is not also fully theirs (or because they don't have good systems for sharing responsibility, or because they only want the benefits and not the responsibility). But there are three other tragedies that are not as well known when people seek to live in intimate community.

The first is what I'll call the Tragedy of Artistic Freedom. People have different ways of expressing their creativity. The problem occurs when people assume that their way is "what needs to be done" and expect other people to have the same ideas about what they want to do. If I have a certain amount of time in which to express my creativity, then the work will expand to fill that time. I will do certain things that I may consider necessary, that someone else might think are silly, inefficient or arbitrary. If someone else is under my authority and they need to express themselves differently, then they will feel burdened and unfree. I have harnessed them to my plow instead of setting them free. I may think they are lazy, or unreliable.

The solution is to free people to contribute in ways that are most meaningful to them, while having a minimum of agreed upon tasks that everyone wants to happen. But when you do those tasks, I have to let you do them how you best see fit, not how I would like them to be done. Hopefully I can tell you how I think they should be done and have you be receptive to that, but I have to let go of my wanting to control you.

The second tragedy that makes people not want to live in community can be called the Tragedy of Unrealized Communion. Humans have a need to transcend their ego and merge into a higher collective, whether it be nature, a spiritual world of ideas, a mystical union with a beloved, union with other musicians, singers, game players, dancers, or simply people sharing a nurturing activity. Some come into a community looking for this experience only to find that the fear of others prevalent in the mainstream culture is also there in the community, and instead of mystical union there are monotonous meetings, drudgery and power-politics.

The solution is to give high priority to creating ego-transcending, communion-producing activities. In the US, the supposed land of individual freedom, most people only want to be around each other to have sex and/or when they are drunk. Communities where people enjoy each other have lots of activities, such as dancing, singing, playing music (not for show, but for communion), friendly, spirited discussion, study groups, workshops, and common work where banter and laughter abound. I suppose protest fills this role for communion for some.

The third tragedy may be called the Tradgeoff (attempted pun) Between Communion and Freedom. Groups have to figure out ways of ensuring smooth communication and operation, what sociologists call normative behaviour enforcement.  This can be done through carrots or sticks externally, and more effectively through internalizing beliefs and norms. I don't know if this Tradeoff is a law of sociology. I seem to remember that Ben Zablocki in The Joyful Community thought it was. A corollary might be that the free spirits leave after a while, and the control freaks stay in a community that lasts. I would like to believe that it is possible to have communion while respecting other people's needs, especially the need for autonomy/freedom, aloneness and communion with God, nature or other people. What would make this possible seems to have been articulated and lived by Jesus long ago and maybe others. It is not something that one could believe, but something that must come from each person's soul, in a holistic way. It is something that is rare, but I have seen glimpses of it in at least two intentional communities.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Luddite Manhattan Project, first stage

Here is an appeal to a programmer at Dancing Rabbit ecovillage regarding an initial step in the implementation of this bigger project full proposal. There are 3 motivations for this project:
1. A better relationship between people and their natural environment (ecology)
2. A better relationship between people (community/sociology)
3. A better relationship between people and their gifts (economics).

The basic ideas go back to Gandhi and  Peter Maurin, but here I propose to tackle the technological part of the problem, which I believe will enable the ecological, sociological and economic goals above, perhaps with some other ingredients which are not part of the project. The project has a Luddite bias towards technology, or in other words it assumes that industrial technology is not serving the goals above and that other ways of producing goods and services that have worked in the past might work again, perhaps with appropriate modifications.The project is for using whatever technological means, including the fruits of industrial production to figure out better ways.

What I have in mind is a sort of “SimVillage” that might eventually
evolve into a network of villages. It is a game, but also a serious
attempt to figure out how to do things sanely and sustainably “in
silico” and hopefully followed by real life attempts. The way DR is
doing it is one possibility on the road to sanity and sustainability.
It may take a long time (and we may not have a long time), and this
project might be a way to speed it up, to do some of the evolutionary
process in silico instead of in real life. Another difference I
envision between this simulation and DR is that there will be a
constraint of locality: until the village is sustainable, no exchange
is allowed with the rest of the economic world,(though there are
initial tools and materials allowed). The reason for this is
threefold: first, once you allow commerce with the global economy, you
have to simulate the global economy (if you want to ensure
sustainability), which is too hard. Second, it makes it honest, as
there is no way to hide unsustainable practices in externalities.
Third, there are evolutionary reasons to believe that new
species/cultures such as homo sustainabilis need some degree of
reproductive (or memetic in case of cultures) isolation in order not
to be swamped by genes or memes from the mainstream species or culture
from which they arise: memetic boundaries. I supposed it is possible that only very large
villages are sustainable, like the whole earth. But this would be an
output, not an assumption.

Here are some more details: There will be different possible
locations, each with their natural resources. Junkyards are allowed to
be part of a village. There will be players comprising the village, or
just one master player who can choose how to populate the village with
different characters/producer-consumers and make other decisions.
There will be three areas that are kept track of as far as needs that
have to be satisfied to win the game (there are global needs-that are
not specific to any one individual, and local needs-that are specific
to individuals):

1. Ecological--Is the soil replenished of nutrients, is the land, air
and water kept clean, is diversity maintained? How much soil is being
used?

2. Technological--All materials, energy and tools have to be
maintained and manufactured on-site (with the initial conditions
exception mentioned above). A network of local needs, both satisfied
and not yet satisfied are constructed by the players. For example the
blacksmith needs iron or steel (and coal and other materials) to
satisfy the tool needs of the farmers and other players. The cooks
need cooking tools and stoves, etc. Each player satisfies some local
and/or global needs, has some local and is part of global needs.

3. Physical Human--Nutritional needs (calories, vitamins, minerals,
protein), shelter, clothes, clean water, sanitation/”waste” recycling,
short-distance transportation, medicine. These can be assumed to be
global needs at first, for simplicity. Each time a new player joins,
the program has to increase the global needs. How many people are
needed?

Two more areas could be added in an advanced version:

4. Psychological Human--a diversity of cultural activities such as
song, dance, music, learning, communion with other beings contribute
to global psychological health. Stability and opportunity for change
can be quantified. Meaningful work can be quantified.

5. Economic--how are goods and services flowing. There could be
several standard scenarios such as a gift economy, free trade, or
socialism. But other scenarios could be devised by the players
themselves. Each player could choose how much he wants to work and how
he wants to exchange goods and services with the rest of the players.
There aren’t any economic needs (unless the need to trade is a real
need, which could be simulated), but the way the economy works
interacts with all the other areas.

These 5 areas interact, as already mentioned above. As in some
technology contributes more to mental health than other technology
(e.g. a complex craft is better than being a cog in a factory).  Using
coal to produce electricity pollutes more than using sunlight
(assuming either the solar panels and infrastructure can be maintained
indefinitely or produced on-site with little pollution).

So the outputs would be:

1. A network diagram showing the flow of goods and services

2. The number of people needed

3. The land area needed.

4. The initial inputs needed to win.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sado-Masochism, Addiction and Empire (draft)


JMG has done a superb analysis of the structure of empires and in particular the US empire: 
http://www.thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/. But his analysis neglects the psychological dimension, and the effect of the psychology of empire on people in the inner sanctum of the empire. This is an attempt to fill that gap.

I will keep updating this entry, not waiting to publish it.
"The various aspects of masochistic personality structures provide a useful model for examining familiar elements of ordinary religious life. Overall theories of masochism can be divided into six general categories which trace masochism to 1) a distortion of love, 2) a need for punishment, 3) a payment for future rewards, 4) a strategy of the weak or powerless, 5) a flight from selfhood, or 6) an effort to be an object for others. In each case, religious analogies can be found exhibiting the same dynamics. Thus, certain religious phenomena may provide cultural or collective responses to the psychological needs at the root of masochism." from Stuart L. Charme, Religion and the Theory of Masochism.
In number three, we may substitute the word “sacrifice”, though as will become clear below, there is more to sacrifice than a payment for future rewards.
In number six above, we might add that to be an object involves giving up one’s freedom and will.
The missing link of Charme's analysis is the connection between religion and empire. He sees a connection between masochism and religion, and between masochism and early childhood psychology. But he missed the connection between masochism and the almost universal sociological phenomenon of empire.
Before we delve into the connection between sado-masochism and empire, let us consider the question of human needs, free will and the nature of evil. One theory of human needs is that they are all benign and that evil is a pseudo-phenomenon. This is more or less the position of humanistic psychology and many pop-psychologies which sprang from it (e.g. Re-evaluation psychology, and Non-Violent Communication). The purpose of human life is to satisfy the benign needs. Evil arises from misguided strategies for satisfying benign needs. Free will allows us only to choose which strategy to employ in order to satisfy our benign needs.
Another theory is that there are both benign and malevolent needs, but that we need not strive to satisfy them because if we believe in God, he will provide for whatever we need. He is omniscient and all-powerful and can predict the future. This is the position of mainstream Christianity.  The purpose of human life is to OBEY God. Buddhism has a twist on this, saying that the source of suffering is the striving to satisfy needs (malevolent or benign), the past determines the present through the law of Karma, and salvation comes from a radical acceptance of what is.  The purpose of human life is to give up all desires.
Neither of these theories admits free will for humans. Either God decides what happens (and any apparent decision of ours is a pseudo-phenomenon because it can be predicted by God), or it is all determined by Karma. In Christianity evil is seen as both internal (as in original sin) and external, as in the devil and Empire. In Buddhism it is all internal.
A third worldview is that there are both benign and malevolent needs and it is up to us to satisfy the benign needs (and help others satisfy theirs), but that we must confront, integrate and transform the malevolent ones so that we could live in a society where everyone can be happy and also so that we can become better people.  Rather than solely satisfying needs, this worldview seeks to assist and create balance. This is the position of Jungian psychology, and some versions of Christianity. Free will is not in this worldview just choosing between two possibilities (good and evil, God and Lucifer, etc), but developing one’s inner nature, and from that spring creating balance. Balance is not always orderly or harmonious.
Freedom and free will are difficult for our species. We have replaced the obedience to instinct and the necessities imposed by nature (find food, warmth and mate or die out) by obedience to the hierarchical, sado-masochistic social order of empire. In empires, to do what one is expected, to obey, to command, are regarded as virtues. Curiosity, collaborative decision making, spontaneity and deep joy are regarded suspiciously and termed rebellion. And so it is no surprise that most people are afraid of freedom and choose to be enslaved, and to enslave others.
In both Buddhism and Jungian psychology, what makes a need objectively malevolent is not absolute but relative; malevolence is an imbalance in either a social system or an individual consciousness. Too much selfishness is malevolent. Too much altruism is not good either.  A balance between the two is optimal. Integrating and transforming is balancing. Similar things hold for ecology.
The crucifixion:sadism, masochism and altruism
From the point of view of the first theory, the crucifixion is about satisfying the need to serve life, willing to trade off the need for comfort and pleasure. This is a form of masochism because it involves a flight from selfhood, but emanating from a benevolent need.
From the point of view of the second theory, the crucifixion is also a form of masochism: suffering to annihilate oneself. Because God is omniscient, he predicted it and hence Jesus had no free will (while he was human). It is a giving up of Jesus’ free will, as Jesus himself is purported to have said. The crucifixion is also in this view a need for punishment. In addition, if he knew that he would be resurrected, then it can't be a sacrifice that he made, but one that was done to him, again objectifying him.  The cross is a form of torture and sadism. Empires institutionalize torture and sadism.  We should not be surprised at its current manifestations in the US and the US representatives in the military. If Jesus came to the US, many would want to torture him again. Empires have a way of disempowering  and objectifying their subjects, especially those who resist and speak truth to power. Direct resistance is futile, but masochism as a strategy is effective in some cases.
There was a sacrifice from the point of view of the second theory, in the sense that Jesus suffered so that others won't have to as much. That kind of sacrifice is not masochism (payment for future reward, but not for oneself; close, but not really fitting Charme’s definition above), but altruism. However, it doesn't really work until others do what he did, which is to confront and integrate evil within oneself before confronting it in Empire. Humans will continue to suffer and inflict suffering no matter how much they believe in him, because the dark side can't just go away. We seem to need to humiliate, hurt and control each other. This explains the crusades, inquisitions, pogroms, wars, child molestation in the church, wife abuse, genocide of native peoples, slavery, disdain for the body and for nature, and small everyday acts of dominance, submission, sadism and masochism prevalent in the Church and Christian nations (the Buddhists, somehow have avoided this, probably by confronting, integrating and transforming internal evil). Masochists become sadists, victims become abusers, as is well known from the abuse (sexual and otherwise) data. The masochist loves their sadist, the abused wife or child loves their abuser husband or parent, not only because these fulfill the need for punishment and ego transcendence, but because often they are in a powerless position and their survival depends on the husband or parent. The idea of integrating and transforming the evil within is originally a pagan one. Unfortunately, mainstream Christianity adopted another pagan idea (thanks to the Greek writer of the fourth gospel), that of sacrificing an animal or human or god to atone for sin and get right with the gods. Wearing an instrument of torture around one's neck is a graphic illustration of mainstream Christian sado-masochism.Why not wear a symbol of transcendence, as in Christ floating above the cross, or something which doesn't involve the cross at all, like a dove, or an infinity sign?


The psychology of survival in oppressive situations
Inside of an empire, there is no way to opt out, or rather no easy, obvious way. One must participate and hence be complicit in exploiting people, destroying nature and waging war.The soul deadens in a typical mainstream urban life, with work that is not clearly useful to one's community or even to some abstract community on the other side of the globe. With recreation that is more aptly called distraction and addiction (more on that below). Whereas on the periphery (and in the past even in the interior) empire wields power through the threat or use of military might, on the interior it wields its power psychologically through power-over type interactions, and economically, through "participate in the economy or die".

Power-over psychology is everywhere where people have to work closely together. Most interactions where people work closely together are dominant-submissive. Power-over and under poisons human interactions that could be a paradise (Jesus was trying to model a different way of interacting).

Economic power is both concentrated in the hands of a few, and distributed in the hands of many. Everybody participates in the game of controlling resources in order to control people, not just the elite.  A psychological coping mechanism (#3 in Charme’s analysis) arises of accepting suffering for a future reward in heaven (e.g. mainstream Christianity), or post-enlightment (e.g. Buddhism).

Ways to escape and their pitfalls
The people who have historically started rural utopian communities (such as the Essenes and early Christians) have not done so out of escapism. They have done it in order to create an alternative to empire, not just theorize or write about it. They have done it out of a genuine love for life, wanting to show by example how good life can be and make that alternative possible for all, not just for themselves. They have done it as an alternative to either totalitarian utopianism (which tries change on a grand scale, and sadistically imposes it on others), fatalistic resignation to the status quo (which is a form of masochism), or reformism (which tries small changes that are usually insufficient to get out of the meme network of empire, as reformists well know). The basic theory of small utopian communities is that they could be seeds (that could propagate) of another culture. Instead of trying to stop a massive train, one plants seeds and offers them to the conductors (which unlike in a train, is everybody participating in the culture). Part of the reason the seeds didn't propagate is that they never matured into a good culture. And the reasons for that are either insufficient cultural isolation or because of a few master memes that are hard to change, as discussed previously in this blog. Those of pride and selfishness that are often blamed on human nature, but that find encouragement in empires, with the most prideful and selfish rising to positions of power. And the seeking of power over other people is a major meme, one of the founding memes of empire. It has a concomitant meme, that of wanting (not just having) to submit to the power of other people, or other beings. Are these basic human needs? I ascribe to the third theory mentioned earlier, so I think they are, but they are also sometimes substitutes for other needs.

Real Human Needs and Addictions
What happens when a need is not able to be fulfilled? People either  become neurotic or they try to fulfill it with substitutes. This is a big part of what an addiction is: trying to fulfill a real need with a substitute that doesn't really fulfill the need, but can work temporarily, perhaps with less and less efficacy (tolerance building). Real needs and their external satisfaction do not exhibit the  phenomenon of building a
tolerance and needing a more or bigger fix: food, water, warmth,
stability, security, good work, sex, deep emotional bonding, a
coherent worldview, a sense of belonging and usefulness, nest
building, ego transcendence, ability to take care of oneself and
family in adulthood, etc. The needs to dominate, hurt, submit and be hurt, do they exhibit tolerance building? I think they do when they are substitutes for other needs, but sometimes they are not. They can be satisfied, for a while, just like real benevolent needs. Perhaps one way to confront ,integrate and transform them is within a consensual sexual relationship. Another is to channel the energy into constructive, creative projects. And a third is to infuse them with compassion.
Real needs are renewable, one doesn't get tired
of them, their satisfaction does not decrease in efficacy over time.
Note that some of them can be substituted for others and then they
become addictions. For example the need to belong can be partially
substituted with eating. Or the need for emotional bonding can be
substituted with sex. The need for sex can be substituted with domination or submission. Other examples:
1. Relationships with pets instead of humans or wild nature
2. Power over (people and pets) instead of power with, self-mastery and self determination.
3. Mood altering (anti-depression and anti-anxiety) drugs/alcohol or expensive therapists instead of self-mastery, understanding, communion, right livelihood, and ego-transcendence.
4. Sado-masochism instead of intimate, honest, divine and primal relationships.
Now, there are other aspects to addictions besides tolerance building.
But these aspects are shared with real needs. One is the desperation
of an addict that doesn't get his need fulfilled. The person who is
deprived of food (unless they are on a fast, knowing that the fast will
end) usually feels the same desperation. Another aspect of addictions
is that they have power over the addict. Again, this is also shared
with real needs. A person who is thirsting is under the power of her
thirst.
So the way to distinguish an addiction from a real need is not by
measuring desperation or power over the person, but whether or not a tolerance is built up, and (more difficultly) whether the external
"object" craved by the person satisfies a real need or not.
Now it is not easy in this culture (and in any culture of Empire) to
satisfy all our needs. So we know that addictions are quite common.
In an imperial culture, some people at the core end up sucking
resources from periphery states. How do they do this? The most crude
way is with brute force. A more effective way is to make the people
who are being sucked dry to think that they need the empire to provide
some services (sanitation, protection, roads, education, governance
and entertainment are the most common) in exchange for the resources
they are providing the empire. That they are incapable of taking care
of themselves without the empire. That accepting the empire is for their own, and the empire's good. This mode of thinking is eventually believed by the people in the interior, not just at the periphery.
Note that this is already an
addiction because it substitutes for the adult human need for
self-determination, spontaneity and autonomy, the childish need for being taken care of by a more powerful entity. There is security in a  childhood where the parents take care of the children. There is a comfort in not having to make decisions for oneself, and having ones parents or some other external higher power or moral code make them for us. There is eroticism in being vulnerable and at the whim of the higher power.


Christianity and Buddhism co-opted by empire
This is one of the great ironies of history,
that Christianity (and a similar story for Buddhism, but instead of the Roman empire, the Chinese empire, maybe an Indian precursor. See http://www.brill.nl/buddhism-and-empire ), which arose in response to the Roman empire, ended up being co-opted by that empire and being used for its own purposes. (There are still Christians who have not joined the mentality of empire: http://www.jesusradicals.com/book-review-come-out-my-people-gods-call-out-of-empire-in-the-bible-and-beyond-by-wes-howard-brook/ )
Instead of the addiction to the empire, a new substitute was found for
the need for self-determination: God, Spirit, the Church. This new way
of looking at the world also sometimes substitutes (the real needs of) communion with
other people or communion with nature for communion with God, where
God is seen either as a paternal figure, or as a fuzzy benevolent
intelligence larger than us (it's tricky because that can also be a
real need, perhaps better described as ego transcendence). I am not
denying the existence of either of these (I lean towards the second
though), but I want to bring your attention to how we interact with
either of these and how it can be an addiction.
Before mainstream Christianity, the strategy used by empire involved only one step:
1. Acknowledge your helplessness in the face of the empire (and pay tribute).
With the advent of Christianity, the first step was sometimes modified
by substituting empire with "God", "Kingdom of God", "Spirit", or
internal foundation, and a new step was added:
2. All your other needs are secondary to the need for the first step.

Before the roman empire co-opted Christianity, change was not to be imposed on a person. A person would be helped to change either by asking for help or being moved from within by seeing an example of change (offered freely) that worked in another person or community outside of himself. 


After Co-option, Christianity was to convert people at the sword or by use of other imperial techniques.


Sado-masochism
There is ample literature on the connection between Christianity (and Judaism) and sado-masochism. I claim it is only the imperial version of these religions that is sado-masochistic.

I think masochism could be an attempt to experience vulnerability and trust at the same time. Vulnerability is essential for the basic need of intimacy, whereas trust is essential for the basic need of security. But why does it need to be combined with pain, possible violence and objectification? Somehow these intensify the experience in a culture where intensity is rare and mostly vicarious (The Image is the idol partially because that is where intensity happens, but the reality is mostly "vanilla"). But it is more than intensifying, what happens (or desired) is ego-transcendence, which is another basic human need. I think Fromm didn't quite get how important ego-transcendence is for humans. This is different than ego annihilation, or maybe only a temporary ego annihilation.


Sado-m
asochism is useful for hierarchical organizations like the military or most corporations. Meme networks have evolved into hierarchical structures because this type of organization offers both stability and ability to make large adaptive changes (through changing one or a few master genes/memes, instead of the impossibility of changing lots of genes/memes). I don't think masochism is the only way for complex organizations to operate, even if they are partially hierarchical. Wholistic interest (as opposed to self-interest or masochism) might be an alternative, where every part is conscious of the needs of the whole without losing its integrity.


Those people who seek to satisfy their
real needs are called addicts by the addicts to the empire (who usually
manage to fulfill their "secondary" needs by playing the game of empire). Similar to a man swimming in water telling a man dying of thirst that he is addicted to
water and should pray to God, see a therapist, or take a class, and denying him access to the water. Jesus would have just given the thirsty man water, but some of the followers of Jesus are sadists.


Now the pleasure aspect of masochism is somehow related to the erotic instinct, which is also related to the altruistic instinct, which is also related to the need for ego transcendence. None of these are bad things. The dysfunctional thing about masochism is the fatalistic powerlessness to make any changes beyond one's own psyche and the sublimation of primal needs for self determination and power with/within, which get expressed as sadistic outlets instead (another example of addiction as need displacement). The masochistic mentality increases the fitness of the empire meme network.


Here is some more background on meme networks:
http://www.youtube.com/user/iuvalclejan/videos?view=1


It is interesting to me that both Klaus Barbie (The Nazi torturer) and Dietrich Bonhoffer were Christians, one (the sadist) allied with Hitler and the other (the masochist obsessed with obedience) tried to assassinate Hitler. Also, Fromm analyzes the masochistic tendencies of Luther and Calvin. Anne Rice, who wrote a few books on sado-masochism is also a Christian.


Newsweek article

This week's Newsweek (by coincidence?) had an article about modern female masochism, which wasn't impressive in the depth of its analysis, but did remind me of one of my favorite subjects, gender. I suspect that masochism IS more common with women than with men. Even though modern women may no longer be oppressed, some might fantasize about not needing to think and make decisions for themselves, consistent with Fromm's “escape from freedom” hypothesis about masochism. For most men this escape might be more natural with sadism rather than masochism. But I think for both men and women, much of this way of dealing with the issue of freedom is reinforced by living in a meme network of empire. Also, if someone has to be dominated and submit, the needs for self-determination and ego-transcendence are both being repressed. The need for ego-transcendence is being suppressed because there is a difference between being forced to submit, and voluntarily accepting submission. With the former ego-transcendence is much harder than with the latter. The need for ego-transcendence can be achieved for real with either sadism or masochism, and so in this sense neither is an addiction. But the need for self-determination can't be achieved with either sadism or masochism and so it might surface in an addicted way, that is by substituting sadism or masochism for this need. This is especially true in a culture where no other choices are known or easily available. The motto of empires is: dominate or be dominated, and if one can do both so much the better, though it still won't satisfy the real need for self-determination lurking underneath. So the man who is dominated by his boss, comes home and dominates his wife and family. The woman who is dominating her husband at home or her employees at work, wants to be spanked.
I am not saying that gender or early childhood experiences have nothing to do with sado-masochism, just that these influences are all regulated by the master memes of empire. Even the term that was invented (initially for genes-”master genes”) is indicative of sado-masochism and (in feminist-speak) power-over relationships. Genes and memes organize themselves in hierarchies, but these hierarchies do not have to always exemplify a sado-masochistic, power-over relationship.

Are there any biological ties between power-over dynamics and sex? This is suggested by the writer of the article. There are simian societies where males are dominant and females are submissives, but also at least one (bonobos) where dominance/submission is not the main mode of interaction. There are human societies where dominance/submission is not the main form of interaction, but empire is not one of them. But still there is a biological association of power with sex, not just a cultural one. One can feel this power in a sexually dominant position, by "doing" one's partner, but this is not necessarily a gender-specific experience, nor necessarily a sadistic (or masochistic in the case of the partner being "done"). Dominance and submission in sex is an example of the mingling of power and sex, but it must be distinguished from sado-masochism. Perhaps the biological element comes from the anatomical differences between males and females and the evolutionary remnant from the submissive position taken by females of ancestral species. But sex in humans (and bonobos) did evolve into other positions and other more collaborative, communicative and nurturing forms. It would be interesting to study whether there is a correlation between the frequency of dominant/submissive sex and imperial cultures. I think empire is a factor, but not the only factor. Biology is another factor.