Humanity and “The Other Manifesto”
Disclosure: I have been involved in The Other Manifesto by helping with technical questions, including provisioning of the Kindle ebook version. What follows are some friendly personal views on the manifesto’s content.
From some points of view, we’re in trouble. Wars and terrorism, diseases and hunger, poverty alongside abuses and failures of the financial system, pollution and climate change and eco-catastrophes, mass surveillance, state-backed torture, scientism and religious cults, competition throughout all areas of life, &c. pp., faced by inaction and apathy, with every single one of the few effective efforts to establish unity and take action rumored to be infiltrated and thwarted by state actors (last: the Occupy movement).
With most people having their hearts at the right spot, and a Human Rights Charter that gives everyone, that is, everyone, unalienable rights—including one for privacy, which forbids surveillance—, this is a strange position for us to be in. How did we end up in this trouble, this—mess?
Around this there are myriads of theories. Telling perhaps is the idea that for every theory there’s a forum or community now, making it possible to believe in (or obsess about) anything. People have become cynical about so much seeming proof for the oddest, craziest ideas, and yet they miss that while others may have become overly accepting of theories, they have become overly strict, themselves claiming authority to “know,” now standing in the way to understanding just as much as the ones who believe we’re ruled by lizard men.
We don’t seem to be in a position in which we can lay claims to know. We don’t know what “really” happened and happens, and that is meant in a very practical sense, not nearly a metaphysical one. Not to imply anything, but who knows what’s really been behind September 11? Who knows what motivations really influenced the decisions to invade Afghanistan (a country rich in opium) or Iraq (a country rich in oil), and to try hard, very hard, to invade Syria and Iran? Who can rule out that mass surveillance is really not, and not at all, about terrible but extraordinarily rare cases of terrorism or horrible but hopefully just as rare cases of child pornography (with rareness suggesting to protect our rights and lives, not shed them), but to gain a tighter grip over people?
We don’t seem to be in a position to answer these questions. No one can, perhaps. But that doesn’t mean to believe all claims made by authorities and media. That doesn’t mean to attack each other. And that doesn’t mean to give up.
What that means, eventually, is to look ahead, and to focus on our goals. “Goals? What goals?”, we ask. And that’s when something should click. We don’t have any goals. Man has no goals. Man has no vision. This is a generalization, sure, but when 1, 100, or 1,000,000 people have a constructive idea on this planet for where mankind should go and what we should focus on, what about the other 6,999,999,999, 6,999,999,900, or 6,999,000,000? That is not a plea for democracy, but one for relativity, one that contends that if only 1 in 7,000 (as in our case of 1,000,000 people having useful ideas for humanity, but 6,999,000,000 having not) can actively guide and contribute to our long-term well-being, then that’s: nothing.
But here, too, the story goes on. Yadda yadda yadda, the 21st century post-modern neo-critic—troll—threatens to bring havoc over anything that aims at sowing something constructive. But those who can only destroy will have to step aside when it’s time to identify values, principles, and ground rules for us, values that can lend themselves not to identify with Hollywood dystopias, but fantasy-inspiring utopias. Utopias like the one planted with The Other Manifesto—a manifesto I believe worth taking a closer look at.
The Other Manifesto, which really is but a ten-minute read—tops—, looks a little like a free-form complement to the United Nations Human Rights Charter, a form of constitution perhaps that may provide needed values, principles, and ground rules, luring fantasies of a utopia, a world that we may actually wish for.
Like “we, all living beings, are here to learn.” If there’s one thing that tends to drown in our debates, then it’s what we’re here for, and what unites us—as opposed to the all-so-popular emphasis on what we all disagree on and what divides us (divide and conquer, already knew the old Romans). We are all in this—this life, this reality—together and, leaving enough room for individual goals, recognizing that we all learn is a realization that gives basic purpose and unity.
Like “we all have the right to reason and unreason.” The rational approach and the scientific method are, without doubt, impressive, and they’ve been of great service to us. Alas, they’re also quite uncanny, and that not just for the by now overwhelming idea that everything, without exception, must be rational, that everything, without exception, must be explicable. There is more to our realities than rationality, more to life than science. Personally, a philosopher, I don’t only regard the idea that everything can be explained as problematic and the scientific method unfit to investigate the whole of reality and life (in a way, science can be regarded a physically limited antithesis to life), but I also view this exaggerated emphasis on rationality and reason as undue, undeserved, and ultimately dehumanizing. There’s more to our realities and lives than reason, and acknowledging this will lead to a fuller, not whatever-it-is-that-science-can’t-accept.
Like “we all have the right to privacy.” Maybe, tongue in cheek, the 1% theory is true after all, that surveillance prospers for we decide not to revolt against it. Privacy is a human right, it covers our communications and interactions, physical and digital, and this right should be inviolable. That goes for everyone, including those who may want ill. We all have the right to privacy, and we all shall stand up to hold our right to privacy, sacking the ones trying to take it.
Like “we all have the right to education” and, further, that “all education shall be free, offer choice, aim for high and unbiased standards, and be customized.” Personally speaking, again, I believe it’s a disgrace to spend anything on military for military seems to be a murderous petitio principii, for we only need a military because others have a military. Military spending is a tremendous disgrace, now, when we consider that we benefit so much more from spending our resources on proper education, suggesting a change in course that could move our world from grim to great in an instant. We should want unbiased education, education that aims at being high quality for the good of all. That I see reflected in this other brief line of the manifesto.
Like “we all shall respect each other and all other life.” We cannot, must not, should not treat life as we do when we keep animals in cages or bring them up on cattle farms and in slaughterhouses, when we plaster countries with bomb carpets, or when we anonymously—cowardly and unjustly—kill people through pathologically glorified assassination squads and drone strikes. We cannot, must not, and should not. We should, must, and can, however, treat all life respectfully, and people with a heart, and with either reason or emotions know. The ones who need an ethics book to comprehend why we must respect life, all life, should be removed from their functions and ordered therapy.
Like “we all shall avoid conflicts of interest.” Conflicts of interests—“a situation in which someone is involved in multiple interests, financial interest, or otherwise, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation of the individual or organization”—are something we can barely blame people for, but must protect them from if they lack the integrity to avoid and resolve them on their own. It must be regarded as unacceptable to tolerate people in situations of conflict of interest, and see them, whether willfully or not, marvel in those situations instead of removing themselves from them. One notices the manifesto to strike another chord.
Like “use of natural resources is free for humanitarian and modest
personal use, but nature to be cared and provided for with commercial use.” There’s a growing number of people who aren’t willing anymore to look on and accept negative externalities, with states and corporations polluting and destroying natural habitats, on purpose and unintentionally. At the same time there seems to be a need to make clear that we all “own” our environment—we should all be able to enjoy it, and we need all take responsibility for it. I do like this passage for I, too, believe in that we all have a right on nature, and yet should be made accountable if we mishandle it. Penalties for mistreatment, for pollution and destruction and all, should be established and enforced to strongly motivate to act responsibly.
Like “there no artificial scarcity (and, thus, no intellectual property).” Intellectual property is a perverse, a poor joke. As Stephan Kinsella says in Against Intellectual Property, “property rights are not applicable to things of infinite abundance, because there cannot be conflict over such things.” We once more fool each other by inducing artificial scarcity; personally I don’t truly regard anything mental, psychical, intellectual as “property,” and rather suspect we can do better employing a system that works with proper, respectful attribution as well as voluntary reward than with made-up scarcity. Intellectual property is a grand incentive to turn lazy, complacent, and exploitative, and a scheme to completely give oneself into chasing—financial gain. As if that was a meaningful life goal that needed encouragement.
Like, “no one is allowed to earn more than one hundred times the global average minimum wage, nor to own more than one hundred times what the global average person owns.” I love this idea of tying us back-to-back, and suggest we give it thorough thought.
Or like, “we all need each other.” We do, and that’s why The Other Manifesto will probably not do alone, why I won’t do alone with this mere commentary, and why nobody else will do so well, either, going things alone. Whether organized or not, we will need to align our goals and move together; we do, indeed, all need each other.
❧ These are but a part of the suggestions, rules, or guidelines The Other Manifesto makes, and I believe they’re part of a collection that is like little else, part of few works we have that lend constructive focus and guidance. Yet my point here, no matter how supportive of The Other Manifesto, is not to promote that manifesto, but instead to wish for more along its lines, to wish for more work on a vision, on values, on principles, on goals actually worth striving for, on utopias, on a good future, a good cause, a good world for all of us. An Other Manifesto may be nice, but we seem to direly need an Other Vision—a Vision we make happen.
I’m Jens Oliver Meiert, and I’m an engineering manager and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to the W3C and the WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. Other than that, I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.
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