Why Tent Cities Won’t Go Away

Builds Upon: Breaking the Iron Law, A Game of Social Arbitrage

The emergence of tent cities across the industrialized world has been met with outrage and confusion. The inhabitants of these impromptu towns have been repeatedly dismissed as “dirty hippies” and “troublemakers.” Yet neither this shaming language nor the intervention of law enforcement has done much to reduce the appeal of these encampments.

The tents should come as no surprise.
Tent cities are a reaction to the shrinking buying power of wages in proportion to basic living expenses such as rent.

Presently, paying even the cheapest of rents can easily devour over half of a month’s earnings.
The cost of being able to camp in a 12×12 box without being beaten up or jailed strips people of most of the fruits of their labor.

So why is it surprising when people begin to camp in parks for free under the threat of being beaten up or jailed? The threat of force hasn’t changed.

Until basic living expenses are reasonably proportional to wages, we can expect that increasing numbers of people will opt out of rent-paying situations.
Criticisms such as “Occupy a Job!” fall flat because there is now a much higher payoff for people to support each other in a park than to slave away in isolation for their respective landlords.

The public outrage at these encampments is to be expected. Paying for a box to live in is a standard part of the SPT(Social Participation Tax). Those who dodge this tax are not members of society.
People understand in their gut that avoidance of SPT expenses such as house and car are outright rebellion.

People who do not pay SPT:

-Cannot as easily be coerced into desired social roles. The mass society is stripped of its leverage without these enormous expenses. People are afraid of those who cannot easily be kept in line. The cycle of dependence required to maintain a social order is broken.

-Those who have spent decades of their life dutifully bleeding themselves dry for a box to live in are given a slap in the face by the very existence of “freeloading” campers.
Their rage arises from a sense of unfairness that lies deep in human nature. On some primal level they think: “I suffered to hold down this house like I was expected to without complaining! It is only fair that they do the same!”
They do not recognize that it makes no sense for others to follow their example.

As it is, there have been strong incentives to flee rents for most of history, but flouting the SPT in most cases meant ostracism, punishment, certain death. So people had to pay up no matter how impoverished it left them.

Now, better communication technologies have allowed a critical mass of people to abscond from rent paying situations at once and support each other in the process.

The prevailing social order is faced with a grave threat and indeed, this explains the degree of force used against these encampments.
On some gut level, those who are invested in the present order understand well that where there is a ragtag camp today, tomorrow there will be free houses.

As a final note: We can likewise expect an explosion in the number of squatters across the nation. If hordes of people coordinated across social media do it all at once, the authorities cannot respond as effectively. This is the same principle that has made the encampments particularly difficult to eradicate.

Anonymous and Occupy: the Emergence of Counter-Corporations

Builds Upon: The Dark State

There is a single most common complaint I hear about the new wave of protestors that has emerged across America and the world.

“They don’t know what they’re protesting about!”

To the consternation of many, there’s no list of universal demands or theses.
When news reporters ask “Why are you protesting?” the answers they get describe a general feeling of resentment rather than a specific list of individuals or institutions.

This leads many people who would otherwise be sympathetic with the protestors to dismiss them.

So far, many have made the mistake of confusing these protests with past movements.

This time there is no charismatic leadership organizing everything and making speeches for the history books. There is no cadre of leaders that constitutes a ‘head’ that can easily be cut off.

It is a spontaneous manifestation of the internet—a continuation of the world wide wave of dissent that broke out earlier this year in Tunisia.

There never will be specific demands, just a brooding cloud of discontent.
And this will be not a weakness, but a great strength.

A concrete agenda might merely narrow a protest’s objectives and needlessly shorten its duration. It opens the protest to more sophisticated attack and criticism from its opponents.
A token concession or empty promise has the potential send everyone home.
Most importantly, the lack of a list of grievances sends an important implicit message: the onus is no longer on the people to formulate specific objections and argue for the legitimacy of their discontent.
They are no longer on the defensive as they always have been before.

The very open-endedness of these protests allows the protesters to take the initiative.
All that matters is that they are discontent. Until someone does something that makes them not discontent or simply shoots them all, they will do whatever it is they deem suitable to address the matter.

This approach allows no room for excuses. Either something is done to make people happy or the protests continue.
Elites suddenly find themselves in the situation of the typical employee: do your job in a way we like or you’re fired.

This is not primarily a statement of principle or a polite request and this is where many people are confused.
It is an ultimatum.

Just a few years ago, there was a primordial soup brewing on some imageboards.
The topics of discussion tended to focus on anime, porn, and anime-porn, but somehow this soup began to spontaneously evolve until there was a community that could act on collective goals without formal organization or leadership. In fact, none of these people even knew each other and it did not matter. They were all Anonymous.
What started out as one nameless person inviting an entire faceless community to prank call an asshole boss developed over the next couple of years into an untraceable internet military that’s capable of taking on corporations, governments, and religions.

There is an important principle that Anonymous shares with the current protests.

A school of fish coordinates its movement to strategically reduce risk for each individual. Thus, the school can behave in ways that would be far too risky for each individual, for the benefit of all.
Until widespread, reliable, high speed internet, people did not have the ability to pull off this level of group coordination and individual people, unless truly desperate, do not often risk themselves for a better society they will not live to see.

However, this ‘school’ form of organization has reduced individual risk while increasing individual effectiveness in collective action to the point where participation is far more attractive than it once was.
Result: society’s established powers can’t ask as much or get away with as much as they used to. The balance of power is shifting towards the ruled and the rulers, understandably are reluctant to accept this.

For a few hundred years now, elites have had their own version of Anonymous that has helped them to accomplish their goals. It’s called a corporation.
Shareholders come together to in order to mitigate risk and allow them do things that would ordinarily be too risky. By acting collectively, they can do away with individual accountability.
These elites failed to understand what would happen if technology sufficiently improved the ability of the peasantry to communicate and coordinate their actions.
The result is effectively a counter-corporation.

The incarnation of these protests as of the writing of this article is known as ‘Occupy.’ These particular public actions may soon cease or they may not. It does not matter.
Authorities do not yet understand that an intelligent collective of peasants, just like a corporation of the wealthy is extremely resourceful and adaptable.
Sending some campers home from public parks accomplishes little. New forms of opposition will soon emerge taking advantage of every possible systemic weakness. The game has changed.

Why Unrest Will Continue To Grow In Industrialized Nations

Builds Upon: Legitimancers

I. Scarcity Has Caused Deterioration of Social Cooperation and Codependence

No matter how policy makers might try to manipulate affairs, there are two intractable facts that drive the current trends.

1- Automation will cause a continued decrease in the number of necessary workers. Only the most skilled workers remain necessary. Much of the work very skilled workers do is finding ways to reduce the number of workers needed.

2- A higher standard of living relative to the rest of the world entails a higher price of labor. Without strict protectionist measures, the inevitable result is less exports and fewer jobs. All systems tend towards equilibrium and the world economy is no different. Any water that falls upon the high ground of prosperous industrialized economies will tend to flow downwards.

In industrialized nations this can only mean that jobs will continue to become more scarce and scarcity of jobs will push wages downwards.
Already, jobs are becoming a luxury to be fought over.

Whenever I see articles about how people with college degrees can’t find jobs and are tens of thousands of dollars in debt, there’s always someone who shows up in the comments column who laughs at their misfortune and tells them off for being lazy fools who failed to get STEM degrees.
These critics miss the point: Whatever their errors in judgment, these students were willing participants in society who went deep in debt so that they could one day contribute…And in return, they now receive mockery for having fallen for an elaborate prank.
Critics of the ‘overeducated’ demonstrate a fundamental change in society’s attitude towards work.
The whole idea that society is open to anyone willing to cooperate and work hard is gone.
The new mentality more resembles that of a royal court full of scheming—a place where only the clever and well-connected survive.

If someone spends years in school only to see their field become saturated or obsolete they are showered with the derision of those who ‘made it.’
In previous times, even those down on their luck bore successful people little ill will. They were more likely to suppose that their own lack of fortune was temporary. Their social superiors likewise generally didn’t hold a lower social station against unfortunates so long as they were willing to work hard to contribute to society.

But in the present social climate, the less fortunate feel little reason to care about the interests of their social betters. If they could better themselves by taking from those higher up, why wouldn’t they?

In short, a trend of decreasing available wealth in Western nations has drastically increased competition and destroyed the overall cooperative spirit that had previously prevailed.

This widespread zero sum culture makes society fertile ground for unrest. The ‘losers’ have little reason to be content with losing. If all is lost, they have no reason not to take the ‘winners’ down with them.

Once the people have a certain sort of mentality, they’re like tinder lying about waiting to be lit.

II. Artificial Scarcity Undermines Systemic Legitimacy

History is full of scarcity and social inequity, but at present the scarcity and inequality are increasingly artificial in nature.

People cooperate with capitalism because the prices of goods and services reflect actual market demand.
But if money ceases to properly reflect supply and demand, why would people continue to cooperate?

I recently visited a site called The Venus Project. Its creator, Jacque Fresco, lays out a plan for a future society. Whatever one might think of Fresco’s overall vision and retro-futuristic building designs, he makes an insightful point concerning money systems.
Money systems, he observes are dependent upon scarcity to motivate people and for their continued existence.
When a good or service is not scarce enough, the general response of elites and property owners is to create artificial scarcity to protect their interests.

In everyday life,

-The person who can barely afford food after rent sees grocers and restaurants throwing out tons of food.
They might read stories of how farmers sometimes destroy tons of their crop so they can actually profit from their harvests.

-The person who can barely afford rent sees neighborhoods full of houses with telltale alarmed padlocks on the front gates.
People were forcibly driven out of homes that no one else wants. Now they just sit there empty.
The reason for this cruel irony: real estate “kept off the market” got the occupants kicked out for being unable to pay an artificially high price no one else in society was willing to pay.

It is exactly this sort of cognitive dissonance that destroys the credibility of a system.
If a system is impartial and enjoys legitimacy people will tolerate incredible hardship.
If there are real conditions of hardship and famine no one is going to complain. Everyone’s too busy surviving.

However, the present scarcity of jobs does not result from general famine or any real crisis.
On the contrary, scarcity now exists precisely because we are able to produce more resources more efficiently than ever.
As Fresco points out: abundance causes money systems to malfunction.

III. Conclusion

Because of:

-A social climate of zero sum competition.

-Conditions of artificial scarcity.

-The ubiquity of i-phones and the internet.

The trend of social unrest will both continue to spread and rise in intensity.
There will be intense struggles as those towards the top of the pyramid resort to increasingly desperate measures to protect their wealth by artificially maintaining the scarcity of abundant resources.
These measures will force increasing numbers of people to come face to face with homelessness and starvation in the midst of plenty.
And at some point, these people will realize that if they do nothing they will be gradually be phased out of existence just like any other product that doesn’t sell.