Nobody wants to live this way.
Drive a car to go to work for some asshole to pay for the car you need to get to work? Lose your home and starve if you don’t get a job? Who would sign up for this package, if there were any other option?
This isn’t the best-faith compromise of a bunch of rational actors. It’s a racket. We got here gradually, with technological lock-in at every step, prodded down the slope by armies of persuasion artists (and literal armies). Every alternative was stamped out. The world-prison was designed to make us believe we are free. Designed, not by any one hand, but by the egregores of capital.
Corporations are the skin-suits that feudalist lordships donned when the environment became saturated with democratic memes. Power to the people? No problem: declare the kingdom itself a person, and the vassals “independent contractors”!
These alien beings have build an alienated world and convinced us that it is normal and desirable.
The wielders of power have always sought to control the minds of the populace before controlling their bodies. It’s just cheaper. Before the Enlightenment, politicians were all divinely appointed. They had priests and viziers to guide them and justify their decisions as the will of God. Only the mythos of the rational human individual was enough to vaccinate people against unjustified faith in the mediators of invisible forces.
Some power is visible: a sword at your throat or a mob at your door. But most human coordination happens for invisible reasons. Depending how deep you look, you’ll find different explanations for all this behavior. You’re welcome to accept that people do things for the reasons they say they do. But if you’re reading this letter, you probably dig further. You see that people’s actions don’t line up with their stated motives. Their behaviors often simply mimic successful behaviors they’ve observed.
No matter how lofty our self-images, we are none of us individuals. We are a terrain for ideas. Our minds are full of replicators struggling to reproduce.
For all history, people have attempted to engineer the behavior of the people around them without overt coercion. Politics is war by other means. Those other means are not obvious; they are hidden, secret, they are occult. They are magical. Where you have warlords, you have wizards.
Magic is largely the art of convincing people to act a certain way. The wizard traditionally is concerned with cursing and healing people, holding secrets, and communicating with invisible forces.
In the 20th century the principles of this act of persuasion were codified and tested under the name of “propaganda”: the Work of Propagation. Of course, the word propaganda did not survive its association with the horrors of WWII, so it became “advertising”, which begat “marketing”, which pupated into “creative strategist”. It refuses to die. The work of propagating thoughts in other people’s heads is a growth industry.
These principles are written down and published in millions of tomes, which will survive any conceivable societal upheaval. All current and future societies will be super-empowered by this knowledge of ritual persuasion and meme warfare. Like the splitting of the atom or the mapping of the genome, the tested techniques of behavior change can not be put back in the bottle.
In a failed state scenario, warlords proliferate. Gangsterism is the default mode of the State: the protection racket, the numbers game. Without the comfort of Leviathan, people will resort to feudalism and religion. Petty cults and neighborhood gangs will become the operating units of society. Everyone will be busy looking out for their own, playing territorial games, propagating memes with all the free belief, to worry about things like the maintenance of nuclear power plants.
Or the progression of biotech.
Or the global atmospheric crisis, the tragedy of the commons that is already killing people and will kill billions more in this century.
It is the actual fucking apocalypse. Right now. The world is boiling and we are the frogs in the pot. The warlocks in charge refuse to see this, for it means their downfall. They will strangle the life out of cosmopolitan society. Something has to grow in its place.
If we are fragmented we will be destroyed. Destroyed through neglect of our common problems, or misuse of our god-like powers. We need more coordination, not less.
The 20th century was made by the mechanization of magic. Like any rulers, the propagandists have always believed in their own infallibility. They assume that “great men” direct history through their psychological prowess. But they only automated the low magics, the hexes and charm bags and glamors. They didn’t see the great beasts that swim in the waters of mind. Or if they did, they made the classic mistake: to think that your strongest magic is the strongest magic there is. They thought they were in charge of us, while the archons played them like puppets.
The low magics are out there now for anyone to command. The memers and influencers of the internet command as much belief, together, as the church or the firm or the state. We cast spells at each other constantly, in tweets and posts and stories. We are all propagandists now, in the same way that we are all surveillance. Whether we like it or not we leak our thoughts to the world. We must each be responsible for the memes that we spread.
Egregores like capitalism or Christianity are said to be exo-toxic: they kill other memes, demand purity from their hosts. They are jealous gods. But not all egregores are this way: geology and astronomy and physics don’t fight each other for supreme control of your brain. They swap thoughts and recombine in new and interesting ways, forming a memetic community. They cooperate.
The more room there is in your ideology for cooperation, the bigger your egregore can grow . What would a new Leviathan look like, one that took the form expected by seven billion summoners? A godling of and for and by the people?
What world would we build from scratch, or rather from the ruins of this one?
We can take this opportunity, this thinning of the veil of illusion, to conjure a utopia. Or we can shred into a thousand warring cults, driving nails into smartphones to curse our enemies. There is no longer the option of “business as usual”.
Know which gods you serve, because the apocalypse is here.
Thanks for reading,
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