When we look at the self, at the individual as he describes himself and inscribes himself within a larger framework, we can divide the subject in five general dynamics.
(0th dynamic: the self as observer, as point of observation. Because it is implicit in every thought or act, it never needs to be mentioned or counted, but it is always there.)
1st dynamic: the self as mind.
2nd dynamic: the self as body.
3rd dynamic: the self as relational being.
4th dynamic: the self as social being.
5th dynamic: the self as instantiation of mankind, of awareness.
We can therefore define five general areas of human existence, which are: the mind, the body, personal relations, society (which would include the topic of politics, government, organized religion, etc), and the whole planet.
These divisions may seem rather trivial at first glance, but I believe they are helpful in understanding a number of things regarding human interactions and solving problems.
One important principle about dynamics is this: a deterioration (aberration, control, violence) of one dynamic can deteriorate any other dynamic, but an improvement (love, freedom, creativity) in one dynamic only improves the dynamics above it. A simpler way to express this principle would be that you can only impose control.
For example, a parent comes to some understanding about breaking a cycle of abuse (1st dynamic), raises his child better (3rd dynamic), which helps create a better society (4th dynamic) due to there being less aberrations. A dictator rises to power (4th dynamic) and imposes the death penalty for all homosexuals (2nd and 3rd dynamic), creating fear in many minds (1st dynamic).
You might say, this principle doesn’t work because a positive change in a relationship can make a person think or feel better. This is true, but the change in the relationship had to come from the first dynamic of one of the people involved: someone had a new thought that made them interact in a better way, and this influenced others.
The question may arise, if there is there such an asymmetry, then why aren’t we all dead? The answer is that a human being, in and of itself, is very moral (if only in a calculating sort of way) and that it takes a great deal of strong aberration to make a human being choose to consciously do evil.
What is an aberration? Briefly, an aberration is a departure from sanity and reasonableness. This may seem circular, as how could we possibly know what absolute sanity would look like? We should define it in terms of processes and by the negative, as such: an aberration is the result of a process we can identify as not being sane or healthy. This makes the concept epistemically accurate, as it demands that we justify that whatever we’re examining is based on valid premises.
The absence of aberration, a cleared dynamic or dynamics, does not imply perfection or absolute goodness. Human error and ignorance always exists regardless of whatever hypothetical we look at, and it’s a vast area of morality. A cleared world is not one where humans are now angels and the Earth is a living paradise (the utopian view), or where all evil is exterminated and thus can never re-emerge again (the Christian mythical delusion, the authoritarian view) but rather it is one where sanity reigns and there is the mental and social space needed for moral ideas to flourish.
So the question arises as to how we can clear this whole thing. And activists have a ready answer: you gotta change the politics, you gotta take over the politics, and all will be well. But this never, ever works, because you can’t clear a society with aberrated people living together in aberrated ways. It’s just not possible. People immediately fall into old patterns, old ways of thinking, and they have to be forced to be free, which is a horrible paradox that goes against people’s self-determination and makes them think that honesty, freedom and love are gross aberrations, and you end up with one huge mess that is worse than what you started with.
So the activist belief, that you can clear a whole scene out by cleaning the fourth dynamic, is wrong. The only thing that can clear everything out is starting with the first dynamic, which is our own minds, because we’ve all integrated tyranny in our own minds over time. We are all our own censors and our own policemen. The amount of self-censoring and self-policing going on, as well as censoring and policing done by non-ruling-class individuals against other individuals, is so enormous that it makes the actual apparatus of the State look ridiculously tiny by comparison.
One may reply that this would involve a ridiculous amount of time. On the other hand, living with a sane mind and within sane relationships seems to be a significant upside, if one can do this. So there is at least a good reason for people to be motivated to do this. There also exists the risk of State oppression or exploitation, but this exists in all attempts to clear any dynamic.
In fact, the greatest danger in this process is the corruption of ideals by the ambient society. When people start on this path, they start a group, because otherwise they feel lonely and unsupported. The group will inevitably start with great ideals and ambition, but either gets absorbed into the norms or collapses into itself because the participants are too aberrated.
The activist belief is also reflected in Christian beliefs. Christians believe that God wiped out the Earth in order to bring about a new, moral society. But the people left were still aberrated and engaged in aberrated relations, therefore the situation was not solved at all. In that way, the Bible story is correct: you can’t improve a lower dynamic by wiping out a higher one.
Here’s another point that needs clarification. It may seem that there’s not much difference between the 3rd and 4th dynamics, but it’s actually an important difference. For instance, after a certain size organizations grow bureaucracies and start experiencing tension. When they are still small, people are still visible to each other and in a state of constant relationship. Once there are people who are not in relation with each other, that’s when we start treating people as tools or factors and the impulse to control is unchecked.
This is related to the scientific concept of Dunbar’s Number, the number of people that can co-exist in a group before that group stops being cohesive. In modern humans, the mean number is somewhere between 230 to 290 (the original number, 150, was based on study of primitive populations). A group which is below that number is part of the third dynamic, anything bigger is in the fourth.
So if you look at democracy and the modern geo-political entities, where the goal is to cram as many people as possible into more and more absurd conglomerates of tens and hundreds of millions of people, we see that this sort of structure can only lead to mutual exploitation, to a growing bureaucracy, to trying to control other people, even if it was originally meant as a way to be free. It’s simply impossible to maintain any positive purpose in that sort of environment.
As I discussed before, the concept of love has been maintained as important for human relations but completely detached from politics, religion and other social institutions. This leads me to believe that the dichotomy between the 4th dynamic and all below it must be vital for Anarchists to deconstruct. So you might say that, actually, the Anarchist goal should be to collapse the fourth dynamic into the third, to turn every exercise in social decision-making as an exercise in relationships. I think this is a worthy goal, anyway.