Peer Level Discipline


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In a hierarchal workplace, disciplinary power can only be wielded by management, and while often justified, nevertheless serves as an instrument of domination. Most will be familiar with the progression from verbal warning, to written warning, to final written warning, to dismissal. Each of those steps, that can potentially be leapfrogged dependent on the severity of the offence. The worker is therefore cognisant, that their financial security, is contingent on their conduct at work, and that they lack any recourse other than tribunal.

Eliminate hierarchal power and that whole dynamic changes. Everyone has the power to initiate disciplinary action, and conversely everyone is also afforded the power to reverse out of the process by way of enacting restitution. Where someone is undeniably in the wrong then they may choose to address that, if not then surely there is little to fear from the conclusion of a process that is ultimately dependent on consensus?

Disciplinary action thus morphs into a routine means of safeguarding the common good, and mitigating the necessity of collective responsibility, particularly in regard to minor misconduct:

“Did you do [or fail to do] this thing?”

“Yes.”

“Fix it or I’ll initiate disciplinary action.”

The person at fault now has the option of rectifying the situation, or eating the associated warning. That’s entirely their call.

With this in mind, the threat of disciplinary action is no big deal, and even in instances of serious or gross misconduct, there’s usually scope for restitution. In a worker collective, the disciplinary process must therefore be viewed as a tool for addressing lapses of conscientiousness, rather than an instrument of oppression. Members should not be shy about resorting to it, or put out by having it invoked in response to their failings. It’s a useful means of governing behaviour and maintaining collective cohesion, nothing more. It’s deployment should therefore be a matter of routine, and not something to be stigmatised.

Grasping the Common Good Pt II


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Rather than forming a coherent and clearly delineated common good, a hierarchy is instead just an unstable alliance of disparate agendas. Hierarchal structures inherently imbue a large degree of wiggle room with regard to culpability, since participants can claim that they were only following orders, or that someone failed to properly execute whatever orders were issued to them. Thus people have become accustomed to throwing up a defensive smokescreen, as a means of distancing themselves from the consequences of their own self indulgence.

Eliminating hierarchy brings the common good sharply back into focus. In a worker collective, the common good is simply the workplace itself, inert and incapable of independent action. When the common good is breached, the workplace is the only possible victim. There cannot be another side to a story involving a single protagonist. Anyone whose behaviour breaches the common good, is undeniably in the wrong, since in the absence of a hierarchal command structure there is no reasonable scope for reapportioning blame.

Furthermore the test for conflict with the common good is simple and irrefutable: would serious problems arise if every other worker were at liberty to emulate that mode of behaviour? The logic here is irrefutable. The intention and outcome are rendered wholly irrelevant, enabling the individual to be judged solely by the potential consequences of their own actions. There is absolutely no basis for the offender to harbour any feelings of persecution.

Members of a collective are duty bound to protect the common good. Those unaccustomed to this ethos, may wrongly perceive that they are being ‘unfairly’ singled out for embarrassment that they would otherwise escape, and lash out at anyone who dares offend their sensibilities by highlighting the error of their ways.

Ultimately it falls to the probationer to recognise that their own self interest is ultimately best served by collective cohesion, and that in the absence of hierarchy there no easy way to avoid the consequences of one’s own actions.

Grasping the Common Good Pt I


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While a worker collective might initially seem like an incredibly cool place to work, sooner or later probationers become aware of what may initially be perceived as a dark undercurrent. Every so often, the members will appear to become disproportionately triggered by someone’s behaviour, and adopting stoney faced Judge Dredd type personas, strut around uttering what can only be termed as ‘immortal speech’. The probationer is feels like they are the only sane person in the room, because they “can see both sides”.

So what the fuck is going on?

Short answer: the actions of the members are being guided a philosophical force field of collective conscience, termed the “common good”.

For absolute avoidance of doubt, the common good is not about putting other people ahead of one’s self, but rather the realisation that self interest is ultimately best served by social cohesion. This is neatly illustrated in the Parable of Two Villages…

***

The Parable of Two Villages

Once upon a time there were two villages. The village of Rooin and the village of Juztiss. Bob the arsonist dwelt within the village of Rooin. One day, Nancy the Baker said something that annoyed Bob, so he decided to burn Nancy’s house to the ground. Unfortunately for Bob he was caught red handed. The other villagers initially sided with Nancy… at least until Bob explained that “I only did it because Nancy is evil.”

On hearing this some of the villagers began to have doubts. What if Nancy really was evil? In that case Bob was surely justified in torching her pad? At the very least most people found that they could empathise with Bob’s position to some extent, even though Nancy was the one who had suffered the greater injustice. A few villagers even sided entirely with Bob, and started calling for Nancy to be investigated for witchcraft.

Bob also highlighted how Nancy had in fact been the main beneficiary of the fire he set, because her insurance policy had paid for a new home that was much nicer. To further evidence this, Bob cited how Nancy had immediately forgiven him. The implication being that Nancy had bewitched Bob into starting the fire, in order to benefit from a new house, while Bob was the real victim, as he could have ended up being thrown in jail.

Unsure as to who to believe, the consensus among the villagers was to take no further action. After all this had clearly been a one off dispute between Nancy and Bob, and had no obvious implication for the village of Rooin, since no one else had been affected. Right???

The following week Geoff’s Post Office was mysteriously engulfed by flames. Some of the villagers suspected Bob, so they tracked him down and discovered that he was covered in soot and reeking of smoke and gasoline. Bob explained that he had nothing to do with starting the fire. That he just happened to be passing the Post Office, saw the fire, and attempted to tackle the blaze himself, but had almost been overcome by the smoke, and had set off the raise the alarm. Bob further stated that he suspected Nancy might also responsible this fire, but that he lacked any means of proving that.

A month later Mary’s Chip Shop caught alight. Some of the villagers were aware that Mary had quarrelled with Bob shortly beforehand, but thought it best to keep quiet because they were reluctant to be seen to take sides or upset Bob. Word of this trickled out, but nobody was quite sure who had stared the rumour. There were even those who suspected that Bob had been spreading it himself.

More and more villagers were becoming nervous of upsetting Bob, and because they naively imagined that Bob would refrain from harming those closest to him, they did the “only ‘logical’ thing” and took his side. This growing influx of ‘support’ imbued Bob with substantial force in numbers, and he revelled in the newfound power at his disposal. Bob could now do whatever the fuck he wanted, and the worse he behaved, the more people joined his little army. Within a month Bob had effectively mustered half the village to his ranks.

The rest of the village remained unconvinced however. They had begun to suspect that Bob might actually be an unapologetic arsonist, and a self-serving pathological liar to boot. Truth be told most of Bob’s newfound supporters were more than a little unsure. Cognisant that his power base was under threat, Bob decided to make his old foe Nancy, the scapegoat. Bob explained that he’d seen Nancy riding a broomstick and dropping petrol bombs on the Post Office and the Chip Shop, but had refrained from saying anything at the time, because he didn’t think anyone would believe him. His position was that Nancy had been trying to frame him.

Clearly this was all getting rather messy, so Bob’s supporters advocated that the best way to determine the truth was to adopt a position of objectivity. They suggested tying Nancy up and throwing her into the village pond. If Nancy drowned then she was innocent, and Bob should be put to death. If Nancy floated then she was indeed a witch, and Bob should be made ruler.

Bob was a little nervous of this, after all if Nancy drowned then he’d be executed, but he couldn’t risk alienating his own troops. Instead he waited until the villagers had thrown Nancy into the pond, then using her dying struggles as a distraction, sneaked away, set fire to the remainder of the village, then made good his escape to the neighbouring borough of Juztiss.

On arriving in Juztiss, Bob explained to the inhabitants how he had just come from Rooin, where everyone except he, had fallen under the spell of the local witch named Nancy. As punishment God had set fire to the village and drowned Nancy in the pond. Clearly Bob had endured a terrible ordeal; he was covered in soot, coughing, and reeking of smoke. The people of Juztiss took pity on him and made him welcome in their village.

A week later Raji’s Tandoori caught fire, and Raji apprehended Bob at the scene. The villagers all sided with Raji, but then Bob explained that he had only set fire to the restaurant because he knew that Raji was evil. Furthermore Bob claimed that he could discern who was evil due to his prior experience with Nancy. If the villagers of Rooin has only listened to Bob in the first instance, then God wouldn’t have smited them.

Unfortunately for Bob, Juztiss was an anarchist municipality, and not easily swayed by emotion or appeals to authority. While the villagers could appreciate that there might be two sides to the story, they were also acutely aware of the necessity to safeguard the future of their society, by testing any such issue for conflict with the common good. In order to do this, they each individually undertook the following thought process:

  1. Split the issue into its discrete components.
  2. Test each component for objectivity.
  3. Generalise anything objective.
  4. Form a premise from each generalisation.
  5. Think each premise to its logical conclusion.

Issue – Bob burnt down Raji’s Tandoori.

So far this seems fairly clear cut in terms of who did the bad thing, but…

Bob – “I only burned down Raji’s Tandoori because Raji is evil”.

Now there are evidently two sides to this story, and most of the villagers could empathise with Bob to some degree, because if Raji was indeed evil, then perhaps Raji had it coming, right?

Issue – Bob burnt down Raji’s Tandoori because Raji is evil.

The villagers, each acting individually, applied the test for common good. They started by splitting it into a Bob component and a Raji component.

Bob Component – Bob burnt down Raji’s Tandoori.

Is this an objective fact? Yes, Bob was caught in the act and admitted it.

Generalisation – Someone burned down someone else’s property.

Premise – Arson is acceptable behaviour.

Taken to it’s logical Conclusion – Everyone must be at liberty to engage in arson.

Hmm… if we tolerate that, then the whole village would soon be in ruins. Clearly this is in conflict with the common good. If we condone Bob’s arson, then we’re setting a precedent that makes a rod for our own backs. Even if the second component also fails the test, two wrongs do not make a right. Bob is clearly in the wrong. End of.

Raji Component – Raji is evil.

Is this an objective fact? No! This is Bob’s subjective opinion, so let’s not venture down that particular rabbit hole. If Raji is evil, then that will surely become apparent to other people, independent of Bob’s stated experience.

The villagers exhibited solidarity by taking a stance against Bob. This isn’t the same thing as siding with Raji, instead this is purely a reaction to Bob’s behaviour.

Bob now counterd that Raji, not Bob, was the one who benefitted from the arson, since he acquired a new restaurant as a result of Bob’s actions. And anyway Bob didn’t mean any harm by starting the fire, he even checked that the building was empty beforehand. Bob feels that he, not Raji, is the real victim because everyone has turned against him.

The villagers explained to Bob that this was all immaterial. That regardless of the intent or the outcome, it’s still wrong to commit arson, and that if Bob was excused for this, then everyone else who engaged in arson would also have to be excused. They ask Bob to imagine living in a village of arsonists, where arson was the accepted norm, and everyone went around torching fuck out of one another’s property. Wouldn’t this be a living hell… even by Bob’s standards?

Without anyone taking his side, and concerned as to what fate may have in store for him, for the first time Bob felt compelled to step outside his own twisted narrative and reflect on the consequences of his behaviour. Suddenly it dawned on him that his actions had indeed been grossly damaging to the villages. Bob realised that collectively, we have the choice between a living hell where everyone does as they please, without taking responsibility for their actions, or a world predicated on mutual aid and respect for one another. Bob grasped the reality that everyone’s long-term interests, including his own, are ultimately best served by social cohesion.

Bob only arrived at this conclusion because peer pressure served to deprive his ego of its usual destructive wiggle room.

***

The common good is a concern that permeates the entirety of society. This is not just something minor that we bump into on occasion; where there exist more than two people, the common good becomes a very real factor, and something that should ideally serve to govern everyone’s behaviour. Not just how they interact with one another, but also in terms of how people relate to the shared environment on which we are each individually dependent.

In the example of Rooin, the villagers adopted the short-termist approach, that their individual interests were best served by not offending Bob’s sensibilities. They each rationalised this internally on the basis that they “could see both sides”… without bothering to test the validity of that sentiment, or to explore its long-term implications. As things deteriorated they even enabled Bob to form a malignant hierarchy, in order that he may further his selfish agenda, on the false premise that this would afford the majority of them a degree of protection from the worst excesses of his power trip. The village effectively sacrificed its own future by pandering to Bob’s selfishness.

The village of Juztiss adopted a very different approach. Rather than let things get messy, the villagers each immediately tested Bob’s behaviour against the common good. To do this, they viewed Bob’s actions in isolation from the allegations Bob made in respect of Raji. Also, rather than getting bogged down in specifics, they applied a general view, and imagined what the impact upon their village would be if that were taken to it’s logical conclusion and applied universally. On this basis they were easily able to ascertain that Bob’s behaviour was a threat to the fabric of society, regardless of any extenuating circumstances. They then moved collectively the set Bob on the straight and narrow.

In a worker collective, it is imperative that the members focus their attention on the common good at all times. Hence every action (or lack thereof) is examined against this barometer, with members liable to become detached and clinical when it appears as though someone’s self interest is threatening collective cohesion. This is why any subsequent response is enacted with overwhelming solidarity, and until realisation dawns and restitution is forthcoming.

The only alternative approach is one of hierarchal rulership, typically by an arch-manipulator like Bob.

Don’t be like Bob.

Don’t support Bob.

Don’t enable Bob.

Put Bob in his fucking place, right at the outset!

To do anything else is to court disaster.

Express zero tolerance for breaches of the common good.

Conscientiousness & Collective Responsibility


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“Conscience is the voice of the soul” – Polish proverb

Pinocchio.png

The coop principles that probationers most often struggle with (in a practical sense) are conscientiousness, and by extension collective responsibility. This is altogether understandable, given capitalist society intentionally conditions its populous against the former, in order to eliminate the threat posed to it by the latter.

All too often people wonder why it failed to occur to them to act in a manner that seems so obviously just in hindsight? The issue is this: if people were to become more conscientious, then they’d begin to question the world around them (and their place in it). Should that approach become more widespread, then the outcome would be a rapid and positive social change… something that runs contrary to the best interests of those who benefit from the prevailing economic system.

Hence there’s actually a deeper psychological connection between ignoring apparently trivial stuff like dropping litter, and tolerating much deeper social and personal ills. The few issues that people do express a conscience about, are *cough* coincidentally things that those in positions of power have taken it upon themselves to impress upon us. If something gets your hackles up, then it’s worth analysing why. People can become deeply impassioned about certain issues, due to influences that they may not be entirely cognisant of. There’s typically an underlying third party agenda at work in these instances, and becoming more aware of these machinations promotes an increasingly skeptical outlook.

If there were no authorities to impose morality, dictate right from wrong, or tell us what to be angry/alarmed about, then would society inexorably spiral into savagery? Was savagery ever even a ‘thing’ in the first place? Unlike Social Darwinism, the theory of Mutual Aid has been empirically tested on numerous occasions, demonstrating that all creatures, from insects up to people, possess an internal system directed towards social cohesion, and that this has played a critically important role in evolution. It’s also explains why our household pets are apparently capable of expressing both guilt and remorse.

Artificial morality imposed by authority, functions to short circuit conscientiousness, in order to prevent people from asking inconvenient questions. For this reason anarchism doesn’t just oppose the state and capitalism, it also vehemently opposes organised religion too, historically the worst culprit of all when it comes to social control. A more alarming development is the recent perversion of both justice and science to this end, as witnessed by an irrational backlash against those who have the audacity to demand proof. Anyone speaking out against this trend is quickly ridiculed or vilified, regardless of their credentials.

The authoritarian goal, is to supplant the innate conscience with obedience to rule, this being imparted under the guise of ‘education’. This sense of obligation instilled through our schools, promotes the construction of a false conscience, which serves to keep each of us in line. The resulting conflict between the innate conscience and this imposed morality, quickly gives rise to irrational feelings of guilt, moral dilemma, lack of fulfilment, existential crises, and may ultimately manifest as a loss of purpose, and the associated feelings of hopelessness, despair, depression, and desperation.

By way of contrast, the Waldorf system of education encourages students to form a deeper, more independently minded connection to the world around them. This has its philosophical basis in the anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner, who expressed strong anarchist sympathies, and was also a proponent of mysticism, which is the practice of entering into a deeper internal dialogue.

The phenomenon commonly referred to as “the conscience” also goes by several other names:

  • Biologists describe it as mutual aid.
  • Psychologists termed it the superego.
  • Seekers relate to it as their inner voice.
  • Mystics experience it as their higher self.
  • Clerics claim it to be the moral compass.
  • Philosophers, such as Thomas Aquinas, view it as the basis for natural law.

Hopefully it’s now apparent that all this comes full circle, that the conscience is the internal manifestation of Mutual Aid. Anarchists therefore perceive the conscience as the instinct that directs us toward social cohesion.

While this might all seem rather deep, the concept can more intuitively be expressed as “let your conscience be your guide”. This is depicted in the allegorical tale of Pinocchio, where a wooden puppet (!) behaves somewhat sociopathically, with pathological lying constituting its prime modus operandi, until engaging with a conscience and magically being made into a ‘real boy’. The thrust of the Pinocchio story, is that engaging with one’s conscience is the mechanism for determining and fulfilling life’s purpose.

Interestingly, the psychological definition of a sociopath is that of a person lacking all conscience. One of the main symptoms of sociopathy is an absence of purpose, and an absolute disregard (or even scorn) for social cohesion.

The thing about entering into a dialogue with the conscience, is that the inner voice is not just a moral compass, but also a guiding light that exposes the world around us, and even illuminates all those awkward home truths about ourselves (and the state of our lives)… stuff we’d rather avoid facing up to. When the conscience has been bypassed for a number of years/decades, then these things start to really fester, making embarking on this journey ever more arduous.

Capitalism requires a docile and compliant workforce, hence it promotes consumerism, fostering a materialist worldview, dismissing anything beyond that as counter productive “naval gazing”. We are told what to think, instead of being encouraged to think for ourselves, causing the conscience to be bypassed… only to occasionally flicker into life when we accidentally forget to feed to dog. In order to successfully undermine the system, we must first awaken the inner voice, which advocates for social cohesion. Only then do we stand any chance of dismantling capitalism in favour of cooperation.

First Draft of Website


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That’s the first draft of Black Cat’s website completed, just waiting for the name servers to update to the .coop domain.  Took a while to get back up to speed with WordPress, but the platform seems to have improved somewhat over the past 3 years.