option "c" -- cyberspace

Daniel drdq at m5.sprynet.com
Sat Feb 13 11:06:40 PST 1999

Carl wrote: "Which brings us to option "c" -- cyberspace. All the tiresome hype about the Internet aside, LBOers seem oddly oblivious to the Web's potential for breaking down class and professional barriers and creating a true people's medium for exchange of information and ideas."

You know how it is when something is caught between the teeth: the tongue keeps going to it, obsessively coming back to feel where it is, pushing, rubbing.

Ever since I got my first Internet account in @1993, I've had an idea that just won't go away. I suppose I know it's crazy - but there I am, always coming back to it.

What IF. . .

We could take a chapter from Rousseau and create an "Internet Society."

I can tell you what this Internet Society is NOT: it is not a group of people with an agenda for any specific political or social purposes. Rather, it serves a META-political/social purpose. The ultimate purpose of the Internet Society would be nothing short of usurping, and then BEING the effective governing mechanism of society itself. Thus, the function of the Internet Society would be to mediate in a contemporary way with all of the diversity of political and social purposes that ANY society by nature comprises - but, of course, according to new and different rules. (By "contemporary," I mean voting electronically by phone or on the Internet. This is NOT, however, to assume what is today being called "Direct Democracy," for it is probable that, like the current political system, it would involve a combination of representative and direct forms.)

I can't tell you what this Internet Society would be like in form or substance, because that would be up to the people who participate in it. I can say that I envision it as a civic forum in which political and social DECISIONS may be made.

Everybody on this list is doubtless familiar with the radical revolutionary concept of "dual power," when, for example, Russian Soviets assumed more and more of the actual governing functions of society even while a previously established (antiquated) governmental structure still met and tried to administer.

(To give just one wild example of how this might unfold in practice: IMAGINE if 1 million people in a medium-sized city, participating in a local branch of the Internet Society were to agree, and DECIDE, that in tomorrow's election, the third party candidate will be selected. This is a pre-election poll that the participants take for themselves. But, it would be more than a poll: it would be a DECISION, and it would carry with it the weight of their sacred honor, upon which they based their membership in the Internet Society in the first place. For when people join the Internet Society they DECIDE tehereby to commit their loyalties to a new process of social interaction and law. Would people be more inclined to vote for a third party if the KNEW that significant numbers of others will vote that way too. - Well, this is only an imaginary scenario. It might be better not to commit oneself to the will of the majority, even the majority of a new society. That would have to be DECIDED by the participants. I'm only trying to find an appropriate imaginary scenario. Maybe, it would be better to picture 1 million people DECIDING to demonstrate at the Capitol Building. Are you more inclined to go to a demo when you KNOW that substantial numbers of others will be there with you? There have been attempts, by the way, along this line in pre-Internet days. Does anybody remember Pledges of Resistance during the 80s wars in Central America? And there were similar pledges I think during the Vietnam War, but I'm not sure I'm remembering well.)

I am coming from one fundamental premise. I cannot prove this premise but I can state it. The great majority of people are today consciously alienated from the established and duly constituted institutions of power. The problem for these people is not educational, it is organizational. But my premise amounts to a challenge to all people who express a desire for a new human society on this globe. The challenge is this: exactly and precisely WHAT do you/we agree about; what do you/we SHARE, in this sense of agreement, with other people on this planet? (Can you picture if the people on this list actually had to DECIDE on what they AGREE to in common? HaHaHaHaHa!)

It is fun to guess what kinds of questions could be proposed. Does the majority of the Internet Society believe that the interests of people should be placed above the interests of capital, if and when those interests conflict? If so, let it be so DECIDED.

The difference between what I am envisioning and every other kind of Internet forum is DECISION. The participants in the Internet Society not only express their views, but they DECIDE on them. The VOTE is, of course, the essential element. What would be the conditions under which YOU, in the manner of Rousseau, would vote to join with others to create a new society? I think this could be something more than a thought-experiment.


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