Charlie Eagles: A fresh Australia [3/3]

And so we hit the close. In this last article:

What if we could have free energy, under a system for localised, shared energy production? What if 75% of our government were rotated members of the public, like you and me?
What if eliminating drug law solved our drug problems?

Review the series here, beginning with Meeting Charlie Eagles.

Energy-quotient buildings

‘[The crux of this idea] drives business to solve our problem of renewable energy.

Each building [could be] constructed to an energy quotient. The efficiency of the building  will help, but to get over that mark the building has to produce energy [and/or] water.  It’s up to [construction companies] to decide what is the most efficient and effective way to get that building to produce power and/or water.

IMGP5962

This takes a city from using an external power source to the city having it’s own power source. This could be put into place, in my view, somewhere around a five year mark. From telling the public: this is what we’re going to do, to having it in place.’

One of Charlie’s friend’s pipes up at this point: ‘It takes longer just to introduce a carbon emissions scheme.’

‘Getting it through politics, yes. [laughs]’

‘No, no, no, with all of the bureaucratic thingies, you’re talking about wholesale changes on retail, wholesale, and then the administration of the electricity market, and then your government bureaucracies…’

This friend goes on to contest the idea, at length, with some in-depth detail on the nature and caveats of electricity distribution. Charlie responds thus:

‘Let’s assume, for example, that the energy created by a house is [designated by] the building company. They build the house, they build something with the house to generate energy.

Obviously, if everybody has solar, that generates problems in the market as far as supply and demand [per time of day] so that may be an example of where some building companies go to alternative methods. There might be a wind turbine on the house, or so forth. Which gives you a different market to what solar panels would, even though you’re fitting into the same grid.

The other point is that I was also going on the assumption that every building has a storage capacity for that energy, a battery system, and therefore it would feed off it’s own battery when it’s needed, and the excess after the battery would go to the city.

So, A. you have different choices of how you gain energy and B., you would have different choices of when you release energy, so you may store it, and then sell it at night, gaining a better price. Different size buildings and different size lands would give you different results.

[Because the excess power goes to the city] as the city expands, your capacity for producing energy expands with it. The abundance of energy lowers the cost so that energy will essentially be free. In turn, we could solve issues with water supply. Salt water costs a significant amount of energy to convert into fresh water. If we have cheap, fresh water that could provide cheaper, easier food production. After power, water, the problems of essential infrastructure are dealt with, we could focus on bigger things.’

 Election of government

‘Even a portion of government bodies should be comprised of members of the public. Kind of like jury duty. I would make it two-thirds or three-quarters.

At the moment, a majority of the members of the [reigning] Liberal Party for example, live and grew up in the same suburbs, went to the same schools, they’ve been insulated and have no real connection to the Australian people. They knew each other as children, they knew each others families, their houses were in sight of each other, that’s all they know. How can they make effective decisions for everybody else?

They have no idea what life is like on welfare, because they’ve never been on it. They don’t know what that struggle is like. Or to be homeless, or to try to get work month after month, year after year, and the best you can find is a casual, short-term dead-end situation. Or trying to be a student, [living] on an amount of money less than the dole. Everything gets given [to them].

If we rotate other people through these positions, we would have much more dynamics in our politics. Some people will make stupid decisions occasionally, but that won’t be the majority. It would certainly be no worse than the idiots we have now.’

Reducing the size of government

‘A lot of the ideas I’ve suggested reduce the size of the government.

Because you’re getting rid of welfare, you have less government departments, less government involvement. When you change corporations to co-ops, again, you’re actually reducing the size of government involvement.’

Drug laws

‘I think marijuana should be legalised – it should be sold and taxed at the same point of sale as alcohol. Every time that’s been done, and there have been trials, drug-related crime has dropped to twenty percent. Those selling cocaine, heroin, that’s dropped to thirty percent. This has been duplicated every time, just by legalising marijuana. We could kill the drug industry in Australia.

Portugal decriminalised all drugs and their illegal drug industry disappeared. Crime can managed by the way that the rest of us do things. Not by increasing punishments or sending every criminal to jail, that won’t change anything. Indonesia has the death sentence for those who smuggle drugs, and yet they still have an illegal drug industry despite that. The costs are simply higher as the risks are higher. They execute two people a year, nobody cares.

It’s [also] not really that hurtful. Yes, it can cause lung cancer because people smoke it. So eat it. Make butter out of it, put it in cakes, sell that at pubs. Ta-da! [laughs] Fixed problem! Would I have it? No. It makes me sick.


In summation:

‘Your life will be the same, but you’ll have more money, more opportunity, more self-esteem because you’re getting more rewards for your effort, you would know your rights, and the law, and have more input into your democracy.

If you lived in that world, and you looked back on ours, you’d think ours was bloody stupid.’

Advertisements

Charlie Eagles: A fresh Australia [2/3]

[Continued from Charlie Eagles: A fresh Australia [1/3] ]
Regulation of business

‘I think every corporation should be turned into a co-op. So, in a way, a socialistic capitalism.

Capitalism itself is not a bad thing. If that short-term view [the short profit cycle endemic to corporations] could be changed to a longer-term view IMGP5918then corporations can start being more beneficial. If you can get the byproducts of a company supporting the world around them, just as a byproduct of their doing what they do…then everything starts to work better.

Where every business is a co-op, the employees of every business become investors in the company. Only the employees can be investors. Banks would be building societies. The effect of that would be significant, but it won’t change the way that we live.

If you’re an employee, by going to work you become a shareholder. You get your wage, and then your share of the profits from being a shareholder. There’s no other training, no management secret to spend years studying, you simply get a separate payment into your bank account. In having one job, you would have three incomes: your share of universal basic income, your wage, and your return on being a shareholder of the business you work for.

Much of your life won’t change. You still go to work, pay taxes, come home and watch TV, buy stuff from the shop. But you have more opportunity.

You’ll feel like you have more money in your life, and you feel like you have more freedoms, because you will.

That fixes the finances of everyone living in the country. it’s not much of a change, but it gives you options. You change jobs, you change who you’re invested with. You switch banks, same thing. It amounts to less complications in your life.

You will get “Why would people run businesses if everybody’s a shareholder, what would be the point?” There are people that do that and they’re shareholders. Look at your Mom and Pop corner store, staff of 2. That’s pretty much the way they do it already! Nothing changes for them. The bigger the business, the better your returns.

Within the bigger businesses, your profits are shared amongst every employee, from the city offices to the country towns rather than being limited to a small set of individuals.
This comes back to what I was saying about “change the system, to change the symptoms” in that suddenly you have more money in rural areas. This encourages more people to stay in or move out to country towns, developing them, which will flow on to farming communities.’

Free telecommunications

‘An idea has very little value until it’s expressed. So if I have an idea, for example, a [method for] cheap and easy farming in third world countries. It has no value until the idea is put out there. Ideas grow when they mesh and merge with other ideas. So what you really want for the growth…of society and then the growth of mankind is for ideas to mesh and merge and join. This is how we’ve advanced from caves. Quite simply. If nobody got the ideas for farming tools or the printing press, then we wouldn’t have the world we have today.

So, to develop ideas, you really want a good level of education across society, academics particularly I guess, but you also want a way of getting [ideas] out there. You can’t necessarily rely on your media to do that for you.

Having an effective communication system means that problems in society will come to attention faster. You can deal with issues faster, you’ll be able to connect with people better, society will function better. So if you have free communication, you have a better connection of ideas which is advancing your culture, and advancing your people. So you’re putting yourself ahead in the race by streamlining how society functions.

This gets back to an idea which, from a military perspective, and you’ll see this in Sun Tzu’s Art of War, if you know more than your enemy does, you have a huge advantage.

If you translate that to a civilian situation…imagine your country is like an army, if all of your soldiers can communicate better..your chance of success, as an army, against an opposing force is greatly increased. If every soldier can communicate to every other soldier, quickly and efficiently..if I can talk to you better, talk to anybody in Australia better, then that’s going to be to all of our advantage. If I can’t communicate then problems come up on a massive scale. On top of that you’re also allowing businesses to connect to the market easier and faster as well, so you’re also increasing the nation’s finances, the exchange of monies and so forth.

So while it would cost the government money to have free communications, the benefits would outweigh it’s cost. It’s just a matter of reorganising how we do things.

Corporations..have a stranglehold on what people communicate. But if it was government-run, you wouldn’t have those controls, so therefore people could get whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, however they wanted, which would be fantastic for academics, education, businesses, and all sorts of things.

Tesla-powered public transport

‘I believe that we should have more and better public transport. The case for that increases as the population increases. The more people you have, the more people you need to move. If we [all rely on] cars, you have traffic problems, you need bigger roads, more roads, and arguably, the problem increases at a greater rate than the population. Particularly if you have one vehicle per person, which is fairly common.’

I’ve seen issues like that predicted if not present with Uber in some cities. A sudden burst of cars on the road, some argue, is going to lead to more problems that it really solves, even economically.

‘Going to school in Brisbane in the 80s, and into the 90s, I saw the Brisbane had a lot of traffic problems. The city was expanding, and they tried to increase traffic flows and increase the size of roads, those sort of standard ideas. It didn’t work, or wasn’t working fast enough. They were steadily increasing budgets and spending more money but not fixing the problem because the problem was just escalating [with them].

So they redesigned the public transport system almost completely. They increased the number of buses and trains, moved train stations, increased the size of car parks at each station and encouraged people to park there. They incorporated all public transport under one system. That actually solved their problem by shifting people away from private transport.

I would change the public transportation system so that public buses were powered by Tesla motors.

Looking at the Tesla Model S, the whole underside of the car, from the front to the back is a series of batteries, which effectively function as one. At each corner of the car is an electric motor driving that corner’s wheel. As you engage with the functions of the car, steering, gears.. computers translate that to each wheel. It performs roughly the same as any other car of it’s size and weight, but because it’s electric it has a faster pick-up time than a petrol-powered car in the same class.

In America and now in Australia, there are Tesla power stations where you can plug your Tesla car into the Tesla power stations, and they recharge your car for free. With the Tesla power stations, at least as I understand it, in America they’re covered by solar power. So it costs effectively nothing to power the power stations and therefore it costs nothing to power the car.

If you apply that to public service buses, then you’ve got a much bigger area for the battery, you can have a motor on each wheel, and plug it into a Tesla power station, just as you could with the car.

Therefore you could reduce the cost of running the bus dramatically, because you’re not paying for petroleum fuel, which these days is expensive, and it’s going to become more expensive. [Applying Tesla technology] to public transport, to me, seems like a logical solution.

Councils could have a contract to Tesla where Tesla would manufacture the drive mechanics of the buses, and the power stations. [This would be] on the condition that the public doesn’t pay to use public transport.

Tesla [win] because they have the sole contract to manufacture these, the public is winning because they’re no longer paying for public transport. Which moves people around, allowing them to get to work easier, to be more productive, it also moves ideas around faster, which means you get more development, and a better economy. You’re also reducing demand on petroleum which is not only better for the world from an environmental perspective but it’s also cheaper for the country.

I’m not using this to push the profits of [Tesla], it’s just that they are in the lead as far as electric cars, at the moment. There are many other companies that have electric drive trains on their cars, but they’re doing it more as hybrid models. They haven’t done it to the scale or affordability of Tesla. Making that sort of a demand to [Tesla] would increase demand in that market as well, [stimulating] competition for public transport solutions.’

Charlie Eagles: A fresh Australia [1/3]

When I first introduced Charlie Eagles, I mentioned his plan to revitalise and transform Australian government. He relates that it’s simply a first step, that by fixing issues in our own country we would then be in a position to fix issues with the world.

IMGP5935

‘One of the biggest problems in the world – and it affects us, it affects Africa.. are how third world countries relate to Western countries.

Developed countries are still, by and large, quite parasitic. We rely on smaller countries to supply our goods and services, the debts that they have keep our economies afloat. We can’t really save the planet until we fix third world countries, and we can’t really save them until we fix our own problems. It doesn’t matter whether the approach is on the human aspect, environmental or economic. At some point you realise, you can’t proceed until you clean up the mess your house is in.

We need to enable third world countries to grow into their own entities, encourage better living standards and economic growth. We can’t do that until we stop being parasitic, and to get there, we need to change how the first world operates within itself.

We’ve come a long way in the past 50 years, a lot of things have improved.. indigenous rights, rights for women, gay rights, environmental legislation, those needed to happen but we’re still so far off.

Plenty of people disagree with me:

“Women have got too many rights, men are an oppressed minority! There’s so much green tape on everything, I can’t make profit anymore!”

The thing is that we haven’t gone far enough.

More legislation isn’t the answer, we do have too many rules and restrictions, what we need is a change of attitudes and methods, a change of the system.

When Wall Street made it’s disaster and let the American people pay for it, the problems of the American people got worse. Rates of crime, domestic violence, drug abuse, all increased rapidly from that point. The more successful society is, the lower those rates are. Look at Germany, Norway, and so forth, these problems are virtually non-existent because they have such support for their people. There’s a direct correlation.

I would like to see society grow to a point where these issues are resolved as a byproduct of a successful design. The easiest way for a person or a business to be successful is by doing something that others won’t do, hence we have politicians rigging elections, corporations dumping toxic waste, and so on. I’d like to steer us in a direction where that [productive influence] is constructive rather than destructive.’

Your mantra is “Change the system to change the symptoms.” How would you change the system?

‘If I was to change a country, this one for example, there are some things I think would need to be done to improve rates of productivity, efficiency, for everyone and everything involved. For our collective future. And I don’t see any other way of going about this. I had initial problems with this idea, I think the world will debate it for a while before they settle on it as an inevitable conclusion.

(Over several sessions, I went on to prompt Eagles on the points of his plan, as outlined in Meeting Charlie Eagles. They are presented below, in condensed form, sans prompts.)

The Constitution

I would change our constitution to be based on the International Declaration of Human Rights. I want to have that taught all the way through school so that people understand what they can and can’t do, and what’s expected of them up to an international level. Kids should be taught the basics of Australian law in highschool as well.

We should become a republic with a Bill of Rights supporting that Constitution, that way we can make our own decisions without being directly affected by other countries, as we are.

Social security

Universal Basic Income should replace social security.

The basic idea is that everybody gets an amount of money [from the government] greater than the dole. It raises the basic living standard so that everyone has not only a basic subsistence wage but the ability to innovate or invest in business. It’s not welfare, it replaces welfare, as a citizen’s right.

The  concept is that the income is a royalty based upon your ancestors efforts in making your country as good at it is. It enables people to grow out of poverty. People need to be able to not only survive but to improve their lives, and to preferably achieve their goals.

“With [universal] basic income, everybody gets an amount of money greater than the dole. Everyone has the means not only to basic subsistence but the ability to grow out of poverty. That’s it.”

Most people in the middle and lower classes struggle to get by, day to day. They go to work, pay the rent, put food on the table so that they can go back and do it again, and their life doesn’t change. There’s no room to improve their situation because they have no avenue to do so. If we give them the finances to make choices, they can say: I can now pay off that debt, invest money in my own business, move to a better house, buy a car. Change their lives to become more effective. The theory is that everyone has the capacity, at a minimum, of being able to improve their situation.

That’s it. No questions asked, the money goes straight into their bank account, all they have to do is spend it. We’re not giving people free money, nor wasting it because it’s collected back in tax anyway.

People ask ‘Well how is that not socialism?’, or ‘How can we afford it?’ My answer to that is, you’re overthinking it! You don’t need all of this welfare state stuff, you can get rid of all of it. You can get rid of dole payments and the questions Centrelink [the welfare arm of the Australian Government] ask, like.. “What is the sexual preference and age of your flatmates?” Who gives a shit?

Why is someone paid to read that crap, how is that important in the face of the fact that if I don’t get this money, I’m going to die?! Instead of paying pointless bureaucracy to evaluate who is eligible for what, we can just take that money.. and give it to the people.

People say ‘But wait, why give money to the rich?’ ..It still costs less than paying the wages of the people who work at Centrelink! There are so few of [the rich] that you can actually save taxpayer money!

The other thing about Universal Basic Income is that people say: well if people didn’t have to work, they wouldn’t go to work.

People want to be valued and to feel like they’re achieving something, they want recognition. The way to do that, generally speaking, is to work.

So even if you give people enough money to take care of all of the problems in their lives, they’ll still go to work because they need to feel like they’re achieving something, even if their job was picking up rubbish. Not everybody wants to be a famous movie star. If there was a choice between being a  checkout chick and a famous politician or a movie star, realistically most people would choose to work at the supermarket because it’s far less stressful.

Taxation

I also think we should change the tax system. I think  10% GST is good, I think it should be on everything.

I’d get rid of income taxes, almost all the other taxes we have.

I would install a 1% electronic transfer tax so that every time you use EFTPOS, or an ATM, that’s 1% automatically done behind the scenes, you don’t even notice it.
It will affect corporations, and banks, which do millions of transactions per minute, because that’s a lot of money shifting very, very fast. That would make more money than 10% GST.

But what it’s taxing is not the everyday person. It’s mainly taxing businesses, and particular businesses that deal in money as their product. And it’s all done automatically.

“Imagine the effect on people if you have no luxury tax.
When the cost of a Mercedes Benz is not much more than a Ford.
When you have no income tax, you won’t have up to 40% of your income going directly to the government. [We] won’t need it.”

I would have an import tax, to offset imports from other countries and protect workers.  That’s only necessary while we have third world countries. If the situation in third world countries was improved, you wouldn’t need an import tax.

The final tax would be on only those things where you want to increase the cost for the benefit of people, for example the tax on cigarettes. It makes a stupid, large amount of money, but it’s there to discourage people from smoking, the same as the tax on alcohol. Marijuana, as well, if you legalise that.

You would have no other taxes. Income tax, luxury tax, all that tax, gone.

People will pay less tax, yet the government will be making more money, and there’s less tax forms to fill out.

Those most affected would be those dealing internationally and those dealing in say, cigarettes. But most people, they’ll only be aware of the 10% GST, which we already have.’

Meeting Charlie Eagles

Strength, compassion, dignity.

These three words are written on a little whiteboard, pinned to a set of metal shelves just inside the entrance to Charlie Eagles’ bedroom. It may as well serve as an office: the door is usually open, and his friends enter readily. Boxes of Warhammer gear sit at the front of shelves packed with classic novels and an aging collection of CDs. A Guy Fawkes mask hangs above a wall of reminders: personal to-dos, money lent, favours to be returned.

‘Is that a quote?’ I ask.

‘It’s basically a distilled version of my outlook on life. Strength, compassion, and dignity are the traits I try to embody. Inner strength, compassion for others.. I always try to help people if I can, and I remind myself to be a decent and respectful human being.’

Below the three words are written two dot points:

  • Life; if you’re not having fun there’s no point!
  • If the world is not better for you being in it, then you’re just being a burden!

Charlie stands at 6’2″. At 41, his shoulder-length hair carries a streak of grey, but despite the age, he lives with the spirit of a teenager: anything is possible, ideas can and do change the world. He carries an effortless confidence behind a gentle, friendly, and open demeanour. If Charlie had a catch-phrase, it would be: ‘I’ll do what I can to help you.”

IMGP6005

When I mentioned that I was looking to move away from shooting landscapes to explore portraits, Charlie was the first to volunteer as a subject.

‘So I was thinking,’ I began, ‘that [as part of my portraits project] in order to capture the essence of people, to help them reveal who they really are, or how they would like to be perceived… it might be best to start by building a basic profile of whoever I’m looking to work with. Spend time with them on a regular basis so that I can capture them in their element.’

‘I’m not sure if you’ll really get to the essence of a person if you look to describing them by their habits, or what they do on a daily basis, though’, Charlie suggests. ‘For example, you might see me most days sitting in my bedroom, playing computer games, or reading a book. But that’s far from defining who I am or what I’ve achieved.’

When I first asked Charlie how he envisioned himself i.e. if he could fully express himself in physical form, what would he look like? All he could specify was a ball of fiery, white, clarifying light. Knowing Charlie and his motives, this wouldn’t be a misleading depiction.

The ideology he presents argues for the growth of human society into something organic and integral, where humans might work together voluntarily, not as pawns of an all-encompassing system, but preferably in mutual understanding and interest in a greater good. There is no room in his vision for the disconnected Randian hero, but neither is there room for the corrupt politician, lawman, or CEO. He sees the world as possessing ceaseless boundary for growth yet holding the maintenance of our humanity as of crucial importance.

A dynamic man, and a thought leader, Eagles is a dreamer who has experienced the world as few do: from prosperity to poverty, by choice.

‘My father always wanted to make his first million by the time he was 40,’ Charlie relates. ‘He reached it at 41. By the time my parents divorced, they were worth several.’

‘Wow.’

‘He is almost the complete opposite of me. He’s greedy, self-centred, obsessed with money and financial success. He’s short, squat, a dwarf-shape, blonde and blue-eyed. But he and I, we do share the same fear, of getting to be an old man, where you can’t do anything and realising that you haven’t. For him, life was about “those with the most toys wins”, “greed is good”, etc. Whereas I want to leave a legacy and make the world a better place. If people don’t appreciate me, then I had no effect, no value.’

Charlie unearths a stack of books from within the mass of shelving.

‘I was raised on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Machiavelli’s Prince, How to Win Friends and Influence People, all of that kind of stuff…’

He tosses me a copy of Ricardo Semler’s ‘Maverick!’

‘That, is probably the best management book that I’ve ever read.’

He also offers a copy of No Logo, and Nineteen Eighty-Four.

‘I’ve read Maverick,’ I offered, ‘and Nineteen Eighty-Four I read as a teenager. I’ve read most of Orwell. It’s a good depiction of the dynamics of different groups in society, and ironically [the events in the novel] are so close to where we are now. People with a keen eye who can see the greater movements within society can recognise these poignant warnings but it doesn’t…’

‘People take it as simply naysaying…’

‘..Or they dismiss things as if it were conspiracy theory.’

Charlie’s voice piques with an idea.

‘One of the things I came to realise about myself is that I love finding patterns. Everybody’s brains work well, but in very different ways, even among geniuses. I’m good at perceiving patterns, particularly among society and groups of people.

The other part of me is that I like improving things, and making them more efficient. It’s like looking at a jigsaw puzzle and seeing a piece in the wrong spot. It may be very similar to what should be there, but not quite. I have this drive to achieve balance. Combine that with patterns and it becomes an obsession: Society is wrong. This piece of the jigsaw should be here.’

“With the right change, we could erase a whole mass of problems in an instant. We waste so much time putting Band-Aids on symptoms instead of fixing the over-arching problems.”

‘I can relate to that…’ I interjected. ‘Seeing the greater issues in society and knowing that there are ways in which they could be easily fixed, if only we had the right implementation.’

‘These problems could be so easily fixed,’ he agrees. ‘Take universal basic income. It’s an easy solution, to a big problem. A whole spectrum of problems in society could be fixed, but I can’t move the jigsaw piece.’

Charlie laughs and one can sense the familiar ring of one laughing in the face of futility. He’s lived with this frustration for so long, like a general at an impasse in a war, with no action left to take but to laugh in the face of an impossible situation.

We went on to conduct interviews over several sessions, and by my second visit, Charlie had drawn up a basic graphic illustrating the points to a plan for refurbishing Australian society:


 

Benefits of capitalism without the drawbacks

Have

(These together will lead to a self-sustaining system.)

  • Universal Basic Income
  • New Constitution and Republic (based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
  • Only 4 taxes.
    • 10% GST
    • 1% tax on electronic money transfers
    • Import tax
    • Smokes and booze tax
  • Socialistic capitalism (All businesses are co-ops)
  • Free telecommunications (encourages communication and business)
  • Public bus services based on or sourced from Tesla
  • “Energy quotient buildings”

No

(Because they would be superfluous!)

    • Income tax
    • Luxury tax
    • Social security
    • Minimum wage

‘This all fits within a mantra of mine,’ he explains. “Change the system, to change the symptoms.”

Eagles suggests that a lot of help in society is targeted to addressing the symptoms of problems, rather than the root cause. His aim is to identify and to solve those causes, resolving most issues, at once. ‘If you don’t believe me, just look at the patterns in society, and they’ll show you the truth.

My one concern with all this is that… people will take me as too idealistic. Not that I think anything in this article would surprise anyone, well maybe five people that I know on social media.

[As a child] for a long time I’d wondered why there were so many things wrong with the world. In a typical journalistic approach my mother asked, “How would you do it differently?” So I started writing down ideas, and those ideas started to merge and mesh. By the time I was in my early to mid-teens I started to collect these ideas together into a book, basically defining how to build a new country. Like Lenin began from Marx, and the founding ideology of America, I felt that we needed a new ideology with the fresh ideas we have today, thanks to the evolution of technology, science, social advances, and our global society.

I felt that we could live by something better than a code written some 200 or even 2000 years ago. But these were the ideas of a teenage boy. I’d do it very, very differently today.

“I could say that as a child I had a dream that I was friends with everyone in the world, and all my friends were friends, but it doesn’t say nearly as much as:

I was a teenager who wrote a book full of ideas to help save the world.”

I’ve participated in marches, rallies, and protests for just about every good cause you could think of, helped countless people.. strangers come up and thank me for the help I’ve given them. I’ve saved people I’ve never met, changed their lives, changed national law! I’ve driven illegally over half of Australia, been overseas and seen things you wouldn’t imagine. But then I meet someone on the street and they’ll suggest that I’m simply a bum because I don’t have a car, “get a job”.. for fuck’s sake, there’s far more to life than money!’

Despite his lofty origins, Charlie currently works as a roadie. He recently returned to study at University, and works with Amnesty Australia when he’s able. And of course, he makes extensive time available to assist friends with activities such as conducting interviews for a fledgling blog..

I offer my perception: ‘I think you’re a good example of someone easily misjudged by common standards of success. From the outside, people can assume so little by these shallow ideals of what a person should have, or be, but you’ve obviously accomplished so much in your life.’

Over this series we’ll explore the more interesting aspects to his history, alongside the ideas Charlie presents, and how and why he believes they would benefit society.

Sympathy for the Criminal

I often find myself debating, or at least wishing I could make headway in debate with people unwilling to consider various criminals as human. I’ve long found it horrifically ironic to see would-be lynch mobs ready to tear a person down for a crime they have or have been alleged to have committed.

Easy case: If we present capital punishment as a response to murder, there’s an implicit endorsement by a state of the act of murder. So how do we explain to a criminal that violence is okay, but only as long as it has the endorsement of enough people? Oh, wait, but then only if we’re on the winning side, or if there are more of us..

I believe these attitudes are entirely counterproductive for everyone. I’d like to present my perspective.

When I was younger, acting like a jerk was my response to what I perceived as an unfair world. And I was quite the jerk.

I had reached the following conclusions by the time I was 16:
The majority of people were hapless sheep, the remainder were manipulative jerks taking advantage of them.
I had long since ceased expecting to be respected or valued as a person by people I’d never met, and perceived this as being simply because I was ‘different.’
I fought it as a kid, tried very hard to fit in and be accepted, I truly wanted to help people and the world, until I accepted the idea, unfortunately, that my efforts were wasted.
Developing a mindset like that, you lose any sense of obligation for fair dealing and positive treatment of others. Why be loyal to a self-destructive system which seems to be hostile to your growth and well-being, as an intellectually curious and critical individual?

We tend to forget that people even in our neighbourhood may have lived completely different lives with a set of experiences quite alien to our own. It’s these experiences which shape a person, what they expect from others, and their responses. A single event in a person’s life can inflict permanent change upon them, modifying how, why, and to what degree they can function.

But I digress. These negative perceptions of the world stayed with me, slowly evolving throughout my early to mid 20s, before I met someone whom demonstrated that even if I couldn’t change the world, maybe I could still be a positive force, which the people around me would appreciate, leading to a happier life for myself and those around me.

I never say that it’s right to commit criminal acts but I know exactly how it can be to find yourself pitted against the world. Punishment doesn’t change or diminish criminal activity because it’s simply perceived as systemic hostility by those used to encountering violence (whether physical or otherwise.)

Incidentally, this is why we shouldn’t continuously berate or beat our kids, especially if they don’t comprehend what or why they’ve done wrong. They will learn that violence is an acceptable way to solve problems or to get people to do what they want which is, I would say, a fairly counterproductive way of dealing with people. It would also teach them to hide when they’ve done wrong, that parents and/or authority figures are not approachable with some or all issues, and in some cases, that accidents are never acceptable. Consider the repercussions of just that last case – if everyone caused damage and never sought to fix it, or to make amends, because they feared punishment, how could we hope to survive as a society? How could you run an enterprise effectively with employees who cover up mistakes?

It’s for these reasons that I often take the sympathetic stance, even when reading about the worst criminal cases. There’s always another side to the story, and many people are not necessarily beyond saving. Evolution as a species, changing the underlying problems which foster the creation of the maladapted is far more important for society than labeling and judging people, and locking them away.

A critique of Chomsky: On Anarchy

When I picked up Noam Chomsky’s On Anarchy I was looking for a book from Lifehack’s 10 Books You Should Read to Get Rich. You could call it an airport acquisition. I needed something for a bus trip.

His name was familiar, but I couldn’t place it. He introduces himself as quite an important fellow, world-renowned, one of the most read, a modern influencer among Gen Y’s political circles. Honestly, I don’t often jump in to reading political or philosophical arguments because it’s so easy to be wound into speculative hypothesis (where we might learn occasionally, but often we’re burning time rehashing and rebuilding ideas instead of constructing solutions.) And I’m also driven to argue the point, because I find so much to question and disagree with. Hence..

Reading this book I could certainly see how Chomsky’s ideas might connect him in good favour, with a more learned, intellectual opinion coinciding with popular contemporary counter-culture and anti-establishment thinking.

For example: he drops kudos to Anonymous and the Occupy movement, trashes the American duopoly, the Republicans and Ron Paul’s interpretation of libertarianism. But his teeth are blunt.

Noam’s arguments predominantly come down to: ‘We really need to focus on being nice to people. And then destroy any
institutions we deem unnecessary. But make sure we take care in disassembling social niceties such as welfare so that they might easily be rebuilt into voluntary syndicates.’

I was personally stumped by his perception of classical liberalism as being based on hate. He introduces a parable which I’ll share: two libertarians refuse to form government to build a shared road, instead building a private road for themselves and then charging people if they would like to use it. Sure, it’s easy to demonstrate that working together can result in a more cohesive civilisation, with benefits for all but I think Chomsky misses the point. No-one is saying that a collective cannot be voluntarily formed, in fact libertarians are quite in favour of this – take a look at the Free State movement. It’s simply the exception of social obligation – let people go their own way, for better or for worse.

Roads always seem to be taken up as an easy target when speaking against libertarianism because we really do all use them. Private roads have quite limited use, and many people can build them. Let me propose an alternative idea: You invent a soft drink. It’s great, your friends love it, you take it to market and make millions. I suppose you could give all that money away in an attempt to benefit humanity as a whole, but you’re not obligated to. And is that really going to help further humanity, in the long-term? It depends on who you give the money to, sure. Or you could keep it and do more as one person who knows how to get things done. Regardless – it is your right to decide.

At least half of the book turns to an examination of accounts on the Spanish Revolution of the 1930s. Chomsky argues that many writers on the subject are tainted by their subjective political bias, and demonstrates this from every side. The greater truths I noticed was the demonstration of the acquisition of power in a vacuum: the strongest and most efficient will always seize power in any given situation, by any means available to them. Which was the same reason I abandoned anarchist ideals as a teenager: humans love power structures. Or perhaps it would be better to say, we form them by default. You either have a god or you are one, in many, many respects.
Chomsky’s view of the revolution seems to be that once the government was essentially destroyed, for a short time, a true collaborative state of anarchic utopia emerged. Farmers and merchants formed voluntary collectives. But then communism seeped into the foundling government under the guise of supporting these ideals, while providing a means for those who were originally in power to secure it under a new brand.

Personally I find that the prevailing idealism exemplified by Chomsky is overlooking that very fact which he is demonstrating.

Anarcho-socialist ideals tend to embody a fear of the threat of power, perceiving money as a tool of the prevailing manipulators. Businessmen and corporations are perceived as evil because they wield power over and manipulate others for the benefit of themselves. But the alternative they suggest proposes mob rule, a messy democracy of pigs savaging the troughs once owned by a farmer. And once the troughs are empty, the pigs volunteer to work in utopian unision, working for and feeding themselves. But not all pigs were made equal. One pig turns out to be another farmer – anyone bold and smart enough to manipulate their way into leadership – proposing that they can make things even better, and so the utopia is quickly destroyed.

Orwell, whom ironically Chomsky mentions in a fond context, made this argument with Animal Farm.

I notice these competing offerings: a possible anarchy featuring free trade in property, enshrining individuals in which there is no fairness but the equal right to live, work, and trade. In this case, one might argue, we are ruled by money or the one most cunning in manipulating it. On the other side of the field, a collective wants to eradicate the individual because they don’t trust humanity, or themselves. They hope to enshrine fairness where no-one is left behind. In the process, some group enslaves another. And groups tend to nominate leaders.

I do have an alternative, based in part on Chomsky’s propositions: We swap in members of the public quite often into a parliament where public service really is seen as both a right and duty of the members of society. Everyone takes a turn. These are a watchful jury of which impartiality is demanded. Secondly, not out of distrust, but out of recognition of humanity’s fallibility, I would propose putting no human in charge. We should be using our technology to develop the ability to model a society, proposing the question: what system of government or what order of society will now produce the best outcome for all individuals? Unfortunately I can’t see it taking place because of conflicting and competing vested interests (and the very fact we would be developing such a system, as humans), but I think such an impartial evaluation and direction of society is the only true route for an objective fairness.

As it is, I came to be a libertarian when I perceived individuals as unique, and valuable, an atomic element deserving of indisputable human rights. I perceived these as often violated or argued against, by even well-meaning folk.

Most liberal-minded individuals (using that term very loosely) want to protect some group from perceived slights. But we’re often simply arguing with different modes of ethics.

Heading back to the concept of being nice: I think humanity is desperately searching for a means to rise above it’s roots. Some of us won’t even admit that humans are essentially animals, albeit perhaps, the highest order. There’s a motivation to justify our existence and make our antecedents proud. We can either be thoroughly nice, cure everyone of cancer, and feed everyone (though the incapable can’t feed themselves so there’s some unfairness going on in there..), and even eliminate death.. and destroy our entire resources in the process. Or we make sacrifices. We have experience in that in terms of martyrdom and genocide. To be fair to all humans, while still enabling protection of the innocent, the focus really needs to be on the best outcome for the entire species. Some people may die – people do that. It’s irrational and irresponsible to seek infinite life and expansion without the resources to support it. We should enable our tools to tell us what to do since clearly, we can’t settle the dispute, we’re too hung up on greed or fear or compassion.

Chomsky belongs to a clique whom sympathises with, if not advocates for, a more democratic control of human systems, from the ground up. Workers owning the means of production, the businesses, the people truly being their own government.
For all the complexity of our social systems I wonder if this is enough. Citizens in western democracies, for all our entitlements, decry our leaders for their broken promises and corruption. We despise our governments for their control while gratefully accepting their dispersals (and it occurs to me, we’re not unlike rebellious teenagers with their parents..) But for the ineffectual bureacracies.. all of these problems and you want to expand that control system?

Let me relate a concept I believe is commonplace in Hollywood: the more writers on a film, and especially if there are multiple un-related directors, the worse the outcome. Have you seen those hatchet jobs where a bad script has passed through the hands of seven writers to make it somehow digestible or at least palatable to the board of a corporation seeking a best outcome. A public corporation, by design, is not too far from a democratic organisation. What would be doing but smashing skyscrapers to rebuild the same city starting with mud huts?

Chomsky attempts to prescribe a sense of injustice in earning a wage. That, by “renting” our time and effort to others we’re essentially slaves. Uh, wait. We’re being paid, right? If you build clocks for a living and someone else is profiting on those clocks.. you still haven’t built them for nothing, you’ve essentially sold your investment of time and energy, your share in the product for your wages.
I feel it is necessary to defend this concept of trade between effort and recompense. There’s no loss of dignity here. Many of us desire a free world where we can all trade and benefit – as you learn the skills to develop your own products and mind the business skills necessary to work for yourself.. no-one is keeping you tied down but you. If you’re miserable with your daily wages, stop pissing them away and find a meaningful way to invest them. Life is your own road to define. Set some lights, stop imagining it’s a tunnel to death 🙂

I will admit that I was apparently unaware of the original definitions of anarchist and libertarian. Chomsky claims them for the socialist bent. My notion is that anarchism, and libertarianism, to an extent, are essentially a fluid concept, often subjected to many subspecies of -isms. They cover the expanse of liberal thinking in terms of: notions of a society unconstrained by unnecessary authority, defined by different constraints and perceptions of what is necessary.

Given our broad differences in the concept of human rights and freedom, it’s possibly inevitable that the sole concept we really agree on is this: Authority should always be questioned. Decisions which are not our own but make impact on us should be critiqued. Justification is mandatory; we need to ensure the freedom and rights of ourselves and those about us aren’t violated by ignorance or apathy. If an authority is not fit to the task, they should be dismissed or ignored.

Chomsky offers a quote from Rousseau which felt particularly poignant:

True, those who have abandoned the life of a free man do nothing but boast incessantly of the peace and repose they enjoy in the their chains . . . . But when I see the others sacrifice pleasures, respose, wealth, power, and life itself for the preservation of this sole good which is so disdained by those who have lost it; when I see animals born free and despising captivity break their heads against the bars of their prison; when I see multitudes of entirely naked savages scorn European voluptuousness and endure hunger, fire, the sword, and death to preserve only their independence. I feel that it does not behoove slaves to reason about freedom.

Tony Abbott

It seems like every Australian on this roasted little island is angry.. about Tony Abbot. He’s breaking promises, they say. Screwing everyone over. The budget is in, and you lose. And you. And you. Angry lips bite and chafe to the beat of words streaming from the hungry media. ‘That tax money is going to buy a few fighter jets, to create a border college to train people to “stop the boats,” to reinstitute knighthoods.’ And no doubt many more dramatic examples the media and/or his opponents can or have found.

I haven’t paid that much attention to hear the dramatic examples, I’m afraid.

Foaming mouths, red eyes, stamping feet and sharp teeth crowd the pulpit. I’m standing back in the shadows, bemused. In situations like this I find myself the rational voice, observing the spectacle and the reaction of the crowd. Am I pissed? No. Have I been personally affected or am I liable to be? Probably not. But would I care anyway?

I’ll admit here in my second post that I’m not concerned about having other people’s money taken away from me. That’s all a subsidy is. That’s all welfare amounts to. Somebody else’s money, which you didn’t earn, in your pocket. Personally I feel a sense of guilt that I’ve had a fair amount of it already, and I’d like to repay that.

I am disappointed that, for all the “OMG SPENDING CUTS NOW..” word is that spending is actually going to increase. They may be taking more of your money, but they aren’t going to offset Australia’s debt with it. Perhaps it was too much to ask. I saw a legitimate chance for a government to downsize, to play less of an all-encompassing, choke-hold of a role on the lives of it’s citizens. I’m beginning to see, however, that Tony Abbott is the conservative I should have expected all along.  The last thing he would do is make a government smaller. No, a change in budget with major parties is merely a shifting of priorites.

But is this the government we deserve, or the government we asked for?