Asymmetric Modality of Power

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Social Acts: Herd vs Herd vs …

Title calls for the clarification of terms. Until now, power has only been mobilized between (symmetric) herds. Power? The capacity for a social act. A technical argument can be asserted, that nothing can escape a social act; necessitating further elucidation. Social act: that which is resisted by the herd, or in the case of herd action, the other-herd. Political campaigns are examples of social acts, if there are competitors. Hence, the North Korean election fails to be a social act, a maximal lack of resistance. Any act that has no significant resistance isn’t relevant for our analysis.

Symmetry as the mobilization amongst herds (herd-herd). Herd is the source of resistance, the exact amount and configuration dependent on the context, be it 25%1 or >51%. Wars have been fought between herds, even Guerillas, the number of personnel at least in the thousands. Activism still resorts to moral justification to affirm positions, even with a possibility otherwise. Feminist and Queer movements come to mind, a possibility of radical amoralism in them.

Herds aren’t merely any significantly-numbered social group. Clearly, the concept is borrowed from Nietzsche. Collection of humans, symptoms of the normative context, often not a dominant homogeneous entity – rather multiple norms, in attack against the other.

Parliamentarianism—that is, public permission to choose between five basic political opinions—flatters and wins the favor of all those who would like to seem independent and individual, as if they fought for their opinions. Ultimately, however, it is indifferent whether the herd is commanded to have one opinion or to have five. Whoever deviates from the five public opinions and stands apart will always have the whole herd against him.2

A note. Aforementioned as descriptive analysis, rather than prescriptive. One expects accusations of elitism, however, the position cannot be characterized as such. Historically, every human has been born into the herd, adhered and followed, to a certain extent. To be not-herd is not a birthright, as actual elitists (unconsciously) claim – the myth of hardwork, the unconscious birthright. The not-herd, precisely due to the not, a reaction to the herd, inevitably assimilates into the herd context, as another other-herd.

Asymmetric Social Act

An asymmetric social act is mobilized in a non-normal opposition, the individual against the herd. There are no strict requirements for a single individual, a non-significant numerical selection works, arbitrarily say a deca-constraint (<10). First, what is the non-herd individual not? 

Any entrepreneur, celebrated for their pseudo-opposition against normativity, leading us into progress is eliminated. For the herd isn’t merely the collection of people, but the collection as implicated symptoms of the normative context. Capitalism is (one of) the dominant normative context. Also, the circumstances of entrepreneurial success, implies sufficient social capital in the market. Other-herd is not the non-herd.

Any politicians, public figures, in conflict against the “status quo” are disqualified. Precisely by this normative acceptance, they belong to the herd, in the perspective of the conflict: the other-herd. Therefore, one must be skeptical of Nietzsche’s admiration of Napoleon. His philosophical tools undermine this admiration, for what does Napoleon embody? The virtue of populist greatness.

And to the self-proclaimed “Nietzscheans” who may raise swords and draw arrows-

Companions, the creator seeks, not corpses, not herds and believers. Fellow creators, the creator seeks -those who write new values on new tablets.3

And I am not a corpse, nor a herd or believer.

Ontic Possibility of an Asymmetric Act?

A distinction, the ontic and the ontological. That the possibilities of an asymmetric act appear in ontic modalities with an ontological allegiance to the herd. Nonetheless an analysis of the ontic modality is necessary for its (possible) recreation.

Hacking. Not the ethical kind, work of capitalist bondslaves, rather of illicit insurgents. Even those of a perceptually nihilistic kind. Perhaps the hacker desires attention, a public proclamation of their prowess, nevertheless power as validated in notoriety by the other-herd. Financial incentives? Backtracks to the normative context of capitalism.

There exists a more accepted “fundamental” motivation of hackers. Hacking in the broad sense, capital H-Hacking. In The Hacker Ethic, Himanen characterizes the motivation as passion.

Hackers “want to realize their passions, and they are ready to accept that the pursuit even of interesting tasks may not always be unmitigated bliss.4 

Software design and implementation should be a joyous art, and a kind of high-level play.  (Eric Raymond)5

It is difficult to determine the motivation of “play”. For Himanen’s association of it with passion, and he is no advocate of capitalism, the word carries the burden of the symbolic, in which the capitalist narrative of passion plays a significant role. Consider Wozniak, a respected Hacker, describing his idea of life.

You don’t do anything in life unless it’s for happiness . . . . That’s my theorem of life … . A simple formula, really: H = F3. Happiness equals food, fun, and friends.6

Much like “passion”, but more explicit, an outlook embalmed in the ideology of happiness. How can we interpret “play” here? Perhaps non-creative play. It requires a certain normative competence of the ontic modality, for example coding, but confined to only make incremental non-creative steps, if any. Radical creativity is done a disservice by adopting the Rick Rubin conception of it: Creativity as a joyful, inner voice oriented, spiritual nonsense. While the associated emotional content emanating from such activities can be acknowledged, it simply fails at radical creation, ultimately a maximally violent act.

Nonetheless, the ontic modality of hacking shows potential. Shutting down electrical grids, leaking classified documents, and for an increasingly network entrenched world, an asymmetry emerges from the structural situation.

Decline of the Napoleonic Archetype- and the Cyberspace

In Nonstate Warfare, Biddle analyzes patterns of war between states and non-states (rebels, guerillas, etc.). Recognition of a mischaracterization in military analysis, of state and non-state modalities of war as mutually exclusive archetypes: Fabian and Napoleonic. Former, named after the Roman general Fabius Maximus, is the war archetype of attrition, units of disruptive attacks that cause numerous relatively less-lethal damage, death by a thousand needles. Latter, like the vast battle cavalries of Napoleon, highly lethal attacks, individual vulnerability overcome by the group lethality of numbers.

However, the advancement in military technology has lost numerical preponderance its advantage. As Biddle writes-

Modern weapons are lethal enough that even a handful of surviving shooters can annihilate massed enemies in the open; because even a few survivors can accomplish this, it has become harder for technologically superior states to preempt nonstate enemies’ ability to punish massed exposure by state forces where nonstate actors deploy modern weapons and use them competently.7a

Conclusion: an optimal contemporary strategy of war lies in the middle of the Fabian-Napoleonic spectrum. Although the specific aims of his critique implies the conclusion, in particular the critique of the romanticized guerrilla militia: irregular dispersive units, harboring unconventional weapons, standing against the efficient state military. However, for us, his analysis poses an advantage for the Fabian.

Why has the shift occurred? Increased availability and lethality of weapons, and its inverse relation to the advantage of numerical preponderance. If viewed from the historical circumstance of symmetric social acts, in this case war, an increased advantage for asymmetric social acts is evident. As the asymmetric act can only take a Fabian form, this shift is important. That is not a comment on the practical feasibility or ease of an asymmetric act, rather a relative increase in the possibility of it. 

And the political advantage for the individual, non-herd, Overmen. As Biddle aptly notes, the ultimate goal of both state and non-state militia is the control of collective politics.

Political aims, in this fundamental sense of politics as the collective decision making of civilians, are thus nearly universal in war regardless of the actor involved—they are not a unique property of states.7b

On the contrary, if the ultimate goal of almost all warfare is to control the choices of living civilians then the causal mechanism must ultimately be coercive for all: the way combatants control the collective decisions of civilian populations is by shaping their expectations of future violence and reward, which is the very definition of coercion.7c

In principle, Fabian coercion alone can be enough to defeat a state occupier. But to persist in such disagreeable methods longer than necessary is to incur unnecessary politico-military costs.7d

For the non-herd, control on collective politics is a matter of indifference. Without the political costs, the non-herd Fabian increases the relative political costs of the herd state. A fact clearly apparent in cyberspace, where the non-herd Fabian has maximum advantage. Lack of any home bases to defend, no matters of political conviction/coercion, a possibility for action – radical, violent, creative.

Although not non-herd, the Fabian modality of cyberattacks, like Anonymous, are exemplary case studies. Along with suspension of architecture and classified disclosure, with the prevalence of internet embedded hardware, 1s and 0s can control material reality.

The Limiting Problem of the Body

Humans are physically fragile creatures. Not the strongest, like Elephants or Gorillas, not the fastest, like Gazelles or Cheetahs- the expected completion of the sentence would be the title of the smartest, but it’s more than that. Smartness invokes a standard of its own evaluation, and the Human can invent and evolve to standards. As noted in Premature Notes on Ontology

Also the case that humanity, maximally more than other related creatures – those that use tools, the great apes, monkeys, otters – have adapted to unfavorable circumstances not through biological evolution, rather culturo-conceptual evolution. Covid pandemic, an excellent example.

[…] and our essence? Capacity to adopt any essence, in its highest form to create new ones.8

The Limiting Problem of the Body. Humans have solved it before, against animals. From weapons that enabled groups of prehistoric humans to hunt lions, to a competent sniper that can eliminate a herd of elephants.

Now, a new Limiting Problem is posed: Overman against Human. A far more complex limiting problem. For any solution of the Overman, if unable to radically create it, the Human can adopt. Animals, who had no sense of limiting problems, were incapable of such a feat. After all, the Human is a symptom that hasn’t recognized its capacity for radical evolution.

As long as the norm exists, the limiting problem remains perpetual. Every epoch, the Overman must overcome the herd, will social acts to enable radical creation. We haven’t solved, nor are we close to solving the current epoch, the first limiting problem of its kind. Even the examples of hacking are extremely limited in efficacy and sustenance of asymmetric social acts.

Here is a declaration. I (the event) have posed the Limiting Problem of the Body, and shall evolve to solve it. I make this assertion in all its magnanimity and arrogance, with complete awareness of failure – or death. Nonetheless, one can’t help but be reminded of the Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto, not in content rather its aftereffects Aaron Swartz.

The manifesto played an important role in Aaron’s prosecution: the government intended to use it at trial to establish Aaron’s motive for downloading JSTOR articles, arguing that he had intended to release the articles to the public.9

Perhaps the essay will aid my future prosecution, yet I must act. For if I cannot overcome that, I am better off perishing. Here, one faces the Impossible, not “impossible struggles” of the pursuit of any scarce outcome in the normative context, towards “success”, businesses and hierarchical ladders come to mind. 

Rather the capital-I Impossible.

Perish in pursuit of this and only this – I know of no better aim of life than that of perishing, animae magnae prodigus, in pursuit of the great and the impossible.10

References

1. Centola, D., Becker, J., Brackbill, D., & Baronchelli, A. (2018). Experimental evidence for tipping points in social convention. In Science (Vol. 360, Issue 6393, pp. 1116–1119). American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
2. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, (1882), § 174, Kauffman trans., p. 202
3. Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, (1883), (The Portable Nietzsche) p. 136.
4. Pekka Himanen, The Hacker Ethic, (2001), p. 38.
5. Raymond, “The Art of Unix Programming” (2000), chap. l.
6. Gold, Steve Wozniak: A Wizard Called Woz (1994), p. 10.
7. Stephen Biddle, Nonstate Warfare: The Military Methods of Guerillas, Warlords, and Militias, (2021)
a. p. 47
b. p. 26
c. p. 31
d. p. 68
8. Niranjan Krishna, Premature Notes on Ontology, (2024)
https://niranjankrishna.com/premature-notes-on-ontology
9. Aaron Swartz, The Boy Who Could Change the World, Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto
10. Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, (1873), (R.J Hollingdale Trans.) p. 112


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