Ending all wars
Russia invaded Ukraine just a few weeks ago, plunging the whole world into a renewed fear over an escalation of the conflict and another world war.
Two main camps have quickly formed:
The pro-Russian camp, who claim that it is merely defending the right to self-determination of the Russian people living in certain regions of Ukraine, and protecting them from the violence of the State of Ukraine which has violated their fundamental human rights and failed to protect them as “minorities”.
The NATO camp, along with many other States from around the world, who see this as a declaration of war and invasion of another sovereign state with no legal basis or justification whatsoever.
The world is black and white again, and people are meant to pick sides: are you for or against Putin? Are you for or against the United States? Are you for or against Ukraine? Are you for or against Europe? Are you rooting for good or for evil? Are you for war or for peace? Are you for freedom or dictatorship? In the heat of the moment, all nuance is lost, there are no shades of grey, only a Hollywood style action movie scenario with a hero and a villain. Beyond this dualistic vision of reality, many fortunately have not lost sight of what is most important and tragic: ordinary people, women, men, children, the elderly, families… are dying, are being torn apart, are having their lives literally uprooted. Regardless of how you read the geopolitical narrative, and who’s the good guy and the bad guy, it changes nothing, ultimately, to the underlying tragedy experienced by ordinary people.
Forming camps and agreeing in what direction we should be pointing fingers and attributing blame is one possible reaction to this tragedy. But now that the “shock” of the onset of the conflict has somewhat subsided, perhaps it is time that we move on to examine more fundamental questions: how can we put an end to all wars into the foreseeable future? How can we make sure that this will be the last war of the 21st century?
Some might think that the answer is quite obvious: get rid of all dictators and spread democracy to the whole world. Well, sorry to bust your bubble, but it’s much more radical than that.
First, we should really ask ourselves this key question: who initiates war? Nation states. They are the only “entity” who can wage war. And typically, Nation states are controlled by someone, a Head of State, President, Prime Minister, Dictator, King or basically a “Daddy” of some kind who sits at the top of a pyramidal structure of power. In some States, mostly democratic ones, the power of these daddies is more or less restrained, but even when it is, it’s still via a centralized pyramidal authority such as an elected parliament. Only in some very rare cases are people directly involved in keeping the people sitting at the top of the pyramid in check (see Switzerland for example, and their frequent use of referendums). That is not to say that the people in power systematically act against the will of the people they represent or claim to represent. In the case of the present Russian invasion of Ukraine, a part of the Russian population does support Putin’s decision. But what a pyramidal power structure allows citizens to do, is to conveniently defer responsibility to the “top”. No one is “singlehandedly” responsible for the actions of their leader, and at the same time, everyone is to some degree. In our modern democracies, for instance, when people vote for extreme right or extreme left political parties, they are not the ones who will have to personally round up migrants, stuff them in a van and drive them to the border to evict them from their country. Nor will they be the ones who will go and take over the property or wealth of some randomly defined “bourgeois” rich person. These actions will be carried out by an impersonal “power” or institution, like the police force or judges, administrations and tribunals. It’s a nice way to kill chickens without having blood on your hands. “It’s not me, it’s the State.”
Ironically enough, this is the one point where both sides agree: just how much we need more of the State. “Thank God we have powerful States, with armies, airplanes, tanks and missiles to defend ourselves against the oppressor.”
So let me put things in simple terms, even if this will be very controversial or shock some of you. Our governments, whether they are Russian, Ukrainian, American or French, symbolically play the role of “Daddy”: an authority figure which, ideally, takes care of his “kids” (citizens). The coronavirus and the current conflict between Putin and Zelenskyy are the perfect opportunities to experience this relationship with our governments, our Nation state. We are being treated like children. On the one hand, as spoiled undisciplined children who need clear cut “rules” on how to behave (all of the anti-coronavirus measures), lest society would plunge into chaos, on the other hand, like powerless children who need daddy’s protection, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to survive in this violent and dangerous world. Some daddies are nicer and more open to listening to their children (like our democracies), while others are tyrannical and govern their household like a military bootcamp (Putin, Xi Jinping, etc.), but they all remain daddies nonetheless.
However, there always comes a time, in a child’s life, when he/she has grown to a point where he/she is looking for more autonomy and independence. In some families this happens smoothly, naturally and gradually, where children can experience varying degrees of autonomy and freedom until they leave the family “nest” and become fully autonomous and independent from dad’s authority. In other families, it happens with lots of drama, running away, attempting a radical form of autonomy, sometimes aborted and failed, where the child proceeds by trial and error, and returns from time to time, the tail between the legs, back under the authority of dad, before exploding again and trying to sever all ties once again. By way of example, when examining the transition from absolute monarchy to representative democracy in our European countries, there are certain countries which fit the first model (progressive autonomy and independence of children/citizens) such as Great-Britain, and other countries which fit the second model (chaotic upheavals of radical autonomy, followed by returns under the “reign” of dad) as in France.
The transition from absolute monarchy to representative democracy is essentially the transition from childhood to adolescence. For a child, his dad is a King, a God, who holds absolute authority over his life. For a teenager, dad is gradually transformed from God into an old fart, full of faults, with less and less marked authority, setting the scene for the teenager’s growing emancipation. Few citizens in our democracies still worship our elected officials as gods. On the contrary, most citizens speak critically of public authorities. “Dad, you have this as a fault, and then that too…” No, dad is not perfect, dad is not a God. What a disappointment! But even if we willingly criticize dad, that does not mean that we are ready to shoulder the responsibility associated with power, which is typical of teenagers. They want freedom and power, but not necessarily responsibility. This is where we are now. And then comes a time when the adolescent gradually transforms into an adult, and leaves the family nest to experience his/her autonomy. At that time, some parents may feel stressed and worried, wondering if their “teen”, their little baby, is really ready to leave the nest and face the world.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay home instead of going to live with a roommate? I’ll drive you to the train station in the morning so you can go to college or work. And who’s going to do your laundry and your dishes? Who will cook for you? “.
“Are you sure you want to form self-sustaining communities via blockchain technologies that allow you to self-govern, putting in place systems of collective stewardship coupled with a decentralized monetary system based on the Relative Theory of Money? How will you handle a pandemic? How will you defend yourselves in the event of an attack from another naughty dad? “.
There are many ways for a growing adult to gain autonomy vis-à-vis their parents. Personally, I prefer to opt for a smooth transition, where governments support citizens’ initiatives aimed at developing decentralized self-governance tools, which will eventually lead to being able to do without these same governments and dissolve these centralized structures of power. A healthy parent does not try to keep his children in a situation of dependency. On the contrary, a healthy parent feels deep pride and respect for his children when they manage to fend for themselves. It is also proof of his success as a parent: raising his children to become independent and responsible adults. I hope with all my heart that our governments and rulers, both at national and local level, will adopt this kind of attitude towards their citizens, and not try to retain “power” at all costs, by fighting against the emergence of solutions allowing citizens to self-organize and self-govern.
Some of you might wonder how all of this can help us in the face of conflict or war. When a country invades another country, and there is a “winner”, it’s basically as if two families went to war, and one of the dads killed the other dad. From that moment on, the woman (the “mother land”) and her children (the citizens) come under the authority of the “victorious” father. The story of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet conceals, in this respect, a hidden depth. In this story, two families are at war, and the children are required to follow the orders of the pater familias and perpetuate this conflict from generation to generation. Only, two children rebel against this injunction of mutual hatred, and switch to peace, reconciliation and even love. Some governments represent well these narrow-minded “heads of families”, who perpetuate hatred and conflicts even when their children no longer want them and seek peace and reconciliation. For Romeo and Juliet, in their time, there was no possible way out except death. Humanity had not evolved enough to allow Romeo and Juliet to get out of the paternal authority and build an independent couple. Today, humanity is ready to experiment with new governance structures, which will eventually replace our representative democracies and states.
What would change with decentralized governance? When your governance model is built on a pyramidal power structure, an invader only needs to cut off the head of the pyramid or take control of it, to extend his power over all citizens. Whether during the colonization of the world by the Europeans or Hitler’s invasions, in either case, the most effective strategy has never been to eliminate all the structures of power, the police, the courts, administrations, and to replace them with settlers or Germans, but rather to put in place rulers who were at the orders of the victor. Thus, a country like Great Britain, which had a population of only a few tens of millions, was able to take control over a country as large as a continent with a population 10 times greater, India. Any pyramidal power structure therefore represents a target for anyone wishing to seize power. In the case of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the military proceeds methodically to take control of the country, targeting critical infrastructure, paralyzing the government, cutting off access to resources, etc.
But how do you gain control over a decentralized network based governance structure, where no one is the “leader”, where there is no longer a critical or central decision-making body? Imagine an army arriving in your village: your monetary system and your system of governance exist via a decentralized mesh network maintained by all of the citizens’ electronic devices connected to each other directly, without relying on centralized infrastructure. The production of electricity and food is also decentralized and each citizen produces and stores their energy and food locally. The effort you would have to make to take control of the village would be disproportionate to the “benefit” it could bring you. Also, the willingness of such a network of people to go to “war” with another network would be close to non-existent. That is what happens when you distribute power and responsibility to all: suddenly, people behave accordingly. It’s easy to let yourself slip into war when you don’t have to directly bear the consequences and responsibilities, when you can point fingers and blame the “leader”, dictator, or anyone else for initiating it. Citizens don’t want war. They want peace. They just want to take care of their families, and meet their most basic needs. Citizens don’t engage in mass culture wars, aiming at colonizing the “minds” of others. They live their lives at the micro level. It’s centralized organisms at a global level which act in this way: mega corporations fighting each other using humans as a proxy, as their puppets. Let us recall the Vietnam War led by the United States (1954–1975) and the war in Afghanistan led by the USSR (1979–1989). The bitter failure of these two wars, however fought by great powers, demonstrates that it is impossible to “win” a war when the population of an entire country rises up and adopts a “guerrilla” style of fighting. Armies are equipped and trained to defeat other armies, not to fight in a marketplace surrounded by civilians, where any of them might pull out a gun or detonate a bomb. On top of that, both wars ultimately drew to an end as a result of inside pressure, whether from demonstrations and anti-war protests from within the United States, or the fall of the Soviet Union via the collapse of the Berlin wall.
Thus, if we really want to put an end to wars once and for all, we will have to gradually dismantle nation-states and pyramidal structures of power and replace them with a dynamic mesh of self-governance structures, where people are free to join or leave a network without having to fill in paper work and show passports. And so rather than extending representative democracy to the whole world in order to finally have “peace”, it will on the contrary be necessary to set an example, and switch to decentralized and networked organizational systems, on smaller scales such as that of a city and its inhabitants (see in this regard the work of political scientist Benjamin Barber). As this model spreads, not only will it subtract itself as a potential target for nation-states to conquer, but it will also stop representing a “threat”, like a current rival state does, since such networks will no longer have “centralized” tools (like armies) for waging war. They would only require minimal self-defense tools, the biggest self-defense being their very structure and organization.
Here are some links to projects and resources for building such decentralized networks:
Hypha DHO: https://dho.hypha.earth/#/
Regen network: https://www.regen.network/
Closer app: https://dev.closer.earth/
Refi DAO: https://refidao.com/
Once again, therefore, it is no longer a question of painting things in black and white, with good guys and bad guys, but of viewing the shift from monarchies by divine right to representative democracies, and the advent of technical tools , via blockchain technology, enabling the move to self-governance systems, as part of a natural evolutionary process, just like our bodies evolved from being “ape” like to our present human form. Our current governments, pyramidal power systems and nation states are therefore not inherently “bad”, and have played a key role in the development and evolution of human consciousness. Simply, they are less and less fit to solve the problems and challenges that humanity faces and will have to gradually let other systems take over. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine allows humanity to make a choice: each human rallying behind his own “daddy” and wage war against another daddy and his children, or step out of this logic and be able to function independently and responsibly without the need for a dad. And then, if the dads are still angry, let daddy Putin and daddy Zelenskyy take it out on each other in a boxing ring.
Unfortunately, switching to other governance structures is a long-term solution. In the short term, the best we can do is to help civilians and families affected by the conflict, by financing charities, or even by welcoming Ukrainian refugees. Nation states will keep playing an important role for the next few decades, hopefully a positive one. In the meantime, we can already decide to personally withdraw from this black and white logic, and the call to rally behind your daddy. The less power daddies have, the more peaceful our world will become.
Some of you may be shocked by what I’m advocating for, but let me be clear. My position is not that we should get rid of Nation states, it’s that we will inevitably do so in the future anyways for reasons which have nothing to do with the intrinsic “value” or “goodness” of Nation states. It is simply that the only constant in this reality and universe is change and evolution. All will eventually change, including that which we think is “rock solid” and will stay “forever”. Empires didn’t last, Nation states won’t either. Nation states served a similar purpose to the scaffolding you create to build a house. It's not meant to last forever. Nation states have allowed us to evolve, as a collective, as humans, and we are reaching a point where we can start to remove that scaffolding.
Finally, let me also reassure you: not all children leave the nest at the same time. Typically, the eldest leaves the nest first, and has a tough job doing so, paving the way for his brothers/sisters, making it easier when their own time comes. Many citizens may not be ready to “leave daddy” and join and/or contribute to build self-governed autonomous communities, and that’s perfectly fine! No one expects a 6 year old to join his 20 year old sister when she leaves the family nest. Everyone will be free to advance at their own pace. All I am doing, through this article, is identifying the signs which indicate the eldest of the family is planning to move out from his/her parents’ house soon: blockchain, DAOs and DHOs (see Hypha above), crypto-assets, new monetary systems, decentralized governance, etc. The eldest child is packing his/her bags. For the rest of the family, hopefully, Dad will become wiser and care for his other children better, be less stressed about their "future", and a bit more flexible with the ground rules and curfews.
As I look at my newsfeed on social media, it is clear to me that the war of bullets has extended into a virtual war of words, which helps no one and on the contrary, pours oil into the fire. Let the daddies fight, and lets focus our energy towards building such structures which transcend artificial boundaries and borders and which promote peace and harmony directly, people to people, human to human, heart to heart.
If you are fluent in French, you can buy my book, which discusses the conflict between Russia and Ukraine (this article is an extract from my book) and many more topics relevant to our present situation: https://www.publier-un-livre.com/fr/le-livre-en-papier/2510-la-terre-accouche-histoire-d-une-humanite-en-gestation