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Re: <nettime> Reverse Engineering Freedom and make world paper#3
David Garcia on Wed, 24 Sep 2003 18:39:57 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Reverse Engineering Freedom and make world paper#3

> All too often we have encountered a fear of freedom amongst radical
> activists. There is a deep desire to call for regulation and control
> that, in the past, the nation-state and its repressive apparatus had
> to enforce upon the out-of-control capitalism. As true
> techno-libertarians we have to state: the struggle is about nothing
> else other than freedom (Everyone is a Californian). There is a
> freedom of sharing, exchanging, multiplying and distributing
> resources, no matter how material or immaterial. So far, freedom has
> always been connected with equality, and therefore tied up with the
> possession of or alienation from property. Today this link is broken.
> It is exactly the complete farce of all sorts of management scenarios
> (from border management to digital rights management) which make
> evident that property is an absolutely inadequate juridico-political
> relation to handle the potential and the complexity of social
> relationships within the immaterial sphere of production and
> distribution. It is an essential and unalterable fact that ideas
> circulate online and people are free to move around offline. Content
> should not be restricted to the Internet or any one medium for that
> matter. For its own sake the multitudes will refuse to be handcuffed
> and fettered by the myths of a nation-state or some global government.

It is a sad truth that although imperfect, the most effective guarantor of
the personal safety upon which the freedom Geert and Florian celebrate,
including (perhaps especially) the innovations of the opensource movement,
are not universal principals but the power sovereign states, able and
willing to offer minimal conditions of safety to its resident netizens,
activists and hackers whether in Brisbane, Berlin or Delhi.

Geert and Florian's words are as always provide an inspiring dose of
boosterism but nevertheless (in this paragraph at least) they are a
chimera because the condition of the privileged and mobile, net-savy
intelligencia they generously wish to universalize is totally dependent on
the existence of the network of states and their institutions whose
boarders they would dissolve. To act as though globalization and the
networks (from either above or below) have rendered nation states either
illusory or merely an oppressive anachronism, is to fail to see the plight
of the tens of thousands of stateless people, whose membership of the
human family alone affords them little pity, protection or hope, let alone
freedom (reverse engineered or otherwise). This outdated narrative which
claims to be going beyond the naivetes of the dot.gone era, merely succeed
(here and there) in recuperating its lack of (all but the most recent)
historical awareness. Despite a critical ambience we are re-visiting the
euphoria of another holiday from history. Geert and Florian dissolve in
the universalising solvent of their rhetoric the fact that many important
liberation movements (including that taking place in Palestine) are more
than than ever likely to be nationalist movements. Kurds. Tamils, Kosovar
Albanians all seek statehood and "the right to create a framework of legal
and political protection for their people". Try telling Palestinian
fighters who dream of living in their own country that they are
"handcuffed to the myth of the nation-state".

There are many hells in this world and many (admittedly by no means all)
of the worst occur when not only through oppressive by states, but when
states break down. And the technologies of violence that were previously
under proprietary control of the nation are opensourced (in proliferation)
to the warlords and the gangsters. When a state dissolves and our
predatory side is unconstrained we will all ask just one question: where
will I be safe? It is then that we discover (empirically) why boarders
exist. Of course even under these conditions we remain within boarders..
but these boarders shrink, drastically -along with our freedoms- as we
slide from nation to tribe to clan to gang. And the much celebrated
"commons" becomes Shakespeare's pitiless "heath" where (if we are
luckless) we might attain the freedom of a wandering Lear, who, naked and
unprotected, is thus purified to the state of "natural man" and so becomes
that 'poor, bare forked animal' .. Is this fear of freedom? You bet!

There is always great pleasure in reading the inspirational texts Geert
and Florian but they also give the sense that it might be time for a
slightly different tone. For at least some critical internet culture to
proclaim less heroically, Zarathustra style, from lofty peaks. Maybe
alongside charismatic Nietzschean flights, we might remember Gide who
famously declared that "fear and trembling are the best in man"..

david garcia

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