The Sovereign Individual and the State – a Mortal Enmity

By Azazel

M E T A N A R R A T I V E

Since the beginning of civilization an incorporeal entity has dominated the landscape of human politics, whether in the form of a walled city ruled by an elite council or a large-scale empire encompassing numerous peoples and cultures within it has come to define how concepts such as authority, “justice,” “law” or fidelity have been interpreted by those that live beneath its shadow – the entity called state.  It’s only a concept, but those who promote the idea of state are those with enough wealth and weaponry to strike down those who would challenge the rule of society’s elite: according those in power, one must either accept that all people are united in a single body (whether it’s called the city, the nation, the empire or something else makes no difference) under the leadership of said elite group and swear obedience to it or else face the consequences (confiscation of property, imprisonment, torture, death and even the death of one’s own in extreme cases).

Also from the dawn of human history are those who find the very existence of such entities ridiculous – individual persons who see no need for a central authority to dictate how one must think or act.  Such individuals are their own sovereigns: they value themselves and their own first and foremost, live by their own codes of ethics and tend to eschew the dictates of the powers that be when they contradict their own interests.  Through the ages the entity called state has ridiculed such persons with a variety of titles such as barbarians, “criminals” or anarchists due to these tendencies (even when such labels don’t necessarily fit the individual’s characteristics).

Thus a struggle was born between those who would be rulers and those who simply refuse to be ruled by powers outside themselves – the state and the sovereign individual have been at war with each other as long as they have existed because they cannot coexist with one another as one entity seeks ever increasing dominion and resources whilst the other cares primarily for what is in its own interests as defined solely by itself.  With each entity being at cross-purposes with the other, the only resolution possible is that one or the other should perish.

Throughout most of human history the state has held almost total sway in this war – as it controlled nearly all wealth, information (as until fairly recently education was only affordable to the elite) and weaponry available, the state’s only real concerns were rival state entities and running out of wealth.  Every now and then a few sovereign individuals would rise up and make waves (which often lead to rebellions of various forms), but the state was strong enough to either crush them in their infancy through force of arms or else find a means to co-opt them for their own purposes through its control of information.  However, now that the information age has come the tide is starting to turn: while wealth is still largely controlled by the state, information once locked away in the vaults are now posted on sites like Wikileaks for all to see and weaponry has become more available to the common man than at any previous time in history – giving the sovereign individual venues to strike back at the power that attempts to repress him than he could have even imagined in previous times.

But for now the state still holds a powerful tool that helps ensure its grasp on power – the power of cultural mythology.  The state convinces the common person that its existence is a “good” thing for him (or at least necessary for civil society): this is a mentality that needs to be dispelled for the sovereign individual to triumph…

Common myths of power

Myth: Centralized power structures enable a “greater good” to be done throughout society.

Reality: Power only concerns itself with power – anything that it does to serve any kind of “greater good” is peripheral to its true intent and is only done when power benefits from such things.  A good example would be national infrastructure programs: while such things do benefit the common person to an extent, the *real* purposes of projects such as new roads and bridges are (1.) to benefit wealthy contracting firms and facilitate the movement of capital from region to region (which are *very* profitable affairs for those who buy influence from the political class) and (2.) to create new tasks for common people to occupy themselves with (which temporarily alleviate persisting social problems like rampant unemployment and building social unrest – sort of like putting a bandage on cancer).

Rather than address the real concerns that effect the general population (like overpopulation and an economy that promotes unhealthy attitudes towards wealth, for example), most projects the powerful launch treat the symptoms of the actual problems we all face (through promoting the outward expansion of populations or simply keeping them distracted with menial tasks, as mentioned in the example above).  Now I’m not saying “death to infrastructure” or anything like that: what I *am* saying is that centralized power structures cannot be trusted to manage such things – anything centralized power touches will serve its own ends first and foremost, not yours.

Myth: The excesses of state power can be tempered through the participation of its citizens – the common man can be given a say over how he is governed.

Reality: The entity called state cares very little for the opinions of the common person – it only pretends to care for the sake of preserving social order.  One doesn’t have to look far beyond the bogus “democracy” that the Western world favors: whilst the parties of the political class claim to be different in their platforms that they tout during the elections, the policies they make differ very little in practice.  One need only look at the results of the “hope” and “change” campaign launched by the presiding head of Executive branch of the U.S. government for a painful reminder of this fact.

Some might argue that the reason we are saddled with government like this is because the system is corrupted by corporate money, which is a valid point, but misses the core issue – concentrated power tends to attract the most corrupt and power-hungry elements of society to it (if it wasn’t multi-national corporations, it would be some other power buying/coaxing influence from the state to serve its cause).  Having so much power concentrated in so few hands (which is an inescapable reality of centralized power structures) is simply too dangerous to keep around: the only thing a sovereign individual may do with such systems is work to destroy them so that more localized power centers may rise up and take their place – after all, it far easier to keep an authority that lives next door in line than one that resides in the halls of power located far beyond your reach…

Myth: Even if the state is malicious, it keeps order – without it society would degenerate into total anarchy.

Reality: Societies existed well before the creation of the state – they might not have been what most people call “civilized” but they did provide a semblance of order without rigidly established power structures of any kind.  I’m pretty confident that it would be a relatively simple matter to form new social structures (like Stirniresque “unions of egoists” or Proudhon’s individualist social contracts) to replace the failed institutions that die along with the state.

But let’s just assume, for argument’s sake, that the collapse of state results in bellum omnium contra omnes – such a state of existence would not significantly threaten sovereign individuals (as we are well-adapted to living outside of conventional bounds of “law” and authority anyway), but rather it would pose a serious challenge for those well-entrenched in the present order: such people tend to be inflexible and don’t handle change very well – creating an environment of a war of all against all would simply allow natural selection to run its course and flush out the parasites (particularly politicians, corporate executives and lobbyists) that contribute nothing to us yet demand *everything* from us.  When the dust finally settles, those who are strong enough to survive the test of chaos will simply build new lives without the social establishment dictating their lives to them.

Should these myths lose their power over the minds of the average persons, the state will find it difficult to maintain its grip on their throats – with the individual having unprecedented access to information and arms in this day and age all that’s needed is for him to lose whatever loyalty he still has to this diseased system for him to launch a successful, open revolt against his those who would be masters over him.

A new vision

Instead of trying to take over the reins of state power and push society in a direction that a handful choose to move it, we envision a world in which each person is capable of determining his own direction – his own personal code of behaviors, his own social environment, his own values and can define himself based on who he is and what he can do rather than arbitrary criteria imposed upon him by the establishment (“race,” religion, class, place of birth or whatever other trivia society considers important).

All social contracts would be made down at the individual level rather than formatted into a “one-size-fits-all” contract that the individual has no say in negotiating terms of acceptance – which means no more standardized employment contracts (you work on what *you* agree are fair terms), no more citizenship (you affiliate with whatever social group *you* deem worthy of affiliation – and your affiliation can be withdrawn whenever *you* deem it harmful to your interests) and no more pyramid-shaped authority structures (no one can dictate your life to you – how appropriate your behaviors are is determined entirely by you and those around you rather than approved/disapproved from on high).  All “law” would be effectively cancelled and centralized powers (governments, churches, corporations, etc…) disbanded and their authority to determine the nature of “right” or “wrong” would be laid at the feet of all people everywhere to use at their own discretion.

Of course, to accomplish this, the means that centralized power uses must be destroyed or else neutralized – to this end, the powers of state and its axillaries (the churches, corporations, NGOs, etc…) would be broken up and distributed for all to use for their own ends or else completely destroyed.   All armies would be disbanded and replaced by local militias that have their own chains of command that the membership involved agrees upon among themselves; all places of worship shall be rendered obsolete as all matters of faith will be handled at the individual level – everyone of a religious persuasion is his own priest and those who are not have no priest at all; all paper and electronic currencies would be cancelled out and all titles of ownership destroyed, granting real wealth value once again and giving property to those who have the strength to say “this is mine” and defend their claims for themselves rather than to bureaucrats and rulers who give away titles at their discretion.

Granted, this is a very rough sketch of what a new society run by sovereign individuals would look like – but the purpose of this section is to instill a new vision of life into your minds.  A is plan not as important as the ideas because the artificial structures around us are a product of the collective vision society espouses: change the vision and the outcome will more or less change itself – once the established powers that would prevent the new vision from becoming a reality are removed from the picture, that is.  Destroy the established powers (both the physical form and the ideals they are based upon) and the details of the new vision of life will take care of themselves.

We, the sovereign individuals of the world, have nothing to gain from the powers of state and everything to lose should its power go unchallenged – I implore you now to rebel against its dictates, deface its revered institutions and prepare for a protracted armed conflict with the infrastructure designed to suppress dissent.  The powers of state are not moved by argument or persuasion but by force: be sure that you have the means to answer the establishment’s threats of violence in kind – for that is the one and only language it understands.  Destroy the state and take back the powers it has stolen from you so that you might all forge a new world in your own image.

Sovereign individuals of the world – unite!

23 Comments on “The Sovereign Individual and the State – a Mortal Enmity”

  1. What you’re suggesting has but one flaw – in order to succeed, this ‘society’ requires thinking people.

    People who have been educated in the concepts of critical thought, with the presence of reason and logic and the absence of selfishness, narrow-mindedness and bigotry are thin on the ground.

    These ‘sovereign individuals’ are, indeed, so rare as to be a minority in the most forward-thinking social-democracies on this planet.

    Unless, of course, you’re talking about another planet….

  2. Azazel, i think one of the most difficult things for the public mind to wrap around is independent choice. We are conditioned from early childhood to accept a pecking order of authority. I’m not talking about family guidance. Family guidance results in functional or dysfunctional behavior of the child, depending on the examples set by their parents, guardians or care-taker. Children are indoctrinated into the system as early as age two, when they are delivered to day care centers to begin their socialization process. The first thing they learn beyond constructive play time and early academic skills is that there is a higher authority than their parents.

    They learn that however they are allowed to behave at home is not necessarily acceptable in their early conditioning program. They learn there are expectations of their development and this development must correspond with their peers. They discover if they learn quicker than their classmates, they receive awards. They learn if they show rebellion, aggressiveness or reluctance, they receive attention. As they enter the educational world of texts, they are fed a history of conquest makes right, and the hoards (the masses) were barbarians who destroyed civilizations.

    As they grow older and their indoctrination continues, they learn that the more wealth you represent, the more desirable you are to the system. They learn how to manipulate authority to their own advantage; i.e., the bully who constantly feels the liberty to harass others, until someone else takes the first swing, thus allowing his behavior to continue unchecked while the youthful offender is punished. It only takes a few infractions at the childhood level for them to realize their parents have no true authority at all.

    What happens when someone who has been in prison most of his life is suddenly set free? Most of the time, he has no real skills for adapting to his “free” society and in very short time, returns to the established rules and boundaries of prison. This is what he knows.

    Institutionalization and its games are his comfort zone, his playing field. America is institutionalized. It accepts whatever doctrines are laid down to it as truth. It allows laws to intervene in the creation of small businesses, private land use, family relations, even who is allowed to be your neighbor. You have a pesky brother who comes in drunk for all the family gatherings? Go to the law. You don’t like the shed your neighbor just erected? Go to the law. If you give a quarter to a beggar in a no-soliciting zone, you’ve broken the law! If you try, in any way to manage your own affairs, or assist another without intervention, you’ve broken the law.

    The public didn’t make these laws. They didn’t vote on them. They are the manifestations of corporate convenience. They are used by the public when they think they can get an agreeable settlement or to rid themselves of what they considerable undesirable elements. The law is the surrogate mommy and daddy of a society that has never learned to think for itself, only how to use authority to get what it wants. It’s time for this society to step out of its institution and begin to comprehend what true freedom is all about.

  3. I would submit that our society is in fact a large scale prison with it’s rules, and jobs and people of authority to report to. If you step out of line you are going to the “hole” or what we call prison. Where the rules are exactly the same. We gang up for “protection” in our groups of choice and even when we don’t agree we stay with the group because it is the only way to “get ahead”

    So the question is, how long do you want to be a prisoner?

  4. Interesting and thought provoking article. I really enjoyed it. One point keeps coming to mind though and that is “Power” is about control of resources. This is inseparably linked to exploitation. Whether or not you take out organized Powers (whatever shape or form they may take) you still have the “the sovereign individuals of the world” at the core. There always seems to be sovereign indivduals who seek power to control resources (what ever they may be). They can’t do this alone. That’s were organization and structure start coming into play that lead to bigger systems of control. We may never rid ourselves of this condition. Therefore there needs to be checks and ballances. Unfortunately this aften times leads to war and/or oppression. Human condition? Perhaps our salvation as a species resides in spirituality and harmony with one another and our environment. Just a thought.

  5. @Karlsie

    I have to disagree with your that: “We are conditioned from early childhood to accept a pecking order of authority.”

    In most social animals I believe this is intrinsically hard-wired, not learned. Studies have shown that almost all social animals have a hierarchical “social structure” which basically goes from the alpha male (and sometimes female as well, or even rarer just an alpha female), through middling ranks, down to low rankers, the omegas.

    Interestingly enough, I recently watched a documentary (“Living with Wolves” by Discovery?) which showed how essential to social hierarchies omega’s are. In this wolf pack, there was an alpha male, and an omega male. The omega ate last, behaved submissively to everyone, and was like the pack whipping boy (interestingly this role was described as a very important one in the group, and in fact when he was killed by a cougar the pack became very depressed).

    As “politically incorrect” as the notion may seen, I think that biologically, as social animals, we are hard-wired to accept hierarchy as a means of survival.

    Some might say that we’ve socially “evolved” passed that, but if we look a both Evolutionary Biology, and especially Evolutionary Psychology we see that our current society has very little influence on our mental make-up, when compared to our Biological history. Our brains are still hard-wired for the Palaeocene, and we’ve simply been ‘building new modules’ on top of that rather than replace it entirely.

  6. @ AstraNavigo,

    Your point is taken – such a society would require thinking persons that know and understand how their own interests connect to those around them. However, I see that civilization is quickly approaching a precipice and that the established order will plummet striaght over it very soon: taking most of the mindless sheep right along with them – such a catastrophe would leave a new niche open for those who move quickly to exploit it.

    My message is not aimed at those who are conditioned to be mere herd animals (I regard the vast majority of those people to be lost causes), but rather at those who are perceptive enough to see that the present institutions are headed towards destruction and ambitious enough to capitalize on that destruction – to show them a new vision of society that’s not simply a re-creation of the old order that’s presently headed for extinction.

  7. I love that photo!

    I would disagree that we’re indoctrinated to think from the perspective of a pecking order. My experience tells me that people — especially Americans — are conditioned to think from the limited perspective of the INDIVIDUAL at the expense of the greater good.

    Now, this might sound contradictory, but that “pecking order” or that “group think”? the group think here is to think from the culturally biased, erroneous notion that we’re all separate.

    If you don’t believe me, there’s a planet about to extinguish itself because of this mindset.

  8. @ Malice In Wonderland,

    I disagree with your assertion here – yes the notion of pecking orders is an instinctual one, but unlike most other social animals we have the intellectual capacity to revaluate our social structures. If we didn’t have that ability there would be no need for institutions like the state to exist.

    I agree with Karlsie here – the problem is largely one of nurture rather than nature.

  9. [Quote=Eddie]I would disagree that we’re indoctrinated to think from the perspective of a pecking order. My experience tells me that people — especially Americans — are conditioned to think from the limited perspective of the INDIVIDUAL at the expense of the greater good.[/quote]

    I argue that the culture we are in tells us that we are all pursuing individual interests, but at the same time it steers us towards that which is beneficial to the establishment – society gives us the impression that we are all individual, but then forces us into boxes (such as “race,” religion, class, etc…) and expects us to preform according to the artificial classification it ascribes to us.

    What traditional American culture calls “individuality” is largely an illusion – we are only “free” to persue our own interests if they coincide with the establishment’s agenda. Anyone who dares exit the box is a “criminal” and is treated as vermin to be eradicated.

    [Quote=Eddie]If you don’t believe me, there’s a planet about to extinguish itself because of this mindset.[/quote]

    The planet won’t be extinguished anytime soon – sure, ecosystems will die and whole species will be wiped out but something will survive and eventually repopulate until the sun burns itself out. The fate of this planet isn’t even a real concern of mine: my true concern is the centralized power structures that try to dictate my life to me (said powers which, BTW, make previously alluded to environmental destruction on a grand scale possible in the first place).

  10. @Azazel

    […] unlike most other social animals we have the intellectual capacity to revaluate our social structures. If we didn’t have that ability there would be no need for institutions like the state to exist.

    For your argument to be valid you’d have to consider that institutions aren’t part of the “pecking order”. I, on the other hand, believe they are very much intrinsic to it.

    Of course we’re more intellectually “evolved”, therefore it also stands to reason that our social construct should be more complex. Those are the “new modules” I was referring to. It doesn’t mean, however, that we’ve dispensed with our need for hierarchy.

  11. I tend to agree with the hierarchy of nature/nurture. Like the wolf, nature provided humans with a family structure. Babies first see the parents as the top of the pyramid since the parents provide direct sustenance. As their awareness grows, they might (depending on the culture) see a grandparent or an elderly aunt as the top of the pecking order. Their awareness extends to their position among their siblings; who is the oldest, the strongest, the smartest or the most docile.

    The intervening laws of our government (society) have mutated and usurped the natural law of family. Experts determine the fitness of parents and degree of functioning abilities. They categorize children into development stages with an eye for learning disabilities profits. They invade the privacy of the home on nothing more than a complaint from a neighbor. When they are able, they have taken away the unity of the family structure by pitting members against each other, as in divorce cases, inheritance settlements or “tough love” counseling.

    This is conditioning to an artificial pyramid of power association. This is accepting that the cultural values of your familial structure are invalid if they do not conform with statutes of the provisional government. Animals, i might add, do not have a single member of their species who reigns over all. They are highly territorial. Even in packs and herds, there is an acknowledgment of boundaries. A caribou herd in the north is not going to cross to the east simply to conquer another caribou herd. They might join another herd for a time, but eventually go on their way in their own familial hierarchy and migration pattern.

    The paradox of sovereign rights is you can’t protect your individual rights without protecting the rights of others. This is why special interest laws will eventually fail. Each law designed to remove the rights of others jeopardizes their own sovereignty. The rich and powerful have no privacy. They have no true friends, only butt kissers waiting for a chance to stab them. Media idols fall overnight with just one public infraction or breach of conduct. Yes, they remain wealthy; for now; but they have made themselves all equally vulnerable. The fickle public will change, and when they do, the powerful will fall.

  12. Fantastic article, Dr. Mahhattan, er, Azazel. Some interesting viewpoints by all. I suppose I agree with Malice. I think human beings are hardwired to accept hierarchy. It doesn’t really matter whether you’re dealing with an evil genius or a complete moron. Even if there are intellectual processes we go through, emotion and the “heart” always overpowers intellect and rationalism. In fact, I’m not exactly sure how to define the concept of rationalism, beyond egotism, peer pressure (the way you’re *supposed* to feel) and a very general definition of humaneness. Our perception of caring for the bottom feeders of society.

    I’m playing the video game Fallout 3, and to me, it seems a fairly accurate depiction of what will happen to the world in the moderately distant future. Smaller groups of society run by dominant personalities, but never truly “free” since they’re all afraid of something.

    After that vision, as to what will happen to the world in the distant future (destruction, divine intervention, etc.) is anyone’s guess.

  13. The fundamental flaw with this theory is that ultimately it becomes the very system it sought to replace, the strongest group imposing its rules and codes on everyone.
    But I suspect that it would fail long before that, as all the “sovereign individuals” fight each other tooth and nail to get the best spot with all the oranges. You’ve seen the film Mad Max? Which group of Sovereign Individuals would you have been in there?

  14. [Quote=Malice in Wonderland]For your argument to be valid you’d have to consider that institutions aren’t part of the “pecking order”. I, on the other hand, believe they are very much intrinsic to it.[/quote]

    Granted, said institutions utilize certain instincts that are already present – however, such things are no more natural to us than pulling a cart is natural to a horse (an activity that also utilizes a life form’s natural traits). Unlike the horse, however, beings like ourselves have the intellecutal capacity to reject the notion of pulling he proverbial cart put upon us: it’s just a matter of willpower and vision to imagine something different.

  15. [Quote=Stu]The fundamental flaw with this theory is that ultimately it becomes the very system it sought to replace, the strongest group imposing its rules and codes on everyone.[/quote]

    Thus the reason I implore that all persons become powers unto themselves – there’s an old proverb that says “when everyone is king, no one is.” That’s what I’m looking to achieve here: a state of existence where everyone is strong enough to defend his own interests, but not strong enough to easily impose himself on everyone else through force (an atmosphere that leads to much compromise rather than domination).

  16. @ The Late Michael Warren,

    I’m something of a fallout fan myself (never played the 3rd. installment of the series though – just the first two) and I see what you’re getting at. That said, using that world as a reference, what I wish to see are more people less like the bandit raiders or mutant army and more like the cast-off vault dweller: people who have renounced their old allegiances and instead seek to forge their own path in life as well as society itself – individuals who have the power to work outside the established order and even destroy it should it declare war against them.

  17. @ all who have read my article and commented,

    I very much appreciate the feedback on my first submission here – this piece was only meant to inspire a vision. It does not outline a path to a new form of social contract, only to whet your appetite for more. Should the editorial staff be willing I shall release more essays in the future that will help better understand how such a society would work in practice (for it’s not mere fantasy – some such Unions of Egoists already exist, albeit on a fairly small scale right now).

    Once again, thank you for your interest and feedback and I hope to provide you with more in the near future.

  18. Azazel, the editors are definitely interested. We encourage progressive thought, explorations into little understood or articulated philosophies, and certainly enjoy a good debate. Well done on your first article, and i’m sure i speak for everyone when i say we’re looking forward to more.

  19. Sorry for coming late, but I’ve been sick.

    I just wanted to add that this all seems to me to be Platonist, and not very new. It’s been tried for thousands of years. I also disagree with the historical framework, it’s too linear. History is a spiral, not a circle, and while some things do seem to repeat, they are actually permutations. rebellions aren’t stamped out, they may be quelled, but the reverberations and the awakenings they cause ripple throughout history, take different forms and shapes, evolve.

    Similarly, oppression is like-wise dialectical in a nature. In fact, history itself is an ever-evolving spiral of dialectics. This piece here suffers from an ahistorical framework, and it’s why at the end it doesn’t adequately define or explain history, nor even human nature.

    Still, it’s a decent piece and thanks for sharing it.

  20. @ Eddie,

    My views are more Nietzsche, Proudhon or Bakunin than Plato – in fact, I can honestly say that I can barely stand the guy (I’ve read the complete collection of his dialogues only to find that he had very little worth saying in them). And the point of the piece is to get the reader to envision a future in which history *doesn’t* repeat itself yet again: I recognize that history has its permutations, but the same general patterns have more or less repeated themselves throughout the time civilization has existed – and the cycle has always ended with a new centralized power structure established, the portion of the cycle I want to see broken and dashed to pieces on the rocks.

  21. @ Karlsie and grainnerhuad,

    I’ll get to work on the next piece – once again, thanks for this opportunity.

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