How did The Evolution of Consent come to be? It’s a long story, but I’ll give you the short version. You see, I’ve been trying to change the world for a long time. Don’t worry, it’s not something that I have any intentions of doing on my own. It has to be a group effort. In fact, all I can hope to do is talk to a few people who may talk to some people. I care much more about change on the small and local scale than I do on the global. One reason for this is that I anticipate large and drastic changes to be necessarily bad changes. Small changes are the product of trial and error, and the spreading of information. Large changes come about through the authority of the gun. I have no grand delusions that my book will become a global phenomenon, it was written for you.
The Evolution of Consent is a collection of essays that document my philosophical journey thus far. I have sought to retain the truths I have gained from all sides. I have found that everyone has a piece of the truth, and it is only a matter of putting it together, and allowing room for difference until we can see how the pieces fit. I hope to offer a compatibilistic approach, which may balance idealism and realism. A little about my background, as it is pertinent to the origins of The Evolution of Consent:
When I was a young boy, I would lay in bed at night, trying to wrestle my mind to silence (I didn’t want to go to school the next day). Other times I was simply caught up in my daydreams and ponderings about nature. I would think about any great number of things regarding meaning and purpose. I kept most of my thoughts to myself. My interest in philosophy developed internally, and not within the confines of cell—excuse me, school— walls. I detested school, and preferred to study on my own, and about the things that I found interesting or important, things relevant to my own awakening.
As a teen I became interested in punk rock, which was often associated with anarchism. I enjoyed the lyrics of bands such as Crass, Propagandhi, Aus-Rotten, Pennywise, Operation Ivy, and the list goes on. I began to study into anarchism, finding that it really affirmed many of the beliefs I had come to on my own. Around this time, I also became an atheist. These transitions, both political and spiritual, were very scary and hard for me. I had grown up with a strongly Christian mother, and to even question the existence of God was impermissible. Another oddly hard part for me was admitting to myself that the world was imperfect. This was terrifying. It implied responsibility, and it implied that I was in danger, and not protected by a benevolent God, like I had believed while growing up. What got me through the transition was recognition that, even if my life was now to follow different principles, nothing had changed about the material conditions I had grown up in. My disbelief in God would not mean that the world was going to fall down around me. My disbelief in the police didn’t mean they were any more likely to bludgeon or shoot me, but that I could be more informed about my approach. Strangely enough, I was just as materially satisfied, but I had to take responsibility, and not rely on something outside of myself for everything. I came to an understanding that I previously had not had.
I joined the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World. Sometime later— at 1919 Hemphill, where I used to play drums in punk bands, and where local activists used to regularly meet—, I was at a meeting, and I met my friends Russell and Stephanie Frizzell. Together we formed the DFW General Membership Branch of the IWW. We organized for six years or so. At one point, one of our members formed a shop committee at one of the local Starbucks, which lasted around two years. Around this time, due to personal and political reasons, I left the IWW. Part of this was the need for a more locally pragmatic association that could step outside of classical labor organizing and unionization.
With friends, some of them from the IWW, I founded the Black Cat Collective. In the Black Cat Collective we work toward common goals. We put forward ideas to one another that we feel would be enriching for the group, and, if we agree on these goals, we try to put them into action. Some examples of our achievements include throwing events, hosting the People’s Arcane School, forming and maintaining the Josiah Warren Library, and putting out The Bombay Notebook. What we really have interest in is economic projects that can build economic democracy and voluntary association from the bottom upward. We want to create a more efficient economy, wherein everyone is an owner of the capital they use, the houses they live in, and the communities they are a part of.
Another project I am a part of is The People’s Arcane School, which was originally conceived of by Steven Morrow, but which I and others also helped to found. The People’s Arcane School is a peer-instructed and self-managed mystery school. We get together and teach one another about our various passions and interests related to science and mathematics; history and philosophy; metaphysics and self-help.
Before forming The People’s Arcane School, with Steven and others, I had developed away from atheism and toward pantheism. I had been struggling to comprehend reality, and especially to derive meaning and purpose as an atheist. Atheism pairs rather well with fatalism and nihilism, in my view. I say this because, if we are only to uphold empirical and scientifically verifiable facts as truth, we must reject the concept on meaning or purpose itself. Why? Because, according to scientifically verifiable phenomena, the Earth will be swallowed up in the sun, the Universe will die a very cold death. Quantum physics may say otherwise at times, but quantum physics is not an empirical science, but a brand of rationalism; we cannot sense quantum interactions, they are merely mathematical calculations to us.
Challenged with the fate of the Universe, and the idea that everything will ultimately dissipate into nothing, I asked myself, “Well, why be good, if I, if the solar system, the Universe, will just die in the end?” This question led toward a depressive state. “Why is anything good or bad, if this is the case?” Upon much contemplation, and with help from entheogens, I came to the conclusion that atheism explained death, but it had little to offer in the way of life. If the Universe will just die, and turn into nothing, this says nothing of where it came from to begin with. This isn’t how things work around us. The rain does not just fall down, it also evaporates upward. We see the rain as it falls, but the evaporation is much harder to sense. Could it be the same with the Universe?
I didn’t want the Universe to die. Was there nothing that could be done to stop it? What role did human agency have to play in this fate? Upon Googling, “What is the opposite of entropy?” the work of Ulisse Di Corpo turned up, which has inspired me ever since. Di Corpo suggests, using rational models from quantum physics and such, that life itself expresses elements directly contradictory to entropy. There it is! The very fact that I don’t want the Universe to die will drive me to do the work to keep it from happening, and my very process of living is tied directly to this outcome. This is admittedly non-empirical, but the alternative is a lack of ethics, an absence of meaning and purpose, a fate determined by entropy.
The Evolution of Consent comes from a long process within myself to reconcile my aspirations with the world around me. The book captures the outcome of my journey thus far, giving a peak into the logic that informs my actions. Some of the essays in the book spawn from lectures given to student groups, others were written specifically for my blog, and still more have been presentations given to The People’s Arcane School. I have attempted a non-dogmatic approach, which concedes the truth of many perspectives, including science and spirituality, communism and capitalism, crime and government. My goal is to work toward a society in which people are free to express themselves and to provide meaning and purpose to the world, where reciprocity is incentivized and narcissism is frowned upon, and in which everyone has value and can be respected for that value. The Evolution of Consent offers a metaphysical perspective and a political-economic paradigm that can sustain such a society. It is up to us to put it into practice.