House of Glass

This text in PDF: House-of-Glass

Remarks on change of Europe

“People who live in glass houses
shouldn’t throw stones.”

In 2014, detections of illegal border-crossing reached a new record, with more than 280 000 detections. The unprecedented number of migrants crossing illegally the external borders has roots in the fighting in Syria that has resulted in the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. Indeed, most of the detections at the borders concerned migrants from Syria, who later applied for asylum within the EU”1

In 2015, however, between January and August, this record is no more. 344 000 people at least entered EU area, in the illegal attempt to preserve their Life, Freedom and – even more frown upon – pursuit of Happiness.

The Europe is trembling. Even those, who firmly stood together when it came to the public bollocking of Greece, now parted European solidarity, refusing to serve rich states’ needs as voluntary (or not) filtration camps, let alone to assimilate newcomers.

Facing possible influx of people at the level of 3% (of total population) within the next couple years, the European Union seriously claims it is a huge danger for its identity and integrity. To me it is a sign of grave internal problems, not of an external threat.

Let us try to see what is actually wrong with Europe, why it is so and what are possible scenarios for the future – and what we can do for ourselves to make it a bit better.

1. The pull and the push.

Who actually is going towards Europe. And why.

In the human life no decision is based upon the single factor. In the life of humanity no process is triggered by only one cause. The history, as it unfolds in front of us, seems to be so complex, because it is a product of thousands of processes, individual or low scale decisions. The outcome is huge, but still can be traced back to show some dominant reasons why people migrate towards Europe. Let’s look at two of them.

The call of distant shores.

The grass is always greener at the other side of the fence. But European grass has been intentionally painted vivid, even fluorescent green.

Popular – while often challenged – knowledge is that German (and in general rich European) society is getting old. Also, in Germany, the unemployment rate is at the level of “natural” one, which means that in practice it cannot get any lower.
As more and more people live longer – while in deteriorated health condition – there is growing demand for low-prestige and low-pay labor: caretakers, day nurses, servants in general. This part of economy is not yet possible to automate. The same for the caretakers of their houses, gardens and cars (cars are very important!). Native employees are unwilling to take these jobs, as they are labeled as low-caste assigned. Thus, the sensible solution seems to be an import of unskilled labor, forced out from their countries by the poverty, war or disaster. Possibly from a distant and defunct country, so no diplomatic support would be available in case of abuses.

Thus, warm invitations are sent2 to the world in many languages, among which we have Russian, French, English and German, but also Albanian (Albania & Kosovo), Arabic (Eritrea among others), Dari & Pashtu (Afghanistan) and Serbian. This set of languages shows us potential interest areas of Germany in terms of population drain.

And indeed, as I outlined in my recent article3, while the influx of migrants into Greece features 65% [59%]4 of “Syrian Refugees” (which is not necessarily exactly true, but there is a special program for Syria5, so what did you expect?) and another 21% [25%] from Afghanistan, at the Hungarian border the mix is quite different (the volume, however, down by 32% [23%]): 36% [27%] Syrians, 41% [28%] Afghans, 15% [23%] Kosovans.

A bit less we know about people from Africa, who go across the Mediterranean towards Italy. Their origins are much more diversified, three leading groups being Eritreans (25%), Nigerians (12%) and „unspecified sub-Saharan nationals” (9%)6.

But, even if we dismiss anecdotal proofs, like stories of refugee families admitted in Poland, immediately leaving their new home for Germany, we see that “the pull is strong in that one”, not only among the people fleeing the war or defunct states.

Deploying the R-weapon

For the Middle East direction, however, there is another factor, which – following Witold Repetowicz inspiration – I would call an R-weapon7 deployment.

The bottom line is that the president of Turkey, R. T. Erdogan whose aim is to convert Turkey into a „presidential republic” – effectively a „constitutional Sultanate” – raised all kinds of hell in Turkey and beyond, to turn the last election debacle into a victory8. Part of his plan is to get rid of Kurds (from Rojava and from Bakur) through „encouraged” emigration9. The other part is to keep Europe busy and intimidated10 by the wave after wave of migrants, effectively sent by Turkey (they even fly from Lebanon and Jordan to cross the sea from Bodrum to Greek islands). Crushed by the migration, Europe has no balls to say anything about Erdogan inciting mob attacks11, shooting his own citizens, bombing Kurdish guerilla12 and generally reading Von Clausewitz anew13.

Völkerwanderung anyone?

Watching the numbers and tendencies, I cannot help thinking that we may have no crisis here. Simply, due to a long list of migration-inducing factors, it seems that we are entering a new Migration Period. It will probably be global, but it started here in Europe (on the receiving end) and will probably last another 10-20 years. It is not that Europe will change. It is changing already. But, perhaps, we still may have a say as to the direction of changes.

2. The house of glass.

European ambiguous model and its vulnerability.

To make it absolutely clear, when I am referring to the EU as a unitary model, I am not saying that the EU itself is unitary (although this is obviously one of strategic options). What I mean is the fact that unitary14 state is considered a default standard for any large scale societal organisation and all deviations from it are considered abnormal and disastrous. Not every state in the EU is unitary (Germany and Austria being the most prominent cases of federal model), but, for example, the ongoing evolution of Belgium from the unitary state towards confederacy15 is largely regarded as „decomposition”.

The starting point for my reasoning is that the EU (and, more broadly, Europe) is de facto somewhere in between creating a supranational unitary system or a confederation of political entities (states, regions or tribes). There are many tendencies, often contradictory, varying in (arbitrarily assigned) „credibility”. However, the prevailing mindset is rooted in the unitary model (states and political blocks of states). In this thinking, every breach of unity is fatal, like a crack in the glass wall. If under pressure, such a crack will destroy everything.

European promise: false…

The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values, which are set out in Article I-2, are common to the Member States. Moreover, the societies of the Member States are characterised by pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men.16

This is the bottom line. If you join European Union (by birth, preferably), you are promised (more or less) to live in a nice environment. Your rights (as described in relevant documents), will be safeguarded. Even if you belong to a minority group, you are protected and supported, sometimes even preferred. The society, through its democratically elected representatives and through the power of state, will see to it. And if the state fails to meet its obligation, the Union itself will step in and straight things up. You willingly „pay” for this privileges, accepting certain limitations of your freedoms, for the sake of solidarity, equality and safety – especially in the area of economy.

Except, it doesn’t work like that. It is a promise which is intentionally breached on the EU level, for instance by entering ventures like TTIP negotiations, which makes the US legal system precedent over the EU values and regulations in many vital areas.

It is intentionally breached on the state level, by various kinds of anti-equality decisions, like imposing austerity on the poor while providing public money to the corporations through the „bail-out” system.

It is also breached by design when there is a conflict between the EU agenda and various states’ agenda. If, due to any reason, EU institutions decide to put sanctions on a member state, it has a form of financial punishment. It doesn’t impact persons nor institutions accountable for any „misbehaviour”. It punishes the whole population. The message from the EU to the people of a troublemaking country is „do something with your politicians, or else YOU will suffer”. Think Greece.

…and, by the way, unrealistic.

However, we should not be too harsh. Even as the promises in question prove to be intentionally breached every once a while, it is less because of shrewdness of the EU and state entities, more because they are impossible to keep. Not all of them all the time, not in the changing world an not in the way they are formulated.

1. For almost 50 years most of the societies of Europe were mercilessly shanghaied into one or the other political and military block. Under the threat of military invasion, occupation or even annihilation, they had to quit their individual profiles, to ditch unresolved post-WW2 quarrels and to assume new, Cold War imposed identities.

Less than 25 years ago it changed. The grave, existential threat removed, they needed new reason to stand united – or to join a new block. So, they happily got bribed. On one hand, the human rights became artificially scarce – if you want to travel freely, work legally and be treated like a human being, you have to join the new, shiny mega-tribe. On the other, there was a major influx of wealth – for everyone involved. And promises of eternal happiness on top of it.

For 75 years now, Europe lives in relative peace and prosperity, mostly thanks to the externalization of costs, threats and wars. Only just recently it started to crumble. And this is the main reason, why the separatist, nationalist, and xenophobic movements got traction. First under the threat of war, later sold out for safety and wealth, these natural tendencies were suppressed too long and too deep. Now, we experience a backslash, a wildfire of destructive elements, which – under normal circumstances – have their rightful place in the societal time-space. O, horribile dictu! Even fascism has it’s own role in a healthy, balanced society… Except, the society we live in is not the case of health.

2. Since mid-1950s, effectively with the Algerian war, new human and political factor emerged. The process of decolonization started, which brought increasing number of immigrants to Europe. Old colonial powers: Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Netherlands, granted the right of immigration – and of citizenship – to the huge number of people from their former overseas domains. There were many reasons for that, from the noble attempt to compensate decades or centuries of exploitation and humiliation to the strategy of brain drain and keeping the influence over newly established independent states.

3. While the social structure in Europe was pretty rigid in 1950s and halfway through 1960s, 1968 was a game changer in more than one way. It was the time, when the new, post-war generation asked for their privileges. And – while questioning all standards – they opened door to diversification. Unitary model was no longer favorable for them. This was the beginning of internal struggle within Europe, between the tendencies towards unification and diversification. As we see now, it led to the concept of „multi-culti”: social and cultural diversity within rigid political exoskeleton of unitary states and the EU. Over decades, with changing geopolitical situation, it created tension between those who cherish diversity, feeling no fear of destruction and those who joined the EU to acquire the feeling of safety, feeling of belonging, considering the union more as a shelter than as a new challenge.

4. With the (much appreciated) end of the Cold War (officially 1990), the „global West” and Europe with it lost a lot of its compass. From the one standpoint, the relief was huge. The specter of instant annihilation, haunting everybody’s life for two generations, dissipated. However, the uniting factor, the threat from an arch-enemy, the Empire of Evil disappeared. And it happened without a climax of final struggle, of the main battle, won with the greatest effort and celebrated ecstatically. The Soviet Union – it seemed – just collapsed almost under its own weight, leaving some sense of dissatisfaction.

But that was the time of celebration, anyway. New states were struggling to join the „European family”, new societies were longing to join the Europe of their dreams. The East European communities were entering this period in a strange mindset. Under the USSR rule, they were preserving the ideal picture of Europe, being an icon of everything opposite to their Soviet oppressor. The picture of Europe, created from the pre-war memories and „photoshopped” by the Cold War propaganda. Now, they were to meet the reality, which was by no means ideal, and sometimes ugly17.

The next decades were, then, mixed at best18. The capitalist frenzy, fueled by the Niagara of funds poured into the peripheral economies and immediately was taken back (with interests) in the form of revenues from newly opened markets. The overwhelming amount of promises, suggestions and allusions, making newcomers feel they are the long awaited lost tribe of Europe and future top ten percent, only temporarily cash-strapped. Creation of „new” real elites, mostly being descendants of people who, behind the curtain, facilitated the whole process.

And another tension appeared. The newly reunited Europeans felt strongly that they are the „real” ones. By preserving the „European values” better than the rest of Europe, they became self-proclaimed defenders of Europe against all threats, internal and external. Against Europe itself, if needed.

So, the Europe entered the 21st century with mixed feelings. But the majority of Europeans was just enjoying peaceful life, having their income stable, their future bright and just enough thrill coming from the TV set to keep their bowels moving.

5. The destruction of New York’s WTC in 2001 opened a new old Pandora’s box. The US-induced „war on terror” brought back „the devil known19” – the narrative of fear and total war, so well known and so proven as a unifying factor. Very soon it arrived to Europe. After all, states have long memory, longer than societies. And the memory of the previous war, being won in a special way, was really encouraging. So, gradually, the war propaganda reappeared. Only this time, instead of Mongolian hordes from the barbarian Eurasia20 the evil character was a crazy Muslim fundamentalist, crashing planes, spreading anthrax, shooting innocent soldiers and civilians left and right and being generally unfit to join civilised world. Until, of course, the forces of democracy correct his or her attitude in the least lethal way possible.

The good thing about it was that the enemy was mainly distant and intangible. So the lack of any serious attacks in Europe and the US could be easily explained as an effect of growing security theater – surveillance, detentions, infiltration of „extremist” circles.

But behind the scene another process was going on, facilitated by the growing fear among the mainstream society. New laws were introduced, allowing the state to crush any „extreme” behaviour, even a non-violent one. And it is the state – unitary state – which decides what is extreme. So, no more abuse of laws by the political, military or police bullies, as the laws are swiftly adjusted to what they feel they need. Because there is a bloody war going on, Sir. Thank you for your understanding.

Of course this process encouraged those who support a strong state, being an avatar of monopolized violence. In Europe, incidentally, most of them are followers of ethnically and racially (disguised as „culturally”) unitary societies, which forms specifically European model of fascism. So, probably first time since the end of the WW2, both societies and states gravitate towards unitary model, focused on (roughly) ethno-culturally-religious identity, with the strong centralised state being the avatar of it21.

And then, the „migrant crisis” happened.

The fallacy of unitary society.

Unitary society – or state, country, whatever you wish – assumes some central set of standards, considered „normal”, which is the core of the society’s identity. It may be a random mix of race22, ethnicity, religion, social status or a special skills (think warriors). It is irrelevant, whether it is majority or minority of population which fits the standard. As long as it is declared and enforced, there will always be a tension between these who naturally meet the conditions and those who don’t. Between these who meet the conditions 100% and those only 80% compatible. This is exactly the reason why some born-and-raised European, whose parents arrived here as immigrants, will be called „immigrant” (or any other more derogatory equivalent of that) by another European, whose the only title is that his family lives in Europe since the WW1. And, of course, the harder times, the more sharp will be distinction. People, depressed with their daily miserable lives and disempowered by the raise of states and corporation, develop their own pecking chains, trying to save shreds of dignity the only way they are taught – at the other’s expense. And, at the same time, the official „unitary values” tend to be more strict and more state- (or EU-) oriented.

Even in good times, even in such a nice social environment European Union declares to be, the very concept of majority and minority is a root of troubles. Because minority23 rights have to be preserved, while majority has theirs by default. In the opposite perspective, the majority rights are taken for granted and minority rights seem to be excessive and artificial. Whatever point of view one takes, this hair crack may destroy the whole house of glass, if a pressure is put upon it. And with the decades of undischarged tensions, with the lost tribe of Europe having their own ideas, with the global war on terror, with the economic crisis and with the new Volkerwanderung round the corner – the pressure is building up all right.

3. Festung Europa.

The scenario blackest of them all.

If we stay in the realm of unitary Europe (being the union of unitary states), the worst possible (and not unlikely) scenario is the emergence of Festung Europa. This would be a remake of Cold War construct, adjusted to a different threat model, following the template of besieged stronghold. Its ultimate goal is to keep some (symbolic and real) territory isolated from the enemy, at the price of militarization of its own society and by introducing rigid and impermeable walls around it.

This is – one should note – not a real war. It is just a certain way of keeping the population under control, making people believe in a more or less artificial narrative. But when expressed in the political language and supported by propaganda and violence, it will soon become indistinguishable from reality.

Let’s look at some basic elements of such model. Perhaps you, Dear Reader, will be able to identify them in the reality around you. A look at the map of EU (and vicinities) would probably help.

Comply or die

Within the metaphoric walls, the society becomes truly unitary. The bigger the fear, tho narrower is the set of standards. It boils down to one thing: keep the stronghold. Whatever serves this purpose is good. Whatever impedes the defence is evil. And the final say on that stays with the Supreme Command – be it military, political or financial. So, the daily life within the stronghold is all about learning changing standards (as the fata of war are unpredictable) and following them as swiftly as possible. More or less direct reward is then available for the swiftest followers, with the bonus for those who finger dissidents or just slackers.

Some of us had an opportunity to live such life in the „realsoc” sphere of influence. Other may learn about it from some Western24 or Eastern25 political fiction books.

Under siege

There is no stronghold without a siege. And – in its best interest – the Supreme Command keeps strict control on the definition of enemy and its real power. The enemy has to be strong and recognizable enough to keep the siege going and the stronghold population disciplined. But it cannot be too strong or visible, as it may too easy lead to a final clash, bloody battle and the end ot the whole siege – whatever would be the result. And the goal of the Supreme Command is to keep the business running, not to win the war.

No-man’s land

Around the stronghold, a no-man’s land is absolutely crucial for the whole system to be stable. Ideally it is the area wasted enough to work as an intimidating example for everyone questioning the need of the stronghold to last. This is what will happen to you the day they break the gate is the message of the day. This is what happens to those, who disobey the Supreme Command26. Beyond the scene, the no-man’s land is really the area where all communication and exchange happens. Smugglers, state agents, dissidents and adventurers from every side involved explore the rich and colorful area, making it the only place where the real life goes on.

But this aspect is kept hidden from the echelons, lest they feel adventurous and start having ideas.

They only need to succeed once.

What they should feel is fear. Daily, continuous fear, with occasional pangs. „They only need to succeed once” is the best expression of it. Every single glitch, every smallest crack in the fortress wall will be the beginning of the end. They will pour in and sink us. It is better to sacrifice some, than to make all of us perish. And one should believe that the Supreme Command’s sacrifice is the biggest of them all. Or else.

Because, you know, we are all in this together.

Dr Strangelove’s27 underground cities.

Except, as usual, that is not true. The Supreme Command never lets the most valuable, erm, values, principles and assets of the stronghold perish. And the avatar, the carrier of them, of course, is the Supreme Command themselves, plus necessary personnel of various formal an informal capacities.

Certainly, we do not need to build underground cities to preserve human genome base any more (they have been built already, just need some renovation). It may be enough to raise fences within the stronghold, some donjons, last ditches, where the selected elite may live safely in case the rest of the world turns nasty. And negotiate transition terms with whoever appear to rule there. „The government will sustain” was a famous line of an infamous spokesman of a Polish „realsoc” government, during the „state of war” period in the 1980s in Poland. And this is true for every government in history of this planet.

It makes one sad if one looks at the history and sees the pattern. Whoever ever started to build any kind of unitary state, whatever political narrative it began with, usually ended in the besieged stronghold script. And whatever ideals gave birth to it, the end of that was always the same: the echelons keeping the last outpost, and the Supreme Command fleeing the country or settling in their underground cities. To emerge the other day28.

4. Life’s in the network.

The lighter shade of black.

It is hard enough to tell a story about the past and the present, where the facts are more or less known to everyone. It is also feasible to tell a story about simple extrapolation of dominant tendencies, as we did above, describing the emergence of Festung Europa. Telling a story of a future uncertain, alternative and surely less probable (although perhaps more desired for us all) seems to be nigh to impossible. But this is the burden of a storyteller, to explore the unknown and to try to lure the audience into the roads less traveled or even not existing yet.

To see the major difference between the unitary and confederate model od social organization, we will briefly compare one of the most traditional European models, Rule of St. Benedict Order of the Roman Catholic Church and a „protocols of freedom” that constitute the Internet. They show how extreme are differences between these approaches and how different are the resulting communities.

The Memetic Monoculture of Monastery

St Benedict Rule29, which is considered to be a foundation of Western monasticism, is a set of detailed rules how a community has to be created and run, to become a Benedictian monastery. Most of the document is focused on the internal (quite rigid) structure and discipline, clearly hierarchical, centralised and authoritarian. It also implies strict obedience of a monastery to the monastic hierarchy in Rome (later: Vatican). There is not much of an interaction expected beyond the order’s hierarchy. Out of 73, only 4 chapters (53, 54, 60, 61) tell us about the interaction between the monastery and other entities. This is an epitome of unitary system. If one wants to be a part of it, the whole life must follow the rules here – rules all way down, so to speak. And there is a sophisticated system of social control between participants to detect and correct every deviation.

Dealing with others (non-ideologically-compatible), especially dealing with them on a regular basis, is dangerous and frown upon.

And the very foundation of that is obedience.

Not only is the boon of obedience
to be shown by all to the Abbot,
but the brethren are also to obey one another,
knowing that by this road of obedience they are going to God.

Giving priority, therefore, to the commands of the Abbot
and of the Superior appointed by him
(to which we allow no private orders to be preferred),
for the rest
let all the juniors obey their seniors
with all charity and solicitude.

But if anyone is found contentious,
let him be corrected.

And if any brother,
for however small a cause,
is corrected in any way by the Abbot or by any of his Superiors,
or if he faintly perceives
that the mind of any Superior is angered or moved against him,
however little,
let him at once, without delay,
prostrate himself on the ground at his feet
and lie there making satisfaction
until that emotion is quieted with a blessing.

But if anyone should disdain to do this,
let him undergo corporal punishment
or, if he is stubborn, let him be expelled from the monastery30.

Now, let’s be frank: it is pretty ok, as long as one has any choice. The monasteries, even – at times – extremely attractive due to the fact that there was always enough food and relatively little violence, by no means were the only available social structure at any given place and time. A state, built upon the same principle, let alone the continental socio-political system, is a disaster. Like a forest monoculture, it quells all other species (forest wardens seeing to it), but finally declines when attacked by any specialised pest, any disease that happen to emerge. In good times monoculture may thrive, but in bad times it is a fire trap for all involved31.

The Protocol of Cohabitation

In his seminal essay32, Nicolas Mendoza writes about the beginnings of the Internet:

…the Internet is the son of the apocalypse. It was conceived not as a means for capitalistic hegemony or even strictly as a means of defence, but rather as a tool for the survivors. It was one of the many inventions of the postapocalyptic world that was starting to exist in the imagination of Cold War strategists. As such, it was even beyond the logic of deterrence through the promise of retaliation. As such, it was really located in the day after. In theory, the first real user of the network was meant to be someone buried in a deep underground bunker desperately looking for signs of life, someone looking for someone, wondering whether or not to press the button of retaliation, while the surface burned, doomed to a century of radioactive thermonuclear winter.

Today, as I read numerous posts and articles about the incoming Islamist migration wave, I perceive the same desperation, hunch of apocalypse and paranoiac mindset, which we experienced during the Cold War Era. The social system we live in may be pretty probable doomed. And some survival option is apparently in order.

What we actually expect, is the clash of TWO unitary systems: „christian” and „islamic” (all inadequacies of these terms aside). This is our contemporary equivalent of „The Bomb”. If we are going to survive it, it will be like surviving a Big Bang. Mendoza again:

From the point of view of a survivor civilisation the bomb is not the end, but the beginning. Since he has to be imagined as the breeder of a second mankind, the apocalyptic survivor competes in historic potential with Noah himself, hence Strangelove’s underground ark of lust. He must undertake foundation of the utopian society that we never ceased to fail to construct. At the same time, he is a coward that refused to share the fate of his brothers and went underground. With a generation of so burdened apocalyptic survivors in mind, the Internet was thus designed around the ideas of robustness, flexibility, and survivability: to guarantee survivor agency and empowerment to the maximum possible degree.

We already have the Internet in its technical sense. But the next Apocalypse is supposed to be of a political, not thermonuclear kind, so the means to be taken should also be political. Thus, let us consider, how can we translate the features of Internet into the realms of politics. Let us talk about a confederate model.

The network of networks

There were networks before the Net. They came in all shapes, sizes and colors. Star-shaped, ring-shaped, tree-shaped. With dozens of their own, internal languages – network protocols. They were internally unitary, as the protocols were proprietary and often patented, optimized for a specific hardware architecture. There was a competition, struggling between the leading ones, to become the one and the only, leading and all-encompassing standard.

And they were all centralised, which made them houses of glass. Relatively low level of damage would make them inoperable, let alone able to communicate with others. Mendoza provides extensive and riveting account on the evolution of Internet, strongly referring to fundamental philosophical aspects of our culture. For the needs of my storytelling it is enough to say that the answer was a meta-network architecture (and protocol) able to:

  1. Communicate with many various networks in many various ways with the least „critical resources” needed.
  2. Use distributed resources and assign them various roles as needed.
  3. Accept new nodes (members) in a cheap and simple way. And get rid of them if needed.

To live and to let live.

In the terms of politics, the equivalent of the Internet would be a confederate33 system. A confederation is simply a network of entities, which stay independent and sovereign in a majority of questions (especially their internal affairs), only setting up their common institutions to deal with some classes of problems. At the reasonable level, these two classes would be: the confederation itself (its rules, procedures, enforcement and exception handling) and the topics of the scale or complexity exceeding single entity.

A good example for that may be a watershed34. Every community living there has its own life. At the same time they are all connected through the water system. From the rainfall areas up in the mountains, to the river mouth at the sea, they are interdependent. The upstream settlements may seize or contaminate water, making life downstream much harder. Downstream ones may stop or choke waterways traffic, cutting off trade up the river. Over the time, various processes and emergencies make some long-run system of management needed.

Unitary model would be simple. The strongest entity, traditionally the harbor city at the river mouth, takes over and – more or less authoritarian way – imposes the policies needed. The communities up the river have to comply or die.

Federate model would institute a Watershed Authority, being – in the matters of watershed management – superior to local communities. Theoretically still independent, they would irreversibly loose their sovereignty in the watershed affairs, with an option of loosing even more as the new institution gets traction.

Confederate model, however, assumes only temporary and technical role for a „big scale” institution. A Watershed Management Assembly would be a group of people designated by their communities to work on solutions, report problems and proposals and negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. No decisive power for them. Just hard, tedious work to find a solution for every problem reported and to have it accepted by the communities involved. It is really not a career for an aspiring politician nowadays. The decision itself would always be taken with the broadest participation possible, including all willing members of all communities.

Magic Sauce: Participation

The participation is really a magic sauce of democracy. If we think about chance of success (C) for any given solution, it will (except for external emergencies) depend on two major factors:

Q – meritocratic quality of the solution (expert knowledge involved sometimes quite esoteric) as a percentage of and „ideal technocratic solution”
S – conscious support for the solution („this is our way”), generated through internalization of the proposal and the reasoning behind it, as a percentage of a community involved, actively supporting the proposal.

So C=Q*S [%], where we may understand C as a chance for the solution to succeed. And that means that even a proposal „weaker” in expert terms may be very successful if the support is strong enough35. Also, if any emergency has to be addressed in the process, it will be much easier for the „high S” solutions. The same goes with implementation costs – high S makes whole implementation simpler and cheaper, as people tend to contribute above and beyond their formal obligations. This knowledge is pretty common in theory and praxis of corporate management. It is about time to start using it in community life at large.

Never scale up!

The participation sauce only comes in small packages. It is based upon personal relationships and – while can be and often is engineered at a big scale, it doesn’t really work very well. The real, dynamic and feedback-featured36 participation is only possible in small-to-medium scale communities (250 – 2500 people, very broadly speaking). Beyond that scale all natural relationships, especially social control, grow weak and have to be replaced by the artificial set of institutions.

So, instead of „scaling up”, which is a mantra of many social innovators nowadays, one rather should focus on replication and networking. Communities are defined in a number of ways. Territory, common needs, interests – modern life makes us participate in a number of communities at the same time. So the network becomes 3-dimensional and communities become connected through their shared members. The need for creating bigger entities disappears. Only those who seek power concentration need them. For the rest, a minimal set of cohabitation rules is good enough to keep the social fabric together.

Minimal Confederation Articles

It is pretty simple. For a confederation, your main concern is not what are the rules of internal governance any community applies to itself. You focus on interactions and interdependences on between communities instead. If you design a system, you are interested in keeping it relatively open (setting borders is ok, though), stable but not rigid, able to keep the balance and regain it quickly after any turbulence. All rules should be minimal, easy to understand, adapt and enforce, hard to corrupt or manipulate. Such a minimal set could be like that:

  1. Golden Rule. Don’t treat other communities the way you would not like to be treated. [negative formula used intentionally — think BDSM community]
  2. Answer the calls and communicate according to the protocol37 agreed. [the fundamental obligation of a confederated community is participation, following the rules accepted]
  3. Freedom of opt-out. Your people may leave the community any time they wish. On the same ground you may leave the Confederation any time. [the intention here – think BDSM again – is to make sure that even the most bizarre communities will be treated equally, while people will be able to escape persecution in case a community goes wild]
  4. Between communities violence is accepted only in clear self-defense. If you attack first, you face the consequences. [one of the tricky pieces of the puzzle – when the inter-community violence is accepted; surely, there must be rules here, but I do not see a way to make one set of them fitting all]
  5. Protect the Confederation at any time. Any attack on a Confederation member is an attack on Confederation itself. [this may be slightly redundant in context of #4, but not quite]
  6. When in doubt, call up an assembly. [for a confederation, an assembly is a universal tool]

Repellence and Resilience

Set up in the way described above, a confederation is pretty flexible. Every community involved has only a small set of rules to follow and hardly any of them concerns their internal governance (compare with the St.Benedict Rule!). The major focus is on communication and negotiation platform (the said Protocol) and there is no permanent supra-community institution to rule. You participate and implement the protocol or nor – that simple. The resulting society looks more like a space frame truss38, than glass monolith. And is much more stone-resistant. 🙂

If we try to imagine such society being „invaded” in the way Europe is afraid to be now, the picture looks much more optimistic. Newcomers have choice – and not just at the beginning (see rule #3). They may join any existing community (if they accept them) or set up their own (space and resources permitting). The latter case means that they may live within their walls the way they want (yes, it means sharia, stoning and beheading) as long as they comply with minimal confederation articles.

Shocking? Not really. With the relatively free information flow and the strict observance of #3 rule (free flow of people), within a generation or two the most toxic communities would either depopulate or change. The confederate approach means that we try to create a self-regulating environment, instead of „manual control” over independent communities. Of course, political and social life never gets boring. There will be problems, invasions, internal „hacking” etc. However, when the system gets mature, the diversified set of communities can absorb (and disperse!) quite a lot of people. Those who would stick together and create another node in the net, would get involved in the confederation itself, being both supported and constrained by the rules. Finally, anyone trying to destroy the confederation would face coordinated swarm-wise response.

There is no unbreakable system. And confederate political model can be broken as well, from inside or from outside. However, out of those known to us, confederation seems to be the fittest in current European context. We only need to give it a try, starting from a local and regional level.

IETF FTW!

The only long-standing global confederation I know today is the Internet. As we described a bit earlier, It has been developed as a confederation of networks, with political core deep inside. Today, there are also some initiatives to include political aspect of Internet protocols in their works39. The custodians of Internet are a very little known group, working under the name of IETF40 (Internet Engineering Task Force). They built it – in the sense of standards (aka Articles of Confederation). But truly powerful tool is their methodology. IT professionals are world famous of their reluctance to work in a unitary way („herding the casts” being the most popular metaphor). Astounding work the IETF did is in the area of organization. Creation of standards, even if they are later approved by some official authorities is done in a way blending anarchist methods with specialised technical knowledge, absolutely mandatory for managing infrastructure of the Internet.

My strong belief is that this is the way to go. Whoever wants to develops a political confederate system for the 21st century and beyond, will have to use Internet anyway. And the strongest and the most mature tool for building, maintaining and adjusting standards in the Internet is the IETF methodology. We need some smart people to learn it and bridge it with the non-internet world. To implement it in small, face-to-face, synchronously working populations, without loosing a grip of the Cyberspace. Internet Protocols of Freedom can and should be brought to the „Meatspace” for benefit of us all.

5 The unstoppable march into the future41

The future will happen. Like it or not.

I presented here two – rather extreme – possible scenarios of the closest (20-30 years) future of Europe. By no means it is a complete analysis. And not the completeness was my goal. I wrote this text to invite you, Dear Reader, to take part in shaping the future of Europe. To build and preserve that part of European heritage, which belongs to the Confederation of People. To provide a counterbalance to the current, unitary and monolithic trend we observe. So, to make my attempt complete, let us see what is possible now.

European values revisited

First of all, let us revisit the so-called „European values”, upon which the European Union is supposedly built.

„human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights”

There is no simpler way to implement them, than by free communities, assembled around their shared views, historical identities and aspirations. We do not need to abolish nation states to do that. We may start working bottom up, from a neighborhood level. Following principles of confederation, grow the network stronger and stronger, until it becomes a dominant political power on a regional level. And, Dear Reader, all that can be achieved without forcing people to change their way of living on the community level.

Rojava – stateless democracy42

Rojava is the closest working political example of democratic confederation we have on hand. While their solutions are often region-specific, the overall structure can be easily adapted in Europe. This is one of the reasons I believe we should all actively support recovery and development of Rojava, both in the political and economic aspect.

There is a growing movement towards democratic confederalism in the world. In the US, the Cascadia Independence Movement, promoting watershed-defined bioregions, clearly incorporates its principles. In Europe, municipalist (communalist) ideas are taking roots in many countries. Self-governance, as defined by Murray Bookchin43 and Abdullah Ocalan44, provides solid foundation for the new, confederate society.

Greece – solidarity economy

No change in a society can be made without change in economy. The way people fulfill their material needs is – at large – the way they define themselves related to the material world, including their fellow humans. Sharing and exchanging food, clothes, shelter, help – this is the major bulk of social relationships. So, the solidarity economy, developed and refined by the Greeks during „the Greek crisis” since 2008, is an important contribution to the confederate model. After a „summer affair” with Syriza, Greek society seems to be getting over the fact that is was bought and sold by the state again, and starts focusing on getting on its feet again.

Solidarity economy, supported by the vast „frog’s leap” of open technologies (see below) is already changing a deep economic disadvantage into a window of opportunity. If protected by local and regional confederations, these changes will help empower people rather than support the state-like entities.

Greece is an economic testbed now, which will shortly provide a lot of practical knowledge to all people in Europe interested in confederated society model.

Internet – open technologies

Governance and economy have to be supported by the suitable technology. Open technologies, stripped off the robbery of „Intellectual Property”, easy to deploy, adapt and develop, customised for small communities and low-cost manufacturing or maintenance, are widely available, thanks to the wonder of Internet.

Applied in a skillful way, they not only fulfill the needs of local citizens, but also help bringing wealth and development to the communities45. On the long run, it will also create a community-related environment for research and development activity. The society may create its own technologies, without employing commercial intermediaries.

Technology, as a way of creative dealing with the material world, makes all system complete: self-governance, solidarity economy and open technologies together make the foundation for the confederate model to emerge.

We are the Europe

The Europe is already changing. As I write this text. As you read it. We will not stop, let alone reverse these changes. But, at least in our direct surroundings, we can have certain impact on the speed and direction of changes. We can, until the stronghold closes its gates, choose where we want to live. We can keep looking for kindred minds, can associate, congregate and build vernacular political spaces, confederated with other ones. We have necessary knowledge and necessary motivation (I hope). We have examples of good practices and we have just enough time to act. And, even if we cannot change course of the whole Europe – what a unitary way of thinking 🙂 – we may change the future of the Europe we are.


4 Percentages calculated from figures accessed at 19.09.2015 on the http://frontex.europa.eu/trends-and-routes/migratory-routes-map/ (January-August 2015). [Square braceketed figures] – the same source January to July 2015.

7 R for Refugee. Witold Repetowicz used the „D-weapon” term (D for demography) in his article http://www.defence24.pl/255493,wojna-hybrydowa-atak-bronia-d-na-europe (his writings strongly deserve English translations, volunteers welcome). Just recently the same interpretation was presented in a slightly schadenfreunde-ish article in http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/09/recep-tayyip-erdogan-bashar-assad-refugees-nato-syria.html# later indirectly confirmed by Donald Tusk (http://aranews.net/2015/10/eu-president-says-some-foreign-leaders-using-europes-refugee-crisis/ )

9 The report http://www.irinnews.org/report/101990/how-can-turkey-protect-itself-and-save-syrians written in a groveling tone, but clearly showing that Turkey gets increasingly tougher on refugees. And the http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/09/syria-kurdish-parties-don-europe-150917061142096.html shows that there are first effects of this tactics.

10 See Donald Tusk’s remarks in Istambul, in the midst of Erdogan election campaign of terror. http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2015/09/09-tusk-remarks-turkey-president-erdogan/

13 Civil war being „a continuation of election campaign carried on with other means”, so to speak…

17 Here I intentionally leave out of the picture the architects of „reunification” – people of power, policy makers and secret services from both sides. Their profession is to have their perspective largely untouched by the propaganda and they knew, more or less, what kind of game they joined.

18 Some of this atmosphere I tried to capture in my article „Poland and Kurdistan – 25 years later”, in a context of political flirt between the West and Kurds in Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

19 As goes the saying better devil known than unknown.

20 They are still in the script, but not leading the plot. Although, it varies sometimes.

21 Only recently we heard, probably first time for many years „It is time to stop being ashamed of being fascists.”

22 In a sense of genotype – a society where green-eye redheads are considered „normal”.

23 One should note that, in the context of EU, minority and majority will apply mainly to the states (Europe of two speeds etc.) rather than directly to their citizens. However the model described here works on every level.

25 A. & B. Strugacky, Prisoners of Power https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoners_of_Power

26 In our reality this role was assigned first to Greece, then to Ukraine and finally, in the context of migrations to the Balkan countries.

27 Dr. Strangelove or how I learned not to be afraid and love the bomb. The movie is almost as ancient as is Yours Truly, but – opposite to him – a must see. Really. Torrent it and watch. Some intoxication helps to perceive it in a proper manner.

28 The author must admit that this is not 100% true, Cuba being for example an aspiring exception. But hey, this is the storytelling, not a dissertation.

32 „Life in a Network for Survivors: The Thermonuclear Apocalypse and the Protocols of Freedom” http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/life-in-a-network-for-survivors-part-1/2012/06/04

33 Mind the difference between confederation and federation models http://www.diffen.com/difference/Confederation_vs_Federation

35 Note that for Q = 60% and S = 80% C = 48%; the same for C = 80% and S = 60%. But only ceteris paribus which is not the case (see further in the text).

36 In a sense that the level of participation is dynamic and, decreasing, provides alerting signal to the executive team. If one keep the support up by artificial (engineered consensus) means, no feedback occurs.

37 While discussing a hypothetical „Internet of Communities” I use the term „protocol” in a hybrid meaning, joining https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protocol_%28diplomacy%29 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communications_protocol. Its specification is the hard part of the job, though.

40 Internet Engineering Task Force. The people who made Internet. And they developed remarkable methodology in the process. We really should learn from them and try to use their approach on political engineering. https://ietf.org/about/

41 Whatever it will be.

44 „Towards Stateless Democracy. Ideological Foundation of the Rojava Autonomy”. https://freelab2014.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/towards-stateless-democracy-english-edition/

45 See an example of locally manufactured open tech solar heating system, being introduced in Greece: https://anabasis2015.wordpress.com/2015/09/29/solar-power-to-the-people/


Petros Polonos. A storyteller, witness of history, Bookchinite and open technologist. Not affiliated with any official political group. Lives in Greece, in a metaphorical barrel, emitting strange sounds (mostly over the Internet). Sometimes happens to turn stories into reality.

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One comment on “House of Glass
  1. Petros says:

    If you like what you just read, join me at https://refugeesupport.net/groups/festung-europa-803525354/ — a safer social network

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