Might panocracy lead to a dystopia?

Challenges to the idea that panocracy can work
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John Talbut
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Joined: Wed Nov 30, 2016 5:07 pm
Location: Alvechurch, UK

Might panocracy lead to a dystopia?

Post by John Talbut »

Panocracy cannot guarantee that bad things will not happen. It is also likely that those who wish to oppress others will use the language of panocracy in oppressive ways. Using the language of the oppressed to further oppress them is common practice, for example the language of feminism is used to impose further obligations on women in the guise of making them "equal". With panocracy the idea that we are all responsible for our own actions may be misrepresented to mean that the state has no responsibility. This already has echoes in the individualisation of the Thatcher era (''there is no such thing as society'') and the New Labour mantra of balancing rights with responsibilities which in practice means the state abrogating rights that have been hard won over centuries while expecting its citizens to ''be responsible" and do what the government tells them to do.

What is a dystopia? Wikipedia suggests it is a society that "is usually characterized by an oppressive social control, such as an authoritarian or totalitarian government." We can probably include post-apocalyptic societies in which gangs or war lords exercise considerable control. The essence of these societies is that they are oppressive and in that sense not much different from most societies at the beginning of the 21st century.

To see how panocracy relates to this it is necessary to be clear what is meant by oppression. l make a clear distinction between control and oppression. The essence of oppression is that people are made to believe that they do not have options that, objectively, they do have. Oppression involves getting people to feel as though they have to do things, that they do not have any choice.

Control is clear, I say what I want you to do and l tell you what l will do if you do not. You have many options for responding to this. In a totalitarian state, for instance, severe penalties may be specified for anyone who criticises the state. People can and do choose how to respond to this, sometimes choosing to take great risks in order to challenge the state. Oppression involves getting people to believe that they have to comply, that they have no choice, even without any overt threat. for example, most teachers in the UK feel that they have to comply with the demands of a highly prescriptive, competence based educational system. This is sometimes referred to as internalised oppression but in practice it is the only form of oppression.

It is instructive to consider how oppression is connected with abuse. It seems that the oppression come before the abuse, although abuse can reinforce oppression. Typically when people are abused they feel powerless, by which they electively mean that they do not know what alternatives exist for responding to attempted abuse, they do not have the skills to respond effectively or some combination of these. In other words they have already internalised their powerlessness, they have already been oppressed.

Looking at a specific aspect, abuse generally involves going over someone's boundaries and hence the victim being unable to hold their boundaries. There are many aspects to this including, importantly, the victim having learned to feel that they do not have the right to have boundaries. One aspect is that anger is an important ability that we have for gaining the physical and emotional strength to keep others from coming over our boundaries. Many of us as children are taught not to use our anger effectively. Typically, girls learn not to be angry at all and boys learn to be angry in ineffective, often self destructive, ways. This is the oppression, then, when someone, say, tries to abuse a child it is much easier if the child does not get angry.

On a wider scale, it is held that Nazism and 1939-45 war arose out of the 1914-18 war. Even before 1914 militarism was rife in Europe and the associated oppression increased with the outbreak of war and the need to persuade people that they had no choice but to engage in the war effort, that men had no alternative but to "do their duty" and go in their millions to be slaughtered. Part of their oppression was that many of them believed that they were making a positive choice. Having lost the war, something that in itself undermined people's self confidence, Germany was subjected to the humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles. These were the conditions for the rise of Nazism - it was the outcome of oppression rather than its cause.

What this all means is that it is in the hands of people who may be oppressed to reduce the prevalence of oppression, Relying on oppressors to reform and stop being abusive does not work - they are still the oppressors. People can, however, learn to be able to refuse to be oppressed , this is the process of empowerment. People who are more empowered are more able to respond to any attempt to control, abuse or oppress them in a range of different ways and to choose for themselves how they will respond. As it happens, people who are more empowered in this way are also less likely to oppress others.

The intention of panocracy is to provide a set of tools and principles to help people move away from oppressive society and towards empowered society. The principles essentially acknowledge the right that we all have to handle any situation in the ways in which we choose. Denying that right, which is what most political systems do, is oppressive. Knowing that we have that right and being able to act on it is to be powerful.
A stated fear is that if everyone does as they please then we will have chaos. Perhaps the more real fear is that if you do what you please then you will not do what l want you to. Also, it might please you to make me do what you want me to, in other words you have permission to be a dictator. However, while the fears are real, the objective reality is probably different, first of all, people generally do not want chaos, rather they want the benefits of acting co-operatively with other and hence will choose to behave this way. Second , you can dictate to me but l can choose what notice l take of you.

Along with my right to choose what l do comes my responsibility for those choices. When a government takes upon itself responsibility for "law and order" there is a tendency for the individual to leave it to them and to act irresponsibly. We have seen this in recent years in the UK where the more authoritarian the government has become the less responsibility individuals take for maintaining order (e.g. Walking by when a crime is being committed) and the more "anti social" behaviour there is. Conversely, when people act on their own responsibility there is likely to be less chaos.

The tools of panocracy are a set of resources that will develop over time to assist people to operate co-operatively. Currently these mainly address issues of decision making.

So, can panocracy avoid the possibility of leading to some form of dystopia? Of itself, of course, it cannot. It is what people do with the ideas that will make a difference. People could build some authoritarian society in the name of panocracy but with far less justification than is done in many parts of the world today in the name of democracy. Panocracy is essentially egalitarian and empowering.

Perhaps a great strength of panocracy is that it is not utopian, it is a practical approach to living together in the world. Panocratic societies could have many different forms. The exercise of leadership and existence of hierarchy are supported by panocracy as well as the possibilities for peer working. The struggles to find solutions still go on. Where panocracy differs is by bringing all the elements of the struggles into the open and by supporting problem solving that meets as many needs as possible rather than allowing a few people to impose their own, often illogical, solutions.
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