kortina.nyc / notes
13 Feb 2023

Freinacht // Nordic Ideology

Nordic Ideology is Hanzi Freinacht’s 2nd book on Metamodernism, where he gets into specific implementation / desiderata of a Metamodern politics.

If you have not read The Listening Society, I recommend starting there.

One of the key sets of concepts is around game denial, acceptance, and change. Game Denial is a common failure in liberal thinking – that we can somehow escape competition and build a society entirely upon compassion. Game Acceptance is a common failure in conservative thinking – because we have managed to coordinate competitive dynamics towards useful ends (eg markets) we should treat all competition as unavoidable. Game Change acknowledges the successes and failures of competition and asks how we might work with competitive forces to create better outcomes for the winners and losers in these games.

Some of my favorite bits…

Freedom is terrifying. It is a huge responsibility.

2229 The truth is that once we have traveled the long road to freedom, we are back at the very point where we started: at fear, at sheer terror. It’s just us and the blank page of our life that we must fill—the blank canvas of the artist staring right back at us, screaming, roaring: CREATE ME! It’s just you, all alone, defining and recreating reality itself. You turn away from the canvas, trying to do something else, but you find that society itself is a canvas, begging for co-creation. You hurry outside, restlessly pacing in the pouring rain, staring up at the grey skies, tears running from your eyes, washed from your face by the cold rain, but no mercy is found: reality itself is a canvas. Blank.



Bam, motherfucker.

Go create. No excuses. Ever. Because you’re free.

Suddenly, like on a bad psychedelic trip, you find yourself lost in the hall of mirrors, with no beginning and no end of “the self” vis-à-vis “the world”. Just pure creation and full, unyielding responsibility for the uni­verse. This whole “crossroads of fact and fiction” business just got eerily real.

Is it so strange that we usually turn at the doorstep and escape back into the relative safety of whatever slavery we just struggled to shake off? Man, have I felt this before I began writing these books. Man, do I feel it every bloody morning. The terrible truth is this: freedom is struggle; free­dom is terror; it is the terror of facing pure chaos, the pristine meaninglessness of reality, the vastness of potential, and the weight of the responsibility that follows.

Tragedy and meaninglessness can be more powerful motivators than comedy.

2370 I’ll tell you what I think. A life form unrestrained would begin to consciously self-organize in ways that create higher subjective states, greater existential depth, grasping for greater complexity. It would gaze deeper into the universe and recreate it, while recreating herself in the image of the order of the cosmos.

In sheer terror before the empty meaninglessness of the universe that reveals itself at the end of all external and societal oppression, we must gar­ner superhuman courage to resist folding over and escaping from the formlessness of pure freedom.

I believe that we would—we must—plunge head-on into the mysteries of existence, not as individuals, but as an evolving global network of post­human trans­individuals, living in volitionally organized virtual tribes. Un­hinged, uninhibited, we would explore with rapacious curiosity, play with religious fervor, wor­ship with trembling devotion, fuck like beasts—dis­solving our very sense of self into the crystal-clear night.

Serving beauty and mending tragedy, we would dance, fight and laugh our way towards more terrifying heights and depths of consciousness, manifesting pristine universal, impersonal love—a love that fathoms and em­braces reality, and all sentient beings, with math­e­m­a­tical precision. We would co-create worlds and we would co-destroy them. And we would bear the heavy burden of such responsibility.

Gemeinschaft Politics seeks to cultivate solidarity and healthier social relations (for these ultimately help promote individual freedom as well).

4394 As Gemeinschaft Politics grows into an organic part of society—saturating more aspects of everyday life, redressing and evolving the nature of human relations across all sectors—the shared knowledge will grow about “what affects what” in the realm of social relations. In other words; as a society, we will grow wiser when it comes to understanding what the key variables are and how to improve upon them.

There will be an accumulation of the depth of our understanding regarding what these variables really mean. Sometimes, one variable will be shown to be explained by others. Different composites will catch different essential patterns, and tell stories back to us.

What is “trust”, really? Is more of it always better? Can it be improved upon? What is the average “security of a family”? Does it cause trust, or the other way around? What buttons are there to push, what levers to pull? Or is there a third variable which can explain both of these, such as the emotional intelligence of a population, or the “degree of flatness of informal peer group status hierarchies”? And how does all of this interact with a conventional variable like the un­employment rate? These are, naturally, not matters of simple statistics—but need to be crunched as big data by AI so that we can see patterns we couldn’t have thought of. But there are patterns, and they can be used to create generative conditions for humans thriving together, as relational beings.

The point is not to have all the answers; we can’t really expect to find “once-and-for-all” answers to these questions. The point is merely, that if a pro­per ongoing process of Gemeinschaft Politics were in place, such know­ledge—and its many situation-depended practical applications—would grow and take roots throughout society.

I think that we, as a society, should explore this field of development. There are certainly risks, but I believe we would come out wiser, stronger and healthier. We will find key variables and use them; golden keys to un­lock the hearts of women and men, to unlock the dormant potentials of fellowship, solidarity and love.

Go on, find the golden keys.

Reality is both subjective/individual AND relational:

4487 Yes, we are all alone.

If you remember the discussion about inner subjective states from Book One, we noted that each self-organizing conscious being is always in some kind of inner state or subjective experience. I am, I feel. Existence.

These inner states constitute some kind of unity-of-experience, some kind of integrated whole that is the experience horizon of each creature, and this vast inner landscape is never entirely indifferent; it flows, soars and falls, rejoices and suffers.

In this inner world, we are alone. If there is a terrible infection eating away at our nervous system in a manner that causes sheer madness and hell, no amount of happiness of others will console us. This subjective world, this universe of mine, is still pure anguish and pain. My experience and all I know is still an unfathomably great darkness and terror. It’s just me, all alone, with what appears to be inescapable and never-ending suffering itself.

This predicament creates an irreducible fundamental relation in reality: the relationship of the self to the self . Or if we dig deeper yet: the relation between the universe experiencing itself and the quality or content of that same experience viewed as an entirety. Being relating to being itself in 1st person.

The eye of the I.

No matter how thoroughly we kill off “the individual” as a political idea, and no matter how well we recognize the co-created nature of reality—the transpersonal nature of all of society’s ailments—reality always splices off into a multiplicity of singular experiences, into you and me and every­one else.

It is true, that my experience this moment may have more in comm­on—more connections and more ways of inter­acting and sharing experiences—with yours, than it does with my own four-year-old former self. But unless we find a way of physically connecting our nervous systems, we are still separate. If I truly suffer, no expanse of heavenly bliss in your world will help me.

And yet—it is also true that these inner horizons are structured by society, by circumstance, by nature itself. Society can create preconditions for strong, healthy psyches that can deal with the adversities of life, who can act with wisdom [91] and composure in confusing and pressing life situations. It can work to create bodies and minds that ring with harmony, with maturity and contentment of old age. Or it can churn out armies of wounded, stunted and confused souls who lack the support to make it through difficult transitions—bent out of shape from society’s pliers.

Society can be designed so as to support what Joseph Campbell famously called “the hero’s journey”, the transitions between life phases; the difficult times we all know are com­ing for us. Structures, norms and institutions can help us grow and turn our painful misfortunes into meaningful lessons learned and an awakened awareness of the suffering of the world, and they can help us rise to a capacity to act upon such a sense of tragedy. Or society can be designed with so many trapdoors and impossible paradoxes that life itself seems to turn into a cruel joke at our expense.

In the last instance, we are all alone in this mysterious journey. We are the sole seers with these eyes, the sole feelers of these worlds of emotions, the sole cosmic address of this inner spaciousness within which thoughts flow and all things arise. In the last instance, life is up to “me”. I am here alone, writing a book. I will never read it with your eyes, never hear your thoughts—my work is necessarily cast across time, space and perspective, intersecting another universe.

Alone. But only in the last instance. There is hardly a word in this book I have come up with myself. Everything I do rings with something lar­ger, something beyond me. Up until that last instance, up until the hour of death, I am thus not-alone. My existential predicament is set by the gods, yes. But my ability to respond is granted by you and your treatment of me from my first day onwards, by society, by the comfort of this great wood­en chalet, its jacuzzi and the majesty of the mountains—or the relative deprivation of such support structures.

Will I rise to the challenge or will I fold over a thousand times and lace the steel-hard truth with velvet lies and excuses? Will you? Will we retreat into fear and hide in the crowd, turn away from our life’s greatest miss­ion?

The answers to these questions depend upon our existential strength, health and development. Will society consist of people following profound dreams, ideals and moral aspirations—or will it consist of excuses for lives unlived, for creators dead-born?

These are the fundamental questions of Existential Politics. It seeks to make open what was locked in, to let out what was suffocated, to cross out the taboos, to rid of the shame, to emancipate human beings in all of our gory, messy, beautiful, vulnerable purity.

There are no positions of innocence.

5404 The initial negative response most people have to the idea of a Politics of Theory is that of “the liberal innocent”. Remember this character, the one we went after in Book One? The liberal innocent is the mindset that thinks you can just take any one position within the normal Left-Right spectrum, live a “normal life” and that you will be the good guy, and that there is no blood on your hands for all the good suggestions you ignore or for all the critical discussions you suffocate. But, of course, there are no such positions of innocence. If your complacency kills, you are guilty as charged: This is either “game denial” or “game acceptance” as you have blocked real and possible “game change”.

The metamodern strategy is to confront each ideology on its own terms, understand the goals and values of each ideology, and argue how metamodern politics is actually a better way to achieve those goals and embody those values:

6362 As we have seen, you can only beat each of the modern ideologies on its own terms: They simply won’t accept other terms than their own. The holders of these ­perspectives arrived at them by maximizing certain values deter­mined a priori , so if you try to propose other values, they won’t go along. That’s a large part of the reason why the modern ideologies are perpetually stuck in a trench war in regards to each other.

What you get instead is a multidimensional puzzle where you maxi­mize your centrality and gravity in transpartisan space. I.e., you become friends with the socialists, as viewed from their perspective, relative to all other positions. They won’t see you as trusted allies, but at least they find you less despicable and more respectable than other opponents. And this is where you need to really kill it with genuine perspective taking: You need to be able to truly show them that you understand where they are coming from and then share in the pleasure of dismantling all the other modern ideologies.

That won’t “convert” most of them, but it will lessen the negative ties and increase the weak positive ties. Then go to the libertarians and repeat. And then to the conservatives. Show them that you understand what they don’t like about all the other alternatives, show them that you understand what they don’t like about you, and show them that you appreciate their partial truths. And as you are capable of launching more devastating attacks on all the other ideologies by beating these on their own terms, they will gladly steal your ideas and arguments and thus do some of the “dirty” work for you. The modern ideologies will deconstruct each other. As our ideas spread—first slowly, then like wildfire—all that remains to do is to lean back and undisturbedly tweak the developmental pro­cesses that step by step bring about a listening society, ascending in smoke and fire.

6975 What then can account for the structural failure of the communist project, as viewed altogether? Well, in all places where you see communism (or “socialist” states claiming to attempt to achieve full communism, which is when the state itself has been rendered obsolete), there are one-party systems, human rights abuses, limits to civil liberties and severe problems with the eco­n­omy—as recent relapses in Venezuela re­mind us. These soc­ie­ties sim­ply don’t last; their social sustainability is severely limited.

I suppose you’ve heard the common wisdom response? “Communism was not just a nice idea that turned out to be terrible in practice—it was a terrible idea that was consequently (and predictably) terrible in practice!” All mainstream critiques of communism argue along these lines, more or less. This holds true from the more sophisticated versions, like in the Polish philosopher Leszek Kołakowski’s meticulous studies [153] of the inherent flaws of Marxism, over Karl Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies , to Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s massive, intense literary mas­ter­piece The Gulag Archipelago , which derives the horrors of communist forced labor camps directly from Marxist-Leninist doctrines.

This line of argument (often put forth by libertarians and conservatives, but increasingly by everyone) holds—more or less explicitly—that communism was a mistake be­cause it failed, morally and intellectually, to under­stand human nature it­self . This is the case even in Solzhenitsyn’s existentialist account.

According to the libertarian mainstream account, humans are not collectivist beings who value equal­ity over all—so the argument goes—they are freedom-loving individuals who need to find their own paths in life in order to find meaning and dignity. As such they must be allowed to com­pete on free markets, serving them­selves first—in fair exchanges with one another, where goods and respect are earned by hard work and good character. They must reap the rewards of individual action, of innovation, of reason­able and free competition. In this view, the closer you come to a libertarian capitalist standpoint, the farther away you are from Gulag and the secret police knocking on your door.

But concealed beneath the nice-sound­ing libertarian creeds of a “free­dom-loving individual” is also a somewhat darker assumption: that peo­ple are most often rather selfish, and, the reasoning goes, if you try to cre­ate a society in which this truth is not honored, it will backfire seriously—be­cause it can ultimately only be built on self-deceit. Instead, the argument goes on, we should build a society in which people can work for their en­lightened self-interest, which will generally produce more sustain­able relations, more productive behaviors, and a greater abundance of goods and ser­vices on the markets (both quality and quantity).

As in Adam Smi­th’s classical 1776 notion of “the invisible hand”, this argument marries a belief in freedom to a meas­ure of conservatism; a sober and realistic look at peo­ple’s moral qualities and real behaviors. It’s true that Smith warned about the corrosive effects of repetitive factory work, but his analysis stopped there. If we let people work selfishly under controlled cir­cum­stances (policing, rule of law, private property, consumer rights, etc.), then they will, on average and over time, do some­thing that is collectively good.

Hmm, okay. There may be some truth to these received wisdoms of our day and age. But upon closer inspection, such an appeal to “human nature” and her inn­ate individuality is of course a rom­antic reciting of beliefs rather than a behavioral-scientific explanation. They just make vague assumptions about “human nature” and engineer morally weighted conclusions from there. This mainstream account of why communism failed has pretty weak explanatory power.

But aren’t there yet more general and structural causes for the spectacular failures of communism? I’m glad you asked, because indeed there are.

You can’t escape competition and trade, but it’s also foolish to ignore solidarity, moral concern, and love – there is no “either or” choice between acknowledging these.

7594 I suppose you could add a fifth triad consisting of an expanded form of Habermas’ duality between “the system” (all impersonal exchanges via money and formal political power) and “the lifeworld” (everyday life experience and the relations in it) by adding a third category of “imagined communities” or “imaginaries” (the shared ideas and preconceptions about society at large including ethnicity and nationality, such as has been proposed by Benedict Anderson and somewhat differently by Charles Taylor). It is not difficult to see these three categories are also in a dialectical dance with one another and that neither of them is “the most real” or the ultimate source of legitimacy.

Each of these triads develop as triadic fractal systems ; their constituent parts develop to­gether or regress together—even if there may be times when one aspect can and should be emphasized over the other two. The triads can be intelligently weaved to­gether, or their parts can work against each other and cause mutual harm. And, more fundamentally, the parts dep­end upon each other in their logical structure. Fractals.

The game deniers tend to dislike and deny the aspects of competition and trade that are in fact logically necessary parts of life and society. The game accepters tend to deride and underestimate the very real aspects of solidarity, moral concern and love, trying to explain these by reducing them to the “underlying hard facts” of political real­ism and crude economic interests. They think competition is the most real.

The game change position avoids such biases against markets, states and the civil sphere, or against solidarity, competition and trade. Rather, the idea is to work for game change across all of these: to see how they interact, how they strengthen and/or impede each other.

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