COLUMN: PART FOUR -- (UPDATED) An Unprecedented Political Order Coming?

Charles Jeanes
By Charles Jeanes
January 24th, 2023

NOTE:  UPDATED — Appendices added.

Part Four

Time for a quick recapitulation of what I’ve been attempting to lay out in the previous three parts of this Arc.

Part One opened to readers the vista I see of our world hanging upon a threshold, with particular attention to the notion that liberal democracy today is under threats, but likely to evolve into some new, as-yet-unseen-in-history form of social order. The imagery of The Hanged Man, a Tarot card, was my attempt to picture the psychological state of human beings in this liminal era.

Part Two was an historical exploration of some features of ancient Athenian democracy, and an examination of the Western ideologies of Progress.

Part Three was where I question the ideas of some political philosophers and cognitive scientists about how rational homo sapiens is, and how liberal democracy must take account of both reason and emotion in the minds of citizens.

Please take the trouble to find and read Parts One through Three before continuing.

Observation: the ease of an LIR class where all are similar

As I noted in the introduction, the students in my Learning in Retirement class are liberal in many ways. One feature of our complexion as liberals that means some significant difference exists among us, is social class. We are all middle class. But at least one among us is a person of substantial wealth, wealth that truly puts the person in a much higher layer of the middle class than myself.

This has meant clear political distinction for this student, his views about property and his perspective of a landlord; opinion-making experiences for a person who owns a lot of real estate and buildings are surely bound to shape a different point-of-view than the experiences of a man of small means who has been a renter all his life.

Still, the fact remains, my students and I are in basic harmony on topics that might be controversial in a company of more varied individuals.

My class has never been the scene of a heated argument between two people over politics or policy, economic or cultural opinions, or whatever typically causes fights between conservatives and liberals. No conflicts over the Freedom Convoy to Ottawa, or over climate change or native issues.

We are civil with one another; we do not raise voices. There are real and deep differences of opinion among us, but those do not cause passionate conflict. Why not? Because, we simply do not want to fight about it. Nothing seems so important that we should argue heatedly.

I wish humans did not fight about differences. But we do. Difference is not universally accepted. Homo sapiens has not evolved to love all its members, though culture may try to inculcate such an abstract value in us. (Now would be the time to play Lennon’s  Imagine.)

Concretely, humans are difficult to teach.

What the Hanged Man sees: fragment-Folks, cyber-Sovereignty

What I predict for the future of liberal democracy is not easy for me to describe, as I am not at all sure my vision is articulate in my own mind. What follows is more in the line of suggestive image than descriptive vision.

First, I make reference to a book famous in its time, written by a British Prime Minister in the nineteenth century. The author was Benjamin Disraeli, a Tory, and he wrote his novel-with-a-thesis, Sybil,in 1845, a year after Friedrich Engels (the great friend of Karl Marx) published his expose of the horrid state of the English proletariat in The Condition of the Working Class in England. Disraeli saw his England divided socially into two nations, the underclass in all its misery and the more comfortable classes; he made a case for a paternalistic, compassionate aristocracy with a profound social conscience, taking on the task of building social justice for the underclass. The prospect before England is not unlike Canada now.

…‘Yes’, resumed the younger stranger after a moment’s interval. ‘Two nations; between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws’. ‘You speak of –’, said Egremont, hesitatingly. ‘The RICH and the POOR’. [Book II, Chapter 5]

My point in citing this work, is to say simply, Yes! There are two worlds now on the earth, the rich and the poor. And I think the division is very, very unlikely to be healed nor to be closed by policies. Two realities for rich and poor will get worse. It has been the reality of  how the world is divided since the nineteenth century, when the West surged ahead with capitalism, science, and technology, and enriched itself while the world outside Europe and Anglo-America was left figuratively “behind” in poverty.

Poverty inside the West is not uniform across the rich nations. Finland is the outstanding example of a nation with homelessness policies that work. It is unique in this.


I see the way the homeless live in Nelson, where my work as a security guard brings me into contact with their miseries; the most-uncomfortable part of my job is to go to a bank where the ATM lobby is very warm, and eject vagrants out into the night when it is sub-zero winter weather. Nelson, like most towns now, has an insufficiency of shelter beds at night, a surplus of homeless, and no practical policy to resolve this.



These are two worlds, indeed. And this is the future, in my dark imaginings.

Second, I note that many people of my generation, back in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, had a program to “drop out” of society, go “off grid” and “back to the Land” – all in the hopes of creating utopian communes and libertarian communities cut off and divorced from the overworld of materialism, capitalism, and war-mongering as we saw it all around us during the Viet Nam War and civil rights riots in the USA. Here in the Kootenays we know better than many just how young people tried and tried, and are still trying, to live such counter-cultural lives, including economics of self-sufficiency, radical, feminist democracy, and a return to pre-Christian pagan spiritual life (or some syncretism of Buddhism, Taoism, and other paths from non-European traditions). They sympathize mightily with aboriginal-justice causes. They dream of finding a way to be outside the Establishment or the System.

Third, Canadian natives today are in a two-worlds dilemma also, with some advocating development of their land’s resources and making their prosperity within capitalist economies, while others want to escape the impending crash of capitalism by returning to the land and pre-colonial social order. Chiefs clash over the two visions, traditionalists often protest against logging and other destructive development (pipelines, mines) and the “settler governments” are caught between corporate greed and native need. For some settlers, especially the young, the indigenous society, culture and economy are self-evidently superior to the mainstream.

Online “communities” of citizens who never meet

Who has not heard the word “silo” applied to how people behave online? We have our favourite websites and blogs, our social media comprehend our preferences with algorithms and give us what we like while weeding out content we reject, and we befriend only others a lot like us in political and social values: we live in media silos. We embrace “identity politics” and our tastes and values are the badges by which we identify who we are, and we find our “tribe” of like-minded online. We attend music and art festivals like Burning Man and Shambhala, where we speak openly of finding our tribe and declare our loyalties with one another.

The online world of no-physical-touch is real, despite lacking body contact. We know there are things in cyber-space we would rather ignore, on the dark web in places we’d never go, because those worlds are not our chosen realities. Others choose to live there. What can one do about that except communicate — without trying to convert?

There is an author of science fiction whose imagination is equal to the task of forecasting how the world of cyberspace online might evolve new realities. William Gibson is that author. I recommend his novels for that vision; it’s more-fully imagined than what my poor grasp of the technology is able to describe.

History provides us with many examples of how two realities existed side by side in a figurative way. Apartheid in South Africa was a political regime dedicated to making two worlds in parallel, one for the Black peoples of the land, and one for the European whites, until the system collapsed from its manifest injustice. Deliberate separation of Jews from Christians in medieval Europe was systematized first in Venice. The Ghetto for Jews was instituted as a security measure for Jews before it became a synonym for injustice to ghetto-dwellers. Canada created Reserves for natives to keep them apart; whether this was an attempt at genocide or cultural assimilation is still being debated. (Colonial settlement was certainly a massively unjust appropriation of land that natives had title to.)



These are examples of realities very much in touch with one another.


History also provides examples of people who originally possess political and cultural unity eventually become sufficiently unalike that one secedes from the other, as when colonies break away from a “mother country” or a region leaves a federation, as attempted by the South in the US Civil War, or accomplished by the Swiss and Dutch who broke from the German Holy Roman Empire. In such cases, the differences of people with very similar roots became too great to be contained.

Another kind of dual reality is observed between generations, when the young have one culture and their elders have another, though in most concrete ways the two share in one. Sub-culture and counter-culture are words to describe how young and old separate and segregate by their demonstrated loyalty to different tastes in music, dress, manners, sexual mores, politics, and other varieties of personal choices.

What I have said in this section — about realities that are not the same for all, about differences and distinctions among people who appear to inhabit the same society or at least share one planet and its scientific “laws of physics” but who believe and conduct themselves to inhabit worlds apart and unconnected is not a concrete picture for me (nor for readers I am sure) of the future.

All of what I outline is but mere suggestion, a very dim sketch through a glass darkly, of the kind of division that might lie across the threshold I sense hanging before us.

Defeated description

I never promised to be persuasive in my descriptions of political fates, after liberal democracy passes from twilight to darkness across the threshold. I warned readers that I am getting in touch with the weird. This liminal time we inhabit is just too strange for my powers of imagination to pierce the veil of the unknowable future.

So I admit defeat, an inability to describe how humans could live in parallel but separated, knowing each other with our five physical senses but not actually living in the same reality. Or in the case of cyberspace, not ever touching one another and yet sharing reality.

(Technology may indeed solve the issue of not touching across space with new forms of virtual reality, so real that away from screens we feel we are aliens in the world of matter…  Readers might recall the film Barbarella and its depiction of sexual congress without the mess of actually touching.)

But will the powers at present presiding over humanity, the true rulers whose power over our lives is with us constantly and getting more totalitarian with every new technology of surveillance, allow human realities to splinter? They will still wish to be Masters of Reality in the things that most matter to them in the world of matter. How far a separate reality apart from the Masters’ sphere, can be extended, is the mystery I have been contemplating.

I expect that all governments and other controlling institutions, whose purpose is to direct the social order in the ways the Masters want, will try to exercise universal supervision over the territory of a sovereign nation-state. The sovereign nation-state was a long time evolving in Western history. It will not be given up by the men who profit and benefit from that way of government. Their intrusion on our lives will not lessen just because we’ve wished them away.

Canadian history records that the treaties by which the settler state promised to leave the native peoples untroubled by settlers wanting their land, were very often broken. When it suited the needs of the government, business, or other powerful settler interests, aboriginal land was violated again and again. From this precedent I think we can expect the powers of the overlord class will recognize very few rights of people who just want to be left alone, if the Masters decide otherwise.

How far my vision of radical division of people into collectives which have very little or no connection, would be permitted by the overlords, is very much a question I cannot answer. Elon Musk does not care about a lot, but about his power to do what he plans and have people obey him, he cares a great deal, and he’s not alone. That such men will exert themselves to stop our liberation from their power is a given. And they will not be obstructed by the pieties of democracy while they exercise that power

Democracy is the issue for us in the West who still possess the freedom to think about the future. I said at the start that my concern was liberal democracy and its demise in the future across the threshold of change; I’ve posited it is in its twilight era. It’s not beyond us to push the direction of change ourselves.

Conclusion: what’s in a word?

Liberal democracy is the system I know and love but the other forms rivalling it are not going to disappear while democracy transforms into something else. The changes to come in those other systems, the autocracies and illiberal quasi-democracies, are the concern first of those peoples who are subjected to them. Westerners in democracies have to re-design and build our system first.

We are the ones who will push forward new realities. And if I have to give the new political order a name, the label for the reality after liberal democracy, I propose to call it ideal idiosyncrasy.



Dismally dark scenarios of a very few ruling (or eliminating) the very man


Appendix One I

Excerpts from This Eden by Ed O’Loughlin (2021)

“Who do you think stands to gain if regular people stop protecting their kids?… People who think that regular people with ordinary lives are a species of virus. People who blame the state of the world on overpopulation, instead of stupidity and greed… He and his friends are trying to wipe out most of his own species. To save the world for people like him until they can figure out a way not to be people anymore, to turn themselves into machines or immortals or whatever.” pp. 215-216

“It’s a new kind of organism. A global online virus. A multi-cellular meme…. It wants to propagate itself. So it infects vulnerable hosts and drives them away from the rest of humanity. The more money they have, the sicker they get. At an advanced stage of infection, they no longer behave like humans at all. It makes them think that they’re gods. And they start shedding money through their lawyers and politicians and journalists, to poison herd resistance. The money is used to persuade people that nothing matters, nothing is real, things have to be the way that they are, that money is the only real power and you can’t do anything about it.” pp. 221-222


Appendix Two II

“At the highest plateau of productivity, these Sovereign Individuals will compete and interact on terms that echo the relations among gods in Greek myth… The new Sovereign Individual will operate in the same physical environment as the ordinary, subject citizen, but in a separate realm politically. Commanding vastly greater resources and beyond the reach of many forms of compulsion, the Sovereign Individual will redesign governments and reconfigure economies in the new millennium.”



Appendix Three III

From an essay by Hari Kunzru, Harper’s Magazine, January 2023, entitled Exit

“In our time, the great task for libertarians is to find an escape from politics in all its forms – from the totalitarian and fundamentalist catastrophes, to the unthinking demos that guides so-called social democracy.” {quoted from an essay by Peter Thiel for the Cato Institute.]… If freedom is to be found through an exit from politics, then it follows that the degradation of the political process in all its forms – the integrity of the voting system, standards in public life, trust in institutions, the peaceful transfer of power – is a worthy project. … Populism is useful to elite libertarians because applying centrifugal force to the political system creates exit opportunities. But for whom? …Exit schemes have multiplied. Bitcoiners look for an escape from financial oversight, and transhumanists look to escape their bodies, while rich preppers design personal lifeboats to escape from social collapse… But the most successful form of elite exit has not been some utopian transcendence of the global order. It has been the creation of holes in its body… If territorial exit is unachievable unless you have your own Mars program, and political exit is always contested, then the next best thing is freedom from the financial rules that apply to ordinary citizens.

“Exit is not a benign withdrawal. It imposes costs on those left behind, and the freedom of Exiteers substantially depends on the unfree labor of others. [I]nterdependency is precisely what elite libertarianism finds intolerable. It ultimate aim is to ensure that the Sovereign Individual never has to ask for whom the bell tolls because it will never toll for him.”






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