Uber: Digital Economy Vs. Rigid Society

The recent protests of the Paris taxi drivers against Uber are a bright illustration of the profound trends and dynamics taking place in the present-day world.

On the one hand, there is a rigid, inflexible, slow and bureaucratic state that tries to regulate every field of activity within its territory. This includes legislation passed to regulate different professions. For example, issuing licenses for taxi drivers.

Next to the state, there are individuals who believe that state is still the most powerful actor, and therefore abide by its rules. For instance, taxi drivers who pay dozens of thousands of euros to get a taxi license from the French government.

On the other hand, there is a truly revolutionary idea of a shared economy. This idea has manifested itself in such projects and businesses as Couchsurfing, Airbnb, BlaBlaBlaCar, Uber and many others. These social startups offer much cheaper – and sometimes even free – services, and they are based on mutual trust and cooperation.

I can understand the French government as Uber threatens to reduce profit generated from licenses fees. I can also understand regular taxi drivers who pay enormous money to get those licenses. However, these two parties are missing a few major points here.

Frist, the majority of French people are happy with Uber like most of the passengers around the world. Beating off Uber drivers and authorizing use of police force are not ways to compete in taxi business.

Second, shared and digital economy is changing our lives drastically. It is much wiser to try to ride this wave than resist it. Revolutionary humane post-modern ideas will inevitably win over outdated modernist thinking of immediate-at-all-cost profit-making.

And finally, the alliance between the French state and the local taxi drivers is a minority compared to the majority comprised by a network of Uber users. While the latter has mainly remained silent so far, the future belongs to network communities.

Self-organized network communities have a powerful potential to resist both the state and capitalism.

I believe in Uber.

I believe in shared economy.

I believe in a more sustainable world that such economy creates.

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Crowd Vs. Community

Below is a quote by Viktor Frankl on the difference between a crowd and a community. This is an excerpt from the author’s Man’s Search for Meaning. The citation is a long one, yet worthy to read till the end.

From my side I can add that in the world where democracy is a disguise for the rule of capital, communities of mankind have a potentially big future in the brave new world. True democracy can only be established and exercised by communities of responsible individuals.

Note: translated from Russian, highlighted by me.

Crowd does not create at all such environment for man where he could develop as a personality. Masses can’t stand individuality. If we compare the relationship between man and society with a mosaic, the relationship between man and a crowd is like a paved grey stone. All stones have the same color and shape, any of them can be used to replace one another. It’s not necessary to use some specific stone to construct a high-quality pavement.  The pavement itself is not something unique – it’s just lots of stones together. A road cover doesn’t have the esthetic value of a mosaic. It has nothing but a utilitarian value, for crowds hide virtues and real value of people, using them only as a resource.

Human existence acquires full sense only in communities. Yet since a community needs to have a sense itself, it must bear the individual peculiarities of its members. In contrast, human peculiarities vanish in crowds, for a bright individuality is a destructive factor for any crowd.

By hiding and dissolving himself in a crowd, man loses his most inherent characteristic – responsibility. On the one hand, once taking on a task from society, he increases his responsibility. “Crowd escape” is an opportunity to release the burden of responsibility… A true community is in essence a community of responsible individuals; a crowd is just an array of depersonalized beings.

Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Other posts on Viktor Frank’s Man’s Search for Meaning:

Castaneda And Frankl: A Bridge Between Esoterics And Psychology
The Pillars Of Human Existence: Spirituality, Freedom and Responsibility
Three Types of Values That Make Life Meaningful
Where Space for Growth Lies
Death Makes Life Meaningful
Heredity And Environment Vs. Will and Action
Knowledge Vs. Wisdom

Farewell to Democracy

Democracy has been dead for a while now.

Power is not vested in the people. The real power belongs to the corporate capital institutionalized in transnational corporations, banks and global financial oligarchies.

We live in the era of corporatocracy, not democracy. Democracy is nothing but a theater show where everyone plays an assigned role.

This is not a theory of conspiracy. This is harsh, bitter, disgusting reality.

Corporate capitalism is global in character. If the world government does or will ever exist, it will be organized via a network principle, not a centralized one.

National governments, however, are local. This is why nation-states are an obstacle to capitalism, and this is why all national governments are corrupt as they are easily turned into advocates of global corporate interests.

To make it simple, the sovereignty of the state has been replaced by the sovereignty of the market.

And here is a dilemma.

If we assume that:

– transnational capitalism is the root cause for social, economic and ecological disruptions
– capital’s insatiable growth for expansion triggers injustice and inequality globally
– there exist other avenues beyond capitalism leading to a more balanced society

then the long-term solutions cannot be local. Inevitably, they will be local in the beginning Yet  they must target to become global in order to provide a viable alternative to capitalism.

In other words – working local, thinking global.

And this is where network communities can optimistically have a bright future. Self-governing communities of mankind united via a network principle is a plausible alternative to the transnational capitalism. 

I believe mankind can become united in face of the rising challenges.

The question, however, is what price will be paid for that.

Together We Stand, Divided We Fall

Recently I came across a very inspiring video about a crowd of people freeing up a man trapped by a train in Perth, Australia.

A bunch of strangers came together to help someone they didn’t know.

This is yet another proof that the Earth is out common home, and the people in it are all brothers.

As long as we remain humans, we are invincible.

There’s Nothing Wrong With Dirty Politicians

Simply because they pursue their interests. And we all do.

The issue is with the public that elects dirty politicians, not politicians themselves. Politicians suck because voters suck. That is why I haven’t voted for 10 years now, and ain’t planning to do so in future.

“What about the civil duty?” – one might ask. “How can you hope to change the country if you don’t participate in the election process?” Bla-bla-bla.

To this I will reply: “Cut the bullocks, will you?”. Thinking that representative democracy gives a freedom of choice is the biggest illusion of all. There is no bloody choice. At least in the times we’re living in. The only choice you get is between Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Feel the difference?

By the way, states are not run by politicians. Surprise-surprise? Well, formally they are, but in truth politicians decide very few things. Check out Colin Crouch’s book Post-Democracy for some insights here.

Democracy is dead. Democracy, at least in the form that we witness today, is manipulation of minority over majority in order to pursue its (minority’s) interests.

Let me conclude on this. Political elites are always a reflection of the society they represent. Every nations deserves its political establishment. So in order to change the country you live in, there’s no need or sense in voting for another democratic ass-jack.

All you need is change yourself.

Social networks: from national to network identities

In one of the previous posts I mentioned that social networks, among many benefits, have a negative impact on our lives too. However, every cloud has a silver lining. It is a fact that the influence of Facebook, as the brightest and most popular social network, brings a lot of skepticism and doubt. Still, there are many more benefits in using it rather than simply rejecting.

I don’t want to list all of the ‘goodies’ offered by Facebook, starting from the opportunity to stay connected with friends all over the world, to revolutionary changes in business and political awakening. What I would like to highlight is something that is not mentioned so often, or is rather confined to academic discussions and research. Social networks help construct a new form of personal identity – network, politary, or arbitrary identity.

We have lived all life in the industrial phase and that’s why we consider the current social systems and ideologies as constants. But this is not so. Nationalism and patriotism are examples of concepts not adequate for the agrarian phase (where vassalage and unity in faith dominated) and especially for the archaic one. Nor will they be relevant for the post-industrial phase. Every epoch brings its own understanding of a person’s identity. In addition to self-identification as an individual, man is inclined to identify himself with certain communities. This desire to structure the world is embedded in the human nature. Whether somebody likes it or not, man consciously and subconsciously divides everyone into ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’. This cannot be helped as this is a powerful instinct-based program. Properly speaking, identity is a part of human consciousness that is formed through the feeling of affiliation to different social groups.

We are now witnessing signs of the end of the Modern epoch that has lasted for about five hundred years. During this phase of historical development nations have been an important part of social classification and identification, in contrast to kinship, tribal, religious and ethnic forms of self-identification in the Pre-Modern epoch. Similarly and naturally, national identities – a common way of self-identification in the modern or industrial phase – will transform in the post-modern or post-industrial epoch we are gradually entering.

The signs of the next system of identity can be seen throughout the world. These are cosmopolitans or citizens of the world who think globally and are not bound by national ties, at least in the common understanding of organic and institutional identities. They choose themselves whom to be and in which country (nation-state) to live. Such people feel affiliation first of all with those who share their ideas and interests. They do not have a problem, like their predecessors of the earlier epoch, choosing a language to communicate. If my community lives in California, I will live and speak English, even though I am a Russian Ukrainian. Differentiation goes hand in hand with individualization, the process of distinguishing oneself from the traditional social groups followed by creation of new groups. And this is where social networks step in: they play a tremendous role to construct identity based on arbitrary interpersonal relationships that becomes more and more varied.

To make a conclusion, we are inclined to overemphasize our own system of identities by considering it as a unique and everlasting one. Nationality did not always exist, nor will it be important in future. Even today this word may mean nothing for someone, while bear completely different meanings for others. More important, however, is that in the present-day world social networks facilitate the construction and implantation of the new type of network identity not bound by a territory or language.

This does not mean that nationality will fade away completely. Rather, the new identity will co-exist with the national one, like national identities co-exists with religious ones. Every new system of identification is more complex than the preceding one. This is natural as every new paradigm leads to a higher degree of structure. There will be more and more people with complex identity systems. This process is normal and needs to be accepted as given.

In the 2010 movie “The Social Network” Sean Parker, the co-founder of Facebook, proclaimed: “We lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re going to live on the internet!”. We all live in a unique historical epoch, the time of transition from the modern industrial society to post-industrial information one. Being able to use the technological benefits the new era offers means being on the top of the wave. After all, technology is neither good or bad itself. It’s up to us whether we use it in the pursuit of power or a positive change in the world.

Pizza for homeless: downtown Budapest

Budapest is a wonderful city for visiting and living. Unfortunately, in addition to the city’s sights and beauties, a big problem is visible – the homeless. We need to show sympathy for those on the streets, as many of  them have lost their jobs and are struggling to survive. Why don’t we organize something simple for a start?

The idea of this initiative is to raise money to arrange a pizza dinner for the homeless staying in Belváros. As an alternative, we can arrange homeless backpack care kits including food, clothes, and basic toiletry. Please support this, if you can, as kindness always goes back to those who display it. Every smallest donation will be highly appreciated!

Here is the link to the campaign where donations can be made. Thanks a lot in advance for your support!