I’ve been taking a much needed, although short, break from my academic studies. In this brief time off I’m enjoying spending much more time with my family and I’m also using this time to attempt to redefine, realign, and ultimately refine the trajectory and focus of where and upon what my research and work is aimed. I have a few projects in mind based upon several discoveries I’ve come across in my random readings. I am attempting to delve more deeply into the subjects and am already finding that the subjects are already pushing me beyond myself. Where this research will end up and what these investigative projects will become are unbeknownst to be but, I am anxious to see where they may lead.
One of the things heavy on my mind as of late sprang from two seemingly unrelated sources. I recently finished a captivating book entitled Mutiny! by Kester Brewin. I’ve garnered much from Brewin’s work presented in both his blog and his other books. This book was certainly no exception. Brewin is currently embarking upon a US speaking tour along with several other engaging thinkers such Peter Rollins, Barry Taylor, and Shane Hipps, promoting this his newest book. You can find the dates, times, and locations, of these upcoming events here. If you happen to be in any of these areas and are able to attend I would highly recommend that you do so.
In this book Brewin sets out to explain the socio-political significance Piracy has played in its varying historical forms of subverting, negating, and ultimately unblocking those places that have become blocked by the imperial powers of oppression and exploitation. Although often brutal and ruthless, it seems that Pirates have always been those have taken to storming down the fences and partitions erected to seal off and restrict access to the ‘commons’. Despite the incessant vilification of their seemingly unsavory tactics, the methods and means by which Pirate communities organized and governed themselves were in actuality more egalitarian, inclusive, and meritocratic, and less barbaric than the mechanisms of the official power structures of the state within their time.
Brewin writes that “Pirates are no more than the few from the anonymous masses of the proletariat who dared make a stand against their being driven like beasts of burden, and tried to run things their way for a while.” Brewin goes on to say that
we can take ‘pirate’ to mean: one who emerges to defend the commons wherever homes, cultures or economies become ‘blocked’ by the rich. Be it land that is being enclosed, or monopolies that are excluding and censoring, or wealth that has been hoarded, blockages to what should be shared freely and equitably create the conditions in which pirates will be found.
Thus, as Brewin concludes
The pirate’s vision is, in a way, very simple: they see where access to a commons has been blocked, and they work to unblock it. They see things that are not equitably shared that once were, and fight to restore some parity.
So it was, as Brewin suggests, that “Theirs was not a fight for power as much as an attempt to fight against power.”
In this work Brewin consults the work of one of my favorite Anarchist writers, Hakim Bey and what he describes as “Temporary Autonomous Zones.” In the world and time in which pirates lived cartography was an incomplete and imperfect practice. This meant there were many places that were simply uncharted and non-existent as far as maps were concerned. Pirates would often stumble upon these “off-the-grid” areas and form autonomous enclaves free from any governmental structures, intervention, and control. These fringe spaces formed in the cracks and crevices of society and in the shadow and blind eye of the state, which Peter Lamborn Wilson has termed “Pirate Utopias”, is precisely what formed the model and archetype for the T.A.Z.
Since finishing Brewin’s book I’ve begun reading a book on what I presumed to be an unrelated topic called Cloud Surfing. This book seeks to sketch out the ways in which the “hyper-connectivity” of ‘The Cloud’ is not only radicalizing technology but, also innovation, creativity, socialization, economics, and even behavior.
Thomas Koulopoulos, the author of Cloud Surfing, says this of ‘The Cloud’:
The cloud is the first megatrend of the twenty-first century. It’s a trend so large that it defines the way we will address virtually every other challenge we will face for the next thousand years. It’s a place where we will all live, work, and play in the twenty-first century. It’s where nearly thirty-five million people already work. It’s where your kids are when they dive into online play. It’s where you meet and make friends in social networks and where you are likely to find your spouse. It’s where companies go to find the next big idea and where political campaigns will be won and lost.
Koulopoulos explains that the Cloud is without a “geographical center,” it is not “housed on any one machine, server, or desktop,” nor is it the “property of a single company or even a coalition or cartel of companies.” The Cloud belongs to all of humanity. “The cloud,” as Koulopoulos continues, “is evolving and intelligent, infinitely scalable,” and “Always available in real time.” Koulopoulos proposes then, that the Cloud is “a pervasive social and economic network that will soon connect and define more of the world than any other political, social, or economic organization.”
But, here’s where it gets really interesting. Koulopoulos emphasizes the revolutionary capacities and subversive potential of the Cloud saying that “The cloud represents the consummate disruptor to structure and traditional models of justification and experimentation.”
Pushing further he suggests,
The cloud is at the same time the enabler of terrorism and its antidote. It is the underlying driver of the destabilizing shift in power from the industrialized world to the developing world and also the mechanism by which the entire world will develop a new equilibrium over the next hundred years.
With this in mind one question immediately springs to my mind, especially after having previously digested Brewin’s book, is the ‘The Cloud” capable of being the modern manifestation of Pirate Utopias and is it ripe for Temporary Autonomous Zones? What would that look like? And what would that mean for civilizations and cultures that are becoming even more deeply embedded residents and citizens of the the Cloud? These questions I don’t have answers for but, I intend to do my best to find out.