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Above the law?

Above the lawIn my humanonaut journey, some of the places where I go may look quite odd from the eyes of the conventional world. Food, vow of wealth, gift economy, amorality, love, stepping out of the classical economic and social circuits… Sometimes people ask me if I see myself standing above the law. This question inspired this present article, a seed for a further thinking in the future…

When minor contradicts major

I will start with an ontological distinction in regards to law. One single word —law— exists to name two different concepts, first, the universal and superior principles that govern us, and second, the rules used to regulate and arbitrate society in its daily flow, in particular through jurisprudence. In order to eliminate this ambiguity between universal law and circumstantial law, let’s name major laws those that lay the foundations of social alliance, and minor laws those that regulate society in a circumstantial manner.

In general, constitutions form an organized set of major laws that state freedom (of opinion, of religion, to move…), equality (of rights, of chances, of gender, of origins…), fraternity, the right for safety, education, health. Democratic constitutions (the French Constitution for instance) as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, carry this intention of universality, at least the way our epoch perceives it through the lenses of pyramidal collective intelligence.

Minor laws relate to arbitration, and the norms and rules that govern society in its daily flow. We usually find them in legal codes made to cover different aspects of society: commerce and trade, agriculture, justice, food and drugs, labor, transportation… See U.S. code for instance.

Napoleonic codeMany minor laws contradict major laws. I see two main reasons for this. The first one: some minor laws existed before major laws. They carry ideologies from the past, unsuitable to our times. Let’s remember how much time it took before men and women equality appeared in the eyes of the law, or before homosexuality became legal while it always existed in human behavior. As for animals, still considered as a thing and a commodity today, we stand far, far away from a potential evolution in the legal system. Nothing protects them from our inhumanity, which opens the path to even more inhumanity. “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated“, Gandhi said. Our barbarism against other forms of life directly contradicts the respect we want for humankind. Just like slavery did in its time.

The second reason that puts minor laws in opposition with major laws: the fact that systemic or secondary effects of a minor law can provoke, by emergence, a context that contradicts major laws. This happens with conventional money for which Pareto condensation and privatization mechanisms lead to a non-democratic concentration of power. We call plutocracy this correlation between power and money. This concentration of power creates a context that works against the tenets of  modern constitutions (major laws) that guarantee equality of opportunity and the right to safety. And it rules out articles 2, 3, 4, 17 and 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If society evolves one day, maybe it will challenge the constitutionality of money, the same way it revised its position in regards to slavery or gender equality in the past. Everything in its own time.

Incompleteness and inconsistency

Escher - RelativityTo further our inquiry, the question of laws takes us to Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, in other words to systems’ incompleteness and inconsistency.

Let’s begin with incompleteness. A constitution works as a series of postulates (axioms in mathematics) from which we should derive minor laws (theorems in math). Doing so, we soon face undecidable propositions. We have to adopt certain laws that no major law from the Constitution can substantiate. We find out that the system has no completeness in its core, it doesn’t “self-explain” itself, it doesn’t provide its own answers. We always need to enlarge it, add new laws issued from a vaster reference system. We have to legislate. This happens when new technologies arise, or after new breakthroughs in science or medicine (euthanasia, embryology…), or when new morals settle down in the society. Each time new cases appear, they require new arbitration, new jurisprudence, new laws. Before the legislator can catch up, extreme situations can happen. In positive law, we take for permitted what the law hasn’t yet forbidden.

Give me your papers!Let’s continue with inconsistency. This one requires somehow a mental leap to fully understand. The minor laws that we “logically” derive from major laws can contradict the system itself, which makes it inconsistent. For instance, in the name of common good, the state can legitimate violence, which contradicts the safety and liberty of the person. In the U.S., the Second Amendment allows citizens to possess weapons for their defence, which also contradicts their right for safety, as statistics prove. Also, in the fight against terrorism, claimed in the name of citizens’ safety, the state chops off a great deal of freedom and gives great power to the few in control. Freedom and safety contradict one another when applied through minor laws, yet another example of the inconsistency of today’s constitutions. We can also question secularism: in the end doesn’t it impose, without saying it, a peculiar way to understand reality? It carries oriented values (lifestyle, world views, belief systems…) that I can hardly qualify as “secular”. And what should we say about the dictatorship of the majority? All these examples prove how systems contradict themselves, regardless whether we speak about rights, ethics or mathematics. Hence their inconsistency.

The combination of incompleteness and inconsistency distills the perfect cocktail for dissension. For instance a country can adopt abortion or forbid it, both choices rely on perfect moral assumptions that fully respect the Constitution and contradict it at the same time. Same thing with GMO’s, homosexual marriage, nuclear energy, etc.

Let’s note that civil disobedience often rests on revealing the unfairness of minor laws in the context of the fairness of major laws. For instance GMO crops, authorized by property, entrepreneurship and commerce rights, collide with the universal right of life preservation that invokes the precautionary principle. These conflicts unveil an opposition between natural law and positive law, also between morals (major laws) and justice (minor laws). Yes, quite often the moral and the legal lines don’t get along together. Who does not suffer from that in his/her flesh one day or another?

Incompleteness and inconsistency fuel a sterile and naive political and social clash, because of the misunderstanding and ignorance of this phenomena. Our political animals show a breathtaking ignorance about a mechanism they should know well, given their responsibilities. Beyond today’s societal aspects, the question of incompleteness and inconsistency clearly shows that the mental will never produce a system capable of arbitrating life, as no subsystem can encompass a the vaster system that contains it. Another dynamics has to infuse in individual and collective consciousness if we expect our species to evolve.

From normative to generative law

If we think of how classical law works, it standardizes and frames actions and behaviors through objective wording. Coercive actions can protect these laws if necessary, some of them legitimize State violence. After a law comes a the law to respect that first law.

Road signsLet’s look at a legal space that we know quite well: the traffic code. Normative law floods us with rules, signs, radars, limits, sanctions, etc. It attempts to contain people’s behavior by means of exogenous prohibitions and obligations. Normative law standardizes and takes responsibility away, since it imposes external rules. Rather than asking myself what good reasons I could have to drive slowly in a town, I have to obey a red sign and fear the cop. Rather than paying attention at an intersection, I drive through because I see a green light or I have priority. Things happen inside a game of obedience/transgression in relation with a normative external authority.

We can clearly see here one of the signatures of pyramidal collective intelligence: by applying one single norm for everyone, it makes economies of scale and industrializes its processes. Last but not least, it attempts to build predictability in an unpredictable living system.

Maybe evolution will lead us to generative law, who knows? Generative law needs objective wording to exist too, yet its aim consists in seeding social behavior coming from within the persons. Once matured, these behaviors induce collectives capable of self-regulation, in an organic emergent way. There, exogenous normative constraint reaches a minimal level.

Continuing with the example of traffic code, we have an interesting case in Europe. The city of Drachten has simply withdrawn all its road signs. A successful experience, people took their responsibility in hand. Today they trust their perception while following an interiorized social alliance. A living and organic cohesion evolves along with their learning curve.A sweet and fun moment with my beloved Julie

A fun moment with my beloved Julie

I have a similar experience in India. There, we drive with our senses, like in many countries. The few road signs serve as decoration. A European used to external normative authority would mostly see a huge threatening mess. On my scooter, with my passenger seating behind (sometimes we seat 3 people), I love joining in the dance. Once in the flow, I honk the horn again and again, not to attack others, but to allow them hear and localize me. Dozens of toots around give me a real-time sense of the positions of others. I navigate in a 3D sensoriality, a little bit like in a collective sonar. Eventually, in this mingling of pedestrians, children, old people, goats, sacred cows, buses, cars, chickens, dogs, rickshaws and bicycles, nothing goes that bad. Of course I don’t take India as a model of road safety, but the example seems good enough to show how normative law doesn’t resolve everything, far from it.

We can also explore the effects of generative law at the level of the person. During the early years of my son Estéban life, I tried to use generative rules in order to help him integrate social life. Rather than giving him orders not to step out of the garden, or not to cross the street, I laid down rules that aimed to provoke a living behavior that would emanate from his self. To do so, I combined the verbal approach with playing, physical gesture, drawings, actions on the body, mime. For instance, before crossing a street, we played the statue. We literally petrified ourselves with delight to make the statue that observes and describes everything that happens around. Then, if no vehicle would show up on the horizon, the statue would transform into a rabbit that could cross the street. We called for precise sensorial conditions combined with  an internalized thinking process. Estéban incorporated generative rules. Once integrated in the body, these rules didn’t need to exist anymore, they could fall like a sloughed skin. Since the age of three, my little boy knew how to move without risk in urban environments. At the age of twelve, Estéban knew how to take a plane or a train, he knew how to travel alone in Paris and make international trips. He did it with his senses and made autonomous decisions. His mom and I proceeded this way during all his education: use generative rules.

Do every country, every population, every collective have the capacity to evolve towards a less normative, but more generative law? This question connects us to the ladders of maturity of consciousness: when does individual and collective consciousness acquire the capacity to operate from within? At what moment can it operate without normative rules? This question applies to traffic code as well as the law, morals, ethics, social codes… Imposing normative laws systematically leaves very little scope for individuation. States usually legitimate and legislate normative laws by alleging the marginal and immature behaviors of a few. We invoke monster-objects (the “let’s unite against the threat” thing). All these processes show the DNA of pyramidal collective intelligence. Yet I see normative law as transitory. The future doesn’t have room for it because of the limitations it provokes: the loss of responsibility, the exclusion of inner consciousness as a founding brick for the collective, inconsistent and incomplete systems that will never ever cover the whole spectrum of reality and that complexify infinitely, alienating the evolutionary capacity of society… I feel quite interested in what holomidal collective intelligence societies will invent in order to move beyond normative law systems. We will evolve even better in this direction if we aquire of a language of integral wealth. This latter allows us to name, raise and update our awareness of wealth in its multidimensional aspects.

So the initial question of whether I see myself above the law doesn’t mean a lot to me… I simply explore the generative approach. For me, the vow of wealth represents an example of generative wording. It worked so well that this vow doesn’t exist anymore in my reality today, as it became part of me. I don’t praise the abandonment of laws and rules, however I want to explore how a precise construct of language can initiate an integration of the rule, up to its transcendence. Gradually the words vanish and leave space to life, to what springs up from within, to an immanence provoked by an experience of transcendence.

So I don’t feel myself above the law, but sometimes aside, in spaces that the arborescent morass of law cannot, and will never, cover. Because of their incomplete and inconsistent nature, the trees of laws, norms, rules, morals can only grow indefinitely. They will never ever cover and regulate the infinite space of life. Today you need champion lawyers to defend the law, they make me think of the great chess masters. As for the average citizen, he/she has no chance to embrace such complexity. Will we entrust the complexity of our mental systems to machines? We already do it by means of code. With the advent of socialware and communityware, “Code is Law” becomes “Law is code“. The question remains how pyramidal collective intelligence will seize this new power, and if holomidal collective intelligence will use it as a leverage for its emancipation.

In my daily life, this journey outlaws me, sometimes, and makes me amoral, always. Make no mistake: outlaw doesn’t mean “against” the law, and amoral doesn’t mean “immoral”. 🙂


Some readings:

Gödel, Escher, BachFinite and infinte gamesA Theory of Justice - John RawlDiscipline and Punish - Michel Foucault


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