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Manifesting the mettle and motives of the many
On the commons as ends, on people as commons, and directing energy towards those ends.
We are extending the inaugural piece in this post. This piece contains a more playful and erudite rendition of the artistic space Pluribus intends to explore and occupy.
When it comes to “cancellation”, there is an ocean to wade through. Instead of focusing on the negative space – e.g., “opposing cancel culture”, “why cancellation is bad”, “how to stop cancellation” – it is more worthwhile to focus on what we want to see more of.
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Already, we run into some deep territory: what “we want more of” must address what “we” is, what “wanting” is, what “more of” is, and all of it together.
If you thought the last piece was a throwback to that one undergraduate philosophy class, this essay will induct you as a member of the Pluribus Philosophy League. Let’s go!
Pluribus means “the many”. We know that pluralism – the recognition of the many – is not a result of an enforced consensus, but of strong agents of varied nature attracting followers to their landscape by nothing less than sheer capability to produce what is true and beautiful.
There is a notion of “the commons” – resources that are accessible to all of us – and a corresponding notion of “tragedy-of-the-commons”. In the present era, the tragedies afflicting cultural commons do not often fall into the pattern of depletion of a scarce resource due to unbounded self-interest.
Instead, cultural stultification finds its source in the excessive amount of cultural noise injected into the commons; the confusion from exposure to a non-stop stream of warring narratives; and the capture of all cultural production by a few, colossal, undifferentiated centralities (or, perhaps, one centrality with a few different faces), with the insistence that you follow their moral pedagogies, regardless of whether you find them personally edifying.
We are not interested in a “we” that flattens, that homogenizes, that standardizes. We are interested in a “we” that stands up boldly, even dangerously alone1 , to produce what is meaningful. And a "we" that invites us gently but firmly to participate in the making of meaning.
A cultural collective with vitality reduces noise by distributing cultural capital to the most local level possible. For example, by implementing mechanics through which the amount of influence you carry is proportional to how much you actually care, not how much someone wants you to care, especially when that someone is far away.
Therefore, it’s incumbent on you to to ask, “How much do I care?”
At some point2, an error was made: a conclusion was reached that the highest existential form is an individual, in isolation, that self-authors everything about itself including its experience, its identity, and its ends. In other words, a person that becomes its own god.
This is nonsense.
To start with, what an individual wants is most often delivered to them in the form of a model that was inherited from their peers, their heritage, or their stage-of-development.
It is not a coincidence that as this error was made, another joined it: the premise that transformation is necessarily linear; that it is a steadfast progress toward some yet unknown destination that may one day be reached; an imprecise utopia somewhere out there, past the memetic fog rolling in on all sides.
If you take seriously the project of cultural transformation, including stopping facetious cancellations, then you understand the power of leveraging an ecosystem that exists in the present.
Recognizing that desire is mediated via imitative models awards two immediate advantages:
You can refuse to engage in destructive cycles of desire – these are the ones that ultimately lead to cancellation – and write-off the actors that promote them as bad actors.
You can contribute only to constructive cycles of desire – ones that lead to deep fulfillment, in solitary and in collective.
By embracing the second advantage, you may also embrace the non-linearity of preference cascades. This allows you to take responsibility for planting the seeds that explosively manifest ideals of your election (is it a coincidence that non-linearities are referred to as transcendental?).
But the explosiveness sought is not just an exponential difference in degree, it is a different topology altogether, an emergence, a difference in kind.
The root word of Pluribus, pluris, means “more”. In a world obsessed with capturing attention, monetizing it, growing engagement, and increasing it endlessly; more is synonymous with quantity. More is an addiction provided to you at no up-front cost and a promise to enslave yourself to the obsession.
That’s not what “more” is required to mean. “More” can mean building more trust, creating more alignment, taking up more responsibility, freeing up more attention, or achieving more clarity. If individuals can play an active role in cultivating constructive models of desire, products can play an active role in cultivating constructive models of their own market & audience.
This type of product-market fit relies on non-coercive marketing. A “more” that will not concede to the tyranny of policy, metrics, and scale. This is type of “more” that enriches the more you entangle with it, the more you take ownership over what it is, and where it needs to go. A “more” that finds and incorporates the quality individuals who embody more of it.
That’s the root from which Pluribus springs up.
The critical reader, at this point, with the full might of skepticism behind him, asks, “Is Pluribus just a place for people to produce things that matter, that inspire, that animate, and ensure that they withstand the destruction of demons?”
Be a nerd about what you love, publicly, in an inviting and nourishing way, over a long period of time. Make friends in the process who love and support what you do. It really works, I promise!
The aligned reader, on the other hand, looks at Pluribus with a sense of eagerness. They’ve finally found a product-ecology in which investment will yield the most important compounding rate of interest: compounding virtue.
If a collective that stands alone seems paradoxical to you or if it causes you discomfort to recognize the inherent power in it, it’s an invitation to investigate your own modus operandi in modernity and to ask whether you have (inadvertently) committed to instrumentalize yourself in service of program antagonistic to your integrity.
Some say this error was first made during the Protestant revolution with the enacting of Enlightenment liberalism. Others say it occurred before, and it was only formalized and systematized at that point. Still others claim it happened near the beginning; that it engendered The Fall; that is has been with us this whole time. The important thing is to recognize and admonish the error.