Peter Limberg, Power-Literacy & the Perversity of We-Spaces



This is the provocative thesis of the radical French collective Tiqqun -- which strongly influenced Peter Limberg's 5-part spate of missives on the Less Foolish substack. 

Of course, all real communities have their problems.  We inherit and become embedded in families, schools, workplaces, religions & races.  These are problematic spaces.  One way or another they oppress and distress us.  We are always fleeing, tolerating, hoping or processing our situation in these communities.

They interfere both with our relationships and our sovereignty.  Meanwhile, they enact ancient patterns of trauma, neglect, abuse, toxic consumption, dogmatic narratives, marginalization and discriminatory hostility to out-groups.  Not to mention they have been utterly unable to prevent global competitive techno-capitalism from destabilizing our biosphere, unleashing existential threats & eroding our collective capacity for sensemaking.

We could join new voluntary social networks -- activists, new cults, justice movements, fandoms, therapeutic communities, wisdom-collectives, emergent we-spaces -- but these are also terrible.

Change communities are typically haunted by unacknowledged power games, collective shadow, personal pathologies, blindness to trauma, economic insecurity, ineffectiveness, narcissism, political correctness, cynicism, idealism, iatrogenic harm, hidden elites & factionalism. 

The only alternative is imaginary communities. 

Imaginary communities are vibe-based.  They attempt to extend truly authentic moments of transformation into ongoing community life but somehow they are always forming and passing away into a virtual condition.  This is how Less Foolish's Limberg describes his former project (The Stoa).

So while we need to use more ideal possibilities as part of our imaginal navigation, we also have to deal with the fact that there will always be something terrible about any community that is real enough to hold us intergenerationally and real enough to offer an actual opportunity to influence the world. 

But other than just making peace with inevitable faults, mistakes and distresses -- what else can we do to help new communities get better?

Limberg is focused on two main things:

The FIRST PART is a new power literacy.  We have to be more clear about the types of problematic dynamics and individuals.  Peter calls these:

-sociopaths (who, for neurogenetic or developmental reasons, actively inhabit selfishness over general well-being),
-sneaky fuckers (who use the cover of unstructured spaces & emotional supportiveness to run private games of power and indulgence),
-unconscious gaslighters (who use their spiritual development, verbal confidence, cognitive clarity and righteousness to undermine the validity of other people's intuitions and sensemaking)
-conversational narcissists (who dominate time and conversational sharing by constantly and unconsciously pivoting back to their own experience, issues & proclamations)

All of these types interfere both with our individual integrity and our collective capacity for distributed sensemaking and self-organization.

And we are all implicated by one or more of these categories!  Our job is not to exclude and damn the Bad People.  It is to protect the vulnerable, challenge the strong and help everyone move forward to a more useful version of themselves. 

Thus compassion & wisdom are both required.  As the Christ-character says in the Gospels, “Be thou as innocent as the dove but as cunning as the serpent."  Kindness, empathy and power-literacy must converge.

The SECOND PART is Limberg's deep concern about the development of virtue-oriented friendships.  Real friendships that place the value of reason, truth, goodness and wisdom at the heart of their shared activities.  He admits this is hard but sees it as utterly essential.

Especially in new communities whose psychotechnologies often accelerate intimacy and communion at the expense of the slower, more granular and organic exchange of confidences and responsibilities that cultivate actual friendships.

These are good places to start.  Not all communities are equally terrible...


All of the problematic types that Limberg suggests in his emerging metalanguage of power literacy are now being automated.  Algorithmic quasi-AI technologies can behave as sociopaths, sneaky fuckers, gaslighters and conversational narcissists.  Keep your eyes, fingers and minds peeled...
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