WTFU: The Manifesto of The Nobodies.
An edgy essay by Robert Hanna
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WTFU: The Manifesto of The Nobodies
“WTFU,” pronounced “what-foo,” means wake the fuck up:[i] and that’s what I’m urging us all to do.
Kantians and others will have already recognized that WTFU is a pithy, pungent contemporary equivalent of Immanuel Kant’s famous or notorious answer to the question, “What is Enlightenment?”:
Enlightenment is the human being’s emergence from their own self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to make use of one’s own understanding without direction from another. This immaturity is self-incurred when its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! Have the courage to use your own understanding! is thus the motto of Enlightenment. (Kant, 1996: p. 17 [AK 8: 35], emphasis in the original, translation modified slightly)
But sadly and even tragically, if you’re a card-carrying member of the social institution I call the mechanistic leviathan — i.e., if you’re a somebody — then it’s going to be ideologically impossible for you to do it on your own.
Instead, only the nobodies will have the power to do it.
Let me explain what I mean.
Rational human animals are, necessarily, social animals who create and belong to social institutions.
In turn, by an ideology, I mean any individually-held or collectively-held system of beliefs, together with what Otto Paans and I call thought-shapers (Hanna and Paans, 2021), that has and have significant action-guiding and emotional consequences, by virtue of at least partially causing, determining, and forming — in a word, shaping — our thoughts.
As the contemporary world’s leading example of an ideology, consider now the social-institutional framework consisting of technocratic mega-capitalism together with its social-institutional matrix, neoliberal democratic or non-democratic coercive authoritarian nation-States and what I call the military-industrial-university-digital complex,and their governing elites, including, for example, technocratic mega-capitalist enterprises like the Tesla Corporation, technocratic multi-billionaires like Elon Musk, neoliberal so-called democratic coercive authoritarian nation-States like the USA, and leading professional academic philosophers and scientists at the world’s top-ranked universities.
For terminological convenience, and borrowing a famously evocative term, together with a famously thought-shaping image, both of them displayed on the title-page of the first edition of Thomas Hobbes’s highly influential 1651 treatise, Leviathan —
let’s call this social-institutional framework the mechanistic leviathan.
I think that it’s self-evident that the mechanistic leviathan is the contemporary world’s leading example of what Michelle Maiese and I have called a destructive, deforming social institution (Maiese and Hanna, 2019: esp. ch. 3).
Correspondingly, it’s morally and sociopolitically very useful to distinguish in a much more finegrained way, with respect to any given social institution, between
(i) governors or leaders of that social institution,
(ii) administrators or organizational bureaucrats of that social institution,
(iii) officers or operatives of that social institution, especially coercive enforcement officers or operatives of that social institution,
(iv) rank-&-file agential members of that social institution,
(v) dependent or otherwise passive non-agential members of that social institution,
(vi) non-agential ideological fellow travellers of that social institution,
(vii) scapegoats, targets, or victims of that social institution, and
(viii) covert or overt nonconformists, rebels, or resisters of that social institution.
In other words, categories (i) to (viii) specify the different basic ways that people can belong to, be members of, or participate in, social institutions, although in the cases of the last two categories (vii) and (viii), only very unwillingly.
These finegrained distinctions are particularly important when making judgments about degrees of blame and individual or group moral responsibility in cases of destructive, deforming social institutions and their malign or even near-satanically evil effects.
For example, consider the classical, notorious case of the Nazis and Nazi Germany from the mid-1930s to 1945.
Was everyone who either lived in Nazi Germany at some point between the mid-30s and 1945, or sympathized with them during that period, and didn’t at some subsequent point during that period either voluntarily exit or flee Nazi Germany or engage in active resistance to the Nazis, equally blameworthy and responsible for the multitude of near-satanically evil actions of the Nazi State over those fifteen years?
Obviously not, on pain of falling into a moralistic and indeed morally fanatical conception of blame and moral responsibility.
On the contrary, the degrees of blame and moral responsibility for the near-satanically evil actions of the Nazi State over that period run from highest to lowest or even null, according to the categories (i) to (viii) of how people can belong to, be members of, or participate in, social institutions.
This finegrained scheme of categories can then be generalized to destructive, deforming social institutions of all kinds.
For example, I think it’s self-evident that technocratic multi-billionaires like Elon Musk and leading professional academic philosophers and scientists at the world’s top-ranked universities, all belong to the categories (i) to (iii), as they apply to the mechanistic leviathan, of governors or leaders, administrators or organizational bureaucrats, and officers or operatives.
Let’s call them, together with those who fall under category (iv), i.e., the category of rank-&-file agential members, card-carrying members of the mechanistic leviathan.
Therefore, Musk and the other card-carrying members of the mechanistic leviathan should all be correspondingly most blamed and most held responsible for the mechanistic leviathan’s disastrous and malign effects worldwide — for example, existentially catastrophic climate change (IPCC, 2021) — according to the system of degrees of blame and moral responsibility running from highest to lowest.
In other words, to put it more bluntly and pointedly, insofar as they fall under category (i), technocratic multi-billionaires like Elon Musk are the biggest assholes in the world today, which, in view of all the other assholes who are card-carrying members of the mechanistic leviathan, is really saying something.
Now, by the mechanistic worldview (see, e.g., Hanna and Paans, 2020; Hanna 2022: esp. chs. 1–2), I mean the worldview which says that everything in the cosmos, especially including you, I, and the folks next door, not to mention also their dog and cat, is either a formal machine, like a digital computer, or else a natural machine, like a steam engine or an automobile, or both, for example, that iPhone on wheels, the Tesla automobile.
Just as Tesla automobiles are powered by “ecologically friendly” electric engines (thereby providing bragging rights for sanctimonious “eco-smart” rich people, looking down on all those “dirty” gas-guzzling “eco-stupid” miscreants in regular cars and trucks) and by onboard digital computers, so too the mechanistic leviathan is powered by the ideology of the mechanistic worldview.
Correspondingly, here’s a two-part ideological necessity.
1. Necessarily, the more that leading professional academic philosophers and scientists at the world’s top-ranked universities publicly profess their belief in the mechanistic worldview, then the more funding, high social status, and other ever-increasing professional academic incentives they’ll get from the mechanistic leviathan.
2. Again necessarily, the more that the mechanistic leviathan is ideologically validated by the leading professional academic philosophers and scientists at the world’s top-ranked universities who publicly profess belief in the mechanistic worldview, then the more secure the mechanistic leviathan’s sociocultural and sociopolitical control and dominance over everyone else in the world will be.
Therefore, given the massive “intellectual capital” and sociopolitical power of the mechanistic leviathan and its card-carrying members, basically it’s going to be ideologically impossible for humankind to make any moral or sociopolitical progress, no matter how rationally unjustified and immoral the mechanistic leviathan actually is, and no matter how disastrous and malign its sociocultural and sociopolitical control and dominance over everyone else in the world, actually is.
Is there any way out of this ideological impossibility?
I’d been cudgelling my brains about this for years (see, e.g., Hanna/Nemo, 2017), when finally something occurred to me.
Recently, I’ve been reading Friedrich Engels’s The Condition of the Working Class in England (Engels, 1845/1958), a truly brilliant sociopolitical study and a literary masterpiece in the same league and mode as Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton (Gaskell, 1848/1997) and Charles Dickens’s Hard Times (Dickens, 1854/2003), that captures the essence of real socialism, without either the mechanistic ideology of later Marx’s and/or Engels’s dialectical materialism or the coercive authoritarian totalitarianism of Leninist, Trotskyist, or Stalinist communism.
By analogy with Engels’s argument, I think it’s arguable that there’s a genuine, independent alternative to the ideological impossibility, that will have its philosophical, scientific, moral, and sociopolitical origin and energy-source in some contemporary 21st century social-institutional analogue of the horribly oppressed industrial proletariat in the mid-to-late 19th century.
Let’s call this contemporary 21st century social-institutional analogue of the 19th century industrial proletariat, the nemos, the no-names, or the nobodies.
Self-evidently, the nobodies typically fall under categories (vii) and (viii) of those who belong to the mechanistic leviathan, namely, either as scapegoats, targets, or victims of the mechanistic leviathan, or as covert or overt nonconformists, rebels, or resisters of the mechanistic leviathan, although they do also sometimes fall under category (v), the dependent or otherwise passive non-agential members, as free-riding or fainéant/foot-dragging mechanistic leviathan-ers who are effectively indistinguishable from nobodies.
Unlike the 19th century industrial proletariat, the social institution of the nobodies isn’t constituted by a single socioeconomic class; and only some but not all of the nobodies are horribly oppressed; but in any case, the social institution of the nobodies brings together all those who don’t fall under categories (i) to (iv) and (vi) of the different basic ways of belonging to the mechanistic leviathan.
So everyone who isn’t a major or even a minor big-name, that is, who isn’t a somebody, is a nemo, no-name, or nobody.
Above all, the nobodies are, as individuals, sociopolitically obscure and weak; hence they’re all commonly and derisively branded “losers” by the big-winning but also robotically conformist card-carrying members of the mechanistic leviathan.
The social institution of the nobodies comprises people of all ages, classes, genders, ethnicities, and races, including not only the contemporary lumpen proletariat — for example, homeless people (including people who live in their RVs or cars), and petty criminals — but also millennials and Gen Z-ers who don’t have or even really want jobs and are living off their parents, often enough in their parents’ (or single parent’s) basements, and ordinary jobworkers of all kinds below the management levels, usually without college degrees or much higher education — they may have started, but then dropped out, as well as some professional academics who aren’t leading scholars at the world’s top-ranked universities, but perhaps only members of the professional academic precariat, i.e., “adjunct” or “contingent” faculty, or even full-time tenured faculty, but working only at “no-name” colleges or universities — and also retired people from various socioeconomic classes, mostly living off social security, together — if they’re lucky — with some modest personal savings or modest pension income.
So, my world-historical idea is that humankind’s only hope for philosophical, scientific, moral, and sociopolitical progress beyond the ideological impossibility that’s generated by belonging to the mechanistic leviathan is for the nobodies to develop an independent set of genuine alternatives, including their own independent thought-shaping counter-ideology and their own constructive, enabling, life-shaping social institutions (Maiese and Hanna, 2019; Maiese et al., 2022).
For example, the mechanistic worldview is categorically opposed by the neo-organicist worldview, which says that the cosmos is fundamentally non-mechanical and that on the contrary, everything in the cosmos fundamentally flows, grows, reposes, and then repurposes, and also that all mechanical systems are nothing but systematic abstractions from organic systems (Hanna and Paans, 2020; Hanna, 2022: esp. chs. 4 and appendices 1–6).
And the neo-Hobbesian morality and politics of the mechanistic leviathan — which says that human animals are essentially egoistic, mutually antagonistic, and decision-theoretic “moist robots” — is also categorically opposed by broadly Kantian dignitarian morality and politics.
This broadly Kantian dignitarian morality and politics says, first, that all people are essentially not machines, but instead and diametrically on the contrary, all people essentially are rational, human, conscious, cognizing, and self-conscious living organisms, i.e., human persons, who innately possess capacities for free will and practical agency, second, that human dignity is the absolute, non-denumerably infinite, intrinsic, and objective value of human persons as ends-in-themselves, third, that everyone is universally obligated to treat everyone else, and themselves with sufficient respect for their human dignity, and fourth, that the goal of politics is to reject and devolve all coercive authoritarian social institutions, and then freely to create and sustain all and only constructive, enabling social institutions that incorporate sufficient respect for human dignity, and thereby make it really possible for all people to satisfy their true human needs (Hanna, 2018a, 2018b, 2018c, 2022: ch. 5; Hanna and Maiese, 2019: esp. chs. 6–7).
Therefore, just as the mechanistic leviathan is ideologically fueled and powered by the mechanistic worldview and neo-Hobbesian morality and politics, so too, in radical opposition to these ideologies, the nobodies can be and should be wholeheartedly inspired and motivated by the neo-organicist worldview and by broadly Kantian dignitarian morality and politics.
In these ways, fundamental philosophical, scientific, moral, and sociopolitical progress for humankind will then have its origin and energy-source outside categories (i) to (iv) and (vi) of the basic ways of belonging to the mechanistic leviathan–with category (v) as a mixed bag containing free-riding or fainéant/foot-dragging mechanistic leviathan-ers, sometimes effectively indistinguishable from nobodies — and inside the social institution of the nobodies.
Individually, the nobodies are obscure, weak, and “losers”; but collectively, the nobodies can change the world for the better and perhaps even the best:
Nobodies of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your no-names!
And then, once all of us nobodies have actually united, and we’ve all actually acquired our own names, and — for a change — the card-carrying members of the mechanistic leviathan finally aren’t either abusing us or simply ignoring us:
[i] I know this, because in November 2016, coinciding not altogether accidentally with the election of Donald Trump as POTUS, I created a now-defunct, and indeed spectacularly unsuccessful, political organization called The WTFU Party. Luckily, however, a written record of its year-long existence remains for the benefit of posterity, self-published under the “Mr Nemo” pseudonym — appropriately enough, in the context of the present manifesto (Hanna/Nemo, 2017).
[ii] I’m grateful to Dennis Earl and Scott Heftler for thought-provoking correspondence or conversations on and around the main topics of this manifesto.
(Dickens, 1854/2003). Dickens, C. Hard Times. Harmondsworth, Middlesex UK: Penguin.
(Engels, 1845/1958). Engels, F. The Condition of the Working Class in England. Trans. W.O. Henderson and W.H. Chaloner. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
(Gaskell, 1848/1997). Gaskell, E. Mary Barton. Harmondsworth, Middlesex UK: Penguin.
(Hanna/Nemo, 2017). Hanna, R., aka Mr Nemo. DARE TO THINK FOR YOURSELF! Available online at URL = <https://www.academia.edu/35096060/DARE_TO_THINK_FOR_YOURSELF_>.
(Hanna, 2018a). Hanna, R. Deep Freedom and Real Persons: A Study in Metaphysics. THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, Vol. 2. New York: Nova Science. Available online in preview HERE.
(Hanna, 2018b). Hanna, R. Kantian Ethics and Human Existence: A Study in Moral Philosophy. THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, Vol. 3. New York: Nova Science. Available online in review HERE.
(Hanna, 2018c). Hanna, R., Kant, Agnosticism, and Anarchism: A Theological-Political Treatise. THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, Vol. 4. New York: Nova Science. Available online in preview HERE.
(Hanna, 2022). Hanna, R. The Philosophy of the Future: Uniscience and the Modern World. Unpublished MS. Available online HERE.
(Hanna and Paans, 2020). Hanna, R. and Paans, O. “This is the Way the World Ends: A Philosophy of Civilization Since 1900, and A Philosophy of the Future.” Cosmos & History 16, 2 (2020): 1–53. Available online at URL = <https://cosmosandhistory.org/index.php/journal/article/view/865>.
(Hanna and Paans, 2021). Hanna, R. and Paans, O. “Thought-Shapers.” Cosmos & History 17, 1: 1–72. Available online at URL = <http://cosmosandhistory.org/index.php/journal/article/view/923>.
(IPCC, 2021). Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “AR6 Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis.” IPCC. 9 August. Available online at URL = <https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/>.
(Kant, 1784/1996). Kant, I. “An Answer to the Question: ‘What is Enlightenment?’” Trans. M. Gregor. In I. Kant, Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. Pp. 17–22. [AK 8: 35–42]
(Maiese and Hanna, 2019). Maiese, M. and Hanna, R. The Mind-Body Politic. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Also available online in preview HERE.
(Maiese et al., 2022). Maiese, M. et al. “The Shape of Lives to Come.” Frontiers in Psychology Research Topics. Available online at URL = <https://www.frontiersin.org/research-topics/25439/the-shape-of-lives-to-come>.
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