Imagine a block of wood. A slab of marble. A blank canvas. The artist hones in on his target, playing and tinkering with diverse ideas to perfect its magnificence unto the world—to handcraft something new and beautiful that resonates and resides inside the contemporary age. Throughout the years, Third Position has manifested itself in many forms. In places such as Italy, Germany, and Brazil, just to name a few, the leaders emerge as artisans upon the people, working and forming a timeless idea towards a brighter image of the future. They become visionaries who capture the zeitgeist of the time and direct this energy into concepts relevant to an active bond between the people and the State.
The Internet Age
As a kid growing up in the early 2000’s, the Internet was an open playground. Everyone wanted to learn how to make their own website, create digital art, and find the latest “trending” video on one of many random content-sharing websites out there. Most of this information was shared through word of mouth and you instantly became the cool kid on the block if you acquired this precious knowledge. As long as you could get access to a computer and the Internet, much of this state of the art technology and information seemed so easily within reach.
Within 10 years, so much changed. Improvements in HTML and CSS influenced developers to create a more standardized look and feel to traditional websites. The infamous Space Jam movie promo with its clunky but very creative format was a thing of the past. In 2005, Youtube became a centralized hub for video content, and within the next 5 years, YTMND, Albino Black Sheep, and all of the earlier loved websites would fade into obscurity. Unless your content was on Youtube, you became virtually unknown. Facebook dominated Myspace and became the supreme platform for connecting with friends and expressing yourself to the world. If you weren’t on Facebook, it was as if you never existed. Google became such a household name for everyone that it was impossible to go about your day without using at least one of their products—Google Maps, Google Mail, Google Search, Google Chrome—Google Google Google!
However, January 9th, 2007 would really be the most defining moment for the future. In a large hall of the San Francisco Moscone Convention Center, the logo of another tech giant glowed on the screen. Since 1976 much of their focus had been in the computing industry, and although Microsoft heavily dominated the market, they were still able to carve out a niche for themselves in the competition. Over the next 30 years, with microchips getting smaller and computing power rising, the tech industry raced to get a hold of this technology and develop faster products more accessible to the user. In 2001, the iPod was the latest gadget on the scene. No longer did you need to awkwardly jumble around CDs, batteries, headphones, and the “portable” player itself all in attempt to listen to your favorite songs. It was certainly a shift in Apple’s focus, but now in that dark room, Steve Jobs was about to make an even greater announcement. In his own words, “The first one is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone and the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device. These are not three separate devices. These are one device and we are calling it iPhone!” With this declaration, Apple boldly defined the standard for the smartphone, a device that almost everyone you know owns and uses today.
With social media and technology, we are more connected than ever before, yet at the same time ever so distant from solving the major issues of our time. As technology increases exponentially, breakthrough innovation is defined as what new product can be quickly consumed by the masses. Technology soon exhausted its role of reducing the burdens of life and now served as an endless thrill ride to exacerbate the already existing materialist problem of industrial society.
Reject the System
The Industrial Revolution transformed manufacturing efficiency and propelled mankind into a new era. In 1913, when Henry Ford instituted the first assembly line to mass produce the Model T, highly skilled workers became dispensable, and those who once individually built these great machines by hand became mere assemblers and cogs of the machine itself. In the age of kings and queens, artisans and craftsmen—people who were skilled in developing essential items for everyday use—were still very important to the running of society. However, as more and more machines were being pumped out at a faster rate, the idea of the worker shifted to the needs of the capitalist class. Our grand philosophy was Progress. Industrial society would make our lives easier and free us from the chains of the natural world. Novelty replaced virtue. Freedom displaced morality. We were rolling forward at breakneck speed and there was no time for looking back.
With the advent of new technological ideas, a cultural revolution began to take form in the Western mind. Emerging movements challenged the beliefs of traditional society and revolted against the status quo. The Beat Generation of the 1950’s and the hippies of the 60’s and 70’s lashed out against the conformity of climbing the corporate ladder and the crushing reality of the American Dream on the creative spirit of mankind. Where were the writers, the artists, the playwrights included in this contemporary society? Where could the imaginative class go to express their full potential? Coffee shops became hubs for discussion and artistic expression. Rock and roll surged through loudspeakers as hippies rolled around drugged out and nude in “free love” and liberation. At the shock and dismay of preceding generations, the actions of this exiled class signaled the end of traditional American society and the construction of a new framework for the West.
Amongst this rampant display of hedonism, the 60’s did however bring about a renewed and popular interest in mysticism and spirituality. An urge to reach out to the Eastern religions for guidance became a popular idea within creative circles. Artists were traveling to the Far East to meditate and discover the teachings of the Hindu Yogis. Alan Watts, famous for bringing core ideas of Buddhist and Taoist thought to a Western audience, lectured on the need for stillness and introspection in the face of mankind’s modern existential crisis. As technology improved and jobs became more automated, workers enjoyed more freedom outside of their occupation to engage in hobbies and other enjoyable pursuits.
Yet from this newfound opportunity culminated a much darker problem. The ideas of meaning and purpose began to take hold into the minds of the public. As the music scene of the 80’s and early 90’s certainly maintained the drug fueled ideas of the hippies, the existential mindset gained a greater foothold in the character of the time. Punks—dressed in all black with spikes and tattoos—and slackers—the kids who listened to grunge and terrorized the suburban neighborhood with their skateboards—had no real desire for a future in the modern world. Their parents partied at Woodstock and never found any true answers to man’s greatest problems. To them their youth-driven quest for truth was just a phase and they as everyone else ended up conforming to the system and following the standard American Dream.
Into the Wild
Christopher McCandless grew up in a well-to-do home. He was overall a good student, excelling throughout highschool academics and athletics, and thus graduating from Emory University with a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Anthropology. Although many of his peers took notice of his free spirit, no one would have guessed the psychological battle that he and his sister experienced at home. The emotional trauma and abuse suffered inside the McCandless family home became a key motivation for Chris’s rejection of societal norms and his need for exploration. “I’m going to divorce them as my parents once and for all and never speak to either of those idiots again as long as I live. I’ll be through with them once and for all, forever.” These were the words that McCandless wrote to his sister shortly before heading out on his big adventure through the heartland of the United States. He donated his college savings to charity, burned the rest of his cash, and destroyed any remnant of his past identity. He was no longer Christopher McCandless, but Alexander Supertramp, vagabond and explorer of the true meaning of life.
“So many people…are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure…for each day to have a new and different sun.”Christopher mccandless
Chris spent two years wandering the vast expanse of the United States before his catastrophic death in August 1992. Taking on odd jobs throughout the country and encountering many disastrous circumstances, his resilience and strong-minded attitude certainly made an impression on the people he met, loudly proclaiming his manifesto for life and urging those to seek meaning outside convention.
Two years he walks the Earth. No phone, no pool, no pets, no cigarettes. Ultimate freedom. An extremist. An aesthetic voyager whose home is the road.Christopher Mccandless
He latched onto Thoreau and Emerson, finding solace in the desire to be close to nature and live a minimalist lifestyle away from the growing presence of materialism and technology. Jack London was an inspiration, with his harrowing stories of adventure and dark analysis of the true nature of man. In the sad turn of events in Alaska, he discovers new meaning in passages from Dr. Zhivago and Tolstoy’s Family Happiness, emphasizing during his final moments that true happiness is shared with other people and purpose is better found in service to others. On his last day, he would write, “I have had a happy life and thank the Lord. Goodbye and may God bless all.” To some he was a naive boy who came unprepared to the woods. To others he would set the tone for a future age who rejected conformity and hoped to find their own meaning and purpose in life.
Left Wing Backlash
The radical shift of social and cultural attitudes has had a clear impact on political thought in the 21st century. The anti-system sentiment not only sought to define new meaning in life but fiercely attacked corporate power in a growing industrial and globalized world. Grassroots movements such as Occupy Wall Street in 2011 and the Bernie campaign in 2016 became defining moments for modern left wing politics. Widely popular among the younger generations, these demonstrations spoke to the yearning desire for purpose and financial struggles these kids faced. They spent four years getting degrees from a fancy college and in return they ended up having to barely scrape by working a minimum wage job still living at home with their parents. They were spoon-fed a lie—that college would help them fulfill their dreams and finally make it in this difficult world.
We are the 99%—the new slogan of the rising middle class—placed a new lens on the moral character and responsibility of the wealthy oligarchs. As the common people struggle to find substantial work, pay back debts needed to even qualify for an adequate job, and at the same time afford a bloated healthcare system propped up by giant conglomerates, the top earners enjoy such luxurious lives that they could throw away billions without batting an eye. Politicians, bankers, industrialists, and many others of the wealthy class are afforded the comforts of making key decisions without suffering the consequences of importune results. On top of that, these 1% have acquired so much wealth that they could literally end the suffering of millions of people. As this leftist movement grew to question the factors influencing this economic inequality, the ideas of capitalism itself came under fire and these groups would later ask themselves whether money, power, and greed were all just symptoms of the greater problem itself.
Marxist influences have always had a presence within leftist movements. In the 60’s it had slipped into major University campuses through various liberal arts and humanities programs, presenting itself more openly as subtle undertones of college activism. Leftists gained momentum by protesting foreign wars and the power of the capitalist class, all the while liberation movements such as feminism, LGBT rights, and racial equality were gaining a foothold into this more radical leftist ideology. The goals of this New Left was not just the traditional fight against economic inequality but incorporating race and gender theory into a new intersectional approach into tackling social inequality. Critical theory—the major basis of Postmodern thought—came crashing through every element of Western academics, laying down a foundation for the development of the Progressive movement that has become so popular today.
The Rise and Fall of Trump
Eight years of Barack Obama as president, it was certain that leftist ideas were gaining a political stronghold in the country. With the failures of George Bush Jr. in office and the buffoonery of the Republican opposition to Democratic ideas, conservatives were losing more and more of their power and voice in the political direction of America. The preservation of traditional American values were regularly looked at as primitive and backwards. Yet again, the only direction was looking forward to a new hope in social “Progress”.
In 2016, conservatives finally found their hero with the election of Donald Trump. Liberals cried that our democracy was not fair and that only the popular vote should matter. Protestors took to the streets in a violent display of chaos and destruction. Media dog-piled on the President as a racist buffoon who needed to be eradicated. Even proponents of the Republican Party were quick to disassociate themselves with this emerging populist movement. However, as radical elements heated up, it became apparent that the Left had played the long game—slowly building up their power in academia, media, judiciary, tech industry, etc. The most influential man in the world—the President of the United States—was helpless in the face of leftist control. Everything accelerated. Movies and television became non-stop indoctrination programs. Major corporations virtue signaled in advertisements in alliance to left wing causes. Media continued to praise left wing resistance to Trump as conservative speakers were shut down and peaceful supporters were violently attacked. Everything became political and all Trump could do was “monitor the situation”. When Joe Biden was elected as President in 2020 and nothing had changed in the future of right wing politics, it was as if the small flame of nationalism—this tiny inkling of resistance against the globalist bankers and their left wing pawns—had finally died out. All you could think is we failed.
The Future of American Third Position
The Trump Era became the most divisive time period in modern American history. It destroyed the popularity of fiscal conservatism within the Republican Party while unfortunately strengthening the radical elements it meant to oppose within the Democratic Party. In an age of heavy bipartisan politics, both sides of the political spectrum were challenged by their most progressive elements. Conservatives loyal to the Republican Party had to face the growing tide of nationalism and populism in the Right, as liberals could no longer quietly nod their heads in approval of social progress in the developing generation of “woke” politics. Meanwhile, propaganda machines constantly pitted one against the other, creating further disunity between the two groups. “Resist Trump” was the slogan of the Left and “Resist the Left” was the outcry of the Right. The ensuing chaos was almost predictable. Politics became a staple of everyday life. Families and friends were torn apart due to opposing views. We lost the ability to speak to each other like normal human beings and had no chance to bridge the gap between these bipartisan loyalties.
…the spirit of party….serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions.George Washington
So where do we go from here? Though Trump has been booted out of the White House, his ideas still run strong in the political thought of the masses. His populist message is one that could unite both the anti-establishment attitudes of the left and right. While focusing on combatting the corruption of the elite, rather than relying on a pure reactionary vision, a new political movement would emphasize a positive vision for the country. It must give the people new purpose and guide them towards meaningful contribution in their community and nation. Progressive movements tap into a desire for youth to find their creativity in driving important change on the global stage. They offer important critiques of industrial society and the moral dangers this system poses on economic and social equality. A new political conception must be one that is radical to induce change, and as we saw with Trump, the establishment will be the first to try to shut it down.
Although tech giants and media outlets heavily control free speech and information exchange, the Internet has still been a place where possibilities lie. Even with the fear of overstepping the bounds of political correctness, the Internet Age has given us instant access and wide dissemination of information. As residues of the old Internet creep in—a place where freedom and creativity reign—new and existing technologies help to defy the authority of traditional news outlets and cultivate a new vitality in Man.
Ultimately, the Faustian desires to go beyond the bounds of human knowledge and it is the responsibility of a new political movement to harness that energy. The current age requires more than just tackling base economic and political issues, but developing an idea that aims for progress in both the mind and spirit of the masses. This is where Third Position has its greatest advantage. It combines both politics and spiritual practice into a synergy that moves people to fruitful action. It establishes a healthy framework for realistic change and genuine progress in a world that is rapidly marching itself over the edge of a cliff. In a time of such chaos, it is the only opportunity to bridge the gap between left and right wing dissent towards a better future for our world. The first step is realizing that it can be done.