Localism In The 2020s, Part 2 - Facial Recognition, Psilocybin, And Beyond

Authored by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg ,

Contrary to popular opinion, I think a loss of faith in Washington D.C. and its institutions is entirely rational and healthy. Maintaining faith in something due to tradition or the fumes of hope won’t lead to anything productive, rather, it’s preferable to honestly assess the reality of whatever situation you’re in and reorient your worldview and priorities accordingly.

Whether the issue relates to above the law criminal bankers, a Federal Reserve which systematically funnels free money to the already wealthy and powerful, the societal dominance of free speech and privacy-despising tech giant monopolies, or the national security state’s undeclared forever wars for empire, there’s no good reason to maintain any faith in the federal government and the oligarchs/special interests who control it.

Philosophically speaking, I’ve come to conclude the only way to truly have self-government where community life reflects the desires and needs of the people who live there is by concentrating decision making at the local level. I’ve become increasingly interested in the general idea of localism not just because I agree with it in theory, but because it seems more and more people will begin to gravitate toward this perspective and life strategy out of necessity and frustration.

Rather than groveling to Washington D.C., grassroots movements should focus more on the local level where community can be built and things can get done to reflect the desires of the people living there. The entire notion of a one-size fits all approach to virtually all aspects of life dictated via laws passed by corrupt egomaniacs in the swamp is certifiably deranged.

Part 1 of this series highlighted the second amendment sanctuary movement, a grassroots effort at the local (municipality and county) level designed to push back against what’s viewed as increasingly oppressive gun control legislation at the state and federal level. While that effort’s centered around more rural and traditionally conservative counties, it’s important not to view localism through an ideologically partisan or geographic lens. Whether you live in the big city or on a ranch, it’s become increasingly important to think about what sort of action you can take at a local level to improve quality of life and empower your community. Localism is for everyone, everywhere.

For example, there are some interesting local initiatives I’ve been following centered in more urban and liberal enclaves. One relates to facial recognition, and 2019 saw four cities passing bans on the practice. It started with San Francisco, followed shortly thereafter by Somerville, MA, Oakland, and Berkeley.

Beyond these local initiatives, a potent grassroots effort to push back against facial recognition at live concerts also emerged. As Evan Greer of Fight for the Future and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello explained last October:

Over the last month, artists and fans waged a grassroots war to stop Orwellian surveillance technology from invading live music events. Today we declare victory. Our campaign pushed more than 40 of the world’s largest music festivals — like Coachella, Bonnaroo, and SXSW — to go on the record and state clearly that they have no plans to use facial recognition technology at their events. Facing backlash, Ticketmaster all but threw Blink Identity under the bus, distancing itself from the surveillance startup it boasted about partnering with just a year ago. This victory is the first major blow to the spread of commercial facial recognition in the United States, and its significance cannot be overstated.

In a few short weeks, using basic grassroots activism tactics like online petitions, social media pressure, and an economic boycott targeting festival sponsors, artists and fans killed the idea of facial recognition at US music festivals. Now we need to do the same for sporting events, transportation, public housing, schools, law enforcement agencies, and all public places. And there’s no time to lose.

While the above isn’t localism, it embodies a similar spirit given its grassroots nature and refusal to wait on politicians and Washington D.C. for solutions. It was driven by fed up people creatively taking matters into their own hands, and we’re going to need a lot more of that going forward.

Another issue still in nascent stages at the local level, and one which holds even more promise than the push against facial recognition, is the movement to decriminalize psilocybin (the naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in a wide variety of “magic” mushrooms) as well as other entheogenic plants. Only two cities have passed such decriminalization resolutions thus far (Denver by popular vote and Oakland via city council), but I expect many more to follow in the years to come. As we saw with cannabis legalization, all it takes is a couple of states to lead the way and then suddenly there’s a flood and the entire paradigm shifts.

Which brings up another key reason to support and encourage localism; it permits for experimentation on a wide variety of issues within the confines of relatively small and willing municipalities. The most ethical and empowering way to try out new things is by allowing communities that want to experiment to do so without forcing the entire nation to go along. In many cases, what works for one community or county just isn’t right for the entire country, and this is perfectly acceptable. We need to learn to live and let live.

The two issues highlighted here are just a couple examples. A few more to explore would include municipal broadband as well as backyard chickens and the urban agriculture movement in general.

Localism isn’t going to solve all our problems overnight, but there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit right in our own backyards to harvest. This applies to us as individuals as well as our families and communities. If you can’t figure out how to change yourself and your immediate surroundings, what makes you think you can change the world? Focus on what you can control and take it from there.

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