Wednesday, 28 March 2018

The power of cooperation.

Having read Sapiens, a brief history of humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari I felt I should read the sequel Homo Deus, a brief history of tomorrow.

In chapter three of Homo Deus, titled ‘The human spark’, he recaps on the successes of Sapiens over other mammals pointing out how cooperation is our key to success and that it is only humans that are flexible enough to cooperate with countless numbers of strangers.

He then goes on to explain under the subheading ‘Long Live the Revolution’:-

“History provides ample evidence for the crucial importance of large scale cooperation. Victory almost invariably went to those who cooperated better – not only in struggles between Homo Sapiens and other animals, but also in conflicts between different human groups. Thus Rome conquered Greece not because the Romans had larger brains or better toolmaking techniques, but because they were able to cooperate more effectively.

Throughout history, disciplined armies easily routed disorganised hordes and unified elites dominated the disorderly masses. In 1914, for example, 3 million Russian noblemen, officials and business people lorded it over 180 million peasants and worker. The Russian elite knew how to cooperate in defence of its common interests, whereas the 180 million commoners were incapable of effective mobilization. Indeed, much of the elites’ efforts focused on ensuring that 180 million people at the bottom never learned to cooperate.

In order to mount a revolution, numbers are never enough. Revolutions are usually made by small networks of agitators rather than by the masses. If you want to launch a revolution, don’t ask yourself, ‘How many people support my ideas?’ Instead ask yourself, ‘How many of my supporters are capable of effective collaboration?’ The Russian Revolution finally erupted not when 180 million peasants rose against the tsar, but rather when a handful of communists placed themselves at the right place at the right time. In 1917, at a time when the Russian upper and middle classes numbered at least 3 million people, the Communist Party had only 23,000 members. The communists nevertheless gained control of the vast Russian Empire because they organised themselves well. When authority in Russia slipped from the decrepit hands of the tsar and equally shaky hands of Kerensky’s provisional government, the communists seized it with alacrity, gripping the reins of power like a bulldog locking its jaws on a bone.'

In his great little book ' From Dictatorship to Democracy' Gene Sharp describes the many ways to cooperate to bring down a dictator. However, bad as our system of governance has become we are not yet a dictatorship and so gulvanising the public to see the need to cooperate in order to improve our governance is still not at the forefront of their minds. As things get worse this will change. 

As far as the promotion of our Agenda is concerned there is no doubt we are progressing in the right direction, given we were only formed in 2012. However, our future success and ultimate triumph will be determined by the cooperation of a network of likeminded groups with the zeal and determination to force our politicians that they must adopt and support our six demands or lose their seats to those that do.    


  1. "I defy you to agitate any fellow with a full stomach." William Cobbett.
    I worry that we are too comfortable to be agitated. While we have fuel at the pumps, food in the supermarkets (bread) and while we are entertaining ourselves to death (circuses), there are few with the "zeal and determination" to force through change.

  2. I couldn't agree more and it is a point I have been making for some time now.

    Perhaps a 'clusterf**k' of a Brexit will be the straw that breaks the camel's back or this Russian fiasco?