Wednesday 6 September 2023

Shakespeare’s Bloodsavers


An investigation into the themes behind Shakespearean dramatic characters who move to save blood (other than their own, or close kin) from being shed, or lives being lost, typically in mass suffering or injury or killings.


In Shakespeare's plays, there are characters who sometimes intervene, or plan, to prevent bloodshed on a significant scale. The characters of interest here are generally neither peacemakers per se, nor pacifists; and generally ones who go beyond purely partisan interests.

And will, to save the blood on either side,
Try fortune with him in a single fight.
—Prince Henry, Henry IV part 1 (A5s1)

The more realistic plays offer more general insight, so The Tempest's magic-wielding Prospero (who forsakes bloody revenge) is not included. Neither here considered are As You Like It's Rosalind (who creates a kind of marital peace, but the blood feuds are settled off-stage), nor The Merchant of Venice's Portia (only a single character's blood is saved, and Portia’s victory lacks justice, fairness and mercy). Neither considered are Troilus and Cressida's Hector advocating returning Helen and sparing defeated foes (a possible yet partisan fit), nor Romeo and Juliet's Prince, Nurse, Friar and Romeo himself, all of who have some shout in bloodsaving, yet whose motives appear counterweighted, compromised or opaque. Nor will characters who appear to have consistent pacifist or bloodshed-averse views be considered here (like Virgilia in Coriolanus). These tend to be untested characters (pacifism is awkward to be absolute in).

Verona's civil broils and Milan's coup are significant here, however, in broaching Shakespeare's concerns with civil war and conflict within kin groups.

To illustrate this theme, the following characters will be examined: Edmund of Langley Duke of York (Richard II); Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (Hamlet); Titus Andronicus; and Pericles. I will also explain why a few characters (like Prince Henry in the quote above) cannot reasonably be counted as bloodsavers.

One headless figure restrains another from drawing a sword.
"Draw not thy sword"

Pericles: perilous playboy or humanitarian hero?

Pericles, Prince of Tyre is a play concerned with good and bad government. Pericles endangers his own population by recklessly seeking the daughter of powerful Antiochus as a bride.

When all, for mine, if I may call offence,
Must feel war's blow, who spares not innocence:
Pericles, Pericles, Prince of Tyre (A1s2)

But in recompense, almost immediately relieves famine in Tharsus with purpose-brought grain, for which he largely wants only friendly relations and use of a port.

Pericles' attitudes to his subjects and subordinates is ambiguous. In A2s1, fishermen pity Pericles’ lost crew whose fate he seems oblivious to, though he may be half-dead with cold. While in A3s1, Pericles agrees to appease sailors’ superstitions and tosses his apparently dead queen overboard to save lives, though a fear of mutiny is also a likely motivation.

Another candidate bloodsaver in the play by vocation and practice is lordly physician Cerimon, who seems to attract honest admiration for good works (and a good work ethic).

I held it ever,
Virtue and cunning were endowments greater,
    Than nobleness and riches”
Cerimon, Pericles, Prince of Tyre (A3s2)

Pericles fears the bloodbath that could be visited on his subjects/countryfolk (by Antiochus) and takes indirect means to avoid it. Yet later, under oath to goddess Diana says he was frighted from his country. Frighted for himself, his subjects, or both?

Hamlet: Denmark in Danger

Hamlet is Shakespeare's great play about Communication. Intriguingly, for all of Prince Hamlet's soliloquies, we still have to guess about a great deal of his motivation. From early in the play, we learn of enemies without and divisions within Denmark. A sizable number of Danes appear happy that usurper-King Claudius is hosting drunken revels rather than making them go off and wage war against formidable foes in the cold shores of the Baltic. Under Hamlet's cloak of madness, he may be settling scores (Polonius) or trying to repel/entreat others to a place of safety (Ophelia).

The play's foreshadowings are a much more reliable guide to its ending than Hamlet's musings. For example, in A2s2 the player’s speech features the destruction of Troy in flames and blood. In A3s1 Claudius smells danger.

But in case you missed all this, it is spelt out by a minor character:

The cease of majesty
Does not alone; but, like a gulf, doth draw
What’s near it, with it: it is a massy wheel,
Fix’d on the summit of the highest mount,
To whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things
Are mortis’d and adjoin’d; which, when it falls,
Each small annexment, petty consequence,
Attends the boist’rous ruin. Never alone
Did the king sigh, but with a general groan.
Rosencrantz, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (A3s3)

Hamlet learns that thousands may die battling over a patch of land:

I see
The imminent death of twenty thousand men,
Hamlet, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (A4s4)

By A4s5, Queen Gertrude fears some great amiss and King Claudius fears the resentful people led by Laertes, drawn home by father’s death, as if people should choose their own king. On the other hand, in A5s2 Hamlet relates with relish how he sealed the fate of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and pleads diminished responsibility to Laertes.

On the balance of probabilities within the text of the play, Hamlet forsees how enacting his revenge against Claudius will lead to bloodshed. On this reading, Hamlet's struggle to hold a King to justice can be read as an attempt to take the least bloody path, the means by which Gertrude, Ophelia, Laertes and others deemed not guilty will be spared (interestingly, Hamlet seems to regard Horatio as both valuable and expendable, ironically as it transpires). Shakespeare turns our attention to systems, to question why the rule of law does not apply for regal power with royal prerogative, to effectively propose election. But… do we really believe Hamlet's protestations that he does not value his own life? And how much does Hamlet really value other lives?

Henry V: premeditated war criminal

See above quote when Henry was a Prince. In Henry V A1s1, Henry protests his care not to shed blood, but it is clearly a pretence. See his father’s advice in the previous play. We later see his manipulation of traitors and mercy. Henry’s threat to French king, and particular to Harfleur, are chilling, horrifying, indeed terrorism. While soldiers before battle tell it like it is. Henry V is not a bloodsaver, though we see him pose as one when it suits.

Titus Andronicus: oops

It might seem strange to view Titus, a blood-shedding 40-year warrior for Imperial Rome, a sacrificer of a prisoner and murderer of his own son on his return, as a bloodsaver, but consider this. The homecoming warrior is both weary of blood and power but not honour “Give me a staff of honour for mine age” (A1s1), arrives unprepared for Roman politics at a wave of civil strife which immediately threatens to settle succession by open civil war. Titus (why does Rome keep repeating the mistake of electing victorious generals in Shakespeare’s plays?) is patently unsuited for civil office, unlike his diplomatic brother Marcus, and foists the even less suitable prince Saturninus on Rome, in apparent attempt to save blood on the streets.

This shows the sometimes disastrous side of blood-saving when it fails to treat the underlying problems or address politics maturely and responsibly. The younger princely brother Bassianus, already engaged to Titus’ daughter Lavinia, was the safer choice of Emperor, but whether through haste, respect for primogeniture or another reason, Titus makes this bad choice which sets the rest of the play on a tragic course. If Saturninus failed to accept Bassianus’ ascent, then likely the combined supporters of Titus, Marcus and Bassianus would have decisively prevailed in the civil conflict without weakening Rome as much as electing Saturninus does.

Undoubtedly Titus' character changes over the course of the play, distracted by grief and horror if not true repentance. When Marcus kills a fly, Titus is enraged by this tyranny over the innocent (and may not that fly have a mother and a father?), until Marcus denies the fly’s innocence. Perhaps there is a sense of Titus, so long the enforcer of Rome's 'Might is Right' imperial policing, failing to empathise with the innocent until the atrocity inflicted upon his daughter Lavinia finally (and far too late) opens his eyes, even to the point that flies might have rights.

Edmund of Langley Duke of York: the honourable exception?

When Shakespeare's dramatic projects want to stress an attribute common in a class of people, the playwright typically inserts an exception somewhere to emphasize what is the norm. Therefore Cressida is unfaithful, even though female characters are normally faithful. Prolix characters are generally politically inept, yet Gonzalo is astute. This is a powerful way of challenging stereotypes and emphasising the individual agency of characters, but also of judging social classes (the odd good king does not detract from Shakespeare's devastating critique of hereditary monarchy).

Most peace-making attempts fail in histories and tragedies (Edmund York may be an exception, but only a postponement). So we come to Richard II, and another looming civil war.

A number of characters, including the principal contenders for the throne, King Richard II and his cousin Henry (Hereford/Lancaster) Bolingbroke, make protestations about how they deeply care to spare the blood of subjects. Some notable quotes on this theme:

And for our eyes do hate the dire aspect
Of civil wounds plough’d up with neighbours’ swords
Richard II, The Life and Death of Richard the Second (A1s3)
Why have they dar’d to march
So many miles upon her peaceful bosom;
Frighting her pale-fac’d villages with war,
And ostentation of despised arms?
York, The Life and Death of Richard the Second (A2s3)

It is noticeable that really only York uses humour in the play to defuse tension and (interspersed with more assertive passages) attempts to appear both relatively harmless and yet just.

If not, I’ll use the advantage of my power,
And lay the summer’s dust with showers of blood,
Rais’d from the wounds of slaughter’d Englishmen:
The which, how far off from the mind of Bolingbroke
It is, such crimson tempest should bedrench
The fair green lap of King Richard’s land,
My stooping duty tenderly shall show.
Henry Bolingbroke, The Life and Death of Richard the Second (A3s3)

But Richard and Henry are quite happy to make such threats:

Armies of pestilence; and they shall strike
Your children yet unborn, and unbegot…
The purple testament of bleeding war;
But ere the crown he looks for live in peace,
Ten thousand bloody crowns of mothers’ sons
Shall ill become the flower of England’s face;
Change the complexion of her maid-pale peace
To scarlet indignation, and bedew
Her pastures’ grass with faithful English blood.
Richard II, The Life and Death of Richard the Second (A3s3)

So no offer of single combat, then. A contrast is immediately provided by the gardeners (A3s4) who espouse a kind of biocracy, a view that a nation should be tended for all that live in it.

Richard II is the play which begins an arc of plays covering a bloody period in English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh and French history, a time of invasions, dynastic conflicts, political murder, civil war, massacres, various other war crimes and unnecessary infliction of mass suffering. We are given a foreshadowing of these future events:

And if you crown him, let me prophesy,—
The blood of English shall manure the ground,
And future ages groan for this foul act;
Peace shall go sleep with Turks and infidels,
And, in this seat of peace, tumultuous wars
Shall kin with kin, and kind with kind confound;
Disorder, horror, fear, and mutiny
Shall here inhabit, and this land be call’d
The field of Golgotha, and dead men’s sculls.
O, if you rear this house against this house,
It will the wofullest division prove,
That ever fell upon this cursed earth
Bishop of Carlisle, The Life and Death of Richard the Second (A4s1)

These likely effects are obvious enough to Carlisle, and indeed to York, who in striving to prevent them (for example, by remaining neutral in A2s3), perhaps only postpones them.

In the closing Act of the play, York privately states his allegiances to his wife, although the subtext is loyalty to the enduring state, rather than whoever currently sits on the throne:

To Bolingbroke are we sworn subjects now,
Whose state and honour I for aye allow.
York, The Life and Death of Richard the Second (A5s2)

and immediately has cause to demonstrate such allegiance. On discovering their son Aumerle’s plotted treachery, York immediately wants to turn him in, which his wife opposes.

Fond woman! were he twenty times my son,
I would appeach him.
York, The Life and Death of Richard the Second (A5s2)

All three ride separately to Henry Bolingbroke in haste. When all arrive begging, Bolingbroke sees ridiculous side (why is it ridiculous that a lord would put public duty before private dynasty? This is the key to the play). York passes the test.

The play ends with Henry Bolingbroke, now Henry IV, trying to draw a line under the bloodshed after rebels have reportedly burnt Cicester and the heads of leading traitors have been severally delivered to him: he spares the Bishop of Carlisle.

Production traditions, and what we can learn from them

Some of the key passages and even scenes I mention here have been edited, downplayed, ridiculed or even entirely omitted from productions I have seen. Rosencrantz's speech, the Yorks' plea to spare their traitor son. Do these puzzle directors, make them confused or uncomfortable? If York is a kind of traitor to the dynastic class, a lord who would sacrifice his own son in the public interest, and York is an extreme exception, and outlier, what does that say about the norms of the English ruling class? Norms that, whatever the background of directors, may have seeped into their conscious and unconscious minds from the conditioning of acceptance to social cheating the Anglo-British establishment specialise in.


We have looked at the phenomenon of bloodsavers in Shakespeare's theatrical works. We see mixed motives in Hector, ambivalence but also humanitarianism in Pericles, false pretence in Henry V, obscurity in Hamlet, tragic conversion to side with innocents far too late in Titus Andronicus, and a number of other characters who do not fit the template one way or another. Only the dramatic character of Edmund of Langley Duke of York (Richard II) passes the test (and only for English lives, not French or Irish) of concern to prevent general bloodshed, even at the cost of his own son's life. A character whose behaviour is so out of keeping with the rest of his social class, we are impelled to look at the character of that class. Because if all characters of a class behave alike in one respect, that behavioural attribute is more likely to go critically unexamined. An exception who, if not proving the rule of the bloodshedding elite, gives compelling evidence for it.

Creative Commons Licence
Shakespeare’s Bloodsavers by Sleeping Dog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Wednesday 19 April 2023

How to stage Shakespeare’s Macbeth as a popular uprising


Have you ever watched Macbeth and got the impression there was something else going on in this pre-revolutionary artwork, that was realistically political rather than a magical conspiracy?


Is there a case for staging Shakespeare’s Macbeth as a popular uprising, where the witches are not supernatural entities but revolutionaries pretending to be? I think the text supports such a possible reading. If so, how would you stage it? Like this, perhaps. How many changes would it need to the text? None, and possibly a more faithful production is possible and indeed indicated than many contemporary versions. What additions? Mostly dumbshow, to indicate the silent background activity of the revolutionaries, particularly messengers, coordinators, eavesdroppers and common soldiers.

During which explanation, some questions the play raises are answered in this light. I will use ‘revolutionaries’ for the witches’ faction(s), and ‘lords’ as a shorthand to describe the ruling Scottish class including the king, queen, princes, lords, ladies, gentry.


The first revolutionaries we see are the three witches, who are rehearsing for their meeting with Macbeth and Banquo. Other revolutionaries are servants, messengers/runners, old folk, camouflaged spies who monitor events. There are ample hints of class war in the text, but also class traitors in the pay of scheming lords.

Witches are (over)acting

The portrayal of the witches should show that they are acting supernatural parts (indeed, sometimes overacting) to con Macbeth (and to some extent Banquo, and indirectly Lady Macbeth) into taking part in their plot. The witches are professional revolutionaries but amateur actors. Hence they only dare appear twice to the most promising mark, Macbeth.

What motivates the witches?

Banquo appreciates this and says as much to Macbeth (enkindle you unto the crown). But what is the end? Shakespeare will have been familiar with the founding myths of republics such as Rome, whose people apparently kicked out their kings after exposing the rapaciousness of their ruling dynasty. Equally, the witches may be revolting against hierarchical Christianity. This raises the possibility of factions within the revolutionaries, with somewhat different motivations. Clearly, though, the aim is not just to kill any number of kings but to thoroughly discredit kingship amongst the people.

Internecine plot

It seems that the revolutionaries (witches etc) aim to use psychological warfare to ‘enkindle’ the lords into a mutually destructive conflict. They have done their research, but there are factors outside their control or influence (like the English).

Revolution HQ targets and dumb show

Staging the Revolution will probably require showing a Rebel Headquarters on stage in key scenes, perhaps literally underground compared with concurrent action. This HQ could feature large cards showing Duncan atop row of Malcolm, Donalbain, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Banquo, Macduff, perhaps Lenox, Cawdor, Rosse, Menteth, Angus, Cathness or so and such, some crossed out during play, some removed or added?

Cartoonish drawing of a gloomy cave containing three hooded figures dressed in green robes with blue and brown triangles, sitting, entering at pace and crossing off cards representing the nobles in Shakespeare's play Macbeth.
Revolution Headquarters

Class War

There are a number of indications of class war in the text. The word ‘slave’ is used as a pejorative by the lords, while lords are ‘noble’. Servants live in fear of upsetting lords. Something is brewing. Were the kerns and gallowglasses foreign freedom fighters?


Where are Macbeth’s wounds?

The wounded sergeant spins a tale of Macbeth’s toe-to-toe battlefield heroics, but this is almost immediately rendered implausible. No reference to Macbeth’s wounds are ever made (though some productions choose to show them). Indeed, Macbeth rides furiously home and his wife embraces him without comment on any hurt.

We later find that Macbeth has servants in his pay throughout the lords’ households. If we look at the over-flowery speech of the wounded sergeant, we see he falters after delivering Except they meant to bathe in reeking wounds as if he realises he has over-delivered on his tale.

Lords lie, use flowery-serpent courtesy.


Malcolm delivers the most devastating critique of hereditary monarchy, so much that Macduff has difficulty processing it.

Cowardice not valour is the norm

Shakespeare mocks the lords’ pretensions to valour, not just in Macbeth (who needs promise of a charmed life to enkindle him, and sends others to do his dirty work) but in his enemies like Macduff, who flees his home and family. We may suspect that common soldiers win the lords’ battle for them (Duncan conspicuously sits out battle). Not all lords are cowards, though, especially if young and seeking martial glory like Siward's son.


A weakness of the lords’ position as a ruling class is its irrationality, so perhaps no wonder they turn to superstition. And yet dispense with it when it doesn’t suit (Macbeth: 'Twas a rough night.)


Commoners sometimes mock courtly speech. Only a small minority will be professional revolutionaries, hence their indirect approach. Many commoners will be employed directly (or indirectly, double-paid as spies) by lords. Some are apparently desperate or vicious enough to volunteer to murder children.

Act 1

Scene 1

A meeting and rehearsal of witchy roles.

Scene 2

The ‘bloody man’ (a sergeant) contrasts with apparently unscathed Macbeth and Banquo. His testimony is flowery, therefore either created by lords for lords and rehearsed, or improvised possibly to set up power struggle. The testimonies credit only lords with victories, a second thaneship is merely a prize, not an additional onerous administrative duty.

At the mention of greeting Macbeth with Thane of Cawdor title, a revolutionary runner sets off to tip off Revolution HQ and witch revolutionaries.

Scene 3

Witches improvise (and may be overheard on heath at distance) waiting for Macbeth and Banquo. A revolutionary runner whispers in their ears. The witches’ greeting now improvised with the Thane of Cawdor news. The Revolution are at times literally underground, or camouflaged. Insane root mention may give witches ideas for later meeting.

Scene 4

Nepotism rules.

Scene 5

Attendant may overhear “metaphysical aid”, revolutionary servants may overhear Lady Macbeth, and Macbeth. look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it

Scene 6

Lady Macbeth not sharing praise for hostess duties.

Scene 7

‘divers servants’ may be well placed to overhear.

Act 2

Scene 1

Servants placed to overhear, to project image of dagger.

Scene 2

Servants could produce the noises and voices.

Scene 3

Suggestions that Revolutionaries have been behind some of the night’s omens to put the wind up the lords.

Malcolm: There’s daggers in men’s smiles: the near in blood, the nearer bloody.

Scene 4

Old Man (possible Revolutionary) makes references to lowly birds of prey attacking mighty and internecine horse conflict, feeding lords’ unease.

Act 3

Scene 1

Macbeth: Masking the business from the common eye Royalty is not only private government, but murderous and deceitful.

Interestingly the Murderers do not directly agree to kill Fleance, something that a Revolution might consider sadly necessary for all claimants.

Scene 2

Again, servants could overhear Macbeths.

Macbeth lists treason’s tools: steel, poison, malice domestick, foreign levy.

Macbeth: Things, bad begun, make strong themselves by ill is royalty’s recipe. Essentially royals ride a crime wave.

Scene 3

Servant leads Banquo and Fleance, 3rd Murderer joins previous two. Only Banquo is killed by 1st Murderer. Did Servant and 3rd Murderer collude in letting Fleance escape? Is the Revolution reluctant to kill children?

Scene 4

1st Murderer reports Banquo’s killing and Fleance’s escape to Macbeth as Revolution stages a daring set-piece, the Macbeths’ own servants contriving the appearance (only to Macbeth) of the likeness of Banquo’s supposed ghost. No connection between Macbeth and 3rd Murderer is made.

Angles at the table should make it appear from Macbeth’s end that the opposite seat is taken but not from angles to each side.

The back of a servant’s headdress might give the illusion of a bloodied face some distance behind, whilst another servant has placed a cloth over the chair. The illusion should disappear as Lady Macbeth draws close to her husband’s view angle.

Reappears, disappears as obviously designed, marked, rehearsed, reacting to any changes in sightlines.

Macbeth reveals he has a paid servant as his agent and eyes in every Lord’s house, so why not the Revolution a true believer in each too? Maybe the same servant even.

Scene 5

Does Hecate represent a disgruntled self-styled leader or vanguard of the Revolution? Is this stylised magical cant put on to confuse royalist infiltrators?

Hecate: And you all know, security Is mortal’s chiefest enemy.

Scene 6

The Scottish lords appear too weak to move against an apparent regicide and tyrant, one meaning of Lenox’s Things have been strangely borne

Act 4

Scene 1

Witches prepare for, and be overheard by, Macbeth.

2nd Witch By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes is crying out to be hammily overdone and cackle-ended, inviting rolling eyes from other witches.

Revolutionaries have practised their special effects, probably throw a bit of insane root into the cauldron, and researched Macbeth’s fears, MacDuff’s birth and Dunsinane’s approaches. Ingredients may obviously be unlike their labels or incongruously packaged. The Revolutionaries plan to stir Macbeth into further outrages against lords to bring about internecine conflict. Which works.

Scene 2

Lady Macduff calls her husband’s flight unnatural and a mother wren decidedly more valorous.

He wants the natural touch: for the poor wren, The most diminutive of birds, will fight, Her young ones in her nest, against the owl.

The messenger who brings warning could be a revolutionary, but one who breaks with or keeps policy?

Scene 3

Revolutionaries will follow to the English court but keep quiet during scene. Have they, not just Macbeth, tried to work on Malcolm?

Malcolm may be testing Macduff, but is also laying bare the true nature of kingship. For example:

Malcolm: I grant him bloody, luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful, sudden, malicious, smacking of every sin that has a name but claims he will be much worse still. The silently-watching Revolutionaries may nod in agreement.

Lenox: Would create soldiers, make our women fight this is essentially the Revolutionary plan, although to the end of removing the last lords standing.

Act 5

Scene 1

The waiting gentlewoman and doctor of physick well know that the crimes of their masters are dangerous to report on.

Doctor: Foul whisperings are abroad presumably some spread by Revolution.

Scene 2

It seems that the Revolutionaries have chosen Dunsinane for Macbeth’s downfall and planned for a host to travel through Birnam Wood, but have they miscalculated on English power? They seem to need foreign aid since Macbeth appears to have admirers even now of his 'valiant fury'. This is the problem with people who expect one monarch or another to rule over them.

Scene 3

It is a bit late for Macbeth to worry about the health of Scotland, having long had what his wife once called the sickness that should attend power.

Scene 4

Clearly, Revolutionaries amongst the soldiery are already prompting Malcolm’s order to camouflage themselves with branches. Like a Lord he wants to take all credit, of course.

Scene 5

The cry of women signify Lady Macbeth’s death. For good measure, the Messenger should be a Revolutionary to describe a moving wood rather than camouflaged troops.

Scene 6

Revolutionaries in Army are surely in contact with those in Dunsinane and are aware their ruse has worked.

Scene 7

Macbeth is now trapped and cannot fly, emerging onto plain before castle.

Macduff expresses pity: I cannot strike at wretched kernes, whose arms are hir’d to bear their staves

Maybe one of the witches was Macduff’s mother’s midwife?

Again Macbeth is exposed as a coward, relying on charmed protection, but fears humiliation by Malcolm and the rabble’s curse, although probably hasn’t realised that the rabble’s curse has brought him down already.

Malcolm is crowned king after Macduff kills Macbeth, and horror of horror, creates new earls.

Failure of the Revolution to Establish Popular Government

So, on this interpretation, where did the Revolution go wrong? Did they underestimate the Lords’ hydra-like ability to spawn new Lords to replace those killed in this engineered conflict? Or are they waiting until the English are gone? Do they have a narrative to compete with Malcolm’s? What exactly were the witches’ motives? Were the witches pagans, and was the Revolution also against Christianity, or perhaps religious differences split and weakened it? Do the Revolutionaries start wearing identical blue-brown-green triangle-patterned clothing, and end up in separate blue, brown and green factions, each represented by a different witch? The customary division of witches into Maid, Mother and Crone may help here.


The witches may make more sense in the context of the play, Macbeth, as revolutionaries rather than as supernatural beings. They do not possess more knowledge than could be gathered by eavesdroppers and relayed by messengers. Their acts are performances tried out on Macbeth and briefly Banquo. Certain aspects of the play make more sense as part of an orchestrated internecine plot by republican commoners against corrupt lords. Shakespeare’s play Macbeth can be staged as a popular uprising without changing any text, with the addition of some extras like dumbshow and stage directions for the revolutionary faction.

Creative Commons Licence
How to stage Shakespeare’s Macbeth as a popular uprising by Sleeping Dog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Saturday 15 April 2023

Woke, Foke, Smoke, Boke and Choke: True Paths from the Cave of Shadows, False Paths, Path Obliteration, Fouling and Blocking

The allegorical Cave of Shadows from Plato’s Republic represents our difficulty in perceiving and understanding objective reality. A major function of Philosophy is to find those true paths which lead from the Cave of Shadows into the sunlight of understanding the world-as-is.

Woke refers to the ability of philosophy to find true paths. For many political and personal reasons, obstacles are placed in the way of those wanting to leave the Cave of Shadows.

Foke is ‘fake woke’, the marking of false paths which lead elsewhere in the Cave of Shadows but never reach the sunlight of understanding the world-as-is. It is commonly used knowingly by those who want some change, but on the basis of untruths, and sometimes in denial of objective reality itself. These are sophists, religionists, activists for partial interests, who often dress their rhetoric in parts taken from successful philosophical arguments to give them the semblance of soundness.

Smoke is the obscuring of paths, typically cast by cacophonists who are against substantive change, usually those happy with the status quo, whether shadow-casters or their beneficiaries, or even those who prefer their chains.

Boke is used to foul the paths (whether true or false), the equivalent of vomiting on someone’s shoes, and it may be used to smear individual philosophers. These actors include the more reactive trolls, the instinctive enemies of philosophy, the shunners of sunlight; but also can be done in a more calculated way.

Choke is the use of force to block paths, often by groups closing ranks against philosophical progress. This tends to draw attention, so may be used where the shadows are putting on effective distractions, or when onlookers have been suppressed in some way; or alternatively where there is a large group of onlookers, to act as a deterrent to others. These actors are often militants, corporate agents, thugs, but it doesn't have to involve physical force.

Monday 12 December 2022

Alice is an identity thief

Here is a thought experiment.

Alice is 18 years old, and wants to get into a nightclub where you have to be at least 21, so she steals 21-year-old Bob’s ID card. Alice is an identity thief.

Alice uses the ID card to get into the nightclub, as the bouncer only looks at the date of birth to calculate the holder’s age. Age is a protected characteristic. It has not been taken from Bob, as it is inalienable: Bob cannot give his age to anyone else. Alice is an identity thief.

Alice pretends to be 21 throughout the year, sometimes getting into age-restricted clubs, sometimes not, sometimes using Bob’s ID card, sometimes keeping it in reserve, sometimes leaving it at home. Alice is an identity thief.

Perhaps Alice doesn’t do any direct harm to others, including Bob, or even to herself. Perhaps there are no wider social consequences, or only good ones, as one club’s security is tightened up. Yet, Alice is an identity thief.

Perhaps Alice fails to get into any club, or never even attempts to make use of her claim to be 21. Perhaps all she takes from Bob is a copy of a code verifying the holder of the code as 21 years old. Nevertheless, Alice is an identity thief.

What, then, makes Alice an identity thief? She uses a value of a protected characteristic, age, that does not belong to her (21 instead of 18). She takes this without asking, but as a class attribute, Bob cannot give permission, and as an inalienable attribute, Bob cannot give it away, nor even the whole class of 21-year-olds even if asked. So, to be clear, identity theft can be of a non-unique attribute belonging to a class of people. It does not need to imply loss or harm or even attempted deceptive misuse.

Alice is an identity thief.

Is there a way for Alice to get what she wants without being an identity thief? (there is one in this scenario that will not work in others)

Tuesday 30 August 2022

Bluebeard reduxed

Betty and Anne giggled as they read the descriptions of potential mates on their dating apps. They remembered their mother's advice not to meet anyone alone, or to travel beyond their own town, or to believe the stories of wealth or uniform pictures of good looks. "Well, I will not settle for less than a millionaire" said Betty. Then Anne said "Look, here is the only ugly picture, a man with a blue beard, and he lives in that huge house on the edge of town. Wait, I'll get an invitation for us both.".

Bluebeard turned out to be suave and sophisticated, and held great parties in his richly-furnished mansion, and if anyone ever expressed any doubts about him, it was that no-one knew what had happened to his previous wives. Betty was won over by a life of material abundance, and agreed marriage. Bluebeard claimed he was going on a business trip and handed over the security system's master card. "Do not go into the panic room in the basement, else you'll be sorry, but otherwise have the run of the place, invite your friends round!" he told her. When Betty swiped the card in the panic room door, she did not immediately notice the card's strip had changed colour, she was too busy discovering that her new husband's favourite hobby was dismembering wives. Foolishly confronting him when he returned from his fake business trip, Betty couldn't hide the altered card, and Bluebeard chided her: "You have had your part of the bargain, and now I will have mine". But when she begged for pity, her sister Anne in the next room heard her, texted their brothers, who arrived just in time to do Bluebeard in with baseball bats.

Wednesday 10 August 2022

Benchmark of estimated simulation in winning team in Women’s Euros 2022


These example simulation incidents are based on an estimation of balance of probabilities (more likely than not). They are restricted to England as hosts, winners and team most fouled against. Other teams’ players also dived (like Germany’s Magull). There may be some overcounting during the later stages of each knockout match due to the broadcast director switching from replaying incidents (in slow motion from various angles) to showing crowd and bench shots, for whatever reason.


England team simulation and related incidents estimated on balance of probabilities, Women's Euros 2022
Match Date Score at incident Player Match-time BBC iPlayer video Comment Referee decision Incident notes Area
England vs Austria (opening match where England as hosts get to set the tone) 2022-07-06 0–0 Mead 2:48 t=0h52m35s Robyn Cowen: “Beth Mead, trying to win back possession, wants the foul, doesn’t get it” No foul Dive? Own half.
1‒0 Daly 60:11 t=2h07m34s   No foul Dive? Opponent’s half: wing.
1‒0 Bronze 79:27 t=2h26m49s RC: “Lucy Bronze enjoying herself.” No caution Time-wasting Own half.
England vs Norway (Norway were one of the highest ranked teams going into the tournament) 2022-07-11 0‒0 White 9:44 t=0h25m34s Ian Wright (HT): “That’s never a penalty, for me.” Gabby Logan: “None of you thought was a penalty… Why not go to VAR?” Penalty to England Dive? Opponent's penalty box.
2‒0 White 21:33 t=0h37m23s Rachel Brown-Finnis: “Very, very clever; knows her role as a number 9” Free kick to England Feigning injury Own half.
4‒0 White 35:34 t=0h51m24s RC: “White has been unplayable at times, so clever” No foul Dive? Halfway line.
7‒0 Toone 73:40 t=1h46m59s   No foul Over-claiming? Opponent's penalty box.
England vs Northern Ireland (England had already qualified, Northern Ireland had already been knocked out, before the match had started) 2022-07-15 0‒0 Bronze 1:37 t=0h36m26s RC: “A bit of a delayed decision by the referee. Foul given. Kirsty McGuiness thought she was away, indicates she thought she got the ball there, Gail [Redmond].” Free kick to England Dive? Own half.
0‒0 Stanway 16:55 t=0h47m43s RC: “Stanway just lost her footing… White is appealing for something” RBF: “She’s been success before in her appeals.” RC: “Worth a try.” No foul Over-claiming? Opponent's penalty box.
0‒0 Mead 19:23 t=0h50m11s RC: “Mead nutmegs McKenna, can’t get past her.” RBF “Mead will want to rethink how she reacted. Nutmegged, a great bit of skill, but you’ve got to get past her, or at least try to get past her. Claiming for a foul: it’s not a foul, not obstruction.” No foul Over-claiming? Opponent’s half: wing.
0‒0 Kirby 23:16 t=0h54m05s   No foul Dive? Own half.
0‒0 Mead 31:04 t=1h01m52s RC: “The referee gives a free kick to England in a good area.” RBF: “There’s not really anything in that at all. That’s not a foul.” Free kick to England Dive? Opponent’s half: in front of goal.
England vs Spain (quarter final) 2022-07-20 0‒0 Mead 8:22 t=0h38m23s RC: “Mead shut down.” Free kick to England Dive? Opponent’s half: wing.
0‒0 Mead 34:48 t=1h04m49s   No foul Dive? Opponent’s half: wing.
0‒0 Mead 35:09 t=1h05m10s RBF: “Mead’s leaning into her, she feels something, try your luck.” Free kick to England 50-50/Dive? Opponent’s half: wing.
0‒0 Mead 45:26 t=1h32m28s   Free kick to England Over-claiming? Opponent’s half: wing.
0‒0 Mead 51:26 t=1h38m30s   No foul Dive? Own half.
0‒1 Bronze 55:01 t=1h42m05s RC: “Bronze trying to force her way into a dangerous position.” No foul Dive? Opponent’s half: wing.
0‒1 Kirkby 58:27 t=1h45m31s RBF: “a soft one” Free kick to England Dive? Opponent’s half: wing.
0‒1 Hemp 59:53 t=1h46m57s RBF: “contact, not a foul” RC: “VAR happy with her initial decision” Free kick to Spain Over-claiming? Opponent's penalty box.
0‒1 Russo 69:23 t=1h56m27s RC: “Russo caught, but throw-in to Spain.” No foul Dive? Opponent’s half: wing.
0‒1 Daly 72:46 t=1h59m50s RC: “causing problems… for… Daly, with the nutmeg” No foul Dive? Own penalty box.
1‒1 Russo 88:45 t=2h15m49s RC: “towards Russo, who goes down… referee lets things go” RBF: “Nothing in it at all” No foul Dive? Opponent’s half: in front of goal.
1‒1 Hemp 90+4:18 t=2h21m21s   Free kick to Spain Dive? Opponent’s half: wing.
1‒1 Stanway 90:33 t=2h27m49s   No foul Dive? Opponent’s half: wing.
1‒1 Kelly 94:35 t=2h31m51s   No foul Dive? Opponent’s half: wing.
2‒1 Kelly 110:40 t=2h51m33s RBF: “Exactly what her team needed, to feel that contact… bought herself a bit of time” Free kick to England Dive? Own half.
2‒1 Various 113:30+ t=2h54m23s RBF: “very, very clever” Free kick to England Time-wasting  
2‒1 Kelly 118:11 t=2h59m06s RC: “Kelly goes down. Foul given. This is perfect game management from England.” Free kick to England Dive? Halfway line.
2‒1 Greenwood 118:36 t=2h59m31s RC: “Greenwood for time-wasting.” Booked. Time-wasting Halfway line.
2‒1 Greenwood 120+1:33 t=3h02m27s RC: “She knew the high boot was coming.” RBF: “But she knew it would buy her some time for her team as well… barely a touch on her, makes the most of it… clever play” Free kick to England Feigning injury Own half.
England vs Sweden (semi-final) 2022-07-26 0‒0 Stanway 0:10 t=0h35m20s RBF: “just hustled off the ball” No foul Dive? Halfway line.
0‒0 Stanway 4:36 t=0h39m46s RC: "Stanway goes down.” RBF: “Earns that one, really. She’s already on her way down.” Free kick to England Dive? Halfway line.
0‒0 White 6:06 t=0h41m15s   No foul Dive? Opponent's penalty box.
0‒0 Kirby 10:18 t=0h45m27s RC: “Kirby felt she was fouled. Nothing doing says the referee.” No foul Dive? Own half.
0‒0 Mead 11:03 t=0h46m12s RBF: “I’m not quite sure that was a foul, she was on her way down.” No foul Dive? Opponent’s half: wing.
0‒0 Hemp 13:51 t=0h49m01s   No foul Dive? Opponent’s half: wing.
0‒0 White 14:32 t=0h49m42s   No foul Dive? Opponent's penalty box.
0‒0 Stanway 15:57 t=0h51m06s   No foul Dive? Own half.
0‒0 Mead 18:02 t=0h53m11s RBF: “Both players’ eyes on the ball.” Free kick to England Over-claiming? Own half.
0‒0 Stanway 18:43 t=0h53m52s   Free kick to England Dive? Halfway line.
0‒0 White 21:41 t=0h56m50s RBF: “White earning a clever foul there for her team.” Free kick to England Dive? Halfway line.
0‒0 Stanway 26:55 t=1h02m05s RBF: “Didn’t make any contact with Angeldal.” Free kick to England Dive? Own penalty box.
0‒0 Stanway 27:51 t=1h03m00s   No foul Dive? Halfway line.
0‒0 White 29:43 t=1h04m53s RC: "White in a tangle with Erikson. Looks pleadingly towards the assistant referee.” RBF: “They’ll know what to expect from one another.” No foul Dive? Halfway line.
1‒0 Bronze 36:53 t=1h12m02s RBF: "I'm not sure there was really too much in that.” No foul Dive? Opponent’s half: wing.
2‒0 Mead 49:26 t=1h40m05s   Free kick to England Dive? Halfway line.
2‒0 Daly 52:21 t=1h43m01s RC: “Wiegman with her hands outstretched, asking for the decision.” No foul Dive? Halfway line.
2‒0 White 53:43 t=1h44m23s RC: "White had thrown herself at that one.” No foul Dive? Opponent's penalty box.
2‒0 ? 56:34 t=1h47m14s   No foul Dive? Halfway line.
2‒0 Williamson 60:17 t=1h50m56s RC: “Well played… Williamson” Free kick to England Dive? Own half.
2‒0 Mead 61:19 t=1h51m59s   No foul Dive? Halfway line.
3‒0 Russo? 75:53 t=2h06m33s   No foul Dive? Opponent’s half: wing.
4‒0 Mead? 77:13 t=2h07m53s   Free kick to England Dive? Own half.
4‒0 Russo 82:59 t=2h13m38s   No foul Dive? Opponent’s half: wing.
4‒0 Bronze 83:11 t=2h13m51s   No foul Dive? Own half.
4‒0 ? 86:46 t=2h17m25s   Free kick to England Dive? Own half.
4‒0 Russo? 90+2:44 t=2h23m23s   No foul Dive? Opponent’s half: wing.
England vs Germany (final; England squad on a reported £55,000 win bonus each from Football Association) 2022-07-31 0‒0 Kirby 1:10 t=1h11m34s RC: "Kirby goes down, wants the decision, doesn’t get it.” No foul Dive? Halfway line.
0‒0 Hemp 1:35 t=1h11m59s RC: “Hemp, challenged well by Hendrick, but this referee isn’t giving much” RBF: “that was the right decision, it was contact, nothing more than that” No foul  Dive? Halfway line.
0‒0 Daly 4:15 t=1h14m39s RC: “Oberdorf went to ground, throw in is the decision.” No foul Dive? Halfway line.
0‒0 Mead 16:36 t=1h26m59s RC: "Mead taking a tumble.” RBF: “enough contact for… Mead to go down” Free kick to England Dive? Opponent’s half: wing.
0‒0 Mead 30:55 t=1h41m19s RBF: “Good from… Mead there, just feeling the contact behind her.” Free kick to England Dive? Own half.
0‒0 Daly 34:51 t=1h45m15s RBF: “Daly… kicked the German player… should have been a foul to Germany” Free kick to England Over-claiming? Own half.
0‒0 Daly 49:52 t=2h17m14s   No foul Dive? Opponent’s half: wing.
1‒0 Kelly 78:15 t=2h45m37s RC: "Kelly goes down. Nothing doing from the referee.” No foul Dive? Opponent’s half: wing.
1‒1 Russo 90+1:26 t=2h58m47s RC: “Draws the foul.” Free kick to England Dive? Opponent’s half: in front of goal.
1‒1 Russo 90:33 t=3h07m02s   No foul Dive? Opponent’s half: in front of goal.
1‒1 Bronze 91:07 t=3h07m36s   Free kick to England Dive? Own half.
1‒1 Russo 92:59 t=3h09m28s   No foul Dive? Opponent’s half: wing.
2‒1 Various 112:00+ t=3h32m36s+ RC: “Hemp… coming off… walking as slowly as possible” etc   Time-wasting  
2‒1 Kelly 115:07 t=3h35m42s RC: “Foul won: exactly what was required.” Free kick to England Dive? Opponent’s half: wing.
2‒1 Bronze 120+0:10 t=3h40m45s RC: "Bronze goes down.” Free kick to England Feigning injury Opponent’s half: wing.

Thursday 19 May 2022

Constitutionally-encoded Biocracy

An enquiry into what form of government we all need today. It's this one.


Perhaps the only sane form of government today is a constitutionally-encoded biocracy. Why? Here are some key features.


Our planet Earth faces climate change, environmental degradation and pollution, mass extinctions… I will not dwell on the current and future threats, or the failures of current political-economic-ideological systems in countering them. Biocratic government is not simply a necessary response to emergencies, it is a necessary precaution against future emergencies. Specifically: a formal codified constitutional model of biocracy, where proxies representing the living world have a majority in political decision-making, and the global idea communism of life sciences provide the most objective measure available of the health of ecosystems. That is, biocracy may be necessary for survival, of human society at least.

So, human Parliaments today mostly serve humans, and really only a few of those, and not particularly well, considering. This is pretty messed up, when you think about. Much damage is being done to the non-human world by humans. Therefore, one solution is to add majority-sized blocks of representatives for the non-human world, to make sure better decisions are made. For all of us.

And we need a new word for this combination of human democracy and green authority: call it, biocracy.

—Sleeping Dog, The Lorax Amendment: Retro-fitting Green Authoritarianism to Parliaments
A painting of a healthy world, with good things flowing from a central pillar on which stands a mighty tree.
A biocratic world is a healthy world

The argument for biocracy rests upon the proposition that a viable future depends upon adherence to the basic principles derived from the life sciences, as mediated by human values, and tested for their real-life consequences.

A precept of biocracy is the need to understand the factors that make for the survival of peoples, their societies, and their cultures.

A basic bioethical assumption is that, in principle, life is good.

A basic tenet of biocracy is that prospects for human well-being and survival depend upon the validity of popular attitudes toward living nature, especially human nature.

—Lynton K. Caldwell, various quotes from Biocracy: Public policy and the life sciences

What follows is a sketch, not a blueprint. An outline of a model derived from principles grounded in nature. A seed, if you like.

Some biocratic principles

If you don't like these, there are others:

  • life is a good thing, on the whole
  • we must respect the primacy of nonhuman life (that is, human life depends on non-human life, but not vice versa)
  • we should preserve the environment for present and future generations (of non-human and human life)
  • environment as universal heritage (more of a humanist principle)
  • applications of the precautionary principle
  • nature must be a subject in law, not an object
  • non-regression in legislation, standards, policy and practice: don't make things worse, apply highest levels of environmental protection

Concepts from life sciences

First of all, what are included in 'life sciences'? There are many basic and applied life sciences at different levels of specialism and with different focuses, for example biology, ecology, human medicine, botany and so on (and I would include psychology).

Welcome to the Great Hall, designed to represent the Earth's biosphere. That is, the envelope around our planet that supports life, in the seas, on land, in the air, and so on. Each main building complex represents one of Earth's biomes, such as grasslands, tundra, desert, freshwater and marine, and the various forest types. Our human architects have invited in some of nature's own architects, and you will encounter some of their constructions on our tour.

On display are artworks created by children from around the world, on some part of nature meaningful to them. Those marked thus, represent species now thought to be extinct.

—A 21st Century (Common Era) biocracy tour guide

Far from a clockwork universe, life sciences describe complex, adaptive systems with emergent behaviour (of which life itself is one example), capable of regulating states (as in homeostasis), but also experiencing cycles (like seasons) and phase changes. Understanding these allows humans not merely to survive, but to live a good life.

Good life philosophy

It is reasonable to suppose that a biocratic constitution will make reference to one or more good life philosophies, perhaps Sumak kawsay / Buen vivir, ubuntu, or Eudaimonia. These are about living (ethically) well, not having fun. The most suitable philosophies will contain ecocentric rather than anthropocentric worldviews.

In general, the Constitution will prescribe planetary-realistic ideologies for public policy.

Open government

Transparency is essential in the conduct of biocratic government. There is no need for hidden diplomacy, no channels for lobbyists for vested interests, no belligerence, no empire-building. The fundamental position is idea communism: open science, open technology, and the global digital commons.

Distributed authority

Distributed authority is one of key benefits of constitutionally-encoded biocracy. Instead of authority being centralised and claimed by a human elite (possibly on behalf of supernatural beings), authority can be spread beyond national boundaries, to any human individual or group capable of bearing witness, any method of objectively telling the health of ecosystems, and to non-human life. Who or what can tell us how well we are governing and living? All of the above.

Even anarchist Michael Bakunin recognized the authority of natural laws. Yes, you could say that our biocracy is technically an anarchy because we have eliminated the whole human political ruling class. But yes, we have laws, we have order. And in this order, Nature places above Humans, and Humans above Economy.

Nature is our ultimate authority, the great scorekeeper, as we say.

And when it comes to collective decision-making, it is best we recognise that political decisions come in all sorts and sizes and urgencies, and therefore are best handled in separate ways (some technocratic, some democratic, some biocratic, and so on). The design of our biocratic constitution was somewhat concerned with decision categorisation, delegation, prioritisation, integration, 'single source of truth', logjam avoidance, joined-up governance and so on.

Yes, this means that after the construction of our Constitution we have largely relegated full-scale democracy to a lower division, so to speak, but it still plays a number of important roles.

—A 21st Century (Common Era) biocracy tour guide

Health of ecosystems

Only life sciences have objective methods of determining the health of ecosystems. For example, the ecosystem health of a coral reef might be measured by proxies such as counting manta rays or the percentage of seasonal coral dieback. In a similar fashion, medics may take a human's temperature and count their pulse-rate. There will be some differing opinion, but a great deal of consensus, and questions are likely to be resolved by further research. The point here is rather that biocratic policies and interventions can be tested in the field.

Regenerative economies

You can find a 1.5-minute animated video by Kate Raworth on regenerative economics which gets the point across (and will be the only kind of lawful economy under a constitutionally-encoded biocracy).

In biocracy there is no right to impair health of consumers or degrade public health. It would be logical to nationalise or internationalise life science industries (pharmaceuticals and other medicine related to public health; open-source agriculture etc.)

Rights of Nature (legalism) is not enough…

…but such a framing will be required in our Biocratic Constitution. The concentric circles of the Rights of Nature Model indicates the hierarchy Nature above People above Economy. Current environmental law is dysfunctional, ecologically illiterate and unstrategic.

This necessary step will involve the legal recognition of the Rights of Nature on all levels and a shift from a purely anthropocentric worldview to a more ecocentric worldview that sees humanity as one species within a radically interconnected web of life, where the wellbeing of each part is dependent on the wellbeing of the Earth system as a whole.

—Michele Carducci, Silvia Bagni, Vincenzo Lorubbio, Elisabetta Musarò (UniSalento-CEDEUAM) Massimiliano Montini, Alessandra Barreca, Costanza Di Francesco Maesa (UniSiena) Mumta Ito, Lindsey Spinks, Paul Powlesland (Nature's Rights), Towards an EU Charter of the Fundamental Rights of Nature

With a constitutional provision, laws inconsistent with biologically-established fact could be struck down (abortion, tobacco).

Over on our right, the central Courts of Justice are trying some ecocide cases today. Ecocide is a class of crimes that legalises any reasonable means of stopping them; in fact, in this jurisdiction, people are obliged to at once, at minimum informing the authorities. Perpetrators and planners of ecocide are automatically outlawed, with all legal protections withdrawn. There are no legal defences or mitigations, as expressly stated in our Constitution.

Lesser environmental crimes are prosecuted on a similar basis in local courts.

—A 21st Century (Common Era) biocracy tour guide

However, much more is needed than a legalist solution of precautionary and reactionary enforcement. A full political system with roles and responsibilities in research, planning, testing, tax-raising powers, diplomatic service, strategists, administration, education, food security, sustainable living standards, conflict resolution and so forth is required.

It would be necessary to establish publically funded institutions to represent the interests of nature and new courts or other institutions with the sufficient knowledge and understanding to adjudicate conflicts between economic development and nature in order to promote the greater good of the whole community.

—Jan Darpö, Can Nature Get It Right? A Study on Rights of Nature in the European Context

Global responsibility

There is a war being conducted against nature, although only one nation has so far declared it.

Old-fashioned political nationalism has become one of the principal obstacles to biological sanity.

—Lynton K. Caldwell, Biocracy: Public policy and the life sciences

One elemental responsibility that was hardly mentioned enough in the COVID-19 pandemic was that national borders should be closed to prevent the disease pathogen escaping from each nation (not just entering). Each nation is responsible to all others for global public health, and biocratic constitutions will make this a formal provision, whatever international treaties say, or do not say. We get our core ethics from our biology as a species of social animal, one might say a political animal.

Ongoing research into, and improvement of, human politics

In a rational society, greater effort would be put into scientific study of human nature and environmental relations. This would involve collective self-reflection on human politics (why there are problems of corruption, nepotism, dynasties, power relations) and ongoing research on it.

Human psychology is both the problem and solution. Our power structures elevate psychopaths, the corrupt and the unfit for office; our imperial education system trains and conditions them; our exploitative/extractive economy rewards them; and our humano-centric legal system protects them; our militarism turns them into mass murderers; our established religions absolve them; and our corporate-state poets write hymns of praise to them. We need to apply our knowledge of human psychology and neuroplasticity to grow towards a life-sustaining political system which takes the lead from the non-human natural world, if we are going to survive. I call such a system biocracy, and is the only radical solution that substantially addresses the points of this article that I am aware of.

—Sleeping Dog

Research has shown how children who have had adverse experiences or are detached from nature can show reduced empathy for the natural world, but equally environments where children connect with nature have a wide range of benefits, including a more ecocentric view of politics.

After our biocratic constitution was democratically constructed and chosen, democracy took a step back and down. Now that our democratic processes no longer deal with life and death issues, the popular will was that default voting age should be lowered to enfranchise schoolchildren. Our schools are now nurseries of democracy, and we expect great things as a result. However, some qualifications on democratic participation were considered appropriate; some collective decision processes have higher age restrictions, some require participation in consultation processes, others by local residence, and some are weighted according to other pertinent qualifications.

Yes, we are aware of the many negative historical examples of disenfranchisement, and are confident we will not repeat them out of ignorance. But ask yourselves if sometimes there was too much enfranchisement, of senile people perhaps. That is a question currently under review here, and extensive research has already been done. We do keep all these rules under review, and again I remind you of our belief that not all decisions are the same; perhaps we are simply a bit more honest about that than in other countries?

—A 21st Century (Common Era) biocracy tour guide


As Caldwell writes, open democracies are adaptable but undisciplined. We continually face problems with biotechnology and invasive species.

To believe that the international flow of biotechnology is free from political manipulation, commercial self-interest, ethnic suspicion, and religious opposition would be naive.

—Lynton K. Caldwell, Biocracy: Public policy and the life sciences

Where Caldwell falls short is in taking this to the logical conclusion and building model of a new form of government from a biocratic ideology, because at the time the world was apparently not ready for such a radical move. Well, if not now, when? We can develop a political system that eliminates the ruling class, and personal riches, and leave people with enough for the good life, particularly with communal and digital wealth. But there will need to be a public acceptance of some green austerity borne by all. Like Epicurus, we might learn to be happy with bread and cheese shared leisurely with friends. But many aspects of life will need to be quickly tailored to fit inside planetary boundaries, and that will require discipline, not indulgence. Luxuries will be small ones, footprint-wise.

Our old system of environmental law was weak, disintegrated, largely incoherent, and had a traditional fixation on private property and suing for personal damages. Someone once likened it to a robot babysitter, faced with a child in its care playing with matches, looking through its set of rules and saying: "Please put them back in the box when you have finished." No wonder our house was on fire!

There were so many problems with militarism, biotechnology and invasive species; with democracy and public behaviour; and yes with science itself which is corruptible, sometimes driven by faulty ideology or ego, sometimes irresponsibly and callously carried out. And sometimes put to criminal uses.

The solution was to make everyone, to some extent, a life scientist. Our lawmakers and court officials, our civil servants and professionals; every child gets a comprehensive education in life sciences. And not just in gardening or animal care or nutrition, vital though these are, but in systems thinking.

Yes, before the Age of Biocracy there were some biocratic provisions in governments, local and national, in constitutions and international treaties, that were precursors to (and often inspired) our fully-encoded biocratic constitution. Some claimed specific cultural inspiration, but really it was the common sense of ordinary people prevailing, and you can only shut out sanity for so long. And the consequences of one good example should not be underestimated. Which is why good examples are so quickly targeted for annihilation by oppressive forces. Oh, is anyone here from…?

—A 21st Century (Common Era) biocracy tour guide
A painting of a diseased world, poisoned from a pillar in the centre, topped by authority figures.
A world governed by autocrats, militarists, undisciplined democrats, extractive capital, theocrats (and other undesirables) is an unhealthy world


The opportunity to set a good example in government comes all too rarely. To found a new kind of government based on constitutionally-encoded biocracy will be an option during the creation of a new state, perhaps from a successful independence movement or a unification. Never before has seizing such an opportunity been so critical to the survival of human and non-human life on our planet Earth.


While acknowledging this:

Science is a human artifact and provides no infallible guide to conduct or policy. It may, however, inform human choices and expose assumptions that lead to folly.

—Lynton K. Caldwell, Biocracy: Public policy and the life sciences

the other political systems we are familiar with, theocratic or humanist, are all much more fallible by design and have proved routinely corruptible and now (with weapons and economies of mass destruction) extremely dangerous. Time and again, we see the pattern in politicians and priests that begins with "What's in it for me?" And this applies to many social movements too, confusing self-interest with public interest. With one notable exception: the environmental movement, which places value in nature, and takes the long view of deep time and the survival and thriving of non-human species, ecosystems, and future generations of humans within our living world.

What is healthy government? Only one with the principles of life sciences and the good life at its heart. Choose life. Choose biocracy, now.

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Constitutionally-encoded Biocracy by Sleeping Dog is licensed under CC BY 4.0