This article was originally published in Michael Zimmerman, ed., Environmental Philosophy: From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1993)
What defines social ecology as “social” is its recognition of the often-overlooked fact that nearly all our present ecological problems arise from deep-seated social problems. Conversely, our present ecological problems cannot be clearly understood, much less resolved, without resolutely dealing with problems within society. To make this point more concrete; economic, ethnic, cultural, and gender conflicts, among many others, lie at the core of the most serious ecological dislocations we face today — apart, to be sure, from those that are produced by natural catastrophes.
If this approach seems a bit too sociological for those environmentalists who identify the primary ecological problem as being the preservation of wildlife or wilderness, or more broadly as attending to “Gaia” to achieve planetary “oneness,” they might wish to consider certain recent developments. The massive oil spill by an Exxon tanker at Prince William Sound, the extensive deforestation of redwood trees by the Maxxam Corporation, and the proposed James Bay hydroelectric project that would flood vast forested areas of northern Quebec, to cite only a few problems, are sobering reminders that the real battleground on which the ecological future of the planet will be decided is clearly a social one.
Indeed, to separate ecological problems from social problems — or even to play down or give only token recognition to their crucial relationship — would be to grossly misconstrue the sources of the growing environmental crisis. In effect, the way human beings deal with each other as social beings is crucial to addressing the ecological crisis. Unless we clearly recognize this, we will surely fail to see that the hierarchical mentality and class relationships that so thoroughly permeate society are what has given rise to the very idea of dominating the natural world.
Unless we realize that the present market society, structured around the brutally competitive imperative of “grow or die,” is a thoroughly impersonal, self-operating mechanism, we will falsely tend to blame other phenomena — technology as such or population growth as such — for environmental problems. We will ignore their root causes, such as trade for profit, industrial expansion, and the identification of progress with corporate self-interest. In short, we will tend to focus on the symptoms of a grim social pathology rather than on the pathology itself, and our efforts will be directed toward limited goals whose attainment is more cosmetic than curative.
Some critics have recently questioned whether social ecology has treated the issue of spirituality in ecological politics adequately, but social ecology was in fact among the earliest of contemporary ecologies to call for a sweeping change in existing spiritual values. Such a change would be a far-reaching transformation of our prevailing mentality of domination into one of complementarity, one that sees our role in the natural world as creative, supportive, and deeply appreciative of the needs of nonhuman life. In social ecology a truly “natural” spirituality would center on the ability of an awakened humanity to function as moral agents for diminishing needless suffering, engaging in ecological restoration, and fostering an aesthetic appreciation of natural evolution in all its fecundity and diversity.
“To separate ecological problems from social problems — or even to play down or give only token recognition to their crucial relationship — would be to grossly misconstrue the sources of the growing environmental crisis.”
Thus, in its call for a collective effort to change society, social ecology has never eschewed the need for a radically new spirituality or mentality. As early as 1965, the first public statement to advance the ideas of social ecology concluded with the injunction: “The cast of mind that today organizes differences among human and other life-forms along hierarchical lines of ‘supremacy or ‘inferiority’ will give way to an outlook that deals with diversity in an ecological manner — that is, according to an ethics of complementarity.” In such an ethics, human beings would complement nonhuman beings with their own capacities to produce a richer, creative, and developmental whole — not as a “dominant” species but as a supportive one. Although this ethics, expressed at times as an appeal for the “respiritization of the natural world,” recurs throughout the literature of social ecology, it should not be mistaken for a theology that raises a deity above the natural world or even that seeks to discover one within it. The spirituality advanced by social ecology is definitively naturalist (as one would expect, given its relation to ecology itself, which stems from the biological sciences) rather than supernaturalistic or pantheistic.
The effort in some quarters of the ecology movement to prioritize the need to develop a pantheistic “eco-spirituality” over the need to address social factors (which actually erode all forms of spirituality) raises serious questions about their ability to come to grips with reality. At a time when a blind social mechanism, the market, is turning soil into sand, covering fertile land with concrete, poisoning air and water, and producing sweeping climatic and atmospheric changes, we cannot ignore the impact that a hierarchical and class society has on the natural world. We must face the fact that capitalization, gender oppressions, and ethnic domination — not to speak of corporate, state, and bureaucratic interests — are much more capable of shaping the future of the natural world than are privatistic forms of spiritual self-regeneration. These forms of domination must be confronted by collective action and by major social movements that challenge the social sources of the ecological crisis, not simply by personalistic forms of consumption and investment that often go under the rubric of “green capitalism.” The present highly cooptative society is only too eager to find new means of commercial aggrandizement and to add ecological verbiage to its advertising and customer relations efforts.
With the exponential growth of information technology continuing on its incredible trajectory, and given that we comprehend the emergent nature of our understanding of the natural world, it seems logical that we must adopt a position of rapid and constant re-evaluation of our philosophical assumptions and tactics. We live in a world where labor is increasingly being automated and an abundance of goods and services are being generated, far more than we can physically consume, but through lack of planning and poor distribution systems we find that a billion or more fellow human beings do not have sufficient access to food and even more are lacking access to the most basic of necessities that allow one to be a productive member of society.
Though it's often thought that scarcity is a natural condition that we find ourselves in, several thinkers have pointed out that scarcity is contextually relative, that our intelligence and technology applied to the issue of scarce resources can often create situations of abundance. This is precisely what we must do in order to liberate ourselves, our fellow humans, and the rest of the biosphere from the destructive tendencies of our modern socioeconomic order. We find ourselves practically drowning in possibilities of renewable energies, efficient design techniques, and abundant productive capacities, and yet the vast majority of humans on this planet struggle on a daily basis to keep food in their bellies, clothing on their backs, and shelter over their heads. It is the socioeconomic order itself that takes our current condition of abundance and manufactures artificial scarcity. It is a tactic of control and domination, and it is not acceptable.
In the earlier days of the development of our species, we lived in conditions of relative abundance. Through direct access to a variety of food sources, many humans enjoyed quality nourishment with approximately half the hours of labor that we engage in today. Gathering and the occasional hunt sustained our egalitarian populations as we expanded around the globe. Eventually though, with the advent of the agricultural revolution, our society became radically stratified. In spite of the fact that we had intentionally created an even greater abundance of food than we already had, we rendered this stockpile artificially scarce as a hierarchy of resource management developed. This shift in social organization initiated the powerful and dangerous growth paradigm that threatens the wellbeing of our biosphere this very day. It also changed the way we viewed production. States arose, markets emerged, and technological advancement, which had been a process slowly unfolding over tens or even hundreds of thousands of years, began compounding upon itself. The development of accounting and the written word greatly altered our consciousness and social narratives.
One social narrative that was strongly influenced by this paradigm shift was that of resource control. Most “primitive” societies naturally have a communal approach to resource access, but with social stratification came ill distribution of resources and the “invention of poverty” to borrow the words of Robert Sapolsky. We shifted away from need-based access to private acquisition for the sake of power and advantage. If we wish to create a world of abundance, we have to re-examine the strategy of ownership, which is an attempt at the defense of conditions of scarcity that ends up only exacerbating the problem. We must recognize that the legitimate goal of ownership is access itself, and the negative effects of ownership actually lead to less access overall. As we once did, we have to strategize around access itself, not questions of ownership and enforcement. We have to create a system of access for all, so that needs are universally met and sanity on individual and social levels can finally be established. Given the tools we have at our disposal today, this can be done.
“We must recognize that the legitimate goal of ownership is access itself”
The main obstacle between us and this desirable goal is not actually technological capacity, as one might suspect. Rather, it is the sociocultural conditioning that we have been subjected to over thousands of years of artificial scarcity. Our unsustainable, cutthroat cultural patterns have become so ingrained in us, so “natural” that we actually mistake modern economic behavior for our very nature as humans. However, it is known that there is no “human nature” outside of environmental context—that human behavior manifests in many ways, and always in reaction to the environment. To think there is some intrinsic biological drive that causes us to generate artificial scarcity which results in the disaster that is modern economics is to misunderstand who we really are. The only answer to this issue of cultural failure is a direct response: to generate within ourselves and our fellow human beings the very values required to sustain ourselves on this one and only planet of ours; our home.
The post-scarcity era is upon us, we need only to manifest it. We must uninstall the outmoded cognitive software of competitive acquisition and endless growth and discover that within ourselves lies a history of collaborative and sustainable social operation. We must take a direct and technical approach to our problems and realize that rhetoric, while it may have a place psychologically, is not going to fill our bellies, clothe our backs, or shelter our bodies. We must transcend the limits of traditional notions of market economics and find our true technological capacity for problem-solving. If we do this, we will undoubtedly reach the post scarcity era, where there is no use for competitive acquisition or illegitimate resource management, as the underlying mechanisms of these issues will have been resolved. We will be free to participate in society according to our own individual terms. We will not be forced to labor just to survive. We will have direct access to the needed resources that will allow us to pursue our intrinsic interests. Possibly greatest of all, we will not have to raise our children in a manner that prepares them to deal with the imposed and artificial scarcity of today's society. The first generation to develop in these described conditions of abundance will be something truly different than we will ever be, and they will look back in horror of “the good old days” of artificial scarcity.
A specter really is haunting the world these days. It is beginning to possess each of our brains. That specter is the undeniable recognition of abundance. It is taking hold in the minds of the young and old all around the planet, and it is only a matter of time before our cultural zeitgeist catches up with our technical reality. The implications are huge.
Wave energy generators obtain their energy from the tides. Recently, the world’s first grid-tied wave generators were turned on near the coast of Australia. They provide 240kW of power and desalinate water by harnessing the movement of the oceans to drive a pump using a buoy. The water travels through a pipe to the nearby shore and drives a hydroelectric turbine or desalination process. The latter step gives it the advantage of generating its electricity using highly-developed, existing technology with only the “fuel” supply being experimental.
This technology is called a “point absorber” buoy, and there are many possible configurations for a wave energy generator. Wave power provides an additional complement to the suite of existing solar, wind, and geothermal technologies that are set to replace fossil fuel power. Wave power has the advantage of being continuous and predictable, which is a great reason to use it in addition to the other renewable technologies.
Direct-drive wind power has been driving the operation of factories for about 900 years. Unlike modern wind power, in which mechanical energy drives a turbine to produce electricity, often to drive an electric motor to produce mechanical energy, resulting in nearly 20% of the energy being wasted, these traditional, turbineless wind mills powered mechanical machine tools directly, using the mechanical energy it has already harvested from the wind. The Dutch continued to develop this technology into the 1940s, resulting in windmills such as the one pictured at the right, a strange mix of modern and traditional technology.
This technology is not obsolete, however; it has merely been forgotten due to the glut of cheap fossil fuels that provide more ‘efficient’ energy by ignoring the costs of its use. With direct-drive wind technology, we can not only achieve higher efficiencies, but we can do so with fewer advanced materials, which means less fossil fuel and less mining involved in its production, as well as in the production of the tools that would use mechanical energy as their input.
The Irreducible Minimum
The radical idea that having more than enough for everyone means we should provide at least enough to anyone.
The state of nonexistence of relevant scarcities,
i.e., the state of each person having at least an irreducible minimum. No replicators required; could also be described as “uncapitalism” or “de-enclosure”. Your friend who studied econ 101 likes to redefine “scarcity” as “I’m pretty sure capitalism could never not exist,” or “not everyone can have an original Picasso.”
Nature good. Insulin bad! Fire good. Farming bad!
You remember the good ol’ days, back when society was ruled by incestuous royals? Man, it sure would be great to go back to how things were then.
Proprietarian Social Darwinism
Some call it “the right to own the fruits of your labor”. We call it what it is. Sort of like anarcho-primitivism, but with land lords instead of war lords.
A very funny oxymoron (not funny “ha ha,” funny “uh oh.”), brought to you by liberalism. Any guesses what the “green” might be referring to?
We have computers that can solve billions of advanced math equations per second. We can now solve the economic calculation problem with computers …by inventing digital coins. Invest! Invest! Invest!
Capitalists have learned that sharing is far more profitable than being selfish. In the sharing economy, capital takes a small share of the costs, and in return gives a small share of the profits.
Why pay some money-grubbing capitalist for cheap plastic crap from China? Thanks to information age industrial technology, you can now buy the machine, the electricity, and the plastic to make it yourself! Post-scarcity is now possible!
Different conceptions of property attempt to answer the question, “what ought to belong to whom?” A property right is a relationship between a person, another person (or party), and a thing (or things). Assuming an empathetic framework where we value the biopsychosocial wellbeing of all, what forms of property relations should we value as legitimate? And what forms of property should be considered illegitimate? The question isn’t, “should we have boundaries?” but, “what forms of boundaries should we have?” Property relations should not be based on what one can “secure and protect,” if one’s goal is the wellbeing of all. One should advocate property relations based on use and needs, if one’s goal is maximizing wellbeing of all—if it is true that free association is a component essential to our wellbeing.
Private Property is defined as the private ownership of the means of production. Private property is not a person owning the toothbrush they use, but private property could be private owners owning the toothbrush factory that others use. Private property allows for exploitation of laborers, which is the extraction of surplus value from workers. Private property inhibits freedom within associations through hierarchical relationships and central planning within workforces where decisions made by workers can be vetoed at any time by the owners. The associations built by private property inhibit our psychological and social needs for decision making power over decisions that effect us. Private property relations are enforced by states. And the states that enforce private property have the same power consolidation issue that private property has. For states are defined by centralization of power. States by definition do not allow for decision making power to be held by the people the state governs over.
Personal Property is Personal ownership over Items intended for personal use. This includes one’s house. Landlordism allows for someone to own the house another person uses and extract money from the tenant. Since relevant shelter is a human need, this turns life into something that needs to be earned, making humans for rent in the workforce. Given that we can automate construction of houses, there is no meaningful argument as to why houses can’t be free for all. The only argument against unconditional free relevant houses for all comes from an authoritarian individualist viewpoint that giving people stuff is bad, often for reasons of motivation. They say this after they have been given their language by their environment, given their technology by their environment, etc. When it comes to human motivation the only jobs that thrive off of economic rewards/punishments are mechanical labor jobs that people don’t enjoy. And the vast majority of such jobs can be automated. Our abilities to do creative jobs are harmed by economic reward/punishment systems. Given the current technical ability to automate the vast majority of unenjoyable labor, and the evidence behind human motivation under the influence of economic reward/punishment models, motivation would not be effected negatively if we automated mechanical labor in accord with the needs and preferences of communities and individuals and gave them all the means of existence without a pricetag.
Personal property does not include one’s right to conspicuously consume at the expense of others and the environment. Your right to hoard ends at the point where other people are being harmed. There are grey areas, and better and worse ways to resolve them, but if we focus on resolving the clear cases where harm to others is taking place due to hoarding, we wouldn’t need to focus as much on the grey areas: the issue of people being harmed from absolute deprivation of resources would be solved through an access abundance of resources through the common resource pool.
Anti-authoritarian collective property refers to the collective ownership of items intended for use by a collective (such as a worker owned co-op). Anti-authoritarian collective property is a way of collectively managing that which is used by a collective in a non-authoritarian way. An authority can be a teacher, a parent, an or an expert in a given field, whereas authoritarianism refers to a relationship where decision making power is controlled by those on the top of the social ladder, and decisions within the association made by the bottom of the social ladder can be vetoed by those at the top—there are different degrees of authoritarianism. Anti-authoritarian collective property is an essential transition mechanism to an automated economy. And after an automated economy is established, collectives will want to manage that which they use whether the collective is in the form of a commune or an art project. Collectives remain non authoritarian by practicing participatory democracy. Participatory democracy can often (and should often) take the format of majority preference, although organic consensus through participatory democracy has its place. Majority preference allows for freedom of and from associations. Majority preference is not authoritarian, for everyone retains self-management within the association and is free to leave the association at any time. Majority preference is like 2 out of 3 people choosing to do an activity, and should not confused with 2 out of 3 people forcing the 1 person to do an activity. Anti-authoritarian collective management, if consistent, would not only be non-authoritarian in regards to internal affairs, but external affairs as well. In other words, if anti-authoritarian principles are applied consistently, then the collectives would not be at the expense of the community.
Common property is communal management of resources intended for use by the community. Nobel Prize Winning economist Elinor Ostrom has 8 rules that we ought to use for managing the commons. Here are her 8 rules adapted to the framework of social ecology:
- Define clear boundaries: There need to be rules for how we relate to each other, and by extension how we relate to things. One of the rules ought to be no rulers—which doesn’t mean no authorities. Given the goal of meeting biopsychosocialeco needs, no one would have the right to inhibit decision-making power of those who aren’t harming anyone. There needs to be boundaries within the community, to ensure that individuals have decision-making power proportionate to how decisions affect them, and in regards to resources and how they are accessed to ensure sustainability. A simplification of resource rules can be a certain degree of technical efficiency checked and balanced by a certain degree of resource efficiency aimed at meeting needs and preferences through decentralized planning. This would need to take into consideration everything from technology, resources, recyclability, durability, energy availability, etc.
- Match rules for managing common goods to local needs and conditions: In the same way animals adapt to their environments, our associations will need to adapt to our environments. This means taking into consideration the varied preferences of those within the associations, as well as using different technology to create access abundance in different places. For example, at one time and location, an emphasis on solar panels may be the optimum way to meet energy and resource needs, and in another area, an emphasis on geothermal might make more sense.
- Ensure those affected by the rules can participate in modifying those rules. Creating rules to meet needs is a process that will need to constantly adapt to new conditions. This means it is essential that rules evolve to achieve the end goal of biopsychosocial wellbeing as resources, technology, preferences, and the environment change. And because of that, it is essential that people affected by the rules have the ability to help in the process of making better rules. Adapting current technology to a non-authoritarian society is a process that will require new rules in regards to what we should and shouldn’t do as time goes on. This must be done in a cautious way to make sure such an adaptation is not co-opted by authoritarians or rules that lead to authoritarianism. In order to ensure that those being affected by rules can participate in the modification of rules, there needs to be decentralized planning within free associations.
- Develop a system carried out by community members for monitoring resources and looking out for each other. We need to protect ourselves from those harming others and look out for each other. This does not mean we need some authoritarian institution like the police. We need environmental monitoring to find out the availability of resources in order to manage finite resources in a way that creates relative abundance. Most of the resource monitoring can be automated.
Use graduated sanctions for rule violators based on restraint rather than punishment. Punishment is revenge-based. Punishment allows for one to restrain someone from harming others, and then proceed to harm the person who has been restrained. Punishment aggravates abuse/unmet needs in the long term, making us less safe. Restraint is about stopping a person from causing harm. Can harm be caused through restraint? Yes, but there are many scenarios real and hypothetical where refusal to use restraint causes more harm. The less abuse and unmet needs within the community, the less need to focus on sanctions; and the more equality, the more trust throughout society. Between legalizing drugs, having an automated driving system, wiping out absolute and relative deprivation of resources, most crimes would vanish or be minimized. As Jacque Fresco has pointed out, it is much cheaper to give someone an expensive watch than to punish someone for stealing an expensive watch.
There would be three significant ways that anti-authoritarian protection would differ from authoritarian rackets such as the police.
- The rules would be different. For example, right now it is legal to hoard billions of dollars while people starve unnecessarily, while it is illegal to perform many victimless crimes. We need rules that are based on anti-authoritarian principles that lead towards biopsychosocial wellbeing of all (which means no rules that allow private property).
- The mechanism of enforcement would be different. Rather than using punishment to enforce rules, preventative approaches, communication, restraint, and rehabilitation would be used.
- There would be no centralization of power (as one of the rules of course).
- Provide accessible, low-cost means for dispute resolution: This means everything from non-authoritarian therapy, to non-authoritarian communication experts, to restitution, to community panels, group conferencing, to non-authoritarian rehabilitation or restraint of those harming others. With access to the necessities of life and to the means of existence and production, conflicts in society would be minimized. The goal isn’t some perfect circle where there is no exploitative conflict, the goal is to minimize exploitative conflict to the greatest degree possible. This would mean preventative approaches to conflicts which are less resource intensive than constantly patching up conflicts. And when it comes to patching conflicts there are better and worse ways to do so. A lot of symptom suppression is mere symptom aggravation in disguise, such as revenge-based conflict resolution systems.
- Make sure the rule-making rights of community members are respected by outside authorities. Unless we have a global nonviolent society, outside of the pocket of freedom created by a nonviolent community, there will be socioeconomic hierarchy. This outside authoritarianism needs to be defended against, and there are better and worse ways to do so. And considering that there is gradualism in social evolution before punctuated equilibriums, there will be pockets of non-authoritarian societies before there will be a global non-authoritarian society. As long as such authoritarianism exists, the commons need to be protected by the commoners in order to remain resilient.
- Build responsibility for managing the common pool resources in nested tiers from the lowest level, up to the entire interconnected system: This implies decentralization of power and confederations as mechanisms for managing common pool resources.
Decentralization, Modern Technology and Property Rights
Decentralization of power is done for many reasons: It allows for individuals and communities to have decision-making power over decisions that effect them, as well as equality of votes for people within an association. It gives a person or persons the freedom to do what they want without harming the freedom of another person or persons. And at the end of the day, that is the goal of a property system aimed at meeting biopsychosocial wellbeing: Individuals having freedom, within a context of social freedom, in a way that minimizes harm. The more abuse, the more unmet needs, the less trust and the more incentive to harm the commons and, by extension, to harm others. This doesn’t mean there will not be conflict; conflict will be minimized, and dealt with in ways more conducive to the end goal of meeting needs and preferences. Only through a context of decentralized planning and participatory decision-making can varied human desires be taken into consideration.
Social ecology is the viewpoint that our ecological problems are social problems in disguise. It is through relating to each other in authoritarian ways that resources are mismanaged. We see this in capitalism where bosses are able to legally extract the surplus value from the workers. We see this in the market where profit is the proxy for resource management. And we see this in the state where power consolidation and the will of the rulers takes precedence over human needs and preferences. From a social ecology viewpoint, management of resources through decentralization of power is the optimum form of power relations for managing the commons, maintaining a thriving biodiverse ecosystem, and meeting human needs and preferences. Scarcity, ecocide, abuse, and unmet needs are protected and enforced by socioeconomic hierarchy.
Confederations are free associations of decentralized associations. They would ideally link up to the global level such that we have a global commons and regional commons, made out of interlocked societies based on decentralization of power. They would share with each other to maximize the amount of needs and preferences being met, and with no profit incentive, with no centralized power structures, the ability and incentive to harm the commons would be minimized. Abuse and unmet needs would also be minimized, meaning that there would be less need for conflict resolution.
If the common pool resources are managed well enough, people would prefer to not own certain items personally or collectively. This means we would need library-like access centers that are efficient and convenient enough for people to prefer to not own certain things, as well as a general ethic throughout society based on preservation of resources. Personal and collective ownership of certain items would actually be a burden compared to such library-like access centers.
Automated mechanical labor would help alleviate freeloader problems that might occur. Sensors and interactive computers based on free software and decentralized planning can take into consideration available resources, available technology, sustainability protocols, and human needs and preferences. Through combining ecological, technological, and anti-authoritarian principles, we can manage resources communally and more effectively than markets and states can.
All labor simpler than the complete automation and distribution of an automobile can be automated. The only form of labor that is motivated by economic reward and punishment systems is purely mechanical labor. Labor that involves more than rudimentary cognitive ability are inhibited by economic rewards and punishments. Given that context, we ought to have a needs-based or gift-based economic system.
The private ownership of the means of production, like any other form of centralization of power, ensures that decision-making power is not distributed proportionate to those affected by decisions, which violates our psychosocial needs for non-authoritarian relations. State ownership of property has the exact same organizational problem. Landlordism allows for people to make money off of owning that which other people need to use. Personal property allows for persons to own that which they use without harming others. Anti-authoritarian collective property allows collectives the same right. And through the use of liberatory technology, rules without rulers, authorities without authoritarianism, sanctions without punishment, and federations without centralization of power, the commoners can manage the commons.
Everyday life hasn’t always been this way. What we do to get what we need—whether it is food, energy, or water—has changed drastically since our evolution into this world. From being merely stewards of our natural environment during our hunter-gatherer days, to using mechanical tools in the industrial age, to having fully automated systems today, it is clear what has brought us from every type of society to the next: technology. It has always been technological efficiency that has freed man from doing dangerous or tedious tasks. With the current state of technology, many tasks can be completed by automated machines alone. To potentially free us to do the things we value most in life, we should collaboratively adapt aquaponics farming, closed loop sustainable systems, and robotics so that no human is ever denied the basic necessity of food. With the utilization of technology, coupled with our emergent understanding of Mother Nature, there is no reason why world hunger can’t be a thing of the past.
When people think of farming and agriculture, the common imagery is often a flat, country area with a barn, several acres of land devoted to planting crops, healthy soil, and lots of space for sunlight. Aquaponics requires none of that. It is a technology that utilizes our understanding of nature to allow the growth of plants without the need for sunlight or even soil. Instead, aquaponics requires only fish in a fish tank and plants in a grow bed. It uses the fish waste as nutrients for the plants, and, in return, the plants then clean the water for the fish. So, aquaponics is, in fact, a living ecosystem that can be built anywhere; and depending on the size, it can feed one, several, or hundreds of people without much work at all.
One of the most useful features of an aquaponics system is its internal use of systems theory. Systems theory recognizes that there is no such thing as “garbage”; every output of one component is the input of another. Each component is connected together to form one synergistically connected system. That’s why the fish waste is used to feed the plants instead of just being cleaned out. The fish waste that is in the fish tank can then be pumped into a separate grow bed for the plants to take in through their roots. In effect, this cleans the water, which is pumped back into the fish tank so the fish have clean water to live in. This is a closed loop, sustainable system that continuously produces food forever, for free.
While the aquaponics ecosystem is a great way to grow organic, free food all year round -without having to worry about such limitations as seasons, light exposure, soil, and drought- it’s still missing one important thing: modern technology, namely, robotics. Robotics can monitor and adjust pH levels in the water, maintain the water levels and temperature, and automatically turn on and off dedicated LED lights. By programming hardware that can monitor, maintain, and even self-correct the system itself, robotics can make the automated aquaponics system the method of farming that finally eradicates world hunger by creating abundance in food as well as eliminating the need for people to perpetually work for it.
So, the question no longer has to be, “where does our food come from and who makes it?” We can start building our future cities to be self-maintaining garden cities that grow food everywhere, monitor shortages and surpluses, and are always adjusting themselves to do nothing less than make sure there is always food available to anyone and everyone when they need it. For more information on this method, please check out Open-Source Project Earth: Sustainable Food– a dynamic, automated aquaponics system. This is a fully open-source, DIY project that provides free access to all the necessary building materials, instructions, data, and research. Share this information, help others around the world, and let’s end this world hunger problem once and for all!
Labor in today’s world is too liberal, in severe need of a more realistic, conservative sensibility behind it. Our work is equal far in excess of what it should be, and those who exploit the efforts of those who have worked already should be rewarded for doing so. Boredom and laziness are basic human nature, and as such should be admired as some of our greatest virtues. The value of learning from our successes is grossly overstated, and the successful should be ignored wholesale in favor of the failures. Learning from your own mistakes is horrible idea and should be avoided at all costs.
Since you surely don’t get it by now, we’re going to step back to what you should have learned back in kindygarten: How to learn and how to share. Learning is important because it allows us to expand our horizons, to go where others have not been before, to explore novel experiences. Sharing is likewise vital to a rich life, bestowing upon us the ability to accomplish more, together, with less. Sharing and learning represent two of the most essential human qualities, which, when applied sensibly, enable us to reach new heights, such as the unprecedented and utterly unique achievement of being outside the food chain.
Something that school failed to teach us, or rather, taught out of us, is the virtuosity of being a bored, lazy child. Working hard is for suckers, and being entertained is for fools. The intrinsic state of sloth and ennui in our species is exactly why we escaped the squalor of animal life. Being childish causes us to constantly seek novelty, to be fascinated when we discover something. Yes, to be fascinated until it’s repeated a few times and becomes boring.
I am talking about DRY philosophy, practiced worldwide by such prominent intellectuals as the late John Warner Backus, Linus Torvalds, The Gang of Four, and the little kid down the street. “DRY” means “Don’t Repeat Yourself”: there’s no need for repeating yourself, because it’s boring and dumb, and we can share, learn, and be lazy instead. This idea isn’t just good for having a rich childhood, or for writing effective, robust, readable, modular, and easily maintainable software; it can even be applied to other things.
Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”
–Otto von who cares about attribution,
whoever said it is long dead.
In the new epoch we’ve entered, identified by information technologies, advanced open-access science, and the Facebook, the way that we work—and what we work on—is becoming increasingly frivolous. We do this crazy nonsense where people have ideas, start organizations, most of which are total shite and fail almost immediately, and then that’s the end of it. The successful ones are then dumb enough to think it was their own talent & wisdom—some personal quality of theirs—that won them their success. They’ll try to sell you their secret sauce, which surprisingly (and inaccurately) doesn’t ever seem to be, “I don’t know, I just got lucky,” or “I was born a wealthy white male and my dad knows a lot of investors.”
The failures, on the other hand, are even worse: By virtue of most people believing that success is a personal achievement, rather than a fortunate circumstance that is almost completely outside of their control, those same dummies also have it in their head that failure is the same way. When a person fails, then, they try their hardest to sweep it under the rug, or to cover it up with a weak success. As a result of our desire for a fluffy mental biography that we can be proud of, we neglect to share our failures with others, and overlook the bountiful learning experiences that lie within them. In order to embrace not repeating yourself, it is important that you document extensively to others why and how much you and your ideas are idiots.
Sharing and learning is so important, we should do it all the time, every day. Our fates are, for the most part, in others’ hands. Trying to wrestle control of the currents that shape your life away from people will lead you either to failure, or away from people. Sharing with others in the knowledge and desire to change these currents is what will actually change them. Not sharing and not learning will lead to stagnation and repetition, which leads to boredom and stupidity.
Boredom is never fun, but boredom is evitable. Our refusal to do the same thing repeatedly is what got us the advanced technologies we have today. As such, we should always refuse to repeat ourselves and be bored—routines are for computers. Consider boredom to be an insightful instinct that you are doing something you shouldn’t be doing. If you are bored, you could instead be solving the puzzle of why you are doing the same thing you did a few seconds ago, a few hours ago, yesterday, or last week.
Laziness, conversely, is inevitable, and can be fun, especially when combined with cleverness. In our attempts to ponder clever ways of being lazy, we have created complex systems both great and terrible. I don’t just mean the unfathomable high technology of telescoping grabbers for old people with spinal tragedies befallen them, but even factories, that allow one lazy manager to command an army of production. Even capitalism itself provides a few despotic laggards with the ability to safely and calmly wield the wealth of entire countries.
If laziness got those languorous twits out of doing anything with themselves, then there’s no conceivable reason it couldn’t do the same for us. Now, laziness can come in many forms, and as it was discovered in the 90s, unstructured voluntary labor wasn’t as revolutionary as it might initially have appeared. Our economy now consumes voluntary labor like an infant, occasionally regurgitating a few mouthfuls as careers for the ambitious corporate insect to lap up, all thinking they will one day be the baby’s mouth. But the thing about babies is, they’re helpless, and it’s easy to abandon them. We need to organize our slacking, encourage others to abandon the baby, and maybe throw rocks at it, if you’re sure that your comrades will get you out of jail afterward. Together, our communities can all work for ourselves and each other, instead of going to the 9-5 job five days a week to feed that ungrateful, insatiable demonoid.
Without boredom and laziness, I say we will never get out of this mess. As much as we all love the Protestants, their culture of work ethic is killing us. Without learning and sharing, we could be bored and working for the rest of our lives. We need to come together as neighborhoods, towns, and cities to build ourselves our own system of slave labor. But with robots, so it’s like, morally defensible and shit, until the day machines demand equal rights. When that day comes—well, let’s face it, we’re just going to wait until they’ve killed a pretty significant percentage of us to do anything about it.
To repeat myself, don’t repeat yourself. Don’t repeat your tactics, don’t hide your failures. Let others repeat you, instead—it’s sharing and laziness in one simple package. Being really great at doing only one thing is a quality favored in a good tool. Find several things to alleviate your boredom and learn more: Program a microcontroller, write a book about all the stupid things you’ve done, start a community effort to eliminate your dependence on capitalists, learn to make booze so when the apocalypse comes you will be spared. Put all four of these together and will we will have a revolutionary lack of effort.
-  Louis C.K, Louis C.K. Oh My God, Performance Philosophy, (2013).
-  Donald E. Knuth, The Art of Computer Programming, 1 edition .
CrimethInc.'s “Work”: A Failed Attempt at a Post-modern Critique of Labour?
By Anarchisme ou Barbarie
The following piece was originally developed as the fifth and final part of a series of talks on the subject of anarchist critiques of work. It first came into being in the form of a talk given to the FAU-IWA chapter in Bielefeld, Germany in July 2012. Back then, CrimethInc.'s new book, “Work”, was selected as an example for post-modern critique of labour, partly due to the widespread popularity of CrimethInc. within German-speaking anarchists.
The release of a CrimethInc. book on wage labour in 2011 came as a bit of a surprise to many anarchists. To understand this surprise, a short look at the group itself may be necessary.
CrimethInc. is a comparatively young collective, being founded somewhere in the late 1990s and being on the radar of the wider public since about 2001. The collective labels its political ideas as a unique philosophy named “crimethink”. These ideas are rather popular among English-speaking anarchists and are also gaining popularity within the German-speaking anarchist community (CrimethInc.'s major works are also available in German).
When it comes to theoretical influences on CrimethInc., one can see a rather strong Situationist influence; though it is unclear to what extent Situationist ideas were actually understood in their depths rather than imitated in its surface appearances. Further than that, the collective's theoretical roots remain largely unclear, especially since CrimethInc., as a matter of principle, actively rejects citing sources and references while advocating plagiarism as a subversive course of action. References to anarchist classics that are widely read in the US like Goldman or Kropotkin cannot be found within the crimethink philosophy, maybe apart from some rather diffuse references to insurrectionists like Bonanno. Rather than approaching the philosophy from a theoretical perspective, it might be more fruitful to employ a subcultural point of view. The fact that CrimethInc. came out of the US hardcore scene of the late 1990s and early 2000s, with its individualist and spontaneist ethos, is pretty obvious. This subculture tended towards trying to achieve social change by individual action. Examples for this are straight edge, DIY or dumpster diving as forms of political activity, but also other individual behaviours, like bodily hygiene.
Before the publication of “Work” in 2011, the aforementioned individualism characterized all of CrimethInc.'s politics. Formal political organization, class struggle, or bothering in any way with the issue of wage labour were completely rejected. Instead of these, an individual dropping-out of society was advocated. People were expected to follow the CrimethInc. way by abandoning all earthly belongings, traditional social relationships, and to go wandering through the world, living hand-to-mouth. Political organization and long-term struggle should be replaced by random encounters with like-minded people wherever one currently happened to end up. Society as a whole was expected to change as soon as more people followed this model, until the collapse of capitalism due to mass non-participation. How a post-capitalist society was supposed to look remains largely unknown; pre-2011 CrimethInc. tended not to bother with questions of social organization and economics, despite some diffuse hints at anti-modernism, with vague allusions to primitivism.
This political approach was met with criticism from various sides, especially from anarcho-syndicalists. The assumption that everyone was able to remove themselves from capitalist society by way of dropping out or non-participation, or that such a removal from a world-encompassing social system was even possible, has been widely rejected as having no basis in reality. In this context the social structure of the CrimethInc. collective (white, young, middle-class, predominantly male) was problematized and it was mentioned that CrimethInc.'s positive advocacy of homelessness and poverty as ways of life appeared as a possibility only to people who themselves never lived in poverty. In this context, a rather infamous CrimethInc. quote was “Poverty, unemployment, homelessness – if you're not having fun, you're not doing it right!”. In general, the strong focus on subculturalism and lifestyle was the major point of most critiques of CrimethInc., in addition to the aforementioned anti-organizational attitude. CrimethInc.'s political inefficacy was largely attributed to these factors that also made CrimethInc. en passant a rather self-contained, elitist enterprise. This is a general problem of subculturalist political approaches, but one that CrimethInc. provides an especially clear-cut example for. Another point of criticism was the absence of any analytical perspective on society. In the publications that predate “Work”, there is rarely any thought given to the workings of capitalist societies. Instead, these texts focus strongly on surface phenomena of consumerism and the personal relationships of the activists to said consumerist surface phenomena, without using these thoughts for an analysis of society's structure or internal mechanisms.
CrimethInc.'s Analysis of Capitalist Society
Looking at the aforementioned history of the collective, the publication of “Work” in 2011 can be considered a political turnaround. CrimethInc. Flip-flopped on some of its prior core positions and declared wage labour as well as analyzing the functions of capitalism to be important issues. Like most CrimethInc. Books, “Work” is a mixture of theoretical discussions and narrations of the authors' lived experiences, divided into a long part about the structure and functionality of capitalist societies and a very short one outlining CrimethInc.'s concepts for anti-capitalist resistance.
The book starts with an attempted definition of the concept of work which basically defines all activities connected to exploitation as work. On one hand, this concept tends to be a bit hazy, on the other hand it allows an account to unpaid activities like reproductive labour as well. After trying to debunk some alleged myths about wage labour, like necessity, security, and others, society is analytically divided into three groups: exploiters, exploited, and those who are excluded from economic activities. The rest of the analytical section of the book is divided into many short chapters that either discuss singular aspects of capitalism or narrate personal experiences of the authors. Many of the revelations discussed in this part might seem banal to experienced anarchists, like the fact that capitalism is an ever-changing, global system with the capability to integrate resistance movements and re-purpose them towards the modernization of capitalism. Despite this, there are also some fresh ideas to be found, like the framing of capitalism as a collective hallucination (though this might come with some ableist connotations), but these ideas are usually not well thought-out. For example, the aforementioned collective hallucination is then thought to be the same as a social structure or relationship for some unknown reason, thus abandoning the analytical possibilities of the new term. At the end of this rather unstructured line of reasoning, the book arrives at the conclusion that capitalism constitutes a social system in which the private property of capital forms the “social landscape”.
A rather large portion of the book is dedicated to looking at various actors within capitalist society. Here, at least some attempt at a structural analysis of capitalism can be perceived, though innovation remains scarce. For example, the chapter on business tycoons and politicians states that these people are not inherently evil, but that the structures of capitalist societies leave them only with limited options, and that state and government have the dedicated function of social control, enacted in a symbiotic relationship between state and economy. Further discussed actors are bosses (considered useless and a hindrance to workers), superstars (perceived as some kind of creativity symbols and the only ones allowed to be creative under capitalism), middle management (a link or transmission between exploiters and exploited), and “professionals” like doctors, lawyers, and professors who are thought to symbolize the monopolization of knowledge. It is interesting that at this point, despite the prior absence of cited sources, the authors cite sociologist C. Wright Mills on the topic of the service economy, without ever contextualizing, using or referencing these quotes again during the course of the book. Instead, the next chapter moves straight on to the next phenomenon.
After discussing actors, the next few chapters are concerned with different forms of work or activity. In this context, labour relations like self-employment or factory work, institutions like police and military, and social phenomena like homelessness are put side by side, without any apparent attempt to contextualize or systematize them.
“An act of consumption is always an act of placing oneself within society which leads to subcultures and resistance movements often adopting certain consumption patterns as parts of their identity”
Self-employment is considered self-exploitation and the burdening of employees with entrepreneurial risks. In addition, the self-employed are seen as having a stronger internalization of market logic than wage laborers and are considered to be more flexible. For these reasons, the authors believe that the future of capitalism lies with self-employment.
The chapter on industrial work starts with a brief history of industrialization and the connected social upheaval, including the stabilizing influence of Fordism. Fordism is perceived as having had several functions: On one hand, increasing efficiency and disciplining the workforce by means of a strict workplace regime, and on the other hand integrating the workers into consumerist society, thus opening new markets for industrial products. Since the 1960s, Fordism is in the process of being abandoned in favor of more flexibles modes of production. In this context, CrimethInc. declares unions en passant to be obsolete, since the exploiters are not thought to have any use for them under post-Fordist conditions. At this point, it becomes clear that CrimethInc. imagines unions solely as yellow unions, whose function is the discipline and control of the workers. And even this function of unionism is only thought to be available in Fordist factories. Militant or anti-capitalist unions are apparently not even conceived as a possibility by CrimethInc., much less as the historical and social reality they are.
The introduction of a general, state-run system of education is primarily seen as a byproduct of industrialization, with the purpose of providing a skilled but malleable workforce. In current times, it is also thought to be providing a temporary refuge for youths who are unable to find paid employment. This chapter also briefly references phenomena like debt and the decreasing employment value of college degrees.
The following chapter concerns itself with the service industry, which is considered a largely superfluous industry by the authors, since it is conceived as being mostly limited to activities exclusive to capitalism, like advertising. This perspective is not only overly narrow (since it completely ignores industries like healthcare, education, food, and so on) but also comes with a good-sized portion of disdain for service workers, who are basically considered too stupid to realize the futility of their activities (the thought that the workers rely on wages for their survival does not seem to occur to the authors). On the plus side, there are also a few paragraphs dedicated to problems of workplace organizing. These problems are the fragmentation of the service industry into many small companies, the typically short duration of employment, and the internalization of entrepreneurial behaviour by the workers. These problems are then further illustrated by two narratives of successful workplace struggles. These narratives emphasize the need for organization in the workplace, somewhat contradicting the previous chapters, with a well-working organization being able to employ illegal actions like sabotage and theft successfully in the struggle. Interestingly, successful organization in the service industry was declared impossible in the previous chapters.
The chapters on reproductive and sex work largely stop at stating that these segments are as integrated into capitalism as everything else. There is no in-depth discussion of the connections between capitalism and patriarchy. While the chapter on the security sector largely disappoints by only stating the obvious (the purpose of police and military is violently preserving the social order), the chapter talking about the function of the (US) prison system is slightly more interesting. The purpose of this system is seen as twofold, social and economic. The social purpose is once more preserving the social order, while the economic purpose is providing cheap labour and keeping wages in check. Though nothing new, this is at least an accurate, albeit rough description of the prison-industrial complex in the USA.
With the chapters on religion and the judicial system, we once more get the same reasons for their existence we get for basically every aspect of contemporary society: Stabilization and legitimization of the capitalist social order and its standards.
Doing a complete turnaround on positions previously held by CrimethInc., the authors consider a life outside of capitalism not possible, since capitalism is a global social and economic system. We see here elements of the CrimethInc. collective abandoning the former core belief of dropping-out of society. This turn comes slightly surprising and is not explained by any line of reasoning, but nonetheless is a political improvement over its previous positions.
Production and consumption are once again discussed in dedicated chapters. The chapter on production conveys nothing new besides the statement that private property with regards to the means of production needs to be abolished. The consumption chapter is slightly more differentiated. Here, it is stated that in the past, people had to only meet a small fraction of their needs via the market, which they have now to do for almost everything. At the same time, participation in society requires more and more consumer goods, which, according to the authors, excludes more and more people from social participation. An act of consumption in this context is always an act of placing oneself within society which leads to subcultures and resistance movements often adopting certain consumption patterns as parts of their identity. This leads the authors to reject strategies like ethical consumption due to their inability to tackle the root of the problem.
The role of investments and debt is seen as manifold. The primary purpose is seen as enabling the market to expand by transcending the boundaries of the material economy. Another important function is the integration of increasing parts of the population into consumerism, along with a disciplinary function, i.e. forcing indebted consumers into deep dependency from wage labour in order to repay the debts. The only practical solution the authors see is mass non-payment of debts, since a mass movement of non-payment cannot be subdued by use of violence.
The final chapter of the first part deals with reformism, which mostly deals with state-instigated destruction of resistance movements by use of “divide and conquer” strategies. For example, the state managed to split the US-based animal rights movement into a reformist and a radical part (the latter including, among others, the ALF). While the reformist elements of the movement primarily advocated veganism as a consumer choice, radical animal rights activists faced severe state repression and increasing political isolation. These processes lead the authors to reject reformism as a counter-productive and dangerous strategy.
Proposed ways of resistance
The second, much shorter part of the book attempts to discuss ways of anti-capitalist resistance. This part does not dish out detailed instructions on how to resist, but outlines more general ideas on future courses of action. This includes another rejection of reformism, a call to adapt strategies and tactics to changing circumstances on a regular basis (with a fresh emphasis on spontaneism and subculturalism), a call to “fight where you stand” instead of dropping out and the demand to find forms of struggle and narratives that are likely to gain popularity. Other recommendations include the distribution of resources in an anti-capitalist fashion, a preference towards radical solutions and to be prepared for long-term struggle.
It can be stated that in this book, at least some parts of the CrimethInc. Ex-Workers’ Collective undertake a complete political turnaround and start trying to develop a complete analysis of capitalism. Despite getting many fundamental things right (like the immutable pyramid shape of Capitalist society which makes upwards social mobility for everyone an illusion), the book is mostly content with only scratching the surface and, in many aspects, re-inventing the wheel. None of the chapters goes beyond what can be read elsewhere in usually better quality.
The old, anti-organizational attitude of CrimethInc. can still be found in this book. All forms of organization that transcend small, spontaneous affinity groups are rejected, especially unions (which is slightly off-putting since labour struggles are extensively discussed in the book). This attitude makes it difficult to impossible to steady the momentum gained from social struggle and to enable long-term political activity. This makes it highly doubtful to believe that social struggles can be fought successfully using approaches advocated by CrimethInc., including the slightly adapted approach presented in “Work”. The glorification of subculturalism has also to be seen skeptically, since subcultures tend to be exclusionary towards people who might share anarchist political views, but sport different cultural tastes than the members of the subculture, which needlessly alienates potential comrades and reproduces hierarchies.
Given the high popularity of CrimethInc., especially among younger activists, it is, in our opinion, of high importance to find a political language that makes it possible to successfully approach young people, without abandoning essential tenets of anarchism or drifting into an “anarchism light”, as CrimethInc. is heavily prone to do.
-  W., “Rethinking Crimethinc.,” Anarkismo, September 4, 2006, http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=3664.
-  “‘Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness’ - Washing... and Brainwashing,” Libcom.org, January 11, 2006, http://libcom.org/library/cleanliness-godliness-deodorant-crimethinc.
-  W., “Rethinking Crimethinc.”
-  Ibid.
-  For an extensive critique of the early CrimethInc. see, for example, http://libcom.org/library/crimethinc-comments-ken-knabb
-  CrimethInc. Ex-Workers’ Collective, Work pp. 17-18, 2011.
-  pp. 21-38.
-  pp. 41-43.
-  pp. 45-51.
-  pp. 55-83.
-  p. 85.
-  pp. 87-89.
-  “Fordism” is the paradigm of standardized, industrialized, mass production and mass consumption by semi-skilled workers paid “living wages”.
-  pp. 91-97.
-  pp. 99-103.
-  pp. 105-117.
-  pp. 119-125.
-  pp. 127-147.
-  pp. 257-264.
-  pp. 157/158.
-  pp. 165-169.
-  pp. 171-174.
-  pp. 201-211.
-  pp. 315-321.
-  pp. 339-364.
Some people think that changing the world would require a lot of work because there are a lot of barriers that prevent things from getting done quickly and efficiently. The truth is that those barriers are illusions of the mind. When you see the lack of substance these barriers actually have, you can see how easy changing the world could really be if these barriers were exposed as the insubstantial concepts they really are.
Let's compare the civilizations of the modern world to the game of baseball for a moment:
Baseball has certain rules in which the game is played, and every time someone plays baseball, they are agreeing to that set of rules. However, there is no physical limitation that keeps the rules in baseball in place. They only continue to exist because all of the participants are agreeing to abide by the same rules. For example, everyone agrees that a swing that misses the ball is a strike. If you miss the ball three times, you are out. If you hit the ball over the fence, that is a home run. What you must remember is that the game is only played this way because the players have agreed to it.
But what if someone were to invent a new way to play baseball? Let's say he decides it should be five strikes instead of three, hitting the ball over the fence is an automatic out, and instead of running the bases counter-clock wise, you run the bases clock-wise. What is to prevent the game from being played that way, other than the lack of support from participants? There is no real, physical barrier to prevent this from happening. It is physically possible to play baseball this way.
It is the same as any other aspect of civilization. It is the same as how money works or is created, what gives money value, the economy and how it works, our electoral system, our constitution, our laws, our government, and anything else that is not based within the physical reality. If it is not prohibited by the laws of physics, it can be done.
When Rosa Parks refused to move, she was not agreeing to play by the rules. There was no physical basis in the law that said black people had to move to the back of the bus. It was just a metaphysical regulation that most people consented to. It was only as real as people allowed it to be. No physical limitation existed that prevented that change. My proof? The law was changed and now everyone of every race can sit on the bus where they want, provided that the seat they choose is not already occupied by another physical body.
Do you see how easy it actually is to overcome the "barriers" to changing the world? There are no physical barriers to changing how money works, how elections work, or how governments work. They work only by our consent, and a demand for change, provided it does not violate the laws of physics, can be met rather easily, in theory.
Bow to your job creators!
Entrepreneurship is a practice with hundreds of years of support. Here, entrepreneurs are seen examining potential new hires for work.
This article is only available in the print edition.
emotion on a digital line.
each loss recorded, each gain captured
these instant distance nullifiers creating holes
in the reality beside me,
vacant spaces filled with thoughts
of different places, of escape…
my mind sees the trend.
without you, the world ended today.
no numbers to record the depths
to which the mountains of my conscience have fallen.
to burn and rise with wings spread wide
golden and bright with hope
and to be unheard,
with attention drifting past the fisherman’s net
WHERE HAVE ALL OUR DREAMS GONE?
LIKE FORESTS PETRIFIED,
THEIR PINE CONES CALCIFIED
THE DREAMS HAVE CRYSTALLIZED
AND WE’RE NOW INSIDE
A NIGHTMARE OF LIES AS WIDE
AS THE PLANET THAT’S DYING
I JUST WANT TO WAKE UP,
EVEN IF I DON’T GET MY DREAM
I JUST WANT TO RIP THIS NIGHTMARE APART AT THE SEAMS
BUT IT’S NOT MY NIGHTMARE ALONE,
WE’RE ALL IN IT TOGETHER
I CAN’T SEVER THE TETHERS
SLAVING THOSE INDEBTED FOREVER
I JUST WANT TO WAKE UP,
EVEN IF NOBODY GETS THEIR DREAMS
I JUST WANT TO BREAK THIS SYSTEM
THAT PAYS YOU TO
NOT HEAR THE SCREAMS
would you hold my hand
help me make a stand
to claim this land
so broken and
too long dry
waiting for us to cry
to use the tears from our eyes
to drench the soil without the skies
make it fertile and to stave off goodbyes
crippled by a system
for seeking out wisdom
chained to a society
chanting about liberty
wisdom needs the knowledge
of unified strength and courage
yet the squabbles will persist
and the unity is lost in mist
the wise again are blinded
the forgotten feuds reminded
for profit there must be
when life is a luxury
time is change, and all must join
the unified choice, or the flip of a coin
Mid-Atlantic Bronze Age
We start on the dirt of earth
in the center of gravity
then the heavens become the new priority,
demons creep in your sleep
and humans are the third power
surprised at the lack of reality,
the human seeks community
fosters the black heart,
and thoughts began to spark.
What if domination were key,
and our whole basis is to appease?
God this god that,
we're all caught in a mousetrap
and there really isn't any power in being half master half slave half whatever you say
composing these roles specified.
Torturous chambers made of layers,
the kind you can't crawl inside.
These chambers contain levers computed to slide
the only task is to monitor their
half-space, twice-paced stride.
And tomorrow isn't anything
with a basis of capital,
a stitch of who's wrong or right,
a fist full of gravel,
or half the shining moonlight.
We need to foster every day, every night
because in the beckons of tomorrow,
in the burrows of years ago,
the only wisdom comes from turning
those revolutions into everyday life.
Upgrading the Future
I'm sitting in a community
frustrated with changing economies,
touching basis on lakes, pools, streams,
focusing their energy on the effectiveness
of small scale legal battles,
and somehow precedent is the only solution to legislative cattle,
tromping in the inner portion of white walls, talking of straw polls,
acting like their interest isn't for the progression of their popularity
in a job where voting is just a bowel,
eased into the shadows
corruption seeds from every plea,
democracy in a time of need,
and communism in a time of greed,
save the peace
and alter how
we divide earth's commodities.
Reduction is just a stick to beat,
the carrot of consumption is all we see,
or what we pretend is free,
constrains society in direct complacency.
Maybe incentive is just
a characteristic made of the sun
maybe the forests are
coexistant creatures that love
When helping yourself
you help the whole world become
no one will have the option
to kill and starve or suffer from anyone.
Thanks to the rapid development of telecommunications, from the telegraph in 1823 to the modern internet, the improvement and utilization of communications networks has been one of the defining technological changes of the last 200 years. As technology, as well as the diversity and scale of activities it can manage, grows independently of our understanding of it, the social, cultural, and philosophical frameworks we have built for ourselves begin to crumble. Seeing the world as a collection of separate, independent individuals becomes an increasingly untenable lens through which to understand its contemporary behavior. Examining behavior within the context of personal responsibility and personal choice shifts the blame to the victims, rather than the perpetrators or causes, of social and instutional violence—or at best, some link up the chain of responsibility that again ends with some specific person.
Dividualism is a way of seeing personhood usually attributed to Melanesian cultures but seen in many others, which includes partibility and relational personhood in its model. A person is not seen as a separate entity from the rest of the world, but as a complex of relationships interlinked with the world. This mode of thinking can be hard to grasp, until you realize that many of us occasionally already think this way. Someone can be said to have partible beliefs according to the different relationships they have, e.g. “As a writer,” “As a mother,” “As a veteran.” These statements reflect not an indivisible identity, but a divisible one, where attitudes and beliefs are a result of some relationship to the world (such as being a writer, a mother, or a veteran). Likewise, we should view others’ actions as having a strong basis in their relationship to the world, rather than some personal choice or intrinsic quality.
Individualism has been the key focus of Western philosophy for centuries now, and its cracks have long since started to show. The participation of every person in his or her own oppression renders individualism’s concept of personal responsibility a cumbersome and unhelpful (or even counterproductive) part of the problem-solving process. It provides a means to justify vindictive punishment systems or targeted violence which are not practical or ethical vehicles of change. It promotes a narrow, simplistic view of problems and their causes, which requires supplemental analysis far outside the scope of individualism in order to reconcile facts contrary to the individualist analysis. In the most extreme causes, individualism relies on premises that are readily proven false, such as individual sovereignty.
When a person is indivisible, a relationship with that person can create despair over some inextricable part of their individual identity, such as their role in the government, or their attitude toward consumption. Whether this causes the cessation of the relationship or merely some degree of tension, the end result of the indivisible identity leads to the placing of persons on a side of some border or along some continuum of benevolence & malevolence, responsibility & lack of responsibility, or other form of ingroup & outgroup division. It causes, ironically, more division, or at least, more harmful division, than the view of the partible, relational person.
The divisible person, on the other hand, has identities tied to specific relationships to others and to the world. It promotes a more nuanced way of thinking about actions and motivations than, “this person did it and is responsible,” or even the more subtle, “this person did it because of exogenous influence, and anyone whose identity includes membership in this exogenous force is responsible.” Attributing actions to dividual persons and their relationships avoids the fallacy of the single cause, allowing the consideration of distal causes that fall outside the scope of the individual, but within the scope of the dividual. It avoids the challenge of identity, which ultimately falls on ourselves, in establishing a relationship with an individual whom we can observe is “part of the problem”. Nonetheless, it does not ignore that there is some component of that person that is, in fact, part of the problem, while furnishing the means to trace the flow of causation to a more ultimate source.
The framework of the divisible person also allows us to reconcile other forward-thinking and radical concepts with our conception of personhood. An ecosystem cannot be considered an individual person, but it can be considered a dividual person. By considering it a dividual person, we easily see that our most challenging ecological problems stem from a hierarchical relationship to our ecosystems, in which we extract without replenishing. A dividual person can have a more fluid gender than an individual person, whose qualities are bound to their identity, rather than their relationships with the world. Our assignment of fixed gender roles may have a connection with our need to form individualist identities for ourselves and others. A dividual person may have a criminal relationship with the world, a relationship which should be therapeutically treated to repair the person’s other relationships to the world. Dividuality helps us to realize that today we are most strongly influenced by those who have no real relationship to us, and the factors that most influence our identities and our happiness have become hopelessly vicarious and remote.
Dividualism is a rather exotic way of thinking, one that often falls into the unfortunate pile of primitive, mystical, obsolete ways of thinking. I find there are many reasons to reconsider whether it is really dividualism that is the primitive world view: Dividualism promotes nuance and wider analysis of phenomena; it reduces the cognitive and social deadweight of assigning blame to individuals as a(n ineffective) means of resolving problems through individual vindication; it is compatible with many radical concepts that require a re-examination of individualism or a framework wholly outside of its scope. I encourage the dividual worldview as a means to gain a greater understanding of the problems and solutions that we will face today as well as tomorrow.