Read Part 1
The Institutional Separation of Society
The problem is, to quote John Maynard Keynes once again, "Practical men are usually the slaves of some defunct economist."
To put the problem of these "practical" — aka "common" — men in more practical terms here's iconoclastic economist Thorstein Veblen presciently explaining the situation
...the ownership of property in large holdings now controls the nation's industry, and therefore it controls the conditions of life for those who have to resort to the markets to sell or buy. In other words, it has come to pass with the change in circumstances that the rule of Live and Let Live now waits on the discretion of the owners of large wealth. In fact, those thoughtful men in the eighteenth century who made so much of these constituent principles of the modern point of view did not contemplate anything like the system of large wealth, large-scale industry, and large-scale commerce and credit which prevails today. They did not foresee the new order in industry and business, and the system of rights and obligations which they installed, therefore, made no provision for the new order of things that has come on since their time.
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...the population of these civilised countries [ie: where market mechanisms prevail] now falls into two main classes: those who own wealth invested in large holdings and who thereby control the conditions of life for the rest; and those who do not own wealth in sufficiently large holdings, and whose conditions of life are therefore controlled by these others. It is a division, not between those who have something and those who have nothing — as many socialists would be inclined to describe it — but between those who own wealth enough to make it count, and those who do not.
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A vested interest is a legitimate right to get something for nothing, usually a prescriptive right to an income which is secured by controlling the traffic at one point or another... [The common man] is common in the respect that he is not vested with such a presciptive right to get something for nothing. And he is called common because such is the common lot of men under the new order of business and industry; and such will continue (increasingly) to be the common lot so long as the enlightened principles of secure ownership and self-help handed down from the eighteenth century continue to rule human affairs by help of the new order of industry.
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The maintenance of law and order still means primarily and chiefly the maintenance of these rights and ownership and pecuniary obligation.
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Whereas [the common man] makes his peace with the established run of law and custom, and so continues to be rated as a good man and true, he will find that his livelihood falls into a dubious and increasingly precarious case. It is not for nothing that he is a common man.
So caught in a quandary, it is small wonder if the common man is somewhat irresponsible and unsteady in his aims and conduct, so far as touches industrial affairs. A pious regard for the received code of right and honest living holds him to a submissive quietism, a make-believe of self-help and fair dealings...
We live in a perverse socially constructed religious utopia called "economics" where only money has the right to be free. The role of people in this religion is to serve the institutions that guarantee its freedom. These institutions divide society between those who own the means of wealth creation, those who serve them, and those who are abandoned by these institutions. This religion serves the wealthy very well, which is why enormous efforts are made to both spread the word of this religion through evangelical missions (eg: from the World Bank and IMF, to armed forces exporting "freedom and democracy"), and to compel mindless obedience to it through the very structure of our consumer society with its institutionalized systems of enforcement and propaganda.
The institutionalization of economics has removed the organic, everyday need of people to engage in the communal production and exchange of goods, thrusting them instead into a machine that demands the complete reorganization and restructuring of society — indeed, the creation of society itself — to make that machine function. We work for the sake of money, in every meaning of the term: it does not serve us, we serve it. And it is a very literal God, and it has a name — Mammon — and it demands nothing less than that we devote our lives to its service. And this God is a vengeful god, complete with its own evangelical priests, called economists, who compel global conversion to its religion, or else
Essentially, our political structure exists to both compel us to obey our economic structure while, at the same time, protecting us from its merciless needs.
A self-regulating market demands nothing less than the institutional separation of society into an economic and a political sphere. Such a dichotomy is, in effect, merely the restatement, from the point of view of society as a whole, of the existence of a self-regulating market. It might be argued that the separateness of the two spheres obtains in every type of society at all time. Such an inference, however, would be based on a fallacy. True, no society can exist without a system of some kind which ensures order in the production and distribution of goods. But that does not imply the existence of separate economic institutions; normally, the economic order is merely a function of the social order. Neither under tribal nor under feudal nor under mercantile conditions was there, as we saw, a separate economic system in society. Nineteenth-century society, in which economic activity was isolated and imputed to a distinctive economic motive, was a singular departure.
Such an institutional pattern could not have functioned unless society was somehow subordinated to its requirements. A market economy can exist only in a market society... We can now specify the reasons for this assertion. A market economy must comprise all elements of industry, including labor, land, and money... But labor and land are no other than the human beings themselves of which every society consists and the natural surroundings in which it exists. To include them in the market mechanism means to subordinate the substance of society itself to the laws of the market.
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The crucial point is this: labor, land, and money are essential elements of industry; they must also be organized in markets; in fact, these markets form an absolutely vital part of the economic system. But labor, land, and money are obviously not commodities; the postulate that anything is bought and sold must have been produced for sale is emphatically untrue in regard to them. In other words, according to the empirical definition of a commodity they are not commodities. Labor is only another name for a human activity which goes with life itself, which in its turn is not produced for sale but for entirely different reasons, nor can that activity be detached from the rest of life, be stored or mobilized; land is only another name for nature, which is not produced by man; actual money, finally, is merely a token of purchasing power which, as a rule, is not produced at all, but comes into being through the mechanism of banking or state finance. None of them is produced for sale. The commodity description of labor, land, and money is entirely fictitious.
—Karl Polanyi. The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time
[A real page-turner for the intellectually curious seeking answers to how we got to our present situation.]
We live in a system where corporate "citizens" have more rights than individuals
, where the needs of money transcend the needs of people. This sensibility is perfectly captured in a ruling by an Argentine judge
who ordered the eviction of worker's who had taken over a textile factory to support themselves after the legal owners abandoned the factory: "Life and physical integrity have no supremacy over economic interests."
Economics, as a distinct "science" that studies the "production and distribution of goods", is a branch of knowledge comparable to theology in that its object of study is the phenomenology of a particular consensual reality and nothing more. (Of course this is not to say that studying phantasms doesn't have real-life effects: many have been slaughtered in the name of long dead gods.) [For the sake of being more precise, here is Pierre Bourdieu, at the beginning of his sociological extension of Polanyi: "The science called 'economics' is based on an intial act of abstraction that consists in dissociating a particular category of practices, or a particular dimension of all practice, from the social order in which all human practice is immersed." I have shorthanded this notion via a metaphoric parity that equates economics with theology.]
Economics, in this light, is a religion of money, one with its own version of transubstantiation: it magically transmogrifies people's lives, and nature itself, into commodities with dollar figures. The side effect of such magic creates wondrously bizarre things, like the creation of
a priest class entire professions
dedicated to determining, for example, things like "morbidity" and "mortality rates"
to help investors determine how to derive maximum profit from people's illness or life expectancies (eg: investing in pension funds), institutionalized bookies helping investors gamble on the lifespan of whole classes of people. This produces horrendous conflict-of-interest travesties: for example, many families find themselves in a tortuous trap between extending the money-draining life of a loved one versus the anticipation of the windfall that will arrive on the loved one's demise. Is this how life should be lived? Is this not the ultimate mockery of the bullshit transubstantiation of life into a commodity, one that gives the lie to a society that professes to value life? Is this not on the same scale as investors who amassed fortunes from the industries behind the building and running of the concentration camps?
Instead of (or, for those doubly-trapped, in addition to) serving God, we are cogs in the service of money — or, more accurately, we are cogs in the service of the monolithic institutions responsible for keeping the market mechanisms running. The Market is a tremendous fiction of religious proportions wherein our entire lives are a form of ritual worship to the system in which we find ourselves.
It wasn't always so. Polanyi provides many examples of cultures in which the economic sphere was an organically integrated part of the everyday life of the community, where traditions and mechanisms of gift-giving, reciprocity, and spoils-sharing form the bonds of community through channels of cooperation, one where status was derived from one's generosity. In fact stigmas and taboos developed towards those who were competitive and horded their riches, since such behavior was a threat to one's community because it put the selfish interest of The One above the common good.
There are other ways of living than under the thumb of Wealth Bondage, but they all involve new economic strategies. Hence the vital importance, when forming new invisible communities, in addressing economic issues in devising strategies of community formation. In fact, the need to do so is incumbent upon those who understand the importance of the situation as our system prepares to wind violently down
: the sooner we find ways to form strong communal bonds the more of a chance we have to see ourselves through the coming conflapression.
Simply, the more we rely on us
to take care of ourselves, the less we need to rely on them
and their fictional, self-destructing institutions.
A Few Old Economic Justifications for an Atomized Life of Survitude to Mammon
The head chief told us that there was not a family in that whole nation [Cherokee] that had not a home of its own. There was not a pauper in that nation, and the nation did not owe a dollar. It built its own capitol, in which we had this examination, and it built its schools and its hospitals. Yet the defect of the system was apparent. They have got as far as they can go, because they own their land in common...there is no enterprise to make your home any better than that of your neighbor's. There is no selfishness, which is at the bottom of civilization. Until this people consent to give up their lands and divide them among their citizens so that each can own the land he cultivates, they will not make much progress.
—US Senator Henry Dawes, 1885 speech on the Senate floor [still searching for source material, but quoted in a variety of places]
Here's an interesting snippet from his infamous Dawes Act, a genocidal law that succeeded in destroying the United State's indigenous people's communal lifestyle by forcing them to assimilate while permitting the government to legally steal their lands:
...every Indian born within the territorial limits of the United States who has voluntarily taken up, within said limits, his residence separate and apart from any tribe of Indians therein, and has adopted the habits of civilized life, is hereby declared to be a citizen of the United States, and is entitled to all the rights, privileges, and immunities of such citizens, whether said Indian has been or not, by birth or otherwise, a member of any tribe of Indians within the territorial limits of the United States without in any manner affecting the right of any such Indian to tribal or other property
Hunger will tame the fiercest animals, it will teach decency and civility, obedience and subjection, to the most perverse. In general it is only hunger which can spur and goad them [the poor] on to labour; yet our laws have said they shall never hunger. The laws, it must be confessed, have likewise said, they shall be compelled to work. But then legal constraint is attended with much trouble, violence and noise; creates ill will, and never can be productive of good and acceptable service: whereas hunger is not only peaceable, silent, unremitting pressure, but, as the most natural motive to industry and labour, it calls forth the most powerful exertions; and, when satisfied by the free bounty of another, lays lasting and sure foundations for goodwill and gratitude. The slave must be compelled to work but the free man should be left to his own judgement, and discretion; should be protected in the full enjoyment of his own, be it much or little; and punished when he invades his neighbour's property.
It seems to be a law of nature, that the poor should be to a certain degree improvident, that there may always be some to fulfil the most servile, the most sordid, and the most ignoble offices in the community. The stock of human happiness is thereby much increased, whilst the more delicate are not only relieved from drudgery, and freed from those occasional employments which would make them miserable, but are left at liberty, without interruption, to pursue those callings which are suited to their various dispositions, and most useful to the state. As for the lowest of the poor, by custom they are reconciled to the meanest occupations, to the most laborious works, and to the most hazardous pursuits; whilst the hope of their reward makes them chearful in the midst of all their dangers and their toils. The fleets and armies of a state would soon be in want of soldiers and of sailors, if sobriety and diligence universally prevailed: for what is it but distress and poverty which can prevail upon the lower classes of the people to encounter all the horrors which await them on the tempestuous ocean, or in the field of battle? Men who are easy in their circumstances are not among the foremost to engage in a seafaring or military life. There must be a degree of pressure, and that which is attended with the least violence will be the best. When hunger is either felt or feared, the desire of obtaining bread will .quietly dispose the mind to undergo the greatest hardships, and will sweeten the severest labours. The peasant with a sickle in his hand is happier than the prince upon his throne.
—Josph Townsend. A Dissertation on the Poor Laws
To provide for us in our necessities is not in the power of Government. It would be a vain presumption in statesmen to think they can do it. The people maintain them, and not they the people. It is in the power of Government to prevent much evil; it can do very little positive good in this, or perhaps in any thing else. It is not only so of the state and statesman, but of all the classes and descriptions of the Rich — they are the pensioners of the poor, and are maintained by their superfluity. They are under an absolute, hereditary, and indefeasible dependance on those who labour, and are miscalled the Poor.
The labouring people are only poor, because they are numerous. Numbers in their nature imply poverty. In a fair distribution among a vast multitude, none can have much. That class of dependant pensioners called the rich, is so extremely small, that if all their throats were cut, and a distribution made of all they consume in a year, it would not give a bit of bread and cheese for one night's supper to those who labour, and who in reality feed both the pensioners and themselves.
But the throats of the rich ought not to be cut, nor their magazines plundered; because, in their persons they are trustees for those who labour, and their hoards are the banking-houses of these latter. Whether they mean it or not, they do, in effect, execute their trust — some with more, some with less fidelity and judgment. But on the whole, the duty is performed, and every thing returns, deducting some very trifling commission and discount, to the place from whence it arose. When the poor rise to destroy the rich, they act as wisely for their own purposes as when they burn mills, and throw corn into the river, to make bread cheap.
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Nothing can be so base and so wicked as the political canting language, "The Labouring Poor." Let compassion be shewn in action, the more the better, according to every man's ability, but let there be no lamentation of their condition. It is no relief to their miserable circumstances; it is only an insult to their miserable understandings. It arises from a total want of charity, or a total want of thought. Want of one kind was never relieved by want of any other kind. Patience, labour, sobriety, frugality, and religion, should be recommended to them; all the rest is downright fraud. It is horrible to call them "The once happy labourer."
—Edmund Burke. Thoughts and Details on Scarcity
Whenever a colonizing force seeks to grab land and resources from an indigenous presence the soldier always follows the priest. The colonizing force is always more advanced, more civilized, more enlightened. They seek only to help the backwards natives: to civilize them; to make them productive citizens; to save them from themselves; to bring them freedom or democracy. The natives are always shiftless, lazy, ungodly. They must be made to appreciate the merits of the colonizer's ways, to sacrifice generations of false belief and bad habits to adopt the ways of the colonizer: hard work, the glory of individuality, independence, thrift, consumerism, loyalty, etc.
We are now quite a few generations into Wealth Bondage. We do not have the ontological tools to know how to exist as a holistic community. Forming community does not come easily nor naturally to us. Experiencing anything without filtering it through some quantifying perception — how much is this worth? how long will it take? how big is it? will this appear on the plus side of my life's experiences? — is alien to us. Living in a realm where our experience in not fragmented and segmented into tidy phenomenological applets is practically incomprehensible to us except as some kind of utopian noosphere available only to the very "primitives" our "higher way of being" and "civilization" seeks to eradicate.
Our "utopian" market economy has created an insoluble crisis that is bringing down our home, the Earth. What more can be said about a system where we are faced with a dire choice between either lifting people out of poverty, or turning the planet into another Venus:
[Jeremy] Lovelock said the United States, which has rejected the Kyoto Protocol on cutting carbon emissions, wrongly believed there was a technological solution, while booming economies China and India were out of control.
China is building a coal-fired power station a week to feed rampant demand, and India's economy is likewise surging.
If either suddenly decided to stop their carbon-fuelled development to lift their billions of people out of poverty they would face a revolution, yet if they continued, rising CO2 and temperatures would kill off plants and produce famine, he said.
"If climate change goes on course... I can't see China being able to produce enough food by the middle of the century to support its people. They will have to move somewhere and Siberia is empty and it will be warmer then," he said.
Creating Alternate Economies
Are there alternatives to the fiction that is the Market? Here is a sampling of a variety of economic strategies
- Household economies
- Gift economies
- Barter economies
- Gathering economies
- Cooperative economies
- Community Market economies
As McKenzie Wark reminds us in the epigraph to this article, there is no one strategy, no one right way. Perhaps the one thing that is required is the leap of faith that will permit us to adopt a variety of strategies, which in itself requires new ways of thinking and new ways of being. Adopting such strategies will alter our everyday lives, which, because change is scary, will be daunting. But isn't a new kind of everyday life the goal? The formation of Community is simultaneously the manifestation and the means by which people can control their own lives; and this occurs in proportion to which thriving, viable local economies are made possible — not in the sense of The Market, but in the communal production and exchange of goods.
This means seeking ways to create our own ventures with each other's assistance, whether locally or over great distances. We learn to seek each other's help through our ever-growing chains of trust, making use of our unique abilities and expertise. We must learn to train ourselves to seek each other out as our first option, rather than look elsewhere for what we need; we learn to seek what we need through our own community first. There's a reason all those xtian dove logos showed up in ads and yellow pages a generation ago — it was a sign that identified themselves to their community, and community members learned to seek out their own for what they needed.
We don't seek official accreditation, official credentialization (unless doing so provides needed cover). We accredit and credentialize each other. We start our own art galleries for our own artists, our own publishing ventures for our own authors; we develop our own business plans, production strategies, distribution networks; develop our own accounting strategies; become our own postal carriers.
...Around 1845 the U.S. government had carried out a great postal reform, cutting their rates, putting most independent mail routes out of business. By the '70's and '80's, any independent carrier that tried to compete with the government was immediately squashed. 1849-50 was no time for immigrating Tristero to get ideas about picking up where they'd left off back in Europe.
"So they simply stay on," Bortz said, "in the context of conspiracy. Other immigrants come to America looking for freedom from tyranny, acceptance by the culture, assimilation into it, this melting pot. Civil War comes along, most of them, being liberals, sign up to fight to preserve the Union. But clearly not the Tristero. All they've done is to change oppositions. By 1861 they're well established, not about to be suppressed. While the Pony Express is defying deserts, savages and sidewinders, Tristero's giving its employees crash courses in Siouan and Athapascan dialects. Disguised as Indians their messengers mosey westward. Reach the Coast every time, zero attrition rate, not a scratch on them. Their entire emphasis now toward silence, impersonation, opposition masquerading as allegiance."
—Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49
We create our own credentializing apparatuses. Juxtapoz
, for example, is an example of a group of artists forming their own collective to give credence to their own aesthetic vision, self-conscious countercultural "outsider" art that has succeeded in finding collectors outside the rarified confines of the traditional artistic establishment. Examples abound of groups that have succeeded in creating their own credentializing networks, many of them having entered the mainstream. And, like icebergs, it is to be expected that we only hear about the ones that have broken through to the mainstream; how many others must exist that haven't pierced the veil of the spectacle? Those are the ones that should fire our imaginations.
The only way that new community can form with its own vision of freedom, one that accords with human nature and its biological needs for community, is to form our own economic infrastructures. And to do that requires forming our own micro-economies within the belly of the beast, just as localized weather patterns can exist within greater ones. This means working with the flow as it exists, but using it for our own ends: we can build our own boat, and have our own party, while travelling along the same current, steering it such that we can avoid the falls coming up. This means we create alternate economies by supporting our own efforts, forging our own industries that give us passion and create our own community.
Pulling The Wool Over Our Own Eyes, re Property
There's Serfs, and then there's Serfs
If prepaying a mortgage is such a great financial investment, it follows that an even better strategy is to avoid the mortgage altogether. This is the real purpose of this book, but there are no one-paragraph shortcuts. You'll have to read the whole thing.
Historically, the burden of shelter costs has only grown worse. Once, human shelter was found
, in the form of caves. Later it was built of indigenous materials on land owned by no one. One's right to live in a shelter had nothing to do with money, which was nonexistent, and everything to do with cunning, strength, and a variety of negotiating strategies.
Let's jump ahead many thousands of years to the European Middle Ages, when civilization had aggregated family units into larger blocks, and defense became a tribal or clannish concern. In the Middle Ages, tenant farmers worked three months of the year for the lord of the estate. In return, they got land, house, and the advantages of the communal defense system. Three months.
And we call these people serfs. In grade school, we thought of serfdom as only slightly removed from slavery. Yet in my home state of New York, "Tax Freedom Day" is in late May. We work the first 140-odd days of the year just to pay local, state, and federal taxes...and we still haven't done anything about the shelter itself. With roughly a third of the average after-tax middle-class income going toward housing, we can conservatively add another 90 days to reach "Shelter Freedom Day" sometime in late August. So now we're committed to eight months labor to achieve what the peasants of the Middle Ages accomplished by their three-month contract with their lords. If those poor wretches were serfs
, what word can we find to describe ourselves?
—Rob Roy. Mortgage-Free! Radical Strategies for Home Ownership
Because our social reality is constructed around the fiction of private property we must accept that to move our communal desires to the next level we must work within this socially constructed reality to acquire our own property and use it for our own ends. This means, for example, pooling our resources and buying our own land together, thus forming our own intentional communities. It also means doing it without bringing banks and credit into the picture. (Remember, one of the keys to success in the creation of mutual-aid secret societies is the degree to which that society eschews the official apparatuses of the Enclosing society.)
In doing so, however, we must be careful that we do not adopt the ontological notions from which we are seeking to escape. What is Capital to the capitalists for us is just a means for the formation of new community — not a product, but a process. We must re-contextualize their tools for our own ends, using their language invested with our own meanings. Marxist economist John Holloway
puts it well in his book Change the World Without Taking Power
The problem remains, however: if the means of doing are controlled by capital, then any flight from capital comes up against the need to survive, the need to do in a world in which we do not control the means of doing. As long as the means of doing are in the hands of capital, then doing will be ruptured and turned against itself. The expropriators must indeed by expropriated.
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To think in terms of property is, however, still to pose the problem in fetishized terms. Property is a noun which is used to describe and conceal an active process of separating. The substance of capitalist rule is not an established relationship between a person and a thing (property), but rather an active process of separating us from the means of doing... To think of property as a noun, as a thing, is to accept the terms of domination... Our struggle, then, is not the struggle to make ours the property of the means of production, but to dissolve both property and means of production: to recover or, better, create the conscious and confident sociality of the flow of doing. Capital rules by fetishizing, by alienating the done from the doing and the doer and saying 'This done is a thing and it is mine.' Expropriating the expropriator cannot then be seen as a reseizure of a thing, but rather as the dissolution of the thing-ness of the done, its (re)integration into the social flow of doing.
Capital is the movement of separating, of fetishizing, the movement of denying movement. Revolution is the movement against separating, against fetishizing, against the denial of movement. Capital is the denial of the social flow of doing...
is the goal, never the product. The trip, not the destination.
And the process that is required more than any other as we seek to re-create our everyday life is to form new community. And this is done by cementing bonds of trust that will form our own economies. Here's John Holloway once again:
It is clear...that the Internet is permitting the creation of new patterns in the formation of collective struggle. What is important is the knitting or reknitting or patchworking of the sociality of doing and the creation of social forms of articulating that doing on a basis other than value.
Once again we are back to the insistence of Interdimensional Travel, of moving from the virtual to the actual, of doing
However, those of us in the "reality-based" world have an in-built disadvantage when it comes to building community. One of the reasons we have such difficulty forming community is that we tend to abhor the traditional structures and connotations of community. But churches and rotary clubs have much to teach us. Churches function to unite its members into a community by sharing common cause through a common belief system. People often join churches more for the sense of community than because they share its belief structures; in fact, such community members come to adopt the belief structures of their community the better to fit into it.
We need to create our own "churches", our own societies, our own mutual-aid collectives. We need to create our own viral words for such things, to adopt the connotation of church as community while eschewing its ideological baggage.
The web is a great tool for us to find our bio-regional confreres to get to know each other. And we will need to get to know each other, on a regular basis. Community is not built by occassionally meeting at a bar or coffee house every few months. It means finding a way to get together regularly, to become, as Hakim Bey says, "groups of friends trying not just to overcome isolation but also to enhance each other's lives". In adopting new ways of thinking and seeing we need to adopt new ways of doing and relating. We must see that this stranger, this "other", shares our desires, and becomes a brother through trust and intimacy.
And by getting to know each other intimately we can then feel comfortable asking each other to help us raise each other's barn, rather than hiring a contractor to do it. We need to learn to develop trust so that we can send out an appeal to our collective, our mutual-aid society, our Tong, and expect to receive rapid responses of assistance. We need to learn to share, to pool our resources, to come to each other's aid → thereby learning to trust each other → thereby achieving intimacy and friendship → thereby developing our own economies → which will lead to new everday living.
We need to meet. We need to see what each other looks like eye-to-eye; we need to literally feel
what each other's hand feels like when we shake it.
This is the second step in our journey of a thousand miles. We have already taken the first in getting to know each other in our blogging networks. But how to take that next step?
Nets vs Webs
is something used to catch something; a web
is something to travel across when a disturbance is felt. We do not want "networking", we want "webbuilding".
We need to record the nodes and linkages that comprise our web.
The Prisoner's Dilemma
is a game-theory abstraction of cooperation models that has effectively proven that actors who have strategies of "cooperation based on reciprocity" have better chances of winning than actors who seek their own self-aggrandizement.
The only way to win the prisoner's dilemma is to trust each other, and wirearchies such as ebay provide excellent strategies to encourage cooperation among participants. There's a lesson there for us, one that we must embrace if we wish to move to the next level.
But it's hard to take that first trusting step. We've been raised to believe so much in scarcity, so much in "Me first!", so much in mutual exploitation, that it will take an enormous leap of faith for us to actually reach out and trust one another. But as ebay, and other net-based systems of trust have shown, it is possible. We can adapt such strategies for ourselves to allow us to cross our island bridges to help each other in a spirit of mutual support, respect, and encouragement.
We must translate our trust for each other from the virtual to the real...just as ebayers do. But instead of sending online payments and postal packets to each other we walk or bike or drive somewhere to meet each other (if we can). And not just to meet, but to aide each other in practical ways that form the bonds of new community.
Credentialization and Vouching
Just consider for a moment the awesome success of ebay, and not only in terms of money. ebay gets total strangers to send each other money!
— sometimes very great amounts. And it's all peer-to-peer. Remarkable. How? It uses a credentializing process that is taken on trust by its members to be valid. It's a remarkable instance of virtual actors trusting each other — sight unseen — to create a system of realworld exchange. But what's even more impressive are the strategies of peer review — reciprocal ratings
— it uses to evaluate and enforce trust. ebay is the quintessential example of how the virtual can translate into the real via peer-to-peer credentialization of trust and credibility
Can one imagine such a system being used to form new and intentional community — one, say, specifically committed to social justice? A centralized meeting place, an electronic commons, in which to barter ideas, exchange aide, provide comfort, bring about concrete change?
But when seeking to create new community that desires more than the exchange of goods the community must find ways to admit new members that will help the community grow, rather than divide and drain it. Nothing is more threatening to community than admitting members who plant the seeds of divisiveness that take root and form internecine conflicts that divide and conquer the community. That's why communities, from churches to business organizations to country clubs, have intake processes. Simply, for communities to succeed — especially peer-to-peer "secret" communities — they must be careful who is invited to join. Here's Hakim Bey to remind us why:
...the modern Tong cannot be elitist — but there's no reason it can't be choosy. Many non-authoritarian organizations have foundered on the dubious principle of open membership, which frequently leads to a preponderance of assholes, yahoos, spoilers, whining neurotics, & police agents. If a Tong is organized around a special interest (especially an illegal or risky or marginal interest) it certainly has the right to compose itself according to the "affinity group" principle...
We don't want everyone to join us. It is by invitation only, as when someone seeks to join a closed community, like a co-housing community. There needs to be a mutual acceptance between the applicant and the community they wish to join — otherwise it will be destined for failure.
This is where the principle of vouching
becomes important. As was illustrated with Fight Club
, the community grows via a process of self-selection where only those who are personally invited by its current members can join. The mafia, to cite a famous secret community, has very strict rules of admission using such vouching rules. linkedin
is a quintessential example of an online social network service
that extends ones' professional contacts via chains of personally known referrals.
The question for us is how a mutual aid network can use the rhizomatic nature of the web to form new community, translating our virtual community into real community using strategies that guarantee trust and reciprocity through vouching
. Essentially, we seek to create our own social network service, one specifically designed to create mutual-aid Tongs that would help cement the bonds of new community, foster trust and a spirit of reciprocity, and produce practical results in the real world.
(For the sake of developing clear understanding I will create a neologism to differentiate the "real" world from the virtual one. I think this is necessary since the virtual world for us bloggers is really a "real" world. Hence I will refer to our biological space — our meat-space
— as a bio-regional locality
. ("BRL", in some instances.))
What is needed is a combination of these two things. Bloggers, for instance, who actually meet face to face and trust each other can credentialize
and vouch for
each other, forming their own chain-of-trust. They may be bioregionally local to each other, or they may not. But the key is that bloggers who connect in the bioregional dimension can vouch for each other.
Towards this end we would benefit from our own social network service. And not just another front-end for emails, forums and blogging, but a service that allows us to vouch for each other in concrete ways. We need to create a wirearchy economy of friendship and mutual aid. As ebay uses commenting systems to build up trust that translates from the virtual realm to the bio-regional realm, so we can build up trust between each other with a comparable system. As people connect in the BRL they can submit their assessments of one another, and build up trust this way. This can be used to root out narcs and agent provocatuers among us. But more importantly, it can tell us who we can trust, and who really belongs to the community.
To assist us in developing our BRL-web we could develop our own wirearchy site. It could function as a central meeting place where we can get together in the virtual world to make connections in the real one. The front end would require a simple login of both the name of the Tong, and the name of the user. All data would be encrypted (for obvious reasons). This guarantees protection of the Tong. And, due to the rhizomatic (aka: decentralized) nature of the web, mirror sites would exist to both serve as parity guarantors of the data as well as prevent shutdown of the Tong with the loss of any one server.
A system of this kind could be called a rhizome. A rhizome as subterranean stem is absolutely different from roots and radicles. Bulbs and tubers are rhizomes. Plants with roots or radicles may be rhizomorphic in other respects altogether: the question is whether plant life in its specificity is not entirely rhizomatic. Even some animals are, in their pack form. Rats are rhizomes. Burrows are too, in all of their functions of shelter, supply, movement, evasion, and breakout.
⋅ ⋅ ⋅
A rhizome may be broken, shattered at a given spot, but it will start up again on one of its old lines, or on new lines. You can never get rid of ants because they form an animal rhizome that can rebound time and again after most of it has been destroyed.
⋅ ⋅ ⋅
It is not a question of this or that place on earth, or of a given moment in history, still less of this or that category of thought. It is a question of a model that is perpetually in construction or collapsing, and of a process that is perpetually prolonging itself, breaking off and starting up again.
⋅ ⋅ ⋅
Unlike a structure, which is defined by a set of points and positions, with binary relations, the rhizome is made only of lines... In contrast to centered (even polycentric) systems with hierarchical modes of communication and preestablished paths, the rhizome is an acentered, nonhierachical, nonsignifying system without a General and without an organizing memory or central automaton, defined solely by a circulation of states.
⋅ ⋅ ⋅
A rhizome has no beginnning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo
. The tree is filiation, but the rhizome is alliance, uniquely alliance. The tree imposes the verb "to be," but the fabric of the rhizome is the conjunction, "and...and...and..." This conjunction carries enough force to shake and uproot the verb "to be."
. A Thousand Plateaus
We can list who we are (pseudonymously, of course), what we can offer each other (eg: our "professional" credentials), where we live (general locale), email contact/web site/etc, and who are our nodal connections in the web. This way we can build our web that will allow us to contact each other through degrees-of-known-separation.
One way is by actually mapping out our locations, to have a representation of where we are, then find ways to get together with those nearby. We can transfer the virtual to the real as one dot connects to another, forming a BRL-web from a virtual one. If the web, as it currently exists, can create the means by which the entire world can protest an imperial war before it occurs
then it can certainly be used to connect Bill with James a few towns over, and then James with Mary over the state line, then Mary with Francis, and so on.
When someone in a Tong requires aid she can use the Tong network to call out for help through the social networking tool, trusting she can find someone who can provide her assistance through her network of mutually credentialized trust, whether the need is local (eg: needs help moving) or not (eg: legal advice).
For the sake of simplicity, let us say that the people in this chart are bloggers inhabiting a blogorhood. (They may not, in fact, be
bloggers per se
, they may have some other kind of web presence, or association or connection to this blogorhood. But for our illustration they are bloggers who share a bond through their mutual attentions and consideration, those who understand one another, bear witness to one another, and who may seek to form deeper, more meaningful bonds.)
In one such blogorhood we have members
. Like any set of people some may be friendlier with others, tension may exist between some, etc. But let us assume that in this blogorhood some are acquainted with one another at some level, and some may not be.
The lines that connect any two bloggers depict those who have actually met face-to-face: they have felt each others' hands in a handshake, looked into each others' eyes, heard each others' voices.
have met in real life. We can designate their meeting as
. Thus figure one indicates that:
A has met
B has met
B has met
D has met
Only those who have met face-to-face can vouch for each other. We shall refer to that as a handshake
. It's a commonplace that bloggers can assume all sorts of masks and identities that may not bear any resemblance to their real person. Masks can serve a dual purpose: they can permit one to paradoxically reveal their true self; or they can serve to create a persona the true self chooses to hide behind. Thus it's only through a meeting, a handshake
, that one can discover if the online persona conforms to the real-life person one expects to meet. If in meeting they find an accord they can then vouch for each other. A connection is made, another link is added to the chain-of-trust. This vouching is then recorded, using their blogger identities. Doing so indicates a traversal has been made between them from the virtual to the BRL: they have travelled interdimensionally, they are linked.
Now let us say that
finds himself in need of assistance of some sort. He may need to obtain legal advice. He may need help moving. Maybe he's a musician or artist who needs a break. (Remember, the goal, as Hakim Bey reminds us, is not to "not just to overcome isolation but also to enhance each other's lives." It's not just getting together for pints at the pub. We are seeking to form a mutual aid Tong.)
posts a call through the front-end webtool used by the Tong for assistance: instead of putting something up for sale on ebay, he puts up a call for assistance.
Now this call for assistance can be specified in a variety of ways: seeking expert help with something; seeking help that can be performed virtually; or seeking help that requires a local presence. Members of the Tong will make their various forms of expertise available to other members, so that when a call for assistance is made, if the help requires specific kinds of expertise then filters are in place to highlight those with the specificied knowledge or ability.
A virtual request is something in which aid can be made without having to handshake: a request for legal advice, finding an agent, a request for donations, help with a business plan... (maybe developing an online tool of some sort). Those who are able to offer assistance should be expected to respond to the call, whether or not they will finally be able to provide the assistance requested. This kind of assistance is something that can be completed without any in-person meeting.
A local call, on the other hand, is one in which a member requires help in the BRL from someone he can literally shake hands with. Moving residences, for instance, or building a strawbale house or yurt, making a movie, finding a venue for a performance or exhibition, etc.
For an example let us focus on a call for local assistance.
seeks bio-regional assistance from Tong-members within a 20 mile radius. After the post is made
learns of other Tong members in his locale:
are vouched through direct links-of-trust to
at one remove,
, as members of the Tong, committed to the Tong's rules of mutual aid and reciprocity, answer
's call — an email is sent to them, cced to
, that a member requires help.
Tong members should be expected to answer the call. That does not necessarily mean they are committed to assist: it depends on the nature of the request, the timing, etc. But as members of the Tong it is incumbent upon them to come to the aid of one of their members — if they can
. If they cannot, as a basic act of courtesy, and in the spirit of reciprocity, they owe the Tong member a response to indicate that they have received the call but cannot come to his aid, and would, hopefully, provide a reason why not. ("I don't have legal training"; "I'll be out of town"; etc.)
receives the assistance he requires he can then credentialize
those who assisted him. If
came to his aid then
can leave a positive review about
, as well, can leave feedback about
.) It is this ingenious strategy that makes ebay succeed so amazingly well. Think about it: complete strangers are willing to send sometimes great amounts of money to complete strangers merely because they trust the feedback other complete strangers have left about the trustworthiness of a seller or buyer — everyone masked behind their own pseudonyms yet! And if such a strategy can work for money, couldn't it work for something more meaningful?
These peer-to-peer reciprocal ratings are how our community can build our web in the BRL. Rather than leave a message that a commodity exchange occurred successfully, a la
ebay, we leave a message that a BRL handshake
occurred. As chains-of-trust grow the Tong's web expands and strengthens because we come to trust unknown actors through those chains-of-trust via actors we know. If the credibility rating of someone we know is false or inaccurate that reflects poorly on the one leaving it and can be counteracted with supporting ratings from other known actors, which could lead to the decision to eliminate false members, remove a node, and thus strengthen the web, guaranteeing to its members the trustworthiness of their own members.
did not come to
's assistance, or even make an effort to contact
, then, is expected to post feedback about
will either accept the reason for
's lack of assistance (or response), or claim that
renegged on his communal duty.
, of course, can respond to that. (Perhaps, for instance,
's request for assistance was unreasonable.) The public nature of such reviews will quickly reveal to the community the tensions that exist between its members, and the more members of a Tong who have handshaked
the more they will be able to ascertain for themselves which members have more credence, and, thus, which members are serious about being a member of the Tong. (A Tong exists, remember, as a mutual-aid society. If one does not respond to the call for aid, then one, by definition, does not belong in the Tong.)
It should be noted that there doesn't need to be any enforcement to "keep people in line." It's not the mafia, where violations of the code are severely punished. Rather it will rely on a spirit of play, reciprocity, honor, and reputation. It is a not a place of vengeance — nor, as well, a place where one seeks to "come out ahead." There are no demerits, nor are there brownie points. No score is kept, there is no two-column entry made. The goal is not to build up some sort of credit system, where someone accrues "help" points and can redeem them later for a bicycle. It is a mutual aid society where the goal is giving, community, and trust in and of itself to help and embolden the creation of new community. Thus there are no enforcement strategies to compel adherence to the rules other than the expectation of gifting, reciprocity and the protection of reputation. And since these are matters left to the conscience and self-definition of a member there is no cause for rebuke or ostracization. Members who do not engage in the spirit of mutual aid that is the purpose of the Tong will simply fall into attrition due either to their own neglect or communal eschewal.
As such Tongs can grow, their shape can change, they may wither, they may bifurcate — it is as fluid as its members wish it to be. Those who do not act within the spirit of the Tong will either self-select themselves out, or will simply no longer be asked to contribute (nor should they expect anyone to come to their aid either).
Also in the diagram are
are bloggers in
's blogorhood who happen to live local to
do not have any chains-of-trust to
are not beholden to contact
; but still an email is sent to all three to apprise them of their BRL proximity.
can choose to contact them or not, and there is no penalty if
do not wish to assist
. However, should
wishes to assist, then
can both vouch for and credentialize
. Thus a new link
is added to the chain of trust, the Tong is extended, the community grows and becomes more self-sufficient.
And so can
when he needs to make a call for aide, who knows
, who lives within
Virtual Aid → Mutual Aid → Actual Community
At some point it will be necessary to extend and grow networks at a local bioregional level. Members, say, can create actual communities, find each other and contribute to the purchasing of land and build their own literal communities with the aide of others in the Tong.
Once local branches of a Tong grow large enough they may opt to actually form their own intentional communities
— whether co-housing, ecovillage, etc. For indeed that is what will need to occur at some point to help the Tong move away from the failed apparatuses of their society. This is when the true benefits of community will really be felt. They can even choose to create their own cottage industry to pay for whatever needs they cannot provide for themselves (eg: taxes, foodstuffs). From IT to microbrewing to organic clothing, there are countless ways such communities can find ways to survive. Plus they can choose to be on or off the grid as much as they wish. And when such a community forms they will discover news ways of living: how work can be an organic, integral part of life, something the community does together with a sense of joy and purpose, instead of a ritual drudge performed with strangers with whom we spend more time than our own families; to live intergenerationally as everyone takes part in the raising of their children together; etc. When enough of these are formed then the Tong can develop its own economy, relying less and less on accredited institutions to survive as they form their own versions of communal accreditation.
How Do They Build Their Strawbale Houses Without a Mortgage?
So our clients with their widely diverse economic situations are scattered all over Southern California. Do y'all know that we have coastal areas with beaches, inland valleys, hills, desert and mountains (That get really cold and snowy - Just ask "love my organs", Chris)? These areas with small communities, towns, cities, and desert "wasteland" have different economies and widely diverse land values. In the Salton Sea area, in the Anza-Borrego Desert, there are areas with all of the utilities where lots can sometimes be purchased for less than $5,000 US. There are areas, especially in the deserts and mountains, where there are lots of unpermitted buildings. There are a lot of folks that start out with trailer homes, slowly develop their infrastructure (power, water, septic, etc) and save their $s and then begin their more permanent SB home design and construction.
Where do they get their income? From all sorts of innovative products and services mostly. I don't think I care to get into Econ 102, but entrepreneurs and Straw Balers tend to go hand-in-hand.
Among many other things, Marcus wrote: "Avoid plugging into the conventional mind set trying to compete in the market with the developers and the rest of the system in building starter castles for the sake of "resale value". That's their game - it needn't be everyone's."
—From a defunct listserve
about building Strawbale homes
This is do-able. More and more communities are doing it.
And you don't need to escape into the wilderness to achieve this: those who own their own homes free and clear do not have to hightail it to the woods, but can form their own local economies with others in their Tong. But for those who do not have such good fortune, land can generally be found near enough to urban areas so that one can still have access to them. I have found property within two hours of my major metropolitan area that wouldn't necessitate a "death pledge" (ie: from the French word mortgage
) to pay off — eg: $20K for 80 acres. Several families wishing to form a community together can find ways to come up with that kind of money. Then they can build their own shelters without bringing the bank into the picture: Yurts
, for instance, a form of housing used for thousands of years by millions of people throughout the world, can be put up for only a few thousand dollars.
After all, the goal is not to separate, but to permeate, to "spread the seeds of an alternate practice of everyday life." Separation attracts the gaze; permeation imbues it, blends in.
The modern evangelical xtian movement has succeeded in forming their own communities using these strategies. They have succeeded in forming their own economies, schools, publishing ventures, even media outlets. And they even had a simple way to identify one another: a little dove. That little dove would show up in all sorts of places: a tiny graphic in a yellow pages ad, on the back of cars, etc. When someone who belonged to that group saw one, they were automatically disposed to seek out one from their own group to give them their business.
Creating Our Own Mirrors by Rewriting Our Own Scripts
Happiness is not the depot, but the ride to it. Once we attain our desire it's like water in a colander. The frisson of excitement as we dream of what we desire is what makes us feel alive. During times of crisis neighbors come to each other's aid, strangers form instant bonds of communal support. After some natural cataclysm there are no divisions that separate us. That is our natural inclination. Corporate capitalism has perverted this natural inclination by atomizing us, making us compete with one another in the realm of scarcity.
Our only rule for organization should be whatever works. Once rules and regulations come into play then it is no longer play, it is submission. Rules and regulations must be ever fluid and adaptable. That's not to say we shouldn't have guidelines, rules of thumb, and common-sense; that's not to say that we cannot be afraid of turning away those who don't belong (for surely there is no quicker way to destroy a community than admit those who should not be there). But we must not allow guidelines to becomes rules, for then it moves from the de-centralized to the centralized, from the adaptable to the rigid, from play to work, from the horizontal to the hierarchical. How does this translate practically? Creating an organization, an alliance, automatically creates a structure. We need to create anti-organizations, anti-alliances, ones that ebb and flow and spread fluidly and easily, but with shared assumptions so that we are all part of the same web. For that is how we will form our web.
We form anti-organization organizations, open cells not of resistance but of acceptance in continual states of becoming, for the goal is not the destination but the means of travel. The process is
the result; the goal is the means by which the goal is reached, not the goal itself. Because, in point of fact, the goal is unattainable; the means to get there is not. (And, further, should the goal be achieved then it would vanish in the moment of its attainment.) It is a story that unfolds and is continually written without end, a story that we all compose together without beginning and end, a story comprised of countless plots that weave in and out of each other.
We form our own versions of churches. We create leagues and congregations that communicate with each other. But it's a flat hierarchy — a wirearchy — in which organization happens by itself. We don't elect secretaries and positions. We adopt Marx's notion of "from each according to his ability; to each according to his need." If someone is good at something, then they do it. If someone needs help with something, then they get help. If someone wishes to take the reins to make a BRL community stronger, then they do that. We don't have officers, we don't have representatives. We don't have elections. There are no leaders, there are no followers. No one speaks for us, and yet we all speak for each other.
We must imagine new forms of organization. The rhizomatic nature of the web — both virtual and BRL — lends itself ideally to fluid organization in continual states of flux. This requires a new mindset, for how can organization exist that doesn't have a hierarchical structure? And yet that is what we need to wrap our minds around.
And it begins by learning how to move between the virtual and BRL dimensions, by moving from finger taps on a keyboard in solitude to shaking hands on the street. The communal web is constantly being built as one node connects to another. The web is strengthened by continually reinforcing and expanding chains-of-trust that are recorded for the benefit of all, creating self-fulfilling mirrors that reflect back to us that the community matters, that it is alive and growing.
We need to form our own communities, our own economies. We need to credentialize and accredit each other, the more easily to slip into and out of the fissures of the mainstream — this means publishing our own stories and viewpoints, creating gallery spaces for our own art, forming markets and distribution channels for our own wares...
When someone is in need we help them. When an appeal is sent for aid, like a spider reacting to a disturbance in the web, we see what can be done to help, because that's what a community does.
We don't crow about it; we don't publicize it; we don't get articles published about it — because once it's visible it's appropriated.
Gangs, tongs, separatists & survivalists, the sanctuary movement, organized sex workers, ecovillages, the amish, the mafia, NYC tunnel dwellers, squatting anarchists in SF, Salton Sea RVs, etc., have all succeeded in varying degrees in forming such societies. Even the radical right born-again xtian movement has succeeding in creating their own underground community, complete with schools, economies, and their own social safety-nets.
And so can we.
We do not have to live our lives as servants to Mammon. It begins, as almost every social philosopher and radical historian I've read suggests, by first seeing that we do
have a choice. The next step, as they all seem to suggest, is to meet one another in the Land of the Living and find ways we can help each other.
But we must internalize the fact that we can't be connected if we don't allow ourselves to be connected. We can talk and write as much as we please about how we ought to get together and form communities and change our practices of everyday life. But until we actually take a leap and make some kind of real-life commitment to each other it's all just in our heads.
We must think of campfires and dinner parties, of barn-raisings and orgies, of theatre and dancing. We must think of shaking hands, of get-togethers, of forming our own mutual aid-societies, cottage industries, retreats, galleries, services...
And we will find that in creating our own new lives together — quietly, simply, with lots of trust and no fanfare — we will have changed the world.
The truth is, we don't need to keep this secret because we are doing nothing wrong, nothing illegal. We keep this secret because we don't want to be appropriated. The simple truth about hiding in plain sight is that If you have nothing to hide your camouflage is complete.
Is this the way it's going to be? Is this the way it has to be?
Fuck no. Like McKenzie Wark says, "There can be no one book, no master thinker for these times. What is called for is a practice of combining heterogeneous modes of perception, thought and feeling..." Over two years ago Tutor gave me an assignment, and I'm just doing my best to come up with a roadmap. Is this the way? I don't know. But at least it's something. At some point we have to stop being merely disembodied voices and bring it to the real world. This is my idea for one way to get there. I make no claims that this is the
way, or even a right way. I consider this part of a dialogue amongst us that helps flesh out ways that ultimately move us from the virtual to the real. But more than dialogue what is needed is action, and I offer it merely as a way to get us started.
Perhaps the greatest advice comes from Luther Blissett:
Do not advance the action according to a plan.
We can't wait for a saviour. No one is going to help us. There will be no "revolution" — other than the quiet one that takes place within our own consciousness that permits us to relate to each other in new ways that embrace a strategy of communal aid and disappearance.
Change must come from each one of us, working together. There are no leaders, no followers — just people who believe in themselves and their shared communal goals to improve their lives together.
The Will to Power as Disappearance must embrace ontological guerilla tactics. To me the most profound thing Jesus ever said was "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to god what belongs to god." We must hide in plain sight, and doing that means that we appear to play the game while living our lives our way. And since appearance and visible signs of deference and conformity matter far more than substance we only need to appear to play by their rules. And so let's put up false fronts, let us paint cultural trompe l'oeils that convince those who watch that we are playing their game as we recede into the background to live a true life.
The sad truth is, no matter how safe, happy, and utopian a community is, the might-makes-right crowd will swoop in and steal your resources whenever they feel like it, justifying it with the supremacy-excuse-du-zeitgeist: eg: civilizing the barbarian hordes; exporting freedom & democracy; etc. — just ask the Aztecs, the Beothuks, the Iraqis... But until that horrible day the natives can live in relative peace and harmony amongst themselves. And this is even easier to accomplish behind the advancing front-line of the "civilizing" force — just make sure that when you set up your tents they look like those of the occupying force.
They live with fear and suspicion; we will have laughter and trust. Those who are miserable in their dark houses hate the sounds of easy play coming from outside. And so our party will not disturb the neighbors by its vociferousness, for we do not want the police called in. For if those in their dark houses knew of our party they would mutter: How dare they! How dare anybody have fun, be free, enjoy themselves on their own terms!
And eventually they would find a way to outlaw our playground.
Change does not come fast. Progressives, radicals, and anarchists have bought consumer capitalism's false dream of instant gratification, but for understandable reasons: we want social justice, we want a new mode of everyday living, and we want it now!
But change can happen. Change does happen. Change always happens. And it can begin with something as simple as a hand shake.
...and then another handshake...
...and then another handshake...
I would like to express my gratitude to The Happy Tutor for sending me on this excursion: It has been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling journeys of my life. If nothing shall come of it other than my own intellectual maturation I can still delight in the trip which has sent me to new and exciting territories that I intend to continue exploring until the vehicle runs out of go-juice.
Some Last Thoughts from Murrary Bookchin on Getting From Here to There
The liberation of the self involves, above all, a social process. In a society that has shriveled the self into a commodity — into an object manufactured for exchange — there can be no fulfilled self. There can only be the beginnings of selfhood, the emergence
of a self that seeks fulfillment — a self that is largely defined by the obstacles it must overcome to achieve realization. In a society whose belly is distended to the bursting point with revolution, whose chronic state is an unending series of labor pains, whose real condition is a mounting emergency, only one thought and act is relevant — giving birth. Any environment, private or social, that does not make this fact the center of human experience is a sham and diminishes whatever self remains to us after we have absorbed our daily poison of everyday life in bourgeois society.
It is plain that the goal of revolution today must be the liberation of daily life.
If for this reason alone, the revolutionary movement is profoundly concerned with lifestyle. It must try to live
the revolution in all its totality, not only participate in it. In must be deeply concerned with the way the revolutionist lives, his relations with the surrounding environment, and his degree of self-emancipation. In seeking to change society, the revolutionist cannot avoid changes in himself that demand the reconquest of his own being. Like the movement in which he participates, the revolutionist must try to reflect the conditions of the society he is trying to achieve — at least to the degree that this is possible today.
A libertarian society can be achieved only by a libertarian revolution. Freedom cannot be "delivered" to the individual as an "end-product" of a "revolution"; the assembly and community cannot be legislated or decreed into existence. A revolutionary group can seek, purposively and consciously, to promote the creation of these forms, but if assembly and community are not allowed to emerge organically, if their growth is not matured by the process of demassification, by self-activity and by self realization, they will remain nothing but forms, like the soviets in post revolutionary Russia. Assembly and community must arise within the revolutionary process; indeed, the revolutionary process must be
the formation of assembly and community, and also the destruction of power, property, hierarchy and exploitation.
There can be no separation of the revolutionary process from the revolutionary goal. A society based on self-administration must be achieved by means of self-administration.
This implies the forging of a self (yes, literally a forging in the revolutionary proces) and a mode of administration which the self can possess. If we define "power" as the power of man over man, power can only be destroyed by the very process in which man acquires power over his own life and in which he not only "discovers" himself but, more meaningfully, formulates his selfhood in all its social dimensions.