Tag: society

A Vision for a Better Society

Hail, internet travelers! It’s been awhile since I last posted anything here. I suppose I was waiting for the time and inclination to write something. I got some inspiration at work earlier, so I guess I’ll dive right in: today I found myself pondering ways in which people might develop a self-sufficient, decentralized society. Here is the question: what if every community was completely self-sustaining, produced its own food, generated its own power, made its own electronics and machinery, had its own self-contained government? What might that look like? What would be required to bring it about? Why would it be beneficial? What I would like to share today is a specific vision I have had for how such a society might be organized. I might talk a little about how it could be brought about, but I will probably say little as to why it would be beneficial, because that should probably be an entire post on its own. Before I go any further, I’d like to offer a disclaimer: I’m not an expert on economics, social studies, or any other subject that would make me particularly qualified to theorize about this. So, please do take everything I say with a grain of salt, and remember that this is merely a vision, and is not intended to be a detailed plan.

 

My musings today began thus: I wish that I could find a Christian church that put a heavy emphasis on living in, respecting, and taking care of nature. If possible, even a church that met outdoors, in a grove or some other pleasant natural setting, that emphasized communing with God through getting closer to nature. I went on further to think, what if such a church started to grow its own food? What if attempted to provide as much sustenance as possible for its members? What if it had its own little community which was dedicated to serving God and forging a self-sustaining, close-to-nature lifestyle? A little like a monastery, I suppose, but of course that’s also edging into cult territory. I then made the leap from a church, to an entire community of mixed faiths and belief systems that wouldn’t be able to be called a church. And that was where my line of thinking really took off.

 

In this vision, everything would be based around a small, self-contained unit: the village. Rather like our Medieval ancestors (and the peoples of some Third World countries today), we would live in small villages, surviving with subsistence agriculture. Each family would have their own field or garden and probably a few of their own animals, and would produce enough food to feed themselves, plus perhaps to have a little surplus to sell or share to their less fortunate neighbors. Every village would have its own power generation facilities, which would consist of windmills, waterpowered generators, solar panels, or other fairly natural, non-polluting facilities. No single village would generate enough electricity to power another village. Each village would have its own water supply, be that a river or stream, an aqueduct or canal, or a system of wells or springs. The village would have its own machine shop and small scale manufacturing facilities; its people would create everything they needed with their own hands, trading for raw materials with other villages. Each village would also have its own Chief or Lord, who would be responsible for passing judgments and administering the village, as well as leading the Town Guard in the event of a battle. His or her position would be hereditary, passed down to whichever of his own children the chief deemed most worthy to rule. The reason for going back to a hereditary system is two-fold. It prevents large-scale conflicts like we see today between the major political parties, by putting the leadership into the hands of someone who as already been chosen by dint of being a child of the previous leader. The other reason is that it allows for careful, hands-on, life-long mentoring and teaching for the position of chief, by the previous chief to his heir. One of the chief’s primary responsibilities would be to prepare his heir to take over his position upon his death. However, these village chiefs would not be all powerful. Each village would hold a council monthly or as needed, in which every adult in the village, male or female, land-owning and productive or not, would gather to vote on policies and courses of action. The chief would officiate, but he would have to abide by whatever decision his people made. For example, he could never attack a neighboring village unless his people voted to attack. The reason for this is quite simply that he would not be able to force anyone to join the fight; the chief would have a few people who would aid him in policing the village, but there would not be enough of them to take control, and at any rate they would not rely on the chief for their income (as modern soldiers and policemen do), and so would not have any incentive to support him in a violent takeover of the village. In this way, each village would be truly democratic; truly self-sufficient; truly autonomous.

 

As I thought further, I realized that, of course, cities would not cease to exist. It would hardly be feasible for every urbanite to move to a country or even a suburban village. So, every city must then become a conglomerate of villages, or, in the case of a city, Towers. Every apartment complex or tower  or group of condominiums would be its own village. They would each generate their own power and provide, as much as possible, their own food and water. I believe that it is theoretically possible, through hydroponics and rooftop or balcony based gardens, for an apartment building to provide enough food for its residents. There might be animal stalls in the lower floors, where each apartment would have a place to keep a few chickens or a goat or cow. Every apartment would have its own chief and its own guard, as well as its own machine shops and manufacturing facilities. The towers would likely not be able to produce as much food as the villages, but they would make up for it by having plenty of nearby towers to trade and share resources with. On the other hand, they might be able to produce more machinery or finely crafted tools than the average village.

 

Several villages and towers would combine to form a city-state, which would be headed up by a hereditary earl, who would also be chief of his own tower or village (perhaps the largest or richest tower or village in the city-state). He would be, in effect, a chief of chiefs. Every tower or village would have its council, and the decision made there would then be conveyed by its chief when he or she traveled to the City Council to vote on matters of importance to the entire city-state. He would be required to cast his vote as his village decided he should, and in that manner, voting could be partitioned and decentralized so that it might be a less time-consuming and laborious process. The earls of the city-states could then convene a Moot or Althing in times of crisis. They might elect a King to temporarily direct all the city-states, whose power would be severely limited by the fact that each earl has complete control over whether his own army helps the king or not! And of course, each chief within the earls’ armies would be able to make his own decisions about whether he really should lead his village guard into war.

 

This society would therefore have no strong centralized government at all. It would have no (or very few and very weak) corporations. It would have no official currency and no Federal Reserve, as each earl would issue his own money to his own city-state, and even that would typically be put aside in favor of barter. Banks would fall drastically in power and importance, as most people would have all their valuables in their homes, where they can use them. There would be no attempts to force people to share resources, as everyone would produce his own resources for himself and share where he saw fit. The city-states, being independent, would be quite free to fight amongst themselves or abroad as they saw fit. They could make their own laws and control their own destinies.

 

Of course, the powers that be would never allow something like this to happen. The Federal Government needs to die; its members seem to be in general power-hungry, corrupt, and inept; but it is that very corruption and hunger for power which will cause it to hold on to the bitter end. The mega-corporations, banks, and other large centralized powers would likely also fight tooth and nail against the emergence of such a society. It therefore seems unlikely to me that anything like this vision would occur, on a large scale at least, unless and until the current power structure collapses, as I believe it will sooner or later. It always does, and when one society falls, the way is paved for another to repair its legacy and build a beautiful new world–or create something worse and more pestilential than the original ever could have been. It is my hope that, when the collapse finally does happen, my vision may become, in some small part, a reality.

 

~ Jared

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Creative Itching, A Life Update, and the Evil of Corporations

Hello, gentlefolk of the internet! Today I am experiencing a creative itch. It’s been there for about a week and it is very persistent, teasing me with vague glimpses of some deep, dark, wondrous place. But every time I try to capture it, it flits away. This happens to me on a pretty regular basis, and I’m sure any other creatives know what I’m talking about. It’s really quite annoying. I can’t even tell myself “wait and see,” because it isn’t uncommon for these fleeting visions to disappear and never return, with no explanation, when the creative itch finally dies away. Frustrating. I really want to create–to write something or to draw something–but I don’t know what to create. So, I told myself, at least I’ll write a blog post.

 

I guess I’ll share a short life update for anyone who cares. Quite recently–almost two weeks ago–I lost my job, and then got a new and much better one a few days later. I had been searching for a new job for a long time, because my old one had ceased to be a viable way to support myself and I hated it in any case. But I’d been hoping that I could leave my old job on my own terms, once I’d found something better, instead of being fired from it before I had a backup in place. But things worked out all right.

 

I’ve really felt a weight lifted from me since I got this new job. You see, aside from the obvious financial strain I was under, I was also working in retail–a corporate-owned office supply store which I’m sure you’ve heard of. For many reasons I was unsuited to this job, in no small part because I am a quiet person who does not dispense friendship readily or immediately and is easily stressed by forced dealings with strangers. But more than that–I hated the lack of respect and courtesy I received as an employee of this place. It was nothing blatantly wrong or truly terrible. Just things which were indicative of an underlying attitude which really shouldn’t be acceptable. For example, I was never told ahead of time when the store’s schedule changed for some reason. I was never asked if I would be able to work the new schedule; it was just expected that I would force my life around it. Then, too, there is the way the employees are expected to suck up to the customers, to be subservient and promise them anything they ask as long as it is remotely within the boundaries of what the store can do. I don’t believe it’s appropriate to act this way; it creates a false expectation and fosters a really deplorable attitude of entitlement in the customer, besides the obvious moral stumbling point of promising something which you aren’t sure if you can carry out. My manager once came perilously close to asking me to be dishonest. This shows little regard for the beliefs or personality of the individual. In fact, the individual is enormously undervalued in this setting; no matter how often the store propaganda tells you that you’re valuable, you know deep down that you’re expendable and the store is what really matters.  It is my understanding that that sad condition is common to modern industry.

 

I’m sure people will say: that’s just the way the world works! (as if that weren’t the most terrible excuse for anything ever) Or they might say, they have a business to run, and seeing as there are plenty of people who would take your job if they could, you really are expendable.  (as if that should cover a clearly undesirable state of affairs) Others may say that I should keep a stiff upper lip and I have no right to complain when children are forced to spend 12 hour days mining coal in certain unsavory institutions around the world. (should a man not complain of stepping on a nail when another man has just had a leg sheared off?) But I would argue that, whether this is a great evil or not, it is still wrong and it still points to further problems in modern society. The devaluation of the individual is truly disheartening. It is perhaps easiest to see in a corporate environment, but it is still pervasive–and this despite persistent propaganda about the importance of being one’s self, “believing in yourself,” and other such twaddle. As children we are told to follow our dreams and believe in ourselves. But when we become adults, the tune changes to “cut that hair! Wear that suit! Be practical! Work that stifling corporate job and have financial security!” In other words, be like everyone else, because the collective knows best. And even when a company claims to place great value on the unique contributions of each employee, there is still a deeper societal norm that they are all following, and this norm is a trend towards deindividuation.

 

We are men and women, full of color and life, eternal beings, not insects to be tiny, insignificant cogs in one great hive. And it’s sickening to see the collective spirit so heavily championed at every turn.

 

Well, and that turned into a little more of a rant than I intended it to. Suffice to say, I am very happy to be free–for the moment–from the world of corporations and retail! And I do hope never to return.

 

~ Jared

 

P.S. While writing this, I remembered an idea I’d had for something to draw. Well then, I suppose writing a blog post was a good choice!

Throw Them Overboard

This wonderful Abney Park song shall be the theme song for this post. 

I particularly like this song. In case you didn’t listen, it’s all about getting rid of modern technology and ideas. Which is obviously a good thing to sing about. There is a certain lie modern people are fed from birth that is very insidious, and the lie is that all progress is both inevitable, and a supreme good. I suppose this lie has been around for quite awhile, but people didn’t used to buy into it so much as they have in the last couple of hundred years. The desire for progress is natural. Everyone wants to progress in something, be it deeper into a relationship, further along the path to a black belt, closer to a goal of becoming a physician. On a collective level, those desires might be to progress toward peaceful relations with another country, toward winning a war, toward curing a disease. Don’t misunderstand me: progress is often good. But not all progress. Not all advancements in technology. Not all new ideas. And of course, progress itself is not inevitable, and it seems to me that often a progression in one area results in regression in another.

 

Humans have reached a point in their society where, now more than ever, they must begin making choices about which paths of progression to follow. Do they continue marching forward and developing new technologies? Or do they take a step back and evaluate which technologies are needed, which are not, which can be gotten rid of? It seems fairly obvious that the more technology humans develop, the more technology they “need”–the more they rely on it. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle, and the only way out is to have the willpower to defy conventional ideas of progress and realize that a progression of wisdom is more important than a progression of technology. True progress is in having the maturity to make a wise choice, not in blindly accepting everything as it comes.

 

For example, one thing I find frustrating is the Singularity. This is the idea of a greater-than-human superintelligence arising from technology, i.e., artificial intelligence. It’s a big deal because it’s seen as a point beyond which events cannot be predicted, since this hypothetical intelligence would be greater than a human’s and therefor impossible for them to fully comprehend or predict. The Singularity is considered inevitable. They say it’s only a matter of time, and “they” don’t know whether the human race will be safe from this superintelligent machine. It seems pretty obvious to me that this is an occasion to step back and ask why. Why are we doing this? What will we gain from creating such a thing? Why would we want to? Why continue advancing technology to that point? But no, progress is inevitable and good and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. But humans are built to make choices. There is always a choice. One can choose to throw overboard destructive modern ideals and unnecessary modern technology, or one can decide to keep it and the consequences that come with it.

 

Now let’s all go be Luddites and destroy ALL the computers! 8D

 

~ Jared

The Lantern and the Fire

First of all, listen to this song. The entire post is taken from one of the lyrics.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVO0KjybG_M

Given it a listen? Good. Now, the lyric I want to focus on is “Is it easier to be the lantern or the fire?” I find this question to be an extremely intriguing one. Which is harder, to be the thing burning, or the thing that holds and directs the fire? Or to put this in more human terms, is it easier to be a force itself, changing things and affecting them for good or ill, or to be the person directing the force, containing and controlling it and showing it where to go? I suppose oftentimes it’s hard to separate the two. But think of it like this. There’s a large company of individuals. One or two of these individuals have a lot of power and influence. But what could they do without the support of everyone else in the company? Very little, just as a fire without something to contain it would do little good, and would in fact destroy its surroundings. The “lanterns” in the company would naturally tend to look at the “fires” as having it easier than themselves, as being privileged because of their positions. But then the “fires” would look at the “lanterns” and with they could be free of their confines… granted, it’s not a perfect metaphor. Just something intriguing to think about, I suppose.

I guess it’s rather difficult to say which is “better.” There’s advantages and disadvantages to each. I think being either for too long is probably not healthy. It’s good to have times where you’re a lantern, lest you become too proud, and times where you’re a fire, lest you become bored and begin to lose sight of your own significance. But then you have to wonder, what if some people are made to be lanterns and others are made to be fires? A lantern itself is not designed to become a fire when it gets tired of being a lantern, and it’d be quite impossible for fire to suddenly take a solid form and contain a different fire within itself. I suppose people do tend to have a propensity for one or the other, and most people change between lantern and fire depending on the area of their life, I believe. One might be a bit of a fire amongst one’s friends, but as lantern-like as could be while at work.

Now what happens if the fire begins to burn the lantern, or if the lantern smothers the fire? We can see this in life, I think. It happens when someone who was a bright spark is stifled by society, when his ideas are ignored or batted down as silliness and when he’s silenced by the grind of day-to-day life. But the fire burns the lantern when one with brilliant, mad ideas drags hundreds of other people down with him, destroys things on a large scale because of his own manias. Maybe Van Gogh was smothered by the lantern, while Stalin burned it.

For my own part I must say that I can’t choose between the two. Sometimes it’s better to be a lantern, but other times one must burn bright. I don’t know. I think you have to learn to be both, as unnatural as it may sometimes be.

On another note, Mariee Sioux is awesome. Listen to the rest of that album and buy it. Really haunting and beautiful music, I love her imagery. Anyway, there you go, a bit of random musing from me (which has nothing whatsoever to do with procrastinating on what I should be writing, let me assure you). Enjoy I guess.

~ Jared

Sex and Death

Yep, I’m going to talk about those things. ‘Cause they’re two important subjects I have not covered! Ahem. It seems to me that there are way too many taboos in modern American culture against talking of those two subjects–sex and death. I have a hard time understanding why. I mean, think about it. These are two of the most important things for humans. Making a new life, and leaving an old life behind. These are gateway moments. They shouldn’t be things that no one wants to talk about. I think it is not only unreasonable to avoid speaking of them, but also unhealthy.

Now, by my observation, Christian culture in particular has a very strong taboo against speaking of sex, while non-Christian culture has stronger taboos against talk of death. This is of course a gross generalization, and I’m by no means saying that every segment of those cultures follows these taboos.  But they do seem to be rather prevalent.

First off, why should there be a taboo against speaking of sex? In any culture, but in Christian culture especially. I’m not saying lewdness is okay; it clearly states in the Bible that that’s a sin. However, it seems that Christians treat sex as something mysterious and forbidden. Something completely inappropriate for polite conversation. A word that shouldn’t even be uttered if you can avoid it. Now, does this make any sense at all? Where in the Bible does it say that Christians should act this way? God made sex, like He made everything else. Who are we to say that something He created isn’t appropriate to talk about? What’s more, He decided to make the act of procreation fun and pleasurable. He didn’t have to do that. As I once remarked to a friend, “God could’ve made us bud, like sponges, but instead he gave us something much more fun and exciting.” Now, why do I think the attitude many Christians seem to have about sex is unhealthy? Well, think about it. What is the best way to get someone curious and excited about something? Make it mysterious and forbidden. Most parents, Christian or otherwise, would say that they don’t want their children to be out having sex. Well, don’t tempt them to go and figure out what it is, then! Rather than drawing a fog over the subject, obscuring it, show it in the light for what it is–a gift, which, like the other gifts God has given us (our lovely natural world, for example), should not be abused.

Now, you have to wonder, why is that taboo so prevalent? Well, in a sense, I think it may be a sort of backlash  reaction. I’ve been reading C.S. Lewis’ brilliant book, Mere Christianity, and he says something in there that I rather agree with. In the chapter on sexual morality, he states that it is his belief that the human sexual desire has grown grossly out of proportion with its purpose. He uses the example of food. Food has a purpose–to refuel the body. Most people like and enjoy eating, and many will eat too much if given the chance. However, most people will not eat excessively too much. Maybe twice as much as they should be eating. But people don’t go around wallowing in it. They don’t take food magazines off to a secret room and sit there salivating over them. If people were to do such things, we’d think them rather deranged. Likewise, sex has a purpose–to create new life. The human desire for sex has clearly grown far out of proportion to its purpose (if you want a much better explanation of this concept, read the book, because Lewis says it way better than I did). I think that therefore, Christian culture tries to suppress this disproportionate desire by covering it up. Refusing to talk about it. Keeping it hidden. But doesn’t light chase away darkness? When did it ever work to make a shadow go away by building a dark box around it? Such will only make it stronger.

This problem is obviously not as prevalent in non-Christian culture, but it seems to me that this culture also has the wrong attitude about sex. I shan’t go into this here, however. Maybe another time. What I will consider, though, is the taboo that non-Christian culture, specially, seems to have against talking about death. In my opinion, this taboo is just as unreasonable and unhealthy as the other.

Again I must ask: why should people avoid the subject of death? Death is just as much a part of life as sex, as eating, as breathing. In a way, death defines life. So much of human life, of the human perspective, the human psyche, is shaped by the knowledge that we will all surely die. The fact of death is so often the proverbial elephant in the room, the one thing that no one wants to bring up. For many people, it’s uncomfortable, depressing, sad. But should it be? Death is just another step in life. Most people believe in an afterlife. Maybe you’re a Christian, and you believe you’re going to go to Heaven. Maybe you’re a Buddhist, and believe that you’ll be reincarnated somewhere and live life anew. It doesn’t matter, for the purposes of this discussion. The point is that the majority of people believe that death is not truly the end. In that light, shouldn’t death be something exciting? Not something to be pursued, but something to embrace gladly when it comes. And because it’s something exciting, why should we avoid talking about it? The only reason it should be a depressing subject is if you’re an atheist and believe that death is the end, that you will just lie in the ground and rot until you’re nothing.

To be sure, the subject of death is often avoided because no one wants to make someone else sad. Someone’s brother or mother or best friend has just died, and so you don’t want to talk of death because you don’t want to remind them of their loss. But does it really help a grieving person to act like the dead friend or relative or whatever is not dead? To act like nothing happened? To pretend everything is all right when it really isn’t? Of course there are different attitudes to take towards death. Be sober or excited about it depending on the situation, but I don’t think you should fear it, or treat it like something horrible and not to be discussed.

It’s unhealthy to be afraid of something that is not fearful in the first place… many people will argue that Death is in fact a very fearful thing. But I don’t think it is. If you truly believe in some sort of afterlife, then why on Earth would you be bothered by the idea of visiting it? People–myself included–don’t want to leave their earthly lives behind before they’ve had a chance to really live them. Very understandable. I don’t think it’s healthy to want or  pursue death. But never fear it. Death, in many ways, is a gift. People strive for immortality, but what would be the point in living forever? Is it not likely that you would become apathetic and bored within a couple of hundred years? You’re not going to die, so it doesn’t really matter when you get something done. You have the rest of your life to do it, and your life is forever. Maybe another hundred years or so would be nice. But immortality would be terrible. If you live forever on this earth, then how can you ever meet God?

Thus, it is my opinion that neither sex nor death is a subject to be avoided, treated as awkward, forbidden, or mysterious, or considered unsuitable for polite conversation.

~ Jared

P.S.–I promise my next post will be something light-hearted and amusing. :P Also, I haven’t forgotten about Them Doctors! I just have to figure out what happens next.