The Mechanics Of A Free Society

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By Colin Turner

Source: Freeworlder

Most people who have given any consideration to a moneyless, ‘free world’ society are already aware that we have the technology today to create a world of abundance without the constraints and inequality of the traditional market system, owing to how much human labour can now be efficiently automated.

Without scarcity, and a massive reduction in the need for labour, money effectively becomes obsolete. That’s the theory. But it’s not the full story, nor does it convince everybody who comes into contact with the theory. In fact, it convinces surprisingly few indeed.

In my opinion, this kind of super-advanced “Star Trek” moneyless society is still quite a distance away – not because we lack the technology – but because we humans lack the openness and understanding required to make it work.

A truly free society should be just that – unlimited, self-determining and self-organising for the optimum benefit of all. Today it appears that, left to our own devices, humanity just can’t wait to blow itself to pieces. How can you de-regulate society and hope to achieve equilibrium against that backdrop?

Let us remind ourselves that today we share our world with people separated by walls to stop them killing each other, giant corporate agencies detached from the social and ecological effects of their business, people who kill animals for pleasure, and, worst of all, a population that has somehow programmed itself to consume recklessly to compensate for its own imagined insecurity.

To my mind, celebrity/brand worship, religious fervour, and xenophobic flag-waving are all here to remind us that – irrespective of our technological advances – we still have a long way to go before humanity can unite in the common purpose of sharing our world and its bounty equitably and sustainably for all.

As someone who has considered these ideas perhaps more than most, I have had plenty of time to critique and refine my own philosophy along the way. As a result of these self-inquiries, I have come up with a number of ideas that I believe can help us paint a fuller picture of what to expect in a free society, and some ways that we can enact it today.

Social Gravity

This is the glue that keeps society together. We are a social species. By and large, we prefer to do things together. We naturally gravitate into groups, teams, villages and cities.

This all stems from one basic human need –  the urge of individuals to belong to something greater. Everything from our cities, our cultures, our religions, even our great unwritten social contract of be-good-to-others – stems from this need.

Social Gravity is the force that naturally binds us – even keeping our unfair, outdated system together, with all its flaws. This is because most people prefer to accept the broader consensus rather than apply radical new thinking. The fact that it keeps our system together, in plain view of its injustices and suffering, tells you just how powerful a force Social Gravity is.

Now imagine how much more powerful this force could be in a society that positively promotes life, health, diversity and happiness for all. Social Gravity is the primary force that will bond a free society and make it work.

Currently, most free world advocates are fighting against Social Gravity as they meet peoples’ resistance to radically new ideas and change. But we know this is changing ever more by the day as these people are beginning to question the logic and injustice of the prevailing system themselves.

As more change their viewpoint, the more they ‘normalise’ the environment for others to do so too. This is why it’s important to let people know how you are thinking. Even if they disagree now, you will probably become a point of reference for them later as they too begin to change.

This natural social pressure is what will maintain order, balance and efficiency in a free society. The more people benefit from it, the stronger that force becomes.

Self-Determination

Most people do not understand the true meaning of anarchy – to the point that I’ve almost given up using the term. Over the years, the media and prevailing thought have suffused its meaning with disorder, chaos and violence. But this is not anarchy – this is usually just the collapse of oppression.

Our screens are often filled with views of young people rioting, throwing missiles or looting shops, with the strong suggestion that they have become ‘lawless’, or that ‘law and order’ need to be restored – but this is a deep and dangerous misunderstanding.

Scenes like this are, in fact, the backlash of oppression. Whatever happened before is what creates those scenes. This is anger, not anarchy.

The best way to describe anarchy is to look to the animal kingdom. By and large, animals are peaceful creatures and will happily co-exist with each other in a steady-state* environment. The only time an animal is ever violent is when it must kill to eat, or when threatened, and – crucially – no animal ever kills more than it needs.

This is self-determination – the default behaviour of all beings. When survival is not threatened, peaceful coexistence is the default state of all animals, including humans. It’s simply easier than violence.

History books and media are full of references to aggressive culture, heinous acts of violence and torture – man pitted against fellow man. This gives an abiding impression of a bloodthirsty homo sapiens, indiscriminately bludgeoning all in his path to get what he wants. But this is a false impression, and yet another dangerous misunderstanding of the world and of ourselves.

The reason for this is simple. Wars, conflict and aggression make for more interesting stories so are always reported on and read about in our history books and media. Whereas, peace and non-conflict is essentially boring and does not get written about – yet it probably accounts for 99.999% of all human behaviour.

For every lunatic who takes up a gun and starts killing people, there are millions and millions of other people who don’t, but we never hear about them. The reality is, our human experience, from a statistical point of view, is almost entirely peaceful.

A self-determining society doesn’t use or require laws. Laws were invented primarily to protect private interests and enforce the payment of taxes. In a world of abundance, open access and greater understanding of ourselves, these laws would become redundant.

Nor do we need laws to protect ourselves from each other, as that basic morality is already hard-wired into us. We are a social species. We want to get along. We all experience this spirit of humanity every day in the help we get from our work or student colleagues, our friends and families, and from strangers – even in times of crisis. When financial stress is gone, people are good to each other.

The ideological boundaries between us – culture, religion, nationality, etc – are purely superficial, and friction between differing views – much of which is inequality-based – can only diminish as the common ideals and benefits of a free society become apparent.

As long as we each have our survival needs met by society, there is nothing to compete for – at least nothing that is worth killing or dying for.

Of course, we cannot expect self-determination to automatically rule out all acts of senseless violence or anti-social behaviour, but once scarcity is not an object to peoples’ existence, we can certainly expect to reduce such incidences to a minimum.† (See Anti-Aggression Strategies)

* A steady state environment is an environment where scarcity and territories are not an issue. Technically, we humans have long since solved the problem of scarcity through the application of technology. We just have to work on our own ‘software’ to create a fair distribution system for it. Also, by doing so, we will regain sufficient trust between each other to render our territorial and cultural boundaries as meaningless as county lines.

† It’s worth pointing out that senseless violence and anti-social behaviour are already common daily occurences under our current law system – most of which can be related directly to scarcity and inequality. It seems wholly unreasonable to assume such behaviour would increase in a self-determining, abundant society.

Life Education Program

To give a free society any chance of succeeding or surviving, a radical overhaul of our current education system is essential. By and large, our current system prioritises reading, writing and arithmetic as core learning, but, in my opinion, these are far from the most important skills we need to acquire.

Children from the earliest age (even from 0) must have access to the most important information that can help them live a rich and fulfilling life, with all the skills for building great self, inter-personal and community relationships. This information can easily be compiled for children of all levels of cognisance.

Here are some examples of topic headings (though I’m sure many more could be extrapolated here):

  • Nature
    Introduction to our planet, our ecosystem, death and the cycle of life, appreciation of all life.
  • Environment
    Ecology, the food chain, water, weather, city and bio-systems, energy, sustainability, regeneration.
  • Community
    The mechanics of community, the purpose and benefits of sharing, respect, trust, empathy, being responsible, leadership, team-work, resolving disputes,  appreciating unfamiliar races and cultures.
  • Self
    Anatomy of self, basic hygiene, health, nutrition, hydration, oxygenation, meditation, massage, self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-respect.
  • Life Skills
    Interpersonal relationships, effective communication, empathy, understanding and coping with negative emotions, problem solving, critical thinking, creative expression, food growing and preparation, sex, parenting and family.

Of course, traditional learning still has enormous value and will continue to be taught in a free society, but relevant and practical lessons on life and life skills must have precedence in order to create better, happier communities.

By building Life Education as a modular program, we could even start introducing this vital new education in stages today.

Community Service

While many necessary jobs in the community will naturally be filled by those passionate and motivated enough to devote their time unconditionally to it, there will invariably be a shortfall in volunteers to participate in some of the less glamorous functions of modern society – like sweeping the roads, etc.

Community service is a concept that most of us are already familiar with – though we usually associate it with punishment for petty criminals. But the fact is, organised community service is undoubtedly the most efficient way to deliver essential services equitably within a large population.

In the enactment of a free society, every member of the community should be encouraged to contribute a reasonable minimum number of hours community service a month. Remember, for a society without conventional employment, this would be a trivial commitment for most people.

A monthly schedule of required services and tasks in the community could be published, where members would opt to participate in whichever tasks best suited their skills and availability at the time.

The number of recommended hours per month would obviously depend on local factors, ie. what needed to be done, population number, availability of skills, complexity of tasks, etc, but the idea is to keep peoples’ commitment to a minimum by spreading the community workload as widely as possible.

Children should also be actively encouraged to engage in their community’s projects from as young as possible – and in as many diverse tasks as possible. This would help them discover their own aptitude, engage with the community, and gain valuable life experience in the process.

Each service task would have a strong social aspect, where people are encouraged to work in teams, during the same hours, and towards common goals. There’s no reason why community work in a free world should ever be onerous, or could not even be carried out in entertaining ways.

For example, with a little imagination, some tasks could even be turned into sports events where teams compete to fulfil tasks, or see who can come up with the most innovative solutions. The overriding goal is that community service, while providing essential services, would be entirely opt-in, and a fulfilling and engaging experience that people would enjoy.

The Project Pledge Scheme

In any community, large projects always need to be undertaken – like building a new bridge, road, school or hospital. The current market system works quite well in this regard, as it monetarily ‘locks in’ the required personnel to complete large scale tasks uninterrupted for many months or years at a time.

In a moneyless world, rotating volunteer personnel from within local communities to help with long, complex projects may prove inefficient, or, in some cases unworkable.

A solution might be to create a Project Pledge scheme, where willing workers publicly pledge to see the project through until completion. It’s reasonable to assume that any large scale community project would find it easy to enlist local volunteers who would benefit directly from the project.

A project launch ceremony could be held where they each undertake their pledges. What’s important is that the project managers would seek the full commitment and pledge from participants at the outset, while the volunteers themselves become personally invested in the project’s success too.

As with all community service, large projects would also have a strong emphasis on creating an enjoyable social experience for the participants.

As technology gets better and more widely available, large intensive projects would obviously require fewer and fewer personnel, but a Project Pledge Scheme could be a viable interim solution.

Central Resources & Skills Database

A free society needs an effective information network to maintain its efficiency.  We can have a central information database relating to resource location and inventory, and a comprehensive directory of people and skills. Such a database would be maintained and moderated by users.

The resources section would be a map-based inventory and requisition facility for users to list, find and request the resources they require. By resources, I mean anything from raw iron ore to a wooden dining table. Whatever physical resources people have available for sharing, they can list it on the database.

Anyone looking for those resources would simply run a search on the database, find the nearest match, and place a requisition order. If necessary, resource requisitions could be weighted according to urgency and depth of benefit to the community. For example, a community urgently requiring concrete for re-construction of a well would have greater priority than an individual requiring concrete to build a garage.

Like the inventory, the requisition system would be entirely transparent, and a user making the request would be able to see where his request was positioned in the queue and read the other requests. A fully transparent system is the only way to avoid needless misunderstandings and conflicts.

Items that need to be delivered from one area to another could then come under the Community Service system in the despatching area to source a driver and truck to carry the requested goods – if possible on an already existing despatch route.

The skills section would be a map-based directory of people who wish to offer their labour or specialist skills to others. Users looking for those skills would be able to make contact with them directly.

It would seem logical for a company like Google who already have the established infrastructure and reputation to incorporate such a facility into their current portfolio, but of course, it could be any provider.

The HonorPay System

Obviously the notion of giving for reward is firmly embedded in our culture. It’s not entirely clear to me if we can ever fully transcend this essentially ego-based reward paradigm – or even if transcending this would be a good idea.

Many supporters of a free society believe we can surpass ego. I’m not so sure, since at its most base level, ego is part of our survival mechanism, and, in its highest form, embodies our individuality. Certainly in the interim period, moving from a market-based system to a free society, I believe it will be useful to maintain a symbolic reward or Honor system.

The HonorPay system, or something like it, may offer just such a symbolic payment system. It’s a free web utility that provides a means to award limited ‘Honors’ to any person you wish, aggregating their public reputation score.

The Honor awards have no useable value, and are simply tokens of appreciation. In a world powered purely by volunteerism, appreciation will be a valuable incentive.

The HonorPay system is already live (honorpay.org), and something that can be used today, providing people with a means of incentive and reward beyond physical or monetary tokens.

Open Proposals Platform

In matters relating to large numbers of people, it would make sense to have a an open platform where each person can vote on decisions that affect everybody, voice their own opinions, and propose motions of their own.

Relatively simple to implement, such a platform would seem to be a basic requisite for an open society. Though surprisingly, it may end up seeing little use, since a more conscious, abundant and creative society will likely have moved beyond reducing everything to binary choices and leaving an endless trail of disgruntled minorities! However, while still useful, there may be a far more interesting and potentially beneficial purpose for building such a system.

Today, even in supposedly democratic countries, most important decisions relating to things like budgets, laws, jobs or foreign conflict are never put to a public referendum. Most referenda are nothing more than democratic window-dressing that only address political ‘hot potatoes’ or moral hazards that politicians would rather avoid, and which usually have almost no relevance to how the country is actually run.

Implementing a public polling platform today would give people the opportunity to ‘vote’ on every issue that affects their lives. Even though their vote would not officially count, it would still give them a means for their collective voice to be heard. For example, it would be much more difficult for a country’s government to follow through on its own internal policy when the open polling platform is clearly showing a large majority of the population that don’t agree with it.

Such a platform could play a very important role in bringing about change, while also bringing the required technology for post-change society.

Organic Leadership

Just because a self-determining society doesn’t use governance doesn’t mean that we don’t need leaders and role models. Leaders are people who see further, who can envision greater possibilities, who can solve problems, or who have the courage and enthusiasm to inspire people during uncertain times.

In a free society, people will still seek leaders to inspire and help them. However this does not mean that we need rulers. Rulers do not necessarily help, they merely rule – and usually only when there is something to protect.

A truly free society does not require protection, as it is based on the understanding of nature and community first, not on private property. However, some kind of leadership structure is undoubtedly an efficient way of accomplishing complex tasks. (Think film director, for instance)

In Organic Leadership, leaders are nominated for specific tasks based on their ability through the common wishes of the group. Selection can happen in any way, but should be an organic process where the natural choice of the group is obvious.

A leader’s true role is merely to administrate the desires of others, or to adjudicate on which suggested course of action is the best one. Leadership in this form will only exist as and for when it is necessary, and based on the common understanding that, once chosen, the leader has final say on matters for which they are appointed.

Creative Arbitration

No matter how well we design and create the kind of world we want to see, there will always be disputes among people, whether over relationships, personal beliefs, or claims on land or property. That is just part of the deal with being human. We aren’t perfect – so it’s best to begin by accepting that fact!

By far the most crucial instrument in resolving disputes is speed. Unresolved problems create stress, animosity and compound fear. These are the explosive ingredients of aggression and war, so the sooner a solution is found, the better.

Where people are unable to find solutions themselves, it would seem reasonable for both parties to nominate an independent arbitrator whom they both trust to help them reach a solution. (The arbitrator can be anyone from the community who is willing to help)

But let’s define what we mean by ‘solution’. In today’s world, resolutions are usually reached using the law or courts to decide. It almost always come down to a binary choice where one side wins and the other loses. There’s nothing wrong with this in theory, but to create a lasting, stable society, no-one should ever need to be the loser.

For example, if two parties A and B are arguing over property rights, and an arbitrator – acting in the interest of the community – decides that A is the more deserving claimant, it may please A and the community, but still leaves B the loser. Even though B may accept that resolution, they are left with a sense of personal injustice and/or embarrassment that can ferment into one of the previously mentioned ingredients of aggression. This is unnecessary.

In a free society, we should never settle for a resolution that leaves even one person marginalised. This is a limited view. There is always a creative solution that brings an optimal – and preferably superior – outcome for everyone, and nothing should be considered solved until such a solution is found.

Once the limits of traditional society are lifted, much more solutions become available. For example, why would someone want to claim your house if they could readily organise an even better one for themselves elsewhere?

Creative Arbitration is about finding an amazing solution that makes all parties happier than before. We shouldn’t settle for less. The best persons to be elected to assist in dispute resolution ought not necessarily to be those most wise, but those most flexible and creative in problem-solving.

Anti-Aggression Strategies

Implementing a free and abundant society is undoubtedly the best way to reduce incidences and reasons-to-exist of socially aberrant behaviour, but, of course, we are not perfect and some incidences of violence and anti-social behaiour will still arise – albeit many times less than before.

Having a system of prescribed laws and measures to tackle ‘crime’ will not be possible nor desirable in a self-determining society, so what is the solution? How do we stop people perpetrating violence on others? How do we stop people who take unfair advantage? How do we punish people? Should we punish people at all?

The answer is simple: common sense.

Every situation is unique and should be handled using local information, with respect to the people involved, and the application of common sense. Creative Arbitration can be applied to resolve disputes and find an optimal outcome, but if it’s not possible and someone is continually making life miserable for others or being violent, then they need to be restrained. It’s that simple.

Common sense dictates that you don’t allow a gunman to continue his killing spree uninterrupted. He will obviously be restrained. How and in what measure would be determined by the situation. Drastic force may be required.

In the event that anyone does need to be restrained to prevent harming others, then every effort should be made to rehabilitate that person during that time, and to integrate them back to the community as early as possible.

In today’s world, a prison is merely a place to lock people up out of harm’s way, but it should be viewed more as a ‘timeout’ opportunity for someone with social or emotional problems to get the intensive help they need.

There are plenty of effective rehabilitation strategies and techniques available today that can be employed, but which are usually too expensive and labour intensive to be successfully implemented. A free society would have no such restrictions, and plenty of good councillers passionate enough about their work to put in the time.

Community Lighthouse

In order to prevent social decay, or regression back to our former imperial ways, a free society requires an early warning protection system. This could perhaps be incorporated into the Open Proposals platform and act like an immune system for the community at large.

If there are problems in some areas with resources or people where quality of life is becoming less than optimal, then members of that community should be able to raise alerts – anonymously if desired – to warn the greater community of the problem.

As previously stated, speed is the key to finding effective solutions, and applying a creative problem-solving approach. For example, say a remote village is being denied some vital resource due to the actions of a local farmer. A problem like this, if ignored, could end in some violent confrontation, which in turn could lead to repercussions, which in turn could become a larger tribal or familial conflict, etc.

A Community Lighthouse system could alert a neighbouring community who may be able to intervene quickly, impartially, and creatively arbitrate a solution, or, failing that, find an alternative means of providing that resource to the community.  It may even just suffice for the farmer himself to be alerted to how unpopular he is becoming.

All major problems spring from unresolved small problems. By resolving small problems early, we can avoid the larger ones. A Community Lighthouse system would be crucial to the ongoing stability and security of a free society.

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10 Responses to The Mechanics Of A Free Society

  1. sojourner says:

    Reblogged this on An Outsider's Sojourn II.

  2. Heather Awen says:

    He lost me in the first paragraph. We do not have the unlimited resources for this technology he’s talking about . Starting off by saying technology will do most of the things for us , we have the technology to do that , makes him obsolete instantly because of peak oil . He doesn’t ever say how this completely unsustainable idea of technology building these utopias could possibly happen . The environment isn’t even really mentioned .

    This is a real problem I have with a lot of the anarchist community who are so humancentric . It’s amazing how much they and many types of socialists will focus on work and technology as it fits the industrial era and we think there’s unlimited coal and that coal mines end the smoke from power plants are safe . Unless he is an enthusiastic supporter of nuclear energy , but that will poison all the people to .

    I was talking to a guy who told me he was an anarchist recently which excited me . But when I asked questions I became so disappointed . To him anarchy was he gets to do whatever he wants and everybody else can do what they want as long as it doesn’t get in the way of what he wants , plus he doesn’t pay to get his car registered or inspected for environmental admissions . He was really a libertarian but didn’t know it . Anyway I said I totally agree with him which is why everyone has to stop using every toxic chemical they are , including all the stuff to build these houses the author is writing about , they have to stop burning any fuel , all of them make me sick , there can’t be any more cars because of the exhaust , there is no way to environmentally have save electricity at least at the level we have it , solar panels are made in factories and go into the trash, most people’s clothing are totally toxic items, 70% of pesticides in the United States are used for growing cotton ,

    As I’m telling him the list of things that people cannot do because they will hurt me , he suddenly seemed like it wouldn’t be as much fun .

    I have a lot of problems with anarchists and socialist who are so focused on production and ownership , because they seem to be lost in time. Even capitalist know that everything is over , they are now spending their money on creating police and military and private security forces to make sure that when the rest of us realize there’s nothing left they can enjoy the rest of their lives with their money as everyone riots for bread .

    When people talk about nanotechnology or just assume that there will be a new fuel source found or that we will populate another planet , it amazes me how disconnected they are from the reality that this planet has basically had a straw stuck into it and is completely different now than it was 1000 years ago . We don’t even live on the same planet that was here 1000 years ago , it’s been stripped for parts .

    So I really wish that what this person was writing was a good roadmap but it’s as impossible a vision as something like green capitalism . There’s no way that everyone could just go build a better house . It’s far too simplistic and focuses only on certain anarchist and socialist studies without taking into account many many other factors .

    Unless this was written in the 1950s , that would make sense .

    • Heather Awen says:

      Also using competition and popularity points to motivate people is the same carrot stick crap being used today . It would very easily become corrupted into junior high personal politics . Everything in the essay is totally focused on the individual , which is such a new idea in the world , this doesn’t really sound any different than the world I already live in . Like when someone writes their vote wouldn’t necessarily count . Then why would they participate? And the lighthouse idea will turn people into the Gestapo .

      I would say this is the worst essay on anarchy I’ve ever read . It uses the worst emotions as motivators , focuses on the individual not the community , completely disregards reality about that we are living in a time of extreme scarcity and doesn’t address the biggest problems that we are facing .

      I’ve waited a while to make my comments because this is so terrible I kept trying to find something to redeem itself but there is nothing of practical value in this . It sounds like an incredibly bureaucratic world based on individual needs completely being facilitated by technology that we will not have an 100 years . It would become very quickly corrupted , there are so many gaps where corruption is almost guaranteed especially if you keep trying to motivate people by feeding their insecurities . People will put their loved ones first on list . People will use the lighthouse as a way of doing witchhunts against someone they just don’t like . People who have more honor will have more authority and be able to pull more weight which will make other people hate them and other people blindly listen to them .

      Until the actual thinking about what motivates human beings and what the reality of the planet is becomes more correct , it’s this sort of stuff that is as meaningless as instructions for putting together a piece of furniture that no one makes . If we look at the 97% of human history where we did not have wars and we did not cause any environmental damage , and if we look at the two things which have allowed human beings to survive which are cooperation and communication , we actually have some things that are proven to work because it is the natural state for human beings .

      This model continues the worst thinking which this culture has brainwashed people into believing . The Masters to tool’s never bring down the master , we already know that , but I would add they just create new masters.

      Thank you for giving me news that I can actually think about . Even if I think somethings a terrible terrible idea it is good for me to use my critical thinking skills to look at exactly where all the flaws are to make sure that I don’t and up being tricked into believing any of them will work if my own brain which has been colonized like everyone else’s decides that something I’ve been brainwashed to believe it’s true .

      • Heather Awen says:

        I swear this will be my last rant ! By the way this is a really good use of being PMS , even the title of the mechanics is so everything I can’t stand . It just still focuses on a machine oriented culture as opposed to a community oriented culture .

        I better shut up .

      • Thank you for your well-reasoned critique which takes into consideration many factors the author failed to address. I agree that the piece has an undercurrent of techno-utopian libertarianism, but for those who find it difficult to envision any way out of the current socio-economic system it can be helpful to be exposed to a cross-section of alternatives (impractical as they may be in reality). The point about technology I took away from it was that it could be doing much more for us if more of us did the internal and organizational work to create intelligent and just social systems.

        • Heather Awen says:

          That makes sense, technological divide is an issue of private property as well as wealth, who is the technology working for? While we still have it , it’s not available to the majority of the world . I like to remember that most people today do not have access to the Internet . It’s another glaring example of the vast gap between the wealthy and the poor economically . It also reminds me how incredibly wealthy I am even though I get food stamps . There are a lot better ways to implement the technology that we have – genetically modified food and bioengineering are terrible ideas , just like mutating Lyme disease as a weapon . Most technology goes into protecting the wealth of a very elite group . I’m still amazed anyone uses Facebook with what we know about how they use the information . Then again I can’t imagine having a cell phone knowing what it does to the brain , the environment , and that it makes me constantly traceable to any government organization . A lot of these things sound like futuristic paranoid thoughts everyone had in the 1980s and yet people are quite willing to participate .

          There is a remarkable book about real urban sustainability and it is filled with things anybody can do that will literally change the world right where they are . It has the best description of sustainable technology . It has to be something that is easy to make with what is readily available and you have to be able to teach others how to make it . So when solar panels are shipped to Africa and then break , it’s not sustainable . However solar cookers very much are sustainable . I remember a friend in the 80s used to buy diesel cars and trucks and drive them to Nicaragua for the farmers and Sandinistas . One of the main problems was that if a tractor had just one part broken , that was it for the whole tractor because no one had access to getting any parts , so it’s not sustainable on any level.

          I’ve been really blessed to have been around some really productive activists and some incredibly unproductive activists and watch them seeing who actually has made an impact . The guy driving to Nicaragua with parts for the tractor made a lot more of a difference than the guy who has been going to protest all his life and arguing nonstop with Republicans for fun looking like a real asshole who is in his 70s now , these two men are friends. So I’ve been comparing what did they do that work .

          It’s why I am trying to get the stories of activist survival archives because the stories of what doesn’t work and what does work and also the emotional stuff and the personal politics , anyone who is in it for the long-haul really should have mentors and there is a real lack of mentors . So I’m trying to gather whatever I can from people because I’m really realizing how incredibly lucky I am to have been always in revolutionary counterculture . Being immersed in it , there was so much I learned . It’s not just about problems and solutions , it’s about preventing burnout. I was reading about activist support groups and that made a lot of sense .

          I could see how this article could be sort of a transitory statement , it’s so close to the mainstream that people who are motivated by greed and insecurity would accept it . And one of the biggest problems with activists is that we are so immersed in our own culture we fail to deliver messages in a way that actually connect to the rest of the world . Really the only way to motivate most people is the focus on the paycheck because every day people are survival based living week to week . Then there are people who are really concerned about the environmental collapse we are in and we will focus on ecology as to what is important for survival , for example . But the messages have to be tailored to people struggling with paycheck to paycheck as what they think survival means . Like it is so much cheaper to use baking soda and vinegar for all your cleaning .

          So I could see that this , especially with this focus on the individual , could attract libertarian types . It’s still very much about business transactions which is the focus of our culture . But I guess of people don’t have any comprehension of there being other kinds of cultures exposing them to a variation of the world there in gets them a bit more comfortable . It is hard to get people out of their comfort zone . Los Angeles almost killed me LOL !

          More and more looking at activism today I realize how much I’ve learned that other people never had the chance for , and it’s because of not just learning skills from others but that it’s all I’ve been reading about since I was a young teenager and also what I’ve been immersed in my whole life so I take a lot of things for granted . Again that’s why I am doing be activist survival archives . I remember when I was younger there were really good books on how to do change in the world . But once the Internet started none of those things were relevant and the fact that the media doesn’t really cover protests means that all of the strategies and tactics don’t apply .

          I’m happy that Starhawk wrote the empowerment manual after four decades living and working in collectives because I think the human interaction aspect is the greatest weakness today because of people only having virtual relationships with each other . Social skills are pretty lost . Also the main reason people believe activism is because of dealing with other activists .

          I know that a lot of people do not know that there are many different kinds of anarchism . The kinds that I support , spiritual anarchism ( I come directly from some of the first freethinker Quaker ranter people although I just found that out because it was lost for two generations , so it’s funny that I chose to go to Quaker College and if I was Christian I would definitely be a Quaker, I have been able to do amazing trance work in silent Quaker meetings , and I am obviously a so-called primitive anarchist because I have absolutely no faith in civilization ever working and it’s dying all around us with the environment , and I support communal or communist anarchism because it really just taps into the basic way human beings normally have been so it makes sense , the whole idea of the individual is so new I can’t really get behind that and it becomes far too close to libertarians . Although as an anarchist I am a social libertarian . There are a lot of anarchists and socialists who are still obsessed with ownership of technology , very Marxist , which I can appreciate historically but have trouble with it today because industrial society is not worth improving , it just has to be destroyed . Luckily it’s running out of fuel . I don’t care if the workers own the company destroying the planet , is still a bad idea.

          So any form of anarchy that focuses on money including being cashless doesn’t really have any value for me personally . A friend of mine several years ago said she was sick of people talking about cashless society’s because if you want to know what it’s like to be in one be homeless . That’s really true, as a street kid I knew lots and lots of homeless people end until I got MCS I’ve always befriended homeless people because they know absolutely everything that is going on in a town . They have the dirt on every politician . I don’t really understand why other journalists don’t cultivate friendships with homeless people . Anyway it is a cashless society in many ways . But you still have to spare change panhandle for drugs and alcohol . I always gave homeless people I knew toilet paper whenever I saw them . I remember personally what a hassle that one was . Also for homeless women helping them have things for when they have there period, I would imagine that someone who is not been homeless might think it was a good idea to give diva cups , but I know that’s asking for a bladder infection that could become a kidney infection when the person does not have access to a bathroom . Same with diaphragms . Some of these things you learn the hard way and when you get out of the hospital you remember that .

          Plus I’m always really careful to ask if people would want anything because a lot of the time no one asks . I was getting rid of a lot of clothing in Los Angeles and asked probably my closest friend there , a woman named Sarah with a shopping cart who was used to me walking my husband at the time’s dog while sobbing because I was so miserable , I asked her if she actually would want the clothing and she said she would take it and see if anybody in the community wanted it . What’s really strange is that my massage therapist at a New Age Ctr. who was also a prostitute used to go jogging and Sarah would scream obscenities at her . I don’t know why Sarah didn’t scream stuff at me unless it’s because I just looked so pathetic LOL . I had a surd of rich husband, rich by my standards but not by Los Angeles , we would travel and stay in hotels , that means money to me , so I always crapped all the sewing kits end every plastic bottle of free stuff at these hotels and would give them to Sarah because class is really dangerous when you are homeless and trying to wash your hair in a fountain . Today I wouldn’t do that because I know what’s in those products . But again it’s just because of having lived that way as a teenager , a time when your body really can handle it a lot better , plus couch surfing is really easy because no one has kids yet , so I know how hard it is to deal with glass and things sliding when trying to get clean really quick .

          Anyway this all just goes back to realizing how much I know that I assume other people would know. But when I got Lyme disease end no one knew what was wrong and then when I was poisoned with carbon monoxide for 16 months and had sick building syndrome which became multiple chemical sensitivity but no one knew what it was , I suddenly was in a totally different segment of the population than I’ve been ever before and it was a really steep learning curve about my own internalized ableism end I really had to study the oppression of my new population . Having been misdiagnosed with a so-called mental illness that was based on hormones being imbalanced , reactions to chemicals end trauma in just existing in such an insane culture that I couldn’t handle even as a child and never wanted to learn how to handle it because I didn’t want it to even exist it was so disgusting , I already knew people who were psychiatric survivors before then so I was aware of mad pride and new a lot of the oppression firsthand , and then suddenly it wasn’t my population anymore , it was now the disabled and chronically L who I really knew nothing about because there are so many barriers of access they rarely get to be involved in anything . So having to catch up on , things like what feels like individual hassles and problems are actually systemic oppression that my entire new community faces although very few of us understand it as what it is, we are so isolated we think it’s often just our own experience , and learning more and more about state oppression which tax payers support and think are good ideas when there are so many better ones that would be cheaper , plus losing your status as a person is really bizarre , and then having to read all the stuff that people have done that work and what changes the world effectively . That’s really my first learning curve . But it’s kind of cool because I was so young during the last two political things that change the world , anti-apartheid and act up , disability rights are the most cutting edge radical movement today so in a way it’s kind of exciting to be part of the population that is most marginalized and is in the very beginning of the bell curve of our own civil rights movement because 20% of Americans are disabled so we are the largest minority , the problem is most of us have no clue our problems are systemic and institutionalized violence and oppression , so we’re just in consciousness-raising mode which is really great because everything is more interesting in the beginning before it gets hijacked by private agendas .

          I’ve had a fever for four days on and off , but what I’m trying to say is that it’s good to actually be a newcomer to an activist community where I don’t know a lot specifically but I have a lot of skills generally , and I thought there was nothing radical going on anywhere until I learned about things like krip justice. And it’s been really difficult navigating my way through an entirely foreign oppressed community , many of whom don’t know they are systemically oppressed . There is such a stigma to being disabled or sick , there is so much internalized ableism , so many people were raised to expect nothing from life , it’s like women in 19 66 . It’s kind of funny to be excited that I’m part of the most marginalized group who is coming into its own revolution . There are groups that are very marginalized, especially prisoners , however there’s been lots and lots of books and studies on this , whereas with what disabled and chronically ill people live with every day is still kept hidden .

          On one hand it’s really humbling and on the other hand it reignited my passion . There hasn’t been anything successful that I know about since act up end South Africa . So I’m having to incorporate a whole new form of oppression into my worldview , and for some reason it’s a lot harder when it’s my own oppression , because I’m so used to feeling so privileged , it’s like knowing nothing .

          And this rambling just goes back to I can understand the point of transition utopian writing that is based on the values of corrupt society like this essay because it does as my mother sometimes would say , bring more people to the table . Once you get them to the table and then things change . But getting them to the table is often the hardest part . So if something like this can bring someone to the table then it means there’s greater numbers of people becoming more open to a world that we know was possible and a reality as terrible as it is that we know is real which is the goal. From trying to be part of online MCS community it’s been really shocking to me how many people don’t understand the political implications of MCS , they want a cure so they can go back to normal society , which to me is so bizarre , I’ve really had to struggle to learn how to get people to the table . I never really had that problem before so it’s interesting to be really in uncharted territory which I imagine a lot of people are when they think of the word anarchy .

          • It’s admirable that you’ve been involved in so many worthy struggles and have applied the experiences to your current situation. Glad you can see the value of articles with perspectives that conflict with your own values and appreciate the thoughtful feedback.

          • Heather Awen says:

            Thank you, I don’t know how admirable it is if you are born into it as much as if you struggled and struggled and chose it , that’s why I say I’m lucky . Then again a lot of the kids from hippies really tried to do all they could to fit in because the counterculture is never really psychologically better than the mainstream , it’s just as terrible to grow up in as everywhere else LOL .

            But this was really intellectually good for me the way that other people do crossword puzzles . It really made me have to think about why it bothered me so it had a lot of value . It was sort of like a fun game , what is specifically causing me to feel uneasy and then figure out why . That’s a really important thing to keep doing . There isn’t any one person who can come up with a solution so there has to be the feedback of lots of people to look at different angles other people wouldn’t have .

            It’s also good for me to remember that even when talking to anarchists or socialists they don’t necessarily have much of an understanding about ecology . All the different problems that we are facing are really interlinked but it’s easy to focus on the tree not the forest . So that’s where I think my strength comes from , being part of so many different trees that so many different times , it’s easier for me to think about the cultural norms of each tree. It’s really easy for me to find the common ground and help people see that it’s not a competition between issues . That’s also helpful when someone is going through that really overwhelming phase of how much work there has to be done and how quickly , that can really paralyze you , I really was overwhelmed by it , which issue out of all the issues should I be focusing on ? In a way having severe MCS made the choices for me , but it really seems to be as long as you do anything you are part of the dismantling of what is already falling apart end building what will take its place , so no matter if it’s transgendered issues or environmental justice or lack of domestic violence shelters for men , all of it comes from the same problem . It’s when people start trying to decide which is the most important problem and fight amongst each other a lot of energy gets lost and unfortunately that happens because of how little funding there is for nonprofit organizations , they’re all competing . With the economy how it’s been since 2008 it’s gotten so much worse that it’s almost like the only job is fundraising just to keep an organization going .

            But thank you for the compliment , I think I would be really really scared and depressed if I didn’t take action , it’s one of the only things that gives a sense of peace of mind . Otherwise I’d probably be really depressed end having panic attacks all the time .

            The hard part is constantly evaluating whether or not you are actually using your energy in the best way possible , but having Lyme disease which steals all your energy actually made me have to learn a lot about the most effective way to use all my energy . I wouldn’t say horrible things like this happen for some good reason , I just think that any situation can teach you things you never thought about before . I used to be really energetic so I didn’t really have to think about what the actual effectiveness was and until I had MCS I didn’t have to think about things like I struggle with now , like can I be part of the organization that is environmental or concerned with workers rights end being a writer , if the organization uses regular chemical ink , instead of vegetable ink, can I really support it? It’s destroying the planet and it destroys the health of the workers and gives them a really high chance of getting MCS , no one who has chemical sensitivities which is over 30% of the population can even really deal with it, no child should be near it definitely or anyone with compromised health, the paper has to be chlorine free , is it even worth the killing of trees are all the fuel used for recycling , this is all stuff I never would’ve thought about before but it just now seems like being part of something like that would be like writing for the Nazis and being Jewish . My own community could never even see what I was doing . I could never see what I’ve done! And then if the group were to say it’s too expensive , that’s exactly what capitalists use as their excuse so there’s nothing revolutionary happening at all , it’s just different poisonous words on toxic paper poisoning workers .

            I think people really need to understand their own systemic oppression because you will find how interlinked it is with every other important issue at the end of the day . And it’s really important to be networking. Every single community or issue has information that will be like counterbalances to make sure that anything truly revolutionary won’t be anything like the system we have today .

            So having MCS and Lyme disease made me really have to work with the whole idea of blooming where you are planted . Plus it makes things a lot more immediately urgent . A lot of activism is really just hanging out feeling self-congratulatory and self-righteous because you surround yourself with people just like you and then you start thinking in terms of us versus them . And it’s easy to get very little actually accomplished . When you have MCS or Lyme disease and know that the government is working on creating super diseases carried by insects for warfare , it’s so sneaky , I think your perspective becomes less about what can we do? To I better do something now!

            That’s why I’m really realizing how important networking is . Because none of us could possibly understand all the issues . But if you can link all the different groups by focusing on the common ground , suddenly you have a much larger movement end diversity we know from ecology makes everything stronger .

            That’s why it’s cool that you go through so many different news sources , because you obviously know that they’re all totally interlinked . And I think it’s important to even if you’re focusing on one issue be aware of all the other people doing things because it keeps your morale high, and it also can help you realize ways to do the public relations in a way that taps into other communities . I would say that that is the number one skill I find lacking with activism , being able to listen to communities and see why they might care about an issue if it was presented based on what their values are , not some strange people telling them what they should need or want . Honestly most people are just concerned with survival paycheck to paycheck so that’s usually the best way to as my mother says get them to the table . You might think that environmental organizations would be concerned with MCS , but sadly most of them are now getting funded by multinational corporations who are the last people that want anyone to know about MCS , but where the best alliance is is with parents because of everything they are learning about what chemicals and cell phones due to their children , so that was a learning curve for me , finding out who the allies were and being surprised . It seems like an environmental illness would be something that environmentalist groups would be concerned about but people wearing respirators so they can go to the gas station aren’t really as great for cards as polar bears LOL .

            That’s another issue , most nonprofits have always relied on government funding so when the government went broke so did all of the social services end activist groups unless they took money from corporate sponsors . We live in a hard time for making ethical decisions , a lot of the time it really just feels like Sophie’s choice , that’s why you can’t beat yourself up for not being as pure whatever that means as you wish you were or you wish other people were because no one can get out of the system .

          • Heather Awen says:

            I’m also really glad this person wrote this because it’s a much more worthwhile thing to do then ignore everything . Plus they are doing something far more important than most writers which is suggesting solutions . A lot of these things could be tweaked in brainstorming , no one person is going to have the plan , there’s not gonna be any manifesto one-size-fits-all . So it’s really brave to even try to come up with any solution . Because you know that you are missing times of things in your solution and people will pick it apart . So it’s very courageous to do this and the more people keep suggesting solutions the more we can find things that work in different times in different places . It’s a lot more courageous to write this than to write about what’s wrong . And the writer definitely understands that we need a lot of creativity because as Einstein said the thinking that causes the problems isn’t going to give us the solutions or whatever he said , so we are going to have to risk a lot of bad ideas publicly but scientists spend their whole lives trying to figure things out end constantly find out that there there he that they’ve dedicated years to was wrong . And that contributes to the research . Who is to say that some of the things this writer said wouldn’t be applicable to certain communities at certain times ? We definitely need to have a lot of flexibility because it’s such a vast problem , they really can’t be any manifesto . But I do really like manualfestos and that’s what this person was brave enough to try to do . So whoever wrote it if they ever read my comments , I’d much rather know them and work with them then people who just keep rehashing the problem . Anybody who is looking at solutions especially when they keep talking about creativity is much more likely to be effective than people who don’t . So I would suspect that this person could very possibly be doing something that is effective in a certain time or place or will keep learning . There’s definitely nothing shameful about having written this . It’s easier to do comments on your blog because you are not the writer, so I’m not as worried about hurting someone’s feelings . It makes it seem more academic which is kind of flattering because I can give the person the same respect I would give Kropotkin or Murray, it’s not filtered through fear of hurting their ego . I would hate to be critiqued as harshly as I critiqued this person but in a lot of ways it’s a sign of respect because obviously it made me think . And one of my main complaints is that there is very little out there that makes me think . I will read so-called radical writing end feel just as ignorant after as I did before . So whoever wrote this, you did a really great attempt at a giant overview of solutions in a very small essay , maybe in a book actually each one of these as a chapter would fleshed out into things that are more realistic , and it made me think . That’s a lot harder to find the van articles just stating the same things over and over again that I already agree with . Those are the articles about the problems . So in case the person who wrote this ever sees all of these comments I’ve left , what they are doing is really commendable . And I bet going into each idea deeper and networking with people getting feedback some of these things could be gateways to more sustainable realistic solutions . The lighthouse idea is one that I think everyone struggles with, who is going to , I hate using this term but self police the community? How do we do that ? And that is one thing that most people just avoid talking about assuming everyone will be wonderful . That is really one of the hardest problems in creating a vision of what to work towards . Because all of them seem to lead to there being witchhunts or people getting more power than others and having their voice matter more , people can use the lighthouse as a way of actually being corrupt . I haven’t read anything that really is figured that one out . But at least it’s addressed here as opposed to thinking everyone will just be so happy and it will be so conflict free that it will run smoothly all the time . The fact that conflict is addressed at all is remarkable. That’s a really dirty word . Our culture doesn’t understand how to use it creatively in a way that will bring people together , restorative justice is the only thing I found that leaves everyone better off than before it started . Anyway, it’s important to remember that even though this person isn’t you and this isn’t their blog , I realized that writer wouldn’t know how much more enjoyable this was then articles about problems telling me Stuff I already know and agree with . It definitely didn’t keep me ignorant , I learned a lot through the process . And that’s how things improve . So yeah I would encourage everyone to try working on writing about solutions even if they are naïve or modeled on what’s already a problem , the more people focus on that with their creativity the better the odds of having enough strategies to find things that work. And it’s a lot harder to do what this person did then to write an article about a problem that’s been studied so much .

  3. Good resource on anarchism – what it is and what it isn’t.

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