An open space for global conversation
Greetings to all Occupiers in this cafe.
The "Core Conversation" thread seems to be rife with talk of a different structure and process for what we call our "economy." I am creating this thread with the idea of hauling all that rich conversation over here and re-opening the Core Conversation thread to an exploration of other topics that might one day grow up to be their own threads as well.
Here is where we can critique the old economy if that is your bent, thrash out the meaning and structure of a new economy, the values we hold most dear about energy exchange with our world that truly values the others who share this world, whether it is by legislation or by grass-roots one-brick-at-a-time rebuilding. What needs tweaking? What needs to be discarded.
How do we begin? What are the steps? Where is it happening already?
Here are some resources I am familiar with:
Response to Kimberly (and all others who have blind faith in technology):
"Any system anywhere will have flaws. It’s just that the system I’m about to describe would have way less flaws than we have now."
So, you're proposing yet another lesser of the evils option?
"What if there was a way that we could meet the needs of everyone on the planet so that nobody had to be raised in a deficient environment?"
But there isn't. Given the finite nature of our physical planet, the ecological reality that no species can survive if ecosystem balance is undermined, the quite obvious fact that humanity has far surpassed the ecological carrying capacity of the earth and that the exponentially-increasing human population and its ever-increasing material lifestyle has been the primary cause of the sixth great extinction, irreversible global warming, widespread desertification, decimation of the forest "lungs" of the earth, and unimaginable pollution of air, water and soil – given all that (and much more), those who profess belief in science should be the first to acknowledge that it's physically impossible to maintain this many human beings AND maintain the continuity of the Web-of-Life.
"the word economy…comes from the Greek word “oikonomia” which means “household management or thrift". Okay, then we should have an economy that manages our global resources thriftily and so that we can continue to manage this household (the Earth) for as long as possible. The point would be to make sure we use what we have in the most efficient ways to sustain life."
Our current global paradigm, as you state, puts the human-managed economy at the top of the pyramid and renders the natural ecology as a subset of the economy – a source of raw materials and a sink for our wastes. In truth, the ecology is paramount and precedes economy by billions of years. The human economy, for hundreds of thousands of years, was but one tiny element of the global ecology – until we shifted to sedentary agriculture, growing more than we needed for profit and to support the non-productive classes (bureaucrats, rulers, clergy and warriors) and then to money-based industrialism which elevated human management of our world beyond the integrity of the natural world. Each successive stage of this human cultural "progress" used greater technological levers of power to "manage" the world for our own benefit and – almost always – to the detriment of the natural world and the majority of humanity who were rendered serfs and slaves of those with greater wealth and power.
Efficiency, itself, is an industrial value. The natural world is terribly inefficient by our standards. It has operated entirely on solar power for 3.5 billion years with a conversion efficiency of less than 2%. Human technical management hasn't served to "sustain life" but only, at best, to sustain and prolong human life – though most often missing the mark there as well.
"Lets look at the planet as a system…and let’s manage it as a system. Look at our bodies as an example. Our bodies take food and liquid and distribute them throughout our bodies as they are needed. It’s not a group decision – there is no vote needed to determine what organ gets what. No, our bodies do an internal assessment of what we need and where, based on scientific and nature’s principles of keeping us alive. Isn’t that the goal of life, to keep itself alive?"
The goal of Life is to sustain itself as one part of a planetary entropy-generating system that includes the lithosphere, the aquasphere and the atmosphere. No species, and certainly no individual has priority in that Gaian dance, and every individual is expendable for the greater good of the whole. Yes, each living entity – from cell to organ to organism to species to ecosystem – organically orchestrates its internal life to feed every part, with every part feeding the whole. But this is NOT done by scientific, logical, rational principles. It is a non-linear, pre-rational, unconscious flow of energy. It is neither democratic nor technocratic. There is no politics of the body. A tribe or a small, well-functioning community of people tends also to operate somewhat in this way – work is done spontaneously to serve the needs of the whole with little conscious deliberation.
"…we realize that we need to manage our planet and manage our resources in the best way to keep us and the planet alive for as long as possible. Period. And this would of course involve the idea of making sure we do not deplete necessary resources to the point of annihilation of our species…"
Given that the planet managed to stumble along for 4.5 billion years, and the living planet for 3.5 billion years without human management, it is the height of hubris to suggest that the planet now needs our management, particularly when we have done such a miserable job at it up to this point. And, given that we are the first species to have caused a massive die-off of other species and that we have so vastly overextended our numbers and impacts, the most responsible act we might do at this point is voluntarily march, like Lemmings, to extinction – for the good of the whole.
"So, we would build systems to monitor and track all of the global resources on the planet. – this is NOT the idea that technocrats would rule the planet."
There is one and only one reason to "monitor and track" the planet's resources – and that is to manage them, which is done (best, of course) by technocrats (and which is precisely what the Zeitgeist movement proposes). You may not like the Nazi analogy, but they were superlative monitors and trackers – using IBM systems to keep track of their victims, and all for the good of society (or so they thought – as all idealists invariably do).
"Robert, it seems that you are advocating the hunter/gatherer way of life as the only way to keep our planet in balance. Bu technology isn’t going anywhere."
Not so much advocating, but merely pointing out the obvious: that the only time humans lived sustainably on this planet was the 200 millennia during which we lived that economic lifestyle. Where technology goes – or does not – is entirely our choice. That is, IF we make conscious choices, which is not the history of the development and use of technology. Almost never in human evolutionary history have we considered the unintended consequences of our technologies, nor its impact on the rest of the Web or on the "next seven generations".
"…isn’t the point of evolution to get to the point where we are able to go beyond the boundaries of the Earth and see who and what else is out there? Evolve to the point where we can begin to understand the mechanisms of the universe just a little better than we did yesterday? And in doing so, get closer to realizing why we are here in the first place? Why don’t we use science and technology in a way that’s helpful, rather than hurtful, to humanity."
That is little more than an extension of the frontier mentality: don't worry about despoiling your house when there's always another place to move on to. We might better attempt to learn what is right here on our own planet, learn to know and appreciate the Web-of-Life of which we are but a tiny part, and then we will once again understand the obvious purpose of our lives: to play our small part in the larger Web, for it's good, not our own. If the Web is healthy, then our needs are taken care of.
You pretend, as to most, that science and technology are value-neutral, and that it is only the way they're used that can be harmful. Marshall McLuhan showed us, back in 1964, that "the medium is the message" and Jerry Mander elaborated on this idea in his 1978 book Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television. Each technology has inherent effects on human society, regardless of how it's used. And every technology has unintended consequences. Even the prototypical human technologies of fire and the wheel have had among the most destructive impacts on both human culture and the living planet.
"Energy is abundant on the planet…We HAVE the ability to power this planet completely cleanly."
Energy is abundant for the proper balanced function of the Web-of-Life. The planet has – it always has – the ability to energetically sustain itself (at least until the Sun burns out), but human manipulation of concentrated energy has been disastrous for the planet. Manipulation, management – call it what you will, but that's the function of technology: to manipulate what had been a harmonious natural process for our personal ends.
"I also think it's to learn from eachother and love eachother and grow our spirits to maturity."
It is, in fact, way past time to learn (as we had until very recently in our evolutionary journey) from the rest of the Web and return to acting with maturity. A mature individual, organism, species or ecosystem uses as little energy and resources as possible, achieves a steady-state population, and contributes to the Life of the Whole. For at least 200 millennia, human beings were a mature species on this planet. With the agricultural revolution and even moreso with the industrial and cyber revolutions, we have degenerated into an immature, adolescent species which thinks the world revolves around us (hint: it doesn't, and we are fully expendable).
"if technology is used appropriately and not for monetary gain, it's uses for increasing our togetherness and wholeness could be boundless! why does science and real community living have to be mutually exclusive in your view?"
For an answer, you might ask those masters of living very well with very limited technology: the Amish (at least the traditional Amish). They have long known that much technology tends to undermine family and community relationships and cohesiveness, and that effect is the primary determinant for them in choosing appropriate technologies. You might also query that great farmer/philosopher, Wendell Berry, whose standards for appropriate technology would serve us all well:
So "stewardship" is a core elemnt, part of the heart of a thriveable economy.
I love Wendell Berry's list .I would add to that, every component should be recyclable.and that it serve life
Not sure how to sum that up but we surely have had a people technology of disposable electronics..computers, tv's cd players, ipods even home appliances.Our tiny little island dump already has a huge pile of flat screen tv's. laptops computers Everything should come with a 5 years minimum lifetime warranty or something like that.
how about .."Technology that arises from and serves the needs of humanity first, before profit, before ownership"
Is that an inclusive enough standard for all we have been saying it means to "Occupy Technology"
I am not arguing for the "correctness" of my views. I am simply sharing the Earth's perennial wisdom for those who have ears to hear.
"Do you assume you are proposing a utopia? Because if you don't think that any system has flaws, you are living in Plato's idealized world."
As I have stated, I am not proposing anything. I am merely reminding us that we DID live in the Garden of Eden for hundreds of millennia - the utopia that is part of the mythology of many earth cultures, and that we left by an act of rebellion against Nature (or God), by eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and thereby pretending to be as Gods. That choice led to our suffering.
Plato's philosophical musings are from a time when we were already deeply "civilized", and so abstracted from the Garden of Nature that he could only imagine the ideal as abstract forms.
"I think the process IS logical if looked at from a further back perspective. Do you know what fractals are? If you just looked at one part of that, it would be chaotic. If you step back, you see the larger pattern."
Fractals are an example of the non-linearity of all natural processes and forms, and the antithesis of linear logical thinking. Nothing in Nature is linear, logical or superficially causal. It is only when we are engaged in abstract reasoning that we get lost in logical syllogisms and confuse them for the real sensual world.
"I am not suggesting the planet needs our management, I am saying that we need to learn to manage ourselves with regard to the planet."
You did not suggest that - you stated it emphatically and concluded with "Period", as if that closed the argument. You said exactly:
"…we realize that we need to manage our planet and manage our resources in the best way to keep us and the planet alive for as long as possible. Period."
And you made the common modern mistake of confusing quantity for quality, of length of life with quality of life or the value of living.
"And to say that the most responsible thing would be to commit mass suicide is a) irresponsible and b) means you are forgetting that we are PART of this ecosystem. Our lives and health and happiness need to be incorporated into the whole."
For millennia, humans - like all animals - controlled their population by infanticide and eldercide. In some cultures, elders voluntarily left the tribe to die so that the younger generations could live. There was nothing immoral about this - in fact, it was the pinnacle of social and ecological responsibility. It is only in today's upside down culture, in which the individual has assumed rights over the community of life, that we mistakenly believe it is immoral to choose to die or to take life for the sake of the whole.
When we chose to leave the Garden, to cease living by the gifts of Nature and start manipulating Nature through increasingly sophisticated technological means, we chose to step outside of the Natural Order of our Planet. In other words, we chose to separate culture from Nature and perceive them as opposed. When we, further, allowed our numbers to vastly exceed the ability of the ecosystem to provide for us AND the other millions of species with which we share this Earth, we removed ourselves yet farther from the Web-of-Life and turned against it.
Gaia takes care of her own but finds ways to eliminate those that become parasites and cancers. In nature, it is only cancer and humans who live by an endless growth paradigm, and it is only parasites and humanity that suck the life out of their host in order to live.
Most importantly, perhaps, is that there is no Natural right to happiness. Thomas Jefferson might have deliberately altered Locke's "life, liberty and property" to "life, liberty and the pursuit [not the achievement] of happiness", but those were human-created tenets, not natural laws.
The purpose of life is to serve Life. Until we relearn that most essential principle of the Earth's living ecology, we will have no possibility of achieving balance and harmony within the Web-of-Life.
Interesting conversation - I have been considering how I wanted to contribute as I have followed it.
First, I can see all the perspectives. I have watched the Zeitgeist movies and love the concept of resources being available for all, but have many unanswered questions - especially how, specifically, it would work. I have very similar concerns as Robert about refocusing and further empowerment of the elite (even if it is a new elite). I have a difficult time imagining a RBE as feasible without the overlords.
I especially like Lindsay's comments about money - I too see it as an exchange medium. It seems to me that the task at hand is a new system that emphasizes that aspect and takes the creation and control of money out of the hands that it is currently in. I much prefer a localized and decentralized approach that still addresses the gamut of global issues.
My big question is in how to design a system that listens to everyone's voice, and works toward solutions that address everyone's perspective and need. This is an incredible challenge - there are obvious conflicting perspectives on this thread alone, let alone the 99%.
How do we move from ego based attachment to right and wrong to transcendent solutions? The subject of "consent" has also been brought up. I work with a process of decision making that is rooted in consent (rather than consensus) - I think that is the key but how do we get there from here?
"My big question is in how to design a system that listens to everyone's voice, and works toward solutions that address everyone's perspective and need. This is an incredible challenge..."
Human scale being what it is, such a system is inappropriate, as well. Just as we use small groups during large gatherings to increase effective participation, multiple co-existing systems (probably bioregional) promise to substitute wisdom for efficiency. The former emerges from engagement, the latter makes people redundant and certainly cannot care about each one.
Not sure what you mean is inappropriate - the Zeitgeist RBE? If so, I agree - but we can listen to the wisdom of an economy based on abundance rather than scarcity, and then build that bioregionally along with broader connections.
The first thing we need is conversation that moves us from right/wrong thinking to listen to the wisdom from each others perspective.
Inappropriate is one system to fit all, whether RBE or not.
I have seen that resource Kimberly - very cool.
The inappropriateness, from my perspective is similar to what David mentions as "one size fits all". I would be suspect of "any" global economy and the "elite" class it would produce.
If a RBE economy could be founded on decentralization, listens to the wisdom and needs of regional people, and has room for many creative exchange systems, I am all ears. I have yet to hear how it would practically work out.
You're either terribly entranced, deceiving yourself or lying outright to us.
The Zeitgeist movement is based on a horrific dystopian technocratic vision of computer controlled human culture, with the programmers as the new global elite (who, of course, make all decisions on pure reason with no hint of bias or self-interest).
I would encourage others to read the somewhat over-the-top but insightful critique "Peter Joseph, Jacque Fresco and the Zeitgeist Movement: Venus Flytrap or Final Solution?" http://www.sovereignindependent.com/?p=13193
"The idea, though it is not new, (but is packaged in hypnotising emotional propaganda movies) sounds lovely. Lets give up our power to machines. In one generation we lose every skill we ever had at managing the earth, growing food, existing as a family unit, forget how to exercise, work at anything and become so dependant on the system that should an error occur the engineers become the new elite, the rulers of the technocratic communist sci-fi dystopia."
Please, either lighten up on people or kindly leave occupycafe.
If honesty has no place in this conversation, then I'll remove myself, but not my comment.
Kimberly is misrepresenting what the Zeitgeist movement, itself, claims to stand for and promote.