There is a curse

April 2007

There is a curse: "May you live in interesting times." Am I the only one who thinks it sounds appealing? I live in one of the safest, most stable, and most comfortable times in history, and I'm bored out of my tree.

I think life is all about trade-offs. Money or time. Career or family. Security or excitement. You can have one of any of those pairs, but you can't have both.

I have another theory: a pretty large proportion of the human lives on this planet look the same. There must be some merit in trying something different.

(Actually, I'd say nearly all the lives on this planet fall into two or three different categories; very few people are outside these broad groups. I'm thinking of these stereotypes: the 40-hour-week westerner, the struggling-but-surviving (and often exploited) third-world dweller, and the starving and malnourished third-world dweller. I suspect that that would cover around 90% of the world's population.)

Anyway, my point being, I'm not sure that these categories cover the sum total of possible human existences, and it's probably worth trying something a little unusual.

Ran Prieur said something pretty fascinating, something about what the people of the year 1000 would have thought of our panic about possibly losing our technology for a day or two due to the Y2K bug, and the years of worry and millions (billions?) of dollars spent avoiding the possibility. I can see how it would look pretty crazy to a society that didn't depend on technology. Maybe we need to re-learn some independence?

Civilisation is all about control: we want control over our day-to-day lives, our food supplies, our shelter. Our governments want control over us.

I think maybe anarchy is the wrong word for my ideal world. What I'd like to see is no centralised government at all (no nation states), just loosely (dis-)connected, self-governed tribal groups and small communities (couple of hundred people max, I think.)

One of the biggest perceived problems about anarchy, or any alternative de-centralised government system, seems to be along the lines of “but X won't be able to function the way it currently does” or “but we won't be able to do Y the way we currently do.” Sure. You can't make an omelette, as they say. But hey, trying new things sounds like fun! Let's start with a localised, depreciating currency.

Christina commented:

"loosely (dis-)connected, self-governed tribal groups and small communities (couple of hundred people max, I think.)"

But what about in-breeding? :P

Also, the fact that over time these localized communities will develop slightly different dialects from each other and thus eventually become mutually unintelligible? On second thoughts, I'm almost looking forward to that kind of language setting...

Maybe have a look at research / historical data about societies from earlier periods that did have almost self-sufficient micro-communities, i.e feudal Europe, to get an idea of what this kind of world might look like (although without the feudalism). Would be interesting to see how this might pattern in a modern world.

And bear in mind, New Zealand has a lot less natural resources than many other countries like Europe and the States with regard to, say, creating our own clothing etc (flax isn't the softest, warmest garment-making material). So, maybe there'd be a few issues with complete self-sufficiency for an isolated island.

Oh, dear - I wasn't going to let the internets trap and entice me with exciting things tonight. Rats :D

era commented:

I can strongly relate to your first remark. It is something that I have spent a lot of time thinking about. My place and time in history is one of the most comfortable, most safe, and most stable. But is it?

'this society wasn't made for humans, this society wasn't made for humans' ticks through my head, over and over.

We are informed on all fronts that the world we live in today is the best. On top of this, we're told that we, as white male westerners, are at the pinnacle of it. I hate to admit it, but I'm not having fun, and looking around not many others are either. Many of my friends suffer from depression. Most have some sort of distractive addiction to take their mind off the world, drugs, alcohol, videogames, religion, etc. Others get jobs that take up so much time they don't have the time or energy to do anything, least of all complain. My best friend from primary school killed himself, and I'm stuck wondering what I could have possibly said to him to convince him not to. I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea.

"Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives" - Fightclub.

I love fightclub, watch it again if you don't. We do have something real to fight against and something real that is worth fighting for. We could admit that the society we live in is not the one we want, nor is it even close to it. We could tear it down and replace it with a society designed for humans, one in which we might flourish. As it happens, I tend to agree that this sort of society would have the essential form of anarchy.

As a side note, I think you've mentioned anarcho-primitivism. I should point out that I don't think that this line of thinking is that useful, we need to step forwards, not backwards. I don't envy the way people once lived. But if you must, can I have your wii? Maybe we can discuss Neo-Luddites some time though.

KT commented:

I'll come. I am likewise bored out of my tree, and probably making up problems for myself just to make it all seem important somehow.

Tim B commented:

"May you live in interesting times" is a curse - if you are living near the edge. If you are living with comfortable Western affluenza it might be a blessing. Context is everything.

stan_ commented:

well like you say about third world countries, i heard in a Church once that if you're comfortable with your life you're probably not living a righteous one helping those who aren't 'cos we're like the blessed 2% that lived like the Pharisees back in Jesus' time

the Y2K thing was just another conspiracy theory like global warming and the ice age

if you want less government and more community party vote ACT

hey Era why did your friend kill himself? my friend from primary school died too, it was 'cos his woman left him for another man