The Communism vs Capitalism debate : we need a third way

I get annoyed, disheartened and frankly a little bored by the all too familiar comments I read on the internet on the subject of capitalism (particularly on the Guardian website which I read often). A seemingly endless recycling of the same tired out objections to alternatives again and again. While my sympathies clearly lie on the anti-capitalist side I have to admit at also getting frustrated by the level of debate on both sides.

At the first whiff of ‘socialism’ (or anything un-capitalist) the usual retorts are of course wheeled out, the tired old ‘look at Soviet Russia, look at China’ blah blah, and then the left wingers try making good points about the inequalities generated by the status quo of course. Despite the fact that most pro-capitalists are either those that benefit most from it, those that cling hopefully to the dream it sells them or those that feel there is no alternative so will cynically attempt to shut down any dissent – the arguments to defend it are so paper thin that I am continually frustrated that the anti-capitalist brigade aren’t making further headway. Often I feel like we are failing to paint the picture as it is. We are asking the wrong questions (sometimes not asking anything at all and just ‘telling’) and/or unable to put forward a coherent narrative for what should come next. We are working within the capitalist paradigm and discussing it by tacitly acknowledging many of it’s assumptions, it feels like sometimes.

To engender change you have to first show what’s wrong with the current situation. Well, that’s not too hard all things considered, but the next step is then frame the debate in a way that highlights the inconsistencies in the capitalist ideology – this is done less well and less frequently. I think we should be making it widely visible that frankly, capitalism is really just the new feudalism.

If you take a step back and look at it, really very little has changed since feudal times. All capitalism has done is replace the hereditary conferral of power to a purely monetary one.
Same play, different players – leading to the same tragic ending. Overlords with power and money to whom those without – offer their (working) lives in service. All things are supplicated before the mighty rich. Every thing has a price.

The 20th century dichotomy of Communism vs Capitalism is redundant now. Communist Russia and China both tried approaching their versions of Communism (and let’s give them the benefit of the doubt by saying they had only the best intentions) : “if we can forcibly impose the conditions that will.. (in their view) ..lead to human happiness then our people shall flourish”. I mean that was essentially the plan wasn’t it? So, it turns out that they were very wrong. Possibly about the conditions that were really required for communist utopia, but most certainly about the methods. Everything that is human and creative and joyful cannot be subordinated to control and enforced equality.
Any social order must embrace and encourage all that is positive about who we are. Soviet style communism failed dismally to do that. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – absolutely.

Capitalism however is not “the worst system, except for the rest”. No, it is just one of the worst. That sentiment (though often expressed) is – I feel – a cop out. It’s a way of stopping a debate or a conversation, of refusing or discouraging people to examine alternatives. It’s as if someone is saying to you that this has already been all worked out and here is the official result – no need to look any further.

The fact is that capitalism is (thanks to it’s central flaw), untenable. It has to end one day. It simply has no other future, no other route. There is no tinkering with the tank that will somehow turn it into a butterfly.
You can not have infinite growth in a finite world. There is no getting around it. The obsession with “growth” that pretty much all governments around the world run by has to be replaced at some stage. But nobody ever seems to ask the question “when do you think growth should stop?” Because nobody wants to acknowledge that it has to. There’s no way it can continue forever, so it has to stop one day. The question then becomes, well.. which day? If not today, then when? All of us will one day have to answer that question, so if you are reading this now I suggest you may as well start today.

It will most definitely have to be replaced with something one day, so we might as well get a head start on working out what it should be replaced with. ‘Post-growth’ societies therefore need to be articulated, dreams and ideal need to be shared, systems and shared principles discussed and a working common cause established – lest we wait for the next tyrant to seize the reins and decide it for us, thus repeating the worst of histories cliches.

Now that we have established a need to discuss this, we should really think hard about what a society is for, what it should do for us, and what the best structure might be for that. Do we have governments? If so, what is their role? If not, then how else do we agree common cause and action things? If the priority of people’s lives is not simply to ‘produce utility’, to obtain profit, to capitalise on opportunities to compete and gain advantage over one another, and instead we have other incentives and priorities… What might the world look like? With changes of that scale, building a vision from the bottom up seems more sensible to me than the top down. So rather than starting with who runs it and how, we should maybe first work out what it is that’s going on. How are we producing food? How are resources used and shared? How are we directing effort and how are we living and filling our days? To what purpose are communities or societies directed? Do we still live in cities to the extent we do now?
Many questions to answer, and quite a lot of them are thorny – but then is there many things more important that we should be doing? Saving the world from cataclysmic environmental degradation might be one, but then if we are to avoid repeating the mistakes that led us here we need to have a viable alternative way of doing things – and it occurs to me that the more you dig the more urgency these questions take on.

Get your thinking caps on people. Challenge the prepackaged ideologies and take the best, assume nothing and ask what is possible, then challenge that and ask again. We have few limitations other than ourselves and a finite (but regenerative) planet.

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Still defiant

I know I haven’t been posting much in recent history.

I guess it’s because I hate repeating myself and I’ve been feeling a lot lately like its been said.

That being said however, there’s still more to come.


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I like this

I like it a lot.

He could go further but it’s a great first step.



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Sacred Economics

{I meant to post this months ago, but I’m posting it now}  :)


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Permaculture as a tool for liberation

Thats what these people are proposing, and I for one like it!

Check it out:

Also, from the same blog is this great article on anarchism that is certainly one of the better written I have come across – and well worth your time as it’s not that long (certainly shorter than some of mine!)  ;)

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Wealth is not how much money you have





I don’t think we need a re-distribution of wealth, I think we need a re-definition of it.

No life is considered well lived without love, without some sense of connection and meaningful employment of time, but we must remember that everything we have now, and everything that our present concept of wealth is based on is directly and inextricably derived from a functioning planetary ecosystem. No market, no asset and no finance is possible without fresh air to breathe, nutritious food to eat and clean water to drink.

To have any of those three we need stable bio-diverse ecosystems that are managed -stewarded – in a way that is truly sustainable.

Sustainability. That is the key concept here. A word that seems much used and possibly abused, but it’s the key. Any action, process or system that is not sustainable uses more resources that it produces and must therefore at some point come to an end. This is not optional, it is inevitable.

So the end of what we see around us now is coming, that much is certain, but we do have a choice as to what we do about it. We can regenerate landscapes, we can decide to redefine wealth as having access to sustainable, well managed resources of food water shelter and energy and the best bit of all is that we need no other technology to do it than we already possess and no more ingenuity or creativity than what we have right now.

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Who knows best?

The more ‘correct’ a country tries to be – and the more laws it passes to micromanage the minutia of it’s citizens’ behaviour – the less tolerant it becomes.

The list of things that are ‘illegal’ now is growing at an alarming rate. We call it ‘political correctness gone mad’ but it’s more insidious than that.

It starts off as a seemingly inoffensive way to make it clear what behaviour is safe/approved/responsible/acceptable etc and what is not. What it is doing however is suggesting that people need only look to the state to know what behaviour is ok. It creates a dependence while reinforcing the authority the state feels it has to regulate in this way.

One’s conduct in life is no longer about personal judgement and taking conscious responsibility or accountability for one’s actions. It’s become instead a transaction between individuals and the state when it should instead be about people in a community agreeing what conduct is appropriate in an evolving and organic way.

It’s a very capitalist ideal don’t you think? – this increase in prizing and encouraging individualism. It’s part of the core philosophy. In capitalism you don’t need anyone else, you just need money. To function in life you only need the means to exchange for goods and services and to do so better than your competitors (everyone else).

This is of course a falsehood. A false economy if you will. In ‘real’ reality we do need other people. We are social animals, we depend on each other and are stronger together then apart. That is not to say that individuals don’t have rights and identity and purpose themselves but rather that we should not deny our social and communal nature. Our success and all our greatest achievements are all collaborative, building with or on the work of others.

In it’s essence the basic capitalist philosophy (especially libertarianism) flies in direct opposition to this fact – suggesting that the individual is primary and deserves the complete freedom to act in whatever way they see fit (obviously within the law and without harming others etc etc) especially in relation to the market. The individual should have no encumbrance to operating in the market in whatever way they see fit and should most certainly have no obligation to others or be expected to be reliant or indebted to any other and so on.

Sounds great when you’re in a (relatively) wealthy, (relatively) functioning economy and are equipped to identify, seize and capitalise on opportunities. Here comes the ‘but’.
It only kinda works if you look at the top part of the capitalist pyramid. If you live in a rich western industrialised economy and are doing ok then it seems to hold true.. But this is a false horizon because all you see it the top 10% of the iceberg above water. The rest of the worlds population must be kept submerged in order for you to float up. Someone always has to be the ballast for there to be a peak to shine in the sun. That is what capitalism requires, it demands it, and doesn’t work any other way.

Its only by ignoring the vast majority of the word’s people who are poor and held down below the surface that we at the pristine white peak can believe that we have a great system that allows us to be our best and not need anyone else – hence it’s a self fulfilling prophecy yet every white moderately-educated right-leaning libertarian American I’ve come across all seem to think like this. Fiercely individualistic, they feel strongly that they have a right to earn what they can and keep what they earn because they did it alone and that they don’t need anyone else. The extent to which they do accept they need others is not a contradiction because then they have money to facilitate this.

They cannot see the problem because they are unlikely or unwilling to follow the thought trail far enough down. They don’t want to pay for a state (but they want to be serviced by it) they don’t want to care about others around the world because they genuinely don’t see how they are connected (despite needing them in order to have what they do). They can’t understand that they are rich and born into a country that is rich off the back of other countries. They truly believe that everyone has the same starting point in life and that the world is a meritocracy that rewards these that work hardest or have the greatest talent. To be honest they don’t want to believe anything else so they choose not to look too hard or question too deep.

The kinds of things I say make them angry and defensive because I suspect on some level they know something is wrong or maybe just because they detect that the implication is that they are selfish and self-centered.

Makes me think of a tree frog that tells itself it only needs the tree it gets it’s food from and doesn’t need to care what happens to bees – not seeing that it’s tree can only exist if it’s pollinated by these very bees.

Anyway, this isn’t a rant against libertarians, as the reality of the system they think is so great is out there to observe if they ever have the courage to do so honestly, but instead I wanted to point out that to the rest of us we shouldn’t be seduced by this individualistic philosophy. It’s hard to argue against when it’s framed in the usual way, but we all know deep down that we crave love and acceptance and that the mot valuable things in our lives are almost always our relationships, our friends our family, our children etc. this stuff is more primal and more truthfully who we are than any economic system, and regardless of what we say in public we never question it in our hearts.

It’s important to recognise that the counties we live in are tangled up in this capitalist set of values and will continue to want to pass laws telling us how we should behave and that one by one they will encourage us to look not to each other or into ourselves for guidance on what is right or wrong but to the state. And it doesn’t take much imagination to know what lies down that road, does it?

We need to retain our sense of self, trust in our ability to learn and know the difference between what is right and what is wrong, share and interact with our community and participate in meaningful ways – in a mindset of tolerance and good humour. We do not need the state to tell us who we are, what is right, how to act or what to think.

We did not grant them this authority. They claim it but I never gave it, so sooner or later this will become an issue.

We need to reclaim our power as individuals bound together in communities. We should never look to a state to tell us the difference between right and wrong.

There is a place for laws and justice in society to be sure, but there is also a line. Legislation is a blunt instrument, and many things are best left for us to negotiate and decide amongst ourselves without letting the state get it’s grubby hands into it.


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What are you waiting for?

The Usual Suspects




“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist” – Verbal Kint, The Usual Suspects (originally by Baudelaire).

Similarly, we are all seemingly under the illusion that the solutions to all the major crises affecting our civilisation (for lack of a better term) are yet to be discovered.
– global poverty
– sustainable energy generation
– sustainable food supply
– sustainable fresh drinking water supplies
– declining biodiversity, deforestation, depleted fish stocks, bleached coral..
– climate change

We are somehow led to believe that these solutions that will arrive are technological in nature and just over the horizon. They’re coming, but they’re not here yet. People talk about them as being in the process of being discovered and researched, offering tantalising glimpses to their marvels – and indeed a lot of this technology is marvellous. The only problem is that it’s a bit of a mirage. We’re still looking where the magician has redirected our attention. We’re convinced that the nature of the problem is technological and that it’s a race to get where we need to in order to deal with these impending crises. With just a bit more time, hard work and investment we will soon be able to triumph over this collective adversity.

I suspect many of us want to believe this. In part because these solutions are promising to be the ‘magic bullets’ that we so crave. The wave of the fairy godmother’s wand that makes it all go away and let’s us breathe a collective sigh of relief and get back to what we were doing. That’s what most people in the rich industrial, modern world want.

Let me say in advance that I’m sorry.
It’s not going to play out that way. That is the one scenario that I can guarantee will NOT come to pass. Whatever happens, change is coming. Your life, the way you live it today, will change. Sooner or later, this way that we live will be no more. It will end. Finish. Gone.

Exactly how ‘traumatic’ that is, depends on 1) how attached to this lifestyle you are and 2) how wisely we act (collectively) over the next generation.

Imagine being caught by a surprise gust of wind  that picks up the umbrella you’re holding and carries you up into the air. Your first reaction is to hold on – fearing your umbrella is just going to be blown away – but soon it becomes apparent that the wind is lifting you off the ground and carrying you up and shows no signs of stopping. You can already see where this is going. You can hope that a hot air balloon or helicopter will miraculously fly past and pluck you to safety, but the wise move is to just let go because the harder you hold on the worse the eventual fall is going to be. Even if that chopper does fly by it’s going to be fighting the same winds that pulled you off the ground.

Anyway, enough of that analogy, hopefully you get the idea. We have some very serious crises to face up to and our two choices are; the easy way or the hard way. Act now at some cost or act later at horrendous cost. We do it now, we change slowly , we adapt, we get used to a new better way that’s sustainable. We wait and have to face a number of massive crises at once. Many, many people will die and things will get a lot worse before they get better. Your money, your compounds or your guns will not save you.

We need to act now but the problem seems to be that we’re waiting for that white knight solution to appear – the Magic Bullet. It was absurd in warren commission and it’s equally absurd to believe in it now. The truth is that we don’t even need a magic bullet. In fact this waiting for one is the perfect excuse to do nothing. We need to wake up this fact, see the red herring for what it is and the sooner the better.

All the knowledge and resources required to fix these global problems we already possess. You know it to be true. Just look around. Just think about it carefully.

The only reason that most (if not all) of these solutions are not implemented is because of the affect (to greater or lesser degrees) that it would have on our economies – and in particular the ability to generate profit, and thus growth, and so on.

We know how to end poverty. We know how to save fish stocks, stop declining biodiversity, generate unlimited energy from renewable sources and we know very well how to regenerate soils, grow abundant fresh organic food and harvest fresh water. None of this stuff is out of our reach, it’s just unprofitable and therefore inconvenient to a system that is based on scarcity – artificial scarcity at that.

We all know who’s at the sharp end of this, perpetuating the problem, leading the effort to consume as fast as possible – the ‘usual suspects’ – a matrix of government, money, power, vested interests etc. but never forget who’s really in the driving seat here. We are. Ultimately they have no power over us that we don’t give to them.

At some point we are all going to have to ‘man up’ and grow the balls necessary to just do what has to be done and let our imaginary economic or social systems be re-arranged around the harder issues of food, water, shelter and security – rather than the other way around. The question of whether we come to this realisation the ‘easy way’ or the ‘hard way’ is up to us. It’s up to you.


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Human nature – born selfish or capable of more?

The question of human nature is a central one I think. It underpins the question : are we capable of having a better world than the one we have, or are any alternatives doomed to descending into chaotic/oppressive amplifications of the worst aspects of our character? In short, are any efforts to live in a better world going to be undermined by our greedy and selfish nature?

Do we need rules to restrict us? Do we need governments to exert control so that we might be safe from ourselves and one another? The state would most certainly like you to think so.

These are hugely important questions as they underpin almost everything else that or world is built on and are – in essence – the justification for the system we have now and for preserving the status quo. We have been told that this is the case for many, many generations – it is the received wisdom of the ages – but is it really true?

Firstly, I do believe we need rules,  or maybe rather we need principles, morals and ethics to guide us and serve as ‘social glue’, but I do not believe we ultimately need governments to tell us what to do, to exert control over us, or ‘protect us from ourselves’. Granting a few people power over others is inherently ‘problematic’ in my view – especially people that are as flawed as any (and perhaps through their desire for the position) more so.

But is it a necessary evil? Do we actually need the guiding hand to steer us on the straight and narrow? The iron fist to strike us when we transgress? Is the power of the state needed to be our shepherd and ensure that it’s flock is safe from itself and others? Without it could we rise to be our better selves – liberated – or would we descend into selfishness and greed? It’s divisive.

I have to be up front here and say that I don’t have proof either way, however I start from the position that people are inherently good, not ‘evil’ and that it is almost always circumstance that brings out the worst in the human spectrum of behaviour. Nurture over nature – but I concede that this a belief, not a fact. Nevertheless I believe it to be true and my experience of the world supports it – despite any suffering I have encountered, not because of it’s absence. It is belief to be sure, but is the opposite view any less so?

I have not done any experimentation or testing on this, nor am I aware of studies that have (though they may well exist). But perhaps just as illuminating, what do you think they would say? if you wanted to think about it in evidential terms what do you believe (from your own experience) the statistics might tell us? (If someone was to do this kind of analysis, and you trusted statistics). What does your gut tell you the result would be? I suppose it depends on the question you ask.

If you asked “how many people have broken a law in their life?” Then I suspect the world would be full of criminals. Bad, naughty people! However if you asked a slightly more penetrating question like “how many people consistently and deliberately act in a way that they know causes harm to another?” then my bet is you’d find you have an extremely small part of the population.

People make mistakes, people are driven to do things they often don’t like through a (perceived or real) lack of choice, but it is pretty rare I think to find people who choose to do ‘bad’ things they know are ‘bad’ when there is another ‘good’ option they feel they could choose as easily. That’s my experience of the world anyway (and I’ve been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit over the years).

I do believe the capacity for doing bad is of course there in our nature, but the world I see out there continues to surprise me with just how ‘good’ people can be – even those living in the worst socio-economic conditions – and occasionally how horrible others can be when living even in the best.

Doesn’t that contradict what I said above? Maybe on the surface it seems that way, but we have to remember that when I say ‘circumstance’ or ‘nurture’ I mean the sum total of a human being’s experience in life, not just the socio-economic situation they find themselves in.

Rich people abuse their children too, scar them emotionally and going to the best school can be just as traumatic to some people as going to the worst is for others. People can grow up to be filled with all kinds of negative emotions (hate, shame, fear etc) regardless of where or how their family lives. The opposite is also true. Some people can appear to have ‘nothing’ in the material sense, but humble you with their warmth, their compassion, their generosity and their kindness – I’ve seen and heard this time and time again.

So the first (perhaps obvious) thing to draw from that is that a person’s socio-economic situation or background is not a deciding factor in and of itself. So what’s wrong with poverty then? Well, lots really. Not least is the fact that more often than not it creates conditions that foster (often for good reason) hate, fear, envy, outrage etc.. as feeling trapped, exploited, robbed of basic rights etc can cause all of these negative feelings and more.

A person’s sense of self worth may perhaps turn out to be a more important factor in deciding how likely they are to act ‘badly’ than anything else. At any rate, it is in this sense that I think about circumstances causing the majority of negative behaviour.

The second thing to draw from the above statement is the reminder that how much stuff you have is meaningless in terms of how truly ‘happy’ you are. Many people recognise this (at least superficially) I think, but still we all want more money, a better home, a better car, that new gadget or whatever. Now that in itself is a dense and multi-layered topic around the dreams and lifestyles that we are sold, the things we are cunningly (and sometimes not-so) told to buy, and all kinds of questions of culture, identification and even just trying to prosper with the hand we’re dealt.

But for the purposes of this post, let’s just say that human happiness has nothing to do with having stuff and draw a line under that for now while also agreeing that human nature has the capacity for both good and bad, the light and the dark, but that – put very simply – (I believe) human nature is bent and warped by the experiences we have.

That isn’t really a very controversial thing to say I don’t think. Surely we all accept that process don’t we? Things happen to you that change the way you see the world, other people etc, and also therefore change your behaviour to those things.

If we accept that, then it seems to follow (in my opinion) that actively creating conditions under which people are more likely to have extremely negative experiences can only turn out one way. I argue therefore (for reasons that should be rather obvious – or if not, are outlined in other posts) that the current system we have (let’s call it capitalist, because it is) is a hugely negative force in making the world a worse place both directly by the vast scale of the poverty it creates and also more subtly by perpetuating (or even growing) the incentives for people to behave badly to escape from or compensate for the brutalising they have often endured as a result.

Right now, today, on the streets of some Mexican towns caught in the grip of spectacular violence as a result of the war on drugs, the value of a human life is around USD$85.
I don’t know the price of a human life in Congo, Brazil, Guinea or Guatemala.. but there are bound to be places where prices are similar or even lower.

People are being paid that money to take another human life. All of those dreams, thoughts, feelings and possibilities extinguished. Welcome to capitalism. This is what people do to get money. A few bits of paper who’s actual value is entirely conceptual. They want money to eat etc but really they also want to have status, to be a big shot, to be seen as successful, to be ‘worth something’.

For that they will accept a few fictional pieces of paper they are told will be worth something to someone else and they will take the life of another human being. Someone they probably don’t know anything about. A person who was someone’s baby once. Someone loved that person. If you imagine someone you loved and what they mean to you , I doubt the value you’d put on that loved one would be a monetary price – and certainly not one that low. But the truth is if someone wanted your loved one dead in these kind of places, that’s how much they’d be worth. How do you feel about that?

What kind of system does this? How can someone defend capitalism when you reduce it to this? I know it’s an extreme example – the price of a human life – but that’s the world we live in. Your life has a price too. Different people in different places value it differently to be sure, but it does. Corporations will weigh up a myriad of factors in deciding what you’re life is worth when their products or services have a potential to cause harm or death. How much to spend on safety has more to do with how much it will cost them if you’re killed in law suits, brand damage etc, than you’re worth as a living human being. They don’t actively want you dead (we hope!) but truthfully past a certain point, your life lost is a cost they’ll bear if it means that they don’t lose more money then they have to and can continue to maximise profits. (Which let’s remember are also entirely fictitious). Insurance companies clearly have to put a value on life. A dollar value. A dollar that exists only as a consensually held illusion of worth. An abstract idea of value.

Some may think this is just the way things are, the sad cruel reality of life. But it’s our reality – the one we created. And you know what? We can create another if we choose and that is why I’m writing this blog. Because we can have better than all this and the first step is to getting there is to recognise what that better way might be.

So getting back to the central question at hand and the thing that underpins whether many believe non-state run world to be possible; human nature. Is it fundamentally streaked with selfishness, greed and desire for power over others or is it capable of altruism, compassion and/or living in harmony with others?

It’s all well and good to talk about the wonderful qualities of our character and balance it by eliciting shock with the worst depths that money can tempt us to, but haven’t experiments in the past provided us with strong evidence that self-government or ‘communist/anarchist’ style alternative systems simply don’t work in the real world? Aren’t people just ultimately too selfish and greedy? Don’t the experiments with communes that failed in the 1960’s prove that? And don’t even the few exceptions of self governing communities that do persist (Mennonite societies etc) prove the rule by surviving only through rigid laws and strict hierarchies?

Firstly, on religion based self governing communities I think that the rigidity and insularity of these (mainly religious based) groups are there because to follow doctrine requires a monopoly of thought (one right way) and therefore prohibition on alternatives. If you want to know what I think about fundamentalist rule you can read my previous post.  Second, even if and when they are not strict or fundamentalist in any way, these communities need strong defences against ‘the other’ in order to endure. The capitalist world is insidious in a number of ways and if you are trying to essentially compete with it – as these communities are forced to do – you have to be strong and organised, or have some other defence against it. My view is that in a world without money or states this rigidity becomes redundant.

What about the hippy communes in the 1960’s that were all about free love – no capitalist/traditional power, gender, relationship or societal roles – didn’t they all collapse because people were just inherently lazy, greedy or selfish? What about the [insert other similar experiment conducted over the last 100 years here], that’s compelling evidence isn’t it?

In a word, no – I don’t think so. The evidence is (in my mind) often confused or ‘tainted’ by the experimental conditions. Many point to people given opportunities to self govern and failing (such as these communes which all apparently fell apart due to quick class stratification and unequal gender roles and participation etc) and say “ah hah, see? There you go” as they dust their hands and walk away, presumably thinking to themselves “There’s that question answered then”.

But to me this misses the point entirely. Did they fail because people are actually inherently selfish and/or ‘bad’ / incapable of self government? I would argue instead that those people (and possibly even a large number of people today) fail in this kind of situation because they carry so much baggage of the current system with us. We are products of it. Unfortunately you can’t wave a magic wand and suddenly change people’s cultural expectations and world view. What this sort of experiment really does is it highlights the question of not IF a world without money and state is possible, but rather is it possible NOW – with our current expectations and ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. And that is a fundamentally different question.

We bring a lot of baggage with us, societal roles, gender roles, concepts of status and worth. Capitalism warps us in ways that we often don’t realise. The lens through which we view the world, the value we place on things, it is all affected. Few of us are able to see past it so easily, or kick the lifelong expectations or habits we’ve picked up about our place in the world.

Perhaps for us to have a realistic alternative a common recognition of what’s truly important is necessary. That seems to be the basis for the alternative communities that exist today all around the world. There are many examples of communal and ‘off-grid’ living that seem to be doing ok because to be a part of it you have to share the ethos of those you live with form the outset and be mature enough to participate in a communally minded way – the way of that particular group.

[Once again, I feel that in a world without money or state this artificial division of us/them is redundant. People will naturally gravitate towards others of compatible mindsets but the reality will still be that we are all different individuals ultimately  wrestling with the same struggles who are interdependent on one another].

Those commune situations are always going to struggle to work if someone goes ‘cold turkey’ from a wage slave to having nothing they ‘have’ to do to survive. I mean that if you have to work  for decades doing things you don’t like just to make money and suddenly you don’t have to do anything, you might just want to do nothing. Now that’s not very helpful to others, but one can empathise with the sentiment. If the people from the neighbouring village have been scorning you and your family for generations and suddenly there are no more governments, no more money and you are asked to cooperate with these people – there might be friction.  It is not an overnight thing. Like children, an education needs to take place, a recognition of one’s new place in a society.

This is however a ultimately a question of how we might transition to a better world without money or a state – not whether human nature is capable of allowing us to live and work together in harmony and to mutual benefit. It is also a question I am wary to delve into too much just yet. It’s tricky, and a whole other debate.

Anyway, I certainly don’t suggest we all have to grow dreadlocks and live in communes. That puts people off (and if I’m honest) myself included, however in a post-capitalist, post-state world we wouldn’t have to. We could live in whatever configuration or proximity to others we thought worked best for us along a spectrum of individualism vs communalism. We would no doubt live in communities in a similar way to what we do now, though with fewer of the traditional limitations I’d imagine.

But we’ve seen examples of if not working, but has it actually worked anywhere? Yes in fact it has. There are tribes in Papua New Guinea that were found to practice a pure form of anarchist communism, there are several native tribes of a number of regions – many unfortunately unable to defend themselves against the invading foreigners. Not because their way of life was inferior, but because of geographic location (I think Jared Diamond’s Gun’s Germs & Steel is a good book on this topic).

One notable example of a land that functions on principles that are similar to what I talk about is the pacific island nation of Anuta – whose guiding social principle is not individual ownership of property but instead..

Concern for others is the backbone of Anutan philosophy. ‘Aropa’ is a concept for giving and sharing, roughly translated as compassion, love and affection. Aropa informs the way Anutans treat one another and it is demonstrated through the giving and sharing of material goods such as food. For example, the land on Anuta is shared among the family units so that each family can cultivate enough food to feed themselves and those around them.

There is a lot that is truly amazing and wonderful about the way of life on Anuta, however it is not entirely unaffected by western capitalism and (historically) western religious influence and it’s remote location has thankfully acted as a buffer to prevent the outside from eroding too much of the balance that they have struck. We don’t all need to live just like the Anutans of course, but they have something they can teach us. They serve as a reminder of what (given the right circumstances) is indeed possible.

They recognise the truth that we are all interdependent, connected both to each other and the environment that supports our life. I would imagine that in a world without money we’d naturally group together for support and find great benefit in doing so. The incentive would shift form the individual ‘me’ to the collective ‘we’ with the realisation that it’s the same end game for us all and that the things we truly value (love, happiness, family, compassion, freedom, dignity, respect etc) are the same across all people and the best thing of all – they are renewable resources – providing the right circumstances for the best of our nature can be allowed to flourish.


They call me an Anarchist

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When the Arab Spring has sprung

When religious political parties are democratically elected to power, it’s ok.. isn’t it?

What exactly is wrong with religious and/or fundamentalist governments if they are democratically elected?

Many in the west think of it as an automatically bad thing to have an islamic (or any non-secular) government in a country – especially it seems when it’s a Muslim country and in the Middle East or North Africa.

I too never liked the idea of it. Separation of church and state seems to me to be of primary importance, but the developments in places like Egypt and Tunisia where religious (and some say fundamentalist) muslim political parties have been elected – has made me want to examine my beliefs on this.

If the people democratically elect a government (even a religious one) who says they shouldn’t be permitted to do so? Who says it’s wrong? Their vote – no matter how ill informed or wrong other may believe it to be – is still the ultimate say isn’t it? Shouldn’t the pro-democracy West be happy they got and made a choice – even if it was to vote in religious hardliners who might one day want to curb civil liberties, individual freedoms and introduce sharia law? It’s kinda tricky isn’t it?

I still don’t like it, but why? Aren’t the voters always right? Isn’t the alternative a slippery slope of fascism or some other kind of totalitarian, colonial or feudal setup where the ruling elite or outsiders says they know better than the populace?

So I was left wondering on what grounds it still made me uncomfortable. Was it simply because I am not muslim and so it was some cultural fear of the other? Years of western anti-islamic propaganda perhaps eating away at me – unknown to rational mind and covertly making me a bigot? I doubt it. I have visited several muslim countries and I love many things about the history, art, and culture of muslim countries so I don’t think I’m a closet racist or anything like that. I had to keep thinking, what was off about it really?

I came when I realised that the proposition of a religious government – especially a monotheistic fundamentalist one – was an inherent contradiction. It was contradictory because it (explicitly or otherwise) wants to forbid the very freedoms that it itself benefitted from. It demands that people be free to follow that religion and hold it’s beliefs, and practice it without persecution. One day however, when it seizes power (and it has control of the state) it wants to forbid that same freedom to others who do not share it’s beliefs. This basic unfairness is what I can’t stomach.

Just to be clear – this is (of course) not to say that there is anything wrong with an individual holding religious beliefs and practicing this religion in a way that does no harm to others and I only choose islam as an example because it’s topical and a lot of fuss is made about it – the same could be said of Christianity or any other religion. Most people and groups are not fundamental in nature but then again most of them are not trying to seize power over others, so it’s the ones that are that this discussion is really focusing on.

So, as well as being unfair it also seems wholly unnecessary. Governments should be largely (or some might fairly argue – purely) administrative in nature. They are the people we elect and pay to keep the state and all it’s apparatus ticking along nicely for our benefit. It doesn’t need to have any particular opinion or moral authority to do what it should be doing – so religion is entirely unnecessary. Now I’m not saying that’s what it always IS, but when you break it down that’s kinda the point is it not? A strong reason to keep religion out of it.

Interestingly, when you think about it, the same could be said for governments now in so far as they are fundamentalist capitalists. Are you free to be say, an anarchist? I mean really.. If you want to live in a way that does not recognise the authority of the state and the government are you free to do so? Can you live as a communist outside of the capitalist world? No, not really – not outside of probably a few token personal choices.

So when the Arab spring has sprung and more governments have gone down the religious path – can we really consider it a step forward? While it is truly a great thing that they have fought to escape the tyranny of dictatorship, are they not exchanging one sort for another – even if right now it appears like a choice? If the new regimes meant that more people had access to secular education as a result (and thus be better equipped to be better politically engaged future) then great, but I find it hard to believe that the ruling powers would see that as being in their interests. Chances are that religious education is what future generations will receive, narrowing their minds further and walking only further down a path to insularity and division from their brothers and sisters around the world.

Maybe the worst thing is that they will be arguably less able to revolt, to show dissent and to question than they were before – because it will no longer be just political. When you take on a religious government you are taking on the religion that goes with it and the entire moral authority that this exerts. Those that realise what freedoms they have lost in the transition from corrupt dictatorship to theocratic totalitarianism will feel they have moved from an Arab spring to an Arab winter.

Sadly for them, those in power will once again think that the letter of the laws written in some centuries old book is more important than the spirit of the truths it tries to teach.

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