Friday, October 28, 2011

Myth Busting

Myth Busting

For the first 6000 years of human organization armed forces were required to enslave or indenture a workforce to break their bodies doing something they didn't want to do; Build a pyramid, a temple, an edifice that ennobled the "king" who managed to employ those forces. Now we have evolved to the point that thousands line up for the privilege of enslaving themselves. We have instituted a set of fundamental myths that reinforce the process of self enslavement: There is a protestant work ethic that purports to demonstrate a person's grace through the observation of their hard work. Thank you Martin Luther.
We have instilled in the culture a corruption of Spencer's observation of natural selection and reduced "survival of the fittest" to a mano-a-mano fight for life.
We have embedded "what do you do for a living" so deep into our language that our job is now synonymous with our human value and the lack of job implies death.
Compensation for labor is said to be proportionate to the value of the earner and, as if you didn't have millions of examples of that myth, the new data by-product of OWS is proof enough, that those who have the most, do the least.

Of course 6000 years of this has made us insane and thus we contradict ourselves. We worship at the feet of the lucky; the heirs, the attractive, the criminal, those who have done nothing to deserve the inordinate wealth they possess. We devalue the uncompensated work of the people that perform our most critical tasks; rearing our young, or being companions for our aged. When we try to reform these behaviors we deflect from the personal to the general and get caught in the impossibility of revolution. There is nothing wrong with Marx's foundation logic. He nailed the issues all those years ago. What confounds his intellectual heirs is that portion of human activity that seems to bred in the bone, or worse, is excited by behavior en-masse, our fears and demons.

The myth of scarcity has forced us into a hoarding behavior. If there is not enough to go around, I must ensure mine.
The myth of the rugged individual is actually getting some juice from the Republican campaigns. Thank you Ayn Rand. We are not going to march 7 billion people across a prairie and settle them in single family homes. We are linked to each other from the womb to the grave and its time to acknowledge that mutuality.
The myth that people will not perform critical tasks necessary for our survival is belied by the fact the majority of us take out the trash, mow the lawn, read the bedtime story and make the coffee. The way we compensate for those tasks that require special talents or for which people will not volunteer is upside down. Why the basketball player, who would do his/her job for nothing makes more than the garbage man is absurd. We should compensate inversely to the degree the person doesn't want to do the job or perform the service. I love it when on a snow day the announcement goes out, "all non critical employees" need not show up for work today. They should never show up. They should be paid to stay home and save us the fortune it costs us in infrastructure to support them.

First Principles:
To fill the policy vacuum being created by OWS lets begin at the beginning and establish a set of first principles upon which we can build a workable society.
My first principle is that people have choice and the behavior of others is, (with few exceptions) none of my business. Intentional communities can come together to articulate common objectives, distribute responsibility, and achieve their objectives. Self selection happens everyday in the lunchroom, the disco, the neighborhood, the place of worship. So be it. The tribe, the club, the gang are viable forms of small scale groups that have the ability to unify around common cause. They don't delegate or elect representatives. They assume direct responsibility for the preservation of their lives.
Let's start here. We can determine how we get to the bigger issues later. For now small groups inventory our stuff, our capacity, our talent, and see what we have and how we can exploit it, in common. Enough of the madness of go it alone.

notes for a constitution in process:
We have to come to terms with stuff and when it matters a lot what other people do. Take for example the Atlanta man who in the midst of a drought consumed 60 times what the average person uses and got caught. The city can roll him back. What of the person flying the private jet, or driving the Escalade, or killing the tuna. The idea that affordability, one's ability to pay, is the sole criteria for a person's consumption is so disrespectful of the context in which we live, that the behavior is going to have to be checked. How? That's the beginning of the process. That's what OWS is starting to contemplate. It took us centuries of unbridled capitalism to get us where we are today. To unravel is going to take time and thought.
The idea that a person can behave in such a way as to suffer a medical consequence of their indulgence is a classic example of the effect of us all having to pay. The victim of smoking or alcoholism, or speeding, or drug abuse, drags us into his health care system. He may be "able to pay" but the fact is he syphons capacity away as cruelly as the water abuser in Atlanta. I should not be asked to pay for his abuse. We live in a world of limited capacity IF we extract resources at irreplaceable rates with no consideration of conservation. We have to muzzle the pigs at the various troughs and limit the excesses of unbridled capitalism. When we agree on limits, we can proceed.

1 comment:

  1. This one is really resonating with me, Mr. Watman. Well-written, this post. Eloquent. Do you suppose the cynicism of a t-shirt emblazoned with the mantra, "If I can pay, it's ok!" will be lost on most? I might need to test that theory. Is there clip-art for smog?