Distributed denial of servitude

Browsing through the web, following links where they will take me, I notice quite a few people speaking up about abandoning the old system in favour of something more worthwhile, amiable, life-centered.
I’m not promising anything we do will save us from climate disasters ahead. But becoming more authentic, sustainable, correcting the process of decision making, flattening the power structures, moving from corporations to worker owned cooperatives, and ending this multi-millennia rule by elites who live by might-makes-right is worth doing at any stage.”, says, for enstance, Jason Holland, self-described anarchist and blogger.
Maybe it is just that I happen to stir up more of that stuff because I am looking for it, but I do have the impression that it has become increasingly easy finding it, and that the time is right for a major shift. We still are a tiny minority heavily constricted by mainstream culture, yet the seed of change has taken root in the fertile soil of the human mind.
How can we bring about the manifestation of that which the mind still has to grasp and what our hearts know already since birth?
Small numbers call for guerilla tactics. We do not want to repeat the same mistakes previous revolutionaries have fallen for, though. Violence is not an option. Hollowing out the system from within is not an option. ‘Green’ consumption is not an option. Large organizations are not an option. Each of us stands profoundly alone in the face of an all-overwhelming machine, and the probability of a near-term failure of the Earth’s biosphere.
It is from this standpoint of powerlessness that we can give up false hopes for change on a large scale, chuck out the notion of educating the masses, abandon the idea of pushing the right buttons to rectify what’s ‘wrong’. What we think, what we say, what we do, and how we relate to other beings cannot immediately trigger the drastic changes on a macro level most activists seem to be calling for; the real effect plays out in how it changes ourselves, and how it changes those immediately affected by our actions: our friends, family, pets, gardens, work results etc. The life in the immediate Now, the life in dignity, the life in servitude to Life – this is what the Real Revolution is about. It maymake a difference in the long run, on an accumulated macro level, but I have the gut feeling we ought not even think about it this way.
It is a dire situation we are in –
If we don’t stand soon not only is the climate a done deal but as we slide into the gravity of collapse as a disparate group at each other’s throats we’ll become ever more barbarous if we don’t fight to end this culture of ego now.” (Jason Holland again.)
Like Jason, I don’t want to make alarmism my standard notion, but that doesn’t mean that the description of the situation as I perceive it has to sound like a preacher’s vision of paradise. On a certain level, there are real threats some of which require instant action, probably even violence. I am not about discouraging anybody from doing whatever they feel is necessary.
Having said as much, I would go into a different direction: Let’s ask the question whether we are acting from fear of what might happen if we didn’t act. Are we seeking company in order to extinguish that feeling of being alone? Why not live up to the deepest understanding we can grasp, and implement that in every minute, every move? What about standing for what we aspire, rather than against what we despise?
We could stop selling our labour for money and instead be dedicating our time for free to our neighbours;
we could start educating our children ourselves, teaching them subjects and skills the schools keep under wraps: how to relate sincerely, how to find out things, how to sustain oneself, how to recognize truth;
we could start exploring our environment at walking distance, taking in smells and sights we never notice from within our cars;
we could give up listening to the telly and start telling our own stories; in doing so, we could give preference to listening to the person in front of us over the person calling in on mobile;
we could stop buying and start creating things ourselves, like food, music, jewellery, and housing;
we could begin gathering in small tribes of neighbourhoods and friends, exchanging goods and services for free, like caring for minors; we could value family bonds; we could value the land and bond ourselves with our blood to it. The land is us, and we are the land. This is how we can stand strong in the face of the violence this culture is engulfing us in.
Each moment lived in the spirit of not being afraid is a denial of servitude to the – whatever your preferred choice of words is – materialistic, utilitarian, short-sighted, imperialistic, exploitative, capitalistic, omnicidal, psychopathic civilization. Each individual following his or her heart contributes to the resilience of the ‘attack’ on the system by distributing the denial of servitude.
Keep in mind that our actions are notto be directed against dominant culture; they are primarily expressions of the different visionsand worldviews we are beginning to manifest today. Then each of them is sending ripples through a culture that, though it has managed to overwhelm the whole planet, is built on false assumptions and ready to fall apart at any moment now, collapsing under its own weight. By refusing to act from fear we become like sand between the system’s cogwheels.
But once again, don’t think about it in these terms. Don’t antagonize, don’t anticipate. By being a builder of community, rather than a destroyer of civlization, life becomes worth living again. Let the ‘problem’ with the dominant culture take care of itself. It already does.

Dear White People

When I talked about being able to return one day and be at peace with my culture of origin, I did not know how that was supposed to happen, with all the mess it had created in me and in the world; at the same time, how could I ever be truly at home in the foreign place I went to?
My studies pointed out answers rooted in Zen Buddhism and non-dualistic philosophy. Yet another, deeply compassionate answer has been provided by Bayo Akomolafe, a westernized African academic living in India, if I may attach some handy labels for convenience.

In his open letter of this month, Dear White People, he came to astonishing conclusions. Astonishing because, despite so many words, they are so simple and obvious.

He is speaking about how indigeneity has become a concept to the taste of the Western mind, how it serves to perpetuate the dualistic paradigm, how humankind could actually decolonize the world, and what true indigeneity would look like:

“The much hated neoliberal capitalism and the techno-utopic longings for permanence, for abstraction and dominance are just as indigenous (and ‘natural’) as naked dances by moonlight (and other such spectacular ways Hollywood likes to depict non-western people). […]

 A different way to think about decolonization is as intimacy with where we are. It is accounting for and opening up to our embeddedness, not grappling for a Plato-nic identity or transcendent quality. […]

We are constantly touching each other, infecting each other, so that it is impossible to trace out an original point. This suggests that my ‘blackness’ co-arises with your ‘whiteness’ – and that we are hyphenated aspects of each other. […]

What changes when the anxiety of ‘arriving home’ or ‘becoming indigenous’ is replaced with a studious slowness and a curiosity about where you are? […]”

This last question points out that, actually, Akomolafe is not so far from Buddhist views, in that he indicates contemplation and meditation on reality-as-it-is were a way forward. Which does not mean, and you can check that by listening to other messages from the author, that we leave the state of affairs unchanged, but that, by staying open to the suggestions a change of mind brings with it, we change our ways in harmony with what we find in and around us.


Farmers’ suicides in India

Politics, to me, are irrelevant. There is no solution in it, only contribution to the problem. Also, as a guest to this country, I won’t take sides with anybody, as I have a Western bias and I will never fully understand the intricacies of native matters.

Yet, as a farmer, I have to say: Read the newspapers, look at the figures, and give yourself a minute of wondering what’s the matter with civilzation when its origin, its very basis, the foundation of life in the cities, feels like killing itself off. 

Save the whales, save the kingfishers, save the tuna, save the aquifer, save the atmosphere, save the indigenous peoples’ knowledge, save the topsoil, save the ozone layer, save the rainforest, save the farmers, save… our breath and take a step back. What is it, that needs saving, and from what? Why should the force that is killing everything else on the planet spare the human race? Can we consider this phenomenon as a natural and healthy reaction to a condition that is inherently unsustainable? Root causes, anyone?

Alien encounters

“We cannot solve your problems; we cannot come to you or take you to some other world; we cannot teach you anything you are not ready to learn. All we can offer is the chance to communicate with other intelligent beings, to try to grasp something of the way we and other species experience our worlds, to share your own experiences with others who are eager to learn about them, and to know that you are not alone in the universe. If that is enough, we welcome you to the conversation between worlds.” 
–John Michael Greer: Star’s Reach

Belongs into any communication about what Auroville can and cannot do. Or anybody else, really.

Don’t sleep, there are snakes

If someone asserts something like, “X happens every time I apply Y”, or, “All elements in the C set are smaller than D”, the rules of reason allow for falsifying the claim by just one single exception.
Sentences like, “Man is greedy”, “Humans are selfish”, “We cannot change our ways”, fall under the same rule. The absoluteness with which those allegations are made cannot prove valid in the face of so many cases in which culture or personal decisions have expressed in totally different behaviour.

Discussing civilization and its effects and implications on an individual’s perception of reality, I use to refer to the lifestyle of indigenous peoples like the Mbuti Pygmees of Congo, and low-tech cultures like the Ladakh Tibetans. My intention in pointing at these tribes and cultures was neither in order to show ‘perfectness’, or to suggest you to copy their ways; nor would I say that “all primitive cultures are non-violent and have no problems”, as some conversational partners accused me of.
I compared certain older lifestyles with the currently world-dominating technological money-driven civilization to prove that many forms of thought, speech, and behaviour which most civilized people prefer to see as human nature (or as an irreversibly ‘advanced’ state of development, or as something ‘without alternatives’) are in fact a matter of circumstances, culture, and conscious decision. Which means behaviour can be changed as soon as individuals become aware of its roots, modes of operation, and effects on their lives. There are examples in abundance, of people who broke ‘the rules’ of the so-called greedy, selfish human nature, and who showed that there are alternatives to what most people regard as normal, inevitable, inescable, unavoidable, and necessary.

Very few forms of behaviour and values are based on human nature. Human nature could be regarded as a range of abilities we might exert depending on the situation and our value system rather than a strict rule. No such thing as a rule there. Every move of the mind, every single need can be overridden by willpower. Aside from looking into the examples I have given in the past I invite you to find further exceptions to anything you regard as self-evident, natural, understood, or normal. It’s fun, and you’ll be surprised, I promise.

Daniel Everett’s book “Don’t sleep, there are snakes: Life and language in the Amazonian jungle” is such an eye-opener. Everett, a former US missionary, travelled to Brazil in order to study the Pirahã language. The Pirahã are a people living along the Maici River, a tributary to the Amazon system. Their culture and language are unique in so far as they have no words for worries, colours, numbers, and time references. No such concepts do exist, nor do the Pirahã seem to be able to ‘get’ it. This is due to a mindset which Everett calls immediacy, meaning that a Pirahã speaker only refers to things he has experienced himself, or someone alive told him she did. Probable future events therefore can’t be told, while dreams count as experience and are considered as very real; so if a Pirahã says he had a conversation with a spirit, he actually means it. Pirahã can joke and lie, but tell no fictionary tales. The language is shaped in a way that allows exactly that what they enact as a culture.

What we can learn from this is, that language, culture, and reality are closely intertwined. They influence each other, depend on each other, and can be seen as expression of one another.

Questioning the Western idea of just one indivisible objective reality “out there”, Everett quotes Edward Sapir’s “The status of linguistics as a science” (1929):

“Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection […] No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same worlds with different labels attached.”

Figure out the implications for the validity of scientific discoveries, and particularly for unifying theories, and deterministic points of view.

Another thing we take for granted, yet have no reason to do so is ‘the rising curve’.
Most people do agree that man is curious by nature. We derive our concept of ascension from there. This is our motivation for research, discovery, and management of the physical world around us. Things have to improve and get bigger and better over time, especially the realm of me and mine. Is that innate to man?
Though the Pirahã are curious, too (they are interested in the outside world and their ways), the concept of the ascent of humanity is outlandish to them; they may use imported tools like boats or steel knives, but they refuse to manufacture them on their own i.e. implement new technologies into their cultural setting, even when they know how to do it; doesn’t keep them from getting along phantastically. Similarly they use next to no loan words when speaking. And in relation to the physical world, they think in terms of access and lax possession rather than ownership.

There are many more ways how the Pirahã differ from civilization as we know it, but instead of me telling you how to interpret Daniel Everett’s description of a remote traditional culture, why don’t you have a look inside this gorgeous book yourself?
Remember – this is neither about glorification nor about copying. It is about freedom, promoted by the falsification of the concept of coercion. There is no human nature forcing us to behave in a certain way, there is no determination. If we feel restraint and follow its order, it is just the story we live by. That’s what modern sociology and anthropology can teach us. Nothing more, nothing less.

What do we actually need?

I seem to have a phase of disorientation lately, resulting in either not knowing what to think (and therefore write), or alternating between multiple ways of looking at the world. The dissolution of wrong and right combined with the study of various solutions to the current crises do me no good, some may say; although I guess this is the only way for me to eventually get rid of a sickening belief in the concept of control over my environment. During the past two years I have learnt to let go of the idea that, by controlling money flow, people’s view of my person and the world, and other variables, I could finally reach a stable state of security, a safe ground to plan the future on. I was taught to believe in the power of control – and believe I did.

The concept of control is an illusion. After all that has gone ‘wrong’ in my life, all failed plans and relationships, hardly anyone around here knows better than me. (I owe everyone hugs and apologies for having been mean, I guess.) Still it ain’t easy to accept and let things come my way, awashed as I am still by Western culture. To naturally let go means to have faith, trust and belief in fate, especially the ways of people. I admit to have a deficit in that field, a deficit that, thanks to Auroville, is not quite as awful as it used to be.
Back in Europe, where I am currently stuck, I am also stuck with developing ‘skills’ like those mentioned above. For how can you trust people in a competitive society, i.e. an everyone-for-themselves system of constant fighting, battling, and warfare? Can people whose whole life is based on againstness and who make a living out of destructiveness show you how to love and feel loved? Would you ask a priest to learn programming?

It sure takes a peaceful environment and a loving teacher to develop the qualities mentioned above. You cannot do it all by yourself in environments like the one I have been in all my life. Therefore my longing for a fundamental change in the ways of the world. And yes, there is an emphasis on ‘my’, as I might share this longing, this need, with other fellow creatures, but can only speak for myself. When I once adopted Jacque Fresco’s vision of a resource-based, fully-automated civilization, I had the dream of cutting off the crap, preserving only the best of nowadays’ society. But shortly after, I had to learn that, right when I got where I was intellectually going, the road was still stretching a long way in front of me.

Yes, there is the need for a very different social environment, but no matter how you put it, the way there starts with a thought, feeling or intuition, rather than with an action.

If we are able to survive the next 100 years, The Venus Project may very well become a reality. But the longer I go into the subject of improving the world and ourselves the more I doubt the necessitiy of having a civilization at all. If we ourselves did the work that sustains our lives, it would be the ultimate means to reconnect to the foundations of existence and the happiness of being one with what we separated ourselves from as “environment”. It would be the ultimate means to free ourselves from governance and 8 hours or more a day of alienating work. Instead, we’d spend just 2-4 hours on occupations we care about, and that were really satisfactory as they make us learn, grow and survive. It was civilization that made work such an uncomfortable experience. It was civilization that made us needy and greedy. It was civilization that created organizational structures bigger than a single individual can handle. You hardly find people complaining about such things in tribal, spiritual or buddhist environments for instance – which are based on contentment with what IS rather than what could come.

Under such conditions there is no need for insurances, money, global markets and all the like. There is also no need for cities, industries, robots and all the technologies that endlessly distract and amuse our minds, separating us from the real world around us, and that demand for solutions to problems that haven’t been there in the first place.

We know that people can be happy without possession. We know that we can be happy with living off the land, not wanting anything but a little bit of company. In fact, it is the wanting that makes us (and others) suffer, for it creates discontentment; in other words unhappiness; in other words conflict with our situation.

All that boils down to the question: What do we actually need? How did we ever come to the idea we could not live without all the stuff that surrounds us today, along with made-up concepts of “society”, “institution” and “civilization” that have materialized in our lives without any basis in the material world whatsoever?

Of course we are a species that doesn’t like to relinquish even the slightest bit. It would be hard to change ourselves to being content with less stuff than we own today. But isn’t that exactly the walls we are running into all the time? People refusing to give up the pieces of shit they have, despite accurate information of a better world where there is no ownership, no fight, no oppression?
Then how much does it actually take to make our existence worth living?

I’d say, it is just a change of mind on the deep spiritual level – which no technology in all the world will be able to bring about. Whether or not there will be highly developed technology in the future hence doesn’t make a difference in bringing about such a process. On the level of ideas I am not against the direction of The Venus Project in so far as we want the same: The end of the monetary madness giving path to something much more healthy.
It is only that I highly doubt we’ll be able to trigger a general paradigm shift as long as we are organizing at the millions, while using technology as a means of control. To learn how to govern yourself you would want to live with and by yourself; to learn how to heal the world you would actually have to stop treating it like disposable, dead lump. To know what is real we have to get rid of the symbol, the word, the rational logic, and “get in touch” again.
How do you do that within our culture? – You can’t! It is the culture’s aim to keep you off this path. It provides no means by which to achieve it, even destroys you if you try too hard. You cannot change it as a whole, yet need a place to stay.

And there I go, off into the wilderness, into communes, or whatever my path may be. As I leave, as we leave one by one, the culture of competition, againstness and destruction dissolves, and society falls apart in yet another way than the self-defeating rip-off of nature’s gifts.