Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Government, shmovernment - Part 2

Living to live

Another issue I see with statism is that it removes us from being our own providers.  It makes us reliant upon it. It literally makes us "children of the state". It reminds me of how dogs and cats retain much of their puppy and kitten-like behaviours when they are domesticated; when we supply them a consistent and seemingly limitless supply of food, shelter and belly rubs, they no longer need to express their true natures.  Not only that, but — as I've seen Cesar Millan (aka The Dog Whisperer) demonstrate on his show — the remedy for many canine psychological issues is to provide them a level of activity that their bodies and brains have evolved to support. A dog's body and mind is built to do things like hunt, find and maintain shelter, evade predators, find a mate and raise young, yet very few pets get that level of activity and challenge in their lives.

In one episode of his show, Milan helped to rehabilitate a dog by taking him to a farm to herd sheep.  This city dog had never encountered a ruminant in his life, but the instinct to herd them was so natural; and you could see the amazement on the dog owner's face...  In other episodes Millan would give a dog their own little backpack to bring on walks, or a cart to pull, which could both be used to give the dog more weight to carry — thereby giving him more exercise and tiring him out, and giving him a job, a purpose.  Doing things like these would help fix a whole host of doggy issues, from chewing up the furniture, to running around in circles, to getting aggressive with other dogs.  And I have no doubt that our own human societal ills have a lot to do with our separations from our true natures and the types and levels of activities that our bodies and brains were made to handle.

As proponents of the paleolithic diet will tell you, the human body is still made to eat what homo sapiens ate back when we were hunter gatherers.  Our diet has changed greatly since the agricultural evolution, but our bodies have not evolved to adapt to these changes and some believe that this plays a large part in physical unwellness from which we Westerners suffer.  It makes me wonder if our psychological unwellness also has a lot to do with the fact that our minds, and the way that they function, are still based on the needs of the hunter-gatherer, fending for themselves in the wilderness.

I'm thinking there might actually be something to be said about "the hard life".  Back before the advent of electricity — or perhaps at least before the advent of large-scale automation — people used to truly live to live.  You had to grow your own food, make your own clothes, build your own house, fix your own machines and tools, and you barely had the time to do anything else. I also suspect that our homo sapiens bodies and minds still expect this level of activity, but because we don't engage in so much physical exertion and mental attention anymore we develop all sorts of psychological and physical dis-eases.

Today we work to live: Most of us spend the majority of our waking hours at jobs where we do pretty much the same thing day in and day out — many of us working for companies whose product, service or end goal is of no personal interest to us — just so that we can squirrel away enough money to be able to retire, and finally "live life" in our 60s or 70s.  So not only do most of us have very sedentary jobs where we sit all day, but we are also doing tasks that, after a while, require less and less of our concentration.  This societal construct has disconnected us from the ebbs and flows of nature, from having to anticipate and adapt to organic change, and it has also disconnected us from one another; I believe that this disconnectedness plays a part in why many of us suffer from physical and mental dis-eases.

I feel that our bodies and minds need to be preoccupied and invested in the things we do day to day.  I think it is very important to truly understand, appreciate and witness the ends to your means; to see a progression to an end goal; to appreciate the changes and nuances when you do it again in a year or decade's time.  A lot of us don't get that from our daily jobs.

Our bodies are also built for far more physical activity than most of us actually exert day to day.  We were built with bodies to allow us to hunt animals for their meat, to search and gather fruits, to hike to the river for water, to gather wood for a fire.  With the advent of agriculture this need was filled by working the fields, raising animals for their meat, milk, eggs, wool, gathering materials to use for fueling stoves and and small scale machinery.  We now delegate these tasks to farmers, grocers, builders etc...

When it comes to suggesting a life without the state one often encounters questions like: "Who will pick-up my garbage?" "Where will I get a steady stream of nutritious food that I know is safe for me to eat?" "Who will provide heat, water and power to my home?" I think these are very good questions, and I also think that being directly involved in these things is actually essential to our physical, psychological and societal well-being.

What you can't see is hurting you (and others like you)

I think the idea of centralisation on many levels is wrong — be it in the governmental or corporate sense, or in the way that we humans all cluster together in densely populated cities.  Not only do I dislike centralisation due to the imbalance of power its structure provides, but because it also leads to waste and inefficiency. So in addition to my theory that being directly involved in the supplying ones own self with the necessities of life is essential to our psychological well-being, I also think it may be essential to our planet's well-being as well.  I'm certain that we wouldn't waste nearly as much if we actually had to deal with our own waste, grow our own food, produce our own energy, make our own clothing, etc. And many of us already acknowledge that the system is broken, but we also cling to the idea that it is better than no system at all, when the truth is the system has never worked, it just seemed to work because we all agreed en masse to ignore the bigger picture.

Sure, a couple of men in jumpsuits come by every week and pick up our garbage, but they are really just putting it in a pile out of sight somewhere, a pile that is nonetheless hurting the surrounding environment and wildlife.  And while our government helps to ensure a steady flow of subsidised fuels to power our vehicles and appliances — not to mention the oil used to make the plastics that are integral to our various electronic gadgets and myriads of other consumer goods — we conveniently ignore the oil and gas industry's negative effects on the environment, not to mention its negative effects on the people who live/lived in the countries from whence they came. Hell, we even send our own kids to die in these countries to ensure our CLOG's continued presence there! And while we are able to buy fairly brightly coloured, vitamin-rich, blemish-free fruits and veggies from around the world at our supermarkets, we often forget about the energy expended to grow, process, ship and store them for us — costs that far outweigh what we actually pay for them — and by buying them we are also supporting an industry that is willing to toy with the very fabric of our food's genetics, not to mention how the food industry has been known to interfere with the governments of some of the countries that grow them, often putting the citizens of said countries in harm's way. And while we have relatively uninterrupted and ubiquitous access to electricity, for the most part we are getting it from fossil fuels or nuclear power — two industries that cause their own serious and sometimes irreversible changes to our environment and who have less-than-favourable track-records when it comes to safety.

It would make more sense if we all provided power and water to our own selves, instead of connecting all of our homes to antiquated grids of pipes and power-lines stretching over thousands of kilometers. I recognise that this might not be possible for some individuals because of the geographic or meteorological challenges of where they live, and this may seem harsh, but maybe, just maybe, we should be more closely examining whether we should expect to be able to live in some of the places that we currently do, at the same level of comfort that we currently do...  

Most of us Westerners expect to have an uninterrupted supply of clean running water and electricity, and houses where there are enough individual bedrooms for all, plus an extra one for guests, at least one full bathroom with a sink, bathtub, shower and toilet, one or more vehicles, heating in the winter, heated water ...and this is the basic ideal for most.  Most people would also like a washer and dryer, a dishwasher, a TV in every room, individual bedrooms for all family members plus one for guests, high speed internet, not to mention an ever changing wardrobe of clothing, and and ever changing roster of electronic gadgets.  Most of us Westerners would also tell you that everyone in the world should be able to live at this level and it should only go up from here.  We seem to ignore that we Westerners make up a small fraction of the world's population (I've read its around 20%) and yet we use more than half of the world's resources.  (As usual I am repeating; I have no way to know if these figures are true, but I have little reason to doubt them at the moment.)  If we take these figures to be true, one does not have to be a math wiz to figure out that the world doesn't have enough resources to allow us all to live at this level.  So if we accept that the inequalities in quality of life between the Western world and many of the developing nations of the world is wrong, if we truly believe that rest of the world should be on an even playing field with the first world, and if we continue to organise ourselves the way we are in the West, that will mean we Westerners will have to scale back our level of comfort, not simply raise the rest of the world to our level.

And yes, this might mean an end to things like large-scale world travel, as well as international exports and imports.  We might all have to make due with what we can gather and grow on the lands in our immediate vicinities.  Millions of people throughout history did just that, and we present-day humans also have the benefit of the knowledge of modern science to assist us in living a level of self sufficiency that might not have been possible only a century ago. And that doesn't mean we can't share/co-opt various duties with others, in fact I should hope that we would barter and trade or even create a local exchange trading system.  This both gets us away from relying on the illogical fractional reserve banking system, but it also reconnects us with the people in our communities.

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