Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Government, shmovernment - Part 3

Idle hands

My paternal grandmother was a hard-working woman.  She did not waste one tin, piece of paper or scrap of food.  She was very crafty and could always make me a piece of clothing within a day or two. And while our history books would tell us about the "Dirty Thirties" as a time of misery and hardship, my grandmother looked back fondly on the times of the Great Depression; it was a time of community and efficiency; a time where most people were on an equal footing and helped one another.

How I wish I could discuss these things with her now that I am approaching middle-age... While I certainly found her a little gruff and obstinate as a child — rightfully chastising me for wanting to sit in front of the boob-tube instead of going somewhere or making something, and making me eat a strange concoction of the entire week's leftovers because nothing could be wasted — I am now able to better appreciate her wish to live well within her means and to be as self-sufficient as possible. And thanks in part to my Grandma, I am able to see how a modest amount of resources can actually be a good thing, how it can help to put us all on a more level playing field and bring us closer together with others in our community.

While technology and innovation has allowed the majority of us Westerners to leave the long days of rural life behind — providing us more free time, the time to ponder the greater questions in life, the time to allow us to peer outside the boxes of our own immediate lives in order to analyse our world from the micro to the macro — I'm beginning to wonder if some of our societal ills are actually a product of the very fact that we have too much free time on our hands.

I once heard a guest on the Joe Rogan podcast reference a book called Guns, Germs and Steel; I don't remember if this was according to Western history or the Maori themselves, but apparently in the book it talks about how the Maori once lived solely on the land formation that is now called New Zealand and had an abundance of resources; since resources were plentiful this meant that the Maori had free time, and so they began to perfect tools and processes and individual Maori were able to specialise (i.e. become doctors, teachers, etc...)  They also became more competitive and violent. At some point a group of Maori decided to move to a smaller island and since this splinter group now lived in an area where resources were much less diverse and more scarce, they literally had no time or energy to waste on fighting; as a result they became a peaceful culture, that is until some of the New Zealand Maori caught up to them....

So while my initial impression of the saying "Idle hands are the Devil's playthings" was linked to images of a teacher chastising a mischievous child — insinuating that the child should be out tending fields or doing their homework rather than being an organic and inquisitive ball of wonder and energy — I am now thinking of it in a different way: I'm thinking that it might be a warning that if you have free time then chances are you aren't tending to your own affairs. 

Just ask The Stones...

Our societal structure is predicated on the ideas of entitlement, justice and recompense.  I also think people confused the concept of the right to the pursuit of happiness = a right to happiness.  Always.  Many of us seem to be under the impression that if something bad happens to us, or if we are inconvenienced in some way beyond our personal control, then someone should pay.  Many of us feel that we have the right not to be inconvenienced: "I deserve to have my own piece of land, with no interruptions, so if any other human in my vicinity dares to make noise on a weeknight, I am entitled to be able to call a police officer to take care of the matter with the threat of force and incarceration behind them to ensure that my neighbour obeys."

The promise of the state is that we can control others who wrong us and we can "make them pay", but in a state of nature, without the structures of a "justice system", the only thing you have control over is your own attitude: You can't control outcomes and you can't control others; the only thing you can control is your reaction to them. And that's a tough pill to swallow sometimes (believe me, it's a pill that has been stuck in my throat for almost 4 decades.)

I believe that an anarchistic, non-statist and voluntaristic society will mean that nothing can be taken for granted and, yes, it will mean dealing with inconvenience: You may have to interact and take into account people you don't particularly like or want anything to do with; there will be that one hold-out who will foil a plan by a group of individuals working towards a common goal; your neighbour might be an inconsiderate prick that makes noise all hours of the night and there may not be a security force with guns (i.e. police) to stop him or her at a moment's notice.  Not everything will be "what you want when you want it."  Our lives will be less predictable. More organic. More like nature.

Last summer I was sitting in a local small town pub and I read an old news paper clipping posted on the wall about why the main road in the town is not a straight line through town — it actually jogs over by a couple meters to the west, just south of another major crossroad.  The reason for this jog in the road was that when it was being built there was one farmer who did not consent to having the road bisect his property.  And I'm sure that sucked for everyone else in the town, and I'm sure that farmer might have been ostracised by some for being a hold-out and not thinking of the will of the majority. but people had to suck it up and deal with it. And they did, and the town still prospers and is expanding to this very day, even with a crooked road.

Freedom means that you are free from control, therefore true freedom means that you yourself cannot control others. You are not always going to like what other people do, so freedom also means that you can't always get what you want. In a free world sometimes shit just happens and sometimes life sucks. Period. Move on.

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