Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Human Choice


Our current economic system is designed to reduce humans to isolated individual roles of worker and consumer. Each worker and each consumer can be dealt with in standard ways by the business, industrial and governance models. All human functions are cordoned off as "specialties", regulated, licensed, monitored... This is an expensive way to do things, but the isolation of each function allows for extraction of value by the system at every exchange, which can't be done in our ancient economies of family and small community.
This taxation of every transaction, is advertised as assuring high quality of goods and services, and it might in some cases, but the price is proportionally higher still.
This isolation of each human is unnatural to our species, and we are all feeling the stress of it. Each minute is assigned weeks in advance, and the most performance must be extracted from each minute, as dictated by it's category of allotment. 
It does allow for vast groups of compliant humans to be managed and controlled effectively, but only if there is always enough free energy to keep feeding the inefficiency created by isolation of individuals from cooperative groups.
This is not how our species evolved, and it is not what we are naturally good at, and it is not what got us to the point where we discovered oil under the ground.

Yesterday I copied and pasted and sent an essay from Dmitry Orlov about this artificiality of our current societal constructs, and how dangerous it is to all of us, including those at the top. His essay is far more insightful and nuanced than my reference to it.
We will all come back to "Dunbar's Number" when we study ourselves, our species. Dunbar's Number is about 150, and it denotes the number of functional relationships a human is capable of. Of course it's more for those with political talent, and fewer for some, but it's a number studied from a lot of different anthropological and historical vantage points, and it hangs together pretty well.
It sure is a problem when there is a country to run, or even Flint, Michigan, General Motors or the US Army.
The Roman legions were organized with respect to Dunbar's number, long before Dunbar derived it. 100 was the number of soldiers commanded by a Centurion. It worked.Our groups tend to be self organizing at this human scale, but our tendencies to fall into line in a group can also be employed to put a centurion in place for each group, with a chain of command. Centurions can also be commanded. Somehow, the army must be fed it's "Roman meal" and paid in the "salt it is worth". 
Control of the routes for transport of precious salt created an isolation of humans from their needs, which could be defended by force, and permitted very high taxes to be levied, paid in grain, to get the salt. Wherever salt was scarce, military might built up along the salt-trade routes. 
All those castles along the Rhine river are a good example that we learned about on our family bike tour through that region a decade ago. A lot of them are youth hostels now, and at the top of hills. We noticed that on the bikes.
We now have vast energy from fossil fuels, nuclear power, hydroelectric, wind and solar/ This energy supplies vast factory farms, systems of processing and distribution, and we have the internet, and Google, and the NSA, and "total information awareness" for the NSA and CIA. We approach something like total control of the information each of us is presented with, in our splendid isolation, with our glowing screens, our portals into "the world".
We are not just a long way away from salt. We can't access any of our basic human needs directly or through our family or village. That is our basic design, what we are evolved to over millions of years, and we are denied it. 
How's this working for you? 
The vast energy, which supports this travesty is slightly past it's sell-by date. The few at the top who rule over us, are not different from us in their design limitations. They are still feeling like centurions controlling that legion, maybe King Richard, or Caligula. 
When there is not enough food, salt and energy to go around, they send groups of peasants out with orders to kill each other. 
That can go on a long time.

At this moment in the river of history, we have not fully destroyed our global ecosystem, and have not yet run out of oil. The vast information network of the internet allows us access to more good and bad information about the world than any ruler had 30 years ago. The trends are clear. We are going into a harsher and more controlled world, like what people experience now in Greece, or Turkey, or Syria, or Libya...

To whatever degree we can do so, we need to practice cooperating in small groups to grow food, and the tasks that arise in that process. This is as natural an engagement as we are capable of, and deep enough in our instincts to still exist for our discovery. We can interact this way, even if it is new to us.
We may not survive what is rushing our way. None of us survives, anyway, but we may be able to die among friends and family if we begin living among friends and family, actually living.

It's hard to break out of the Matrix, and it means more work than we are already doing, and turning off the glowing portal.
Gotta' go now, out into the garden, before it heats up.

Middle Aged Human

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