Day-to-day thoughts, technical information, a random grab-bag of thoughts, discoveries, and interesting little tidbits.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Stream of Counsciousness: Self-reliance and Societies

I will occasionally post stream-of-consciousness posts, just for the sake of getting a list of possibly-related concepts out of my brain and onto the global one. There are no guarantees that this will lead to a point, but you never know. Usually, something initiates the stream of consciousness, a website or a word, which I will call a "seed."

The seed site of this particular stream of consciousness:

I am an anarchist, with a bent on self-reliance and the free market. I do not like the idea of being dependent on anyone else, but I also believe in property and the benefit of free trade of that property. In fact, the field of economics began life as a system of barter in order to allow value to be measured by the use of a general-purpose commodity. Being the more valuable commodities due to their malleability, resistance to oxidation (such as rust), and relative rarity, gold and silver became popular mediums of exchange... especially when specifically-designed coins became the main purpose for those metals.

The use of metal coins were the first instance of money, and ever since then, people have sought to gain control of as many as possible, due to the belief that the more coins one had, the more command one had over everyone around them. They were, of course, right.

As time progressed, people worked less and less for their specific needs, and more and more for the vague needs that they might eventually have, because they had the money to purchase those things down the road. Money, as it seems, became more important than one's direct needs. In time, barter was all but forgotten in the haze of history, relegated to economists and history buffs; the average person scoffed the notion of barter as a quaint anachronism.

Barter isn't the only thing that was lost in the mists of time; self-reliance took a back-seat to the division of labor, and with the division, the role of the individual shrank to a small part of what one once was. Then specialization arrived to make the role of the individual much smaller.

Instead of a self-contained machine, each person became merely a piece of a much vaster machine, controlled by manager pieces, and ultimately controlled by a small number of people at a much higher level. These higher-levels go by different names, such as CEO, President, Congress, His Majesty, General, Carl Rove, Alan Greenspan, Warren Buffet, Ben Bernanke, Paris Hilton, and so on.

Society is basically the subsuming of the individual in the group. This is in no way limited to politics, but also in business, as well as religions, families, and even certain traits or ideologies.

The sayings that enforce this are numerous: We are a part of something larger. We are a community. We are a nation. We are a people. We represent white pride, or black power, or gender equality, or Allah's will, or the Power of Christ, or the middle class, or the common worker, or...

The list could go on forever to identify all the different groups of people out there representing... well, anything, and ironically, there are likely more groups than there are people who represent them. Why are they even important in the first place?

Some forms of grouping are beneficial. Individuals sometimes need the assistance of others in the pursuit of their goals. Examples of beneficial systems are families, friendships, and... deeper relationships. Communities themselves, the collection of neighbors, also have a beneficial purpose; people who live close to one another and know one another inevitably develop friendships all around, and will trust one another more than they will outsiders.

Outsiders. This is probably the most telling reason why groups are such a harmful influence. Outsiders are generally looked at with curiosity in better situations, and with scorn or contempt in worse ones. Suddenly, with the classifications of "insider" and "outsider," rational reason goes out the window, and emotional judgments are substituted for concrete thought. "Us vs. Them" is a major theme, using such arguments as "They want to hurt/suppress/ignore/enslave us," "They are the Enemy," "We have the favor of (name of specific deity here)," "The Man is keeping us down," and so on.

There are certainly some who obviously seek to unbalance things in their favor, but then, everyone does to one degree or another. Even the ones that are too blind to see it due to their own piety. I work every day to increase my favor. I've changed strategies several times, and I am in the process of doing so again. There is nothing wrong with working to improve one's lot in life. However, why the rage? If you fail at your goal, why is it someone else's fault? Can't you take responsibility for your own mistakes and failures without assuming that someone else's actions can be controlled?

Control. Why do people assume that others need to be controlled by something? If others need to be controlled, by whose standards should that control be? For a great many people, the control needs to be by the person making the assertion. After all, who better to decide how society should be than the one who is making the claim that society must be kept safe/secure/orderly/profitable/fed/housed/cared for. And each claimant has their own vision of how society can be kept safe/secure/orderly/profitable/fed/housed/cared for.

Vision. Whose is right? Whose is wrong? Is it always the "other guy?" Must I follow the dictates of the "other guy" in order for the "other guy" to feel safe/secure/orderly/profitable/fed/housed/cared for? Does the other guy really presume to know how I wish (or plan) to be safe/secure/orderly/profitable/fed/housed/cared for? Do I really have a say as to how I am safe/secure/orderly/profitable/fed/housed/cared for?

Forgive the constant "safe/secure/orderly/profitable/fed/housed/cared for," but ultimately, this is the full collection of platitudes that charity cases demand for the less-fortunates. I am living in an apartment, with a desk, chair, and a couple stacked mattresses, but I am comfortable. I have work, and I am doing fine for now.

However, my ultimate goal is not the same as many others. I don't care about a large pile of cash, infinite credit (from whom?), miles of land, phenomenal cosmic power, supreme command over the masses, mass popularity on a global scale, or even the kind of love that adorn the greatest ballads (whatever that means).

I just want to live on my own, on a moderate plot of land, probably somewhere between 3-5 acres, in a single-story house, with my own garden to provide me food, animals to provide me other forms of food (meat, eggs, milk, cheese, butter, etc.), a workshop to make all the things I need (tools, furniture, building materials, house extensions and modifications, appliances), generators to make my own energy, and a small (maybe 5-15K/year) income for the purpose of covering those few things I do need or want to purchase (raw materials, books). I want all these things to be owned by me, and me alone (no government telling me what I may or may not do with my own property).

And with this, the thought stream comes full-circle. I came across the above website during my research about plans for building tools, and the Journey to Forever includes an article (originally written in 1910) about all kinds of simple-to-make tools. It also includes an interesting article about the benefit of weeds. There is much more, but so far, these two, along with a dead-tree acquisition (Storey's Basic Country Skills), have given me a new set of plans; originally, it was just for the workshop alone, but if I can provide my own food as well as my own stuff, then it would be remiss for me not to make an attempt at it.

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