Society Reimagined or How I Spent Earth Day

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.  John Lennon

I had a good time watching 3 post-apocalyptic movies for Earth Day. The end of the world by nuclear attack, pollution and overpopulation are common themes and the terror they presented to people in the film industry in the past is interesting. Science fiction is something I greatly enjoy particularly the post-apocalyptic variety. I think I mentioned that before when I was talking about Dystopias.

The films this time were 2 I hadn’t seen and one that I had seen before. The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959) takes place in New York City after a nuclear war. In it Harry Belafonte  meets up with two white people at the end of civilization as we know it. This is an interesting examination of the concepts of race, gender, violence, consumerism long before any of us po-mo types got ahold of these. Harry Belafonte utters the classic line, “That’s white of you.” which I gather is still in use today. One of the things I found really interesting was how, in the midst of this absolute freedom to be or do anything they wanted, the characters desperately clung to their old identities and rituals despite their obvious uselessness.  I’d highly recommend it.

No Blade of Grass (1970) is a British made film about a rampant virus that destroys agriculture and the ensuing social decay. All of the hooligans look like proto-punks. At one point a bunch of them ride around on motorcycles and raise hell Mad Max style. There is quite a comment about consumerism, environmentalism, violence, private property and class inequity as well. At one point the British government calls for martial law and then decides to eradicate a certain percentage of the population in order to save the rest because the Chinese did it to “save” their population. The protagonist has some choice comments about government power among other things. It was great fun to watch.

And then the old favorite  Soylent Green (1973) which I’ve seen quite a few times. It too contains themes about environmentalism, consumerism and class inequity as well as the power of governments to protect themselves at all costs.

They were all on the Turner Classic Movie channel (They’ve got a good movie database and write ups as well as groupings by theme).

So having spent all those hours watching the world go to hell it was fortunate that I ran across something that put it into another perspective.

Reimagined

Thanks to  openbuddha on Twitter, this link to an essay by Leo Babauta called society, reimagined came to my attention. Another person Everett Bogue: Putting Leo Babauta’s ‘Society, Reimagine’ Into Practice has taken up the thought as well.

Leo Babauta has given some provocative and interesting ideas for what society “could” be if we were to start from scratch or reimagine a few things.

I’d like to take up his thoughts and add a few of my own.  Leo takes a few areas and outlines a little bit about them. Everett Bogue, a person on a minimalist mission of sorts,  adds a couple more.

  • The car, junked
  • Schools, erased
  • Sharing vs consumerism
  • A digital world
  • Health Care, reimagined, in practice.
  • Agriculture, reimagined, in practice.

To these I would like to add such meta-categories as:

  • Political structures
  • Economic systems and structures
  • Relational or marriage structures
  • Religious structures
  • Ecological considerations and nature

If we are going to reimagine society it needs to be at a structural level. Merely shifting around a few things and essentially maintaining much of the status quo will engender the same kinds of problems that now appear but in different arenas.  And deep societal structure are intimately tied together.

So as I thought about these items here is what came up.

Your way of life is a political statement. John Lennon

The car, junked

Now I’ve never owned a car so this didn’t take any imagination at all. Bikes or walking or taxis or buses or trains or sharing rides have always worked wherever I’ve been.  Giving friends a few bucks for gas if we are sharing always seemed sufficient for them.

Schools, erased

Schools could be a lot more functional and effective if they taught people how to think and analyze rather than to be good conformist little citizens reciting all the appropriate nationalistic and often religious words. Creativity vs. conformity. Individuality vs. group. (Who remembers ugly gym uniforms-eewwww)

I started to learn to think in Grade 10 thanks only to an extraordinary English teacher who was also something of an actor. It made the Shakespeare go down rather well. And he told me to write and keep on doing it. (Thanks Mr. Roy) The only courses that were actually useful came from the Home Ec. we used to have to take. (Yeah it was a while ago) I learned how to sew, cook, make a budget, organize stuff, manage a project, run a business (on paper anyways)…things that actually had some application. Most everything else was memorizing-social studies, history, biology, etc.

If you can look it up you don’t need to know it. But you have to know what to do with what you look up! Application, application, application.  This is especially true in the digital age. That’s my bottom line regarding education. Any fool can quote a bunch of shit without even knowing what it means.

Sharing Preferred Over Consumerism

Probably a good idea.

A Digital World

Maybe a good idea.  But not for it’s own sake. What are the practical applications?

Health Care

For everyone everywhere. No exceptions.

Agriculture

What is a lot of it for? Ethanol? Scrap that along with the cars.

Stats vary but in the U.S. alone around 100 billion dollars or 1,400 calories-worth of food per person a day – or 40 percent of total food supply or 41 billion pounds worth of food is wasted annually.

And in terms of processing food the wastage creates an enormous environmental problem.

Diet, supply, processing, packaging all need to be addressed.

Government subsidies, particularly to the beef and pork industries need to be seriously examined. Meat is not a right. (says a meat eater-so this isn’t coming from some vegementalist)

The sooner we do away with pate and caviar the better too.

Political Structures

Inclusive Democracy leaning towards Social Anarchism with a Libertarian streak. This is a whole blog post in itself.

Economic Systems and Structures

Wish everyone had some understanding of what economic theory was. Especially the dialectical-materialist sorts. But Marx will never be as popular as that Walmart guy. Nor as rich.

Some elements of Participatory Economics could be examined for viability.

Rethinking private property and the rights of corporations could do with a rehaul.

Imagine no possessions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
a brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people,
sharing all the world.

John Lennon

Relational or marriage structures

Marriage or partnership as a legal entity is necessary often for the protection of children and partners who for whatever reason may become disenfranchised upon the dissolution of a relationship.

That being said I see no reason beyond this why partnerships and their durations are any business of the state. Gay marriage, poly-marriage, serial monogamy, no marriage, single-whatever configuration suits the person is their own concern. We are talking about consenting adults. Get the moralizing out of it. It’s a personal decision.

And there’s no reason why durations can’t be considered as well if that is what the participants want.  Contracts for 2 or 5 or 10 years, renewable and spelled out in advance would save a lot of hassle with divorces. Having been divorced I have some experience with the current hassle.

Love and marriage are not the same thing. To consider practical aspects of a life partnership is  just a sensible thing to do. It doesn’t mean someone is loved less because of it.

Religious Structures

An it harm none, do what ye willThe Wiccan Rede

Did I mention I am a Goddess Parent to a couple of Wiccan children?

Ecological Considerations and Nature

Ecology cannot be addressed unless quite a number of these other categories are seriously considered. There is little point in token efforts if the consumer lifestyle is still embraced. We just end up recycling more and more. And using more energy to do it.  It may feel good to get recycled paper cups from the coffee joint (with the sleeve or doubled because it’s hot) but it doesn’t change anything.  I have a long post about this called Right Lifestyle that I did a while back. It might make you complain.

A few miscellaneous and somewhat smaller issues.

Income Tax I

Grandma Florence, age 101, soon to be 102, wrote on Twitter:

Been playing hookey. Too busy with family dealings and filing income tax. Don’t you think people over 100 should be exempt?

I think that it is more than reasonable that people over 100 should be exempt from paying income tax.  Over age 80 would be preferable.  These folks have contributed enough.

Income Tax II

Those who are on minimum wage or only say 20% above it should not have to pay income tax at all. Yes there are provisions, via tax credits etc. to get lower income earners into a bracket so that they don’t have to pay or pay much but a lot of them are incredibly complicated and tend to go unclaimed. And if you’re making minimum wage there’s not a lot left to pay tax professionals to prepare your return. In some ways the computerized returns are great but then again they depend upon ownership or significant access to a computer and the Internet, as well as knowledge of how to work the programs, all of which some with the lowest incomes do not have. If the governments want tax returns done there should be kiosks available in government buildings that people can book to do this thing. And there should be courses to show them how and some kind of support personnel available if problems arise.  It would save a hell of a lot of money in investigations, corrections and paper.

Minimum and Maximum Wages

Most places have some kind of minimum wage. Enforcement of that is rather shoddy in most parts of the world. Additionally with deductions the wage is often much less than advertised. This could be amended to a living wage rather than minimum wage.

It was Jello Biafra years ago while running as a Green Party presidential nominee, that brought the concept of Maximum Wage into a broader focus. The only reason I ever heard about this idea was because he campaigned on it.

Minimalization and Effectiveness of Hierarchies

Some hierarchies can get into the ridiculous in terms of their verticality and descriptiveness. (Here’s a little article about that from CNN) When there are titles like the Chief Executive Assistant to the Associate Vice President of Human Resources Facilitation, Retention and Management Responsible for  New Technologies Training and Implementation-West coast division-Northern sub-region-Leadership group 3 or whatever then there may be a little too much specialization going on.

There are some organizations that are simply so huge that these numerous levels are required. When the org chart needs to wrap around 3 walls of the board room though maybe it’s time to spin something off.

Other times it is just a lot of posturing or striving for everyone to be on “equal”. A phony sort of egalitarianism. I watched the show LA Ink a while back and there were more shop managers than tattoo artists in the place yet no one seemed to know what they were doing except someone had to take out the garbage. That was definitely not going to be any of the old managers so it was up to the new one, who actually had some business qualifications and experience, to do it. It would not have been such a stretch for them to hire a shop assistant and call them that. And the old bosses got such an ego rush when Ms. Marketing had to comply, even though she had the same job title-kinda pitiful. (Reality TV brings up a lot of comments from me-so I don’t watch it much)

Drugs

Decriminalize all of them. Educate people on their use. Provide facilities for those who get lost with them.

Prostitution

Legalize it.  Regulate it in terms of health and well being of participants. Get the moralizing out of it. It’s a private personal decision.

Realizing That It’s All Bullshit

The more real you get, the more unreal everything else is. John Lennon

I came across an interesting post called Compromising with Bullshit a couple days ago.  The author writes:

This requires the ego make compromises in order to continue self-fabrication with what is obviously a fucking absurd world. When you fully examine your conventional beliefs, which serve to normalize the experience of an absurd world, you will no doubt recognize the abject meaningless of everything you do (unless, of course, you’d rather not).

It’s a somewhat nihilistic take if you read the whole thing. But the point is that we are making all this up as we go along. There is no rule book. We can do it any way we want to. The first thing that stops us is other people. Doing things the way they want to, and often trying to get you to buy into that. But that is a compromise no one has to make.

The second thing that stops us is ourselves and how captured we are within the web of samsara. Internalized guilt for one is a vicious thing. Rev. Danny Fisher put up a great quote today from Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

It seems that a feeling of basic guilt has been passed down from one generation to another and pervades many aspects of Western life. For example, teachers often think that if children do not feel guilty, then they won’t study properly and consequently won’t develop as they should. Therefore, many teachers feel that they have to do something to push the child, and guilt seems to be one of the chief techniques they use. This occurs even on the level of improving reading and writing. The teacher looks for errors: “Look, you made a mistake. What you are going to do about it?” From the child’s point of view, learning is then based on trying not to make mistakes, on trying to prove you actually are not bad. It is entirely different when you approach the child more positively: “Look how much you have improved; therefore we can go further.” In the latter case, learning becomes an expression of one’s wholesomeness and innate intelligence.

Guilt for what? I’m thinking the Original Sin concept has something to do with this to some degree. Internalization of social control mechanisms is one of the features of any culture. It subconsciously helps to maintain a certain amount of “civility”. Yet in many ways it is damaging to people. It is far more beneficial if individuals consciously agree to cooperate rather than feel coerced or compromised into participation. And a lot more gets done.

Here’s a little exercise that might be interesting for some people. Dictate all your thoughts non-stop, meaning don’t even think about what you are saying, just talk for 10 or 15 minutes into your MP3 player or whatever recording device you have around. Then write them all out in point form. Look at each one and ask the following question:

Am I thinking this because it is what I am supposed to think? Where did that idea come from? Consider such things as social roles, position, gender and other group factors. Then consider such things as family, education, marketing. Then if you have any left over consider such things as fear of-failure, being alone, being unpopular.  Are these things really true?  Sometimes it’s quite a revelation. If you meditate you may be familiar with watching the mind stream. If you’re not though try this and notice how you want to reject some thoughts, defend others and just generally be attached to them. Notice how comfortable  and comforting the constant noise of that stream can be. It keeps us insulated from what is really going on. But it can also sometimes point us in the direction of knowing that. Lifting the veil as it were.

This streaming mind is kind of what I’m doing with this blog. And trying to see through it to what’s at the bottom. [plus some editing after the fact]

Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.  John Lennon

So I hope you had an interesting Earth Day. I did.

Links

Nathan mentioned this post on his blog You Can’t Save the Planet, People!

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