Friday, 16 September 2016

Consolations and Transistions

In my last post, I discussed the blue pill and red pill worlds. Staying in the blue pill world (neoliberal world of increasing wealth inequality, precarious employment, increasing commodity exchange based relationships, climate change), is easiest, so I'll give some advice on how to survive it without going crazy. As for the red pill world, the way there isn't currently known, but I'll discuss what a path to it might look like. 

In the current neoliberal world, there is a political and media system in place that is not amenable to change and cannot be reformed. It is a system where $464 billion dollars was spent world wide on marketing (in 2011). That is money that could have been spent on useful things like education and healthcare, that was instead diverted to creating enemy propaganda messages instructing people to consume commodities. Therefore, firstly minimize your exposure to advertisements. Use an ad-blocker in your browser. If your smartphone doesn't allow ad-blockers, try to use it less for internet browsing. Be aware that public relations messages constitute about half the content in the news (example: an article about a great new drug for treating high blood pressure is actually a paid advertisement by a pharmaceutical company). Better yet, get away from screens as much as possible, and be aware of status anxiety.

Status anxiety comes from wealth inequality. It was described by Rousseau in Discourse in Inequality as "amour-propre", a condition where one's self-esteem depends on the opinions of others. In countries with higher wealth inequality, those at the bottom strive harder to attain higher status. Status is usually derived from material possessions, such as cars and clothing accessories, but can also come from experiences such as vacations. This appears why those of lower socioeconomic status are more likely to be arrested for theft - they simply cannot keep up any other way. Those of less wealth are also subject to higher risks of stress, obesity, and mental illness, likely from the $464 billion worth of advertising that are exposed to, yet can't comply with since they haven't the funds. Reducing wealth inequality would ease a lot of societies ills, but that will not happen because wealth inequality is the system. In the meantime, the best way to avoid amour-propre getting too inflamed is to be very wary of who you compare yourself to. It is perhaps better to seek the company of those of approximately similar wealth. Such an action however has the terrible side-effect of atomizing society even further. If one is wealthier than a friend, avoid flaunting it - as an example avoid posting stylized photos of your new luxury car all over social media.

Try to maximize face-to-face contact. Stay in shape, ignore the junk food ads and eat healthily. Remember the maxim "Happy people don't go shopping". Don't be fooled for a moment by any messages stating that the consumer has the power to change the world. The idea that taking shorter showers or recycling more could make a difference is just a way that the system tries to get people to blame themselves. The sad fact is that even if one individual becomes vegan, takes short showers, bikes to work, and recycles diligently, it won't make any difference overall, and climate change, environmental destruction, and mass species extinctions will still occur. Having some equanimity about the future is beneficial.

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Towards a way of life in balance with nature, as exemplified by indigenous cultures around the world. Exiting the neoliberal rat-race needs a place to go, and the system tries to leave nowhere left to go. Private property is a key aspect of the system, and is one the main reasons that the native people of North America were forced to live on small reserves. Since every inch of the continent is owned, purchasing land would be required at the moment. Real estate and farmland speculation, both highly antisocial behaviors, are rampant, so a group purchase of land, out a purchase after a real estate bubble pops would likely be required. The land would need a source of fresh water and an arable area to grow crops, as well as a forest for timber. A source of clay would also be useful for pottery. The group of people living there would need to have a common culture, possibly created anew and agreed upon. They would need to form a tribe with common values. Primitive technologies would need to be rediscovered or relearned. Anthropological studies would be a good source for this. Once established, the tribe could show case their accomplishments to the world. There would initially be some dependence on the system for goods that couldn't be immediately produced by the tribe, but a the tribe progresses to a true indigenous life style and build up their crafting capabilities, less and less goods would be required from the industrial system.

To clarify again why living as indigenous people does allow the use of advanced technologies, is that advanced technologies require capital, division of labour, bosses and employees, pay inequality, wealth inequality, dependence on a vast system, resource depletion, depredations and pollution. For example, if solar photovoltaic power is used, what is to be done when the voltage regulator malfunctions? There would be no way to repair it without an entire industrial complex. At the base of this complex is low paid workers, many of who suffer nerve damage from the chemicals they must use, are paid barely enough to pay their bills, and who unjustly create huge amounts of surplus value that makes its way into the hands of corrupt officials who then speculate on real estate ramping up wealth inequality even further.

The monolithic neoliberal system which has spread to the entire globe will try to keep chugging along until the planet is crippled, at which point it will collapse, leading to a red pill world that has to cope with the environmental aftermath. As for a sooner transition - thinking still required, action awaits.

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