[I wrote a blog over at flowxrg.com from 2011 till about 2014. I’m shutting that site down, and moving some of the content over here.]
Dear You Know Who You Are,
We’re on to you.
We’re getting wise to the fact that possessions and debt are slavery, and that experiences and relationships are liberation. More and more and more people are understanding that consumptive lifestyles
make us poorer, both financially and spiritually,
make the rich few richer, and
are rapidly depleting the world’s resources.
To a lot of us, these facts are so obvious that we’re tired of talking about it and we’re moving the conversation past it.
But the point is that we’re on to you. After 50-60 years of this, we’ve figured out that behind the white-picket-fence facade there’s a mountain of debt, workaholism, and hours and hours of our precious short lives spent watching a beautiful rich person on the TV telling us to buy some product, beautiful rich people telling us what we care about, ugly rich people telling us how to think about our money and the economy. Slow, desparate, un-communicated dissatisfaction and unhappiness, vented through sports obsessions and media binges. Half of the media we consume explicitly tells us to consume more; the other half serves to distract us from the fact that our consumption makes us feel hollow inside.
It used to seem, and it can sometimes seem, that there is no other way. This is the way things are; it’s the way they’ll always be. We’ve no choice. But we now know that’s not true. We know we’ve got options – we know that we can do amazing things with our cognitive surplus.
We’re learning that there is more value in experiences than in possessions. That a better value for our money and time is to spend with people we love having adventures, whatever that means to us. We’re figuring out that “downsizing” our lives – getting rid of our storage unit, moving into a smaller house, selling some or all of our cars, chopping our wardrobes by 80%, donating all the crap in our garages to second-hand stores – vastly improves the quality of our lives. It’s the low-hanging fruit of self improvement.
We’re learning that the joy of Making Stuff – of craft – far outweighs the sugar high of buying a new gadget on credit. That we feel better about ourselves as people and as members of our communities when we produce more value than we consume and set it free in the world. We’re making business models out of producing more value than we capture.
We’re learning that we can make livelihoods out of our passions and support our families, outside of the paradigm of the 9-5 sit-still-and-do-as-your-told-till-you’re-65 lifestyle.
We’re realizing that Western public education is a mechanism for producing maneagable factory workers who instinctively hop in line and wait and this is not acceptable to us. We’re encouraging our kids to resist, we cheer all of the young generations succeeding in spite of the machine they’re in, and we’re discovering and inventing new ways to teach them to be creative, independent, self-directed individuals who add value to their communities.
We’re learning that our civilization functions in a manner such that we can’t escape harming ourselves, our communities, and our world, and we are not okay with this. Many of us try to eliminate our harmful impact, but there’s only so far that will take us; we realize that the way our human artifices work – how our technology provides services by using resources, how our economic system distributes wealth around, how our political systems value specific demographics – need revamping. We don’t want to buy a packet of apples packaged in thick toxic plastic grown on clear-cut land in a faraway country where the poorest people are oppressed so that we can buy produce for pennies on the pound, but some of us live in food deserts or are being lied to about the merits of the product backstory. We don’t want to buy things that were produced with slave labor. We don’t want these options: they are odious to our sensibilities as human beings.
We’re learning things that you have known for a long time, but accepted as a reasonable route to profitability. We’re not okay with this. Let me say this again.
We’re not okay with this.
As we understand more about the corruption and greed that runs through every sector of our lives, we’re starting to contemplate your business practices within a moral and social framework. We’ll no longer give you the benefit of the doubt of stupidity or ignorance: we’ll consider you criminal. Evil, perhaps.
We’re learning that it isn’t that our leaders are incompetant: it’s that they aren’t even trying to make things better for us. They’ve been sucked into the maelstrom of clusterfucked complexity of our beaurocratic system that grinds good people into corrupt drones or well-meaning but ineffectual patsies.
We understand that the sovereignty of states is hollowing out and laws are becoming farcical, as enforcement agencies overzealously come down on the poorest majority fighting for justice while giving a helping hand to the richest minority turning a profit on the oppression of the rest. We recognize a higher law, mostly related to common sense and a universal sense of justice and humanity.
We’re picking up on the fact that the return on investment (ROI) of open-source violence has exploded with the advent of fourth generational warfare. Violence is odious to us – it is not something we consider using ourselves as we contemplate future actions – but we know others will, and we know this force is capable of stripping central states from their power to enforce order and maintain basic services. This doesn’t cheer us but it is a fact of the new ecosystem of violence and power in the world. Our faith in the ability of our states to protect us, maintain order, and continue the level of social and infrastructural services explicit in the social contract between governments and the governed is rapidly failing.
Some of us will actively fight you, and some of us will realize that you are imploding under your own ponzi schemes, lies, and injustices. We’ll leave you to your own devices and we’ll work to build something better. We dont’ want to replace you; in the vernacular of open source software, we want to fork you. We don’t need any more hierarchical concentrations of power: that paradigm of social organization is obsolete and we know it. We want to evolve new ways of organizing humanity.
And no, we don’t have the end result well defined, or a governing document, or a “plan”. If we had any of those things we’d have already failed, because that’s more of the same. No one has any clear idea of what that’ll look like, precisely; whatever socially just, ecologically sustainable, one-earth civilization emerges will be exactly that: emergent. Non-determinant. It’ll be a product of millions of voices, minds, actions, and intentions. It’ll be constantly changing and shifting. No one will ever be able to hold an understanding of its shape and organization in their minds at one time. It’ll be a networked, distributed, nodal, organic form of social organization.
It’ll also suck, in its own way. It’ll have it’s own sorts of disaffected people groups and injustices. No one’s talking about utopia here. But it’ll be better than this.
We’re learning that cynicism is obediance. Our future is to brilliantly, cheerfully, open-mindedly rip you apart and utterly destroy you through our hope, love, and passion. We’re the bright burning center of the universe.
We already are building a new future without you. This is network culture; Maker/DIY culture; a culture of community, radical transparency, aware of physical limits of the earth. When you tell us that we can’t succeed because we don’t have a plan you out yourself as a 20th century thinker, someone who does not “get it”. If we had a plan we’d fail. Plans don’t work anymore. Our future will be emergent from aggregate actions, intentions, and events. Our society is a path, not a destination, and as it meanders through history it will reveal itself.
We know that we won’t solve our problems with the same type of thinking that produced them. That’s why we’re not organizing traditionally, why we don’t have clearly defined goals and an agenda. We’ve no guiding document, no declaration, no manifesto: our manifesto is a consciousness emergent from the networked systems and conversations we’re steeped in. Our intentions and actions are on the scale of the noosphere.
We’ve got an inkling that we’ve got a chance. There’s this idea that we’ll be able to work through the extraordinary looming crises of ecological, political, economic, and social catastrophes and avoid calamitous consequences. It’ll hurt for sure. Most of us think it’ll get worse before it gets better, but we think that we’ve got a shot. This glimmer of hope combined with a supreme sense of urgency is what drives us and compels us to burn through the night and the day testing our ideas, talking to each other, dreaming, building, fighting, collaborating, screaming, marching, raging.