by Øyvind Holmstad:
But there’s a problem. We have fractured these urban networks, and rebuilt much more dispersed, “dendritic” systems, connected not by pedestrians, but by automobiles, dispersed suburban campuses and parks, and single-family monocultures, supplemented by telephones and now, computers. The majority of us lives in encapsulated houses, in encapsulated neighborhoods, and travel in encapsulated cars to encapsulated work places, stores and other destinations. – Michael Mehaffy
Has humanity entered an everlasting stage of encapsulation, like a pupae never entering the stadium of a butterfly, free and full of colors? We know what happens with a pupae not leaving its pupping, it dries out, missing its higher purpose of life. Well, I’m sad to say I think this is what our societies have become today. Probably even more in Norway, as we are more encapsulated because of our climate.
|Our modern lives as encapsulated pupae
Why did this happen? Of course, because of ideology, with Le Corbusier as a main inspirational. It’s a sad truth, but for modernist ideology to survive it needs to cut all bounds between people, nature and tradition. What is left is technocracy, a shallow, false and withered replacement of true community. The Scandinavian welfare state is a good (sad) example.
By suppressing local particularities and turning distinctions and differences into injustices inclusiveness suppresses self-organization, and therefore social spontaneity and voluntary initiatives of all kinds.
Ordinary people can’t act effectively unless local discretion is widely diffused and the informal good sense of the people is accepted as a generally sound basis for action. Inclusiveness rejects both. If there’s significant local discretion inequalities will result, and “the informal good sense of the people” is shot through with settled prejudgments—that is, with prejudices.
For that reason inclusiveness requires suppression of local initiative and self-rule. Those things are unjust from the standpoint of social justice in any event. If I do something that benefits brother Bob, that’s unfair because cousin Dick and uncle Harry get left out. More generally, informal arrangements like mutual assistance based on local networks and moral codes make the benefits of social life depend on group membership. That’s obviously unjust, so such arrangements must be destroyed.
That’s one reason schools teach children to throw off parental, communal, and religious authority. Those authorities aren’t based on liberal principles, and they lead to particular local connections that don’t benefit everyone equally. It’s also one reason antidiscrimination laws force institutions to treat the attack on traditional and natural authorities as part of their reason for being. (If they don’t insist on their total commitment to “celebration of diversity,” they’re likely to get sued.)
The natural result of such policies is degradation of functional communities and families. Our rulers view that as a good thing. It eliminates competitors to the liberal state, frees individuals from traditional bonds that are understood as irrational and discriminatory, and clears the ground for a truly rational and just ordering of society. – James Kalb
Yes, I’m encapsulated into the straitjackets of the welfare state and the liberal market, so I don’t need anyone anymore, and nobody needs me. The networks of old times are gone, community is replaced by experts. Local initiatives and self-rule is ruled out. This in spite of that every natural system is self-organized, and real science, not the quasi-science of the liberalist state, states this.
Within this promising field, no topic is likely more promising than “self-organization” — the ability of complex adaptive systems to grow, order, and organize all by themselves, without any master controller. We observe this phenomenon at work in complex termite colonies that lack architects and blueprints, in biological cells organizing and differentiating into organs without any additional controls, and as we now see, in the very processes that gave rise to life itself. – Michael Mehaffy and Nikos Salingaros
|Tallinn old town model, an example of a self-organized design that could not been drawn out on a clerks office. To live an encapsulated life here were impossible, as in an organic system everything is interwoven. Photo: Jennifer Boyer
|Tallin old town in real life, the true beauty of a morphological process! Photo: Iifar
A system that is not self-organized is not resilient, it cannot be whole and is heading for collapse. A state that tries to organize its citizens, not helping the citizens to organize themselves, is tyrannical, not biological and organic. It’s NOT permaculture! I think we here see the main reason why the world’s governments are so reluctant to incorporate permaculture, they will loose their power and their ideologies will loose their glory. They will hate to see you free from their encapsulating threads, revealing yourself in all your hidden colors, dancing in the air like a butterfly. For the bureaucratic welfare state this is the worst of their nightmares come true.
|A nightmare? Photo: Bresson Thomas
My skills and experience—as a facilitator, as a trainer, as a legal professional and as someone linking different communities and movements—were all targeted in this case, with the state trying to depict me as a ‘brainwasher’ and as a mastermind of mayhem, violence and destruction. . . . It is clear that the skills that make us strong, the alternatives that reduce our reliance on their systems [emphasis added] and prefigure a new world, are the very things that they are most afraid of. – Leah Henderson
Community is nearly impossible in a highly monetized society like our own. That is because community is woven from gifts, which is ultimately why poor people often have stronger communities than rich people. If you are financially independent, then you really don’t depend on your neighbors—or indeed on any specific person—for anything. You can just pay someone to do it, or pay someone else to do it.
In former times, people depended for all of life’s necessities and pleasures on people they knew personally. If you alienated the local blacksmith, brewer, or doctor, there was no replacement. Your quality of life would be much lower. If you alienated your neighbors then you might not have help if you sprained your ankle during harvest season, or if your barn burnt down. Community was not an add-on to life, it was a way of life. Today, with only slight exaggeration, we could say we don’t need anyone. I don’t need the farmer who grew my food—I can pay someone else to do it. I don’t need the mechanic who fixed my car. I don’t need the trucker who brought my shoes to the store. I don’t need any of the people who produced any of the things I use. I need someone to do their jobs, but not the unique individual people. They are replaceable and, by the same token, so am I.
That is one reason for the universally recognized superficiality of most social gatherings. How authentic can it be, when the unconscious knowledge, “I don’t need you,” lurks under the surface? When we get together to consume—food, drink, or entertainment—do we really draw on the gifts of anyone present? Anyone can consume. Intimacy comes from co-creation, not co-consumption, as anyone in a band can tell you, and it is different from liking or disliking someone. But in a monetized society, our creativity happens in specialized domains, for money.
To forge community then, we must do more than simply get people together. While that is a start, soon we get tired of just talking, and we want to do something, to create something. It is a very tepid community indeed, when the only need being met is the need to air opinions and feel that we are right, that we get it, and isn’t it too bad that other people don’t … hey, I know! Let’s collect each others’ email addresses and start a listserv!
Community is woven from gifts. Unlike today’s market system, whose built-in scarcity compels competition in which more for me is less for you, in a gift economy the opposite holds. Because people in gift culture pass on their surplus rather than accumulating it, your good fortune is my good fortune: more for you is more for me. Wealth circulates, gravitating toward the greatest need. In a gift community, people know that their gifts will eventually come back to them, albeit often in a new form. Such a community might be called a “circle of the gift.”
Fortunately, the monetization of life has reached its peak in our time, and is beginning a long and permanent receding (of which economic “recession” is an aspect). Both out of desire and necessity, we are poised at a critical moment of opportunity to reclaim gift culture, and therefore to build true community. The reclamation is part of a larger shift of human consciousness, a larger reunion with nature, earth, each other, and lost parts of ourselves. Our alienation from gift culture is an aberration and our independence an illusion. We are not actually independent or “financially secure” – we are just as dependent as before, only on strangers and impersonal institutions, and, as we are likely to soon discover, these institutions are quite fragile. – Charles Eisenstein
To free ourselves from our encapsulations, our hard and dry pupae capsulars, we need to get rid of the bureaucratic welfare state and the liberal market. I’m sorry, we have no choice. Of course, this will be a hard process, as our pupae capsulars have grown thick and resistant. Leaving the “technologies of death” behind, the dead capsular, entering the technology of life. What is awaiting us is a world of connections, gifts, self-organization, true communities and relationships, love and life. The world of a butterfly!
- Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition, by Charles Eisenstein
- Sacred Economics with Charles Eisenstein [Interview]
- Preface to Sharing for Survival
- Peer-to-Peer Themes and Urban Priorities for the Self-organizing Society
- The Metropolis Essays, by Michael Mehaffy & Nikos Salingaros
- The Tyranny of Liberalism, by James Kalb
- James Kalb’s homepage Turnabout
- Classical Liberalism, by Charles Siegel
- The Leaderless Revolution, by Carne Ross
- How to Get What You Want in Your Community, by Thomas Linzey
- Life Rules, by Ellen LaConte
- The Art of Community: Building the New Age of Participation, by Jono Bacon
- Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity, by Michael Shuman.
- Debt: The First 5,000 Years, by David Graeber (see also)
- New Society Publishers