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Transitioning to a HUMAN Based Economy: By FeelingAwake
Sorry I haven’t posted anything lately, but time has been sparse and I haven’t been feeling particularly creative as of late. This article is going to focus on something called the HUMAN ECONOMY. This piece will be heavily influenced by my reading of David Graeber and Daniel Quinn to name a few. Should you want a good primer on where I am coming from on this article, please read “Debt: a 5000 year history”(Graber) or “Ishmael”(Quinn).
Were I to ask you what the Opposite of a “Free Market” or “Capitalist” economy were, the majority of you would answer with either a “Socialist” or “Communist” economy. In either case you would be wrong. The opposite of a Free Market economy is called a Human based economy. Whereas the free market is based on the idea of wealth being derived from the wares or services you render for society, the human based economy values those that build connections within their community.
I hope to show you how the later is a vastly superior form of organization and further that it was a way of living that humans used for 100’s of thousands of years before the agricultural revolution and the formation of “recorded history” nearly 10 thousand years ago. The idea of the “tribe” is probably as old as the human race itself. Dating back 100 thousands years and more, the tribe was the core of human existence long before the first true cities and empires emerged from the Fertile Crescent 10,000 years ago. It was a resilient and incredibly strong social compact that served humanity well for those 100’s of thousands of years, before what we call “history” started.
We are taught that history started with the formation of the first real civilizations that emerged from the Fertile Crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. What happened before then is called “pre history” and all we need to glean from this 100 thousand plus year “pre history” is that they created the wheel and fire and that they were basically building the skills necessary to become “CITY” Dwelling man and “MASS AGRICULTURE” man. Nothing else of value came from this pre history period of human existence. I hope to show that nothing could be further from the truth. And I further hope to show that we do not need to go back to the forest and forgo all we have learned in the past 10,000 years to become a constructive part of the global ecosystem, instead of a destructive and eventually suicidal part.
Lets start with some misconceptions that many have in how modern society became the way it is today. The basic history of the market goes something like this. First we were tribes that wandered aimlessly around and lived off what we could scrounge and hunt. This was a miserable time for humanity. We hunted for several hours a day for our sustenance. We lived in tribal communities where we regarded not only our direct family as brothers and sisters, but our entire tribe as brothers and sisters. The thought of charging our tribe mates for the food we caught or scavenged was as ludicrous as a mother or a father charging their infant child for the services they provide to it.
This primitive and stupid way of living eventually gave way to the idea of barter. This new phenomenon was first only employed by members of one tribe to another, but eventually it was deemed such a good way of living that people within tribes started to barter with each other.
This is considered the beginning of real history. This is where our history books tell us that we started agriculture and the surpluses we enjoyed allowed us to settle down into permanent villages. These villages became trading centers and eventually these villages were ruled by kings and sovereigns. Some villages grew into towns and eventually cities.
The barter system was eventually replaced by something called “money” which almost universally was in the form of Gold, where such gold was found in quantity. Barter was replaced by money and everyone gladly used this money to do away with the barbaric human economy that had dictated the flow of human existence for 100’s of thousands of years… Eventually money and hard currency gave way to credit. Credit allowed for phenomenal growth in all countries and civilizations that employed it. Credit gave way to the fractional reserve system in the later part of our human history and is still in use to this day. The use of credit and leverage is said to be the pinnacle of human ingenuity. That it has physically and mentally improved the lot of all humans who live under its influence.
If we view these humans that have lived under all these market creations over the past 10,000 years, we would see that the hunter gatherer of the tribal human economy worked just several hours a day to provide for his/her sustenance. At the formation of the first agricultural based villages, those same humans found themselves working many many hours a day just to provide for their well being. And once those same villages were all brought under the control of a king or a sovereign, they found themselves working from sun up to sun down just provide for themselves and the taxes they had to pay to get protection from the king.
And finally in the modern era, with the invention of electric light and the 24 hour work schedule, we as humans now find ourselves working PAST dusk(or before dawn) 5 days a week(and sometimes on Saturday) just to provide for that basic sustenance.
In exchange for all this time we spend on our basic needs, we get all kinds of toys and distractions to keep us happy. We are supposed to be the pinnacle of human existence and yet war and violence is once again reaching historic levels. Humans that live in the cradle of this pinnacle are increasingly unhappy and unfulfilled. Though the numbers are small compared to the whole, there are an increasing number of humans living in this cradle of human perfection that are choosing a different way to live. To forgo everything that is SUPPOSED to be valuable and they are living life a different way.
An increasing number of people are learning that the history we are taught about the formation of our society and our religions and our cities and economies are a complete and utter lie. They are learning to live a way that was perfected after 100’s of thousands of years of trial and error.
The Big Lie
So what is the big lie we have been told our whole lives? Well there are so many that it would take days just to list them all out here. So instead I will focus on the most pertinent and egregious lies we have been told since birth.
The biggest is the formation of the market place. We are told it was Hunter/Gather, then Barter, then currency, then credit. That these were natural offshoots of each other, one being built upon and improved until the next one emerged naturally and supplanted the former. This idea of the organic market is the first lie I would like to expose.
The market as we know it is no more organic than the bananas we buy at the local mega grocery store.
This is how the market as we know it emerged.
It is true that there was trading among the many tribes before real history started 10,000 years ago. Trading was seen as a very unseemly and a sometimes hostile undertaking. It was only ever done with a rival tribe; never among those you called family (meaning TRIBE). This is not barter in the sense that we know it today. This trading was seen more as a social encounter as a way for your tribe and your neighbor to exchange pleasantries or to show them how strong you are or possibly even threaten them. It had ZERO to do with getting value for value as we are taught. Often it was quite the opposite. A tribe wanting to show another how incredibly well of they were, might want to trade something of great value and only take a pittance for it in exchange. This would be a great insult to the other tribe.
This trading had absolutely nothing to do with market forces as we know them today and are no more a part of the natural progression of the market than the fiction of Adam and Even being the natural progression of the human race. It’s a nice fiction and one that is used for simple minded people to understand complex histories, but as far as reality goes, it is not even close.
The true market as we know it today could only emerge after the formation of mass agriculture and after the formation of complex governments. The reality is that the market as we know it was used to destroy the ages old arrangements of the human economy. Very simply it worked like this.
This is a tried and true method of starting a natural market place. Once the soldiers are paid in this new currency, they are then left to pay for things they need out of this pay. As they march north the citizens they encounter are suddenly selling their wares to them in an attempt to gather enough currency to pay their taxes when the tax enforcer shows up.
The currency needed to be made of something that couldn’t be copied and wasn’t easy to find just laying around. Gold/Silver made a perfect medium. Eventually they were stamped into ever more complex coins of the realm and eventually replaced by ever more intricate paper bills.
But the underlying birth of the market place is clear. It was never an organic system born of human ingenuity, but rather it was a complete and utter creation of the central state to help bear the cost of ever increasing militarism; all being pushed by an agricultural system that knows nothing but growth at all costs.
If this very sparse and incomplete telling of history is at all interesting to you, then I STRONGLY urge you to fill in the massive gaps I have left by reading Graeber and Quinn. This is a good start and will lead you to many other authors who will tell you history told from the reality of the anthropologist rather than the myths that are spun by modern historians. These historian who up until 200 years ago believed that the entire span of human history literally began just 10,000 years ago. As in they truly believed that humans only became human 100 short centuries ago.
Science proved that humanity as we know it is much older than that. And today only backwards, flat earth historians believe than humanity only started at 10,000BC. But funny as it seems to us now that there were people just 50 years ago teaching this to our children, the even funnier and tragic reality is that OUR HISTORY NEVER CHANGED WITH THIS ASTOUNDING DISCOVERY!!
History as it is taught in the United States (and likely the rest of the 1st world) is still taught as if humanity crawled out of the primordial soup just 10k years ago and that the scientifically proven reality of humanity having been around likely 100’s of thousands of years prior carries no historic curiosity other than they created fire and the wheel. Pre-history even at the college level is a non-entity outside the areas of anthropology.
But the thought of using what the anthropologist has proven as the basis of our history lessons is considered absurd. How can one not be awed by the knowledge that humans lived intricate, complex, fulfilling lives long before the invention of modern agriculture and government? How can you not want to know how humanity survived 100’s of thousands of years under this system and yet still lived in harmony with the environment around them? How is it they didn’t continue to grow and grow and consume all around them, that they didn’t practice all consuming war on each other in an attempt to spread their way of living on all they came into contact with?
How can you not want to know how they spent a pittance of their daily lives in pursuit of their own survival? When compared to modern man, they spent a 10th of the time we spend on survival activities. And make no bones about it, what we call work is a survival activity, because if we do not work and create things of value in this society, we do not eat and we do not survive.
Transitioning to a new way of Life
I will be up front before I start this next section. I am new to this way of thinking and much of this will be easily shot down as naïve and simplistic. What I am hoping to do in this section is to spur a conversation on how we can transition from a society that values stuff over people… From a society that sees growth as the answer to all problems… From a society that cannot seem to function unless there is a king or a president or a dictator lording over them at all times telling them what to do… To a society that views human interactions as the pinnacle of human existence… To a society that views the “work” involved in providing for our basic survival as NOT WHAT DEFINES US, but rather what needs to be done to secure our survival and allows us to form ever more concrete bonds with our fellow man… To a society that believe in true diversity, not the fake diversity we are taught in school, but rather the diversity that nature shows us time and time again as a necessity for long term survival as a species…
It could be that humanity has walked too far down this road to ever turn back. But unless we try, it is obvious where this road leads. This road leads to the ultimately extinction of our species and likely a large number of other species. This extinction could be hundreds or even thousands of years away or it could be just around the corner. Whichever it turns out to be, history will show that for the first time in our ten thousand year walk down the wrong road that we were in a position to turn the entire world around.
One of the greatest inventions of our ten thousand year journey ironically is the one invention that could sow the seeds of its demise. Global communications is the pinnacle of our stuff oriented society. Without the closely integrated controlled economy of the modern age, the internet and the ability of humans to communicate with each other without filters would have likely never emerged. But it is this emergence that is at the heart of its demise.
People with millions of different things in common coalesce without prodding and without laws into a myriad of chat groups, twitter channels, blogs and news sites. This all happened without direction and without laws or programs to make it happen. It is this diverse menagerie of ideas and groups that is to be the salvation of mankind.
It proves beyond any doubt that mankind is not meant to live under a single banner of “the RIGHT WAY”. What this proves is that humans at their core do not all want to live in some mono-culture where everyone pursues the same goals and prays to the same God (if they pray at all), eating the same types of food and pursuing the same growth at all costs paradigm.
So this begs the question. How do you create a real life version of what has happened so organically on the internet? And the answer is blaringly obvious…
In Praise of Doing NOTHING
The answer seems obvious to me, yet to do it seems so incredibly hard. DO NOTHING!
What this means is that we need to stop feeding the machine that is destroying us and the world. It means that we do not fight it! We do not get together and join the rebellion! We do not come up with tactics! We do not fight the good fight or fight the power or fight the MAN! It is a radical idea that no one has tried on a massive scale.
And surprisingly the best place for this to start is not in the middle class or the upper class or the working class, but rather at the very bottom of our stuff oriented society. In America there are literally millions of people living lives of poverty. They live day to day and spend only a few hours of their daily lives in activities that are needed to secure their survival. The rest of their time is spent doing things to either improve their lives (meaning finding ways to make more money, to get themselves more things, ie the “right way”) or they are building social networks to make living where they are more acceptable.
It is this later group that I would like to focus. The former group is no different than anyone else in society. The only thing missing in their lives is more money, more stuff, bigger homes, etc. They will sell drugs, or work 3 jobs and go to school at night, work the system, work their asses off, whatever it takes to lift themselves out of their miserable existence and claw their way into the lower middle class, which is just a pit stop on the way to the real middle class.
And what this former group finds when they get there is a bunch of middle class people clawing their way to an upper middle class life or an elite class retirement.
I would rather focus on the remaining group. This group stays at the bottom for any number of reasons. They do not have the skills to pretend that they want this better life, be it mental illness or a propensity towards lawlessness, whatever the reason, there is a distinct group at the bottom of our society that absolutely will not be “lifted” up to join the rest of us in the pinnacle of human evolution. And if you asked them to be completely honest, they would tell you they would rather die than join us in our shared delusion.
Do you ever wonder why a young man or woman would choose to join a gang over a group promising them a ticket to college and a shot at the middle class? Some would chock it up to bad education or lack of parental supervision. And in a sense you would be right. Meaning that these youngsters never had the early indoctrination of “wanting” more stuff and more money, rather they grew up wanting the respect of their peers more.
The gang is everything and to go against the gang is tantamount to suicide. Not because the gang would kill you if you decided to leave, but rather life outside the gang would be almost worse than death itself. People outside of gang life cannot seem to fathom this connection.
But ask the average middle class mother of two what she would do if she were faced with losing her children and husband, and she would tell you it would be a fate worse than death. When placed in this context it is easy to understand a youngster’s unfailing loyalty to the gang. Absent a community to help them when their parents are no longer willing or able to mentor them, youths by the hundreds of thousands in our society join gangs, where they find what is missing in their lives.
Absent the “good” schools to teach them to want more and to pursue a career where they spend 40/50 even 70 hours a week securing their “survival”, they by pure instinct go a different direction.
I am not suggesting that we all quit our jobs and go and join the bloods or crypts, not by any means. I only mean to point out the almost organic nature of the gangs that spring up in almost every single 1st world nation’s poorest areas. Almost to a one they will have the following in common.
1) Their access to an education that pushes them to want more and to keep pushing to get to the next social level is severely limited. Schools for the extremely poor are at best low level security facilities to keep them off the street.
2) Absent the “education” that the rest of society receives they resort to their organic programming and that is to form HUMAN ECONOMIES. Albeit violent and deadly human economies, they are generally human based just the same.
3) Those living in these destitute areas generally have a much stronger sense of community as they cannot substitute money for human connections. They do not have this option. For most of them it is be a part of the community (whatever its form, whether religious or gang) or perish.
What I am suggesting is that those at the bottom of our society are on to something big and instead of wasting our precious resources and time trying to FORCE them to join us, we should instead JOIN THEM.
I read a story a few months ago about a group of young people who quit their jobs and bought up a few houses in the poorest section of their city. I can’t remember which city, but they did it NOT to fix them up and re-create some new dynamic urban revival, but rather to simplify their lives and to re-connect with some form of community.
These were people with kids, people with college education, with everything to lose in the traditional sense of the word. And they walked away. What they found was that they had as much to share as those that lived in the poor areas. They learned how to lean on each other for support. How to give up childish ideas of “owning” their property, what they found was that the people living in these areas had their own way of living.
But almost all of those poor people were to one degree or another living on public assistance or getting government money and hence their need to (only) spend several hours a day at best on their own survival. The rest of the time was idle time that was used for any number of reasons. This influx of new comers from the middle class taught them how to provide a little more for themselves. They taught them how they could grow vegetables and fruits in the nooks and crannies of their neighborhood. Not as a way to make more money, but to lessen their dependence on those above them.
They shared their strengths with each other and learned how to fix their weaknesses. It is an ongoing experiment in intentional human economics. The poor showed the rich how little it really takes to survive and still enjoy an enriched life. The rich showed the poor how they can live this life WITHOUT waiting for some politician or banker to come and save them from their pathetic existence.
It is a perfect example of a symbiotic relationship, one that I hope results in one day not being able to tell one from the other. Were the offspring of these revolutionaries able to resist the lure of contemporary society around them and to stay put and continue my guess is that you would not be able to tell them apart within 1 generation. They would have blended together into a perfect combination of self sufficiency in a community organization.
I believe that a move towards this type of arrangement could be the start of a phenomenal rejuvenation of a way of life that we threw over board nearly 10,000 years ago. Should we do away with all agriculture? Of course not! Should we do away with agriculture as a way to continue to grow and conquer more and more of the globe in a suicidal attempt to make us all live the “CORRECT WAY”, ABSOLUTELY!
I will end this part of the article here as I am already at 9 pages. The next article will focus on how such a transition could occur. And also to illustrate the immense obstacles that stand in our way. I am an eternal optimist at heart, but I am also a grudging realist. It could be that we have stepped over the precipice and we are destined to walk this path to its bitter end. But I feel we must try to walk a different path. I hope to hear many ideas in response to this article. Maybe we can change the path of humanity?