First I would like you to watch this segment, if have not already seen it. The results of which are not entirely unexpected.
To say that wealth makes one behave unethically is an understatement at best. What they have shown and what we have seen so far, is that the more one has…the more one behaves like a complete prick. The most interesting aspect of this is that this behavior has little to do with the subjects political or ideological beliefs or philosophy.
Now as an antidote to the above – which is brought almost entirely by the individualistic pursuit of wealth and personal gain to the exclusion of all others – Dmitry Orlov has been writing series of essays on Communities That Abide. Those where the welfare of all the members is more important than that of an individual. Where they work together for the health and well being of all. In the first part he gives a rather bleak - all be it accurate – picture of this country now.
Taken as a whole, as a single community, the US is doing rather poorly. Yes, it still leads the world in propaganda, which tends to mask a lot of its problems, but beyond that the picture is not pretty. Among the world’s developed nations, the US leads in many categories in which one would rather not lead, such as obesity, divorce rate, child abuse death, teen-age pregnancy, incarceration rate, homicide rate, percentage of children brought up fatherless and rate of sexually transmitted disease infection. It leads the world in fear, stress, anger and the use of antidepressants and antipsychotic medications. Suicide is the number one cause of injury death, having surpassed the also plentiful car accidents and fatal gunshot wounds. More US soldiers kill themselves than die in combat. A third of all employees suffer from chronic debilitating stress; half experience stress that causes insomnia, anxiety and depression; more and more people find the workplace so unpleasant that they are choosing to opt out of the workforce altogether, finding a much lower standard of living to be an acceptable tradeoff.The myriad social problems are so severe and so entrenched that, at this rate, any attempts to “solve” them would border on quixotic. Yes, you could switch from voting for a louse to voting for a cockroach, but is that really going to help? You could even “throw away your vote” on a third-party maggot. But you would still be voting for an American politician, even though you know what they are all like. A different and increasingly popular response is to flee to a happier land, but emigration is traumatic and painful and often causes damage to both self and community. Many of the social problems in the US stem from the fact that it is “a land of immigrants,” which is to say, a land of uprooted, lost souls. But there is another response: escape internally but remain in place by forming insular, separatist communities, with different rationales, sets of standards and codes of behavior from the surrounding society, in order to achieve better outcomes for their members. This approach is the one that is being embraced by more and more people.
- autonomous, refusing to coalesce into larger groups;
- separatist, shunning the outsiders (and those of their own number who misbehave), and interacting with the outside world as a group rather than as individuals;
- anarchic in their patterns of self-governance—neither patriarchal nor matriarchal—with certain individuals granted positions of responsibility, but not positions of authority;
- having an oral rather than a written code of conduct
- communist in their patterns of production and consumption, with little use for money or markets;
- based on a strong central ideology (or faith) which they refuse to analyze, question or debate
- having lots of children, bringing them up as their replacements, and retiring as young as possible;
- refusing to “work jobs,” and doing little work beyond what they consider necessary;
- consciously rejecting much of the culture and quite a lot of the technology of surrounding society;
- speaking their own languages or dialects, which they jealously preserve and safeguard against outside influences;
- adhering to a certain protocol for interacting with outsiders, perhaps hiding in plain sight, perhaps through a certain “in your face” disguise that hides who they are behind a more conventional image;
- pacifist rather than warlike, refusing to carry weapons or take part in military actions of any sort, and fleeing from danger rather than confronting it;
- nomadic rather than settled, with minimal attachment to any one piece of land beyond its immediate usefulness to them, and willing to relocate as a group in times of danger, hardship or persecution;
- quite happy and generally content with their lot in life, being resigned to accepting whatever life gives, and relatively unafraid of death, neither fighting it nor seeking it.
In the third part Orlov gives a few examples of communities that possess some – if not most – of the above. Those being The Amish and Mennonites, Dukhobors in Canada, The Roma- also known as the Gypsies. He notes in in nearly all of these examples, interaction with the “outside world” is kept at a minimum. That most are organized in a communal or communist form of work and distribution.
He likes to quote from Peter Kropotkin in a lot of this.
None of this has anything to do with the communist style of government or with state communism. That state communism is an oxymoron was recognized from the outset, and it only existed as an aberration of state socialism, which can be made to work—just not very well. Nevertheless, we can learn something by looking at the principles embraced by the great International Worker’s Movement of the 19th century. Here they are, as spelled out by Peter Kropotkin:1. The elimination of wage labor, which the capitalist pays to the worker, since it is nothing more than a contemporary form of slavery and serfdom2. The elimination of private property for all that which society requires for the organization of socialized production and distribution3. The liberation of the individual and of society from that form of political enslavement—government—which serves to support and maintain a system of economic enslavementThese tenets may seem quaint and idealistic; after all, what has come of the efforts to implement them? A globalized economy of labor arbitrage that sends the work to the lowest-paid sweatshops… a population abjectly dependent on uncertain wage labor and government hand-outs… Thus, it is nothing short of remarkable that the abiding countercultural communities I have looked at all seem to embrace these tenets to a fair extent.
All of them do their best to not work for wages, refusing to be “proletarianized.”
And lastly he gives a different view on taxes. That the left embraces taxes has always seemed rather counter intuitive at best.
Although all of these groups (with the exception of the Dukhobors, who have all but dissolved in the surrounding Canadian society for reasons we will take up later) have done well to curb wage labor and private property and to remain free of the tentacles of the government, such independence is sometimes impossible to maintain: the need to pay property and land taxes forces these groups into trade with the outside, and sometimes even into wage labor. Taxes are these groups’ Achilles’ heel, and tax avoidance (along with avoidance of military service and compulsory public education) must be a prime objective of all groups that want to maintain their independence. Peter Kropotkin has this to say on the subject of taxation:This is how, quietly and gradually, control of the people by the aristocracy and the rich bourgeoisie—against whom the people have once risen up, when confronting them face to face—is now exercised with the consent and even the approval of the people: under the guise of tax!Let’s not even talk about taxes to support the military, since by now everybody should know what to think of these. Was there ever a time when a permanent army wasn’t used to hold the population in slavery? And was there ever a time when the regular army could conquer a land where it was confronted by an armed populace?Take any tax, be it direct or indirect: on land, on income or on consumption, be it levied to finance government debt or to pretend to pay it off (since, you know, these debts are never repaid, but only grow). Take a tax levied to finance war, or a tax levied to pay for public education. If you study it, and discover what it leads to in the end, you will be stunned by the great power, the great might which we have relinquished to those who rule us.A tax is the most convenient way to hold the population in poverty. It provides the means to bankrupt entire classes of people: land-owners, industrial workers—just when they, after a series of tremendous efforts, finally gain a slight improvement in their well-being. At the same time, it provides the most convenient means for refashioning government into a permanent monopoly of the wealthy. Finally, it provides a seemly pretext for accumulating weapons, which one fine day will be used for the suppression of the people should they rise up.Like a sea monster of ancient tales, a tax provide the opportunity to entangle all of society and to redirect the efforts of individuals toward the enrichment of privileged classes and government monopolies.And as long as the government, armed with the tax, continues to exist, the liberation of working people cannot be achieved through any means—neither through reform, nor through revolution.
“We have an organization for the mutual protection of all planets and for the complete elimination of aggression. The test of any such higher authority is, of course, the police force that supports it. For our policemen, we created a race of robots. Their function is to patrol the planets in spaceships like this one and preserve the peace. In matters of aggression, we have given them absolute power over us. This power cannot be revoked. At the first sign of violence, they act automatically against the aggressor. The penalty for provoking their action is too terrible to risk.“ - Klaatu