In Permaculture (and I’m sure other sciences) we learn that any well-designed system becomes self-perpetuating. Our current system is very well-designed. It is a system of consumption, hoarding, selfish individualism, divisiveness, competition, and oppression. It forms illusions of well-being, success, and achievement by creating the perception that wants are needs and that these can be satisfied by following a prescribed script. Obey, go to school, get a job, follow orders. For those considered well-off this is followed by climb the ladder, get a mortgage, get a credit card, buy stuff to display your success. Oh, and if you step on a few people along the way that’s just he way it is. It’s a dog eat dog world. For others it is grimmer, follow orders, earn a meager wage, barely cover the cost of food and rent, get stepped on by others, and still yearn to reach that ladder. And for some it’s even more grim.
Yet it doesn’t have to be this way and it most certainly has not always been this way. Competition and war are not the natural human condition. Cooperation and love are. But the system has done its job well. It has most people convinced otherwise.
The system works so well, in fact, that it allows for opposition (to a point) and gives people options disguised as free will and concedes rights instead of allowing freedoms. It constantly programs us through cultural norms, laws, and plain old propaganda. These take the form of children’s stories, heroic tales, myths, textbooks, tv shows, movies, etc. The land of the free, home of the brave. Much of it is so well ingrained in our psyche that we simply don’t see it for what it is. It’s all over the airwaves, screens, and devices. This propaganda perpetuates the system – unbridled consumption, hoarding, and a scarcity mentality. It creates divisions and pits people against one-another.
All this fuels the system and keeps people’s noses to the grindstone as they continue working in jobs they hate, or in jobs they love but for companies or people they detest. This keeps the system going. Even social and political revolutions and major scientific breakthroughs are manipulated by the system to perpetuate the system. That’s what well-designed systems do; they self-perpetuate. This happens in a well-designed system even when its underlying premises are faulty. The current system perpetuates the unbridled consumption and destruction of resources for the accumulation of capital, and the trading of time, life, and freedom for money. It creates the illusion of well-being, and for those who don’t experience well-being, it creates the expectation that by trying harder and doing more it can be achieved.
Few people, if any, would willingly participate in a system that oppresses and destroys everything in the pursuit of money. Most people would realize that money is useless without people to share it with and a world to live in. That’s how good the system is at creating its illusions, for ages few people could see past them. Few people realized that they were cogs in a system let alone questioned the underlying premises of the system. And those who did, some self-medicated, some were forcibly medicated, others protested and formed revolutions and made breakthroughs. Eventually the system incorporated these into itself. But now I believe that more and more people are waking up. More and more people are moving aside the curtain, seeing the illusion for what it is and questioning the premises of the system.
In my opinion, the main premise of our current system is the superiority of humans. If human beings are superior to other animals, not simply different from them, it follows that all other life is inferior, all other life can be dominated, possessed, changed, and even annihilated. This creates the idea that humans can control nature and reap infinite resources from a finite planet. It sets the stage for a human-centric view of everything, allowing people to say “I can settle here and make nature do what I want on this piece of land. And by the way, this piece of land is mine and no-one else can use it.” This ownership mentality necessitates money and leads to its constant pursuit and hoarding. The knock-on effects of this thinking are huge, the repercussions of which we are seeing daily in the disregard for human and all forms of life, and the destruction of our planet.
This view, I believe, is the crux of most if not all the world’s current problems. Many (not all) humans moved from a cooperative eco-centric system that had sustained human life and evolution for millennia to a competitive human ego-centric system some thousands of years ago. Some would say that without this human ego-centric system we would not have today’s technological advancements. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but we are where we are. And perhaps this system worked for a while, but it is no longer working. Some people think we can change it from within. I think we need a whole new system because over the years many have tried to change it from within and failed. They failed because it is well designed, and it incorporates or subverts changes to self-perpetuate.
Because of its faulty premises, if left to its self-perpetuation, this system will lead to the end of human life and perhaps and end to all life as we know it on this planet.
We need a new system. This new system needs to be based on cooperation and respect. Because I do not believe we can change the current system from within, I’m working on creating a new system – a small scale one that can be replicated – here at the 8th Life Panama EcoVillage Project.