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In A Different Drum Scott Peck made the point that the truth always has a paradoxical quality to it. He used the example of the bible stating that being Christian is simultaneously about doing good works and having God’s grace save you from the need to do good works. This is observably a big issue for Christians and I’m not sure I’ve met any who have a good handle on it. They’re hardly an exception though
This idea that real truths are inevitably paradoxical has stuck with me and it’s been particularly interesting watching the recent debate about cities with Jason and Ran. It also occurred to me that we’ve been this way before, with Jason behaving in a relatively rude manner and the other party extending him some grace so the debate can continue.
The first time I saw it was early last year when we were trying to decide whether being a hunter-gatherer or a permaculturist was a better way to get through the impending crash. I think it was all prompted by an essay by Toby Hemmenway. As I recall Jason told Toby his thinking was ‘dodgy’ on the subject - a tad unnecessary but Toby let it slide.
While it was true that Toby’s initial argument lacked hard academic rigour what he was trying to do was find his way forward to a new understanding about the crash. I’m thinking the same thing about Ran’s ideas now as I said about Toby’s essay: Let’s not attempt to close him down because the argument is a bit loose, at the core of it is a really important idea that needs exploring, and that’s much moreimportant.
Like it or not people are going to try living in cities for a long time. Things will be hard enough psychologically during the crash and the last thing city dwellers will want to do is shift out to country living. They will feel psuchologically more secure in a city and will be drawn back to that environment - so we’d better figure out how to make it work, for a few generations at least.
Ran quoted an email of mine the other day:
“You could always decide to call these sustainable cities villages, or maybe large villages, and still keep the definition of cities nice and clean."
“Never!” said Ran in his reply back to me and then used it to make a point about disliking nice and clean. What I was really trying to say in the email was; fine give Jason his clean definition of city and lets get back to the debate and see what we can learn. Frustrated as I was by the turn it was taking.
In actual fact I totally agree with Ran about that and what he said gets to the core of what this posting is about, if we try to keep things nice and clean we close off the other side of the paradox and lose sight of the real, complicated, messy truth. Ran seems to have a good instinct for this, and I loved that out of the debate he, the archetypal anti-civ blogger, produced an essay entitled How to Save Civilisation.
Getting back to that earlier debate, after insisting that I needed an answer to whether permaculture or hunter/gathering was the answer to post-crash life I ended up posting this article full of wonder at how we ever came to be in an arguement:
….Not surprisingly it soon became apparent that a combination of the two might prove to be the best solution of all but what I wasn’t expecting was that it would turn out that both approaches already combine elements of the other to such an extent as to make the debate almost pointless. In fact, the opposing concepts of either being totally in charge of our food production or totally leaving food production to mother nature existed only in my head. In the real world it turns out that:
(a) Many of the cultures that we thought were hunter/gatherers were actively managing their environment to increase levels of natural food production and…
(b) The aim of permaculture is to create an environment where food can be ‘grazed’ at leisure.
Put like that I can barely tell the difference between the two …
The same thing happened recently with the issue of whether people should expect chaos or community post crash and of course the answer turned out to be that we should expect both.
Then there was; are eco-villages a better option than forming a tribe and disappearing into the forest; in the end I concluded the best way to form a tribe was to form an ecovillage first and lo; Jason (coming from the opposite direction) said that Anthropik’s path would be to buy some land next to a forest park and use that as the tribes base to get themselves started.
THE COMMUNITY APPROACH V THE ACADEMIC APPROACH
Yes, I’m frustrated by the futility of the way these debates proceed, they’re too destructive and too exhausting and they seem to produce false dichotomies. I’m looking for something better.
Scott Peck (from A Different Drum again):
“…because it integrates diversity, in community partial ideas tend to become whole ideas, and the initially simplistic thinking of community members tends to become complex, paradoxical, flexible and sane.
In all honesty I don’t think that Jason values the relationship as much as the need to win a debate, I’ve seen him leave mile-long responses to people on blog comment sections which can be a very overwhelming experience and not especially helpful.
The need to close down EVERY SINGLE ASPECT of an opponents argument is a profoundly different approach to trying to zero in on the core of the debate. It’s about obliterating your opponent and it’s very forceful – essentially the literary equivalent of a good thumping.
This destructive approach is both a cause and a result of a person’s desire to keep their argument unchanged but the destruction of the relationship (community) ensures that debaters remain isolated and have less of a chance of nuancing their views with an understanding of the paradox.
Of course combat seems to be the very nature of academic debate (which we are supposed to revere) . It doesn’t surprise me that academic methods are destructive since academia’s first priority is to reinforce the hierarchy and it’s values (including separation from self, community and land), and this means avoiding communal style collaboration. I remember a lecturer at architecture school who taught design in a genuine collaborative environment - he was of course universally reviled by the other lecturers.
Ironically it was at university that I learnt the concept of synergy and it’s that ‘greater than the sum of it’s parts’ thing that I love about this circle of blogs. However as I learned at the time you need at least an element of community for synergy to work.
I have to admit to a feeling of trepidation every time I visit the Anthropik site – in fear of what new calamity I will encounter there. Not so at Ran’s site, even when he uses my comment to bounce a debate in a particular direction it’s not done in an insulting manner.
Where I’m going with this is that I believe that the academic method is a very flawed way of chasing the truth, not just because it zeroes in on the details and loses the big picture but also because it uses combat as a debating method.
Whilst it’s true that an argument that can withstand immense criticism must be a good one the war-like nature of the debate puts the proponent on any new idea immediately on the back foot and they have to ‘dig themselves in’ to withstand the assault.
It’s a real waste of time and energy in it’s own right but also because the proponent of an idea is the person in the best place to be critiquing it - after all, who else knows it so well. I know this is a strange idea for our culture, I’m expecting most people will be pretty sceptical of it and I would be too if I hadn’t observed Ran doing this very thing in some of his writing.
I’m aware that this posting includes quite a bit of implied and direct criticism of Jason Godesky. Initially I was (and still am really) quite hesitant about doing this and I realised that I was feeling some kind of pressure about it. I don’t know how stuff like this can work across the internet but it happened a lot in the Derrick Jensen discussion list so I’m kind of familiar with it. In any case we should always respond to pressure like this and work to free ourselves of it.
I don’t have or want a problem with Jason, I gain immensely from his writing and there is far more to be gained from keeping the peace – but not at any cost. His behaviour errs on the destructive side at times and I’m hoping he will get the opportunity to see that sometime. It’s true that I wasn’t a lot different ten years ago so there’s hope for everyone.
In the permaculture v hunter-gatherer debate I referred to above I remember Ran linking to one of my postings on the subject with the comment that he was burned out by the whole thing. How would it be if we could debate in a way that energised people instead of wearing them down? How would it be if the debate could be effective without having to be so damned ‘robust’.
After seeing the film Zeitgeist mentioned in quite glowing terms on a few other blogs I decided to check it out myself and I have to say that it is one of the most frustrating things I ever watched.
Calling your film Zeitgeist is a pretty daring move - you need to make sure you do a damn good job if you’re to deserve the title. The reason I’m feeling frustrated over it is that parts two and three live up to the title but part one falls flat on it’s face. It’s a case of almost, but not quite.
Basically I think they really dropped the ball with the first part by giving in to their own prejudices in an attempt to deconstruct and discredit Christianity. I used to share the world view of the film-maker(s) regarding Christianity and there was a time I would have loved part one of the film. There came another time though when I began to see that my position was basically one of bigotry – or rather, reverse bigotry.
Because there are a lot of people associated with Christianity who are clearly hypocrites I thought it was OK to openly disparage that whole sector of society. I remember the little rush I used to get every time I discovered something that discredited the religion but eventually it dawned on me that my dislike of them was no different to their dislike of people they didn’t approve of. I was as much a bigot as them, I just faced a different direction.
These days I have a much more nuanced view, I can see the difference between the people and the book they say they are following and also the difference between the people and the institutions. Organised Christianity is no different to any other institution, be it government or corporate or whatever.
I actually found part one to be absolutely riveting, it was full of fascinating information that I’d never heard before, (which I haven’t tried to verify incidentally) but if this is to be the film of the spirit of our times then part one needs to go in the trash and the maker(s) needs to return to the drawing board.
The exceptional bias of the film maker was readily apparent due to his gleefully patronising narration of part one and If that wasn’t bad enough the whole thing began with a grand five minute montage that included a telling of the evolution fable. I’m not trying to be provocative using the word fable to describe evolution I just think that’s the way it’s used by a lot of people. I don’t know if the film maker(s) was aware that they were putting their own religious views up front and I don’t know which is worse: That they knowingly attempted to bludgeon us with ‘their’ story or that they were completely unaware that they had put their religious viewpoint in first before attempting to debunk another religion.
Another mistake they made was that of mistaking connection for causality. I was fascinated by the astrological relationship with the story of Jesus’ birth but to present it as if the astrological patterns automatically begat the story from the bible is quite misleading.
Obviously I can’t prove that their claim is wrong but then a Christian could argue that the patterns of the stars are put there by God to confirm the story and I wouldn’t actually be able to disprove that claim either. Which is my precisely my point. Don’t assume anthing.
They makers of the film also do not have a handle on the spirit of Christianity (although neither do a lot of Christians for that matter). They say nothing about the central theme of love running through the New Testament nor the idea of grace. It’s a pity really because a brief understanding of these ideas would tend to suggest that the acts of the church in the middle ages were not consistent with the bible and that maybe something else was going on. As it stands at the moment we have both institutional churches and their attackers insisting that the institutional church represents Christianity in the face of a great deal of evidence, via their behaviour, to the contrary.
Something else I have a problem with is the lack of understanding of the effect that Emperor Constantine had on Christianity. Briefly; he took what was a kind of underground movement and turned it into the official religion of the empire. All of a sudden Christianity went from being an enemy of the state to an excuse for the state to go on library destroying crusades etc etc etc, you know the rest. To tie early Christianity in with the oppressive church of the middle ages and not mention this change would tend to indicate a pretty superficial understanding of the subject.
The middle ages was the result of the usual lust for power on the part of the elites, the difference this time round was just that they had found a particularly powerful voodoo to control the population with.
These are only some of problems with part one that have occurred to me, I’m aware that there are other areas that people will say that I need to deal with before I can really claim that the film makers dropped the ball but I don’t want to waste any more time going down that particular track because there’s a much bigger problem with part one of the film.
The power of the church began to wain, ever so slowly, with the creation of the King James version of the bible several centuries ago. Though unintelligible today it was written in the language of it’s time and took power away from royalty and the clergy who controlled what the population knew of the book my only printing it in Latin. Here I agree with the makers of Zeitgeist, by controlling the truth of their religion the church was able to control the people, the only thing was, it was the truth of the monstrously hypocritical difference between the institution’s behaviour and it’s book that they were hiding.
The institutional church was still powerful for a long time afterwards and many of the break away groups of the last few centuries themselves became institutionalised but the Christian scene today is characterised by a comparatively high degree of diversity with a lot of growth in independent and egalitarian churches, as well as more and more people meeting in their homes. There are still people out there trying to recreate hierarchical church models in an attempt to grab power but frankly the Christian landscape reminds me of the model of a post crash world that crash bloggers regularly describe. Which is to say a world in which it is no longer possible for any one group to dominate the globe and in which each country has devolved into a bunch of little fiefdoms with lot’s of uncontrolled territory in between. This is certainly not the nature of an institution that has us by the balls, nor is it an institution we should be overly worried about.
As annoying as many visible Christians are in the US they are no more than a sideshow – much like the bible-thumping US President himself. We would do well not to be sidetracked by them.
So if they don’t use spiritual voodoo to control us, what do they do now? Ironically enough in part three there’s an excerpt from an interview with the late Aaron Russo who knows the answer to that question. In this interview he recounts how Nick Rockefeller told him that one of the elite’s goals was to separate children from their parent’s at a very young age, enabling indoctrinate to begin as early as possible.
We should be on the lookout for other ways they cement their power by pitting us against each other. For instacne: black versus white, Christian versus Muslim and Christian versus Evolutionist.
Zeitgeist talks about how religion is used to separate us from nature but I would say that the separation starts from a much earlier age in modern times the child is separated from the mother at the very moment it is born, I don’t know if hospitals still smack a child to make it cry out but they do still often whisk it off to be weighed and prodded as soon as the cord is cut, only returning it to the mother after it has been cleaned and swaddled in blankets. Even when the mother gets full control over her child her cultural conditioning is such that she will likely attempt to feed it with a bottle and almost certainly leave it alone in the dark to sleep by itself while attempting to ignore it’s terrible plea’s for help.
As bad as all that it for a child it is only the beginning. Separation from the parents is further enhanced by our coercive parenting styles and the coup de tat is delivered via 13 years of hard-labour at our penal-like educational institutions.
This should be the real story of part one of Zeitgeist – the story of our times. How the treatment of our babies and children sets the groundwork so that people always gravitate toward strong authority figures no matter how irrational they may actually be. It sets the groundwork so that they feel powerless even though en masse they could topple any government. It sets the groundwork so that people are ineffectual zombies struck dumb by the myriad of entertainment distractions passing by their eyes. Little wonder that almost all any of us can do is sit slack jawed on our couches mesmerised as we watch planes fly into buildings over and over and over again.
As for the small percentage of us who actually get off our couches, well it appears that it’s relatively easy to distract us with a myriad of false activism issues like, oh I don’t know, the Evils of Christianity?
There is also the small matter of the mainstream media… however I imagine that anyone who is reading this blog is on to that particular game so I'll leave that untouched for the moment.
So if we were to remake part one of this film how would it look? Very briefly, In order to examine how we are shaped as subjects of the Rockefeller empire I imagine we’d be looking to interview people like Jean Liefdloff, John Taylor Gatto, and Derrick Jensen…. Hmmm, who else?
We’ve been having a hard time lately, I’ve got several blog posts that I want to write up that I can’t get near (and I’m about to make it harder by writing this instead). Karen reached a point of mothering overload last week, and a friend stepped in to help her out. The friend is a good friend but parents more or less in the conventional manner. It’s fair to say’s she tends toward our way of doing things but most of the help consisted of the mainstream idea that at times like this you need to get the mother away from the children.
Basically the maintream solution to this problem is through separation from the children. I want to be clear that I’m not criticising this friend in particular, she took on an extra load herself and has indeed given Karen a break but I suspect that if we’d had friends in town who parent like us their instinct would have been toward building connections instead of creating separation. They probably would have descended on the house to take some of the responsibility away while still enabling us to maintain our relationship with our children.
As parents I think that a large part of the stress we’re loaded up with comes from problems in our relationship with our kids. We are tired and don’t want to attend to their genuine needs or they are feeling fractious and are acting it out in ways that certainly bring their needs to our attention but also press buttons from our childhood that cause us to back off from our kids like our parents did to us. So our parent’s bad relationship with us begins to repeat itself.
I believe the solution to these problems is to work on the relationship and to strengthen it. I confess that sometimes I don’t know how to do this and at other times I just don’t have the inner strength but I still think it is important because it’s really apparent that when the relationships are suffering our kid’s behaviour really goes downhill.
Our oldest is someone born with incredible persistence, she never waits until she is sure she can do something before trying she just starts doing it. She started walking at 9 months and fell down about a million times learning but she got their quickly. She learned to ride a bike without trainer wheels over a period of about three days when she was 3 years old – she just never gives up no matter how hair-raising it got. Unfortunately when her emotional needs are not being met this same level of persistence amounts to total harassment for us parents. We’re lucky their’s two of us so we can tag-team her when there’s a problem. She’d be a nightmare for a solo parent or for a school, especially as all the co-sleeping and non-coercive efforts we have gone to have made her a very strong person. I think she’ll be an amazing person when she’s an adult (yes, I know this is her father talking :-) but right now she can be really hard for us.
With all that in mind, when our kids got back home yesterday afternoon after having spent the second day in a row away from us she was incredibly difficult, the worst I’ve ever seen. I also got the angriest I’ve ever felt at her because of it and it wasn’t a nice evening. We were at our wit’s end.
After we’d managed to get them off to bed we sat down and to figure our where we’d goen wrong and decided to try to get back on track.
Basically she went to bed and slept in physical contact with Adi (oldest daughter) all night, told her she loved her a million times and (this is very important) apologised for the things she hadn’t got right without making excuses about it being hard and this morning when we got up Adi was back to her normal self again. Just like that
Honestly it feels like someone has waved a magic wand over the girl. It’s a testament to the bedrock strength of Karen’s relationship with our kids that she can do that even when she’s under stress. I suspect that conventional parenting techniques cause the parents to have to shut off their feelings for their children while they teach the child to ‘cry it out’ and that it leaves them permanently numbed to one degree or another. Staying connected to your kids means you have a really deep love to draw on when things get tough.
Karen is still in need of a break for a few more days but we’re going to do it by having me come out of the office for parts of the day and she’s going to take them out for things like bush walks because it is also apparent from our fussy-baby (now five) that time spent in nature has a very soothing effect.
You may have read a little about the economic crash in Argentina and how nice middle-class ladies were seen attacking ATM machines with knives amidst other mayhem. Well here's an article formed out of what appears to have been a series of postings to a peak oil message board by a guy living in Argentina. From what he says Argentina is in a permanent post-crash situation and the article is both highly illuminating and very frightening with the advice it dispenses. Particularly worrying is the amount of time the guys spent talking about guns.
Yes I still believe that oportunites for community will occur but I after this I am much more convinced of the need to be prepared for, shall we say, other eventualities.
Further to Ran’s discussion of roofing materials yesterday, I was indeed glad he bought the issue up, We will probably end up using a modern roofing material on the house we will build but I think we will make it steep enough so that long term some kind of thatch can be used over the top of it when it begins to fail, or else make the timbers strong enough that they can take homemade clay tiles if it comes to that.
Ran quoted an email of mine which ended with:
This roofing issue is hard, maybe we need to get away from attempting to go long term and look at what renewable materials are available locally so we know we can always maintain it.
If we’re looking long term then this really is our only option but I have to admit that it wasn’t my ‘position’ on sustainability that prompted me to make this comment. It was a combination of trying to think really long term along with a quote from a book called Home Work, by Llod Kahn. This quote got the point across to me in a way that no one had previously:
In the early 70’s I got on a charter flight to Ireland, crossed the Irish Sea and got a long ride with a salesman; when he learned I was interested in building he started pointing out buildings and showing us that each was built of materials from near the site. You see the slate roofs, there’s a slate quarry nearby…” and then, “Now the roofs are tile because there is clay in the soil here…” As we travelled through England, it was striking: the thatched roofs in Norfolk, land of marshes and reeds; the sandstone walls of the Cotswalds, where the light tan colours blend perfectly with the surroundings; cob in Devon; flint in Sussex…
I got the book because it has a photo collection of unusual and low-tech buildings in it. It will serve as creative fuel for when I get to designing our new place but it also has more than that. It's full of inspiration for dropping out and using non-mainstream methods of constructing homes. Plus it's great eye-candy. Here’s some of the pictures from the front cover. Note the house on the little island.
One thing that bugged me though was the collection of people in the book who had gone off the grid. The main focus for all of them was their wind and solar power generating systems. Clearly the issue of EROEI was never discussed but somehow it seems worse that in their attempts to get ‘away from it all’ they had actually bought ‘a lot of it’ with them. They had simply altered the energy equation so that they could maintain essentially the same lifestyle - except with the addition of more trees about the place.
A minor quibble though, it's a great book, not just for the know-how but also for the inspiration.
Via Idleworm a great video, Money As Debt by Paul Grignon, explaining the economic system we live/serve in. If the economic system has never quite made sense to you or seemed to beyond comprehension this will put it all in perpsective.
Basically though, you were right. It doesn't quite make sense.
I'd imbed the video here if I could but Blogspirit is not yet part of the Google empire and I'm no hacker.
Via Idleworm, we might be the last culture to try large cities but we certainly weren't the first - researchers discover that Angkor Wat in Cambodia used to cover an area the size of Los Angeles.
What I think is, a women’s place is in the home. But only if she’s got kids right? That’s fair.
Howl’s of outrage anyone? What about if I said a man’s place is in the home too. Would that make a difference?
I work at home and now that our oldest is five is obvious that if I was away from them all day they would be missing something. They notice if I am out for more than a few hours and ask Karen where I’ve gone, and they like to be able to come and visit me in the office regularly throughout the day.
So if it’s clear that I should be at home it must be true that the mother, who small children are more attached, to should also be at home.
I’m especially happy to be saying this since I saw this interview of Aaron Russo. Russo was asked to join the global elite by Nick Rockefeller after they had known each other for a few years. He of course chose not to but before they parted company Rockefeller told him that the elites helped promote feminism - for two reasons. One was so they could tax women. All that work they did in the house couldn’t be taxed but now that women go out to work someone else gets paid to clean the house and look after their kids and very probably the family eats out a lot more too.
The second reason to promote feminism was to break up the family
Rockefeller told Russo of two primary reasons why the elite bankrolled women's lib, one because before women's lib the bankers couldn't tax half the population and two because it allowed them to get children in school at an earlier age, enabling them to be indoctrinated into accepting the state as the primary family, breaking up the traditional family model.
I’m not saying the stated goals of feminism were wrong. I totally agree that women should have the same rights as men. I also think children should have the same rights as well, but clearly the whole thing has been hijacked to the elite's advantage. Ironic as it may seem now the most radical act a women could make these days is to stay at home.
I’m still making my way through Hold on to Your Kids by Gordon Nuefield and the one area I would disagree with him on is that he proposes an attachment village as the solution to children being away from their parents a lot of the time. He’s trying not to rock society’s boat and point the finger at anyone, which is fine, a lot of people will listen to him because of it.
I think this sort of thing is partially why the conservative Christian right has appeal to some people – because they can see where left wing movements have gone wrong. Of course their response it similarly one-dimensional nad probably plays into the hands of the elite in a different way.
My instincts tend toward the left but they make it hard and harder for me, so much of what they do contributes to the power the state has over our lives. In New Zealand we have a child-less (rumoured to be lesbian) women as Labour Prime Minister . All this fair gets the Christian’s in a lather – especially as lately she's been encouraging women to leave the home and go and join the work force to help the economy. Of course the more noise the Christians make the more galvanised the activist community on the left gets. It fair drives me nuts, they’re supposed to both be fighting for the rights of people on the bottom of societies heap - according to their respective manifestos - but are much more interested in squabbling with each other.
I seem to have digressed. What I want to say is, fight the bastards by loving your kids and staying in their lives. Hold on to Your Kids is a great resource for that, as is anything that promotes non-coercive parenting and co-sleeping. And remember, by staying at home you not only deprive the system of your children you also deprive it of your economic input.
Just read this excellent article from Information Clearning House by Carolyn Baker. I've read a lot of intelligent and scathing articles about the corruption of America by a guy called Mike Whitney at ICH but this, if anything, is better. For people who don't read Cryptogon or similar sites this article will give you a nice summary of where things are with the US economic system.
Carolyn Baker talks a lot about the corruption of the system and mentions the law changes that are going to be used to control the population, I just wish I could find someone in New Zealand who was making a similar conmmentary for us down here.
I think I'm going to have to resurrect my old radio show so I can have an excuse to interview people like Carolyn Baker.
Stop Press. No I won't. I just went to her website and saw that she already does radio.
Anyway, here's a wee quote:
It is crucial to understand that the current economic meltdown is a transfer of wealth from the middle and lower classes to the ruling elite. Wealth transfers do not just happen, nor are they the products of incompetency. They are intentional and well-planned. Central to wealth transfer is corruption at the highest levels of the economic and political systems