It’s been frantic. Clusters of obstructions mushrooming up in front of us every way we turn; multiple friends and business contacts losing loved ones, breakages and breakdowns, and money flowing away from us far too quickly. Panic attacks followed by elation followed by panic attacks, while trying to maintain mature equilibrium, you know, for the kids.
Our ambition is to establish a simple, quiet life. Not to feed the beast. To do more of the Right, less of the Wrong Thing. To contribute healthily, sustainably, with passion and love. But the world around us is cloaked in beast hide, head to foot. All its interfaces demand of us the opposite of what we want to give. The beast is insatiable, only leaves you alone if you do its bidding. It cannot love you, it cannot be happy about what you offer, if can only want more.
Money, its blood, is disappearing. Out there, in that virtual reality we mistake for the world, figures are massaged, slick media outfits pump out their 24/7 monkey music, and the show goes grindingly on. Stepping out has never been easy. Today, the state apparatus (I include The Market in that) is all pervasive, confronts you at every turn, wants its cut, badly wants More because Growth is not happening. Desperate, the organ grinders play any song to Restore Confidence, to bully, to cajole, to get people spending. It isn’t working. The collapse is in full swing, and spring will bring people onto the streets again. Then what?
In a usury system, the economy must grow forever if it is not to collapse. The beast will tell you that there’s plenty of Growth left, but it would say that, wouldn’t it. In fact, everything has to grow; money supply, buying and selling, speed of consumption, amount of consumption, government control, school testing and standards, tax revenues, white goods, restaurants … everything. We are in a Growth paradigm. We have come to associate Growth with health, decay with disease and dilapidation. The momentum of our wisdom as it has accumulated these last millennia retches us on upwards, always towards More, away from Less. The momentum is enormous, global, manic, and impossible to stop by choice. I want less, and I know growing (ha ha) numbers of others do too. But the beast can only offer more, by demanding more. Do more, produce more, give more. Less does not compute. Unstoppable force and immovable object; Growth, meet End of Growth.
Back down to the micro scale of me. The practical necessity of earning money, in Euros, enforces interaction with the beast that is dying, poisoning us all in its death throws. The amount of energy I must expend keeping the beast off my back and out of my life recreates the beast in my rooms, in my heart. In seeking to withdraw, I have drawn it into my house deeper than before. This is quite the paradox, quite the disappointment. I’m sure things will settle, but this early phase of my project is instructive in one brilliant way. Change is difficult, profound change profoundly so. Multiply my small experience by billions, you begin to get a sense of the scale of this.
This question resounds: How do we stop growing on purpose, in a managed way? It’s all we’ve known for thousands of years, with civilisational collapse bringing on unwanted de-growth, followed by resurgence. But this is no mechanically repeating pattern, with a billion or so souls triggering collapse and restart. We are now at seven billion and rising. Doomers predict Armageddon, and so do people like James Lovelock, who knows more than I do about the earth’s carrying capacity. Oil, sanitation, mechanisation and hygiene ballooned us to these numbers; the end of growth, peak oil and peak everything else will burst that balloon. It’s an easy and persuasive argument. Indeed, all I have by way of counter-argument is hope, and a strong sense that as an embedded part of Universe, we are learning, we are organic, we are not a machine. We are learning we are not a machine. There are no machines. We are and therefore Universe is creative. Universe is creative.
I think I have a fairly good intuition about what a steady-state society and economy might look like, but wanting to bring it about in our billions, reaching consensus on that process, is impossible to picture. Too much is invested in its immature form; Growth. The enormous momentum of Growth is too strong, and o, how the mighty fall! This is a theme oft repeated at this blog, and elsewhere of course, yet I feel recording the details like this is important. This is a key period in history, through which the new interconnections of the Internet magnify and elucidate, baffle and overwhelm. Being an optimist, I detect the weak beginnings of new harmonies emerging from the cacophony. Keeping my focus on them, keeping our focus on them, as we dance with the dread beast, is as vital as it is difficult.
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