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In a 1927 interview with the magazine Nation’s Business, Secretary of Labor James J. Davis provided some numbers to illustrate a problem that the New York Times called “need saturation.” Davis noted that “the textile mills of this country can produce all the cloth needed in six months’ operation each year” and that 14 percent of the American shoe factories could produce a year’s supply of footwear.
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Machines can save labor, but only if they go idle when we possess enough of what they can produce. In other words, the machinery offers us an opportunity to work less, an opportunity that as a society we have chosen not to take. Instead, we have allowed the owners of those machines to define their purpose: not reduction of labor, but “higher productivity”—and with it the imperative to consume virtually everything that the machinery can possibly produce
An oft-cited example is the !Kung of the Kalihari Desert in southern Africa, who were studied by the anthropologist Richard Lee.ii He followed them around for four weeks, kept a log of all their activities, and calculated an average workweek of approximately twenty hours spent in subsistence activities. This figure was confirmed by subsequent studies by Lee and other researchers in the same region. In one of the harshest climates in the world, the !Kung enjoyed a leisurely life with high nutritional intake. This compares to the modern standard of forty hours of work per week. If we add in commuting time, shopping, housework, cooking and so forth, the typical American spends about eighty hours per week aside from leisure time, eating, and sleep. The comparable figure for the !Kung is forty hours including such necessary activities as making tools and clothes.
Other studies worldwide, as well as common sense, suggest that the !Kung were not exceptional. In more lush areas life was probably even easier. Moreover, much of the "work" spent on these twenty hours of subsistence activities was by no means strenuous or burdensome. Most of the men's subsistence hours were spent hunting, something we do for recreation today, while gathering work was occasion for banter and frequent breaks.
Primitive small-scale agriculturalists enjoyed a similar unhurried pace of life. Consider Helena Norberg-Hodge's description of pre-modern Ladakh, a region in the Indian portion of the Tibetan Plateau.iii Despite a growing season only four months long, Ladakh enjoyed regular food surpluses, long and frequent festivals and celebrations, and ample leisure time (especially in winter when there was little field work to do). This, despite the harsh climate and the (proportionately) enormous population of non-working Buddhist monks in that country's numerous monasteries! More powerfully than any statistic, Norberg-Hodge's video documentary Ancient Futures conveys a sense of the leisurely pace of life there: villagers chat or sing as they work, taking plenty of long breaks even at the busiest time of the year. As the narrator says, "work and leisure are one."
Crazy Horse, Tashunkewitko of the western Sioux, was born about 1845. Killed at Fort Robinson, Nebraska in 1877, he lived barely 33 years.
As a boy, Crazy Horse seldom saw white men. Sioux parents took pride in teaching their sons and daughters according to tribal customs. Often giving food to the needy, they exemplified self-denial for the general good. They believed in generosity, courage, and self-denial, not a life based upon commerce and gain.
One winter when Crazy Horse was only five, the tribe was short of food. His father, a tireless hunter, finally brought in two antelope. The little boy rode his pony through the camp, telling the old folks to come for meat, without first asking his parents. Later when Crazy Horse asked for food, his mother said, "You must be brave and live up to your generous reputation."
It was customary for young men to spend much time in prayer and solitude, fasting in the wilderness --typical of Sioux spiritual life which has since been lost in the contact with a material civilization.
Not only does our acquisitiveness arise out of separation, it reinforces it as well. The notion that a forest, a gene, an idea, an image, a song is a separate thing that admits ownership is quite new. Who are we to own a piece of the world, to separate out a part of the sacred universe and make it mine? Such hubris, once unknown in the world, has had the unfortunate effect of separating out ourselves as well from the matrix of reality, cutting us off (in experience if not in fact) from each other, from nature, and from spirit. By objectifying the world and everything in it, by making an other of the world, we necessarily objectify ourselves as well in relation to that other. The self becomes a lonely and isolated ego, connected to the world pragmatically but not in essence, afraid of death and thus closed to life. Such a self, cut off from its true nature and separated from the factitious environment created by its own self-definition, will always be insecure and will always try to exert more and more control over this environment
Originally posted by TheComte
Capitalism is an economic system predicated on consumption and expansion. The world contains finite resources. Therefore, eventually there will come a time when there can be no more expansion, when all the resources are used up. Because of this capitalism is doomed to failure.
something very wrong with our society
They know that there is a way the world is supposed to be, and a magnificent role for themselves in that more beautiful world. Broken to the lesser lives we offer them, they react with hostility, rage, cynicism, depression, escapism, or self-destruction—all the defining qualities of modern adolescence. Then we blame them for not bringing these qualities under control, and when they finally have given up their idealism we call them mature. Having given up their idealism, they can get on with the business of survival: practicality and security, comfort and safety, which is what we are left with in the absence of purpose. So we suggest they major in something practical, stay out of trouble, don't take risks, build a résumé. We think we are practical and wise in the ways of the world. Really we are just broken and afraid. We are afraid on their behalf, and, less nobly, we are afraid of what their idealism shows us: the plunder and betrayal of our own youthful possibilities.
He must be cut off from the past. . . because it is necessary for him to believe that he is better off than his ancestors and that the average level of material comfort is constantly rising."
--George Orwell, 1984
Why humans might have traded this approach for the complexities of agriculture is an interesting and long-debated question, especially because the skeletal evidence clearly indicates that early farmers were more poorly nourished, more disease-ridden and deformed, than their hunter-gatherer contemporaries. Farming did not improve most lives. The evidence that best points to the answer, I think, lies in the difference between early agricultural villages and their pre-agricultural counterparts—the presence not just of grain but of granaries and, more tellingly, of just a few houses significantly larger and more ornate than all the others attached to those granaries. Agriculture was not so much about food as it was about the accumulation of wealth. It benefited some humans, and those people have been in charge ever since.
As Columbus wrote of the Arawak (before murdering and enslaving them),
"They are so ingenuous and free with all they have, that no one would believe it who has not seen it... Of anything they possess, if it be asked of them, they never say no; on the contrary, they invite you to share it and show as much love as if their hearts went with it..."
Was an intense acculturation process applied to Arawak children in order to override their inherently greedy, selfish natures and impose the desire to share?
How can you have ethics and morals without God?
It did not matter anymore if we were in the year 1947 AD or BC. We were living an we were feeling it with intensity.We understood that the lives of humans were full even before the age of technology, without a doubt more full and rich in many ways than the life of the modern man.
Time and evolution somehow did not exist anymore: everything that was real and had meaning was today the same as yesterday, the same as tomorrow. We were engulfed by the absolute measure of history by the deep and continuous darkness under the myriads of stars
Have you ever wondered why your childhood friendships were closer, more intimate, more bonded than those of adulthood? At least that's how I remember mine. It wasn't because we had heart-to-heart conversations about our feelings. With our childhood friends we felt a closeness that probably wasn't communicated in words. We did things together and created things together. From an adult's perspective our creativity was nothing but games: our play forts and cardboard box houses and pretend tea parties and imaginary sports teams and teddy bear families were not real. As children, though, these activities were very real to us indeed; we were absolutely in earnest and invested no less a degree of emotion in our make-believe than adults do in theirs.
Yes, the adult world is make-believe too. Roles and costumes, games and pretenses contribute to a vast story. When we become aware of it, we sense the artificiality of it all and feel, perhaps, like a child playing grown-up. The entire edifice of culture and technology is built on stories, composed of symbols, about how the world is. Usually we don't notice; we think it is all "for real". Our stories are mostly unconscious. But the new edifice that will rise from the ruins of the old will be built on very different stories of self and world, and these stories will be consciously told. We will go back to play.
As children the things we did together mattered to us. To us they were real; we cared about them intensely and they evoked our full being. In contrast, most of the things we do together as adults for the sake of fun and friendship do not matter. We recognize them as frivolous, unnecessary, and relegate them to our "spare time". A child does not relegate play to spare time, unless forced to.
I remember the long afternoons of childhood when my friends and I would get totally involved in some project or other, which became for that time the most important thing in the universe. We were completely immersed, in our project and in our group. Our union was greater than our mere sum as individuals; the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. The friendships that satisfy our need for connection are those that make each person more than themselves. That extra dimension belongs to both partners and to neither, akin to the "fifth voice" that emerges in a barbershop quartet out of the harmonics of the four. In many of my adult relationships I feel diminished, not enlarged. I don't feel like I've let go of boundaries to become part of something greater than my self; instead I find myself tightly guarding my boundaries and doling out only that little bit of myself that is safe or likeable or proper. Others do the same. We are reserved. We are restrained.
Our reservedness should not be too surprising, because there is little in our adult friendships that compels us to be together. We can get together and talk, we can get together and eat and talk, we can get together and drink and talk. We can watch a movie or a concert together and be entertained. There are many opportunities for joint consumption but few for joint creativity, or for doing things together about which we care intensely. At most we might go sailing or play sports with friends, and at least we are working together toward a common purpose, but even so we recognize it as a game, a pastime. The reason adult friendships seem so superficial is that they are superficial. The reason we can find little to do besides getting together and talking, or getting together to be entertained, is that our society's specialization has left us with little else to do. Thus the teenager's constant refrain: "There's nothing to do." He is right. As we move into adulthood, in place of play we are offered consumption, in place of joint creativity, competition, and in place of playmates, the professional colleague.