Alternatives to Political SystemsConsumerismEconomicsPeople SystemsSociety

The Century of Self

Don’t miss this documentary! In it Adam Curtis (producer of another excellent documentary we shared recently), takes a captivating look at how studies into the human psyche over the last century have been adapted by Big Business to calm and pacify a restless and growing population, herding modern man and manipulating his inner desires for fulfillment – diverting his search for self-expression towards all things profitable. More, the same techniques, originally meant purely to help business keep control of the masses and stabilise society into a life of simple consumerism, have now been fully incorporated into politics, with unsettling consequences….

I’ve sometimes been smacked on the hand by readers for talking economics and politics, but I think the next time someone fails to see the need to influence and educate people to not just change their garden design, but to also change the system itself, I’ll send them along to watch this series….

Please watch (bookmark and come back later if you don’t have time this minute!), and let me know your thoughts.

The Century of Self, Parts I: Happiness Machines

The Century of Self, Parts II: The Engineering of Consent

The Century of Self, Parts II: There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed

The Century of Self, Parts IV: Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard. – Henry Louis Mencken

Politicians and the captains of industry, are frantically trying to ‘grow the economy’. It’s the best they can come up with. It’s the only thing, they think, that’s kept us ‘happy’ for decades. At the very least, it’s the only thing that’s kept us passive.

A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. – Alexander Tytler

With the world facing widespread bankruptcy – economic and environmental, with all the resources that fuel our consumer treadmill in decline – it’s clear we are well behind schedule in getting mainstream citizenry on board with a plan to redefine what’s important and in doing so reinvent ourselves and reinvent our system.

Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Will it happen? Or will we try to persevere with the status quo, and watch our world become increasingly aggressive, increasingly stratified and continue to watch governments becoming fascist out of fear of their unsettled populations and to protect the interests of Big Business?

Further Reading:


  1. just watched the 1st episode!
    interesting!!! amazing!!!
    thanks for sharing!
    proper journalism! knowledge must be shared and passed on, not hidden or edited a certain way like most media do.
    just hope the internet will survive this control long enough as it is already controlled quite a bit!

    ps:Demo(n)cracy as i call it ;)

  2. episode 3, well corporate is doing the same with Ecology now, marketing everything as eco-friendly, greenwashing everything when it is not! it might be better indeed but it is not! In France that is why organic farming gets a bad reputation and lots of criticism.

    Glad they mentioned Esalen, Reich and Alexander Lowen from which i would recommend the book, Pleasure: A creative approach.

    it’s good to have the view over a whole century too.
    i think George Orwell did not have to go very far to write his books as it was already happening!

    changing the system would start by putting my money, your money, people’s money into ethical local bank? And as long as we give tax money to politicians, they will waist it?

  3. I love that you put this documentary on this site. I have seen all 4 parts about 2 years ago and have recently watched it again and I recommend it to all the people that I can. I find this kind of information very necessary to the change in the way we view the self. For me it was life changing to see the evolution of how we came to view ourselves as individuals and to recognize that this is relatively a new way of thinking. We truly live in a consumer culture with all its destructive ways and the sad part about that is that we have been manipulated into thinking that we are self creating individuals. But in truth we rely on family, community and society for all of our needs, all of our education and entertainment and thus we are a product of the larger society. Materialistic Individualism does not, therefore, make us special or unique. It divides us from each other; the younger generation from the older, the subcultures from the rest, race from race, as well as a widening class gap. This kind of division of the people makes me think of the term “Divide and Conquer” and we are a people divided and at the very least are easy to control. Anyhow, this by far is one the my favorite and most influential documentaries that I have ever seen.

  4. most of all Episode 4, politics will never do anything because the rich few owe everything, the land, people’s houses, the jobs, the banks, including most of the food and water?… etc…As i say there is no crisis, the rich have got all the money and they ask for more! they need to give it back! ;)

    so if all accept ‘modern slavery’ then all shall get just that? :)

  5. Most environmental movements are simplistically reformist, meaning they seek only to tweak (or “green”) the status quo, rather than replace the entire system with a more sensible alternative(s). They even agree with economic growth.

    Being trapped in the fiat and debt monetary system is a part of the problem: Reforms that could hold great promise like renewable energy become corrupted by money. They are co-opted by greed and corporatism. Money may not be the root of all evil, but the love of it probably is.

  6. Good comments all. My hope is that such information as this (also see the ‘gospel of consumption’ link at bottom of the post) will infuriate readers into recognising the need for systemic change to our political and economic structures.

    However, while I’m all for concern over the need to expose the mechanics behind the madness, and to bring down the ivory towers, logic dictates that we also look at what manner of persons will be laying the siege. My biggest concern, at this juncture of history, is not so much the establishment, but that the majority are so disconnected from what needs to be done that bringing down the ivory towers in the world will merely result in chaos, from which nothing pretty may emerge.

    David Rockefeller is quoted as saying this phenomenal statement:

    The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries.

    For a small wealthy minority to presume to know what’s best for the rest of us is one thing (infuriating), to secretly create and incorporate invisible structures that herd the masses (‘sheeple’) into passive surrender to their philosophy is another (ethically unsound at a foundational level), but, and I repeat, but(!), for the majority to actually lay siege to this elitist, capitalist edifice and actually, successfully, replace those mechanisms with something that works, and prove Rockefeller wrong, is something else entirely.

    The ‘auto-determination’ of last centuries Rockefeller speaks of is shown in the blood spattered pages of history.

    If we are to express “national auto-determination”, or, even better, community-based self-determination, in a way that doesn’t result in widespread starvation and conflict, particularly given our present dependencies on fossil fuels and globalisation, it can only be through a widespread acknowledgment of our situation and widespread (re)education in how to address it. Education, ethics, humility, cooperation and transition are all key components that have potential to bring success.

    As Mariah expressed well above, individualism divides. I’ve expressed many times before that ‘freedom’, ‘libertarianism’, whatever you want to call it, if it is not wielded by a populace exercising ethical restraint and who are not united by some kind of moral adhesive, will always result in our getting right back to where we are now – a centralised every-man-for-himself scenario. Greed and competition will always result in centralisation and control.

    The only thing is there really is no chance to ‘get right back here’ again. We won’t have a second chance at getting this right. The planet is threatening to not only restrict our present lifestyles, it’s threatening to evict us. We’re running out of time. If society does not subscribe to some kind of ‘higher calling’ well beyond their own selfish interests, and in doing so somehow meld their mindsets and energies to target environmental and social improvement, and sufficiently enough to result in willing self-sacrifice for the good of others, then we will just prove Rockefeller right, as much as I’d hate to see it.

    Seeing the problem is just the beginning. Solving the problem is a far greater challenge, and yet, when I attempt to discuss this need, too many people tell me to stick to discussions on raised beds and rhubarb. This tells me we’re not even at the point of seeing the problem yet!

    My fear is that unless we (society at the broadest possible level) willingly unite to address this potentially disastrous climax of human history in an intelligent, ethical way, then we will instead have ‘unity’ forced upon us, and a subjective, power-based view of morality also forced upon us – ‘for the good of all’.

  7. Craig,

    ad “Solving the problem is a far greater challenge, and yet, when I attempt to discuss this need, too many people tell me to stick to discussions on raised beds and rhubarb.”:

    yes, I see that you easily get this impression, for you must be getting quite a number of such comments. However, please keep in mind that there are many people out there who see very clearly that, in spite of the illusion of “progress”, the present rate of erosion of pretty much everything that is important for a working and livable society is outright scary. Even scarier, many of us – and I’d include myself here – have been born into a context where things appear “normal” to us which to more than 99 out of 100 of all people that now live or ever have been alive in the history of our species would appear outright crazy. It’s especially interesting to talk to people with “on the ground” 3rd world experience about our consumption habits. Of course, there always will be those who feel threatened whenever someone dares to pull on the curtain – and hence admonish you to stick to “rhubarb and raised beds”. But my impression is that, while those just keep on getting ever louder the stronger the threat to their cherished beliefs, there also are a LOT of people by now who have second thoughts about things they never questioned before, and who have a far more appropriate idea of the structure of our problems, and the different levels they touch.

    I find it very important to work towards “citizen intellectual self-defence”, and showing people how the tricks of professional propagandists work certainly is an important step in the right direction. I don’t think there ever will be a stable society unless people have learned the value of those tools that allow one to spot being misled (deliberately or not; the most successful mis-leaders always are those who actually believe their own delusions). And it is very clear that it never is in the interest of those in power to educate people about these tools…

  8. Well, the bible tells us what will happen towards the end, not to frighten us, bit to warn and prepare us, human nature at its worse I’m afraid!

    Just look at the way the corporates and the smaller businesses treat/torture animals in the name of feeding the population!!


  9. Craig, thinking about the challenges on the large scale isn’t likely to be an efficient use of your energy or resources. Think locally, act locally is probably a more realistic philosophy going forward as the world localizes.

  10. Matty,

    as you seem to be able to read and write, I take it you have had some form of education. Did it ever occur to you that there actually may be anything that’s worthwile about such subjects as history?

  11. Hi Matty – the issue is that at the moment, and it’s been that way for a very long time, the policies of government (economic or otherwise) actually incentivise unsustainability. Consider those last two words for a moment… roll them around in your head for a little while… as we’re so used to the world being the way it is, that it can be hard to consider that, as Thomas mentioned, there’s anything odd about it. Or, to put it another way, governments are facilitators, even ‘incubators’ of big business. In order to truly make progress at a local level, and in the rather short time frames that are required given our placement in history, we need government policies to, instead, incentivise a rapid transition to a no-growth economy. Achieving a steady-state economy would be no mean feat, particularly if it actually worked (!), yet if we acknowledge that our planet cannot inflate to accommodate us, it becomes a logical necessity. And given our present Peak Everything resource dilemma, achieving it is well overdue. But, not only is this necessity not being implemented at any level, it is not even being discussed. It’s just put in the too hard basket by the few who are awake to the need for it, while our need for it is actively obscured by another minority – those who are capitalising on the system as it now stands.

    Or, again, put another way, we need an economic and political framework to become (in a carefully orchestrated fashion so as to avoid social implosion) an incubator for sustainability – an incubator for transition and permaculture.

    You mentioned “as the world localizes”, as if it’s actually happening. I’d love to see evidence of this on any kind of scale that’s affecting the globalised model. And note that any effort that does actually begin to achieve some degree of success in changing the world for the better (in a real, tangible, meaningful way) is quickly infiltrated by industry and media and adulterated until it becomes impotent, or mere greenwash (consider the ‘organic’ movement, and much of the ‘fair trade’ movement for example).

    What I see, instead, is an all-out bid to preserve the status quo. When we run out of fossil fuels, we replace them with biofuels, or coal-to-liquids. If we run out of water, we build desalination plants. If we have economic collapse, we get further into debt with bailout packages consisting of ‘money’ produced out of thin air. We’re doing everything we can to patch up a failing system, rather than rebuild it from the ground up, and all of these efforts to preserve the status quo are orchestrated through an obscene marriage of Big Business and their puppets in government.

    More, when economies collapse, our citizenry demand we reinstate the status quo:

    While I appreciate the act local aspect, I feel we also need to work at every level possible. We are running out of time, on several levels, and when all efforts to localise are consistently being undermined by the governments who are supposed to be representing us – supposed to be our servants – then we are foolish to ignore this.

    If the sink is overflowing, do you just stand there and continually mop up the water (fight a continual, and losing battle), or do you pull the plug and remove the problem at source?

  12. Hey Craig, I agree with your sentiments and share the same anguish but think that time has already run out. Doesn’t all the evidence you see convince you that people will only clamor for the status quo until there is nothing left? As society does implode it will have to localize to survive. That may take a while, yes. It cannot be saved or reformed, it has to melt down first. All this will not be a voluntary exercise, is my guess.

    I don’t know how long you’ve been at this game. Personally I took 20 year detour only to come back to permaculture as one last chance at hope. I tried to change the establishment for 22 years, and look where that got us! I started out chaining myself to massive bulldozers and ended up advising governments. It doesn’t work, mate. It isn’t going to change by goodwill, governments don’t understand or care, a lot of people are uneducated, greedy, small minded and willfully ignorant. It is horrible. I would suggest where possible investing petro-dollars in permaculture. At least put them toward something hopeful.

    Bill invented permaculture to circumvent and transcend society and offer a new paradigm, not to reform a failed system. I don’t understand why do you think we need a new socio political structure to practice permaculture?

    I just think, based on my experience, our time is better spent practicing and teaching permaculture, plus building our own local support networks and communities. Focusing on transforming the mainstream is not a great application of limited resources. The mainstream will take care of itself, likely for the worse. What I am saying is you probably have to transcend the world, and are worrying about admittedly tragic things neither you nor I can change. I guess that, to me, permaculture is transcending, not reforming, if that distinction makes sense. With all respect, and I appreciate this discussion … Matty

  13. Furthermore, by the very act of practicing permaculture, change will radiate outward. Take for example the Greening of the Desert movie. The government dept of agriculture comes to see what magic is going on here, not the other way around. “Build it and they will come”, as they say. Simply put, lead by example.

  14. just wish to point out that we are conditioned in thinking negatively…when all possibilities are opened?

    another point, A State means administration in order so nobody understands it even the people in it, so to clog down all decisions, good decision just need to be taken not negotiated for years! that i believe must be done at local level, local self-governance.

    Leonard Orr (70s rebirther)said only self-democracy will do it! as it is not so far off Dalai Lama’s ‘saying’ that only by self-awareness of everyone can we change all, not that i want to mix religion in it ;) plus our negative conditioning.

    But nowadays when someone understands something new or fantastic and want to explain, it is almost impossible despite the media we have! i mean wouldn’t you agree now that Permaculture should be the State standard? or at least more? I think Fukuoka just kept it for ‘himself’ at some point because it was not worth it! plus not everyone is Ghandi…oh can feel this negative thinking creeping on again! I guess at some point Fukuoka just carried on doing his things and spread it to people that were enough to see it? Same for Perma? All people having very good ideas are just too busy doing it? At local levels things are happening, Can anything happen at State level ever? I mean apart from war, corruption, insanity? i think it’s not even pulling the plug! it is just dismantling and recycling the sink and what is around it; can’t even say start from scratch that would not work? but see what happens?!

  15. Matty,

    two points:

    1. What makes the present time different from any other time is the incredibly high degree of information networking. I don’t know what will happen over the next two years, say, but it is pretty sure that in terms of “mass media tell the people what to believe”, the rules have changed.

    2. Still, there is a very real danger that, in some countries, the result of major shortages might be the rise to power of a totalitarian dictator. Certainly, working in the direction of educating people around oneself about the role and inner mechanics of propaganda hence is a step in the right direction.

  16. See my second comment here:

    After all, it is 400 years since the mechanistic idea of order appeared in the world, while it is only 40 years since the rise of Permaculture. Permaculture is the first serious attempt of making the world whole since the idea of order fell apart, and I’m afraid we need 360 more years to gather momentum for the idea of Permaculture, which is similar to a world of order, or the nature of order.

    Living process is by nature morphogenetic, while the processes of our society is fabricated. The appearance of this 20th century mechanistic view had tremendous consequences, and if we don’t change to a morphogenetic way of thinking, the revenge of nature for breaking the nature of order will be the end of our sivilication. Just let us hope it can then raise a world of Permaculture from the ashes, if there will be anybody left of us.

  17. Toxic zones to Healthy Zones
    From the point of view of the Psychology of the zone inhabitants.
    The Zone being not only the physical place but also the state of awareness internally.

    In these early stages of mass awakening and brain change, from the manipulated consumer to the enlightened natural being (Permie) it would seem far more productive to spend your time amongst healthy zone people and places.
    for example,
    When we give up smoking cigarettes it is far easier to do when you don’t see, smell or be near other smokers for a while. Once we have replaced the habit for some time with higher level thoughts and actions and feel strength in the conviction of the Healthy lifestyle change, we do then mix freely with toxic smokers and feel no urge to return to that manipulated, addicted unaware consumer zone. In fact we even start trying to convert more people to be non smokers……

    So if you have created a healthy zone around you from the healthy zone your brain is in, why not let others come to roost in your zone for a short while. Get the message out that people are welcome to just come and be there in that healthy, stimulating aware zone.
    There doesn’t need to be any major dialogue, training course, property tour, conversion speeches etc. Perhaps the toxic consumer brained person doesn’t even fully understand himself why they felt the need just to get away for a bit. (take a breath)
    It is the beginning of their brain change.
    And isn’t one of the modern saying’s …..Change is inevitable
    When the people change all else follows, ….politicians ….laws ….corporations… agricultural practices.

    Also, if you find yourself in a mentally healthy zone but are living in a toxic zone from the people around you, you could try some psyche forming.
    Its like Terra (Permie) forming the earth but only with peoples lifestyles . In Terra forming you could join a Perma Blitz group or start a seed dropping (b-ing) campaign.
    Psyche forming is done to firstly create a space where you no longer are constantly exposed to toxic factors of manipulation, advertising, consumerism, addiction etc. and then expand that space to build a community around you that is also in the healthy zone mentally, from that will naturally develop a healthy physical environment as there is always more energy and action within a larger community, team, group, etc.

    Some closing points
    the Permi movement needs to get to virgin areas first before
    the mechanics of the unsustainable set up shop.

    We need to build and use our own propaganda machine in the same way to effectively raise awareness education and acceptance.

    If the permi movement remains scattered, fractured and un- organised, the Status Quo machine will continue to roll right over it.

    We need a person to make a modern day self help seminar loaded with Permiculture ideas but sold, marketed, focused grouped into something the toxic types would lap up.

  18. Matty,

    Well said: “…circumvent and transcend society and offer a new paradigm, not to reform a failed system.”

  19. Hi Matty

    Hey Craig, I agree with your sentiments and share the same anguish but think that time has already run out.

    In many ways, yes. We all know it’s not about ‘saving the planet’, but about saving mankind. More, with our unwillingness to observe/plan/adapt, it’s now far more about disaster mitigation than disaster avoidance.

    Doesn’t all the evidence you see convince you that people will only clamor for the status quo until there is nothing left?

    It certainly does. No disagreement there. But, that’s one reason I share bad news as much as good (people complain about this also), because the reality is there are still a great many who have no idea what’s about to hit them. As people wake up, they start to search for solutions, which we seek to provide simultaneously. If you share only solutions, then you’re only preaching to the already converted, but not creating new converts. You don’t clamor for solutions if you’re blind to the problems.

    As society does implode it will have to localize to survive. That may take a while, yes.

    Agreed. But, social implosion, given our present population levels and our current ultra-dependency on globalised systems, translates to extreme suffering on a scale never before seen in human history. Whilst it may be inevitable, I’m in no hurry to say ‘bring it on’, a statement I’ve heard from not a few permaculturists. The fuller the understanding of the seriousness of the converging issues we face, then the more we should work to wake people up to what needs to be done, for all of our sakes.

    It cannot be saved or reformed, it has to melt down first.

    Again, ‘melting’ down will not be pretty. While it may well happen, I’m not keen to encourage it or see the permaculture community resign themselves to it. Whatever we can do to avoid this needs to be part of our work.

    All this will not be a voluntary exercise, is my guess. I don’t know how long you’ve been at this game. Personally I took 20 year detour only to come back to permaculture as one last chance at hope. I tried to change the establishment for 22 years, and look where that got us! I started out chaining myself to massive bulldozers and ended up advising governments. It doesn’t work, mate. It isn’t going to change by goodwill, governments don’t understand or care, a lot of people are uneducated, greedy, small minded and willfully ignorant. It is horrible. I would suggest where possible investing petro-dollars in permaculture. At least put them toward something hopeful.

    This paragraph leads me to think that you regard ‘permaculture’ and your activism as two separate things. You said you detoured to activism and then advising governments, but then ‘returned to permaculture’.

    This may be where we diverge in views, even if only slightly. I can see that after many years of labour you’ve given up believing influence at a governmental level can make any difference. While this may well be the case often, I think it is wrong to discount its importance. And, when I talk about changing the system, I’m not necessarily talking about tackling the heads of state (although for those in a position to do so, then please do) – but rather organising into groups that influence local politics, which can in turn influence national level politics. See the following as examples, and the links in the ‘further reading’ section at bottom of the post:

    Bill invented permaculture to circumvent and transcend society and offer a new paradigm, not to reform a failed system.

    Bill may have invented the word ‘permaculture’, but he didn’t invent permaculture. There have been many stable, long lived cultures in the past. They reached that state by finding harmonious balance in their interactions with each other and their environment. Many of the Asian cultures, in particular, had permanent cultures. However, these cultures today have either gone the way of the dodo, or are disintegrating rapidly. And why? This is largely due to western economic policies.

    Transcend, yes – but it can only do so if it reaches critical mass and replaces the existing system.

    I don’t understand why do you think we need a new socio political structure to practice permaculture?

    See my earlier quote on governments incubating big business. Another reader on this site, commenting on another post, put it well when he said “Permaculture cannot exist in a corporate oligarchy”. This is the reality we have to come to terms with. We make our work much harder than it needs to be, and add significant delays to progress, by ignoring all the policies that effectively make sustainability illegal.

    I just think, based on my experience, our time is better spent practicing and teaching permaculture, plus building our own local support networks and communities.


    Focusing on transforming the mainstream is not a great application of limited resources.

    But transforming the mainstream should be part of the work of the very ‘local support networks and communities’ you’ve just mentioned (think Peak Oil introduction seminars, combined with transition town concept introductions, etc., and getting local body representatives to come along). And, I don’t see this as an inefficient application of resources at all, as gaining critical mass for increasing political pressure to incentivise (incubate) sustainability is the only way we’ll ever reach a tipping point of actual progress in any kind of useful time frame.

    The mainstream will take care of itself, likely for the worse. What I am saying is you probably have to transcend the world, and are worrying about admittedly tragic things neither you nor I can change.

    I’d like to understand how I can ‘transcend the world’? I am in it.

    I guess that, to me, permaculture is transcending, not reforming, if that distinction makes sense.

    I understand the distinction of meaning in the words – but in a practical way, no, it doesn’t make sense. If the world around me collapses, I go down with it too. No man is an island. And, my bid to ‘transcend’ is met with practical and legal obstacles at every turn – obstacles that discourage my neighbour from stepping outside the square.

    Take a peek at this post:

    Particularly scroll down to the section: “Getting to the heart of the matter: Corporate greed is a CEO’s legal obligation”
    Changing, for example, the central charter that governs corporations would have a profound effect on how they function. Only political pressure can change these laws.

    See also this recent blatant sellout of our future to corporate interests:

    There was a time where such an event as shown in this last link would have instantly been met with widespread public outcry, and would have been overturned. Not today. And from what you’re telling me, permaculturists should join the masses in also just accepting this as fate.

    It needs to be said that the kind of implosion we’re looking at will leave virtually all of us swimming in a sea of difficulties that will be extremely difficult, or impossible, to navigate. Social unrest will increase significantly over the next several years. That unrest will be met by governments – as history shows, and is showing – with repression. We cannot ‘transcend’ the consequences of implosion.

    Finally, a question for you: see today’s comment on another post from Lee Hewson (dated May 25, 2010). Would you discourage Lee from doing what he’s trying to do?

    Hi, we are trying to get planning law changed in the UK to allow low impact development based around permaculture and forest gardening to thrive. Access to the land is key and we believe that if land access was opened up a great many people would welcome the opportunity to take on responsible stewardship for the world. Please take a look at the site and tell us what you think. There is a petition included to be delivered to the UK government and we will also be purcahsing land in the UK this year to set up a forest garden based eco-village without planning permission to begin the fight from the ground and courts up. Please sign the petition and help us “forward the evolution”. Thanks lee

  20. Craig,

    I realize your comments were directed at Matty, but if I may be a butt-insky for a minute…

    When I approved of “not reforming failed systems” I had in mind political systems in general. I agree with nearly all of what you say, except that when you tout the need for “political pressure,” I would instead tout the need for “pressure to end politics.” If you’re going attack evil, then strike the root: coercive rule of the many at the barrel of a gun by the priviledge few. Democracy, oligarchy, monarchy, dictatorship – call it what you will, it’s the same political yoke that been around our necks ever since millenia ago when creative bandits realized they could steal our stuff more efficiently if they would just propagandize us to believe that they (aka ‘government’) were necessary.

    I say the waste of effort is trying to change a politician’s mind when you could be convincing one more fellow tax-slave that our masters only rule by our own consent.

  21. I should like to have more links to articles or studies showing how people in traditional cultures lived in harmony with each other and nature. If I suggest living in harmony with nature in smaller societies is a better state, people always come up with the argument that traditional societies lived like this and they had a high rate of murder, superstision, fear for nature, illness, fights with other tribes and with each other for power and land, etc., etc.

    Maybe this site can make more articles about this subject?

  22. Hi JBob, I complitely agree with you. Even Christopher Alexander has this vision for a future world:

    “This process, then, is potentially remarkable. As versions of such processes are worked out for different situations in society, they may, ultimately, replace bureaucracy and the machinelike organization of large corporations and government. It is a process in which individuals do what is necessary, and what they can do, moving everything forward one satisfying step at a time.”

    I have posted some of this text another place, but here is more of the text:


    “People used to say that just as the 20th century had been the century of physics, the 21st century would be the century of biology. The origin of this thought was that while the process of physics that dominated our 20th-century technology were fascinating and unusual, they were often one-dimensional, linear, monochromatic, involving fairly small numbers of variables. The creation of life, on the other hand, is a highly complex process, involving thousands or millions of variables, working in subtle cooperation. It was felt that, as understanding of biology increased, so our mental world, and our ability to understand and control biological process by subtle means, would increase, so that we would gradually move into a world whose prevailing paradigm was one of complexity, and whose techniques sought the co-adapted harmony of hundreds, or thousands of variables. This would, inevitably, involve new technique, new vision, new models of thought, and new models of action.

    I believe that such a transformation is starting to occur. I also believe the repeated application of the fundamental process to the built world will inevitably have to be part of such a transformative society. In saying this, I must underline my belief that living processes belong to the future, not to the past. Although 20th-century social processes were so different from what I contemplate, and did not yet contain the wherewithal to create living structure (except for the small islands of exception I have cited) – there is now a natural swell in people’s minds, a sea-change, and a change of intention, so that the turn towards generation of living process is, perhaps, one of the signal marks of the turn of the millennium, of people’s changed awareness, or their hope.

    Our future, as we begin to see it now, contains a vision of an entirely new kind of human process: A process, like the process of biology, which is attuned to human nature, makes more sense of human feeling and human common sense. In this process – and it applies to every step that is taken in society, whatever people are doing – you move forward in small, tiny steps. Each step accomplishes something concrete and good – one center at a time. Each step is taken forward, judged, by the impact it has on the whole. We are continuously evaluating the whole for its deep feeling, for its usefulness, for the support it gives to human experience.

    This process, then, is potentially remarkable. As versions of such processes are worked out for different situations in society, they may, ultimately, replace bureaucracy and the machinelike organization of large corporations and government. It is a process in which individuals do what is necessary, and what they can do, moving everything forward one satisfying step at a time.

    You may wish to say that this is dreaming, even impossible. But that, I think, would only be the echo of the dying 20th century that talks, still, in our heads. It is possible. A few examples I have given in this book begin to make that clear. Other more extensive examples in book 3 make it far more clear, and show how this process can, indeed, generate an entire living world.

    Above all, we know that it must be possible on theoretical grounds. We know it because this is the process by which the biological world of plants and animals has already been created. Late 20th-century research on complex systems by Holland, Kaufmann, and others, showed how very complex systems with enormously rich and complex state-space have been built up, repeatedly, throughout biological history, by the process of unfolding, and by small structure-preserving processes, which go step by step, yet reach astounding results in the whole.

    I believe that structure-preserving processes of the general type I have defined will be extended far beyond the bounds of architecture. Other preliminary demonstrations in the sphere of complex systems lead to the same conclusion. What I’m pointing to makes sense as a way forward in the complex world of computer-programming and software development, where the intricacy and internal architecture of systems has been shown to develop best under these kinds of impetus. It works in the world of biology. It works in the world of technology. And it will work in the world of architecture itself.

    A world made this way is truly a new kind of world. I do not know, for sure, that traditional society reached its goals by these means. What I do know, and am certain of, is that the society of the future, the long future of men and women on our planet, will – must – inevitably be carried forward by this kind of process which allows the nourishment of the individual to happen at the same time that vast, and highly technical developments occur.

    The small, step-by-step process is not only the best way to build the architecture of a complex system, from the point of view of adaption. It is also the most satisfying, the most nourishing – because it creates, at each step, something that makes us – the makers – feel more wholesome, something that makes us feel alive while we are doing it. It is nourishing, it is fun, it is productive, it is efficient. And, of course – best of all – a similar healing effect also takes place in the whole. Since it is the whole we are always looking to at each step, the whole which is transformed and made to have a deeper feeling, a lovely feeling consistent with everyday longings – then the whole, the great architecture of the whole, will in the end serve us, give us a kind of world (born of just such a process) which is the world in which we want to live.

    In certain respects, some of the processes I have described in this book have something in common with ancient process. My respect for the language, and buildings, and processes of ancient society, is a respect for ancient wisdom. But far more essentially, these things – the processes and building forms that I describe belong to the future. Indeed, in most respects, they belong more to the far-distant future than to the past or to the present.

    The fundamental process and the structure-preserving unfolding process – these are things that belong to a visionary future for humankind – a future in which complex structure of the built world, its daily re-creation, its daily nurture, will be considered normal. It is this far-distant future – hardly yet contemplated – which I have been looking for the last thirty years. To be well, we must set our sight on such a future, and recognize that complex processes of the kind that are needed to generate and sustain life in our surroundings will, structurally, be processes of the kind that I have been describing. That is so for the reasons that are akin to the reasoning of biology, to the reasoning of complex system theory, and to the reasoning of ultramodern physics and computer science.

    It is the vision of a future living Earth, which draws me on. Inspired by a thoroughly new view of structure, fueled by a view which sees living process as the origin of all life, this allows us to contemplate, for the first time, the idea that one day such living process will cover and completely generate, in biological fashion, the natural and human-made and built environment that we ultimately learn to call our living Earth.”

    The Process of Creating Life, by Christopher Alexander, page 568-570.

  23. JBob,

    I would say – and quite likely, Adam Curtis would agree on that – that one of the biggest problems is that ideologists who think they found a “silver bullet solution” for all our problems try to turn their crazy ideas into reality.

    If we abolished government, a number of profound problems which right now are addressed by government won’t go away. The state’s monopoly on legitimate use of force was introduced to get rid of blood feuds. So – if you want to abolish all government, you better have some very good answers to questions how to deal with problems such as this – I take it we would prefer not to return to blood feuds but have something different instead. I don’t say such answers won’t exist. It’s just a bit cheap to pronounce “I know how to solve all problems – let’s abolish government” while not providing answers to such important questions.

  24. Ultimate power is in the hands not of the government but the corporations and class that control the fundamental means of production which can only be the land itself. When seen at this basic level of reality it becomes clear that this is where the battle must be for life, survival and freedom must be fought. The impending climate, resource and bio-diversity catastrophes make this fight for intelligent use of the land not only imperative, but also winnable.

    Life without abundant cheap energy – oil – to produce the worlds food is going to necessitate a return to more labour intensive methods of food production and harvesting, which in turn means enough people to produce our food must be enabled to live on the land. Permaculture, as the only sustainable closed loop system of food, energy and materials production is clearly the way to go.

    The main problem here is one of planning law, farmland itself is very cheap. The laws created in the past to prevent concrete and steel urban sprawl are now preventing people from moving on to the land to carry out this work. Low Impact Developments, forest gardens, biochar and gasification all add up to a sustainable off-grid carbon negative lifestyle, which in todays climate will weigh heavier in court than any case the council might make. It really should be seen as an opportunity to regain autonomy at the community level as people take control of the means of production for their own, their extended families and their communities lives. The local IS global and the personal IS political.

  25. JBob – I have to agree with Thomas here.

    We’re getting into a discussion we’ve had elsewhere, which still has unanswered questions from me to you.

    Okay, we completely remove government. What next? In a perfect world, full of perfect people (cooperation-centric, humble, self-sacrificing, philanthropic), all would be well. But, instead, we live in a world of uneducated people (when I talk about education here – I’m not referring to learning how to read and write and add and subtract, but real practical education about how people can live with each other and live with the land). These people have been ‘cultured’ to find their greatest satisfaction in accumulating wealth (land, goods), striving for recognition (positions of prestige/power), and regard money-fueled leisure time as their ultimate goal.

    None of the social systems we have are perfect. Far from it. But, remove government oversight, and what happens next? Consider prisons, for example. Do we open the doors and just let everyone loose? Do we return to the kind of vigilante activities of yesteryear where pitchfork-waving villagers hang the guy in the town square, just to later find out it was all a mistake? If not, what happens next? Do we privatise prisons? If so, who covers the cost? If communities determine to do so, then we still end up in a situation, given the imperfect nature of people, as just mentioned, where the managers of prisons do so for profit. It’s in their interests for people to be guilty. The concepts of crime prevention and rehabilitation of offenders become enemies of the prison ‘industry’.

    Consider the same for other social services. Think about privatising fire stations. “Sorry, we couldn’t come to put your house fire out, as we had to attend to the fire of a wealthier guy further down the road. It’s just not economically viable for us to help you.”

    Consider healthcare services. As we see with the U.S. system – preventative health care is disincentivised. Rather, the system actually incentivises sickness. The less healthy people are, the more money there is to be made (in pharmaceuticals, hospitalisation, etc.).

    Now consider the police force, and the army…. The present situation is to some extent at least, a disaster. We have these ‘servants/protectors of the people’ actually protecting the interests of corporations, and increasingly being used to put down popular decent from peaceful protests. Yet, many of these people are conscientious in their work, and they play an important role in avoiding widespread mayhem. Remove government, and what’s next? Completely privatise the police and army? Think Blackwater (Xe industries), where war and unrest become profitable enterprises that should be encouraged (after all, multiple private industries are dependent on this).

    The list goes on and on…

    Corporations have largely infiltrated present governments. They’ve done so because governments stood in the way of their establishing market dominance. Think Monsanto for example. Remove governments outright, however, and for those nations where government oversight is still providing some defense against these predatory industries, then the doors are flung wide open for them. Along these lines, I also refer you to my mentioning (see link to my comment on another post in the link at top of this comment) governments outlawing the use of DDT. How do we protect society against these aspects without government oversight – do we just get all the villagers to firebomb the DDT factory? Take this to the next level then: what about witches? That neighbour of yours looks suspiciously like she’s practising the art of black magic. Perhaps we should tie her to a chair and toss her in the river, and see if she floats or not? Oops, later we learn you simply wanted to get rid of her for one reason or another, and this was an easy guise to accomplish this.

    Disintegrate our current system, and we will return to localised feudalism. Of that I have no doubt. For those who survive, we’ll begin the process of a few accruing power and wealth – the process of centralisation – all over again. We’ll demand governments protect us from ourselves, and they’ll willingly do so, then we’ll be repressed and cycle back to revolution.

    It’s clear our ‘democratic’ system really is not democratic. But, it fails for two main reasons (that I’ve expressed repeatedly in other articles and comments): 1) people operate for their own selfish interests, and 2) people do not participate in the running of their country.

    If we could magically unite people in unselfish participation in the rebuilding of our world, we’d see a rapid resolution to most of our problems. But without that magic act, just removing government would see the world sink into the middle ages once more.

  26. I think a big problem is that our gouvernments roole by a top-down system, while it should have been a down-up system. Still, the most serious is that our modern communities have no shared pattern languages anymore. This make people of today unable to take care of themselves, and to cooperate in a good way. Everything is leaved in the hands of experts, leaving the individual helpless. This way people become pacified, and there is no stimuli to cooperate in a way that is to the benefit to all, or to the whole.

  27. Hi Øyvind

    Agreed. Again, see the comment where I describe a potential bottom-up approach to government (don’t move your mouse’s wheel after clicking on the link, and it’ll take you directly to the right comment).

    Regarding your query about traditional permanent cultures, watch out for a post I’ll do on this as soon as I have time to do so.

  28. well i don’t have the links but i have read and seen documentary saying that tribes have their own system of law and order and with that most of the time (99%) there is no violence, no crime within the tribe otherwise they’ll be expelled and not able to survive anyway, let’s not get into Tribe battles! the media recent tribal war history biased examples and western movie portraying a certain view of the native Americans is propaganda ;))) that worked!

    localised feudalism maybe… also i believe that we are conditioned to think negatively and view things and a potential future negatively, plus Governments and country are an illusion, only community can live properly, know thy neighbor! how can you know someone on the other side of the country (ok, facebook!) when on top of it you don’t know your neighbor anyway! education should be about, as with Tribal people, understanding you need your neighbor to help one another? people do not participate in the running of their country, indeed! they do participate in the running of their local community though, the middle ages are past and it is the middle ages! now is now, not yesterday, nor tomorrow

    as Lamarck said and on his death bed Darwin too, it’s not the bacterias, virus or diseases that is responsible for the mayhem but the ‘state’ of the Terrain on which those grow…Perfect example of the Body/Soil holistic view opposed to science/medicine…

    in massage the rigid structure is what you are trying to relax ;))) Anything too rigid will break at some point, too much law or ‘modern slavery’ and you’ll need revolution at some point! and as for human, if you don’t understand by developing enough awareness, the ‘dis-ease’ will be there to make things change or die, same for nature, when too much pollution or whatever you want to call it, Nature will self-regulate (and is self-regulating anyway, been doing without us for billions of years) and things will change even if that means human not being fit for evolution anymore ;)

    i think we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that we have no power, that we should give it away to some people! but the people have the power! knowledge should be passed on, not kept. People outnumber for sure the politicians, the police, the army, the traders! but as everyone blindly follow what they are told, you get the society we are living in now.

    You can only teach people who are willing to listen! (unless you mastermind PR techniques obviously) i can only massage people who are willing to open, the one ready to open will see drastic body/life changes, the others will come back for more or unconsciously wait until they are ready!

    Fear again! people are robots, can’t be bother too demonstrate in the street, to boycott things, even I unfortunately struggle to get rid of my conditioning!

    but again i think all the arguing is just politics! it never gets anywhere, acknowledge the fact and accept it? do like Fukuoka did and do like Lawton is doing? there is nothing else you can do than get yourself doing your things, you can’t do for others, you might convince a few people! but they’ll go and do their own things in their own way anyway! Fukuoka did not try to convince anybody, he did explain when asked, but the government was not ready and he did not insist, waist of energy, that he used to put back in his land, people came to see him and there he taught, same for Ghandi people just followed?

    i think access to land should be for everyone! well it’s only up to me to claim it back! so far i don’t because of fear, because of conditioning. But people in Bristol, UK claimed back some peace of land to farm and did not ask the council, they are doing it and trying to fight for it! Same in Paris, some people put their caravan and camp somewhere and they live there! Same in the US where some people (see Michael Moore’s Capitalism a love story) have claimed their house back!

    the thing is that democracy has never existed ;) words have lost their meaning, all is mixed up thanks to PR/Marketing/Education/Media. confusion, divide to conquer, that is why politics works so well for corporation! in France Sarkozi has been elected because he had more ‘one single party’ votes, when the ‘left/green’ together had a bigger percentage! actually the one that actually win the election is Mr Blank (vote) so who is Mr Blank?!

    And yes corporation have understood now that owning energy was not the real deal, but owning the land, the water and even the seeds is the ultimate goal! About the rights for Nature (see post and talking about the rights of microorganism, the solution is already there GM ;)
    but the Ecuador idea is amazing!

    if people think they actually had no rights at all (and i personally want things to be right!) then nobody would have anything, and all we’ll be just a bonus?! we actually would have everything?!

    thanks to everyone for sharing ideas/opinions links, apologies for me approximate English, ideas and explanation as i am just a beginner :)

  29. Thomas: “…state’s monopoly on legitimate use of force was introduced to get rid of blood feuds.” I doubt it. It was more likely introduced to WIN some blood feud or another. What allows vast armies to be paid for and modern war as know it to exist? Only the power of taxation. War is far too unprofitable unless you can force others to pay for. Consider democide during the 20th century alone:

    Craig: I started out as a “conservative” and over the years went through minarchy and now anarchy. It took a lot of reading and several years to satisfy my concerns about all the same questions you ask here. Unfortunately I don’t have time to treat every question in depth, but I will mention a few points, one of which might spur somebody on to more reading. I’d recommend “Market for Libery” by Tannehill and “For a New Liberty” by Rothbard. A search of or on any topic you mentioned would quickly provide very good answers.

    The frustrating thing about the objections you raise is that they are all problems that either exist only because government created them, or government makes them much worse than need be.

    Prisons run amock for profit? How many millions of non-violent drug offenders are in jail right now, ONLY because of the government drug war, something which could never happen in a libertarian society. The prison industry relies ENTIRELY on government coercion. How could a prison somehow profit by rounding up prisoners if the government weren’t there to force taxpayers to pay for it?

    “Think Blackwater (Xe industries), where war and unrest become profitable enterprises” again, only because they are paid by governments. No taxation, no big conflicts.

    “healthcare services”… an industry so mangled and hamstrung by massive government intervention that I wouldn’t know where to begin. Government creates problems, government claims only government can fix problem.

    “Corporations have largely infiltrated present governments…” Governments aren’t innocent parties “taken over” by evil corporations. Governments are the guys with the guns and the propaganda to make us think they have the right to use them. Corporations are then tempted to take adavantage of this coercive power for their benefit, so they lobby and hire ex-politicians and make some bribes. “Market dominance” is not a bad thing. If you don’t like it, you can stop it with a simple “no thanks, I won’t buy that.” The thing to fear is actual “physical dominance” which is what you get ONLY with government. Buy our stuff or else…

    DDT and other airborne pollution: only a problem because governments have whittled away and mostly abolished traditional common law protections against trespass and property damage. Governments wanted industrialists to succed so they fixed the pesky problems of pollution by declaring that we can’t sue for damages any more.

    Perhaps it could be said anarchy succeeds for two main reasons: 1) people operate for their own selfish interests, and 2) people do not participate in the running of their country. So let them tend to their own lives peacefully instead of forever clawing their way to the top of the political heap, seeking dominion over others.

  30. “A new culture starts, Spengler held, when persons in a dying, static, or purposeless society—at first only a few visionaries, often widely isolated—begin to see their surroundings from a new perspective. This intruding viewpoint, he suggests, becomes a driving force that grows to dominate their thinking like a Jungian archetype. Step by step the increasing influence of this new point of view transforms that entire society–its political and social structures, its business organizations and commercial practices, its technologies, mathematics, religious beliefs, music and visual arts, and architecture– to exemplify this unique outlook; he terms it the culture’s “prime symbol.”

    The process, always similar, takes 1000-1200 years to run its course. In their final 200-300 years, Spengler said, all civilizations stiffen into rigidity and formalism; creativity dies out and cynicism surges, the countryside empties and cities grow gigantic, and continuous warfare ends in coalescence of a political-economic world state. Writing in 1910-1915, he evaluated Western Civilization as already embarked well into this phase.”


    What is different this time is that if our western civilization dies, the rest of the world will go down with us. Can we raise a permanent culture in time?

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