Jettisoning Priviledge

The words Jettisoning Priviledge have been floating around my head for a while now.  I find that most people in the debate (including myself) are thoroughly bribed.  We who have received the education necessary to conduct a multilingual international highly conceptualised activity such as this one, come wrapped in a unique historic coccoon of a parasitic existence.  As individuals, we are lovers and sweethearts, but most of us don’t grow our own food.  In terms of last year’s super slogan: We are the 2nd %.

This is hard stuff to digest.  i just read Vinay Gupta’s introduction to himself, where he effectively accepts that his chances of following the human path taken by100% of his ancestors - is denied him: he cannot conscionably procreate.  I am older and have managed to do this, but I recognise the feeling.

One of my FiNGOs . The Unemployed Youth of the Earth grew from this reality; that the fall back position being flogged by the elder generation just doesn’t hold water.  Yesterday, I watched a link sent me by a professor; in it other professors debated “The Aftermath of the Crisis”.  The assembly of superior brains struck me as hopelessly distanced from the real truth of the global distribution system; perhaps they worried about their pensions or how to send their grandchildren to school.

—but this is rubbish —

What hits me is that not a single political movement dares to sketch a believable picture of what an equitable world might look like.  This is seems to me is a task for some limb of this project.

What would be a life worth fighting for, even if it meant that none of us could move beyond bicycling distance of our own vegetable patch for years on end?   If we had to select just one of our manufactered playthings to accompany us further, which one?

I quickly collide with my compromises, i don’t live in a suburb of Strausborg, i don’t have title papers for a plot of topsoil.  But someone has to speak these truths out loud…


Hello Bembo, thanks for these thoughts. I am trying to wrap my head around them here, but I am having some trouble systematizing what you are saying.

I have the impression that you are superimposing parasitism with eating food someone else has grown. To an economist, this looks like division of labor, and makes lots of sense on efficiency grounds ever since Adam Smith and Alfred Marshall. The old story of me getting good at growing tomatoes, and you getting good at building spades, so I can take a spade you made and pay you back in tomatoes, and one spademaker every 50 farmers more than pays for his keep by increasing the productivity of those 50 people. And yes, in principle you can reverse the pyramid: you can imagine a world economy where everybody is a scientist, a teacher, a technologist, a manufacturer of technology except one person who presses a button and starts the mega machine which churms out the whole world production of everything.

Am I missing something?

Good to meet you

Thanks Alberto;

I am a bit of a difficult man to converse with, i admit.  I speak often metaphorically.  i know that lots of people are much better at growing tomatoes than i am, thankfully.  My point is that in our specialisation, the people that surround me are largely megaconsumers who take advantage of the fact that further along the chain there is a lot of injustice that weights things heavily in my/our favour.

Importing food from countries with richer soil and longer growing seasons makes sense, as long as the transit is managable.  However, I’m not convinced that importing cut flowers from lands where many many suffer acute hunger daily, makes equal sense.  Balancing the global budgets has to factor in some kind of justice, even if it is a long shot.

In my Non-toxic Propaganda work, i seek to find images that provide leverage to view the problem more clearly.  Do we believe in a technological fix that lets everyone be economists except the one button pusher? and what becomes the life style of people who no longer have the connection of digging in responsive earth?

It is a bit late here, so I’m a bit foggy – but I’d gladly invite you to chip away at my musings until we can distill a clearer picture of what Jettisoning Priviledge might entail…  we could start with international travel, or ideas of living in a solo flat or room, or we could look at concepts of private ownership.  I think my point is to follow these discussions beyond a juggling of concepts, and actually making a picture of the future that is comprised of tangibles.  Given that per capita consumption should be going down - where do we line up?

Is that more coherent?

I once wrote an Opera that I called The Gods of Money about the key invisible beliefs that kept the economic system going.  The bribing that I was talking abound became our consumer durables that wrap and protect each and every one of us that leave us incapable of feeling.  As the Gods said:  They’re your belongings, they’re what make you belong.  Again, I’m not saying that everyone who has a sofa and a golf club is incapable of emotion; what i am suggesting is that almost effortless comfort might be an impediment to true empathy.

Wind in the sails

It’s not that hard: your jettisoning privilege idea looks like the result of very human empathy, somebody realizing that they would be up to reform their lifestyle if this resulted in better life for some fellow human. It is a driving force, like wind in the sails, and as such I welcome it.

But wind will not carry you to port without a good rudder and the will to use it (see, I can do metaphors too). If we decide that the way to go is individual food self sufficiency, guess what? We will probably increase land use. Hunter-gatherers of 50,000 years ago did a lot of ecological damage. The archaeological record in Israel, Turkey and Italy reveals that the first modern human beings around the Mediterranean switched from eating horses, rhinos, mammoths, bison and tortoises to rabbits, hares, partridges and smaller gazelles. Reason: they had largely wiped out the slow-breeding species. Those guys slashed and burned and hunted down game, then they moved on - and this system uses up a lot of land, fast. Switching to farming meant a very considerable decrease in land consumption (99% according to some estimates).

So, we could start jettisoning the privileges that do weigh on the planet and other human beings. For me the obvious first thing to go is the private car, and all that goes with it (suburban lifestyle, independent houses etc.); the second one is the low cost filght. I may be wrong, but I am quite sure that whatever a sustainable solution might look like it will involve exploiting all the efficiency we can get.

It’s worth knowing…

that Bembo is about the last human being standing who can kick my ass :slight_smile:

We met after an event in Brussels, and he said to me, “Vinay, what you are doing is intellectually wonderful, but it is terrible theater!” and that one phrase became a turning point in my life.

I brought him to Cloughjordan, my ecovillage in Ireland. We did not tell anybody that Bembo was an actor doing a show, he was billed straight, as a visiting sociologist. And then… he extracted enthusiasm, a procedure which (god forbid?) we might have him replicate at the Unconference, if we can pry him from his Mountain Fastness…

Yes, there is more than meets the eye to this one. The words have weight. We must deploy him carefully!

Plus he tells better jokes than anybody. You just have to wait two or three years for the punchlines

trapped in nationalities

you evoke my biggest gripe in the world, and i’m so grateful that you do. i find it very difficult to accept and embrace any modern politics because it does nothing to even voice the inequity and inequality in our world. i really don’t give many monkeys about a perfect functioning good political system (if that really exists anywhere anyway) if it fails to take into consideration world citizens. it is just a gated community on a national scale. regardless of ideologies or effective national policies we have no right to claim any of them if we can’t provide for the whole world and not just a selfish group of citizens of some spoilt developed countries. i think we need to really drive home the reality of our privileges and luxuries in terms of their costs for other people (not to say they don’t cost people in our own countries too.) i’m less likely to buy those flowers if i have to gather them from in front of starving people.