You do not exist to be used.
May 20, 2019 9:01 PM   Subscribe

Your personhood, your value, does not correlate with how measurable your achievements are or how they benefit the capitalist underpinnings of society. Your life is of purpose because it’s yours. Because you’re here, you exist in this moment, to be here, to be as unapologetic and unwaveringly unproductive as you so desire. Life’s purpose is for you to define; its value is inherent.
posted by odinsdream (56 comments total) 92 users marked this as a favorite
 
Thanks. Passed to someone I know who needs to hear more of that. (I have never thought about it in quite this way before, but agree completely with the message and appreciate the way this piece frames the whole thing.)
posted by mordax at 10:11 PM on May 20 [5 favorites]


I picked a helluva time to read “The Trouble With Being Born”.
posted by gucci mane at 11:15 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Is this a good time for me to bring up one of my pet peeves?

I hate, hate, hate the pattern of describing a person (virtually always a wealthy person) by using some variant of "he/she is worth ($amount)."

No, they possess ($amount). Oftentimes such people are worth about as much as a bucket of warm spit, in contrast to people who might own much less but may happen to have contributed mightily to community, scientific knowledge, artistic expression, or any number of other non-monetary scales that are completely ignored when writers describe someone's "worth" as a number that is directly correlated to the size of their bank account.
posted by Nerd of the North at 12:27 AM on May 21 [78 favorites]


A story crossed the web the other day about an alpha monkey who was summarily and viciously bitten and beaten by the females of his troupe and left for dead because he developed erectile dysfunction and could no longer adequately service them. I'm sure he would like to believe he had value as a monkey just for existing, but his wounds and loss of alpha status probably told him otherwise.

The nature of being a social species is to judge and respond to others based on what they can do for you and what they can do to you. Is that 'value'? Maybe, I'm not certain. I will agree that a lot of people are as rabidly wealth- and power-motivated and posessive as many dogs are about food, and we could do with a lot less of that.

Finally, never mind capitalism, natural selection is ableist by definition. The universe itself only values us for our ability to reproduce and multiply.

Life sucks, but still, you've gotta laugh.
posted by zaixfeep at 2:06 AM on May 21 [11 favorites]


The concept of productivity is not solely tied to capitalism.

you exist in this moment, to be here, to be as unapologetic and unwaveringly unproductive as you so desire

Sure - assuming, of course, that you're OK with doing without all the niceties that humans provide for each other in most communities/societies. Be your own private island.

I prefer to hang with those who favor something closer to "from each according to ability, to each according to need".
posted by she's not there at 3:06 AM on May 21 [10 favorites]


I have bills that must get paid. If they don't get paid, I could become homeless. Or worse.

On a literal level, yes, I exist to be used. If I do not make enough money, I risk death.

This is the system. Some people get to pretend that is not true.

It is.
posted by andreaazure at 3:10 AM on May 21 [37 favorites]


In fairness, to the extent the author is saying, "Don't let the bastards grind you down," I am in full agreement with them.
posted by zaixfeep at 3:29 AM on May 21 [6 favorites]


I came to say almost exactly what andreaazure has said - as long as the bargain is that I get to eke out a comfortable-ish existence through activity largely designed to make a few individuals wildly rich, I do indeed exist to be used.

Sure, your life is of purpose because it’s yours, but it feels depressing to contemplate that abstract sense of purpose when in reality I have very limited time to actually live in a way that connects with the things that make my life feel purposeful, because so much of my time goes into servicing capitalism so that I make enough money that I'm allowed to keep living my comfortable-ish life. If I spend enough of my time turning the wheel, plus a bit of luck, I most likely won't be homeless, but I can't enjoy the home I have very much because of the amount of wheel-turning it takes to pay the mortgage.

I lean hard into ideas like universal basic income, because until we acknowledge the fact that nobody chooses to be born, and to be born means to be born into a ton of expectations about the structure of life as it is lived that not every individual is willing or able to comply with, I don't see anything changing. We can and should not continue to expect everyone who is born to innately desire to self-motivate on sustaining their own existence in a capitalist system that does not have anything close to their best interests at heart.

We skirt around this at the societal level right now by focusing on individualism and steadily conditioning individuals from a very early age to link their worth with productivity and to accept that working to survive is the role of the majority, for the significant benefit of the very few. We pitch this as a very desirable existence, complete with occasional nice vacations and luxury goods to cushion the blow of "nearly all of your waking hours need to be spent turning the wheel so that someone else can be richer than you'll ever be". We are told to aspire to become like the owners of the means of production, to vote how we'd wish we'd voted if we were rich like them, for the magical day in the future when we are rich like them, which for most of us will never come. We are not told that this is gross and wrong if you think about it for even a second. Rich people on Twitter find statements like "eat the rich" hurtful, rather than understandable, so blind are we all at a fairly basic level to how the world actually works.

We are supposed to accept that this (to borrow the language of carnism) is normal, natural, nice and necessary. We're supposed to base our self-esteem around how good a job we do of plugging into the machinery of capitalism. We're meant to desire individual achievement in a game that's rigged against nearly every one of us, and to measure our own worth by how well we do as individuals at achieving the specific things that the very few need us to do in order for them to remain very rich.

And to push back against any of this is seen as absurd unrealistic idealistic radical daydreaming. We know so much about what humans need to be happy and not constantly stressed, but we ignore a lot of what we know about this because it doesn't fit with the game of accumulating and retaining largely-imaginary capital that continues to sit at the heart of our society, at the expense of the swathes of human actors who keep the game running, for the benefit of the very few human actors who accumulate most of the largely-imaginary profit that this machine spits out at one end. And I have no idea how you dismantle this machine-game or what a better option would look like, but that doesn't stop it from feeling profoundly wrong to me that it exists in the first place, and I will happily bring a crowbar along if anyone has a better idea.
posted by terretu at 3:47 AM on May 21 [72 favorites]


This is a beautiful essay. One of the most meaningful aspects of religious faith for me has always been its pushing back on the idea that we exist merely as cogs in a larger machine and should be valued by our external achievements.

“When we value bodies for simply what they can produce, we dehumanize them and turn them into tools.”
posted by sallybrown at 3:53 AM on May 21 [25 favorites]


How does the concept of intrinsic worth interact with the importance of sharing emotional labor and housework?
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 4:03 AM on May 21 [4 favorites]


So, now I've read the article, and it's interesting that the first point is about school rather than work.

School is about a sort of symbol of productivity rather than actually doing anything that's useful to anyone, and it wouldn't surprise me if fake productivity is more apt to issues about self-worth than real (or sometimes real) productivity.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 4:07 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


Eh, school is no more nor less fake productivity than most office jobs.
posted by eviemath at 4:17 AM on May 21 [12 favorites]


> "A story crossed the web the other day about an alpha monkey who was summarily and viciously bitten and beaten by the females of his troupe and left for dead because he developed erectile dysfunction and could no longer adequately service them. I'm sure he would like to believe he had value as a monkey just for existing, but his wounds and loss of alpha status probably told him otherwise."
Given that the various different iterations of that story all seem to point back to a single story in the UK's Daily Star - and they can't even get the name of the park right - I'd be careful about inferring too much from it…
posted by Pinback at 4:17 AM on May 21 [31 favorites]


I note that the author is making a normative argument about what our value systems should be, and agrees with posters above that capitalism puts certain pressures on the individual for individual productivity. Pressures that the author has many experiences of being unable to meet, due to their disabilities.
posted by eviemath at 4:23 AM on May 21 [19 favorites]


Given that the various different iterations of that story all seem to point back to a single story in the UK's Daily Star - and they can't even get the name of the park right - I'd be careful about inferring too much from it…

Still, there's probably a best-selling evopsych-reductionist popular philosophy book or two in it.
posted by acb at 4:35 AM on May 21 [7 favorites]


Thanks, Metafilter. Whenever I start feeling a tiny bit of hope, I can always count on you to remind me that actually my life is worthless and hopeless. Much appreciated.
posted by snowmentality at 4:46 AM on May 21 [52 favorites]


This is so incredibly on point for me right now, and I couldn't appreciate it more. I'm doing a unit on anthropology of the body, and today we had a guest lecturer tall about the anthropology of autism.

It was absolutely fascinating because it was exactly these ideas through various theoretical frameworks, looking at them from Bourdieusian, Foucauldian and Marxian perspectives.

It was absolutely fascinating, for want of a better word, thinking about the disabled body, how it is contrasted with the abled, how it is surveilled, norms are established which it has to compare through, much of the schooling system and also work is constantly assessing and categorising people according to their capacity to produce, through testing of the body.
The body that cannot produce adequately, cannot gain the bodily capital and habitus required to produce according to the needs of capital is the disabled body.

I'd be lying if I said I truly understand it all properly, but it really seems like incredibly important stuff if I want to understand how capitalism works so I can help end it.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 4:48 AM on May 21 [23 favorites]


Still, there's probably a best-selling evopsych-reductionist popular philosophy book or two in it.

It's 2019. It's a youtube celebrity and he is a top lobster in his own mind.
posted by srboisvert at 5:10 AM on May 21 [6 favorites]


What's interesting is that this is framed as capitalism's idea of productivity. Even though you are free to check out of the capitalist system as you wish. Plenty people have, to every degree. Yet if the system were some variant of "each according to his ability", not only would you not have so much choice, you'd likely not be the one to decide your ability-the individual specifically is valued for the contribution to the whole. Your worth to the whole isn't all that different in either kind of system, unless you think society is composed of completely self reliant people.

Thing is, I don't service capitalism. I service my own existence. It would be no different if I were not under capitalism. That capitalism (or society, of whatever it may be) gets "serviced" isn't really my concern. "Your life is of purpose because it’s yours" is noble and inspiring, yet is the very underpinning of a capitalist free society. Curiously, it's often non capitalists who seem to believe less in the statement, because of the collectivist view. "Your life is of purpose because it’s yours" means that it's your responsibility to service your own existence as you see fit. Regardless capitalism or anything else you think is an impediment.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:18 AM on May 21 [6 favorites]


Whether or not you want to malign it as "capitalist," consumption requires production, and production sufficient to permit sufficiency and security of consumption requires organization and incentivization of productivity (including the labor efficiency of incentives for domestic work).

If you want to label the incentive to productivity as "value" than indeed that is a value that those who must be supported by the moral obligation of love or legal obligation of taxation and regulation are going to lack. Going further, if you want to permit more people who by disability, age, or choice produce less than their share of consumption, to subsist comfortably, you need to increase the "value" (incentive) for productivity for the balance, in order to get the surplus production to share.

20th Century Marxist governments strove mightily to try to figure out alternatives to capitalist labor markets (and the lash of hunger for those who did not have labor wages) to create incentives for production but never doubted that they needed systems of incentive and some of them were pretty conspicuous. ("Hero of Socialist Labor" anyone?)
posted by MattD at 5:35 AM on May 21 [6 favorites]


That ad-driven interface, however, needs an apology.

One of the most meaningful aspects of religious faith for me has always been its pushing back on the idea that we exist merely as cogs in a larger machine and should be valued by our external achievements.

This is pretty core to my faith, too. In fact, I find it difficult to derive a concept of "value" that's not dependent on an economy without faith, since "value" requires a subject to do the valuing, and we can dicker forever over who the right subject is: self/capital/collective, etc., but the "universe" in a scientific understanding can't be said to "value" anything - the notion that there is purpose, value, meaning, etc. is an entirely human concern, outside faith structures.
posted by Miko at 5:37 AM on May 21 [4 favorites]


The universe itself only values us for our ability to reproduce and multiply.

The universe doesn't value things, being nothing more than a giant heat engine.

entropy, actually, but either way we are very good at using and eliminating energy gradients and therefore accelerating the eventual heat death of the universe. If the universe does value things at all, it would be things that increase entropy since that's where this bus is inevitably headed. We're better at it than most, so if it gives you comfort it's not unreasonable to think that we are valued for our role in the process.
posted by wierdo at 6:23 AM on May 21 [13 favorites]


See, a key part of Marxist thought as I understand it is that honestly, humans like to produce, we do it automatically, it's something that defines us in many ways. People don't need incentive to work, and in many ways I think a Marxist utopia is about a freedom to work as you will, on projects you have choice in, in conditions you help set.

We don't have to be constantly torturing each other via the profit motive, because if people are really free to create and have access to the means to do so they will, without a cattle prod of any sort.

Disabled people are no different, it's not about your willingness to produce, it's about your control in your life over the production, your ability to have your needs met as they should be.

People have hobbies and passions they pour years of their lives into in what free time they have, but would lay idle forever, both if they could, but the alternative was to matter not as an employee but a collaborator in some project?

Instead most of us are forced to labour under their conditions while they take the vast majority of the benefits and use technology not to free people from work but to lower costs and tighten control on employees. It is understandable that people feel being forced to be productive under that framework is repulsive.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 6:24 AM on May 21 [46 favorites]


I agree that life is generally far more cruel than the headline of the article posits, but from the perspective of the author I applaud the sentiment. The differently abled people I know have had the cards stacked against them from day one and persevere in spite of those obstacles. They also have a really, really rough time of it and often express the negative emotions that come along with an endless uphill battle. So, yes, we are all stuck in a capitalist machine and good luck paying your rent with inherent value, but life is also literally what we make of it and your emotional state can be and often is completely dissociated from your circumstances, Friends can help make that happen. Be a friend! Love your friends, let them know they are important to you - not because of what they do or produce, but just because they are. There is no such thing as too much love.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:34 AM on May 21 [5 favorites]


Even though you are free to check out of the capitalist system as you wish. Plenty people have, to every degree

Citation needed.
posted by PMdixon at 6:36 AM on May 21 [17 favorites]


If I substitute "society" for "the universe" it seems to make more sense to me.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 7:38 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


The root of our discomfort is not money or profit, it is the sense of being merely a cog in the machine. Problem is, society itself is a very large machine. It requires fewer human cogs to maintain than it once did, but there still remain things that must be done by someone or many someones, regardless of the pleasantness of the task.

If we want to be our own special snowflake 100% of our lives, we simply can't have all the nice things we have. There is an inherent contradiction.

This is one thing the populist movement of the 20s and 30s in the US had right. Nobody told you that it was important to like your job back then. Today we tell our children to find their passion and hiring managers want to hear about how you've always wanted to collate spreadsheets all day to consider you a good fit. It's delusional bullshit that we tell each other to avoid rioting over the circumstances we have gotten ourselves into.

The entire point of the 8 hour day, 40 hour work week was to make sure that work wasn't your entire damn life. It sucks, that's why we call it work. It's tolerable when you have a life outside of work, not so much when we derive so much of our identity from our job. If there is life outside of work, we can both be the cog we need to be for society to function while also having two thirds of each day to do things we find fulfilling.

And no, it's not entirely the fault of capitalists and their constant demands to work overtime. It's our own selfish desire to travel around in ensconced in our own private room rather than putting those resources into effective transit so that we don't spend the equivalent of half a day's work getting to work and back home. Time that could be far better spent having a life so that it didn't bug you so much that your little piece of the effort seems completely worthless. (It never is, but it does often feel that way)
posted by wierdo at 8:16 AM on May 21 [5 favorites]


Once again, I shall chime in not as an apologist for capitalism but as a pragmatist who feels that discourse doesn't do us any good if we assign blame to the wrong things.

This isn't a capitalism problem. Deciding not to go work for 18 hours at the factory in Minsk because your factory had to meet its quota in the latest five year plan is just as much "being used" as working for 18 hours to make some shareholder millions of extra dollars.

If socialism and communism worked as advertised, the workers in the factories would have control over the realism of the goals assigned to them. If capitalism worked as advertised, you would be able to use your own personal worth to do things that you are good at and that you enjoy and negotiate a fair wage for that work.

The problem is people with power get to use and abuse people without it. It's wrong, and it's soul-crushing, and it's something that needs to be controlled and directed and channeled to cause the minimum harm, because I'm damn sure it's never going to go away.
posted by tclark at 8:19 AM on May 21 [10 favorites]


This isn't a capitalism problem.

The capitalism kind of helps.
posted by odinsdream at 9:23 AM on May 21 [17 favorites]


This view puts human life above any other form of life — above all other forms of life put together, in fact.

Which is nonsense.

Capitalism puts capital (which has devolved here in the 21st to money, as absurd as that is) above all life.

Which is absolutely pernicious nonsense, and it really should not surprise anyone that it's only taken a few hundred years for capitalism to become a catastrophe for life itself.
posted by jamjam at 10:22 AM on May 21 [4 favorites]


If socialism and communism worked as advertised, the workers in the factories would have control over the realism of the goals assigned to them.

The implication here is that any conceivable version of either of the named systems is by definition undemocratic and tyrannical, which is false.
posted by demonic winged headgear at 10:42 AM on May 21 [5 favorites]



Citation needed.

I'm not trying to be obtuse here; I can't immediately think of any personal acquaintances who ever lived in one so I'm not familiar with them but aren't some communes and intentional communities numerous examples of groups of people opting out of capitalism? (are you not counting them because they don't have complete political autonomy)?
posted by fizzix at 11:10 AM on May 21


Sure, your life is of purpose because it’s yours, but it feels depressing to contemplate that abstract sense of purpose when in reality I have very limited time to actually live in a way that connects with the things that make my life feel purposeful, because so much of my time goes into servicing capitalism so that I make enough money that I'm allowed to keep living my comfortable-ish life.

Flagged as fantastic, terretu. The reality of it is depressing as hell, of course, but you articulated it beautifully. If you've published anything elsewhere on these topics, I'd greatly appreciate a pointer to it. If you haven't but would like to, please accept my enthusiastic encouragement to do so.

Last month I retired my project The Anticareerist (formerly known as Rethinking the Job Culture and whywork.org) after twenty years. I did so partly because I must support myself financially under threat of hunger and homelessness, and that project was draining my pocketbook. One of the central messages I was trying to convey with that project was "you do not exist to be used," i.e. coerced by financial need into spending the bulk of your life in wage labor. It saddened me to let it go, but I felt I had no other viable choice because of my own financial need.

At a deeper level, though, I also realized I could not continue to promote that message in good conscience any longer. Why? Because the way things stand right now, we do indeed exist to be used. We're treated as a burden if we're not economically "productive" enough. Coerced wage labor is normalized structural violence. I've resisted it all of my adult life. But now? I simply don't have the energy to fight that battle anymore. I'm too busy earning money to survive.
posted by velvet winter at 11:24 AM on May 21 [16 favorites]


I'm not familiar with them but aren't some communes and intentional communities numerous examples of groups of people opting out of capitalism?

There are a great many people across the world who live in various levels of connection, many who sustain a great deal or pretty much all of their needs outside of capitalism, but a mix is much more common and the reach is ever expanding. This is a key feature of the neoliberal world as I understand it, almost everywhere has been reached, there are no new countries to open up to globalisation, but a deepening occurs. This has has some benefits to the lives of many, but the socialist argument is not that capitalism hasn't improved lives, it's that it's giving us the scrapings.

Anyhow, many people can't just move to a commune because they have family or job requirements, lack of capital, debts and mortgages, disabilities or a host of other such reasons.

There's also a moral argument to be made. Stay and fight. Make your workplace better, help those around you with the harshness of life, organise to make all of your lives better. Climate change isn't solved by a commune, and even the Sentinelese will be noticing it's effects.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 12:28 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


How does the concept of intrinsic worth interact with the importance of sharing emotional labor and housework?

Capitalism, and believing in the values we're taught within that system, is part of why emotional labor and housework are presently undervalued.

The capitalism kind of helps.

It really does.

The problem with capitalism is not that work is not required. Yes, we as a people need to figure out how to get the garbage disposed of, the water distributed, food grown, etc. etc.

The problem is that capitalism as practiced today is just a paperclip maximizer. Literally only one metric means anything: just money. We're not worried about sustainability or justice or the future or health or knowledge or... literally anything but making one single variable bigger in every possible case regardless of the additional consequences, and so one thing gets bigger while everything else gets smaller.

Worse, that narrow focus is probably going to be the death of us all. Our current system requires continuous growth, a condition the physical universe will literally not permit. While we're passing around just-so stories about monkeys, I got one: unconstrained growth is how entire species go extinct, and that's our current model.

Rethinking that isn't frivolous, it's a matter of survival. Developing values beyond money in a way most people can connect with emotionally is a pragmatic concern.
posted by mordax at 12:51 PM on May 21 [23 favorites]


The problem is that capitalism as practiced today is just a paperclip maximizer. Literally only one metric means anything: just money.

Milton Friedman's Dangerous Idea.
posted by acb at 1:42 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Love the article and the centrality of one's own experience. The only thing I'd push back against is the idea that capitalism is productivity at its heart. I disagree in that I'm fairly certain property rights are at the heart of capitalism, and "productivity" for us is wealth extraction for the owner class. The more "productive" we are, the more wealth the ownership class extracts, the more of our body/mind/soul is their property, so to speak. For the worker class, "productivity" is where the rubber meets the road of the wealth extraction from exploited workers, but it is not the primary lens used by the owner class. Productivity is the worker class commodified, but the worker class commodified is not capitalism.

There is no added "productivity" in planned obsolescence, only a way of further commodifiying consumer goods by an additional dimension (time) in an effort to extract wealth from consumers. There is no "productivity" in real estate appreciation due to gentrification. Nor is their productivity in denying health insurance claims (I would argue the opposite is true). Predatory payday lenders, redlining subprime mortgage bundlers, private voucher charter schools. These are not incepted in the interest of increased productivity. They're effective and socially (enough) acceptable ways to extract wealth.

Which is what I would argue is at the heart of capitalism.

Sorry if this comes across as pedantry. I just want to make sure the knife hits the right spot.
posted by avalonian at 2:28 PM on May 21 [6 favorites]


It is surely capitalism and its charitable foundation, the Social Security Administration, that tell us we exist to be used, and that we must produce in the expected ways. But I'm pretty sure it was this article that finally clicked something over in my mind, which had otherwise been resisting my small collection of paints and paper, and opened me to a series of ideas that are free from a framework of productivity, and for that I am grateful.
posted by Little Dawn at 3:08 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


I'm not familiar with them but aren't some communes and intentional communities numerous examples of groups of people opting out of capitalism? (are you not counting them because they don't have complete political autonomy)?

I'm not counting them because however they may be organized internally, they rely on inputs supplied by a capitalist economy. Not even North Korea is autarkic.
posted by PMdixon at 3:16 PM on May 21 [5 favorites]




zaixfeep: “Finally, never mind capitalism, natural selection is ableist by definition.”
The entire point of civilization is so that human beings needn't live by the law of the jungle anymore.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:10 PM on May 21 [11 favorites]


The thing I think about is Wealth.

Not the financial instruments we use to account who owns (and owes) what, but the thing itself.

At its most basic, Wealth is the state of being well, of having no unmet needs.

We consume goods and services to maintain and increase our Wealth.

Capital goods assist in increasing the creation of these consumer end goods. Capitalism yeay!

Confusingly, we call these capital goods "wealth" too -- "capital wealth". Capitalism boo!

The skills workers need to perform services and run the machines are also a form of capital wealth, since they assist in the production of wealth and are not consumed in its creation.

It's fascinating to me to think of how much actual goods and services a person needs to consume to keep them Well, and how much of our household economy is diverted away from this basic wealth balance.

Foremost of the rent taps that draw our wealth away is the ground rents we pay, this is nearly everyone's largest life expense. Ground rents can be thousands of dollars per month, yet there is no actual -- physical -- wealth being consumed in this transaction, the only thing being consumed is the time-limited right of excluding others from using the physical space defined in our leasehold or fee simple tenancy.

What an odd life expense to have mixed in with all our others, and since we all have to pay it, we are like fish immersed in water and cannot sense it easily.

But once you do see it, the true reality of our economic lives becomes a lot clearer.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 7:32 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]


I picked a helluva time to read “The Trouble With Being Born”.
posted by gucci mane at 1:15 AM on May 21 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]

If you haven't already, you should try "The Conspiracy Against the Human Race" by Ligotti, now THAT is some self esteem happiness building.
posted by symbioid at 8:10 PM on May 21


"There are a great many people across the world who live in various levels of connection, many who sustain a great deal or pretty much all of their needs outside of capitalism"

Could you give some specific examples?

I researched the bejesus out of intentional communities in the US a few years back. It was extremely rare for a community to produce even 50% of their own food. And then there is clothing, and tools, and medical care, etc.
Even the best intentional communities need money to buy things that they don't produce themselves. I know of literally no examples in the US to the contrary. To do otherwise, you'd need an unbelievably rich land base and a community full of people with perfectly complimentary skills such that all needs were covered.

Realistically, even the best intentional communities, such as Windward in Oregon, still must earn money somehow, either by individual members working outside from time to time, or by having a community business and selling outside the community. In my opinion, many of these communities re-create an unpleasant wage slave environment while doing this. For example, being compelled to work 40 hours a week making hammocks or nut butter :-( Same compulsion to do work you don't particularly like, for a ridiculous number of hours per week.

You also have to purchase the land on which your community resides. You need capital to start. You cannot simply find some open land and hunt, fish, and gather on it. All land is already owned by someone.... essentially because they say so, even if they aren't using it.
posted by nirblegee at 8:34 PM on May 21 [6 favorites]


Oh also I wanted to push back against the idea that people who work have two thirds of their time free to do "fulfilling" things. Even if one is lucky enough to be able to live on a single job, where the hours are limited to 40, there is still commute time (unless you have a personal teletransporter perhaps?), time preparing for and winding down from work, time spent on chores in the household, and most time-costly of all, sleep. Add all of that up and most people have maybe at best a fifth of their time that they can truly spend as they wish.

Personally, I am utterly tired of the choice between working at a soul-crushing job where I am used and not compensated or appreciated according to the value I provide, or worrying about starving/becoming homeless. I am between jobs right now and in such a weird, weird mental space. I am by turns luxuriating in my free time and freaking the fuck out about when I will find another job. i would LOVE LOVE LOVE to work part-time, and could make it work financially because I am now sharing housing. but I never see any part-time tech jobs, evar. And I don't know another way to make a solid living. When I was a medical massage therapist--a much more valuable job to society than the vast majority of IT work I've done!--I could not afford health care nor any saving for retirement, and when I moved to the East coast, couldn't even afford the basics of living.
posted by nirblegee at 8:44 PM on May 21 [11 favorites]


I didn't say we had two thirds to ourselves now, I said that was the accepted goal and even the norm for a large part of the US through at least half the 20th century and that we should try to get back there so we can all think again and stop deluding ourselves about what it takes to run the machine that allows us to live long lives that don't involve mostly backbreaking labor for 12 hours a day just to keep people from literally starving and going mostly naked. "Simply" building some of the basic labor saving devices we all take for granted absolutely require organizations so large as to require at least some soul sucking middle management white collar bullshit jobs exist to coordinate and track the procurement of materials which themselves are difficult to make, the production of the product itself, and getting that product to the people who need it. Fucked up incentives ensure that it's far worse than it has to be right now, but there is no scenario short of the singularity or becoming essentially preindustrial where nobody ever has to do shitty work that makes a person question their value to humanity if they only measure themselves by their vocation.

But yes, when the average US commute is an hour a day, fixing that should be among our top priorities. It's literally insane that we allow this situation to continue, regardless of how we think about the work itself.

(And yes, a lot of complex stuff is contained within the class of problems we have caused by fucked up incentives, I realize that and am not dismissing those problems)
posted by wierdo at 11:18 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


nirblegee

Hey I was thinking particularly of like Zapatistas in Chiapas and MST in Brazil, and other places where some land has been able to be commonly held in various ways. I basically agree with all of your points, I didn't mean to imply its easy to escape the clutch of capital and life on the edge also means a lot of other tradeoffs. I'm anti-commune, by and large.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 7:45 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]


No, they possess ($amount). Oftentimes such people are worth about as much as a bucket of warm spit, in contrast to people who might own much less but may happen to have contributed mightily to community, scientific knowledge, artistic expression, or any number of other non-monetary scales that are completely ignored when writers describe someone's "worth" as a number that is directly correlated to the size of their bank account.

For me, the odd thing about this tendency to equate the worth of a person with the worth of their net assets is the way that those who do that will so often also subscribe to a market idea of worth i.e. that the idea of intrinsic worth is spurious and that things are worth exactly what they fetch when sold, no more and no less.

I've heard people offer that as a justification for e.g. Bezos being "worth" his 150 billion, on the grounds that this enormous sum that the rules of society have put under his control is evidence that he's contributed 150 billion of "value" to humanity in general.

But it seems to me that if one accepts the premise that worth is defined by the market, then one is forced to the conclusion that since the 150 billion that Bezos controls is itself worth exactly 150 billion by definition, then unless one simply defines Bezos as identical with and conceptually inseparable from that mountain of money, Bezos in and of himself is worth nothing until he's sold into slavery, at which point one could simply check the price paid.
posted by flabdablet at 5:12 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]


In the (very) naive theoretical view, Bezos would not have amassed $150 billion had he not created that much value because other market actors would have made sure only to pay him that much.

Obviously, this view is so divorced from the real world as to be meaningless for all kinds of reasons, both inherent to the argument and because of its lack of consistency with reality in that Jeff Bezos' net worth is not the result of the conscious choices it is presumed to be.

Unfortunately, right wing propaganda disguised as serious work in the field of economics has so poisoned the well that we often fail to see the use in other models that do actually have some real world predictive value.
posted by wierdo at 8:20 PM on May 23 [4 favorites]


Could you give some specific examples?

I think also the kibbutzim in Israel for a while, though I think they are different now.
posted by corb at 6:33 AM on May 24


nirblegee, have you considered freelancing, or consulting as a contractor?

Doing so is not a panacea, but such work arrangements often offer periodic and shorter-term engagements. If you have IT skills, such work is in many cases easier to find than full-time employment.
posted by mistersquid at 8:01 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]


Humans are basically the universe's vanity project anyway -- we don't even thermodynamically recover the energy we consume.
posted by speicus at 9:13 AM on May 26 [1 favorite]


A story crossed the web the other day about an alpha monkey who was summarily and viciously bitten and beaten by the females of his troupe and left for dead because he developed erectile dysfunction [...]

I imagine a deep announcer voice: "This important story sponsored by Viagra."
posted by cattypist at 9:26 PM on May 30


I hate, hate, hate the pattern of describing a person (virtually always a wealthy person) by using some variant of "he/she is worth ($amount)."

For some of these people, it would be fairer to count negative externalities suffered by society and say, "He/she is worth an estimated negative $76 billion on net."
posted by cattypist at 9:38 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


The most valued and rewarded workers and general members of society are those who createrules-lawyer their way into seizing the greatest output. "

There, I fixed that for you!
posted by cattypist at 9:44 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


mistersquid, thanks for the suggestion. I have worked contracts in the past, but always full-time for N number of months. I've also done a limited amount of flexible-hours freelance work, very casually while I was earning my primary living from massage. At this stage, trying to make that my sole income, I imagine I would spend much of my "free" time looking for additional projects. Also, right now I am so traumatized by my last job that I want to hide under a rock. I just appealed and won unemployment for the "valid circumstances" (rampant sexism) that caused me to quit my last job. It seems especially stressful to have to interact with a revolving roster of new clients and potential clients all the time, wondering who else is going to be traumatic.
posted by nirblegee at 10:33 PM on June 4 [2 favorites]


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