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Got the following from a C-Realm listener and sponsor:

What the C-Realm Community Might Learn from Contemporary Anarchist/D.I.Y. Culture

Greetings to everyone in the C-Realm!

I recently discovered the C-Realm podcast while working long hours at the U.S. Post Office, helping to move the Christmas mail. In just a few weeks at the P.O. I can usually make most of the money that I need to live for the entire year, but the hours are long and monotonous. Thankfully, we're allowed to wear headphones on the factory floor, and with the help of a cheap mp3 player, every day at work I could engage with the wonderful guests and ideas at the C-Realm and Psychedelic Salon.

I am impressed and moved by the humble sincerity of the C-Realm project. In these desperate and confusing times the C-Realm is looking to elucidate the crises of the human condition, and looking for pointers to enlightened solutions. C-Realm asks tough questions and rejects the easy answers, the placating self-affirming answers that stroke our egos and assure us that we're probably already doing the right thing.

My heart goes out to everyone who's written e-mails to KMO expressing their desire to make changes in their lives to adapt to resource depletion and be a positive force for the renewal and rebirth of human culture, but who feels helpless about how to begin. Indeed, the general refrain of "so what do we do now?" permeates the Realm.

Enlightenment, it turns out, is the easy part. What is difficult is changing the conditions of our lives.

Without claiming to have any definite answers, I'd like to offer as possible inspiration the example of, and some insights from, my own community, which, though nameless, might reasonably be called the D.I.Y. Anarchist community--"D.I.Y." as in "Do It Yourself". Now, I'm a pretty experienced psychonaut myself, and I give my initial college-age psychedelic experiences in the early 90's great credit for expanding and deepening my vision of the world--of the realities of how capitalism, consumerism, and hierarchy operate--AND my vision of everything else that is possible: the infinite fractal ever-expanding creative ludic and fertile realms that unfold in eternal opposition to the machinery of calculation and profit. Emboldened by these experiences and filled with ideas, I abandoned any kind of career path and went in search of people who wanted what I wanted: to reject consumerism, the nuclear family, wage-slavery, and hierarchical relations in favor of something exuberant and free--maybe monetarily poor but rich in creativity, friendship, and spiritual depth. If it had been the 60's I would have been a hippie, but instead, guided by vague intention and assisted by rich coincidence, I found the anarchists.

Anarchists fall victim to stereotyping in the same way that "drug users" or any other marginal group does, but I'd hope that listeners to the C-Realm would be open-minded enough to ignore what negative stereotypes might come to mind, and see if anarchists have anything worthwhile to offer them. After all, most of the time when we imagine what an ideal future might look like, it's basically an anarchist future: a society without coercive institutions, oppressive hierarchies, and the rule of money, based instead on cooperation and mutual aid, cultural freedom, and a healthy relationship with the natural world. Anarchists have been working on creating this world for a long time. What have they come up with?

I can only speak from my experience, and cannot claim to represent all anarchists. For one thing, there are many varieties of anarchist. Some of them focus their energies on "taking down" the oppressive system in various ways: speaking out, mobilizing public protest, engaging in sabotage, etc. Others are more concerned with building alternative infrastructures that might one day replace the oppressive system if it is ever toppled or crumbles under the weight of its own contradictions. Some combine these goals, seeing the growth and increasing viability and visibility of alternative (humane, small-scale, egalitarian) ways of living as a force that will undermine the strength of the oppressive machine and eventually free us from its domination.

The community in which I am enmeshed is an anarchist (even if some don't use that word all too often) community that is not satisfied to wait until "after the revolution" or "after the collapse" to begin living the good life. Our network is spread throughout North America (at least), but only in exceptional and temporary situations does anyone live in isolation. We live in dense pockets here and there, in big cities and small, in the country, wherever, but there's always a group of us living with or near each other, in daily face-to-face contact, sharing our lives. We don't work any more than we have to, so that we have plenty of time for art, music, re-creation, travel, self-work, spiritual work, learning to live together, and building a better world. We work together on music, gardens, community projects. We minimize our expenses by living simply, sharing, and cutting our spending habits. In general we try to minimize our involvement in the global power and resource grid, which we see as coercive, predatory, and ill-conceived, and, in its current manifestation, damaging to both human and non-human life.

Seven years ago, several friends and I bought some mountain land here in North Carolina where we've been gardening, planting fruit trees, and building small houses out of cheap, salvaged, or natural materials. We've had no electricity (I'm writing this by oil lamp)--no bills of any kind, in fact--though a modest solar electric system is on the way. We're surrounded by wild medicinal plants, and I've learned herbal medicine so that we can stay healthy without the expensive, unsustainable, and otherwise flawed health care industry, to which we generally have little access anyway. Other medicinals and entheogens are finding a home in our gardens, and we have plans to offer inexpensive herbal medicines, and herbal medical advice, to the wider community.

We're not total drop-outs, by any means. We participate in the larger culture, we're just picky about it. We try to engage on our own terms and put our energies in promising directions. And compromise is inevitable. Most of us still have to work crappy jobs, at least sometimes. Here at the land we cook on propane, and my partner and I put 15,000 miles on our car last year--though our good friend in town bikes everywhere and cooks entirely with wood, year-round.

And we're not a homogeneous group. Some of us are pushing the limits of getting "off the grid," others scrape by in cities, making culture, art, or working on community projects. But we're united by our collective desire to explore other possibilities outside of those encouraged by the dominant culture. And importantly, we've placed our bets for our long-term viability and security on reducing our material needs, developing our resourcefulness, and building an extensive network of kinship and mutual support, rather than relying on money, steady jobs, and nuclear family structures. It's far from perfect, but I think that our efforts to build convivial, diverse, and non-consumer lives in the shadow of global capitalism has given us an inadvertant head start in preparing for a world without cheap oil.

To some extent this adaptability was at work when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005. Dozens of our people fled the city and were easily absorbed into households across the country to wait until they could return home, or to start over in a new place. We're accustomed to having lots of extra people around, to cooking big meals, sharing, and providing for each other. The refugees might have lost their homes or their possessions, but they could still feel "at home" in another real way--at home among friends in their larger community.

Now, some of you might read what I've described and think "Duh!!" Great. Maybe you live kind of like this already, or you've incorporated these values into your life in other ways. Fantastic. Or maybe you think "Sounds good, but I don't know how I'd get to anything resembling that, from where I am now." I don't want to insult anyone's intelligence, and I'm not here to "toot my own horn," so to speak, but in the interests of cross-pollination and exchange of ideas, I want to share some of what we've learned, of what's worked for us, of what makes our way of life possible. All of the following came to mind as possibly useful insights while listening to the C-Realm podcast. Take it or leave it, but know that what follows is offered in good faith, with brotherly motives, in the interest of mutual growth.

1. WORKING AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE. By this I don't mean embracing laziness--though some of us could sure use a break. "Work" in this context means exchanging one's time and energy for money. In our current recession, everyone's concerned about loss of jobs, but really, most jobs are unnecessary or even counter-productive. All of our fancy technology is supposed to be labor-saving, but today's Americans work more hours per week than any humans that have ever lived. This madness must stop.

Working less means having more time to learn, think for yourself, dream, experiment, build community, and create the life you really want to live. Sure, you'll have to learn to live with less, but this is good practice for a future when we'll ALL have to live with less, like it or not. And living with less pushes us in productive and empowering directions. For example, not being able to afford retail health care encourages us to learn grassroots alternative health care and good nutrition to keep ourselves healthy. I can't afford to travel to Peru for a shamanism conference, but that encourages me to work locally to develop an authentic home-grown and sustainable shamanistic practice. If you can't afford a car, you can ride a bike, etc.

Working less is made possible by:
2. CUTTING EXPENSES. There's a million ways to do this. Wear second-hand clothes. Make use of what others are throwing out. Grow some of your own food. Don't pay to be entertained. Be critical of what's being marketed to you. Consider not breeding--explore other ways to be fertile.
As general strategies for cutting expenses, two big ones come to mind:
3. LIVING COMMUNALLY. This doesn't have to mean living in a commune--though it could. I mean living collectively in shared households--ideally a network of households, so you can enjoy cheap rent, sharing tools & other resources, and the benefits and challenges of community. One household can share a car, and chip in on its upkeep. Child care duties can be shared. Eating and cooking is more fun in groups, and saves time: it takes about the same amount of time and energy to cook for a group as to cook for one or two. And if you're down on your luck or can't make rent, your friends can cover for you.

The other big one is
4. EMBRACING A DO-IT-YOURSELF ETHIC. There is no end to the possibilities here. If you use psychedelics, grow your own. Learn to fix your own car or bike, grow your own food, build your own house, make your own culture, bake your own bread. There are D.I.Y. mental health networks. Even neighborhood watch groups and community potluck/meetings are a form of D.I.Y. self-governance, subverting the need for policing and municipal hierarchies.

In economics, when a good that was once obtained through the marketplace is replaced by one manufactured locally, this process is called "import substitution" and is always a force for local autonomy. Import substitution is what enables colonies, normally dependent on imports from their colonial overlords, to become independent entities. We need to practice import substitution in our communities, in our personal lives, if we are going to survive the breakdown of global distribution networks.

But there is something else, too, and for this I turn to a passage from my friend Joe Hollis' essay "Paradise Gardening":
"Things made or done by professionals or machines may be technically superior to one's own efforts, but are generally lacking in a quality which, following Castaneda, I will call 'heart.' Satisfaction from things bought usually peaks at the moment of purchase and declines rapidly. Needs which are met by the interaction of ourselves and nature are more deeply met, and there are wonderful surprises along the way. The truth of this will be evident to anyone who has ever made anything 'from scratch.' What seldom occurs to us (Someone doesn't want it to) is that an entire life can be constructed on this basis."

We would benefit from specializing less and becoming Jacks-and-Jills-of-all-trades.

5. GRASS ROOTS. Solutions which are developed at the "grass roots," by and for ordinary people, are more diverse, human-scale, inclusive, participatory, flexible, adaptive and responsive to real human needs and desires, making use of locally available resources. They also take better advantage of "chaotic" horizontal cross-pollination and emergent intelligence.

Some of the scientific or technological "fixes" discussed in the C-Realm suggest top-down application, as when an enlightened elite or a superintelligent A.I. develops a solution that presumably would then be applied to the population for its own good. Top-down solutions tend to be inflexible, homogeneous, disempowering, unresponsive to local variation, and unevenly applied. Not to mention coercive. What if I don't desire nanotechnological symbiosis in my life, for example? Would I and other dissenters suffer marginalization and compromise similar to the hunter-gatherers who had no desire to embrace agriculture when that technology emerged?

6. SKEPTICISM OF COMPUTERS & THE INTERNET. I know this is controversial. It's one thing to use the internet, critically, as a tool. It's another to get EXCITED about it. Much like we might drive cars, but we're not very EXCITED about cars as a technology. Partly this is an ecological consideration. Computers & the internet consume vast amounts of resources--resources that are increasingly scarce. And when we talk about the energy costs of computing technology, let's not forget the costs of maintaining the so-called "free-trade" that makes possible the gathering & assembling of the materials for all the computers, servers, and digital infrastructure. It takes a lot of energy to move raw materials around the globe, to keep oil cheap (oil wars, diplomacy), to ensure continual pools of cheap labor by creating poverty, patrolling borders, busting union-organizing, creating organizations like the WTO to prevent countries from protecting their people & resources from predatory capitalism, etc. These are all part of the costs of these technologies, costs that must be taken into account even if you don't mind the moral or political implications.

But more fundamental than this, I think, is the way that computers and the internet reinforce the mind/body split. This pathological Cartesian dualism has haunted us for too long. And we deep thinkers and psychedelic explorers already have a tendency to let the mind & imagination drift free of the body. This can be healthy, even necessary, but our out-of-body explorations, connections, and imaginings must come home to roost in our physical bodies, or we are not whole. We must ultimately imagine, experiment, and explore in our physical surroundings, with our two hands, getting feedback from the physical world. Computers are not alone in drawing us into this dualism. Reading a book is a similar activity, where the mind is alive, the body seemingly inert. But the internet allows you to feel active and connected, like you are LIVING YOUR LIFE on-line. Here the mind/body split has become too routine, a normalized condition of daily life. You compensate through the mind (internet) for what the body (your physical life) lacks.

Especially troubling is when one's community of friends exists more on-line than in one's daily physical life. I strongly urge that, even if you use the internet to find your people, you take steps to make your community happen in the flesh as quickly as possible. You might have to move. Pick a town and go there. It only takes a small core group, even just two or three, to get the ball rolling. But we need to share our lives. We need to live with each other, see different sides of each other's personalities, depend on each other for material & emotional support. We need to hang out, cut loose, touch, fight, forgive, and learn from one another if we're going to have strong resilient communities to thrive in hard times. We need to eat together, collaborate, inspire each other. And not just a couple times a year, but as a way of life.

This is the single most important thing, what makes all the rest possible and worth it. I can't stress it strongly enough. I don't think it's a coincidence that folks in my extended community--my community of habitual interdependence and daily face-to-face contact--share an instinctive distaste for the virtual life. In some ways, having a stimulating virtual life alleviates the necessity of making changes in your real life. If you don't allow that option, then you MUST change your life, you must find the others in the real world, or suffer.

And I don't believe that new digital technologies are making possible flexible non-capitalist non-hierarchical organization. This is techno-revisionist fantasy. People have always organized in flexible non-hierarchical ways, but the techniques are in danger of being lost.

Skepticism about computers & the internet is just a special instance of
7. PRIMACY OF THE MATERIAL PLANE. There's a lot of talk in psychedelic circles about changing or expanding consciousness as a prerequisite for lasting social change. I agree, but I don't believe efforts to change consciousness should be limited to using the media, talking, and writing. The mental landscape, the flow of words & ideas with which our minds are flooded daily, is too cluttered. We are over-saturated with ideas. Enlightening concepts are diluted by, buried beneath junk, mass media drivel, and advertising. Nor do I think that spreading the idea of psychedelic consciousness alone is particularly effective.
Making a change in the material world, in my experience, is a more effective method of expanding consciousness. I'll give just one example: Starting a community garden in your neighborhood is a powerful way to change consciousness. It brings people together in a collaborative project that provides for material needs. It helps folks become conscious of the potential of community, of shared effort; conscious of where their food comes from, of the difference between store-bought and home-grown, of the miraculous fertility of the earth, of the cycles of plant life on which we all depend. The garden is an oasis of beauty that becomes a gathering place, and gives a neighborhood a sense of cohesion. This is a kind of consciousness change we need, rooted in a lasting, dynamic, material, collaborative process.

I know that many people feel like there are no like-minded others around them to form community with. But we have to try harder, perhaps expanding our notion of what "like-minded" means. Dissatisfaction and desire for change are everywhere. I know that, for those of us turned on by psychedelics, it's natural to want to band together with others that are guided by the same stars, but remember that shamans traditionally serve communities of non-shamans. We CAN bring our energy fruitfully to our larger communities, but we need to be creative & persistent in figuring out how.

I hope that these comments are well-received. I have tried to share some of the theory and practice that has worked for us, to show that there are steps that can be taken, that are being taken, to move towards a livable future, because in desperate times we need all the inspiration and models we can get just to stave off futility and despair. Criticism of my community could go on for as long as what I've written here, and longer. I've tried to present what is working.

We didn't invent any of this. It's not necessary to re-invent the wheel. The solutions are out there. We all know what to do. But so much stands in the way of our doing it. I just know that it's time to build bridges. We can't live in our ghettos anymore. It's going to take all of us, encouraging, challenging, learning from each other. Let this letter be a step in that direction.


I'd welcome further discussion about anything I've brought up. Feel free to e-mail me at lordwillin@gmail.com, and I'll try and check in on this thread at the grow report.

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Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
tirikitetoker
Feb. 15th, 2009 04:54 am (UTC)
TGR forum thread
He also posted it as a forum thread on The Grow Report:
http://www.thegrowreport.com/Forums/showthread.php?t=6043

Bit surprised no-one's responded yet though. (I'm more of a lurker than a poster.)
kmo
Feb. 15th, 2009 03:31 pm (UTC)
Re: TGR forum thread
I'm not surprised that it hasn't generated any feedback. Generally one or two sentence "trigger" posts are the ones that generate a lot of feedback and pick up steam. I think a post like this one, which probably took a couple of hours or more to compose, seem to call out for as great a commitment on the part of would-be responders, and few people have the time or the energy (or so it seems to them).
tirikitetoker
Feb. 16th, 2009 04:35 am (UTC)
Re: TGR forum thread
Mmm yes indeed. I couldn't even get enough steam up to finish reading the post, let alone think about a response.
bunnykitteh
Feb. 17th, 2009 08:49 am (UTC)
Re: TGR forum thread
Inded, a lot of tl;dr on LJ :-) I tag my longer posts with it ;-)

Interesting letter. I like anarchism in theory. But I like Gucci also.
davidfkane
Feb. 18th, 2009 09:23 pm (UTC)
The Crash of 2009 - the really inconvenient truth.
Not necessarily a fan of Faux News, but as Glenn Beck from Fox News points out clearly, the Crash is Coming SOON!!
arconaught
Feb. 19th, 2009 05:52 am (UTC)
Guidelines for a quality lifestyle
Lordwillin offers what seems to me to be a wonderful guideline for where many of the listeners to the C-Realm, im sure, as well as many of 'the others,' would prefer to be. I surely have lived in accordance with this presented philosophy of anarchy and independence at times. I stress 'at times.' Living communally, sharing, working less (someone wise once said that work is an alligator in the river of desire, and I try to live by that poetic understanding), living frugally, building resilience and self-reliance skills, a healthy aversion to certain forms of media and social-networking technologies which begs too little participation, and generally working on 'being in the here and now.' I have been there, and strive to be there everyday.

With that being said... I think KMO in his DIY dispatch podcast has raised his personal experience with the practice of these preferred lifestyle guidelines, thank you KMO for exposing yourself in this way--And I can completely empathize with KMO's personal struggles. Kmo, you have a duty to serve your children, and that is completely understandable. Often, external obligations present us with these predicaments, unsolvable conditions, seemingly insurmountable.

I want to here offer my own struggles in maintaining my preferred lifestyle, a lifestyle outlined quite well by lordwillin. I struggle with balancing my want for freedom with student loan debts! It is the price paid for an amazing education i suppose. Realistically, I can not regret it. Was it necessary though, really? Looking back, it was a stupid decision made, financially, however a decision which was put into place at the ripe old age of 17 years old, which everyone knows is that age when the most prudent decisions are always made (ha). The deed is done, no going back. And unlike a mortgage, or credit card debt, there is no getting out of this one, especially when defaulting on this kind of loan defers the debt to my FATHER! No one can take away the education. So... It would be great to engage fully in an anarchic lifestyle as discussed here, but how does one weigh the obligation of debt and family with the desire to escape the 'system'? Practically speaking, if I move in on my desire to live communally, work less, live on the land etc., how do I keep up my payments on loans? It is a predicament. The education has led me to the desire to a particular quality lifestyle, with fleeting opportunities to engage with that type of living, but at the same time left me with a financial obligation that seems to require working in the corporate world, full-time non the less.

I offer my personal story here, in a way to show that KMO is not alone here, and in a way to welcome other people to share their story of transformation, the process side of things. I think that lordwillin's comment is well taken as an ideal way to live, but what is missing from his insights are the how to's -- I also welcome lordwillin's personal story for others to learn from. I wonder how lordwillin integrates his anarchist lifestyle with working for the Us. Postal service?

oldguy51
Feb. 19th, 2009 07:43 pm (UTC)
Community
I really enjoyed this podcast as I always do your show, KMO, but I am particularly interested by this topic of community. I come from a perspective of having been part of alternative communities and lifestyles for most of my adult life. Since my introduction to alternative realities, I’ve never liked the way we did things in our contemporary culture and sought ways to live outside of its invasive, soul-sapping nature.

I have lived communally, cooperatively, and in caravan. Caravan is what Europeans call a travel trailer. There would be several or more families in a campground in trailers and/or tents or parked on a piece of property, with or without a house. I learned about septic systems and leach fields that way.

So I was particularly fascinated when Lord Willin referred to a network of anarchists spread across the country. LW, you know each other somehow? There’s some sort of community going on? How do you get to know each other? How do you get in touch with each other?

Whenever one begins to think seriously about alternative living, the big hurdle to overcome is the economic one. That’s pretty much due to the prevailing economic system (PES) being the only show in town, so to speak. There is no viable alternative at present, so any alternative lifestyles have to, by nature of the beast, plug into the prevailing economic system in some way for their needs. Thus, LW refers to ”crappy jobs,” and others sheepishly or apologetically admit to having to work for the System to obtain their daily bread. We don’t have to beat ourselves up for this predicament, but it is important that we recognize the obstacle so that we can put thought toward a solution.

To begin with we must recognize the need for an economic system. I don’t think it’s practical to do everything oneself from growing food to manufacturing solar energy panels, but someone(s) has to do all these things. Many people complain about the PES, and suggest ways to improve it, but it is my inkling that the PES is utterly corrupted, which is the reason I had issues with it in the first place. It looks to me that an entirely separate economic system must be formed in order for us to progress.

In thinking about this, I keep coming back to the necessity for land. When most people think about getting off the grid, one of the first things they’ll talk about is growing their own food. I think this is a great place to start. This past year I’ve gotten into gardening and was pleasantly surprised by the effect it had on me on several levels, not the least of which was tuning more into the natural world and its cycles.

In short, I think a good place to start in working out an alternative community and economic system is to look to provide the necessities of life: food, water, shelter, clothing, etc, along with necessary services. The question then becomes just what is necessary for a viable economic community, what are the skills and what is the number of individuals necessary for sustainability. I don’t have a ready answer for that, but looking at the kibbutz system that was used quite a bit in the early days of Israel can give us another picture of possibilities.

Yet, when we get to this point, one realizes that we’re talking about a community living in proximity to each other, and I think we all have a feel for this as most of us are feeling separated from one another and alienated from the dominant system, alone. This is where the virtual community that has been produced by podcasts such as this, along with the various forums comes into importance. It begins the process of forming community. True, it cannot be a total substitute for face-to-face, but in absence of others, it can fill a gap and keep us going for a while.











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