Action over consumption

Image by Arto Mattinen

This is likely to be my last ‘proper’ post of the year, before I announce that I’m heading off into a much more analogue December.

I was going to say that, on the world stage (Brexit, Trump, various deaths…) 2016 has been a pretty crap year. However, my nine year-old son (with whom I’m reading Sophie’s World at the moment) would probably remind me of Democritus: “by convention sweet and by convention bitter, by convention hot, by convention cold, by convention colour; but in reality atoms and void”. I’m raising a little Stoic.

So, instead, I’ll turn to Ivan Illich, whose Deschooling Society I’ve been continuing to study this morning:

I believe that a desirable future depends on our deliberately choosing a life of action over a life of consumption, on our engendering a life style which will enable us to be spontaneous, independent, yet related to each other, rather than maintaining a life style which only allows us to make and unmake, produce and consume-a style of life which is merely a way station on the road to the depletion and pollution of the environment.

One of the best things that has happened this year is that, along with some friends, I’ve founded a co-operative to allow us to work together in solidarity. Illich continues from the quotation above to discuss the importance of the organisational vehicle through which change and progress occurs:

The future depends more upon our choice of institutions which support a life of action than on our developing new ideologies and technologies. We need a set of criteria which will permit us to recognize those institutions which support personal growth rather than addiction, as well as the will to invest our techno-logical resources preferentially in such institutions of growth.

The choice is between two radically opposed institutional types, both of which are exemplified in certain existing institutions, although one type so characterizes the contemporary period. as to almost define it. This dominant type I would propose to call the manipulative institution. The other type also exists, but only precariously. The institutions which fit it are humbler and less noticeable; yet I take them as models for a more desirable future. I call them “convivial” and suggest placing them at the left of an institutional spectrum, both to show that there are institutions which fall between the extremes and to illustrate how historical institutions can change color as they shift from facilitating activity to organizing production.

There’s lots of predictions about what the future will bring. But, hey, as someone wise once said:

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Keep on keeping on, people. I’ll see you later.

Photo by Arto Marttinen