Adam’s Fantasies

I run almost every day of the trip. Lately it’s been barefoot on the long beaches of the Atlantic. While I run, I think. Sometimes I fantasize. Sometimes it’s about revolution.

I am a panther.

I am a panther.

This particular fantasy is not meant to be realistic. It’s an anarchist creation myth. Like any creation myth, it’s more about helping us understand what something is than how it comes to be. So, to be clear, if we ever achieve a much more free and equal society, without private property, that could be described as anarchist, it certainly won’t come about in the way presented here. This is revolutionary bubblegum literature that also serves to highlight the differences and similarities between the world we have and the world we could have. So come, strap on your shoes, get this blog into an audio MP3, and fantasize with me. 🙂

It’s the culminating day of years of popular struggle for non-capitalist direct democracy. State authority has collapsed as a result of mass defections to the revolutionary cause and the people consider the egalitarian general assembly the most just and effective way for managing those affairs that require large-scale coordination.

On the first evening, the people take the first step. They agree to public policy (a recommendation, the compliance with which is based on trust, cooperation, and reason, rather than the threat of force) eliminating the use of money beginning the following day. The recommendation is to go about your day as you would, but leave the money out of it. The teachers don’t notice much of a difference, but the bank tellers have a pretty odd day.

On the second evening, the people take the second step. Those who don’t have enough of basic necessities are encouraged to take what they need. A child eats kale instead of Cheetos. He’s a bit unhappy with the revolution at the moment, but probably less likely to die of diabetes. A foreclosed family moves back into their home. The doctors are launched into weeks of chaos.

On the third evening, the people take the third step. Those whose jobs are useless are instructed to find something else to do, and those who are overworked reduce their labor to what they deem appropriate. A single-mother goes home to read to her daughter after her shift at the solar panel factory. An Ameriprise account manager takes over that mother’s night shift at their neighborhood Starbucks, where he used to begin each day with a purchase. The coal miners call it a day at 2:00 and plan a meeting to discuss whether or not they should continue mining coal. The Wall Street bankers end their two days of mindless wandering and get to work organizing the relocalization of the economy. A sugary cereal advertiser stays home to play video games.

On the fourth evening, the people take the fourth step. They release the non-violent prisoners and recommend all military personnel return home. The police are only to protect people from violence. Christopher puts on his own clothes and meets his family for dinner. A soldier dismantles her gun, but chooses to remain in Afghanistan for awhile to help build schools for girls in the mountains there. The borders open to human travel. A deported mother reunites with her kids at their soccer game in Galveston.

On the fifth evening, the people take the fifth step. They reprioritize the economy. Large numbers of workers who have stopped doing useless construction, advertising, and nothing begin the rapid transition to renewable energy and more localized infrastructure. Rust belt factories start modernizing and reopening to produce necessary goods without relying on exploitation of desperate workers elsewhere. Styrofoam production stops forever. Automation is pursued wherever possible, to reduce the amount of human labor necessary and expand time for leisure and education. A process is laid out to train hundreds of thousands of new teachers, plumbers, and doctors. All adults are encouraged to attend socially and personally useful university classes.

On the sixth evening, the people take the sixth step. The food and medicine immediately needed in less wealthy parts of the world are sent there. Raw materials in the developing world remain there where workers make shoes and salads and soccer balls for themselves, not just for us. The ships crossing the Pacific, now half as many, stop bringing disposable junk to California and instead deliver anti-malarial bed nets to Southeast Asia. For the first time, a family in Honduras eats three meals in one day.

On the seventh evening, a bunch of people throw a crazy party, some meditate in the woods, and a family plays scrabble, using the dictionary as arbiter of challenges. It’s anarchy.

– Adam (w/ Jesse)
from Fort Lauderdale




The Pull Is Stronger Than the Push

There are many reasons for each of us as independent humans to set out on this indefinite journey to indefinite places, living differently and learning about humanity. This entry fits in the densely filled space where our reasons overlap.

Taking off indefinitely is the kind of thing that prompts questions like, “What are you running away from?” But we’re not running away from ourselves or anything else; we’re running to other places and people, to things we’ve dreamed of and read about, to the things we would’ve rather been doing while toiling at Market Basket or FedEx.

There are some factors pushing us away from the lives we’ve led to this point. There’s a deeply held conviction that we should limit, as much as possible, our participation in actions and systems we feel are more destructive than constructive. There’s a commitment to not let our lives be dictated by momentum and convention when we’re more than capable of creating our own, hopefully more useful, paths. There’s a recognition of the difference between being comfortable and being happy. And there’s the pressure of time, the knowledge that we don’t live forever and that our life situations might not be as conducive to this in the future.

But what’s pulling us is so much stronger. We’ve both slept til 4 in the afternoon on probably too many days after reading Wikipedia articles about Comoros or debating the feasibility of an anarchist society until sunrise. We want, intensely, to experience things on a human level, first-hand. And we hope that we can be more productive facilitators of a better future by spreading our ideas, and our questions, beyond the relatively local and homogeneous gardens we’ve thus far been pollinating.

Unlike the oft-referenced Chris McCandless, we are not turning our backs on, or experimenting with dropping out of, society. We are investing ourselves in society by filling what seems to us a necessary yet largely underplayed role in it. It’s certainly true that many of our opinions diverge from the mainstream or from generally accepted ways of looking at things. But they are the products of years of earnest, fervent reflection on ourselves and the world we live in, and we think that sharing them with the people we encounter is a real contribution to our common endeavor of bettering the human condition. And while we have a responsibility to share the insights that our genes and our experiences have combined to create, we also have a responsibility to take what others have to offer, to incorporate it into our ways of seeing the world, and to share it widely.

In terms of our utility, we’d argue that we do more good via idea pollination than through a more conventional role as a cog in the material economy. Our society has more than enough stuff. What we can work to provide on this journey are the novel experiences and social connections that our isolated and routinized society so dearly lacks. These oft-belittled opportunities in everyday life are what the social sciences have consistently and convincingly shown to be the more important components of happy lives.

As idealists, we strive to live out not only our ideals, but also the questions hovering around them. Doing so requires repeatedly asking ourselves how necessary compromising those ideals may be. There is a constant struggle between idealism and reality, between the perfect and the good, between the good and the merely less bad, and between personal convictions and the status quo. We also can’t forget that the status quo represents, to various degrees, large parts of the human race with which we feel so intimately connected.

We are often told, if not by people we know then indeed by the droning rhythms of our societal machine, that we have our heads in the clouds, that dreams and ideals can only go so far, that we need to come down to Earth and acknowledge the need for jobs, for money, for routines. To this we ask, what makes those things so necessary? It seems those things are at least less necessary for us than for most, as we are, for whatever reasons, more comfortable than most with having less, with giving in to chaos, and with challenging so many of the arbitrary conventions our society disguises as obvious truths. The supposed guarantees of capitalism, routines, and isolation are not on par with gravity.

This exploration is both something we want to do and something we think is right. This may indeed be a rare convergence of those two things, desires and convictions, but for us these things have come together quite well, both as individuals and conjointly. Our friend Zach Peckham has a song that says something to the effect of, “I don’t believe that you can be anything you set your mind to, but I do think you are the only authority on your own life.” That sums it up pretty well for us too.

Ultimately, we know we have the capacity to have an impact on our world. Actually, it’s unavoidable. (All actions have consequences, inaction is action, and all that.) We all have a responsibility to one another. We feel that this responsibility exists to an even greater degree for people like us, given our relatively privileged roles and our personal tendencies toward intellectualism and activism. A world built on exploitation can only succeed at perpetuating an unjust, prejudicial, and damaging status quo for as long as we remain ignorant of others and the many ways in which we are so constantly and significantly tied to those people.

We may indeed find that our future selves will better serve the world in some different way. Until that moment arrives this will be a learning experience, and a shared experience, that hopefully leads us to an even better understanding of the world and how we can best live as part of it.

So yeah, we aim to contribute as wholly as possible to the happiness of humanity. This includes not forgetting that we are a part of humanity, and that our own happiness is as valuable as anyone else’s. This adventure, done in this way, seems to us at this time to be the best means of accomplishing that end. And it’s certainly refreshing to live lives in which, moment by moment, our means and our ends look an awful lot alike.