The Wealth of Nations

Posted June 2nd, 2009 by Tyson and filed in Issue 6: Community
Tags:

Community has been the way of life for all humans on this planet since the dawn of our species. Communities existed by necessity and survived by shared values. But the defining social problem of the past 150 years is that improvements in transportation have eliminated the necessity of strong communities while developments in communication have radically altered or disposed of shared values.

In a free-market system, these technological improvements have been driven by profit motive and exploited with little concern for social consequences. For an image, consider how in the U.S. everyone drives a car and freight is shipped by truck, as opposed to a reliance on highly efficient rail systems. And of course communication rests in the vice grip of advertising and can never be relinquished (which reminds me oddly of a scripture that named Satan the Prince of the Powers of the Air).

We’re more interested in the technology of the future than the sociology of the future, because the money’s in the technology. So as we busily slam together disparate societies in the interest of prosperity, the master society is downgrading those cultural elements that are incoherent to the whole and in the process marginalizing the devotees of those relics. The nice olde-tymie name for this is the Melting Pot, but we should probably call it Cultural Imperialism, or McWorld, because the synthesis is of such questionable value; the majority pay lip service to the traditions and beliefs of the past while embracing the popular lifestyle, (which is whatever is sold to them through the common avenues of communication), and are more or less satisfied with the status quo, while the think-for-themselvers think for themselves, subject to the infinite permutations of values, and find difficulty cooperating.

Thus, those of us who are dissatisfied with our current social arrangement and long for community find that the deck is stacked against authentic, functional, interdependent communities¬† (i.e. zoning, legality, and the sheer difficulty of getting people to live and work together outside of the conventional structure), while anyone who’s bought into the system won’t even see the point.

So, unfortunately, I don’t foresee any large-scale reemergence of strong communities around here until the grander forms of cooperation become too impractical, which won’t be until transportation and communication become too costly or dangerous. This is to say, nothing will change until necessity forces our hands.

At this point the byzantine absurdity of our financial system and our international economic interdependence should clue us in that the Wealth of Nations is kind of imaginary, in which case we might not have to wait too long until we are forced to organize ourselves into self-sufficient communities once more. And if, perhaps, that’s not so good, maybe it won’t be so bad either.

2 Responses to “The Wealth of Nations”

  1. JesseNo Gravatar says:

    If you haven ‘t already, read The Geography of Nowhere and Home from Nowhere, both by James Howard Kuntsler. He very eloquently lays out a theory that meshes with yours very well, basically put – it’s the cars fault for creating the suburb. Now read the books to fill in the facts!

  2. Joe GuzardoNo Gravatar says:

    I do agree with the case in point that the powers that be have different motives than what we may percieve as our own. But I do believe that their power comes from only one source and that is from us. The only reason there are “laws” and rules that we now disagree with is because we relinquinshed our power to them. There will be self-sufficient communities if we so choose it. Maybe it starts in not so desirable areas where there is less interaction “community” leaders. Somewhere out west. If it is something we want it can be done.
    We can sit and point fingers at every govt and corporate institution around us and die not realizing we have the power, or we choose as individuals to be different, live different and live in harmony with ourselves. And only through living our lives in positive harmony will others see it as a feasable choice and then choose for themselves to change they way they live.