The Commons & Common Sense - mid-way book review

Charles Eisenstein's "Sacred Economics," continues to be an excellent read. It provided great thinking-backdrop during the perma-culture internship I join earlier this year, aiding to personalise and deepen for me the cultural shift taking place on our sweet globe. His words inspire and coordinate otherwise random bits of information from having mere subtle connections, into a pleasant, deeply sober, and obvious whole. 

I'm approaching the end, and, anticipating no disappointment, allow me to share some of my insights which I've been enjoying mulling over. 

Courtesy of Eisenstein, I've been thinking a lot about 'The Commons,' and I've made parallel to that, Common Sense. The Commons, foremost related to land; and since the inception of 'property,' whatever was once freely roamed upon becomes guarded, gated, and fenced; protected by law. Eisenstein very graciously demonstrates that once something becomes a privilege for one - person or entity - it turns into a place of lack for the rest. "Gated Communities," is a phrase which more correctly falls into a real estate lexicon than one of a cultural, person to person exchange. As the economy 'grows,' that is, diversifies its activities and areas it occupies, what is common to existence (land, songs, access to water and food) shrinks. 'Access,' here, is key: access to land being the obvious example, and access to our (collective) psyche being the subtle.

So looking now to our day to day thinking, once something is removed from the Commons, becoming someones possession, it is also distanced, if not removed, from common sense. We suddenly need "experts." We quite strangely loose confidence to take on any task other than the one our "speciality" gives us. If you've ever experienced something akin to, "oh the drain is plugged, I had best call a plumber" in a big sort of panic, I'd like to suggest that the underlying feeling is one of scarcity - as the solution is probably within the reach of a $20 wrench. As what is Common dissolves, the feeling of scarcity takes its place in our mind, and folks no longer seem able to think about that thing that has been removed from the commons as something that has ready access within themselves. That new 'found' possession, now 'belonging' to someone else, is lost unto our collective use. "Property," echoes Eisenstein, "is theft."

Though this does not make me very popular in various social settings, I do argue that this current recession is an exception to the otherwise 'normal' boom and bust 'growth' cycles which have defined our time over the last (drop-in-the-bucket) fifty years. Some call it the Greater Depression, and my intuition tells me to agree. Heartily. I believe we are entering such an era of renewed self-sufficiency, that our current version of economy truly does not have many legs left to throw plaster-casts and band-aids upon. I don't know what the picture is going to look like on the other side, but if natural disasters could speak, I'm sure they would happily regale in countless examples of communal troubles where people banded together. The degree to which a person can experience this shift toward greater self-sufficiency depends greatly upon where one is living. I would hasten to argue that it is much more difficult to see how vulnerable the situation is when a person is living in an urban setting: the walls carving up the commons are thick and high, I find, and generally well maintained from any encroaching plant life.

The upcoming set of troubles, are, however, human made; though earthquakes, volcanoes, and tornadoes continue to do their part. And this is why I agree to arguments which concentrate upon just how exceptional the contributing factors are in today's economic climate: The limits of paper currencies is becoming a widely published fact. As Voltaire said famously: "Paper currency always returns to its original value. That is, nothing."

But there are forces - including our own good will and worry - which can be highly stubborn to change, refusing to read the writing on the wall that exponential growth drawn from a finite resource base spells collapse: either for the thing growing, or the thing being drawn upon. It would be too easy to blame this all on government, or a secret tribe of stone masons, or corporations (who all do have a hand in this), but as anyone who has "worked for a living" is now clearly part of the story. 

a Charles Eisenstein site -
The balance points of power are the places to direct ones questions, I find. The competing expectations between the Baby-Boom, GenX, and GenY are very interesting - to say the least. What is common to everyone though, is the fact that when a person is given a social insurance number and a birth certificate, they are in the eyes of our institutions an economic unit, ready for training (that is, getting 'educated'). Economic units within a version of economy demanding in its policy of exponential growth can only do one thing: seek out new civilisations, new markets, and boldly go where no one has gone before. Put more simply: pass along new inroads into the commons for further and ready consumption: 'Without others consuming the thing I possess, I will not be able to meet my own needs' - so the story goes. And the boarders now are no longer just in the physical realm... Consumption has gone quantum: We think we are on track, and remove Common Sense from the Commons at an increasing pace.

I find human fear much like the hare who easily dashes ahead of its racing partner, the tortoise, whose movements in time bring out our fondness and yearning for the salve to human fear and arrogance: none other of course than human love. Which brings me with great relief to the subject of Mindfulness. 

I think Mindfulness has such an important role in creating a permanent culture as each our individual thinking marks the forefront of the 'crusade' for cultural (and inner) peace. Things move differently within our hearts than in our brains, but both organs are rooted to the movement of thought. It does not matter where I travel, nor how remote nor public a setting I find myself in: so long as the majority of people are subject to a currency whose growth depends upon increasing levels of indebtedness, the more deeply are wedges into our commonalities permitted to move: our Commons, our common sense, finds less ground to stand upon as it shifts apart below us, though in our nature we wish to live in accord with the preferred state of love and peace. 

Love, in this light, can simply refer to our ability to relax into each others' company; which is difficult to do when our currency is host to the inherent suggestion that our needs are separate. Truly: here I am out in the woods, and the human ego around here is just as panicked as it is at the heart of any downtown core: Just as panicked to meet its needs, in as deep a battle against the increasing and literal scarcity, impending doom breathing down the back of ones neck. And of course it is. It is a doozie of a collective situation, and there is no other place to 'hide' other than delusion: we are invited daily into a tea party for seven billion. Seven billion economic units scouring the planet to meet our 'individual' needs. A credit must be given to those practicing perma-culture, in that the preservation of food knowledge, of soil health, and efficient water usage is at the core of its intent.

Without planting the seeds of Mindfulness though, I find that the headlong race of consumption finds little rest or respite. ... And I suppose my question, still, is along these lines: What limit will be surpassed before we culturally act any differently, rediscovering and rebuilding the bridges between our needs and our nature? When will we find pause to listen? If this cannot take place on a mountainside acreage... if not now, then...?

To be continued :)