Becoming an un-professional

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete"

Instead of protesting and demanding changes from our errant parents, we must initiate these changes ourselves. It is time for us to grow up. In doing so we step out from under those parents - the system that currently defines our relations for us -  and take control ourselves.

We all have skills to offer each other. We may, at the moment, only do this in the form of a professional relationship. In other words, we offer our skills and get paid for them. The professional relationship has its virtues, but also its limitations - limitations that are critical at this point in time.

A friendship-based contract (contact) is one that is free from these limitations. Instead of offering our services for a fee, we offer them for free.

Friendship-based relations could be a crucial way for us to transition away from the current system and towards something more healthy. Professional relationships have a certain tendency to them -  they take us in certain directions. They are infused with the logic of the current - dysfunctional - system, and so keep us within the old story.

The friendship-relationship is a space in which we are free to do what we want, in which we can redefine our relations and write a new story.

In concrete terms, we must find ways to offer our skills to each other for free. This will mean making sacrifices, something our generation must accept. These sacrifices may mean accepting a simpler lifestyle, a life without as many 'things' in it. It may mean foregoing certain luxuries, or novelties. Those generations that went before us were unwilling to make the sacrifices that were required of them, and so the baton is passed to us. Will we have the strength to do what they could not, or will we, once again, pass the burden downwards?

There is no way that we can transition to a more sustainable and healthy world without making sacrifices. Yet through sacrifice, as all wisdom will tell you, we grow as people... 

1. Get a skill. Choose something and specialise.

2. Establish yourself

3. Examine your lifestyle. Think about what your core necessities are and what can be sacrificed for the greater good.

4. Begin to offer your services for free. Devote a certain percentage of your professional time to community service. Offer your services on a non-professional friendship-oriented basis. Convert professional to non-professional: distance to friendship. Both parties are made aware of the arrangement.

5. Keep assessing your lifestyle. Continue to weigh up what you can sacrifice in order to convert more professional time to non-professional time.

6. Aim to pare things down to the minimum you need in order to sustain an acceptable lifestyle. As you make more changes to your lifestyle your idea of what is 'acceptable' will also change. Draw what you need from the system in order to support your lifestyle but otherwise aim to devote as much time and energy as possible to using your skills in a friendship-based gift-giving way.

The more each of us do this the more we - collectively - will move away from the system that separates us and the closer we will draw towards each other. In this way ties are reestablished, communities rebuilt.

Trust will resurface as a result of our non-professional relationships. From within the walls of professionalism, we can emerge into a new story.

Concentrate

One of the characteristic patterns of capitalism is of things getting concentrated into ever smaller spaces. Of things becoming more tightly packed. Of extremes.

Two examples:

- money and power is concentrated into fewer hands. With such a concentration of wealth and power, these people are then able to do things - extreme things -  that would not have been possible had wealth been distributed more evenly.

- people are concentrated into smaller spaces. They abandon the land, and flock together into relatively small spaces that we call cities.

Concentration leads to greater extremes. The more you gather separate things together into one entity, and the tighter you pack them, the more mass you create. The more you concentrate flavours, the more exaggerated is the affect on the tastebuds. The more you focus talent into one area, the greater are the potential products of that talent.

It is like taking a long-slow wave - with shallow troughs and peaks - and packing it into a very small space. Its troughs and peaks become much more exaggerated, but its duration, its lifespan, is significantly shortened.

Or imagine an athlete who trains so hard that they surpass all previous achievements in their field. Yet in doing so they wear their body out in a very short space of time. They burn brightly - brighter than anything thus far - yet the price for burning so brightly is to have their flame extinguished unusually quickly.

A high peak is always followed by a swift and steep descent. The brighter you burn, you shorter you shine: this is the eternal balance.

Through concentrating things we have made certain advances that would not have been possible otherwise. We have reached extremes that would have been unattainable if things were more evenly spread. These are the victories of capitalism. The 'advances' that its proponents point toward.

Capitalism is, amongst other things, a pattern of concentrating things in order to create extremes. The longer it continues, the more tightly things will be packed, and the more extreme these things will become. It is turning a beach full of sand into a few boulders of sandstone.

If you want to make sandstone then it is 'good'. If you want a beach full of sand then it is 'bad'. Each have their downsides and upsides. As ever, the critical factor - the thing that determines 'bad' and 'good' - is context.

In light of the current problems that face us as a species, we cannot afford to keep wanting a few boulders of sandstone. We must begin to think in terms of sand, and beaches.

Short term vs Long term

"Let's save the planet for future generations, for our children, and their children."

These appeals are all but useless in the current cultural climate.


The more we swing toward a short-term pragmatist/materialist mentality the less we value long-term considerations. Thus, the voice that urges us to think in the long term - that warns of future dangers - is a weak one. 'The future' is little more than an abstraction; we do not care about 'the future' because it does not exist here, now. We have swung so far towards short-term thinking, that 'the future' is losing its weight.

We can see this on an individual level. Many of us may have an addiction that we know is harming us in the long term, and that may have catastrophic effects on us in the future. Yet, because we can continue to indulge in the present without any immediate ill effects - because judgement day has not yet arrived - concern for our future has little affect on our present actions. The short-term outweighs the long-term. This kind of thinking is encouraged and reinforced by the wider culture. It urges us to indulge. 'Fuck it'.

If we do not care about our own future as individuals, then what hope have we of caring about our future as a species?
Who is going to be willing to fight the enormous battle against their addictions - a battle waged in the palpable here-and-now - for an abstract concept like 'future generations'?

Appeals that attempt to make us change our immediate actions by gesturing towards future danger - "the icecaps will melt", "your liver will give up" - are more or less redundant. These things must happen - we must hit rock bottom - before we are willing to change anything. Even then, an increasing amount of people would choose to continue along their dysfunctional path (keep their addiction) rather than change. They would, in some cases, choose annihilation over change.

Such is the power of the short-term in these times.

Sometimes in order to fight something we must take an indirect - and often counter-intuitive - route. Perhaps, then, to prevent the icecaps from melting, we must promote a long-term mentality. The pendulum must begin to swing in the opposite direction.  

The most critical battlefield in this regard may be culture.

We must stop transmitting messages that urge us to think short-term. We need people of influence (celebrities) who endorse long-term thinking. The voice of wisdom - the voice of the elder - must return to guide us, rather than the voice of the reckless youth.

Culture Addicts

In order to transition to a new paradigm we must be prepared to lessen our reliance on the current culture and  the things that it gives us to consume: films, sport, art, music, television. Inasmuch as  these things - in both a direct and indirect way -  prop up the current state of affairs, we must be prepared to move away from them.

One of the overriding affects of current popular culture is to reinforce the world as it is.

It allows us to go on thinking everything is okay, because culture is okay. 

And yet, in many ways, culture - this world that we lose ourselves within -  serves to keep us distracted from other things that are happening, outside of its borders.

Inasmuch as we are addicted to our cultural consumables, we must wean ourselves off them. When the addict is intoxicated they disappear into their own world, the world of intoxication. The outside world, with its problems and worries, disappears, if only momentarily.

One of the biggest imperatives of our time - in light of the challenges that currently face us as a species - is for us all to overcome our addictions. This includes our addiction to culture.