Wednesday, March 07, 2007

When I Grow Up

I'm 32 years old. And looking back to when the question started being asked of me of, "What do you want to do when you grow up?" My answer would've been that I want to help people escape from our cultural prison*. And to help me make my case I would've dug up these question and answers with Ran Prieur.

1.Question: Dropping out is elitist because not everyone can do it.

Ran Prieur: People who make this criticism are failing to grasp the basic situation. This society is a prison. If we're all in prison, and you have a chance to escape, do you refuse on the grounds that not everyone can escape? If you find yourself in an unusually thin-walled cell with good digging tools, you have a moral obligation to escape -- and then to come back and help others escape. That's the key, and the difference between what I call "dropouts" and the elite. The elite don't want us to be free because they depend on our enslavement. I never stop fighting to get people free even when it goes against my shallowest interests. I want my friends to quit their jobs, even though they'll have to move out of their places where I now sleep free on the couch. Life will get more challenging but I'll have closer allies.

2. Question: Isn't it hypocritical, or contradictory, to use the resources of a society you despise?

Ran Prieur: No. What's wrong with taking advantage of something you despise? If you were in a prison camp, would it be hypocritical or contradictory to steal food from the guards? To find ways to avoid forced labor but still eat? If you're Frodo in Mordor, do you refuse to disguise yourself in an orc's uniform because orcs are bad?We are in Mordor. We are in a big prison camp[*] that's very subtle. As I said in the essay: it's not about being pure or avoiding guilt -- it's about getting free. If you're a swallow, living in the woods, and they cut down your beloved woods and put up a bunch of barns, what do you do? You live in a barn! Scavenging is a temporary tactic, an adaptation to this wasteful society. When we can't scavenge, we'll adapt in other ways, surf whatever wave keeps us free.

3. Question: Hey, you preach about separating from the system, but you're on the internet!

Ran Prieur:See the swallow metaphor above. The reason to avoid connections to the system is to maintain autonomy, not to avoid guilt. So I'll use any by-product or resource I can, as long as there few or no strings attached. I'll especially use a resource like the internet, a powerful tool to find allies and to transform human consciousness. As William Kötke says, not only is it OK to use the resources of the present system to build the next one, ideally all its resources would be used that way.For me, the point of dropping out is not just to selfishly escape while others are still suffering. The point is to get myself in a position from which I can fight better and build the foundation for a society where everyone's free. This world is full of people with the skills and knowledge to build paradise, but they can't even begin, because they would lose their jobs. The less money you need, the more powerful you become.

*Daniel Quinn talks a lot about our cultural prison in his trilogy of: Ishmael, My Ishmael and The Story of B.

*To learn more about why Ran is calling our society a prison camp, I would recommend reading The Culture of Make Believe, by Derrick Jensen. This book will forever change the way you see this system that we are a part of.

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