From time to time my mind turns to a difficult idea. A.R. Orage called it The Fear of Leisure. In a speech by that name Orage said of the prospect of an increasingly leisured society, ‘Douglas can prove that it is possible; you have to make it desirable.1’
This sounds harder than you think. If you ask around you will see that there is a fair bit of support for work as an idea. In fact it is thrown around as a sort of cure-all. What’s wrong with the kids? They don’t wanna work. Why is the countryside emptying out? No work. Why should we vote for so-and- so? They’ll create jobs. Why are taxes so high? Because there are too many people who won’t/don’t work. What’s the purpose of education? To get a good job. Why do they wear slippers to the shops? Because they don’t work. How do we raise Aboriginal standards of living? Get them work. Why should we risk the purity of the water under the richest soil in Australia? For jobs. People I know say they can’t think what they would do with themselves if they weren’t working, which is perhaps why they proceed to bury themselves in debt to make sure they are contractually obligated to a long future of work. Unfortunately they don’t flesh out their enthusiasm with many details. Like what sort of work should all these people do. ‘Get em working!’ – the social panacea of the unthinking.
This week I was flicking through a nearly one thousand page catalogue of synthetic educational aids for children. As far as I am aware education is not contingent upon the availability of multi-coloured plastic things. But it does employ the plastic people, the catalogue people, the makers of machines, the makers of machines that make machines, the builders of industrial areas to put the machines in, the slab pourers, the ladies in the food trucks that sell pies to the crews, the shippers and warehouse people, the designers and on and on. The output of this vast enterprise is hardly justifiable unless we subscribe to the doctrine of work.
When we come to our senses and realise that most work that is done shouldn’t be done and, acting on this realisation, we remake the financial system so we can cease to do it, we shall have to embark on the psychological transition from the present state of wage slavery onto the next step of expanding leisure. If we are to evolve then we must confront our fear of it. Here I suggest a type of grey area between work and leisure which will get us to work as free men and women and put the minds of the moral toilers at ease.
But first the discussion needs to be contextualised. A look at the historical roots of the industrial revolution provides some insight as to why our economic system has taken shape in the way that it has. Much of the theory and experimental work for the inventions that typically define this period were around long before the revolution itself. It was a different force that caused the shift:
In themselves inventions are passive, many of the most important having lain dormant for centuries waiting for a sufficient store of force to have accumulated to set them working. That store must always take the shape of money, and money not hoarded but in motion.2
Adams explains the attribute of money that gives it its flexibility and the particular event that led to an increase in England’s credit stock:
In other words capital may be considered as stored energy; but most of this energy flows in fixed channels, money alone is capable of being transmuted immediately into any form of activity. Therefore the influx of Indian treasure, by adding considerably to the nation’s cash capital, not only increased its stock of energy, but added much to its flexibility and the rapidity of its movement.’
This increase in credit gave to those that had the initiative and the means of borrowing the opportunity to enlist labour and energy to their singular purposes, whether textiles manufacture, coal mining, agriculture or whatever, and to utilise the inventions which are often thought of as the cause of the revolution. Vast fortunes were amassed and reinvested into improving production methods and processes, transportation and reducing costs of production the benefits of which were funnelled to the capitalist.
At the same time a revolution took place in the countryside. The yeomen were forced off the land as a result of technological advances in agriculture, an increasingly money orientated-economy and a variety of financial tricks inflicted on them in the name of factory-style progress:
Between 1710 and 1760 only 335,000 acres of the commons were absorbed; between 1760 and 1843, nearly 7,000,000. In eighty years the yeomanry became extinct. Many of these small farmers migrated to the towns, where the stronger, like the ancestor of Sir Robert Peel, accumulated wealth in industry, the weaker sinking into factory hands.
This was the beginning of the end for the small integrative farm. With the land vacant the factory system was free to extend its range to farming. This process has been going on ever since, with mass rural migration occurring all over the 'developing' world. I read somewhere that 13,000,000 Chinese a year move from rural China into the cities looking for work. The industrial mentality has developed into a sort of global ideology that informs collective human behaviour. In this ideology people become labour, and the natural world, input. Cost is measured in units of currency and externalised where possible. The centralising, money-driven factory system, ‘the child of the industrial revolution’, is still the basis of our social organisation and it views everything as either resources or markets.
Digressively politics, economics, family and cultural life have been bent to suit the strictures of industry, and it is no good for anyone’s career to consider the fact that it is increasingly antagonistic to the whole. Centralised machine production is a sub-system bolted onto a much more powerful order of natural processes. It scoops in energy and matter to synthesise products that are sometimes useful but increasingly contribute to the deterioration and pollution of the environment. The problem is that this sort of economic activity has developed into a preoccupation complete with supporting psychological dogmas that include an obsession with work and the much-feted reward of consumption as the end of man. The basic postulation is that the limiting factor of human experience is material for sensory stimulation, the ultimate joy is consumption and the most we can hope for is work and money.
It may have been permissible in the past to think like this. But considering the mountains of surplus and what we know about the damage that expansion of this system must cause, it is no longer permissible to perpetuate it for its own sake. The economy must be recalibrated to satisfy the needs of people, not as a machine for keeping them fully employed and buying things. Demand is fine but putting our best minds to work artificially stimulating demand for junk is doing a good deal of collateral damage. Mckenna says ‘if we don’t substitute something for consumer values then we’re just going to rape the earth in an effort to create crap for everybody.3’ This crap project is well underway. The intention of growth is to expand it to the crapless masses under the guise of ‘combatting poverty’, which is a euphemism for extending the catchment of centralised finance.
What then is the alternative? Man has got to consider himself a part of the larger system, an entity through which powerful natural processes flow and, vitally, his methods of provisioning himself must reflect this consideration. The natural world displays a superlative tendency toward variety and abundance of life and it is obvious that the well-being of all life is relative to the abundance and variety of life around it. Therefore, in general terms, the projects of the future should be to apply what we know to increase the abundance and variety of life.
Mechanical production does not, at present, contribute much to this solution; it is essentially dead, and subject to the inexorable force of entropy. It appears as though our social organisation, informed by economic models that begin with the assumption of scarcity, is in decline to similar forces. The fixation with the narrow corner of the factory system is progressively isolating people from the living processes which truly sustain us, body and soul. There exists a natural production system that could incorporate mechanical technique to achieve a life-focused economy. We must broaden our view to the great provider not dependent on centralisation and machinery. Lovel explains this force:
During Steiner’s time science was deeply enthralled with the belief that all dynamic systems ran down and lost their available energy. Never mind that this concept – entropy – failed to explain how living things grow and reproduce. The opposite of entropy – syntopy – is where living processes build up energy and complexity within their limits, much as a summer thundershower does.4
As an example consider the associations and energy exchanges grouped around a tree. Mollison writes:
Like all living things, a tree has shed its weight many times over to earth and air, and has built much of the soil it stands in. Not only the crown, but also the roots, die and shed their wastes to earth. The living tree stands in a zone of decomposition, much of it transferred, reborn, transported, or reincarnated into grasses, bacteria, fungus, insect life, birds and mammals.5
These micro relationships directly affect larger systems. For example, people should know of the relationship between trees and weather. A single tree can present 16 hectares of transpiring leaf surface area to the atmosphere and pump thousands of litres of water per day to form new clouds. One can only imagine the power of whole forests to generate rain. In a country like ours we should think carefully about how ‘drought in one area may relate directly to deforestation in an upwind direction.5’ You don’t beat nature.
The generative and regenerative potential of syntropy cannot be overstated. It means the possibility of providing for people without damaging the natural world. We can provide needed food, fuel and fibre and build soils, increase water in cycle, biomass and variety of life in nearly every environment people inhabit. Mollison claims that the food requirements of cities could be met from the waste space within them. Instead these spaces are abandoned blocks or given over to a completely unproductive, chemical and machinery intense lawn project – the costliest agricultural programme in the world.
The harnessing of energy to run machinery to do work is clever, but the use of knowledge to release natural energy by assisting syntropic associations is wise. The cornering for ourselves a niche in the marketplace from which we can compete for insufficient dollars is a precarious existence compared with the thoughtful application of what we know about the natural order to set ourselves in stable ecosystems that accumulate energy and complexity.
Presently the populace is directed by a central debt system that holds the land they live on so they can be coerced into all sorts of mad labour. Engineers apply their understanding to sluice fresh water into the sea, so the people can be charged through metered pipes. No fruit tree is ever planted in common space to avoid encroaching on the monopolies of the food giants. The most vital areas of the planet are being peddled to vogons* with factory finance mentalities and responsibilities to shareholders, in a global enclosure movement that makes what happened in England look like wiring up a chicken coop.
What if this policy of centralisation were reversed? What if the whole mortgage system was dismantled and people could realise they didn’t owe their lives to bankers and some nincompoop politician’s brain-dead idea of an economy? Imagine each citizen taking direct responsibility for themselves their families and their communities in matters of food and fuel. Imagine those engineers working to hold water in the landscape in small dams to irrigate gardens and fruit trees. Or the power of widespread building of earth banks (swales) on contour designed to intercept run-off, recharge ground water, irrigate mulch and fruit producing trees and gardens, combat erosion and rehabilitate soils. And local farming practices the world over supplemented with tried design ideas and the insights of the biosciences. As Geoff Lawton says in a food forest on Zaytuna Farm, ‘you need to realise how abundant the situation can be in a short amount of time.6’ Unlike the factory methods there is no toxic sink when we work with nature. Here, there is no isolated system declining irrevocably toward an interminable, entropic heat-death.
In this great life project we must acknowledge that people have a special role to play for the simple reason that we possess the consciousness required for the rapid assembly of information and material for grand life-building projects:
To enable a cultivated system to evolve towards a long-term stable state we can construct a system of mixed tree, shrub, and vegetable crop, utilising livestock to act as foragers, and carefully planning the succession of plants so that we receive short-, medium- and long- term benefits. Unlike the process of nature, however, we can place most of the elements of such a succession in one planting, so that the pioneers, ground covers, under-story species, tree legumes, herbage crop, mulch species, the long-term windbreak and the tree crop are all set out at once.5
The potential for human decision-making to bring together in a short time, what would take nature decades or centuries to assemble, is suggestive of what we should be putting our mind and energy to. That we can derive a living directly from this kind of economic activity further reassures me of its soundness as the basis of a general plan. I have titled this essay ‘a suggestion’ because I don’t believe in telling people what they ought to do with their lives. I feel there is altogether too much of this going on as it is, but most people wouldn’t require much encouragement to follow, in their own way, the path recommended. Gardening is a pastime of millions of industrial slaves as it is. The reforms that see people secure on their land with the time to study, observe, think, design and work would be all that is required to encourage a natural proclivity in most.
Setting people free on their land might create some real opportunities. Firstly, it would go a long way toward neutralising the effects of centralised control. Secondly, it would grow and strengthen communities as people collaborate to solve practical problems and lastly, I expect it would bring many into much needed contact with real education. We have lost our way largely because we have confused education with training. A twelve year dose of school is all that is required to put most people off education for life. Ownership of property with the view to becoming self-reliant would give people a reason to engage with all sorts of information they might otherwise consider irrelevant. A working knowledge of biology, geology, mechanics, experimental science, history and chemistry among other topics would be required to achieve and maintain independence. Many might actually find education enjoyable and pursue it for its own sake. There seems to be a readiness to accept any sort of nonsense so long as it is broadcast from the right place. That is from above. This being the case it is easy for power to circulate all sorts of mainstream superstitions that don’t stack up to reason. Broad acceptance of the money system is an example. A growing understanding of the world motivated by the desire to place oneself properly in it, would be a bulwark to the ‘necessary illusions’ that makes illegitimate government possible.
If we are to induce people to the sort of activity described above they will require two things; land and time. People will not pour their creative attention into something they are not assured to receive the benefit from. Neither will they make a proper job of it in the hour or two before dark after they get home from the office. Furthermore, it is absolutely vital that those that occupy the land and rely on it for their livelihoods are the ones making decision about how best to manage it.
The total fiasco of communist agriculture and the developing one of factory agribusiness indicate the necessity of the human touch in farming, and the consequences of remote control of land. The health of land reflects the health of people, and we should think about what this simple idea has to do with the decline in health of those that have taken on, or had forced upon them, the homogenous glob of Western consumer culture and its diet. It is proper that local people make decisions about the care of land and its use. This means freehold ownership. Every site is a puzzle that requires careful thought and design and this cannot be done from corporate HQs in Hong Kong, London or New York. And don’t be tricked into thinking the paid minions of environmental ‘scientists’ whose salaries depend on the difference between the cost of extraction and delivery and the indexed price of crude, gas or sugar, are a guarantee of responsible management. Any claim by imperialist multinational firms that they can be trusted with land care or cleaning up their mess should be taken for a PR stunt, like government talking about freedom.
You might say that this cannot be done for this or that reason or that I am just sketching a utopia without possibility. Well to that I say that we live right now in a dystopia disjointed from reality. We are governed by a set of autocrats whose logic depends on abstract maths for its description. In the real world the negative doesn’t exist. You can have two apples but negative two apples is absurd and unimaginable. You can have a cow but describe for me a negative cow. The debt mirage is the essence of the government that oppresses us. The first battle to achieving a more reasonable method begins when we acknowledge the current one as unreasonable. The money that has shaped our arrangements since the industrial revolution can be moved in different ways by people with different intentions to generate a different arrangement. In a democracy the money power, and the wealth it represents belongs to the people, so it ought to be distributed to them not as an obligation to work but as a ticket to access wealth. It is pure delusion to say we have a democracy while our wealth is purloined by a banking system that insists we spend our lives in compulsive scratching for a living. This is the basic message of Social Credit economics. There is the real situation and there is the financial situation and they are not the same thing. The financial situation does not reflect the real situation as it is supposed to do. We are not going to be able to solve our real problems until we can see with clarity what they are. The lens of finance is distorting this vision. Chomsky says ‘Debt is not an economic problem. It’s a political problem. The debt is an ideological construction.7’ If you strip away all the complexity it’s simply the best way to put the masses in obligation to power. Take Greece. The question is who does Greece belong too? The people who live there or the international financiers who want to be able to say who gets what? That’s the real question. They have to hide it behind all sorts of deals and history and lingo because the obvious answer is Greece belongs to Greeks and therefore they ought to be in control of their property and receive the benefit of the Greek enterprise.
The challenge is one of achieving equilibrium, not increasing rpm. Crucially people must be free to enter into a give and take relation with the world to form for themselves a realistic conception of what is sustainable; a kind of partnership between human choice and nature. It’s pretty clear that we can’t continue to ignore the rules. I don’t underestimate the magnitude of the shift suggested here but ask yourself, do our ways come out on the side of life? ‘We still believe' De Sélincourt supposes, 'that men are bound by the necessity of obedience. The only point of debate is obedience to what?8’ Is our obedience due to some contrived machine driven by a money fetish or the powers of a life-generating nature and all that it implies? We need to decide, and proceed on the basis of the decision. When Social Crediters talk about real credit we are talking about real things; soil, air, sun and water combined with the knowledge of how to work with them. These things flow through everything on this planet and so it is intolerable and destructive that some should have and most should not. There is also a hope that in a freer society connected with the natural world people might rediscover the Spirit. But that is just a hope whose expression I'll gladly leave to sharper pencils.
Shortly before his death Douglas, while surveying the landscape near Aberfeldy in Scotland, is reported to have said :
'You know, T.J., I think the time is approaching when we shall have to challenge this monstrous and fantastic overgrowth of industrial expansion - fundamentally. Really, you know, I personally can see nothing particularly sinful about a small dynamo; but this thing we've got is past a joke. If it isn't a joke, it is Satanic.9'
* For an explanation of vogons see Wikipedia entry https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vogon
- Orage, A. R. 1936. The Fear of Leisure. Institute of Economic Democracy, Canada
- Adams, B. 1896. The Law of Civilisation and Decay: An Essay on History. The Macmillan Company, London.
- Mckenna, T. May, 1990. Terence Mckenna – “Nothing’s Wrong – Weekend Workshop. [Video film] Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgpYFpRdBx4
- Lovel, H. 2014. Quantum Agriculture: Biodynamics and Beyond. Quantum Agriculture Publishers, Georgia.
- Mollison, B. 1988. Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual. Tagari Publications, Tyalgum, NSW.
- Lawton, G. April 5, 2013. What if We Change – Perennial Paradise – Zaytuna Farm [Video Film] Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZDnKwHQBp8
- Chomsky, N. interviewed by Mendoca, M.L. 1999. Debt, Drugs and Democracy. Available from http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/19990312.htm
- De Selincourt, A. 1962. The World of Herodotus. Little Brown and Compant Ltd, Canada
- The Social Crediter, Editorial. Vol. 83 No. 8, Spring 2006. Available from http://www.socialcredit.com.au/The%20Social%20Crediter/Volume%2082/The%20Social%20Crediter%20Vol%2082%20No%208%20Spring%202006.pdf