Saturday, July 19, 2014

Degrowth Solutions: Half-Farmer, Half-X

The Status Quo is terrified of a world devoid of debt-serf "middle class" consumers.

When people say they want solutions, they're actually seeking only a specific kind of solution, one that leaves everything they have now intact but guarantees them more of something: more security, more healthcare, more education, more money, etc.,but at no cost or inconvenience to themselves.

Anything that fits these parameters isn't a solution; it's magic. Magical thinking and magical fixes are endlessly appealing precisely because they don't require us to change anything or work at anything outside our comfort zone.

In the real world, solutions change core values and processes. If they don't, they're not real solutions. Fake fixes come in various types: cosmetic band-aids, alleviation of the symptoms while the disease continues unchecked, public-relations relabeling of the problem so it appears to go away via semantic trickery, and so on.

Real solutions tend to have two parts: changes in values and operational changes in habits and processes. For example, "protecting air quality" can only occur if the internalized values of the populace change so they value air quality enough to demand it, and if there are operational systems for making air quality happen in the real world: monitoring air quality, tracing sources of pollution, changing the processes that generate pollution, and so on.

This two-sided structure of solutions--values and operations--is scale invariant, meaning it works the same for individuals, households, neighborhoods, towns, cities, organizations, enterprises, nations and empires. Any solution that doesn't change both values and operations in fundamental ways is just another magic trick, a simulacrum solution.

It requires this context of values and operations to understand how half-farmer, half-X is a potential solution for an over-debted, dysfunctional Degrowth economy.Unsurprisingly, the concept originates in Japan, one of the nations farthest down theRoad of No Return of debt, political dysfunction and Degrowth.

I've covered various aspects of Degrowth in depth:

Degrowth, Anti-Consumerism and Peak Consumption (May 9, 2013)

The American Model of "Growth": Overbuilding and Poaching November 19, 2013

When Conventional Success Is No Longer Possible, Degrowth and the Black Market Beckon (February 7, 2014)

And the Next Big Thing Is ... Degrowth? (April 7, 2014)

What is "half-farmer, half-X?" A growing number of young Japanese people, according to Junko Edahiro, whose TEDx Tokyo talk on the "De" Generation (8 min) was submitted by longtime correspondent Zeus Y. in an email exchange resulting from my Musings Report 5, What's Behind the Erosion of Community?

And what is X? X is whatever else the person wants to do with their lives. This stands in stark contrast to the Corporate Japan script that has been the "program" for life in Japan since 1946: work crazily inhuman hours in complete devotion to the corporation or institution, sacrificing one's own life in the process.

We have plenty of friends in Japan and so we know this is still the operant model: the male breadwinner works six days a week, leaving early in the morning and returning late at night. In some cases, the 7th day is devoted to classes and study needed to advance the man's career within the institution.

It's up to each individual to solve for X. When I say, "solve for X," it isn't an algebraic problem, it's an expression of human freedom and choice: what interests you? What do you want to learn, pursue, master, share, create, enjoy?

Being half-farmer, half-X requires a very low-cost lifestyle--no middle-class luxuries here, except the one luxury the middle-class employees of Corporate Japan can never have: time.

Zeus made a number of excellent points in our email exchange, and I excerpt three here:

"The new price of entry is production, as I said in my book Transforming Economy: From Corrupted Capitalism to Connected CommunitiesIf you are a parasite of any stripe, you are dispensable.

Now the only thing that has to happen is for people who have grown dependent on a corrupt and unsustainable (and time-wasting) government, corporate, pop culture, bureaucratic world, to wake up and awaken their genius, contribution, and connection. That is happening as we speak on a largely invisible level.

Here's the deal between the two worlds right now: the Status Quo is dying but trying to take everything with it and the other is trying hold the old world up enough to avoid complete collapse, buy time, and construct the airplane of the new world, all while flying."

The conventional media and indeed, the entire Status Quo, is terrified of a world devoid of debt-serf "middle class" consumers who willingly support debt-based consumption via workaholic devotion to their job in the state/corporation, aspirational consumption, debt-serfdom and high earnings/taxes.

I discuss another solution/model in International Workers' Day (May 1) and the New Class: Mobile Creatives (May 1, 2014).

Compared to that indentured life, being half-farmer, half-X is quite appealing to those who value their time and life, for the one luxury reserved for the super-wealthy--time--is within reach of everyone who jettisons the "middle class" aspirations and lifestyle that mask the harsh reality of debt-serfdom.

This essay is drawn from Musings Report 6 (2014). The weekly Musings Reports are sent exclusively to subscribers ($5/month, or $50/annually). Further information can be found in the right sidebar.

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