“Makers”. Last night (yes, whole night) I had the pleasure of reading Cory Doctorow’s “Makers” sci-fi novel. My first novel in 14 years that I finished. Ok, I skimmed at times. But still. The great thing with inspiring novels like this is, they can create intense emotional impressions, and from reflecting on these, you learn a lot. Things you otherwise only learn by real-world experience. Here’s what I learned from “Makers”.

Cory Doctorow – Makers
(image by ben_oesteen on Flickr, licenced CC-BY 2.0)

The “ups and downs” theme. The novel’s main theme is the ups and downs, coming and going of all social and organizational development. In my words: Every empire starts with a kingdom, a kingdom with a chief of clan, a clan with just a household and somebody wanting to dominate. In the other direction, every empire ever built has also fallen apart. Rome disintegrated within decades in the third century.

Lifecycle, applied to grassroots movements. And here came the first key insight from “Makers” for me: this full cycle also applies to grassroots social structures. That’s a disappointing insight, but a true one. The novel illustrates it in two halves: for the rising half cycle, how these “ride” parks or museums agglomerated into coops and finally got associated with Disney, plus one of their creative brains bought by Disney. And for the decaying half cycle, how the Kodacell company, starting as a huge incorporated grassroots innovation network, fell apart completely in a wink. Let’s imagine a real-world example: the Open Source movement developed its own institutions by now, and these, over the course of decades or maybe centuries, will become so rigid and cold that a new movement will justifiably fight against them, and finally render them obsolete. (For me, socialized in “old school” Linux open source culture, it’s already weird to see how the thousands of young talented Android developers at XDA Developers have a near complete disregard for licencing: their full site and wiki does not mention what licence is applied to content and code.)

So is it all just a waste of our time? At this point we could argue that all this building, fighting against and rebuilding of society structures is a waste of resources. That we should rather invest to keep our social organization ever young and flexible. Indeed, a way to use your time more efficiently, by a tight bit. What you can’t argue is that maintaining great society structures is a lot of maintenance work. Even building completely new society structures from scratch is maintenance, in the bigger picture: you replace a failing part of global social organization.

Social change activism as maintenance. So, social activism is never going to be building a great society, once and for all. It’s always part of humanity’s “eternal” struggle to keep society in good shape, if necessary rebuilding it in a completely different way. Let this point sink in: activism is not building, engineering. It is maintaining.

Activists, relax. This also means that activists can all relax a bit: the fate of the world does not depend on their proper invention and construction of society, because society will have to be rebuilt again many times in the centuries to come. This should help activists to know their fair share of maintenance work to contribute, but to also know that “more does not make it better”. The big thing, society, will fail again anyways, just like it always has, and generations afterwards will have to build it again. Sure, one generation (like after-war) has a bigger way to influence how a society is built, a bigger workload, a bigger responsibility. But even they should not forget that what they do is the necessary maintenance of a constantly deteriorating and failing organism.

There’s more to life than activism. So let’s not forget that there’s more to life than fixing the fabric of society. What? It’s also in Doctorow’s book. The two things the protagonists of “Makers” did not regret were (1) doing what they like to do, like hacking and inventing stuff, and (2) investing in good personal relationships. Because, just like society, relationships need maintenance to be and stay enjoyable: they are also subject to these ups and downs, and you see how every relationship in the book is at least once on the brink of being destroyesd, and a lot of them are.

The danger of failing to relax. And there’s one special danger for personal relationships, exemplified in a sad twist in the epilogue. Revealing the only lack in character of the most glorious and brilliant woman in the book (which is, of course, Hilda). She took up her activist fighting again so hard to lose the beautiful relationship to Jerry over that. That annoyed me so hard that I changed around the end for me (it’s a CC-BY-SA book after all). But Mr. Doctorow has a point with that sad twist: society maintenance is infinite work after all, necessary, but not fulfilling after seeing its Sisyphus character. So better limit yourself to your fair share of maintenance and enjoy your mate. Somebody should’ve explained that to Hilda in time …

I guess I should change around the “Makers” ending again: rather than letting Hilda and Jerry just stick together happily ever after, I will now go for adding a few more pages where Hilda has learned her lesson. She’s smart enough, after all 🙂 And with that lesson learned, there’s indeed such a thing as permanent love, not to be destroyed by the rather unimportant coming and going of good state of the surrounding society.

Life is more than fighting something bad. Life is also about enjoying something good!

“But now faith, hope, and love remain—these three. The greatest of these is love.”

[The Bible, I Cor 13:13]

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You might have realized my increased interest in resilient communities and all the autarkic technology that they need. Why is this? Of course it is a viable (any my personal) answer to the current financial crisis and generally to the dangers of globalization. But it is also more. Here is a wild and quite unordered list of reasons why I like the “autarkic resilient community” idea:

  • Earning bread, not money. Autarky is about, I want to earn my own bread, not money. That’s the most free style of working, when you create what you need, being neither dependent on others for creating nor consuming. With money, you depend on others for that both.
  • Leaving personal exploitation. It is also my personal way and tool to get out of exploitable dependencies. Totally out. It is the hard-hitting, full-scale, quite extreme solution to that problem. After I met with exploitation in various ways in my few years of adult experience, I do no longer want anybody to do anything like that to me. In effect this means, I do not want anybody “above” or “below” in any kind of hierarchy, as all these relationships can draw resources to the degree of exploitation. The “theoretical optimum” would be personal autarky, with the ability to help all the people around (which would also meet ones social needs). However, this is technically impossible, and still quite lonely: the feeling of being cared for is actually also a good experience. So interdependence is o.k. and desirable, where this means peer-to-peer relationships where no partner can (or will) exploit the other. Like the people within one resilient community, who are able to trust each other. And also like multiple resilient communities, supporting each other, but being fully able to immediately stand on their own if there is the need for it.
    I must admit that this solution to cope with unrighteousness (esp. exploitation, see above) is not really a solution: it is just avoiding to meet with unrighteousness. This is because I see no meaning in coping with or fighting unrighteousness, because it should simply not exist. Being able to successfully fight against unrighteousness is a qualification one would not need in the “ideal world”, so there is better stuff to learn. But that is my view of things. Also, I still think that one should be able to clearly communicate to people that what they do is unrighteous, so that they have a chance to repent and undo what they did; but investing more energy and resources to actually fight back is beyond what I think is meaningful. Instead of that, I better want to invest my energy and resources into developing a parallel, resilient “new world”, where righteousness lives. (To be clear: this is not blasphemy, it is irony. Righteousness lives with God in Heaven alone, but in a very limited sense one could apply it to resilient communities that are able to exclude unrighteousness by reorganizing themselves, through resilience.)
  • A give-based society. This is another personal reason for this autarky thing: I tried to live “according to the moral standards of the New Testament” in my life up to now, which is in essence: to love your neighbor as you love yourself. But it did not work out: “the system” exploited my graciousness, just as people exploit the grace of God. Because “the system” is all about taking, while NT is all about giving; both systems work (and the NT system is much more pleasure to live in), but not if they do mix with each other (then the NT part is worst of all). Which means, God has to find a place for me now … as I still hate the “taking-based system” of capital / wealth / rights aggregation in economic and personal life, and love the “NT system”, the NT standard of love, but find it impossible to live it out in a world of exploitation and hard, exploiting competition. I think the autarkic community thing can be that kind of place for me.
  • Exploitation-free society. I do not exploit, so I do not want to be exploited. It’s akin to anarchism. As people and institutions are unwilling to respect that, I will move out of all their systems. That’s the background of autarkic communities. Among the expolitation-prone relationships to replace are: institutionalized health insurance; the whole “free market economy” thing where every contract is basically exploitable by the other party; large nation states with all their inefficiency and very limited participation options in parliamentary democracy; intellectual property industries; landlords; commercial products; and so on, and so on.
  • The philantropic component. Ah, and yet another thing. Though I have to admit a deep frustration about the “state of the world” and esp. about the business world, and though I seek total independence from peple now, my philantropic, visionary strain did not vanish. This autarky project is not just about autarky for myself, but at the same time about inventing and providing the necessary tools to everybody, so that people can start their own autarky from scratch.
  • A Robinsonade. Still another thing: It is quite interesting that my enthusiasm about autarky started already in my childhood, me writing the story “Primitive Lage” (primitive state) at the age of 12-14 (?), which was kind of a Robinsonade.
  • Against the moral dilemma of inhumane globalized production. And again, another reason: autarky solves the moral dilemma of globalization, namely, that it is not meaningfully possible (except perhaps for the rich) to not buy all the products that have been produced in inhumane conditions somewhere overseas.
  • Ad-free society. And still another advantage: in autarky-based economy, advertisement is unnecessary. Which will add to the efficiency and profitability of this mode of economy, as advertising is simply waste of resources (time, money, energy … everything). Because it is a pull-based economy: people search for the design they need, and then produce it themselves.
  • On not needing large systems. Autarky-based economy and autarky-based society is the discovery that any large-scale system (political, economic, technical) is unnecessary. Which introduces simplicity, as all these large-scale systems are unmanageable, or nearly that, and a good percentage of the population is busy with steering them (using statistics, controlling, business administration, politics and the like). People in the autarky movement have the right to be no longer interested in steering large-scale systems, and to not search for solutions to their problems (“the global problems”).
  • Solving over-population. In autarky-based society, there is not even a problem of global over-population, because of the following emergence: an autarky community will take care to get no bigger in numbers than the amount of people it can feed sustainably (and also in times of crop failure).
  • It’s about small-scale socialism. Autarky-based communities are actually socialism. But small-scale, and that makes the difference. Large-scale socialism cannot work because there is a large free rider and inefficiency problem: large systems are hierarchical, and those higher in hierarchy can always be free riders, as those below have no influence options and also there are no market forces that hinder managers from being too much of a free rider. In small-scale socialism however, every inefficiency and free riding hurts everybody, and as there is no need for hierarchy, there can be effective governance to tackle inefficiency and free riding.
  • It’s Marx minus utopies. The Marxist interpretation of this new autarky movement would probably be that the means of production are now returned to the hands of the people. But contrary to Marx, whose image of humanity was flawed by optimistic utopism, the autarky movement includes precautions to be resilient against the inherent evil of the human being: the means of production are not returned “to the people” as a whole, but to small communities who use them only for themselves (with very limited external trade). Without a central market and central governance, there can be no centralized exploitation (as in real socialism), autarky communities can only fall one at a time. There is no point in using the means of production in any centralized (large scale) way, as this just elicits centralism and centralized exploitation again.
  • Against institutionalized politics. The governance of an autarky community is the governance of a small-scale society: one needs to employ principles learned in friendships, marriage, partnerships, tribes and villages; not those form any kind of larger society where any degree of anonymity exists. Because the examples of small-scale societies mentioned before can be stable, by our experience, so can be the autarky community. And yet: autarkic communities (at least the ones with software governance) are the grassroots approach to pose an end to the system of “politics”. Where the definition of politics is that it is about power: about getting ones chosen way done, not about choosing the right or best way. Only in small-scale entities, where problems are small-scale and therefore understandable and solvable, opinions and therefore politics can be avoided. So it should be done in these small-scale autarkic communities.
  • A mistrust against centralized systems. Main reason for establishing an autarkic community is because I do not trust any centralized systemt to be able to create and maintain adequate living conditions for people.
  • Liberal or social? By the way, is the concept of autarkic communities a (neo-)liberalist or a socialist idea? None of it, and both of it. It is totally liberalist regarding its relation to the state, by not needing the state for anything any more (dear state, if you read this: this does not mean that I intend to do anything against the state; it’s just not needed). And it is totally socialist regarding its inner relations, by needing the other members of the community for everything, by implementing “small-scale communism” within such a group. It seems that the sum of liberalism and socialism in any culture has to be the same for the culture to work; but the distribution can be chosen. So either the “public society” can be mainly socialist, allowing the “private life” to be liberalist / individualistic. Or vice versa (as in the case of autarkic communities). Or a mixed variants in various degrees (as in the case of most Western societies).
  • Biblical support? By forcing things a little, one can even find Biblical support for the autarky / autarkic community idea:  Rom 13:8; I Thess 4:10-12; Acts 2:44-45.
  • Easier to build and maintain than a state. More reasons why to prefer the autarkic lawless system to the large-state law system: it needs less effort to build, while it needs a large movement to change a state, and a large movement to keep it in order, means one community cannot guarantee it. Whenever you cannot maintain or uphold something, you need to let it down because it is a waste of resources. Means you need to let down society with all its problems and questions to go managing the small community, which is manageable.
  • It’s simpler in small societies. Things that will no longer be necessary when moving to autarky-based economy include: Customs duty, and all entailed administration. Because autarkic economy has the intrinsic motivation to not buy essential goods, there is no danger to come into unhealthy dependencies by trade (which just adds luxury items), so trade needs not be regulated.
  • Work as fun and fulfilling. It is true (esp. in the first time) that there is much less luxury and leisure time in an autarkic community. There would be also no commercial entertainment available like videos and music (apart from the vast amount of cost-free stuff on the Internet). And also, people will have to work more. All this is no problem, however, as work is fun and meaningful and fulfilling now. There is simply no need for entertainment, leisure time and luxury if people like their work, think it is meaningful and have enough social fun in an unstressed working condition as to not need leisure time or entertainment. People will value their work to be meaningful because they do create the essential things for themselves, and help the world to do the same – while work for luxury and pseudo-products (like McDonalds food …) is not meaningful because it is avoidable.
    If you want a book to look up more on this: Jerry Mander (Ed.), Edward Goldsmith (Ed.): The Case Against the Global Economy: And for a Turn Toward the Local [here on Amazon]. There is also an excerpt chapter on Indian local economy (swadeshi).
  • The right to use ones full potential. In my view, the “right to use ones full potential, for the good of oneself and of all” should be a fundamental right in society. But it is not, because the unemployed people are not allowed to use their full potential, as no corresponding counter-value is offered to them (by means of a job, or other means) that would allow them to use their potential for the good of theirselves. They could, however, use their potential for volunteering, for the good of all; but a part of the fundamental right proposed above is also to use ones potential for oneself. Because if volunteering is the only option, it is not voluntary, it is collective slavery.
    Now there is no such right in Germany: GG Art. 2 (1) allows to use ones full potential if it does not hurt the “rights of others”, and others have the right to not offer somebody a job – which is the problem of the unemployed. GG Art. 12 (1) allows to choose ones job freely; but does not guarantee the option to choose.
    GG Art. 2 (1): Jeder hat das Recht auf die freie Entfaltung seiner Persönlichkeit, soweit er nicht die Rechte anderer verletzt und nicht gegen die verfassungsmäßige Ordnung oder das Sittengesetz verstößt.
    GG Art. 12 (1): Alle Deutschen haben das Recht, Beruf, Arbeitsplatz und Ausbildungsstätte frei zu wählen.
    Now, what would an autarkic community improve here: by being autarkic (independent of the job market), it allows everybody to use his / her potential, for the good of theirselves and others. Society should at least guarantee to found autarkic communities for the unemployed, so that they can use their time and power to their potential. There are “education” and “occupation” programs for the unemployed, but these are currently just “1 EUR jobs”, which is far from a counter-value for using the “full potential” of time and power.
  • Replacing bad rules. This society has “bad rules”, so I do not want to get socialized into it, instead I want to found my own. The bad rules are the excessive protection of properties by the forces of the state: while the rich get richer, the poor not even get something to help themselves out of being poor. They get subsistence fees. But let’s not miss the exceptions where the state indeed tries to help people realize their full potential, like the EXIST program.
  • The advantage of deliberate societies. Autarkic societies are about deliberate societies: the thesis is that a society that can select its members will work better than one that needs to include everybody just because he / she got born there. This is not about elitism, but about being able to abandon people who do not obey the “social contract” of a society.
  • Eliminating resource conversion friction loss. Also, autarkic community is about eliminating the huge amount of loss (“friction loss”) that happens both when converting personal resources (knowledge, qualifications, tools and time) into money, and money back into personal resources (products and services obtained). This loss is due to many reasons: the state captures near 50% of resources in one full such cycle; there is maximized commercial gain of the supplier parties involved; one might not be happy enough to have customers whi pay good in timely fashion, or even can pay good; and one might not even be happy enough to be able to convert ones resources to money at all (called unemployment, which is a problem in the socioeconomic system, not a necessity of the physical world). In addition, the rich and powerful people succeed to make this system work at a surplus for them, even increasing the loss that the other contributors have to bear in this resource-to-money-and-back cycle, and leading to unhealthy concentrations of power and money.
  • Post-scarcity economics. When it comes to autarkic / sovereign / resilient communities, people often talk about “post scarcity” economy. This does not mean to exploit nature (or fellow humans) even more so that one personally has no scarcity any longer; as this is what people try nowadays, and it creates all sorts of wars and problems. Post-scarcity is about adapting ones choice and use of resources so that the supply is abundant relative to ones use. Then, people can stop fighting against nature and fellow creatures, because there is nothing any more to struggle about. The choice of resources to use would then include all the abundant and the renewable resources of nature: water, air, soil (silicium), aluminium, sun energy, wind, wood, … . Behind the open design idea is the conviction that humanity is depraved of much potential well-being because institutions keep back their designs as secrets, instead of publishing them for all to see and use. read more on that “scarcity economics” background of capitalism.

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” — Robert A. Heinlein

They said, the generalist is gone. We say, the generalist is yet to come. The generalism of the pre-industrial age was no real one, as the world knowledge was quite limited. Now that world knowledge is larger, it becomes clearer what a true generalist might be like. And now that we have computers, it becomes clearer that this is feasible. It is not about knowing everything at every moment and being able to do everything at every moment, as this is physically impossible. But it is about having computers with free software at ones disposal, which serve like a “brain extension”, and to have all the qualifications that are needed to aquire new computer-mediated knowledge and abilities in very short time. These “meta qualifications” were named previously “to know where it is written”, but now this includes also technology use that potentiates abilities. This stuff is the only necessary stuff to be taught in school, instead of factural knowledge. If the “meta qualifications” could be a limited set, and the free software that serves as brain extensions could be comprehensive and well-standardized, that would be great.

Examples: There is no need to be able to draw 3D things by hand, as this ability can be “crystallized” in 3D software. There is just the need to be able to operate 3D software. Likewise with calculations, orthography etc.. However, what also must be included, is the ability to quickly “drill down” and understand and perhaps adapt individual calculations done in the software etc.; being a dumb operator is not being a generalist. But being a “universal scientist, artist, social worker and handicraftsman” is.

People’s all-time favorite spare time activity is socializing; either in reality (bars and clubs and homes) or in virtual reality (Facebook, MySpace, …). Now many nerds and geeks, like me, have a problem with that: it’s idle, nonsense activity, just about joking and being cool (if not drinking), but without any substance. It’s non-creative.

Here’s the solution: the hackerspace. By definition, a hackerspace is a common facility for all sorts of hacking, something like a third place (the Ray Oldenburg term) for hackers.

But what caught me is the “feel” of it. It’s very close to that of my imagined power community.

NYC Resistor hackerspace in action
NYC Resistor hackerspace in action

The image above is from a stylish Radar nineteen video about MakerBot. Remember, it’s the Open Source 3D printer I blogged about before. Now the about text of that video tells us that “Makerbot came out of NYC Resistor, a hackers collective offering shared knowledge and camaraderie.” Now what is that? And when watching the video linked above, catch the feeling of the hackerspace: nerd-friendly atmosphere, plenty of resources and intelligent people, freedom to create anything you want. Be sure to also watch this video of a Norway fab lab, with the same spirit but even longer. Wow! I am deeply impressed that this world hosts something like a geek community. I marvel at it and I’m happy that this world hosts more than just the scarcity that I experience currently. And even … this stuff is so close to my own community ideals for the “power community” 😉

(Note: This image is a screenshot of a super stylish video about the MakerBot, and is permissible as a small image quotation under Fair Use of Copyright; since MakerBot Industries is based in New York City.)

And it gets even better:

  • Wikipedia gives us a lot of background information on the hackerspace.
  • Wikipedia article on NYC Resistor.
  • There is hackerspaces.org, a global website about hackerspaces, including a global list.
  • And according to that list, there are even some hackerspaces next to where I live and want to live.
  • And there’s a blueprint: Jens Ohlig: Building a Hacker Space.
  • They are reported to offer a broad sense of community, also internationally: when you are a member of a hacker space, you are a member of the worldwide hacker space, wherever you go.
  • There is MAKE magazine, a DIY lecture for hackers (but not overly cool or challenging).
  • There is a market for geeks to sell stuff they make: makermarket.com. And of course to buy other’s. Not yet that cool items on it, but this might develop.
  • Yea, and there are women in hackerspaces! Saw some in the video. That’s an essential ingredient of social hacking 🙂

To conclude, a collection of the best video clips on hackerspaces that I found:

As many hackerspaces use CNC lathes, 3D printers, lasercutters and the like: it seems that a Fab Lab and a hackerspace are largely overlapping concepts! Where hackerspace defines more the social / community side of the thing, and fab lab the technical side (the methods how hackers can make anything they want).

So-called single points of failure “are undesirable in any system whose goal is high availability”; so teaches Wikipedia.

Now, systems for social security are, on the one hand, designed with this in mind: resources that need to be highly available in individual life, such as health care and nutrition, should not depend on the individual’s ability to pay for them, as this would be a SPOF. But on the other hand: in the Western “developed world”, social security systems are central, government based systems, which makes these systems fail if the state fails to pay for them. Which is a very real danger, as can be seen from the German pension insurance, which crashed for demographic and other reasons.

Again, Wikipedia teaches us the principles of reliability engineering to avoid SPOFs: reduced complexity, redundancy, diversity (of implementation), and transparency (Wikipedia article “Single Point of Failure”). All of these are not, or only to a low degree, implemented in these centralized Western social security systems. The extended family was able to perform the task better, as it was a highly redundant system, existing in tens of thousands of instances in a society. However, this type of family does no longer exist in our society.

What to do? How about experimenting with the idea of the “small autarkic community” as a shared risk community. This is not about anonymous insurance, as this is doomed to fraud and inefficiency: it lacks for example tools to really educate and motivate people to lead a more healthy lifestyle. The autarchic community is about the smallest thinkable group that can bear all risks of individual life on its own; which might be about 100 people. They would live in one house together and care for each other in all aspects of the shared risks, like caring for the sick and elderly, supporting the unemployed financially (and emotionally), etc.. One could enter at all times if one is admitted (depending on ones currrent issues, and the ability of the community to bear them, and the number of free places). And one could leave at any time, to switch to a like community at another place or back into government-backed system. But one could not be kicked out of the shared risk community; which is necessary to be a true “social insurance” type of community.

Such a 100-person community could take over other tasks that are simplified by load balancing or risk sharing in a community. Like child care. This would then be called “human crechès“. Yes, why not use this animal concept in human culture also. This is way less expensive than government’s child care units like kindergartens etc.. It can also be implemented in even smaller groups: for example, five families could form a crechè for the time before the parents return from work. Which would mean that from each couple, one person has to take one day off in two weeks to organize the crechè at this family’s home.

There is a disagreement in Christianity if the world can be helped at system level, and if yes, if a Christian is allowed to do so.

First position: it’s forbidden

Some people hold the opinion that the world cannot be really helped at the system level. Because man is, in essence, really bad. And even if it would be possible to implement a just social system that stays stable in spite of man’s sin nature, this would just confirm mankind to live out this nature, that is, drive him more away from God.

Helping, in this view, is nothing more than acting out of love and compassion towards individual people. Without the motivation (or allowance) to see the causes of the problem at the system level and to help there. Because helping the individual that was wrecked by the system offers the possibility to explain the Gospel as ones motivation to an attentive individual. Whereas this is not possible when helping at system level, and if succeeding there, the system would not even create attentive individuals by wrecking them.

People with this view offer the Gospel as the solution to the sad state of the world, and understand it to be this message: man is totally depraved, but God is prepared to forgive anybody who seeks forgiveness in Christ Jesus. This message offers no hope of improvement at system level for the remaining time on earth (there will never be so much Christians that they influence the system). This message also offers no hope of improvement by immediate, miraculous help by God (this might happen, but is an exception meant to show God’s presence). This message offers hope of improvement for the time after death.

Second position: it’s demanded

Other Christians are motivated by Christian compassion and benevolence to help people in misery. Then they think about how to help best with the few resources they have, and they see some kind of help at the system as the best solution for this. Because, it might be so much more effective to prevent calamities (like AIDS infections) than to cure them. These Christians see their service at system level as a part of their service for God, and as an adequate expression of being “light of the world”, and even as a way to make people think about God and the Gospel.

Third position: help by bottom-up replacement

The above two positions are, in my current view, expressions of different concepts of God. In the first position, God’s love is no real, benevolent love, but a hard, uncompassionate attitude that just wants people to “get saved” (though pure theory until heaven) and is not interested in their suffering from unnecessary calamities. The conception of God in the second position is close to mine, but I must admit that some logic on how to help the world is better in the first position.

Because, this is true through history: any system-level help for the world has been prone to decay and won’t help in the long term. From the Christian perspective, this is because it deals with symptoms but does not change persons. The only way to change persons would be if these persons start to believe; so the only system-level help is transforming the world into a church of believers. According to Jesus’ last words on earth. We will probably not succeed fully, but partially.

So, here is my attempt of a third position:

I think that the church is the help at system level, by being the new system to replace the old. It is intended to implement God’s idea of living, which is true help on system level. People can profit from the new system by being in its proximity, but to really get helped, they need to take part by believing in Christ. The church is the visible part of God’s kingdom, the area where government has to be done in reversed pyramid scheme, the area where changing people meet and which therefore enables a social system that would not work with still “totally depraved” people.

So if you want to contribute at system level: build God’s kingdom, in all areas of life. The essential part is no never conceal the necessity to change in heart – else the new system will fail in eternity, but also in this world, as it currently does in Western societies based on Christian values but lacking Christians. To let church properly take its role as “the new social system”, church would include more of its members’ lifes than is current practice in highly civilized societies: living together, helping each other, working together, even being an autarchic cell.

The interesting, and non-convential thing about church is: it is a bottom-up change, a grassroots movement. While all other help on system level wants to achieve that through a top-down change, controlled by a central instance, but forced upon unchanged and rejective people. (So, never try to make church a centrally organized system. Church is a local and autonomous group, joined by faith to other groups in the worldwide church, not by organizational links.)

It is hard to see why people always think that the help at system level has to be to down, and by force. The effects are not only short-lived (as can be seen in history), it is also very hard to invent a working top-down system, and to manage it. I lately read an highly interesting discussion about economic systems (“Utopien des Weltinnenraums und seiner Umwelt“; German). If you read it, read also through all the comments. Though cool to read, the discussion also shows that there is a great cluelessness about how to create a just and stable economic system in a top-down approach. Compared to top-down methodology, large systems in nature use a “complex system approach”: entities only interact with their local environment in a meaningful way, and globally meaningful behavior emerges from that. The human body, for example, seems to work in many aspects that way, including the brain. That’s far different from a top-down strictly hierarchical design like a computer or an army.

Another reason for the bottom-up approach is: even if anybody had any idea how to help top-down, it could not be implemented, as there would be mighty people opposed to it. So the only way is to start at the local level. And the only help possible there is a community of changed people, as autarchic as possible to be isolated from the surrounding system’s deterioration.

In the Christian view, a community of changed people is a church of people who accepted the Gospel. With un-changed people, these communities would quickly deteriorate into authoritarian structure that grow like cancer and if successful, replace the current system with another instance of the same, authoritarian system. Now the church will never include more than just a few percent of humankind, but the good news is that, as a local system, people in church are better off even if there’s only one local church in the world. This system does not need global scale to help; it scales from 2 persons to infinity.

Some ideas how to make one local church to the local system which provides help to the world at system level, and thus helps people before their earthly death:

  • The central idea is to use possessions (in the sense of resources one has but does not need for oneself) for the good of all. This is enacted by education in changed people. But it cannot be enacted in unchanged people, so that it results there in all the problems that the misuse of possession brings: being able to exploit others, being able to aggregate even more possessions to even better exploit others. Now in the sense of the idea presented here, richness would still be allowed, as it’s unjust to level out all differences that resul
    t from different productivity of persons, but effective education would guarantee voluntary levelling out. This value is even part of the German constitution: “Property is an obligation. Its use shall at the same time serve the benefit of all.” (GermanGrundgesetz art. 14 section 2; original in German).
  • Have a system based on voluntary action, and education of all members towards that, rather than any formal system of wealth distribution.
  • Have a system of giving and generosity rather than a system of taking and getting ones legal right. This is after the example of the donations to the first church in Jerusalem, which we can read about in Acts.
  • As long as people work in their jobs (the church being no economically autarchic unit, and there is no strict need for it to be this): educate people to understand that money is a means to help others, not primarily meant for private luxury.
  • Create voluntary “pools” of money to distribute to members (and others) in need, by the example found in early Acts. To prevent lazyness, this must be combined with the permanent education of people that they must work for their own needs as good as possible. The secret of this system is that this education will work because people basically accepted the authority of God, whereas it does not work outside church for lazy people, and therefore dooms liberalism.
  • Spend really much time together, also working together etc.. Employ modern IT to coordinate, if necessary.
  • Have food autarchy (in cities, by guerilla gardening).
  • Have simple medical help within church, like physiotherapy.
  • Only if organizationally necessary, have a clear understanding who is inside the church (within the autarchic solidarity group) and who is without (receiving voluntary donations and benefits, but only if left over after distribution in church is done).
  • Prepare being mobile, i.e. for quickly leaving the current country to live in another, also in autarchy right from the start. This might be necessary if the surrounding system gets really bad (civil war, immiserization etc.).
  • If possible (and not being an utopia), have a subgroup develop into a “power community”, which will be the “special forces” service unit that serves both the community and the surrounding society in special needs.

Currently, I have the impression that I get drowned or defeated in economic competition, meaning this economic system is not the right one for me. So I thought about another one:

In modern highly civilized societies, we’re several abstraction levels away from the nature level (“implementation level”), which is the level most people in history lived in. Because our higher levels are all buggy, and become buggier, the system gradually becomes unmanageable. For example, the 2009 financial crisis: why should my income depend on mass psychology? Such an overcomplicated system is an insult to every human being and must be simplified, radically. Bugs in these abstraction levels serve some people to enslave others, economically not physically, that is, hidden not obviously.

It’s an interesting observation that, after all, man does not provide for himelf, but nature provides for him. And as God provides for nature, or provided nature, God provides for man. What man does is simply utilizing nature, and the only resource that mankind has for this is manpower, that is, work time. (That’s the correct view at large granularity, where man is “on average” sound and gifted with an “average” amount of gifts.) Now in theory, all men could join into one large cooperative, where everybody would dedicate the same amount of timeto work, and everybody would share the same amount of wealth in result. Valuing all human work time alike should be seen as a prt of human dignity: it’s an insult to value work time because of gifts which are something people have not worked for.

In practice, injustice is introduced by non-cooperation, that is, competition: in capitalism, people use their gifts against each other, to gain as much for themselves as possible. Which results in other people getting less than they deserve for the amount of time they contribute. Especially those in development countries, but also the meek and other oppressed people in industrial nations.

Now, there are some psychological / motivational attributes of man, which will guarantee this theoretically “pure” system to fail. First, man is evil. Second, man can only be motivated to do something well (i.e. work as good as possible in the dedicated work time) if he can see his results as directly as possible (see also “flow state” theory and its meaning for happiness). Therefore, the system will be modified: there should be small, modular autarchic units. That way, we sacrifice efficiency for flexibility and redundancy, to have a counter measure if one part of the system turns evil. Also, groups of 10 (semi-autarchic), combined in groups of 100 (autarchic minimal society) make it possible to be motivated, seeing the results of ones work directly. Nonetheless, social justice should mean that all work time of members in such communities is valued equally. For example, all members would dedicate to work 6 hours a day on community projects, getting the same amount of resources in return (food, shelter, medical treatment, …). Probably, a key lifestyle principle should be to not trade with this private gain, but simply use it up. It’s meant for private use. This also means that members of the community would need no money (to, say, sell perishable goods and save the money for later private use), and would not need to save anything for later calamities. Because all this is done on the community level, including solidary provisions for the members in all situations of life. Without private money, no credit bubbles etc. and no competition will arise. But also, the lifestyle to use up all the resources members get for their work time means, every member shares basically the same life style. But it would be possible to choose ones lifestyle, by choosing a fitting 10-member sub-community in the community (a group with a dedicated task and accompanying lifestyle in the community), or another 100-member community. A global “gift average” range value to meet when exchanging members would ensure that no elitist self-serving communities of highly gifted people can arise.