Life in today’s capitalist societies is far from great. It’s full of meaningless bullshit work, full of laws and other constraints, and all of that in the face of multiple ecological crises that ordinary people seem unable to do anything about and elites seem determined to ignore until it is too late.
That is exactly what capitalism did to us: we are of no other use than being mindless, dependent consumers to buy the shitty products of corporate capitalists in order to enrich them. All of that at the cost of the whole natural environment, and all of that only because directly robbing us or letting us work as slaves turned out to be too cumbersome and too dangerous for the elites. So instead, they invented the capitalist economy as a tool of oppression. Not consciously – it emerged over time by trial and error.
So we are wasting our lifetime for a few moments of diversion granted by consumer products, and for the rent we have to pay, and for the taxes we have to pay into systems that are not frugal, not accountable and not improvable. This is not the life we want. Especially not at this time of unprecedented ecocide and impending climate catastrophe.
Instead, here is a very rough draft of a social order that would be up to meet today’s challenges. And it would be meaningful, interesting, fun to take part.
First of all, no bullshit work anymore. Everything that is ecologically destructive is bullshit work. Everything that is luxury or unnecessary or inefficient or technologically nonsense is bullshit work. We have no time or resources for that, as this is an ecological emergency. Now these about 60-80% of people freed from bullshit jobs can then build the society and world we want to live in, everyone according to their full set of skills.
We don’t just need a Green New Deal, we need a New Deal for Everything, and everyone would have both hands full of work to contribute. No idle minute anymore, no diversion like watching mindless series, movies, YouTube, playing computer games and so on. You won’t miss it, as you’ll be needed in the real world, to do meaningful work, probably for the first time of your whole miserable life.
And here’s just some the work that we’d have to do, and fast:
transition to a zero-carbon economy within 10 years (it’s not that difficult once everyone is switched over to a frugal, mindful lifestyle, which would be about an 80% reduction of GHG emissions already)
solving the food waste crisis, once and for all
frugal innovation and frugal lifestyles: for long-term well-being, being extremely frugal with our non-renewables is key
abolishing all copyright, once and for all: knowledge is to share, not for profit
protecting half the planet: half is for nature, half is for people
ecosystem restoration, including global desert greening, including accelerated rainforest construction etc.
ocean restoration and de-acidification
human population limiting (by free education for every girl on the planet as long as they like … something like that)
de-extinction: bring the woolly mammoth back, but before that, let’s bring most of the species back that we killed off so far
solving the multi-resistence pathogen crisis: proper healthcare systems, all-organic agriculture and animal husbandry, phage therapy and so on
proper education systems: those that make scientists, not obedient citizens and mindless consumers
humans as a multi-planetary species: yes, let’s make Mars habitable, why not?
asteroid / comet impact prevention
And money is not the problem – not in the way you think. Agriculture employs 3% of people in industrial nations, so everyone else is free to do other stuff. There is no law of nature that says this “other stuff” must be crappy consumer goods. It’s all just a matter of how we organize ourselves. Currently, society is organized around money as a resource allocation system. But we can organize about something completely different just as well. Like around a collective decision-making software.
Now what is the chance to construct that social order before The Crisis hits home? What is the chance that I can ring the bell of my neighbor, explain what I explain here, and then he or she would join the movement and it would grow from there?
A friend with a big heart for victims of human trafficking asked me to identify opportunities for helping trafficked women in Europe. As my (initial) results can be useful for others as well, I publish them here. My research focused on work opportunities for English speakers, as opposed to also speaking, say, an Eastern European language. The sections are ordered accordingly: the "most adequate issue" for English speakers to care about comes first.
(1) Issue: Nigerian women trafficked via Italy
Summary: This "trend" is becoming worse and worse since 3-4 years and it is not an understatement to call it a human rights crisis since early 2016. It also seems the most adequate (or one of the most adequate) work opportunity in Europe for social workers and counsellors with English language skills.
The Guardian has a good, recent introduction to the problem, complemented with a little photo documentary. According to that, 11,000 Nigerian women arrived to Italy in 2016, which is double the already high 2015 numbers. And the UN estimates 80% of them will end up in prostitution across Europe. This fate is also reflected by prostitution in Italy itself: as early as 2008, before the "real" start of this crisis, 90% of Italy's sex workers were migrants, of which 40% were from Africa, mostly Nigeria (source). One interesting fact from the Guardian's reporting is that these Nigerian women are brought into Italy as refugees (mostly in small boats via Libya), and remain in South Italy's refugee reception centers for about three months. That is, until they receive documents granting them temporary residence as refugees. So there is a small window of time in a protected setting to identify, contact and inform them about their real situation – before they leave the refugee center to be picked up by their traffickers again. However, the Guardian article also mentions there are only 1600 places for victims of trafficking in Italy, so currently most of the 11,000 women do not receive any help in time.
Language wise, it can be expected that Nigerian women arriving to Italy at least speak basic English: Nigeria has English as its official language and 53% English speakers. Given the many tribal languages in Nigeria, English is seemingly the preferred medium of communication even among Nigerians, as can be observed from the documentary video in the Guardian article. Regarding interaction with Italians, from my own experience getting around in Italy with just English works quite well, though it works much better in Northern Italian cities than in South Italian towns and villages, where even young people sometimes don't speak English. However most of the activities in South Italy would happen in or around the refugee reception centers, where English is the main mode of communication between staff and refugees anyway, and also between national and the many international staff members.
When it comes to organizations working in Italy against human trafficking, a (non-exhaustive) list is as follows:
Piam Onlus. An initiative by a Nigerian woman (who is a former victim of trafficking herself) and her Italian husband, focused on the issue of Nigerian women being trafficked via Italy. Since being founded in the early 2000s, they already rescued more than 200 Nigerian women and girls. A small video documentary about them can also be found in the Guardian article that was already linked above. They currently host 80 refugees in both their refugees hub "Villa Quaglina" and various family homes in the Northern Italian city Asti (source). Not all but some of them are victims of trafficking (source), so in this way their infrastructure can be said to be a safe house. Finding out more details and potential volunteering options will need direct contact, though.
Caritas Italiana and Caritas Internationalis. The social work organizations of the Roman Catholic Church – means, they are quite large and well-funded. They carry out the Catholic Church's "official" response to human trafficking in Italy (source). Also, these two organizations constitute two of the four Italian members of the COATNET anti-trafficking network (see).
WUCWO. The "World Union Of Catholic Women’s Organization". One of the four Italian members of COATNET (see).
Talitha Kum. They describe themselves as "International Network of Consecrated life Against Trafficking in Persons". One of the four Italian members of COATNET (see).
COATNET. An Italian ecumenical network that "brings together different Christian organizations against trafficking in human beings" (source). They do not operate safe houses by themselves, but will be a good source of further information.
Obviously, given Italy's religious demographics, >90% of all faith-based organizations working against human trafficking in Italy will be Roman Catholic. To find more of these organizations, an appropriate Italian search term is "cristiani organizzazioni contro tratta di esseri umani".
(2) Issue: Trafficking for sexual exploitation in the United Kingdom, Belgium and Norway
The demographic composition of sex workers in these three countries, but esp. of the UK, makes it another work opportunity for English-speaking social workers and counsellors. (The numbers below are from 2008, as found in the TAMPEP report. Obviously, significant changes could have occurred since then, but more recent numbers are hard to come by.)
United Kingdom. 59% of sex workers in 2008 were UK nationals, so would speak English. Of the 41% migrant sex workers, two thirds are from Eastern Europe, and cannot be expected to speak English well initially. However unlike in other countries with this situation, migrant sex workers would learn English over time while in the country. Furthermore, human trafficking in the UK is a rising issue, with a 246% increase over 5 years, resulting in 3266 victims identified in 2015 (source).
Belgium. 60% of its sex workers in 2008 were migrants. Of these, 26% came from Western Europe and another 26% from Africa. To communicate with the 40% national sex workers, and for getting around in Belgium in general, English is probably sufficient. Belgium is a multi-cultural, multi-lingual country anyway, with its French and Wallone populations, and most speak English quite well there.
Norway. 70% of its sex workers in 2008 were migrants, of which 43% came from Nigeria. This might be however completely different now, as the population in Norway is small, so its sex workers are fewer and change can happen faster.
(3) Issue: Trafficking for sexual exploitation in Germany
In Germany, working in English with victims of human trafficking seems rather difficult due to demographics: 60-70% victims of human trafficking in Germany come from Eastern Europe. Some more data: "Two thirds (612) of all identified victims [of human trafficking in Germany] originated from Eastern Europe: Bulgaria (25,3%), Romania (20,9%), Hungary (7,7%). 20,8% of victims had German nationality." (source, translation my own). Since many of the victims come with a low level of formal education, and English has not been the predominant lingua franca in Eastern European countries for decades, it cannot be expected that they know to speak English. People with Eastern European language skills, of which there are a considerable amount in Germany, seem more apt for this particular work.
Still, for completeness, here are ways to identify organizations working against human trafficking in Germany:
KOK. Another German network against human trafficking. They seem to be a Christian faith-based network, though not all member organizations have an equally Christian perspective. They have a list and a map of their member organizations online.
Frauenhaus organizations. A Frauenhaus (literally, "women's house") is the German equivalent of a safe house. However, unlike a safe house, it usually focuses on victims of domestic violence. There are specialized ones caring for victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation as well, though. In any case, see the (long!) list of Frauenhaus organizations in Germany. Another, partial and mostly overlapping list is found here.
Stern list. German magazine "Stern" published this list of organizations caring to help prostitutes leave the business. They may or may not be faith-based organizations.
Sisters e.V.. A German association caring to help women leave prostitution. They seem to not operate a safe house themselves, but will have information about those available.
SOWODI. An international organization helping victims of human trafficking. They also work in Germany and operate safe houses there.
I am back in Germany after four months in Nepal. First impression? Germany is well-organized, super quiet, and populated by zombies. The living dead, you know. (Oh and, Germany is so flat. Very strange. Why u not hilly?)
It just does not make sense. If something like Germany is the endpoint of developing areas' development, what is development for? It has no meaning at all. Essentially, after all the development, people in Nepal would be
just as unhappy as people in Germany
all their earnings will be used up for so-called "living"
people won't talk to people anymore
there will be just as few options for alternative lifestyles as in Germany, where this is systematically minimized by forcing people into consuming and paying
people will work in brainwashing, marketing, SEO etc. to force-feed each other the useless products of their industries … consuming up the world's resources …
Essentially, all the Germans (and Europeans and U.S. Americans, for that matter) do is keeping their country up and runnning, with insane amounts of energy and worktime. Their countries are "optimized" to maximize the amounts of energy and worktime to invest for just keeping the country up and running. The first is called "economic growth", the second "full employment". And all these aspirations to "wealth" that is not wealth and "wellbeing" that is not wellbeing in people make them miserable. Directly and indirectly. They never have enough. They are brainwashed by advertising since decades, and the advertising comes from capitalist monopolies whom they serve with their lifetime and money.
And then we have the audacity to call ourselves a "developed nation", to be imitated by the "developing nations" … . These "developed" nations do not contribute any significant amount to a better future for the planet. They are not engaged in any concerted effort to construct a meaningful and sustainable future. Instead, they just consume. And much more than their share. While villages in Nepal are much more sustainable, since most stuff is made from fieldstones and bamboo. In terms of our global future, that is more developed than the developed "nations" … . But currently, developed nations devour the planet, and fast. Wow. (Now the good thing about Nepal is, it has so many so remote places that global capitalism will not reach them in my lifetime Like Rolpa. It currently takes three days and nights of travelling by bus from Kathmandu.)
Ok … so if development according to the paradign of "developed" nations makes no sense, what makes sense?
Minimize resource and worktime usage in "developed" nations, to the levels in Nepal and below. No more economic growth, no more full employment. There is such a ton of interesting work to do for that, including medical research, frugality research, full transition to a minimal energy economy, etc. etc..
Real development has to be integrated. Like, set up and keep up a sustainably developed commune in a remote village in Nepal, or transform a whole village into such a sustainable model village with both low resource usage and a high standard of living. Serving as an example to be imitated in the thousands of other villages. It means for an educated group of people (from Nepal, from abroad, or mixed) to go there to live there. For the long term. To make that commune able to sustain itself through sustainable production. And help it minimize the resource and time efforts needed for that. (I collected a lot of relevant tech and knowledge for small-scale self-sustainable living in EarthOS already.)
Getting around a bit in Europe, you easily get to know how people’s life is not a box of chocolates. That guy who destroys his body and his really intelligent mind by too much weed and psychedelics, seeing no other way to get over a broken relationship. The young woman who suddenly expresses a desire to die, like by jumping from the mountain we sat on talking (but thankfully, she’s alive and well). All the nice-looking houses I walked by in Málaga, noticing people’s shattered dreams from their “For Sale” signs. It saddens me how we, the humans, search satisfaction in vain.
But aren’t we already very creative in our search? We try everything, from yoga to hashish, from power to strong opinions. Not to forget the favorite of Westerners: stuff for consumption, security and independence. Our effort to search and maintain satisfaction is so encompassing that it summarizes what we as humans do. Our whole culture (“non-survival activity”) is just about that. Still, we mostly don’t find it.
What are we doing wrong?
What is it that we search?
The first reason for not finding might be this: because we don’t know what we search. We may feel a diffuse inner emptyness and try something to fix it, but don’t know that it is satisfaction we search. Which is “living in accordance with your ideas and wishes”, also called happiness. Without using the proper concept, we have difficulty choosing the right actions, and also cannot communicate properly to get help from our fellow humans, who also search the same thing but in something else.
The second reason is best explained along illustrations. Of my friends, only two I consider “satisfied”:
The first one “just” wants to have economic power, a family, and lots of interesting and expensive stuff to deal with. That’s still limited, because it is just about private life. It even worked out, as he met with a lot of luck: inherited wealth, “good genes” for motivation and bite, an economically valuable hobby. He has a high self-esteem, which allows his success in a challenging economic environment, but also hides his own failures and deficiencies from himself (so that they don’t affect his happiness). In case of failure, he uses his innate motivation and tries something new quickly, forgetting about the bad success. This way, in time, he arrives at a satisfying outcome. And for really bad personal calamity, he has a strong trust in God, protected from doubt by a strong self-confident opinion about his beliefs. And so it works.
Another friend is also satisfied, and it works completely different: he’s very relaxed and humble, not caring for his many bad successes and failures. He developed a sophisticated mental way, including both self-irony and deep philosophy, to admit his failures but keep them from affecting his emotions (they would rather infuriate others’). But he’s also very sociable and so, together with some luck, has found both a superb relationship to a woman and an interesting, well-paid, permanent job even before finishing his studies (in twice the normal time). Interestingly, he seemed just as satisfied when he had neither job nor girl, by means of his failure-ignoring capabilities. (Note: To illustrate, I remembered the pic below. We kinda shared a flat for two years. Once he completely forgot my birthday, but would show up at midnight with that improvised “cake” and a present he found in his room 😀 That was the kind of humble self-irony he was capable of, feeling not awkward, but happy in a hard to understand way when pulling something like this.)
What these both have in common is that their satisfaction is provided not by one thing but by a system, “a set of interacting, interdependent components forming an integrated whole”. That may be the second reason why satisfaction does not work for most of us: we try one thing, tinker a bit, throw it away and try the next, unaware that we’re working on a system which needs several components and an informed design to work. Searching satisfaction in one component is as hopeless as driving around in a wheel.
Systems engineering for satisfaction
Of course, “system” is just a model. It helps discuss and understand satisfaction, but necessarily simplifies and distorts its reality. Other models can be just as valid. But because the “system” model proved useful above, let’s explore what systems engineering can teach us about building our own satisfaction system. (And yes, everyone has to build their own unique one, because some parts are unique: character, memories, body, personal situation.)
It’s cross-discipline! In addition to needing several components, you need to integrate several types of them: genetic, mental, material, social and (I think) transcendent ones. To a limited degree, you can supplement one for another, like more meditation to cope with material scarcity. But what you can’t do is getting satisfaction from accumulating just one thing. But Westerners often try just that with materiel stuff, and advertising wants to keep us as unsatisfied consumers …
Start with the parts you can’t change. Which is, your genetic disposition. Also, your character is super hard to change. The same for the general level of wealth. This is the stuff that has to be in the system because you have no alternatives.
If you forget one part, it won’t work. That’s special about systems: they depend 100% on each and every component. You can’t drive a car without its steering wheel, accelerator pedal, petrol hose, … .
My own story of forgetting a part is this: I had always focused very much to have “meaning” in what I do, and wondered why I lack motivation to live and to work, even to work for my meaningful tasks. Until I found recently: Everything loses its meaning when life is not enjoyable. Because what’s the meaning even of fixing the world and helping others, when after that, they would experience their life to be as joyless as your own? So now I added “beauty” to my life: just enjoying life, and it also motivates me meaningful work that provides a good life to others. At least that’s the idea now – it’s kinda hard to change own habits. But the insight is that, on their own, neither meaning nor beauty provide any satisfaction to me, yet together it can work.
Design, try and error. When designing your own satisfaction system, you can’t really know if it works until you start living it. But you can let other designs inform yours, and profit from the experiences of others. But still, because everybody is unique, there is a place for try and error. And for the “try often, fail fast” approach of rapid prototyping, like in software development …
Use compatible parts. If you want satisfaction, want it first. You have to throw out or modify other things you want or values you have, if it’s impossible to fit them into the “system”.
Use a doable design. Some ideas how to achieve satisfaction are just too complex or too much work for one gal or guy. For example, some philosopher and activist folks can be constantly unhappy about “the state of the world”. I know it too well. But the world won’t become Utopia in our lifetime, so we can keep that as a grand goal but should tie our satisfaction to more modest successes. In my case, I want to be happy about every step towards a free-to-copy, small, local Utopia. Or, as it can happen to me, being happy during that work itself because I think it’s meaningful.
Use a socially responsible design. This means simply: don’t derive satisfaction at the cost of others. For example: a person who constantly refuses to understand and discuss the problems of others, while constantly discussing their own with them, would rob the satisfaction of socializing from others. And if everybody employs an approach at the net cost of others’ satisfaction, it simply would not work out on society level. It works out only if “you do to others as you want them to do to you”. That simple Golden Rule 🙂
Make it agile. As a person one always changes, and so do our surroundings and situations. So better don’t design a static satisfaction system, but make it easily adaptable and reconfigurable. (I admit this is a completely theoretic idea so far, but it “sounds good”. Maybe somebody can map this to the practical search for satisfaction. I recommend “Design Principles for Highly Adaptable Business Systems” for inspirations, esp. p. 13.)
Make it redundant. A redundant system includes backups and provides n × 100% satisfaction in total. A scaled system provides 100% satisfaction in total, but in parts. So in case of a failure, all but one part still provide you satisfaction. That’s worse than redundancy, but better than zero. Both designs require that one has more than one way for satisfaction. That is also, more than one set of ideas and wishes in life.
Make it sustainable. It is possible to derive some satisfaction from eating, recreational shopping, drugs, smoking and so on. But when overdoing these, using them as the basis of all satisfaction, in the long run it can ruin a person instead of providing satisfaction. Used carefully however, in the right amount, pretty much everything that humans can do and enjoy has its place. (Two female friends of mine enjoy special moments of the year by smoking a cigarillo together … so harmless!)
And make it resilient. People care to go off-grid with their house, to make it resilient against failure of the central electricity and water infrastructure. In the same way, we should make our approach to satisfaction resilient against being crushed by external events. From this perspective, it’s for example not a good idea to make satisfaction revolve around a day job. When losing my job, I want still feel meaningful, valuable, and also my lifestyle or anything else relevant for my satisfaction should not collapse.
I will create a follow-up post to analyze my own (so far, largely failing) approach to satisfaction and ways to fix it. I also want to look into explaining a person’s satisfaction system as a diagram. And finally to develop best practices, patterns and instructions how to design and implement an own satisfaction system. This will also include ways to measure and track satisfaction, maybe a smartphone application that asks me about my satisfaction at random times. Ideas welcome!
(A ton of thanks to my friend María for the discussion that inspired everything above!)
Democracy is surely not a system that allows government by the people, because in (nearly) all current implementations, government is a very small part of the people and thus separate from it. So what makes democracy “better” than other systems, if anything? The fact that it allows the people to at least choose their government (normally, from a limited amount of options, however).
A regime change in states with dictatorship or similar authoritarian systems is called a revolution (latest example: Tunisia). But not so in democracy. Why not? In my understanding, democracy is a system of permanent revolution1. Just, that these revolutions are formalized, scheduled and intentionally peaceful. Then of course, I would even better like to see democracy as a system of government by the people, concretely, Internet-mediated direct democracy in a network of agile micro-societies that together form one whole nation-state society.
Interesting side note: Karl Popper wrote something about the kind of society in which such “permanent revolution” is possible: in his two-volume book “The Open Society and Its Enemies”, he defines an “open society” as one which ensures that political leaders can be overthrown without the need for bloodshed.” [source]
How about this: to counter conditions like in Iraq and Afghanistan, one should re-invent the historic practice of razing (tearing down) whole cities, and extend this if necessary also to whole countries, but all in humanitarian acceptable manner. For example, one could tear down Bagdad, and distribute the 5 million people to all the other countries of the world.
And how about this (even better): War (as in, all violent conflicts) is always a conflict of interest, and in nearly all cases there are people who actively want to fight that war, and those who do not but are harmed by the war. Those who are harmed would want to emigrate to asylum; and by providing an easily accessible option for such permanent asylum, one solves the problem of war. Because what’s left are people who want to be in the war, and may they do so, as they do not want any help. So what’s needed is a state with the sole task to provide permanent asylum, in the sense of finding a new home. That state would actively search for new people to take in, and extract them from their current conflict zones by all means. The people would then be educated to take part in their new state, including learning English as their new language, learning a new profession etc.. That new state would be a resource-oriented economy, kind of a planned economy in the digital age, also including digitized peer-observation to counter corruption. What’s still needed is a place for that state; any place would do, including a part of the Sahara, a specially licenced ground from another state (“temporary state” on foreign ground) etc..
A basic insight has to be this: war is the most explicit way to destroy resources (wealth). (Entertainment is another way, but we discuss war here.) Because in war, both parties try to harm (destroy) each other, and protect themselves from this artificial (man made, not nature made) harm produced by the other party. The most idiotic war of course is the war for economc resources: it is destroying resources to gain resources.
The need to earn money in the system creates dependency, which creates the fear of consequences. So the need to conform to the system is the origin of fear about what will happen if one does not conform to the system. Which is in permanent conflict with the need to tell “the system” where it is wrong. So to speak, all people are inside investigators of the “system” (their local aspect of world society), which means their conclusions and sharpness of uttering them is seriously flawed, as in any inside investigation. Unlike Jesus: he told people what they are, from a position of independence and strength. The power community / resilient community concept is a way towards a position more like that.
People are always quick to condemn and criticize global developments and situations, but hesitate to apply the same standards and sharpness to their local area in daily living. Because they fear negative effects might fall back on them, as they are in the weaker (dependent) position.
However, also do not forget that Jesus was 30 years long “in the system”, earning his money inside the system, being dependent on the system. Did he not “dare” to talk to people the same way as later, because of this dependency?