Better write something here, if only to counter the mood of the previous post.
That ‘downer’ was real, and still is, to some extent. A few friends and colleagues expressed concern; some were kind enough to offer advice (for which many thanks); yet for me this is my normal way of life, and hence my responsibility to deal with its consequences. My apologies if that post worried anyone: that was not its intent. It’s just that with no other outlet available, just about the only way of coping with the stress is to be open and honest about, and not pretend that it doesn’t exist.
Few people who live conventionally-‘normal’ lives as employees and family-folks and the like will have much experience or, often, much understanding, of what life is like out on here the ‘bleeding edge’. ‘Normal’ lives are stressful enough, I know; and the lives for those guys out on the streets selling ‘Big Issue’ and the like is stressful in the extreme. So I’m well aware I’m luckier than most, in that although by choice I have no home of my own at present, I do have somewhere to live, and enough savings to live off for a while longer, even though they’re dwindling fast. I have no explicit commitments, no mortgage, no family, no ties, nothing. In effect, I have a kind of freedom of manoeuvre that many others might envy. But with that freedom comes responsibility, to create in other ways for the society in which we live: and in my case that seems to come out in the form of deep-exploration.
“Some sow, some reap”, it says in the Bible somewhere. Yet before anyone can sow, someone has to clear the ground for that sowing to take place; and before that, someone has to explore the landscape, to find places where sowing could be viable. And that’s what I do: explore the metaphoric landscape. It’s the only true work I know: oh, I can do other work, of course, and do it well – my standard fallback of information-architecture, for example – but it isn’t my vocation, my ‘real work’, and that conventional work isn’t where this scrambled society gains the most value from my existence. I explore ideas, and the practical implications of those ideas, on a very large scale: that’s what I do best.
But there’s a catch. Just like a physical explorer, much of this work is hard, and literally painful: carving a path through uncharted metaphoric territory also brings with it no small amount of metaphoric thorns and brambles and gorse, falls and failures, dead-ends and seeming defeat, in the short-term at least. Sometimes, just as with physical exploration, it’s hard to keep going: in fact often the only way to keep going is the certain knowledge that there’s no way back.
And whilst the wilderness of the wide-open spaces is exhilarating, that too takes its toll, in the form of an often crushing sense of aloneness and isolation: not only that there’s no-one else there to share it with, but the bleak fact that few will understand it when we finally make it back ‘home’. Just as with the physical explorers of old – and of the present day, for that matter – this strange process of exploration does have value: but that value may not make sense to others for years, decades, perhaps even whole lifetimes. That’s a long time to know that few others will understand or value what we do: hence a sense of isolation back ‘home’ in the ‘normal’ world that’s even more intense than the isolation ‘out there’, driving us back into the wild again as the only place where we seem to ‘fit’. Wild ideas of other worlds, even in a metaphoric sense, make little sense in the comfortably delusory ‘safety’ of suburbia. Hence explorer as natural anarchist: the task itself leads to an imposed alienation – literally, ‘making Other’ – leading to self-alienation as a way of life.
And yes, there’s another catch. Some explore, some clear the ground, some sow, some reap: but it’s only at the point of harvest that all of that work ‘pays off’. Hence, in our self-centred culture, so focussed on the ‘now’, there’s an inevitable obsession with harvest, harvest, harvest, with little awareness of what has to happen before the harvest can exist. Just as of old, there needs to be foresight enough to see the whole of the pattern; and just as of old, in our absurd possession-based ‘economy’, an explorer needs a patron with foresight enough to fund that exploration. Yet right now, such foresight is hard to find – especially with the current panic about a ‘credit crunch’, and even more especially in the US, where financial law all but enforces short-termism to prop up the personal profit of stockholder ‘owners’. Hence right now it’s hard to survive as an explorer of ideas – even though it’s all too plain to see that such ideas are urgently needed. Which is a problem – both for me in person, of course, but much more for the wider society.
Again like explorers of old, I provide reports of my explorations: hence the books that have been my main visible work for the past year or so. Most of those, such as the Enterprise Architecture series, aim to provide information that’s immediately useful in day-to-day practice – metaphorically, closer to clearing the ground after exploration, rather than the exploration itself. But I haven’t yet published – dared to publish? – much as yet on the real deep-explorations, not least because much of it is downright scary in everyday terms. Some examples of the metaphoric landscapes that I’ve seen in my travels:
- There are no rights – only responsibilities. Rights are a delusion, and often a dangerous delusion at that; in a social context, only responsibilities are real, whilst purported ‘rights’ are often (mostly?) used as a means to avoid those responsibilities, or to foist them on to someone else either in the present or elsewhen. A Bill of Rights sounds like a great idea, but the self-centredness that arises from it will destroy any society that uses ‘rights’ rather than responsibilities as its core foundation-stone. The evidence for this fact is clear everywhere, but is not likely to be popular anywhere – especially in the US.
- There is a great deal of truth in the old anarchist slogan “all property is theft”, because our society’s core model of property is based on ‘right’ of exclusion. Private possession of property, we are told, is an inalienable right. Yet responsibilities are real, ‘rights’ are not; a responsibility-based model of property – characteristic of most ‘traditional’ societies – is viable, whereas a ‘rights’-based (possession-based) model is not. Once again, the evidence for this fact is clear everywhere, but there’s a sizeable amount of effort being put into ignoring it.
- In the long term, a possession-based economy is not and cannot be sustainable. The only way a possession-based economy can be made to appear to work is to run it as a pyramid-game – hence our culture’s obsession with supposedly-infinite ‘growth’, and hence also bizarre distortions such as the notion that an ‘economy’ depends on people indulging in uneconomic behaviour. Hence sustainability will not be possible without changing the entire economic model on which the dominant culture has operated for the past five thousand years or so. Once again, the evidence for this fact all too obvious, yet this also is not likely to be a popular idea – especially in present-day business, which for the most part believes that it depends on propping up the delusion that the current ‘economy’ actually works.
- Another, perhaps even less palatable fact: women are violent – just like men. To be more precise, the blunt fact is that not only are women violent, but the scale and severity of their violence matches or even exceeds the violence of men. (And yes, I do include the evils of war and the like in that statement.) It is easy to pretend that women are not violent – and indeed, vast swathes of law, and the entire ‘women’s rights’ industry, are founded on the arbitrary and ultimately indefensible assertion that every flaw in the world is the exclusive fault of men. But the moment we understand what violence actually is, in (dys-)functional terms, and look at the issues systemically, rather than through ‘convenient’ blame-based selective snapshots whose primary purpose is the evasion of women’s personal responsibilities for their own actions and behaviours, the evidence for that fact is all too clear: as a society, we do a great deal of work to reduce (and punish) men’s violence, yet instead to exacerbate (and condone) women’s violence, requiring men alone to sort out the resultant mess. It will not be possible to resolve key societal problems such as domestic violence until we face up to the fact and the sheer scale of women’s violence, reject the wildly-unequal so-called ‘equal’ ‘rights’ for women embedded in so much current law and custom, and instead require equal responsibilities from women as much as from men. And yep, I’m well aware just how unpopular that fact will be, too: but it is fact, and the longer we evade that fact, the more long-term harm will be done to our society.
Plenty more home-truths where those came from, but I’ll be unpopular enough as it is just from those few points above… <wrygrin> Hence, yes, not surprising that I don’t get much support for what I do. <alsowrygrin> And hence, yes, no real surprise at the isolation.
My apologies if any of the above upsets you: but that’s who I am; that’s what I do; that’s my work, my life, and I don’t have much choice about that. I don’t have any choice about what I see, what I feel, though I do have choice and responsibilities in what I do with what I see and feel. Simplest to be open and honest about it: if others don’t like it, well, I just have to live with that fact too. And complain about it from time to time – not that it makes any difference!