How do Anarchists LUXURY How Anarchism Works Part 5




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Hello, and welcome back to How Anarchism Works. This is part five of the series, so if you're new here, you might want to go back and start with part one. There's a link in the description. Also, if you're wondering why I have this ridiculous blonde hair now, you can go watch my video about how I got a free Donald Trump haircut in Hanoi, Vietnam for world peace: link also in the description. Otherwise, let's Get on with it. Yes, get on with it! Last time, we discussed how the arts and sciences would thrive in an anarchist society, but what we didn't talk about was having fun. Now, I don't know about you, but I personally enjoy having fun. I also really enjoy, like, doing nothing. I mean if I couldn't sit around in my underwear binge watching Highway to Heaven and eating breakfast cereal every now and then, I'm pretty sure I'd lose my entire grip on reality. Turn the other cheek. Rest in peace, dear Victor French. You're with the Angels now. Anyway, as far as anarchists go, I'm not alone in having a love for leisure. You remember Peter Kropotkin the kind old bread man? He wrote The Conquest of Bread. You know, the book that I stole most of the ideas for this video series from. Well, in that very book, he made the bold claim that "after bread has been secured, leisure is the supreme aim." Wow, really, leisure? Why would leisure be so important that it would be the supreme aim of an entire society? We'll get to that, but first, let's talk about leisure and luxury as it exists under capitalism. Kropotkin explained that luxury under capitalism the way that wealthy pursue it is exploitative and frivolously immoral. In other words, under capitalism, the capitalist class has a lot of fun at the expense of the working class. They're only able to jet around in private aircraft and eat $500 meals at fancy restaurants and spend more money on a watch than the combined value of every car I've ever owned because they've stolen so much wealth from the workers they exploit. But Kropotkin knew that it didn't have to be that way. If exploitation is taken out of the equation, then we could all have a lot more fun. If we weren't all living precariously close to financial ruin, we'd all have better faculties and higher expectations for enjoying life. Here Kropotkin is basically talking about the hierarchy of needs. Remember that from the last video in this series? As our more immediate needs of food and shelter and security become secured, we will naturally begin to develop higher needs, not just for personal development and artistic expression and scientific pursuit, but also for relaxation and recreation. Kropotkin saw a lack of accounting for leisure and luxury as a key failing of the planned societies of the 19th century. He knew that all human beings have an innate need for artistic expression and luxury and leisure, and believed that it was vital to prioritize enjoyment and relaxation once our basic needs of survival have been met. According to Kropotkin, the religious utopian societies of the 19th century focused far too narrowly on survival and conformity, and not nearly enough on these higher needs, which Kropotkin identified as a critical reason these experiments were doomed to failure. Any socialist society devoid of such pleasures and ample opportunities for individual self-expression and development will lead to stagnation, misery, and failure, and going back to the bread book, Kropotkin parroted a common refrain of the skeptics of anarchism of his time. If you swap out the china and the velvet for Xboxes and Samsung Galaxys, this question really isn't much different from the comments I get on my You Tube videos from folks who are skeptical about anarchism. You know, how would I get my Xbox under anarchism or under communism? How could I have a smartphone if I am living in a communist society? Some hard-nosed communists may see these questions as petty, even cruel. How can we worry about playing video games and fooling around with smartphones when people are out there literally starving to death? Bourgeois first world problems, am I right? But wait, actually, this reminds me of a conversation I once had with this guy from a very poor region in Nigeria I made the mistake of making a first world problems gag in front of him when the internet on my phone wasn't working, and his response actually surprised me. He said, where I'm from, we have droughts and famine to contend with, but we also have smartphones, and we get pissed off when our internet doesn't work. The drive for humans to relax and enjoy life is so strong that it's even present in the most desperate conditions. Failing to see the importance of finding joy in life is a disastrous misunderstanding of the human condition. We all want to have fun and relax and play games and do nothing from time to time. Taking the time and providing the materials to enjoy life is not an irresponsible waste of precious time. It's a vital concern to any society that hopes to succeed and thrive. So let's answer the question: how can we have Xboxes and Samsung Galaxys, as well as motorcycles and massages and Netflix binges, and all the other silly little things we love, under anarchism? Being a scientist, Kropotkin first approached this question from an analytical perspective. He pointed out that under capitalism, many workers managed to survive even though they labor ten hours a day or more. If we were able to reduce the workday to five hours or less, as we've discussed in previous episodes of this series, that leaves five hours that can be applied with pleasure to activities and pursuits that we enjoy. As Kropotkin puts it: Let's call these kinds of societies affinity groups, since members of such groups would share a common affinity. Affinity groups would cooperatively owned the means of leisure and luxury, whether we're talking about the local basketball court or Electronic Arts. Admittedly, in Kropotkin's day, the industrial infrastructure required to enable most leisure items and activities was somewhat less complicated. It is a lot easier to build a 19th century bicycle or a chess board than it is to roll out a Harley-Davidson or to program a AAA first-person shooter. It might not have been that hard for a group of bookworms to print their own books a hundred years ago, as Kropotkin suggests, but is it even remotely feasible for a modern-day gamer to assemble a PlayStation and program their own copy of Fortnite? Well, of course that's not feasible, you silly goose. That's where mutual aid comes to the rescue once again. Remember when we talked about mutual aid and contracts? We'll solve complicated problems of leisure and luxury development and distribution the same way anarchists solve all our problems: By working together and organizing via contract instruments according to the principles of mutual aid. Imagine vast unions of affinity groups linked together by contract. If you're willing and able, you contribute to your affiliate network in a variety of ways, and you get access to a wide variety of benefits and resources in exchange for those contributions. Let's use a simplified example for the purposes of demonstration. Alice really loves pizza, but she hates cooking, and Pete really loves going out on the town, but he hates taking the bus. Alice wants to have someone cook up a nice pizza pie for her at a restaurant from time to time, and Pete really wishes someone would drive him around every now and then. Fortunately, they're both members of the same affinity union. Pete can make a hell of a pizza, and Alice finds driving very relaxing, so through their affinity union, they mutually aid one another. Alice can spend some of her free time every week as an anarchist Uber driver, giving Pete a lift around town, and Pete can go work in an affinity union pizzeria slinging slices for Alice. These affinity unions can include an endless variety of interests and activities, and some communities might even have specialized affinity industries developed voluntarily by members. An ocean town might set up luxury hotels and harbor tours, which they contribute to the affinity union, while a neighboring town might decide to set up a video game console factory. These goods and services can be traded between individuals and between communities however the memberships democratically decide is fair. Now there are countless ways these affinity unions might be organized. Imagination really is the only limit, and an individual might be members of multiple affinity unions to suit their proclivities and desires. Affinity unions would negotiate fair trade values for goods and services so that all members benefit fairly and equitably from their contributions, and of course affinity unions could also have contractual mutual aid relationships with communes, so a commune might receive a certain amount of free goods and services to distribute to comrades in need in exchange for granting necessary resources to the affinity unions. If this sounds way too simple, that's because it kind of is. We'd still have video game developers and movie studios and bowling alleys and everything else we have today, but they'd be owned by the people who are actually using and enjoying the products and services which are being provided. Now there are already plenty of successful examples of democratically-controlled affinity groups in existence today. Almost every town in the USA has at least one bicycle co-op that provides free repairs and even free or extremely inexpensive bicycles to members. Tech enthusiasts set up maker spaces with equipment and resources open to community use. Some folks set up community tool lending libraries where anyone can check out tools for building stuff and home improvement. And then there's the software development community. Open-source developers provide industry-leading software for free with the support of users, up to and including entire operating systems, such as Linux, which are vital to the backbone of the Internet. Fun fact: every stable release of Debian Linux since 1999 has included a copy of the anarchist FAQ. When it comes to streaming video, the very best software available right now is called OBS. It's open source, and it's made available completely for free, and that's not even mentioning the hundreds and hundreds of free indie video games that people produce out of pure passion. The idea of the commons has been central to our ability to define an alternative to the rising prominence of the rational actor model in the neoliberal frame. If we spent 40 years, maybe even 50, learning at the academic level, at the policy level, at the practical habits of mind level, that we should all treat each other as self-interested self-maximizing Individuals, that that's how we build organizations that are efficient, that that's how we allow people to pursue their own happiness without being too constraining. The commons has become a central cluster of ideas that says no, that's false. We can come together without relying on exclusive property. We can come together without relying on corporate hierarchy or on state hierarchy by building models of collaborative governance and by embedding our production in social relations instead of building outside of it, instead of building only in companies on the states in market and hierarchies of both sides. We can actually do something together. Imagine how much more awesome video games and movies and TV shows would be if passionate people had even more free time to make the kind of stuff they love, and if that passion alone drove production without any of the taint of capitalist profit motive. What would you do with an extra four or five hours every day to do whatever the hell you wanted? Would you learn how to develop video games yourself and make that game you've always dreamed of? Would you get together a crew and shoot the Star Trek/Sailor Moon crossover television series of my dreams? Would you build an enormous skate park in your neighborhood and do sick kick flips off the funbox that you helped design and build? Or would you just sit around in your underwear and watch Highway to Heaven? I know I would, for at least a couple of hours every week, and that would be totally fine, because your freedom to do as you please with your time will be celebrated. Your free time will truly be free, and you will have the autonomy to develop yourself, heal yourself, spend time with your friends and family, or create and enjoy awesome stuff to your heart's desire. Under capitalism, the means of leisure and luxury are strangle held by capitalists and railroaded fanatically by the capitalist profit motive. They're railroaded. You don't get the camera that's best for you. You get the camera that's most profitable for the camera manufacturer. You don't play a AAA video game that's optimized for fun. You play a AAA video game that's optimized to drive up profits for shareholders Compromises are always made when it comes to the things and activities you love, and those compromises are always made at your expense, literally and figuratively. Mutual aid driven affinity groups would make luxury entertainment and leisure available to the masses in unprecedented ways. Ever wanted to sail a yacht? Join the yachting affinity group. Want to learn to fly a plane? The aviation affinity group has aircraft and training available for anyone who wants to learn. All you have to do is contribute some of that copious free time you have to your community of comrades, and you'll be barrel rolling like Star Fox in no time. And if that airplane thing sounds far-fetched, look into the way glider clubs work in the USA. In almost every state, there's a glider club that offers free or extremely cheap rides and lessons to anyone who shows up. If you think this all sounds impossible, you've probably never been part of a vibrant community driven purely by passion. When I was in high school, I was really into medieval reenactment and sword fighting. I was a big ol' nerd. I joined the Society for Creative Anachronism and I was welcomed by enthusiastic people who wanted nothing more than to teach me and help me have fun. I was given loaner armor, a free sword, and given free lessons on blacksmithing. Handle your weapon carefully, foul peasant. Free rides to events. It was awesome, and in exchange I helped wash the dishes after banquets. I helped set up and break down campsites. I did everything I could to help everyone else have a good time. We weren't trying to profit off of each other. There was no exploitation We were just a bunch of passionate nerds trying to help each other have fun. From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs. That was mutual aid, that was anarchism, and that was fun as hell. For when you cross swords with a master, you had better prepare yourself for the reckoning. Do you understand that of which I speak? Yeah, I think I understand it, yeah. So why can't we revise our world along those lines? The fact is, we can, and we should, and if enough of us decide to reject capitalism, we will. Remove the profit motive from leisure and luxury, and the world will be a much happier place. As Bread Santa puts it, And that's it for part 5 of how anarchism works. In part 6, we'll talk about how anarcho-communists can live in harmony With other kinds of leftists. Until then, I'm Emerican Johnson. This is Non-Compete. Thanks for watching. Have fun. Would you build an enormous skate park in your neighborhood and do sick kickflips- [laughing] I forgot I wrote that. Would you build an enormous skate park in your neighborhood and do sick kick flicks off the- Would you build an enormous skate park in your neighborhood and do? [laughing] [laughing] Why is it enormous? Would you get together a crew and shoot the David the Gnome/Perfect Strangers crossover series of my dreams? Would you get together and Make the Exosquad/Ronin Warriors crossover series of my dreams? Would you get together and make the Harry and the Hendersons and ALF crossover of my dreams? Would you make the Doug/Indiana Jones crossover series of my dreams? How did I get into this mess? Don't worry kid. I'll get you out of it. [laughing] Oh my gosh. All right, I don't know if that's funny at all.