Consumerism Lies at the Heart of School's Educational Purpose
A stream-of-consciousness reflection on the state of school, civilization, capitalism and the way we live our lives.
Consumerism Lies at the Heart of School's Educational Purpose
By Tim Hjersted / filmsforaction.org

Consumerism is at the heart of the school institutions educational purpose. It schools people to believe in the value and necessity of channeling autonomous, community activities into monetary commodities provided by professionals. Bury the dead? You need a funeral company. Feeling isolated and needing someone to talk to? You need a psychiatrist. Feeling sick? You need a doctor. Feeling unsafe? You need a police department. Want to help people? You need to join a social worker agency. Need a haircut? You need a professional that cuts hair.

All of these assumed connections arise out of the fundamental idea that if you or your child needs to learn, he must find a school where licensed professionals can help him.

It is also true because it has been decades or centuries since either previous or alternative learning methods have been available. Over time, more and more of life's necessary activities have been moved from the autonomous, community sphere to purchasable commodities manufactured by the service and goods industry.

We've come to the point that modern day man is rapidly devolving into a position of dependence far more debilitating than any in history.

It is somewhat ironic that modern culture looks down on 'primitive' hunter-gatherer societies. Our technology and social institutions have become more complex, but we have also become more dependent. Our ability to survive today is based on innumerable layers of systems, institutions, technology and organizational networks, which themselves are dependent on everything else to survive. If the system were to crash we would be helpless, as clueless as we are to how a "primitive" hunter is cable of tracking and catching a nimble elk over miles through the forest.

The tribesman was far more autonomous and knowledgeable of his environment than today's civilized man. He was completely aware of the tools and properties of nature that allowed him to survive and enjoy his life. We underestimate the layers of skill and awareness necessary to track and hunt game across forest and prairie. We underestimate the values and philosophy he held in his heart that gave his life leisure and purpose.

As for ourselves, we know very little of the products which we use. Very few of us know how to grow our own food, to repair or make clothing, to fix things, to build things ourselves. We are disconnected from most of the necessities of life, but can buy them in exchange for work. Over the centuries, we lost the knowledge to rely on ourselves and our local community. "Lost, " however, is a euphemism, as it has been well-documented that this transition from community autonomy to wage-depencency has historically been produced through coercion and force. And so here we are today, where few examples exist of people that do not rely on money and the market economy to stay alive.

This lack of autonomy, of course, creates power-imbalances, where the one who controls access to skills, services or products has power over the one who cannot acquire it readily for themselves. The landlord has power over the tenent. Banks have power over debters. Employers have power over employees. States have power over its citizens. To achieve true liberty, to live as self-determined human beings, we must expropriate the knowledge, skills, and the means of production into the hands of our own communities. We must re-learn the skills and knowledge that we have lost. We need to create alternative economies based on knowledge and skill sharing, rather than profit and money.

As we can reacquire the skills to live and thrive in our every-day life, we can reduce our dependency on the hierarchal economic power structures that make our lives dull and toilsome. The simple act of cutting ones own hair, or having a friend do it for you is a liberating feeling. No longer do you need that little extra bit of money every month or so to go about your life. If you attend a bike-repair workshop, or have a friend that likes helping people in this way, no longer will you require the extra funds to repair your bike at a professional bike repair shop. The same remains true for basic car repair. By far the most subversive and peaceful skill one can learn is the ability to grow your own food. You can also create surplus crops that you can trade with others that are growing their own food. For every necessity that we can acquire without the use of money, we can lower the threshold of economic affluence required to stay above the poverty line.

The more activities that become "de-professionalized" the more a community can become independent of those professionals, thus decreasing the amount of work one must do to stay out of poverty. This trend towards community self-reliance has been flourishing in response to the challenges of peak oil, climate change, and the growing instability of capitalist markets. World-wide, people are realizing that neo-liberal capitalism does not work. It is not sustainable, nor should we want to make it sustainable. But the answer is not the socialist or communist alternatives of the past. In the place of capitalism, a whole new economic paradigm is emerging, one that recognizes that all economic systems based upon money are no longer relevant. Capitalism, communism, and socialism are all out-dated economic systems that evolved out of environments of scarcity.

The conventional wisdom that indoctrinates young economic students to believe that scarcity is a law of nature that has existed and will exist forever is false. This may seem like an amazing claim, but over the last several decades the rapid acceleration of technology has thrown this 'economic law' into question. Historically, monetary systems evolved to deal with real issues of scarcity. But now, for the first generation in history, technology has surpassed the technical (natural) limits of scarcity, and the problem remains now an issue of cultural lag. A world of abundance is possible now, where every human being can have a good quality of life while maintaining the health of the ecological systems on which we depend. At this point, the economic systems that evolved to help manage issues of scarcity are now the same systems that reinforce it. Capitalism now is limiting technological progress, and maintains a world of scarcity, because scarcity is required for capitalism to function.

Because 99% of the world operates within this system, no one remembers how else it might have been done. Alternatives appear unimaginable.

What if spiders began to tell new spiders that to learn how to build webs you had to go to licensed professionals, and that only these professionals were qualified to build webs, but to learn how to build webs, or to purchase your own web, you had to collect water for the gatekeepers of these instructional tools to gain access. Collecting water was the only payment for such needs.

The analogy seems ridiculous, but it is precisely what has happened to us.

Each individual is capable of spinning its own webs. That is, we are all capable of living autonomously, within our communities, by our own means.

 

*Hat tip to Ivan Illich for inspiring this train of thought.

0.0 ·
0
What's Next
Trending Today
Rap News Special Edition: Hillary Clinton Vs Donald Trump
7 min · 19,838 views today · Hello world. RAP NEWS is back for a special episode on the 2016 USA Election mayhem, feat. Hillary Clinton vs Donald Trump + a touch of Jill Stein & Gary Johnson. This one's...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 11,116 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 9,549 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
The Culture of Maximum Harm
Daniel Quinn · 5,371 views today · People have lived many different ways on this planet, but about ten thousand years ago there appeared one people who believed everyone in the world should live a single...
Prince Ea Just Put The School System on Trial and Found it Guilty of Killing Free Thought
6 min · 4,593 views today · Albert Einstien once said "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid". Today Prince...
The Little Engine That Couldn't: How We're Preparing Ourselves and Our Children for Extinction
Daniel Quinn · 4,498 views today · In a recent semi-documentary film called Garbage, a toxic waste disposal engineer was asked how we can stop engulfing the world in our poisons. His answer was, "We'd have to...
Debt, Inequality and the Logic of Financial Violence
David Graeber · 3,074 views today · Five years after Occupy, organizer and anthropologist David Graeber speaks to ROAR about the power of finance, the history of inequality and the legacy of the movement.
What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone
Heather Plett · 2,809 views today · How to be there for the people who need you most
The Left Deserves Better Than Jill Stein
Kate Aronoff · 2,803 views today · Stein’s Green Party run doesn’t offer a plan to win, or to build power. The Left is capable of so much more.
How You Can Support Standing Rock
Thane Maxwell · 1,856 views today · This is your pipeline battle too. Whatever you have to offer, we need it. Wherever you are, take one step deeper. Find your voice. Find your own front lines.
Incredible Photographs and Witness Statements from Charlotte and Baton Rouge Protests
Mankaprr Conteh · 1,663 views today · On September 20, a black father named Keith Lamont Scott was fatally shot by an officer of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. It is not clear if he was armed...
The Journey From Syria (2016)
71 min · 1,488 views today · Reporter Matthew Cassel spent a year documenting the journey of Syrian jeweler Aboud Shalhoub as he travels from Turkey to Greece, and through Eastern Europe to the Netherlands...
The International Criminal Court May Start Prosecuting People Who Commit Crimes Against the Environment
Tara Smith · 1,439 views today · The International Criminal Court is not known for prosecuting people responsible for huge oil slicks, chopping down protected rainforests or contaminating pristine land. But...
This Satirical Trump Vs. Bernie Debate Is Both Hilarious and Highly Disturbing
44 min · 1,428 views today · Comedians James Adomian (Bernie Sanders) and Anthony Atamanuik (Donald Trump) bring two of the most controversial candidates in history, head-to-head, or rather bald-to-toupee...
Kids Killed by Guns: America's Daily Nightmare
3 min · 1,325 views today · On an average day in America, seven children and teenagers will be shot dead.Gary Younge tells the stories of the lives lost on one random day - 23 November 2013. Ten children...
Olympian John Carlos on the Power of Protest
3 min · 1,253 views today · 1968 Olympic athlete John Carlos protested racial inequality by raising his fist in a Black Power salute on the medal stand. He has some advice for athletes like Colin...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,192 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Humanity's Greatest Challenges Aren't Technical, They're Human
8 min · 1,092 views today · Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is incomplete as we commonly know it. Later in his life, Maslow wrote about a stage beyond self-actualization. Nichol Brandford explains how to...
Yemen's Forgotten War and Famine Fuelled by Weapons from The West
3 min · 1,017 views today · The world has forgotten the war in Yemen but you'll remember these shocking images of its starving children.
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 936 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Consumerism Lies at the Heart of School's Educational Purpose