BIOGAS AND SOLAR ENERGY (rather than petroleum and nuclear
energy). The continued
dependence upon sugar cane offers the
following alternatives (moving clock-wise from 1-9) :
The Solari Stock Plan: Control vs. Money
How a Solari Can Create Value and Make Money
· Opportunity #2: Reengineering Government and Private Investment
#3: Raising and Managing Equity
venture funds, investment funds and mutual funds
Investment Analytics: Traditional investment analysis focuses on “return
on investment” (ROI) to the investor. Solari investment analytics looks at
both ROI to the investor as well as ROI to all involved parties – total
understanding the full economic impact on all players, a solari can help a
community identify opportunities to reduce risk as well as to reengineer
investment of human and financial resources for higher returns.
more and more assets move under the control of corporations and investors,
responsibility for promoting the “rule of law” will shift from citizens
as voters at the polls to also consumers “voting” in the marketplace
with their money.
as market participants “vote” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with their
investment of time ---their choice of media, associations and communications
as well as who to admire --- and their investment of financial resources ---
whether purchases, deposits or investments.
the infrastructure of a solari behind us providing us with the basic
needed to fulfill our obligations voting at the polls and in the marketplace, we
have the individual and collective market clout to insist on standards of lawful
conduct by corporations and government agencies.
72,000 neighborhood solaris helping to provide the sunshine and transparency
to support them, 281 million Americans could promote the rule of law by
“voting” in the marketplace with their time and money.
Sixteenth annual colloquy of the American Weil
Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley,
April 26-27, 1996.
"Wendell Berry, Ivan Illich and Simone
Weil: A Political Alternative for
From her earliest, most significant essay (´´Oppression
and Freedom´´, 1934) to the end
of her last major work (The Need for Roots, 1943) Simone Weil argues in
favor of creating a civilization in which work might become the pivot of the
spiritual life and the element binding harmoniously families and communities.
On this occasion I would like to introduce Wendell Berry's proposals for
agriculture (in The Unsettling of America, Culture and Agriculture, 1977)
and Ivan Illich's observations regarding some of the choices available to our
society today (in his lectures and addresses from 1978-1990 collected under the
title In the Mirror of the Past) as a way of corroborating the soundness
of the intuitions and recommendations of all three thinkers who share in the
view that man's health and happiness and, with them, the beauty of the earth,
require that homo aeconomicus (in its most extreme form, homo
industrialis) be allowed to reintegrate himself into homo habilis
(following here more closely Illich's terminology) so that man may turn from
passive consumer of "unlimited commodities" into active producer of
what might actually be needed to make life more or less "livable" for
most. At the same time, the matter
of Simone Weil's notions of "order" and "rootedness" and how
each stands vis à vis the other, may hereby
appear more clearly than in the past.
All three thinkers, in effect, may be said to rebel vs. the notion of
"work" irremediably as "punishment" and, to such an extent,
to reject an important aspect of what is most often meant by the biblical
"Fall from Grace." They
invite us to save ourselves from the scourge of senseless production and
consumption through the studied enhancement of the private as well as the public
or communal spheres of our lives and through responsible political involvement
in those communities and civic forums to which we may have access or which we
may still manage to create as a matter of choice and determination.
In saying the latter, I do not mean to imply that any of these three
thinkers would be so silly as to consider that "Paradise" can be
"regained" (except momentarily by some) since all three are well aware
of the fact that, as Simone Weil observes, "here on earth all good is mixed
with bad" and vice-versa: only
that humanity may still have the capacity to save itself from total Hell on
Earth through a more mature political awareness and action (or so one hopes...).
It should go without saying (although unfortunately it hardly ever does)
that a saner political vision requires, in the first place, a more competent
understanding of how so very many
of our everyday assumptions betray our goals from the moment that they cover up
misperceptions made possible by the habitual use of frivolous "terms"
that tend to confuse thought and which interfere with clear thinking that alone
can be expressed by those real "words" that really mean (Illich) and
which Simone Weil considered "sufficient."
The responsibility of intellectuals thus has a double edge:
to truth through an exorcism of language afflicted with too many
"terms" that confuse thinking and¼
to justice through a courageous stance in the life of the cité,
of the body politic, that assumes and enhances the acceptance of those very
truths that real words alone reveal and sustain. The
intrinsic interdependence, however, of terms such as truth, justice, health,
beauty, wholeness, holiness, love, order and rootedness also stand to receive
some clarifying corroboration.
In a letter to Gustave Thibon during the summer of 1941, Simone Weil
speaks about her experience as a farm worker and --while being careful not to
give the impression that she is dismissing the hardships involved for others in
less privileged situation vis à vis the land than she has been able to enjoy
while laboring at Thibon's, she goes on all the same to recollect the moments in
which, having exhausted her fatigue, she experienced "a kind of joy, of
plenitude and participation in the land and the world around such as no other
kind of activity brings" (my translation, Cahiers IV, no. 2).
And, at the end of the same letter, she further observes what she had
certainly not been in any position to speak about in 1934 when writing the text
she seems to have favored over all others, Oppression and Freedom:
"The situation of a machine operator in a factory is pure slavery,
and as long as I was in the factory I was only a slave;
I truly fear (not for myself, of course) that the situation of a farmhand
may well also be a bondage in various ways, but it is at the same time something
What that "something else" might be is the central theme of
Wendell Berry's writings on culture and agriculture for the simple reason that
it is precisely that "something else" that mechanization and
"agribusiness" has relentlessly destroyed throughout the country that
calls itself America and whose "unsettling" has touched us all as much
as it has touched those who until recently still managed to enjoy that
"something else": American
farmers whose destiny has been to be relieved from the so-called
"drudgery" of having to work the land in order to do what?, Berry
ironically asks (as everyone else might and should).
That those same farmers would now be free to join the armies of the
"unemployed and unemployable" in the inner cities while slowly being
recovered for some type or other of passive consumption of industrial
commodities and social services (necessarily supported by the welfare state with
the help of all taxable citizens) is what the well healed spokesmen for
"efficiency," who take pride in the extraordinary ´´productivity´´
of the American farmer and in the marvels of the agribusiness industry,
obstinately fail to see or might ever be expected to discuss.
Clearly, Wendell Berry's defense of traditional farming methods is
informed by his own quite formidable knowledge and experience.
It is the experience of someone who is not only a highly cultivated
spirit, a poet, but a Kentucky farmer who has lived the life and times of who he
truly is: a gentleman farmer, an
academic, and one of the founding fathers of Friends of the Earth.
His experience, of course, is not the experience of everyone who has
worked the land, yet what he knows about farming explains to those of us who are
not farmers (and I am certainly not one, even though I've lived in the
countryside for many years) precious things about that "something
else" that Simone Weil was referring to, however vaguely, in her letter to
Thibon. Quite a few other things of
equal import are consequently brought home.
What most impresses me in Wendell Berry's luminous essays, I must say, is
his profound kinship with the weilian spirit and the in-depth resonances of his
observations concerning the unsettling (uprooting!) effects of specialization,
of the tendency toward generalization or abstraction, of mechanization, of
dispensing with God --for example- in order to put Paradise in the Future, of
the penchant for ignoring limits, of rejecting all kind of bodily work as a
damnation instead of accepting it as great opportunity for self preservation and
happiness. These are only
some of the keen analyses which --never parting company with Illich, whose work
he cites-- place him among those beacons to whom Simone Weil is referring when,
at the end of Freedom and Oppression, she speaks of those special
individuals --indispensable, I say-- whose effort of critical analysis, even
while treading in solitude and surrounded by scorn, would allow them to
"renovate on their own account, beyond the social idol, the original pact
of the spirit with the universe".
of the first observations in the collection of essays to which I am referring
throughout and that I can not skip for the sake of brevity is that "the
Indian became a redskin, not by loss in battle, but by accepting a dependence on
traders that made necessities of industrial goods" (Sierra Club
edition, p. 8). There is a
difference of course between the "earthly needs of the body and of the
soul" that Simone Weil proposes to us in her effort to leave some plausible
guidelines that we might further investigate while deciding which way to take,
and those other "created needs" that --in Illich's incisive historical
account-- will eventually turn the "savage" into a "native"
(a being with "limited needs") and the "native" into an
"underdeveloped" being (one with "unlimited needs"
conveniently adjusted to the scale of demands
of a "limitless," ever expanding production of services and
commodities owed to the "developed" world).
(In passing, vocabulary among the three thinkers sometimes clashes even
while the underlying notions seldom differ much:
for example, Berry would welcome "an economy of necessities"
whereas Illich prefers to speak about "subsistence" and attacks
"needs" that never existed until someone began to bet on them; Illich
praises "autonomy" or self reliance --it's one of his favorite words,
along with "disvalue" whose use he defends against the so called
ravages of "entropy"--whereas Berry might decry the claim for
"autonomy" yet not by any means in the sense Illich intends --as
self-reliance-- rather as an impossible narcissistic solution to the hard work
that relationship entails...).
In perfect agreement with Weil and with Illich, Berry sees specialization
as a disease of the modern character and notes how "society becomes more
and more organized but less and less orderly." (p. 19)
In his essay on "The ecological crisis as a crisis of
agriculture" he makes a plea against the "Terrarium view of the
world," (p. 28) chuckling over the many would-be protectionists who confuse
not-using with "protecting" when in effect "the question
is not to use or not to use but how to use."
The importance of preserving wilderness indeed is great, considering that
our biological and cultural roots are in nature and that children should always
have some access to places where they can "imagine the prehistoric":
in fact, for Berry (and other scientists such as Wes Jackson at the Land
Institute in Salina, Kansas, or Hans Peter Duerr, the cultural anthropologist)
wilderness is needed as a "standard of civilization and as a cultural
model" since "only if we know how the land was can we tell how it is,"
records never being enough: "to know is to see" and it is in
wilderness that the forces of growth and decay are in balance (p.30).
That is not to say that we should hope or be able to preserve more than a
small portion of the land in wilderness.
Berry notes how, as knowledge (hence, use) is generalized, essential
values are destroyed which include the abandonment of the idea that the farm
should aim at economic independence: agripower,
petropower become the same, interdependent and yet competitive:
food as a weapon, with the result that consumers eat worse and producers
farm worse while waste becomes institutionalized.
It is thanks to the historical acumen of Ivan Illich, who claims to study
history "as an antidote to obsessive speculations about the future"
and whose pass time it is to "look out of [the past's] perspective at the
axioms of that mental topology of thought and feeling which confronts me when I
write and speak" (Mirror, p. 35) that one discovers that "waste
is not the natural consequence of human existence" (p. 79):
Before 1830 "waste" as a verb and as a noun was related to
"devastation, destruction, desertification and degradation" but it was
not "something that can be removed," as we currently assume with
increasing pangs of apprehension as to the feasibility and cost of the
In "The Agricultural Crisis as a Crisis of Culture" Berry, with
characteristic humor, notes how "sanitation" as an excuse for getting
rid of small operators has only managed to replace germs with poisons:
"it is one of the miracles of science and hygiene that the germs
that used to be in our food have been replaced by poisons" (p. 41).
Agricultural "progress" has involved painful, forcible, massive
displacement of millions of people and while the communists used the military as
a force, in our country this force has been economic:
a "free market" in which "the freest have been the
richest." And yet, "the
preserver of abundance is excellence. . . food is a cultural product. . .it can
not be produced by technology alone":
"A healthy culture is a communal order of memory, insight, value,
work, conviviality, reverence, aspiration. It reveals the human necessities and the human limits.
It clarifies our inescapable bonds to the earth and to each other.
It assumes that the necessary restraints are observed, that the necessary
work is done, and that is is done well," (p. 43).
And he tells a beautiful story about wanting to market some
"inferior lambs" for which his friend kindly rebuked him saying that
he was in the business of producing good lambs and that he wasn't going
to sell any other kind. An attitude,
observes Berry, resulting from a passion that is "culturally prepared. .
.handed down to young people by older people whom they respect and love"
What impresses those of us who know nothing about farming and assume that
it is for "dullards," then, is the degree of mental and cultural
complexity that good farming involves.
Mechanization and concentration, "agribusiness," turns a series
of interrelated activities that are rich and complex into something that is as
boring as it is dehumanizing and ultimately wasteful in every sense.
Unlike a businessman or a technician, a good farmer is made by
generations of experience: "This
essential experience can only be accumulated, tested, preserved, handed down in
settled households, friendships, and communities that are deliberately and
carefully native to their own ground, in which the past has prepared the present
and the present safeguards the future" (45).
What happens with the concentration of farmland is that there is forcibly
a "shift from agricultural responsibility to financial accountability
and the capacity of [the farmer's] machines."
A good agricultural system is unified and durable like the Creation
itself and like any real organization always involves "real
responsibility" of which technicians, with their faith set on the future,
are hardly capable. What happens
with the shift from agriculture to agribusiness (or to an agriculture that is
modeled after the industrial system of production) is that it begins to
"live off the principal rather than the interest" and turns
exploitive instead of "nurturing."
In a unified system, Berry notes, "past a certain point. . . `other
life' is our own: . . . we can have
agriculture only within nature and culture only within agriculture."
It is Berry's way I think of elaborating on that Roger Bacon dictum
concerning nature that Simone Weil considered the only "Bible"
necessary to guide the spirit of a new civilization:
"Man commands nature by obeying her."
It suffices, she says, "in order to define veritable work, one
that makes men free, and this even to the same degree in which it is a conscious
submission to necessity," (my translation, Oppression et liberté,
Gallimard, 1955, p. 140).
Berry drives all the nails home when he concludes, and I highlight the
it is within unity that we see the hideousness and destructiveness of the
fragmentary --the kind of mind, for example, that can introduce a production
machine to increase "efficiency" without troubling about its effect on
workers, on the product, and on consumers;
that can accept and even applaud the "obsolescence" of the
small farm and not hesitate over the possible political and cultural effects;
that can recommend continuous tillage of huge monocultures, with massive
use of chemicals and no animal manure or humus, and worry not at all about the
deterioration or loss of soil. For
cultural patterns of responsible cooperation we have substituted this moral
ignorance, which is the etiquette of agricultural "progress."
It is precisely in this kind of concern, moral perhaps to the same extent
that it is ultimately also profoundly practical --and vice-versa-- that Simone
Weil saw some hope, however remote, the true value of "culture"
residing in its ability to "arm man so that he may entertain with the
universe and with his brothers, in identical condition to his, relations worthy
of human greatness," (O.
et L., p. 137).
Perhaps nowhere is Berry closer to Simone Weil's logistics for
salvaging what is still left of humanity than when he points to the
importance of being able to work at home.
The most destructive influence of the modern household in effect is its
remoteness from work: "when
people do not live where they work, they do not feel the effect of what they
do," (p. 52). Thus it is that
our time may be said to be characterized by "the movement of the center of
consciousness away from home." When
he describes what used to be, "particularly in Europe," he sounds as
if he were echoing some of Simone Weil's reveries about a possible future: "Work and rest, work and pleasure, were continuous with
each other, often not distinct from each other at all. Once, shopkeepers lived in, above, or behind their shops.
Once, many people lived by 'cottage industries' --home production. Once,
households were producers and processors of food, centers
of their own maintenance, adornment and repair, places of instruction and
amusement. People were born in
theses houses, and lived and worked and died in them. Such houses were not
generalizations. Similar to each
other in materials and design as they might have been, they nevertheless looked
and felt and smelled different from each other because they were articulations
of particular responses to their places and circumstances." (p. 53).
In Berry's account of man's displacement from his proper place on earth,
machines emerge as the most powerful of agents.
But such a displacement occurs only at some point when the balance
between life and machinery ceases to obtain, he insists:
only when, instead of enhancing or elaborating skill, machines begin to
replace it. With Simone Weil, he notes that the problem is related to the
desire for long term stores and supplies of energy, the difference between
animal energy and that of the machine being that, while the energy derived from
machines can be stored and accumulated in stockpiles or reservoirs, animal
energy --which combines earth, air, fire, sunlight and water-- perishes quickly:
it lasts over a long period only in the life cycle.
When the "governing human metaphor" was pastoral or
agricultural, "it clarified and so preserved in human care, the natural
cycles of birth, growth and decay." Machines
as agents of man's displacement worked not only as instruments which, instead of
enhancing skills replaced them, but --even more powerfully, he notes-- as
metaphor: "We began to see the
whole Creation merely as raw material, to be transformed by machines into a
manufactured Paradise. . . Our
'success' is a catastrophic demonstration of our failure." (References
from pp. 53-56.)
In the process, a ubiquitous disregard for "limits" took hold
of the modern mind which Berry describes as a basic inability to distinguish
between an "enormous quantity" and "infinity:"
"Any quantity we cannot measure we assume must be infinite."
He notes, as Weil did, that even if the foreseen supplies of energy we
think we will need in the "Paradise of the Future" were limitless,
"we can use them only within limits" p. 84. This vice of our
"logical" thinking in effect yields something as absurd as a
"destructible infinity": "infinite
energy } "immeasurable fuel". The
sun, of course is "infinite" (for several billion years, he notes) but
the question is, who will control the use of that energy... Energy from natural
life, on the other hand, is made available not as an inconceivable quantity,
but as a conceivable pattern, mastered by "primitive" peasants
thousands of years before modern science: "It
is conceivable not so much to the analytic intelligence, to which it may always
remain mysterious, as to the imagination by which we perceive, value and imitate
order beyond our understanding." It
is this order, I believe, "beyond our understanding," but which
nevertheless is quite patent to our senses and which filters through our own
bodies when "things" are in their "proper place," that
Simone Weil had in mind when she spoke about the needs of the soul.
That such an order is at once universal and extremely diverse in its
earthly manifestations is what emerges very clearly from such an earthbound
reading of the meaning of culture, I think.
It is also the only kind of "order" able to preserve
"order" in its more "mundane" sense (as in "law and
order"), since it alone is capable of ensuring that social hierarchies,
based on work and responsibility, will be "legitimate" and perceived
as such: the only possibility that "law and order" will
in effect prevail since no worldly power will ever be able to impose it for long.
We realize more and more every day the seemingly "limitless"
capacity for destruction attributable to the "State" --following
weilian analysis, the result of its penchant for attempting, quite mechanically,
as a matter of fact, to "control beyond where it can effectively impose
itself" as is constantly demonstrated, among other things, by a so-called
"war on drugs" most likely financed or at least encouraged by the very
same criminals it is expected to destroy.
"Production, consumption, and return" thus emerge as the
components of "the moral order appropriate to the use of biological
energy." And, "whether we
like it or not," it is religion that binds us back to "the source of
life." Energy is
"superhuman" in the sense that humans cannot create it but only refine
or convert it --we cannot have it except by losing it and cannot use it
except by destroying it, but "from a human point of view, we can
destroy it also by wasting it: that is, by changing it into a form in
which we cannot use it again" (p. 81).
In effect, "our technology is the practical aspect of our
culture," Berry goes on to say: "By it we enact our religion or our
lack of it," and,
"because the biological limits are probably narrower than the mechanical,
this calls for restraint on the proliferation of machines"
When Simone Weil spoke about the future being "empty" and only
our "imagination" filling it she was trying to awaken us precisely to
the dangers and inevitable disappointments of that mental acrobatics whereby
"the only possibility of satisfaction is to be driving now in one's future
automobile" as Berry jocularly depicts the quirks of our present madness
(p. 58). The future appears
thus, he poignantly states, like "a continent recently discovered that the
corporations are colonizing," all
the while recognizing, as he does, the inevitability of thinking about the
future. Obviously, "hope and
vision can live nowhere else": "But
the only possible guarantee of the future is responsible behavior in the
present. When supposed future needs
are used to justify misbehavior in the present, as is the tendency with us, then
we are both perverting the present and
diminishing the future." Of
course, "the great convenience of the future as a context of behavior is
that nobody knows anything about it."
In the process, "the old rural virtues of solvency and thrift"
are dumped and "the economic and moral uncertainty of living on
credit" shrugged off as the cost to be paid for "an improved standard
of living" which we must increasingly recognize as very relative, I think,
compared to the absolute loss of peace of mind and, increasingly, of any level
of security: a true human need,
following Simone, along with its complement, which is risk.
Thus goes the law of the exploiter which holds that "for every
loss there is a gain . . . good fortune itself,"
Berry chuckles with irony: "it
means that you can do now wrong" (p. 63).
Berry speaks of the "modern" utopia as "the secularization
of Heaven" --the "engineered Paradise," observing that the modern
mind "longs for the future as the medieval mind longed for Heaven."
This precarious ontological situation of modern man is connected with a
dangerous way of defining "sovereignty" exclusively in terms of what
is inferior to it, "neglecting or ignoring what is superior to it" (p.
53). What seems clear about the
nation-of-the-future fed by the farms-of-the-future, he laments, is that people
"will not live where they work or work where they live.
They will not work where they play.
There will be no singing in those fields. There
will be no crews of workers or neighbors laughing and joking, telling stories or
competing at tests of speed and strength or skill [etc...]" . . .People
will have become consumers --consumptive machines, the slaves of producers,
since "it is impossible to mechanize production without mechanizing
consumption" (p. 74). And what
mechanization finally, inevitably, manages to install is nothing other than
"the organization of disorder" (p. 70).
When the machine replaced the "Wheel of Life" as the
"governing cultural metaphor" then life could be seen as a "road
to be traveled as fast as possible, never to return.
Or, to put it another way, the Wheel of Life became an industrial
metaphor; rather than turning in place, revolving in order to dwell, it began
to roll on the 'highway of progress' toward an ever-receding horizon" and
it is in this process that the principle of "return" --whose morality,
I should add, is equal to its long term practical necessity-- was
catastrophically abandoned. Short term profit in place of the kind of
"changes" in time and place that answer for our diversity and which
alone will secure "continuity," the type that is needed for man to be
at one with the "universe."
At the end of his book, Berry advances twelve recommendations under the
subtitle "Public Remedies" (pp. 218-223) which include a plea for the
preservation of "margins," their
essence rejoining E.F. Schumacher's wisdom in his classic "Small is
Beautiful," whose subtitle you may recall is, most tellingly,
"Economics as if People Mattered"
--especially since smallness is the only way to guarantee true greatness,
the kind that keeps the biggest, most dreadful disasters in check.
I refer you to them as part of the work of defining what the political
alternatives for our time are. Even at the cost of a further reduction in the
time available to discuss more lengthily what Ivan Illich has to say about these
alternatives, but considering that with Berry (and Weil) we are already covering
many of the most important aspects of Illich's own sobering recommendations, I
would further like to quote from Berry's luminous text, leaving it largely to
you to make the corresponding connections in terms of Simone Weil's own
perceptions and intuitions:
"The culture that sustains agriculture and that it sustains must
form its consciousness and its aspiration upon the correct metaphor of the Wheel
of Life. . . it would aspire to diversity, enable the diversification of
economies, methods, and species to conform to the diverse kinds of land.
It would always use plants and animals together [remaining] as attentive
to decay as to growth, to maintenance as to production.
It would return all wastes to the soil, control erosion, and conserve
water. To enable care and devotion and to safeguard the local
communities and cultures of agriculture, it would use the land in small
holdings. It would aspire to make
each farm so far as possible the source of its own operating energy;
by the use of human energy, work animals, methane, wind or water or
solar power, the mechanical aspect of the technology would serve to harness or
enhance the energy available on the farm. It
would not be permitted to replace such energies with imported fuels, to replace
people or to replace or reduce human skills" (p. 89, my italics, as
most elsewhere). The use of work
animals, of course, is wholesome not only from the point of view of their
integration into the life processes that ensure a "return" to the soil
of it own yield, but from the point of view of the kind of pace that they
instill to the work: just slow
enough for the farmer to be able to remain attentive to those details upon which
all good performance depends while at the same time setting limits to a
"productivity" that is more illusory than real and which, in Illich's
favored expression, should be declared thoroughly "counterproductive": for the most characteristic aspect of the kind of
"progress" that has been promoted so irresponsibly with our own aid,
as well as with that of our more recent ancestors, is a
"counterproductivity," consisting in what Illich refers to as the
problem of "undesired externalities" (pp. 81 and following) and
resulting in the "Nemesis of development." Or counterproductive productivity.
Thus, as Ivan Illich has expounded all along his brilliant critique of
industrial civilization, there is hardly an aspect of life today that is not
riddled with what could well be referred to as "a punishment of the
gods" for all of our excesses: Nemesis,
medical (as in the famous title: Medical
Nemesis) and otherwise:
"For most people, schooling twists genetic differences into
certified degradation. The
medicalization of health increases demand for services far beyond the possible
and useful, and undermines that organic coping ability which common sense calls
health; transportation, for the great majority bound to the rush hour, increases
the time spent in the servitude to traffic, reducing both freely chosen mobility
and mutual access," (Mirror, p. 84).
The "privileged" in fact are those individuals who are
"free to refuse the counterproductive packages and ministrations of their
self-appointed tutors." And he
helps to dispel from our confused, over-charged minds, the corrupting influence
of thinking about human "equality" in terms that reduce human beings
to the status of helpless, passive would-be consumers of all kinds of trash
(among which, medical and educational services, both private and public, appear
as perhaps the most damaging of all). In
fact, the perception, he says, of the human as a needy being constitutes a radical
break with any known tradition: "We
are no longer equal because of the intrinsic dignity and worth of each person,
but because of the legitimacy of the claim to the recognition of a lack"
(p. 35). It is the transformation of a "culture" into an
is the delightful expression he uses to refer to this process) that accounts for
the "disembedding of the individual self" whereby it seems natural
to us to define the person by "abstract deficiencies" rather than by
"peculiarity of context" (p. 35).
In the essay, "Silence is a Commons," he narrates a most
revealing anecdote. Arriving at the
Island of Brac in 1926 from Vienna, where he was born, he managed to do so in
the same boat with the first loudspeaker ever introduced in the island:
"Silence now ceased to be in the commons;
it became a resource for which loudspeakers compete" (p. 53) so that
"language itself was transformed from a local commons into a national
resource for communications." Yet,
"Silence is. . . necessary for the emergence of persons.
It is taken from us by machines that ape people," and such a
development constitutes in reality "the most fundamental form of
environmental degradation" in the process of transforming the environment
"from a commons to a productive resource...".
When Simone Weil speaks about the need for both "private" and
"public" property as a "need of the soul"
I believe that what she has in mind is a sense of both the
"private" and the "public" that are best understood in terms
of the "commons" as Illich explains it.
The kind of "private" property that Simone Weil has in mind,
you will recall, has nothing to do with a "bank account" and
everything to do with those things that the human person can consider as an
"extension" of his own self and which are quite limited to the real,
concrete setting in which his bodily and spiritual life unfolds (without there
in effect being any kind of a "split" between these two poles of a
person's singularity). In a relationship that may be said to parallel, to my mind,
this kind of "body/mind" continuum or unity, traditional communal life
has entailed a "reality too complex to fit into paragraphs."
The Commons (irai in Japanese), observes Illich, is "that
part of the environment outside of people's own possessions, to which . . .they
had recognized claims of usage, not to produce commodities but to provide for
the subsistence of their household," through intricate practices peculiar
to time and place that must remain, because of this complexity, "unwritten
law." Before "space"
was turned into "an infrasctructure for vehicles," Illich notes, the
"Commons" while "limited and necessary for different groups in
different ways" was not really perceived as "scarce."
It was after all imminently renewable thanks to the "Wheel of
Life" practice of taking, using, and returning.
"Vernacular" in Rome between 500 B.C to 600 A.D. designated any
value that was "homebred, homemade, derived from the Commons, and that a
person could protect and defend though he neither bought nor sold it in the
market" (p. 99). It is a word
that allows Illich to point in the direction of at least a conceivable
counterbalancing of the excesses that have put us where we are.
"Commodity independent lifestyles must be shaped anew by each small
community and not be imposed," he warns, or their efforts at restoring some
measure of sanity into our civilization will be spoiled by the very same forces
that made their emergence necessary: "Communities
living by predominantly vernacular values have nothing much to offer others
besides the attractiveness of their example."
His analyses of "shadow work" are clear, persuasive and useful,
yet today there is time left only to highlight the options that he sees open to
As you will note, and as was stated in the introduction, the values he
spouses rejoin Simone Weil's own hopes for humanity in every way.
While analyzing these options he notes that, unfortunately, "ecology
still acts as a subsidiary or twin to economics":
for example, "what housing as a commodity has done to the
environment has so far not been recognized by our ecologists," though this
is rapidly changing, especially in the "underdeveloped" world where it
is increasingly difficult to deprive people of "the liberty to dwell"
in view of the total incapacity of those governments to even begin to fulfill
people's "right to shelter" (which by definition is in conflict with
the liberty to dwell, as he explains it, while pointing out that "there
can be no dwelling without its commons" and that "just as no two
communities have the same style of dwelling, none can have the same
"just as the home reflects in its shape the rhythms and extent of
family life, so the commons are the trace of the commonality," p. 59).
Schematically, then, Illich discusses, in "The Three Dimensions of
Public Opinion" (a paper that was the "Keynote speech at the 16th
Assembly of the society for International Development at Sri Lanka, in 1979) the
nature and scope of the decisions we must each make in our own lives with a
view, above all, to extricating ourselves in whatever measure is possible from
the sordidness to which we are expected to conform,
thereby putting ourselves on the side of at least not being idle,
patient, blind collaborators of our own unnaturally sordid kind of demise.
There are the issues related to social hierarchy, political authority,
ownership of he means of production, and allocation of resources (usually
designated by the terms Right and Left) which he puts on the "X" axis.
There are those issues that involve technical choices between
"hard" and "soft" (goods and services both being affected)
which he places on the Y axis, with "hard" at the bottom and
"soft" at the top), and then there are those issue that he puts on the
Z-axis and which have to do with the social organization that fits the
satisfaction in doing more than in having, where, with Eric Fromm
(and, of course, Simone Weil), he puts doing at the top and having at
the bottom of what is desirable.
He shows, then, that "the soft path can lead either toward a
convivial society where people are so equipped to do on their own whatever they
judge necessary for survival and pleasure, or toward a new kind of
commodity-dependent society where the goal of full employment means the
political management of activities, paid or unpaid. Whether a 'left' or 'soft'
path leads toward or away from new forms of 'development' and 'full employment'
will depend on the options taken between 'having' and 'being' on the third
axis" (p 97). He warns,
however, against the "new experts" who already crowd airports and
conference halls pushing "French rather than German self-help methods or
windmill designs": "The
last hope of development bureaucracies," he insists,
"lies in the development of shadow economies" (p. 101).
The richness of my selected topic, and its vastness as well, has made it
excruciatingly difficult to discard precious material that deserves, as much as
what has been included here, to come to the fore. In closing, though, I would like to mention what I believe,
above all else, it is most important to keep in mind in our daily lives and in
the process of making some hard core "political" decisions:
an insight central to all that has been said and which is at once a
starting point and a harbor for all thought.
It consists of what Simone Weil referred to when she recommended that we
do not attempt to "dwell on our bridges."
Mysteriously, yet beyond the
shadow of a doubt, the more we examine the terrors that our civilization forces
us to face, the more it becomes clear that the greatest disasters we have
managed to create for ourselves result from allowing what are purely
"means" to occupy the place of what may legitimately be called, one at
a time, "an end in itself," fairly intertwined as an aspect of the one
and only end-in-itself. And it is
precisely the confusion of means and ends that underlies our Fall from Grace, in
the sense referred to at the beginning of this presentation. For, as Wendell Berry so beautifully puts it once again, for
us, today: "There is work
that is isolating, harsh, destructive, specialized or trivialized into
meaninglessness. And there is work
that is restorative, convivial, dignified and dignifying, and pleasing. Good work is not just the maintenance of connections --as one
is now said to work 'for a living' or 'to support a family' --but the enactment
of connections . . .one of the forms and acts of love" (p. 138, my
underlining) so that "we are
working well when we use ourselves as the fellow creatures of the plants and
animals, materials, and other people we are working with.
Such work is unifying, healing. It
brings us home from pride and from despair, and places us responsibly within the
human estate. It defines us as we
are: not too good to work with our
bodies, but too good to work poorly or joylessly or selfishly or alone" (p.
140). Weil rediviva.
Última modificación: Sábado, 11 de Junio de 2005