Creating “A Society Within Itself”

Updated: January 10, 2015

With the unprecedented level of government dysfunction in Washington D.C. and no hopes of any change in sight, everyone is trying to find a solution to our broken system. Much blame has been placed at the foot of the Republicans obstructionism, specifically the Tea Party movement led by Ted Cruz. However the Democrats and the president have not escaped the wrath either.

“How do we fix the government! How do we fix government so we can get back on with our lives! How do we fix government so we can get on with our lives and live like we’re supposed to in America. After all, aren’t we supposed to be exceptional? At least that’s what our politicians tell us.”

There are ideas on how to fix the dysfunction, or should I say just “awfulness” of Washington. Some want to take the Occupy movement’s lead and protest … like going back to the ’60s thing. It worked then (kind of), so it has to work now … right? Except it’s not working now. While Occupy’s message is wonderful, outside of making the word “occupy” part of our societal lexicon – it really hasn’t accomplished much. In fact, even that figurative accomplishment is fading. Nobody is occupying much of anything these days except hashtags. Raising awareness to issues like “income disparity” is great. But doesn’t this awareness need to evolve into results at some point? To date, it hasn’t. In fact the disparity between the 1% and the rest us has gotten worse since the Occupy movement moved in and set up camp on Wall Street in 2010.

The consensus seems to be that capitalism is the culprit. If the tyranny of the rich could just be broken and wealth was redistributed we could begin down the path of universal prosperity and wellbeing. Some of the ideas I’ve come across propose new variations of government – everything from straight participatory democracy, to communal tribalism. Some of them make sense. In fact some of them make a lot of sense. But they’re not going to happen. Aside from an exercise in synaptic gymnastics, pondering these governmental alternatives accomplish little or nothing. All of them involve the tearing down of the status quo. “We have to blow it up and start fresh.”


The problem with “blowing something up” is that those who are getting blown up aren’t going to be too happy and probably will, as Dylan Thomas famously said, “… not go gentle into that good night!” Occupy Wall Street found this out the hard way. Even though they demonstrated peacefully; they were rousted, time and time again by Bloomberg’s RoboCop peacekeepers. Demonstrators all over the nation and for that fact the world have seen similar fates. Even the hope lit by the Arab Spring has done little than open the door for a even more ruthless regimes.

Those in the “ivory towers” like their ivory towers and don’t want anyone messing with them. And they will do whatever they deem necessary to retaliate. And it’s naive to believe any other frontal assault on the status quo will be met with anything less.

I agree that government needs an overall, and those in power should be packed up in their clown cars, with their soap boxes and a full tank of gas (cheap gas at that) and sent home to the hinterlands to pontificate in front of their fellow ideologues. And I agree that the corporations, in America and aboard, have way too say much say over what these clowns do and the effect it has on us. But thinking we can the change government, federal or state, and the relationship it has with lobbyists and their megalomaniacal clients is delusional in itself.

I’d say the central contradiction of capitalism — I say this in The Rise of the Creative Class, completely overlooked — is the attempt to impose top-down order, corporate direction, corporate control over the full flourishing of human creativity — this conflict between organization and creativity. ~ Richard Florida

But I think we’re all missing the point here. Capitalism isn’t the problem. It’s the misuse of capitalism that is. And we continue to fuel this misuse by our support (financially and psychologically) of the status quo. We continue to shop at Wal-Mart and Target and plethora of other box stores and corporate chains filling their coffers only to spent on politicians to gain even more influence who tailor legislation to have even more control over us. And then we continue to elect these same corrupt politicians. It’s a vicious cycle. But it’s one we can break. But it’s not by just “throwing out the bums and replacing them with new bums.”

Where is it said our wellbeing is dependent on a government and the absurdities of their decision-making. Where is it said that this “game” of politics,  played out on television and in the newspapers every day, has to hold the same addictive qualities as “crack?”

Have we lost our ability to band together and collaborate as communities, reestablishing the ‘Middle Ring’ of neighborhoods and be there for one another? Have we lost our sense of self-sufficiency? Instead of reliance corporate behemoths to fulfill our every need, can we not look locally to for the same? Can we not use capitalism as it should be used … through the vehicle of locally owned business; owned by our friends, our neighbors and even ourselves.

I understand government is needed. I don’t think we can live in anarchy. There is definitely a role it plays. But the question is – how much of role does it need to? Do we need it as the only resort? Does it have to be the only “safety net?” Should its importance take precedent over help gotten from family or from community?

I’m not a libertarian, or at least not full-fledged. I don’t propose drastically scaling government back by cutting taxes and services to austerity levels like Ted Cruz and the lunatic fringe. The government can keep on doing what the government does, doesn’t do, supposed do to or not supposed to do. I’m not interested in “blowing the whole thing up” and starting new.

“It is not necessary to tear down the old system … but rather to create a second system to which to flourish in.” ~ Nelson Mandela

I read an interesting piece on the French philosopher, Gilles Deleuze. Deleuze deciphered the Hippie movement of the late ’60s and early ’70s in the United States. Contrary to popular perception, these “hippies” weren’t really trying to change the government. But rather they just wanted to start a separate society where they could co-exist with the status quo. Unfortunately their idea didn’t really take hold (except in a few isolated enclaves like Berkley or the Haight in San Francisco). Maybe it was their unconventional clothing, or their recreational drug use or their communal preferences. Or maybe it was these outliers were just … too different. And after all, aren’t we supposed to be leery of people who tread outside of the “bounds of conformity.”

But maybe things are changing. It’s obvious that the traditional institutions our parents and grandparents depended on are but skeletons of what they used to be. Political and institutional greed and self-interest have replaced the interest of the common folk (fast becoming the serfs).

My vision follows that of Nelson Mandela, “Create a society that flourishes within a larger society.” While not as extreme as the hippie movement, … I pull inspiration from it. A society’s economic wellbeing and the happiness of its occupants should not be dependent on its elected officials anymore more than our personal happiness should be dependent on others.

Now the question is, how do we build this new society, one that can function and flourish within the bounds of the greater one we see as grossly inadequate? And how do we build this new society by reestablishing the neighborhoods and communities that worked so effectively in the past, yet building them on a base firmly planted in the technological world we live in now?

That is exactly what we’re going to do.


I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg and on Google+


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