Now this is the Law of the Jungle as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.
- Law of the Jungle, Rudyard Kipling
Perhaps one of the most widespread criticisms of capitalism is the development of the hyper individual society. More often than not this is chalked up to “survival of the fittest” taking Darwinian principles out of context – often to explain away their own actions. A photo circulating on social media talks about the pack of wolves and how it is formed. The information in the photo was quickly debunked as false. However, wolves do travel in packs and have a fixed social structure, designed to ensure their survival.
It is this idea of survival that I am interested in.
If nature has shown us anything, it is that survival is a communal effort. There is little that an individual can do against the forces of nature, time and fate. It is for these reasons we find ourselves moving away from things like classical property theory as dictated by Locke and Hegel.
We see this transition happening, for example, with the recent Community Land Act. In recognizing that sometimes it is not just the stake of the individual that matters but also the stake of the community in land as a resource (perhaps as the most tangibly finite resource available).
“If emphasis is placed on my needs, then the possession of property appears as means to their satisfaction, but the true position is that, from the standpoint of freedom, property is the first embodiment of freedom and so is in itself a substantive end.”
- Freiderich Hegel, Grundlinien der Philisophie des Rechts, no 45
Of course it is complicated to remove ideas of freedom from control. To be free to do as one wills is to be in control of one’s will. Which is to say that freedom is nothing without the ability to exercise it. Gukira writes:
“A freedom-seeking imagination can envision a sharable world—a world where we are with each other in a range of configurations. Embedding can happen in and with freedom. We can share freely.”
Which leads to the question – if freedom is intertwined with the need to control, then how does a freedom seeking mind envision a shareable world? For example, to go back to land, laws on land use, zoning and eminent domain are all at struggle with the individual’s ability to fully exercise their will over this thing that they own. In this way the freedom itself exists within parametres – like a sandbox that you can play in, but not around.
But land is easy to think with – land is tangible and its value is not largely debated (despite repeated rumours about a real estate bubble it remains one of the most popular forms of investment). It becomes a bit more complicated when we begin to think about how this thinking has affected how we think of other resources. It would be more controversial(and infinitely more complicated), for example, to speak of a communal finances. What would that look like? After all, money is the product of an individual effort. An effort that took time and energy from the individual.
Like the effort of tilling land.
And this is the thing that I’m trying to understand – is there such a thing as an individual effort? What is this idea of the “self made?” The self is only a collection of ideas that we have aggregated from the people around us – or against them. And if labour is a communal effort then what does this mean for the ways in which we have imagined survival? Are they sustainable?
Sustainable. That dirty, eco friendly, take away your diesel cars and make you live on a diet of tofu and water, word.
The problem is, it is becoming increasingly impossible to ignore questions of sustainability. Especially with the rise of nationalism. The policies that come around with nationalism often refuse to take into account long term effects. Nationalism is always reaching towards the greatness of the nation, and the nation must be great – now. Of course in chasing now we often forget that there will be a later and by the time that later becomes now it might be too late to solve problems that have been festering for decades.
“Either we are all free or we fail, democracy must belong to all of us”
- Dennis Chavez
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”
Of course, the struggle for resource is not one that was born of colonialism, resource distribution has been an open question for a very long time. But perhaps now is the time to close it. After all, we have institutions that govern and organize people in large groups. Democracy allows more people to have a say and the internet (and media at large) has given us modes of communication that previous generations could only dream of.
At risk of being circular, how do we strike a balance between this and the will? When it comes down to it no one wants to live at risk of themselves being sacrificed for “the greater good.” What does a working freedom framework look like? And would we even have the ability to live within that framework? What does it mean for how we have imagined our survival? Or do we still think that we can rise on our own? Lift the bucket we are standing in?
“But what do you know of the freedom that you seek?”
What kind of imagination will it take to imagine freedom outside the current frames of moving towards control (and the taking away of freedom of others)?
How do we ensure that we survive?