The frustrating thing about not being able to produce things for yourself is that you end up feeling pretty powerless. It’s always awkward when you have to rely on other people to share things with you rather than feel able to just take whatever you need out of a supply that you have built up yourself.
Even if the people who you rely on are very generous, you still have to wait for the opportune time to ask, or at least for a time when they are awake and have attention to spare on your concerns.
When it comes to the people who actually control most of what is produced in our global capitalist society, well, needless to say, they aren’t particularly generous in the first place.
I would like to be in a position to grow most of the food and medicinal plants that I would use, by myself and with the help of my friends. This is a pretty standard hippyish dream – an agricultural commune. But I would also like to have all the music equipment I need in one place, to be able to compose, arrange, practice, record, mix and produce music whenever I need.
Basically I want a music studio on a big bit of land with a bunch of my friends living on the same land with their own creative projects to be getting on with and all the equipment they need to do them.
I am fully aware that not everyone in the world would want to live like this. Lots of people would not particularly want to grow their own food or to have their own workshop or studio to produce things for themselves on.
Many are content to be dependent on others for the things they need in life, without having to do anything in return. Many are content to do some form of work in return, but not to be in control of how that work is carried out, or what particular work they have to do. I do not understand the mentality of such people, though I do not begrudge them their happiness, if indeed happiness is possible whilst living such a life.
But I know that I am not alone in wishing to have more control of the means of production. For most of human history people have not had the choice to sit around doing nothing while living off the productive labour of others, and so strong tendencies towards working directly to produce what you need have always existed.
When people first started living off of the labour of others, only a small minority of the population was able to do so. Most people had to work to grow the food, build the shelters, maintain the tools, make the clothes, etc, and perhaps one or two people in each group could demand a share of the products of the labour of others through the threat of violence if they did not comply. This is basically how society works in what people call ‘feudal’ society.
In industrial capitalist society, the great majority of people do not work to produce their own food, clothes, shelters etc, and simply give a share to the social elite. Things, as of course we all know, are far more complicated than that.
Workers generally produce things that they will never own themselves, or even only produce parts of those things, or even simply move those things around from place to place, or talk about those things in the abstract whilst typing into computers or speaking into telephones.
We are removed from the process, to the point where we need to look on the labels of things we consume just to have a slight guess as to their true contents, whilst still being little the wiser. We do not know the names of the people who produced the food we ate today, nor the names of those people who moved it from place to place or talked about it in the abstract in an office on a telephone.
We do not know the names of the owners of the companies that produced it, or sold it, or moved it from place to place. We do not know the names of the stock brokers who sold the shares of ownership in that company to who knows how many people yesterday, or the day before, or the names of the bankers who dictated the policies that fixed what the price of the money that the shares, or even the food itself, were sold with.
Yet, the land is still there. There is soil enough around, and water, and minerals, and oxygen. There is sunlight. There are tools around. There are books, articles, websites, which can teach someone how to build or grow almost anything, written in hundreds of languages.
If we all woke up tomorrow to find that all our conditioned reflexes and mental patterns can disappeared in our sleep to be replaced with a new, dynamic, go-getting, optimistic approach to plunging ourselves into the unknown, and a thirst for control over our lives and the means of production, we could create new systems for doing things in no time.
But those mental patterns are fixed. Many people, in the face of a logical argument for why they should do something they have never done before, or stop doing something they have always done, will scornfully dismiss it as nonsense without even trying to come up with a counter-argument. People are slow to adapt, especially if they are not used to adapting to new things all the time.
I find it baffling that so many people are so resistant to changing their lifestyles, even in such a chaotic society as this, in which we are bombarded with ridiculous and unpredictable changes all the time.
To simply stop doing things you don’t want to do and to take up the tools you need to do something else which is productive, does not make you a bad person. Many people would respect you for your independence and strength of spirit, and if you were generous with the products of your labour, you would surely find yourself with a great many allies willing to help you find whatever things you need which you are unable to produce yourself.
Yet if you did all this without first working for some capitalist, saving up your wages in a bank, or investing your savings in the stock market successfully, you would be considered a very bad person indeed by the governments of the world, and a great many workers as well.
I suppose it all depends on whether you care about what such people think, or if your ego would be content with the respect that the rest of us would have for you, those of us who think differently from the capitalists and their supporters.
I would say, don’t worry about it. Nick the means of production. It’ll be fine