Chapter Six Occupy Vision: Stewardship

"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>Chapter Six Occupy Vision: Stewardship

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"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>This is the chapter six of Occupy Vision, which is the second volume of the three volume set titled Fanfare for the Future. In coming days we will post the book's eight chapters. You can find out more about Occupy Theory, Occupy Vision, and Occupy Strategy, as well as how to purchase the books in print or for ebook reading, at Z's book page for them – which is at:  line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
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"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>Oh Beautiful for smoggy skies, insecticided grain,
For strip-mined mountain's majesty above the asphalt plain.
America, America, man sheds his waste on thee,
And hides the pines with billboard signs, from sea to oily sea.
– George Carlin
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>“In history, in social life, nothing is fixed, rigid or definitive. And nothing ever will be.”
– Antonio Gramsci
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>“Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.”
– Henry David Thoreau
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>“The use of solar energy has not been opened up because
the oil industry does not own the sun.”
– Ralph Nader
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>“…the runoff of the salt…causes damage to underground cables, car bodies, bridges, and groundwater. The cost of these damages is twenty to forty times the price of the salt to the persons or organization buying and using it.”
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>“Humanity has been endowed with reason, with the power to create, so that he can add to what he's been given. But up to now he hasn't been a creator, only a destroyer. Forests keep disappearing, rivers dry up, wild life's become extinct, the climate's ruined and the land grows poorer and uglier every day.”
– Anton Chekhov
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>“Keep a green tree in your heart ?and perhaps a songbird will come.”
– Chinese proverb
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>We live on a planet, the earth, which is a gigantic rock swirling in space around an almost unfathomably larger and hugely energy generating sphere of combustion, the sun, in an even vaster sea of similar entities born billions of years ago, and maturing ever since. We share the bounty or resources and energy of our planet and particularly the sun’s rays with a huge diversity of other species, who themselves contribute in a multitude of ways to defining how the planet produces, processes, and presents its assets to us.

Indeed, our own existence arose from a sequence of other species modified by chance occurrences and selected by dynamics of cooperation and competition, and our existence depends for its continuation on a vast number of current species as well.

A capitalist economy views other species as it does everything else, in terms of their profit-making possibilities. If directly preserving or nurturing a species is profitable, capitalists do it. If ignoring another species and leaving it on its own is profitable, capitalists do that. If directly consuming or indirectly obliterating another species is profitable, again, that is the capitalist way to go.

Capitalist market competition looks around and assesses short-term profitable possibilities and pursues them. If we add governments or other agencies with priorities other than solely short-term profit seeking, they may ameliorate many ills. But if these bodies significantly defy or impede profit-making, it will be difficult for them to maintain themselves against the logic of capitalist accumulation. This occurs both because the economy fights back against efforts to restrain accumulation and capitalism tends to produce a population unreceptive to even thinking about the long-term benefits of other species to people, much less the independent rights of other species.

These insights encapsulate the well known history of environmental concerns. The results we see around us are indicative of the destruction wrought by profit-seeking pressures.
What would replace capitalism’s possibly suicidal and certainly horribly gory interspecies relations if we instead had a parecon?

First, a parecon would move us from profit as the guiding norm of economic choice to human fulfillment and well being in accord with solidarity, diversity, equity, and self management.
Second, parecon would move us from having a driving profit-seeking logic that constantly overpowers and undoes any ecologically or otherwise non profit-justified restrictions placed on the economy, to instead be flexibly responsive to constraints imposed by forces and concerns that are not economic.

Third, parecon moves its producers and consumers from having a very narrow and fragmented approach to economy, to instead comprehending the interconnectedness of all acts and their multiple implications.

And fourth, parecon moves us from a me-first, anti-social interpersonal mindset that can easily extend beyond relations to people toward relations to nature, to a solidaristic interpersonal mindset, which can plausibly extend to nature and species as well.

The first point is a change of guiding logic or motivation. The second point is a change in its intensity. Together they ensure that parecon doesn’t have the negative impetus toward other species typical of capitalism. The third and fourth points bear upon a less structural issue, more conjectural, which is whether people who operate as workers and consumers in a parecon are likely to be more receptive to arguments regarding the rights of other species.

Regarding its guiding logic, a parecon intrinsically views other species at least as it views everything else, which is in light of pursuing human fulfillment and development possibilities consistent with promoting solidarity, advancing diversity, maintaining equity, and ensuring self management. In a parecon, if directly preserving or nurturing a species is beneficial for humans, the incentives will be strong to do it. If leaving a species to its own devices is beneficial for humans, again, the incentives will point in that direction. If directly consuming or indirectly obliterating a species by taking away its habitat is beneficial for humans, again, that is the purely economic path that a good economy would intrinsically arrive at.

Parecon, via its participatory planning, assesses beneficial possibilities for humans and provides means and reasons for producers and consumers to pursue them. It does not, of its own accord, incorporate the interests of non-human species, per se. And, regrettably, such species cannot be incorporated as decision-makers to attend to their own interests.

However, a parsoc’s citizens can decide that they want to add to their participatory economic institutions, political or other agencies to act on behalf of diverse species, and these structures can be smoothly incorporated even if they defy or impede possible human benefits on behalf of the rights of other species. Indeed, such structures or agencies would be added to parecon because there is no process that allows species other than people to express their intentions and desires. While these structures will, therefore, presumably need to have popular support manifested through political choices, maintenance of such restraints on economic activity will not require a continuous and difficult struggle against the continually re-impinging logic of capitalist accumulation because the latter is absent.

In participatory economics, that is, once there is a political restriction placed on the economy – let’s say, the economy is not to interfere with the nesting habitats of caique parrots, or the economy must, if altering those habitats, move all potentially affected caiques to new and at least as sustainable environments – the economy functions thereafter in accord with that external ruling and does not continually produce structural pressures and practices that try to overcome or remove the restriction. Individuals might try to reverse such a decision, but the system as a whole has no built-in tendency to compel people to do so.

The question arises, however, can we expect the kinds of external constraints I have mentioned so far to arise in a society with a participatory economy? Will producers and consumers who use self managed councils, balanced job complexes, equitable remuneration, and participatory planning be inclined toward stewardship for species other than their own and therefore incorporate rules and norms on behalf of such species on top of the economic means they share to manifest their own preferences?

It is hard to answer a question like this definitively before the fact, of course. But it seems quite plausible that whatever factors tend to cause people to become concerned for other species will be less thwarted and more enhanced in a system that promotes solidarity and diversity than in a system that promotes antisociality and homogeneity. And the same holds for participatory kinship, community, and polity as compared to patriarchy, racism and bigotry, and authoritarianism.

Additionally, a parecon exalts not only the benefits that accrue from diversity, but also the need to avoid narrow scenarios that eliminate options we might later find superior. We can expect parecon’s respect for diversity in social situations to extend to a popular awareness of the richness of biodiversity and its intricate interconnectivity. Hurting or eliminating species curbs diversity and risks long-term currently unknown losses to humanity as well.

In sum, then, participatory economics and a participatory society puts in place a concern for human well being and development that doesn’t forcefully preclude harming other species, but which is receptive to and respectful of governmental or other social or ecological restraints on behalf of other species. If other species had votes, they would vote for parecon.  

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