2018-06-24 Capitalism

Capitalism makes sure all deeds are done with maximum misery. Sell as high as possible. Buy as low as possible. Haggle until you tire. Work until you can no more. Those are the affordances of the system. To enjoy yourself and the time you’re given on this earth needs resistance. You need to resist. You need to resist the temptation to exploit yourself and your fellow humans. Resist and enjoy what little time you have left.

@Wolf480pl said that the key is valuing your free time and stopping when you have enough and I agree. I think this is part of the resistance. But sadly I have enough friends that say they would like to work less but they don’t not because they need the money but because they want the money.

Another example is how much energy people are willing to many spend on looking for the best deal. This sucks a tiny bit of life from them – and makes sure the vendors aren’t enjoying themselves too much, either. Sure, the market is very efficient. But it’s members are also unhappy.

In a different conversation, @ebel said to me: “look up counter-anti-disintermediation from Dmytri Kleiner, a concept that really made me think. We must build things that cannot be centralised.” I ended up with this 21min talk by Kleiner: You can't code away their wealth. So many interesting ideas!

@nunatak recently linked to a 2h introduction to Karl Marx’ Capital, in German: Eine Einführung in Marx‘ „Das Kapital“ in zwei Teilen. I’m about 150 years late to the pary, but I still feel like I learned a lot, particularly since I tried reading it and never got far.

Here are some things I realized. This is a sort of manifesto for myself. This is what I want. Thinking things through and writing it down, for me, allows me to refer back to it when I am weak and when I am tired, when I am confused and alone. It gives me hope and it gives me strength.

We need to find ways to transfer money from the capitalist mode of production into other modes of production, as mentioned above. We’re looking at associations, collectives, cooperatives. @Antanicus recently mentioned Open source sustainability which talks about various ways to get Free Software developers paid. Listening to these 2h of Karl Marx made me realize that we must not find ways for Free Software developers to get paid. We must get rid of wages because wages enable capitalists to capture profits.

At first, this sounds stupid. Who doesn’t want to get paid? How will we get anything done? Nobody will work on our software. But the solution to this is to be self sufficient again. We need to write our own software, for our own needs and wants. We need to make and build the things we need for ourselves, and enable others to do the same. Emancipate us all from unfree software and services. It’s like teaching people to fish instead of selling them fish. If we all can tend our little gardens, there will be food for us and our neighbours and there will be less commerce, less transports, less malls, less destruction of the environment, less wage labour, less alienation from the things we do during most of our waking lives.

It’s a second enlightenment. Recently I was reading the first chapter of „Beantwortung der Frage: Was ist Aufklärung?“ by Kant. His definition of the enlightenment is easy to read, his observation still true. Check it out: in English or in German.

“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Sapere Aude! [dare to know] “Have courage to use your own understanding!” – that is the motto of enlightenment.

– Emanuel Kant

The enlightenment was about thinking for ourselves and not having it done for us by others. Marx would have said that we need to seize the means of production – and I think we need both these aspects. We need a computing autonomy where we can have the software we want without having to buy it. That means it must be free. And since it was written by us and for us, this will be possible.

Aral Balkan writes about our cyborg nature in The nature of the self in the digital age: “Today, we are all cyborgs. This is not to say that we implant ourselves with technology but that we extend our biological capabilities using technology. We are sharded beings; with parts of our selves spread across and augmented by our everyday things.” I’ve been joking for years that my blog is an extension of my memory. All the todo lists on sticky notes are extensions of my brain. My phone is an extension of myself. That’s why the use and the writing of Free Software is an act of emancipation. We want to extend our sense of self using the tools we want, and we want to be autonomous and free when we make this choice.

To write software for us, for ourselves, for our needs, makes it perfect for us. And then we can give it away for free. We prevent others from selling it for profit by offering it for free. I know, the GPL and other licenses explicitly allow commercial use, the making of money. But this is simply a compromise. I want to emphasises the radical nature of it. In practice, most of the work done is a labour of love instead of wage labour. People do it because they like to do it, and that is the revolutionary aspect of it.

And that’s how we will drain the swamp: We will work less. We will spend less. We will reproduce less. We will want less. Increasingly, we will work for free because we are free to do it. We will write Free Software. We will join agricultural cooperatives or buy our food on farmer’s markets. We will do all this and more. I’m going to do this.

And yes, the capitalists will always be there, tempting us with shinier tools, better software, more comfort, fruits out of season and good looking vegetables. But the tide is already turning. We already prefer real food to ready meals and convenience food. Sure, there will always be a place for these: if you’re travelling, if you’re disabled, if you’re elderly... But the market will be shrinking and we will find other solutions for these things. Non-commercial solutions. Free solutions.



I am reading Das Kapital now and this is resonating a lot with me. Also, I have the intention to set up an engineering cooperative in my home city in the mid future. I wonder how well can that work among corporarions.

– Enzo 2018-06-29 17:28 UTC

I wish you the best of luck with this project!

– Alex Schroeder 2018-07-02 16:36 UTC

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