‘Twixt & ‘Tween: “Society, Reimagined,” & “Minimalism, Rethunk”
Leo Babauta’s recent mnmlist.com post, “society, reimagined” posits his vision of a utopian society where cars are banished, schools are banished, and consumer goods can be borrowed from “libraries” rather than bought in stores. The focus of life returns to relationships with people instead of things and jobs. It is a beautiful and compelling vision. He says it would not necessarily create a utopia, but make everything better for us all.
Then on his zenhabits.net blog, he posts “minimalism rethunk,” proposing that the various members of the minimalism community get over their competitive minimalism. It is this post which demonstrates the problem with the other: human nature.
Not all human qualities are humane. There’s competitiveness, greed, lust, jealousy, & sloth, etc. An ideal society requires everyone to be on the same idealist page. Those who stray are brought into line by those considered fit to enforce the ideals. Self-governing then goes down the toilet; further conflict can ensue. Even in the name of idealism human nature can take things too far, as demonstrated by the competitive minimalism Leo is calling out. Then there are the aberrations of human nature, the criminals and psychopaths who can turn Eden into Mad Max at the Thunderdome in no time flat. How does an ideal society protect itself from that?
I think the minimalist mindset itself will not be conducive to communal living. If it leads to real freedom of thought and action, it is less likely to lead to the level of co-operation needed for a commune’s success. Think of the 19th century Shaker communities–self-sufficient, ecologically mindful, open to all, and yet unable to withstand repeated losses of key members of their communes to the potential of free thinking. Now of course if the entire world were ordered the way Leo imagines it, such a loss would be felt less. If, for instance, the Tool Librarian decided to go on a month’s walkabout, there would be another Tool Librarian available to keep the locals in hammers and drills. The Tool Library would not suddenly be locked up or vandalized as a result of no one in charge.
I know this post can be interpreted as having a bit of a go at Leo, but that’s not it, honestly–I’m having a bit of a go at us frail humans. I also remember those halcyon hippie days of communes and how nearly all of them degenerated because of the usual range of human foibles. The worst were the cults. The minimalist path takes me–and many of you all–further and further into independent thinking, and farther and farther away from drinking the Kool-Aid.
Check out my other blog: Minimalist Cooking