Perspectives on New Culture from the NWNC 2014 Conference

This was a panel presentation from the opening day of the recent conference, 10/18/14.

Watch on YouTube.

After an introduction by Tawana Petty, Kim Sherobbi throws out an opening challenge: we need a culture that’s less greedy and mistrustful.

As the first panel speaker (starting at 3:55), Frithjof Bergmann reflects that “we haven’t had a culture so far… the culture we have created has not make us more alive, and that’s the least a culture can do.” We have sacrificed culture to our economy, “to producing ever more at an ever greater speed.” This is not just looking forward to some utopia, but also, in part, returning to older values, where, for example, cultural celebrations ran (in the mountain village that Frithjof grew up in) for weeks. We need a culture that helps everybody discover something that the deeply and seriously want to do.

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Why We Need a New Culture

Back in 1930, John Maynard Keynes, the father of modern economics, predicted that by early 21st century, with productivity continuing to rise in the manner that it in fact has, we’d all be working at most 15 hours per week.

The fact that this has not happened is not due to a failure of economics, but a failure of culture: we now live in an age of abundance, but cultural inertia insists that jobs continue to be the center of our lives. The vast majority of us need to work (even if no jobs are available), and we need to work full time, because that’s the only way to make enough money to live in comfort.

But imagine what could happen if the 9 to 5 (or 6 or 7) grind were reduced by half or more. Imagine how much art, how much service to the community, how much inventiveness could emerge when human energy is untethered.

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New Work: The Briefest Possible Summary

Frithjof BergmannBy Frithjof Bergmann

New Work is an ascent, an up-rising through the intelligent and imaginative use of a spate of startlingly innovative technologies, some of which are extremely basic, while others are miles beyond where computers are now.

These technologies have in common that they are all “small-scale and small-space.” They no longer require gigantic factories with long lines of enormous machines that necessitate boatloads of capital. Instead, they can be grouped together in a neighborhood, or village or a community center. In short, one half of New Work is the transformation from Industrial to “Community Production.” The result will be the creation of new enterprises, but also progressively the increasing local production of food, housing, and energy, and equally of furniture, appliances and clothing, and beyond that of still more of what is needed for a pleasurable, modern and fulfilling life.

The foundation of this New Economy, is the base on which a new system of work and eventually a new life-style and culture can be evolved. Instead of being restricted to one ever more problematic mode of work, that of jobs,
a growing number of people will be engaged in Community Production about 10 hours per week. Another 10 hours they will work in one of the new enterprises that utilize the radically innovative “small-scale and small space” technologies that are replacing the industrial technologies of the past. And in the third place, they will be doing the genuinely “New Work” that has been our capstone and goal all along: work that people deeply and seriously want to do, work that gives people strength and meaning and the conviction of a truly lived life.

The Goals of New Work therefore are:

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The Now Possible Radical Ascent

New Economy, New Work, New Culture

A massive and variegated array of recently discovered new technologies allows the ascent to a radically New Economy, which will no longer manufacture in gigantic factories, but instead in “small rooms.” This economy will be local, decentralized, in many respects rural, incomparably more sustainable, and oriented towards the manufacturing of products that serve authentic and genuine human needs. A dramatically new organization of work can be developed on the basis of this New Economy: 10 hours a week will be High-Tech- Self-Providing Work, 10 hours a week will be Job-Work in New Work Enterprises, and 20 hours a week will be Work that one really wants to do. High-Tech-Self-providing comprises a range of productive activities from the raising of food (Permaculture, Vertical Agriculture, fishponds, etc.) to the self-building of the dwellings for one’s life, to the self-generation of electricity to the small space manufacturing of appliances and also of a large spectrum of electric means of transportation.

Examples of New Work Enterprises are the making and distribution of Eco-cement, the small room manufacturing of Air-conditioners, and the small-room manufacturing of electric Motor Cycles. Work that one really wants to do increases one’s strength, gives meaning to one’s life, and moves one beyond the passive observing of life into the full and to the hilt real living of it. Nothing less than the transformation into this new organization of work and the attendant generation of a New Culture will solve the global problems of the depletion of our resources, and of the degradation of the nature in which we live. The new start we need requires a New Economy, New Work, and a New Culture.

SERIES ON: New Economy, New Work, New Life – No. 3

If we cannot change the economy we can forget about the rest. None of the eight disasters can be averted, nor can the Ascent be begun unless we can evolve an economy whose dynamic is hundred eighty degrees the opposite from the one we have now. A sprinkling of co-ops, of communities, of greener products, of minimum wages, of basic incomes, of cleaner unions, of sparating garbage are only sleeping pills — for which we pay the price of waking up too late. (Do not give aspirins to a patient who has AIDS.) Continue reading

SERIES ON: New Economy, New Work, New Life – No. 2

Seven or eight Calamities, or Disasters, or Tsunamis, or Biblical Plagues are close to crashing down on us. But at least as important: possible now is also an ASCENT, a Rising Upwards, the climb to a higher, more intelligent, more human, more cheerful next chapter in the human story. That is the fundamental Either/Or of our time.

Anything merely cosmetic is not enough. We must devise something that will engage the vast majority of humankind, that will bring into action not just a marginal small group which will eat less meat, or will do more recycling, or will use less electricity — but a plan, a goal, a vision that will make sense and will appeal to the overwhelming majority of people on the planet that abhor and hate and loath the current system. (Very much including the people of India and of Africa, where I am at this moment)

Therefore, a radically New Economy is just Part I. Other Parts must be a new System of Work. Why? — Because the now domineering “Job-System” is the root cause of all the other calamities that threaten to engulf us. The “Job-System” coerces us into the rat-race of economic growth and therefore into the squandering of resources, and therefore into the sinking ever deeper into national debts, and therefore into the heating of the earth, and on and on.

If that is Part II, it in turn makes possible Part III: The Ascent upwards towards a New Life.

SERIES ON: New Economy, New Work, New Life – No. 1

Rub your eyes! Take one look at where we are! North Africa in Revolution, Uprisings in Greece, and Italy and Barcelona, USA downgraded as a dubious risk – 80% of the population of the planet “Desert-people” – not socially weak, not poor, not unemployed –  but “Desert-people” and 20% “Oasis-people”. And the climate, and the waste of resources, and the burning down of the last remnants of the tokens of equality.

Draw from this a very first, obvious conclusion. Dabbing, small, cosmetic changes are not just “too little,” they are dangerous, they piss away precious time – like taking Aspirin instead of facing that you have got Aids. What we need is not here and there the turning of a trivial wheel. We need to stop and think and devise a plan that is adequate to the immense magnitude and the galloping speed of the situation. What we need is major, major: is a new start, a new beginning.

It is the building of a second, supplementary, radically different economy – one for the soon 90% of desert people, based on the highest, the best, the most advanced technologies.

New Work and North Africa

During the last few weeks I have tried to establish some first connections between the groups that initiated the North African Revolutions and New Work. What I have been doing is extraordinarily plain: in various ways I have collected relevant E-mail addresses and in the process of some back and forth exchange I proposed that I would come for a two or three day visit to Cairo or to wherever the person I was writing to suggested. I explained that the sole condition from my side would be that a handful of people – between 8 and 12 – would commit themselves to engage with me in extended conversations during those two or three days. The flight and the rest I would pay for by myself. The purpose is to explore whether there is any conceivable way in which New Work could be of use in the coming stages of these world-altering liberations. The purpose of my posting this both in my blog and in Facebook is to invite any and all of you to send me further addresses, or to assist in any other way that your imagination whispers to you.