Rabbit Holes 🕳️ #58
From leisure as the basis of culture to brain pollution, the end of cities, shifting to a not-for-profit economy and physical adblockers
If you missed last week’s mail or are a new subscriber, I recently published a report called Alternative Prosperity: Reframing The “Good Life”. This report explores the foundational narratives that shape our current, destructive mode of living and proposes counter-narratives aimed at cultivating a much more enjoyable, fulfilling, communal, and regenerative way of prospering.
Sound interesting? Then CLICK HERE to download it!
And now, let’s get into this week’s rabbit holes:
THIS WEEK → 🌴 Leisure Culture 🌫️ Brain Pollution 🏡 The End of Cities ➕ A Not-For-Profit Economy 🚿 Physical Adblockers
Rabbit Holes 🕳️
As always, here are three perspective-shifting ideas to create a better world, plus some fun extras below. Enjoy!
#1 🌴 Leisure Culture
If a company's leadership decides to introduce a four-day workweek, that’s amazing….but it also doesn't really change the systemic problems underneath. If we really want to change things and cultivate a society that recognizes the multifaceted nature of human life beyond economic productivity, then we need to do two things: First, give workers more power (via worker ownership, unions or universal basic services such as a UBI), and second, we must change the narrative around leisure and work.
“Four-day weeks would make for an excellent perk wherever they fit — like free lunches at the office, but way better. I hope they spread. That said, convincing some companies to offer four-day weeks falls well short of designing an economy that translates economic growth into the option of more leisure time for all. Leisure isn’t just an extra vacation day here or there. As the German philosopher Josef Pieper wrote, it’s the basis of culture, a “condition of the soul,” a way of living where people aren’t forced to sacrifice most of their waking lives for a paycheck.
The deeper issue is that convincing companies to adopt four-day weeks does little to change the balance of power between workers and employers. Left unchanged, the negotiation over how many hours should constitute “full-time” would continue being held in the boardroom, where workers and their interests are largely without representation, and given today’s hampered labor movement, without much influence. […]
A renewed politics of leisure time should return that choice to workers by focusing on the old program of raising labor’s bargaining power. Familiar ideas like unions and sectoral bargaining are good starting places. But beyond institutions that give workers an organized voice, other avenues that provide unconditional resources to all citizens — like guaranteed income, baby bonds, or universal health care — can also help give workers more of a say in what they do with their time by making their basic needs less dependent on having a paycheck.
Without these pieces, the working week, and through it, the shape of most Americans’ lives, will continue being set by the clock of business. But the old ideal of leisure, what the poet Walt Whitman called both “higher progress” and “the task of America,” held that human potential goes far beyond the scope of what’s good for business. “The world of work,” Pieper cautioned, “threatens to become our only world … grasping ever more completely the whole of human existence.” Leisure expands the world beyond work, adding a richness and depth that exceeds the logic of business.
Alone, four-day weeks will probably not bring on a leisurely transformation of the soul toward Whitman’s vistas of higher progress. But combined with empowered workers who wield more of a say in the shape of their lives, we could recover the sense that economic progress expands the horizons of human life, even if that means leaving economic logic behind. […]
When leisure time was understood as the measure of freedom through the early 20th century, it wasn’t primarily because more leisure time would be good for business. It was that human life could be about more than business. […] Designing a world where economic logic doesn’t always have the final say over human life means workers need the power to make different choices or demand different structures of work, even — or especially — when businesses aren’t on board.”
#2 🌫️ Brain Pollution
Interesting article by the authors of the book Badvertising highlighting advertising's role in “creating a world in which climate killing pollution seems ‘normal’”. One very interesting point made in the article: Politicians or citizens who are quick to call out public interventions (e.g. labels or bans to curb carbon emissions) are totally okay with people being bombarded with 100s of coercive ads every day. A strange world we live in… 😅
“From a historical perspective hyper-consumerism may be only a couple of generations old and still contained geographically to a minority of the world’s relatively wealthy populations. But it's been around long enough to develop ingrained consumption habits and economic path dependency. […]
Advertising is more powerful in controlling our behaviour and creating a world in which climate killing pollution seems ‘normal’ than most are aware of. […] “Scary as it may sound, if an ad does not modify the brains of the intended audience, then it has not worked,” is how Tim Ambler, Andreas Ioannides and Steven Rose, put it in their 2003 study called Brands on the Brain, that used neurological images of the brain to reveal impacts.
Ironically, politicians who baulk at the thought of public interventions, such as controls on products, labelling and ad bans, as too much ‘telling people what to do’, are blithely happy for people to swim in a sea of coercive commercial advertising.
We think of advertising as a form of brain pollution whose controlling effects in encouraging ultimately self-destructive behaviour we’ve likened to working of the so-called zombie fungus, cordyceps, known for taking over the bodies and minds of insects in pursuit of its own interests.
So, what should we do? Most basically we believe there needs to be a tobacco style ban on advertising high carbon products, services and lifestyles. […] But the current system of day-to-day advertising self-regulation, in which the industry marks its own homework, isn’t working and needs an overhaul. […]
The good news is that we know ending harmful advertising works. […] When Transport for London introduced a ban on junk food advertising, it was found that on average households consumed 1,000 calories fewer per week.
There are many very difficult things that have to be done to prevent a climate catastrophe. But one of the simplest would be if we just stopped promoting our own destruction by ending adverts of the most polluting things.
It would not end their sale, but it would stop the overconsumption that results purely from their marketing.”
#3 🏡 The End Of Cities
Do you or your friends also think about moving to the countryside and starting a permaculture community?! Well, as this article here argues, maybe we’re witnessing the end of the epoch of the city and a return to more human-scale, indigenous contexts. It’s a questionable theory given the ongoing urbanization trend, but it has its potential and appeal.
“We are now exiting the epoch of the city and entering the epoch of a new relationship. The civium. […]
For one thing, the city (as we know it) will begin to fade from the earth. With wealth and innovation increasingly found in the virtual, rather than in the urban, those people who are most lightly connected to the city will begin to go elsewhere. And this produces a feedback loop in the opposite direction: as the population of cities *decrease* their wealth and innovation also will decrease […].
Already we have witnessed much of the “cool factor” of culture has moved into the virtual. And even that which is intrinsically physical, has been much more widely distributed by the virtual ability to transmit technique and sensibility: even relatively small rural towns these days have coffee shops just as good as the biggest cities. As the initial migration of people initiates a superlinear decline, we might expect a series of interlocking feedback loops that could accelerate the evaporation of cities. What took thousands of years to create might fade in centuries or even generations.
Of course as people leave cities, they will go somewhere. But where? My thesis is that […] we will begin to return to wholesome, human-scale, ‘indigenous’ contexts.
As the earliest pioneers of this new world leave cities in search of a new way of living together, they will begin to congregate around places guided by deep values. Values that guided human choice for hundreds of thousands of years and which have been subordinated by the logic of urbanization for only a brief (ten thousand year) moment.
Liberated from the allure of the city we might expect people to be naturally attracted to places that are physically beautiful, that are safe and clean. Places that are rich in community and make raising a family as easy as it can be. Where meaningful life is most fully supported.
In most cases, of course, we will have to re-build these kinds of places. In most cases, in fact, we will need to re-learn how to live in this way.
Civium is the name that I am giving to a hypothesis: that the most powerful form of network is a properly architected planetary virtual network populated by wholesome, healthy humans who are in intimate relationship with place and each-other.
The transition from city to civium will involve re-building humane places, re-learning how to live properly with each other and our environment, coming into symbiotic relationship with the virtual and re-grounding in the sacred.”
📕 Badvertising: Polluting Our Minds and Fuelling Climate Chaos by Andrew Simms and Leo Murray
”Advertising is selling us a dream, a lifestyle. It promises us fulfilment and tells us where to buy it - from international flights to a vast array of goods we consume like there is no tomorrow. The truth is, if advertising succeeds in keeping us on our current trajectory, there may not be a tomorrow.”
📕 Caps Lock: How Capitalism Took Hold of Graphic Design, and How to Escape from It by Ruben Pater
”Capitalism could not exist without the coins, notes, documents, graphics, interfaces, branding, and advertisements; artefacts that have been (partly) created by graphic designers. […] CAPS LOCK uses clear language and striking visual examples to show how graphic design and capitalism are inextricably linked.”
📕 Blockchain Radicals: How Capitalism Ruined Crypto and How to Fix It by Joshua Dávila
”While crypto is often thought of as being synonymous with unbridled capitalism, Blockchain Radicals shows instead how the technology can and has been used for more radical purposes, beyond individual profit and towards collective autonomy.”
🎙️ What if we shifted to a not-for-profit economy? – Rob Hopkins’ From What If to What Next podcast
💡 The Vocabulary of Joyful Resilience by Zeus Jones
”Military-inspired terms pervade business and career jargon. Such a vocabulary normalizes the idea that it is ok—or even necessary—to endure pain and hardship in order to ensure the success of each 'operation' falling under our duty. […] We all deserve a new vocabulary of resilience. One where joy and creativity become our compass—guiding us out of the crisis we're experiencing and away from the toxic obligations that have compromised so much of our wellbeing.”
🚿 Shower Thoughts
That’s it for this week!
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