Smash the Machines in our Minds

murmuration-of-starlingsI was going to write something about how to create a better economy … and society … and culture … and environment – because they all go together, because they are all connected, and you cannot know, understand or make wise decisions relating to them without understanding the interconnections (eco – ‘nomists’ note for heaven’s sake).

But of course, most people don’t think that way because they have been taught to think in boxes, and put a number on some physical yet ephemeral thing (a state or a linear relationship presumed immutable and universal) that shifts and dances one second later to a new state, because of interactions to something new you cannot presume to know – like a murmuration of starlings. Life is not a predictable mechanical machine. However much those who live in fear of chance and change and lack of control don’t want to see that. Ask them their predictions for their grandchild’s future.

I was going to write something about the strategic space we need to think in in order to thrive. To accept complexity and uncertainty, and so build the capacities in our place – our people, our public engagement in governing our home (eco), our landscapes, our *type* of economy. Resilience and adaptation to shocks. Diversity (in everything). Culture. Dynamism and free expression. The vital necessity to think long-term and wide – to see connections and consequences, to never see ourselves as islands of “but we’re alright Jack” – because you won’t be.  Any harm is harm to self.

 pf_marching_hammersWe need that sense of belonging, of connection.

In a space that rejects the authoritarian machines and the artificial walls that divide us from other, we need laughter and dance to replace instruction and marching. Adapting without panic or the pathetic assumption that some centralised zombie who has never smelt soil or dug dirt from under his nails will instruct us

improve-yourself-pirsigwisely.  Get this.  Authorities are almost never wise.  Work on yourself and your community.  There lies the future.

We need the encouragement of ideas. To never ever go down the mechanical industrial colonial track of producing lots of cheap shit – ever, never, never, ever. To never make the world a set of precisely measured cogs where to think let alone voice is the act of a non-believer, an infidel, a rebel.

But all those qualitative feeling, coping, changing, human and earthly things are never in the completely irrelevant models pumped out by those of us who were taught financial and economic decision making. The ability to think strategically dies when you think you can paint the world by numbers. You cannot nail jelly to a wall. Unless you freeze it in a state in which it will not last.

I was going to write about an economic schema that might help – a set of considerations and then links to how to encourage and evaluate those considerations (mainly through a people/culture-focused and earth-focused shift from the nonsense of mechanically ‘allocating’ ‘resources’ –

Create value,

Multiply value,

Retain value,

Distribute value,

Attract value.

Value in all senses – environmental, cultural, be-the-flowereconomic – create Tuscany, not Nebraska Inc. where the corporate model turns people into the voters of Trump – a glimmer of hope for those too busy struggling to think.  Create the flowers that attract.  Don’t bother measuring the scent.  Just sense it.

But we are set on the opposite, because that is how those blinkered minds in power suits who believe in the mechanical world and use the word ‘efficiency’ without having one iota of a clue of what a completely meaningless word that is without defining the context as well. Efficiently destroy the earth perhaps? Efficiently extract the ‘resource’? Efficiently eviscerate the community and leave it with the slag?

And so we:
– *Destroy* value and its potential in order to produce dross – what stream? What possible terrior?
– *Reduce* potential value chains, or don’t have any at all – the mode of corporate colonial commodity thinking;
– *Give our value* away to someone outside the local – the big owner, the big centralised supplier;
– *Concentrate* the value in the hands of fewer and fewer, and;

– *Repel* value because what poet, philosopher or lover of life and spirit from whence entrepreneurs emerge, wants to come and live in Mordor – unless of course you are a the-wall-screamSauron, and you are looking for some cheap Orcs, or a Shire to ravage, or an Ent Forest to destroy.

This is madness.  And they dress the destruction up by referring to jobs and GDP.  For heaven’s sake, get rid of those who cannot think.  A curse on the political parties who smile with mad eyes, salivating with greed at the outsider who would (‘efficiently’) take our water and eat our souls.

I was going to write about this and that, but it is not enough. It will never be enough until we change the way we see the world.

There are deeper philosophies that need to be

pirsig-zencritiqued. And I read Robert Pirsig, and he wrote …..

“If a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves…. There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.”

And that is what we ought to write and speak about. That we need to think in systems. We cannot continue to think mechanically, because it will kill all meaning, and eventually ourselves as well. And systems thinking does *not* mean in *hard* systems where you merely extend your quantitative senses beyond your normal narrow agronomy or dollar measure. You have to bring in consciousness, and morality, and what a community is, and how a bird will change behaviour with the puff of a breeze, taking a small pocket of warm air from beneath that shrub, onto her wings.

It means looking at the world through a Complexity and Adaptability of a parent and a child. Neither are ‘objective’ one to the other. There is no wider predictability beyond the basics of what will harm in extremis.

We need to think and see the world as in part a loving parent views a child – who wants that child to be happy, to experience joy, to live a full life that is rich in meaning, to take the inevitable hits and move on, to belong to family, community and whenua, to be more than to have. We need to see as the child as well – because we are each nurtured and nurturers. By all the gods, we need to re-embrace reverence and other virtues. We need to feel the spirit, see the potential of the dance, to create the beauty.

We need to write and speak and sing and dance and have conversations about *that*. A way of seeing that does not perpetuate the soullessness of an increasingly mechanical

leave-the-technocrats-til-lastview of what some dare to call – life. The mechanical dogma of material mathematical reductionism to cogs and wheels is not life. It is a zombie existence.

There is no point talking about the surface things unless we dig deeper into the dogmas that are so engrained we do not even know they are there.  If you want a better future for this province, or that country, or this planet, we need to have those conversations – about rejecting the models of Modernity, and seeing the world anew.

I think I’ll write about that.

Chris Perley

Chris Perley is an affiliated researcher at Otago University’s Centre for Sustainability with a governance, research, management and policy background in provincial economies, rural sociology and land use strategy. 

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4 Responses to Smash the Machines in our Minds

  1. B.J.Ridler says:

    “Lila” revisited? But current politics sees the successful business as one that produces more. That to them constitutes value.
    Such “static” thinking ignores the dynamic nature of value and the systems that will collapse due to this disconnect.
    Reason and common-sense seems powerless against the nonsense “productionists” spout so back to tinkering with the motorcycle again….

  2. Wade Cornell says:

    Yea, that about says it. Thanks Chris

  3. Mark Belton says:

    Perls…. Good man ….best wishes for the year ahead

    Reading you…I wonder have you read ‘Sapiens’ and ‘Homo Deus… by Yuval Harari

    Deep reflections on our species…where we are from…and where we might be going.

    If you know of any other writers of Harari’s calibre…please let me know

    Warm regards


    *Mark Belton*

    Managing Director

    Permanent Forests NZ Limited

    PO Box 34, Lyttelton 8841, New Zealand

    Tel: +64 (0)3 3299 203

    Mob: +64 (0)27 229 1483

    Email: * *

    Web: **

    [image: Permanent ForestsNZ_Email Footer]

    *From:* Chris Perley’s Blog [] *Sent:* Saturday, December 31, 2016 12:36 PM *To:* *Subject:* [New post] Smash the Machines in our Minds

    cjkperley posted: ” I was going to write something about how to create a better economy … and society … and culture … and environment – because they all go together, because they are all connected, and you cannot know, understand or make wise decisions relating to the”

    • cjkperley says:

      Hi Mark,

      Sapiens is currently in a box in the garage. Highly frustrating not having the full library available. I have two French students staying here, and they have the French version. They were also highly recommending it. Obviously the universe wants me to read it! But apparently the Universe doesn’t want me to read it just yet. Some of my books are out on a few shelves, but apparently there are 40 -50 boxes in the garage.

      Happy New Year. I think 2017 is going to be much better.


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