Just as Masanobu Fukuoka believed a deeper understanding of nature is necessary to agriculture, the citizens of the web could certainly benefit from an increased awareness of their virtual environment. Moving off the grid in a digital sense might mean opting out of mainstream internet providers to connect through independent mesh networks, or hosting content on local computers distributed across a peer-to-peer web. Though the driving technologies can be complex to understand, it is important to demystify the inner workings of the web so that individuals may regain control of the tools that build it. The further we are distanced from the network’s core, the more powerless we become in redirecting its growth.
The failure - or at least the postponement - of the grand is also the survival of the ordinary and the everyday; the survival of citizens over cities; of infrastructures of everyday dignity over big, signature, spectacular projects; of incremental change over instantaneous transformation; of the bazaar over the mall, the shared auto over the expressway, survival over smartness.
Present-day leaders are wont to suggest that any radical initiative, that takes account the realities of soil, water and climate, is 'unrealistic', commonly because such initiatives may inhibit 'growth'. But the word 'realistic' has been corrupted. It ought to apply to the realities that are inescapable – of physics, of biology – made manifest in the declining earth and the creatures that live in it. It should apply to the realities of people's lives – whether they have enough to eat, water, shelter; whether they have control over their own lives, and worthwhile jobs, and can live in dignity. The 'reality' of which our current leaders speak is that of cash. But cash is not the reality – it is the abstraction.
So then time has two aspects. There is the arrow, the running river, without which there is no change, no progress, or direction, or creation. And there is the circle or the cycle, without which there is chaos, meaningless succession of instants, a world without clocks or seasons or promises.
Utopia has been yang. In one way or another, from Plato on, utopia has been the big yang motorcycle trip. Bright, dry, clear, strong, firm, active, aggressive, lineal, progressive, creative, expanding, advancing, and hot.
Our civilization is now so intensely yang that any imagination of bettering its injustices or eluding its self-destructiveness must involve a reversal.
To attain the constant, we must return, go round, go inward, go yinward. What would a yin utopia be? It would be dark, wet, obscure, weak, yielding, passive, participatory, circular, cyclical, peaceful, nurturant, retreating, contracting, and cold.
I do not see how even the most ethereal technologies promised by electronics and information theory can offer more than the promise of the simplest tool: to make life materially easier, to enrich us. That is a great promise and gain! But if this enrichment of one type of civilization occurs only at the cost of the destruction of the planet, then it seems fairly clear to me that to count upon technological advance for anything but technological advance is a mistake. I have not been convincingly shown, and seem to be totally incapable of imagining for myself, how any further technological advance of any kind will bring us any closer to being a society predominantly concerned with preserving its existence; a society with a modest standard of living, conservative of natural resources, with a low constant fertility rate and a political life based upon consent; a society that has made a successful adaptation to its environment and has learned to live without destroying itself or the people next door. But that is the society I want to be able to imagine — I must be able to imagine, for one does not get on without hope.
In nature, things that grow unchecked are often parasitic or cancerous. And yet, we inhabit a culture that privileges novelty and growth over the cyclical and the regenerative.