Tuesday, July 03, 2012

On flying

The seven year old standing on the roof of his house believes that in stepping off and flying, he will be free. While he plunges through the air, the wind in his hair may be exhilarating, but the freedom in which he passionately believes and on which he has staked his future is an illusion. Freedom means discovering that we have two feet planted on the ground.

The "free" market, insofar as this requires belief in the possibility of infinite growth on a finite planet, is perhaps the largest exercise in unfreedom humanity has ever conducted. Can you feel the wind in our hair?
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, 'If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
"He will command his angels concerning you",
    and "On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone."'
Jesus said to him, 'Again it is written, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test."'

- Matthew 4.5-6 (NRSV).


John said...

Interesting. I have a fascination with the present lean startup movement and have toyed with the notion that methodically excelling at your craft, dreaming a big dreams and working towards them, refining and improving your performance.... that is a significant part of delighting in the work of your hands (cf. Eccl). Of course taking delight in the process is key too.

I suppose there is deep futility in industry as a whole, and indeed from what I know of the environmental movement, there is a strong sense of inevitable doom.

But I can't help but notice that some of the kids up on that roof have built wings. And some of those look like they might work.

byron smith said...

So John, by inference, you're suggesting that infinite economic growth on a finite planet is possible through improving technology and clever business strategy?

Keep flapping those arms. Think happy thoughts. ;-)

John said...

Nope. I would divorce myself from those sentiments entirely. Especially the word 'economic'. My bad, your point was sharper than the intent of my comment.

I think improving technology and clever business strategy are important for thriving (read infinite growth). But infinite economic growth is of course impossible on a finite planet. At some point resource management must take top priority.

byron smith said...

Yes, thanks for clarifying! I don't wish to demonise all technological change (see recent post). Perhaps you might agree that there are some things that are better than growth? If so, then perhaps we are on the same page after all.

John said...

Those recommendations are certainly exciting and indeed very important. I'm sure you will agree that vast amounts of clever strategy and no small level of innovation will be critical to realise any of them.

John said...

Incidentally, lean startup methodology is currently being used by the US government. I think the environmental movement should follow suit (and probably is already).

byron smith said...

Yes, I agree. Though they will also take wisdom and not just cleverness, not least because they require an enormous shift in priorities away from treating GDP as the magic number that determines political careers and headlines. Industries need to be shut down with care and sensitivity as well as new ones opened. Personal identities need to be questioned and refashioned. It is not simply a matter of bolting on some clever new pieces to the existing economy.