LIFE CHOICES: HOW WE LIVED, LIVE, AND COULD LIVE

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We all make hundreds of decisions every day, but during our lifetimes a very few of these choices have enormous consequences. They determine whether we’ll be happy, whether we’ll be financially successful, and what kind of impact — positive or negative — we’ll have on our world.

All this choice is a new phenomenon. Prehistoric man had few life choices, and even civilized man’s choices were, until recently, mostly made by others. For many, these choices, and the awareness of the costs of making the wrong ones, are overwhelming.

Here, in no particular order, are the ten biggest life choices we make, with a brief history of how they’ve evolved, and a few suggestions of how making better choices might save our world:

Decision 1: Where to Live:
Prehistoric Man: No choice — you lived and migrated with your tribe, your community.
Early Civilization: Limited choice — you lived and died in the town where you were born.
Modern Civilization, if you’re Poor: Limited choice — you probably live and die in the town where you were born, or the town to which the bread-winner in your family is transferred.
Modern Civilization, if you’re Rich: Limitless choice — subject only to immigration laws, and propensity to live near work and family.
A Better Way, and How We Might Get There: Follow your heart to find the natural place that calls you home, and then establish or find an Intentional Community in that place.

Decision 2: Who to Live With:
Prehistoric Man: No choice — you lived and died among your tribe, your community.
Early Civilization: No choice — you lived with the spouse selected for you by others.
Modern Civilization, if you’re Poor: Limitless choice — but the process for finding someone to love, and live with, is chaotic, serendipitous.
Modern Civilization, if you’re Rich: Limitless choice — but the process for finding someone to love, and live with, is chaotic, serendipitous.
A Better Way, and How We Might Get There: Limitless choice — and better processes for finding someone to love and live with.

Decision 3: How to Make a Living:
Prehistoric Man: No choice — you’re a hunter-gatherer.
Early Civilization: No choice — you work for your master, your lord.
Modern Civilization, if you’re Poor: Limited choice — you work for whoever will take you.
Modern Civilization, if you’re Rich: Limitless choice — you can choose who to work for, or start your own business.
A Better Way, and How We Might Get There: Limitless choice for all — Establish or find a Natural Enterprise, and network with others, to smash the feudal hierarchies of traditional corporations.

Decision 4: Who to Work With:
Prehistoric Man: No choice — you work with the others in your tribe, your community.
Early Civilization: No choice — you work with others of your class under the same master or lord.
Modern Civilization, if you’re Poor: Limited choice — you work with whoever else happens to be hired by the same company.
Modern Civilization, if you’re Rich: Limited choice — you work with whoever else happens to be hired by the same company, even if it’s your company.
A Better Way, and How We Might Get There: In Natural Enterprise, the members self-select, and the decision of who to work with is a defining characteristic of the enterprise.

Decision 5: Work/Life Balance:
Prehistoric Man: Not an issue — new anthropological research suggests prehistoric man lived an idyllic life, working only an hour or so a day.
Early Civilization: No choice — you were forced to work 10 or more hours per day until you died, or you’d starve.
Modern Civilization, if you’re Poor: No choice — you’re forced to work 8 or more hours a day until you die to provide basic necessities for your family.
Modern Civilization, if you’re Rich: Limited choice — you’re forced to work 8 or more hours a day to keep your job, though if you’re lucky or very rich you can retire before you die.
A Better Way, and How We Might Get There: Not an issue — in an economy without waste, hierarchy, an economy that makes goods that last and which are affordable by all, and where frivolous luxuries are discouraged, we would once again only need to work an hour or so a day.

Decision 6: Number of Children:
Prehistoric Man: No choice — women conceived each time the previous baby was weaned and able to migrate with the tribe/community on its own two feet (every 4-5 years). Average of 6 babies conceived, of which two lived to child-bearing age.
Early Civilization: No choice — women conceived as often as possible (every year). Average of 20 babies conceived, of which between four and eighteen lived to child-bearing age.
Modern Civilization, if you’re Poor: Limited choice — women conceive often, to produce children to look after them in their old age, and to help provide income and labour. Average of 12 babies conceived, of which six live to child-bearing age.
Modern Civilization, if you’re Rich: Limitless choice — women conceive at their own discretion, after considering their own career options. Average of one baby conceived, which almost always lives to child-bearing age.
A Better Way, and How We Might Get There: Limitless choice for all — women conceive at their own discretion, after considering their own career options. Average of one baby conceived, which almost always lives to child-bearing age. This of course would require a huge infusion of educational and humanitarian aid to the poor to give them this choice.

Decision 7: How/Where to Get Education:
Prehistoric Man: No choice — you learned everything you needed from the tribal elders. “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Early Civilization: No choice — you learned from your co-workers how to do your prescribed job.
Modern Civilization, if you’re Poor: Limited choice — you probably still learn from your co-workers how to do your prescribed job.
Modern Civilization, if you’re Rich: Limitless choice — you can choose from a vast range of educational options that probably open up a vast range of career opportunities, though you may have to rely on your rich connections anyway.
A Better Way, and How We Might Get There: Intentional Communities and Natural Enterprises share the task of exposing young people to a great variety of learning environments, lifestyles, different careers and ways of making a living from which they can then choose.

Decision 8: How to Get Around:
Prehistoric Man: No choice — you used your feet.
Early Civilization: Limited choice — you used your feet or domesticated animals.
Modern Civilization, if you’re Poor: Limited choice — you used your feet, bicycles, domesticated animals or ‘public’ transportation.
Modern Civilization, if you’re Rich: Limitless choice — you can choose from a vast array of private, fully mechanized transportation options.
A Better Way, and How We Might Get There: With the Internet, Intentional Communities and Natural Enterprises there is much less need for individual transportation — goods come to you, and services are available in your own community. When you need to travel, there is rarely urgency, so the journey becomes leisurely and walking and cycling are usually ideal, and, when mechanized transportation is needed, it is available inexpensively and equally to all. There is only one ‘class’ of transportation.

Decision 9: What to Eat:
Prehistoric Man: Limitless choice — you ate a vast variety of healthy foods from your tribe’s migration area.
Early Civilization: Limited choice — you ate what you could get, a poor diet heavy in carbohydrates, and probably suffered from malnutrition.
Modern Civilization, if you’re Poor: Limited choice — you eat what you can get, a poor diet heavy in carbohydrates, and probably suffer from malnutrition, obesity, or, ironically, both.
Modern Civilization, if you’re Rich: Limitless choice — you eat what you want, but despite that choice your diet is probably not great, due to too much fat, too many preservatives, additives and chemicals, and too many calories.
A Better Way, and How We Might Get There: Limitless choice — but with an emphasis on locally-produced, natural, organic food products. Vegan.

Decision 10: How to Live:
Prehistoric Man: No choice. Hand-to-mouth but comfortable. Living within one’s means. Low ecological footprint.
Early Civilization: No choice. Hand-to-mouth, in a constant struggle. Considerable waste. Living beyond one’s means, in constant debt. Moderate ecological footprint.
Modern Civilization, if you’re Poor: No choice. Hand-to-mouth, in a constant struggle. Considerable waste. Living beyond one’s means, in constant debt. Moderate ecological footprint.
Modern Civilization, if you’re Rich: Limitless choice. Extravagant, frivolous, conspicuous and wasteful consumption. Living beyond one’s means, in constant debt. High ecological footprint.
A Better Way, and How We Might Get There: A deliberate choice to respect nature and the land as sacred. Careful consumption. Zero waste. Living within one’s means, debt-free. Low ecological footprint. This is the hardest transition, and will take commitment from Natural Enterprises to a vast improvement in efficiency of resource use, elimination of waste and pollution, and social and environmental responsibility, and commitment from citizens to vigilance, frugality and conservation. But it can be done.

It’s amazing, frightening, how much the course of our life, and of our world, is, for the first time in the history of man, determined by a handful of decisions. What is even more frightening is the degree to which these decisions are made, for all of us, by the small proportion of people who are rich, who determine the destiny not only of themselves but of those who can’t afford the right to make those decisions for themselves. Our future depends not on the willingness of people far away in the third world to have smaller families, but on the willingness of the privileged few who have choice, mostly here in the first world, to make choices that are altruistic, and lead us to a better way to live.

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3 Responses to LIFE CHOICES: HOW WE LIVED, LIVE, AND COULD LIVE

  1. Ken Hirsch says:

    “Modern Civilization, if you’re Poor: Limited choice — women conceive often, to produce children to look after them in their old age, and to help provide income and labour. Average of 12 babies conceived, of which six live to child-bearing age.”The number was never this high for the world as a whole. 6 children per woman implies a population growth rate of 3.7% to 4.5% per year. The peak was only about 2.2%, forty years ago.Today the average number of children born per woman is about 2.6.

  2. Dale Asberry says:

    Decision 2: Who to Live With:A Better Way, and How We Might Get There: Limitless choice — but the process for finding someone to love, and live with, is __joyously__ chaotic and serendipitous.With almost all people marrying someone within 5 miles of where they were born – even today in industrialized nations – we need to make that pool a little bigger. We need to step beyond what we are today and our little, ego-centric shells.

  3. etbnc says:

    Ken, what death rate(s) are you using? And when you and Dave reach consensus about population statistics, then what? I think I understand the point Dave wanted to make, but it’s not clear to me what point you wish to make.Dale, why do you feel we need to “make that pool a little bigger”? Genetic diversity? Cultural diversity?

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