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Permaculture and Antipoliticism
What if there was a computer operating system that could plug into any handheld device , laptop , PC , phone { even an old rotary phone } , TV set , and even your Walkman CD player ? What if whatever you plugged it into became the most user friendly and multipurpose system you could imagine ? This system is also tiny enough to go anywhere . Fits is a space smaller than a human cranium . You would have a most amazing technology in your hands . Permaculture is like that operating system . It can plug into any human political and social enviroment and be useful. The tribal peoples of Australia and the Kalahari are using it . African and Nepali villages . Community projects in New York City and Colorado . School systems Down Under. Libertarian farmers . Social Democrats . The parlimentary monarchy of Jordan . Permaculture is a template for living that seems to fit into any political system and be capable of producing results . Does this make permaculture an apolitical philosophy ?

Here is Bill Mollison recorded in an interview with Scott London published in 2005 :

London: "Even though permaculture is based on scientific principles, it seems to have a very strong philosophical or ethical dimension.

Mollison: There is an ethical dimension because I think science without ethics is sociopathology. To say, "I’ll apply what I know regardless of the outcome" is to take absolutely no responsibility for your actions. I don’t want to be associated with that sort of science.

London: What do you think you’ve started?

Mollison: Well, it’s a revolution. But it’s the sort of revolution that no one will notice. It might get a little shadier. Buildings might function better. You might have less money to earn because your food is all around you and you don’t have any energy costs. Giant amounts of money might be freed up in society so that we can provide for ourselves better.
So it’s a revolution. But permaculture is anti-political. There is no room for politicians or administrators or priests. And there are no laws either. The only ethics we obey are: care of the earth, care of people, and reinvestment in those ends."

Wow ! Strong words : No room for politicians . So if no administrators how are things to get done ?

Bill Mollison had a few words to say about how to conduct a permaculture endevour :

"In any group endeavour, there are practical and effective, or impractical and ineffective, ways to manage a complex system. Impractical, frustrating, and time-consuming systems are those governed by large boards, assemblies, or groups (seven or more people). These "meetings" have a chairperson, agendas, proposals, votes, or use consensus, and can go on for hours. Consensus, in particular, is an endless and pointless affair, with coercion of the often silent or incoherent abstainer by a vociferous minority. Thus, decisions reached by boards, parliaments, and consensus groups either oppress some individuals (votes) or are vetoed by dissenters. In either case, we have tyranny of a majority or tyranny of a minority, and a great deal of frustration and wasted time. The way to abolish such systems is to have one meeting where the sole agenda is to vote to abolish decision meetings -- this is usually carried unanimously -- and another where a consensus is reached to abolish consensus -- this too shouldn't take long. "

So , if Bill Mollison says permaculture is antipolitical I will not argue . If permaculture fits into any human scheme ; that is amazing . My question to all of you is in the devilish details . Under what socio-economic and political conditions has permaculture thrived ? Under what conditions has it been deterred and failed ? If permaculture does not require politicians , administrators , or priests is it impervious to them ?

If permaculture does not require politicians , administrators , or priests is it impervious to them ?

Shh! Don't tell them that. Once the politicians, administrators and priests realize that we don't need them, they will do everything in their powers to stop us. Nobody wants to step down from their throne and let the population take care of itself. They might even need to find real jobs so they could feed themselves, their families, and even the old cronies who have kept them in power through the millennia.

Maybe Marx was right after all. He predicted the instability of the capitalist system and that over production and over capacity would bring down the system .

The federal government is now the single largest employer in the U.S.of A . Over 800,00 employees ! A hell of alot of politicians , administrators ,and priests {chaplains } . Can't blame that on the capitalist system . "The problem is the solution" . Hmmm. 800,00 WWOOFers ?
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I think you would have to decide whether you're talking about antipoliticism or apoliticism. I contend that antipoliticism is impossible; herd politics define which individual is the leader; pack politics determine who leads, and gets to breed, in some cases; family politics...well let's not go there.

I think that it is possible for permaculture to be an apolitical ideology, in that it exists outside of, or in parallel with, politics. I believe the same with regards to religion. I think that permaculture can easily be incorporated into any of the Golden Rule theologies (I think that includes all of them, properly followed).

To the point of this thread, I think that you can politicise anything to its detriment, if you are using it to further another agenda.

To Mollison's points about it being antipolitical, I think he wrote a very good designers' manual. I am pretty sure that what he meant is that there were no politicians, administrators, or priests necessary for permaculture. Likewise, I am pretty sure he isn't advocating lawlessness, but that there are no rules or regulations within permaculture except those governing the natural world.

I am pretty sure that the aim was to empower people to change for the better, not to propel them into chaos.

Any examples of how politics has helped or hindered permaculture ? I have read threads on trying to do permaculture and cope with zoning / grey water regulations etc . Going to jail for selling raw milk is certainly a negative . I have heard also that public schools in Australia teach permaculture in their curriculum .
"Politics" is a word with heavy baggage. What if we were to substitute "leadership"?

In the designer's manual, the Permaculture policy of responsibility says that if authority is successful no further authority is needed. That seems like a nice ideal but not practical. He's just been telling us that everything changes, all the time. A system of humans, who are constantly aging and dying and being born and growing is probably going to contain some authority. I like the system where as people age and gain experience and prove themselves wise, they naturally gain authority, or leadership.

We learned a lot from the Occupy movement. Here in Rhode Island, Occupy Providence is still functioning but diminished in size. It is a "leaderless" movement with all authority shared among the members and it is a self managed system. Yet I can't help thinking it would be a larger more vibrant and effective group if the bright charismatic leaders of the movement had a little authority.

Permies works well in part because a bright strong leader has authority. Paul Wheaton has both power and responsibility. In a way, permies manages itself because the staff keeps it going, but everyone knows that Paul is the authority.

If Permaculture can't absorb and change politics, it will stay too subtle to make a substantial difference.

I have a fantasy that local politics around the planet will be invaded by permies on a mission. Zoning boards, permitting offices, school boards, state legislatures, so on. That is where the action is, if we can infect the brains of the people with the power to make decisions, we have a chance on this planet. If politics is so distasteful that the ones making the decisions have no idea about sustainable design, well...I give up.
I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with most of what I've read here, particularly Chris's point about how we're not striving for anarchy.

To Matu's point about the need to get involved politically, I see this as absolutely necessary if we are to dismantle all legally imposed impediments to natural farming. Water catchment laws, changes to building rules, and other restriction are best addressed from a position of power, not as spectators or protesters who lobby and complain.

--- Several religious cults from the 60s and 70s showed one way that this could happen on a local level. They arrived in large numbers to small communities where they were able to overwhelm the local populace at the polls. Once in power, they changed laws to make big communal living arrangements fit within zoning laws. Some went so far as to change the name of the town and of streets, parks, etc. to the names of leaders or deities. Local history was erased. These tactics created an "us and them" political landscape so that they had to maintain numerical superiority to stay in power. New recruits were seldom found amongst the locals. ---

I don't favor this sort of hostile takeover, but I do favor a softer approach. If only 10% of the populace were politically active permiculture folks, this could easily tip the scales in many settings. Some small towns pay their part time councils very little. Any upstanding community member has a chance to win a seat. If the locals see that you're working with them to improve the town, it should be possible to gain widespread support. I've seen this happen with strata councils, where a new owner is quickly elevated to the chair position. A few years ago, the town of Ladysmith BC. got a new citizen who became mayor within 3 years. The job pays a stipend that would not attract people who need the paycheck. His thing is coming up with money making festivals and renting out town owned assets to fund civic improvements. Do this successfully in many small towns and you can run unopposed until you retire. Federal politics are different entirely. Billions of dollars are at stake. Just about anyone can make some measurable difference in small town politics.
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