Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Ran Prieur

I find it hard to believe I have never ran into the work of Ran Prieur before.  He and I have many of the same interests, outlooks, and even spiritual sentiments (insofar as he is identifies as a Taoist-Pantheist).  It's really cool because though my thoughts are on many of the same tracks of his,  he is much further down the road.  He offers so much to learn, targeted to my key interests.  I am torn between gobbling up as much as I can in a binge and, well, everything else in life.

Prieur is a doomer of sorts, though his thoughts on the matter have been developing over time.  Allowing him to explain for himself:

I used to see collapse happening for physical reasons, like resources and climate. Now I see it happening for psychological reasons, that the tasks necessary to keep the system going, are drifting too far from what anyone enjoys doing.
I used to be a doomer optimist, expecting the collapse of complex society to make a better world. Then I expected the big systems to muddle through the coming disasters and tried to figure out the details. My latest thinking is that the global economy will have a series of stairstep collapses, and nation-states are at risk, but high tech will survive and get weirder.
I used to think rural homesteading was a good idea. Then I noticed that almost everyone who tried it was unhappy and had to drive too much, and my strategy changed to getting a modest house in a city with cheap housing, with a yard for fruit trees. Now I'm improvising more than planning.
It is almost uncanny. Back to the track metaphor: each paragraph represents an important mental path I have been on, up to investing much time in research, experiments, and "bets".  And in each case, Prieur is so far ahead of where I have been stuck -- just grappling with the possibilities--  that he can sum up his ideas in elegant prose that reads like common sense.

Also, he is a master of frugality, or more accurately he used sort-term deprivation to build his nest egg, and then uses frugality to keep himself un-employable (able to not be employed).  A man really interested in workshopping the right rhetoric, he went with "dropping out" to describe what he did, though you can tell from his prefaces that he added later that he regretted that choice as well.  (My dear reader, read his essay carefully).  One of Prieur's most famous quotes on the web comes from that essay, and it deals just perfectly with the the questions of privilege that are wracking the brains of the younger millennials right now.
To drop out is to become who you are. Do not feel guilty about using strengths and advantages that others do not have. That guilt is a holdover from the world of selfish competition, where your "success" means the failure or deprivation of someone else. In the dropout universe, your freedom feeds the freedom of others -- it's as if we've all been tied up, and the most agile and loosely tied people get out first, and then help the rest.

Here are some of Ran's best ideas since he switched away from long-form pieces.

Basic Income Communities
On Political Myths
Road Trip Utopia