[permaculture] It's free on the web/ was question about PCDcourseprices

neotern-1 at yahoo.com neotern-1 at yahoo.com
Wed Sep 15 01:59:01 EDT 2004

 --- Toby Hemenway <toby at patternliteracy.com>
> Here's one of my favorite stories about ownership.
> At a design course I
> taught, the conveners handed us about 25 mugs and
> asked that everyone put
> their name on one. For a week, each participant
> washed his or her mug every
> day and returned it to the tea station. Then halfway
> through the course, the
> mugs were sent through a dishwasher and the labels
> came off. Within 3 days,
> every cup was dirty, half-full of moldy tea, strewn
> around the room, on
> windowsills or spilled on the floor or under a
> couch, because no one had
> ownership. And these were good, kind earth-people
> types! Ownership entails
> responsibility; common property is abused. Read
> Garret Hardin's "The Tragedy
> of the Commons" for countless more examples.
Well, I thought I said all I had to say, but
apparently not. This gringo-europeo-centrism just is
too much for me.

To begin with, people who can't take care of something
if they don't see their name on it, be it a mug or a
piece of earth, are not and cannot be "good, kind
earth-care people". These are greedy, irresponsible
self-care people - however they may try to fool
themselves and others in believing otherwise.

Secondly: PLEASE do NOT generalize gringo-european
behaviour and mistake it for general human behaviour.
(When I say gringo/european I'm not talking about race
but about culture). The sad egocentric behaviour you
describe is very true for a small part of humanity, a
part that is in a very true sense sick -
sociopathic(*)  -, and for that same reason the most
aggressive and ignorant part. So ignorant that it
projects its own distorted image on the rest of the

However, millions, even billions of people living in
non-european/gringo cultures throughout Latin-America,
Africa, large parts of Asia, Oceania and Australia DO
live on a common, communal basis. In fact, most of the
cultures who have had the luck not to be wiped out by
colonialism or its younger sisters "development aid"
and "education" (european style) do so, from the
indigenous people of Latin-America to rural Africans
to the Inuit and aboriginals and so on (again:
cultures, not races). 

(About "development aid" and "education": what is a
culture, like the gringo/european one, who succeeded
in transforming its natural environment in a lake of
toxic shit in no more than 150 years time, going to
teach or help cultures who lived sustainably UNTIL
this "developed" culture set foot on their continents,
be it America, Africa, Australia or Oceania? And let's
not answer permaculture: in Latin-America as well as
in Japan, it is an established fact that permaculture
was practiced until colonisation began and brought in
the plough.)

My wife, who is Mexican, was brought up in a small
Mexican-Indian village, where every detail of daily
life was pointed towards the commons (now it's sadly
being swallowed by the gigantic tumor of Mexico City),
and egocentric behaviour severely discouraged. 

My God, go tell the zapatistas in Chiapas, or the
Mapuches, or the indigenous people in Columbia, in
Peru, who are fighting every day with their LIVES to
protect the commons against private greed, that
"ownership entails responsibility"!! 

You have exactly put your finger on the sore spot
here. If you do not believe in the commons, how can
you speak of earth-care?

Now I'm beginning to understand all this about reward
for time/skill/energy in writing books and giving
courses, etc. Closing the energy-loop is necessary for
things like paper (returning the wood you took) etc.,
NOT for the time or energy you as a human being
"invest" in something you do or learn to do. 
Wake up people: the reward for writing a text, for
acquiring a skill, is the text or the skill itself
(and the response it has in the world). The energy you
as a human put into it is not "lost out of the
system", it TRANSFORMED itself into a skill, into a
Maybe we should start rewarding the birds for the
energy and time they "invest" in hunting insect-pests;
or better still, for the skill of insect-hunting they
acquired through years of trial and error and that
didn't come free to them either?

This is where Masanobu Fukuoka's natural farming is so
much more profound than permaculture; pointing
outwards instead of inwards, and never falling in
these traps - there just isn't enough there to fall in
a trap... (For those unacquainted with Fukuoka-san,
read "the One-Straw Revolution").

And again, if you need money, go ahead and make it any
way you like, I'm not condemning that. Selling your
time and skills is ok with me, it may even be a
necessity in a sociopathic culture. But for me it's
only a crazy means in a crazy world to be able to care
for the earth and people afterwards, not earth- or
people-care itself.

(*) sociopath: "Individuals with this disorder have
little regard for the feeling and welfare of others,
(...)." Among the general symptoms are: inability to
form meaningful relationships, inability to control
impulses, lack of moral sense, chronically antisocial
behavior, emotional immaturity, self-centeredness.
"They do not consider other people's wishes, welfare
rights. They can be manipulative and may lie to gain
personal pleasure or profit. High risk sexual behavior
and substance abuse are common. Impulsiveness, failure
to plan ahead, aggressiveness, irritability,
irresponsibility, and a reckless disregard for their
own safety and the safety of others are traits of the
antisocial personality." (source:
Recognize gringo/european culture here? I do...

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