Negative liberty is the absence of obstacles, barriers or constraints […] Positive liberty is the possibility of acting — or the fact of acting — in such a way as to take control of one’s life and realize one’s fundamental purposes.
—“Positive and Negative Liberty,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
The more I examined […] efforts at sedentarization, the more I came to see them as a state’s attempt to make a society legible, to arrange the population in ways that simplified the classic state functions of taxation, conscription, and prevention of rebellion [and] I began to see legibility as a central problem in statecraft.
–Yale Professor of Agrarian Studies James C. Scott, on efforts by nation states to “sedentarize” nomads, pastoralists, gypsies and other peoples living non-mainstream lives
This past April, my partner and I moved out of a spacious house in former Tonkawa/Apache lands — Austin, Texas — and into a full-time 75-square-foot RV, which we promptly steered westward. Continue reading
The fact that political ideologies are tangible realities is not a proof of their vitally necessary character. The bubonic plague was an extraordinarily powerful social reality, but no one would have regarded it as vitally necessary.
Here is a girl, standing at the end of an alleyway in Chengdu, in the Sichuan province in southwestern China.
What will she become, and what will life in the place and time she was born into allow her?
When we first made eye contact, she made a grim face, turned abruptly, and marched with purpose the other way. Then she stopped, executed a surprisingly martial turn, and stood surveying me for a pregnant moment. I waved, and she seemed not to respond at all; just stood there stone-faced, or so I thought at the time. After a moment of standing there like an absurd soldier, she vanished into the doorway of what I assume was her home.
When I got the chance to look at these pictures in more detail, I saw that there was a glimmer of a smile on her face, mostly around her eyes. I have very poor vision, and my camera, with its optical zoom, sees far better than I do.
It seems to me that the Chinese people make the best of the lives their government allows them, and this little girl is a great example of why it’s important to oppose governments and corporations, not people. The Chinese people are not to be feared or damned for the vehicle they’ve been shoved into. Their spirit in trying to advance and overcome is to be respected and admired.
This little girl’s alleyway holds several things of interest and relevance. To touch on the simplest one first, the grime is a byproduct of industry and sheer population density, and industry is, in our globally metasticized consumer culture, how people raise their standards of living. And maybe the U.S. didn’t invent it, but we sure did refine it, give it some steroids, and begin exporting it to the world on a massive scale.