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The Hypocrisy of the Anti-Industrialization Movement

Across the developed world, a series of spiritual movements have arisen from utopian visions of alternative existence. 

While the popularity of the budding movement remains unquestionable, the logician will struggle to discover its merits. 

Plainly, the spirit of this movement has been completely compromised in the development of its numbers, as diminishing camps of aboriginals and traditionalists have yielded to the audible rumblings of outcasts and quasi-intellectuals always on the lookout for somebody or something else to blame, albeit cunningly. 

While nuanced, the differences between the groups have shaped the conversation around vaunted notions predicated upon unexamined assumptions. 

Take, for example, the islands of the Pacific, where one can effortlessly find locals who disapprove of the so-called commercialization of their respective islands. 

The innocent islands they once knew and loved are now bustling with tourists and peppered with towering hotels, luxury resorts and condominium complexes. 

The neighborhoods have also changed, from locally-owned restaurants and shops to more globally-familiar labels and franchisee alternatives, which of course preserve some semblance of the traditions that appeal to visitors and newcomers in the first place. 

Of course, these efforts often embellish or distort those traditions, yet they are nonetheless features of the new experience. 

Now, this is all well and good for the newcomers who seem to benefit from the new developments, the promising job prospects, and overall the enhanced capacity of the island. 

However, what is the perception of the families and communities that predated the development? 

Well, many of them would inform the visitor that much has changed, that the island of old has given way to commercialism at the price of the precious beauty of the island. 

However, these same people seem to commit the common error of overlooking the great many ways in which they have handsomely benefited. 

These same people work in specialized fields enabled by the economies of scale and capital formation which has freed them from the daily toils of mere subsistence. 

They enjoy the benefits of streamlined distribution networks, running water and indoor plumbing, advanced home appliances, and a great number of products that they produce neither personally nor locally. 

They also tend to overlook the fact that the world is a dynamic place with ever-changing traditions and customs, that the old ways — though significant — may be outmatched by modern alternatives. 

This is not to suggest that either set of traditions is superior, but rather to coherently elaborate on the tradeoffs. 

Surely there are people who take great joy in the drudgery of subsistence living, but they measure few and far between. 

Indeed, there is a great measure of gratification and fulfillment which accompanies that lifestyle, but it certainly isn’t for the average person today who can barely tolerate a few minutes away from her phone or her social media accounts. 

It is also interesting to note what the islander intends to say when she notes that commercialism has jeopardized the sanctity of the island: she unwittingly implies that she (or her community) owns the island, that its beauty ought to be preserved exclusively for their own benefit at the expense of any system that feasibly renders the island accessible to the masses who wish to enjoy it. 

In her foray against the market machine, she ignores the great many benefits she routinely enjoys because of it; she launches her assault upon the machine through hazy dreams that she confuses for lucid thought. 

 

Oddly, in her rush to preserve or resurrect the island as she knew it, she has latched onto the principles of private property, albeit unwittingly, which would afford her that privilege of deciding its fate. 

Of course, in the domain of private property, her use of the property would eventually be subjected to that same measure of scrutiny, in the form of fresh resentment, if she were ever to abandon the aforesaid principles. 

As a safeguard, then, she might promote a form of public property, whereby all property is owned, regulated or managed through some system of government, effectively dissolving the freedoms enjoyed by persons who legitimately own their property. 

Whether the property is owned, regulated or managed by some form of government, the property is ultimately owned not by free persons who have negotiated for ownership, but by the agents of government who predictably exploit the land for short-term political expedience at the expense of both freedom and sustainability. 

What’s more, this sentiment implies that the dissenting islander ought to be prohibited from utilizing his property as he deems fit, let alone for the benefit of anyone else who doesn’t reside exclusively on the island. 

After all, what is tourism if not a commercial enterprise, and what is a tourist or a visitor but someone who spends only a limited amount of time in a given place? 

As such, what precisely is the standard that qualifies someone as a “resident” of any given territory? 

What fraction of someone’s life must he or she devote to living there in order to qualify for this title? 

How many meaningful moments must one enjoy in this space in order to quality? 

How much impact must one offer before qualifying? 

Of course, this discussion invariably boils down to a rather subjective set of standards that ultimately begin to resemble protectionism, which ironically attracts unbridled condemnation from the very same people when it’s packaged under the label of Republican Party policy. 

In the course of considering this subject, one can look to places like Oahu to concretize the abstract. 

There are residents in Oahu who wish to return the island to its previous humble state, but they do not appear prepared to renounce their participation within the formal market economy. 

Now, the island of Oahu needn’t operate formally at the economic level in order to survive. 

In fact, the formal economy really serves to facilitate the efficacious coordination of resources in a way which incidentally enables people to limit risk, accrue wealth in excess of daily need, live longer and potentially more enjoyable lives, and optimize the amount of time spent in leisure, hobbies and retirement. 

If the residents of Oahu, for example, are willing and ready to reject those benefits in order to assume a life of subsistence or limited barter between members of their community, they must also account for the aforementioned political attitude that prohibits any dissension among its members, that is staunchly opposed to non-assimilating immigrants or visitors. 

Ultimately, the entire conversation focuses upon the reality of tradeoffs: while every option comes with a myriad of seen costs and unseen sacrifices, one must ask himself how far he is willing to go in order to protect one interest over the other. 

When it comes to the interest of freedom, one must tread extra carefully, as that price is paid in the most painful and irrevocable of ways. 

As it turns out, the commonly-held supposition that the island would be better off under the old traditions is the acceptable analog to the dreamer who finds himself occasionally daydreaming of the thought of escaping the rat race, by the thought journeying into the wilderness to cure himself of his dreaded life. 

It is the analog to the rejection of the automobile in favor of the horse and buggy, the universal rejection of the streamlined assembly line in favor of costlier craft production, the rejection of tools and heavy machinery in favor of one’s own hands. 

Though moving — and awesomely inspiring in the case of Chris McCandless — the average person is ill-equipped for this lifestyle; he has underestimated it; he has failed to sufficiently sort through his thoughts to intimately understand the source of his struggles and their potential cures. 

In this manner, the hypnotizing thoughts of escape — or those of return, in the case of the Hawaiian — masquerade as a bonafide solution to a personal struggle that can be suspended by escape yet resolved only by serious consideration.

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