Beyond Bounded Choice

Let’s talk about bounded choice.

Years ago, on my way out of Zendik, I read a book of that title (subtitle: True Believers and Charismatic Cults). The author, Janja Lalich, had become a sociologist, specializing in cultic studies, after ten years in a political cult that dissolved when the followers lost faith in the leader. In the book, she draws on her own experience, as well as her research into other groups (Heaven’s Gate, in particular) to show that cult members are neither stupid nor mindless, that they do think and choose for themselves – it’s just that great swaths have been removed from their field of possibility. So they operate within an extremely narrow range.

This last election, and its aftermath, have confirmed for me that yes, industrial civilization is a cult, and yes, its true believers experience, and act from, a condition of bounded choice.

The range of options was already dismally slim, before the campaigning began; it excluded (for example) a shift to bio-regional governance, an overhaul of a constitution designed to smooth the transmogrification of a continent into cash, and meaningful participation by a party opposing corporate rule. Then Bernie – who threatened to expand the view at least a few degrees – was shoved off the stage, and the pressure (in my world) to fall into lockstep behind Hillary intensified to the point of suffocation. Two choices remained: Back Her, or be responsible for bringing on the apocalypse.

Never mind that She too is a creature of the technosphere, which can’t help but chomp sovereignty, joy, leisure, and other requirements for health and well-being, with every beat of its frigid heart.

Anyone who insists you have only two choices is lying, and/or terrified you’ll peek behind door number three (or door number infinity), and/or hoping to stave off further abuse from a person or entity she or he does not yet recognize as an abuser.

Now, post-election, some are calling for a Love Revolution – sounds good to me! But, for the most part, the range of response seems cramped: Protest. Call or email your corporate stooges – I mean, elected officials. Rage against Chief Tweet-Tweet’s latest appointment. Boycott X department store. Take your money out of Y bank. Maybe that’s because pretty much every suggestion for “action” comes to us by way of the technosphere, which, despite its seeming omnipresence, represents a mere blip in the field holding all the many ways of knowing. What do the trees say? The insects? The fungi? How about the water? The soil? Our ancestors? How about our own souls – have we paused to consult them lately? How about our bodies, our inner teachers, our deep wisdom, revealed to us through sacred mirrors?

Take, for example, Obamacare. In my world, repealing it is heresy – how will X number of people access health insurance, and techno-medical care, without it? The bounded choices are: Fight for Obamacare, or suffer from lack of access to allopathic medicine. Okay, now how about let’s widen the field to include a few more options: Quit subsidizing the production of edible food-like substances (by paying “farmers” to monocrop, by destroying beings of all kinds in the name of “cheap” oil, by building and maintaining highways plied by long-haul trucks). Redesign human communities for local trade, and walking. Restore sovereignty to localities, which won’t necessarily be willing to surrender their “resources” (aka living webs) to the highest bidder. Revive our millennia-old relationship with plants as medicine. Reject wireless internet, with its EMFs and push towards isolation. Close schools and prisons, and replace jobs with mutualistic community-based contribution, so we can relax and move at a pace we choose. Replace house-boxes with commonly held farms, woods, and gathering places, capable of providing all the social nourishment we need. Quit subsidizing, and legitimizing, psychopathic (corporate) polluters. Begin to create the possibility of real, glowing, exuberant health – imagine that!

Can you?

If you liked this post, you’ll love my memoir, Mating in Captivity, in which my twenty-two-year old self enters a cult with a radical take on sex and relationships. Learn more here.

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