I move to abolish the status quo! Is this radical? Yes. So what? The co-op I lived in in college did this once, and it was messy. All the rules about everything– who cooked, how food was ordered, what the jobs were, whether meat was allowed– were struck. Everything that could be argued about was argued about. But it also meant that the policies we had reflected the deliberate choices of the current membership. Abolishing the status quo means that you wipe the rule book clean, and any time you come to a question, you have to decide how to answer it— or not to answer it. This, as you might imagine, can be exhausting and time consuming, but it’s also enormously liberating. As Marie Kondo would have it, don’t decide what to get rid of— decide what to keep.
I think this is an interesting thought experiment on the societal level (can we get rid of parts of our political system that no longer make sense? or any number of structures that perpetuate racism and inequality?), but it’s big, messy, and possibly violent. Not that I think inertia or resistance should justify inaction— just that there isn’t a clear path to this kind of revolutionary societal change, especially if you eschew violence. I’m not really a political philosopher, so I’m not going to pull this thread further right now. At a smaller organizational level like the co-op, or a family or personal level, though, radically starting over is attainable, and possibly life-changing. If it’s just you or you and a partner, what would it look like to abolish some or all of the status quo in your life? Are there too many things that you do because you do them, not because you really choose them? Did you or someone else make decisions a long time ago that are not serving you now? Did you even realize they were there, underlying what you do? Are you working a certain kind of job, eating the way you eat, dressing the way you dress, and going the places you go for a purpose that serves you, or just because it’s what you’re used to?
I can see how this might sound like it’s an approach for the privileged. In some ways, it is. Self-study takes some time and it takes some emotional space. But it doesn’t take money or complete freedom of responsibility to implement this in very real ways. You can abolish the status quo of if you watch TV and if so, what. You can abolish the status quo of if and what you read. Of what you see online. Of the music or the news or the restaurant or the grocery list or the recipe box. Are you seeking out the things that you like, care about, and benefit from? Or are you pulled mostly by marketing, by convenience, by personal history, or by keeping up with the Joneses?
There are some bigger-ticket ways to reject entrenched patterns and decide how to live your life— things like leaving a relationship, or moving to a new place, or starting a new career path. When you do these things, you remove a lot of the structures and patterns that make up your day-to-day life, and you can, if you so choose, rebuild from scratch. Earlier this year, Max and I moved to Portland from Tucson, and the work of rebuilding routines was very revealing. I want to eat vegan more consistently— so I sought out the tools I needed to do that. I wanted to bike for transportation more— so I learned how. I wanted to keep yoga in my life, so I found a place to practice regularly. I didn’t want cable— so we didn’t get it. There are a lot of things about my life this year that are different from my life last year because I chose specifically to make that the case. I feel like I have more agency, purpose, and direction in my life now. But I probably wouldn’t have told you those things were missing a few years ago!
Are there things that might be different in your life, if you paid attention to them? Can you change them? And if you can change these little things, what else can you change? Maybe that aside about the political system isn’t so crazy after all. . .