Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Occupy as Form: Ilyse Magy

The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is sponsoring the working session “Occupy as Form” on February 10, 2012. Participants have been invited to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Ilyse Magy, a first-year MFA student in CCA's Social Practice program.

Keyword: Share

There is this parable, which for the life of me I can’t find on the Internet. It’s pretty much “The Tragedy of the Commons,” but I think I heard it first at summer camp. It goes like this:

There is a town. In the middle of this town is a giant fruit tree that always has plenty of fruit, as much as anyone in the town needs. Whenever they want fruit, they just go to the tree and take exactly what they need. So this tree is around for a while, and people are happy and well-fed and everything is great.

One day someone starts a rumor that the tree is running out of fruit. Well, the people start freaking out. Everyone heads over to the tree with giant bags and starts grabbing as much fruit as they possibly can. After not too long, they have stripped the poor tree bare. There is no more fruit for anyone anymore. If they had just continued to trust in the tree, then there would still be fruit for everyone. So now the people feel pretty bad about it. And hungry, too.

I don’t remember how the story ends. Maybe it’s because it hasn’t yet.

So the issue here isn’t actually lack, it is a perception of lack. Here we are, humans, living on a planet exactly suited to our needs. Actually, the planet isn’t suited to us, we are suited to it. We formed over time to exist exactly within her resources. You know, air, water, food, shelter.  But somewhere along the line, shit got crazy and complicated. People’s desires got weirder, so we found more ways to make more shit faster and faster, and now everything we come into contact with has to have come into contact with at least a hundred other humans and traveled a few thousand miles and burned a whole bunch of fuel before it gets to us. Oh, and suffering. Some people have to suffer for other people to benefit. And some animals. And landscapes. And the earth. That’s just the way it is, isn’t it?


The perception of lack breeds competition. There isn’t enough money! There isn’t enough oil! There isn’t enough bread! There aren’t enough eligible bachelor/ettes! I HAVE TO FIGHT FOR THESE THINGS AND YOU ARE IN MY WAY, is what people say, perhaps. Perhaps.

But let’s take a look at love. The more love you give, the more love you have. It’s true. It’s like oral sex: it makes me happy to make you happy. Sure, I assume that you’ll go down on me too at some point. But do I expect it? Is my happiness now contingent on future satisfaction? No. Because I am satisfied now to see you satisfied.

Maybe this analogy doesn’t work when it comes to something like, say, food. If we are both starving and you eat the last bit of whatever, well, it’s gonna take a whole lot of zen for me to be happy for you. Even animals will rip each other to shreds over food when it comes to survival. But hey, we’re not there yet. We don’t ever need to get there. And in the meantime, we can use a concept that we all should have learned before we even got to an age that we could fault the education system for. It’s called sharing.

1 comment:

  1. Ilyse, I am so glad you used oral sex as a metaphor in your post. I think over and over about how much better the world is with a good healthy dose of eros. There is something about it that resists closure, within people, between people, and I find that to be so important right now. I love you girl.