Choice, maybe

I know I’m a bit late getting this discussion topic in as folks have already moved on to Book Number Two, but my personal challenge for The Dispossessed was to finish this book on time (which I did!) and comment or participate in a converation (which I’m doing now!). I enjoyed the book and this being my first read of Ursula Le Guin, I will place a sticky note in the back of my mind, to encourage me to try her again sometime.

One of the things that stuck with me was the proposition that even though everyone on Anarres could theoretically choose any day-to-day work they’d like (or choose to not work at all), it appears that because of a sort of guilt and/or obligation to the community, very few felt they could exert that power. Besides seeing that as a theme in my own life (I often avoid life’s guilty little pleasures even though I’m encouraged to do so by those whose opinion I care about), it’s been in the news lately in the form of the unlimited vacation policies companies are adopting. Some of the skeptics cite statistics showing a drop in the number of taken vacation days after a company implements a no-limits vacation policy. If the stats are true, probably lots of potential reasons for this, including some of the self-imposed behavior of the Anarrians (I don’t have the book anymore…is that what they are called?).

Life is moving fast and already the story is starting to fade from memory…if I wait long enough on another Le Guin book perhaps I’ll read The Dispossessed again for the first time in a few years…

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I too was fascinated with the way that people felt compelled even though there was no systematic coercion backed by the threat of violence (i.e. a state).
Part of that is working class culture, which always put a higher value on solidarity. Even nowadays, there are many people whose well-being is more dependent on everyone living up to their inter-personal obligations than to the size of their bank account or caliber of their curiculum vitae.
One of the many ways The Dispossessed can be viewed is an attempt to tackle the question “What if the Soviet Union had not been (forced to be) authoritarian?”, “What if the anarchist in Spain had not been (allowed to be) violently suppressed by the European right?”, or more purely “What if the obstacles that the liberatory plans of the left had only been the internal ones, not external attack?”
Thinking about how the kibbutzes in Israel turned out (I assume they were one of the source models for Anares) or how China reverted to capitalism (and in a particularly nasty form at that) made me more sympathetic to those Annaresti who felt the need to protect their society in a rigid and at times violent way.
A lot of our difficulties are due to cultural patterns that have been ingrained since before the rise of Homo Sapiens and that were functional on the east African plains but that have such different results when unconsciously continued in societies with concentrated power imbalances (i.e. pretty much all societies since the rise of civilization).
Annares in a sense is a place where those limitations become more visible thanks to external coercion being taken out of the equation.

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One consideration is that the Annaresti are a self-selected people—namely, they’re the ones who were all attracted the Odonian revolutionary vision, even willing to risk their lives for it and leave behind the comforts of their world. Annares didn’t comprise a representative selection of humanity.

What if freedom is something that has to be learned? What if most of humanity are kindergarteners when it comes to freedom? What if we here in this forum (at the risk of over-elevating us) are barely in junior high?

You can give people choice, but it takes a while, doesn’t it, before they really know what to do with it. And then how to practice freedom collectively, that’s like playing nth-dimensional chess with every aspect of our evolutionary history and being.