Nate Cull is a user on You can follow them or interact with them if you have an account anywhere in the fediverse. If you don't, you can sign up here.

Thinking about the ecological concept of 'limits to growth' - and why so many people who are deeply (um) invested in capitalism, react with (often literal) religious fear when presented with that idea.

It struck me that 'there are limits to growth' is very often parsed by conservatives as 'there should be LIMITS TO FREEDOM'.

They've somehow accepted that 'freedom must equal permanent growth'.

Bound up in the myth of the Wild West, I think.

Nate Cull

The Heinlein space-colony libertarian dream is also wrapped up in this idea. That 'a society must keep expanding, or it's doomed to collapse into stagnation/dark-ages/totalitarianism'

There's something that needs unpacking at the heart of that.

The belief that *it is literally impossible for people to just get along*, that there's an irreducible conflict between people that, shrug, isn't 'nice', but 'you can't change human nature'.

There's something a bit wrong in that belief.

· Web · 4 · 6

.. and yes, that 'but people CAN'T just merely coexist, they have to be Out Conquering Something/Someone Or They'd Destroy Each Other' thing... it smells a bit like both racism and fascism. Maybe not the same AS those, but very much adjacent TO them.

Eternal hostility as the natural state of humanity.

Also 'freedom means conquering something, you can't be free if there's someone else in the room'. Elements of Existentialism there too.

Also, concepts of masculinity as *conqueror* are deeply linked with this call to permanent expansion.

"It's okay for women to be social, peaceful, cooperating but that's not *manly*. A man must have a frontier, be a fighter, expand his holdings, BE A WINNER, or he's not really a man"

(An interesting exception is the meditative/monastic religious tradition, where renunciates consciously abandon the expectation of fighting / accumulating wealth, and focus on community and inward experience. So there are counter-narratives of masculinity even in the Western tradition).

@natecull that tradition was as much a prison system as anything else, depending on who you read. kind of blurs the narrative.

@vernepator_cur Yes. And also, monasteries (and even lay religious communities) in many different societies and traditions often tended to accumulate property and social power and play the game of empire just as much as the merchants and lords and military.

What I'd like to see is a lot more in the way of stories about heroes *who aren't the conquistador type*. Because our pop culture is full of 'you have to be a fighter to be a good/effective person' stories.

@natecull Aren't space colonies based on "conquering" rocks? There is a difference between rocks and people.

@jhertzli one might think so, and yet there seems very little difference in the underlying philosophy. The space colony dream seems to be fed by a belief that it's 'like Columbus discovering America, or Manifest Destiny', which were all about conquering people and taking their land.

Also that actual space colonies are not about heroic individuals and expansive land and energy use but small, tightly controlled communities living within very restrictive matter and energy budgets.

@jhertzli .. so, eg, the kind of society that would make a good space colony would ALSO make a very good ecologically sustainable life on Earth.

Yet the Heinlein fan space colonists are terrified of living on Earth and sharing it with all those scary Other People. They dream of 'getting away from the masses' and selecting only the pure to start a new life in space.

it doesn't make sense on the scientific merits, unless you look at the underlying philosophy, which is a bit scary

@natecull Taking "their" land? Or we for or against landlords this week? Cf.!orig You can think of colonialism as a type of immigration.

Space colonies might start out small but they might eventually be "Bigger Than Worlds."

@jhertzli If the European colonists came to the Americas without bringing ships and guns and the united economic and military might of Europe, one might indeed call them immigrants.

Unfortunately that's not quite how it happened.

@jhertzli ... China moving into Africa, on the other hand, does look a little like a 21st century take on colonisation. The power differential is much higher.

Will be interesting to see how that works out for them.

Europe united?

You can think of the guns as necessary to fight back against nativists.


Immigrants don't bring with them guns and warships and nation-state level supply lines and funding systems.

Colonists do.

That's kind of an important and noteworthy difference between the two, don't you think?