Who am I to question humanities current state of evolution? I am, after all, a white male of European decent, college educated, and a resident of the global north. I have been granted access—and continue to indulge in—material comforts unsurpassed in human history. What reason or right do I have to criticize the system which sustains me? These are legitimate questions which will inevitably be asked, from the standpoint of individuality. However, it is addressing the differences in the perspectives of individualistic vs. common thinking which is the point. The purpose of a biography is not to express personal grievances, but the human condition from the perspective of the individual.
It is human nature to make assessments of each other based on our individual experiences and what we have come to understand as cultural norms. But to understand each other on a personal level requires the willingness to see through our cultural conditioning to recognize our core humanity and commonality. Likewise, global equity requires the will to amend aspects of consumer culture we have come to perceive as "personal rights" but now understand to be counter productive to our evolution as a species, and detrimental to those whom our lifestyle choices influence. It is my objective to initiate an open dialog about how capitalism and industry have led us down the path we are on, and to create the will necessary to unite for change by presenting viable alternatives. As the creator of Anthropolis and author of the AnthroBlog, it is relevant to provide a bit of personal backstory for insight into how I have acquired my personal perspective, which I hope will convey both humanity and humility.
I was born on a Flat Head Indian reservation in Montana. Not to say I had any influence from the tribe, my family left soon after my birth. My parents, both from the San Fransisco Bay Area, got caught up in the 'getting back to nature' movement in the late 60's, early 70's and we bounced from one small mountain town to the next. By the time I was ten I had lived in half a dozen different towns in the Northwest, none of which we had made any meaningful connection to because we never stayed long enough to make any meaningful contribution. Tapping into a social support network in small town USA had proven more difficult than my parents anticipated—which ultimately led to the explosion of our nuclear family.
The level of loyalty and conformity to tribe is directly proportional to the degree of assimilation into a given culture through exposure to the nurturing it provides. The information and sense of acceptance at critical developmental stages creates a bond and incentive for contribution which lasts a life time. As a child who never remained in a particular community during critical developmental stages I, consequently, never formed cultural bonds. As someone subjected to physical and emotional abuse, my trust in humanity and place within it was never solidified. We have all heard the same tired clichés about how you should not let your past define you — the science of human development shows it does just that. Given the fact that 90% of who we are we develop by the time we are five years of age, the best we can do is to allow our definition to guide us in a constructive manner. To not just understand cause and effect but choose paths where our conditioning can be beneficial to self and others – hence my choice of career in art and design.
Soon after college I moved to the island of Kauai'i, and for a brief moment in my life I had a sense of belonging. I was designing homes for local families who would invite me over for barbecues. I would see my dentist, mailman, and other members of the community at the surf breaks and was on a first name basis with almost everyone who lived and worked on the North Shore of the island. Activities revolved around nature and there was very little emphasis on what one drove or owned in regard to how they were defined. I had found nirvana. For five years I had no desire to leave the island, and when I did begin to take trips to the mainland I was quickly reminded of how lucky I was to had discovered a place within America where indigenous – subsistence based – culture still played a roll, unspoiled by the trappings of consumerism and development.
But things began to change. Through social media, the island was being discovered. Slowly it became harder to move about as more flights were added and rental car traffic began to increase. The lines at stores and restaurants got longer with a mix of faces I recognized and ones of strangers. Gradually my friends began to leave the island as long-term rentals began to be converted to AirB&B's, and what few rentals remained became prohibitively expensive. With increasing inequality my work began to shift from modest homes for local families with tight budgets to large homes in upscale gated communities – many being second homes for clients who lived off island. At some point it dawned on me I had become an unwilling participant in the social decline of the community I had grown to love. In 2017, after failing to find a means to contribute to affordable housing, I left the island and moved to Bend, Oregon. After a short time in Bend, the pandemic hit and I relived the same experience all over again as remote workers from the cities began flooding the mountain towns—to the dismay of the locals.
Regarding a sustainable sense of cultural inclusion, it seems I have missed the boat. However, I have come to view the boat of consumer society as the Titanic and have lost interest in boarding. Every time I have consciously pivoted toward conformity I have lived to regret it through my awareness that pursuit of personal profit and things without a clear sense of community contribution was ultimately diminishing my quality of life, and that of others. What incentive I have to contribute to a culture I understand to be inequitable, divisive, and environmentally destructive is cultivated through a desire to change it. It is my mission in life to find others uniting to build equity for humanity and who understand the importance of community and our place in the natural world.
Perhaps the greatest upside of reaching middle age is the epiphanies acquired. The downside is they can also come with a crippling breakdown of narratives created to defend against past trauma — hence the dreaded mid-life-crisis. However, epiphanies can be transformative once processed and accepted. After a lifetime of pondering the question of who I am and evaluating my place in society I have come to the realization – my detachment from culture is my identity. Regarding the institutions of humanity, my experience is more observational than participatory, and the reason I chose a career in art and design. After years of holding hope I would find a community I feel a part of, I have realized being on the outside is who I am and I have accepted my position for what it is worth. I see value in being free from the bonds of culture, the most honest analysis of which is observation from the outside looking in. So what is it I observe?
For as long as I can remember I have always looked at every life form I encounter as a spirit, pneuma, sole, struggling to use the body it inhabits—regardless of species. I have always pictured myself in the body of other lifeforms I observe and try to imagine what that existence must be like with the understanding that, through the processes of the universe, any given experience could have been my own. From the perspective of every life being equal, only differentiated by form and genetic impulse, it has always been difficult for me to understand how members of the species I am born into can develop a sense of supremacy over, not only other species, but members of its own. I have curiously tried to understand the perception of the supremacy of race, culture, and religion but have done so hesitantly out of fear I may become infected.
However, I do not view my perception of the equity of life as something I gained — but as something I never lost through cultural conditioning. Just as having little cultural influence at critical points of development contributes to loose ties to it, extreme indoctrination has the opposite affect. Once the foundation of beliefs are formed they have the potential to solidify and become as reactionary as the urge to breathe. The beliefs then become generational, as does the will to question them – even those proven invalid by science and reason.
Generally speaking, I follow the live and let live motto. I believe in the equity of every human ethnicity, gender, and sexual orinetation. It is our diversity which makes humanity dynamic and interesting. Regarding culture, however, we have reached a point when we can no longer afford to tolerate claims of divine dominion over nature—which has led to the precarious predicament in which we now find ourselves. At this point in our evolution it has become imperative we reject the human-centric ideologies which has failed to produce an equitable, sustainable world for humanity. Beliefs which have led to colonialism, capitalism, and global destruction. The sooner we collectively accept this reality, the sooner we can start working on a model that works.
It is my goal as a designer to work with others to recognize what habits within society are unsustainable and to then present alternative options for the purpose of uniting community around improving the lives of those whom reside within. It is my goal as a human being and steward of our planet to consider ways of reducing my personal carbon footprint based on my lifestyle and what I can and am willing to sacrifice. To open an honest dialog about destructive practices while respecting the choices of others with different needs than my own—with the understanding that not everyone needs to make the same sacrifices and changes to lifestyle to make a difference during this time of transition. And to, perhaps most importantly, create optimism and unity around building a better world from what we have come to understand, (through trial and error), to be the true needs of humanity and our place in, and dependency on, the global ecosystem.
So, to answer the question of who I am to critique the culture in which I am subjected; I am someone who understands individualism and capitalism have led to the consolidation of wealth and resources of a few at the expense of the many. That the only justifiable selfishness to be rewards gained through selfless persuits of social equality. Someone painfully aware of the destruction caused – both past and present – from my consumption of resources and energy within the ill-conceived system in which my existence continues to play a roll. Someone who recognizes much of what I am sold is insidious, and not benificial to the human experience. Someone with a desire to be a member of a culture I believe is making the world a better place — or, at the very least, not destroying it. I am one life, with no more rights than another.