What is Right Livelihood?
The concept of right lIvelihood used here is used in its most radical form. Superficially, right livelihood is described as making a living without hurting others. However, this statement has the general characteristic of holy scripture - all the 'right principles' are described, but very few follow them due to human frailty. We must challenge this human weakness, and attempt to create an environment where good life is to be had for all. People may have tried such improvement throughout all times in history. At the least, this proposal is but another attempt. At the very best, it's an explicit program, which, because of its integrated nature and an attempt to link ancient wisdom with modern technology - has a chance of carrying small, dedicated groups to lives of uncompromising, good work. If replicated successfully, the same program has globally transformative potential.
What is the deeper meaning of right livelihood? It is the basic definition as in the last paragraph - plus the explicit situational details of how that applies to our lives - according to generally accepted priciples of how the world works. The details are many, and would take many pages to describe, so we can detail only the general principles. Right livelihood is about creating life, not death, and truth, not fiction. Thus, we say no to the military industrial complex - which is about war = commerce. If we understand this, then we start to ask how communities can meet their needs without having to take from others. Then, we start to work on replacing global supply chains with increasingly localized ones. In practice, this could be flexible and digital fabrication fueled by open source design. The future is here, we have all the technology to survive and thrive, by educating with truth and bravery, so that many more people become skilled rather than dependent. With independence comes less reliance on 'Big Brother' or bureaucracy. Such bureaucracy should be questioned. So should our artificial money system, arms expenditures for securing resources - ongoing colonial expansion that we fund, and a legal system that enforces commerce = war as the status quo.
We have an option to stop feeding invading colonials, from our own empire-building governments to slave goods from China. Structurally, the more self-sufficient we are, the less we have to pay for our own enslavement - through education that dumbs us down to producers in a global workforce - through taxation that funds rich peoples' wars of commercial expansion - through societal engineering and PR that makes the quest for an honest life dishonorable if we can't keep up with the Joneses.
The answer is here, in the development of a replicable village infrastructure, that addresses issues of resource conflict, resource use equity, environmental regeneration, economic distribution, and, consequently, legal and financial reform - by advanced self-sufficiency at unprecedentedly small scales. This is a model of societal evolution, based on principles of open source, voluntary, flexible fabrication economies, that start with the infrastructures of our own backyards - at the same time as they engage in global collaboration on similar issues.
The point is that the advanced self-sufficiency at unprecedentedly small scales leads to easy management of survival, a robust working environment, and, therefore, a voluntary lifestyle that may be dedicated to addressing pressing world issues.
The current understanding of right livelihood is poor. I personally find discussion on the subject shallow. Most discussion ends at do what's not harmful to you and others, and avoid what's harmful. Obvious examples are slave trade, sex trade, military forces. To understand this subject more deeply - and to provide more careful advice to people who care - we need to look deeply into the bowels of societal operation - and propose a realistic program. The bottom line is how you are earning your living. The most fundamental response is: you must produce things. If you are a producer, and we further assume that post-consumerist society requires no advertising, then you are also marketing your own wares.
This discussion becomes deep if it is to address the issue. Such discussion would insinuate: (1), elimination of bureaucracy, (2) creation of small enterprise with you as boss, (3), elimination of most of the armed forces, (4), the end of sales (#1 job in America); among others. This is beyond the scope of this short note.
In my slanted view, the solution is small-scale production systems. Today's information economy enables small scale productive enterprise, that which is now done by centralized systems and a small portion of the population. In particular, open source flexible fabrication is a key to mass Jeffersonian democracy - where governance power lies in the hands of a large pool of productive economic stakeholders.
Some general links:
- Yes! magazine directory of right livelihood
- Mindfulness and Meaningful Work
- Cascadia Food Not Lawns article