The “1%” is back in the news, having fared pretty well during this continuing period of relative economic stagnation. It turns out that the economic “recovery” we are currently “enjoying” is really primarily being recognized by those upper-income earners – the people who make $350K and up, annually. For the rest of us it’s barely get by, as usual. What’s new? Not much.

This makes sense, though. We get awfully caught up in dollars, but I think we lose sight of the fact that they are supposed to represent a tangible value. The upper class generally control the means of production, meaning they control the engines that generate value and hence, dollars. This is the reason for the truthful, but not necessarily true, adage about the 1% being the “job creators.” Yes, if you control the means of production, you can create jobs. But on the other hand, if you’re hoarding all the means of production, you can also be stifling and limiting job creation. The real revolution will come when we realize we the people can control the means of production, and cut the suits right out of the equation.

This is happening as we speak. One of the more glaring examples is in music production, where the major record labels are on the verge of extinction. They are scrambling to find a toehold on a crumbling mountain, while the independent artists are growing increasingly savvy about creating and accessing their own markets. Film and video production is nipping at the heels of the indie and DIY musicians. This is great news for us, for the revolution.

We’re seeing it in food production, where people are going back to old models of farming. We suffered a long period of consolidation, wherein the big farms bought up the little farms and grew bigger. Well, the small farms are making a comeback. People are recognizing the value of knowing your local farmer, and of consuming a quality, locally-grown food product. This is it, we’re witnessing the cutting edge of a major breakdown, a positive erosion of overgrown systems.

Vote With Your Butt

That concept needs to be expanded. I come back to toilet paper – it’s something I think about a lot, because in our society it is ubiquitous. It is so common that we don’t even really see it. But it is a huge commodity. The notorious Koch Brothers, financial backers of the TEA Party and other far right-wing political movements, have made vast fortunes from toilet paper. You can’t buy a widely distributed paper product without lining their pockets. But why? Why can’t we produce our own toilet paper locally? Or better yet, why can’t we forgo toilet paper? What about reusable cloth, or the installation of bidets?

This is the thinking that makes the 1% shudder. Why the aversion to solar energy? Because you can’t charge people for the sun. It’s already a stretch to lay claim to the resins that lay beneath our feet, but they justify it by citing the expense of extraction. I dislike the us-versus-them paradigm, but if that’s the way they want to play it…we need to wrench the means of production away from the powers that be. We can do it in small steps, one business at a time. In spite of the media hype, the collapse of the system doesn’t have to be calamitous. In fact, it might just be fun.

Bob Howard has been living, working, and writing in Northern Califonria since he moved to Chico in early 2000. In January 2011, he and his wife Trish relocated to Los Molinos, 30 minutes north of Chico, where they are the proud proprietors of the Double Happiness Farm. There they grow organic food, ornamental plants and trees, and generally work to enjoy the beauty of this great region.