Saturday, 27 November 2010

woven from gifts

Community is nearly impossible in a highly monetised society like our own. That is because community is woven from gifts, which is ultimately why poor people often have stronger communities than rich people. If you are financially independent, then you really don't depend on your neighbours – or indeed on any specific person – for anything. You can just pay someone to do it, or pay someone else to do it.

In former times, people depended for all of life's necessities and pleasures on people they knew personally. If you alienated the local blacksmith, brewer, or doctor, there was no replacement. Your quality of life would be much lower. If you alienated your neighbours then you might not have help if you sprained your ankle during harvest season, or if your barn burnt down. Community was not an add-on to life, it was a way of life. Today, with only slight exaggeration, we could say we don't need anyone.I don't need any of the people who produced any of the things I use. I need someone to do their jobs, but the people are replaceable, and, by the same token, so am I.

That is one reason for the universally recognised superficiality of most social gatherings. How authentic can it be, when the unconscious knowledge, "I don't need you," lurks under the surface?.

Community is woven from gifts. Unlike today's market system in which more for me is less for you, in a gift economy the opposite holds. Because people in gift culture pass on their surplus rather than accumulating it, your good fortune is my good fortune: more for you is more for me. Wealth circulates, gravitating toward the greatest need. In a gift community, people know that their gifts will eventually come back to them, albeit often in a new form. Such a community might be called a "circle of the gift."

We are poised at a critical moment of opportunity to reclaim gift culture, and therefore to build true community. The reclamation is part of a larger shift of human consciousness, a larger reunion with nature, earth, each other, and lost parts of ourselves. Our alienation from gift culture is an aberration. Our independence is an illusion: we are just as dependent as before, only on strangers and impersonal institutions, and these institutions are fragile.

A gift circle reduces our dependence on the traditional market. If people give us things we need, then we needn't buy them. The less we use money, the less time we need to spend earning it, and the more time we have to contribute to the gift economy, and then receive from it. It is a virtuous circle.

Secondly, a gift circle reduces our production of waste. It is ridiculous to pump oil, mine metal, manufacture a table and ship it across the ocean when half the people in town have old tables in their basements. It is ridiculous as well for each household on my block to own a lawnmower, which they use two hours a month, a leaf blower they use twice a year, power tools they use for an occasional project, and so on. If we shared these things, we would suffer no loss of quality of life. Our material lives would be just as rich, yet would require less money and less waste.

Many of us no longer aspire to financial independence, the state in which we have so much money we needn't depend on anyone for anything. Today, increasingly, we yearn instead for community. We don't want to live in a commodity world, where everything we have exists for the primary goal of profit. We want things created for love and beauty, things that connect us more deeply to the people around us. We desire to be interdependent, not independent. The gift circle, and the many new forms of gift economy that are emerging on the Internet, are ways of reclaiming human relationships from the market.

Gifts inspire gratitude and generosity is infectious. When I witness generosity, I want to be generous too. In the coming times, we will need the generosity, the selflessness, and the magnanimity of many people. If everyone seeks merely their own survival, then there is no hope for a new kind of civilisation. In contrast to the age of money where we can pay for anything and need no gifts, soon it will be abundantly clear: we need each other.
The above was extracted from: A Circle of Gifts by Charles Eisenstein, which is very well worth reading in its entirety, and describes a practical method in which we can create our own circle of gifts communities.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

what do I know?

I know nothing. Its a sobering thought.... but I can't get away from it. I know nothing. Or, more precisely, I don't know whether I know anything or not.... I have many opinions... but no certainty. However, I am very good at being dogmatic, so at least I can appear to know something.... or to be foolish enough to think I know something.... It would be much easier to just admit that I don't know what I am talking about, than to try to defend my dogmatic views. It is easier still to just be dogmatic and make no attempt to back up my statements! That is the course I generally take. It is the course of the "know-it-all". Which is ironic, as I know nothing..... Of course the easiest course of all is to say nothing at all.... but where is the fun in that?

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

normal natural telepathy

Regarding telepathy, Sheldrake has said, “I think all social animals have such fields…I think it’s a normal means of communication…I don’t think it’s paranormal, I think it’s normal. I don’t think it’s supernatural, I think it’s natural. I think it’s essentially a form of animal communication within groups.”
Elliot Edge

economically productive

Money, the ultimate object of worship among modern humans, is the most mysterious of human artifacts: a magic number with no meaning or existence outside the human mind. Yet it has become the ultimate arbiter of life—deciding who will live in grand opulence in the midst of scarcity and who will die of hunger in the midst of plenty.... The work of the mother who cares for her child solely out of love counts for nothing. By contrast, the mother who leaves her child unattended to accept pay for tending the child of her neighbor suddenly becomes “economically productive.”
David Korten

Monday, 15 November 2010

a number written on a piece of paper

This wonderful diatribe, from "The Limits of Incompetence" by Dmitri Orlov, needs no further comment from me:
The last vestige of sanity an American seems to be able to cling on to is in his ability to count his money. While he still has some money, he adds up his “net worth,” and the higher the number, the better he feels about himself. Once all he has left is debt, he adds up the money he doesn't have, and the more “credit” he has, the better he feels about himself, because of all the things he can still “afford.” And once he finally defaults on his loans and no longer has any credit, it is as if, in his own minds, he ceases to exist. “I lost everything,” he is apt to say, as if his earthly existence amounted to a number written on a piece of paper.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

the heart would never understand....

Someone asked the Dalai Lama “Why didn’t you fight back against the Chinese?”The Dalai Lama looked down, swung his feet just a bit, then looked back up and said with a gentle smile, “Well, war is obsolete, you know. Of course the mind can rationalize fighting back… but the heart, the heart would never understand. Then would be divided in yourself, the heart and the mind, and the war would be inside you."
(source unknown)

Friday, 12 November 2010

look out

Our culture encourages self-gratification. We are taught to focus on ourselves, rather than on each other. We have become self-centred and shallow, hurting each other as we mindlessly destroy the living planet that sustains us.

Look out. We are heading for a crash landing. We have to change our focus, from inward to outward. We have to look beyond our selfish desires. We have to get back in touch with the natural world around us, and with our fellow beings.

Slow down. Appreciate each other. Share with each other. Look out for one another.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

rebirth of the gift economy

Charles Eisenstein wrote, in Gift Economics and Reunion in the Digital Age, on Reality Sandwich
the only business model that makes sense for most digital content is the model of the gift: to offer it as a gift, and to receive gifts in turn.

Primitive economies were wholly gift economies, which was natural when each consumer was also a producer. Today, the dominant model for profit-making business is to control scarce resources and sell their produce, or the resources themselves, to people who need them...

Since then, scarce resources have, one after another, fallen under private control, while many resources that were once abundant have been made scarce. It is hard to make someone pay for something that they can easily procure themselves. The quintessential example is water, perhaps the most abundant substance on the planet, but made scarce today through our our separation from nature and the pollution and chemical treatment of the water supply. As a result, bottled water has been the number one beverage growth category over the last two decades.
With the Internet today, we again have a situation in which the source of (at least a certain kind of) wealth is equally available to all, and again in which the distinction between producer and consumer blurs.
The gift model is quite natural for digital content... the unit cost to deliver digital content has dropped to nearly zero. This dematerialization means that no depletion is incurred by giving something away. No matter how many copies of my book or recordings people download from my website, my store of them is not depleted thereby. Supply is infinite; therefore, according to the law of supply and demand, the natural price point is zero.

What, then, shall induce me to produce such content in the first place?.. It is the desire to give of our gifts in order to create a more beautiful world.
Here we see the selfish old control-based paradigm giving way to the sharing new paradigm of giving. This is an unstoppable shift, that will extend far beyond the digital realms. Soon we may even be able to find drinking water again without paying for it.....

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

from the ground up

For all of the systems that fail, systems that have been built from the top down, we must build parallel structures from the ground up.
Stoneleigh at The Automatic Earth

high time for a new beginning

Me, I think it's high time for a new life, a new beginning, a new world, since there's something fundamentally amiss here...
Ilargi at The Automatic Earth