Thoughts on the inevitable transition period--and ideas that are threatening it
The financial crisis becoming known as the Great Recession is an interesting one for many reasons. One of its most compelling aspects is the tendency to highlight the absurdity of capitalist systems, or indeed, any monetary system. Things like bureaucracy, law, and money have usurped moral words that once had a great deal of spiritual meaning; words like freedom, liberty, justice, rights, and criminal. Criminals, for instance, are thought of as a very specific group of people who share the common characteristic of somehow betraying their community. Obviously, the definition fits very few ‘criminals’ who find themselves spending their youth behind bars.
And with all these words and ideas flying around, there seems to be an awful lot of arguing about what exactly words mean or what someone’s stance is or what it should be, not to mention all the name-calling and gossip. No one seems to be trying to come forward with solutions without ignoring a large portion of the problems, and part of the reason is the pressure. As long as we’re arguing and playing the blame game, everyone feels relatively protected from not being held responsible. But this feeling is a lie. We’re all responsible, all of us, for every decision we personally and make as well as every decision we influence in others. Sitting back and waiting for one individual to come up will an all-encompassing plan is not going to work anymore than sitting around and waiting for Jesus to fix everything. These things have to start in pieces — we all have to participate one bit at a time.
There is a lot of talk about economic, even monetary system collapse, and apocalyptic world scenarios floating around that are deceptively inviting in the way they are simple and entertaining, exactly like a movie, and, exactly like the movies, very few of them contain much in the way of comprehensive accuracy or moral(e) value. People going on and on about how it’s going to be so great when it all ends are not really thinking it through. They’re not thinking about watching their friends and family die in front of them, they’re not thinking about disease without hope or what starvation and dehydration actually feel like. They aren’t imagining the fear, the hopelessness these scenarios would inevitably bring when they go spouting off, wishing for these horrible things to happen. They don’t consider if they’d actually want to live without plumbing or electricity or firefighters or instantaneously-shared knowledge.
What’s so sad about it is that it could happen, and the only reason it would go down like that would be if we made it happen that way, if we let it happen that way; if we relied on suspicion instead of trust, brutality instead of compassion, selfish need instead of communal need and sought no harmonious balance between the two.
The silver lining is that, despite copious amounts of claims from religious people and nihilist atheists alike, it doesn’t have to go down that way. We — you and I — decide our fate (for the most part). And that’s why we need to stop talking ‘end of the world’ and start talking transition.
I for one do not believe humanity will ever reach its highest potential while operating under the system of slavery that is money, and so my transition ideas will all mostly have to do with how we go about shifting our current world to the next stage of our social evolution. I’ve had two main ideas on this so far.
The first one is rather simple and could use more research, but Marx’s version of a communist society may very well be an excellent starting point to transitioning to a world without money, especially if centralized production/distribution can be avoided.
The second one (I believe it would work much better) is far more subtle than an aggressive change in government. It relies on something of a spiritual revolution, one that celebrates the sacred beauty of the individual’s perspective (and therefore respects all religions, as it is expected every person will have different, unique metaphysical opinions), and commemorates the natural systems we are and always have been a part of. Embracing connectivity of natural systems, patterns, and people to the earth is essential. How do we inspire something like this? The most difficult part of any movement is the knowledge that you have to change yourself; you cannot change others (you can only persuade or manipulate them). Guilt-tripping people about their carbon footprint is manipulation. Sharing your perspective/ideas/example is persuasion. Discussion always helps more than arguing or debate.
That’s really the core of it: we have to change ourselves and be the examples we want to see in the world. It doesn’t have to be drastic: it’s as simple as being generous and taking the time to listen to what others have to say, even when it makes you cringe. It’s speaking up when you disagree, even when it seems no one else does. It’s standing up for a stranger and defending them when they’re being harassed or judged. It’s waving back when someone waves to you. It’s sharing your books and art and music with the world. It’s planting a vegetable garden in your front yard with signs that say “pick me if you’re hungry.” It’s being open, friendly, and helpful to your neighbors, knowing people from different skills and perspectives, all of whom contribute to your surrounding community. That’s the pleasant part of the Old West scenarios that we could really do with being brought back on a wider scale: people knowing each other (and that they need each other) and helping one another out.
One thing is clear: revolutions don’t happen with people sitting around waiting for a savior (who all too often just ends up being a scapegoat anyway); they are giants grown from thousands of seeds, and if you have enough sprouts, they can’t fall or fail because their roots will be too deep.
I am an anarchist, and unlike many others, I believe we can trust the people, the ‘mob,’ on a massive scale, if only we give them the tools they need to be truly self-reliant. We don’t need an overarching system, we need a series of governments* and networks between them. Anarchism has been proven a very effective method for human societies under 100 people or so. What if we simply live in our chosen, small communities that are connected with all the other ones creating the global community web? I think this is already a reality; it is just one we need to accept/admit is a reality. It would be an amazing experiment to see if a city could operate on volunteerism alone.
However it happens, one thing is absolutely clear to me: there are two freedoms every human is entitled to, freedoms that must be protected at all costs if we are not to fall back into bad habits: 1. Equal access to education and information. 2. Equal access to transportation and freedom of movement.
*I am not talking bureaucratic "we’re going to regulate everything about your life and write a bunch of laws people need to hire someone to understand" government. Rather, I’d like to point out those systems of organization for information and resources are undoubtedly helpful, even vital to a sustained large human populace. That doesn’t necessarily have to result in a concentration of power. I feel we should use what we’ve learned from business and apply it to government (remember, without using money), like l streamlining, efficiency, compatibility, etc. The world would be run by inspiration, respect and awe: these are the things we want to maintain and practice and pass on.