I've started to explore the concept of "building community'" as an alternative strategy to the impending economic/social/energy collapse, ie. the end to the only way of life most of us know.
The annual Rainbow Gathering http://www.gatheringspot.net/topic/spiritual-activism/years-rainbow-gathering is one type of "Gift Community" wherein participants share food, accommodation, entertainment, etc. without the exchange of money.
Burning Man is a similar annual event (although I did notice that they charge $360 for a ticket), otherwise essentially everything is shared freely. This video gives you an idea of the sentiment behind "Gifting" as it applies to Burning Man http://galleries.burningman.com/videos/cameratales/cameratales.38570?mediatype=video#pastheader
Beyond these annual events, the concept of Gifting takes on a richly powerful meaning as it brings people back to the "tribe" mentality wherein we help each other without monetary exchange in a way that fosters compassionate community within the human family. (Please excuse the length of this post, but I'm so excited about this concept, I just had to share it! ~Noa)
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Excerpts from “We Need Each Other” by Bill Kauth. http://www.sacredlifeboats.com/gift-community.html
Never doubt that a thoughtful group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead
“In dark times there is a tendency to gather together.” Michael Meade
"Social movements are humanity's immune response to political corruption, economic disease, and ecological degradation." Paul Hawken
“I don’t know of any great movement that hasn’t depended on base communities to sustain individuals in the demanding work of social change.” Parker Palmer
“If we wish to survive the social and ecological crisis that we have created we need to get deeply involved in the development of new community structures within our society.” Lynn Margulis
"We have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour. Now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour. And there are things to be considered. Where are you living? What are you doing? What are your relationships? It is time to speak your truth. Create your community. The time of the lone wolf is over, Gather yourselves!" - Message from the Hopi Elders
Community as tribal kinship is the best way I can imagine to accelerate the rate of reconnection and the consequent changes needed to protect the planet and our grandchildren. I believe that via deliberate community we can reconnect and support each other in giving our gifts to make a sufficiently big difference. And the really good news is that we are hard wired to do this. The answer to the hunger so many of us feel is in our genes. We cannot delude ourselves any more that we can go it alone. We know we must build the new society, and doing so starts with community. And community means tribe. The family is actually not the fundamental unit of society. It is the tribe. Tribe is who we are. We must recreate it. This is our time and this time is calling us.
We are at an auspicious time in history. Structures are breaking down, disciplines long held are up for renewal and paradigms that have held for thousands of years are in the midst of profound change. We as humans feel all of this and a deep need for a place of belonging. We Need Each Other invites you on a journey to create your own community as we step into the emerging Gift Culture.
Now imagine hundreds of core gift community groups living harmoniously with others. It’s a potent vision for our future. Bonding generates trust. Trust provides the footings that creative projects require. From this base we can easily see these communities creating safety nets for each other, including food, healthy medical care, education, even a complementary currency system that keeps wealth local. By expanding our capacity to trust and being trustworthy, we further our ability to build bridges between divisions in the larger world.
Even though the collapse of the world's financial and industrial systems has started, effort now at minimizing further dire consequences is essential. Collapse does not mean extinction. A new way of life will almost certainly emerge from the wreckage of the fossil-fueled growth era. It is up to those of us who have some understanding of what is happening, and why, to help design that new way of life so that it will be sustainable, equitable, and fulfilling for all concerned. We all need practical strategies and tools to weather the collapse and to build the foundation of whatever is to come after.
Why does it seem like there’s not enough? In modern industrial economies, most of our hours of work and most of our material resources are used to feed the unproductive churning of our convoluted economic and governmental infrastructures rather than to feed and support people. This unproductive churning is all about attempting to protect ourselves from each other, which just creates more conflict and more need for protection. Our fear-based modes of interacting, organizing, and educating are suppressing or diverting most of the energy, creativity, and productivity of our people. On both personal and societal levels, our energy is diverted from productive support of life and used instead in activities of attack, defense, control, and mass distraction.
Types of Community:
Accidental Communities: These happen as gatherings of whoever shows up in city block, church, office, softball team, night classes, or in a suburban housing development. Accidental groupings have been the way most connections we call “community” happen in current culture.
Intentional Communities: These are groups of people who have chosen to live together with a common purpose. They work cooperatively to create a lifestyle that reflects their shared core values. There have been many religious experiments like the Amish, and the Shakers over the last couple hundred years in which membership required living together in community. Some flourished, and others ended. In the 1960s many creative communes like The Farm in Tennessee emerged. Some survived, others faded. More recently there has been a movement toward ecovillages and co-housing with an emphasis toward elder co-housing.
Community Gardens and Yard Sharing: These are about both connection and resource sharing. Many people have become aware that their yards can be much more than grass, and there are simple things that make a difference. Sharing a home garden is a way for a neighborhood community to empower itself, for people to grow. If a person owns a home and has space for a garden, he can gift some of that space to another person who has time to create the garden. In return, the homeowner can get a share of the food. Production beyond what the gardener and property owner cannot consume can be donated.
Common Security Clubs: This is an innovation that has sprung up in more than 50 cities since 2009 in response to the collapsing economy. Such clubs have been described as “reality support groups” because their members unflinchingly look at the signs of the times. The clubs have moved past their original goal of simply weathering the crisis and have begun to work toward reforms—both local and national—that would prevent a repeat of the devastation.
Virtual community: These non-face-to-face social networks are made up of individuals who interact through media crossing most traditional boundaries. People on sites like Facebook and Twitter share some mutual interests or goals.
The Gift Circle: People gather each week and take the time to go around the circle and let each one say what they want or need, such as house cleaning, dog walking, tutoring or a ride to the airport. This allows the others to give a gift to meet the unique need. The gift circle is a brilliant way to introduce concepts of gift culture without the constraints of commitments. One reason it works to bond people is that they get together to actually do something outside of the group meetings. These gift circles also offer a comfortable way to become familiar with people we are considering [as charter members] for core gift community. We have also discovered that, for many of us, gifting is easier than receiving. So, it’s a great place to practice receiving.
In the mid 1800s the world was changing from agrarian into industrial civilization and men were being fatally wounded in the factories and mines. Because there was no one to care for their families, men formed fraternal organizations like the Moose, Elks, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, and so many others for mutual support. These mutual care systems allowed men to work together to protect their families and their community. Now, as industrial civilization, as we have known it, winds down, work as we have known it is disappearing and we again find ourselves without adequate safety nets. It has become our task, as it was for our ancestors a century ago, to build the new mutual care systems for our transitional times. To do this we need trust, and that means bonded core communities. If and when we create such community, so many possibilities open up.
The following are some of the areas in which we can develop both simple and complex safety nets to take care of each other:
Shared resources: Cars, trucks, tools, and equipment as well as a grand variety of community businesses such as small manufacturing, livestock, and greenhouse vegetable growing.
Finance: Shared purchase of food, transportation, and even shelter. With care of our money and new ways of exchange, we can rebuild communities as functioning economic entities. The collective decision-making needed to do so most likely will evolve organically out of deep trusting core communities.
Medical care: Private health insurance, shared information (e.g., about autoimmune and other mysterious diseases), private medical doctors and nursing on call in ways similar to what used to be called “the country doctor.”
Health and Nutrition: Support each other in the knowledge and implementation of healthy practices. Reclaiming healthy foods known for centuries and lost in self-serving corporate restrictions like raw milk. Nutritional counseling may become a priority for full self-care living. This makes the “country doctor” needed only in emergency situations.
Parenting: Make sure young mothers don’t have to go to work and so can be present to raise their children during their earliest years.
Education: Transformative teaching to engage children’s unique gifts and learning styles. Home schooling is already a model of how people are taking responsibility for the education of their children.
Safety: Share information about healthy food, water, medicines, etc. as well as the dangers of substances like transfats, Aspartame, MSG, and GMO foods.
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Co-housing: As core community trust builds, possibilities of long-term housing arrangements might get very creative. The oversized “McMansions” may become available providing delightful shelter for people committed to each other and bonded as families.
Imagine your own “lifeboat.” We can support each other in living sustainably and creatively. We can do this, but it requires the extensive trust and friendship available in bonded community. Together as we embrace the work in the world that genuinely serves us all, we will be in a position to design the new systems.
[Money] It should not be surprising that money is deeply implicated in the dissolution of community, because anonymity and competition are intrinsic to money as we know it. The anonymity of money is a function of its abstraction. The history of money is the history of the gradual abstraction of value from physical objects.
Play is the production of fun; entertainment is the consumption of fun. When the neighbors watch the Superbowl together they are consumers; when they organize a game of touch football (alas, the parks are empty these days) they are producers. When they watch music videos together they consume; when they play in a band they produce. Only through the latter activity is there the possibility of getting to know each other's strengths and limitations, character and inner resources. In contrast, the typical cocktail party, dinner party, or Superbowl party affords little opportunity to share much of oneself, because there is nothing to do. (And have you noticed how any attempt to share oneself in such settings seems contrived, uncomfortable, awkward, inappropriate, or embarrassing?) Besides, real intimacy comes not from telling about yourself—your childhood, your relationships, your health problems, etc.—but from joint creativity, which brings out your true qualities, invites you to show that aspect of yourself needed for the task at hand. Later, when intimacy has developed, telling about oneself may come naturally—or it may not even be necessary.
Our reservedness should not be too surprising, because there is little in our adult friendships that compels us to be together. We can get together and talk, we can get together and eat and talk, we can get together and drink and talk. We can watch a movie or a concert together and be entertained. There are many opportunities for joint consumption but few for joint creativity, or for doing things together about which we care intensely. At most we might go sailing or play sports with friends, and at least we are working together toward a common purpose, but even so we recognize it as a game, a pastime. The reason adult friendships seem so superficial is that they are superficial. The reason we can find little to do besides getting together and talking, or getting together to be entertained, is that our society's specialization has left us with little else to do. Thus the teenager's constant refrain: "There's nothing to do." He is right. As we move into adulthood, in place of play we are offered consumption, in place of joint creativity, competition, and in place of playmates, the professional colleague.
The feeling "We don't really need each other" is by no means limited to leisure gatherings. What better description could there be of the loss of community in today's world? We don't really need each other. We don't need to know the person who grows, ships, and processes our food, makes our clothing, builds our house, creates our music, makes or fixes our car; we don't even need to know the person who takes care of our babies while we are at work. We are dependent on the role, but only incidentally on the person fulfilling that role. Whatever it is, we can just pay someone to do it (or pay someone else to do it) as long as we have money. And how do we get money? By performing some other specialized role that, more likely than not, amounts to other people paying us to do something for them. This is what I call the monetized life, in which nearly all aspects of existence have been either converted to commodities or assigned a financial value.
Times of crisis still can bring us closer to our neighbors. When a health crisis renders us unable to perform the simple functions of daily survival, or a natural disaster or social crisis ruptures the supplies of food, electricity, and transportation that make us dependent on remote strangers but independent of our neighbors, we are glad to help each other out. Reciprocal relationships quickly form. But usually, we don't help out our neighbors very much because there is nothing to help them with.
And so we find in our culture a loneliness and hunger for authenticity that may well be unsurpassed in history. We try to "build community," not realizing that mere intention is not enough when separation is built into the very social and physical infrastructure of our society. To the extent that this infrastructure is intact in our lives, we will never experience community. Community is incompatible with the modern lifestyle of highly specialized work and complete dependence on other specialists outside that work. Real communities are interdependent.
Because the economy depends on our roles, but does not care which individuals fill these roles, we suffer an omnipresent anxiety and insecurity borne of the fact that the world can get along just fine without us. We are easily replaced. Of course, for our friends and loved ones—people who know us personally—we are irreplaceable. But with the increasingly fine division of labor and mass scale of modern society, these are fewer and fewer, as more and more social functions enter the monetized realm. Thus we live in fear, anxiety, and insecurity, and justifiably so, because we are easily replaceable in the roles we perform to earn money.
When you make that first phone call to invite those two friends over for a pot-luck supper and a conversation about imagining a core gift community, you begin a process that will reverberate towards our grandchildren and beyond. That small act opens the possibility of building mutual food security, economic safety-nets, environmental stewardship, and other social inventions. These inventions in turn can become templates for replication by neighborhoods, cities, and other larger social groupings. Indeed, our process of creating what we personally need is also a way of co-creating a future pathway for humanity.
You can download a PDF of Bill Kauth’s book in its entirety for free by sending him a request by email: [email protected]