An open space for global conversation
Greetings to all Occupiers in this cafe.
The "Core Conversation" thread seems to be rife with talk of a different structure and process for what we call our "economy." I am creating this thread with the idea of hauling all that rich conversation over here and re-opening the Core Conversation thread to an exploration of other topics that might one day grow up to be their own threads as well.
Here is where we can critique the old economy if that is your bent, thrash out the meaning and structure of a new economy, the values we hold most dear about energy exchange with our world that truly values the others who share this world, whether it is by legislation or by grass-roots one-brick-at-a-time rebuilding. What needs tweaking? What needs to be discarded.
How do we begin? What are the steps? Where is it happening already?
Here are some resources I am familiar with:
I've perused your website. It has some good ideas but lacks a deep enough analysis or a broad enough strategy. And it seeks to replicate the work that other people and groups have done or are now doing.
"What we are trying is to keep the global marketplace but as a weaker brother to the local marketplace, so that we can keep the open exchange of the open marketplace while having the protected resources of the local marketplace"
It sounds as if you're saying you want to have your cake and eat it too.
If only "economies of scale" can produce what we now consider "affluence" (i.e. having enough to assure comfort and security), and if such economies of scale invariably produce increasing discrepancies of wealth and power and consequent poverty and suffering for the masses of people as well as the natural world, then we have to consider abandoning the modern human value of large scale.
Appropriate technologies are small, local, easily reproducible and repairable with ordinary skills, use some form of solar energy (such as the body), and do not disrupt human-to-human or human-to-nature relationships. Trade, or the marketplace, is a technology that must also meet these standards in order to be sustainable.
One of the most thorough and thoughtful approaches to sustainability is the Transition Town movement, which offers tools for building resilient and diverse communities for the Shift on the local and trans-local levels.
Thank you Robert. I've shared this strategy with many people and organizations over the years, including some of the top experts, from presentations at a UN conference to unmoderated internet boards, and so I've encountered perhaps every kind of comment. The most useful are specific and or referenced, but all are helpful in some sense. I appreciate your taking the time to look at the website and share your conclusions.
Kevin, using the word revolution inevitably carries the baggage of violence and a change in the personas of the power structure without really changing the structure of power. The term transformation has been in more common use as far as I know because it implies both the internal awakening at a spiritual level in congruence with structural change in social institutions. Similarly, a phrase like sustainable prosperity might seem oxymoronic to someone like Robert because he seems to think that the concept of prosperity is owned by the dominant paradigm and only relates to it in material terms, in which case he would be right. That kind of prosperity ain't sustainable cuz it's still highly inequitable.
But even on the other hand, if you were redefining prosperity as an abundance of generosity or any of the features of a gift economy or a post-tipping point mass spiritual awakening, then sustainable prosperity would still be oxymoronic. What do you think?
I'd really appreciate it if you stopped speaking for me, since you either don't at all grok what I've been saying or are intentionally distorting it to create straw man arguments.
We all own our common language, though some try to manipulate it to sell a product or an idea - both on Madison Ave and right here at Occupy Cafe.
My point has been quite consistent that, if we wish to communicate new ideas, we are poorly served by using terms that are almost universally understood to mean one thing in a contradictory or substantially different way.
You model the constructive use of common language above by suggesting "transformation" instead of "revolution" because of the common meanings, as well as the associated baggage, of the two words.
We almost universally understand "prosperity" to mean an abundance of material wealth. If we are trying to describe an abundance of non-material wealth (though I don't think most here are), then we need to use words which accurately convey that.
Of all human-created tools, language is the oldest and most powerful. To use that tool carelessly is far worse than using a good chisel as a screwdriver. If we wish to communicate constructively to one another, then it behooves us to revive the craft of spoken and written language, and continually hone that edge.
Robert, I've delayed posting any reply to your note to Gary so that I wouldn't step into a controversy. For my part, I agree with the importance of common definitions. However, I doubt that we can expect that standard in an informal global dialogue such as this. I see you have been contributing many thoughtful posts and that you make great efforts to be clear and consistent, but I also feel that you are expecting too much from this thread. Few people have the time to read many posts, much less all of them, so while this thread is about sharing ideas such as those you post, it might be counterproductive for you to work here to try to achieve the goals that you laud or even change minds, but instead to merely share your ideas as concisely as possible so as to begin to meet others whom share your views. I think it would be a loss to this board if you burnt yourself out here by trying to accomplish more than might be possible because I view your contributions as exceptional. Thank you again for your feedback on the material I posted and linked. I welcome more of the same from you, and I wonder if you can share a link here to something of yours that you've posted here or elsewhere that encapsulates the heart of your own philosophy?
Gary, I appreciate your comments and Robert's reply to you. I agree with you both about the language/semantics issues. "Sustainable prosperity" seems oxymoronic. Nevertheless, it is what almost every person wants (if we consider the most general definitions of these words), and yet, arguably, no one has it yet because our global marketplace is taking us all down an unsustainable path.
Because of this global marketplace structure, the 20th Century witnessed terrible wars between two economic propositions, which are the irresistible force of fascism and the immovable mass of communism. Underlying this conflict is the tacit assumption that the global marketplace is the only game in town, which might be be leaned right or left but never supplanted. Being a monolith, it is ultimately a closed marketplace in which goods and services tend to flow from the poor to the wealthy; and being closed its resources will eventually be exhausted absent sustainable practices. Overall, the monolith has been tilted to the right, multiplying its naturally inequitable distribution of goods and services, with "sustainability" sacrificed to the struggle to survive at the poor end of the economic spectrum and to the battle for control at the top end. Tilted to the left, we see substantially more equitable distribution, but without the motivation of individual profit or the application of totalitarian force we see low productivity and thus "sustainable poverty" at best. Since I understand this, my term "sustainable prosperity" infers that either I am being coy or that something revolutionary is in the works.
What we have in process at Occupy: Reconomy is a global strategy, installed community by community, that employs a new kind of money that combines energy with currency in a value loop: SunMoney. While a "value chain" adds value to an article somewhere within the chain of production, distribution, etc, to ultimately add value to the bottom line (such as by converting iron ore into iron, or distributing a product to where there is greatest demand), a value loop recycles that added value so that it stays in the loop. In this case, we discount energy when purchased with SunMoney local currency, which adds value to the local currency, making it more valuable than global currency when a consumer looks to purchase energy. That local currency can only circulate locally and so that added value stays in the loop, continuously delivering that bonus value to the communities that use it.
The demand for Sunmoney will motivate the development of commodities and services that can be produced locally, in addition to energy, as consumers seek to acquire SunMoney and receive that energy discount. These commodities and services include water, food, sanitation, transportation, education, housing, health care, child care, etc. Thus, by using community money that's stronger than national money, communities reclaim control of local human and natural resources. And thus, the demand for SunMoney generates genuine community marketplaces where essential resources are sourced and consumed locally, requiring substantial sustainable practice. At the community level, full accountability is possible, and so local sustainability can be achieved.
When all possible resources are developed sustainably in every community, and where we also have access to the wealth of a global marketplace comprised of only such communities as these, there we effectively end poverty and hunger globally and create the kind of personal wealth that perhaps is best described as universal prosperity. A world filled with such prosperous communities is a sustainable world, and perhaps nothing else is. And so, Reconomy is a strategy for sustainable prosperity that is accomplished through a revolution with no enemies, in which everyone wins.
Many of the people and groups whom have invited us to bring our project to their communities are in conflict zones or have experienced or witnessed violent "revolution" within living memory. Consequently, I must try to be very careful with this word (as with all words!) and I must carefully vet my choices with my collaborators. This is why I now use the word "revolution" only in a specific manner, which is to make clear that this is not your father's revolution. These paradoxical turns of phrase highlight the possibility of achieving drastic change without conflict, even as they have drawn your own attention: Those whom need and desire that kind of solution are often drawn to consider our strategy. It is these persons whom most readily grasp the simplicity and power of our model because sustainable prosperity for their community is their dream. In contrast, many in the west don't get it because the new American Dream of independent wealth is deeply entrenched in the western psyche and is about personal wealth enabling independence from community, not interdependent wealth generating community prosperity.
Central to my personal approach is that I do not work to change people's minds about how to change the world but seek to change the world and let the changed world change people's minds. Through the clear exposition of our strategy as we advance our pilots, we've begun to gather the support of those whom already agree with us. Extrapolating from the response thus far, I conclude that this number includes perhaps all of the World's poor and hungry, as well as many of those whom struggle among them to relieve that condition.
We've begun with a pilot in a rural community in India near one of that nation's wealthiest cities. There, poverty is present alongside wealth, and so success in creating prosperous SunMoney communities within those wealthy communities will demonstrate the utility of the model in empowering populations to resist exploitation by the wealthy. But success in undeveloped and developing communities isn't enough because this poverty and hunger first results from exploitation of poor communities by wealthy communities that are themselves compelled by the structure of the marketplace to engage in that exploitation -- if they can not accomplish that exploitation locally then they will look farther, which is the western model. Consequently, we must transform wealthy marketplaces as well as poor, and thus the term "revolution with no enemies" is also intended to express that we are not demonizing and attacking the wealthy as a class, but instead recognizing that we all are victims of a marketplace structure that is unsustainable. Our strategy is thus necessarily a continuum that aims to bring any population to fully developed sustainable prosperity, regardless of their current state of economic development.
Gary, you also invite me to share my thoughts on gift economies and mass spiritual awakenings as possible solutions. It seems to me that we must have a mass spiritual awakening for a global gift economy to function as a solution. Gift economies are generally unsustainably exploited by the greedy (although some isolated and small ongoing experiments are achieving some success), and also have not thus far motivated people to engage in sufficient production to accomplish more than sustainable poverty. It seems to me that Occupy is happening because of a growing awakening, some of which is spiritual and profoundly inspiring, and some a protest that is necessary and also inspiring but problematic in that a positive solution to a mass and diffuse protest requires some universal consensus that is difficult to achieve in that circumstance. Occupy: Reconomy (http://reconomy.net) proposes a different solution than either a gift economy or a spiritual awakening, which is a reconfiguring of the marketplace at the community level that provides funds for the complete development of self-reliant, sustainable community marketplaces that control all their own resources. These communities can then choose to experiment with gift economies at their discretion, but probably would still need a mass spiritual awakening to succeed, if only on a local level, imo.
Speaking of my opinion, I believe that the global Reconomy will sustainably deliver prosperity to a human population of more than ten billion, perhaps much more, while largely ending habitat depletion and species extinction -- indeed because it will protect habitats and species. I believe this because we need many more people to effectively protect all resources. I also believe Occupy is the first substantial move by the 99% to resist the current totalitarian path on a global level. Occupy: Reconomy joins that number.
Kevin, I am slowly plowing through your post because it deserves a response. But I may not catch every point just now.
First, I would take issue with your use of the term "sustainable poverty" because, like "sustainable prosperity," there is no common understanding of what poverty means--except maybe in dollar terms. Presumably, you mean something less than what most people regard as an affluent scale of living today. However, if everyone lived at whatever level you are defining as poverty-and it was truly sustainable-- then we would be rich indeed, would we not?
Further, considering that the allocation of economic resources entails a choice between servicing growth OR servicing prosperity, and if we considered that perhaps as much as 50% of our resources go toward servicing growth alone, there ain't much left to service prosperity for all. Something has to give.
Second, I am curious how you can discount energy when purchased by SunMoney when virtually all energy we already purchase has externalized significant costs to someone else downstream....unless the only energy that can be purchased by SunMoney is also local and renewable. This would guarantee, a la Charles Eisenstein, that stores of local and renewable energy would increase everywhere SunMoney is used.
Third, I presume you are referring to a single parallel currency in use across bioregions, not multiple bio-regional currencies. Either way, what we are inevitable talking about when we discuss alternative parallel currencies is privatizing money, i.e. engineering multiple competing local currencies. If that's the way it works, how do you propose to secure the currency from inflationary sabotage (or simply having it outlawed) by a competing private or more likely a national currency? That's how the British destroyed the continental currency during the revolutionary war.
Gary, you are very considerate, but I really don't expect more than you desire to do with this.
I'm glad to try to answer inquiries about our model that are not addressed in the material posted at sunmoney.org or reconomy.net. In that regard, let me try to tackle your definition question again.
Perhaps in the most important sense, imo, poverty and prosperity are things that an individual recognizes when s/he sees them. As I see them, prosperity is the condition where essentials are not lacking and so growth seems very possible, while poverty is the condition where essentials are limited such that growth seems blocked. Many people today believe that a sustainable Earth that provides for all of us will require some rationing and an end to growth. I disagree because the SunMoney system provides all essential commodities, and more, to every participating local community, and finances continuous growth of community wealth -- as distinguished from providing for unlimited growth of any community's population or unlimited wealth for any individual.
In a sunmoney system, we have the interdependent wealth of genuine community, and so each economic link increases each member's prosperity by some measure, My belief is that although most people think they want independent wealth they are never satisfied because what they really want is to dance, which requires community.
Also, you guessed right -- all energy purchased with SunMoney is local and renewable, which will often help permit discounting. This guarantees that money spent on energy tends to stay local, where it can be used for every sort of local development, but not necessarily that stores of energy increase. Other reasons we are able to discount are covered at the sites.
As for the nature of the currency - regional, bioregional, community, etc - and how it's secured from sabotage, please visit our sites. There we have the clearest and most complete info to date, not to say perfect, but it is because it isn't perfect that i need to limit the time I spend elsewhere and why i seek comments/criticisms about that material.
Do you know of any other Occupy boards where there is a focus on solutions?
We have ommitted the most essential "currency" at the heart of a thriveable economy
CRITICAL THINKING ( not on the sense of critcize and judg e of ocurse)
building from dining room tables and neighborhoods
requires that each us be creative, ciritical thinkers, resilient and dynamic.
it can't be a paradigm with just a few creators at the top
the paradigm of the 99% requires that all of us, each of us be that
First, "we" haven't agreed that a "thriveable economy" is what we should be building, even if you tend to use the royal "we" rather liberally (as in "our phrase thrivable") - any more than "we" chose "wholistica" as the best term for this new economy. You made that decision on your own, in spite of hesitancy and caution from the one who suggested it.
So, while we might agree that there can't be "just a few creators at the top", you might do well to model that egalitarian humility.
Creativity, in itself, is neutral in this paradigm shift. Creativity has been at the core of technological "progress" at least since the start of the industrial age. The question is: creativity in whose service? toward what end? And is creativity for the sake of creativity an unalloyed benefit?
Critical thinking, on the other hand, is the proper function of the mind (which is just one of our human faculties), and it most assuredly does involve judgement or discrimination, which are terms New Agers are afraid of. The problem with the term "judgement" is that it does not differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate discrimination. A less loaded synonym is "discernment" - determining what is good medicine and what is bad medicine.
For those not familiar with the Native American concept of medicine, good medicine is anything that tends toward healing and wholeness, while bad medicine is anything that tends otherwise. Modern scientific medicine, on the other hand, always has "side effects", "contraindications", and "incompatibilities" - with the "cure" sometimes worse than the disease.
Native wisdom teaches that the proper use of the mind is discernment, judgement or discrimination. The problem with modern society is that we don't know when to put that arrow back in our quiver and when it's appropriate to take it out.
Dear Robert and Friends,
I read most of the posts under this economy thread this morning. Wow, what a lot of great stuff and discussion. Unfortunately, it got a bit contentious in the middle there for a bit; and I hope that I will not add to this. I am also sorry that a number of the group responded as strongly as they did in intervening re some of Robert's posts. After the first couple of responses it might have been best if we had just dropped the matter and moved on - which after a bit it seems you all mostly did.
Now, let me just say (in hopes that I will not rekindle any of the contentiousness) Robert you have encouraged us to be precise and careful with our use of words, so rather than saying that judgement or discrimination are terms New Agers are afraid of, I would suggest that you say something more like "judgement or discrimination are terms which many New Agers seem to be afraid of" in your paragraph that follows.
"Critical thinking, on the other hand, is the proper function of the mind (which is just one of our human faculties), and it most assuredly does involve judgement or discrimination, which are terms New Agers are afraid of. The problem with the term "judgement" is that it does not differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate discrimination. A less loaded synonym is "discernment" - determining what is good medicine and what is bad medicine."
I would consider myself somewhat of a New Ager but I am not afraid to talk about critical thinking, judgement or discrimination; and I think this is true for many other New Agers as well. Indeed I would suggest that most new agers are spiritual seekers, and as such are continually re-evaluating, judging, and discriminating - though hopefully with an open mind and in seeking a deeper level of understanding.
The challenge with discrimination is that we all come with our own experiences, filters, belief systems, and backgrounds, etc. Thus what is true for some of us, will not be the truth for others. Or even what seems true at one point in our life may not seem true at another - thus one of the great wonders of human evolution. And given the level of change occurring in the world today, it seems almost impossible anymore to predict or know what the future will hold. The best we can probably do is make educated guesses. For example, there have been any number of claims of technologies and predications re discovery and use of "free energy". If humanity is able to develop and implement a few of these within the next ten or twenty years, that will change everything. We will still have to create a sustainable society and live in harmony with nature; but it will be a whole different scenario than if we have to do it without such technologies.
Similarly, I have read a number of studies showing how we can transition rapidly to a renewable energy society using existing technologies with a very small financial investment of probably less than 5% of GNP per year - if we can develop sufficient political will. This would also make a tremendous difference in what is possible, but it is probably only achievable with sufficient political will - and this may be an oxymoron. So, again, no matter what degree of discernment we develop, we still may only be able to make educated guesses as to what is possible and/or what will occur.
And this is disregarding such possibilities as divine intervention, alien species assisting humanity, an evolutionary unfoldment that is on our way that we are not yet fully aware of, etc. I hope my comments help us all to be a bit less judgemental and more accepting of each other's differences and varying beliefs, etc.