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Abundance... The word invites contemplation of polarities and perhaps even paradoxes. We contrast and/or connect it with greed and scarcity, as well as contentment and sustainability.  

Where do we choose to source abundance?  What forms and levels of abundance are possible and healthy for us individually, in our communities and for the planet as a whole?  Occupy Cafe steward Pia Lizana will be our special guest conversation starter as we explore this theme together on Monday's Cafe Call.

As always, we also invite you to begin the conversation right now on this forum, and to continue it here once our call is complete.  We are starting with the following question on the forum:

What is your relationship with the concept of abundance?

On the call, we will be asking these questions:

What are your challenges around abundance?

Where do you see opportunities to expand and share the experience of abundance?

 

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Hi C A,

I can hear you are upset by the views expressed here. But you are not making your objections clear. What is the importance of 'economic science' which is not being taken into account? What is the meaning of Marx's phrase 'socially necessary' and what is its relevance here?

People do not need to be rich to give. Often the most valuable gifts are not material things, but you can give time, understanding or support, we all have that, rich and poor. These are the sort of gifts that are naturally exchanged between family members, or friends, and without this sort of gifting no economy would work.

There is no shortage of material goods, in fact we have a surfeit. But we have a lack of recognition of the value of this type of family sharing that would enable us to make sure that everyone in this human family has enough.

Dear Sea,

I am interested to know your ideas on economy, but being discouraged may indicate that you are depending on the opinions of others to encourage you, when you need to find your own courage within.

Women's councils - don't know what this is about, but you wrote a while ago about women being reluctant to take charge. My reply is that we all need to explore the feminine side of our nature, the feelings rather than facts, to gain insight into why we are out of balance, ie not serving humanity.

Anna

I think Anna's onto something here!  From my perspective, Sea, when you say things like "the Cafe should ____ " or "the Cafe is not ______ ," I think about how a) I want the Cafe to be a collaboratively "owned" enterprise in which what it does is determined by the places where the collective desires of it's participants intersect and b) that the possibility we as hosts are inviting everyone into has not been clearly articulated so it is hard right now for a) to happen (i.e. people aren't quite sure what we are convening this space for).

Beginning to address the latter will be the subject of our Cafe Call tomorrow (forum post coming shortly!).  We will introduce the idea of "invitation as a way of being," as distinct from mandate or persuasion.  That distinction feels like it might be quite relevant in the case of your experience here as well.  If you are wishing for a mandate from me, or are looking to persuade me (and others) to do what you want to do, my interest drops to the floor.  

If, on the other had, you are thinking together with others about the possibilities a group of us might find compelling and inspiring, and then about how you might extend personal invitations to others to explore such a possibility together, you are going to have my full attention.

You have offered many ideas, and I truly appreciate that initiative and energy.  If people don't respond the way you wish, instead of seeking to persuade them to pay attention or to agree with your perspective, what might you also do?

What do you see, Sea, when you look at Patriarchy?

I think this needs a bit more explanation - why can't you speak of abstract femininity?

Inspiration for today's conversation from the GroupWorks card deck drawn at random (really!):

The money economy is based on the principle of scarcity. A gift economy can only work where there is an experience of abundance. In other words I will not want to give away something I need for my own survival or well-being.

. 'Inadequacy of economic means is the first principle of the world's wealthiest peoples. The market-industrial system institutes scarcity, in a manner completely without parallel. Where production and distribution are arranged through the behaviour of prices, and all livelihoods depend on getting and spending, insufficiency of material means becomes the explicit, calculable starting point of all economic activity.' (Marshall Sahlins www.eco-action.org/dt/affluent.html)

The experience of abundance is not dependent on having a measurable amount of goods or happiness. It is rather to do with a culture of living 'within our means', which includes ensuring that our children will not be saddled with the results of out profligacy. Under capitalism our wants are turned into needs in order to justify the experience of scarcity, and the fear that accompanies it, to produce an obedient workforce.

My experience of abundance is always relative to my wants. When giving does not cost me anything, my natural desire is to share, for many reasons - friendship, increase in status, because I care, doesn't matter why. But all that disappears when I feel I don't have enough. And the lack can be of time, support, understanding, as well as food, money etc.

There can be 'a trust in the abundance of nature's resources rather than despair at the inadequacy of human means....... a confidence which is the reasonable human attribute of a generally successful economy.' (op cit)

All this is well known within the family economy as Ben affirms Parental love is sufficient to ensure that children are cared for, as long as the family group can live within its means. But the group can easily become dysfunctional if any member's experience of deprivation is not addressed. As a human family we have to learn to live within our means, while paying attention to all those who experience deprivation within the present system.

This can start on a personal level, making sure that we have enough - rest, love, physical activity, whatever it is we feel we need. When we have enough we are able to give, rather than hoard. This can be supported on the macro level with negative interest, debt cancellation, etc. And it can be experienced on the micro level in our personal lives, by the experience of abundance.

Thank you, Anna!  I shared part of this on the call just now.  Very on point and somehow a powerful shift in how all these pieces fit together for me, even though I've been playing with these concepts for some time now.

About the book: Economics of Abundance: A Political Economy of Freedom, Equity and Sustainability

In his book on the Economics of Abundance, Wolfgang Hoeschele develops an alternative to our present scarcity-based economy in which only things that are scarce can fetch a profit and are therefore valued, while anything that is abundant or cannot be made profitably scarce (ranging from air to love, but including many more ?material? resources) is not valued. As a result, there is a strong incentive to make abundant resources scarce, by either limiting supplies or inflating demand. For this purpose, there are a variety of ?scarcity generating institutions? ranging from race and gender discrimination, to inequitable property rights and property rights that encourage the depletion of natural resources, to advertising and ?radical monopolies? that make us dependent on expensive technologies and centralized institutions while undermining individual and community-level self-reliance (e.g., in the realms of transportation, health care, education, energy provision, and finance). These scarcity generating institutions undermine individual freedom, social equity, and environmental sustainability. Hoeschele points out numerous ways to promote abundance instead of scarcity, including various forms of common or shared property, easier access to information and knowledge, and urban and transportation planning that prioritize walking, cycling and public transport and help build communities that are healthy in all respects. Innumerable initiatives along these lines already exist; a theory and vision of abundance can show how they can all support each other, and offer a viable and coherent alternative to the destructive path of neoliberalism. There IS an alternative, and it's called abundance!

More information about Wolfgang Hoeschele is available on his webpage at Truman State University in Missouri (USA) where he is employed as a professor of geography: http://societyandenvironment.truman.edu/Faculty/Facultyweb/Wolfgang... .

Scribing harvest of first breakout:

  • appreciating this conversation for revealing so many levels of understanding "abundance:"
  • can see flow of conversation from money/stuff to more spiritual dimensions of this concept
    • easy to "backslide" and become " a Nazi giraffe" Marshall Rosenberg)
  • Fear/shortages (scarcity) as the opposite of abundance.  what I hold as a shortage is a function of my own or the cultural ego.
    • The abundance and magic of the air: "we are breathing in particles of recycled atmosphere that have the memory of all life from the beggining of  time." David Suzuki
      • From a talk he gave in March 2004: "So on that basis, Shapley calculates every breathe you take has millions of argon atoms that were once in the body of Joan of Arc and Jesus Christ and every breathe you take has millions of argon atoms that were in the bodies of dinosaurs 65 million years ago. That every breathe you take will suffuse life forms for as far as we can see into the future. So air, surely air, connects us not only to all living things today but connects us to the past and through into the future. Air should be regarded as a sacred substance. We boast that we are intelligent and we are clever and we think we are so smart. What intelligent creature knowing the role that air plays in our lives and in all terrestrial creatures lives would precede to use air as a toxic dump and think it is going to go away?"

Reminded in this conversation of one of my favorite calls to transformational action: "The Story of Stuff"

Also wondering how we reconcile the idea of abundance as a solution/foundation for the world we want with the limits to growth we also know are present?  See, for example, Bill McKibbon's latest piece on climate in Rolling Stone for a sobering analysis of the trajectory we are on in terms of the limits to the atmosphere's ability to absorb additional C02 without tipping catastrophically into a far less hospitable state.

Perhaps that quote from the Power of Constraints card above holds a key...

Embrace limitations and boundaries as a source of inspiration. Appreciating the obstacles helps you see more fully how to overcome or adapt to them. Accepting constraints, they can morph into useful forms that open up new possibilities, spurring creativity.

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