Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sacred Economics

Imagine if money could not be successfully hoarded. The longer you held onto it, the less it would be worth. You would need to spend it or lose it.  Having more money than you needed to spend would not be an advantage.

Now imagine living in a world where you didn’t have to pay anybody for the basic elements of a healthy life. It would be presumed that every person deserved to survive and that each would eventually give back to the community enough to support the next generation.

Even if you wanted to improve the world, you wouldn’t be allowed to take more than you needed from the natural resources we all share without paying the community. Each time you did something that harmed the community or the environment; you would be expected to make amends immediately.

Such an economy would encourage each person to invest locally. There would be no role for people who bring in capital, exploit local resources, and then run off with the profits. There would be communication between diverse communities, each of which was basically self-sufficient.

Rather than competing to exploit, we would collaborate for the good of the whole network. We would all recognize that the good of each was dependent upon the good of all. With a permaculture approach, we would foster an ecosystem that included us and supported our needs as part of a healthy cycle.

We would no longer be focused on forever building more and bigger. Like everything in nature, our creations would go through periods of decomposition and simplification. Continuous growth would be recognized as cancer and avoided.

Our behavior would be closer to human traditions than modern culture has been. Each of us would recognize that the greatest joy comes from voluntarily serving the needs of others. We would teach each other to home our empathetic skills. Healthy human interactions would truly be at the center of all our behavior.

This is the world envisioned in Sacred Economics: money, gift & society in the age of transition by Charles Eisenstein. Besides a thorough, intellectual discussion of the vision, Eisenstein gives us tips for how to get there. There are specific steps that each of us can take.

We can get in touch with the reality of human history. People naturally share with each other because we are an interdependent species. The current dominant system is an unhealthy anomaly.

Americans now suffer from “too much stuff.” We need to learn to get by with fewer things, which are built to last and shared appropriately with our neighbors. Certain items, such as cars, televisions, and flush toilets, do more harm than good. Most people throughout time around the planet have lived without these things, and we can, too.

Humans have apparently always been challenged by the desire to live up to our own ideals. We are great rationalizers, quick to forgive ourselves and to blame others, especially those just out of our influence, for “making us” misbehave. Personal responsibility for our daily choices would go a long, long way toward improving our world. How can we best inspire each other to live by our highest ideals?

Directly and indirectly, we want our time and energy to go toward making the world better. Spending or investing money has broad impacts of which we may be unaware. It is challenging, but worthwhile, to know where the things we consume come from. How do we support systems that either harm or help others?

How can we get back to a system where each person follows the heart and voluntarily gives freely in service of the genuine needs of others? How can we express our gratitude to those who are brave enough to live this way?

We can look forward to belonging to a community that brings out the best in each of us. Every day in many small ways, we can make it happen. We can live for the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible.