Your courage is an inspiration. You have stood up to peacefully say that we as a society are unjust; that our social structures encourage or at least accept injustice; that inequality pervades all aspects of our society; that we cannot continue to behave in this way to each other.
That courage, your courage, must be applauded. Your courage reflects a demand by many that our social structures must change. And that this is the moment for that change to occur.
What, though, will be the manner of the change you introduce? Will you follow the pattern of countless revolutions before you? Will you aim to overthrow the establishment, occupy territory, issue demands, use your superior numbers to conquer? And then what?
I have followed your NYC General Assembly and admire the list of demands you have identified, demands that shift the focus of power from corporations to the people. Although demands may bring about the change you desire, you must also imagine and construct in your minds, a stable and secure future. A clear vision of a beautiful future will assist you as you focus the energy of your demands for change today.
You may already be starting to realize a fundamental problem with building democratic societies. The more people in your gathering, the harder it is to manage. The larger your community, the less of a say each person has. This appears less critical now with social networking but the principle will always hold. The more people, the more diluted the democracy. Scale matters. From an economic perspective, bigger is better. From a democratic perspective, smaller is better. Economic growth does not occur only at the expense of the environment but also at the expense of democracy.
So as your revolution unfolds and potentially escalates, think about the future you are fighting for. I ask again, will your revolution follow the pattern of countless past revolutions? Will there ever be an end to the issuing of demands? When the revolution is over, whether sooner or later, and we can all go back to our homes, what kind of world will that be? Will we again focus on economic growth, where bigger is better?
I suggest to you that, when forming your new community, you search for the right balance between economy and democracy. Rather than rebuilding your nation from the top down, why not start by rebuilding your homes?
Urban planning for democracy
Build your world from the bottom up. Build a small self-sufficient and democratic community and then another and another. And then connect these with social networking tools. Yours can be different to all previous revolutions because for the first time in human history, we can create communities first before even considering building the physical city.
We can organize communities online. Form a group, or circle or network online with the people you get along with. Document your agreements and store them in a shared location. Work out what your needs are: food, housing, clothing, healthcare, IT needs, whatever, and decide who in the group will provide them. You are forming a team, a team of complementary players that collectively can satisfy everyone’s needs. You won’t be fully self-sufficient but strive towards self-sufficiency, at least for your basic needs. Have a look at Mother Earth News for heaps of ideas about how to be more self-sufficient.
For needs that can’t be met within the immediate community look at the Collaborative Consumption website for ideas around sharing and collaboration. Just be wary of the idea of “consumption.” Consumption should apply to food and little if anything else. Anything that uses up resources should be durable. It should last as long as possible. It should be designed so that, with some maintenance, it can last for generations. This is the true definition of sustainable development; the building of something that, if it must be made at all, can be sustained forever. Once again, though, you have to come to agreements about who does the maintenance.
This is the crux of our current problems. We are afraid of, or don’t know how to, talk with each other, debate, confront and resolve problems. We don’t know how to reach agreements about who does what, so that everyone’s needs are satisfied as efficiently as possible. We would rather rely on governments, markets, establishments, institutions, organizations or any other entity. We would rather demand that they provide for our needs rather than working with our neighbors.
If you don’t like your neighbors, then go and find the community you can work with, a group of people that complement you, a collective where you feel valued and where people value what you have to offer, a place where you can be 100%. Work out what it is that you love, say how you want to spend your time, put it out there. With social networking finding the group of people you fit with is easier than it has ever been.
When you build your new home, your new local community I would suggest you keep a few things in mind.
Firstly, treat each other as equals. This means looking at each other honestly and squarely in the eye and not as superiors or inferiors. There is no such thing as average or normal. We are all different, we all have something different to offer. And if we were all the same we couldn’t complement each other. Expect others to be different to you, don’t expect them to think the same as you or work the same as you or believe the same things you believe. When these differences mean that you can no longer work together, let each other leave to find another community. Don’t demand loyalty, don’t demand that others conform to your ways, don’t impose obligations. Don’t issue demands. Allow individuals to offer what they can, freely.
Secondly, as I indicated earlier, scale does matter but it’s also important to ensure that the scale you choose remains relatively fixed. This deals with one of the basic economic problems, that of supply and demand. If you fix your scale, you can fix the demand for basic necessities. This allows you to plan and manage the supply side. With fixed supply and demand you don’t have to negotiate price. You don’t need a market to negotiate price if you negotiate responsibilities beforehand. For more complex needs or rarer skills, use collaboration websites and develop new ways of collaborating with other communities.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, share knowledge and information freely.
Here, for your consideration and with deep respect, I offer you a charter for a better world.
Transition towards a better world
- Transition, or steady change, is our process for creating a better world.
- Our better world will be a global network of intentional local communities.
- The network will be forged through, and bound only by, the free sharing of all human knowledge.
- Each community shall regard all other communities as their equals and is responsible for sharing knowledge to achieve and maintain that equality.
- Each community shall strive toward self-sufficiency with respect to food, water, energy and material resources.
- Each community acknowledges that the right to use any part of the Earth is accompanied by a responsibility to maintain or enhance the health of the Earth so it may also be used by all future generations of all life species.
- Each community shall maintain itself at a scale where all its members can meaningfully participate as equals in the development of agreements that bind the community together.
- Each community shall allow and encourage the free movement of individuals between communities.
- Each community shall allow and encourage the continual review of its agreements so that those social contracts are suitable to the present participants.
- Each community acknowledges that all individuals are unique, and therefore different.
- Each community shall encourage all individuals in their pursuit of self-knowledge, which is the pursuit of happiness.
- Through the pursuit of self-knowledge, achieved by accepting change and allowing personal growth, we can each discover how we can contribute freely to the creation of a better world.
— Steven Liaros, Transition Voice