Open letter to the 99 percent

We are the 99 % poster

What can Transition offer to the occupiers? Photo: _PaulS_ via Flickr.

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.

I encourage you to look at co-operative housing models, or co-housing. Look also at the Transition Network and “intentional communities.”

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

  1. Transition, or steady change, is our process for creating a better world.
  2. Our better world will be a global network of intentional local communities.
  3. The network will be forged through, and bound only by, the free sharing of all human knowledge.
  4. Each community shall regard all other communities as their equals and is responsible for sharing knowledge to achieve and maintain that equality.
  5. Each community shall strive toward self-sufficiency with respect to food, water, energy and material resources.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Each community shall allow and encourage the free movement of individuals between communities.
  9. Each community shall allow and encourage the continual review of its agreements so that those social contracts are suitable to the present participants.
  10. Each community acknowledges that all individuals are unique, and therefore different.
  11. Each community shall encourage all individuals in their pursuit of self-knowledge, which is the pursuit of happiness.
  12. 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

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  1. Auntiegrav says

    Yes, but THEN what?
    In learning about localization and transition over the last couple of decades, I see the one thing which doesn’t ever seem to infiltrate even the most intelligent of minds:
    That humans are not more important than any other life form.
    This means that the more we believe we ‘must’ do, the more we must consider the direction of the value flows. Humans have always ‘harvested’ and ‘consumed’, and now, with the Transition movement or the 99%, we have an opportunity to become generous and useful to the universe, rather than consumers of it. When we consider a demand for “equality”, we must consider that to most humans, this means everyone wants to be equally consuming of resources, rather than equally generous to the planet or the soil or the air that we will need in the future.
    Ask not what you can do for humanity, ask what humanity is doing for everything else.
    THEN you can build a sustainable community, not before. It isn’t enough to be ‘fair’ to the poorest humans. We have to be fair and generous to the worms, insects, bacteria, and other life forms that make our existence possible.
    It doesn’t matter if humans are all equal to each other if they still believe they are some kind of “Divine Gift” to everything else and that we don’t have to contribute to the natural physical processes which spawned us.

    • says

      Sorry for the delay in responding to you.
      I believe that your thoughts and mine are not too far apart. Note for example my comments suggesting that we should shift away from a consumption ideology to durability and sustainability…and also my charter item 6 that states that the right to use a part of the earth is accompanied by a responsibility to maintain or enhance the health of the earth for all life species. I am suggesting that we should to move away from the idea that we are masters of others (people and other species) and that we should conquer the earth, towards greater harmony with the earth, We need to think of ourselves as stewards rather than owners.

      You indicate in your principles of uncivilisation that “Humans are not the point and purpose of the planet….” and above that our equality does not matter if we think we are superior to other species. Humans are different to other life species because of our ability to affect the planet. Other species have no choice but to live in harmony with the natural order. Humans, though have two “personalities”, a natural personality and a “heaven-seeking” personality. The “heaven-seeker” in us seeks to change things for the better, or more fundamentally, seeks to rise above or free ourselves of the restrictions of nature. It is only in Western society that we free ourselves by enslaving others, whether it is through slavery, paid servitude, enforcing household responsibilities on women or economic slavery through debt, high prices or refusal of access to resources by privatising them. In the West, life is a competition because everyone wants to be free and to be free you must shift your work onto others. To shift your work onto others requires that you consider them inferior to you.

      Most other traditional societies freed themselves by treating each other as equals, cooperating with each other, allowing everyone to give what they were able to give. By cooperating with each other to satisfy our needs we make cooperation our natural approach to life and this is how we will treat the earth.

      • Auntiegrav says

        Humans already cooperate with each other. They do so in order to overcome the natural systems that they perceive threaten them. What you call “heaven-seeking” is insecurity. Insecurity which is created by blind faith in the status quo.
        Any action taken based on unquestioned belief (e.g. “heaven-seeking”) is evil.
        Believing that humans will cooperate with the Earth because they cooperate with each other is a bit naive, don’tchathink? I agree that we get the wolf we feed, so such a culture would make it easier to teach cooperation, but it isn’t the solution. Humanism just isn’t enough.

      • Auntiegrav says

        Addendum: If you consider that heaven is a delusion, then “heaven-seeking” means “delusion-seeking”.
        That explains a lot more.

  2. says

    Auntiegrav, you sum up your concerns very neatly in the addendum.
    It seems to me that you are offended by the idea of ‘heaven-seeking’ because of the reference to ‘heaven’. The ‘heaven-seeker’ is that aspect of our personality, common to all of us, that looks for something outside of our selves, it is the capacity for creativity, the desire to discover or create something new, it is our imagination, it is our desire to collaborate and to love. To seek heaven is to be free to look for something else outside of our material and natural needs. The heaven-seeker in you allowed you, or compelled you, to write your manifesto and your description of a better future. Anyone who is truly living will try to imagine a beautiful future.

    It is the idea of evil that in fact binds us. Evil is a concept that was invented to bind us to the good way. The way that church and state authorities tell us we should follow. That if we don’t follow this way we will not reach heaven and will be cast into hell with the demons. Prior to the formation of the Christian church the meaning of the word ‘demon’, was ‘human spirit’ but the church needed to demonise your individual spirit so that you would follow their way. The word ‘heresy’ means ‘choice’. The word ‘doxa’ means ‘opinion’ and ‘orthodox’ means ‘correct opinion’. If you want to make your own choice and not follow the correct view of the world as laid out by the authorities, then you will be cast out.

    Have the courage to have your own opinion. Continue to express your opinion of what the world should be and what you want your place in it to be. Seek heaven… don’t describe heaven… seek something else, something better.

    Finally, if we each individually want to seek heaven we cannot bind others to responsibilities and obligations. We must allow them to find their heaven too. When we free ourselves and allow others to be free, we will not need to protect ourselves, we will not need to force ourselves and other to follow the good way. Rather than focusing on safety and protection and natural and material needs we will be looking outside of ourselves, which is the necessary pre-condition for caring and collaboration and love.

    If you are interested please read my paper “the Ecstasy of Yang” which describes the heaven seeker more fully.

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