Yesterday, after a tip from Charles Eisenstein, I watched the documentary "Ancient Futures" by Helena Norberg-Hodge on Google Video. It is fascinating because it shows in highly speeded up form how easily non-monetary, egalitarian societies can be corrupted. A brief example is how Helena Norberg-Hodge, charmed by the large and elegant self-made houses of Ladakh, asks someone which is the poorest house. The man takes some time to think about it and answers that there are no poor people in Ladakh. Eight years later, after the arrival of tourists, a large amount of Western glitter and bling, the young of Ladakh being forced into state education etc., she sees him complaining to visitors about how poor Ladakhis are. (Also of note is that there was no crime there. This seems a common theme amongst people who share and cooperate. It was true of the peoples of Tuamotu, and of St Kilda, until money came along.)
Monetary societies (aka Western Culture for this blogger) have powerful charisma, and I don't believe this is mere glamour. While glamour is something we do well, there is substance underneath it. Were there not, the West could not have been so 'successful.' (This is not a blog on what 'success' is.) As with all systems, even the monetary has a lifespan, has flaws, downsides, and I have written much on that already. It is my strong belief that we are transitioning to a post-scarcity, or gift economics, a new egalitarianism, as money's usefulness runs out. For those who want to help this difficult and disruptive transition along, to midwife its birth, the question is always: "What can I do?" My answer: Enter the spirit of the gift, opt out softly.
My wife was reading a Berlin magazine yesterday (Prinz) and came across a long article on street art here (in Berlin) and elsewhere. Her recounting of it excited me deeply. This is obviously no new thing, but the principle is, with the help of the internet, very powerful and quite quickly communicated. Give society of your gifts for free. It is non-rational (yeah, right!), brings a smile to strangers, defies society's expectations of us while breaking no law (yet), and sends a clear message which is also subtle and multi-layered. I'm pondering how to squeeze my talents into this format, and I think we all should. It needn't be pictorial art alone.
A note on the corkman: the artist who makes them is unknown. They appear randomly around Berlin on things like signposts, in various poses. They are glued in place so if some twit tries to steal one (some have tried) the art breaks. The artist has appealed with people to leave them there for everyone to enjoy.
In terms of human history this is a new (even though I'm late to this party) variant of gift-giving which flatly and humorously contradicts Adam Smith's rational economic man, and which cannot really make sense outside of large, anonymous cities. Things like this, and like free software, are an important part of the transition out of money into something new. As many of us as possible should join in!
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