A Petition to Everyone: Think About Horizontal Sharing
Recently an organization named “Groundswell” wrote to me (and everyone else on their mailing list):
“Have an idea for how to make the world a better place? Start your own petition on our free platform.”
I do have an idea for making the world a better place, but it’s probably not what they had in mind when they called for a “petition.” But I won’t let that stop me. My “petition” is too big to fit in their little box, so instead in that box I’m putting a link to this longer explanation. [You can see the Groundswell petition at https://action.groundswell-mvmt.org/petitions/a-petition-to-everyone-think-about-horizontal-sharing .]
There is a certain conversation that the people of this world need to have. It includes some ideas that most people have never seen, ideas about changing our political and economic system on a very fundamental level. We have many problems — war, poverty, bullying, ecocide, etc. — but they’re all connected, and can’t be solved one by one, and some of them (particularly ecocide) have imposed time limits on us. We won’t make nearly enough progress on solving these problems until we talk about the underlying cultural change we need.
And so I am petitioning the world (not just some powerful person(s)) to join this conversation. I haven’t figured out what the second step would be, but just getting more people into this conversation would be a huge first step.
Groundswell recommended the golden rule: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” That’s a glimpse of what we want, but it’s not very clear. By itself, it gets interpreted this way:
“Be as kind to your neighbors as is possible within our current institutions.”
But our current institutions are the main cause of the war, poverty, bullying, ecocide, etc. Those problems are not just interruptions in normal life; rather, they are reflections of a misconception about what “normal life” can be. Solving those problems would not mean returning to the lives we have viewed as normal; rather, it would mean moving toward a new kind of life that we have barely glimpsed.
What institutions do we need to change, and how? Our global conversation could debate that question. I just want the conversation to happen; I’m not insisting that it end up agreeing with my own views. But I’ve thought about this a long time, so I’ll state my own views here.
Most people in the USA believe our society is based on freedom and democracy, but I don’t think so. Freedom and democracy were never more than an illusion. For 10,000 years, our culture has been based on hierarchy and property, and by now it’s difficult for any of us to even imagine a different way of life. But imagining and talking are the first step.
For 200,000 years we lived as hunter-gatherers, generally without hierarchy or property, and genetically we haven’t changed much since then. We are capable of living once again without hierarchy or property, but we can do that without going back to being hunter-gatherers. We just need to use technology wisely, instead of using it to destroy the world.
Disadvantages of hierarchy: Hierarchy, including so-called “representative” government, concentrates power, and concentrated power corrupts. We see that all around us: Authoritarians beat their families, bosses bully their workers, guards torture prisoners, police shoot the poor, and the rich lie to start wars to make themselves richer. The alternative to hierarchy is horizontal networking.
Some disadvantages of private property: (1) Separate property creates separate lives. Competition kills empathy, leaving sociopaths and bullies. We all become commodities, to be exploited or discarded. The homeless beggar on every street corner reminds us that no one cares about him or about us. And every few days some loner shoots up a school. But we don’t shoot our friends. Why can’t we all be friends?
(2) Separate property necessitates trade.
- Trade increases inequality, by favoring the trader who was already in the stronger bargaining position, even if no one were cheating. Economic inequality in our society has become enormous.
- Trade inevitably has externalized costs, i.e., unmeasured side effects. Those are enormous — they include ecocide, war, poverty, etc.
The alternative to property is sharing.
Obviously, it will take us a while to figure out how to live without hierarchy or property. But if we have the will, we can find the way. The first step is to see the goal.
If you like this, pass it along.
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2018 Oct 9, version 1.05.