Tag Archives: capitalism

Bad Times Promote More Cooperation

kelsey and abby climbingWhen times are good, people are too busy to help their neighbors. Besides, they reason, charities can do that sort of work. They’re too busy making money! But, when times go sour, I see a lot more willingness of people to cooperate. One reason is that they may have more time because business is down. Another reason is that everyone starts to realize they’re all in the same sinking boat, and competition (the cornerstone of capitalism) becomes counter-productive. Even during the Great Depression you saw more people taking in boarders, starting community gardens, stepping up with soup kitchens, and generally trying to lend a helping hand. You never knew when you would be the one needing that same kindness later. In times like these, it’s much more important to cultivate community and friendship than it is to stimulate competitive business drives. That means, we have to learn to slow down and change our way of being in the world.

Cooperation Versus Competition

So, times are tough, it’s true. But, it’s a grand opportunity to really help others and learn the art of cooperation. We are brought up in the West to compete with each other, so when those rules of behavior become counter-productive, we have to mentally shift gears and learn the art of kindness. While no one really likes tough times, it can be a great spiritual exercise in learning how to create cooperative community solutions and how to cooperate with Self too.

Cooperative Community Solutions

More and more we begin to see cooperative community solutions to the problems that harsh competitive business practices have created. You can even see it in how all the major national leaders got together to create cooperative international financial strategies to resolve this economic crisis. We see it with people doing co-housing to help offset maintenance costs of housing. We see it online in social networking communities that share information and resources freely, in cooperative formats. We’ll be seeing more and more cooperative community solutions as things progress away from competitive capitalism to sustainable capitalism. And, as an added benefit, we’ll learn some valuable spiritual lessons too!

Cooperating With Self

See, when we learn to be gentle and kind with others, we automatically extend that to ourselves too. And, when we internalize cooperation, trust, and kindness towards Self, that’s when the energetic blockages that create tough times tend to dissolve. So, every cycle of creation has a purpose, whether it can be traumatic or not. And, this shifting of competitive capitalism to sustainable capitalism, I believe, will eventually lead America into being a kinder, gentler, nation.

Community and Sustainability

feast.jpgI have been trying to figure out how to build community within our self-centered, capitalistic, system. It doesn’t seem like the two go hand-in-hand. I remember I tried to set up a community freelance site for writers and it flopped before I got it done. I think it didn’t work because people don’t want to have to work without cash to get a community system up – they expect to be paid for it. I also tried to set up a community website at a non-profit, and again, the community refused to step up to the plate. People say they are going to be involved but then the majority find ways to excuse themselves from being involved in a community project. It takes up too much of their time and they are simply too busy unless it has a dollar attached to it. But, then, places like Craigslist and Wikipedia are able to set up communities without paying people, however, not eveyone makes a profit either. So, how would you set up a community that is sustainable without engaging in overt greed and profit mongering?

Church Communities

I’ve noticed church communities are great for building sustainable communities, but the wealth is really not spread across its membership. If you give to the church, they take that money and use it to pay their staff and the buildings. Extra doesn’t go back to the membership. Yet, many volunteers donate lots of time to run a church and they don’t get paid for their services. However, we all need to survive in a capitalistic economy, so why aren’t they compensated if they need their services so much? There should be other ways besides money to compensate volunteers. If we are engaged in a capitalistic system, it doesn’t seem fair then to engage free labor. I think it’s this mentality that volunteers are free labor that is killing non-profits. There is a conflict between our economic environment and the needs of the volunteers. It’s hardly a sustainable community if the membership isn’t being supported materially as well as spiritually.

Tribal Communities

When you look at how some of the older tribal communities worked, things were a bit more even and co-operative. If one person had too much wealth, they were expected to share that wealth with others in their village by hosting feasts. It was a privilege to be asked to host a feast because people recognized that you were in God’s favor and had wealth to spare. It also provided a great deal of unity within a village and helped those who were less well off. This type of community isn’t just about supporting a structure or a building, but about taking care of all the villager’s needs. There was some sense of social responsibility that, to put it bluntly, we just don’t have in the United States. Everyone is in it for themselves. Is it a difference in culture or is it just our own self-centeredness and short-sightedness that keeps us from helping others in need? Or is the capitalistic system just set up as a competitive game that will never make it easy to build community within? I wish I knew. I do know that you do have to return something back to the community that gives to you, even if you don’t give it back to the individual. Otherwise, it is not sustainable. Community and sustainability go hand-in-hand, even if they conflict with capitalism right now.

*Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons by ^riza^