Spectrum of Economies Part I
You might have noticed, the world is buzzing and birthing "new economies" of various sorts, which IMO is all to the good. We are examining our assumptions about human economic relating, even the very essence or meaning of what "economic" relating is, and even whether it is necessary among humans. (See authors like Jared Diamond, Charles Eisenstein, Daniel Quinn, James Quilligan, Riane Eisler, etc.)
I don't resonate with a lot of the new stuff, just some of it, but I value the conversation. Below is a current contribution to the conversation, based on some of my personal journey into new-economic-paradigmatic-living, a journey shared with and enriched by (pun intended) a few friends.
In the future I will say a lot more about all of this, but for now, here are some bare outlines. At the end, I will try a brief mapping of all this onto the Spiral Dynamic levels of development, but I hold such mapping very lightly; I am not at all sure
there is any developmental spectrum here, perhaps just an expanding spectrum of options.
there is any developmental spectrum here, perhaps just an expanding spectrum of options.
Nature, Gifting, Force
In the beginning of human existence, one can suppose we related to others as other apes do. We mostly took what we needed for survival directly from nature, and sometimes we shared with others out of what appear (to us as observers now) to be impulses of generosity and caring (or parenting,) and just as easily, we could snatch something from someone weaker than us.
Then, sometimes, one would offer something to another, to get what the other had. Even apes do this. The beginnings of barter.
Barter, of course, happens when we can't get all our needs met directly, by directly interacting with nature, or from generosity of others making gifts. So we try to get things from others who got them from nature. But we have to offer something the other wants more than what they have, so they will give us what we want. There begins to be "calculation of (subjective) worth." That, to me, is the beginning of “economic” relating among humans.
Transactions facilitated by medium of exchange,
Shift from Nature source to Human source
Direct barter, of course, has its limits, namely I have to offer you something you want in order to get what you have that I want, but what if I have nothing that you want right now? There are various ways to deal with that, including promising something in the future. But the easiest is to find something that most people want, and use that to facilitate transactions. Many things have been used, which represent almost-universal wants among various groups, and over the millennia, gold has emerged as the most universal of all.
Then, with the advent of horticulture and then agriculture, we turned from getting our sustenance directly from nature, to getting it from others who cultivated it. (Of course, we are all still ultimately dependent on nature, as we re-learn often when she doesn't cooperate.) So we became more dependent on one another, and trade or exchange became more natural to us than interacting with nature, for our sustenance.
To my mind, that was the real beginning of "economic humans" or economies. Other people became means to our survival in a way that was unprecedented in human history, so how to get what we needed from them, became really important, and exchange became crucial. This made "value" more important, and made mediums of exchange, more important. There were "transactions." There was tit for tat. No one wanted to lose, in an exchange, so everything had to be paid attention to in order for balance, or for each to feel THEY got the better end of the deal, which is kind of inherent in trade, or a mindset it easily gives rise to.
Current Choices of New and Old Economies
Gifts, of course, have persisted, as have direct barter exchanges. And we all know there is a spectrum of "gifting" from "big strings attached" and/or an expectation of a gift in return, to free-will spontaneous gifts from the spirit of generosity and an overflowing of abundance and desire to give and benefit others. These free-will gifts are not “tied” to anything the other person has done or might do, for us.
And we barter all the time, informally, in hundreds of activities of life where we wouldn't use the term. "Whoever fixes the meal, the other one does the dishes."
However, the unpredictable (to humanity) downsides and dark potentials in monetary economies have manifested, mostly (a) by the co-opting of that natural human activity by governments who can enforce various aspects of it, forbid other aspects, and can pervert the functioning of the money supply toward power concentration, and (b) probably by subtle effects of concentrating sources of our food supply, (via agriculture) which was probably part of what gave rise to human violence and "economic man" (See Sex at Dawn by Ryan and Jetha, the parts about the amazingly negative effects of geographic concentration of food supply.)
There were also probably some unanticipated effects of having a medium of exchange, such as that with money as the measure of so much of what we need and value, that which is free and/or abundant, is not valued, so incentive to make things free or abundant is diminished -- and that nothing which couldn't be measured via money, was valued. (See the work of Ted Howard, New Zealand.)
IMO humanity is now moving toward inventing some kinder, saner ways to relate "economically" which seek to mitigate some of these unpredictable side-effects of economic relating, especially via having money be the measure of value for too many things in life.
So what choices do we have currently? I don't know of anyone in a position to live 100% of their life in any "new economic paradigm" but we can shift some of our lives in some of these directions.
In a way, all we need to do is remind ourselves of how good it feels to be generous, and a lot more free-will gifts will flow around among us. A free-will gift is "for no reason," with no strings. It is not because someone has given us something, or benefitted us, and we are "repaying," though there is nothing amiss about that either. There is no flavor of "exchange" in a free-will gift. We give because we have an inner impulse to give, and we might also be motivated to support someone whose presence in the world we value and whose wellbeing we would like to contribute to and enhance.
What we accept, we accept as the same kind of thing: others who are inspired to provide us with the resources needed to support our living in the world.
Most people accept unquestioningly that human interactions in the economic arena must be transactional: exchanges of value regarded as equal by both parties (except of course that what I am giving you I value less than what you are giving me, or the transaction wouldn’t be done.)
So most people begin their understanding of “free-will gifting” to someone who has done something for them and who operates in a free-will gift economic mode, as “I’m letting you decide how much value you got from what I did for you, and how to translate that into money/gift, and you can give whatever seems balanced, to you.” That would, in my view, not be an accurate understanding of a free-will gifting mode of interacting. What I am describing goes beyond that transactional thinking.
One way to get beyond the exchange-of-values-in-monetized-terms is for gifts to be not money, but other resources: any contribution to life energy, to quality of life, to well-being, of the receiver. Another way is to move into the mode described just below.
The personal growth some of us need in order to fully participate in the new 'gift economy' vibration, is more the willingness to receive, than to give. Many of us give freely, especially of our time and energy, but we have various personal -- usually subconsciously-held -- blocks to receiving. Many of us are working diligently to dissolve these blocks, and that will greatly enhance the inflow of gifted resources for our lives.
Some of what is currently called a "gift economy" by people exploring and inventing new economic models, is free-will gifts, and there are other modes and motives of gifting involved, too. (Not counting the “gift exchanges” of various holidays, which are not truly “gifting,” or gifting “with strings attached” which might or might not be consciously accepted.)
That's all a step forward, IMHO, allowing for more options for human relating in ways that enhance life for oneself and others. The object of all this innovation in economic thinking is not to find the “right” or “best” mode; the object of the game is to have as many modes available as possible, for the greatest amount of choice.
Toward that goal, I see two modes "beyond" a 'gift economy.
Self-expression as Mutual Benefit
Imagine you are sitting in front a plant, and breathing out carbon dioxide, which is simply a natural part of your living process. The plant, as a natural part of its living process, is breathing in your carbon dioxide as nourishment, as a resource for its life, and breathing out oxygen. You breathe in the oxygen, as nourishment, as a resource for your life.
Now, to me, this is not "gifting." It is, even less, an exchange or transaction. There is mutual benefit, even mutual life dependence, but I don't breathe out carbon dioxide as a gift to the plant, nor to get its oxygen. And I don't regard its oxygen as its deliberate gift to me, nor any kind of transaction, which would involve some conscious calculation of balanced value. This is just an example of symbiosis in the natural world.
But what if humans related that way, too, via that paradigm? What I do, as a natural expression of who and what I am, ends up benefitting you, and vice versa. Actually, there might be barter involved, or even a monetary-exchange transaction, but what if the fundamental vibe were one of self-expression in the context of a mutual benefit? How would that change things? Most importantly, what would we need to change about our views of abundance, prosperity, for our own life, in order to both give and receive that way? How much more abundance would we find ourselves with?
This mode might not even be regarded as “economic” at all, because the two “sides” are not tied together in a package. Each is an expression, perhaps of regard, or of self-expressive impulse.
Self-expression as Universal Benefit
There could even be a mode beyond that. For example, the sun shines on us as an expression of its beingness, but we provide nothing back. There's no mutual benefit, no symbiosis, no exchange of any kind. It's just the sun being the sun. Yet, we all count on that essential precondition for our survival, of the sun shining.
What if we shift our psyche so that we regard the Universe we live in as simply operating like the sun, so that we just naturally receive all that we need and want, for our living? Can we be that trusting? Can we live like the sun, and like us humans receiving the sunlight – in other words, giving and receiving, that naturally?
How might this look in actual daily life? Here are a couple of instances which might be seen as examples.
I bought a yellow cotton tanktop at the thrift store, because I wanted one. After wearing it a few times, I decided the shade of yellow was not right for me. I gave the item to a friend who wears cotton tanktops. She said her only yellow one had just finally worn out into rags, she hadn't fully decided yet to replace it or go shopping, and she loved the design of the one I gave her.
(I heard this story from someone it happened to.) Just walking down the street, the person I know was approached by a stranger who said "My inner guidance is telling me to give you a thousand dollars. Here are 10 100 dollar bills. Have a good life." And the stranger did that, and then just walked away.
If you are up for it, here are some even "spookier" stories, first-hand-related: http://www.beyond3dbooks.com/giving/giving__receiving_on_the_astral_planes/
I don't see ANY of the modes of "economic relating" above as dispensible; my wish is that we simply expand the number of modes available to us. I believe that our personal and collective prosperity will go up as that expansion takes place. I also believe, however, that many of us have inner clearing/healing work to do on some false beliefs we hold, in order for that expansion to take place so that we can fully participate in all the modes.
Possible mapping onto SpiralDynamic stages as I understand them:
Beige and Red: Take from nature, gift, take by force
Purple and Blue: Barter and nongovernmentally-controlled money system
Orange: Government-controlled money system, extreme emphasis on equality of value in monetary terms, in any exchange
Green: Back to more barter and more gifting (which includes charity)
Yellow: Self-expression for Mutual Benefit
Turquoise: Self-expression for Universal Benefit
(And in Coral and Teal, that continues and also goes back to directly receiving from Nature, again, as the people at that level live more on "prana" than on food, and perhaps get foods directly from nature perhaps by raising food and bartering for more diversity of food.)
What do these possibilities evoke in you? Expansive feelings? Joy? Open-heartedness? That's MY response!
Comments more than welcome.
Do read any comments below and stretch your mind!!
And stay tuned for a lot more writing I want to do on this subject.
by Rev. Alia Aurami, Ph.D., Head Minister, Amplifying Divine Light in All Church
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