Can communal responses to tough times lead us to better lives?

Earlier this week, I posted an entry suggesting that we may be heading into an era of material scarcity, marked by steady high rates of unemployment and limited supplies of necessary goods. Those who subscribe to this scenario (and I believe it is more likely than a miraculous new age of prosperity) are left either to ponder a bleak future of isolating, paralyzing want and fear, or to envision how we can thrive on a more human level.

As my friends in the labor movement like to say, we can either hang together or hang separately. Here are some ideas toward promoting the former.

Building resilient communities

The current issue of Yes! magazine devotes a package of articles to the theme of building resilient communities. As Sarah van Gelder writes in her introduction:

How do you navigate an unsteady economy, a future without cheap oil, and unimaginable changes in the climate?  Here are ways to learn skills for self-reliance, build lasting communities, and take care of the important things in life, whether good times or hard times come our way.

To create that resilient future, Yes! tells us to “build practical skills,” “live within local means,” and “imagine, adapt, create.”

It’s a great collection of articles, and I’m enjoying spending time with the issue. Go here for the online edition.

Lawyers getting into the act

Our legal system is set up more for corporations than for cooperation. As a counterpoint, Yes! also has posted an excellent article by attorney Janelle Orsi, detailing the emerging need for lawyers who can practice “cooperation law,” helping people to navigate the legal system in setting up community and communal entities that support the sharing of resources (article link here).

It’s a visionary piece for members of the legal profession — so thought-provoking that I look forward to sharing it with students in my public interest law seminar next spring.  Here’s how Orsi explains her subject:

What do you call a lawyer who helps people share, cooperate, barter, foster local economies, and build sustainable communities?

That sounds like the beginning of a lawyer joke, but actually, it’s the beginning of a new field of law practice. Very soon, every community will need a specialist in this yet-to-be-named area: Community transactional law? Sustainable economies law? Cooperation law?

Personally, I tend to call it sharing law.

Common security clubs

In the midst of the 2008 meltdown, a group of educators and organizers who foresaw the longer-term effects of the Great Recession developed the idea of “common security clubs” comprised of friends and neighbors committed to helping one another through these rough times. From their website, here is how they describe a common security club:

A place to come together to increase our personal security in a rapidly changing world by:

  • Courageously facing our economic and ecological challenges, learning together about root causes.
  • Building relationships that strengthen our security and undertaking concrete steps for mutual aid and shared action.
  • Rediscovering the abundance of what we have and recognizing the possibility of a better future.
  • Seeing ourselves as part of a larger effort to create a fair and healthy economy that works for everyone.

For more about common security clubs and how to start one, go here.

Ideas are percolating

This is just a sampling of the kind of hopeful, even exciting “next generation” thinking and action developing in response to the challenges we face. Even if you’re not convinced that a next Dark Age is around the corner, consider taking a look at some of these writings to get a sense of how humanity can remain humane even when we’re not living in a land of plenty.

3 responses

  1. Thank you for this awesome post, David. I think that that our very survival depends on healthy and respectful relationships that span a continuum of degrees of intimacy. We could simply redefine abundance to something like: getting our needs met, having opportunities to contribute our best selves to our communities, and generally more happiness.

    I believe our species is emerging from an age of aggression and dominance and am delighted by the concept of lawyering that helps provide structure we need to co-create this more hopeful future. I’m also psyched to learn more about common secure communities and will get that issue of “YES”.

    I say this as I am in the middle of a somewhat despairing and frustrating work situation where I work as a per diem RN on an alzheimer’s unit and where management freely disrespects me and the work I do. Thankfully, my work as a nurse consultant where I focus on communication and conflict issues is taking off. We were not meant to treat each other this way and I may not be able to change the dynamic in this organization and stay healthy myself, I won’t loose sleep over casualties of peace as these kinds of systems eventually fail.

    We can and we will.


  2. Pingback: Websites of the Week: Freelancers Union and YES! magazine « Minding the Workplace

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: