Julie Glasscock and Vladimir Alzamora
There is an increasingly large global community promoting, advocating and discussing a resource-based economy and many working on designing what such a future might look like. We can be sure that if such a wonderful society existed there would be no shortage of volunteers willing to try it out. However, the path from here to there, the so-called “transition” is much less clear. An RBE by definition is not a fixed-point utopia with a clear operation manual, but rather uses the scientific method to evaluate concepts and technologies to continuously upgrade and improve. Therefore, the transition period is not a clearly defined route that we implement when we have the time/money/resources, but rather should be a time of vast experimentation to test out all these ideas and see what works and what doesn´t.
So why does there seem to be much more interest in promoting the concepts than developing and living in RBE communities to test the theory in the real world? We speak from the experience of building such a community and finding it very difficult to attract people to help grow the community with us. In early 2014 we founded Kadagaya (www.kadagaya.org) after becoming disillusioned and unsatisfied with life in the system and inspired by the opportunities provided by an RBE-type society. We began a pilot project in Peru to evaluate the enabling concepts and technologies that have the potential to take us steps closer to an RBE. In the early stages of such a project, while the basic infrastructure is being constructed and daily life is not as comfortable as that in the system, it is easy to understand why joining the community is not so attractive. We have no shortage of volunteers (mainly travelers) excited to spend a few weeks or months in the jungles of Peru helping us build the community, but finding long-term/permanent residents is much more difficult.
In the transition period emerging RBE communities look a lot like self-sufficient communities or eco-villages and have some overlap with hippie communes and alternative/spiritualist groups. Even some of the groups that consider and label themselves as RBE communities incorporate spiritualistic, religious and other beliefs which are not consistent with RBE concepts. This can be problematic in differentiating ourselves and attracting people who are interested in growing as a community and working towards an RBE rather than a personal spiritual journey.
In general small “intentional communities” have a very high rate of failure. Community living can be difficult and these days it is something that is quite foreign to many of us. Although a lot of these communities are trying to be self-sufficient and escape the system, there are inevitably problems created by money, politics of management/ownership and ego. Therefore it is very important to focus on educating the community about human behavior, psychology and social interactions in order to understand ourselves and the original of these potential conflicts. We feel it is important for the community to grow together over time, which is why it is advantageous to have long-term/permanent members from the beginning, rather than joining an established community.
Of course there are numerous reasons why people prefer to join a mature community. Most of us are trapped in the system in one way or another (with mortgages, debt, family commitments etc.) and leaving that life for an alternative has financial, emotional and social risks. As we are highly social animals there a large element of discomfort in breaking social conformity and challenging the homeostasis of “normal life” (even when we recognize the negative effects of such a life). The current system (and in particular the media) very effectively uses fear to maintain the status-quo and hence most of us have a well-established fear of the unknown and tend to worry about what we have to lose. Even though there are big opportunities for improving our lives by living in alternate systems, very few want to be the guinea pigs. Despite the growing awareness and dissatisfaction with the system, perhaps life is still too good and things need to get really bad (e.g. another huge recession) before the risks of trying something new don´t seem so bad.
In the meantime, we and other like-minded communities, are working towards self-sufficiency, increasing our knowledge and consciousness, and testing enabling technologies. By interacting with the wider community of RBE supporters we hope to share our knowledge and experiences, helping others to make the transition and be ready to support those wishing to leave the system when they are ready.
We recognize that such a life of experimentation, exploration and relative isolation from the system is not for everyone. Explorers in the past ventured off into the unknown, some fearing they would fall of the edge of the Earth, motivated either by an adventurous spirit, or a life of necessity. While the process of building an alternate society seems like hard work, those who have realized that there is no other option for their life prefer this “hard work” (outside their comfort zone) to maintaining a life within the monetary system.
“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.”
William G.T. Shedd
- Asch conformity experiments (youtube.com/watch?v=NyDDyT1lDhA)
- Prosocial progress (www.prosocialprogress.org/)
- “They built it and no-one came” (www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/style/they-built-it-no-one-came.html)
- Milgram obedience study (youtube.com/watch?v=fCVlI-_4GZQ)