A Way Forward?

Let’s start at the beginning.

Do you believe that all humans are equal?
This is a sticky question for some. While most people I talk with believe that people should be considered equal, it is quickly acknowledged that some people are more useful than others, or more addicted to substances, or more something. So…not equal?

Do you believe that all humans SHOULD be equal?
This is perhaps the better question. If we believe that humans should be equal at some point in the future, but aren’t today, then what can we do to bring that future about? If anything, a yes to this question is much more motivation than the previous one.  I posit that the first step on this long and arduous process is to consider all humans equal even if you don’t consider them to be now.

Do you believe that all humans should have the POTENTIAL to be equal?

So much of our personal success or failure is based on things completely outside our control. The country, state, or town we’re born in; the parents we’re born to; the conditions of our pregnancy, early life, and on and on and on. Do we all have the potential to be equally effective, equally happy people?

Is the passing of objective time the same for all people?

By this I mean the seconds of every day that we all live through. The “time” right now, is 6:36pm. When a minute passes, it’ll be 6:37pm. Whether I’m here or you’re there, that minute was the same. We may experience that minute’s subjective time differently. It may seem to pass more slowly or more quickly. It’s funny how it works, actually. When you’re enjoying yourself, time seems to at the same time pass extremely fast and paradoxically seem to last for ever.  Whatever the case, an hour is an hour is an hour. Agreed?

There exists a concept known as Timebanking, where people opt in to a system of payment through time.  When one needs a service, whatever that may be, one “pays” for that service with one’s time, rather than cash.  The annonomizing nature of money tends to isolate people and turns the services offered by such people into commodities. One plumber is as good as another (especially if s/he’s cheaper). The actual person involved in the service becomes unimportant, and the connection between the people in the transaction is blurred, if not completely destroyed, by the exchange of money.  True community, on the other hand, is made up of people willing to do favors for each other without need for direct reciprocation.  A healthy community is made up of people who naturally reciprocate without the need for keeping track of this favor or that service.

Most of us do not live in such a community, and so a reciprocation-tracking system becomes necessary to encourage it into existence. You might be willing to ask a close friend to help you move, but what are the chances you would ask a neighbor from down the street? One may be available, where the other is not. We all have close friends that we exchange favors with, but what if we need a specialized skill that our friends don’t have? What if our friends are busy?  That’s where Timebanking comes in.  A Timebank allows its members to give and receive services to each other in exchange for hours. A user’s account keeps track of the amount of hours given and hours received, and serves as self-motivation for balanced use of the system. Give what you want and what you can, and receive what you need. It’s awesome.

I’ve been involved with the Bay Area Community Exchange (bace.org) for about 6 months now, and only recently have I started actively using the system for my own needs. Last week, I decided to finally do something about a neck problem that had been plaguing me since Halloween (I wore a set of antlers and messed up some muscles). I put out a “request” for physical therapy, describing the problem and what I thought had caused it. Within a day, I had 5 therapists contact me directly, offering their services. I accepted the first one available and LOW AND BEHOLD! Neck = fixed.

Another example of how BACE works: I made myself a fanny-pack / utility belt / practical accessory that I like to call “Saddle Sax” from an old pair of cargo shorts. I’ve received a lot of interest wearing it around, so I decided that I needed to make more. But I don’t want to make more. Sewing is not something that I’m inspired to do a lot of.  Two days after posting a request for someone to help sew some more Saddle Sax together, and I had two women who LOVE sewing interested.

The beauty of a web-based Timebank is that it is NOT location dependent. Wherever you are, whatever you do, you can create a group on the site that represents your neighborhood, your church community, your friends. If nothing else, it’s a clearinghouse for people with skills and people who need them. Virtual skills like web design, digital organization, talking therapy, etc, can be accessed from anywhere in the world.

I encourage you to sign up for an account and give it a try. Think of 3 things that you could use to make your life better, and 3 things that you could provide — virtual OR in-person. Go play!

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One thought on “A Way Forward?

  1. Some thoughts on equality.

    With finite resources and a strong proclivity toward reproduction, equality is an impossible dream. While it would be possible to allow everyone to be equal, it would require a very small population for the standard of living to be decent, and strict population control. Selecting people to have kids automatically introduces inequality.

    The best I can think of is to give kids a fair shot, but this too will invariably be unsustainable. Suppose the government/community vows to educate all kids equally and give them food/shelter until they are 18, at which point they have to sink or float on their own. Then any idiot can continuously pump out kids, knowing the government will take care of them.

    Even with infinite resources, there is finite space on Earth in which to occupy. And surely living in San Diego is more desireable than living in northern Canada (in terms of fighting the weather).

    Timebanking sounds interesting, will definitely have to look at it.

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