a global network of direct democracy
and community currency
Editor, photographer, and partner in dialogue:
"There is no alternative."
"All that is held under power must someday revolt."
"Grant me the courage to change the things that I
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
and the wisdom to know the difference."
Ever since St. Thomas More wrote 'Utopia', which can be an allusion to either 'Outopia' (no-place), 'Eutopia' (the good place), or both, the word has often been associated with the unattainable, the impossible dream. And when one considers that More's own vision included both slavery and the death penalty one might be happy not to live in his utopia -or even next door.
The Bolshevik dream of a communist and stateless society (that never emerged) was another sort of utopian quest yet, despite establishing a certain amount of economic equality, it resulted in a nightmare for many a soul who lived under its yoke. And is not capitalism itself, with 'the American Dream' as its ultimate promise, also a utopian myth of sorts? For we are told, in a grand quixotic challenge to basic mathematics, that all people have a chance of becoming a part of the wealthy minority.
The truth is that a third of the world earns about 90% of the world's income. That leaves the other two thirds of the people to fight amongst themselves for the remaining 10% and the result is a nightmare that equals its Soviet counterpart in sheer brutality.
People have tried, and are still trying, to create free and egalitarian alternatives. They have demonstrated that a wide variety of community structure is possible. Still others have created partial-utopias based upon one or two aspects of social life. Initiatives such as organic farming, rehabilitation programs, community currencies, worker run co-ops, alternative schooling have all come from people who have helped us see new possibilities that are available to us here and now. Their successes and shortcomings can give us insight as we continue our journey towards a better society for all. Through their example we can see that utopianism may turn out to be a journey in itself rather than a final destination point. A way to move through rather than a place to move to.
"Which or whose Utopia? The kind of those involved, of course. Many different kinds."
-Karl Hess, Community Technology
"We want a world in which there are many worlds,
a world in which our world, and the worlds of others will
fit: a world in which we are heard, but as one of many voices."
This utopian vision is not a singular vision but a vision that has space for many visions. It is not a vision of a perfect world, but rather a vision of a possible world. One of many possibilities. It depicts a world that is beautiful and harmonious, yet strange and chaotic. A world where the answers are not given to us but have to be continually created by us. For the challenges, like the questions, never end.
The intent here is not to draw a complete map of a utopian world, rather it is to take a blurry snapshot of an alternative world in motion. The world described herein is, in many ways, not so different than the world as it is. Unlike many utopian dreams, this vision does not require a change in human character, only a change in human organization and the democratization of institutions. It involves projects and visions that are taking place here and now in the world we live in. It involves concrete possibilities within our reach.
The links provided within this essay are portals to other worlds. Real worlds in real-time. These worlds that hide amongst words are steps - steps to the world of greater possibilities, to your dreams, to the utopian scenario you're about to read, to anyone's hope for a better world. What determines whether or not these worlds are ever attained or to what degree they are attained depends on one factor: what you are willing to do to make it happen.
January 12, 2002 note:
This essay was completed in the wee hours of September 1, 2001. It be-gins with the fall of America and capitalism. Ten days after the essay was sent off came the unexpected tragedy of September 11th. It was, in a sense, a multiple tragedy. First, the horrible attack against American civilians where both military and civilian locations were targeted, followed by the horrible attacks on Afghani civilians where mosques, hospitals, villages and storage depots were bombed as well as military locations, and, in the midst of all this, civil rights across the world came under attack and the mass movement which brought hundreds of thousands of protestors against the G-8 meeting in Genoa, July 2001 became stifled.
I have made minor changes in this essay since then but nothing relating to Sept. 11. The post-Sept.11 world has been scared and scarred but it does not appear to be fundamentally different than the pre-Sept. 11 world. In fact, it seems to be more of the same.
Lao Tzu apparently sensed the same thing in China 2,500 years ago when he wrote in the Tao Te Ching:
"When the country falls into chaos, patriotism is born."
"The commodity description of labor, land, and money
is entirely ficti-tious. Nevertheless, it is with the help
of this fiction that the actual markets for land, labor, and
money are organized."
"People are the experts; they know what it is they
need. It's just that nobody listens."
Another World is Possible
Nobody saw it coming. Few thought it possible. And yet it happened. It seemed to be sparked by a similar spirit to the one that had brought about the end of the Soviet Empire in 1989. After little more than a decade of free market dominance spearheaded by the United States and powerful transnational corporations it was capitalism's turn. The Great Fall of Capitalism came nearly as suddenly as its Iron Curtain counterpart. The very market of hypercapitalism got a global aneurysm and it imploded. When the international economic collapse came about in 2007, national governments, bureaucratic armies, and state institutions were ill-prepared for the chaos that ensued. Their authority suddenly vanished.
Like the symbolic vandalism of the Argentinian parliament in late 2001, people walked into the halls of power -not to take them over- but to spit in them. Corporate leaders and corrupt politicians could no longer sway the public mind with empty promises and the people had to look else-where as they sought to fill their basic needs.
It was necessary to find new ways of organizing society and, ultimately, the power of local communities overcame the brutality of bullets and the persuasion of profit-steered organizations. While the former centers of power quickly disintegrated, local organizations and networks had to fill the vacuum that was left in its wake. There was an inevitable power struggle between the haves and the have-nots, between those who had power and those who lacked it but, as the rules for the game were suddenly changed, the former underdogs gained the upperhand.
Who were the underdogs? What was the power struggle about? Kevin Danaher, in the book "Democratizing the Global Economy" put it like this: "The mass media talk about globalization as if it were a unified, allencompassing entity. But there are two kinds of globalization: elite globalization and grassroots globalization. The top-down globalization promoted by the big corporations is characterized by a constant drive to maximize profits...people are encouraged to pursue an unsustainable pattern of resource consumption; and social inequality has reached gro-tesque proportions.
In the face of this predatory type of globalization, there is another kind of globalization being forged; a globalization that reaffirms the primacy of the ethical principles that form the foundation of true democracy: equality, freedom, participation, human diversity, and solidarity. This grassroots movement is made up of many large movements: the fair trade movements, microlending networks, the movement for social and ecological labeling, sister cities and sister schools, trade union solidarity across borders, and many others."1
It was these socially active groups who, through their person-to-person
contact across the world, developed counter-institutional
networks that sowed the seeds for future forms of organization.
"Civilizing capitalism will only be possible globally, if at all."
The Global Alliance
The Global Alliance (GA), is the name given to what arose from the pact forged between the World Social Forum www.worldsocialforum.org, Peoples Global Action www.agp.org, and other umbrella organizations and institutions as they gathered up the remains of the United Nations. Many grassroots organizations participated and structural advice on the new alliance came from groups such as the Campaign for a More Democratic United Nations www.oneworld.org/camdun.
The GA came to provide a much-needed stability for the new structure of worldwide interaction and cooperation. All decision-making is now made through direct democracy wherein all participants engage themselves as equal members in a system of rotation that enables a minimum of bureaucracy.
Furthermore, it has maintained, from the very start, a very broad mem-bership policy. The GA allows for the creation and recognition of new nations and new 'states' according to a very basic criteria:
1) that it agree to the constitution of the Global Alliance which includes the ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights www.un.org/overview/rights, International Covenants on Civil and Po-litical Rights www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/a_ccpr, and on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/a_cescr as well as Agenda 21 www.un.org/esa/sustdev/agenda21.
2) that it consent to monitoring by fellow members, and
3) that it sees to the provision of the needs and welfare of its membership.
Under these guidelines, nearly any community or group of communities has the possibility to be recognized as an autonomous entity.
Peacekeeping forces, comprised of GA members, are used no more often today than they were during the days of the United Nations and when they are used the emphasis is decidedly on dialogue and peaceful conflict-resolution. All parties are brought into dialogue and not, as was the case in Somalia 1992-95, only those parties who have military or economic power. Internal grassroots organizations, cooperatives, clan/tribal leaders, and cultural consultants as well as non-partisan mediators from outside the area are taken in. It is through the continual networking that goes on in today's direct democratic process that enables an early warning of the build-up of tensions to be quickly addressed. Focus is thus more on pre-conflict resolution rather than the direct use of peacekeeping forces.
Immediately after the Great Fall disarmament became a top
priority. If any sort of global security was to be established,
it had to be free of the threat of military power and large
scale war. The achievements of a uni-versal ban on nuclear
weapons followed by a ban on national armies were major victories.
The model of Costa Rica which hadn't had an army in ages proved
to be the shining example which everyone else followed. As
the bans were simultaneous and universal there was little
room for the military to protest. And as this coincided with
the collapse of profit-oriented economy there was hardly any
economic incentive to maintain military power and the arms
Previously established groups like the Centre for Alternative Industrial and Technological Systems (CAITS) www.shef.ac.uk/~is/caits/caits.html provided support in the transitiion from a war-based industry to a peace-based industry.
Furthermore the GA, unlike the UN is neither dominated by nor dependent upon the United States nor does it include any sort of permanent Security Council membership as the UN once did. Direct democracy ensures that the voice of the GA is that of the people of the world and not merely certain heads of state.
"...They had worker's patrols instead of police...There
was no unem-ployment, and the price of living was still extremely
low; you saw very few beggars ...Above all, there was a belief
in the revolution and the future, a feeling of having suddenly
emerged into an era of equality and freedom. Human beings
were trying to behave as human beings and not as cogs in the
capitalist machine... I was breathing the air of equality..."
-George Orwell (describing what he saw in Catalonia, Spain in Decem-ber 1936)
The new form of organization turned out to be grounded in grassroots communities. The communities are largely centered around common principles and/or cultural associations. They can be based upon common beliefs, a common trade, a common jobsite, a common neighborhood, a common language etc. A community can also be formed out from an apartment complex, neighborhood area, or plot of land. People are free to choose as to which community they wish to be associated but are limited to one official choice through which their democratic representation takes place.
These communities then coordinate themselves into Community Net-works (or Networks for short). Each Network consists of a specific geographic boundary and anywhere from small rural collectives of 100 members to bustling metropolises with over 1 million members. Currently, the Community Networks account for the predominant form of autonomous unit in modern-day society. Community Networks are, quite simply, networks of communities where the basic regulations for the local society are determined.
Networks function as mini-versions of countries and are granted recogni-tion status equal to that of traditional countries in the Global Alliance based, like traditional countries, upon number of members. Members of the communities are thereby accountable to the Network and each Net-work is, in turn, accountable to the Global Alliance.
The nation-state is, for the most part, gone and in its wake are thousands upon thousands of Networks linked together into various formal and informal alliances. Some areas, however, have chosen to maintain the traditional nation-state structure. These countries are then granted the same representation within the GA as the Community Networks.
Though Community Network is the formal name, it is possible for a single community to register itself as a Network if it is able to fill the basic requirements for self-sustainability and self-governance. What they gain in autonomy, however, they may lose in social, cultural, and eco-nomic variety. The larger Community Networks often consist of hun-dreds of small communities.
These Networks and their subsequent subdivisions have a wide variety of internal structures from consensus-based anarchy to hierarchical, from religious scripture-guided collectives to majority-based democratic rule. The democratic basis for granting autonomy has ensured that people across the world who have been struggling for centuries for democratic self-determination, from the Kurds to the Oglala Lakotas have finally heard their cries answered. In whichever case, the Networks operate on the basis of self-sustainability creating whatever they need for themselves and trading for whatever they can't create.
A final form of organization is that of nomadic communities. These groups form their own Community Network, one that is not formed out from a specific geographic area as is the normal procedure. These people include sailors, circus artists, transportation workers, musicians, Romani, performance groups, hunters & gatherers, and so on.
An odd little development along the way has been the prevalence of micro-nations www.micro-nations.org who often exist as mini-nations within nations. Whereas they were previously reserved for eccentric artists and activists they have become a common sight at international gatherings with their flamboyant style of dress and preposterous rituals.
GA and democracy
"Development must be decentralized in order to involve communities in formulating and implementing the decisions and programs that affect their lives. Such a decentralization need not conflict with a global system and strategy, but would in fact ensure that development processes are adapted to the planet's rich cultural, geographic, and ecological diversity."
-Bahá'í International Community Earth Charter
By the year 2012 the GA had achieved a stable membership of approximately 25,000 autonomous entities representing more than 6 billion people. And when the GA celebrated five years of cooperation during the same year the mood was festive. It was Porto Alegre's turn to host the conference and it served as a sharp contrast to the tense atmosphere surrounding many of the large political-economic meetings in the years before the Great Fall. Whereas cities like Washington D.C., Québec City, and Genoa were made to look like police states in which both taxpayers and democracy itself paid high prices, Porto Alegre 2012 was a city with hardly a police in sight.
Networks are equally represented according to population. Delegations reflect both the numerical proportion of their constituency as well their cultural and political diversity. Often this mix is attained in a single delegate, someone who is appointed by the communities, not for their own personal views but for their ability to relay the views of others. Each delegate is appointed by their Community Network and serves a maximum 6 year term with the possibility for instant recall by their respective Network.
The Gathering, as it is called, begins informally with a series of debates, workshops, seminars, panel discussions, performances, concerts and festivity. The informal context allows delegates to meet each other on a purely human scale before they begin their dialogues.
This dialogue period is, in itself, an extension of the sort of discussions and planning that occur via the Internet discussion groups prior to the actual Gathering. It is during the period of Internet discussion that suggested proposals are sent in and by the time each delegate arrives they have each received an entire list of all the proposals that are to be discussed when the GA is in session. Since the matters being discussed have already been talked about for a long time in advance, the issues have had time to reach the entire membership behind each delegate and are therefore as democratic as possible. As this method varies little from the pre-vious standard of 'motions', the change from before the Fall has more do with who participates rather than how they do it.
Then follows a period of 30 mini-assemblies of less than a thousand delegates each. These assemblies meet over a period of days and come to specific proposals on the basis of 2/3 majority rule. If there is any con-tingent radically opposed to a motion then the issue is taken up, reexamined and a compromise or alternative approach is attempted before a final proposal is formulated.
Though the decision is made by vote, the goal is, in each case, to find solutions that are satisfactory to all. Hence these meetings are mediated by several non-partisan facilitators elected by the assembly whose role is to simply ensure a spirit of cooperation and communication. It is not their place to take sides on any issue but to ensure that all voices are heard and all concerns are dealt with accordingly. At the end of each day of discussion, each assembly is present with information presented instantly electronically as to the developments in the other assemblies.
There is a break for a few days as the seminars, debates and festivities continue and it is also during this period in which unresolved issues are further discussed and delegates have the chance to consult with their communities back home via Internet. Finally it concludes with a series of meetings in which all delegates participate. The proposals are presented and the final decisions are made through a voting process with a required 3/4 majority rule.
The basic intent of the structure is that decisions shall be handled as locally as possible and as few matters as possible should be decided on the structural level of the GA. In most cases, the GA is to provide a statement of general direction and it is up to the more localized regions to interpret each declaration as it pertains to them. In a few cases, such as the decision to employ peacekeeping forces, a specific matter requires very particular attention and, in the case of the peacekeeping forces, a majority 4/5 majority rule is required in order to achieve authorization for deployment.
The ideological base for the GA is that all decisions should be made out from an general interest for the well-being of all of the world's population and a worldwide ecological sustainability and therefore it is essential that all decisions are made by an overwhelming majority of the membership.
The Regional Alliance
"I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do,
and I understand."
There is no blueprint for social change. Most of it has to be learned as one goes along. And in this case, as there was no clear plan from the beginning as to how to organize society, such learning became an immediate necessity. Decisions were therefore made according to the needs that arose.
As there became a discrepancy between the Global Alliance and the global masses that it represented, the need arose quite early on to have an intermediary organization that could fill the gap and address the more specific needs of each region. Thus, the Regional Alliance was born and was introduced as part of the Treaty of Global Promise in 2010 as a means to facilitate the direct democracy of the GA and its membership -in other words, to answer to, not preside over, the needs of the various Networks according to their regional location.
The Regional Alliances, of which there are 23 across the world (i.e. East Asia, Eurasia, West Europe, Mediterranean, Central Africa, South India, etc...), have specific boundaries that were drawn up by the various Net-works according to continental location.
Regional Alliances have several functions. First, they act as custodians of the decisions made by the Networks via the GA. Secondly, they help meditate inter-Network conflict and dialogue. Thirdly, they administer and regulate regional economy.
Regional Alliances consist of direct proportional representation of the state or Network membership. The positions are rotational so that each community is enabled to participate equally. As the decisions made at the GA level are usually not specific, it is up to the communities that comprise the Regional Alliance to decide for themselves how to best implement those goals.
One such example is the distribution of material wealth. The GA has agreed upon certain principles, such as land that is not lived on cannot be owned but is a shared inheritance and that all natural and human resources belong to all people equally. That much is clear. Yet it has been somewhat of an open question as to exactly how resources should distributed, where land boundaries should be drawn and so on.
"Gain by the loss of another is not profitable in the end."
In addition to its political functions, the GA is in charge of the global currency, the TERRA, www.transaction.net/money/book which has its origins in a campaign initiated by Bernard Lietaer. All banks in the tradi-tional sense have been eliminated. After the market economy collapsed, trade and exchange shifted, out of necessity, to a resource-based economy. The very concept of interest was abandoned in favor of a more democratic and realistic approach to economic organization.
The TERRA currency, which is used for inter-Network trading via Re-gional Alliances, hinders the acquisition of monetary profit. The cur-rency, which exists not in cash form but only electronically via accounts, has a negative interest attached to it (similar to the concept launched by the Argentinean economist Silvio Gesell). The principle is quite simple: that which collects dust should not collect interest - rather like mold on an apple, stored wealth loses -not gains- value as time goes on.
Recognizing that transcontinental exchange between countries is not the same thing as buying groceries at the local market, the TERRA is designed exclusively for institutional use. It is not used by individuals for personal consumption, rather it is used to facilitate global trade between separate regions.
Under capitalism interest helped contribute to an environment of false growth, massive debt, and instability. Negative interest, as applied through the TERRA currency, has the opposite effect -it reflects genuine growth, provides independence, and ensures stability. Negative interest encourages long-term investment as opposed to short-term investment. Whereas the old economy centralized wealth into the hands of those that had it, the TERRA system discourages wealth concentration stimulating the owners of the TERRA to invest the currency in real goods and material that grow in value throughout time.
In the market economy the structures were set up to compel people to make decisions based on profit. Now that the structures have changed, so have the decisions. The TERRA system, in contrast to the old economy, encourages cooperation as opposed to competition, it allows for mutual aid as opposed to hoarding.
The logic of the market economy enabled people to earn more money through its disuse (collecting interest), planned obsolescence (low quality products), competing standards, and the manufacture of needs and creation of dependency. The new economy thereby encourages (via negative interest) the use of money, the development of quality products (a return to craftsmanship), and reflects more accurately the actual trade that is occurring (that is, the storage of 100 tons of wheat is just that -storage- and storage has a cost). Attempts to hoard material wealth in this sense result, not in a profit, but in a loss. Thus it becomes more 'profitable' to invest in a local farm who can supply raw goods at a later point in time.
The GA simultaneously regulates trade in a similar manner
to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Yet while the WTO eliminated
anything, including environmental protection laws, that was
considered to be a hinder to free trade, the GA view, on the
other hand, is that anything that has not been proven safe
to the environment or human and animal wel-fare is declared
to be a trade barrier.
Corporations and co-ops coexist in the modern world with the major difference today being that corporations no longer have the legal status of an individual like they had in the old economy. Corporations, and the people who run them, are accountable for their actions. And in accordance to the prohibition on land ownership there is a similar ban on media ownership in foreign territory. That is, a person or corporation in one Network cannot own media in another. The fact that much of the media today occurs via Internet alleviates the tendency towards concentration of media power.
Independent media is thriving like never before via grassroots organizations like Indymedia www.indymedia.org and the micro-broadcasting movement www.radio4all.org as well as public access television and democratically oriented stations like Worldlink www.worldlinktv.com which enable ordinary people to participate in the media and the dissemination of information.
Furthermore, the media, like industrial plants, can be charged with severe fines if they are found to be polluting the environment in violation of established codes. Whereas industry can be penalized for polluting the physical environment, the media can penalized for polluting the mental environment. That is, any media with a readership over a certain number is bound by certain codes such as: non-partisanship, gender equality, limited ad sales, source information and the like.
Loans and Taxes
"The world has enough for everyone's need but not
for everyone's greed."
Money, loans, taxes, and government financing were previously a com-plicated matter. In the New World Disorder things have become notably simpler. Previously money was created by central banks who in turn distributed it to private banks who both created their own money (credit loans) as well as distributed the money to the general populace who in turn paid a chunk of it to the government who in turn redistributed it back to the people via government institutions, state and local governments, and public welfare. And that is without even mentioning the stock market. This sort of set-up enabled a massive bureaucracy and a tiny elite who made alot of money for themselves while simultaneously causing a whole lot of headaches and complications for everyone else.
Under the new system, the middlemen (the banks) get cut out of the picture. The government, which has been replaced by direct democracy and a system of rotation, creates money directly and no longer has to either depend upon banks nor does it collect taxes from citizens. Since money is no more than a representation for the allocation of resources, it is only a matter of dividing it up between the members of society. Thus, the GA is able to 'print' as much TERRA currency as it needed to fund whatever project is necessary. Likewise the Regional Alliances can do the same with their Aqua currencies (see section on Eco-centric Cur-rency).
When loan has to be made, it is made without interest in
the same sort of spirit as the JAK banks of Scandinavia www.jak.se.
When the traditional economy collapsed the alternative economies sky-rocketed. A few countries were well prepared. Surprisingly, Switzerland was among these. Despite the fact that Switzerland had been notorious for its world famous bank accounts, it also held a secret security against the failure of the free market economy. It is a barter system call WIR that started in 1934 and operates to this day. In 1999 it had 65,000 corporate members. And in a country the size of Switzerland it proved to be more than sufficient.
Similar systems such as LETS in areas previously known as Canada, England and Australia www.letslinkUK.demon.co.uk, SEL in France www.selidaire.org, SINTRAL in Latin America ccdev.lets.net/latin/latin, the Tlaloc in Mexico www.laneta.apc.org, and HOURS http://lightlink.com/hours/ithacahours in the US also began to flourish and root themselves in the daily lives of ordinary people.
Nowadays each Network or nation is responsible for the creation of its own local tradebased economy. Such emphasis upon the local area compels people to take more responsibility for their region. One's own home is no longer a commodity but something very personal that is meant to be cared for rather than merely used.
Those communities that do not create their own currency usually rely on a simpler approach akin to the 'gift economy' of indigenous peoples. After all, the idea of a currency is to facilitate exchange. It is a way of symbolizing a trade that has occurred. In communities where goods are shared freely or where the emphasis is placed upon 'giving' as opposed to 'getting', there is little point in having a currency.
The Creation and Distribution of Wealth
"Nothing in the world is more valuable than every
moment of your life."
With the demise of the market economy went an awful lot of baggage that was attached to it. A wide array of social institutions either fazed out or became greatly reduced. This includes a long list from the casino industry to the advertising industry, insurance companies to the drug trade, from cash crop dependency to the entertainment and media industry. It was as if the hysterical rat race came to a screeching stop and people got to feel, as if for the first time, what life could really look like if everyone stopped running. Climbing the ladder of success suddenly became irrelevant in a world where the most successful were now the least successful. The golden calf of profit became seen for what it was: a false idol with a false promise of a better life. Wealth has come to be defined more out from what people have in their hearts and their heads rather than what they have in their wallets.
This new revelation (for some) and sudden shift of priorities freed up alot of human energy, time, and natural resources to be used in other areas such as developing alternative/ecological housing, alternative medicine, crisis aid, strategies against deforestation and soil erosion, medical research, renewable energy, energy efficiency, literacy programs, permaculture, ecologizing existing products, conflictresolution, and so on. Sustainable abundance became attainable in the immediate future through the reorganization of work and distribution of resources.
In the 1990's the world military expenditures were so high that they were annually costing the planet ten times the cost of what it would have taken to provide clean running water, eliminate starvation and malnutrition, and provide adequate shelter and health care to everyone in need across the globe.
Now that all people have an equal representation in the GA the ultimate decision has been to distribute the wealth of the world both equally and ecologically. This resulted with the primary distribution of basic material goods according to the needs of every man, woman, and child on the planet allowing each Community Network to be able to provide a very basic standard of living for each of its members.
The logistics of this distribution entailed the establishment of clean drinking water to those areas that did not have it, basic electricity, basic medical care, basic Internet access (for democratic purposes), and other essential infrastructures such as the initiation of sustainable agriculture in areas that needed it. On top of this a basic sum (Global Citizen's Salary) was provided for minimum food requirements. The specific financing of basic infrastructures across the world was regarded as a collective global investment. This investment occurred via direct material and service shipments and was terminated when the goals were reached.
Now that these infrastructures have been achieved, all autonomous areas are expected to more or less provide for themselves. All that remains of the 'welfare system' is the basic sum for food. This means that each Network has to make its own internal decisions about how to organize the necessary work to provide for the rest of its needs. This balance of distribution of wealth and decentralization, welfare and independence has proven to be a key factor in the success of Community Networks.
The mechanism for distributing wealth was the establishment of a Global Citizen's Salary which allots a basic payment to all members in the Global Alliance. It is then up to each Network to account for the internal distribution of these payments.
As the TERRA currency is used only electronically and only in order to fill the needs of major intercontinental and inter-Network trade a new means had to be devised. In order to perform the distribution of wealth a second form of currency was created. That form is called the Aqua. It is not the currency itself -only a type of currency. Each Regional Alliance has its own name for their particular version. In the North West America Alliance for example, it is called BREAD, it is SALT in Western Europe and it is TADPOLES in the Polynesian Alliance.
That the names all have some connection to nature is probably no coin-cidence. The Aqua is the first form of large scale ecocentric currency ever devised. Whereas community currencies are valid within their own Networks, the Aqua currency takes the idea to the regional level.
The concept behind the Aqua is an effort to balance inter-Network trade with a bit of bioregionalism in the mix. After all, the inherent value of many goods tends to increase the farther away it travels. "You can't sell ice to Eskimos" is the old saying. Subsequently the Aqua form of cur-rency was specifically devised to offset this effect while still enabling trade between relatively distant Networks.
Whereas the TERRA currency decreases in value over time, the Aqua currencies decrease in value over space. That is, in a similar fashion to trade tariffs, the Aqua currencies decrease slightly in potency the farther away from home that they are used. Therefore, they have the most value when used regionally or in directly neighboring areas. A system has been set up whereby the Aqua maintains its full value within 50 kilometers of the regional borderline.
In this manner there are 'buffer' zones that prevent those who live near the border from having to pay more for trading with nearby neighbors who live across the borderline. After the 50 km. buffer zone the Aqua loses value in accordance to distance (approximately minus .1% per kilometer). Thus a system is manifest wherein trade according to locality is prioritized.
The concept is not as odd as it may sound. Many currencies had a similar tradition in the old economy. For example, foreign currencies like the German Deutschmark and the Swedish Crown could be accepted by certain Danish businesses that lay near the national borderlines. Yet these businesses often extracted a small fee for accepting the neighboring currencies.
The Aqua form of currency is the major form of paper currency today. It is used to trade primarily within each continental boundary yet not between continents (with special reservations made for islands).
In the market economy it made sense for Asians to manufacture cheap toys to be shipped across the planet in order to be briefly used by millions of North American children who would quickly dispose of the low quality items and thus turn them into tons of garbage burdening society with further economic and environmental costs. Likewise, according to the principles of free trade, it was common for countries in Africa and South America to produce fruit to be packed and transported into the northern hemisphere where they were sold cheaper than locally produced fruits of similar quality. In fact, in several clearly documented cases in recent years before the Fall, people died of starvation in poor countries while plenty of locally grown food was being exported to wealthy nations.
Through the implementation of the Aqua currency, all of these things are now impossible. Locally grown food is consumed locally or regionally. The same goes for toys, clothes, machinery, etc.
International trade still occurs by means of the TERRA currency but it is strictly reserved for large amounts of raw materials and goods that can-not be produced regionally. Of course this also means that things like bananas are extremely expensive in places like Northern Europe. Yet it also means that workers in Central America are no longer compelled to grow bananas for foreigners while their own children go hungry. It also means a safer, cleaner environment as excess transportation has been cut dramatically.
The Aqua currency is also used as a medium between Networks who trade in TERRA currency. Acting as a distributor of the goods of the Network the Regional Alliance negotiates global trade in TERRA while paying Networks in Aqua currency.
In the instances where neither of the three major forms of currency fill peoples needs there are still other forms that have developed. One is an electronic currency that circulates as a global community currency addressing the needs of those who offer global services such as web page design, translation, consultation services and so on.
Others have created a sort of cultural currency based on 'art money' which, because it is art, has a value in and of itself. This money is used to exchange small goods such as collector's items on a global basis between individuals who can pay in neither TERRA nor Aqua forms of currency.
In addition to the formal democratic structures that exist are the myriad of voluntary associations that overlap social, cultural, ethnic, and political boundaries. These associations can revolve around an interest such as archeology, they can be based on jobrelated developments such as the sharing of technical information, they can be based on creative activity such as sport clubs, or they can be based on cultural bonds across political boundaries.
Many of these associations have grown out from some sort of social activity that directly or indirectly relates to the general democratic cli-mate of mutual aid and participatory global citizenship. A large portion of these associations deal with social or political questions. For example, The Friends of the Earth www.foei.org monitor treatment of the environment and technological developments while MADRE www.madre.org monitors the status of women amongst the various Networks.
With the virtual evaporation of advertising, activists involved in Adbusters www.adbusters.org use their skills in graphic design to create poster campaigns for animal rights groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals www.petaeurope.org or media watchdogs like Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting www.fair.org.
Alot of energy is put into preventing ethnic hostilities from flaring up and everyone from the Baha'i Faith www.bahai.org to the UK-based Searchlight www.searchlightmagazine.com seems to be involved in various ways. The memories of what happened in Rwanda, Bosnia, Palestine, and Albania are still fresh in people´s minds so alot of energy is laid in the area of inter-Network/inter-cultural relations and it has paid off.
Some of the work has developed from programs initiated by the Quakers www.afsc.org/pindx/conres.htm whereas other work takes non-traditional approaches such as the use of theatre in resolving conflict such as those according to the model of Augusto Boal www.toplab.org. Large scale conflicts have greatly diminished and Peace Brigades International www.peacebrigades.org does not have to send out as many observers as they used to.
"The meaning of life is to struggle and to enjoy that struggle."
George Lincoln Rockwell
Though the GA does represent more than 6 billion people via direct democracy, there are still patches of the global population who have chosen to remain outside of its membership.
Dissidents against direct democracy
The Old Worlders, people who try to cling onto a world that no longer exists, make up a small but cranky minority. This mixture of nationalists, old school capitalists, nostalgic patriots, and fundamentalists allied themselves in a Federation of National-States and attempted to recreate the sort of nation-state structure that once dominated the planet. Being so few, (a couple hundred million) in a world that is now run by more than 6 billion people actively engaged in direct democracy, means that they have very little influence upon world events and, at most, manage to cause a bit of hassle at the local level.
In fact, it is ironic that some of these entities that call themselves 'states' number only a few hundred individuals and are dwarfed by neighboring Networks which number in the tens of thousands. All the major industries are geared towards the rest of the world and therefore they have neither the economic nor technological capability of expressing more power than they actually have in numbers.
Other dissidents are even smaller groups who operate as sects with charismatic leaders isolated from the entire world. Some of these manage to develop good relations with their neighbors and thrive while others, completely intolerant of those outside their own membership, have tended to gradually die out.
The Old World Economy
While traditional currency, such as the US dollar, was not worth much more than toilet paper directly after the Great Fall, it saw a slight upsurge in the year 2009 when the dissident states consolidated themselves into the Federation. They attempted to revive the use of traditional currency. Since there was no functioning international banking system to regulate trade they agreed to fix the exchange rates at the level they were at prior to the Great Fall.
The biggest problem for them, however, is not the value of the currencies towards each other nor the regulation of trade amongst each other but the lack of currencyvalue (not to mention trade) with the rest of the world. Any region that rejects the platform of the Global Alliance is blacklisted from international trade. The best that this motley crew of dissident states can do is hope for sympathetic neighbors who are willing to barter.
The Federation accounts for less than 10% of the world's population and they are scattered across the globe. This is a troubling fact for them. All the major industries operate on the TERRA and Aqua systems. Since traditional currency is invalid outside of the isolated regions of the Federation the strength of the economies based on traditional currencies deteriorated again after 2011.
Work, Insurance, Pension, & Child care
"Steel can be produced by little companies and it
can be produced by big companies- both using the same technology.
If there is a difference, it would be simply that the smaller
companies would be more likely to be inventive, innovative,
and vigorously competitive."
-Karl Hess, Community Technology
"Equality is not a matter of mathematics."
Some Networks call for up to 35 hours of work per week of their mem-bers while others required only a bare minimum of work hours in order to fulfill their basic needs. People have more time now to focus on hobbies, sports, socializing, creative activities, exploration, and so on. Without having rent to pay every month, interest upon loans, and jobs that seem completely meaningless, the demands of life are reduced to bare necessities such as the creation, reparation, and maintenance of technology, agriculture, mutual services, storage, decisionmaking, and so on. A life of leisure for all has been established and those who want to acquire more 'luxuries' have only to work accordingly to achieve it.
People's time and labor are, for the most part, counted equally so trading costs between Networks are established accordingly. One hours work is generally worth one hours work with few exceptions. A departure from this principle has occurred due to practical requirements in some communities. Instead of the principle "To each according to their need", it has become "To each according to their work" (with obvious exceptions for people who are unable to work).
How each community determines their work hours and conditions is determined by themselves alone (providing it does not infringe upon the GA guarantee for human welfare). One of the inspirational models for worker-run industry is the Mondragón Cooperative system www.mondragon.mcc.es in the Basque area. Another sort of system that has proved a helpful model is Barataria www.socsystem.org.uk, a system for business bartering that started back in the 1990's.
To offset distaste for labor and fatigue it is quite common for work structures to be set up so that each person is able to engage in a balance of different types of labor. This also helps balance people's inner lives as they perform a greater variety of tasks. As was common amongst kibbutzim, workers often perform both physical labor as well as mental labor -sometimes in the same day. This policy is applied to delegates as well. There are no fulltime politicians. All delegates work in the community where they belong. There are, of course, administrative jobs at all levels that are maintained in order to guarantee organizational stability but the voice of the people remains free of institutional bondage.
Since education, like all resources, became equally accessible to all peo-ple the problem of paying back enormous study loans suddenly vanished. In fact even the day-to-day living costs are taken care of by the local community/Network. In a similar fashion elderly and disabled persons are looked after. The building of communities and Networks enables the sort of social roots that once existed in primitive tribal societies to provide for the needy, with a human -not a bureaucratic- helping hand.
All forms of dependence, whether they be education, child care, sickness, etc... are addressed by a group of people who know that they too will need the same sort of support and that they too will find it within the very same community.
A major concern in the old economy was that a growing number of eld-erly was to be cared for by a shrinking work force and how this crisis could be resolved. Now that the matter revolves around the mere allocation of available resources and the profit motive is gone, the dilemma no longer exists. For the ones to provide the answers to the questions are no longer politicians with specific political interests, nor companies or workers with an economic interest, but a community of people who happen to have a direct social interest.
As money is no longer a scarce commodity but is a symbol for the collective resources to be allocated, there is no hinder for each community to share the necessary housing, technology, medical equipment, and so on between themselves in order to address whatever social needs arise. This includes moments of crisis, war, and natural disaster in which all communities and Networks send whatever aid they can.
The question is no longer one of financing but of organizing. This means that a special disaster fund, not of money but of raw materials, is established in all areas. Subsequently, there is no need to seek special 'Disaster Area' status or global media attention in order to receive support. When catastrophe strikes the materials are available within the Regional Alliance and the workers on duty (who consist of a rotating shift of various Alliance members) organize immediate aid to the area in need.
Land and Life
"People seem to be very loose and playful with each
other, as if they had endless time on their hands to explore
whatever possibilities might come up. ...a mighty boulevard
striking through the city down to the waterfront has become
a mall planted with thousands of trees. The "street"
itself, on which electric taxis, minibuses, and delivery carts
purr along, has shrunk to a two lane affair. The remaining
space, which is huge, is occupied by bicycle lanes, fountain
sculptures, kiosks, and absurd little gardens sur-rounded
-Ernest Callenbach, Ecotopia
Land is regarded as no one's property. The old Swedish "Allemansrätt" policy which guaranteed the rights of all people to journey through and even camp upon private land (provided they respected both the land and the owner's personal space) served as the guideline for how to treat property in the new society. This did not mean that people could not own landspace, only that they can not own the land itself, nor can they own land that they neither use nor live on.
Natural Reserves are of course still forbidden to live on but all other land is open for people to claim as they see fit. In the beginning there was quite a lot of disputes over land use and land rights and which community had the right to use which land but in the end the mediation committees finally caught up with their workload and more cases are now resolved than new ones arise.
The choice of land and method of claim has varied. Some communities simply took over the neighborhood blocks where they lived. The new rule of housing became a slogan coined by Muammar Quaddafi: "The one who lives in a home is the one who owns it". Squatting was now the rule and landlords became a social construction whose day was done. Since many people moved out of the cities there is more urban space available than ever before and cities have sprung to life with all the vacant lots transformed into gardens and art parks.
Nevertheless, some Networks were not content to take over the remains of the old society but set out to build an entirely new sort of society from the ground up. An early initiative was the Venus Project www.thevenusproject.com Social experiments like these created entirely new architecture and city planning in order to manifest a new utopian life. Others tried the approach exemplified by Twin Oaks www.twinoaks.org and other communes www.thefec.org or www.ic.org including the trend in ecovillages www.gaia.org. Still others followed the model of the ecoindustrial village in Kalundborg, Denmark www.symbiosis.dk where separate industries are made to complement each other, saving resources and saving energy by having the material (or energy) refuse from one building be used by another in a symbiotic cycle.
Some communities have managed to create a blend of the two variations. As each Network is, in a sense, its own country, an amazingly rich variety of communities has sprouted up in only a few years time. The new state of affairs seems to have liberated, not only the people who previously lived in poverty, but also those who once supposed themselves to be wealthy.
The fact that the people who live in the formerly 'wealthy' sector of the planet now have less of a commercial variety has not necessarily meant a lower standard of living -only a different standard of living. As the world is so decentralized now it is difficult to adequately describe the many different approaches that individual communities have taken to this change. The general theme though seems to be learning to enjoy the benefits of simplicity and innovation.
Throughout the world one can see goats replace lawnmowers, needle and thread replace sewing machines. Homemade pottery and knitting replace habitual shopping while books, art, exploration, theater, performances, storytelling, and guitars replace televisions. Graffiti and public art replace ads and billboards. Plazas, parks and squares replace malls. Games and sports, and manual labor have replaced exercise gyms and the spectator-based sport industry.
Travel and borders
Unlike the previous concept of 'nationality' which enabled a citizen of one country to live in another country, members of Community Net-works had to decide which community they wanted to adhere to and then that was where they would live. With the demise of the nation-state and the establishment of smaller Community Networks the bureaucracy surrounding issues of citizenship went along with it. Each Network now decides for itself the conditions for membership acceptance, change, expulsion, and so on. Some are more restrictive whereas others have created open-exchange agreements that allow members of various communities to travel, move, and live within those selected Networks and without extensive bureaucracy.
Networks are aligned through a series of basic agreements
and their relationships are strengthened by various pacts,
economic treaties, me-diators, and special 'diplomats' referred
to as Social Bridges or, more simply, Bridges. The Bridges
are the members of each Network who maintain official ties
with neighboring Networks. There are also 'Butterflies' who
maintain ties with sister cities or sister Networks. The job
of the Butterfly is to facilitate social, economic, and political
ties with distant Networks and nations. Mixing work and pleasure
is strictly encouraged.
As agreed upon in the Global Alliance each Network is granted 3-7 dis-tant sister cities/Networks. Alot of this was made possible with the sup-port of Sister Cities International www.sister-cities.org and similar organizations who have been doing this sort of work for years. Travel to these sister city/Network connections is provided by the Regional Alliances and each Network can decide for itself how to use that travel time. The entire air travel industry is now run by the Regional Alliances, not as a profit driven system but as a global resource for all people.
Through the limitations of the sister-city pact, tourism has become a greatly reduced fact of life. On the other hand, alot more people are able to do it - not just those with money. In addition, tourism has become exclusively reserved for the sister communities. This means that the people who travel develop special transcontinental bonds with both the people whom they visit as well as the people whom they receive.
Alot of this organizational work is carried out by groups or people who previously worked with matters such as relief work, fair trade, or Eco-tourism such as Catholic Relief Services www.catholicrelief.org, United Students Against Sweatshops www.usasnet.org, Global Exchange www.globalexchange.org, Christian Aid www.christian-aid.org.uk, the Fair Trade movement www.transfair.ca or www.fairtrade.org.uk or www.eftafairtrade.org, Tourism Concern www.tourismconcern.org.uk and others.
Though travel and transportation has been greatly diminished, the telecommunication industry remained not only intact but greatly strengthened by the Great Fall. As air travel, car use, and shipping companies dwindled virtual conferencing, telecommuting, and Internet media has bloomed like never before.
Technology and Scientific Development
In the days of the old economy it was possible for a government to allocate billions of dollars to space programs that would send huge chunks of hi-tech machinery -and occasionally people- off into space while there were simultaneously millions of people here on Earth who were dying for lack of clean water, food, or basic medical care.
Such an extravagant waste of resource and disregard for human life is unthinkable today. Yet now that the vast majority of people´s needs are being met there is a growing interest to start looking into the possibility of reinstating a space program of some sort. These ideas however, -despite their increasing popularity- still take a distant backseat to the more pressing issues of the day such as ecological farming, energyefficient devices, new vegetarian/vegan alternatives to meat, biodegradable products, water purification, waste control, transportation, medical research, robotic machinery for hazardous jobs, toxic waste elimination, hi-tech diplomacy and telecommunication. In fact, there happens to be a larger interest in developing on-line interactive games than there is in developing a new space program. The UFO clubs have waged a pretty heavy campaign for reentering space but they have had trouble arousing large scale interest.
Furthermore, technological development is a matter no longer reserved for specialists but for students young and old. It is a matter for all people, whether it is about ingenious new ways of designing solar panels from tin cans or whether it is kids innovating ever new uses for old washing machines or discarded parts from refrigerators. Scientific education for many, is integrated in the basic necessities of daily life.
Formal education itself certainly takes place in classrooms as it did in the 20th century yet the emphasis now is not on careerism and the rote memorization of facts and figures, rather it is on learning in many different ways. It is about developing EQ as well as IQ. It is about communication, social skills, respect, and critical thinking. It is about curiosity and passion. It is about discovery, trial and error. And it is about exploring the world of education through hands-on experience.
Furthermore, science has become a highly localized art. Much of the economic focus is now on bio-regionalism and there is a large need to figure out new and better techniques for transforming local resources into a wider range of uses. This can mean turning hay into insulation blocks for housing or creating selfcontained bacteriological toilets that function completely independent of the traditional sewage system. It can involve the creation of small ecological chemical factories or bicycles made from leftover building materials. Nevertheless, some technologies are used almost all over the world such as the technique for turning local garbage into fuel via the construction of neighborhood methanol plants.(2)
(2) Ideas and innovations are spread across the globe by means of organizations like the Centre for Alternative Technology www.cat.org.uk and Internet-based idea exchanges such as the Global Ideas Bank. www.globalideasbank.org
Police and Defense
"You have a very complicated legal system. It is not that way with my people. I have always thought that you had so many laws because you were a lawless people. Why else would you have so many laws?"
-Native American referring to the United States
Despite the large outcry against armies and weapons of mass destruction people of the world initially opted to treat guns as a temporary necessity in order to ensure stability. In the absence of a strong police state people largely police themselves taking turns in patrolling their communities. The widespread presence of guns however meant that more than one family fight turned into a bloodbath and some small groups were found to be hoarding weapons. At the GA Gathering in Bangalore in 2010 Community Networks across the world agreed to impose universal firarm regulations, restricting usage to licensed owners and having most firearms stored away and guarded under the authority of each Community Network.
The mobile phone system that was set up enables local people to have simple easy access to whoever was on duty at the time. Patrols usually carried no weapon at all. Rather, in the absence of alot of work, people rely on numbers. Hence, patrols tend to activate themselves with other interests while on duty. They can involve themselves in innercity gardening or street cleaning or games or just sitting at a café reading a book. It doesn't really matter what they are doing as long as they are easily accessible in case of emergency. And since patrolling is a rotational duty all citizens take part -no internal police cliques have been able to de-velop, no resentment against police, and any accusations of brutality by an individual on patrol is addressed by an independent counsel.
Occasionally roving gangs of mobs of gangsters try to take over a community or steal its supplies and it is during these rare occasions that the guns actually see the light of day. The gangs, however, are usually nomadic groups of rugged individualists who refuse to settle down into a Community Network and tend to make quick hit-and-run attacks. Though they can cause quite a stir when they come by, they pose no real threat to society.
Most crimes are prevented by three strong preventive factors:
1) The initiation of Networks enabled tight communities to form which acts as both a protection against outside crime as well as an insurance against internal crime.
2) The introduction of the Global Citizen's Salary and the build-up of selfsustainable infrastructure largely eliminated crimes rooted in poverty.
3) Since the drug trade was dependent upon the profit motive, it (and alot of drug-associated crimes) was dramatically reduced when the new economy was established. (Many communities grow their own hemp but this rarely leads to any problems. In fact, alcohol -which is still largely available- is a much greater social dilemma and source of dispute. Drugs like heroin and cocaine are nearly unheard of even in the areas where coca and opium plants are grown).
In addition to these factors, assaults against women have declined, in part, due to popular (and in some cases obligatory) courses in mental self-realization and self-defense, gender relations, communication skills, and anger management. This has helped to balance out some of the previous inequalities that occurred in conflicts between men and women both in and outside of relationships.
As each Network decides for itself what sort of justice it shall impose communities have been free to dream up their own methods. Some have adopted techniques that resemble that of the native Alaskans who settle all disputes (except murder) with a song duel in which the two opponents hurl insults and lampoons at each other in front of the community. Others have a Council of Matrons as was used by the Iroquois Confederacy. In fact, in the absence of proper financing for prisons, most communities, like traditional 'primitive' societies, are obliged to discover their own means of preventing and resolving conflict as opposed to punishing it.
The less creative a community is or the more heterogeneous it is, the more stringent methods are the methods that tend to be used. Yet so long as it does not conflict with the by-laws of the GA and the resolution of human rights, it is to be permitted. Most communities try to rely heavily on the conflict specialists and dispute mediators in order to arrive at decent resolutions that appease all parties involved. Rather than simply dealing with the matter at hand, the conflict specialists often try to go deeper into what may be lying at the root of the problem and address the cause rather than the symptom.
Criminal acts and Prisons
"Throw away industry and profit and there won't be
-Tao Te Ching
Though the New World Disorder certainly did not end crime and anti-social behavior it did have a strong dampening effect. Currently, the crime rate is far below that of what it once was in the nineties. One might suppose that with the general dismantlement of the prison industry, crime might have risen yet that was not the case at all. It turns out that a large number of people behind bars were there due to nonviolent crimes (often convicted for doing things that are now completely legal in certain Networks such as smoking marijuana), others were wrongly convicted, and still others were serving time for crimes committed as minors or for crimes which they had long ago repented.
Now the prisoners that were released had a clear choice: they could join a Community Network as responsible citizens, they could join a dissident state and abide by their strict rules, or they could join a nomadic gang of outlaws. Given such a choice most chose to make an attempt at leading normal lives often looking up former lovers or friends or following fellow prisonmates in their quest for a new life in freedom.
A tradition soon developed among many Networks to tattoo special markings on the backside of the hand of repeated troublemakers in ac-cordance to the severity of the crime they were convicted of and then, if the crime was severe enough, expel them from the community. Though it continues, this practice is not encouraged as it largely dumps the problem on everyone else. Occasionally such people who get expelled end up finding a community where they fit in and settle down but the general tendency is for these people to become outcasts and end up either as wandering hobos or as part of a gang of outlaws.
If severe crimes continue by any particular individual or gang then the security forces of the Regional Alliance is triggered into action. Like the local patrol duty, service in the Alliance security force is rotational. Members are taken from various Networks and undergo special training. They are on duty, not to interfere with internal community disputes, but rather to address serious large scale criminal activity. This can even include the rare instances when certain communities engage in hostile activity toward other communities. Hijacking, hacking, sabotage, assassination, grand theft, terrorism, are all under the jurisdiction of Alliance forces.
Often these problems stem from neighboring conflicts with Federation members or terrorist activity sponsored by Federation states. The engagement of community patrols and active role of ordinary citizens enables regions to keep the level of criminal activity by outlaw gangs down to a bare minimum.
When outlaws are captured by Regional Alliance forces they are separated and each case is examined individually. A distinct effort is made to avoid the pitfalls of the prison industry in the Old World where prisons actually perpetuated crime and increased the individual's tendency to identify themselves as a criminal.
Modern facilities are not like the traditional prison system but more like a highly structured mix between a hospital, rehabilitation center, and job-site training in which each person is given not only access to professional counseling, but also trade opportunities. This may include various forms of community service in which the individual can set about learning a trade of their interest that may make them of particular value to certain communities and enable them a better chance at being accepted back in.
One such group is the International Centre for Prison Studies. www.kcl.ac.uk/depsta/rel/icps/projects/alternatives_to_prison.
For those prisoners who have served their time and received a public evaluation but have not found a Network or nation who is willing to accept them, they are obliged to remain in the rehabilitation facilities. Much support has come from organizations that work around prisoners and the investigation of alternatives.
This system is made possible by the fact that there are far less prisoners today than there were before the Fall. The number of prisoners that are in such a predicament today amount to less than 1% of all of the people that were behind bars in the year 2000. In fact the total number of prisoners today is less than 10% of the number of pre-Fall prisoners with about half of those being found in Federation states.
The death penalty is forbidden amongst all GA members. It is, however, still a common practice amongst Federation members and the issue has been a continual point of contention between the two poles.
New Traditions and Social Codes
"Do not accept what you hear by report, do not accept tradition, do not accept a statement because it is found in our books, nor because it is in accord with your belief, nor because it is the saying of your teacher...Be ye lamps unto yourselves."
In the absence of traditional 'law and order' a plethora of social codes and alternative traditions have popped up. Obviously it is impossible to list even a small portion of the wide range of codes but here are a few:
Treat others as they want to be treated. This has become a modern version of "Do unto others as you want them to do unto you." If someone wants to be left alone, let them be alone. If they want food then let them eat. This requires communication on both sides. For each person must be able to both hear and respect the desires and boundaries on both sides. This is where respect and self-respect come in.
Trash is dumped where trash is made. The idea of one country sending their trash or toxic waste to another country is gone. Each Network or nation is responsible for its own waste disposal. This, in itself, has put a lot of pressure on communities to diminish their consumption and minimize their non-organic, non-biodegradable waste. Some Networks, especially those based in the city, still rely on neighboring Networks to dispose of their waste. This is not as problematic as it sounds. With the introduction of the Global Citizen's Salary many cities had their population nearly cut in half as people moved out to the countryside.
Electricity Fast. Most Networks and nations celebrate the newly acquired ecological lifestyle with an even greater cutback upon personal luxury: electricity. Some Networks do it once a month and hold bonfire celebrations and parties without any electricity whereas others do it only once a year. The insight is simple: sometimes it takes the loss of what little one has to realize how much one actually does have.
Give of the heart and not the hand. Previously celebrations such as birthdays and Christmas were, in the over-developed nations, often surrounded by a sudden frenzy to buy presents for one's loved ones. Nowadays, people tend to give non-material gifts during these celebra-tions such as experiences, personal services, or rituals of forgiveness. Material gifts are still given occasionally but these are often hand-crafted and given randomly throughout the year.
Communal guidelines3: some general rules of thumb for newly organ-ized communities have been 1) the more people, the more structure is needed 2) the less thoroughly members know and understand each other, the more structure is needed and 3) the less time members spend together the more structure that is needed. Many groups had a lot of falling out in the beginnings when people thought that too much structure would stifle the community and that certain principles and values could be taken for granted. Miscommunication, misunderstandings, and a lack of experience in dealing with those issues caused a few communities to learn the hard way.
More communal guidelines4. The second phase of new close-community guidelines that have been learned go something like this: 1) Develop communication skills -this includes self-communication, listening, and assertiveness 2) Respect the needs of all individuals for differing amounts of personal time and space, etc...and learn to comfortably express your own needs 3) Acknowledge differences and conflicts and deal with them -preferably with the help of a mediator and determine whether these differences are destructive/exploitative or a potentially compatible diversity 4) Take personal time for walking, writing, meditation, music or whatever helps calm your mind 5) Establish weekly meetings for review and discussion for both internal matters as well as global, local, and regional 6) Plan monthly retreats for couples, families, parents, friends, individuals to get relaxed time together 7) Live simply -the less one demands materially the more one demands spiritually 8) Provide hospitality to all 9) Create joint activities with neighboring communities 10) Plan ahead -figure out all of the communities needs and determine well in advance how they will be achieved, who will do what, back-up plans, and so on making sure that all members are aware of the decisions 11) Set aside regular times to participate as a group in a community service i.e. fixing a street, building repair, etc... 12) Celebrate together -avoid dogmatism, enjoy each other.
Declaration of Interdependence. One of the proposals that came from the GA was that each Network, community, and nation write their own 'Dec-laration of Interdependence'. There were no further guidelines and the proposal was more of a general suggestion than a requirement yet the vast majority of the GA membership complied nonetheless and a tradition developed to post the declaration at entry points.
With each group having written their own unique take on a common theme it has become a trivial pursuit of travelers to compare the various compositions. Examples: "We are ecologically interdependent with the whole environment; we are socially, culturally, and economically interdependent with all of humanity; sustainability, in the context of this interdependence, requires partnership, equity and balance among all parties." Excerpt from the Declaration of Interdependence by the World Congress of Architects, "We are the earth, through the place and animals that nourish us. We are the rains and the oceans that flow through our veins. We are the breath of the forests of the land, and the plants of the sea. We are human animals, related to all other life as descendants of the firstborn cell ...We are learning from our mistakes, we are mourning our vanished kin, and we now build a new politics of hope... All this that we know and believe must now become the foundation of the way we live. At this turning point in our relationship with earth, we work for an evolu-tion: from domination to partnership; from fragmentation to connection; from insecurity to interdependence." Declaration of Interdependence, David Suzuki Foundation
Burning Man. www.burningman.com The Burning Man festival in the deserts of Nevada have not only continued but have inspired similar projects across the globe. The idea is simply to arrange space for self-organized events, performances, music, and general chaos. A blend between hi-tech and primitivism, anarchism and modern day paganism.
The Right Liveliehood Award www.rightlivelihood.se Not only has the global Right Livelihood Award continued but it has spread to include regional awards as well honoring those who work on practical and ex-emplary solutions for real problems facing the world.
Tanya, 35 & Michael Evans, 33
East D.C. Propers
North-East America Regional Alliance
Tanya and Michael take a break from their rooftop gardening and sit down in the shade with a glass of ice cold lemonade in each hand. Michael picks up the yarn and starts knitting on the sweater he's been working on while Tanya tells him about her class in conflict-resolution and critical thinking. In the middle of the conversation their daughter Amanda walks in with a painting she made. "Beautiful, honey!" says Tanya while Michael says "Hey, that's nice - where'd you make that?"
"Down at the kid's corner." says Amanda in a casual tone and walks back out with a subtle air of pride.
The 'kid's corner' is where the neighborhood kids gather
each day. Not actually a corner but a large park area where
there are activities organized each day by the community children's
group. Like many other services, the work with the kids is
rotational and usually the shifts operate around a neighborhood
basis keeping the adults as close as possible to the children's
home. They offer meals, rooms to rest or study, and a playground
and a wide range of adults and kids of all ages to look after
them. It's a general meeting ground for kids to come to after
school. And in no time at all Amanda is back down there.
Elisa Gomez Libertad, 41
CA Regional Alliance
For Elisa, not much has changed since the Great Fall. The most notable change is the feeling of security. There were a few dissident military communities in the South such as Sendero Luminoso and a few paramilitary groups who belonged to the Federation of National-States but they posed no threat at all to the Zapatista communities in Chiapas. The lack of Mexican aircraft flying above as a threatening reminder as to who has the most weapons, the lack of a mainstream media that trickles through with distorted and hostile coverage of their situation, the knowledge that her way of life was now understood -or at least accepted- by the majority of the planet, all these things helped her sleep better at night. The plumbing system now works better, some new farming equipment and solar panels have arrived, and they have recently gotten a couple computers from La Peña Cultural Co-op in Berkeley and mobile phones in the vil-lage. Such things have made life a bit easier but it really doesn't change a whole lot for her.
She had never been out of the country but when she came back from the corn fields today she got word from Pedro who had checked the communal e-mail, that the Regional Alliance has allocated their village three plane tickets to West Europe and Eurasia next year. This had not come as surprise however. She knew about it for a while. The village had already talked about it and agreed that she and two others will be making the journey which will be a mix of business and pleasure. She will be hosted by several West European/Eurasian Networks whom she will be speaking to about the Zapatista way of life, organization, history, Mayan culture and so on. She will also be speaking about living the Simple Life. This is perhaps the most inspirational part for the Europeans, some of whom are still trying to grow accustomed to getting by on less.
After enduring decades of intense commercialism, careerism, and pursuit of happiness via material gain, people in what was once called 'the First World' are finding themselves lagging behind in the mental resources needed to adapt to the new circumstances. Put simply, they are going through withdrawal symptoms ever since their addiction to materialism got suddenly shut off and the euphoria of the 'revolution' has worn off.
Now they need coaching and support -people who can help them calm down their material desires, increase their spiritual insights, and readjust their expectations and perspective of life. To do this they are importing storytellers, activists, and ordinary workers from countries where people have been living with less for millennia.
For the so-called 'Westerners' who have difficulty getting used to the basic idea of living in the same area one's entire life, the coaching system is an important contribution. Needless to say, local people are often enlisted as well. For example, farmers in all countries, tend to live a bit less hectic and materialistic than city-dwellers. That former city-dwellers are often now compelled to do some soil-tilling of their own is a helpful fact that brings the two worlds a bit closer together. Nonetheless people from the former regions of poverty are imported and members from the Zapatista communities are especially popular as their history of struggle and shining example of direct democracy provides both inspiration as well as a dramatic historical context to match their city lives.
Yet people like Elisa have no city in their vicinity. Their
way of life is grounded in a colorful mix of ancient Mayan
tradition and modern hi-tech society. She is a global citizen
with her feet planted firmly in the soil where she was born.
The thought of travelling all the way to West Europe and Eurasia
is a bit mind-boggling for her. She's never flown before.
She walks down the shady path and goes back to her hut. On
the way she passes her youngest child building a tree house
with some friends. One of them throws a mango to her, she
thanks them and walks on while wondering if they have mangos
Martin Ekström, 54
Scandinavian Regional Alliance
It's morning. Martin opens his eyes in the bright sunshine burning through the window. He feels happy and restful knowing that he doesn't need to wake up to an alarm clock anymore. Still, he feels a bit resentful that he can't count on having his morning cup of coffee like he was so used to. Coffee shipments only come twice a year to the Scandinavian Regional Alliance and each shipment is then rationed out at the begin-ning of each month with the majority portion reserved for the cold, dark months of winter.
Nonetheless, he has a day of activity which he looks forward to. Martin is part of an eco-data co-op who sells to foreign computer manufacturing co-ops. He's excited about the shipment of his latest project which leaves today for Malaysia: compact degradable plastic derived from corn coated with safe, ecological alternatives to the flame retardents previously used (such as TBBA, Trichloretylphosfate, and PBDE) and designed to be used in the manufacture of computers.
As there is no coffee he opts for a pistachio-apple protein
drink created by some innovative entrepreneurs in Turkey.
This reminds him of the fact that there have been some recent
skirmishes with a Gray Wolves dissident 'state' and he hopes
that all is still well with Zulfu who works at the pistachio
He checks his e-mail before he goes out the door and notices that the date for Social Pulse conference has been set for July 21, 2013 in Gdansk, Poland. It's to be a big event and he plans to take the ScanRail down to Hamburg and then bike the rest of the way, not because he has to but because it's summertime and biking is a good way to see that part of Western Eurasia. He hasn't been down there since before the Great Fall and thought he'd look up some old acquaintances along the way. He shuts down the computer and goes out the door where the notice that says "No Ads" is still posted as a reminder of how things used to be. On the way out he passes Hedvig who has a letter for him.
The postal delivery system drops off the mail at each Network receptory and each community has its own system for getting the mail to individu-als from that point. Though the tradition of stamps has largely continued, in an artistic sense more than a formal sense, all regular mail -under two kilos- is delivered free of charge (with the exception of certain large Networks who extract a small fee for the service).
Martin thanks Hedvig and looks at the letter which is covered with bright red and orange stickers. He notices that it's from Tennessee and stuffs it into his pocket for a more relaxed moment in which to read it. He gets out to the corner just in time to miss the 10:45 electric bus to the station. He calculates for a minute to think about whether now is a good time to read the letter or not. Though the next bus comes in 12 minutes he de-cides to hop on his bike instead.
On the way through the central square he passes a pair of old men play-ing the huge chess game that has been built as a permanent part of the square. They're both deep in thought and seem oblivious to the world around them. Soon he arrives to the lab where he'll be on clean-up duty with Urban. As all workers are obligated to clean up their own work-places he and Urban decided to get it all over with early in the day and then hook up with the rest of the guys to play Football at four o'clock.
Cindy Chan, 36
Oakland Municipal Community
NW America Regional Alliance
Cindy is sitting, talking on the phone in front of a poster of a blue cow also talking on the phone. Next to the cow is a quote from Marshall MacLuhan: "Stop talking about whether it is good or bad and start talk-ing about what it means." She tosses some Subgenius literature on the floor and shuffles through the rest of the papers on her desk.
"No, the shipment hasn't come in yet. I can't seem to
locate my copy of the order right now but as soon as my computer
is up again I'll give you a call."
She hangs up the phone and goes out to the water fountain to relieve her headache where she meets Jason. He starts talking about the party he was at last night -a tribal-techno dance party where people got naked, painted their bodies, and played live samba-techno.
Some local artists were showing off some of their latest robot construc-tions and a couple of off-duty circus artists started juggling fire. The whole party started out in a warehouse and then moved out into the street where some of the neighbors joined in the celebrations while others shouted complaints from bedroom windows. Cindy breathes a sigh of envy as she thinks about how she had to spend the evening working.
The phone rings again. It's Mustapha from Brihama, their sister city in the West Africa Alliance. They've just completed the building of the steel factory and he wants to know if she can manage to find a way on the next scheduled air flight so she can join the opening celebrations.
It was just what she needed to hear.
T.R.O.Y. Photo by Karin Johansson-Mex