2b. A new economics & politics: starting with the community "The challenge before us is to reverse our present backward course and re-create ourselves as contributors to the advancement of life's epic journey. It starts with choosing life as our guiding metaphor and continues with deepening our understanding of life's ways in search of insights into the unrealized possibilities of our species. - David Korten, 'The Post-Corporate World', p. 104 "Until recently, the vast bulk of humanity relied only upon the local economy for its livelihood. Today's problems will eventually be solved by recognizing that local production for local consumption - using local resources, under the guidance and control of local communities, and reflecting local and regional cultures and traditions with the limits of nature - is a far more successful direction than the currently promoted, clearly utopian, globally centralized , expansionist model." - Jerry Mander and Edward Goldsmith, 'The Case Against the Global Economy and For a Turn Toward the Local', p 391. "What is so exciting about the Participatory Budget in Brazil's Gaucho country is the interaction between active citizens, elected politicians and career officials. Instead of playing an advisory role, as do many citizens bodies in our political system, the regional and sectoral assemblies actually discuss and debate budget priorities. In my neighbourhood, for example, we might decide that a new school is more important than improvements to the highway." - 'Porto Alegre', Judy Rebick, online ZNet Commentary, 3 March 2001. The Taker vision of 'subdue and conquer' has been reflected in the behavior of Tak societies toward the world, and it has also been reflected in the internal structure of those societies. Those structures have always been hierarchies, permitting centralized control by one ruling elite or another - the topmost takers. Domination starts at the top of the pyramid, and flows downward, with those at the bottom implementing elite agendas and carrying out the actual work of subduing nature. If we want our societies to abandon the dominator paradigm with respect to the world, then we need first to remove the dominator paradigm from our societal structures. Before we can harmonize with the world, we must learn to harmonize our societies. Harmony, you might say, begins at home. In nature, and in non-Tak societies, harmony is achieved not through centralized authority, but through localized interactions. It begins in the small, and from that foundation the larger web of life is woven. If we wish to harmonize our societies with the web of life, then it makes good sense to begin at the local level. The local level, the community level, is where people can meet face to face - and where everyone's voice can be heard. The community is the natural place for social harmony to be developed. Communities can then come together in regional councils, where concerns can be harmonized regarding larger scale issues - and so on. The Tak political model is authority all the way down; the life-harmonization political model is voluntary collaboration all the way up. Tak political agendas begin in the imperial center; harmonized political agendas begin in every community. In my various dialogs in online discussion forums, I've found that many people are very afraid of losing the sense of security that central authorities seem to provide. We Tak have been so long domesticated to hierarchy that is difficult for us to imagine anything else working. We are like the lioness in 'Born Free', who ran from the lowly the wart hog - not realizing her own power. And we are like the long-term prisoner, who finds upon his release that he has forgotten how to deal with the outside world. But 10,000 years of domestication cannot erase millions of years of evolution, and our capacity to govern ourselves in freedom has not been lost. Our political voices, however, have atrophied - from their long confinement in sealed voting booths. We must learn again to speak, and to listen, and to solve problems together in our communities. One community in Brazil - indeed an entire city - has been achieving spectacular results by means of a bottom-up decision making process. Porto Alegre has for years been using a Participatory Budget Process and the city has become a global model of a livable, workable, fiscally-sound city. Discussions begin at the neighborhood level, where everyone is welcome to participate - and from there begins the decision process regarding the allocation of the city's budget. Creativity is something everyone possesses, and when ordinary people are empowered to participate in the decisions of their community, a flowering of innovation and practical problem-solving results. The people of Porto Alegre are not of a different species and they have not passed through any profound consciousness-raising experience - they have simply been empowered to solve their own problems. Their experience demonstrates that harmonization can work, not only at the most local level, but even in a city with a multi-level decision-making process. And if it can work there, it can work elsewhere. In the past few centuries we have become increasingly dependent on industrial agriculture and on the long-distance transport of goods. It is unlikely that we can again achieve small-scale self-sufficiency, nor is it necessary that we do so. There is no reason why we cannot continue to use and develop modern technology, nor need we forsake the benefits of specialization and trade - but we need to learn to do these things in ways that are sustainable and which are harmonious with the world around us. Our communities will continue to be part of a larger economic web - but we can greatly increase the diversity of our local production and thereby the degree to which we are locally self-sufficient. The more our economies are locally centered, then the less energy is needed by society - and the easier it is to move our economies toward full sustainability and environmental harmony. In economics as in politics, the local community is the place where harmonization needs to begin. -- ============================================================================ Richard K Moore Wexford, Ireland Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance email: •••@••.••• URL: http://cyberjournal.org A community will evolve only when the people control their means of communication. - Frantz Fanon "One cannot separate economics, political science, and history. Politics is the control of the economy. History, when accurately and fully recorded, is that story. In most textbooks and classrooms, not only are these three fields of study separated, but they are further compartmentalized into separate subfields, obscuring the close interconnections between them" -- J.W. Smith, The World's Wasted Wealth 2, (Institute for Economic Democracy, 1994), p. 22. 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