Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gift Economy

One of the big things I want to explore, and haven't had much time to do so yet, is the concept of the "gift economy." Kristin got me started in it, and she's taking it to the next level with her NVC work. She put it very well in a recent blog entry: "Our cultural expectation of "what the Earth can do for us" reflects our transactional and monetary-based (time is money) [economy] rather than a need-based, giving economy which includes both short and long term needs of all species and the earth, to the best of our understanding." I've requested a book on it or something like it by a Chilean economist quoted in Marshall Rosenberg's work: , but the book hasn't arrived yet. In the meantime, Kristin pointed me to Tree Bressen's website: , where I found this quote: "According to "Wikipedia: " (which is a fine example itself) a gift economy is an economic system in which participants give away things of value to the shared benefit of the community. Examples include food banks, volunteer fire companies, and giving rides to hitchhikers."

Basically, the concept is that you give your services or goods away for free, from the heart. During the transaction, you point out that it takes an amount of your own energy to provide this, and, in order for it to be sustainable, you need to receive gifts in return. As Tree puts it, "I am currently operating on a gift economy basis, meaning i do not have any set fees for my work. I ask groups to pay me an amount that feels good and right and fair to them, that they can afford, and that they can give joyfully."

This flies in the face of our current economic model, which expends a great deal of energy to assign the price to goods and services that will produce the greatest profit to the producer, assuming in the process that a certain percentage of the people who want or need the product will then be unable to afford it. The implication is that it is not only acceptable, but good and moral, to accumulate far more than you need, and hoard that accumulation in the most wasteful way, if desired.

It seems to me that our current economic model is very self-centered, and in practice it tears at the fabric of our human community and society, while at the same time, it ignores the effects of our actions on the planet's web of life, which we depend on for everything. By placing greater value on competition (power-over) than on sharing, on accumulation than on need, it also encourages violence and frequently makes violence enjoyable. This is not the intent, but competition, but its nature, encourages actions that hurt the other players. It makes actions that provide a short-term advantage despite a long-term disadvantage look attractive. Besides, when one person has way more than she can use, and another person is starving, violence is easily seen as a convenient means to meet needs.

The success of capitalism is frequently seen as making the model of communism obsolete. Now, the gift economy shows real prospects of making the traditional capitalist model obsolete.




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Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our
Beloved's.
~Hafiz