Chris led a group at the October 2014 New Work New Culture conference in Detroit, so I asked him to walk us through the information from his presentation there. The most immediate way for you to get out of the cycle of earn-money-working-too-many-hours-at-job and spend-too-much-money-on-things is time banking. If your community supports this (and if it doesn’t start one up, and/or hook up remotely with an existing time bank), you can sign up for a cooperative service whereby you offer your services to the group, and for every hour you put in, “the bank” owes you an hour, meaning you can call on one of the other members. So you can help someone build something, or teach an instrument, or help someone with a web site, or tutor them… whatever it is you’re qualified to do (and would actually enjoy doing outside of a 9-to-5 setting), and in return, someone will give you legal advice, or help with your plumbing, or whatever. To repeat, this is not a 1-for-1 exchange with another individual (the plumber doesn’t need to get guitar lessons from you), but a set of recorded exchanges with the time bank itself. So you get to do what you want, you get cheap-to-free services in return, the time bank (i.e. Internet ratings of people’s contributions) helps make sure you don’t hire someone incompetent or psychotic (though you’ll still need to vet them yourself if you’re going to have them do major work for you). And none of it’s taxable!
But this is just the tip of the iceberg; time banking is just one component of mutual aid networks (see an interactive PPT of Chris’s full presentation here), which also includes community lending, price-based mutual credit, and formal sharing arrangement for equipment that you couldn’t afford to buy on your own.
Community Production requires that you fulfill more of your needs yourself instead of feeding your wages into a for-profit company. I got to interview Debra Rowe, whom I met at the 2014 New Work Conference in Detroit this last October, about working by yourself or with a community to take advantage of solar power:
After an introduction by Tawana Petty, Kim Sherobbi throws out an opening challenge: we need a culture that’s less greedy and mistrustful.
As the first panel speaker (starting at 3:55), Frithjof Bergmann reflects that “we haven’t had a culture so far… the culture we have created has not make us more alive, and that’s the least a culture can do.” We have sacrificed culture to our economy, “to producing ever more at an ever greater speed.” This is not just looking forward to some utopia, but also, in part, returning to older values, where, for example, cultural celebrations ran (in the mountain village that Frithjof grew up in) for weeks. We need a culture that helps everybody discover something that the deeply and seriously want to do.