Lately I have been thinking about activism, idealism, consensus, trust, empowerment, freedom, responsibility, abuse, efficiency, the need for guidelines, regulations, wrt to organisational workings, and also wrt to life in general. I shall pose this as a question–how much freedom and trust do I give my fellow man?
I would like to preface this post with my sincere admiration for all those courageous folks who soldier on supporting teaching empowering and showering positivity on this generally abusive always-taking always-complaining self-entitled society. I try but I am fucking tired, and really some days it feels like there aren’t nearly enough people who give a fuck.
In the big picture yes love is infinite. It really is that simple.
When dealing with details of actually bringing about change on this physical planet however messiness arises. Where does this messiness come from?
Mess source #1: humans are messy messy messed up creatures. Everyone has different expectations, histories, lenses, biases, awareness of their biases, priorities, values, tolerance for messiness, etc. Friction arises due to these differences even in a radical consensus based space such as the Bicycle Kitchen where we are aware of and celebrate these differences. I think for a space as the Kitchen the answer is relatively simple. We trust our fellow Cooks–we are all part of a self-selecting community that agrees on the common vision. We trust in their ability to exercise good judgement, so we don’t regulate as much as possible. Sometimes mistakes happen, but in general creating a vibe where everyone is empowered to experiment to bring forth new ideas new projects is priority. This isn’t easy. To be able to exercise good judgement requires every single member of the community to understand the consequences of their actions (e.g. if you treat the space as a crash pad we will lose our 501c3 and that will cost us a lot of money that can otherwise be spent on forwarding our mission). Are we capable of this? I believe that in the Kitchen Cooks community we are. We have recently been talking about there not being really a means of removing someone from the community. Does this mean once you’re in you’re in? When does a failure of judgement be deemed spectacular enough to warrant exile? I really didn’t think we needed to be having that conversation, but then again I seem to be much more forgiving than your average person. I respect that other people may have different perceptions of and tolerances to violation. As a community we landed on conflict resolution training as a potential solution which is good because I felt that some personal tensions had not been fully resolved.
But what about the wider community that I find myself in? Why can’t it function like the Kitchen? It should in theory be able to. Why are there still so many abusers who break the system? Hasn’t our society gotten to a point where the basic needs are met (that is a whole other discussion)? And even if it hasn’t aren’t there are other ways than violating others to get by? I get frustrated when people break shit for nothing. When people come into a space that was wide open and instead of enjoying it and leaving it better than when they got there proceed to tag it, destroy things, take things that don’t belong to them and generally threaten the personal safety of the inhabitants of the space the consequences are then that fences go up, producing a barrier for inhabitants of the space who may or may not like barriers to begin with, and also you who previously could enjoy the space now will not have access to the space. How is this a good thing for anyone? I don’t like barriers. I don’t like that I have to lock up my bike. Living in the city I am painfully aware that we are not yet at the point where we can do away with such things. Will we ever get there? I guess that depends on my mood. If you need a bike that badly fine borrow it or talk to me I can build you one, or even show you how to. But bring it back. Don’t fucking violate me just because I am helpful. I am a human too you know. How do I convince you of this, fucking abusers who treat me like shit? Some days I have to try very hard to make the conscious decision to keep my personal fences down.
Complication #2 in my view is the fact that physical resources are finite. In combination with the fact that there are abusers out there, this requires me to make judgement calls–something I don’t like to do. Sometimes you give money to a panhandler and afterwards you feel like your trust has been violated. When a resource is finite I feel like I need to stretch it more, use it efficiently. I’ve realized that for example I am more willing to share food and hearth than money because these things are much less finite for me. But really no matter what we are talking about it’s impossible to tell the abusers apart from the people who really just need a hand. Do we engage in conversation? But that stacks the cards against those who can’t express themselves well verbally. And at the end of the day really after the money has changed hands it’s out of my hands. Mostly I go about my day and sometimes I have change and sometimes I don’t and I give when I can and after the money has changed hands I stop thinking about it. Sometimes I don’t give and have faith in society as a whole to provide.
Does trust and faith really have a place in social change? The presence of abusers creates inefficiencies. But what if things don’t have to be efficient? There is a difference between some inefficiency with a net positive effect and the kind that breaks the system. I think the system can tolerate some level of abuse. I would like to think that trust builds trustworthiness. Note that I am referring to individual humans in this post and not corporations, where other dynamics may be at play. I shall continue in my personal philosophy of being on the open and trusting side of things, and in practical matters no doubt my view will be tempered by those who feel a call for more regulations. In the best case scenario we will meet somewhere in the middle, somewhere with net positive change.