The system that dominates our lives is an interwoven system of patriarchy and capitalism, with its hierarchical structures maintained by stereotypes of all sorts. I have mused before that this system’s leverage points are couplemania and cultural trauma. I no longer think that. These are symptoms of a sick system, not leverage points.
A clue to the leverage point of our current system came when i read a sign as i waited to enter a jury pool. It said something like this:
The court system could not work without your collaboration.
Somewhere i knew that this sign had an important message. At the time, i only barely grasped it by interpreting it within the context of the court system. That system, built on punishment and retribution, is also not serving us well. There are much more promising approaches to justice. So if no one would be willing to sit on a jury maybe the system would be forced to change.
What applies in that legal context is also true in general: Our current dominating system is upheld by our collaboration. Or to put it differently: The leverage point for this system is our collaboration. If we were to withdraw that collaboration, the system would collapse.
So how exactly do we collaborate? We go to work in corporations that are destroying the planet. We buy stuff from those same corporations we don’t really need. We teach our children to do the same. We avoid spending time with others for fear of being seen as unproductive. We pay rent on outrageously priced housing. We charge rent. Just to name a few examples. I am sure if we could come up with lots more instances!
We might think “We can’t just stop collaborating!” And to some extend that is correct. Since that is where the collaboration enforcers come in. There are (at least) two kinds: Psychological and violence. If you stop paying rent, you’ll either get evicted or arrested or both. That’s violence. So, our collaboration with the current way of finding places to live is enforced by the threat of violence. The psychological enforcers make it difficult for us to see both our collaboration and the violent enforcers. It’s “normal” to pay rent, that’s just what an adult does, isn’t it? We couldn’t possibly survive without the current social structures. If we do stop collaborating in some areas – say, by creating our own ways of relating rather than getting married – we might face shame, the cultural trauma of internalized stereotyping.
Mostly, the psychological enforcers are fear-based: The fear of being different, of not belonging. To counteract this fear, which is very primal, we can learn to recognize it (“when i do this, i feel afraid because i am stepping out of cultural norms”) and normalize it (“anybody would feel afraid in this case”) and with that reduce the fear so that we can manage it (“i am scared and i am going to do this anyways”).
This becomes easier if we start new collaborations. Instead of collaborating with the dominant system, we can collaborate with others who are trying to step out of that system. Essentially, we would take steps toward a local sharing economy that is build around trust and collaboration rather than siphoning off profits to some unknown executive team that hasn’t even heard of our neighborhood. For example, we can shop at co-ops – or even better join or form them. Or we could support each other when we face the inevitable violence that the current system will throw against us. Maybe by creating a collaborative structure we could create a safety net for people who are tasked with the violent enforcement so that they can refuse without fearing for their survival.
We can stop collaborating with the dominating system if we help each other overcome the internal and external enforcers. Only the interplay of inner and outer shift can counteract the fear instilled in us by those enforcers.