Instead of recounting my suggestion of a possible explanation for these observed phenomena (it has something to do with hyperindividualism), I want to share some of the ideas that emerged from the discussion because one hindrance to a more cooperative economy could simply be that we don’t know that it’s an alternative!
Some ideas that were brought up:
- Culture of cooperation
- Impact of cooperation
- Sharing stories
A culture of cooperation takes the idea of worker coops and expands it into every aspect of our lives. As Janelle Orsi points out this might be the key to shifting how we try to create security: From accumulating stuff to networked support. A culture of cooperation is based on the notion that, ultimately, cooperation is more beneficial to us as a species than competition. Unless we cooperate, we might just face extinction.
Even without this dramatic appeal, it is clear that cooperation could improve our individual lives. For example, if we didn’t have to spend money to accumulate all those gadgets we use once or twice per year because we coordinated with our neighbors, we could use those resources differently. Okay, wonderful but how do we get there?
A couple of strategies emerged from our discussion because we realized that there is already quite a lot of cooperation going on between people. We simply need to point out that the mainstream story of the survival of the fittest and competition as human nature is basically, well, false. We could show the impact of cooperation on our lives by using billboards (or stickers) that remind us, for example, that traffic accidents would be rampant if we didn’t cooperate or that we wouldn’t have anything to eat if there weren’t a lot of people who get our food to us. We can also learn and teach through a new game: Co-Opoly.
Another strategy can involve sharing our stories about cooperatives in our lives. If we shop at a coop, we can tell people why we do that. I moved my money to a credit union because that is a member coop. There are lots of different forms of coops and stories abound how they are driving the new economy. Unions are supporting unionized coops. Workers save their jobs. (All the links in this paragraph go to an issue of Yes! Magazine about coops. Not all articles are online yet, so buy the issue…)
We can also talk about coops all over the world by watching a new movie called Shift Change (see a review here). Hosting a viewing would be another way to share stories. We would learn, for example, that coops aren’t small everywhere. Mondragon Corporation in the Basque region of Spain employs almost 85,000 people (though not all of them are worker-owners).
Maybe talking about cooperation and cooperatives in our lives can start a shift to a cooperative culture, especially since these conversations also require us to accumulate these stories, so we’ll pay more attention to cooperation in our lives and might choose shopping at a coop instead of the big chain store.
I am certain that this is only a tiny fraction of what we can do to help shift from growth-driven to cooperative-driven lives. Please share other ideas in the comments!