How About Sharing for a Change?

How About Sharing for a Change?
By Stefa Shaler
Michigan Citizen, Aug 25, 2009

Stefa Shaler, whose work for many years was with violent youth, is currently a student in Chinese medicine in Vancouver, B.C. During a recent visit to Detroit she explained to me how shifting “from trading to sharing” could change our lives. Her vision is a timely example of the kind of “paradigm shift” I’ve been writing about. Every day more people are beginning to realize that the things we value most in life are not market-based.and a few people are beginning to make this shift to cope with today’s economic meltdown and climate crisis. It is an idea whose time has come. -Grace Lee Boggs

Most of us agree that there is a need for social change. We must solve the environmental and socio-economic catastrophes we have created or face near-term extinction. It’s probable that even without this dire imperative, many of us are ready to get off the tired, worn-out grids we have inherited: hierarchy, followership/leadership, polluting, earth-destroying consumption, individualism, trade and stark materialism. However, if we cure the ills most of us feel compelled to treat, our way of life will end.

The whole web of life is interconnected and changing one part changes the whole. Wars, nuclear threat, starvation planned by destroying food to keep prices high, environmental degradation, human trafficking, drug wars, crime and incarceration, child exploitation, fear and anomie are part and parcel of how we live. To eradicate any or all of these ills, we must be prepared for a big evolutionary leap. A move from trade as an economic foundation to giving freely would solve our social ills while lifting our collective spirits to new, richly rewarding heights.

The linchpin behind the failings of humanity is trade, a system that has outlived its usefulness. At its core, trading to survive is based on fear and when we live by it, fear permeates the social fabric leading to our current malaise of master-slave relationships. One must succumb to whatever indignity or alienation it takes to trade oneself for an income in order to survive. That would be unnecessary if we could learn to share.

Three of the most obvious costs of our devastating trade system are:

  • With over a billion people having nothing to trade the imbalances are untenable.
  • We are ransacking the earth to provide unnecessary, alienating and dangerous jobs.
  • There is no such thing as fair trade. Trading encourages and reinforces competition, fear, hoarding and hunger for as much as one can get. Therefore, all trade leaves us wide open for the most dishonest among us to gain advantages in luxury and status. From this, we inevitably land up in a suffocating string of hierarchies.

On the other hand, there are enough food and necessities of all kinds already produced for everyone to meet more than basic needs. Trading turns a lot of it into garbage and leaves billions of people destitute. If we could learn to give freely and trust that we will look after each other, we could use what we have wisely and feel good about it.

Sharing freely encourages human traits that have been languishing for awhile: co-operation, empathy, trust, bonding, a sense of justice and yearning for equality. No master, no slave but rather each of us looking around to ensure that all needs are met graciously.

Instead of painting the house while it’s burning down as we are with our many strategies for change that don’t get at the roots of our problems, it would be a good idea to set up a trade-free zone as a laboratory for working out the structures needed to support our evolution from gritty materialism to human beings in harmony, a state in which most of us can experience that we are enough, we have enough and life is kind.



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