Preparing for the Transformation of Society

From a talk by Tim Jackins at the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, Teachers’ and Leaders’ Workshop, February 2012

The economic system is collapsing. You know it. It’s scary, it’s destructive—and it has to happen. It’s a good thing. It’s a hard, good thing. It will be quite damaging, but the system is damaging all the time to millions of people. The fact that this is coming out in the open is just fine.

Whether those supporting the system will be able to prop it up a little longer, for another swing or two through the cycle, is not clear. It’s right on the edge. Greece is barely going to be allowed to have any autonomy as a country. The question being asked is “Will they put in enough austerity programs?” not “Who should be paying for this?” It isn’t the working class. Working people don’t need to be pulverized one more time. They’re not where the financial resource is. The question of who should be paying for it can’t yet be asked very openly or explicitly, though it’s beginning to creep out in the Occupy and other movements. It’s not as widely asked yet as it needs to be, but that’s coming.

At some point the system is simply not going to work. Banks are not going to lend money, people will start pulling back, and all of the relationships that have kept the system flowing aren’t going to work. Then what?

Well, then we get to try again. What do you want to head for? What basic principles do you want to put out and get people to agree to? I want a society in which it is unacceptable for anyone to exploit anyone else on any basis at all, period. Implementing that will be a lot of work—figuring it out, undoing lots of things—but it’s important to get a principle like that stated, to say that it’s what we’re aiming for.

It’s clear that we humans know how to handle the material world well enough that everybody in existence could have a good life, without messing up the environment. We know enough, we’ve mastered enough things, we’ve built enough resource, to be able to do that. Our problem is that we’re stuck in old forms of exploiting each other and the environment.

Exploitation may have played a useful role historically. Some usefulness has come out of every oppressive society, including capitalism. Capitalism is producing an immense amount of information. It’s coming out in odd little gadgets maybe, but they’re wonderful little gadgets. They show ingenuity, an understanding of the way things work, and a certain level of elegance.

Historically, society exploited people and took part of what they earned and gave it to someone who then got the leisure and slack time to figure out things, things that weren’t necessary for survival but that made bigger things possible later. That resource wasn’t there, didn’t exist, until exploitation happened. So you could say that the exploitation played a useful role. But we’ve developed past the point where it’s needed. We don’t need to exploit anybody to have the resources necessary for minds to go on and expand.

So, how do we figure out a society afresh? How do we get through the period of great uncertainty that’s coming? Well, I think we all need to think about what we want, and counsel on what we’re afraid of, and think about the relationships we’d like to have with each other.

All of our relationships are determined and twisted by capitalism. They’re wrapped around survival in some way, because under capitalism survival is an individual struggle. Say we have a society in which it isn’t an individual struggle—in which we don’t have to fight for ourselves against others; in which if we want things better, we agree that we’re going to make them better for everybody, not just ourselves; in which we have that common agreement. What are our relationships going to be like? They’re going to be different—so different, in the way that we trust and rely on each other, that I think we’ll get to some of the real meaning of security. Security is not having large piles of gold or something else that we can sell, it’s having a collection of people who will think well about us and who have committed themselves to our existence as much as their own. In order to get that in place, we have a lot of discharging to do on how we’ve been isolated from each other.

And then, we need to know a lot that we don’t yet know—individually and collectively. Part of the reason for making the Communities bigger is to spread RC ideas. That’s the basic reason. But a side benefit—especially if we reach into more of the working class and get more diverse in where we reach—is getting to know more about how society functions. Then we can better help reshape its functioning.

For example, who here knows about the distribution of food? I go to the store and I buy it. But how does it get there, what are all the networks, and how do they function? And how will they function if the goal is not to make an individual profit? How can that be organized? It will be best, of course, if people who are working in those fields get through all their distresses about having to fight for their individual positions and then can think about organizing it for the benefit of everybody. We want to get RC ideas out into every sector of the economy, so that people who know about each sector can help figure it out and get support for figuring it out.

The Co-Counseling Community is not in shape1 to play a leading role in the transformation of society. We don’t know enough, we’re not diverse enough. We can play a good supportive role. We can support the people who are in the positions to lead the transformation, but at this point we’re not, by far, in that position. We’re just not. We’re working in that direction. One question is, do we have time? (Laughter) Do we have time to get there as things start to shake more and more drastically? And that’s not clear at all.

How well do we use the opportunities that come our way? That’s always the big question. We can wish for bigger opportunities, but that doesn’t do anything. It will be interesting to see how far we can get out of our timidities and put our own individual thinking forward, and how diverse we can become so that we have input from many different sectors before things collapse.

It used to look like the collapse wouldn’t happen in our lifetimes and now it looks like it has to. There’s so little slack left in the system. There’s very little national independence left. The economic forces are destroying Greece because there’s money to be made in doing so. And then it will be Spain, Ireland, Portugal—there’s a whole list. “In trouble” means a government has less power than the economic forces do. Government has been a restraining force, it has tried to keep things together in spite of the economic forces, but those forces have become so powerful and desperate that the fight is being lost.

The economic forces have no ability to look after2 each other. They’re too involved in tearing at each other, trying to be the last one standing. I don’t see that anything is going to be able to keep the collapse from accelerating, and we’ll get to see what happens. I think it’s hopeful, but it’s going to be a lot of work.

1 In shape means in a state.
2 Look after means take care of.

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00