I watched this short video today about a town in Greece that has begun a big barter network (after 5 years of ‘recession’ and 21% unemployment) that allows people without money to exchange everything from food to art to dance lessons.

In the video, someone says “We have reached the bottom…Now, we want to think about things in a different way.”

This is just one example of many, many examples of people trying/doing something differently than what capitalism-consumerism-biophobia dictates. Sometimes it takes a crisis (large-scale economic change, natural disaster, major personal loss, etc.) to make us believe something else might even be possible. (Everything we try may not be perfect, but it’s a step toward something greater.)

People often say “Well, that’s a nice idea, but ____ won’t work in the modern world. People are too greedy/selfish/violent/etc.” I have heard this a thousand times and I think it’s a misunderstanding of our natural tendency toward and yearning for cooperative, exultant, creative living.

But I also think it’s a recognition of the fact that these incredibly powerful systems of thought and power (such as capitalism) actively prevent mass change. They cause harm/abuse at an early age, which leads us to believe humans are naturally bad, greedy, and incapable of self-direction. Then they keep their hold on us through manipulation of the culture, controlling access to life-supporting resources, and more to the point where it is incredibly hard to see another way of being.

Is mass voluntary change probable or even possible without the removal of these harmful systems? As time goes on, I don’t think it is. I think the most helpful path may be creating alternatives to the system (as much outside the system as possible) and choosing to abstain from supporting the system or actively working against the system.

I have absolutely no belief that the same governmental and economic systems that are stripping away our love for life, the world, and one another can be cajoled into doing the opposite. It doesn’t make sense to me and I see no evidence of it.

The path that makes more sense to me (and that my spirit responds to) is the path of creating rich, fantastic alternatives for people to join as they drop out of the system, fall between the cracks, or are forced out by the collapse (or other major change) of the system.

How can we create alternatives? There are probably an unlimited number of ways, but imagine if as we create lives for ourselves based on biophilia, cooperation, community, and nurturing, that we always build in spaces for individuals and families finding themselves with no income or with disabilities or feeling worthless in society. As we gain possession of foreclosed mcmansions and fill them with laughing, barefoot people, we will always keep a couple rooms ready for someone whose medical bills have left them homeless. As we create gardens and farms that grow food while enriching the soil and ecosystem, we always grow extra for the children down the street who aren’t getting enough to eat. As we craft loving schools and unschools for children and adults of all abilities, we make these completely affordable and welcoming to people being rejected by mainstream institutions.

Maybe every failure of the system could be an opportunity to welcome someone new into a vibrant, loving alternative. Let’s create that.