As the dominoes begin to fall, and the devaluing of the Euro and US dollar becomes sharper, more and more areas will be affected in the same way that Greece has. As this process takes place we will be able to witness different strategies that communities can use to bring safety, comfort and sustainability to one another in a self-sufficient way.
In these desperate situations where people’s compassion and ingenuity has been tested, communities have come together on their own accord, without any authority telling them what to do and they have worked side by side nonviolently, in mutually beneficial exchanges that made all parties involved better off.
This nonviolence and unity is natural, and we see this kind of coming together for people after all situations of difficulty or struggle. This compassion and cooperation flies in the face of the “common knowledge” which assumes that all human beings are naturally violent and irrational beasts who without someone to control them would revert to a state of wild insanity where no one has any respect for one another or any kind of common principles.
Just recently in the news there has been another example of people effected by the Euro crisis joining together peacefully and combining their efforts to solve the problems facing their communities. In Spain, where the official unemployment rate is over 50% in some areas, the unemployed population has began to barter time, and actually use their labor hours as currency. People are now trading haircuts and car rides for fresh produce, building supplies and legal services.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal tells the story of a 22 year old unemployed girl who trades time with her community:
“22-year-old Silvia Martín takes comfort in knowing that her bank is still standing behind her. It’s not a lending institution, but rather a time bank whose nearly 400 members barter their services by the hour. Ms. Martín, who doesn’t own a car and can’t afford taxis, has relied on other time-bank members to give her lifts around town for her odd jobs and errands, as well as to help with house repairs. In return, she has cared for members’ elderly relatives, organized children’s parties and even hauled boxes for a member moving to a new house.The time bank not only saves her cash, she says, but also lifts her spirits by making her feel “part of a community that’s taking some positive action during hard times.”
What we are seeing right now in places like Spain and Greece where this crisis is hitting hardest first, is the beginning stages of a new economic model, an economic model that will grow from the ashes of this long dead system that we currently inhabit. One that is built from the bottom up, not the top down.
Thinking ahead, we should remember that in the West our turn to deal with this mess will come eventually, so the sooner we start thinking about how we can provide value to our community in the absence of a centralized authority the better off we will be. Decentralized currencies, and creative ways of trading and distributing labor are essential for making it through these times of economic uncertainty.