Monday, October 10, 2011

10. Crafting the Shadow Structure

George Bernard Shaw famously said that all progress depends on not being reasonable.
It’s time for a large amount of civic unreasonableness.
– James Gustave Speth

At the beginning of Part III, I quoted David Ehrenfeld. He reminds us that our job is to set up a parallel alternative structure to have in place as a safety net, ready to catch our local community when the conventional system fails. This statement applies to economics, as well. To solve the full panorama of our economic ills, we must put in place the tools of community survival (Practical Tools #1-8), plus create the new structure.

I dislike the term “alternative structure,” because it makes it sound like we have a choice – which I believe we do not. For purposes of this booklet, I’ll call this new structure “the shadow structure.” In this I am referring to our safety net, a parallel structure which is put in place to catch us as the current economic structures wobble and crumble. Even more than keeping our local communities functional at a very basic level, this safety net eventually provides the rudimentary framework for the new economy.

The shadow political-economic structure we create will provide context for all of the other elements: local resilience-building businesses, alternative financial vehicles, community-based finances, our new vision reflected in new economic indicators. It will be like the bookcase into which we fit all the other pieces.

Ideally, this basic structure will reflect our new values (The Great Revaluing). It will reflect our new sense of sharing, of assets and voice (The Great Redistribution). Eventually, the shadow structure may evolve into the tool to facilitate The Great Rebalancing at a local level.

Perhaps the shadow structure will emerge out of an “Economic working group” that has been trying out the kinds of things described in Practical Tools #1-9 – experienced veterans in how these elements work “in the trenches” in our neighborhood.

A CAUTION: It might appear that one should start by setting up this new economic structure and then afterward add the pieces. But at this very early point in the crumbling of the conventional economic system, it is probably premature to know how the new structure for your local area would be well designed.

Meanwhile, your local community needs the in-the-trenches coping tools -- like LETSystems, time banking, local currencies,a rudimentary network of post-petroleum proprietorships, and some local investment in the tools of resilience. These are your “trauma unit” or “emergency room” for when shocks happen to the wider economic system. They’ll get you patched up and stitched together so that you can hobble along in limited functionality. Now is the time to get your trauma center set up and fully functional.

In nature, headlong growth and all-out competition are features of immature ecosystems, followed by complex interdependency, symbiosis, cooperation, and the cycling of resources. The next stage of human economy will parallel what we are beginning to understand about nature. It will call forth the gifts of each of us; it will emphasize cooperation over competition; it will encourage circulation over hoarding; and it will be cyclical, not linear. … The economy will shrink, and our lives will grow.
-- Charles Eisenstein, Sacred Economics (p.17)