Now I get to wake up each morning without gnawing anxiety about the next act of humans driving ourselves towards extinction or enacting brutal violence and genocide on each other. My friends and I have children and families and live out the joy of life with a sense that we are in a beautiful unfolding process of things getting better for those children, not worse. I get to watch my parents and other elders and beloveds concluding their lives with dignity and appreciation, in homes surrounded by family and community. All around me are people who were encouraged and supported to find their talents and genius and then do those things in contribution to their communities. Everyone I know has access anytime they need it with no direct cost to all types of healing and medicine to keep them well, and to integratively treat illnesses and injuries when they occur. We’re all eating tasty food humming with vitality that’s growing in lush landscapes all around our homes and settlements.
We had let the ancestral cultural organ of survival, the mutual aid society, go vestigial. In places with ostensible democracy, we had the bones in place, the macro-structures that could have held up the good life we wanted if they maintained alignment. We had the flesh, our families and neighbors. But we were missing a key organ in a critical gap: the more flexible connective tissue, the organ bigger than the village but smaller than the state, which holds the bones accountable. In many areas: finance, healthcare, farming and land access, disaster response, manufacturing, material aggregation and distribution, community safety. The village was too small to get it done well, the state was too big and clumsy and corruptible, and corporations were efficient but designed for inevitable greed.
We germinated and grew a new generation of regional mutual aid cultures which worked through formal and informal federations, at appropriate scales for each community’s leverage points, to link together things that were previously treated as separate: daily life and household needs, dismantling oppressive power structures, cooperative economics, earth restoration, cultural survival, and political organizing.
In the short-term, this mutual aid approach took better care of our people’s basic needs so we could relax out of fight-or-flight mode a little bit and more of us could find the energy and resources to focus on our deeper visions and bolder dreams, and to risk more for them. As those visions materialized via cooperative strategies, wealth ownership and power shifted in big ways and we acquired more leverage in conventional power structures via highly organized electoral participation and via the pressure points in local, regional, state and sometimes national politics. This allowed us to change the rules, set the bones straight: change legislation, policy, bureaucrats, judges, constitutions. Once these bones were straight and state and federal constitutions contained provisions favoring social cooperative enterprise, as in Italy before 2020, private corporations no longer had the game rigged, and then we really got started.
Colonial industrialism was really good at efficiency and specialization, at spreading rapidly and horizontally, covering territory and rigorously pumping every last bit of fat out of a people-place to turn it into currency which could be stored away and invested in thinktanks to further innovate the process of extraction. The first generation of us had been gestated in that matrix and had a very hard time imagining how to encourage innovation without the whip of competition and the raw fear of poverty nipping at our collective heels. We had to learn to think like an old diverse forest instead of a manicured lawn, to innovate collaboratively at all the intricate touch points and pass every nutrient around many times and enjoy it immensely, instead of scrabbling to outgrow everyone else while getting old without noticing.