It often occurs to me that the way we organise our collective productivity is terribly flawed. In this piece I am not going to examine it from the more mundane economic or political point of view, but from the more personal vantage point of what families are.
There are many times in my life that I have been grateful for the amount of freedom I have had to do as I please. I look around me, however, and I see people trapped at times by the daily burdens of their responsibilities. Their children, their bosses, even their spouses, do not take a day off from their demands when the person in question desperately needs to escape from the pressure, into their mind and soul, to feel the universe, to create, to grow. This is not to say they want to throw aside their responsibilities - just that we all need a break, and those breaks sometimes might last a little longer than is "acceptable."
It helps for me to take my own case, to illustrate what I mean. Most of my life I have been engaged in productive work, certainly pulling my weight and even generating a small "surplus," I am sure. Sometimes there are events that pull me away from this, but usually when I was younger they were roughly compatible with the sort of responsibilities I had. Recently, however, I am struggling with a serious issue of productivity - my writing tugs at me as if some huge planet were at my door, its gravity literally forcing me into a tighter and tighter orbit. Meanwhile, I have the responsibilities of my business to attend to, with its demands and productive requirements suffering incredibly due to the results of my creative flashes and their aftermaths.
Try looking at the primary economic unit, not as a tiny group of people utterly dependent upon their strictly regimented roles for survival (the nuclear family), but instead as a larger grouping, a tribe or clan of 15 to 30 people, say, with their surplus pooled for their own benefit. As members need to withdraw from their economically productive capacity for other forms of even more valuable productivity (for I am utterly convinced that what I am doing right now is of more value than any other work I have ever done) they could do it not only with the forebearance but with the approval, encouragement and support of the group.
This tribe can bring many more benefits to its members than just the allowance for creative or meditational spells, of course. The sharing of labor in an area we have virtually destroyed, child rearing, I think would be most beneficial. While there are many among us who perhaps should pass their genes along to the next generation, they are not necessarily blessed with the talents and skills it takes to care for small (and older) children. In fact, some may be excellent caregivers to two year olds but terrible with teens. In a larger groups of mixed age individuals, those with the knack can provide that which they are best at. We all need some care and nurturing from time to time, at every age, and there would likely be someone in the group who we could turn to. Some members, of course, would be economic providers par excellence, going out into the world on its own terms and bringing back the wherewithal to maintain the tribe's need for food and shelter and independence.
A multitude of variety in the individuals of the group would provide a buffer, against the more neurotic amongst them harming those he is closest to, since they and he would have others close at hand to help keep everything in persepective. The mentally ill, the disabled, the "handicapped" would not be a burden but another opportunity for group cohesion and sharing of love.
It is important to this concept that the group not become too homogenous in areas like beliefs and attitudes (politics and religion), or many of these advantages would be lost. I am not sure how people could achieve this in practise. Pulling this off and maintaining it might be the most difficult task for those who would experiment with a system like this. Not much point in an extended family if they are all repressed, psychotic monsters with bad religion destroying the childrens minds, is there?
An issue I certainly should address, since it is so important to me personally, is privacy. I do not envision the whole group necessarily living under one roof. Everyone needs space to be alone, to be left alone with their thoughts. Everyone needs to be free of pressure while they make difficult decisions, just as they need those close to them to aid with non-judgmental advice and just plain listening. It would be important to minimise the "group think" as I mentioned above, to not have a "party line" that everyone must toe, in order that each individual could flourish freely as themselves.
I think this idea would actually work best if it was the more general social construct rather than an isolated experiment. Groups would learn from each other, much as families do now, but to a much greater extent. Creativity could flourish as those with a drive could feed it, do more prosaic work when it is dormant, but be free to produce their art when it comes to them.
8/1/00 - 4 AM
© Huw Powell