When you realise something you always thought was Faaaabulous is really maybe not.....

When I was a sociology student I studied community currencies. They are communities that try and work outside of the normal economic system. Instead of dollars they trade hours- or products, whatever, just not money. It is partly to rebut corrupt power (banking etc) and partly to fight poverty, which is fab, right... but then also in the process you strengthen communites and build social capital. So, rave, rave, rave, I have always thought they were rather flipping wonderful. You know, kingdom stuff.

But then... when you really think about it (which I obviously wasnt doing when I was writing essays on them because I have only just contemplated it, ha!) it also creates a tension with God values. Like, relationships not being transactional. it is easy to slip into friendships where you expect output when you input, and as Jesus lovers we need to be sooooo anti this! But community currencies sort of rely on this kind of debt rememberance. And then there is this idea that every person is made in God's image, so has something beautiful and valuable to share.... but if it is not wanted as a "commodity" by people in the community they are instantly excluded from community life...Which sucks.

What do you reckon? Do community currencies rock or roll?


Glyn said...

A couple of thoughts:
1) I'm not sure that most friendships aren't in some way transactional anyway. My best friends are best friends not only for the joy of being there for them and providing them with company and understanding but also (and if I'm honest probably mostly) because of what I get out of it. I love my friends because of what they provide me. I enjoy their company. I enjoy having people who love me, who understand me, who laugh at my jokes, who are there for me. And in return, I love, try to understand, laugh with and be there for them. I might also do that for people who don't return the favour but could that be classified (in the strictest sense) as a friendship? So while my friendships may not be transactional in a material sense I think it's certainly fair to say that there is a kind of transaction in play.

2) Is it a bad thing to base relationships on transactional needs when the alternative is a community destroying mass culture? Yes the initial interaction might come about as a result of what we can gain but surely upon that genuine friendships can be built. That's got to be a good thing. I don't think a friendship is any less valid just because it started with an agenda. So I guess I'm saying that it seems to me that community currencies pretty much rock.

Having said all that, I also know I'd miss McDonalds and MTV so I'm not sure what to believe.

lucy AR said...

Non material transactional friendships- these are the nicest friendships eh, where you both feel built up by the other. But I kind of think any transactional mentality verges to easily on material transaction towards people "They helped me with the garden 2 months ago so now they are redocorating I have to go round and help paint" rather than acting out of freedom friendship: "Wahoo painting with my pal!!"
And then, surely as Christians we should have a desire to be in friendship with those who aren't necesarily gonna be able to "output" in the ways we expect at first (or ever) and a transactional mentality would just lead to frustration with them?

Do you think community currencies wuld lead to a more rigid class system than we have at the moment?

It would be a Thatacher like meritocracy wouldnt it? The can do's doing well and the canny do's missing out.

After all this, I still feel community currencies Rock more than Roll, because as you point out the destructive alternative that the most of us live in now is horrific.

Jakes said...

I read half of that website and it sounds pretty interesting eh. Our homegroup has been going on about communal living and sharing resources for ages, and this concept seems to be the ultimate version of this.

A self-sustaining community sounds great! There seem to be a lot of factors these days that are contributing to the dissolution of community, and this seems like a way to combat it.

Like for instance, online shopping is destroying the local shops - customers can have their desired product delivered to their door for around the same price (or less) as visiting the local store down the road and supporting the local guy who has a family to feed. So community currencies seem like a way to go against this.

BUT if we separate ourselves from the world economic scene, what happens to the third world? This is also the problem with 'no sweat' shops based in Australia - aside from the fact that workers in the third world are getting paid next-to-nothing and work in horrible conditions and we want this to stop, they still need our money. They depend on us buying our coffee and cheap toys in order to survive, so if we retreat to become an independant community, what becomes of them?

The whole thing is too big for me to understand. I am not advocating the status quo - this is not good enough. But we really need a complete international revolution, and I have no idea how we could bring this about.

lucy AR said...

"But we really need a complete international revolution, and I have no idea how we could bring this about."

Yeah, it is true, eh. Sometimes I think we have little bits of a jigsaw- Fair Trade, community currencies, but we are failing at producing a holistic every-bit-making-up-a-bigger-thing kind of a picture. (Flip. Maybe that only happens when the Kingdom comes once n for all. Some would say so. I don't know, but whatever I think we should definatley work towards the whole jigsaw becoming complete)

Sometimes I honestly beleive God can give people a vision of the whole shebang, the international revolution, the complete picture and it might come about.

But sometimes I think it's gonna remain in jigsaw bits because of human fallibility, greed and corruption!!!!

But, again, we still need to work towards it right? So if it means going down the community currencies track (although maybe a globally inclusive/ democratic, just reformed version hehe) then, thats cool.

Tarry said...

Seems to me to be a little of column a, a little of column b.

Community currencies do seem a wonderful idea, but as you (Lucy) point out briefly in your above comment "human fallibility, greed, and corruption" are bound to prevent the idea of community currency being implemented except on small person-person scales.

Even if CC were operated solely as microcosms, they would still be prone (as you, Lucy) to corruption because of human fallibility, etc.

I'm still inclined to think that the CC is closer to the Biblical ideal than a monetary system.

Jakes said...

Yeah I fully reckon we should be building towards the kingdom, bit by bit, if nothing else than to show God that we're actually willing to go out on a limb to change the world as a response to our dissatisfaction.

But if CC is hurting those we want to 'redeem' (by boycotting slave labour goods and therefore depriving the workers of their much needed pay) is it really building towards the Kingdom?

I hate to be pessimistic, but I can't ignore the other side of these idealistic mini-revolutions.

The world just needs God. Jesus' redemption, The Spirit's guidance and accountability, the God focus. It sounds like a cop-out, but everything else falls hopelessly short of Good.