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Blog #2, The Art of the Community Building #1

‘Mutualism-cooperation-commoning’ vs. ‘rugged individualism'

It’s been a tough start to 2022. I’ve heard myself on a couple of occasions saying,

I’m over 2022, bring on 2023’.

Part of the challenge is that I ended 2021 in dreaming mode, setting a whole bunch of things in motion in my life and work-settings, and I’ve already had to ‘let go’, adapt, and grieve. The grief part was sparked by watching the mad rush for rapid-antigen testing and then more food hoarding. As a community builder, I’ve always been motivated by the traditions of mutuality, cooperation and communing – key ideas underpinning community development. Instead, the tradition of rugged individualism and ‘survival of the fittest/wealthiest’, co-linked to people’s fears, often triumphs. Hard to watch and swallow.

I’m not ranting against anyone. 40+ years of neoliberal policy making have deskilled ‘us’ as a society in mutualism, cooperation and commoning. In working with Community Praxis Co-operative for 24 years, I’ve known this: the idea of cooperation is much easier that the practice. How would people socialised into fear based rugged individualism suddenly and spontaneously sparkle into cooperation? They can’t. We can’t. It takes time to relearn and build greater awareness. Community builders already are, but can further model and experiment in cooperative ways of being/working/doing. A misunderstanding of the tragedy of the commons is that it makes sense to get what you can get before others (because of the so-called limit). What actually makes sense is commoning and cooperating - which implies thinking about limits (to what ‘I’ should take) to ensure there’s enough for others. As Mahatma Gandhi said, "The world [insert supermarket] has enough for everyone's needs, but not everyone's greed."

  • I’d love to hear about what has worked for you in this dilemmatic space of getting what you need vs. thinking of others.

  • What practices have worked in your world that bring about more cooperation or challenge the rugged individualistic approach that permeates society?

  • How can we support a more cooperative approach in big and small ways in our everyday personal and professional lives?

Meanwhile, Pete’s podcast:

Look out on Sunday for the 5th episode in the 'Tradition and Wisdom' series on bell hooks, who died at the end of 2021; and check out previous recordings.

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