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Monday, May 29, 2017

Time to form the culture we want – starting with small acts of kindness

Posted by steve on February 10, 2013

This is a translation and adaptation of the leader column I submitted – in my capacity as JAK board member – to JAK’s alternative economy magazine, Grus och Guld. JAK is a member- owned cooperative bank offering interest-free loans.

Like many JAK members I am driven by the desire to change society for the better. Not only to counteract the negative impact of interest on our economy, but the whole system’s negative effects on people. It is sad how money has penetrated our culture so deeply that it is determining the very fundamentals of our way of life. Soon, we won’t be able to “ afford” to be those wonderful, generous, creative, spiritual, loving, appreciative beings that we are in our true nature.

Still, it is not only the monetary system itself that shapes our culture, but the attitudes this money culture carries. It is attitudes not system that mean a farmer can hardly live on producing healthy food while a heart surgeon, who fixes the effects of poor diet, lives in luxury.

As an immigrant to Sweden in the 80’s I see how the hard side of Swedish culture continues to evolve. Despite priding itself on being a socialist nation, they accept domination of state, oligopolies and other strong forces, they accept individuals competing themselves into burn-out and they accept exclusion, even to the extent that people go homeless, toothless and hungry. This development is self-perpetuating. Companies encourage their executives to take risks, cut costs and act on the edge of what is legal in order to achieve profit. This in turn fosters a social psychopathic work ethic that recently had a private old-age care company badly mistreating the old people in their care just to squeeze a few more percentage points.

There are alternatives and possibilities, not least in the Transition movement. Last summer I had the privilege to meet with representatives of alternatives currencies in England. We did a membership count. (It went something like this I don’t remember exact numbers.) Totnes: 2000, Brixton:1000, Bristol: 3000, JAK: 37.000. A silence fell in the room where I can just imagine the thoughts the others were having – what THEY could achieve with 30 000 + members!

Although I do not have money to put into my JAK account, and even if I cannot borrow to put into a community project, there are things I can do, preferably together with other members of JAK. We can get together locally, talk to each other, discuss how we can become creators and bearers of a new, human, Swedish folk culture.

We can do small acts of kindness to our neighbours. And just inviting them for coffee, forming groups that do things together helps create the feeling that as long as we can form trusting relationships with each other there is enough for all – even an abundance – of what we need to live well. And it is just that – good feelings  and good relationships – that form the heart of a healthy culture.

No corporation or government is going to contribute to this development. We must create it ourselves. We can start by looking at the real capital we have in our communities – social, human, natural as well as the infrastructure built by the toil of our forefathers. Respect and trust are absolutely the most solid currencies available. It befalls those of us who recognise what’s going on – and you know if you are one of them – to do what we can to grow this kind of capital. Everything else is just numbers that we were enticed into putting our faith in by those who had the most to gain from perpetuating the illusion.

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