The power of politics is the power to make laws to govern. The law should be minimum. Otherwise it becomes a tool to restrict people’s freedom instead of facilitating it. So by nature, what we can do should be much larger than what should be governed. Thus participation in democracy has two parts. One part is to take on what we can already do in the communities, organize together to work on what we value as important. The other part is to participate in the area of law making, making sure of a fair playground. The first part is often ignored and not recognized as part of participation in democracy, while most attention when it comes to participation in democracy is given to the second part. However, the first part should by nature the essence and the goal of democracy. And in our time of social transformation powered by the web, we should especially pay a lot more attention to the first part, because our current efforts are to increase the range of social services that are used to meet people’s spiritual needs to probably about 1 billion times of what we have now. Imagine what a different world it will be.
As I mentioned in previous essay, there is physical products and social/spiritual products. The latter belongs to the realm of consciousness. In our time, because people’s consciousness is connected and people can engage with each other through various software, we are seeing the explosion of the social products. We human beings have a large range of social or spiritual needs that weren’t sufficiently met previously. The transformation of our time is to provide services/products to meet the full spectrum of people’s social needs.
Money is the currency for exchange of labor. It is the universal currency, so it is easy to scale it up and a lot of transactions can be built on top of it, such as the stock market. This currency is useful for exchanges of physical goods in a large scale across a large geographic area. But when we come to the social services, especially when we come to a large range of social needs of a local community, the exchange of labor probably should not be expressed in term of money. In the affluent society as in America, people get to have more time to be engaged in various types of activities that don’t necessarily make money, but are treated as valuable (valuable as they matter to their happiness). When people voluntarily work for each other to meet each other’s needs, it is also a kind of exchange of labor. They also make friends in this process, which is better. (We know a lot of people are very willing to lose money to just make some friends.)
To make this discussion more concrete, here is one example. For example, on facebook (Not that I endorse facebook here. Their application probably should be more open. But as a self-claimed utility company, they do have potentially an important role in this.), just by knowing people living in the same neighborhood, a lot of things can happen. For example, I feel we should take care of a community garden, I can post the request to get people together to work on it. Or I need people to do some logo design for my websites, I can also post this to the local community. This kind of exchange of labor doesn’t have to be very strict that I have to get the same amount of labor in return for what I have done for others. This is a very different scenario than the money based market system, where profit driven is the key to measuring things and moving things around. In the local social services, it is more about friendship and community-building than profits. So the scenario should be very different.
There are a lot of social services we need to provide to enrich our local communities. This is a large space we are going to see an explosion of activities in the next few years.
By self-organizing in producing these social products/services, people are exercising their power. This is the power of consciousness. When people learn how to exercise the power of their consciousness and build up the infrastructure of it, we are going to see this power overcomes the power of capital in the political domain. Indeed, this power of consciousness has to be much bigger than the power of capital.
So this is what I feel. I feel people should pay more attention to community building and enriching our social life, building various infrastructure (soft ones, not necessarily hard ones) of society. All these can be summarized as Building a Better Playground.
I think it might be helpful to make this more specific in term of what each of us can start taking actions personally. What should we put our efforts in exactly? I think we should figure out what is the thing that each of us consider as his/her art, the thing that s/he really enjoys and wants to be good at. How s/he can utilize the resources provided by our society to best pursue her/his arts? How we can help each other to bring out the true values in our arts? By pursuing all these hard, we might come to a point that we can touch the walls of our society. Then that might be the point of political significance, e.g. how we can change the way our society is structured thus people have more freedom to pursue their arts.
More generally, we should focus on things that we deem valuable in our lives. For example, making friends. By focusing on these we might come to see the barriers that are set up to block people communicating with each other, or to alienate people from their true natures.
Using the line from the Grapes of Wrath, “We are the people”. We are the majority. Let’s take back the power that is hijacked by a few minorities.