February 15, 2013

Open Skills Sharing: why does everything have a price?

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Today, the paradigm we live in is one in which we as a community have isolated the economic dimension of our lives and turned it into the supreme principle we live by. These commerce worshipping times we live in trivialise the value of generosity by attaching a price tag, even though when we stop to look back on our lives, the things we remember most are experiences shared and not the things we have bought or have been bought for us. 

 

Kathleen Vohs, a psychologist from of the University of Minnesota, performed a series of experiments on money’s effect on communal behaviour, the results of which demonstrated that money severely intensifies individualism and decreases community focus. Simply leaving money within sight or hinting at its presence while a group complete a series of tasks and interactions – even when no mention of a financial reward was mentioned – lead that group to behave in a more distant and more autonomous way, demonstrating less sharing and concern about others. What this suggests is that we have internalised these behaviours relation to money and subconsciously bring them to the fore when around these little green pieces of paper (Singer 2011). Renowned minds such as Buda, Socrates, Plato and Epicure, have repeatedly highlighted how helping others benefits our health and growth as humans, there a direct connection between giving and sharing to satisfaction with life and happiness. When helping others, centres of gratification of the brain become active, the same centres that react when eating something sweet or winning a contest. If money is interfering with this then surely it is also impacting our health and spiritual growth!

 

Groups of people who remain outside our money focused paradigm may teach us something about the importance and benefits of avoiding this system. Latouche (2009) mentions Jacques Godbout and his narration about the failure to commercialize the Caribou in an Inuit community. In order to commercialise the Caribou it was necessary to teach the Inuit to see it as an object, a commodity which could be hunted, cut into pieces and sold for profit like any other modern product – but the attempt to convince them that this was the correct way to conduct their life’s was a complete failure; Inuit people hold a great respect for the Caribou and were unwilling to forget about their history and relationship with the proud animal and the idea of hunting more than was needed to eat was seen as a huge dishonour to the noble beast. 

 

The Luo people in Africa have been using money for all their daily transactions since the early 20th century, but they place an strong emphasis on keeping it out of transactions involving community and personal value. In their society the way in which a reward is gained is very important, and because money is used as a reward any money which is gained by dishonourable activities is seen as bitter money that is dangerous to the family who has taken it. According to well respected African Anthropologist Parker Shipton it represents a reaction to the new tensions money created in their society and a reaction to the intruding possessive and individualistic forces which were uncommon to them before. Their reaction was to protect personalized relationships and give back the control of the vital resources to the family and the community by keeping money out of any social transactions as a way of controlling these negative influences, derived from the western ideas and principles that had arrived and which their community found to be threatening or prejudicial

 

Giving is does not have to be economically rational. Our open skills swap stimulates teaching, learning, and sharing between people, promotes social relationships, moral and social integration and compromise. With no obligatory return, dictated by no economical or utilitarian principle, we give and we receive simply for the pleasure. We share because we can share and hope that everyone receives great value from the experience.

Written with Love,
Mariana