Act Without Fear

Posted on 27 February 2015

Last year I arranged a Saturday afternoon where a group of my friends who have a photography club and another group of my friends who do comedy came together for a portrait photography day. The photographer friends wanted some practise taking images of human beings, since up until that point most of their work had been with nature and cityscapes. Getting models who were comic performers seemed like extra fun and more interesting than the usual carefully posed pretty people. The comedy friends could always use more promotional photographs and usually live within a tight budget. It was a win-win day.

Typically photographers hire models. Typically comedians pay for stills. If one group felt more desperate than the other, if one group felt fearful that they wouldn’t get what they needed, then it’s possible that group would have been required to pay money, because honestly it could have gone either way. So, the question that comes to my mind is, why do we pay people? How do we decide when numbers need to be passed around to ensure a fair exchange and how much?

Currently, we don’t have enough paid positions for the number of people in this country and on this planet. The number is going to go up with increasing roboticisation and expert systems taking over human employment. However, I would say there is plenty of work, just not enough flow of resources. We need people doing conservation work, caring for the elderly, developing new technologies, creating art, giving birth to healthy babies, etc. These people can be vulnerable enough that it is easy to ignore and abuse them, while they may still be providing essential services. The person who is fearful has to pay.

I remember once thinking that the problem was one whereby people clever at manipulating numbers were locking up currency in the hands of the few. With a community currency that could not be collected in a meaningful manner this problem would go away. I put together the Eastern Group Local Economic Trading System (EagLETS). After running this for a couple years I found some of the same problems that faced the wider community, we were again facing within our community currency group.

We had people join who were fearful that because of a lack of money they would not be able to do the things they loved. They felt so bogged down with the details of survival that they weren’t finding the time to paint, fish, hold barbecues, whatever. So, those willing to offer dishwashing, babysitting, and lawnmowing were in high demand. They could ask for greater pay in our currency because their time was at a premium. Whereas those who could offer handknitted blankets had to work doubly hard to have access to these services. Technically, they could go into debt and just ask for the services. Nevertheless, since we were keeping track of the trades and the numbers were public, it looked to all the world like the knitters weren’t pulling their weight. This generated resentment: the knitters for being valued so little, the rest of the LETS group because the knitters appeared to be a drag on the system.

I now know of LETS groups who make people apply to get in. If you don’t have a skill which the group needs, they will not accept you. So people with no skills, redundant skills, or are too young, old, or handicapped to contribute are left out. We have just re-invented the system as it is.

Keeping people fearful and needy is a good (bad) way to keep them manipulable. You can give fearful people less and less, and they are often willing to accept it. “Dream jobs” are notorious for this. I used to lecture in storytelling for computer game design. I had students who were desperate for jobs in the gaming industry. The poor wages and long hours they were willing to put up with was scandalous. No matter how awesome the job, a company should be obliged to pay people fairly and work people reasonable hours.

My thoughts are that we must stop thinking in terms of exchange. We need to stop thinking about whether someone has earned or deserves a living. We must start with the premise that everyone has a right to their existence. We will do all we can to ensure everyone has what they need. We need to learn how to share resources, then create broad inter-connected systems that make this possible. We also need to learn how to conserve resources, so that they continue to be available for future generations. This would be part of learning how to cooperate.

Cooperation will help us to get beyond just tending to our needs. We would then be able to allocate resources for education, arts, new technologies, and more. Work must become democratised. We are governed as much by our places of employment as we are by a country’s political systems.

When it comes to fairness it’s not exchange that makes what happens among people in a community fair, it’s participation. So long as everyone is participating and everyone is doing their best to ensure the community is surviving and then thriving, it is enough. The expectation of participation should then extend to inclusion…helping all members to contribute without obligation. And that is key: once we fall into obligation and punishment to make this new system work, we are back to more of the old system. We have to eliminate fear from our dealings.

The best way to change our current state of affairs is to learn to care about one another and the planet, then act without fear. Think to yourself, if I didn’t feel frightened or desperate then what would I do? Take that action. It’s the right one.

Peace and kindness,


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