Wisdom Living

Wisdom Cooperatives

Introduction

As I mentioned in the last version Vision 2020, the forthcoming posts will be dedicated to what we can do now to gradually move towards establishing of Wisdom Society. At the same time, these activities should help ourselves and others in both mental and physical sense. This combination is necessary: who can trust that a vision of Wisdom Society has sense if, at least some of its aspects,  cannot be implemented now?

There are several elements of Wisdom Society, which we can attempt to realize, such as cooperation, wisdom practice, restoring the ecological environment and involvement in activities reducing, or at least slowing down the destructive effects of stratification. I will begin with the key idea of cooperation.

Cooperation versus competition in life history

Cooperation and competition are an integral part of life history from its very beginning around 3,5 billion years ago.  The earliest form of competition we can trace to situations when one organism absorbs another as its nutrition. It was typical among bacterias and archaea. But some of them also cooperated by sharing certain nutrients. The more advanced form of cooperation is taking place among, for example, social amebas, which facing a dangerous situation, are gathering, and forming a slime similar to a multicellular organism. Now, each existing multicellular organism can be viewed as continual cooperation of trillions of interconnected cells. All innumerable forms of symbiotic relations between species are also forms of cooperation.

For many highly developed social species, cooperation between individuals is absolutely necessary to survive, for example, such carnivorous as wolves are rarely successful while hunting individually, so instead, they cooperate in attacking their prey.  Cooperation takes even more sophisticated forms among the majority of social insects like ants, termites or bees,  performing complex tasks, which would be impossible for separate individuals, for example, ants pulling together branches and creating a “live bridge” or termites building over meter high hills.

On the other hand, a vast number of animal life forms compete, usually about food and territory, but also in some species individual males compete and fight to be able to impregnate females. According to Darwin’s natural selection theory, it is an evolutionary way of development by the success of the “fittest”.

Cooperation and competition among humans

When finally the evolution of life reached its apogee, and Homo Sapiens arrived on the scene, the role of cooperation and competition changed. As we now know, the earliest human social structure,  the hunters/gatherers, embraced full scale of cooperation. Not only each member of the group has its role but also helped others when encountered danger or difficulty. Due to this cooperation, they were able to accomplish such amazingly advanced tools like bow and arrows, boomerang, pottery or smelting soft metals like gold, silver or copper. Later on, due to their creative cooperation, they learned how to build wooden or clay houses, domesticate some animals and wild plants and smelt bronze. This creative cooperation continues and is responsible for all our progress.

Competition within the hunter/gatherers groups has not existed – they abandoned the rule of the leading male, which had to compete with others to assume and keep such a role.  They are, however, indications of inter-tribal conflicts, but they were quite rare.

It all changed when a few thousand years after the arrival of agriculture emerged a  concept of large scale private property of land, which earlier had no sense.  This gave a reason for competition between the owners to possess as much land as possible to produce more crops. That created the earliest form of social stratification.

However, it was not the end: the invention of melting the iron for making weapons and using the horses to ride and pull chariots became a turning point in the history of humanity. The competitions between pastoral tribes for the pasture land produced inter-tribal wars. Later on, the victors formed large armies and began invading the agriculturalists. As a result, the conquered ones were killed or became slaves of the victors. That brought a new form of social reality: slavery. All those topics are described in more detail in the posts: Our egalitarian past and Millenia of indoctrination and Poison of patriarchy.

Cooperative activities during slavery and feudalism

Before we come to the main topic, that is,  what we can do now, still a little bit of history, seems to be needed. In spite of the complete triumph of social and economic stratification in all its forms, the inter-human cooperation could not be erased. Even a slave owner had to cooperate with his slaves by providing them with food and shelter. Otherwise, they could not function and bring him benefits. The slaves, in turn, had to obey the slave owner. Otherwise, they were beaten or, in extreme cases, tortured and killed. It sounds like a parody, but nevertheless, it was a form of enforced cooperation.

Also, the cooperation was taking place among the higher classes of society by creating political alliances between rulers of states and cities, as well as protecting privileges of aristocracy and priests.

Later on, when the brutality of stratification became milder, and slavery has been replaced the feudalism, to the already mentioned forms of cooperation have been added new ones. The inhabitants of towns and even rural serfs, a milder form of the slaves,   have some freedom to creat some forms of cooperation. The craftsmen and artisans in cities were able to form guilds, which enabled cooperation in creating and maintaining rules protecting their status. Rich sea merchants could cooperate on a much larger scale. For example, in the numerous northern European ports, cities have created an association called Hanza, which protected their ships and trade against pirates and local aristocracy. Serfs, sometimes called peasants, usually worked collectively on fields owned by their lords, giving him a portion of crops while sharing the rest.

Cooperatives

Replacing feudalism by a new economic structure called capitalism combined with the growing influence of democracy as a socio-political system produced dramatic changes in numerous aspects of life, particularly when in the 19th century, the invention and immense popularity of the steam-powered machine began the Industrial Revolution. As an outcome, the rural serfs have been “liberated” to become urgently needed factory workers.

The new reality enables the emergence of new forms of cooperation in the lower classes. One of them was the trade unions, which were created to protect the workers against too excessive exploitation by the owner’s factories, mines, railroads and many others. The second was cooperatives on which will be the focus of the rest of this article.  

The first cooperative emerged as a socio-economic reality in the middle of the 19th century in England. They permitted various forms of sharing ownership, income and management. By now, all over the world exist thousands of cooperatives of several kinds like consumers, workers, farmers, professionals and housing cooperatives. If one would like to stretch the scope of the definition of the cooperative, we can even consider capitalistic enterprises as a cooperative, in which members are the shareholders, but it would be a bit ridiculous.

Cooperatives may differ in many aspects, for example, in some each member owns an equal part of the cooperative while in others it depends on the amount of money it invested, like is often the case in housing cooperatives. In others, the issue of ownership does not make sense and play no role, for example, in many consumers or professional cooperatives. The income may depend on the function a member plays or the amount of work which one performs; in others, everyone is paid equally.  The management of a cooperative can be done by its members, or the cooperative may employ someone else, as it is most often the case in housing cooperatives. However, the critical decisions concerning the cooperative are usually made democratically by all members, which means by the majority, though in some cooperative decisions are consensual.

Wisdom cooperatives

In a sense, all that I wrote until this point is a somewhat lengthy introduction to the ideas of how cooperatives can become elements of the path leading towards the creation of Wisdom Society.

Participation in or creation of a cooperative is something that we can do now. It may help ourselves and society by mellowing inequalities imposed by stratification. Also, as I discussed much earlier, the suggested legal structure for Wisdom nucleus would is some kind of agricultural workers cooperative.

The Wisdom cooperative should have at least two qualities: the decisions concerning it are made unanimously by all its members and income produced by it shared equally. They are not ways how it is done in capitalistic enterprises, but it is not as unusual as it looks: numerous existing cooperatives embrace such principles. However, making unanimous decisions is more difficult since we are heavily indoctrinated to hold and protect our personal views. We are afraid that agreeing with someone else’s opinion or ideas, if it differs from ours, is a sign of a lack of strong personality or intelligence. This to overcome that usually the decisions are making via voting, and the opinion of the majority prevails. Such a solution would contradict the fundamental principle of the egalitarianism of Wisdom Society.

However,  the unanimity in decision making may be more difficult to accomplish. Consequently, it is suggested to utilize some form of mental practice, which will “soften” the intensity of attachment to our personal views and open a possibility of accepting views of others. One of such practices is discussed in video-talks in the category Wisdom Training and, in more condensed form, in some of the textual posts in the category Wisdom Living. I would like to stress that these proposed practices are not a necessary condition for the creation and functioning of Wisdom cooperative; however, without some form of mental practice accomplishing consensual decisions may be very lengthy or even impossible.

The proposed Urban nuclei could be utilized as a natural basis for creating Wisdom cooperatives. The easiest to establish, simplest and bringing immediate benefits would be consumers cooperative. Its members could arrange to purchase various kinds of merchandise, usually organic food, from local sources with a discount. The functionality could be very simple: on a rotational basis,  one of the members would collect orders, collect the goods and distribute them to others. Obviously, this kind of cooperative may not apply to some virtual nuclei, where some members live too far from each other.

Another particularly attractive form for some city dwellers would be agricultural cooperative. The members could buy or rent a piece of agricultural land where they would learn new skills, connect with the more natural environment and, at the same time,  experiment with some more technologically innovative approaches. For example,  utilize a geothermally heated greenhouse, which may eliminate the need for any herbicides or insecticides (I intend to write more on this subject and post on this site) and permit the cultivation of crops more than one time a year. The acquired knowledge and skills could become invaluable when the members decide to go further and create a “real,” nutritionally self-sufficient Wisdom nucleus.

Another form of cooperative which may perfectly use some the Wisdom Society ideas is cohousing. The housing cooperatives, called condominiums,  were very popular during the 90-ties and early 2000 but recently lost its appeal. A Wisdom cohousing may have a variety of forms and would provide both inside and outside a more mentally and physically healthy environment than a typical apartment building. It also can be less expensive because it may eliminate the charge collected by developers and real estate agencies. Building a cohousing building opens numerous avenues for members’ creativity and also their participation in some of the work. Also, it could become a base for establishing an Urban nucleus.

Now I will describe examples of possible forms of cooperatives, which require more specialized skills. A very little investment would be needed to establish a cooperative specialized in soft services and products such as accounting, establishing and administering websites, software verification and debugging, 3-printing  and many others. The work can be coordinated and performed from members’ residences using internet-based communication. Lately, such form became increasingly popular during COVID-19 epidemics. These kinds of cooperatives can be done in each kind of urban nuclei, where physical contacts do not play an important role. 

Another form of cooperative, which also requires necessary skills, could provide more “physical” kinds of services like plumbing, electrical, or handyman works. For such cooperatives, the necessary investments are insignificant. Also, since work is typically performed in customers’ residences, the space requirements are limited only to accommodate some materials and tools.

The potentially controversial but socially beneficial kind would be, an educational cooperative. The members of such a cooperative could be people involved in the standard educational system, who see how outdated it is and how damaging it may be by propagating competition and punishing collaboration. I wrote more on this subject in the post Education in Wisdom nucleus and Education in Wisdom Society Part 1, Part 2a and Part 2b, but the majority of ideas suggested there do not require the environment provided by Wisdom nucleus or Wisdom Society. They can be easily implemented in the existing, common social situation. It is important to satisfy all the bureaucratic requirements to make such school “legal” and enabling children to continue within the existing educational system. This kind of cooperative could be done within the neighbourhood or cohabitation nucleus’

I could continue more examples of various kinds of cooperatives, but I think that a  group interested in forming a Wisdom cooperative may come up with many more practical and interesting ideas. I decided to limit my role only to point out the possibility of such an approach.

Closing remarks

Creating or participating in a Wisdom cooperative is one of the many ways we can help ourselves and others and make the idea of creating Wisdom society more realistic. It also is an activity, in which we can get involved now, not in some future difficult to predict.  It is a step that might not be easy to take, but it always is worth contemplating.

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