Brittle agreements

Sometimes it is just the right call. This week it was from the Leap Research which is interested in interviewing me, paying me* and talking with me about sharing.

It is sweet because i think a lot about sharing.  I actually think sharing is one of the very few things we can do to get ourselves out of this terrible jam we are in.  But we do it badly because we make brittle agreements.

what does not bend breaks – Ani

Let’s pretend i am a generous sort.  You come to me and ask to borrow my car, i throw you the keys and don’t think about it again.

You return later and i notice that the car is scratched.

Distressed i say “Hey, what happened to the car?”

You reply, “i went to the east side of town and it looks like someone scratched it intentionally, i did not see it happen”

“You went to the east side of town?!” i gasp, “of course you got damaged on the east side of town, everyone knows the east side is too dangerous.  I am never going to lend you my car again.  Your judgment is so poor i am never going to lend you anything again.”  And thus shatters the relationship – trust, possibility, mutual aid, all shards on the floor, probably never to be rebuilt.

Stuff gets banged up, lost, stolen, worn out, etc.  If we are going to use sharing to get us out of this mess, we need to become experts in flexible agreements.  We need to build in contingencies to make everyone feels taken care of.

Let’s continue our example and say that i, the negligent borrower, don’t have much money. i cant afford to offer to pay for the scratch to be fixed (and don’t really think it is that big a deal, it is not like the car does not have some other serious scratches in it).  But i want to do something to make it better, to make it right and there are a dozen ways we could go.  But our collective culture most commonly is that we don’t do this investigation, it is a hassle, we prefer to be dismissive and judgmental (i am all about judgmental by the way).

At the commune, we don’t care so much about the appearance of the vehicles, perhaps another manifestation of us being either more evolved or poorer than our Babylonian counterparts.  If there is an accident with one of our cars, the first questions “is everyone okay?” and we often never make it to the second questions about the condition of the vehicle, it just does matter that much.

I have a lot to say about what we have learned about sharing from our vehicles system and our bike system and our free clothes lending library.  We have learned about how to beat hoarding, and how to run dual semi-permeable systems and how to adjust control points in sharing systems to fine-tune sharing systems to perform better.  And this is already a long post so more is to come.

Just thought i would share.

* While they will be “paying me” for our interview, the money will go to the commune and i will get labor credits for the work.  They found me because i am here, not because i am a world-renowned sharer – not yet anyway.

About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

10 responses to “Brittle agreements”

  1. Abigail says :

    Im curious, is it only fear of damage that make people not want to share? Seems to me there are many factors that make people think its better to have your own stuff. I think laziness is part of it, and conflict avoidance and all sorts of other complex psychological feelings that get fed on by marketers. But Im not so sure we even inherently want to. Looking forward to more thoughts…

  2. Will says :

    Pax, this one resonates with me in an unexpected way: I’m often told that I’m judgmental, and I respond “You say that like it’s a BAD thing!”

  3. Arjen says :

    Yeah, this is pretty interesting stuff. Here in Eugene we have a very progressive electric company. One of the things they point out is that most people have about 30 vampire charges (equipment that is not being used, but still takes electricity) on their electric bill, which can be more than 5% of the bill. But of course the best way to save money on the electric bill is by sharing the space with more people: if a couple takes in a house mate, the electric bill is cut by 30%! But I guess that is a little too radical for the electric company. The same applies to cars: gas guzzling pick up trucks will have better gas mileage per person than a prius if you fill up the bed with 15 people!

    I find that there is a fine line between being judgmental and being discerning. I prefer discernment, since it still gives you the clarity of what you believe to be right while not blaming others for not doing the right thing. Not always easy though…

    Happy birthday Pax and I hope you are being roasted in a fun way.


  4. richard jbird lisko says :

    This post brings to mind the saying: if it jams, force it. if it breaks, it needed fixing anyway.

  5. Ember says :

    It was so refreshing during my visit at Twin Oaks to experience such sharing and that most everything was for public use. It was great to be able to borrow any book from the many libraries, to go into any kitchen and grab some granola, and to even be able to use a shared living space for three weeks. When we live by a ‘what’s mine is yours’ attitude most of us want to take extra care of whatever it is we’re borrowing because you know that everyone is going to be using it, not just yourself. We would not only consume less because we wouldn’t be buying multiples of everything for every individuals, but also because we would take better care of our things.

  6. RJ says :

    I completely Agree with Your Analysis, Paxus Calta-Star! I have Created over a Half a Dozen; Free It Forward Pages in the Southern Colorado Area. Things are pretty Sparse here, paying, doesnt happen often. A Life without Money, can be Fun & Creative!! 😉
    I also had a Free Grocery Store in the Area for awhile. I also Frquent a couple of Free Stores in the are, when i can get there…
    Living on $99 Utility Allowance & $194 in Food Stamps. Not Easy, but it Is Possible!! 🙂

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