I am beginning the process of preparing to retire but this does not mean doing nothing. What I am looking forward to is being able to pursue some of my dreams and visions that have been bogged down by the daily grind of work. I am not retiring because I wait to finish working. I am retiring because I no longer see the work that I am doing moving in the direction that I believe is desirable. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that I no longer belief in the system that my work is promoting or encouraging others to pursue. One of the possibilities for retirement is that I will have a base income that will allow us to meet our needs but that income will not dictate how I spend my days. It will allow us to fulfil our potential in areas that have been dormant while we have pursued the income that we believed we needed to live.
Earlier this year (25 March), I blogged on a set of progressive principles that I had been working with a group here in Birmingham to develop. The key principle for me from our five principles is enabling potential. I know others argued that this principle was too academic and was the weakest of the principles that we developed. For me, if we recognise the importance of enabling potential then our attitudes will change to the way that we see others and to the way education is developed. It would also change the way that we treat other nations and I believe resolve many of our international relationship issues.
Enabling potential is about understanding the needs of others and the environment to enable them to flourish using the skill set that they have been given. Our current economic and educational system looks at all things from the perspective of the profit that can be made from them. Under the current system, the use of the environment is about maximising production whether in farming or extracting natural resources. Enabling the environment to flourish is something that individuals have to fight for against the system.
In the education, I see it increasingly being about indoctrination of students to become part of the current system and not about helping them to become what they are capable of becoming. We push large numbers through a pipeline for the purposes of enabling them to be employed in a system that is slowly destroying them and the planet. That indoctrination process doesn’t ask them to question the direction of society or to evaluate evidence. That might make them unemployable. The fact that encouraging the questions to question and to develop their potential might lead to a better society is irrelevant.
Two of the other principles are equal society and economy for the common good. I believe neither of these principles will be achieved without creating a needs based economy, that is one that focuses on meeting needs rather than achieving profits. I believe that this was the basis of the original obligation systems (Graeber, 2011; Martin, 2013) and not for the accounting of what was owed as the result of a trade. What was exchanged was what was predominantly what was needed to live.
A needs based economy and enabling potential require a change in focus from what can I make from this exchange to understand others and the environment so that we can meet their needs. This makes it a much more relational attitude and one that encourages understanding. This is how I understand conflict resolution or transformation and particularly peace building. Government peace building often focuses on creating infrastructure and economies (Francis, 2010) but this ignores the relational aspects of peace building. My interest is to promote this more relational approach to peace building, economics, environment, and individual relationships.
So if you are interested in building a different society to the one that we have now. A society that is not competitive but cooperative. One that fosters potential rather than indoctrinates then lets talk.
Graeber, D. (2011). Debt: The first 5,000 years. New York: Melville House.
Martin, F. (2013). Money, The unauthoriesd biography. London: The Bodley Head.
Francis, D. (2010). From pacification to peacebuilding: A call to global transformation. England: Pluto Press.