Changing the World
A Vision of a Circleway Village
11. The Village Economy
The guide leads us now to the large building standing beside the hotel. The room listings in the foyer indicate that it is full of offices. A few are for the management of the Village, a sort of town hall, and the others are home offices of many various businesses. We get to peek in to a few and say hello to the folks hard at work there. One person who speaks to us there is in charge of the Circle Way Network Center, where communication is made with the hundreds of other Circle Way Villages around the world. Arrangements are being made for visitors coming from other villages and for villagers here to visit other villages, exchanging work and skills, or to teach or to learn. There is also an active trading network, especially within the local bioregion, but also with distant villages across the planet for items of their specialties.
Here also on the ground floor are the offices that manage the programs, the schools, the public relations and outreach of the Village, the post office, and the Village Bank. The outreach includes participation in global Circle Way programs for peace in troubled areas, for environmental and medical catastrophic emergency relief. We learn there is a team from the Village helping rebuild a town in Iran after a disastrous earthquake.
“It is heartening to see your concern for the welfare of other suffering people in the world.”
“Of course. That concern is human and shared to some extent by everyone in the world. But that concern is blunted by the anxiety inherent in their economic system.”
“So you have worked out a system that provides absolute security for everyone? Would you call that socialism??”
“Are you really interested in a theoretical discussion now?” There are a few enthusiastic assents and many nods, so the guide goes on.
“Okay, we can take a few minutes for that. Those that aren’t interested feel free to look around, peek into offices, ask questions.
“Socialism. Well, I wouldn’t use that label because it is associated with governments which used power to enforce programs by fear. As long as the economy is an instrument of big government and big business, of nation states and international corporations, it is going to be controlled by wealth, by the rich and powerful, whether they call it capitalism or socialism, democracy, republicanism or whatever. All that wealth is devoted to preserving the status quo, indoctrinating people through the media, isolating people and ensuring their conformity, devoted to the military, police and prison systems that maintain the hegemony of the state and industry. To support this system people work at exhausting, stressful jobs and often more than one job so they may buy, buy, buy more and more and bury the beauty of earth in junk and pollution.
“It is an immoral culture, without soul or heart, which places profit and material things above all other values. Most of the world struggles to survive every day in a prison of poverty while being exploited by the very few beneficiaries of the system.
“These few say they want to help the rest of the world to freedom, democracy, and material wealth. They have been brain-washed into thinking, despite all evidence to the contrary, that they are truly free and equal, that they have true democracy, and that material things will make them happy and satisfy their souls’ longing. In that affluent part of the world people are taking a day’s rest now from work and livers that they want to forget by watching stories and games of other people’s making on television and computer screens. If they are not doing that they are engaged in schemes of theft and corruption, sedating themselves with alcohol and other drugs, or exploding from their frustrations in rage and violence.
“Gandhi believed that if his people could simplify their lives to the absolute essentials materially they could make what they needed themselves and lead spiritually satisfying lives rejecting Great Britain and all the values of that system. He believed that the point of all labor was to benefit the laborer, not government or financiers. He believed that by cooperation people could take care of each other and make and share all they needed. It was a great idea, but the people had already become too infected by the material values of the industrial world. They wanted to reject Great Britain but become like the British themselves.
“That economic system is dependent on growth. To survive it must grow. It must build more and more and lay waste the earth, it must make people make more so that they can buy more. It’s like a cancer. It wants population growth too, to make more workers and more consumers, and that is a major threat now. The only values it promulgates are the values of personal vanity, envy and greed.
“The answer to the immorality and spiritual vacuity of the system had to arise from within the system itself, but inspired by the experiences of past cultures that achieved a balance of peacefulness, health and happiness, and a connection to the rest of nature, beauty and spiritual satisfaction.
“Our objective here is for the people, as Gandhi wished, to take back the power from the state and industry and make and do everything for ourselves.”
“You don’t have it all covered yet? What about national defense? What about interstate highways, global transportation? What about criminal justice? “
“The need for much of those will begin to disappear the more people organize in self-sufficient communities, and others can be handled by networking among communities. The principle is that the human mind can create whatever it wants. And if the guidelines for that creativity is to enhance closeness, trust and love, equality and freedom and fun, then that’s the kind of world we will make. “
“So how does your economy function?”
“We’ll visit the bank now and you can get some idea. As you note our financial system, internally and in networking with other villages, keep in mind Gandhi’s ideals of simplicity, cooperation, and sharing, and the notion of human closeness and a human scale to all human activity.”
The visit to the Village Bank gives us the chance to learn more about the economy and ownership in the Village. All the land and buildings are owned in common by the Village Corporation, which is owned by all the villagers. The buildings are built with Village money and labor, but as we have seen the owners of residences were the primary consultants on their design. The profits from all business as well as employment outside the Village all go to the Village Fund. Villagers can request money for certain outside purchases, but the basic needs of shelter, food, clothing, fuel, medicine, household supplies, including electronics such as audio-visual, computer and telephone equipment, as well as musical instruments, are generally produced and provided free by the Village businesses. These could be said to be individually owned, but the” owners” think of themselves more as caretakers of these material things.
Vehicles are held in common, and anyone needing one for any purpose need only request it, as well as money for fuel, and perhaps food and lodging if it’s a long trip. Vacation travel should be requested well in advance, but they can be of any duration or frequency.
Immediately we visitors ask if these policies do not lead to a great deal of abuse by some individuals.
“Your question is understandable,” our guide says with a smile, “coming from your culture of individualism, of competition, scarcity, and your association of happiness with material things. That is why people don’t get plugged into the system here as full citizens for one year after they arrive. By that time the closeness in the clans and in the Village has changed the person from an individualist looking out for himself to a tribal member looking out for everyone.
People don’t want a lot of gadgets and toys when they have each other, when there’s so much fun to be had playing with your friends and creating new wonders. And no one wants to stay very long away from their clan and their tribe. Adults here will sympathize with you because they can remember how it was before they had each other. But the children think it’s weird that folks out there want to sit around sunk in television or computer games, or pay tons of money to listen to some superstar when they can make their own music. They don’t want to get zonked on alcohol or drugs when they could get completely and hysterically high just singing and dancing and playing together.”
“What about this travel policy?”
“Well, some folks like to stay home because they are so creatively engaged here, others like to take little trips to see something different or visit relatives, but right away miss the closeness and love and so hustle back. And a few folks just love to travel. Want to see the whole world. Luckily we have grown to the extent there are our villages on every continent, and we can arrange trips and visits very cheaply, especially with the renewable energy vehicles we have developed. Some of these frequent travelers get involved with our project in other villages or outreach programs. And some do a lot of public relations, lectures and conferences, and plant seeds around the world for new Circle Way Villages. Perhaps help some get started.”
“And so this complete sharing of income and property works for everyone?”
“Once you get it that there is really no scarcity, nothing that you really want you can’t get, you certainly don’t mind sharing it all. Everyone remembers what it was like to have plenty of things and always want more. And when you got more, however much, there was little joy. Too much stress, not enough fun. Too much isolation and loneliness, not enough closeness, understanding and appreciation. Too high a price to pay for stuff you find you don’t really need or care about.
“In the beginning some of the villages used the work-credit system, similar to Twin Oaks and Walden Two. Maybe a few still use them – they work okay. But we got impatient with that – too much like commercialism keeping us from complete equality and closeness. We wanted to try something more radical. Do away with money. That works at Rainbow Gatherings. Just trust our human goodness and sharing that we would never be without. And we’d have more fun. So – we did, and we do.”
“But you do deal with money. You have a bank.”
“Oh yes, we haven’t converted the world yet, so we must survive in the dominant culture and pay our bills there. Our bank uses the funds for all our expenses, of course, and a saving fund for medical and other emergencies, but also for our outreach, our emergency relief programs, loans and assistance to start-up villages and other developing communities. And sometimes to invest in other efforts to humanize society. But we should move on and try to see the rest of the Village this morning because this afternoon there is a concert we have been looking forward to. If you have more questions about our economy or anything else, we’ll have a wrap-up tonight for all the tours with some of our key people from all sectors.”
Next door we look in on the tiny hospital house with its emergency clinic, a few rooms with beds, an intensive care unit and rehabilitation section. There is also a small laboratory, which produces some of their most used medicines.
“The way the pharmaceutical and medical industries overcharge in their culture of greed is scandalous, cruel and immoral,” our guide states, “We need to begin to take control of our healing again. You have seen our fitness center, which also provides nutritional aid and alternatives like acupuncture and meditation.”
The little hospital has a nurse and EMT with ambulance on hand and a Village doctor on call. They are also able to assist with emergencies in the surrounding areas when needed. Some of us make favorable comments about the humanitarian outreach of this small village.
“It has been important in the founding of our villages that the public does not see them as in opposition to the dominant society, but as a pioneering experiment that is in the best interest of all people. So we always make special efforts to connect with our neighbors, as well as with social, business, and governmental groups. Our fire department and medical aid units are always on call for the surrounding communities, and we work with relief organizations such as the Red Cross, and other charities. We don’t want to alienate the main stream, we want to coax it to come our way.”
“Do you think it will?”
“Well, you’re here, aren’t you?”