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interdependence 246Interdependence

From a blog by James Perry

We know some issues in society can only be addressed by regulation change or reprioritisation of government or organisation funds. However, constantly thinking this can be a way to deflect personal, citizen responsibility and action.

Here's a simple example. Some litter is outside your house. Do you go out and clear it or do you say, 'I pay my rates and the Council should clean the streets more often.'?

Or 'Grandparents are supplying thousands of hour of free child care, the state should pay them'. Since when did family duty become a paid job?

Years of dependency on various agencies can create a culture that 'they' should do everything and a sense of surprise when they do not. Such expectations are clearly unrealistic and we haven't really had a good debate about what should or should not be provided and what is our own personal responsibility.

Taken too far, such expectations destroy 'community', weaken families, stop people taking personal responsibility. It helps create the very poverty it seeks to address.

With that in mind, excerpts from a blog on The Age of Interdependence from James Perry from B the Change, are thought-provoking:

The Age of Interdependence Is Upon Us

In the post-War period, the idea of individualism quietly spread, at just the time that the great pre-War political battle lines between the left (the interests of labour) and the right (the interests of capital) were starting to disintegrate. To all but the most hard-core party political people, it became obvious that both labour and capital are critical, and the idea that one must choose between them is bogus. As these old battle lines fell away, individualism silently, completely and globally infiltrated and co-opted all mainstream politics - whether left, right or liberal.

What are the implications of this invisible ideology of individualism? By definition, it is unable to place value on the rich tapestry of relationships that make us human, that make life worthwhile, and on which our society depends - relationships with each other and with our world. Rather, it says that all things - especially people - can be reduced to individual and measurable units of production, consumption and taxation. That all policies should prioritize individual rights (to maximize the self) over individual responsibility (to contribute to the whole).

In this scenario, over time the patient of society gets ever sicker, as its life-force is sapped by lame efforts to reign in its more obvious excesses are held in ever greater contempt by civilians.

We are, of course, individuals. But we do not exist in a vacuum. Our fulfilment and existence depend on friends, family, community, food systems and ecosystems. The path to change is to recognise our Interdependence. This is not a choice that we make. It simply the acknowledgement of the most ancient of truths. A conviction, an imperative, an inspiration.

Interdependence is an idea in direct opposition to individualism. It is so opposed to individualism that it requires all the underlying assumptions of our Individualistic social design to be rethought. Individualism outsourced responsibility - to government or charities mostly - to focus on me, today. By contrast, Interdependence insources responsibility - to focus on us, today and tomorrow. It says that government and nonprofits can’t solve our great challenges alone.

Individualism says that it is someone else’s job to make the world better, and it’s my job to put some coins in their bucket. Interdependence says that it’s my job to make the world better. It recognises that I am not a powerless individual, but rather a part of a powerful community. We understand that by diverting business away from certain companies, we can take away their lifeblood. We won’t work in the great bureaucracies of the individualist era. Instead, we choose to use our talent to shape a world we want for our children. We are learning that we can use our savings to create this world, understanding that our £50 trillion of invested capital will shape it more profoundly than any politicians.

This interdependent phenomenon has started to spontaneously organise, but not through traditional political or consumer channels. Rather, it organises through such initiatives as climate action, conscious consumerism, impact investing, open-sourced technology, a circular economy, purposeful work, B Corporations, crowdfunding and sustainability. The individualist bureaucracy and their media watch as millennials increasingly ignore them and as they walk away to spend their careers - and their money - in these new, interdependent, places.

Interdependence changes the role of government. In our individualist world, business is the poacher that makes money and dumps externalities on civil society. It has no responsibility for those externalities because it has outsourced those to government. Government is the gamekeeper hunting down business through regulation, and taxing shareholders and companies for funds to fix the problems. Meanwhile business buys the lobby.

In an interdependent world, business makes money and avoids dumping externalities on civil society, instead seeking to enrich and repair it. The more it enriches and repairs, the more it is rewarded by the interdependent consumer - some large institutions are showing encouraging signs of waking up to this. It wants to pay its taxes, because that is part of its role. Interdependent government’s role is to promote alignment and incentivise. It asserts that with limited financial liability comes social responsibility. So, an interdependent tax system incentivises net positive behaviour and dis-incentivises the net negative.

Where the individualist world casts its civilians in the passive role of consumers, the Interdependent world casts them as citizens. Citizenship restores agency, and responsibility, for shaping our own lives and our community. No longer are we consumers of a health service, which is responsible for making us healthy. Instead, we are citizens responsible for supporting the health of our families and community.

Individualism views the rich tapestry of social bonds that makes us resilient and self-reliant - whether families, communities or countries - with suspicion, as antipathetic to individual rights. By contrast, interdependence seeks to strengthen and multiply those bonds, recognising that it is more important to be together than to be in agreement.

So, where individualism requires a government-operated welfare state and regulation - both of which are manifestly in various stages of meltdown - interdependence opens up the potential for a welfare state operated by citizens, whether civil society or business. They do so in partnership with government, because it might deliver better outcomes for those in need, more efficiently. The nature of regulation is fundamentally changed as gamekeeper versus poacher is replaced by fostering collaboration, intermediating relationships (by policing good faith), and supporting transparency and understanding through the development of better information. 

The shift from individualism to interdependence has already happened. It happened in the hearts and minds of those who will soon hold the levers of power. Now we have the unique opportunity to shape this coming age of interdependence. For the benefit of us all, today and tomorrow.

Let's foster interdependence.  Rather than say 'they' should do something about it, say what you have done or will do about it with others..

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From a blog by James Perry, 02/01/2018

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