This past Saturday, the Community Exchange Group of Transition Bloomington took action for the first time, holding a Spring Swap Meet in the atrium of city hall, right next to the large, local Saturday Farmer’s Market.
The event just about didn’t come off. Our publicity was not quite extensive enough to create a real buzz, and I, especially, was concerned that the event would flop. That it did work, in a modest way, was due in large part to a fortuitous phone call from the local newspaper at the very hour when I, who had spearheaded the event, was on the verge of despair. And the story the Herald-Times wrote up was terrific. It quoted both our motto, “An abundant life without cash!” and the remark I made to the reporter when asked why we were doing the swap: “It’s to begin a transition to an economy that partially runs on sharing with each other rather than buying from each other.”
Imagine how much stuff actually sloshes around in this culture; now imagine that production of stuff stopped. If we did keep the existing material stuff in circulation, so that those who really needed it, got it, and then gave it away when done, how long would it be before it all ran out? Ten years? Twenty years? We can simplify our lives not just individually, but collectively, and in the process save both energy and the environment.
Here are a few excerpts from the write-up I put on the Transition Bloomington ning site for our little event with photos:
“Thanks to great, unanticipated, and unexpected publicity from the H-T at the last minute the first of two planned Swap Meets for this year . . . went off without a hitch and a good bit of wonderful stuff. Eight tables worth, plus floor furniture. Everything, including a kitchen sink! A few photos:
“Our mission, to educate and demonstrate for the general public various ways to cultivate ‘An abundant life without cash,’ has now taken its first step into concrete manifestation. Besides swaps, we will promote time banks and the new Bloomington, Indiana section of the global Community Exchange System (www.ces.org.za).
“For our Fall Swap, we’ll make sure we’ve got more lead time for people to clean out their closets and donate.
“One anecdote from our first swap event is worth telling here. A little girl came in with her father. She was delighted that there were some stuffed animals to choose from.
“Her father, however, said to me, after hearing that everything was free, said, ‘Well I appreciate the idea, but I’m suspicious of its execution.’ He looked over to the gleaming kitchen sink. ‘You mean that’s free?’
“‘What’s the catch?’
“‘Nothing. In the swap, you give to strangers and you receive from strangers.'”
The more I think about it, the more I realize that initiatives such as swap meets, time banks, and other ways of exchanging goods and services that do not involve the use of money are actually revolutionary. Such simple ways to express the still forming revolutionary Uranus in innovative Aries square transformational Pluto in structural Capricorn dynamic!
We don’t have to leave town to do something wild.
I’ll end this post with a quote from “The Consumer Self,” by Clive Hamilton, that demonstrates both the value and the vitality of returning to a truly authentic life:
“The desire for an authentic sense of self is pursued increasingly by way ofsubstitute gratifications—external rewards, money and material consumption.
These substitute gratifications can never provide what we really need; one cannot find an authentic identity in a supermarket or department store. Yet this unbridgeable gap is precisely what the latest phase of consumer capitalism needs, a constant feeling of dissatisfaction to sustain spending. While economic growth is said to be the process whereby people’s wants are satisfied so that they become happier, in the consumption society economic growth can be sustained only as long as people remain discontented. Economic growth no longer creates happiness: unhappiness sustains economic growth.
“Over-consumption has psychological costs. One study found that four in ten people ‘feel anxious, guilty or depressed about the clutter in their homes’. They say they feel overwhelmed and disorganised; some feel trapped by their possessions. The collapse in national savings and the blow-out in debt reflected an upheaval in the values that had defined the post-war era. Norms of moderation and thrift were replaced by a culture of impulsiveness. We wanted it now and once we had it we soon began to think about replacing it.
“The point of all of this for climate change is evident. When we ask affluent consumers to change their consumption behaviour we are asking of them much more than we realise. The purpose of the shift in marketing from promoting the qualities, real or imagined, of a product to promoting brands as a lifestyle choice was to exploit the modern need to construct a sense of self. If we have constructed a personal identity in large part through our consumption activity, and consuming is how we sustain ourselves psychologically from day to day, a demand to change what we consume becomes a demand to change who we are. If, in order to solve climate change, we are asked to change the way we consume, then we are being asked to give up our identities—to experience a sort of death. So firmly do many of us cling to our manufactured selves that we unconsciously fear relinquishing them more than we fear the consequences of climate change.”