This is probably going to sound ridiculous to a lot of you, so prepare yourself.
But stay with me here. Wouldn’t it be cool to start an experimental city? A place where everyone contributed in a meaningful way, without the need for money or other useless things? It could be separated agriculturally, commercially, and so on. Only “commerce” would be the exchange of goods and services, not legal tender (yes, I know that’s called a barter system). But I’m thinking more of a community where people truly want to get along with their neighbors and don’t mind doing their part to keep the city functioning. You know, avoiding the “whats in it for me” type of people. It would have to be selective and screened for true humanitarians. Otherwise people would just take advantage of the provisions.
I know it sounds too idealistic, but I honestly think there’s enough benevolent people out there that could make it work on a small scale. But the only way things will ever change on a broader scale is if we change the way we think. A shift of priorities, if you will.
In economics, we measure happiness (or satisfaction) by units called “utility”. So I’m going to present my point from an economic point of view.
Think about your typical day. Most likely you go to work, maybe you socialize a bit with your peers, you come home, and then do some other stuff before going to bed. Pretty normal, right? That day produces x amount of utility, or satisfaction. Well, I think x would be greater if we had a different system.
Our economy is heavily based upon the production of goods. Goods that can be consumed, producing utility. Fancy purses or nice cars, for instance, produce a certain amount of utility. This is where the issue lies, in my opinion.
Much of our utility is derived from stuff. This has led to the creation of the materialistic culture we live in today. So many resources and efforts are allocated to the production of what should truthfully be meaningless stuff. Yet this isn’t the case, and we perpetually continue to fuel the materialistic machine.
If humanity could somehow collectively realize that interpersonal communication is the most efficient producer of utility, maybe things would change. By that, I mean we gain the majority of our happiness and satisfaction from our relationships, not our things. Fancy stuff only serves as a mechanism to portray our vanity and greed. Of course changing this would require a total shift of our thought processes, since we’ve been told our entire lives that certain things are more valuable than others when in reality the practical use is one and the same. That’s the beauty of “branding”. I’m not saying we should put a halt on technological innovation or anything – I’m just saying we should rethink our views of what’s valuable and what’s not. For example, sitting outside drinking a beer by a bonfire and chatting with friends produces more utility than aimlessly screwing around on an iPad for two hours.
I suppose I just wish there were more people willing to think outside the box. The way we live doesn’t have to continue along its current path. Anything can be changed with the right amount of effort and conviction.