Words and labels matter – let’s not put lipstick on a pig

I love words. I love that they help us form relationships, expand perspectives, create art.

My training with Buckminster Fuller ensured I did not take words lightly. Bucky went silent for 2 years, refusing to speak…he wanted to be sure that when he finally came back to words he would speak with precision. He would rather NOT be understood than misunderstood.

The etymological dictionary is always close by my side. Knowing the origin of words matters to me. Not just words, but really understanding the Source of a word, the Source of a business, the Source of an intention, the Source of an action….many of us are driven by such reflexes as to not actually know why we are doing what we are doing.

Oh…I went to University right after school, because that is what kids in my family do. (Reflex.) I thought that if I wasn’t married by 30, there was something wrong with me. (Reflex.) 

In Integral Accounting, a frame that informs the backbone of all of my work, becoming intimate with Source of activity is the first step. Why are you doing that? Why? And Why? And Why again? (The first why is rarely the real why.)

We have an abundant Universe operating via a scarce model of finance. Our reflex behaviour is scarcity. And I mean reflex. Almost everyone has been conditioned to see the world through the lens of scarcity because it is embedded in every single transaction that is associated with money.

In my series on money I talked about complimentary currencies. In order for a complimentary currency to exist you require the intersection of an unmet need with an unused resource within an existing ecosystem. I have a spare room in my house and you need a room. We can create a complimentary currency to enable this transaction to occur with respect for all parties. This type of thinking is an essential aspect of Integral Accounting.

We have in the last few years come up with a glittering new name for the latest round of very smart and great ideas about commoditizing existing resources. It has been called the Sharing economy.

A sharing economy is about sharing. To share, something must be divided. I will share my lunch with you…means…I will give you a portion of my lunch, which I would otherwise have either eaten or thrown away.

In Charles Eisensteins wonderful book, Sacred Economics, he mentions how in our current system, with our addiction to growth (actually more like an imperative than an addiction, because without growth the system itself would collapse) we have turned what was free into a commodity. Child care, home cooked meals, etc etc. Let’s find something that was free..that communities used to manage within the community, and turn it into something that we now simply cannot do with out. In Australia, one of the fastest growing companies is a child care centre aggregator. It now costs close to $100 a day for child care. Hmm..let’s see…go to work all week to give a large portion of your money to someone else to care for your child? That model really works, right? Well certainly if you own or have shares in child care centres.

Let me be very clear, this glittering new sharing economy is not about sharing. It is about utilising existing resources such as spare rooms, spare or idle cars and spare tools to make a profit. Nothing wrong with that. But let’s not put the cane toad in a pretty silk dress. Or lipstick on a pig. Let’s call a spade a spade. It is not the sharing economy but a new version of exactly the same economy we already have.

It is probably more apt to call it the renting economy, but that is not nearly as sexy, and the customer does not get the opportunity to feel good about themselves for being part of the sharing economy.

Do I think Airbnb, Lyft and others are smart? Sure…I have a car sitting at home for many days..doing nothing. Why not put it to use? But sharing would mean that you can use my car because it is idle. Not so I can make a quid out of it. I am happy to make the quid. But I would not call that sharing. I would call that making a quid.

There is the potential for a whole new economy that is a true sharing economy. This would live in the realm of complimentary currency. And in introducing a true sharing economy we would add other things…like community value, the flourishing of the local community, giving people a sense of their own value, restoring wealth to community…all actions that are not fairy stories but are happening in communities around the world. (For more of this see Bernard Lietaer’s book, Rethinking Money.)

Renaming a system doesn’t change the system. If we really want to create an economy that is about sharing, sustainability and caring…we need a new system.

This article was inspired by the following article, sharewashing is the new greenwashing.

 

Photo credit:Creative Commons License JD Hancock via Compfight

One Comment on “Words and labels matter – let’s not put lipstick on a pig”

  1. Pingback: What is free – without cost? « Christine McDougall's Blog – Screw Business as Usual

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