If you haven’t figured it out already, we live in a very selfish world. Even processes that seem completely benign, like grocery shopping or eating out at a restaurant are flush with self-centered expectations.
“The customer’s always right.”
“Getting my money’s worth.”
“Donate and receive an AMAZING thank you gift.”
From a very early age we’re taught to expect a swindle. We learn that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” and “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
Even when we give gifts to each other, we’re preoccupied with what it means and what we’ve done (or will have to do) to deserve the gesture.
Giving in order to receive – exchange – is ego-oriented. It is the satisfaction of one’s own need that is the purpose of the transaction. Giving to satisfy another’s need is other-oriented. These two motivations constitute the basis of two logics, one of which is intransitive (exchange), the other of which is transitive (gift giving).
Wikipedia tells us that In the social sciences, a gift economy (or gift culture) is a society where valuable goods and services are regularly given without any explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards (i.e. no formal quid pro quo exists). Ideally, simultaneous or recurring giving serves to circulate and redistribute valuables within the community. The organization of a gift economy stands in contrast to a barter economy or a market economy. Informal custom governs exchanges, rather than an explicit exchange of goods or services for money or some other commodity.
Think that sounds radical and incredibly complicated?? It’s not. In fact, the basic principles of a gift economy are actually quite intuitive to humans…we just spend a lot of time convincing ourselves that it won’t work. Younger, more innocent, and you could argue wiser minds, have no problem envisioning a future of other-oriented action.
Watch below as a 6 year-old shares her concept of a community she establish when she grows up, based on Gift Economy. Listen to her, it is her generation that will see the world operate this way, after all! It is from the children that we will about the world to come, for they, as Khalil Gibran says, “live in the house of tomorrow.”
If you feel inspired by her words, check out Shareable’s guide to legally opening a gift economy.
Image Credit: Flickr – 0pensourceway