Co-Operative Power – Towards the Gift Tensegrity (9)

Timothy Wilken

Today, most humans solve their problems as individuals or at best as nuclear families. They meet their individual needs with  individual actions. At best they may meet the needs of their nuclear family through family actions, but this is rarely more than a husband and wife both working. The extended family is an organizational pattern rarely seen in modern society.

This focus on individuality results in a massive loss of opportunity to co-Operative strategies that could result in greater efficiency and economy.

Individual Actions

Even though we humans are an interdependent class of life, we choose our actions based not on what we are, but on what we think we are. Today, modern humans are convinced they are an independent form of life. This deep belief in human independence means that most modern humans seek to meet their needs as individuals and make their choices independently of their fellow humans.

In our present culture humans meet their needs by purchasing products and services as independent individuals. In today’s fair market there are providers of products and services and there are consumers. Both the providers and the consumers for the most part think of themselves as independent and make their choices without great awareness of what others are doing.

In today’s marketplace, the providers and consumers meet only in the retail space. They have little or no direct relationship with each other. In this ignorance, both are, for all extent and purposes, blind and ignorant. The provider doesn’t know his consumers, let alone what they might need or when they might need it. And often the consumer don’t know the providers.

Bird’s Eye View

Let us imagine an aerial view of our community on an average evening at 10:00pm. Looking down we notice that within one square mile there are several small convenience stores open from seven to eleven. These small stores are all competing with each other as well as with larger supermarkets now staying open 24 hours in order to compete with them. At this hour of night there are only a few available customers to be divided up among all these providers.

Each store is paying one or more clerks to staff the store, plus the costs for lighting and heating each store. From our view above our community, it is obvious that most of the clerks could be sent home and most of the stores closed and still allow every customer seeking products and services at that hour to get what they needed. This would also produce enormous savings for this group of providers. To all stay open, the providers must pass the costs of doing business on to their customers, so this means that the prices in all of these stores is higher to subsidize this inefficiency.

Why is this happening? In today’s world we mostly ignore each other. After all, we are all independent. Each individual is supposed to look out for himself. So there is little communication between provider and consumer. The providers are keeping the stores open in hopes that someone will need something. If they were communicating with their customers, they would know when to be open and when they could close. They could then operate much more efficiently.

Now imagine that this same inefficient process is going on with many different kinds of products in every community in our nation and you start to sense the enormous amount of wasted time and energy.

Let’s return for a moment to our bird’s eye view of our community. Only this time let us imagine a time lapse video camera above our neighborhood. Imagine a family of four, two adults and two older teenagers in local college, having four automobiles. If we focus the video camera on the garage and parking area next to their home we would discover that there are times when there are no cars at home. This means that the family has four cars in use. Sometimes there is one car parked, so three cars are in use. Sometimes there are two cars parked, so two cars are in use. Sometimes there are three cars parked so only one car is in use. And sometimes we will find all four cars parked, so on these occasions this family has no cars in use.

Now careful analysis of our time lapse photography will reveal that this family is, on average, making use of only only 1.8 cars. This means that on average 2.2 cars are parked and not in use. Yet this family is making payments on four cars, paying insurance and taxes on four cars, and experiencing depreciation on the value of four cars whether the cars are in use or not. And, this is without considering the expense of operating the cars. Since most modern humans solve all their problems as individuals, they have chosen the most expensive solution possible.

Now if we move our time lapse camera higher, we discovery that this same phenomenon is occurring at every home in the neighborhood. If we examine all the homes within just a few blocks we discover that there are always cars in the neighborhood that are not in use.

Now, as we continue to watch from above, we see that often times the members of this neighborhood are going to the same place. They all go to the same supermarket. They all rent from the same video store. They use the same post office and drug store. As we watch we discover that often one individual will make the same trip to the same place maybe only a few minutes earlier or later than a neighbor. Again, we see that solving our problems individually means that we have chosen the most expensive option. We are doing this because in our neutral culture we don’t even know our neighbors let alone what their transportation needs are.

Now, if we move our aerial time lapse camera high enough to see the entire community, we can now see the parking lots at stores, supermarkets, shopping centers, places of work and schools. And again at any one time most of the cars are parked.

We also discover that one individual living at the north edge of the community is driving to the south edge of the community to his work in a retail store, while another individual is passes him going in the opposite direction, this individual lives on the south edge of the community and is driving to work on the north edge of the community to a similar job. Of course neither individual knows the other, or even how similar and paradoxical their situation is.

We could also analyze these same neighborhoods and discover that each garage contains a lawn mower and numerous tools that are only being used once every two weeks and all of these tools are expensive and require maintenance. I would imagine that in the neighborhood I live in, that on any given moment, ninety five percent of the tools in our garages are not in use.

Co-Operative Neighborhood Garages

Imagine having a membership in a modern community garage within easy walking distance of your home. This garage could have a variety of automobiles that would be available for your use anytime day or night. The garage would be clean, well lighted, and safe. It would be staffed 24 hours a day, the automobiles would always be clean, serviced and full of gas.

Using either computer or telephone you could reserve a car for your own personal use. The garage could easily have many different types of vehicles available to serve your particular needs. You could reserve a station wagon, sports car, utility vehicle, or limousine. The garage could also run shuttle services to those destinations that were commonly and frequently requested.

The number of automobiles needed to meet the needs of the members co-Operatively would be much fewer than the number needed for the same members individually. Total costs would be much reduced and the secondary advantages would be tremendous.

On those occasions when all the cars happened to be in use, transportation needs could be supplemented by taxies or rental cars arranged by the garage.

What would the cost of such a service be. Well first, realize that “attached garage” now a part of almost every home could be eliminated or turned into additional living space. Your cost of membership would be reflective of you use of automobiles. I would expect most families would experience major savings. Those very heavy needs for an automobile would find the costs to approach the same costs as owning their own automobile.

Now there is no reason the Co-Operative Garage should just offer automobiles. It could also provide garden tractors, lawn mowers, and tools of all kinds. The extent and value of co-Operative action is limited only by your imagination.