Putting Ourselves out of Business

People often laugh a little when I start out a conversation on Timebanking saying that, really…our job at Timebank Media is to put ourselves out of business. I mean, who actually starts something to create purposefully its own demise? Is this hyperbole? Well yes…and no. Timebanking is a unique system in the alternative currency model. An hour for an hour… simple, right? Wrong. Because unlike other currencies it does not (cannot!) devalue. There is no inflation or deflation. And it is predicated on gifting; simple acts of service to our neighbors and other community members, without regard to “stuff”… it is about the time involved in the act.

The fact that the “stuff” — like manufactured goods, food, and other things — aren’t a part of the system is a good thing in some ways and is also a limitation to timebanking. That, however, is for another blog post. I digress…

Timebanking is also predicated on removing things from the money economy that don’t belong there; acts of service and creation that stem from feelings of love, friendship or community. Included in this list are things like child care, elder care, mentoring, neighborly help in a time of (self-perceived or actual) crisis.  (True Story:  I once paid someone a timedollar to get cream for my coffee from the store and deliver it to me in a fit of caffeine-withdrawal desperation of historic proportions. I felt it was a crisis.) The list is endless. And the anonymity and transaction-relationship implicit in a money economy have no place in exchanges that are rooted on love, trust, and relationship. Money strips these relationships of meaning, and without that meaning community is torn apart. We see this every day around us in the US and in western cultural structures. We strip relationship away from giving and replace it with a monetized relationship, and with it community goes to hell in a handbasket. What are we to do?

Sadly, we are very used to the transactional relationship in the current money system that we’ve set up in our culture. Many people believe in it so fully that it feels like gravity, or the water we drink and the air we breath; ubiquitous and simply What Is. (But that is a false belief; it is a story and we can change that story. Again…more on that in another blog post…)  That is where timebanking comes in. It gives us the transactional relationship to which the majority of people around us are accustomed and with which they are comfortable, but takes money OUT of the system, adding the relationship-building back into the matrix, hour by hour by hour. It creates a web of understanding and knowing. The talents of others become known to us again…we see people more completely, rather than in just categories:  “You are my neighbor, you are the person who runs that store, you are the lady who delivers my mail.” We replace the categories with gifts, i.e.”You are my neighbor who knows how to create tile mosaics and was once a travel writer for National Geographic, and you are the shop-owner who is deeply interested in local crafting and maker-culture, and you are the mail-delivery-person who rescues animals and places them into good homes.”  We see people more fully, well-rounded, as (human) nature intended if you will.

So why do I say Timebanks should aim to put themselves out of business? As a proponent of a gifting model as the way forward to a new type of  economy (ours is clearly broken), I would say that if people know enough people in their community and what their gifts were, AND (and this is key) there was enough trust between people within the community, they wouldn’t need a transaction system to get their needs met. And isn’t that the goal?  To get enough people to meet each other, know each other, trust each other, laugh with each other, so that when times are rough (like when you don’t have cream for your coffee and no way to get to the store), you know who to call. You don’t need a computer system to help you find a relationship that will work for you. You don’t need to timebank your credits, because everyone trusts that people put in and take out only what they need and not more, and everyone, tacitly, acknowledges the beauty in giving rather than the tit-for-tat.  The thinking “Well, how do I know there is a need there?” or “What if they are a scamming sociopath trying to take advantage of me?!” is a reflex thought process that is engrained in us by the transactional money system that has stripped community from us. So many of us carry that inner, distrustful voice. Aren’t you tired of being cynical?

Timebanking works us back…hour by hour…person by person…to trust, to the recognition of our connection to each other and to this community we call home. And, if some day the timebank is no longer needed in my community, I will be very happy indeed because I will be living in a place of rich relationship, deep trust, and with the well-being of knowing that no matter what life throws my way, I can get my needs met by people who know me — not as a category — but as a gifted (gifting) being.

They will also know I like cream in my coffee.

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