Most of the participants and readers of LDSCooperative, I’m guessing, are not currently living in cooperatives or dominantly socialist states. Personally, I live in the United Kingdom, a nation that is perhaps one of the closest to America in capitalist culture, despite powerful socialist innovations, such as the National Health Service. We’re used to capitalism – it’s what we’ve grown up with. It’s what we know. If your story is anything like mine, you’ve come across socialist principles through conversations with friends, or in your studies. It instantly makes sense to you. You think: ‘that’s what I believe!’ You wonder: ‘Why aren’t we living this way?’
Of course, there are a few good reasons. The reality of western society is that after living under authoritarian, dependency-forming government for generations, we have built up a ‘solid’ culture of reliance upon hierarchies of authority. Apart from anything, some would argue, ‘following’ is part of our inherent psychological makeup. As human beings, we like to have a leader to tell us what to do. In the Church, dependence on authority can be even more pronounced. There is genuine concern in Church government that without the support of authority structures, the membership would flounder, ‘blown about by every wind of doctrine’ (Ephesians 4:14).
As much as we, as socialists, believe in the empowering influence of self-government, we must admit that for many of us who have come to depend on hierarchy and top-down leadership, going ‘cold turkey’ would be damaging, and possibly catastrophic. So what can we do, to get ready for a personal, if not a worldwide ‘revolution’? Here’s some suggestions. Feel free to add your thoughts, or disagree:
Opt out. Where possible, don’t participate in capitalism. If there’s an option to walk to the shops, get a bus, or drive in your privately-owned car – take anything but the latter.
Talk. Build a vibrant community, in your own circle of contact. Resist the tendency to spend your free time atomised from the rest of society. Don’t sit home and watch the television on an evening: instead, call some friends round, to talk about something real! If you have the option to either send an email, or talk on the phone – go for the more personal interaction. It’s what community is about!
Diversify. For example, given the option to either work overtime, or to spend your time on an allotment… you know the answer. If you have opportunities to go back to study, then don’t miss the chance. Having a diversity of skills is important in building a community.
Learn. At least part of the problem with socialism is that there haven’t been enough specific solutions devised to fix problems with the application of the principles. By studying, talking, writing and sharing our ideas, we can clear a path that those who follow us can benefit from, and improve further. Especially in terms of our LDS experience with socialism, we can find genuine and meaningful answers to questions that trouble our generation.
I’m sure you can think of many more examples. Perhaps the best thing we can do to get ready for cooperativism is to prove, through living as many of the principles and ideals as we can, that there are real and significant benefits that come from living in this way. Come up with a plan for how you’re going to put these steps into action – and be sure to share your successes here in the online community.