Building Education for the Commons
Imagine we all just started over, that history would begin anew. No one owned property, no one owed other people, natural resources were equally accessible to everyone and so forth. Now imagine that it was our job to organize how we should all live together.
What principles and ideas should we draw on to frame this new organization of the world and our place in it? But perhaps the first question should be, “How do we perceive the world, in the first instance?” In other words, the question arises, “What is the world?”
Is the world itself, its physical and psychological composition, a “free for all?” Is it a space (a place) that some try to “claim” to be theirs by appealing to a religious teaching, a revelation, a divine right, or perhaps an ontological superiority by which ownership of a piece of the world is eternally and unquestionably linked to an exclusive group (the rich)? Does the equation: ” might = right” make sense? That if some form groups of physical, military or financial power that that equates into the right to claim a monopoly on land, natural resources, the moral right to enslave other human beings, and the ability to do what that group wants by virtue of their sheer power and might?
Or could it be that, in such a situation, naive as it is, that the world could be seen as a place in which we all come together and agree that its resources provide us (all of us and not just the 1%) with the means of living together? In other words, and to propose a new question: Is the world to be seen as a place that we inhabit for a while, and while we’re here we take care of it as if we are borrowing it from the future generations to come? If we borrow something from someone do we have a right to trash it, to construct “moral legal structure” by which we are justified in exacting violence on others, to create hierarchies, etc even as we are borrowing it?
Looked at the world in this way, given that no one owns the world from the cosmic “bank” of the universe, then it seems that the “borrowing” metaphor provides us with the resources to treat the world and everyone else in it, well. To enact a politics that lines up with the fact that no one owns the world and that, in fact, any claim to owning parts of the world flies in the face of the fact that we are all here together as equal partners whose responsibility is not to ourselves alone but to the future survival of the next generation.
To live a life molded around actions of care (for the world and for others in it) seems much better than living a life in which the world is perceived as a means to advance exclusive agendas (ownership and violence) at the great expense of the world’s health and violence to others.
Of course the reality is we don’t live in such a world where we can live as equal partners with each other within our environment. But if we can imagine it than that is the first step in the possibility of enacting it.