To be interdependent means to live symbiotically with the other, in a mutual exchange system that benefits a greater stasis. Interdependency is established between structural units within some kind of boundary. Sets and subsets contain each other endlessly, like the fractal nature of this universe, like the 3 trillion cells in our body that cooperate seamlessly to make “this life of ours” fit living. The next scale up to these boundaries would be the community contours of social beings. If human society is to be as efficient as the cells in our body, a form of collectivist society will emerge. Thoroughly and gracefully the realignment of real value, gifts and cooperation will replace the take away, what’s in it for me, dog eat dog mentality of modern economics. May we call it rediscovering “gift relationships.” If we were to value giving as much or more than taking, we would be focusing on “the other”, the wealth of the other would be our real measure of value. We would not measure ourselves by the individuated accumulation of things in a hoarding frenzy, under the illusion of scarcity, in competition and die hard self-interest. Like the subset cell systems, relationships in cooperation need to be primary. The role of sentient collectives of individuated units of consciousness is to get along. When we get along we cooperate, cooperation can be accomplished in relationships based on mutual benefit; like the spectacularly successful aggregates of multicellular organisms that have populated most earthly habitats.
Cooperation also can happen through enforcement and domination. In this form we are coerced into participation, kind of like the virus that subjugates their host through submission. Viruses can only survive in the cell body of the host. This parasitic relationship is destructive, very dependent, and not as successful as the web and flow of life forms and cell structure. It seems clear that nature would favor systems that aggregate for mutual benefit and not invaders that kill and infest life systems. If evolutions drive to populate the universe were driven by parasites and viruses, we would have reached a dead end eons ago. Nature is so intelligent that it capitalizes on viral infestations, extracting immunization from this interaction and correcting the genomes chemical coding. This transcription promotes advantages, creating beneficial permutations out of chaos. The omega point that pushes and attracts nature forward towards complexity, lowers the entropic system, flooding the probable realities by forming emergent intricate life structures in interdependence and cooperation. Can our modern society with its capitalistic economy grasp this principle before we cannibalize each other?
The germ cell of social interaction is the family unit. At this substrate level, continued co-operation is essential, like in domestic agrarian times when running a farm or household, involved everybody's participation in family production. The success of this social fabric is based on cooperation and job diversification. Like the cell that breaks up into many pieces, a system that grows, diversifies participation of its constituents. As it expands and accepts other individuals, the boarders of this household bubble outwardly. When the social boundaries shape scale up to communities and villages, it becomes harder to identify who belongs to the household, brotherhood or clan. Differentiated interaction and diversification brought close integration and interdependence among these household communities.
Fast forwarding to the urbanization of Europe in the nineteenth century, industrial societies brought in a new era that ended the dominance of household production. The small scale agricultural homesteads, guilds and craft traders gave way to the unskilled labor factory assembly lines of industrial England. The first mills employed as much as 800 hundred workers. This unprecedented new system of interdependence had the capacity to produce and manufacture the mechanized and hi-tech world of the twenty-first century. The domestic system only needed a few dozen skilled laborers and it was not interested in maximizing outputs beyond their circle of gifts. The new urban economy, replaced the intricately knit familial relationships of the household production unit. Love based relationships were replaced with mass market commodities. When industrial society began to supply and replace what was once the sole output of family function, the relationships within the family structure dramatically changed. We became less dependent on domestic relationships, specially for day to day struggle and subsistence. We discovered individuality and personal entitlement. We broke up the dependency ties that kept us disconnected from exploration and personal pursuits. This acquired sense of independence and separation engrossed us in the spell of personal power. Factory goods replaced family stable products and service economies replaced the exchange of gifts in soul communities. In this expansion, goods and services became necessities. In this new system you pay for what you need and you do not need to negotiate exchanges with familial members.
Contractual labor and wage economies replaced the personal services and subsistence economies of agrarian homesteads. Life was negotiated outside of the house and away from the family. This allowed a smaller family nucleus to become increasingly private. The greater role of society freed families within the intimacy of their home; our modern families have gained an emotional repertoire in this process. In a sense we are now more interdependent from each other for acceptance, empathy, love and emotional dysfunction. Today we choose whom to love and whom to marry; it has not always been like this. Our enhanced appreciation for emotions shows in the modern display and outpouring of love displayed by modern families towards their children. The pampering of the twentieth century child has produced a pathology of self indulgence, irreverence and passion for youth culture. Children of modern western society have accessed unimaginable amounts of education, information and mass media with its carousel of distractions, like no other generation in the history of humankind. Today an average child in western Europe, can excel expediently in areas that were previously only reserved to nobles and privileged family lineage's over life times.
We have never been freer to love, to love ourselves and to love others. In contrast agrarian domesticity limited personal growth and restricted freedom of choice. Back then our choices were limited to the interests of family, manors, guilds. Agrarian domesticity kept us boxed in skilled functions of which we had little or no choice. The crass and down practical manner in which eighteen century families procreated and adopted members for skilled labor, filling the manor houses with strangers, reflected the uncustomary show of affection or tenderness for each other. Relationships appeared matter of fact and cold. Kissing, fondling, and embracing was considered unseemly between all members of the family except for toddlers. The family production unit had no interest in individual emotional needs.
With the urbanization of the West, specialized agrarian workers and trade crafters became free day laborers ready to migrate. Rent and lodging have their origins in this mobilization, business like transactions for money and rendering of service, were exchanged for permanent residency. One was sought as initiated into a fraternity, clan, neighborhood or simple community household within walking distance of each other. Unlike on the family farm, the day laborers traveling to the city in search for lodging and pensions became tenants that had to submit to the authority of the landlord or head of house. These contractual relationships were need based and set the tone for the creation of modern states. In this process of density population, social aggregation intensified; specialization grew exponentially. The assembly line and sweatshop factories of the West propelled the thrust of industrialization. Efficiency and balance sheets thrived at the expense of the human condition. People have been equated with replaceable robots in this chain of production; We continue to be expendable parts in this social paradigm. The exploitation present in the inhumane treatment of factory workers in the England of Charles Dickens is an example of this predatory system of interdependence.
Relationships in true interdependence need to cooperate for common goals and mutual benefits, they should not be mistaken with independent interest groups that enslave humanity to maximize their profits. As I said earlier, in nature the opposite of symbiosis is parasitic behavior; societies of domination resemble these parasitic relationships. Human Interdependence cannot be mistaken with compliance out of persuasion. Coercive persuasion and tactical deception defined much of the family dynamics of provincial Europe. Today coercive tactics flood the work place forcing people into wage labor and factory jobs. These un-willful systems can be very efficient and successful. They can achieve monumental structures and objectives through enforced cooperation. An example of this is the railroad westward expansion which was built with the hard labor of the prison population. Since the eighteenth century, American prison labor has been subcontracted to build infrastructure. The robber barons of this wheel of servitude have profited immensely. In these worker camps, inmates generally included those living under one household. These interpersonal systems created nested subsets of interdependency where impersonal victims endured great strife and misery.
If we are to increase compassion and cooperation between us all in the global and regional scales, coercive interpersonal pressure has to go. It is not going to work and it will not take us anywhere. We need to get along sharing gifts and ensuring love. To be truly independent and empathic we must come to this exchange out of love. In competition we come from fear and we fight among us for the goods. We need love based relationships and not need based contracts among parties.
The capital economies of the West have rolled out a competitive turf that gridlocks our lives. The medieval families of Europe operated out of intricate dependency, were each member was essential in the success of the household; this environment promoted the idea of sharing and exchanging gifts in a community of family function. The more hands available to this exchange, the more dependent the family or clan became on local exchanges. The industrial revolution fragmented these units of clan behavior and led us to develop a society of individuals with independent goals dependent on the state. The post industrial system designed consumerism as your destination. The glorification of I has created a disproportionate system. We have forgotten the role of contributions, the recognition of the other. The team effort of the medieval household was replicated by the first assembly line factories of the industrial age. In these dark and despotic warehouses, human cooperation produced high yields for the captains of industry. All this was done at the expense of gruesome exploitation of labor, specially child labor. These oppressive systems are incredibly efficient in producing stuff we don’t need and the misery that comes with it. The quintessential challenge is the reexamination of these goods? We have to wonder if this consumerist society that has arrived is going to help us move forward? We have to examen whether we can accept any system of oppression. We cannot sustain the modern corporatist banking take over of populations and resources, we cannot continue the sweatshops of Asia and the displacement of Indian farmers in the state of Rajasthan; nor the yoke of patriarchal and monastic lords and manors of the past. The role of the patriarchal societies of medieval Europe were not necessarily a good model and they set ground for the central authority and monopoly take over of the postindustrial state. These social models of interdependency are certainly not based on a hub of voluntary cooperation and egalitarianism, but are rather synonymous with domination and tyranny.
Never before in civilized history have we depended more emotionally on each other. We have become more independent of other and less dependent on the household. The smaller family circle has cultivated the individual. With the separation of work and home, private emotional exchanges between the members of the family become rich and intimate. The story of separation and its compulsive self emancipation has given birth to a hideous and insecure consumer consumed in self interest and hedonism. But in the same token this dysfunctional society that cultivates personality has opened the possibilities of relationship. By being less dependent of the family as production unit, we appear to have been freed and given leisure to make intimacy a top priority. In this sense the post modern world has opened up the canopy of relational diversity. But choices in relationships imply responsibility and understanding. The more free will you give to a relationship the more likely you are to evolve as a group. We need not dominate or suppress the other. Instead our choices need to express the act of giving and sharing out of love. It is my belief that we can get along and cooperate in the realm of gifts and still pursue our individual unlimited potentials. Out of the act of caring and wanting to contribute to the greater whole we will have a renaissance of beauty that will reach every heart.
It is not a secret that some social groups have managed to live in empathic cooperation, a magnificent example of this social system was the urban settlement of Caral in Peru which dates back 5,000 years. In the shockingly majestic and mysterious Supe Valle, a wise and advanced society flourished in harmony. Surrounded by the jagged foothills of the Andes, this valley north of Lima extended for 80 km² and was only 20 km to the pacific ocean. At Caral urban engineers produced intricate astronomical, architecture, pyramids, math, dykes, weavings and amphitheaters. It has been concluded that this society did not practice war, nor did they display acts of violence. A study by archeologist "Shady" suggests it was a wisdom based society with a cult for commerce, music and pleasure. He bases his conclusions after discovering collections of music flutes made out of pelican bones and no trace of warfare no battlements, no weapons, and no mutilated bodies. Maybe this civilization lived in a state of bliss, in understanding, connected to the cosmos and in full cooperation with each other. We could say that to accomplish such a system, this society must have had strong interdependency. A sense of reverence in the relationship with other and the life we have in common. They also owe their success to commerce with smaller communities along the coast, mountains and jungles. Evidence of this interaction is found in trading practices found all the way into the Amazon and along the coast, suggesting extensive relationships and exchange of goods and artifacts.
Approaching each other with care rather than with ego, will make of this global society a better place. Social beings like this conscious universe, come coded for interaction. Beings like structures do not sit still, they thrive making connections and establishing exchanges. Structures come to life through optimal states of interaction. Optimal relationships lower the entropy of a system. Like love between units of a family; the secret of getting along is to be aware that you are part of something larger than yourself. Aware that its not primarily about you, its about the other; its not about getting, its about giving. Contractual need base relationships have degenerated into tyranny and submission. This system promotes hate and competition, the other system promotes love in sharing. As individuated units of consciousness, we need to rediscover relationships. We think of relationships as a thing, relationships are a constantly changing process that happens between structures. Broken into complex parts like the many cells in our bodies, our challenge is to thrive in relationship in the age of loving interdependency. Additionally lets not forget that every subatomic particle and every electron in this universe as in your body, is completely connected or entangled with every other particle of the same universe.
Carlos Cuellar Brown
(This article has also been published in the "Interdepency" issue of the Dutch trend magazine Second Sight)