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Residential Report | A fortunate and altruistic society
On the 12th of June 2022, The third edition of Liquid Dependencies took place as part of Common In: An open manifestation on the intersection of commons and art. In Liquid Dependencies, participants experiment with new forms of care and collectivity. Each session is unique, depending on the players, their characters and on the societal and individual events that happen as time passes. In this report, we will reflect on what kind of society was built on the 12th of June in particular.
Written by Winne van Woerden
Edited by Sylvie Vanwijk, @slvi.e and Anouk Asselineau
So much has happened during the past 20 years in our ReUnion Society. At the very beginning of our time together, it seemed it would be quite an individualistic society, with many diverging storylines and characters. However, many of the prejudices we held about each other and perhaps about ourselves as well were proven to be wrong in the end. In fact, we were able to sustain society with strong mutual caring relationships, where community wellbeing was often prioritized over individual wellbeing. There was a strong sense of connectivity with many collective dialogues and co-creative processes taking place that would eventually lead to the establishment of an alternative social security program ran in a cooperative way, namely a Broodfonds! Yet, this emphasis on taking care for the community also had its drawbacks for those who invested most of their time in it. Can we create an environment where all people can have the time, energy and financial resources to take of themselves as well as the people around them? How to make sure that collectivizing care does erode inequalities that persist in society rather than jeopardizing them?
All residents agreed that their society has been very fortunate. In fact, out of four societal events that happened during the years of collective life, three affected the residents in society in a positive manner. Firstly, the government introduced new statutory holidays, second, the society went through a prolonged period of economic recovery and thirdly, the government passed a law giving everyone the right to vote, regardless of age, legal care status and citizenship. After 15 years of good fortune, a restriction of local recreation areas due to earthquake risk was issued. While this policy was the only one that had a negative effect on people's wellbeing and stability, it did not really create a lot of commotion. Life just went on. Most of the time, all residents were in good mental and physical health, or they were able to help each other out as soon as their health was in danger. For example, when Irene was leaning towards a midlife crisis, Ola was looking for a new job because she had to quit her previous one as a physiotherapist. Ola then decided to change her career and become a therapist instead, which was physically way less demanding and which she could do from her own home office. Irene became her first client, which was the starting point of a long lasting caring relationship.
Moving from an individual to collective mindset
It was interesting to notice that there weren’t really outliers in the group, in general things felt quite inclusive and open. Although in the beginning primarily traditional relationships were established, as time passed, residents also started to explore polyamorous and open relationships. At the very end, we even witnessed a wedding between three people.
Although some personalities were more busy minding their own things, many others were much more externally focused. Generally speaking all members in this society were eager to invest in their community’s well being. A lot of time was dedicated to building strong meaningful relationships each other. A society member who stood out in this regard was Timo, a cheese factory worker. Timo spent much of his life forming connections amongst the people in his community and played a big role in maintaining the vibrant community life. He initiated the idea of setting up a community project. He spent a lot of time convincing others, making promises and painting a picture of what their future as a community could look like. Would it be built around individual or relational wellbeing? What could an economy of community care look like? What could people expect and what would they get out of it? Forming answers to these questions together and expanding people’s imaginations is a tremendous amount of work that shouldn't be underestimated.
Reflecting the relational in the currency system
The emphasis on building caring relationships was also reflected in the currency that circulated the most in this society, namely the Mutual Coin. While two members of the society had skills in wealth management, the financial currency was mostly left unused, and the relationship driven Mutual Coin was used a lot. An interesting act in this regard was from Mila, who gave away half of her fortune to the community fund in order to establish the Broodfonds. Ola reflected: “I even forgot I had money, captured by the financial coins, even though I had a lot of it, or maybe actually because of that. But thinking about money was really not what occupied my thoughts when navigating in this society and finding ways to sustain myself.”
Tianyi, 23 – 43 years old, Harbor worker just graduated from high school – Manager at a wealth management company
My life has taken such an unexpected turn, I started from being very financially unstable to being a manager at a wealth management company - I was able to buy a house for the love of my life to whom I was about to propose!
I felt the two defining aspects of this game were time and money. If you had time, you could spend it on establishing caring relationships, if you had money, you could buy yourself more time. But I guess this was also because of my character which started off worrying a lot about money as a recent college graduate.
Ola, 42-52 years old, Physiotherapist – Part time therapist, Part-time domestic caretaker
Living in this society felt very easy to me, surprisingly easy, way more easy than in real life actually. Normally, I struggle quite a lot with making the right directions and now just everything went very smoothly, things just happened spontaneously.
Timo, 53-73 years old, Process operator at a cheese factory – Co-founder and coordinator of Broodfonds AlterCentre for Mutual Support
I realize my life in this society has been a lot about inspiring and motivating others, being the connector, the glue that holds society together.I guess the structure in my life was quite absent, or at least was very fluid. But I also think this is what makes your life resilient and sustainable – this fluidity.
I came here to explore what would happen in an alternative life when hope can be maintained. I realize now that hope is very relational.
Jo, 15-35 years old, High school student – Domestic caretaker, volunteer at AlterCentre for Mutual Support
I found it difficult to rehabilitate my character after I apparently made the decision to have joined a religious community. But I guess that is also part of life – there are certain decisions you make or events that happen from which it takes a bit longer to get back from.
I felt all of us were kind of being involved in ad hoc crisis management, with time passing so fast and so many events happening all the time.
Meli, 68- 88 years old, Retired municipality employee – Still retired but with many hobbies and activities
I feel my character lived quite a superficial life, she was mostly longing for excitement and joy. Although as time passed, she did also want to invest in more meaningful connections with others, I feel she enjoyed her retired life way more than her work life.
It was interesting to experience that while everyone else in society was in lack of time, I just had so much of it. I couldn’t give my time away, but I could offer my help for example to Ola with the dog and stuff and be her personal assistant which increased her available time again.
Irene, 35-55 years old, Construction worker – Hairdresser service?? Freelance construction worker, coordinator AlterCentre for Mutual Support
Most of the time I was actually acting and reacting as I would do in real life. It is very hard to get out of that pattern. I came here because I wanted to try out what kind of alternative society we can experience, you know.. this quote of “most of us can better imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism” – it makes me realize again how we truly need to expand our imagination.
Brigitte, 32 – 52 years old, Online gambler – Working (night shifts) at the bird hospital
It was interesting because I thought in the beginning I would find it hard to relate to my character since in real life I hate gamblers, but I actually felt at home being one quite soon. I acted much like I would in real life when in the company of a group of new people: watching a bit from the side and looking at how the group dynamics unfold and develop.
Alter, 23 – 43 years old, Careworker – Co-founder Broodfonds AlterCentre for Mutual Support
It felt logical from my characters’ Life Status and occupation that my character would be a bit of an einzelganger – a dreamer, not so much involved in everything going on in society. Actually, in the beginning I thought I would not make so many connections to others, it turned out I would be the one co-founding and hosting our collective project of establishing a Broodfonds – my character turned out to be a crucial asset to society as a whole and I would have many meaningful caring relations. I look back at a happy and fulfilling life.
ReUnion Community Well-being Report
A highly resilient society
As mentioned, this society has been very fortunate as three out of the four societal events that took place over the two decades affected the residents in society in a positive manner. Meanwhile, the only event that affected the society negatively came towards the end of this period: the restriction of local recreation areas due to an earthquake risk. The event did significantly reduce everyone’s personal wellbeing and stability, but since many firm relations had already been built there was a sense of collective resilience, the event did not create a huge shock to society and all residents were able to adapt to the new situation quite soon.
Besides the collective events, it was striking to notice that the personal events happening to the members of society were often very well aligned. As soon as a problem arose with one member, somebody else experienced something else which turned out to form a perfect solution for this problem.
For example, in the same year that Timo had issues with his house that needed to be fixed, Irene lost her job as a construction worker and she could offer her maintenance skills to help him out! This was in fact exactly what she needed because she was fed up with the gentrification projects she was working on for her previous job anyway and had already wanted to leave for a long time. She enjoyed helping Timo with his house much more, as well as the cheese that he offered her during the dinners when she came over to work. Meanwhile, in the same year that Alter needed money in order to establish the Bird Hospital, Brigitte won the lottery and was able to help her out with the extra income. With Alter being crazy about birds and Brigitte being a night bird because of her career as an online gambler, they were a perfect match and ran the Hospital as a couple for several years. Brigitte would do the night shifts and Alter the day shifts.
The backbone of community life
The Bird Hospital eventually developed into a crucial community gathering spot where Alter and Brigitte would organize all kinds of activities: in essence, it became the backbone of community life and the economy of care of this society. When public recreational areas were restricted by the authorities, community life could continue here, since Alter and Brigitte had performed a risk assessment when the hospital was constructed in the first place. Eventually, the hospital became the place where the Broodfonds could be hosted, and it would unfold into a Bird&Brood cooperative named AlterCentre for Mutual Aid!
The individual toll of being radical altruists
As time passed, the implications of having an altruistic mindset became increasingly visible. Both Alter and Timo, two members in society who played a crucial role in establishing the strong and vibrant community life, realized that they only had so much time in a day. While they invested so much time in building community relations, the time available for taking care of themselves diminished. The residents in the community started to notice this as well, and together they sought to explore a collective solution. “If I could, I would love to give you some of my available time, I have loads!” said Meli. The group realized that, as the most elderly person in the group, she was in possession of a very precious resource impossible to swap between people: Time. Brigitte invoked: “If we all agree on it, can’t we just alter the rules and give Alter and Timo some extra time?” However, they couldn't simply change the laws of nature. This would be to take away one of the essential conditions of life itself, namely the scarcity of time.
Community Well-being Assessment
Public Infrastructure Development (with emphasis on care support) (30%)
This society has seen some important public infrastructure developments. It started with the Bird Hospital, which would slowly develop into a carbon neutral community center, in which several events and activities were hosted. Even though recreational spaces became restricted at a certain moment, the community still maintained a good infrastructure. The level of public infrastructure development in this society has therefore been rated 70.
Relationship Maturity (30%).
Diversity in interpersonal relationships evolved into a resilient caring infrastructure in this society. In total 14 relationships were registered at the Relationship Consulate. It remains a bit ambiguous whether or not the quantity of relationships prevailed over the quality, since only a few relationships reached a second stage. It appears that quite some of the registered relationships would have officially qualified as a second stage, but there was just no time to register them as such. It was interesting to notice that relationships seemed to occur not merely out of interpersonal crises, but rather out of a wish to explore how some form of collective-reliance, rather than self-reliance, could be built. Overall, one could feel a sense of curiosity in the community, to get to know the other residents and to keep going into dialogue with each other. The overall relationship maturity has been rated at 63.
The feeling of player participation in the game (40%).
During the last reflection round, many players seemed pleasantly surprised with the ease of the course of their life and many expressed contentedness about the relationships they were able to form. Players expressed an awareness that they were quite lucky with a progressive government in power, who implemented policies that had been mostly beneficial to society as a whole. A lot of attention in the reflection round was given to the ways that time played a role in people’s life spans. As Jo, the high school student who would eventually become a domestic caretaker and volunteer at AlterCentre for Mutual Aid reflected: “It felt like you were all the time chasing time a bit, always a bit too late to take matters into your own hands. I guess in real life we pretend we have things more in control and we have a more structured plan, while actually life never goes as you plan ahead, there can and will always be unexpected events.” The overall rate of players involvement has been set at 78.