By Kevin Hansen
Originally published June 2011; updated March 2016
During the process of filming the documentary The Commons, it became clear that there are many benefits from re-looking at the ancient perspective of the Commons.
A Commons approach is actionable now. It can resolve stalled situations by providing new opportunities for movement. A Commons framing does not require government approval as a prerequisite.
A Commons approach is declarative. By invoking action via a declaration of sovereignty, this act redefines the entire situation on Commons terms. The striking act of declaring a new sovereignty over a Commons could also garner wide interest.
A Commons approach offers a practical management of inspired intent. Because the principles underlying Commons action are innately both subjective and objective, the internal flow of intuition must be invoked in order for Commons principles to be actuated in physical form. This effectively “channels” inspiration into the everyday world. Commons principles frame those ideals described as part of the wise teachings renowned across major religions and spiritual/philosophical thinking. They are effectively the “user manual for higher intent.”
The Commons approach requires goodwill. We begin to recognize our essential interconnectedness via Commons thinking – and thus act to help others’ interests as our own. Broad thinking is required in the understanding of the underlying meaning and intent of other people and living beings. These require some measure of essential goodwill, trust, service and cooperation to be manifested in actual work.
Five: Social Legitimacy
Social-chartered organizations are essential to Commons work – and carry a far greater weight of social legitimacy.
Six: Commonsense Understanding
The tests of a successfully run Commons are Commonsense: a) are all included in the benefits of the Commons? b) are all responsible for its well-being? c) are the Commons healthy, improving, or both? d) is their management fair and sound?
Seven: Examples Abound
Examples of successful Commons management abound. For example, a credit union or farmers’ cooperative might readily be adapted into a full-fledged social-chartered organization because they already embody similar ideals. Existing organizations can be better adapted to be aligned with social-chartered objectives.
Eight: Restorative Sustainability
A Commons approach naturally incorporates the “restoration of value” implicit in natural ecosystems – expanded to human endeavor. It thereby embodies sustainability as a foundational element, so that ecologically focused action is natural.
Nine: Nature is Explicitly Represented
The natural world is explicitly incorporated in a Commons approach. Humanity serves as Trustee for other living beings.
Ten: Better Integration Across Domains
Commons approaches require action to be integrated across domains; with broad-minded thinking, this requires much better integration of practices formerly in ‘silos.’
Eleven: Economics and Politics Get Re-Framed in Positive Ways
The economics and politics needed by shared organizing get re-framed as the practical implementation of inspired intent. This realignment of economics and politics along higher-minded and higher-principled directions provides an outlet for – and an objective for – good governance and fair economics.
Twelve: Rights and Responsibilities for All
A Commons approach innately presumes responsibility and rights for all. No one is left out. It is the responsibility of all Commons trustees (effectively, this means everyone) to be responsible – even for those who do not speak. Because of the broad-mindedness requirements noted above, this includes not only the young, elderly or disabled people who cannot speak for themselves. It also means the disenfranchised, the poor, the indigenous and other humans who have traditionally not had a significant voice in politics and economics. However, it goes further because the rights of other living organisms are expressly held in trusteeship via a Commons approach. In other words, the living world, the natural world has a voice too. Theirs are voices that we must not only respect, but also empower as part of the mutuality-dialogue essential to Commons thinking.
Intractable situations like climate change, corrosive political stalemate, social justice and economic empowerment might benefit from such practices.
The Commons is the documentary we are producing. This effort is a step towards describing the vision of a ‘third way’ beyond government and business, where people can directly organize around Commons they share. Kevin Hansen is a filmmaker, scientist and inventor living in the U.S.