22. Trust Networks: The One True Currency
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that even our highly technical societies are still acutely vulnerable to crisis. It’s showed us that our governments are often ill equipped to deal with the kinds of borderless challenges (pandemics, mass migration, food shortages, increasing natural disasters) that will continue to arise in the decades to come, and highlighted just how over dependent we’ve become on a relatively fragile network of global supply chains. The pandemic has impacted everyone and dispelled the illusion that any of us can remain wholly insulated from the underlying issues that now threaten the stability of our socio-economic systems. For better or worse, it’s reminded us that we’re all in this together.
Before the pandemic, the idea that at some point in the near future we may need to depend upon our local community to see us through a time of crisis may have seemed alarmist. But after experiencing what it’s like to have our supermarket shelves laid bare, it’s now much easier to appreciate just how important it is that we begin decentralising various aspects of our economies and foster a vast network of empowered local communities. We can no longer ignore the fact that we’re almost all entirely dependent upon a system that at any point is just a few days away from grinding to a halt. If the power cuts out, the supermarket trucks don’t deliver, or the oil production stops, within a matter of hours many of us are left helpless and exposed. After our collective experience of COVID-19, it’s now clearer than ever that the highly atomised nature of modern society leaves us acutely vulnerable to a wide range of existential threats.
Forming mutual aid communities can not only bring joy, inspiration, growth and belonging into our lives, it also just happens to be one of the best ways to ensure we can both survive and thrive during times of hardship. After all, there nothing is more empowering than being a part of an adaptable and resilient support network that can respond quickly in times of emergency, and has enough people and skills within it to ensure that all of its members are safe and cared for during times of need. Numerous studies into how we respond to disaster situations have shown that social support is the most powerful protection we have against becoming overwhelmed by stress and trauma.43 Collectives can offer us this kind of social safety net and provide us with a space to return to where we feel safe, loved and supported. This may be the most valuable currency of all.