A beautiful community love initiative is being met with great success in Buenos Aires. Titled, ‘Bring What You Want, Take What You Want’, it invites and allows people to share items they no longer use or need with others. This extends the life of the goods being traded and diminishes the incessant need to purchase new items and consumption via consumerism. The scheme enhances social interaction, drawing people out from within their local communities to talk and share with one another, strengthening trust and consideration.
Tierramercica media reports (8th September 2013):
‘Disillusioned with an economy that promotes individualism and ruthless consumption, thousands of people in Argentina are giving things away in street markets, organising car pools with strangers or offering free accommodation to travellers from abroad.
These are early trends in this South American country, but they are expanding, based on Web 2.0 platforms. Users share a concern for the environment and a rejection of consumerism. But they also have a desire to strengthen a sense of community and trust.
“We need much less than we consume. The basis of our street markets is detachment, the need to free ourselves from the concept of private ownership,” said Ariel Rodríguez, the creator of La Gratiferia (The Free Market) which operates under the slogan: “Bring what you want (or nothing), take what you want (or nothing).”
Launched in 2010, the first market was in Rodríguez’s home, in the Buenos Aires district of Liniers. Rodríguez offered friends and neighbours books, CDs, clothes, furniture and other goods that he had accumulated and didn’t need. He offered food and beverages as well.
In time, people began to follow his lead. He recalls that the 13th market “went out on the street and exploded” with dissemination on social networks. “This breaks with traditional mindsets,” Rodríguez said. Visitors are initially incredulous, in doubt about whether or not they can really take things without leaving something else in exchange.
People can come to a gratiferia with the stuff they wish to get rid of, and they do not have to worry about whether someone will take it. The idea is that someone will be interested in extending items’ useful life, instead of buying new goods.
“It’s a reorganisation of material objects that also generates an interesting kind of socialisation, by creating a sense of community,” Rodríguez said.
Gratiferias have spread to cities in some of the provinces, as well as to Chile, Mexico and other countries, he said.
This free give-and-take, according to Rodríguez, did not arise during a situation of crisis, like the bartering systems that were so popular during the 2001-2002 economic and social meltdown. “This is an attempt to respond to a much longer crisis in our relationship with material goods,” he said.
These are original forms of “collaborative consumption”, an expression coined in the United States to describe mechanisms for sharing or exchanging electrical appliances, books, clothes, shoes, instruments, furniture, bicycles and even cars. In 2011, Time magazine named collaborative consumption one of the 10 ideas capable of changing the world.
Collaborative consumption is growing so big in the United States that the brokerage and financial services firm ConvergEx wrote an article claiming it could have “catastrophic” ripple effects on the economy.”
Such schemes are supported by Patanjali’s eight limbs of Yoga. The Yamas, ethical considerations include Asteya (non-stealing) which can be understood as not keeping for yourself when others are in need. Aparigraha (non-possessiveness) also provides against hoarding and observing that you have all you need and feeling no loss.
Sharing services is also popular, for example I have friends who teach yoga, flower arranging, boxing, massage, art etc. and frequently share skills with one another and others. In my local community, every week at the community centre parents trade children’s clothes and toys with other parents for free. There are also websites and classified’s where items no longer used can be collected for free.
The current political structure, especially in the West serves to isolate individuals within their homes, and promotes the ‘me’ culture, where people only think of themselves and their own needs. This serves the government, as if individuals are in need they must turn to the government and its structures for assistance; thus strengthening the power of the establishment. I support initiatives that strengthen community solidarity, so that we do turn to our neighbours and provide solidarity and support to one other. As humans we are giving and loving beings. Let’s cut out the middle man and the costs they levy to keep them in place.
Peace be upon you.