This One Is About Your Pearls, Swine And Casting, If You Get My Drift
Last time I ended with a question: what about those jerks who take advantage of generosity in a gift economy? In answer, I tell unto you a parable. Well, actually it’s a true story from a recent webcast featuring Charles Eisenstein answering questions about sacred economics. (Oh, this is too funny! I just typed “scared” economics instead of “sacred.” Interesting transposition: maybe this whole subject of economics does fall into two basic categories: scared and sacred.)
Anyway, a woman called into the show to state that, impressed by the concept of a gift economy. she had become involved in setting up a store where those in need could help themselves to donated items. Can you believe it! complained the caller, there was this one woman who came in regularly, picked over the new items, took the best of the best and then sold them on E-Bay!
Taaacky! So what to do? Eisenstein responded that these kinds of things are bound to happen as we humans struggle to take the next step forward in our evolution, but he didn’t have a strong recommendation of how to handle the less evolved right now. One answer I have heard people give about situations of this nature is that it’s the gifting spirit that is important and to leave it to the other person’s karma when s/he abuses the generosity. I have a different perspective: when you cast your pearls before swine once and they trample on them, time to put a policy in place to stop the trampling. To make an obviously clever financial analogy: responsibility and compassion, justice and mercy, are two sides of the same coin. If others disrespect your gifts once, letting them get away with it a second time indicates you yourself may not be valuing them.
When it is a charitable endeavor as in the example above, perhaps the policy is that if someone uses the donations to her advantage with little concern about their larger purpose, she may, at minimum, be verbally taken to task on her behavior, or even banned from the store all together. In a situation where an organization is gifting money, as does our family charity Just Heart Foundation (two-sided coin again: Just=justice; heart=mercy) which I plugged in my last post and am now seizing the opportunity to plug again, a credit check is a logical first step to prevent abuse of the system. Bottom line: behaviors have consequences and bad behaviors have bad consequences; unfortunately, sometimes the person giving the gift has to be the one to create the consequences, much as s/he may not like to do so.
Thinking more about the E-Bay woman takes me back to the example in my last post of sharing a lawn mower. Actually it was a suggestion from Eisenstein, but I’ve since become aware of complications: if a lot of people are using the mower and it breaks down, who addresses the problem? Perhaps it would just be better to donate items vs. sharing them, as in the store mentioned above. That way if the mower breaks, the store decides what happens. Maybe someone offers to repair it at no charge, maybe it gets sold, or possibly it’s not worth repairing and the parts get recycled.
So much to think through! Oh, soapbox, thou art indeed seductive!
P.S. Rethinking the jerk comments. Maybe should change it to “honored lesson giver in the art of taking responsibility for the offering of one’s gifts.” Never mind! Too long. “Jerk” will work.