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Re-Establishing Altruism As A Viable Social Norm

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Friendship

Most of us have known the joy of friendship since our earliest days. Sharing our ups and downs with someone else is a special, even sacred experience - yet modern societies are in the grip of increasingly mechanistic structures that leave little room for this crucial aspect of life.

Throughout the ages, the virtue of friendship has been almost universally understood. Plato & Aristotle, considered it to be the essential virtue. Together with family ties, friendships are the threads that form the social fabric of all real communities. Understandings vary widely, but the basic idea of friendship is that a of privileged relationship springing from mutual affection.

"I remain certain that the quest for truth cannot thrive outside the nourishment of mutual trust flowering into a commitment to friendship."     Ivan Illich

Recent developments are changing the role of friendship in modern life. As the economic sphere swells through processes such as professionalisation, people are encouraged to disregard personal feelings for one another and instead to behave in less whimsical, more predictable ways, expressing charity through impersonal systems such as the money system.

To a self-interested world, altruistic relationships defy logic. In a world of generalisations, they are particular. In a world of mass production, they are unique. In a money-minded culture, friendships are beyond price. No systematic doctrine can fathom their importance - friendships are a vital part of what it means to be human.

Friendship challenges the paradigm of the world as system, because friends see one another as special, irreplaceable individuals, with intrinsic and ineffable value. Real friends care for one another and feel one another's emotions in personal ways that defy fully rational explanation. Any system which berates individual, personal input as necessarily 'corrupt', or which denies people the chance to attach special significance to personal relationships is one that is intolerant of humanisation. Eccentric iconoclast, Ivan Illich, attached tremendous importance to the concept of 'friendship'. He was concerned that community would degenerate into a set of temporary, superficial, machine-inspired and machine-mediated interactions with others. The recording below explains how he used friendships as a way to reassert the value of the individual.

DownloadsTitleAuthor(s)        Date       Reference
 The Decline of Friendship David Cayley & Ivan Illich 2000-02-20Canadian Broadcasting Corporation The Corruption of Christianity 5

We are developing friend2friend, a friendship-based trading system. By allowing people to use friendship networks to find suitably skilled friends, we believe it has the potential to stop the trend towards professionalisation, and reverse the decline of friendship prophesied by Illich.

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