A New Social Contract
How do we leave this disgusting society behind and start another one? This is an experimental framework for groups of people who’ve come together in cooperation for survival. Could this become our new social contract?
From 6th to 12th grade, the savage children I grew up around often scrawled swastikas all over the public schools we attended. It feels so wrong to know that most of them likely survived the past two decades and have reached adulthood. It sits with me like a profound loss; like when my family moved to this wicked place from North Africa. A childhood monster growing up alongside you. It’s mesmerizing to watch the void expand. It’s isolating to be older yet feel as though I’m hiding from the lord of the flies. It’s isolating despite how many of us are marked as disposable by society. No one is going to protect us, just as no one protected us when we were kids.
Why can this happen?
I’d like to propose it’s because we don’t have a smart or cohesive social contract. As I see it, social contract is a mutual understanding of authority. In its perfect form, it exists as a mutual agreement to equally and collectively protect everyone involved. It's the origin point of society. Don’t we already have that, you ask? Growing up, many of us are taught that we are free, and thanks to our voting right we can participate in making our world what it is. And yet, we live in hell.
National laws and human rights stipulations are presented as social contracts, but these evil and incomplete arrangements were designed to facilitate torture, murder, and genocide. The laws, our government, and capitalism are not natural or inevitable – they are upheld by force just like the colonist invaders that created them intended.
Where does that leave us? How do we leave this disgusting society behind and start another one? How do I cooperate with you? Can we actually start something new?
If the origin of a society is shared agreements, then we’re all going to have to play a role in creating a new one. What follows is an exercise to produce a framework for what to do with a group who chooses to come together in cooperation for survival. It’s my hope that an agreement like this one lives, gets improved, and evolves.
Start by Asserting Cooperation
1. Negotiating a shared social contract and shared understanding of expectations with those cooperating among you initiates the project of survival.
2. Every person has needs insofar as they experience trauma if those needs aren’t fulfilled. Cooperate fully with what is necessary for the fulfillment of the needs for every single person. These needs might include subsistence, space, mobility, protection, community involvement, leisure, self-creation, respect, affection, being seen and understood, among others.
3. Upon failure, always reassert cooperation and the importance of continuously improving the shared social contract. As all people's needs will differ in how they may be fulfilled, our efforts require constant renegotiation. Anyone can challenge so as to improve this list.
4. Any severe disagreement between people should be worked through by first identifying any needs that have not been fulfilled. If this contract fails someone, those whose needs have not been met should be prioritized when reworking this list. In times of conflict it's too easy to find an enemy in another. The urgency of the fulfillment of our needs is the only real enemy.
5. The freedom to fulfill one’s own needs alone with disregard for the fulfillment of the needs of others is strongly discouraged. That's not cooperation. The only real freedom is what we negotiate with one another.
6. Everyone deserves to have clean air, clean water, land access, food, shelter, and medicine. Everyone deserves prenatal care, child care, elderly care, medical assistance, assisted self-care, and education without cost or coercion.
6.1. Land use agreements should always prioritize those who have been historically harmed by displacement, forced relocation, or systematic denial of access to housing.
6.2. Everyone must be allowed free migration and any obstruction to that immediately destroyed.
6.3. Everyone deserves free access to personal use of any shelter that is not currently occupied with the option to remain in it permanently without displacement. Everyone can keep a personal dwelling, but no one should claim ownership of land or natural resources. No one should ever be displaced from a dwelling unless they’re in conflict with another resident. Everyone should try to make space for migrants. Help to repair all of the shelters on your street and then on every street.
6.4. Debt is not an acceptable relationship to claim with anyone. It is okay to expect reciprocity for gifts but using the coercive element of punishment for not repaying debt is not.
6.5. Technology should always be developed with the smallest environmental impact possible. All machines should be designed with easy repair in mind. We don’t know how to balance the need for production and impact of technology. This requires wisdom. Priority for considerations should always be placed on the needs and desires of those most affected by the detrimental environmental impacts.
6.6. No non-medical plastic production. No disposable goods production.
7. Treat everyone with perfect reverence.
7.1. All touch must always be consensual for any situation when someone is capable to give consent. The ways consent is communicated differs according to the cultural space it happens in. The principle of consent and what it means does not. In order for someone to give their consent they must have the capacity to understand the choices they are making and also made aware of any risk – including contagion, contaminant or inherent risk of sadomasochistic activities, for example. When someone is not capable of giving consent due to being unconscious or otherwise unable to communicate, touch should only occur in a caretaking capacity or an emergency situation, announcing touch verbally. Never engage in sexual contact or sexualized conduct with anyone without consent.
7.2. Shaming someone for something they cannot control or have difficulty controlling should be seen as a lack of reverence and tantamount to ostracism.
7.3. Avoid carrying a sense of superiority because it feels condescending to be around. Everyone deserves to be valued.
7.4. Unless necessary for identification or clarification, avoid discussing the physical appearance of others.
7.5. Everyone deserves the option to leave a situation or space. Never deny someone refuge to escape from violence.
7.6. Everyone should be able to end their own life if they wish.
8. If someone knowingly or intentionally prevents or interferes with any part of our project of survival – we call that violence. The minimum necessary preemptive force or defensive physical force to stop someone from causing violence – we call that self defense.
8.1. Violence must be dealt with on a case by case basis. Power – physical force against, coercion of, and combat with those who would cause imminent violence – has been, is, and may always be necessary.
8.2. Recognize that forced removal, confinement, detainment, and incarceration in addition to being direct physical violence upon an individual also carries the widespread damaging effect of destroying networks of relationships, including dependent relationships. Always avoid ostracizing as a problem-solving strategy.
8.3. Intimidation will be considered tantamount to the violence that it suggests. The use of any symbols or images meant to control or intimidate a group will be considered tantamount to proclaiming the intention of physical violence.
9. Everyone is deserving of a community. That means everyone deserves support when struggling with the conflicts that arise in the interpersonal relationships that make up communities.
9.1. Everyone shares a responsibility to support individuals who voice needs and desires in response to having suffered abuses or violence.
9.2. Never speak non-consensually of another person’s experience of harm, neither for the assumed reason that you represent their interest nor for the purposes of using the second-hand information to ostensibly “protect” your own community.
9.3. If someone cannot give consent to discuss it, perhaps because they fear retaliatory violence, it is especially important to be careful about what gets shared.
9.4. If someone has harmed another and a request is made of them to cooperate in addressing the harm, by fulfilling requests for actions necessary to repair it, if this kind of cooperation is refused, coercion is justified.
9.5. If there is not presently a request to fulfill some kind of reparations nor a recurrence of harmful behavior, individuals who have caused harm should be given room to grow and support in the form that is most likely to work. That could include therapy, workshopping conflict resolution with a group, or talking with community members about what happened and any ongoing conflict.
9.6. Everyone’s potential capacity for growth, learning, change and unique capacity for labor should be the basis for plans we make in the future.
9.7. Everyone deserves access to tools, education, guidance and the choice to create themselves and their space as they like.
9.8. There is no acceptable limit to the degree of how welcoming and accessible a space you provide can be.
Under the current structure of power – imperial white-supremacist capitalism – scarcity of resources is produced by those in control of land and means of coercion. Scarcity in turn forces people to look to the owners for jobs to fulfill their needs. Our current economic condition creates the illusion of this being the only way to live. But there is nothing natural or inevitable about this situation. Collectively, we can create different conditions. We abolish jobs and replace them with roles.
Anyone capable can step into a role, seek education and training for free, train others and walk away from a role at any time. Everyone can request but never demand someone’s time or labor. Here are some of the roles we’ll need to establish:
The role to educate yourself and others involving the following responsibilities:
- Experimenting with and producing the knowledge to fulfill roles and creative pursuits.
- Documenting, cataloging, organizing, and distributing information.
- Researching and analyzing methods for fulfilling roles.
- Organizing educators and students at the sites of cultural or material production. Organizers should create a classroom environment in every factory and caretaking facility.
The role of improving our material conditions involving the following responsibilities:
- All forms of caretaking.
- Providing continuous access to free clean water and securing it from contamination.
- Producing and distributing more than enough non-toxic free food for everyone.
- Restoring contiguous interconnected feeding environments for wildlife primarily by closing roads or making them tunnels.
- Providing all necessary medical procedures, treatments.
- Manufacturing drugs and medical equipment.
- Providing mobility and accessibility equipment.
- Producing necessary tools.
- Toxin abatement within and repair of dwellings. When all existing structures are inhabitable, structurally sound, occupied and heatable , only then do we add roles for building new structures.
- Providing seasonal heat to every dwelling in cold climates.
- Mending and, if necessary, producing clothing.
- Preventing and reverse-terraforming our worsening low-O2, high-CO2 atmosphere.
The role to improve our social conditions involving the following responsibilities:
- Listening to others, being present, providing support through challenges and conflict.
- Holding members of the project accountable for the ways we affect the experiences of each other and whatever learning from that situation is possible.
- Identification of needs that have not been met in those who cannot communicate or identify their needs.
- Everyone who is capable must carry the role of stopping individuals engaging in violent behavior. We all carry equal authority and are all mutually accountable for the responsibility to serve and protect one another.