We all have needs and lacks, some because of the system, some because we’re hardwired to have them, some because of trauma, some just because of ordinary life experiences. There are healthy ways to take care of these needs, account for and address (or resign oneself to) the lacks, generally to function and meet needs in a healthy way. It’s clear that most of us don’t know how to do that in every instance and many of us don’t know in any instance. We are constantly damaging, exploiting, and abusing one another, and we do damage to others commensurate with our position in social and economic hierarchies.
When we abuse, harass, or exploit, we’re using other beings to fulfill those needs without behaving requisitely ethical–without their consent, or without just compensation, or without considering their needs and wants, or without repairing or restoring what we have taken.
This causes great damage. Sexual abuse and harassment ruins people, families, communities. Economic exploitation ruins people, communities, regions. Ecological exploitation ruins communities, regions, the planet. Each form feeds from and to other forms, so that being sexually abused messes up your economic life, ecological destruction creates scarcity that makes economic and sexual exploitation more likely, economic exploitation reproduces itself in cultural norms like hypermasculine competitiveness, and so on.
Each of these forms of abuse and exploitation is unique and requires commitment to unique processes to address it. But there are common forms to the processes required to address all of them. Each requires (1) a personal commitment to do what we can to address them; (2) an understanding of how we–I, personally, and we, collectively, are part of the problem and necessary for the solution; (3) concrete materialization of abuse- and exploitation-free culture and structures.
Cooperativism, whether economic, cultural, political, or in all manifestations, has to begin with that commitment, because what we’re really addressing is that dynamic of exploitation and abuse, patterns which cut across everyone and everything in a world of hierarchies.