Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.
Edgar Cahn - My father was a legal philosopher who believed that Justice was too absolute and abstract a concept for humans to ever grasp fully - but that humans were born with an innate capacity to respond to injustice, to disparities they found intolerable and that by responding to injustice, we then backed toward an ever receding ideal of justice that we would never reach.
That philosophy has been a driving force behind my creation of legal services in the war on poverty, my research, writing and litigation on hunger, my work with Native Americans that helped spark a movement that lead to formal recognition of tribal sovereignty as a fixed element of federalism. It inspired me to create the first clinical law school, Antioch School of Law, where entering students were required to live the first six weeks with the clients served by the school's teaching law firm. It inspires me today as I continue to teach Law & Justice to every entering class, oversee their mandatory community service and teach a course in System Change for advanced students. It brought me to Ashoka as a Fellow to learn more about social entrepreneurship, to be the geriatric member of a network of changemakers, and to create a form of long term insurance, paid largely with TimeBank Hours as a way to enlist the vast capacity of older adult as a force for community building.
It is the passion that underlies my tenacity in developing and promoting TimeBanking even when my colleagues in law could not grasp its relevance. I see each of the Core Values through the lens provided by my sense of injustice. Through that lens, the core principle that every human being has unique value obligates drawing a line in the sand and declaring: No More Throw-Away People. The need to honor the work of building community becomes: No more labor exacted from the subordination of women and children, exploitation of immigrants and discriminatory treatment of ethnic minorities. Likewise, reciprocity becomes a mandate: do not exact dependency as the price of providing help.
So TimeBanking is not a "program" for me; it is my way of challenging the way in which money blinds us to a world of value that we all have, values that are priceless, values that tend to lose ground when confronted by "the bottom line" of profit and loss.
For me two types of energy come together in TimeBanking. The first is a desire for connectedness, a need to reduce social isolation, a commitment to reweave the web of family, neighborhood and community. The second is a sense of injustice, an unwillingness to tolerate the way in which we relegate people to the scrap heap, declare the young and the old and the disabled and others useless unless they have some marketable skills that can generate money. It is a fiery sense of outrage that our principle growth industries have been building prisons and nursing homes and when GDP growth is exemplified by a terminal cancer patient simultaneously undergoing chemotherapy, a divorce and a child custody battle.
Undergirding both the desire for connectedness and our sense of injustice is a primal need to feel that we make a difference, that our existence matters to others. TimeBanking provides connectedness and provides a simple but elemental tool with which to say" No More Throw Away People.
I am grateful for every day I get to expand awareness of our potential to build the kind of world we all want for ourselves and our children. Perhaps the biggest obstacle for me has been people who say: Oh Yes.We know about TimeBanking and trivialize it by saying: That's about people being nice to people and helping them out. Isn't that nice -- and by implication they are saying: But we have to do important things and deal with big problems.
For me, being human is awesome. It carries with it a trust and a stewardship to realize the full potential of our species, to utilize the consciousness that we bring into the universe to create a sustainable habitat for all species -- and to refuse to tolerate disparities which cripple our fellow-beings.