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Hospitality Exchange Communities and real-life campaigns

This document is created because the discussion about the relation between HospExchNetw and the real-live comes more and more into the focus. The question “So how can we reach the 5 billion people that have no computer?” rose in a discussion on the BeWelcome Forum and a post on the the Open Couchsurfing Blog with the title: “Is travelling noble? Or: “The Emperor´s New Clothers”. The replies/comments to this thread/post motivated me to publish this approach.This document is a proposal for the second General Assemly of BeVolunteer in 2008.

It does only raise one idea of how Hospitality Exchange Networks, in this case BeWelcome, could take a step into the real world. It s not intended to be the only way/step but one of plenty. It brings up reasons why BeVolunteer should be a part of The Other Campaign which is based on the Sexta Declaracion de la Selva Lacandona of the EZLN.

I m posting this on the OpenCouchsurfing Blog because most of the reasons I bring up here could be applied to Couchsurfing as well.

What is the Other Campaign?

The goal of the The Other Campaign is to create a diverse, plural and multiple world-wide network of subjects of social rebellion. The mission of the Network is the creation of another way of organizing our entire world – without exploitation, unequally, oppression or discrimination. It is explicitly anti-capitalistic and anti-systemic. Invited for participation in this network are: Truly left-wing parties without an official register of members, social movements, collectives, cultural groups, independent and critic media, civil organizations and Non Government Organizations. The organization of this network is fundamentally horizontally without any hierarchy or authorities. It refuses all uni-personal leadership. It encourages all members to take there own decisions and use there talents in their own way. The lax network refuse from the beginning all tendencies of homogenization or uniformity. It is intended to be a Network of help, solidarity and mobilization of all the members. This network should be able to create alternative ways of social communication. This is the point where BeVolunteer comes into the game. [1]

Why does BeVolunteer/BeWelcome fit in this description of participants of the other campaign?

The members of BeWelcome and all our Volunteers are creating an alternative way of bringing people together. We offer hospitality, and soon other things like bikes or books to share, without expecting money for it.

Lots of Volunteers working voluntarily for our common dream. It would actually violate statutes of BeVolunteer if any volunteer would receive money for his work. Voluntary work does not fit in the capitalist logic. In the pure capitalism you exchange your work force for other goods or money.
The organization BeVolunteer is a Non Profit Organization. An organization in the capitalistic way has to make profit to be competable with other concurrents.
BeWelcome is not a competitor to other networks. BeWelcome is more likely another option for people who care about democratic way of organizing an organization. (at least thats what I believe)

The members of BeVolunteer have all the power. This makes us, like the the other Campaign slower, weaker and lower but like this we guarantee that BeVolunteer is really driven by its members. The Board of Directors is based on annual elections and the members of BeVolunteer or lets say the General Assembly is the highest power. We refuse uni-personal leadership. Each year there are elections of the Board of Directors who are representing the members of BeVolunteer and managing the daily issues.

One of our goals is the intercultural exchange with people from all over the world. Thanks to that our members are aware of the consequences of the neoliberalistic policy in the world. We meet face to face with people who are suffering in the current system. We are desperate for a high plurality within our members to increase the possibilities of our members to really enter in a intercultural experience. One objective of the Other Campaign is to bring the political discussion into daily life. Democracy is not done with going to vote each 4,5 or 6 years not even with a vote every year at the GA of BeVolunteer. Everyday there are decisions to take. It s not always necessary to organize a huge congress or a manifestation to get people together for a discussion or for protest. That can happen everyday in the decentralized network of BeWelcome.

To be Part of the Other Campaign BeVolunteer has to subscribe the Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lancandonan. I don t know yet how you sign this declaratio but thats just a formality. The question right now is if BeWelcome/BeVolunteer or any other Networj wants to take this step into real life political campaigns or not.

[1] Carlos Antonio Aguirre Rojas, Chiapas, Planeta Tierra, Mexico 2006, S.165ff

PS: I hope it s readable – the Spell Check didn t work …

8 Responses to “Hospitality Exchange Communities and real-life campaigns”

  • An interesting point of view, Fabzgy. However, I think it would not be wise for BeVolunteer to take an explicit anti-capitalist stance. Of course, there are many members who feel this way about the state of the world. I am still very sympathetic to this view myself. On the other hand, I don’t think capitalism is completely bad. It is unclear, for instance, if we would have had the cheap hardware and the capability to communicate on this large scale if it weren’t for the competition forced upon the producers of hardware.

    Also, sharing (which is our, excusez le mot, business in a broad sense I presume) can more easily be extended in affluent societies. There is more waste and hence more potential for turning waste into happiness and freedom, e.g. supermarket throw-outs and empty car seats into dumpster dived dinner parties and modes of free ad-hoc transport.

    Besides, BeVolunteer taking position in this debate could alienate members and keep them away from participation. I don’t think taking a this stance is a requirement to working on changing society in a radical way. Au contraire, it’s healthy to keep options open and to not exclude technology and ideas and even opportunities. Diversification is a strength. If you want to change something it’s good to work from within and without (just like we did as volunteers and (gradually more and more) dissidents for CouchSurfing).

    I see the free software community as the first social movement that was successful in occupying a place at the center of modern-day capitalism. Billions are invested in the creation of means of production (software) that are available and accessible to anyone. This would have never happened if the General Public License had been even slightly anti-capitalist. The launch of the term “open source” in order to not scare way CEOs and VCs has been often criticized and even though I personally prefer to ally myself with the free software movement, the Open Source Initiative was just another act of sheer genius that has probably taken a big role to get us where we are now.

    Now it’s time to build upon this and use these means, opportunities and momentum, in groups and organizations (and even companies) that can increase the <a href=””wealth of networks and spread it over larger number of people and nations.

    The irony of the situation is that the vision of the founders of Hospitality Club and CouchSurfing never went beyond personal power and control. However, this behavior has only lost us a couple of years and we have gained a lot of invaluable insight in the dynamics of power and egos.

  • I`m always very skeptical towards the glorification of voluntary work.
    I think voluntary work fits very well in a capitalist logic which is based on a huge amount of unpaid or underpaid work.

    Nobody will be able to pay for his food and living costs by doing voluntary work. It also produces a lot of dependency from other people. Work for free might be out of good intentions. But if it is going to be more widespread, it will have an influence on the economy.

    Just an example: A member of BeWelcome is an employee in a guesthouse too. The member likes to host people at his apartment (i see hosting as voluntary work too). In the small town, where the member lives, more and more visitors are going to use BeWelcome instead of a hostel or a small guesthouse. The local tourism economy will lose the possibility to earn money and pay the employee. The guesthouse will have to release employees. And our BW-Member who hasn`t a job anymore will lose his possibility to pay his apartment. Well, he still is a BW member and can travel all around the world and don`t need money to pay for accommodation, but he is dependent from people who can pay for an apartment.

  • radiotonix, when I’ve had to stay in a hostel when I travel because I couldn’t find a host in time, I’ve asked hostel owners about whether they’ve felt any impact from hospitality networks. They say no, since there are always people who would rather pay for the convenience of not having to socialize all the time with their hosts: young couples who want privacy in the bedroom, people who go partying and come back at late hours, people who just want some time alone.

    So far hostels are, for better or worse, still doing fine.

  • what a bunch of hippie bullshit.
    an unproductive society is just not going to travel in the first place since they cant afford it. remove money or whatever, you still have the same common principle of exchange of services or goods or favours. money and the open market is just the abstraction of this.

    honestly, if anything should be promoted on hospitality exchange networks, it shouldnt be how to be more of an inefficient illusional dimwit, but how to actually walk the walk. talk is cheap, yet its all you see, read and hear, whilst those who are actually working are sponsoring this junk.
    keep in mind, you cant survive from cutting each others hair and singing.

  • I think it’s interesting that exactly no one would like our transportation systems to be run in this way Fabzgy, given that they are of course essential to the hospex and travel industries. We all seem to like homogenization and uniformity when applied to how airplanes, trains and cars are built and operated.

  • @zak0r: Madonna seems to survive pretty well. I’ve also seen a lot of hairdressers doing not too bad.

    @Margaret: I rather travel in a less homogeneous way myself. :)

  • Kasper there you are! now boys…where are your seatbelts, hmmm?

  • Okay, looks like the idealistic people I deal mostly with in the networks are not the majority.

    @ zack0r: Do you really think the capitalistc way of organizing our society is the best way for humanity? I met recently a bunch of people comming down to Bocas del Torro, Panama for Spring break. Celebrating there week of with tons of beer, cocaine, weed, etc.

    Once we entered in a discussion about free licenses, copyright, patents, etc. they started to praise the capitalistic system which allows them to fly 3500 miles and get high for an entire week without even recognizing that the people around them are fuckin poor. Then they are starting to bargain down the prizes for food, acomodation, transport, clothes, handicrafts etc.

    It s a wonderfull system if you live on the “right” side, isn t it?

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