Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Really Really Free Market

A Really Really Free Market (RRFM) is a community gathering where participants bring, and give away absolutely free, any usable items, skills, ideas, smiles, talents, friendship, excitement, discussions, games and many others things that a community can come together and share. An RRFM is a 100% free and non-commercial event, organized by participants just like you. It is a temporary autonomous zone instituting the gift economy as an alternative to the capitalist mode of resource distribution. An RRFM is not just a once a month event, it is an ethos and a way of being that transforms people through its experience and is then carried into other areas of life.

The first known Really Really Free Market took place simultaneously in Miami, Florida, and Raleigh, North Carolina during the anti-globalization protests against the FTAA during the G8 Summit in Miami. The idea quickly spread across the United States. In June of 2004, San Francisco held it's first RRFM as part of the Reclaim the Commons week-long demonstration against the Biotechnology conference. In the following year, a group calling themselves Your Friendly Neighborhood Anarchists initiated a monthly RRFM that has been taking place the last Saturday of every month ever since. Sometime around 2007, the RRFM model began to take off all over the country and other countries too and new RRFMs are sprouting up every day (around 50 at last count). There are many other RRFMs that happen sporadically and probably many more that we don't know about.

Having participated in the RRFM in San Francisco, CA for the past few years and helped to spread the idea across the world, I am frequently called to interpret what the RRFM means and what it does. After centuries of colonialism, capitalism and free market ideology that have focused on maximum gain of specific resources at any social and environmental cost, the gift economy is sprouting up again in the cracks of the old economy, taking on new forms rebirthed from indigenous and other gifting traditions. The RRFM and other free culture projects provide a here-and-now counterbalance to centuries of take, take, take in the dominant culture. The RRFM is about enjoying giving and sharing as much as you can and seeing relationships and interconnected consciousness blossom in the process.

The free market dictates that everything has a price and nothing is actually free. The RRFM creates a space where people and things are valued intrinsically and in relation to others through sentiment and meeting people’s real needs. At the RRFM, everything is free so you are free to think about “what do I really value?” rather than what does ‘the market’ value. That is a good question. I have had many epiphanies about what I value through simply participating in the RRFM. I value seeing others made happy by what I have to offer, I value seeing people feel empowered to share what they are able (even if it is just a funny story or a hug or a really good brownie), I value voluntary simplicity (reusing things and not buying things I don’t need), I value community and common spaces, and I value trust – trust that we will take care of each other because we see no boundaries between us.

We have learned a lot here in the US about how to get the best degree, the highest paying job, the highest return investments, the nicest car, etc. In the last half century, we have learned little about how to share and to trust and to build community. The RRFM isn't just a once a month party, it is a way to experience a prefigurative world that I imagine most if not all of us want, to learn how to share, and then spread it into other areas of our lives. Try a putting in free box at work or school, set up a free skool, donate your time to a free clinic, lend a spare room to someone who needs temporary housing, glean fruit and donate extra veggies from your garden at a free farm stand in a park.

Look for future blogs as I research the history of the gift economy. And if you feel inspired, please start a really really free market in your own area. It is as simple as finding some interested friends, finding a high foot traffic public space, announcing the regular event, and bringing food, music, stuff to give away, and skills to share. By the way the San Francisco Really Really Free Market just won Best of the Bay 2009 in San Francisco Magazine! Congratulations to all the free marketeers!

1 comment:

  1. Please note, ideas for this specific blog were contributed by the late founder of the San Francisco RRFM, Kirsten Brydum and long-time RRFMer Alex Friend. They continue to be an inspiration in my work to make the world a better place.