NEW πŸ“—Story: Island Hopper ❌

Courtesy in Vekllei

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Part of the bulletin series of articles

Summary

  • Some assume that an anarchist society operating within a social economy would radically change social norms of hierarchy, language and relations.
  • In Vekllei, the results of its postwar changes are less clear. Some things are very different, but other customs and cultural behaviours are much the same.
  • This often surprises foreigners whose expectations of Vekllei society are revolutionary rather than reformist.

Whether Vekllei is best described as an anarchist society does not matter much to them. They are living in the shadow of a gradual, managed revolution, and their lives have changed substantially. In such societies where the old has been rebuilt, it is common to expect dramatic reforms in status, language and customs. At its extreme, we might imagine the abolition of psycholinguistic concepts entirely, perhaps totally reimagining property, gender or race.

What was not expected was that the transition to a social economy could actually reinforce customs, manners and courtesy. Far from hippy egalitarians, the ordinary Vekllei person is better characterised as polite, self-conscious, and modest. ‘Sir’ and ‘Madame’ are the default terms of address, and they are judgemental of behaviours they consider rude or unpleasant.

Rather than abolishing the social expectations of hierarchical society, the social economy has reinforced them, since they are now the primary mechanism through which labour operates. It is both a cultural and economic phenomena in which labour requires respect and respect motivates labour. Both these concepts feed into status, which in one way or another motivates much of modern Vekllei life.

This result should be anticipated by anyone paying close attention to how the Vekllei economy actually works. Rather than engaging with work in the cynical, transactional way volunteerism operates, Vekllei people engage with work in social forms, and so are engaging in a kind of ‘play.’ This play is productive, a fact which does not delegitimise its status as a social activity on behalf of the labourer.

This is why foreigners, expecting a Soviet welcome, are surprised to find Vekllei workers accomodating and even obsequious. In part, it is their nature as a trusting people in a generous society. But it is also a performance of their role in work, and from which they derive some measure of enjoyment. To the minority of people still employed in service roles in the country, it is good fun to play the role of a concierge or waiter competently; to participate in a complex and sophisticated ritual and succeed.

They are not collectivists, as such. They have collectivist aspects of their society, but are basically individualists in typical western fashion. Instead, they expect to derive respect from their social relationships, and so customs that indicate respect are woven as deeply in their society as any other.

For example, professional titles are often used in place of names (‘doctor,’ ‘policewoman’), and seniority is usually respected. Good manners are taught and expected in school. It is also emphasised through their modest manner of dress and prevalence of uniforms. Those mistaking these features as indicators of a collectivist culture are missing the point. These things indicate respect, the fundamental currency of a social economy.

It would be wrong to overgeneralise the population of this diverse and free country. Vekllei is full of counterculturists and dissidents, and the country is famous for its meandering disdain for authority. Nonetheless, good manners learned in childhood are hard to forget, and so the overwhelming impression of the Vekllei person is not of an fanatical, reborn anarchist, but of normality and courtesy.