Peter Wenz writes in his essay Environmentalism and Human Oppression, that
[s]pecialization and the division of labor make people more interdependent, as they depend on others to meet needs outside their own specialties. Carpenters, for example, depend on farmers and butchers, as they in turn depend on carpenters.Our culture has tended to specialise more and more, brand us, bin us, reduce us to numbers and statistics. Indeed, our economies are based on specialisation. And when we specialise, we give proxies--we rely on others to fulfill needs. As soon as we give proxies, we lose our ability to have adequate control over what is done with our confidence. (Bruce had some interesting comments on specialisation that you can read here.)
Vulnerability is the other face of interdependence. People on whom we depend for life's necessities are people who have power over us. Foragers, for example, depend on others in their group for cooperation in life's basic tasks. But because everyone has similar skills and available natural resources are adequate, no subgroup can control or limit the rest of the group's ability to accomplish their goals. Dependence does not make individuals vulnerable when cooperation and needed resources are so widely available. In addition, foragers know personally and individually the people on whom they depend. This fosters interpersonal bonds and builds confidence that needed cooperation will be forthcoming.
We can all agree that Haiti has been thoroughly screwed over by colonialism and imperialism and the resulting poverty. Haiti has had to rely on foreign "aid" for a long time now. But, in places that are destitute are found the most inspirational individuals and collectives--individuals and collectives that need no charity, individuals and collectives that are taking matters into their own hands. It is us that should be learning from them. Watch this slideshow, narrated by photographer Bear Guerra, about the essay Peasant Bounty by Ruxandra Guidi, from the July/August 2011 issue of Orion, which is about a communitarian peasant movement in rural Haiti, called the Mouvman Peyizan Papay, in which farmers address issues of food sovereignty in addition to food security. (You ought to read the essay, too.)
Bear Guerra — "Peasant Bounty" narrated slide show from Orion Magazine on Vimeo.