Thursday, February 9, 2017

Questions

I've talked a lot lately about my view of strategies for social change.  (See my pieces on Strategy, 1/24/16, Now What?, 1/22/17, and TINA is the Enemy, 1/27/17.)  While I talk about the need for activism, I see a lot of my work as being in organizing alternatives, and I really see the importance of the education/consciousness shifting work.  While my work on the Commune Life blog definitely fits into this, I see a need for a lot more work in this area.  I think that education, in many ways, is the neglected piece of the triangle.

As I've been wondering how to work on the education piece, I realize that the real problem isn't a need for more information.  There's lots and lots of information out there.  In fact, maybe there's too much information out there--people complain of information overload.  (This blog, for example, has almost 450 posts.  That's a lot of information to deal with.)  The old rule is to show rather than tell, but I think even better than showing is to engage people's curiosity. If they have to find out the information themselves, they may be more interested and remember it longer.

A while ago, I came up with the idea of throwing out questions.  In this over connected age, it's not hard for people to find answers but my hope is that in looking for the answers, this might engage people better.

I've thought of several ways to do this.  One could be graffiti.  If someone saw a question on a wall, they might be curious about the answer.  There might be places online where you could post questions as well.  We could make these into memes.  There's probably several other ways to get these questions out.  But what questions?  What could we ask that would make people curious, seek out answers, learn and think.

So here's a list of some questions.  This is really only a beginning but may give you ideas about what you could put out there.  Feel free to put these questions out into the world and add others.  I think this could be a great way to engage and educate people.

Here are the questions I came up with:

Who was Audre Lorde?
Who was Emma Goldman?
Who was Sojourner Truth?
Who was Bayard Rustin?
Who was Rosa Luxemburg?
Who was Grace Lee Boggs?
Who were the Haudenosaunee?

What is Civilian-based Defense?
What is Nonviolent Communication?
What is Permaculture?
What is Ecofeminism?
What is the Federation of Egalitarian Communities?
What is Parecon?
What is Libertarian Municipalism?
What is Gross National Happiness?
What is emergence?
What is decentralization?
What was Limits to Growth?

When were the Rochdale Principles written?
When were the Diggers (both the English originals and the San Francisco activists) active?

What did Martin Luther King and Malcolm X have in common?
Were the apostles communists?
Were the Mbuti egalitarian?









What questions would you ask?



Quote of the Day:  "We awaken by asking the right questions." ― Suzy Kassem



Friday, January 27, 2017

TINA is the Enemy

Those who read this blog regularly are probably pretty surprised that I said anyone was the enemy and, if you just started reading this, you are probably wondering: “Who’s Tina?”

To start off with, TINA isn’t a person.  TINA is an expression, an acronym, popularized by Margaret Thatcher.  It stands for There Is No Alternative.  This is the lie that is used to keep oppressive systems in place.  “Yes, it isn’t great but what can you do?  There isn’t any alternative.”  As long as people believe that, corporate capitalism can prevent people from rebelling and, more importantly, from seeing that something quite different would be a lot better.

Its opposite is the phrase, “Another World is Possible” (the motto of the World Social Forum).  Or as Arundhati Roy said, “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

Part of why I’m not posting on here as much these days is because I manage another blog called Commune Life.  Folks who’ve been following my blog know that I regard communities, especially income-sharing communities, as laboratories for social change.  One of my points on the Commune Life blog is to point out all the different communes that are out there.  There are many alternatives to the mainstream way of living.

And, of all things, Atlantic magazine (which I think of as a mainstream, high class publication) seems to be getting this--and sharing it with their readers.  First, last fall, they published a piece on one of the newest communes, Compersia.  (I’m especially proud of this because it came out of the Point A project which is working to form new communes in urban areas, starting with Washington, DC, and New York City.  Compersia came out of the DC group.  I’m living in NYC these days working with Point A to build a new commune there--so Compersia is sort of a sister project.)  Now, they have published a piece that totally gets it.    They called it: “Seeking an Escape From Trump’s America:  Why some people are withdrawing from mainstream society into ‘intentional communities’—and what the rest of the country can learn from them” and it features two Virginia communes that are often on the Commune Life blog:  Living Energy Farm and Cambia.  

But communal living isn’t the only alternative.  I strongly recommend an article just published on the GEO website that points out many of the alternatives.  I love the part of the title that just says “We Have Choices”.  Now, truly more than ever, we need to know that there are alternatives and we do have choices.

In my last post, Now What???,  I talked about there being three parts to social change.  The first is resistance, struggle, holding actions, what’s sometimes called ‘agitation’.  The second part is building alternatives--communes, co-operative businesses, permaculture projects, Transition Initiatives, and many more.  And the third part is education--changing people’s consciousness.  I see the Commune Life blog as part of that.   All these alternatives don’t do that much if no one is aware of them.  Even this post (pointing out that there are indeed alternatives) is a piece of this work.  In my next post I will talk about another education strategy that I’ve been thinking about for a while.


Quote of the Day:  “Let's bring our most resourceful selves to these first, pivotal 100 days...​”  - Pamela Boyce Simms and Dan Miner



Sunday, January 22, 2017

Now What???

Last Friday, at noon, Donald Trump became the president of the United States.

I’m old enough to have lived through Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes--as adult!  I’ve also lived through Carter, Clinton, and Obama.  I now believe (as anyone who reads this blog probably has figured out) that change has to come from the bottom up and there isn’t a lot that the best president possible can do.  But I’ve also come to realize that a really bad president can do a lot of damage.

Unbelievably, at least to me, I was in the boardroom of a large liberal nonprofit a few weeks ago.  The place reeked of money.  We met with the development director who was wearing pearls and a severe skirt and the CEO who wore a charcoal suit and a muted tie.  The CEO looked like he could have been running a successful corporation.  Therefore it was mindbending for me to hear his speech.  Practically his first word was “Resistance” and he must have repeated it fifteen times in twenty minutes.  He talked about the need for liberal and progressive organizations to work together and support each other and not just stick to their individual causes.

Friday was also the day of the J20 Art Strike.  On Saturday was the Women’s March on Washington.  Monday, January, 23rd will be the Student’s Day of Action.  And this is just the beginning.

I’m an old white man and, although I’m pansexual and polyamorous, I’ve been in more relationships with women than men (although currently two of my three relationships are with men).  I could pass for straight.  In the 90s and the first decade of this millennium I was in a couple of long term heterosexual relationships.  Nevertheless, one of my main inspirations was the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For.  The strip almost always spoke to the culture we were trying to create.  Alison Bechdel stopped writing DTWOF in 2008.  After the Trump election, she was inspired to see what her characters were up to.   Although these comics were done around Thanksgiving, I just found them as Trump was being inaugurated.  It seems appropriate that they are focused on resistance.

All this resistance is important.  Hopefully all this will activate many folks.  Still, I believe in a three part strategy.  (See my post on Strategy, 1/24/16.) We need to continue the struggle, but we also need to continue building alternatives and educating folks about them.  I’ll talk more about all this in some upcoming posts.

Quote of the Day:  “You can build walls all the way to the sky and I will find a way to fly above them. You can try to pin me down with a hundred thousand arms, but I will find a way to resist. And there are many of us out there, more than you think. People who refuse to stop believing. People who refuse to come to earth. People who love in a world without walls, people who love into hate, into refusal, against hope, and without fear.” ― Lauren Oliver



Friday, December 23, 2016

Light, Love, Darkness, and Delight

Two days ago was the Winter Solstice.  It's telling that I'm only getting to write this now.

Many years I write a Yuletime post about now.  I often talk about the darkness and the light and how we need both.

Darkness is formative.  Many things come out of it. The seed in the dark of the soil becomes the plant; the fetus in the dark of the womb becomes the baby.  The stars can only be seen in the dark--and candles and holiday lights pale in the daylight but shine so lovely in the dark.

It's true that darkness also brings death, destruction, and decay--but those things are often the necessary precursors to the creation of new things. And sometimes darkness brings delight.  Ask lovers or little children.

I am trying to find the balance in my life--not only between darkness and light, but between doing and being, giving and having, connecting with others and connecting with myself.  It's at this time of the year--what I see as a magical time between times, as the Solstice ends the old year but the New Year hasn't come.  It's a time to turn inward, a time to contemplate, a time to rethink. 

After many years of pursuing various Buddhist practices, I have stopped them and built a little altar in my room.  At Samhain I put compost and dried leaves on it.  Right now there is ivy and a pinecone, and stones and a twig and some red berries, and a ribbon-like piece of red cloth.  I think it looks Yule like, although someone who saw it thought it was "Xmas decor".  I am trying to take in the darkness and the light, as well as the cold and the quiet of the season.

And I wish you all much love, and light, and darkness, and delight.


Quote of the Day:  “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” - Edith Sitwell

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Grateful

I'm back--for now, at least.

I've been way too busy with lots of other things and I'm just now having a bit of time. 

I've just finished one of my other blogs completely.  I've ended the story at Lagoon Commune--with a display of gratitude--and a hokey ending. 

I've also been spending lots and lots of time managing a blog focused on income-sharing, egalitarian communities entitled Commune Life.  Since there are new posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I've been very busy making deadlines.  And this continues.

And, today is a day to be thankful.  So I want to say what I'm thankful for.

First of all, I am thankful to be alive, to be able to enjoy my life, to be here and experience life's joys and sorrows.

I'm also very glad to have so many people to share my life with.  I'm grateful for close friends, here in NYC and in New England and Virginia and California.  You know who you are (I hope) and I love you all.

I'm grateful to be living in community.  I will be celebrating the day with the many folks I live with.

I'm grateful to be part of building community--particularly through Point A and Commune Life.

And I'm very grateful for this earth, for the changing seasons, and the trees that send me oxygen, and the compost that builds and renews the soil.

And I'm grateful to be able to work and write and make compost and walk and bike and be physically active.  I hope it will continue for a few more years at least.

I hope to be on this blog a little more frequently now but if I'm not, I hope it's because I'm busy doing stuff that (maybe) will make things a little better.

Quote of the Day:  "Joy is a heart full and a mind purified by gratitude."  - Marietta McCarty


Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Next Society 3: The Process

Let me begin by saying again that the emergent process for a future social/political/economic structure is going to be organic--that is, messy--if it's going to work at all.  All the wonderful theories in the world have less influence than all of the many competing and divergent interests that slowly form organic structure. 

When I talk about communities like Twin Oaks, I often joke that "...no one in their right mind would create a community like Twin Oaks."  That's because no one 'created' Twin Oaks.  Twin Oaks is the way that it is because it evolved that way over time.  It certainly didn't become the little behaviorist community that its founders envisioned.

Likewise, as new structures emerge, they won't be exactly what anyone has planned.  And they will emerge.  Anyone who thinks that capitalism as it's currently practiced is sustainable, hasn't looked what it's doing to the environment, the growing anti-globalism sentiment, and the fact that it's only a recent player on the scene (as I laid out in my first article, Some Background).

And I'm not saying that a decentralized, diverse society is what's going to happen.  It's what I consider most likely and most feasible (and I also think most desirable).  But if we're talking about an organic process, we're talking about something that we can't control.  Unexpected things are going to happen and society will change as a result.

When I say that this corporate capitalist society is not sustainable, I mean that  it will bring down the planet if it continues--but I also know that it will continue for a while yet.  I see us in the place where the Roman empire was as it started falling apart.  Just as that process took a long time, I see corporate capitalism in a slow, incremental process of decay.

The feudal system that followed the fall of Rome was fairly decentralized (although anything but nonhierarchal) even though there were periodic attempts to recreate a centralized structure.  The irony is that the biggest, longest lasting attempt (the Holy Roman Empire) turned out to be rather patchwork and decentralized.  As Wikipedia puts it: "The empire never achieved the extent of political unification ... evolving instead into a decentralized, limited elective monarchy composed of hundreds of sub-units, principalities, duchies, counties, Free Imperial Cities, and other domains."

And that's what I think is going to happen again--this is the patchwork politics I spoke about in my last post.  However, I think that successful communities, co-operative networks, etc, can form a template that can be built on and can influence the structures of this new, decentralized society.  And building those communities and alternative structures is the work that we can and need to do.

Trying to build a whole new society from a some blueprint won't work. It's good to have some idea of where we want to go, else as a society we will simply drift, but we're not going to be able to control the process.  Letting things happen, trying to influence what happens when we can and letting it go when we can't, is what we can do.  I think we will need to have some idealism and a lot of pragmatism to get anywhere.



Quote of the Day:  "How did Twin Oaks get so far from its origins?
"When I tried to start a Walden Two community, I didn't expect it to turn away from the scientific and rational and embrace popular movements.  But we did not have a lot of choice in member selection.  Who was available to join the fledgling community of 1969-1972?  Hippies, that's who.  I know one group that was very serious about Walden Two and tried to build a community without any hippies in it.  It failed for lack of people." - Kat Kinkade


Friday, July 29, 2016

The Next Society 2: A Patchwork Politic

There are lots of good ideas about what the next society could and perhaps should look like.  There's Parecon (Participatory Economics), which I wrote about way back in a post on Participatory Economics and Economic Theory, (7/8/08).  I just read quite a bit from a book entitled The Next Revolution by Murray Bookchin, where he talks about his theory of Libertarian Municipalism. There are a lot of interesting theories of how society could be organized. These are all lovely, detailed plans for the next society and, because of that, I don't think they're going to happen, at least not in any way that will be like their proponents specify.

I think Starhawk's writings on future economies in her book Webs of Power (which I also talked about in my post on Participatory Economics and Economic Theory) are more resonant with what I'm talking about. She looks at Participatory Economics, Natural Capitalism, the Gift Economy, and the views of bioregionalists, anarchists, and socialists, and concludes that "...in a diverse world we may need a spectrum of systems to fully fit each unique set of circumstances." She points out that "Our visionary political efforts might best be directed not toward putting in place some preconceived system but toward creating the conditions in which that experimentation can begin."

Faithful readers of this blog are probably aware that I consider intentional communities as a prime place to do that experimentation.  My vision of an emerging political/economic/social situation starts with having lots of successful experiments up and running and including not only communes and cohousing, but all sorts of cooperative businesses, a lot of the pieces of what is sometimes called the Solidarity Economy, and even bits of small scale capitalism--small businesses, family run stores, things that I will call true free enterprise.  (When I actually studied what free enterprise is, I realized it wasn't as bad as I thought.  The problems we are having are with corporate capitalism, also known as monopoly capitalism, where the big corporations use small companies as testing grounds for what's profitable and anything that works is either bought out by them or out competed by corporate imitation.  The only other alternative in our present system seems for an innovating business to become a major corporation themselves.  This is the grow or die strategy.  Another name for what we have now is 'growth capitalism'.)

Once we have enough of these small systems up and running, I believe that the next step is in the process could be to network the successful experiments, perhaps using what Bookchin calls a democratic confederation. (But probably not as precisely structured as he details.) So rather than having one overarching system, there are lots of small, local, diverse economic and political systems, connected in a highly decentralized structure.  This is based on the idea that what works in one place probably won't be what works in a very different place.  While there are no guarantees on any of this, I think this might be a workable scenario.

How do we do this?  That's the subject of my next piece: The Process.



Quote of the Day: "What is our vision, our picture of an ideal society and economy? When we say 'Another world is possible,' what kind of world are we talking about?
"The global justice movement is diverse.  It ranges from union leaders who want to secure a fair share of this economy for their members to old line Marxists, to anarchists, to indigenous communities struggling to preserve their traditional lands and cultures.  No one picture of the world can describe all the different viewpoints.  No one vision may actually serve this tremendous diversity.  And how could it? How could the aspirations of an urban office worker be the same as that of a Mayan farmer in Chiapas?  Why should we think that one form of economy or social organization should serve all?" - Starhawk