Thursday, December 21, 2017

The light and the dark again

Yes.  I haven't written in this blog since February.  No.  I haven't died.

I've been busy.

I have been managing another blog,  Commune Life, and that has taken lots and lots of time.  I've also been part of a group that has just started a new community which we are calling Cotyledon.

A cotyledon is the embryonic part of a seed that holds the nutrients for the new plant and bursts out and sends up a tiny shoot with one or two little leaves.  We see ourselves as the germination of the work we have been doing over the past two years in NYC.

And just as the cotyledon develops in the dark and makes its way into the light, our fragile little community is determined to develop into an ongoing commune that will make a difference in the world.

I wish all of you who read this the blessings of both the dark and the light.

Quote of the Day:  "Every moment of light and dark is a miracle. "  - Walt Whitman

Thursday, February 9, 2017


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