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Mariame Kaba: Everything Worthwhile Is Done With Other People – Adi magazine
'Eve L. Ewing: Let’s talk more about organizing and activism because I think that that is a really important distinction. I do not identify as an activist. I am very frequently identified as an activist, which I find very puzzling. What do you see as the difference between those things?

Mariame Kaba: I think that people who are activists are folks who are taking action on particular issues that really move them in some specific way, but activism only demands that you personally take on the issue. That means signing petitions. Being on a board of a particular organization that’s doing good in the world.

That way, activist is super broad, and that’s why people call people activists. Your individual action, for example, of writing, can be a form of activism in the sense that it wants to educate people and get them to take action in their own way. You are in that way potentially being activist in your orientation, at least, if not in identity.

Organizers, however, can’t exist solo. Because who the hell are you organizing? You can’t just decide to wake up one morning and be like, “I’m just going to do this shit.” If you’re organizing, other people are counting on you, but more importantly, your actions are accountable to somebody else.

Organizing is both science and art. It is thinking through a vision, a strategy, and then figuring out who your targets are, always being concerned about power, always being concerned about how you’re going to actually build power in order to be able to push your issues, in order to be able to get the target to actually move in the way that you want to.

I have been an organizer for a big part of my life in the sense that I’ve been involved with other people in campaigns to move various things. But sometimes I’m just an activist.

But [in that case] I have no accountability to anybody, and that’s kind of dangerous. Because there are a lot of people doing a lot of shit that nobody can call them on.

Eve L. Ewing: Who is failed when that happens?

Mariame Kaba: I think that the people who are most directly impacted by the things people are doing are failed. Because they should have a say, and be part of the shaping of that thing that is about them. That’s critically important. But I also think that you yourself are failed if what you’re trying to do is do a hard large-scale thing and you don’t have any people.

Eve L. Ewing: Or you’re just trying to do it by yourself.

Mariame Kaba: It’s like, why?! You’re going to burn out. It’s not humanly possible for you to just be your Lone Ranger self out there in the world. Ella Baker’s question, “Who are your people?” when she would meet you is so important. Who are you accountable to in this world? Because that will tell me a lot about who you are.

And how much hubris must we have to think that us individual persons are going to have all the answers for generations worth of harm built by multi-millions of people? It’s like, I’m on a 500-year clock right now. I’m right here knowing that we’ve got a hell of a long time before we’re going to see the end. Right now, all we’re doing is building the conditions that will allow the thing to happen.

Eve L. Ewing: Furthermore, people who came before me have left me things that mean a lot to me that they will never live to see the fruition of. And so therefore it’s unreasonable for me to expect, “I’m going to fix this.” I think one of the biggest things we can do for ourselves is to recognize how, even as oppressed people, we have internalized the narrative of individualism.

Mariame Kaba: Capitalism is what helps us figure out the individualism part. It’s so married together. The itemization of everything into its own little sliver is capitalist. The other thing I learned from my friends, Mia Mingus and Leah Lakshmi and others who are disabled people in the world, is this notion of crip time. Folks who are disabled have to operate in the world in such a different register. That’s what Mia says all the time: the notion that we supposedly are not interdependent on each other can only exist in an ableist world. Because if you have any sort of disability, you desperately need a relationship with other people—you can’t be on your own or you will die. You have to recognize the interdependence, or build interdependence. You don’t have a choice. Crip time means, “We’re just going to get to it when we can.”

Disability justice gives us that real insight. I am not visibly disabled, but I’m chronically ill. Having lupus was a moment for me. The things I felt were super important were actually not that important—a re-frame of my whole entire existence—and I was like, oh, okay. “I can’t do this” meant something.

Eve L. Ewing: I want to circle back to visibility, and who is uplifted and not uplifted in movements. I sense you increasingly choosing visibility in different ways. I saw a picture of you in the New York Times and I was like, “Oh, my goodness.”

Mariame Kaba: I know.

Eve L. Ewing: So, I would love to hear your thoughts around why you generally choose to not be photographed, and some of your other choices around naming yourself, not centering yourself. And then ways in which that is changing, and why?

Mariame Kaba: That’s a really good question because it’s one of my struggle areas internally as a human being.

I grew up with mentors who taught me that the organizer is never up front. I would write things anonymously. I wrote a hell of a curricula, which I see still circulate today, with no attached name to it.

When I was in my 30s, I was doing a big curriculum project with a friend. She’s a white woman. We were finishing this project and I was like, “Oh, I don’t need to put my name on it.” I’m a believer in information access, free information access. I also don’t think my ideas are these original ideas. They belong to a lineage. So I always felt not proprietary.

She said, “It’s interesting to me. As someone who a lot of younger people look up to, younger women of color in particular, and your own interest in history, it’s so interesting to see you erasing yourself from history.”

Eve L. Ewing: She hit you with the “interesting”!

Mariame Kaba: Like daggers. She’s a very good friend of mine. But the fact that a white woman said that to me just messed with me. And did it from a place of real care, you know?

Eve L. Ewing: Yeah. “I just think it’s funny how…”

Mariame Kaba: “I just think it’s funny how you’re willing to erase yourself from history when you’re always recapturing histories of all these black women in your multiple projects, and you’re always talking about how you had to find them in the archives, right? And you’re literally erasing yourself at the moment. Also, it’s interesting that the younger people are seeing you do that.”

I was like, “Oh, wow.”

I took a breath, I thought about it really, really hard, and I was like, “You know what, actually? In part, she’s right.” In part, I still believe in just not centering myself. [But] she’s right in this sense: how are people going to be able to trace the lineage of ideas if I’m writing a whole bunch of things that no one knows I wrote, right?

That began the shift in my life around putting my name on my stuff. They email me from New Zealand and they’re like, “Thank you for putting out this thing. We’re using it.” I also know that the ideas are traveling, and that makes me feel good about that work, and I never got that before. So, that was a gut-check moment for me around being like, “At least put your name on your shit.”"

...

"Eve L. Ewing: When you say litigation focused, you mean specifically around litigating Jon Burge [the Chicago police commander notorious for torturing people into giving false confessions]?

Mariame Kaba: Yeah. Prosecution, jail, and all these cops going to jail. Then, Joey Mogul [a Chicago-based attorney at the People’s Law Office, known for representing victims of police torture] came to me in late 2010 or early 2011 and said, “I hear you. We had these conversations for years, and everybody’s left empty now that Burge [was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice]. The survivors who remain haven’t gotten anything, and the statute of limitations [for torture victims] has run out, and we have no court recourse. It’s got to be political, and also I have evolved on abolition myself.”

It wasn’t a mea culpa; it was just a recognition that we need something else, and what can we do? That’s when art was the offering. We said, let’s ask people for [ideas for] secular memorials, and that reparations ordinance was one of the secular memorials.

All the things people talk about are in the abstract, but it’s not. It is about listening to feelings from our imaginations, right? Art can be uniquely situated for that. That’s why cultural work is an organic part of organizing, even when organizers don’t know it.

Eve L. Ewing: Artists are always there.

Mariame Kaba: They’re there. They’re there as the people to help us think through it. Why does this have to be? It doesn’t have to be like this. You can think of something totally fucking different. Why are you all stuck in the presentist moment? You can dream a future. We need that so desperately in the world.

Eve L. Ewing: Who are your heroes?

Mariame Kaba: God, I have so many touchstones. I believe in touchstones, people who you go back to in particular moments where you need something.

I turn to Baldwin a lot. I read him when I’m feeling a sense of despair over the world that I’m in. I find a sentence that he wrote and it’s like, “Ooh, yes.”

I think about so many of the black communist and socialist women of the first part of the century. If they could go through what they went through, if Marvel Cooke could go through the Red Scare and through being fired by… [more]
mariamekaba  eveewing  prisonabolition  prisons  sociology  knowledge  relationships  organizing  stuggle  activism  restorativejustice  transformativejustive  angeladavis  history  education  community  accountability  ellabaker  capitalism  individualism  mutualaid  miamingus  leahlakshmi  disabilities  diability  visibility  anonymity  information  access  accessibility  erasure  self-erasure  reparations  jails  incarceration  touchstones  heroes  jamesbaldwin  marvelcooke  redscare  idabwells  ruthwilsongilmore  bethrichie  camaralaye  waltwhitman  poetry  colonialism  criminaljustive  police  policeviolence 
13 days ago by robertogreco
The OA Is Really Canceled—Despite the Hard Work of Fans—And Brit Marling Has a Message | E! News
[original text here:
https://twitter.com/britmarling/status/1165013288532332544
https://www.instagram.com/p/B1hKgS9pUZG/ ]

“To the fans of The OA—

We’re humbled, to be honest floored, by the outpouring of support for The OA. We’ve seen beautiful artwork in eulogy from Japan, France, Brazil. We’ve read moving threads and essays. And we’ve watched dozens and dozens of videos of people all over the world performing the movements with what can only be called perfect feeling. One young person from a wheelchair, another young woman standing astride two horses, a mother in her backyard with her two children at her side and an infant strapped to her back. (link in bio to a site with many of these videos someone has thoughtfully compiled)

Your words and images move us deeply. Not because the show must continue, but because for some people its unexpected cancelation begs larger questions about the role of storytelling and its fate inside late capitalism’s push toward consolidation and economies of scale.

The work you’ve made and shared has also just been very heartening inside our increasingly complex and often bleak time. The more news I take in of the world, the more I often feel terrifyingly certain that we are on the brink of moral and ecological collapse. Sometimes I feel paralyzed by the forces we are up against—greed, fear, vanity. And I can’t help but long for someone to rescue us from ourselves—a politician, an outlaw, a tech baron, an angel. Someone who might take our hand, as if taking the hand of an errant toddler, and gently guide us away from the lunatic precipice that the “logic” of profit unguided by the compass of feeling has brought us to.

Of course, my desire to lie in wait for a hero is nothing new. Nor is the anesthetizing comfort that brings. These concepts were birthed and encouraged by centuries of narrative precedent. We’ve been conditioned to wait.

Almost every story we’ve ever watched, read, been told, held sacred is framed in a single structural form: the hero’s journey. The hero’s journey is one man with one goal who goes up against increasing obstacles to win his objective and return to his people with the wisdom needed for all to move forward, to “progress.” This story has played out from Homer’s Odyssey in 8th century BC to every reiteration of the Star Wars franchise. It sallies forth lately with anti-heroes like the beloved Tony Soprano (who, even while doing what we all know to be wrong, is still a hero and the perfect one for late capitalism).

I have loved many of these stories and their heroes. I dressed up as She-Ra “princess of power,” He-Man’s bustier-clad, sword-wielding twin sister for more Halloweens then I care to admit. I have played roles in films where I have been the hero holding the gun and it certainly felt better than playing the female victim at the other end of the barrel. So it’s no surprise that as we face what seem to be increasingly insurmountable obstacles, we scan the horizon for the hero who will come for us. According to the stories we tell it will most likely be a hot man. And he will most likely be wearing brightly colored spandex and exceedingly rich.

But the more I think on this, the more it seems bat-shit crazy. No one is coming to the rescue. We have to save each other. Every day, in small and great ways.

So perhaps, at this late hour inside the dire circumstances of climate change and an ever-widening gap between the Haves and Have-Nots, we are hundreds of years overdue new mythologies that reflect this. Stories with modes of power outside violence and domination. Stories with goals for human agency outside conquest and colonization. Stories that illustrate the power of collective protagonism, or do away with protagonism entirely to illustrate how real, lasting change often occurs—ordinary people, often outsiders, often marginalized—anonymously organizing, working together, achieving small feats one day at a time that eventually form movement.

Steve, BBA, Buck, Jesse, French, Homer, Hap and OA are no longer authoring the story. Neither are Zal or I. You all are. You are standing on street corners in the hot sun in protest. You are meeting new people in strange recesses online and sharing stories about loss and renewal that you never thought you’d tell anyone. You are learning choreography and moving in ways you haven’t dared moved before. All of it is uncomfortable. All of it is agitation. All of it is worth something.

Many of you have expressed your gratitude for this story and for Zal and I and everyone who worked on The OA. But it is all of us who are grateful to you. You’ve broken the mold of storytelling. You’re building something far more beautiful than we did because it’s in real time in real life with real people. It’s rhizomatic—constantly redefining the collective aim as it grows. It’s elliptical—it has no beginning and no real end. And it certainly has no single hero. The show doesn’t need to continue for this feeling to.

The other day Zal and I pulled over to offer a bottle of water and food to a young woman who has been protesting the cancelation of the show on a street corning in Hollywood. As we were leaving she said “you know, what I’m really protesting is late capitalism.” And then she said something that I haven’t been able to forget since: “Algorithms aren’t as smart as we are. They cannot account for love.”

Her words. Not mine. And the story keeps going inside them.”

[See also: https://ew.com/tv/2019/08/24/brit-marling-the-oa-cancelation-fan-hunger-strike/ ]
theoa  britmarling  heroes  latecapitalism  capitalism  storytelling  herosjourney  collectivism  protest  love  solidarity  mutualaid  mythology  protagonism  protagonists  collaboration  humanagenct  conquest  colonization  violence  domination  movements  activism  organizing  wisdom  progress  greed  vanity  climatechange  2019  economics  consolidation  economiesofscale  small  decentralization  hierarchy  form  homer  theodyssey  tonysoprano  thesopranos  power  inequality  fear 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Chilean Economist Manfred Max-Neef on Barefoot Economics, Poverty and Why The U.S. is Becoming an “Underdeveloping Nation” | Democracy Now!
"We speak with the acclaimed Chilean economist, Manfred Max-Neef. He won the Right Livelihood Award in 1983, two years after the publication of his book Outside Looking In: Experiences in Barefoot Economics. “Economists study and analyze poverty in their nice offices, have all the statistics, make all the models, and are convinced that they know everything that you can know about poverty. But they don’t understand poverty,” Max-Neef says. [includes rush transcript]"

...

"We have reached a point in our evolution in which we know a lot. We know a hell of a lot. But we understand very little. Never in human history has there been such an accumulation of knowledge like in the last 100 years. Look how we are. What was that knowledge for? What did we do with it? And the point is that knowledge alone is not enough, that we lack understanding.

And the difference between knowledge and understanding, I can give it as an example. Let us assume that you have studied everything that you can study, from a theological, sociological, anthropological, biological and even biochemical point of view, of a human phenomenon called love. So the result is that you will know everything that you can know about love. But sooner or later, you will realize that you will never understand love unless you fall in love. What does that mean? That you can only attempt to understand that of which you become a part. If we fall in love, as the Latin song says, we are much more than two. When you belong, you understand. When you’re separated, you can accumulate knowledge. And that is — that’s been the function of science. Now, science is divided into parts, but understanding is holistic.

And that happens with poverty. I understood poverty because I was there. I lived with them. I ate with them. I slept with them, you know, etc. And then you begin to learn that in that environment there are different values, different principles from — compared to those from where you are coming, and that you can learn an enormous amount of fantastic things among poverty. What I have learned from the poor is much more than I learned in the universities. But very few people have that experience, you see? They look at it from the outside, instead of living it from the inside.

And you learn extraordinary things. The first thing you learn, that people who want to work in order to overcome poverty and don’t know, is that in poverty there is an enormous creativity. You cannot be an idiot if you want to survive. Every minute, you have to be thinking, what next? What do I know? What trick can I do here? What’s this and that, that, that, that? And so, your creativity is constant. In addition, I mean, that it’s combined, you know, with networks of cooperation, mutual aid, you know, and all sort of extraordinary things which you’ll no longer find in our dominant society, which is individualistic, greedy, egoistical, etc. It’s just the opposite of what you find there. And it’s sometimes so shocking that you may find people much happier in poverty than what you would find, you know, in your own environment, which also means, you know, that poverty is not just a question of money. It’s a much more complex thing."

...

"The Peace Corps, yeah, OK. I was many times in that. I even taught Peace Corps groups, you know, in California and so on and on. Then I found them, you know, in the field when I was there. Lovely young people, you know? I mean, very well-intentioned, you know. And the situations like this.

Well, there you have a woman making a poncho. No, but with another machine, instead of making two ponchos in one week, I mean, she could make 20 ponchos.

So, now, “We will bring you a much better thing.”

“Oh, OK, well…”

They bring it in, you know, and come back a few months later, you know, to see a huge production of this woman. And how our young find?

“Oh, how do you like the machine?”

“Oh, very nice.”

“And how many ponchos are you making?”

“Well, two ponchos a week.”

“What do you mean? You could make much more.”

“Well, but I don’t need to make more.”

“But why do you make just two? Well, what is the machine then for?”

“Well, I make two, but now I have much more time to be with my friends and with my kids.”

In our environment, you know, you have to do more and more and more and more. No, there, instead of making more, they have more time to enjoy themselves, to have a nice relationship with friends, with family, etc. You see? Lovely values which we have lost.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think needs to change? You’re saying it’s obvious, but what do you think needs to happen that they’re avoiding?

MANFRED MAX-NEEF: Well, to begin with, a completely new concept of economics. This economy is crazy and poisonous. I am an economist, and I have been fighting against the economy that is taught the way it is being taught and being practiced. I have been fighting it for almost 40 years of my life, because it’s an absurd economy that has nothing to do with real life. It’s all fabrications, no? If the model doesn’t work, it’s not because the model is wrong, but because reality plays foul tricks. And reality is there to be domesticated, you know, and become the model. That is the attitude. And that’s systematic, in addition.

What is the economy that is being taught in the universities today everywhere? Neoclassical economics. Neoliberalism is an offspring of neoclassical economics. And neoclassical economics is 19th century. So we are supposed to solve problems of the 21st century that have no precedent with theories of the 19th century. We no longer have a physics of the 19th century, nor a biology, nor an engineering — nor nothing. The only thing in which we stopped in the 19th century is in the concept of economics. I mean, and that is elementarily absurd. And the main journals and everything, you know — I mean, no, no, that’s the way it must be."

...

"AMY GOODMAN: And if you’re teaching young economists, the principles you would teach them, what they’d be?

MANFRED MAX-NEEF: The principles, you know, of an economics which should be are based in five postulates and one fundamental value principle.

One, the economy is to serve the people and not the people to serve the economy.

Two, development is about people and not about objects.

Three, growth is not the same as development, and development does not necessarily require growth.

Four, no economy is possible in the absence of ecosystem services.

Five, the economy is a subsystem of a larger finite system, the biosphere, hence permanent growth is impossible.

And the fundamental value to sustain a new economy should be that no economic interest, under no circumstance, can be above the reverence of life.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that further.

MANFRED MAX-NEEF: Nothing can be more important than life. And I say life, not human beings, because, for me, the center is the miracle of life in all its manifestations. But if there is an economic interest, I mean, you forget about life, not only of other living beings, but even of human beings. If you go through that list, one after the other, what we have today is exactly the opposite.

AMY GOODMAN: Go back to three: growth and development. Explain that further.

MANFRED MAX-NEEF: Growth is a quantitative accumulation. Development is the liberation of creative possibilities. Every living system in nature grows up to a certain point and stops growing. You are not growing anymore, nor he nor me. But we continue developing ourselves. Otherwise we wouldn’t be dialoguing here now. So development has no limits. Growth has limits. And that is a very big thing, you know, that economists and politicians don’t understand. They are obsessed with the fetish of economic growth.

And I am working, several decades. Many studies have been done. I’m the author of a famous hypothesis, the threshold hypothesis, which says that in every society there is a period in which economic growth, conventionally understood or no, brings about an improvement of the quality of life. But only up to a point, the threshold point, beyond which, if there is more growth, quality of life begins to decline. And that is the situation in which we are now.

I mean, your country is the most dramatic example that you can find. I have gone as far as saying — and this is a chapter of a book of mine that is published next month in England, the title of which is Economics Unmasked. There is a chapter called “The United States, an Underdeveloping Nation,” which is a new category. We have developed, underdeveloped and developing. Now you have underdeveloping. And your country is an example, in which the one percent of the Americans, you know, are doing better and better and better, and the 99 percent is going down, in all sorts of manifestations. People living in their cars now and sleeping in their cars, you know, parked in front of the house that used to be their house — thousands of people. Millions of people, you know, have lost everything. But the speculators that brought about the whole mess, oh, they are fantastically well off. No problem. No problem."
manfredmax-neef  economics  chile  2010  interviews  poverty  capitalism  development  barefooteconomics  knowledge  understanding  creativity  ingenuity  society  individualism  greed  cooperation  mutualaid  survival  time  work  perspective  peacecorps  colonialism  neoliberalism  ecosystems  humanism  growth  gdp  underdevelopment  accumulation 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
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RT : Whose Corner Is It Anyway, your absolute favorite Western MA political education/organizing//…
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11 weeks ago by kevinriggle-twitter
Shit's Totally FUCKED! What Can We Do?: A Mutual Aid Explainer - YouTube
"Freaked out by police? Pissed about ICE? Outraged at gentrification? What should we do? People are overwhelmed, pissed, and scared right now. This video is about how mutual aid projects are a way to plug into helping people and mobilizing for change. Check out the mutual aid toolkit at BigDoorBrigade.com for more inspiration and information about starting mutual aid projects where you live!"
mutualaid  deanspade  activism  2019  explainer  prisonabolition  government  lawenforcement  policy  politics  police  participatory  organizing  organization  democracy  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  charitableindustrialcomplex  charity  philanthropy 
july 2019 by robertogreco
The Uses of Disaster • Commune
Capitalism is comfortable with community. All too often, the term is used to label the resilience capitalism itself needs to survive ordinary and extraordinary disaster. Community names collectivity stripped of all transformative power.

We cannot abandon the concept of community altogether: such a proposal would be unhelpfully idealistic, given the term’s widespread use. But to refer to disaster communities such as those discussed above merely as “communities” is to deny their potential, binding them to a present in which they are forever admirable, but never transformative.

And so we insist on communism.
disaster  community  mutualAid  cooperation  SolnitRebecca  capitalism  communism  SmithNeil  inequality  class  climateChange  disasterCapitalism  migration 
may 2019 by petej
Cooperative Economy in the Great Depression | Jonathan Rowe
"Entrepreneurs of cooperation
Before Social Security and the WPA, the Unemployed Exchange Association rebuilt a collapsed economy"



"The mood at kitchen tables in California in the early 1930s was as bleak as it was elsewhere in the United States. Factories were closed. More than a quarter of the breadwinners in the state were out of work. There were no federal or state relief programs, nothing but some local charity—in Los Angeles County, a family of four got about 50 cents a day, and only one in 10 got even that.

Not long before, America had been a farming nation. When times were tough, there was still the land. But the country was becoming increasingly urban. People were dependent on this thing called “the economy” and the financial casino to which it was yoked. When the casino crashed, there was no fallback, just destitution. Except for one thing: The real economy was still there — paralyzed but still there. Farmers still were producing, more than they could sell. Fruit rotted on trees, vegetables in the fields. In January 1933, dairymen poured more than 12,000 gallons of milk into the Los Angeles City sewers every day.

The factories were there too. Machinery was idle. Old trucks were in side lots, needing only a little repair. All that capacity on the one hand, legions of idle men and women on the other. It was the financial casino that had failed, not the workers and machines. On street corners and around bare kitchen tables, people started to put two and two together. More precisely, they thought about new ways of putting twoand two together.

Building a reciprocal economy

In the spring of 1932, in Compton, California, an unemployed World War I veteran walked out to the farms that still ringed Los Angeles. He offered his labor in return for a sack of vegetables, and that evening he returned with more than his family needed. The next day a neighbor went out with him to the fields. Within two months 500 families were members of the Unemployed Cooperative Relief Organization (UCRO).

That group became one of 45 units in an organization that served the needs of some 150,000 people.

It operated a large warehouse, a distribution center, a gas and service station, a refrigeration facility, a sewing shop, a shoe shop, even medical services, all on cooperative principles. Members were expected to work two days a week, and benefits were allocated according to need. A member with a wife and two kids got four times as much food as someone living alone. The organization was run democratically, and social support was as important as material support. Members helped one another resist evictions; sometimes they moved a family back in after a landlord had put them out. Unemployed utility workers turned on gas and electricity for families that had been cut off.

Conventional histories present the Depression as a story of the corporate market, foiled by its own internal flaws, versus the federal government, either savvy mechanic or misguided klutz, depending on your view.The government ascended, in the form of the New Deal; and so was born the polarity of our politics—and the range of our economic possibilities—ever since.

Yet there was another story too. It embodied the trusty American virtues of initiative, responsibility, and self-help, but in a way that was grounded in community and genuine economy. This other story played out all over the U.S., for a brief but suggestive moment in the early 1930s.

The UCRO was just one organization in one city. Groups like it ultimately involved more than 1.3 million people, in more than 30 states. It happened spontaneously, without experts or blueprints. Most of the participants were blue collar workers whose formal schooling had stopped at high school. Some groups evolved a kind of money to create more flexibility in exchange. An example was the Unemployed Exchange Association, or UXA, based in Oakland, California. (The UXA story was told in an excellent article in the weekly East Bay Express in1983, on which the following paragraphs are based.) UXA began in a Hooverville (an encampment of the poor during the Depression, so-called after the president) called “Pipe City,” near the East Bay waterfront. Hundreds of homeless people were living there in sections of large sewer pipe that were never laid because the city ran out of money. Among them was Carl Rhodehamel, a musician and engineer.

Rhodehamel and others started going door to door in Oakland, offering to do home repairs in exchange for unwanted items. They repaired these and circulated them among themselves. Soon they established a commissary and sent scouts around the city and intothe surrounding farms to see what they could scavenge or exchange labor for. Within six months they had 1,500 members, and a thriving sub-economy that included a foundry and machine shop, woodshop, garage,soap factory, print shop, wood lot, ranches, and lumber mills. They rebuilt 18 trucks from scrap. At UXA’s peak it distributed 40 tons of food a week.

It all worked on a time-credit system. Each hour worked earned a hundred points; there was no hierarchyof skills, and all work paid the same. Members could use credits to buy food and other items at the commissary, medical and dental services, haircuts, an dmore. A council of some 45 coordinators met regularly to solve problems and discuss opportunities.

One coordinator might report that a saw needed a new motor. Another knew of a motor but the owner wanted a piano in return. A third member knew of a piano that was available. And on and on. It was an amalgam of enterprise and cooperation—the flexibility and hustle of the market, but without the encoded greed of the corporation or the stifling bureaucracy of the state. The economics texts don’t really have a name for it. The members called it a “reciprocal economy.”

The dream fades

It would seem that a movement that provided livelihood for more than 300,000 people in California alone would merit discussion in the history books. Amidst the floundering of the early 1930s, this was something that actually worked. Yet in most accounts the self-help co-ops get barely a line.

The one exception is Upton Sinclair’s campaign for governor in 1934. Sinclair was a kind of Ralph Nader of his day. He based his campaign on a plan he called End Poverty in California, or EPIC, which was based in turn on the self-help cooperatives, UXA in particular. It would have taken the state’s idle farmland and factories and turned them into worker co-ops.

The idea of a genuine economy shorn of Wall Street contrivance touched a chord. Some 2,000 EPIC clubs sprang up. Sinclair won the Democratic primary, but California’s moneyed establishment mustered $10 million dollars to pummel him. EPIC died with his campaign, and the idea has been associated with quixotic politics ever since.

To say UXA and the other cooperative economies faced challenges is to put it mildly. They were going against the grain of an entire culture. Anti-communist “Red Squads” harassed them, while radicals complained they were too practical and not sufficiently committed to systemic change.

But the main thing that killed the co-ops was the Works Progress Administration and its cash jobs. Those WPA jobs were desperately needed. But someof them were make-work, while the co-op work was genuinely productive.

The co-ops pleaded with FDR’s Administration to include them in the WPA. Local governments were helping with gasoline and oil. But the New Dealers weren’t interested, and the co-ops melted away. For years they were period pieces, like soup lines and Okies.

Or so it seemed.

Today, the signs of financial and ecological collapse are mounting. We are strung out on foreign debt and foreign oil, and riding real estate inflation that won’t last forever. Add the impendingc ollapse of the natural life support system, and the ’30s could seem benign by comparison.

In this setting, the economics of self-help are increasingly relevant. The possibility of creating such an economy, though, might seem remote. In the 1930s, there still were farms on the outskirts of cities—family operations that could make barter deals on the spot. Factories were nearby too. Products were simple and made to last, and so could be scavenged and repaired.

All that has changed. The factories are in China, the farms are owned by corporations, and you can’t walk to them from Los Angeles anymore. Products are made to break; the local repair shop is a distant memory. Hyper-sophisticated technology has put local mechanics out of business, let alone backyard tinkerers.

An idea resurfaces

Yet there are trends on the other side as well. Energy technology is moving back to the local level, by way of solar, wind, biodiesel and the rest. The popularity of organics has given a boost to smaller farms. There’s also the quiet revival of urban agriculture. Community gardens are booming—some 6,000 of them in 38 U.S. cities. In Boston, the Food Project produces over 120,000 pounds of vegetables on just 21 acres.Then consider the unused land in U.S. cities: some 70,000 vacant parcels in Chicago, 31,000 in Philadelphia.

Large swaths of Detroit look like Dresden after the firebombing. A UXA could do a lot with that. I’m not getting gauzy here. Anyone who has been part of a co-op — I once served on the board of one — knows it is not a walk in the park. But it is not hard to see the stirrings of a new form of cooperative economics on the American scene today. You can’t explain Linux, the computer operating system developed community-style on the web, by the tenets of the economics texts. Nor can you so explain Craig’s List, the online bulletin board that people use at no or minimal cost.

The cooperative model seems to defy what economists call “economic law”—that people work only for personal gain and in response to schemes of personal incentive and reward. Yet the Depression co-ops did happen. When the next crash … [more]
cooperation  coopeatives  greatdepression  socialism  history  california  us  1930s  economics  solidarity  jonathanrowe  losangeles  compton  farming  agriculture  labor  work  ucro  oakland  carlrhodehamel  uxa  community  mutualaid  detroit  coops  local  fdr  wpa  communism  uptonsinclair  poverty 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Gnamma #5 - Some Lessons from Learning Gardens
"The Learning Gardens [http://learning-gardens.co/ ] Slack, which has been, emergently, the "home" of the initiative, is shutting down in two months. This is a decision by me, Éd, and Morgane to encourage decentralization and distributed ownership of the idea. You could see whiffs of this coming in my earlier newsletter [https://tinyletter.com/gnamma/letters/gnamma-2-to-grow-a-garden ].

The goal returns to the kernel of the initiative in the first place: encouraging people to make spaces to take on [learning] initiatives they believe in. A Slack may re-emerge, things may decentralize, circle around tools like Are.na and Twitter and Discord, one-off forums, group texts, email newsletters, IRL groups and meeting spaces. Or perhaps the whole thing will fizzle for a while until some future moment. We, the janitors, generally tried to keep our moderation and assertiveness minimal, but this represents a strong-armed push to catalyze something new.

With this change forthcoming, I'm asking myself, what have we learned over 2.5 years of Learning Gardens as a public concept?

If someone came to me today saying, "I want to start a group of people to study X together!" some of my first questions would be: Is X well-defined enough to rally a group behind it? If X is vague, is the group well-defined enough to organize? Do you have the bandwidth to deal with not only organizing "content" for the group, but also managing a social landscape or making the conditions such that it can self-manage?

Let me clarify: X here doesn't need to be a "topic." It can also be a "mode of organizing." The medium can be the message, here, and a lot of the value in Learning Gardens has been in bearing witness to a variety of organizational schemes. (But I do recommend either a well-defined topic, well-defined group of people, or well-defined structure!)

This comes as NO surprise to anyone who has run groups or shared spaces: good management takes a lot of energy. It takes either a lot of active management & conversation, or a lot of lead time to build a substrate of mutual trust such that self-management works. To keep people aligned in logistics, to keep momentum, to upkeep a value set that people connect with, to generate ideas of where to go next. If your group is one organized around discrete "events" (in-person meet-ups, skype-in conversations, workshops, publications, etc), it's important to remember that the bulk of the work happens around these things, too: in the preparation and post-facto follow-up. You, organizing, should prepare for this and think of it as a way to invite others to participate (rather than feeling like you need to take on the "extra-curricular" work by yourself).

Redundancy in information-sharing is necessary. I've learned this lesson repeatedly, given a general desire to be a bit terse in what I put up online. Oversharing is necessary to get the point across, to get people to see it twice, to get them to come back.

Online, even in a semi-closed gardens of the sort that Slack groups emerged to be, the line between "being there" and "not" is thin. We have a term for riding this line: "lurking." Lurking in its internet-native form can be quite positive. (If you "lurk" in real life spaces, you're creepy.) It allows for exploratory observations of new interests, for following along without the commitment of joining the room, for feeling a connection even when formal participation might be difficult or contentious.

Learning Gardens is about learning, however, and one thing I strongly believe is that you do not learn passively. I don't want LG to be a loose social space: there is enough of that already. I want LG to be about communities formed through action. Latent in my thoughts around the decision to retire the Slack is the desire to see people turn a lurking tendency into an organizing (or participating) one. Trust is necessary for the vulnerability and confidence that breeds effective learning experiences, and trust is easiest to build when you know who else is in the room.

Thanks to everyone who has made the Slack interesting and dynamic over these years. I am looking forward to what is next! Please drop me a line if you are in the Bay Area."
lukaswinklerprins  2019  learning  unschooling  deschooling  learninggardens  gardens  education  self-directed  self-directedlearning  mutualaid  trust  community  howwelearn  redundancy  momentum  slack  social  action  sharing  éduordurcades  morganesantos 
february 2019 by robertogreco
Deprived, but not depraved: Prosocial behavior is an adaptive response to lower socioeconomic status. - PubMed - NCBI
"Individuals of lower socioeconomic status (SES) display increased attentiveness to others and greater prosocial behavior compared to individuals of higher SES. We situate these effects within Pepper & Nettle's contextually appropriate response framework of SES. We argue that increased prosocial behavior is a contextually adaptive response for lower-SES individuals that serves to increase control over their more threatening social environments."
generosity  2017  poverty  wealth  behavior  social  research  ses  socioeconomicststatus  society  mutualaid  unschooling  deschooling  economics  psychology  care  caring  helpfulness 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Twitter
A brief reminder for the engagements of possibilities in 2019 New Year.
mutualaid  art  liberation  anarchy  from twitter_favs
december 2018 by kitoconnell
Twitter
During disasters "you see a breakdown of the state system, disaster capitalism, but people have an oppor…
MutualAid  from twitter_favs
december 2018 by andriak

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