Thursday, December 15, 2011

V515_Related Events x3

Lotus Living
(to be continued)

The annual Lotus Festival is always a treat of art, culinary, and musical delights; and, this year, I invested myself in some events that I had overlooked in previous years.  Lotus in the Park is a free event that takes place on Saturday, showcasing a number of bands at the 3rd Street Park and having family-friendly activities on-hand, like hoola-hooping, painting, collaging, and other arts and crafts.
What was most unique about the arts & crafts element of the event was the fact that it was largely a project of reusing and recycling. Almost all of the artwork was dependent upon magazine clippings, strands of stray cloth, discarded wire, and a hodgepodge of crayons, markers and other coloring sticks.

As my work on the Green Events Guidelines needed data-collection on how local events handle energy, waste management, and other sustainability essentials, I took many photos and paid particular attention to the recycling and refuse situation.  Though recycling bins were readily available, all of the containers were overloaded, demonstrating the much improvement can be made...hopefully through the advice in the Green Event Guidelines!

V515x8: Personal Project Parade 3 and some Parting Thoughts

Personal Project Parade 3 and Some Parting Thoughts

It’s hard to really describe how this class, and these projects, have helped me to develop as an advocate of sustainable living and planning practices, given that my involvement in Occupy Bloomington really took-off in the middle of the semester, catapulting my activism and involvement to unexpected and unprecedented levels.

But, I like to think that all of these -- being introduced into the co-op subculture, taking this course in sustainable communities, undertaking active personal projects, and getting involved in the local occupation -- all of these were meant to come together, right at this time in my life...and, in fact, I never was more ready than I am now.

Bloomington CO-Operates

The co-op of co-ops -- raising Bloomington awareness about the International Year of the Cooperative and of it's vibrant co-op subculture -- is well on its way to being more fully developed.  After the NASCO/Detroit trip, I largely departed from tabling at the Farmers Market...choosing, instead, to put more time into the leg-work and face-time of social-networking among the various co-ops...which I was glad to do, given that, through this process, I discovered several more co-ops, bringing the Bloomington Total to 20. 

However, just this past Saturday, I stopped by the Winter Market to grab the paperwork necessary to have an information table.  I had never been to the Harmony School and never been to the Winter Market; however, I was excited to get back to tabling and I'm happy to announce that the UN has approved BCOOP for official, public use of the IYC Logo & Tagline...which will definitely bring a different atmosphere to the tabling.

The co-op conference hasn't yet panned-out, mostly because of people's scheduling conflicts, but the new year - the year of cooperatives - is almost here, and it would be just as (if not more) appropriate to have the kick-off event in January.

Indoor Composting

This has been a delightful joy, since it has been successful, replicable, and devoid of the many pitfalls I've heard and read about. 

Laura's addition of the red-wiggler worms made a huge difference in the processing speed of the compost-bin, and they're reproducing so there's plenty to share.
BCL never showed much interest in creating a composting collective, but there's time to work on that, for the new year, and I now have enough months of demonstrable, working proof, that I'd feel more comfortable pushing it.  Still, as a Holiday gift, I'm constructing compost-kits for the other apartments in my house...a double-box, bag of shredded paper, a cup of red-wigglers, and a cup of moisture-control soil...what every lady wants for Christmas.

Local Food

The kombucha project - and effort to eat locally - has also been largely successful.  So far, I've produced 5 gallons of kombucha, passing much along to friends and sipping as wontonly as I desire.

However, taking the effort a step further, I've bought a hydroponics kit for starting leafy-greens indoors, and have invested in a DIY sprouting kit, as well.

The food tastes better with love.

V515_Related Eventsx2

Of Co-ops and Compost Cities

Life’s been on quite an upswing for me, this year…not only have I become involved in an abundance of awesome sub-cultures, but I’ve also come to see how connected they are…and how community development and sustainability are at their, respective, cores.  But I didn’t get there by myself…not only has my experience with the Cooperative Movement and the Occupy movement been rooted in interpersonal interactions, but it’s also the case that a few fellow co-opers helped to reveal the connections.


As I’ve tried to make the case before, the cooperative movement is integrally related to the sustainability movement: not only does the cooperative movement promote economic equity, but it promotes efficiency via economies of scale and has a reputation for being a safe-harbor for “alternative” ideas with respect to dietary preferences, sexual/gender preferences, political preferences, and others.  I’ve reflected on it for some time, and have come to think that this kind of acceptance of diversity is not only socially equitable and philosophically sound but it might have some evolutionary gains as well: just like biodiversity can help promote ecological resiliency and promote an adaptive mixing of genetic code, providing soil for a diversity of ideas to grow and be tested through experience.  In a similar vein, I made that point at a roundtable in the Indiana CooperativeSummit conference: encouraging the proliferation of cooperatives, as an operating and ownership model, is the business sector equivalent of promoting diversity of species; I would think that an  economy that is not inclusive of many forms of operation and ownership would be even more susceptible to shocks or even collapse.

Though I’ve been able to touch on this connection – in other ways and in previous points – here is a good forum for laying out more of the details of the experience, itself.

Every year, the NorthAmerican Students of Cooperation put on “NASCO Institute,” a conference that delves into all aspects of co-op operation, ownership, management, collective decision making, and the lifestyle aspects of the subculture.  The conference allows attendees to migrate around to any jumble of panels and presentations, but it offers several “tracks” that can allow those interested to gain in-depth/working knowledge of some particular themes and logistical considerations that are prevalent in the cooperative movement:

“Transformation Starts with Ourselves: Healthy Cooperative Communities.”

“The Art & Practice of Cooperative Education”

“Air-Waves to Zines: Grassroots Media & Technology”

“Together We Know A Lot: Advanced Topics”

“Cooperative Solutions for People-Driven Education & Media.”

“From Roots to Shoots: Developing New Co-ops”


“Building Blocks of Housing Co-ops.”


With even a little reflection, it seems to me that most all of these contribute to education on how to strengthen and govern communities cooperatively…a skill-set I think will be necessary for an equitable, inclusive, and sustainable future.

Not only did I get to learn from panels and presentations, but I got to experience a taste of co-op life in Ann Arbor, at the University of Michigan: part of the conference experience included lodging at one of the many co-op houses affiliated with the university.  Though you could voice preferences about having a “quiet house” or “substance free house,” most of the assignment was random.  It’s hard for me to really compare them with the Bloomington co-ops, given that the event was so novel, the house was crowded with visitors, and the space was, generally, new and unfamiliar; but, the co-opers there were very warm and welcoming…though on Saturday night, I opted to spend a night in the cold with Occupy Detroit. However, I don’t think I would have thought of a sleepover at the Detroit occupation unless I had taken the Detroit Tour on Friday.

Though I had been tempted to take the “Staff and Managers Track” – in the interest in building the skill-set I’ll need in continuing to develop Bloomington CO-OPerates – I decided to take the plunge into something unfamiliar, into a city that doesn’t have the greatest reputation. 

Detroit Tour

For all that the media puts out about Detroit being a dying city, there is an abundance of social and technical innovation that rests soundly at the level of people’s social networks and smaller communities; and, thankfully, much of the purpose of the tour was to expose us to these communities, perhaps to take a different view of the city (and, if that was the intention, it worked).


The trajectory of the trip hit on a number of innovations in social life, art and community communication.  Our first stop was an anarchist collective - the Trumbleplex - which held something of a grunge-punk atmosphere, while still feeling warmly open.   


The next stop was the Allied Media Project, which not only was a breeding-ground for creative forms of art-outreach -- like a project-presentation we experienced, which combined interview recordings of children facing troubled, urban school atmospheres with hip-hop beats that the kids, themselves, helped to design.


Stopping, next, by the Heidelberg Project [the art neighborhood] was an excellent and uplifting showcase of community development, at the grassroots.


The Boggs Center was certainly a treat, allowing me to meet a great student of American social movements - Grace Lee Boggs - and to hear her perspective on co-ops, the Occupy movement, and their connections.


And, last, but certainly not least, visiting Occupy Detroit was an incredible experience...not just because it was the first Occupation of a major city, that I had observed, but because it was one of the most fitting places for a social movement: a cast-away community, composting and ready to re-grow.

V515_Related Events x1

“The Local Growers Guild creates a local foods system that provides quality food to communities through direct markets and retailers; preserves the viability of family farms; improves the quality of life for growers; makes food issues visible; and promotes practices that preserve and protect the Earth.” ~LGG Mission Statement 

Reflections on the Local Growers Guild’s Harvest Dinner

Zip-tied to a trashcan on the south-east corner of People’s Park, there’s a large, laminated sign that – on the very bottom – explains a couple of concepts that have surprising application to community-supported agriculture, the local & slow food movements, and, by derivation, the Harvest Dinner.  “Transformational honesty” and “radical listening” are practices that extend beyond interpersonal interaction, and have everything to do with how we relate to our natural & built environments.

 And, yes, the Revolution (or Renaissance 2.0, as I like to think of it) applies to everything.

But before we get back to all that “changing the world” shenanigans, what’s this Local Growers Guild?

What’s in a Harvest Dinner?

Yeah, we’ve all heard of fast-food…but slow food?

Lovable Guerilla Gardeners

…is not the LGG I’m referencing (though some members of the LocalGrowers Guild might very well be lovable guerilla gardeners…in fact, I hope that that is the case…or that it could become so, through dialogue…).

From what I can ascertain, the Local Growers Guild has been around since about 2007 and was born from 30 years of Bloomingtonian passion for the Farmers Market.  It operates as a cooperative (bonus points) for small and medium scale growers, many of which are community supported agriculture projects. 

Though it is an integrative and community-supported organization, word on the grapevine is that the LGG is struggling to maintain its structure and its finances.  It was an unfortunate affair that the LGG, this Fall, was unable to finance the rent for their office at the Center forSustainable Living  [b/w 3rd and 2nd on Walnut]…thankfully though, others in the co-op community were there to lend a hand, as some Blooningfoods admins helped facilitate the some storage space in their office complex.

There’s a great deal of difficulty in creating a cooperative micro-market, and matching supply with demand is an information and logistics problem that plagues even the largest and IT-integrated commercial markets.  If you’re out there, they’re in the (pro bono) market for a logistical system to help facilitate the integration of the market and the maintenance of the cooperative.

Still, the LGG stays solvent through a number of wonderful events, one of which being the annual Harvest Dinner.  It was delightful, seeing so many familiar Bloomington faces (even our own Amy Jo Coutryman), and I was happy to have a good friend along to share the experience.  The conversations were wonderful and my luck was with me in the raffle, as I happened to pick a beautiful photo of synchronizing starlings, which was taken by one of the members of Bloomington Cooperative Living. [to be posted!]

The menu was fantastic and they have the display online:

Prepared by Eric Sjaaheim of Happy Pig
Popcorn • Butternut Squash and Mushroom Fritters
with Braised Greens and Sorghum Gastrique
Paired with Dragonfly Beer • Vidal Blanc Sparkling Wine
Donors: Meadowlark Farm, LIFE Farm,
Renaissance Polyculture, Fields of Agape

Prepared by Alan Simmerman of Bloomingfoods Market & Deli
Goat Burgoo garnished with Popcorn Hominy, Mustard Greens,
Leeks, and Garlic, served with a Corn Bread Crouton
Paired with Preservation Pilsner • Chamborcin
Donors: Liberty Pastures, Fields of Agape,
Strangers Hill Organics, Sage Gardens

Prepared by Seth Elgar of Upland Brewery
Mixed Local Salad Greens and Brussels Sprouts in a Cider Vinaigrette
with Radishes, Apples, Butternut Squash, and Roasted Pepitas
Paired with Wheat Beer • Creekbend Pinot Grigio
Donors: Musgrave’s Orchard, Stranger’s Hill Organics, Turner Farm

Prepared by Corbin Morwick of One World Catering
Southern style ham and grits, with red-eye gravy
and an autumn vegetable hash
Paired with Komodo Dragonfly Beer • Cabernet Sauvignon
Donors: WE Farm, Fields of Agape, Squash-o-Rama, Stranger’s Hill, Heartland Family Farm, Spring Hill Farm, Renaissance Polyculture

Prepared by Damian Esposito of IMU Catering
Sweet Potato Bavarian on Apple Spice Cake with Flax Cookie
Paired with Bourbon Barrel Winter Warmer • The Late Harvest Vignole
Donors: Heartland Family Farm, Olde Lane Orchard, Fields of Agape

Bread provided by Muddy Fork Bakery
Coffee provided by Brown County Coffee

The emphasis, in the LGG and in the dinner, particularly, is on keeping things local.  And this is where Renaissance 2.0 comes in…being something like a movement of movements, there are many Occupiers that support and advocate for both the Local First and the Slow Food movements.  The bottom of the aforementioned sign reads:

Lastly, Please Consider These Ideas:
Some of us have been very engaged, not only in enjoying and sharing food, shelter, & social support, but have emphasized:

Radical Listening:  A deep, deliberately paced, and compassionate practice intended to establish clear communication and mutual understanding.


Transformational Honesty:  A breaking-down of outmoded, socially distancing, internal reservations about the judgment of others, motivated by a recognition of our common humanity and common life.  Recognizing that we share these unnecessary burdens – personal fears, insecurities, or self-doubt – motivates the courage to speak and act truthfully, knowing that the motivations of our hearts will lead us to personal and social peace. Our safety net is each other, as we practice forgiveness for the stumbles inherent in the life-long journey of discovering ourselves and our common humanity.

Love and Solidarity

What does this have to do with local food? Or Community-supported agriculture? The Harvest Dinner?

Well, most of it doesn’t, but some interesting conversations have led me to relax the limits of my thinking, when speaking about matters of truth and authenticity. 

Transformational honesty is about more than speaking your mind, calling-it like you see-it, fessing-up, or speaking plainly. 

Transformational honesty is quite often difficult, uncomfortable, and uncertain. 

But transformational honesty is a wonderful practice in mindfulness and can help to cultivate both the new and existing social skills that people need to coordinate and manage sustainable communities.

xPic of Charis & Michael fiddlinx

Then, how does this relate to the LGG, Slow Food and Local First?

Somewhere in northern Indiana, returning from a road-trip, my friend Charis and I were intensely discussing what “the movement” or “the revolution” meant…was it strictly a social movement? Was it a revolution in consciousness?  In what ways was it important, effective, social, personal?  Could it be done in daily life? Did it require group activity or personal reflection?  Though I feel it to include all of things, the idea that hit-home the hardest was, as you might’ve guessed, transformational honesty. Not only was this something that could be a personal practice in daily life and a social practice in groups, but it’s a way that whole communities can be oriented: a community can be transformationally honest in embracing the unique limitations and opportunities that it’s natural environment affords, with respect to food production, skill-sets and other trades.  Embracing Local First and Slow Food are ways for communities to be transformationally honest with themselves, and helps to reinforce the idea that it is most sustainable to work within our natural boundaries.

Though I appreciate all modes of transformational honesty…this one I can eat!

Friday, December 2, 2011

V515x7: Governing Sustainable Communities

Today, the most creative, energetic forces addressing the planetary problems of poverty, social inequity, pollution, resource depletion, violence, and war are grassroots citizens’ movements” (Roseland, 194).

POSTED AT 12:26 AM ON Nov. 30, 2011  (UPDATED AT 06:22 PM ON Dec. 1, 2011)

Local Occupation and Utopian Governance

Certainly these are not synonymous…and I would never want them to become so.  Utopian visioning is instructive, expanding both our conceptual horizons and discursive toolkits.  It can reveal for us the logical extremes of our oft-too-simplistic hopes; it can call us – not only to a greater mindfulness of complexity in the unfolding of social affairs but, also – to moments of pause in which we can meditate on the linguistic limitations of human reasoning, as it is perpetually foiled by novel – often noetic – experiences.  Though the constant flow of moments often furthers this frustration, some ages are more turbulent than others, as we wind around a bend and meet a new terrain.  We are in such a time of great frustration; yet, like all surprising setbacks, this is a time for joy and play…rich soil for creative expression and logistical innovation.

Again I find myself struggling – with great happiness – to articulate my thoughts on this subject, if nothing else than for my excitement in beholding the superabundance of quotes, quotients, and notables to cite.  This week’s readings have resonated with me, in a deep and powerful way...both with regard to my experience of the Occupy movement and to my hopes in a sustainable and socially-equitable future.

Conceptual Conundra and Bureaucratic Schizophrenia

 On the very same morning that I read the clip from Ecotopia, the book and its prequel were cited, as I was lunching with our local, internationally renowned, permaculture activist, Keith Johnson.  But I’ll get to that in a moment.  For now, I quote Roseland, as he articulates what I fumble to say [I apologize for the length, but it is absolutely on-point]:

Another key step toward sustainable communities is conceptual and organizational.  One of the greatest obstacles to sustainability is the reductionist administrative mindset that subdivides problems and prevents the left hand of government from understanding what the right hand is doing.  For example, despite considerable trumpeting of environmental protection programs…most sober analyses of public budgets and spending estimates conclude that governments spend billions of dollars more on program and policies that create pollution and encourage environmental degradation.  Such bureaucratic schizophrenia is perpetrated all levels of government as well as throughout academia. (195)

Reading this made me want to jump out of my chair to find Roseland and give him a bear-hug of solidarity.  I cannot adequately convey the sheer absurdity one would face, if seeking validation for this argument in the de facto canonical polisci literature.  What are often blinding flashes of the obvious (BFOs) can all too frequently be obscured by doctrinaire academo-speak [yes, I just made that word up, like a good little social-scientist] and faddish methodologies.

To bring this back to a conversation on concepts, I was recently interviewed by Kasey Huff, a new reporter from the Harold Times, regarding my role in our local Occupation.  Though I often put-up a stink about the HT’s consistent habit of misquotation, I can only offer the gist of my favorite question that she asked:

What, do you think, is the biggest misconception that people have about the movement? What would like other people to understand?

Though this might have come from one of the two, other interviews I had on that day, it was brought up again, tonight, at the Democracy for Monroe County dinner-meeting, to which three or four Occupiers were invited to come speak.

So where do you see this going? When will it set targeted goals and things to change? It has to have more structure and direction to become politically effective.

My answer to this last statement is the same I have for the rest:

No, in fact, it does not. It does not need more structure, more direction, more targeted goals, more “endgames.”  The biggest misconception about the movement doesn’t have anything to do with the movement itself.  It has to do with most people’s conception of politics, in general.  Quite frankly, imho, the political discourse in this country is incapable of articulating the depth, breadth, and gravity of concerns many occupiers – and latent occupiers – have. 
But, what is more worrisome is the fact that the current political discourse is insufficient for the purpose of capturing the extremely novel characteristics of our current, global, socio-economic conundrum.  This is no repeat of history…this movement is unique from any other in American history (link) and our moment in the demographic and resource structure of the Earth is entirely novel: we cannot hope for technology to save us; there is no place left for the neoliberal capitalist exchange to shift its burden; there is no new resource found to drive rapid “growth;” there are no new “alien” cultures left to demonize.  We can only reconceptualize, if we mean to survive.  Rethink, reduce, reuse, recycle.  This is truly a revolutionary mantra.

Such is the greatest wisdom in what many jeer as the movement’s most obvious folly.  To relegate the existential crisis of our failing global order to the dry and banal concepts of politics-past is insulting at best…and dangerously ignorant, if you wanna be real about it.  As if we haven’t already been thrice-hoodwinked by the shifting meanings of “liberal” and “conservative,” people still hem-and-haw like claiming a “republican” or “democrat” identity is, somehow, politically efficacious.  If these stylized identities ever did matter – as more than a fear/uncertainty response, pride, or the need to “other” thine enemy – they have long-since ceased to.

I pray and believe that Occupiers, everywhere, will never take the name of an existing party or some slot on the ideological spectrum, as these are functions of an oppressive and categorically inaccurate system of political classification that has asserted upon our collective unconscious something that is akin to indoctrination.  If you think this is Orwellian hogwash, what I will say for social-science is that it had some moments of brilliance when examining the “social construction of target populations.” And if you’re down with philosophy, you know Lukes and Foucault called this, years ago.  The very structure of the existing, variegated political order imposes itself upon us and reproduces itself through our thoughts and behaviors.  Though we could get into the long-standing “structure-agency” debate, I refuse to waste your time with yet another polarization that I categorically reject as being a false-dichotomy.

Conventional thinking about government and politics are limiting, and only we can liberate ourselves.  Though I’m no Rastafarian and am loathe to draw connections between its thought-leaders and the Occupy movement (given the abuse of this connection, with respect to prior social movements and the narcotic connotations some implied), Bob Marley had it right in Redemption Song: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our minds.” And, again, this echoes the wisdom of Roseland:

Citizen organizations provide many innovative programs and concepts, and furnish whole new paradigms for problem definition, because they are able to tap and organize information laterally…enabling rapid syntheses of overlooked and new information into fresh approaches and paradigms.  Today, the most creative, energetic forces addressing the planetary problems of poverty, social inequity, pollution, resource depletion, violence, and war are grassroots citizens’ movements. (194)

Institutions and Grassroots Governance

Though it remains a rather unconventional “citizen organization,” the multiple assemblies and working groups of the Occupation movement are much more institutionalized than many occupiers would like to think.  However, I see no problem either in the fact that it is institutionalizing or in the fact that occupiers deny this.  The willingness to deny organizational structure and consistent process is a good thing, to me, because I see it as a buffer against over-institutionalization: if, at any time, some occupiers feel their faith in the horizontal, non-hierarchical association being shaken, they are sure to step-up their involvement to keep their belief a reality. 

Yet, as I have offered in previous quotes, institutionalization can be a very helpful thing.  Further, it is a common misconception that institutionalization implies rigid structure or vertical hierarchy.  To review Ostrom’s best-practices of common-pool resource management institutions:

Ostrom’s Common-Pool Resource Management Principles:
1. Clearly defined boundaries
2. Rules on the appropriation & provision of common resources, adapted to local conditions;
3. Collective-choice arrangements that allow most users to participate in the decision-making process;
4. Effective monitoring by monitors who are part of or accountable to the users;
5. A scale of graduated sanctions for resource users who violate community rules;
6. Mechanisms of conflict resolution that are cheap and of easy access;
7. Self-determination of the community recognized by higher-level authorities;
8. In the case of larger common-pool resources, organization in the form of multiple layers of nested enterprises, with small local CPRs at the base level.

Though one might argue that the designation of roles – especially those for monitoring and enforcement – directly implies hierarchy, there are two things to keep in mind: (1) the roles can be functions to be carried out, by everyone, or can be instituted on a rotating basis; (2) no part of this list is a necessary or sufficient condition for successful management: they are simply factors that were found to be most prevalent in observed instances of success.

Nonetheless, the Occupy movements seem to have in common a decision-making structure that is advocated by Roseland: broadly-inclusive, consensus-based choice, within a structure of voluntary association and with respect for individual liberty in autonomous action.  Though each occupation has developed a different form of consensus – many deviating from the 10 “guiding principles” conveyed by Roseland (192) – this is entirely acceptable to me, as it resonates with Ostrom’s second design-principle regarding the adaptation of rules to local conditions.

So, with respect to many Occupiers struggling to come to terms with the fact that some kind of structure – either rule-based or normatively enforced – there seems to be an echo of Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, at least as Wheeler and Beatley characterize a portion of it: Le GUin goes beyond simply describing this utopia to explore the problems it faces…inherent tensions between anarchic decentralization and the need for some sort of organizational structure. The society has difficulty being completely self-sufficient, and by cutting itself off from other worlds it has lost much of its own heritage and the benefits of trade and communication. (385)

Rethinking and Revitalizing Capital

It must also be remembered that social systems are structured not only by political (collective decision-making) institutions, but by economic (mode of material exchange) institutions as well.  To change one without changing the other would be shortsighted, if not impossible; and, indeed, this would be a very good thing to consider, as the effects of our national and global economic system are a great source of the ecological ruin, political corruption, and social disparity that have caused this turbulence in the natural and social fabric of our world.

What remains shocking to me, circling back to the opening paragraphs on the power of concepts, is the fact that – regardless of their level of discontent – most people balk at the idea of paradigmatical shifts in our political and economic systems.  To me, it seems that folks are more comfortable re-arranging the bars of the cage, rather than opening-up and/or eliminating them altogether.  I see this every time someone gasps at the mention of anarchical societies or bartering economies. 

However, what moves me from shock to frustration is the tendency of many to take categorical concepts – democracy, anarchy, capitalism, socialism – and treat them as if they are singular, concrete entities.  Clearly, they are not.  Without going into the loads of boring detail, a few questions should be sufficient to provoke thought:

Is democracy in America, the UK, and Norway all the same?

Is capitalism in America, Japan, and China all the same?

Of course, the obvious answer is that they are not; further, the real answer is that there is no such “thing” as “capitalism,” just as there is no such “thing” as “anarchism.”  These are ideal types that we use to structure our thoughts and attempted behaviors; and these always, radically depart from their ideal form, whenever they are put into practice.  This is why stigmatized concepts like “communism,” and “anarchism” must be embraced as valid intellectual traditions from which many useful concepts can be drawn and incorporated into new ways of thinking about collective behavior and social order.

An illustrative point, close to my heart, is the fact that multiple types of markets can exist within a broadly capitalist system.  This is true by point of fact that many communities embrace skillsharing economies, barter economies, and local currency as means of encouraging economic and human development within their communities. 

In fact, I have a hard time, now, separating Ostrom’s work from these varieties of social exchange – such as different forms of “Solidarity Economies” – as a number of Workshop scholars and I were asked to author articles for a recent issue of Grassroots Economic Organizing, which, coincidentally, devoted its latest issue to the Occupy movement.

Circling the Square

How our political and economic systems will change is uncertain; yet, I would bank every dollar to my name that they will, indeed, change and that such change will come within the next five years (if not sooner).  But this is a good thing, as the need for change becomes obvious when we look around to see the environmental destruction, social dislocation, and politico-economic disparities of our current world. 

And this is why I embrace the Occupy movement and will fight alongside Occupiers and non-Occupiers alike, until we realize that there is no separation between the 99% and the 1%...only a temporary and perceived distinction within a human community of the 100%.   As I mentioned in my last post, the goal I accomplish every day at the Occupation is the goal of community-building.  This has begun at an intimate, social level…but our Occupation – and many around the country – are moving to incorporate material exchange and skill-sharing, in new and contextually appropriate ways. 

A social expansion and skill-sharing opportunity I’m most excited about is education on permaculture techniques.  Following his Occupy-supportive FB posts, it took only some messages and a lunch to get Keith Johnson to visit the park...and some of us have volunteered to come help-out on his plot.  This was, for me, a great joy, as I hope the Bloomington community will begin, more and more, to see that the values embodied in and advocated from the local Occupation are commensurate with many of those of the community, at large…art, music, and sustainability being the most prevalent and basic among them.  Not only is Keith helping to show this to his vast network of sustainability, local food, and permaculture activists, but he has begun to share his knowledge with us, which would like to share with you (in the form of free permaculture lectures he linked to our page):

And, so, with much happiness, I find myself reflecting on earlier posts in this blog, especially that of September 27, 2011…about two weeks before the start of the Bloomington Occupation:

Social activism in pursuit of social justice, equity, and sustainable practices has been something I've always admired, so to think of my parents having enough conviction about this issue to stand-up and protest makes me pretty proud of them (although I'm already proud of them for a number of reasons).

Now, it seems, the square has been circled, as I find my turn – and conviction – to stand-up in protest.  And, truly, my conviction has been tested in ways I never would have guessed, as I and many of my fellows faced what many feel was an excessive use of force by an undercover IUPD officer, on the night of the Occupation of the Kelley School of Business. It will be tested again, many times, I'm sure...but, hopefully, not always to this extent.

In considering my motivations and this time in our shared history, I ask you to take a moment and watch this talk by Grace Lee Boggs, given on the day that I met her:

Grace Lee Boggs: The Next American Revolution (clip)