or The Primordial Political Soup…
…AND WHY DO WE NEED IT.
INSPIRATION 1. WE ALL ARE WOMEN
Being an average mid-aged guy, if you happen to fall in love with one of the Mothers (or Aunts at the least) of Polish Feminism, you certainly adapt – or perish. Being called ‘sister’ in the most unexpected moments was just a tinniest piece of this whole learning situation.
For my thinking about social and existential issues, this was a breakthrough experience, for sure. I started to learn, how different is the other gender’s world – supposedly the one-and-only we shared in our daily living or the most intimate moments (and I do not mean sex). To cut it short, the outcome of that is that I ceased all usual attempts to “understand women” in favor of talking to them, negotiating and mediating with them, whenever it is needed.
I know we shall never understand each other through the gender looking glass. Being free from such pointless struggle, I can then focus on efficient ways to achieve cohabitation, cooperation and even certain degree of sympathy with such different human beings. It may sound dry, but there is quite a reason behind it, which I found in “Sotto Sopra 96” – the publication of Libreria delle Donne in Milan. Quite incidentally, it was the only Sotto Sopra translated into Polish and even more incidentally it was Natasha, who co-translated it.
To my male mind, the bottom line of this publication is:
- We are different genders and that is the difference which cannot (for the majority of us) be transgressed.
- Currently, we live on a post-patriarchal socio-political environment, which was invented by men, for men and as such has no meaning nor value for women.
- The whole equality/parity/rights business goes the wrong way, as it is focused on the position of women in post-patriarchal environment, which, above all, is not the place women want to be in!
- Women (and men) need their own world, because their priorities are theirs, they see the universe their own way and they think/feel/live their own vision.
- However, as we need each other – to keep ourselves transgressing our own closed circles – the only way is to communicate, through ‘politica prima’ we all practice: discussion, negotiation and mediation. To let our separate world interact in a safe and constructive way (exactly as I consulted this part of the text with Natasha).
(The whole document is by all means worth reading here:
And then came the inspiration: wow, that basically applies to all humans, not just men/women relationship. The same (almost) level of not-understand-ability we have in most of social and political discussions! So, perhaps we could use same tools to attain better relationship between various intentional communities, various political movements and even two sides of the political confrontation. That would be a FUN!
But, to achieve that, we need some kind of safe, neutral, supportive environment. Some ‘demilitarised zone’, specifically designed to encourage entities to peaceful interactions, not to violent confrontation. But this seems to be a hard part.
INSPIRATION 2. WE ALL ARE SYSTEMS
Working in the world of Internet, especially in it’s earlier days, when most of the backbone was still visible, not just to hackers, but to the average user, you could not avoid seeing systems everywhere.
The miracle of the Great Inter-Network in statu nascendi, making, through the magic of TCP/IP protocols, all various and incompatible local networks, systems, standards working together, talking leisurely and without apparent struggle, as if they come from the same compiler – that was SOMETHING. And quite inspiring, when I turned on a TV and could see people unable (or unwilling or both) to communicate clearly and to get the common ground for cooperation – or for a proper fight, at least!
And – what a coincidence – we are systems as well. As living creatures, we are autonomous systems. Our communities are systems. And the whole communication is described by rules of cybernetics – as it is for the internet. Everything would be right, if we only find a proper protocol…
INSPIRATION 3. THE FICTION, THAT LIGHTS THE WAY
I am a life-long SF&F reader and fan. Since my early days in communist (locally known as real-soc – for “real socialism”, as opposite to “utopian” one) Poland, through all the cultural changes I lived through, speculative fiction appeared to be an overwhelming, crowdsourced think-tank of social and political trends, options and alternative scenarios. Sometimes, and not just in the Soviet block, it was the only environment safe for certain discussions.
And I do not mean the trivial ‘crowdsourcing’ from business handbooks, where they say something like “toss a handful of random morons into the bucket, stir well and get a median (or a mean) from their guesses – you will be right in a ball park”.
I mean that thousands of the most brilliant minds – erudite and committed – were not only chewing through problems, alone and in groups. The ideas, solutions and analysae were played between authors and fans, were mutating and blooming into the ecosystems of their own. And out of them, emerged crop of the crop – works that merged collective thinking, the zeitgeist and individual genius of the autor. Martian Chronicles, Solaris, Fahrenheit 451, Aristoi, Little Brother, For the Win, Canticle
for Leibovitz – just to name a random few (and http://www.amazon.com/All-Time-Top-Science-Fiction-Novels/lm/1KBYJ9G4NE7Z2 for a few more).
Among them I found a narration (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_Crash and later https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Diamond_Age) depicting the world that could accommodate various communities, phyles or tribes, letting them thrive on their own, or interact safely. An then again, mostly on the economical side, popped out the word ‘protocol’. And the very same purpose: not just live and let live. Live and cooperate, while keeping your own integrity/identity and not harming other’s one.
THE MYSTERIOUS CASE OF THE NUN MOTH
Since 2008 we may observe the process of the decomposition of two main paradigms that hold “western civilization” together. The republican democracy, chiefly expressed in political tradition of the USA or the EU and the financial capitalism, that alienated ownership from entrepreneurship and local communities and that made corporations global, sovereign entities not even able to care about anything but themselves.
I am not the one to say, what is the killer factor. However, it is clearly visible, that it goes like in a monoculture pine forest – the Nun Moth sweeps the forest clean, leaving behind nothing but dead stumps, drying groundcover and the understorey dazzled with unexpected opportunity window.
Scarcely, until-now-marginalised oaks, ashes, cedars and other species are starting to realize that – temporarily at least – there is enough room, air and sun for everyone to try one’s chance again.
Now, in the interesting times, we need all treasures from the humanity’s meme pool – all ‘alternative’ social models, economy paradigms and political concepts – to be dusted, taken out to the light and given a chance. We ain’t need no new stinkin’ monoculture; we need a balanced, interdependent, dynamic ecosystem of communities, floating freely in a safe meta-environment, that can be viewed as“the Protocol” or (my favourite) “the nourishing primordial political soup”.
COOKING THE NAIL SOUP
The ultimate goal for the new meta-environment is to let every community live and thrive, while not the predatory way. Ideally, the Protocol should let communities split and merge freely (individual migration included), being formed from scratch, dissolve. There should be some constraints imposed on community modus operandi – quite similar to those implied by the current discussion about Commons. No shared, non-manufactured resources should be possessed, only used (revocably, in
case of abuse). There should be some agreed minimal rules – human rights being a good, while overdone, example of them – to be observed in the person<->community relationship. There is also a need for inter-community rules, setting up the boundary conditions in bilateral interactions, but also procedures to maintain the Protocol itself – keeping it resilient; stable, but adaptive. Acting like a forcefield shield in Herbert’s Dune – unobtrusive, until somebody wants to stab or shoot you – then
kicking into action.
By all means it sounds fantastic, doesn’t it. However, interesting times need interesting solutions, so to speak, and we have already many pieces of the system laying in front of us. Commons-based economy. Consensus-driven, participatory democracy. Free and open technology. The wealth of P2P concepts. We even have the Primer, education tool for the new era (http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Nell) – what do we need is enough political will to put all pieces together, start testing the concept in some safe playground and see how it evolves.
THE ANARCHO-POSITIVIST APPROACH
FreeLab, at its own scale, struggles to help the new reality to emerge. We are now focused on setting up basic knowledge for people to build intentional communities. We also try to instill some common values in this process: cooperativity, consensus-driven decision making, resilient and sustainable structures. Appropriate technologies and a lot of space for personal beliefs within the community.
We are working mostly with rural communities, of the eco-homesteaders kind. This group is quite constructive, as they tend to run their lives on their own land, and their own way. At the same time they are rather open for new ideas, provided they are practical – like FreeLab’s newest project of setting up local hemp association. AND tt the same time, the group as a whole, distrust every institution and entity from beyond direct environment.
FreeLab intention is, after we have some visible success in our hemp project, to start proposing new DIT (“Do It Together”) initiatives, including more and more cooperative approach. We hope to establish a de facto standard of social organization, which will be open for future translocal interactions. It’s going to be quite an adventure…