[permaculture] Fwd: All Together Now - monbiot.com

Lawrence London lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Fri Feb 10 07:32:12 EST 2017

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: George Monbiot <noreply+feedproxy at google.com>
Date: Fri, Feb 10, 2017 at 2:55 AM
Subject: All Together Now - monbiot.com

All Together Now - monbiot.com <http://www.monbiot.com>

All Together Now <http://www.monbiot.com/2017/02/09/all-together-now/>

Posted: 09 Feb 2017 02:16 AM PST

This is how to stop demagogues and extremists: rebuild community.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 8th February 2017

Without community, politics is dead. But communities have been scattered
like dust in the wind. At work, at home, both practically and
imaginatively, we are atomised.

Politics, as a result, is experienced by many people as an external force,
dull and irrelevant at best, oppressive and frightening at worst. It is
handed down from above rather than developed from below. There are
exceptions – the Sanders and Corbyn campaigns for example – but even they
seemed shallowly rooted by comparison to the deep foundations of solidarity
that movements grew from in the past, and may disperse as quickly as they

It is in the powder of shattered communities that anti-politics swirls,
raising towering dust devils of demagoguery and extremism. These tornadoes
threaten to tear down whatever social structures still stand.

When people are atomised and afraid, they feel driven to defend their own
interests against other people’s. In other words, they are pushed away from
intrinsic values such as empathy, connectedness and kindness, and towards
extrinsic values
such as power, fame and status. The problem created by the politics of
extreme individualism is self-perpetuating.

Conversely, a political model based only on state provision can leave
people dependent, isolated and highly vulnerable to cuts. The welfare state
remains essential: it has relieved levels of want and squalor that many
people now find hard to imagine. But it can also, inadvertently, erode
community, sorting people into silos to deliver isolated services,
weakening their ties to society.

This is the third in my occasional series
on possible solutions
to the many crises we face. It explores the ways in which we could restore
political life by restoring community life. This doesn’t mean ditching
state provision, but complementing it with something that belongs neither
to government nor to the market, but exists in a different sphere, a sphere
we have neglected.

There are hundreds of colourful examples of how this might begin, such as
community shops, development trusts <http://www.dtascot.org.uk/>, food
assemblies <https://thefoodassembly.com/en>, community choirs, free
universities <https://www.raggeduniversity.co.uk/>, time banking
<http://www.timebanking.org/>, Transition Towns
<http://transitionnetwork.org/>, potluck lunch clubs, local currencies, men’s
sheds <http://menssheds.org.uk/> (in which older men swap skills and make
new friends), turning streets into temporary playgrounds (like the Playing
Out <http://playingout.net/> project), secular services (such as Sunday
Assembly <https://www.sundayassembly.com/>), lantern festivals, fun palaces
<http://funpalaces.co.uk/> and technology hubs <http://techresorteb.com/>.

Turning such initiatives into a wider social revival means creating what
practitioners call “thick networks”: projects that proliferate, spawning
further ventures and ideas that weren’t envisaged when they started. They
then begin to develop a dense participatory culture that becomes attractive
and relevant to everyone, rather than mostly to socially active people with
time on their hands.

A study commissioned by the London borough of Lambeth sought to identify
<https://issuu.com/participatorycity/docs/designed_to_scale_v.1> how these
thick networks are most likely to develop. The process typically begins
with projects that are “lean and live”: they start with very little money,
and evolve rapidly through trial and error. They are developed not by
community heroes working alone, but by collaborations between local people.
These projects create opportunities for “micro-participation”: people can
dip in and out of them without much commitment.

When enough of such projects have been launched, they catalyse a deeper
involvement, generating community businesses, co-operatives and hybrid
ventures, which start employing people and generating income. A tipping
point is reached when 10 to 15% of local residents are engaging regularly.
Community then begins to gel, triggering an explosion of social enterprise
and new activities, that starts to draw in the rest of the population. The
mutual aid these communities develop functions as a second social safety

The process, the study reckons, takes about three years. The result is
communities that are vibrant and attractive to live in, that generate
employment, that are environmentally sustainable and socially cohesive, in
which large numbers of people are involved in decision-making. Which sounds
to me like where we need to be.

The exemplary case is Rotterdam
<http://www.communityloversguide.org/gallery/>, where, in response to the
closure of local libraries, in 2011 a group of residents created a reading
room out of an old Turkish bathhouse. The project began with a festival of
plays, films and discussions, then became permanently embedded. It became a
meeting place where people could talk, read and learn new skills, and soon
began, with some help from the council, to spawn restaurants, workshops,
care cooperatives, green projects, cultural hubs and craft collectives.

These projects inspired other people to start their own. One estimate
suggests that there are now 1300 civic projects in the city. Deep
cooperation and community building now feels entirely normal there. Both
citizens and local government appear to have been transformed.

There are plenty of other schemes with this potential. Walthamstow, in east
London, could be on the cusp of a similar transformation, as community cafes
<http://www.hornbeam.org.uk/>, cooking projects, workshops
<http://www.blackhorseworkshop.co.uk/> and traffic calming schemes
begin to proliferate into a new civic commons. Incredible Edible
<https://www.incredible-edible-todmorden.co.uk/>, that began as a guerilla
planting scheme in Todmorden, in West Yorkshire, growing fruit and
vegetables in public spaces and unused corners, has branched into so many
projects that it is widely credited with turning the fortunes of the town
around, generating start-ups, jobs and training programmes. A scheme to
clean up vacant lots in the Spanish city of Zaragoza soon began creating
parks, playgrounds, bowling greens, basketball courts and allotments,
generating 110 jobs in 13 months.

The revitalisation of community is not a substitute for the state, but it
does reduce its costs. The Lambeth study estimates that supporting a thick
participatory culture costs around £400,000 for 50,000 residents: roughly
0.1% of local public spending. It is likely to pay for itself many times
over, by reducing the need for mental health provision and social care and
suppressing crime rates, recidivism, alcohol and drug dependency.

Participatory culture stimulates participatory politics. In fact, it is
participatory politics. It creates social solidarity while proposing and
implementing a vision of a better world. It generates hope where hope
seemed absent. It allows people to take back control.

Most importantly, it can appeal to anyone, whatever their prior
affiliations might be. It begins to generate a kinder public life, built on
intrinsic values. By rebuilding society from the bottom up, it will
eventually force parties and governments to fall into line with what people
want. We can do this. And we don’t need anyone’s permission to begin.


Lawrence F. London, Jr.
lfljvenaura at gmail.com

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