The last place in the world you might think of looking for inspiration on spirited community togtherness is Detroit, a city still suffering from racial divisions and stark economic disinvestment.
Lelalnd Maschmeyer is a creative director in New York City and author of The Triumph of the Commons.
Most people don’t have time to sit around and contemplate the commons, says Leland Maschmeyer—an award-winning creative director and author of The Triumph of the Commons—because they’re busy with the “practical and pressing” stuff of life Can we fault them? No, of course not. The commons as a worldview and set of practices can appear fairly abstract and quickly turn “interest into disinterest ”
(Photo by College360 under a Creative Commons license)
The books on this list may not be easily acquired just because book stores are closing, libraries face budget cut-backs, and schools supplant the page with the screen, or the book with the computer. But if you’re reading this you already know that knowledge, like a place to meet, can be obtained with patience, resourcefulness, and working with others. I have listed the books in rough order of difficulty.
Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten (New York: Ballantine Books, 1983)
With the announcement by the FCC that cable and telephone companies will be allowed to prioritize access to their customers, only one option remains that can guarantee an open internet: owning the means of distribution.
Thankfully an agency exists for this. Local government. Owning the means of distribution is a traditional function of local government. We call our roads and bridges and water and sewer pipe networks public infrastructure for a reason.
What if there was a way to reduce the risk of many major diseases at the same time as helping improve your overall health, decreasing your weight and boosting your energy? And what if this treatment was simple to do and took only a few minutes each week?
Wait, it gets even better! What if this could be accomplished with no special equipment or training and it would cost absolutely nothing. You could do it any time and place you want--in fact, the vast majority of us have been doing it since the age of two.
Traveling to New Hampshire last week to talk at Keene State College, I had no idea what to expect. Although I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Vermont and Maine, New Hampshire stands out for its libertarian leanings-- no state income tax, no state sales tax, license plates proclaiming “Live Free or Die”.
It’s easy to not think about the looming climate crisis. For one thing, it’s depressing to ponder the misery ahead if we don’t take drastic steps now to curb greenhouse emissions. It’s even more depressing when you consider that even the most modest steps to reduce carbon use in the US have been derailed by corporate lobbyists and ideological zealots.
The Wealth of Nations
Kids playing in Chicago's Millenium Park. (Photo by Kymberly Janisch under a Creative Commons license)
When my long-time friend John became a father, he confided to me that the world suddenly was divided into two distinct camps: people with children and those without. This puzzled me; I figured it was his excuse for being out of touch.
Photo courtesy of PM Press
We’re losing the ground of our subsistence to the privileged and the mighty. With the theft of our pensions, houses, universities, and land, people all over the world cry, Stop Thief! and start to think about the commons and act in its name.
But what is the commons? Its 21st century meaning is emerging from the darkness of centuries past.
Not long ago Neal Gorenflo, co-founder of Shareable--an award-winning news, action and connection hub for the sharing movement--called himself an “unlikely voice for sharing.” An epiphany in 2004 spurred him to leave his job as a corporate strategist and become a strategist for the common good. Without question, it was the right move for him. Gorenflo says his decision led him to develop a more collaborative lifestyle that’s “nothing short of magical.”
Car ads are generally not the place you look for inspiration about a commons way of life. But a recent duel between GM and Ford offers a keen comparison of what’s at stake.
“Screw the company trying to take our river, and the government. If I die, I’m going to die defending life.” So said María Santos Dominguez, a member of the Indigenous Council of the Lenca community of Rio Blanco, Honduras.
Anchor institutions--hospitals, colleges, and other institutions deeply rooted in their communities--are a form of commons that is viewed as crucial to revitalizing low-income neighborhoods. Besides being major employers and big customers for local businesses, they have an intrinsic stake in making sure their neighborhoods thrive. Your local hospital, for instance, is not going to pack up its beds and move to Mexico.
Camille Gage: What drew you to become a poet, to follow that path?
Crystal Williams: Well, firstly: when I was young my mother and I went to the library every week. I read voraciously and wasn’t allowed to watch much TV, though I could watch The Electric Company, or Sesame Street, but other than that my life was really about playing with my friends, being with my mom and dad, and reading. I had an uncle who loved poetry. He taught me my first poem and a real love of language.
The recent rise of the commons and the sharing economy seems to suggest a growing recognition of the fact that our health, happiness, and security depend greatly on the planet and people around us.
Minneapolis will soon vote to shift nearly 180 privately owned bus shelters to public ownership following numerous complaints about the lack of maintenance and upkeep. When it does it will join the burgeoning ranks of cities who have discovered that when it comes to public services government knows best.
When an article about this appeared in the local Star Tribune newspaper many on-line comments echoed the conventional wisdom circa 2014. “It must be really, really bad if government can do it better.”
The origins of the Western higher education system go back to ancient Greece when religious institutions, hospitals, museums and individual scholars such as Plato and Aristotle founded schools where knowledge in many arenas was shared, sometimes with students simply gathering under a certain tree at a certain time.
Jutta Mason, a young mother in Toronto, faced a dilemma. She lived near Dufferin Grove Park a number of years ago but was afraid to go there with her children because it had become a hangout for kids who were viewed as the “local toughs.” Still, she didn’t want to stay home stuck in her house. Mason debated whether to endure boredom or confront fear? She chose to overcome her fear, and in the process made a great difference in her community.
But by 2020, with the success of the Victory Garden campaign, things fell into a new shape. Up through most of the teens, two futures had contended in popular imagination. Although there were brave evocations of our collective creativity and capability, mostly on the liberal-to-left side of the aisle we saw the end of the world approaching. Think of the we-can-do-it segment tacked onto Al Gore’s 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth: after watching those animations of the coastlines receding, my 14 year-old friends and I sincerely doubted that recycling would save the planet.