Tuesday, April 9, 2013

This Might Be Useful -- Then Again... Gar Alperovitz Yaks With Laura Flanders About "The Next Revolution"

Gar Alperovitz and Laura Flanders 

It's almost as if the United States has gone into a state of suspended animation as the People digest the New Normalities of gross inequality, injustice, and permanent recession for the many, unprecedented and indecent wealth, power and privilege for the few.

Yes, well. We've been circling this pivot point for quite a while now. Efforts at reversing the course of events or even slowing down momentarily have proved futile. The Government of the United States of America has completely divorced itself from the interests of the American People. It serves only the right sort of international rich folk and that's it.

The People simply don't matter any more -- not that they ever much did in the vast eternal scheme.

What then must we (the People) do?

This is Alperovitz's central question. And, unlike so many in the field of intellectualized revolution, he provides some answers, some of which are similar to ones I've mentioned in posts here and in other fora.

As a side note, though, I would take his solutions with several barrels of salt. The clearest indication that his solutions may be no solution at all is his reliance on the decrepit institutions of the failed system, including labor unions. I can understand why he does it, but many Americans are on a different path altogether. There is much ferment and experimentation going on throughout the land, many Americans are consciously withdrawing from The System and setting up their own alternatives, intentional communities are flourishing, permaculture is more and more widely practiced, cooperatives and even communes have experienced new life. It's an acknowledgement that our institutions have failed. Something else again is required.

People are figuring out ways to survive and even prosper under the cruelties and rigidities of today's ruling class and its handmaidens, just as they always have. The more conditions worsen for the many, the more creative solutions are -- sometimes -- found.

This is a kind of internal revolution that the Occupy Movement attempted to prefigure, and I think they got it right. It amounts to a paradigm shift, in this case away from the standard model of institutional finance and economics and ultimately toward something else again, something simpler, more direct, closer to the land, more democratic, community enhancing, and sustainable.

Disengagement is a form of revolution.

But disengagement ultimately is not a solution, it's an alternative. Alternatives tend to be supplements rather than replacements for deteriorated institutions and the theft of the commons.

I'm reading some journals from the New Buffalo Commune up by Arroyo Hondo, arguably one of the most successful Hippie communes from back in the day. It's still there, though not what it once was as it now has a proprietor, an owner in fact not simply theory (for tax and other purposes, the original commune had to have some sort of declared ownership -- hilarity ensued.)  Many of its aspects were learning experiences for the communards -- most of whom had no background in back to the land efforts or farming or intentional community building or even independence beyond the typical adolescent need for revolt.

That's not enough for a sustainable community, as the New Buffalo communards found out.

The problem is not that there is something intrinsically wrong with the alternative being sought -- whether it's a cooperative, a commune, a diverse intentional community or what have you -- it is that the participants are almost always conditioned throughout their lives not to engage in such alternative behavior. Americans were and are conditioned to obey, to submit to authority, and to gravitate toward powerful personalities. And there always seem to be a surprising few intentional or unintentional predators who gravitate toward alternative communities who almost inevitably bring them to grief and/or ruin.

The openness of so many of alternative communities and the inability of their participants to protect themselves and their communities from those who would do them harm has meant the end of all too many communities and movements.

Yet many communes and intentional communities persist and more are forming all the time.  As the United States continues its rapid de-industrialization, the cooperatives and worker-owned factories that Alperovitz highlights and favors become both more and less relevant. The United States is becoming a nation that makes nothing; nothing but foodstuffs and financial figments for the world. In a sense and highly ironically, the overclass is driving the return to the American agrarian past -- for those who can do it.

Many can't and won't.

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