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Archive for September, 2009

Israel is different now than when it was founded. And, not so different.

Many of the Jewish immigrants to then Palestine were young lower middle class idealists from Russia. They were influenced by the initial Russian social uprising in 1905, followed by pogroms blaming the uprising on Jews, as a large proportion of the uprising leaders were Jewish.

That communicated the common Zionist theme that revolutionary social change promoted by Marxist and other radicals would not yeild a society in which Jews could be Jews, whether guided by religious or socialist values.

So, many of the young Russian Jewish radicals left. They came to then Palestine, and with the help of some outside funding for settlement building, they experimented. The world was new there. The old religious shtetl world would pass. The exploitative capitalist norms would pass. The suppressive right-wing Russian anti-semitic nationalist norms would pass. Those Russian and Ukranian Jews that sought opportunity went to the United States. Those that sought new world ideals to determinedly put into practice, moved to Palestine.

The experiments varied. Some were almost reminiscent of new age American communes (like one I lived in), emphasizing new consciousness more than new economics. Some of those were entirely collectivist, with the only intimacy being erotic, everything else public and social.

Other kibbutzim were guided more by Marxist ideology emphasizing intentionally changing economic class relations entirely, nothing personal.

The common theme of all kibbutzim was of the liberating and culturally reviving effect of agricultural labor.

Other immigrants chose to move to cities, emphasizing more classical Marxist thinking that the revolution could only transpire from the liberation of the industrial proletariat (workers), not agricultural peasantry, not utopian.

One or another socialist approach dominated early Zionist population. Roughly 3/4 of the yishuv (population of recent Zionist immigrants) regarded themselves as socialist in some flavor.

Zionist society illustrated the old Jewish maxim of “put 10 Jews in a room, you’ll have 15 different radically contending opinions”. The society was harshly and often viciously partisan, defined by more ideological configurations than I can conceive of, each mutually exclusive in some key way.

Its actually to be expected. Then Palestine was considered a blank slate, a truly new world. The majority of new immigrants were young, extremely energetic, idealistic, not married and without children. A real youth culture, reminiscent of the American 60’s.

They were determined. They had conviction.

Over time, the idealism of the kibbutzim dissolved into more practical attitudes. The kibbutzim still varied greatly in ideology and flavor, but they commonly shifted to a role of key institution for nation-building, more than idealistic social experiment with latitude for failure and waste.

Kibbutz members came to share like armies share, more than like free-love hippies shared.

There was a Jewish far left in Palestine that sought to organize the workers of the world into “one big union”, but the Arab workers were described as resenting the European Marxist intrusion, as much (or more) as they resented the European Zionist intrusion.

The Communist Party was anti-Zionist. Over time the Jewish Palestinian communist party experienced the same quandries as the American communist party, particularly confused by the policies and actions of the Stalinist regime and the subordination of local organizing needs to the international movement and its frequent Orwellian flips in political correctness.

Early, the labor Zionists sought some reconciliation with local Arabs, including proposals for joint nationalist cooperation, and proposals for bi-national state (Zionist and Arab relative to imperial powers).

Also early, Zionists came to conclude that the local Arabs were far more conservative politically than the idealistic young European labor Zionists, and that common cause would be difficult. They were not actively seeking an integrated socialist ideal. Those few Arabs that were socialist, were committed to socialism for the prior working and peasant Arab classes, not the confusion of new and domineering European residual ideologs.

The external Arab influences also were conservative, either religious, or seeking to preserve prior family privileges, but in a national form rather than tribal.

The claims by the modern far left, that Zionists never sought to reconcile or find common cause with Arabs is false. In fact, the continuing Zionist overtures were rebuffed and often violently, not all that different than currently, and applying similar logic.

Among Zionists were far right-wing neo-fascists, revisionists, under the leadership of Jabotinsky, founder of the Etzel terror movement, and ideological and personal mentor of the modern likud party.

It was impossible for Arabs to tell if Zionists sought peer residence, or dominance or outright exclusion. The youthful immodesty of the labor and kibbutz Zionists offended many of the religious. The insensitivity of Zionist leadership to the effects of policies on local Arab communities offended many. And, the legal conflicts over what “ownership of land” entailed, offended many.

So, like today, there were Arabs that were willing to reconcile with their like, but not the movement as a whole. The religious Muslims most often co-existed respectfully with similarly modest and conservative religious Jews. The nationalist Arabs didn’t though, resulting in the 1920, 1929 and 1936-39 Arab riots.

And, the Jabotinsky factions upped the ante, by first intensely defensive para-military operations (vicious treatment of Arab raiders), to anticipatory offensive para-military.

Same as now.

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The setting of Jewish European experience in the early 20th century was one of remaining suppression and prejudice if not consistently persecution in Western Europe, and intense persecution and organized mob violence against Jews in Eastern Europe.

Large numbers emigrated from Eastern Europe to the United States primarily, but also to England, Australia, Canada, South Africa. Western European Jews largely sought to assimilate, with difficulty and confusion. Children of assimilated and inter-married, assimilated much more easily and were largely accepted as nationals, not as Jews.

Middle eastern diaspora Jews in North Africa, lived largely as they had, partially protected minorities within Islamic norms. The demise of the Turkish empire following WW1, was one significant exception, replacing British and French governance (with imperial intent) for Turkish.

Until 1917, most Zionist official activity was to urge migration to Israel (mostly unsuccessfully), and more importantly to urge the contending political powers to authorize limited sovereignty for Jews in then Palestine. Zionist leaders played one alliance against another, appealing to their unique very parochial self-interests, to almost enter a bidding war for Jewish support during WW1 in particular.

With the victory of Great Britain and France over Germany and Turkey in WW1, Great Britain affirmed its support for some Jewish homeland in then Palestine in the Balfour Declaration in 1917. It complemented and conflicted with the private Sykes/Picot agreement between England and France dividing spheres of influence in the Middle East and elsewhere. The commitments behind the scene conflicted with the somewhat ambiguous language of the Balfour Declaration, and similarly confusing commitments (stated as conditional on an Arab uprising against Turkey) were made to Arab hopefuls.

A recipe for disaster. Conflicting promises made to mutually hungry communities, both in need of upliftment and self-governance.

On the ground, there was a mix of intentional and realized accommodation, and utter communication failure. The Zionist community could not figure out if it was European or “Oriental”. (As European, the intentional settlement effort appeared to be colonial. As Oriental, the settlement effort would not result in a distinct nation, but only in assimilation into the Arab world.)

Many of the same orientations that exist today, existed them.

Pan-Islamic protection of the Islamic Umma (The significance of Zionism associated with Great Britain, was of a division in the waqf that previously extended from Western China all the way to North Africa. The African portion would be severed.)

Pan-Arab aspirations seeking realization following the Turkish empire’s destruction following WW1. Saudi King Faisal vacilated between accommodation with Zionism in alliance against Great Britain and overt hostility.

In 1919/1920, the first public appearance of a Palestinian national aspiration (as distinct from pan-Arab or pan-Islamic) appeared with a series of publications and gatherings.

Nationalist para-military groups formed among Arabs, most prominently the “black-hand” (not the cosa nostra) under Qassam (the name-sake of the Hamas rockets). Similar “self-defense” groups were organized by Jabotinsky, an assertively nationalist Zionist.

Series of anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish riots occurred in Jaffa, Jerusalem, Safed, and most prominently in Hebron. The Safed and Hebron riots forced all the Jews from their residences, most moving to Jerusalem. (The Safed and Hebron Jews displaced were NOT Zionists, most were anti-Zionist, instead emphasizing an entirely religious association rather than any political.)

Among Zionists there were those that favored accommodation: development of personal relationships, trade, common labor solidarity, mutual assistance. The utopian descriptions by Herzl and others, corresponded with this view.

Even much maligned Ben Gurion early supported the view of accommodation.

The political maneuverings occurred within an environment of significant social change on the ground, and great insecurity among Palestinian sectors.

They included difficult and suppressive class relationships between “squatting” (accepted as norm, not the pejorative as in the west) Fellahin, local powerful families, and absentee landowners.

The first shift in the status of fellahin occurred as a result of Turkish initiative to register all land and all leasehold relationships. Many of the Fellahin were illiterate and could not register even their residence by permission of actual landowners.

When Great Britain assumed sovereignty over the land, they did not translate the former squatting rights well. The Zionists were oriented to European land ownership norms, which did not recognize squatters’ rights prominently. So, when they purchased land from absentee title holders, they assumed that they owned the land and had uninhibited rights to use the land. But the fellahin assumed that their squatters’ rights remained.

Conflict, both parties were right.

The first accusations of Jewish settlements dispossessing former Palestinian villages resulted from this legal ambiguity.

It greatly contributed to the perception that Zionism was a form of European colonialism, not a distinct movement itself that also existed in some adversary relationship with Europe.

The same themes are expressed by dissenters today. Zionism as European colonialism.

That thesis is true only if one lumps all “others” as conspiring or part of a large movement. In too many ways, it is similar to the paranoid flavor of Zionist view that “they” participate in an unbroken stream of persecution of Jews.

There is some truth in both paranoid statements, but not enough truth to be truth in fact, or to responsibly act on.

There is sadly a strong move for expansionist Zionism, as if the interpretations of conditional promises made by a single committee of the British government in 1917, is binding on all current relationships between Israel and Arabs. They desire the river to the sea, and adopt the same settlement strategy (and specific “finger” strategy) as was employed to form an initial nation.

And, there are pan-Islamic movements that seek to restore the Islamic waqf, mixing with nationalist sentiment. Hamas for example articulates both Palestinian national rights and pan-Islamic sentiments. Similarly for Hezbollah. Established Islamic states experience at least some fundamental confusion and compromise, for example Saudi Arabia, which has conditionally endorsed the Arab League proposal, but is also responsible caretaker for Islamic shrines.

Iran is different. Iran does not regard Israel as having any even conditional rights to exist, and is only an interloper in the Islamic world. No internal tension on their part in that respect.

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I am in a constant “dialog” with progressives on the web and face-to-face on the historical and present significance of Zionism.

Frequently, those that form their definition of what should be politically from anarchist, socialist, and in my personal life Proutist ideals regard Zionism as tribal (not universal humanist), colonial (intentional European displacement of indigenous or people of color), theocratic (referenced to a religious practice and/or tyrranical governing heirarchy).

From their primarily critical analyses, dissenters conclude a spectrum of remedies that include elegant plausible mutually respectful ones, to implausible and functionally cruel or unstable impositions.

The common competition for sentiment is about victimhood, and relation to power. Commentary on Israel/Palestine is almost always centered on what is wrong, and sadly structured on all sides by a Pavlovian invocation of rages. (Yesterday I commented on a blog in which a photograph of a single obviously abusive incident between a thug settler and a Palestinian old woman was juxtaposed with the abuses of Mississippi freedom riders in a restaurant by an angry white mob).

The picture (that speaks a thousand words) invoked a stream of invective on the orchestrated harrassment of Palestinian civilians by “hilltop youth” settlers, that are urged to harrass by their zealous peers and worse by authorizing Kahanist rabbis.

The problem was that the picture could have plausibly suggested an entirely different story if presented differently. (I think the representation of the events was accurate in this case). In questioning what was communicated by the juxtaposition of the pictures, I was subjected to some harrassment. If a theoretical picture were to be taken of me in the “room” with the dissenters, it would be one of harrassment of an elder (me – 55, same age as the picture of the Palestinian harrassed) by a gang of zealous ideologs.

There is political Rorshach pictures. Ambiguous content, in which the biases, the prejudicial story gets to play out. What does that picture tell you?

“That the Hebron Palestinians are still occupying property that was Jewish in 1920 before the ethnic cleansing of ancient Jewish residence”.

“That the Jewish interlopers are ethnically cleansing the indigenous Palestinians from their homes by terror and harrassment”.

(Not comments on the specific incident, but what the incident “means”, stated authoritatively with very little skeptical inquiry into one’s own assumptions.)

On Israel/Palestine, the tack that advocates take, reveal inadequacies about their ideology itself, or the application of their ideology. This was especially jarring to me in relation to the palette of analytical tools in the Prout portfolio. Prout’s official positions on Israel/Palestine were among the largest influences that convinced me to separate from their efforts (which are nill now anyway, tragically given the richness of the analytic pallette).

Although Bennie Morris has issued some recent statements that I find objectionable, at least confusing, I loved the thesis of his book “Righteous Victims”, that implies that there is validity to both the Zionist and the Palestinian experience (individually and collectively subjective) and each deserve the light of day.

I am hoping that some skillful filmmaker will adopt the dramatic strategy of presenting the history of the region through that lens of multiple perspectives. Some of the threads of the history are distinct to each narrative, solely Zionist or solely Palestinian tributaries. But, some illustrate the classic narrative juxtaposition of a single objective event understood very differently by those with different personal relationships to the actual events, and with different preconceived invocations.

What occurred? (Some shared, some very very different) What is the significance?

There is much much more documentation of Zionist history available than Palestinian. And, as I am Jewish, and growing up in a family that was supportive of Zionism (both pre-WW2 and after), I’ve necessarily done some personal research primarily on Zionism.

I’m attempting to survey my assumptions again, prospectively to help push the film idea along, so have started reading again.

I’m currently reading “A History of Zionism” by Walter Laqueur, recommended by Dan Fleshler who authors the Realistic Dove blog. http://www.realisticdove.org/

The book opens with a description of the context of the condition of 19th century European Jewry.

The context varied by locale. In general, prior to the French revolution and subsequent 1848 enlightenment revolutions in much of Europe, Jews nowhere held full civil rights, could not vote, practice professions, get educated, travel freely. There were a few very wealthy Jewish families that had made enormous sums in banking at interest and speculative trade, that was prohibited for Christians to other Christians. Those bankers loaned to private individual and corporate enterprises, and to governments for wars or other state efforts. Jews were not the majority of the industry, but were prominent.

The vast majority of Jews however were poor, working or begging classes.

In Western Europe, (Germany, France, England), the enlightenment values of modern democracy were expressed widely, and Jews sought to assimilate, even converting in fairly large numbers. They succeeded professionally, and were more loyal than the majority of Germans, French, English. But, in spite of considerable national patriotism and social contribution to the host societies, Jews were not accepted and periodic persecutions occurred in Germany, France and to a lesser extent in England.

In Eastern Europe (Poland, Russia, Hungary, Rumania), Jews were consistently persecuted. Their residence was limited to official regions. They were not permitted to own property, practice professions, etc. The church and the state periodically orchestrated mass violence against Jews and Jewish owned property.

In this context, Western and Eastern European Jewish thinkers and activists sought to change their reality. Many Jews joined the socialist movements in Western Europe and later Russia, in their hope and through the ethical pallette of Torah and prophets. (The ethical origination often later conflicted with the more ideological application.)

Others sought to imagine a Jewish response, Zionism in some form, noting the difficulty and communal compromise of assimilation and conversion for the purpose of assimilation.

Early Zionist writers appealed to small groups of friends, but few others knew of their ideas or writings. Theodore Herzl was the first individual to articulate Zionist ideas in Western Europe as a whole, and undertook on his own initiative to organize the Zionist movement into periodic Congresses, local supporting organizations, fundraising, and diplomacy in an unusually wide range of settings to gather support for a Jewish National Homeland in Palestine/Israel, later articulated as necessarily a Jewish state.

Very bold. Amazingly internally motivated.

Herzl was a Jew whose personal life was one of assimilation. He was a German gentleman, patriotic, attempting a professional journalistic career. The obstacles that he faced personally were not extreme. He did not have a specific life-changing gross trauma that suggested the Zionist idea and commitment. He did have an epiphany that he and other Jews would never be fully accepted even in enlightened Western European society, would always be outsiders, and periodically and opportunistically harrassed.

Early, only few Western European Jews sympathized with his observation/prediction. They felt at home in Germany, France, England. They were experiencing success, especially as the enlightenment values of tolerance and religious freedom gradually were institutionalized in those societies.

In Russia though, the persecutions and hungers for improvement were so obvious, that he and the Zionist movement achieved mass hero status, with a large and enthusiastic and committed following.

The skilled Western European Jewish elite did not endorse Zionism during Herzl’s life. But, the unskilled, poor, who could not easily travel to Congresses or persuade by their class and erudition, did.

Its always that way. Its a difficulty with any social movement, that the need is for articulate, skilled, able leadership from a population from which that is difficult if not impossible. Leadership then comes from the idealistic (who are often more emotional than practical) or the unnaturally persecuted (intellectuals or wealthy who experience some personal prejudices, and mix their angers into their ideology).

Motivated people.

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About half of the Jews alive today live in Israel/Palestine. About half of the Palestinians alive today live in Israel/Palestine.

We are each diaspora people, that have been scattered and gathered by larger historical forces.

And, it is a truth (not a myth, not a rationalization, not deniable) that Israelis are not going to disappear or magically go somewhere else, and that Palestinians are not going to disappear or magically go somewhere else.

By whatever political arrangement, some reconciliation and healing is necessary, hopefully with the acknowledgement and renunciation of further unnecessary harms to the other.

I am assertively a Zionist, not in the sense of really any advocacy of Israel’s policies and practices (not for a long time), but in the sense of permanently (nothing is permanent) affirming that the Jewish people are a people, a nation, and deserve self-governance (including equal participation in Israeli national affairs on the part of non-Jews – whether Christian, Muslim, atheist).

Zionism is a repeat of the numerous metaphorical stories in Torah of conflict, some duplicity, and the necessity to live with it.

Examples include the shunning of Hagar and Ishmael by Sarah and Abraham. Sarah was jealous of Hagar (her servant) for bearing Abraham a son, an heir. Great, revered, powerful Abraham was convinced to renounce his son, for all purposes to die in the desert, by the jealousies of his wife.

Then there is the story of Esau and Jacob, in which Esau bargains away his birthright as firstborn twin (and Jacob accepts it), then later when the birthright is actually to be conveyed by Isaac on his deathbed, Rebekkah convinces Jacob to pretend to be Esau. (A bit of misogyny in the story, blaming all of the men’s relationship failings on women’s intervention).

It is an irony that we are asked to emulate these patriarchs and matriarchs, living such fundamentally dysfunctional lives and relationships.

But, what are we going to do? What are we Jews going to do with this? Will we mass suicide as unworthy of life itself? Will we live lives of permanent quasi-suicide, the repeating guilt of our fathers? Will we assimilate entirely, dissolving our Jewishness into now commercial mush?

We live. We note that life itself is a confusion, a struggle, and ours is both different and not different from other peoples. We form life goals and life ways. 

Even if we, as individuals and as a community, actually transform, mature, heal, what happens in the world? How do we transform our relations with others? How do we actually heal a relationship gone bad?

How do we improve a distressed forced marriage that we are compelled by reality itself to remain in?

In Jewish teaching, at the forefront of Jewish teaching is the concept of “love one’s neighbor as thyself”.

When Jews were isolated by persecution and/or by utopian isolation, and in a strictly face-to-face world where the fastest transport was by pack horse, “love thy neighbor as thyself” applied to one’s literal neighbors, mostly Jews.

That is not the case in the diaspora, and its definitely not the case in Israel/Palestine. We have to go further. We have to apply that summary of Torah in our relations with others. We have to practically learn the injunction “by your behavior, transform an adversary to a friend”.

We’re not doing that now. In Israel, by warring and expropriating, Jews are doing the opposite. We/they are transforming their neighbors into enemies, not into friends.

Torah describes methodology to accomplish that transformation of enemy into friend.

It is by charity, meaning to help. Emergency charity is relevant, but must be temporary to not foster a dependant worldview. The most effective and nobel charity is described as empowerment, giving money, time, knowledge and over time, to help one’s neighbor become self-reliant.

There certainly are conditions in which those that one helps resents the help, and resents the implied power that a helper has. But, if the help is sincere that will be the minority of cases.

 

There are very real issues that will inevitably continue conflicts in the region. Water is scarce, an economic good, a minimum necessity. Land is relatively scarce, and is regarded as strategic militarily. Money is relatively scarce.

The tangible issues (water, land, capital) are common social problems with similar consequences to the rest of the world.

The aspects that make tangible questions insoluble are features that impose an unwillingness to compromise, to collaborate creatively. So, for example, when the commandment to “occupy the land” in Torah (stated conditionally, and only at a single moment in time) is taken as superceding the ten commandments (including “do not steal”, “do not murder”, and the zennish “do not covet thy neighbor’s possessions”), then there is great confusion and conflict.

Similarly, when pan-Islamic sentiment objects to the loss of Jerusalem as part of an undivided Islamic waqf, or similar pan-Arab sentiments based on the 1917 British implied promise to the new Arab regimes for a greater Arabia (at the same time as promising a Jewish homeland in the Balfour Declaration), there will be conflict.

The region is one of a crossroads, in which there have been MANY continental scale conflicts, and many displacements of all peoples. The assertion “we were always here” is false, whomever is making it.

Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Christian, Islamic, Christian, Islamic again, Turk, Gritish imperial, Nazi/fascist, Cold War…

According to PR Sarkar in “Neo-Humanism: The Liberation of Intellect”, there are three/four social orientations.

1. Geo-sentiment – The definition of one’s identity by territoriality (described as reptilian)

2. Soci0-sentiment – The definition of one’s identity by the society that one is associated with (described as mammalian)

3. Humanism – The definition of one’s identity as human (common sympathy), but in place, or in community

4. Neo-humanism – Extension of humanism to all species.

Living in place is described by holists as the right way to live, the eco-social life. But, living in place can be less than humanist, less than fully human, less than fully mutually sympathetic. Exclusive.

Healed by intentional loving the other in all the ways that one can make that possible, not by rationalization, no matter what a rabbi, a mullah, an activist or a politician says.

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The “straight-ahead” optimist approach is that a glass half-full is a more appreciative way of describing life, than a glass half-empty. The implication is that one that prefers a glass half-empty is a pessimist, negative, ironically often stated as a condemnation of those that name a glass as half-empty.

Both views contain a proposed norm that a full glass, or a full plate is best.

It ain’t so.

In business, a plant that is half-utilized is really under-utilized. Most at that level would be losing money, experiencing a great deal of volatility, unable to keep good employees for the volatility, and therefore also unable to make consistently high quality product.

So, most think of increasing the plant utilization (or a person getting busier, a full plate) as a virtue. It certainly is compared to a plant that is losing money, BUT at some point (usually at around 70 – 80% of capacity), the logistics of juggling supply chain issues, employees, etc. start to get difficult. At 85-90%, to manage requires a great deal of discipline, and systems need to focus on preventative approaches. Typically, manufacturers or even office efficiency approaches adopt preventive risk reduction, as their primary operational strategy, rather than just pushing forward.

At 90 – 100% capacity utilization, organizations become tyrranical. Their plate is entirely full. There is nothing that can be allowed to go wrong, to deviate from the system in any way, ever. No new business relationships are possible, even if they are more interesting or profitable. The money is rolling in (if they were priced appropriately), but there is great risk as whole systems can crash.

The same problems occur with individuals whose plates become so full that nothing can go wrong, or they have no room in their schedules or their minds for anything new, even if related to the work that they are doing.

Their full glass, an implied goal of the optimistic approach, becomes a glass that no new water can enter.

In contrast, the Buddhist approach takes care to leave room. 70% utilization.

If we need 8 – 9 hours to sleep, one  and a half full days off (“Shabbat” + social), 3 hours/day to eat and cook and deal with necessities, that leaves 60 total really available working hours. Optimal regular working time commitment using the 70% rule of optimal utilization leaves 42 hours of scheduled work, and 18 hours of unscheduled potential work/project time.

Thats where I want to be. Not tapped out, but definitely fully engaged.

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Person – Learn to relax, giving yourself moments to just accept yourself. (To do this, I do what is called a “corpse pose” – lying on one’s back and letting gravity absorb me into the earth, and thinking “I am in the womb”).

Get educated from those that enjoy well, formally and informally. Food, music, conversation, literature, film, theator, dance, nature, sex, exercise, sleep, yoga, meditation, work, dress, environments (architecture, gardens).

Relieve stress by taking care to be financially solvent, and doing work that motivates “authentically”.

Family – Relax together, emjoy together. Eat together, listen and play music together, watch films together, exercise together, dance together, have sex (with your intimate).

Community – Support the institutions in your community that provide free and/or commerced enjoyment. Libraries, parks, gardens, schools/universities, concerts, theator, dance, jam sessions, poetry slams, group reads, collective prayer/meditation.

Support the people that are leading those efforts. The usually don’t make money on them (or spend a lot of their own money), and by their work create so much richness in life. Organizing an event is stressful, and the people need the encouragement of their community (verbally, volunteering, and consuming) to enjoy it themselves and to repeat the effort.

Region – Our close region is really an extension of our community. I can get 20 miles away for an evening out.

Support the support systems of the institutions that really enhance enjoyment in our communities. For example, the regional library systems, that make inter-library loans possible.

Festival (a verb, to festival).

Macro-region or nation –  Support the institutions that support the institutions. Support government funding of the arts. Support foundations that suppor the arts. Acknowledge the people that organize, that provide funding. Let them know that their work makes a difference.

Insist that Congress regard libraries, universities (including liberal arts and artistic programs), parks, etc. as ESSENTIAL components of our cultural life, as important as defense or homeland security, and fund them and regulate them in such a way that they are viable and vibrant.

Planet – Value and protect diversity of language, customs, dress, food. If able, support institutions that similarly enhance the “free enjoyment economy” in other regions/nations. Intentionally learn of others’ cultures, deeply, to a level of intimacy/familiarity. Read literature from other cultures.Celebrate cross-cultural influences.

Value multiculturism which emphasizes the simultaneous preservation of diversity, within a context of interaction. Oppose assimilation forces that make a mush soup, rather than a soup with identifiable carrots, beans, onions.

Keep the planet healthy, forested, free from toxins.

Support the global preservation of value-adding skillsets so that people may be independant rather than desparate. Help other regions develop their net worth, so that they have the scope to rationally design institutions that enhance culture and enjoyment.

And, like we are relaxed in our womb, let us be relaxed and engaged in the world, so that our wake and our sleep happen in the context of a “loving home” (verb and adjective), functioning healthily at every social scale.

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In Western Mass, we are lucky. We live in a place that values things like parks, nature, libraries. We live in a culture that at least in theory values community, friendships, grass-roots cultural expression.

Not everyone is that lucky, and that is the if… And, we are not that lucky IF we don’t use the freedom that we do have, or allow the institutions and relationships that support that “free” to decline or dissolve.

Free things:

Fresh air – We keep it free by keeping the air clean, free from particulate pollution for example, by law is our only option, ethics won’t compel correction of auto exhaust, or in New England woodheat exhaust.

Sunlight – We keep it free also by keeping the environment clean. Recently, we’ve had ozone depletion problems that caused an ozone hole to make sunlight unsafe for any residing above 60 degrees north latitude, or even for anyone elsewhere but not as severely. That is a quandry, as we need sunlight to replenish our Vitamin D stores through our skin. Our ecology and our bodies are intimately connected and respond to many of the same toxicities.

Fresh water – We keep fresh water free also by environmental efforts. We really can’t confidently drink directly from rivers or even streams now, due to both industrial and agricultural pollution, but also contamination of streams by girardia and other parasitical organisms. Fresh water is quickly becoming an economic good (available only through purchase) in many parts of the world. In currently arid regions (expanding since the last ice age) there is limited fresh water. In many developing (or not) nations, due mostly to poverty now, there is insufficient water purification available and fresh water is scarce and expensive. The issue won’t go away, and is likely to be a critical and driving political and social issue in the new century.

Room to move – IF we plan for parks and wilds, and well-designed urban environments, then we have room to move, otherwise we are industrial cattle. Also, if we demand conformity from our neighbors, then we also function like cattle (industrial or just herds).

Wilds (free for us and for animals)

Friendships – Only if we make the effort to start and keep friendships strong and fun.

Family – Only if we make the effort to keep family relationships supportive, strong and fun.

Parks – Only if our municipalities maintain them, and maintain them as free for citizens.

Libraries – Only if our muncipalities fund them, and if citizens volunteer.

Discussion – Only if there are free or inexpensive venues, people organizing and arranging discussion and/or speakers, and if we as citizens maintain an ethic of willingly listening to diverse perspective.

Education – Free if your young. Only IF schools are sufficiently funded and skillfully staffed and managed. We can educate each other if we chose and someone were motivated to organize it. (A role for libraries).

Music – Only if songs remain in the public domain. Its odd that I can’t sing happy birthday (and get paid for it in some respect) without paying a royalty on the song. Or, “This Land is Your Land”. The land is “mine” per the song, but the right to play the song in public isn’t.

And, only if we as citizens gather, share, sing and jam.

Sleep – This is my favorite free good. I can do it anywhere. Though, I might get arrested in the wrong places. (I once fell asleep outside of a McDonalds on the third day of a 300 mile bike ride, and they turned the sprinklers on me).

Some things that aren’t free are:

Food

Shelter

Healthcare

Transportation

Heat

Electricity (even from solar and wind)

Commercial modes of entertainment (even TV, you pay for in giving your attention to commercials)

Vacations

Power

 

Its not necessarily a disaster if somethings that were formerly free shifted to economic goods. But, it is usually a disaster as the distribution of income is so jaded, leaving too many without access to minimum necessities. Water for example, will be a critical economic good of the 21st century. We can only live maybe a week without  water. That is a very short time frame that the supply chain of fresh water must be universally supported.

Are we innovating in truth? Are we anticipating social problems and skillfully dealing with them before they become critical?

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