Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"Getting Free"

I'm reading a book, by James Herod, called Getting Free: Creating an Association of Democratic Autonomous Neighborhoods. You can read it, and others online, download a .pdf copy or send the author some money and get a real copy.

Getting Free is an excellent expostulation of the principles of local anarchist organization via neighborhood assemblies and associations of assemblies, as I have explained here and elsewhere and which I proposed in a run for Borough Assembly in Fairbanks, Alaska, and promoted in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Herod has very clearly outlined the principles of such anti-capitalist organization, and steps to get from here to there. I have yet to read the other works on his web site, but they look to offer equal promise. I'm a little bit concerned, as the copyright date on the web site is 2007 and he hasn't answered my email query. Time will tell.

Be that as it may... I'm a bit older now than when I ran for Borough Assembly and perhaps a bit.. well, older will have to do. I'm not sure if I'm wiser or just more cynical.

I've come to the realization, through life experience, gentle prodding by wiser comrades and lucky slaps up side the head, that most people in this world just don't want to take more control over their own lives. To use a Rule of Thumb devised by my wife Jean and I, about 10% of the people in our world are concerned with the world around them and care to do much of anything about it. The 10% rule seems to apply whether it's attendance at our Homeowner's Association, our Live Oak Neighbors gatherings or support for preservation of our local greenbelt.

This is not to say that it cannot be otherwise. There is no "Human Nature" carved in stone, hanging over each and every one of our heads, forcing us to be this way. Individuals in this society are this way because this is how they are taught to be. (Notice how I say "they." For some reason, Jean and I escaped this conditioning. I suspect there are a few others... 10% I might guess.)

It is a chicken and egg thing, though. Our society is formed by the way we are, which teaches children how to be human beings in our society. It seems like an inescapable spiral.

However, our society didn't get this way overnight, and it cannot change to another form overnight. It takes time, perseverance, vision and dedication. This is where we come in.

Gandhi said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." Ram Dass told us, "Be here now." Castaneda described the life of the impeccable warrior. It's all the same thing. We each change the world we live in now, so that our life is moving toward a desired state. We remove ourselves from capitalist employment. We engage in and support neighborhood cooperatives, neighborhood assemblies, democratic decision-making. We withdraw our energy and cooperation from oppressive, capitalist institutions.

We work to build a better world here and now, not at some distant place and time. Our actions do not depend on the actions of others.

We have a finite number of decisions to make in the remainder of our lives. We live to make each decision count.

In times of great change, those who stay the same are left behind.

Firing the Nanny

Here's a fellow contemplating moving to the uS from Canada. He's understandably nervous about living in the Police State, with considerable justification.

We uS frogs have been boiled slowly by the militarized constabulary. We've slowly been acculturated to the security apparatus, first at airports, then, increasingly, everywhere else. Homeland Security has inserted its tentacles everywhere, into every orifice that might conceivably harbor subversive thought and action.

This is not to say that we do not appreciate and value our local police, even though they are increasingly falling under the thrall of the Homeland Security beast. Our local police are still our neighbors, friends and relatives. They still share our streets and sidewalks, shop in our stores, gather for our cultural events. Here in Santa Cruz, the chief spokesman for the police department, Zack Friend, (no kidding... really!) performs in a monthly stand-up comedy show.

The Police State does not arise from within, it is imposed from without, in the form of federal money dangled in front of local police departments starving for money to run their departments. With the money comes training, and with training comes indoctrination. So the Police State grows.

Somewhere along the line, we gave up the idea of local control, of local decision-making, of taking responsibility for our own communities, our own neighborhoods, our own lives. We've turned our lives over to the Central Nannies, in the form of City, County, State and federal government bureaucracies, giving them the power to make decisions for us, giving up our power to control our own lives as fully involved, democratic decision-makers.

The answer, of course, is to organize locally in neighborhood assemblies to determine for ourselves our neighborhood problems and what we want to do about them. Some people call it anarchy, I call it democracy.

I don't know if it's possible to organize ourselves in such a form, now that everyone is used to being cared for by the state. It seems we've lost the ability to take care of ourselves, or at least the will to make the effort.

But then, how will we know unless we try?