It is revolutionary, intellectually-speaking, to point out that the European Enlightenment – especially the suite of political ideals (liberty, equality, democracy)) that are still aspirational for most societies – was inspired by early European encounters with indigenous/native American thinkers. This is the argument that David Wengrow and the late David Graeber make in the first chapters of The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity; tracing Enlightenment ideas about liberty to the interactions of French colonial military commanders with the great Wendat (Huron) leader and thinker Kandiaronk. It is the earth-shaking first chess move in the argument that Graeber and Wengrow build throughout the rest of the book, an argument that aims to show that the conventional Western theories of the “general course of human history”:
1. Simply arenʻt true;
2. Have dire political implications;
3. Make the past needlessly dull. Continue reading “On Kandiaronk (The Rat): A Review of The Dawn of Everything”
What makes for a healthy rural community? Is there even room for such a thought in this world where it sometimes seems that any truly rural community is by definition under-developed, deficient, abandoned, lacking in dynamism, behind the curve, back-ward, almost horrifying to the sensibilities of the global capitalist elite. Its inhabitants are the subject of barely concealed scorn, or perhaps ambiguously romanticized as throwbacks to a kinder, gentler, less complex time. Either way they are not seen as full citizens and actors in the present political and economic moment, and often rural communities are seen as white savior projects – they must be saved from their truculence by some kind of development or program.
Or, if a rural area is fully integrated into the global economy, this has occurred, all too often, at the cost of its habitability. Giant fields or greenhouses tended by immigrant workers or, increasingly, robotic machinery. No one lives there. Not even the managers of workers or machinery, who commute from a nearby city perhaps. Different kinds of dystopia. Continue reading “Ramp Hollow: The Ordeal of Appalachia”
Hi everybody! I’ve been silent for a while. I’m not sure exactly why. Part of it is that I’ve been absorbed in a few projects, one of which has been standing up a resilience hub in my little town.
What is a resilience hub? It’s a kind of commons or community space: a place for people to get some help and to give some help to others. We are open three afternoons a week. We provide a free meal for whoever wants one, as long as supplies last, as well as a food bag of locally grown produce once a week. We provide access to laptops, internet, and printers, both 2-D and 3-D. We are starting a community garden. We hold classes in 3-D printing, gardening, saving/investing and calligraphy. We help people to access resources on the internet.
The hub is funded by Vibrant Hawai’i, a local non-profit, and our local Buddhist temple was kind enough to let us use their hall to house the hub. All of it came together, somehow, in confusion, haste, optimism, and utter chaos in September as part of the response to Covid19. We struggled for the first few months. It’s hard to start an organization from scratch, even with the best intentions and a source of funding. Luckily I had terrific co-conspirators – most of them people that I had never met before but who made a perfect team. Slowly we’ve picked up support and engagement from the community. People come by and donate produce, groceries, funds, and their time almost every day. It’s becoming a bit of a hangout for teens and for old folks, and a place for bit of help for the folks struggling on the margins.
I have been a fan of Chris Smaje’s blog A Small Farm Future for a while, and it has changed the way I think about what I do for a living and what we are all doing for our livings. Smaje’s eclectic but thoughtful posts, and the lively commentary that ensues, provide all the geeky pleasures of a graduate seminar run by a fair-minded yet passionate professor. Or even more accurately, all of the geeky pleasures of a beer-fueled conversation with a deep-resumed group of agrarian thinkers from around the world. Continue reading “A Retrospective on the Prospect of a Small Farm Future”
This Thanksgiving weekend I am thankful for Julian Hoffman, who manages to be – on Twitter @JulianHoffman – a good, kind, humble person. That is a difficult thing to do in a medium that rewards controversy, snark, and self-aggrandizement. Julian Hoffman shows it does not have to be that way: that you can be supportive of other writers and Twitter users, that you can post fascinating, subtle photos and video of the natural world, that you can showcase the work of those who are standing up for and nurturing the non-human world and their local communities. With a following in the thousands, he is successful by any rational, non-toxic definition of success as well, and his internet persona is a welcome tonic to the generally low internet standard of behavior. Continue reading “Quite Possibly the Nicest Person on the Internet”
The United States made the right choice after, to paraphrase Churchill, exhausting all other options. It would have been nice if we hadn’t gone down the Trump path but perhaps it was necessary to learn some lessons the hard way. Hopefully he will soon be a distant figure in the rear view window, but before we pull away it would be wise to learn what we can from Trumpism. So here’s my post-election blog. Continue reading “Election Aftermath”
Having already voted by mail in our tiny, over-whelmingly blue state, we wait, with bated breath and knotted stomachs, for the results.
The results of Tuesday’s elections for the US president will have far-reaching impacts – around the globe and on our individual lives. The results of the Bush v. Gore election, for instance, led to wars which called my daughter’s father, a helicopter mechanic for the Army National Guard, away to long deployments on military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, and contributed, I think, to his early death. On a larger scale, the results of that millennial election meant that the US did not exercise its potential for global leadership towards lowering greenhouse gas emissions and reducing pollution, as might have happened under Gore. It is my daughter’s generation that will feel the impact of that election acutely. Continue reading “On the Eve of an Apocalyptic Election”
something right up the anima alley for the weekend from Dr. Sharon Blackie and two favorite networks: Daily Good and Moon Magazine
I will begin at the end. The last sentence in Jason Hickel’s new book is “We have everything to lose and a world to gain.” We have always had everything to lose, perhaps, but it is only relatively recently that we have, and by “we” I mean we of the so-called First World, drifted so far into a mass delusion that we no longer live in “the world.” We live off the world, enjoying lifestyles that depend on long supply chains which we barely realize exist. We have developed elaborate intellectual structures to deny that the world matters or has any standing except as a extraction site or a dump. To mainstream political and economic thinking, the world is not a factor in any discussion of goals and values. The world as foundational to our being, much less as a full subject with intrinsic value to itself, has no place in mainstream thinking. It is a resource, a dead corpse on which we feed. This is our Achilles’ heel, our fatal blind spot. It has been built into our intellectual tradition for millennia. It is our daunting task to alter that tradition, change the intellectual DNA of our civilization, and re-learn the values and aspirations that animate our daily lives. Jason Hickel’s book is an important contribution to that effort. Continue reading “Animism Reborn: A Review of Jason Hickel’s Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World”
As I was talking on the phone (about social dynamics!), I observed one of the ranch hands walk across the base-yard and put something into the new chicken run that my brother had made for his motley flock of egg-layer breed roosters the day before. My brother is indulging a long-suppressed passion for chickens. I really do not know what he was thinking buying one hundred and fifty rooster chicks even if they were only a dollar a chick. We sold some but he still has about seventy little roosters left. It turned out that what the ranch-hand threw into the baby rooster mosh-pit was a juvenile gamecock. Which is about like throwing a velociraptor in with some triceratops toddlers. Or a gladiator in with the peasants. Continue reading “Vignette”