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Help your Community, help yourself.

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Mobilized has challenged its writers to come up with some Top Ten lists that are actually useful, not just silly listicles of funny stuff.  There is a time and place for that stuff, but this site aims a bit higher.  So, here’s my first attempt.


Top Ten Ways To Be More Responsible In Your Own Community

Wow, that is a mouthful.  It’s not even a good acronym, like SPECTRE, COBRA, or CREEP.  That last one was real, by the way.  It was Pres. Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President.  In hindsight, it was one of the greatest acronym’s in history, really…  So, right off we’re gonna ditch the heading, and just go with this instead: Top Ten Ways To Not Be A Dick!

Because you see, being responsible in our community is no more or less than just being a good neighbor.  Like our momma’s taught us, if we help others then we are really helping ourselves.  Truly.  Here goes:

10. Get to know your neighbors.  I once lived in an apartment building.  After 4 years there I knew all of 3 people.  And we had muggings in broad daylight, weird trash-fires, etc.  Contrast that to a different place; the one I lived in next.  Like the first it was not in a great neighborhood, some would say it was worse.  But we had the old lady who sat by her window all day, watching goings-on; we had the racist dude who none-the-less went out in every storm to check on every dwelling and person in the ‘hood and even saved a guys life once, tons of folks like that.  And the difference was night and day.  When a lazy and incompetent Super tried to evict the old lady because she dared to call him out on his lazy incompetence, the entire ‘hood rose up and put the fear of God into him.  Once he knew his own job was on the line, he immediately rescinded her eviction notice.  That’s the power of knowing your neighbors.

9. Strength in numbers.  Like point #10, I cannot stress enough the value of finding allies.  The racist old guy who lived next door to me turned out to be quite the ally when it came time to defend my other neighbor.  Had we just ignored him, we would have lacked his loud clear voice when it was most needed.  He also brought the moral authority, (since he had lived there the longest), when it came time to shame the bad Super.  Turns out that despite the crummy words that he used all too often, his morals were actually pretty strong and his deeds were honorable.  Surprise, surprise.  So: spend your time, preferably before things get rough, getting to know folks.  They may be diamonds in the rough.

8.  Food is a common good.  It can be hard to get to know people.  Probably the best way to get to know them is slowly, over time, maybe over some meals.  In the second neighborhood I lived in, we turned our place into an ongoing open kitchen, and I do think that was the key to building up that community.  Breaking bread with strangers builds strong friendships.  And all good communities begin with friendships.

7. Support your local businesses.  Yes, I know, Amazon is cheaper and you can have a drone fly over your house and drop packages down your chimney.  Or something like that.  Does not matter.  Amazon does not live in your community.  The local mom and pop store owner does.  Their kids go to school with yours, probably.  They are the ones who need your money, not Mr. Bezos and his massive cadre of heartless executives.  They are not going to sponsor your local little league team, nor help rebuild the town square clock tower after some crazy scientist and his teenage assistant blow it up in a time-travel experiment.  You will do that, and Mr. and Mrs. Mom and Pop Grocer will do that, together.  So make your first choice the local one, whenever possible.  You are voting with every dollar you spend, so vote wisely.

6. Support your local governments.  Yeah yeah, I know, ‘down with the Police!’ and ‘down with the man!’.  I get it.  But here’s the reality – the folks who get into local government, be they cops on the beat or maybe a planning commissioner; they are actually trying help their fellow citizens.  Sure, a few of them are nakedly ambitious cretins.  But almost all of them have no real expectation of going on to a higher office, they just want to fix a problem in their community.  And it’s because of folks like them, in every town in America, that we have such a nation today.  We pass boring bond measures, and set tepid speed limits so that our kiddies won’t get run down by speeding racecars.  We have very livable cities, compared to most other nations.  That’s not an accident, it’s because people from all stripes are willing to do the dull jobs.

5. Call out Corruption whenever possible.  Boy howdy though, we do have some crooks in our cities.  My own, Oakland CA, just created a Public Ethics Commission.  Its’ first official act was to get arrested a Zoning Dept. official who they were able to prove took 47 bribes.  Mind you, they were legally only able to look backwards in time to the date the PEC was founded, so those 47 bribes were generated in about 24 months!!  So, the crook Esposito was busted but then the regular PD had to go and look into his decades of probable other previous crimes.  Ay ay ay…   Your local papers generally do a good job of finding crooks, support them.  But also, see if you can get a PEC for your town.  It can’t hurt.

4. Do good deeds.  Do favors with no thought of repayment.  When the time comes, people will step up on your behalf because you will be known as a person who gives a crap about your neighborhood.  Doing good and helping others isn’t just something for the Boy Scouts, and it does not need praise or publicity.  Think of them as paying your rent for being alive on this planet.  We are all of us pretty darn lucky in so many ways, and the least we can do is try to help someone else who isn’t as lucky.

3. Vote.  In this election, the next election, always.  Because each one really is the most important one of all time.  Not because of what the Politicians tell you; they can be ignored.  Because our democratic experiment is still in its infancy.  We are nearing 250 years old but compared to a regime such as China, (6000 years and counting), we are still children.  And as such we need to blaze a trail for others to follow.  That has been our special purpose since 1776 and we dare not fail now.  We are the light against tyranny, even if that light today is taking the form of choosing between two lackluster candidates for dog-catcher.  And for those who avoid voting so that they won’t get called for jury duty… well if you really can’t stomach that obligation then get your city to do as Washington DC did.  They switched to DMV records, a much more fair and wide pool of jurors to choose from, IMHO.  So, your exercise of your voting rights will not get punished later, by loss of work and extra hassle.

2. Support your libraries and schools.  Yes, that means voting for the next tax increase that comes down the pike, and the one after that.  Because educating all kids, not just your own, and long after your own graduate, is proven to be best for society.  America became great by investing in education, and we have slipped as a direct result of our ceasing to do so.  It’s that simple.  Smarter kids equals a stronger society, not just for you but for the next generation.  Since they are the ones who’ll care for you in your dotage, do you really want them to be dumb?  I didn’t think so.

1. Show up.  That’s it, really, the key to all of these.  Just show up.  At your local city council meetings.  At the lower-level departmental meetings where city bureaucrats routinely make horrible decisions in plain sight, because the public is not there to challenge them, or to point our their faulty logic.  Show up at rallies, especially for causes that you will not personally benefit from – – those folks will remember you and show up when YOU need them to.


What I want to say is this: if you wake up and find yourself having a good day, then you now have a goal.  That goal is to do good deeds and build community.  On the other hand, if you wake up and find the world is against you, well then again you must know that (because the world is against you) you have a goal – – do good deeds and build community.

There is no difference, you see?

 

 

 

#childrenofliberty

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Arts

Chautauquas and Lyceums and TED Talks, oh my!

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Our future is in OUR Hands

We are aiming with Mobilized to create a vibrant forum for ideas.  “Big deal”, you might say, there are already places for that.

Well, you’re not wrong.  There was, in the earliest days of the web, a loose and wild forum called The Well.  The great and powerful Google had as it’s mission the goal of “bringing all the knowledge of the world to every person”… before it pivoted to a new goal of just making money off of what it knows about us.  That change was a real pity.  There have been sites such as Wiser Earth, which aimed to be a global directory of people and non-profit organizations so that collaboration could happen on a larger scale than ever before.  It lasted about two years, sadly; not long enough to create a legacy.  Huffington Post had a good run in its’ early days, sharing ideas widely and helping to boost its’ contributors in the public’s mind.

What’s important to know, is that as of this writing, there is not really a widely recognized forum online or in ‘meat-space’.  There are print publications such as YES! magazine, Tikkun, The Sun Magazine, and The Utne Reader, all of which which reach a population of hundreds thousands.  Great, but their reach could be even more broad, in my humble opinion.  Within social media sites there are plenty of good ‘groups’ but they also don’t reach enough folks outside of their own memberships.

Probably the most popular comparable live events right now are the TED talks, which do serve a valuable purpose.  Sadly, they also tend toward the ‘Gee-Whiz‘ and the ‘Shiny New Buzzword‘ in their contents.  Mobilized really wants to focus on the proven, the existing, and the hidden.  There are already, all over, groups doing wonderful work, but too many of them are laboring in obscurity.

So, how do we do that?  Well to begin with, we’re not trying to be a technology startup.  There is no secret sauce, no fancy algorithm at work here.  Almost all the underlying code behind Mobilized is made with off-the-shelf parts, such as WordPress.  There is zero reason to re-invent the wheel, and frankly the notion that one must do so has tripped up several earlier attempts at building a successful progressive community.  We take the approach of using the tools at hand to build our house.

Secondly, we are going into the future with an eye firmly on the past.  And that leads us to the point of this essay, a look at how America became America.  We can take many lessons from the past.  One of our best ideas as a nation was the Chautauqua movement.   It had it’s heyday from the 1870’s right up until the beginning of World War II.  In part, it helped spawn a Lyceum movement, the Vaudeville traditions in the theater world; and had an effect on the earliest days of the motion-picture industry.  Here’s why it was so popular: the average person, anywhere in the land, could go to a Chautauqua when it came to their town, and engage in spirited discussion with the brightest minds of the day.  It was direct, person-to-person, and offered a mix of local and national ideas and people; presented on a rotating basis.  So ideas could be hashed out and spread rapidly.  And they did.  In no small part due to these two movements, the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age were defeated.  The Great Depression was tackled too, and along the way no less than Susan B. Anthony, Teddy Roosevelt and Mark Twain became huge fans.  No part of society could, or wanted to, ignore the notion that average people could teach other average people.

Mobilized aims to help bring that back into common understanding.  In the present era, there may well be a place for tents and lecturers setting up in farmer’s fields.  There certainly is a crying need for an educational platform that is accessible to the masses.  And now, there exist enough robust tools for us to re-create the ethos of a Chautauqua on the internet.

We, the people, when it really mattered and the stakes were high, collectively taught ourselves how to better ourselves.  Now, in every corner of the world, the stakes are once again pretty high.  It is time for a new Chautauqua movement, and this one will be truly global.  So step right up, come on inside our virtual tent.  Welcome to the show.

 

 

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CITIES

Rethinking Democracy From the Perspective of Political Ecology

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The issue of the governance of human societies immediately leads us to the issue of democracy, since the so-called democratic model is one of the pillars of modern civilization, today in crisis. Seen in historical perspective, governance — the ability to make collective decisions that are adequate to the extent that they are fair because they respond to the interests of the individuals who make them — became more complicated as societies grew in number of inhabitants and in functional complexity.

By Victor M. Toledo, originally published by Resilience.org

Ed.note: This piece originally appeared in Spanish in La Jornada, December 1, 2020

Translation into English by Jane K. Brundage

The issue of the governance of human societies immediately leads us to the issue of democracy, since the so-called democratic model is one of the pillars of modern civilization, today in crisis. Seen in historical perspective, governance — the ability to make collective decisions that are adequate to the extent that they are fair because they respond to the interests of the individuals who make them — became more complicated as societies grew in number of inhabitants and in functional complexity.

In the first extractive and agrarian societies, which make up 99 percent of the history of the human species, governance was carried out in a direct and balanced way. Governance began to become problematic with the appearance of the first cities, the State, class society and the diversity of work tasks. The democratic model, which according to E. Dussel was born not in Greece, but in Egypt and other Mediterranean cities, was defined as the power of the people in order to differentiate it from the various autocratic or despotic forms.

Today, modern governance in non-autocratic societies is generally synonymous with institutional, representative, electoral, formal or bourgeois democracy, in which decisions are made by representatives who are distantly elected by vote and usually through political parties. A good part of Western thought has forgotten or concealed the existence of another democracy, which was prior to the representative one, and which can be described as direct, participatory, radical or local. Four thousand years later, it continues to exist essentially among the planet’s 7,000 villages of indigenous peoples. Today, in the presence of the crisis of modernity, it resurfaces as the basic cell for constructing an innovative governance scheme that runs up the scale from the local to the global.

Today, the supreme and greatest challenge for contemporary science is to contribute to overcoming the crisis in which the modern world is plunged and to offer clarifications, clues, alternatives. The ineffectiveness of electoral or representative democracy as a way of reaching consensus and above all,  as a way of offering solutions to the phenomena of social injustice and the deterioration and depredation of nature, requires study and research. Modern democratic systems are also highly expensive. In Mexico, the National Electoral Institute (INE) will spend a budget of 12,493 million pesos in 2021 to organize elections and sponsor political parties.

In this context, because its long civilizational history has left a current legacy of 25 million Mexicans who identify themselves as indigenous and live in thousands of traditional communities, the Mexican case provides numerous living examples of a radical and participatory democracy. There are innumerable examples in the territory, especially in those regions where an inextricable relationship survives between culture and nature, together with a vigorous defense of communal territories.

This is the case in the state of Oaxaca, where 80 percent of its 570 municipalities elect their authorities directly. Likewise, the neozapatista caracoles[1] in the state of Chiapas, and the most recent processes of self-management and self-defense in the municipalities of Cherán[2], state of Michoacán; Oxcub, Chiapas, and Cacahuatepec and Ayutla de los Libres, state of Guerrero. By the same token, keep in mind the actions of the self-defense groups of Michoacán, a project frustrated by the power of the State, and the community police still serving in 920 towns and communities within 51 of the 81 municipalities in Guerrero.

All these experiences have been ignored, vilified, despised and repressed by the national system, because they contain the seeds of a profound transformation in the ways of governing. Their subversive power extends and multiplies beyond the local and acquires regional dimensions. In the Sierra Norte de Puebla, about 250 Nahua and Totonaca communities have held regional assemblies since 2014 (they have 30) with thousands of participants in defense of their territories, their forests, their springs and their mountains. Representative democracy, which maintains and conceals social exploitation and exploitation of the natural world, is under siege.

These reflections were shared by this writer speaking at the program “Rethinking Democracy in the Current World”, organized by the UNAM [National Autonomous University of Mexico]. It was a very successful event owing to the quality of the speakers and the number of those who followed the conferences virtually (ours was attended by more than 20,000 people.

For Dr. José Manuel Mireles, hero and martyr, for a true democracy.

+   +   +

Translator’s notes:

[1] Caracol is the Spanish word for conch shell — long used by Mexico’s indigenous peoples in ritual ceremonies. Blown into, they emit an unmistakable, hauntingly plaintiff tone that, once heard, is never forgotten. In the autonomous Zapatista communities of Mexico, caracol is the name given to its organizational regions, created in 2003 to replace the earlier organizational structure, Aguascalientes [Hot Waters]. Formed in 1995, the objective of Aguascalientes was to serve as contact points between Zapatista communities and other cultures in Mexico, and with cultures in the outside world. The Zapatista Caracoles were formed following a period of extensive discussion about the necessity of changing the traditional relation between Zapatista communities and other Mexican communities, and between Zapatista communities and the outside world.

 

In that sense, the objective of the caracoles is similar to its antecedent. In the Zapatistas’ own words, to be “windows for us to see ourselves, and for us to look outside” with “horns [ie, conch shells, in the sense of loudspeakers] to get our word out and to listen to those who are far away.” Source: Los Caracoles ZapatistasRaúl Romero, La Jornada, August 17, 2019.   (Spanish)

[2] Cherán, an indigenous community|municipality located on the Purhépecha Meseta [Highlands] in western Michoacán, is a remarkable story of community resilience, resistance, persistence and triumph over seemingly overwhelming odds. It is all the more remarkable for having been initiated and driven by the community’s women and young people. Here’s a good review at the 5-year marker: Mexico Indigenous: Cherán Celebrates 5 Years of Autonomy and Dignity.

Source: Resilience

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A Smarter Conversation

How localization leads to optimal health and well-being, hope and happiness.

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At a time of rapid change, there is a better way forward. A path that leads to optimal health and well-being, hope and happiness. 

Localization.

As globalization and consolidation has changed many of the ways we live and work, it has also contributed to the depletion of resources, on-going pandemics and crises and human suffering.

For four decades, Local Futures has revitalized  communities and local economies around the world

Mobilized spent about one hour speaking with the visionary founder of Local Futures to the ideas into action for a better way forward.

“A new human story founded on connection and diversity is emerging. It’s called localization.”

Helena Norberg-Hodge, Founder and Director is the founder and director of Local Futures/ISEC. A pioneer of the ‘new economy’ movement, she has been promoting an economics of personal, social and ecological well-being for more than forty years. She is the producer and co-director of the award-winning documentary The Economics of Happiness, and the author of several books, including Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh, described as “an inspirational classic”, and most recently Local is Our Future. She was honored with the Right Livelihood Award (or ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’) for her groundbreaking work in Ladakh, and received the Goi Peace Prize for contributing to “the revitalization of cultural and biological diversity, and the strengthening of local communities and economies worldwide.”

 


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