What I Learned in Detroit
At the United States Social Forum in Detroit I concentrated on three areas: reclaiming the commons, organic farms and the end of mountaintop removal. My idea was that this trinity of issues make a revolutionary combination.
Reclaiming the commons - taking back into public ownership the air, water, parks, schools and much of government from the privatizing take-over begun by Ronald Reagan, is already underway. Commons-defense is often couched in liberal NPR-like soft-focus rhetoric, but can be an effective bullwork against corporate capitalism. The expansion by Wall Street each quarter mandates a broad attack on the natural world (often commonly owned only in theory, like “the sky”). The one-way extraction can be from the ocean beyond the national 200 mile limit or deep in the interior of our individual psyches. From first nations people to government financial regulators – we are now resisting. With new limits, corporate capitalism can no longer expand. It must change or die.
Organic farming is on the upswing in the United States. For the first time in 40 years we have more farms now than we had a year ago. Small farms begun by young couples or groups of friends, often without farming as an inherited skill is making the difference. The economy that results is the non-corporate and locally sensitive culture of food. The farmer’s market and roadside trading undermines chain stores like Whole Foods. Of course, the sheer health that this personally-raised minimally-shipped food allows in its customers – results in radical clear thinking!
Removing mountaintop removal would end a domestic terror-war and the political corruption that has kept this violence going for decades. It would bring democracy to Appalachia, corrupted so thoroughly by big coal. For the West Virginians and Kentuckians in our choir, the end of the bombing of old peaks means breaking the siege on their loved one’s communities, the end of asthma in children and all the cancers from selenium, magnesium, chromium, arsenic, etc. released by the bombs. For The Church of Life After Shopping, this breakthrough must come at least partly from America’s consuming of power: We must make visible the light, heat and air conditioning of our invisible consumption. This would be a great (and very difficult) step forward for our longtime anti-consumption project…
The commons, the food and the energy. This trinity of issues interacts to set a course that is driven by a fierce common sense. Americans know that corporations will not look out for their families or communities. And we know that corporations do not cause prosperity if they are allowed to devour alternative cultures. And we have learned the hard way that profit motives do not necessarily serve our self-interest. But the public commons allows the play and mix of people in the way that a healthy eco-system fills up with life. The farmers will tell you that life on earth responds to our seeding and tending with its intimate power.
And the mountains are a good place to take a long walk after my workshops in Detroit. Much thanks to the many people who worked on the US Social Forum this year.