Thursday, 31 May 2012

I have just been awoken to the newness of every moment, and with that the challenge to ‘be worthy of what is happening’. I do not wholly create what is happening. But by my experience of it, very much connected with partnering with my body to balance out my dominating mind, I can transform reality from the routine drudgery of everyday, to the gift of the unknown that it truly is. If I were to judge or assess it as I usually do in terms of my hopes and fears, my pleasures and pains, then I miss the revelation of the moment in which I am already saved, no matter what my circumstance. Paradoxically I continue to struggle for freedom from oppression in every sphere but with the joy of wholeness the only barrier is my own resistance to what is.


Monday, 28 May 2012

Open letter mainstream English media Montreal
Thank you; you are a little late to the party, and you are still missing the mark a lot of the time, but in the past few days, you have published some not entirely terrible articles and op-eds about what’s happening in Quebec right now. Welcome to our movement.
Some of you have even started mentioning that when people are rounded up and arrested each night, they aren’t all criminals or rioters. Some of you have admitted that perhaps limiting our freedom of speech and assembly is going a little bit too far. Some of you are no longer publishing lies about the popular support that you seemed to think our government had. Not all of you, mind you, but some of you are waking up.
That said, here is what I have not seen you publish yet: stories about joy; about togetherness; about collaboration; about solidarity. You write about our anger, and yes, we are angry. We are angry at our government, at our police and at you. But none of you are succeeding in conveying what it feels like when you walk down the streets of Montreal right now, which is, for me at least, an overwhelming sense of joy and togetherness.
News coverage of Quebec almost always focuses on division: English vs. French; Quebec-born vs. immigrant; etc. This is the narrative that has shaped how people see us as a province, whether or not it is fair. But this is not what I feel right now when I walk down the street. At 8pm, I rush out of the house with a saucepan and a ladle, and as I walk to meet my fellow protesters, I hear people emerge from their balconies and the music starts. If you do not live here, I wish I could properly convey to you what it feels like; the above video is a start. It is magic. It starts quietly, a suggestion here and there, and it builds. Everybody on the street begins to smile. I get there, and we all—young and old, children and students and couples and retirees and workers and weird misfits and dogs and, well, neighbours—we all grin the widest grins you have ever seen while dancing around and making as much noise as possible. We are almost ecstatic with the joy of letting loose like this, of voicing our resistance to a government that seeks to silence us, and of being together like this.
I have lived in my neighbourhood for five years now, and this is the most I have ever felt a part of the community; the lasting impact that these protests will have on how people relate to each other in the city is deep and incredible. I was born and raised in Montreal, and I have always loved this city, I have always told people that it is the best city in the world, but I have truly never loved it as much as I do right now.
The first night that I went to a casseroles (pots and pans) demonstration, at the centre of the action—little children ecstatically blowing whistles, a young couple handing out extra pots and pans to passers-by, a yoga teacher who paused his class to have everyone join—I saw a bemused couple, banging away, but seemingly confused about something. When we finished, they asked me, “how did you find us?” I replied that I had checked the map that had been posted online of rendez-vous spots, and theirs was the nearest to my house. “Last night we were all alone,” they told me. They had no idea it had been advertized online. This is what our revolution looks like: someone had clearly ridden around our neighbourhood, figured out where people were protesting, and marked them for the rest of us. This is a revolution of collaboration. Of solidarity.
The next night the crowd had doubled. Tonight we will be even more.
I come home from these protests euphoric. The first night I returned, I sat down on my couch and I burst into tears, as the act of resisting, loudly, with my neighbours, so joyfully, had released so much tension that I had been carrying around with me, fearing our government, fearing arrest, fearing for the future. I felt lighter. Every night, I exchange stories with friends online and find out what happened in their neighbourhoods. These are the kinds of things we say to each other: “if I loved my city any more right now, my heart would burst.” We use the word “love” a whole lot. We feel empowered. We feel connected. We feel like we are going to win.
Why don’t you write about this? This incredible feeling? Another example I can give you is this very blog. Myself and a few friends began it as a way of disseminating information in English about what was happening here in Quebec, and within hours, literally hours, volunteers were writing me offering to help. Every day, people submit translations to me anonymously; I have no idea who they are, they just want to do something. They come from everywhere. They translate what they think is important to get out there into the world. People email me corrections, too. They email me advice. They email me encouragement. This blog runs on solidarity and utter human kindness.
This is what Quebec looks like right now. Every night is teargas and riot cops, but it is also joy, laughter, kindness, togetherness, and beautiful music. Our hearts are bursting. We are so proud of each other; of the spirit of Quebec and its people; of our ability to resist, and our ability to collaborate.
Why aren’t you writing about this? Does joy not sell as well as violence? Does collaboration not sell as well as confrontation? You can have your cynicism; our revolution is sincere.
The Administrator of Translating the printemps érable.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Draft European Charter of the Commons

 The Problem 
  1.  There is an immediate and urgent need to defend the commonwealth of Europe from the all pervasive economic logic that is producing crisis and social suffering. 
  2.  A true commonwealth of Europe is possible only by means of constitutional safeguards of the commons through a direct participatory process. 
  3.  A severe imbalance of global power favoring the unaccountable corporate sector over public institutions has produced in Europe an unsustainable transfer of authority from the public to the private sector, which serves the profit of the few over the interests of the many. 
  4.  State and corporate interests are today concurring in an incremental process of enclosure of the commons, limiting common spaces, turning the citizens into individualized consumers, in a constant and apparently irresistible process of commodification of nature, culture and heritage. 
  5.  It is impossible to address the increasing European democratic deficit through an intergovernmental cession of State sovereignty, because the current power ratio, the collusion between the private and public sectors, between state and market actors, precludes national elected officials to represent the common interests of the people. 
  6.  The people hereby through this Charter take direct responsibility in building our European commonwealth on local, national and supranational levels. 
 The Vision 
  1.  The commons must be rediscovered and fully appreciated as collective goods or services to which access is necessary for a balanced fulfillment of the fundamental needs of the people. 
  2.  All natural and social resources that the people, in their different contexts, create, recognize and claim as commons must be governed in the logic of access and not of exclusion, of quality of relationship rather than quantitative logic, which places the commons at the center of political organization. 
  3.  It is necessary that the commons are understood not only as living resources, such as forests, biodiversity, water, glaciers, seabeds, shores, energy, knowledge and cultural goods, but also as organized public services, such as schools, healthcare facilities, and transportation. 
  4.  The interest and ability of future generations to equal access the commons must always be taken into consideration in any kind of public or private decision affecting them. 
  5.  All the commons, no matter if publicly or privately owned, shall be endowed with a model of governance that rejects the principle of profit and embraces that of care, reproduction and sustainability. 
  6.  The Charter shall include a Europe- wide catalogue of the commons to be updated regularly because the commons, not being a mere commodity, are a highly dynamic social institution changing in time and space. 
  7.  Such catalogue must be integral part of a Constitutional process, based on the irreversibility of ecological legal protection, eventually to be granted constitutional status as heritage of Europe in trust for future generations. 
 The Demand 
  1.  Privatization and liberalization of public services to private competition, just like expropriation of private property, must occur only when there is a documented public interest, declared by law and subject to judicial supervision of both national and European Courts. 
  2.  In the exceptional cases in which privatization may occur, there must be full compensation, recognized and guaranteed ex ante to restore the commons. 
  3.  Everybody can always access the courts of law to protect the commons by mean of injunctive relief. 
  4.  Only the direct, constitutional protection of the commons can guarantee a new, correct balance between the public and the private sector. 
  5.  An immediate moratorium on all privatization and liberalization of the commons must be introduced in order to allow the making of a legitimate Charter of the Commons. 
  6.  A Directive should be issued to all member states to provide for the protection of the commons according to the above. 
  7.  We hereby require the Commission to transform this popular citizen’s initiative into a new form of legitimate and democratic European Constitutional Law. The Commission must take all the necessary steps in order for the European Parliament, to be elected in 2014, to be granted Constitutional Assembly Status in order to adopt a Constitution of the Commons. 

Political Economy and the Inclusive Commons - James B. Quilligan

House of Commons Portcullis House
London, 8 May 2012

It is an honor to be a guest in this august body, the House of Commons.
I’m sure that you don’t need an outsider to come in here and tell you about English history, but I would like to remind you about the meaning of this word, commons.
In the beginning was the common. People hunted and gathered on the common to meet their needs. Like all species, human beings inhabited familiar territories in their vicinity, but these were communal to their family or tribe, not owned by particular persons. People took the commons for granted because their was no reason not to.
Yes, many, many times people fought over their spaces, but for the most part, each person shared their own little corner of the world with friends and family. We would not be here today if our ancestors had been driven only by a ‘selfish gene’ — if they had not shared their commons and destroyed themselves. For them, the commons were simply the economics of human need and replenishment.
Eventually, in areas like Egypt, Persia, Phoenicia, Carthage and Greece, a small private or business sphere began to evolve alongside a larger public or governmental sphere. By the time of Ancient Rome, society was becoming differentiated between private, public, and common interests. In the face of these private and governmental sectors, the commons needed legal justification to  remain relevant.
The Roman Justinian Code of 533 AD  declared, “The law of nature is that which she has taught all animals; a law not peculiar to the human race, but shared by all living creatures, whether denizens of the air, the dry land, or the sea”.
In Britain, King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215, and in 1217 the Charter of the Forest was signed by his son, King Henry III. It declared the royal forests as common land that could be enjoyed and used by all citizens, including serfs and vassals. But during the 16th and 17th centuries, the English commons began to be privatized or enclosed. These enclosures began with the common meadows used for hay, the common land used to graze livestock, and the arable farmland used to grow food.
By the late 19th century, after 4000 acts of Parliament, over 98% of the agricultural land in England and Wales was owned by less than 1% of the population. During the past several centuries, the privatization of common land has become a familiar story across the world.
What happens when private owners are granted legal titles to common properties and enclosure becomes a  primary driver of wealth creation in the world economy?
Let’s make a brief review of the enclosure of the commons.
Commoners are forcibly displaced from the forests, streams and fields they had once considered  inalienable through customary law.
Commodities become detached from their real value as gifts beyond price.
The personal use value of things is transformed into commercial exchange value.
Cooperation, altruism and mutuality are displaced by reciprocity, calculation and utility.
The State emerges to protect private  property and defend the homeland through legally sanctioned violence against those who challenge private ownership.
Civil law replaces customary or moral law.
The world becomes increasingly mechanical and decontextualized.
Access to nature is restricted. • Society is divided into creditors and debtors. • Exchange takes place through a currency based on bank debt.
Interest charges promote competition and encourage perpetual growth.
Commercial exchange expands.
Alienability becomes marketability.
Common faith and community bonds deteriorate.
The significance of tradition and culture is diminished.
Morality and natural law become a matter of self- interest and personal choice.
Material wealth and poverty exist side by side.
The commons is no longer the economics of sufficiency and replenishment.
The commons is now the economics of scarcity and consumption.
Today, we vaguely recall this social history of the enclosures of the commons.
But how were these developments rationalized by science, political science and economic theory? In classical physics and chemistry, systems were regarded as the sum of their component parts. Applying this principle to human beings, philosopher John Locke viewed the person as a mental substance and the body as its material property. This created a kind of atomism or reductionism in liberal social thinking, where individuals are thought to be comprised of preferences and assets. Enlightenment thinkers began to teach that these preferences and assets are in constant interchange among people through their social relationships. They applied this liberal version of metaphysics to the liberal vision of society.
In the political sphere, the mind of government (through policies and institutions) coordinates the body politic (through votes and taxes). Similarly, economics is conceived as a mechanistic system — the minds of producers coordinate the supply (of property and material resources) to meet the demand of consumers’ bodies (through their utility and happiness).
This should sound familiar. It’s the basis of today’s consumer society. We consume what we need. But  the economics of human need has failed us. By focusing on consumption, economics has neglected the rest of the cycle: we consume what we need, but this also means that we consume to be replenished. Yes, as individuals, we are replenishing ourselves through consumption. But individual consumption is not replenishing society. And individual consumption is certainly not replenishing nature. This is the legacy of the enclosure of the commons.
For generations our resources have been under assault from global market forces, regional and national policy development, and inadequate legal recognition of common property rights. We’re drilling for oil in the oceans, releasing vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, patenting the genes necessary to cure diseases, privatizing water, and claiming seeds as its intellectual property. The private sector now penetrates segments of society that we had previously considered off-limits to commercial interests. Public education, scientific research, philanthropy, art, health care, prisoner rehabilitation, roads, bridges have ceased to be public or commons spaces but are now under private control.
Why? Because this is an expression of individual freedom and creates economic growth.
We’re told that we’re being old-fashioned by clinging to the archaic forms of the past — like the commons — since modern society advances only through growth. Yet we are recognizing that the benefits of perpetual economic growth are not compensating for the vast damages and risks they create — from social insecurity, global warming, ecological degradation and species loss to hunger, poverty, debt and financial meltdown.
We’re also realizing that neither the private sphere nor government provision and distribution — which created these problems to begin with — are capable of solving them. Business has adopted the idea that it is meeting human needs by selling private goods to individual consumers. Government has adopted the idea that it is meeting human needs by regulating and provisioning public goods to individual citizens.
But who is responsible for preserving our common goods?
Who is responsible for replenishing what is consumed?
Who is creating the collective will for sustainability?
The economics of human need must be  broadened to encompass the sustainability of the commons. But who is creating this new economics of replenishment? Look at our divisive political world. We divided ourselves by ideologies that focus upon the social good, or ideologies which focus more on individual rights. But all of those who have chosen to champion a particular view of either the social good or of individual rights have generated an enormous political polarity.
This duality between the ideals of social equality and political freedom discourages personal and social reconciliation, the transformation of our communities and the creation of a commons-based economy. When the individual is set in competition with the whole of society, the moral will and creativity of the people are suppressed. Mind and body are seen as separate units. Our being is split from our actions. Our common purpose is lost. This is why Western Liberalism is in crisis. We have not fully understood that the society which sees itself as an inevitable polarity between the social good and individual rights destroys the forms of life that are rooted in the commons. Capitalism is failing because it does not recognize the need for creating and maintaining the commons. This has left us starved for the equality and freedom which express the interrelatedness of human life and which can arise only through our commons.
Recall that the system of privitization did not begin with Mrs. Thatcher. It began in Ancient Rome. If we take the long view of things, one could say that the Roman Empire was never really defeated until the end of World War II and the demise of the Nazi regime. But Rome is reviving itself now through the Market State. This phenomenon called the Market State has been defined by both Philip Bobbitt and Phillip Blonde.
It is the confluence of business and government that we have been witnessing since the 1970s. Market State describes what seems like a role reversal over the past forty years between the private and public sectors. Indeed, the business community has now taken up many of the social and cultural responsibilities that were formerly the concern of government, such as policing power, prisons, social problems, environment, personal health, public and adult education, and the fostering of culture through finance.
And the state has embraced market dynamics and corporate principles of efficiency and management to a greater degree than before, marginalizing the role of representative government. Where is the voice of non-dualism today? Who is speaking for a genuine Third Way?
Unlike the Market State, the commons cannot be coordinated by some ultimate authority exercising control through a unified command structure, the social hierarchy of private property, the division of labor and the enclosure of what belongs to everyone. Rather, the commons express the massive, heterogeneous forces of society and the common responsibility of people to protect and sustain their valuable common goods. Without a sense of the indivisibility of human existence, the modern ideologies of collective rights and individual rights are both devoid of the realization that we take part in a variety of commons which are the source of our livelihood and well-being.
The commons recognize the dichotomy between individuals as the sum of their desires and ends (through the common good) and the individual being who is free to make choices independent of those desires and ends (as in individual rights). The commons movement brings them together as a consciously organized third sector that can create a more beneficial balance in economics and society. The commons are resources which people self-organize through their own production and governance. These commons — involving social, cultural, intellectual, digital, solar, natural, genetic and material resources — are now being rediscovered and rapidly becoming a potent counterforce to the Market State. The commons offer a unique form of non-dualism — a way of integrating the individual with the collective, the self with the whole.
We are now recognizing that our Beloved Commons are both the state of individual being and the collective state of the world. But what happens to the liberal ideals of freedom represented by the invisible hand of the market, and equality and justice represented by our social contract with  government? The self-organization and rule-based production of a commons is a grassroots application of the principles of freedom and equality which are idealized but imperfectly expressed through modern free markets and state-enforced justice. We are expressing freedom and equality  far more directly through the commons. This freedom and equality arise through the production and governance of the commons, which express the principles of pluralism, polycentrism, subsidiarity, checks and balances, and horizontalist decision-making.
This new social dynamic — arising from the shared values and meanings of people’s life-experiences in the  organization and production of their commons —includes but transcends the market and state, thus bringing people a new form of political power. People across the world are creating commons trust and social charters. We’re developing new forms of co-production and co-governance. Open source models of self-organisation and value creation are inspiring communities in innovative ways.
We’re learning that the commons are not just resources but the set of relationships they create, including  the communities that use them, and the cultural and social practices and property regimes that manage them. Unlike Moses coming down from the mountain with his tablet proclaiming the laws of God, there is no prophet of the commons holding a set of immutable principles that we can say are universal laws.
Yet there are some guidelines that many of us are following which seems to reflect the evolution of human  civilisation in the 21st century.
We are Co-creators of Nature
By Creating this Shared Environment, we Participate in our own Culture
Through this Creative Cooperation, Resource Users become the Producers of their own Resources
Cooperation between Users and Producers is the Practice of Stewardship
The Social and Political Expression of Stewardship is Trusteeship
Trusteeship of the Commons Transforms the Ownership Structures of Modern Society
Co-produced and Co-governed Commons Generate Sources of Value which Transcend the Marketplace and Government
Commons Value is the basis of a Debt-Free Monetary System
A Commons-Based Society results from our Collective Intentions for Sustainability
The Economics of the Commons is Replenishment
What does this mean — that the commons is the economics of replenishment?
In our present view, we consume what we need. But this economics of human need has failed us. By focusing on consumption, economics has neglected the rest of the cycle: we consume to be replenished. As individuals, we are replenishing ourselves through consumption. But our consumption is not replenishing society — and it is not replenishing nature.
As I said earlier, business has adopted the idea that it is meeting human needs by selling private goods  to individual consumers. Government has adopted the idea that it is meeting human needs by regulating and provisioning public goods to individual citizens. But who is responsible for preserving our common goods? Who is responsible for replenishing what is consumed?
Who is creating collective intentions for sustainability? Friends, the House of Commons took its name to remind the public that civil law emerged from common law. I understand this to be a promise by the Government to honour the people and their right to the resources of this nation.
It’s time that our leaders broaden the economics of human need to encompass the commons, not just in the United Kingdom and the Western World, but in all nations.
What would this future look like?
The only institutions capable of managing replenishment are commons trusts. The primary purpose of commons trusts is the regeneration of resources for future generations. This will lead to a new global monetary system, using commons resources for its reserve assets. The commons will lead to sustainability rates that replace our present interest rates. They will lead to the development of new ways of financing replenishment, including the development of Commons Wealth Funds which invest in the commons trusts which preserve our resources.
The commons will lead to peer-to-peer job creation, in which the users of resources become the producers of those resources, creating innovative forms of employment. It is our collective responsibility to replenish what is consumed. The commons must be created and sustained for the benefit of everyone. Now is the time to manifest abundance in our world, to manifest the processes needed to ensure that our  commons are used wisely and sustainably, so that everyone will get  their needs met today, tomorrow and hundreds of years into the future.
The non-dualism of individual rights and the social good is teaching us how to rebuild our commons, create collective intentions for the planet based on sustainability and restore the peace and tranquillity of the world.
The liberal economics of consumption has failed us.
The commons is the economics of replenishment.

Saturday, 5 May 2012


THIS IS NOT ATHENS: A Sketch: It is the morning after, and dawn finds me still hanging around here, disoriented, between the smoldering ashes, eyes burning, stomach chur...