Back in the U.S. of A
After spending 3 ½ months in Thailand and Malaysia, I landed back in San Francisco on the ninth of March. Much as I like the Asian tropics for their interesting diversity of cultures, great food, and low cost of living, I felt a combination of things that were at once pushing me out and pulling me back. On the push side, I can mention a few annoyances like the heat and humidity, and the noise. Much of the noise is generated by motorbikes, which are everywhere (I get the sense that if you left your front door open, they’d drive right through your living room). On the pull side, I must also admit that a certain amount of travel weariness had set in, and I was beginning to entertain thoughts of a more settled life in a sustainable community.
On the flight back from Asia, one of the entertainment selections was the film, Precious. Having watched the Academy Awards ceremonies on television a few nights before, I was curious to see what there was in this film that might have made it worthy of consideration, and of the performance that was deemed to be the winner for best supporting actress.
I found the film hard to watch at first, but as the story developed, I found myself totally enthralled by it. Precious is a heart-wrenching and stark portrayal of life in-the-raw, the kind of film one does not enjoy so much as marvel at, a glimpse into a world of exclusion, poverty, abuse, and dependence that exists right here is the midst of our own cities. It’s also a story of transcendence and heroic overcoming against incredible odds.
Just three weeks later, while hanging out at Harbin Hot Springs, I came across the book (originally called Push) which the movie was based on. It was just sitting there on a table in the library. How could I NOT pick it up? The book, even more gritty and wrenching than the film, is a novel based on the author’s experiences as a literacy teacher in New York City. You can read about it and a hear a 5 minute interview with the author by NPR’s Michelle Norris at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120176695.
The Most Dangerous Man in America
During my month-long stay in the Bay area, I had the privilege to meet Daniel Ellsberg and to be amongst the crowd of several dozen people who gathered at his home to watch the new film, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. Winner of numerous festival awards, and nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Feature Documentary, the film distills into 90 minutes, the story of government deception and malfeasance and one man’s courageous decision to tell the people the truth.
I’m old enough to remember the events as they unfolded and were reported in the news media, but being highly controversial and scattered as they were over a long time period, their import and meaning did not then penetrate very deeply beyond the veil of my own indoctrination. Now, more than 40 years later, with the pertinent facts gathered together and the inclusion of newly-available audio records of then President Richard Nixon’s maniacal ravings about nuking the Vietnamese into oblivion, we have a compelling picture of the abuse of power and a failed policy that extended over five presidencies from Truman to Nixon.
Since 9/11, Americans have seen an ever greater concentration of power at the top levels of government, finance and industry, along with increasing government secrecy and violation of civil liberties. The USA Patriot Act effectively shreds the Bill of Rights.
This film is the kind of powerful medicine needed to rouse the body politic to face the political realities of our time and, hopefully, reinvigorate our struggle to “escape the “matrix.” It is a film that every American should see, especially those who are too young to remember America’s war against Viet Nam. You can see the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXlmQeSpqI4&hl=en_US&fs=1&.
A main reason for my lengthy stay in the Bay area was to participate in a series of events that occurred between April 9 and 13. The first of these was the California Coop Conference in Santa Rosa which was organized by the California Center for Cooperative Development. I gave a presentation as part of a panel that included Derek Huntington and Chris Lindstrom. That session was titled, Local Currencies: Reclaiming Our Economic Power.
The keynote speaker at that event was Jim Anderson of the Ohio Employee Ownership Center who gave a very inspiring presentation about a community development program in Cleveland, Ohio which has resulted in the formation of the Evergreen Cooperatives. Here’s the link to a short video about it: http://blip.tv/file/2749165. This could become a useful model for other communities to emulate. The following day, Derek and I were joined by Krista Vardabash and Chris Lindstrom on a panel session at the San Francisco Green Festival. The third event was the change Exchange conference in Calistoga that was organized by Chris Lindstrom and the RSF Foundation.
I’m encouraged to note increasing recognition of the empowerment potential inherent in the mutual credit clearing process. It is significant that two major organizations, Green America (formerly Co-op America) and BALLE (the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) have embraced mutual credit clearing and will soon be offering that service to their members.
Coming up, I will be traveling east in a couple weeks to participate in some further events, workshops, and consultations. I’ll be presenting as part of a panel at the BALLE Conference (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) in Charleston, South Carolina on May 22nd (Saturday at 2:30 pm). Our session is titled, Foundations for Credit and Finance in a Local Living Economy. Panelists are Derek Huntington, Sonoma County GoLocal Cooperative; Tom Greco, author, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization; and Jenny Kassan, Katovich Law Group.
Springtime in the Desert
Even California’s Mojave Desert offered a show of spring blooms, but it’s nothing compared to the beauty and variety to be found in the Sonora Desert of Arizona.
After an absence of several years, the gardening impulse has once again begun to stir. I could not resist adding a potted sweet basil plant to my shopping cart when I went for groceries last week. Root-bound in its tiny pot, it cried out to be transplanted into a larger one. Alas, four of the five stems have died …but one survives.
Let us hope that the human race will be as fortunate.
Happy springtime, wherever you may be,