Revolutionary Care through Chaos: Fellow Reflections #2

I often wonder if it is my disposition to always be pensive and borderline depressive. Or if it is my association with a more type A personality, always striving to be efficient, productive, serious? Or if it is a reflection of the world that surrounds us? I feel like an old time blues singer, asking “why do I always have to sing the blues”. Perhaps this is a roundabout way of asking for patience with my oftentimes apocalyptic tomes.

I’m here in the US, sitting in a cafe in NYC, watching the daily commute of walkers and bikers. It’s a beautiful fall day, one of those days that reminds you of all the joys of the summer, giving you that last bit of warmth, but with the tiniest bite of cold in the evening that tells your body to get ready for the hibernation. Those days that make you feel happy to just let the sun wash over your face, warm but not hot, comforting but not overwhelming. The day holds a sense of happiness and hope. But for many in the US, this past month has shown clearly that while we may relish in the joy of what has passed, winter truly is coming.

Our month started off with the terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia. For those not aware, a secret white supremacist rally was held on a Friday night at the campus of UVA. It was filled with hundreds of angry white men, complete with tiki torches (yes really) and chats of “blood and soil”, a key slogan for the Nazi regimen. Counter protestors were brutally attacked and the police were nowhere to be seen. The next day, a large gathering of white supremacists went to a central park for a sanctioned (i.e. legal) march. They were met by an even larger group of counter-protesters. Conflict between the groups quickly escalated, and as video evidence has shown, the violence was clearly started by the white supremacists. Non-violent counter-protesters were defended by anarchists, anti-fascists, communists, and other groups who embraced self defense and black bloc tactics. The white supremacist march was shut down, and during a period of celebration and regrouping, a young white supremacist drove his car into the crowd, injuring dozens and killing a protester, Heather Heyer. Other counter protesters were beaten with pipes in broad daylight. Militia men walked through the streets of Charlottesville as if they were walking the streets of some foreign land, M-16’s and body armor ready. Throughout it all, the police were nowhere to be seen, “protecting the perimeter”. Solidarity demonstrations erupted across the country. Trump offered a clear support of the growing fascist movement in the country, unwilling to push away his political base. The liberal media is at a loss, unable to condemn the self-defence of the counter protestors but unwilling to acknowledge that the foundations of our society are crumbling. The American Civil Liberties Union protects the fascists and white supremacists in the name of “free speech” while the alt-right is clearly co-opting the tactics of liberalism and nationalism to increase their political power.


At the end of the month, as the debate in the mainstream media about Russia and tax codes and debt burdens trolled on, the rise of massive “superstorms” loomed on the horizon of our southern coast. Houston, the fourth largest city in the US, was hit by the most amount of rain to ever hit the US. Large swaths of the city are still underwater, a week after the hurricane. Many people have died, and it is clear that the devastation to the city is just beginning. Many are arguing that Houston represents the paradigm of massive growth and infrastructure development without any thought to environmental concerns, adding the massive destruction. In addition, almost a quarter of the refined gas supplied to the US comes through the refineries in Houston, many of which have been damaged. Mixed with the flood waters runs gas and oil and untold other toxic chemicals, creating the beginnings of an environmental catastrophe.

As the conversation around Hurricane Harvey shifts toward rebuilding, Hurricane Irma is on a straight path towards Miami, Florida. Miami chronically suffers from daily flooding, again an example of development within floodplains without consideration to climate factors. Who knows what damage a category 4 hurricane will do to the city. Our thoughts go to the safety of the residents and all other life there. Perhaps Irma will miss Florida, ironically a state where the government cannot use the term “climate change”. But right behind Irma is Hurricane Jose, their cousin Katia is battering the eastern coast of Mexico and who knows what other family members will show their face during this hurricane season. In addition, the west coast of the US is on fire, with massive uncontrolled wildfires running across the mountain ranges. In Bangladesh, a third of the country was flooded, suffering landslides that have killed hundreds of thousands. As has been clearly shown throughout history, those affected the most by the ravages of capitalism are not the beneficiaries of these systems.

The question of care looms behind all these thoughts. How are we to provide care in the broadest sense when people drive cars into crowds? When unsanctioned militia men walk armed down the street? When we are being ravaged by storms that are literally larger than the entire state being hit? The liberalism that infects this country, of trying to find compromise in everything and promotes a sense of powerlessness runs rampant in our culture. We watch “Game of Thrones” rather than think that perhaps we have our own white walkers. We worry about our careers and our next vacation. I watch the people out of the window heading of to work, assuming that since NYC represents such a nidus of capitalism, that their job somehow continues to facilitate my own destruction. I think of my own work in an ER, is my job any different? Am I also continuing to worry about my own individual world, desperately trying to walk a fine line of caring about the world but not letting those thoughts actually influence my life? I ask myself, if I truly think that the fundamental structure of our economics and society are being threatened, why am I paying back my school loans?

Yet through all this depression, there is always hope. Not that shitty optimism of the hippies or the progressives that are destroying our cultural sense of power. Not the general hope that everything will be ok, which is such a comfort for the petit bourgeois of this country. But a hope that we can find each other. That we can have the courage to face this destruction, and while I do not wish for the superstorms and the violence, it is here and is not going away. So let us embrace the fact that these represent potential vulnerabilities to the heart of neoliberal capitalism. That the police will not protect us, that our careers will not save us.


Our work cannot be to bemoan the possibility of this destruction, but to build the alternative world that will build on the ashes of this culture. This past weekend, I stared at the faces of my comrades, washed in the wondrous light of a campfire. We planned and schemed ways to build a new world together, letting our visions intertwine themselves with the smoke, rising up to the stars above. This hope exists everywhere. The OpenVillage conversations are working through the logistical obstacles of coming up with ways of being together across the country. As the Festival approaches, proposals about different ways to organize communities and tactical tools needed to rebuild worlds abound. The OpenVillage Festival will be a step in the direction of building an international community that feels the glimmer of hope that a new way of being can be built. But we must dedicate our lives to it. I don’t hold answers and often question my own complicity with this devastation. But it is clear, we must find each other, hold each other through the depression and sadness, fight against the comfort of nihilism, protect our communities from those who would harm it and learn to care for ourselves in ways that can overcome the material destruction of whatever comes. A new world is possible, we just have to walk it.

“We have nowhere to return to… And this is a conscious choice.”

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Great post!

I can’t wait to hang out in Brussels, Francis. I myself struggle with these huge themes. In my day-by-day it feels like operating on small, interesting projects is enough; that local positive change is happening, and that’s OK, a honest day’s work. But of course, I know I am not fixing anything, not really.

It’s hard to figure out what kind of systam these small things (like your own Woodbine, or Edgeryders) would give rise to, if they were pervasive. Nobody knows. I’m supposed to be an economist, and economists used to be able to imagine and propose alternative economic systems; but now we have lost this ability. The only people I’m seeing that can do this (kind of) are a selected few science fiction writers: Cory Doctorow, Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Peter Watts. Of these, Doctorow is the one who most explicitly engages with economic theory. Some years ago I wrote an economist’s take on his novel “Makers”, and I am now under the influence of his recent “[Walkaway]”(http://crookedtimber.org/2017/05/10/coases-spectre/). I think you, of all people, need to read it, if you have not done it already.

For some months now, I have been thinking about raising some money to organise a workshop of economic science fiction, inviting some of these writers (as keynote speakers and proponents) and some economists (as discussants and debuggers). I hope to get down to it in the Fall.

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Can you say more about this - about why you think this is the case? I’m not sure I understand what you mean.

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Bring it.Peace first - But don’t push. Some of us peaceful guys push back - very hard.

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Thanks for these reflections. Troubling times - depression surely is a natural response, denial and delusion the only antidotes. Reminds me of the Cornell West quote “I cannot be an optimist, but I am a prisoner of hope” - which seems to capture perfectly the tension that seems to characterise our times - between realism and never letting go of ‘some possible other’.

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many of us on here have experienced Casandra syndrome. All to able to predict our apocalypse but unable to change it. The real pointlessness of those words i told you so.

but as the apocalyptic plays out it always feels stranger when it happens. life is always richer then predictions. Obscure feelings.

No matter how bad things were in the barracks refugee camp in Serbia everyday i found myself thinking well at least its sunny. Staying in a hut in the woods in Scotland through the winter left me feeling pleasantly surprised that I felt physically comfortable.

how do we stay well in a sick sea? and when we do escape this lingering sense that we should be suffering with the many other?

we need new stories to face new challenges. Those 2 core issues are emotions and logistics.
frameworks for resilience in a darker age. dark optimism appeals as a phrase. to increase motivation and decrease expectation because in a more unstable world we get less of what we expect.

we are not the first to think these thoughts or have these feelings. There was a slogan in the Warsaw ghetto uprising “Someone has got to live”. it sounds bleak and yet it was perfect. a defiant last stand before people got sent off to the concentration camps. it was a massacre but some people escaped. it stands a flickering and dim light that stands out clearly amid horrendous darkness.

In the words of Paulo Feire
“with one eye i look into the light,
with on eye i look into the darkness,
with one foot in the fairy tale and
with one foot in the abyss.”

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Interesting stance, @faruqh. How would you advise others to push back? Is there a middle ground between just sucking it up and all-out war?

Thanks for this Frank @woodbinehealth , it so clearly resonates. Our friends and youth in Egypt declare the same propensity for depression - understandably, in some other cultural code. I used to think there is some gratefulness to be practiced due to our ability to organise ourselves in the west. Not anymore, as we are all one.

You and your comrades are paying your dues for sure, and you found each other. How can the rest of us help in making it easier to find each other? Learning helps, but now it seems we need more of us in the same place and a lower cost of even learning. Speeding up in the trenches, together?
Is woodbine involved in any other international effort, outside of OpenCare and our festival?

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The middle ground is mutual respect. It is like a line in the sand. To cross on either side is to jeopardize the stability of that group. Robert Frost illustrated this concept in the Mending Wall. ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

In our efforts to embrace diversification we have not paid proper heed to those who would like to embrace their individuality. integration and diversity are great, but as a construct, they should not be used to reduce the individuality of any group. If a group chooses to insulate themselves from diversity then it should be their choice. It should also be respected by others without considering the individuals to be racists. Diverse lifestyles should be respected on par with segregated lifestyles by honoring the choices of the people who live those lives. In the end everyone wants what they feel deep in their hearts is best for them and their families.

The problem comes with oppression. When any group of people try to force their ideals on another person and desecrate their life choices. Whether it be a feminist trying to destroy the hijab, a white supremacist trying to impose a false superiority on other races, or a liberal and diverse group trying to take over a town founded and cultivated by white separatists, it is all wrong. And when someone tries to destroy your way of life, directly tries to destroy it, then you should fight back. By any means necessary.

Where this line gets gray is when one community has profound dependencies on another. Example, when an insulated white group has benefited from excessive amounts of diverse labor to build their ideal community. Well, there is a price to be paid beyond simple salary. Now there is a since of entitlement that mus be compensated. If it is ignored then it will lead to revolt.

Every people should be deeply involved in the process of securing a successful future for their people. But, when another set of people use the entirety of your resources in order to propagate the future of their people, there becomes a feeling that the indentured party should have proper access to what they built. Whereas those who it was built for claim exclusive ownership. This is the case in many urban US cities. This is a platform for conflict.

In the end the problem only exist in shared spaces. Typically urban, these spaces will always be habitats of co-existence and should be left to those with that desire. For those who seek separation in an urban space then the law should restrict their engagements in order to reduce the possibility of violent action. When the law fails to do so then the attacked reserves the right to stop the aggressor by any means necessary.

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I may be wrong here, @faruqh, I am not sure I understand you 100%. But, in general, it seems to me that there is no one-to-one correspondence between a space and a way of life. I live in Brussels, where you have about one third Belgians, one third European migrants, such as myself, and one-third non-European migrants, mostly from Morocco, Turkey and Congo (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brussels#Nationalities). If any one group pushes too hard to enforce its way of life, the city will become unlivable. And then, it’s not like there is one way of life, even within the same group. Italians and Danes are both Europeans, but they do not necessarily live in the same way. Belgians are themselves split across the Wallonian/Flemish linguistic and cultural line. And Moroccans and Congolese… you get the idea.

Low-diversity neighborhoods such as Molenbeek (where it can happen to a random woman to be scolded because no hijab) are seen as brewing trouble. I do not know enough to take a position myself, but this post made the rounds in late 2015. It made me think a lot.

Additionally, low local diversity does not mean lack of oppression. In Tunisia after the revolution, for example, there was a big political fight on the political rights of women. Both the progressive and the conservative religious side of the argument claimed to speak in the name of the same Arab and Muslim tradition. The culture was homogenous, but at least some people did not feel they were getting a completely fair deal from the people sharing their same culture.

The usual way to get out of this complexity is, in the West, human rights. This is a legal culture that says: the rights of individuals supersede the rights of groups. It’s historically kind of new – individuals have been seen as expendable for most of human history – and not everybody buys into it, not even in Europe (its birthplace).

If I am completely off the mark, just ignore me :slight_smile:

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Great post-Frank @woodbinehealth With all that’s going on in the world, it’s hard to think, much less imagine creating a new world. But, we can, we must. We have the reason, vision, power, and technology to do so. Just have to bring it all together in a cohesive global movement, where people can change the world locally and impact globally. Openvillage is definitely a start in the right direction. Keeps hope alive. Often hope gets a bad rap. For some, it conjures images of naivety, but as defined by psychologists it matters a lot.

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Thanks for this Frank. Travelling in the US has left similar impressions on me. There is so much normalized suffering in plain sight, even without the bigger and less visible (to most) horrors. Glad to have enjoyed the atmosphere of counter movements in SF and Oakland in the same breath, it gives a little hope.

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The USA - Land of the Free. Freedom to succeed, freedom to fail.

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@woodbinehealth there is a sentence I quoted in the newsletter that says OpenCare festival… :slight_smile: It’s not OpenCare but OpenVillage festival - I will edit it, if you disagree, please edit back

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Great piece of refection Francis!
I believe all of mankind with the ability to reason often has the same contemplations……how can we make a difference if the majority is thinking in extremes and in its own benefits. Capitalism is an example how a relative good system (“the best of the worse”), can be misused due to the nature of mankind, greed in the example of capitalism. How can we close the gap between the ultimate rich and the ultimate poor in the world for instance, if greed keeps existing and the world doesn’t wake up from its own nightmare?
Three weeks ago, I travelled through the US for my work. I was stunned by the homeless I saw, the people with three jobs, just to hold on to their houses. I got sick at the idea that people in that same country don’t know what to do with their money and want to get rid of that one thing that would at least make an effort to bring healthcare to the ones that need it and cannot afford it…and they call it a civilized country… You ask yourself the question on care: “ how can we provide care in the broadest sense when people drive cars into crowds”? In my believe, you are part of the answer…trying to figure out how to make a better world while still trying to pay of your study loans (opposed by you through capitalism), contributing to OpenCare project, figuring out how to reorganize care so it can affect more people, not only the rich. Change starts at the individual, individuals like you from where we hope it spreads like an oil spot at sea….I realize the irony in this phrase :blush:

People in general care first about themselves and their closed environments, hopefully to pay attention to the rest of the world afterwards in order to make things better for everyone. Take myself as an example….This is the first time you see me react to a post….this is because I am on vacation, having the time to read stuff that is on the internet from my network. I spend my days working for a big capitalist company, making a decent living. The industry I am working for makes an awful lot of money from a primary need, I know this and try to compensate through ScimPulse, but in essence I am just “ as bad” as everybody else but with the effort of trying to mitigate. First me and my surroundings, then the rest of the world……it’s a mentality
It is just this that is also drawing my attention from this post and you briefly touched it…….we seem to care only for the “Western” part of this world. We see I don’t know how much footage about rampages in US and Europe…even some on Mexico but not nearly as much as from the US or other rich Western countries……close to home…anyway in the same cluster of welfare. It is not a contest but the impact and casualties in other parts of the world, caused by same or different catastrophes are much, much worse.

i.e. Bangladesh flooding’s, earth slides in China, Inida, parts of south America’s, starvation in Africa, mass killings in Africa and Eastern part of the world, political repression and imprisonment even in Turkey (where we don’t have the guts to stand up due to political/economical interests), the remainders/consequences of Arabic spring (and I believe this is also part of what you try to point out Faruqh, when you argue oppose….will come back to this later😉). Like you mentioned, those which are impacted the most, are those from we western capitalist greedy society is taken the most advantage
With Open Care I believe we try to touch the lives of many by trying to organize care in such a way that more will benefit and it stays sustainable towards the future……We try to make better and preserve what we have….what about the people deprived of care? I hope we also can have the discussion on how we can get care to those which are deprived of what we have…we seem to care first of our own ecosystem……it’s a mentality
Perhaps our first point of attention should be to mitigate the differences in the world instead of making better what we have……? I know, this is a very blunt statement, but consider, for a large part we harvest the consequences of “us” exploiting those countries which suffer the most now……
Perhaps what we learn in this project could also be of benefit when we try to solve these kind of utterly questions…….There must be a correlation between prosperity and individualism (read, not having community care)…Take Europe for example, starting at the South of Europe, where there is a lot more of community care, traveling to the North and take for instance The Netherlands, my home country. No way, I am going to take care of my parents in my home. Not because I don’t love them…I can’t……I am too busy to take care of my own closed environment first (my household), no room for my parents (or any other family members). This sounds harsh, and I realize it when I write them down, but it is reality. I am part of an individualist society, where I worry about my next career move, my next holiday, my next house I will buy….It is not a free choice (now I hear you think, you always have a choice…that is where you are wrong…you don’t…if you are not with this mentality, you are against and when you are against, you are out and you will not have the ability to, for instance, influence policy makers). We are all doing it, we are all living in this society that “ forces” us into a materialistic approach towards life……wanting more and more and abusing capitalism….it’s a mentality
“ How can we provide care in the broadest sense, if we are not willing to stribe towards equality”? “How can we provide care in the broadest sense, when we are not able to change the individualist mentality we have in a large part of the western world”? I mean, US is often seen as “ the leader of the free world” , home of the brave, land of opportunities……yes, if you are born in the right circumstances (color, social class)….and it is this country that is trying it utmost to deprive the needed of care…
The challenges we face in care are utterly complex and not to be captured/solved in a project. They vary from indifference to ignorance……from protectionism to fear. How do we change mentality in this world so we will not only improve the care system we have, but utterly we can have the entire world have a care system as good as ours…and at the same time keep it affordable through a different way of caring?
First thing we should do is not neglecting other parts of the world where people suffer from the same disasters the western world is facing, but only the essential impact to lives is exponentially bigger. Second thing we should do is asking ourselves how we can change individualistic mindsets and disconnect it of prosperity and wealth. “Wellbeing” , not “wealth” should be the way that we should look at life…easier said than done hey…:blush: I just claimed I will never take my parents into my home, because it doesn’t fit my dynamic life that brings me my wealth…I am doing the same, how can I make a difference in changing this mentality then? Tough questions…philosophical if you like and I don’t have an answer, only the struggle…perhaps awareness…don’t hide the misery in the “ third” world and focus on the western part…
I did promise to come back to the point that @faruqh was trying to make……correct me if I am wrong Faruqh but what I read from your comment is that one cannot oppose something to another group and expect them to “ live it”……you cannot oppose democracy to the countries which don’t have it (in our eyes)…it is the arrogance of the western world that has caused total anarchy in the countries we” tried to help”……we should reason, educate, convince, teach….instead of oppose…if that is what you meant, I totally agree.
I hope I can “find the time somewhere” (:blush:) to visit you guys at OpenVillage and discuss some more on this because I truly believe these are essential things to worry about when we think of sustainability and caring. If not, I am also convinced that when we still have people that care and think on these essential topics, in the end common sense will prevail and we (society) will get together in the sake of mankind.

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Thanks for the kind words @alberto. Likewise, really excited to meet everyone and discuss possibilities for a new world.

So funny you bring that book up. One of our comrades wrote a review of it and it has really been shaping my views on what we need to do.

Be well and see you in a few weeks.

Two quick thoughts.

1 - In the USA, the “pursuit of happiness” does not have to include caring for or helping anyone besides yourself. And many people do not wish to have any of their resources going to anyone other than their family or who they specifically designate. The issue of whether or not we are “our brother’s keeper” is a debate with no end here in the land of the free, where you are free to succeed and free to fail. And if you do fail, someone may or may not lend you a hand. I, who have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes over the course of my life, want that money to help people with education, health care, food, shelter, etc. Not bombs, war and destruction. But a lot of people here feel the opposite. And right now they pretty much run the government.

2 - Once I heard R. Buckminister Fuller give a lecture where, at one point, he said “if you really want to help the whole, bring up the bottom.”

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@Stef, I just wanted to flag how nice is to finally read a post from you (and what post!). I was really curious to find out what you really think about OpenCare. Now I know a bit more:

Super-interesting.

Two things:

  • If you want to make sure that a certain person (in this case faruqh) reads your comment, you can mention them à la Twitter, like this: @faruqh. I took the liberty of editing one mention into your post.
  • You are of course super-welcome to the Open Village Festival. If you are in Maastricht, it is just a short train ride away from Brussels. Come!

Hi Alberto,

Thanks for the feedback and the tip you pointed out.
I will do my utmost in order to try make it to the OPenCare village.

Hope to see you there!