“Many hands make Light work”. My father used to tell me this as we worked in our garden planting veg for the coming season. I misunderstood him, and to quote Robert Frost: “That has made all the difference”.
In 2010 there was yet another suicide in our hometown of Birr in Co.Offaly. The reaction this time was stronger than ever before, this was the third suicide in less than three months in a community of only 4000 people. Its hard for people to see members of their community turn to such desperate signal sending, the message itself is bleak, and it forces us to consider the same question, is it worth it? And if so what can we do to make that as obvious as possible…to inspire the youth of even our most solitary environments with enthusiasm, challenge, and exubriance.
Personally speaking for a moment let me say that this darkness is no stranger to me. Having grown up in the same town it is easy to recognise the pitfalls that can trap and smother the growth of vibrant creative minds left to boredom. There is also the danger of social trends of self-harm as waves of darkened expression befall a community of young people. Its never a solitary incedent, there are waves of attempts, and multiple bleak successes. The message of which suicide becomes the signifier is clear, it is one of seperation, an utter isolation that arises as an individual’s mindstate darkens into depression and stress through containing traumas both personal and collective.
In Ireland there is a lack of space. This may sound hard for many to believe, but while there is plenty of outdoor space, there is a stark lack of indoor spaces that can be used for public facilitation. It is no accident that the Irish are as famous as they are for their tendency to drunkeness. The ‘public house’ we now call the pub has been, for generations, the only social space in which people could come together beyond their own homes to share in community life. It is a foundation of modern Ireland more for worse than better. In biology there is an evolutionary maxim that states that ‘all organisms evolve according to adaptations made within and in response to their environmental context’. It is clear that if our small island is to make progress toward upright and balanced behaviour we need to take initiative in providing a specific type of social environment to encourage resort to a more empowered and fuitful mode of social interaction. Without this kind of action all talk of ‘public sector social innovation’ as a viable alternative to public sector funding in the context of ‘austerity’ is just that, idle talk.
There is work to be done, and as mentioned at the outset: “many hands make Light work”. The present has birthed a new kind of ‘social innovation’ . In the guideline to this mission it is clearly stated that the wheel, printing press, and internet are all social innovations. These things have something else in common also. They increase the connected nodes of a conscious system that evolves by the constant exchange and modification of information. Our power to, and rate of change will be in proportion to our utility of this ‘information’. With the wheel people could travel faster to exchange goods, services, teaching, information. With the printing press this capacity scaled up a level birthing the rennaissance and the individualised and individuating human consciousness, the micro-daddy of scientific materialism. Now with the internet our capacity to exchange information has been scaled up to a degree synonymous with the birth of language. Change is accelerating as we connect and share our information. The old power structures of hierarchy, firmly established upon the temple of individuation, specialization, and singular concentration have found their position suddenly threatened…worse, the empire is crumbling. The misunderstanding of the purpose and function of individuation born of the scientific method, mechanised by the industrial/technological capacities that ensued, and birthing ‘mother’ of the misconcpetion of the accumulatory libertarian has come full circle in the rebirth of a homo-globalis. “The internet is here”.
In Ireland it is difficult to approach the old worldview holders with the message of the new. Generations of education at the abusive hands of the Roman Catholic Institution has all but utterly destroyed the viability of a sense of entitlement in our society. Clear ideas are judged and suppressed before given space and time to blossom. This creates problems. The doors of our youth café ‘The Spot’ opened last december. We had formed an unholy alliance with Foróige, a national youth organization famous for their understated association with the RCI (see above) in Ireland. We had the local support, this much was clear, 1500 people joined the facebook page that started the response action within one week…and this of a town of 4500 people. We needed a building, and Foróige also wanted to relocate from their space in the town which was set up to run the Garda Sub Project where Foróige work with young offenders in the town. Our fledgeling orgnization, without viable entitlement of its own, took legitimization by this association to an established institution. We organized funding from the Offaly enterprise board. On the condition of raising 25% we would be funded the remainder of the complete sum. Under the auspices of working for the community, to create a better situation for the youth community there we raised 12,500€ in a short time and filed application to the enterprise board. On receipt of funding we completed renovations and moved into the property.
In a meeting with the Foróige official shortly after opening, members of our board of management, including the woman who started the project with the facebook page having had familial experience of the tragic nature of suicide, were told “You have built us a new office and sitting room and now we have to let you sit in it sometimes”. Our hopes of support in our work were slightly damaged by this remark, as you can imagine. But only momentarily. I had also met with the same Foróige officer, head of the Offaly area, to propose a new initiative to create an online network of Irish youth cafés so that the youth could have a hub online from which to organize and schedule their own events, create meetings, organize their own workshops and to create a connective space online where crowd-induced-innovation could work to generate from among their best and brightest a better and increasingly self-selective and stigmergic mode of activity. His response was ironically typical of the institution for which he indirectly functioned: “We wouldn’t want to give the wrong kind of people access to children”.
Divide and conquer comes, as all things do, with a natural and equal opposite. To each ‘solvé’ there is ‘coagula’. To connect and empower has always been the understated work of social innovations. It would seem that while ‘man’ has ‘his’ ideas, consciousness has other plans. Our successes in the coming time will come from our ability to recognise this and work in accordance with it. I wish us many such successes. Unfortunately, if we go the route of specifically ‘human’ failing by choosing to try to counter the evidenced and true spirit of the time we are bound, on chaotic waves for shallow and rocky waters.
While in India getting treatment for a sickness I developed through imbalance in Europe I forged some connections with local NGOs in the Rajastani province. I connected with artists and youth groups, tradespeople and many individuals. Looking at the society there, in the textile and trading towns especially, it became clear that the west bleeds the East of its value. We buy cheap and sell expensive in accordance with the fidicuary duty by which we are ‘legally bound’ to our souless incorporated person-as-master. From streetside sellers to computer programmers of the best quality in the world, we outsource our consumptive needs to the east, raising our profit by their loss. It was so evident that I became stirred to use this mechanism as best as it could possibly be used.
We in Europe are now facing ‘austerity’. This is in part due to the actions of the stakeholder interest in the EU, of private entities in receipt of more than four times the EU’s annual GDP in private profits, private enterprises which were themselves seeded by european funding to begin with. The tail is most definately wagging the dog, this much is beyond doubt. Also beyond doubt is the illusory nature of the global financial system and the threat posed by our misled tendence toward our own consumptive destruction. The system requires a ReseT.
Looking at the growth of youth cafés in Ireland it was clear that they could be connected. There is at least one in every county and by linking them they can obviously reduce costs by sheduling tours of classes, group trips and so on. It is clear that the action makes sense, irrespective of the fears stated by Foróige. Fears get often get in the way of doing what is right. In India I purchased, at a fair price, goods to the tune of some 72 kilos. Inside were khadi schoolbags (1.50€) many note books from small and handmande recycled paper (10cents) to large leatherbound with prints (3.00€). cards, bookmarkers, furnishings for the youth cafe, beanbags, wall hangings etc, and a number of cultural art-works from local artist ‘Kikasso’ with whom I conducted a video interview and agreed on a Skype meeting for the Irish debut exhibition and sale of his work. In total I invested 400€. I posted with a shipping company and to date nothing has arrived. It is almost one year now…I am not hopeful however I am told that one can be surprised in such situations.
I am not taken back by this…it didn’t work out. That doesn’t mean it won’t work. A €3 schoolbag, indeed all cheap functional goods fit to need and purpose will find a buyer. Because we are an NPO we would not pay taxes at customs for the goods by virtue of Irish tax law. The profit involved is about 900% and this is selling the goods very cheaply. The aim is to use this innovation to have a dual effect. In the west our poorest are still wealthy by developing standards. The poor by working with the poor can leveage their respective transnational situations and find economic relief which can enable their focus and creating a better life for themselves and their families and by supplying their need with cost effective and easy solutions. It may not have worked out this time. But this model will work, and due to the vast disparency between economic conditions the model will work toward creating a balance in the lives of our respective sociaties bringing our people in Ireland a little further out of the reach of the stresses related to poverty and providing services and experiences through funding which otherwise would be unavailable. Simultaneously the people involved get an education in morality, in proper conduct , in just action, balance and honouring the global total when it comes to making entrepreneurial decisions. It is a way to show people that energy convservation applies equally to a symbol of value as it does to any other form of energy. More in one place means less in another due to the fact of this conservation…“it is not right to want what another cannot have by virtue of their own labour and effort”.
You may ask what comes of this for me? It is part of a self-centred notion of consciousness that this question always comes first to mind, this is ‘normal’ to the mindset produced in the west. I teach dance, object manipulation of all kinds, basic beatboxing and freestyle rap…anything I think resonates with the young will to creation, I have enough to survive, my connection with thee material world is tenuous at best and so I don’t need much. It would help to have enough to ensure that efforts are not dwindled in obscurity or missed on account of insufficient challenge, but what can I ask for knowing the condition others live in? I read somewhere that giving a child a toy to play with can make the difference between a life and no life. This is true, and we don’t need material toys, we have bodies and minds and great spirit. The problem is we often don’t recognise it in ourselves…it is reflected in our interactions with others, one Self inter esse reflecting. (inter=‘between’ , esse=‘beings’) Many hands make Light work. I thought I misunderstood when someone told me this meant that a heavy thing is made light by many people attending to it. Indeed, this is very true…perhaps its also true that many hands make Light work.
- Work the Light fantastic.
Thanks for reading,