Links & Tweets of the Week: January 17, 2010

primate by xurrilla

primate, from the mysterious and remarkable photographer xurrilla (from andorra?)


The Problem of Community: Most of us who’ve studied how the world really works agree that the answer lies in community — decentralizing, ending the vast waste, colonialism, inequity and destruction of ‘globalization’, and strengthening local self-sufficiency. So why are there so few models of effective community, and why are so few of us actually working in community, instead of just talking about it? Sharon Astyk offers some answers, rooted in some feminist ideals and the need for many of us to break the tie to the industrial economy workforce/consumption model that consumes all our time:

I know a lot of people who want to build community – but only with people like them, who agree with them. I know a lot of people who do seriously want to build community – but are exhausted and overburdened by the job…

I don’t deny that we’re afraid of community. I don’t deny that many of us who try burn out from exhaustion, and others just don’t want other people in our lives… We have to be willing to pay the price – to deal with the fact that community doesn’t just mean working together, it means putting in the hours to talk to your boring neighbor and resolving disputes and being the subject of gossip and putting up with people you don’t like much, when it is easier not to… It is also true that the re-establishment of an American political power requires also that many of us disengage from the workforce – I mean that quite seriously… We’re going to have to find time to live on one income – by combining households and reducing costs if we’re to have a meaningful democracy – and this is not easy. I don’t understate the enormous difficulty for people, the cost to their lives. And yet, what is most needed to establish community is time, the hardest single thing to claim.

City or Country: Where Should You Live When Civilization Collapses?: Also from Sharon Astyk (on her other blog), an explanation of why the answer to this question isn’t so easy. A lot depends on which city, and how big, or on which rural area. Much boils down to the inherent resiliency of where you live, and the potential for community-level self-organization self-sufficiency when centralized structures and markets collapse due to economic, energy and ecological crises.

Making Co-operatives Work: Jerry Michalski points us to the key operating principles of co-operatives. These will also be the essential operating principles of communities that survive civilization’s collapse. Openness, democracy, participation, autonomy and self-sufficiency, continuous learning, collaboration, caring, responsibility and sustainability — everything that the current corpocracy is not.


Good News for Vegans: Meat Substitutes Making Great Strides: I’ve long been convinced that it wouldn’t take much to develop organic, non-GM, healthy and delicious substitutes for meat and dairy that would make veganism easy — and help a lot more people make the move to vegan. There are some new products that do just that.

Taking the Power and Politics Out of Your Conversations: Jerry Michalski points us to a variation on non-violent communication (NVC) — called powerful non-defensive communication (PNDC),

… a new communication model that is open, direct, sincere, honest, vulnerable, and can eliminate power struggle… we make a commitment to model the power of non-defensive communication first in our own behavior, treating each person and group with dignity and respect — even in cases where we find the person/group engaging in attitudes and actions that we consider dangerous; at the same time, we will speak clearly and honestly about our own beliefs regarding the need to eradicate attitudes and behaviors that alienate people from each other through misunderstanding, prejudice, hatred, or violence.

The 4 Principles of Knowledge Sharing: Dave Snowden describes the 4 principles that govern our ability and willingness to share what we know with others (and promises, in future posts, to tell us how to leverage them). The principles: social obligation (our inherent drive to connect with and care about others), individual context (without establishing a shared context, sharing knowledge is difficult), adaptation and exaptation (we creatively adapt what we learn to our own, and new, situation, and exploit opportunity for applying new knowledge in novel contexts), and natural limits (we can only communicate meaningfully with so many people, and with so many people at once, before meaning is lost).


Extended House Price Collapse Imminent: Echoing what The Automatic Earth and others have been saying, the economist who the housing price index is named after sees housing prices poised to plummet again, for a protracted period. “He noted that housing prices fell for 15 straight years in Japan after its real estate market collapsed in the 1990s. ‘Unfortunately, I think it’s a model for what might happen,’ he said.”

How Corporate Culture Took Over the Obama Administration: Naomi Klein from the new edition of No Logo (thanks to Michael Wiik for the link):

Personally, none of this makes me feel betrayed by Barack Obama. Rather I have a familiar ambivalence, the way I used to feel when brands like Nike and Apple started using revolutionary imagery in their transcendental branding campaigns. All of their high-priced market research had found a longing in people for something more than shopping – for social change, for public space, for greater equality and diversity. Of course the brands tried to exploit that longing to sell lattes and laptops. Yet it seemed to me that we on the left owed the marketers a debt of gratitude for all this: our ideas weren’t as passé as we had been told. And since the brands couldn’t fulfill the deep desires they were awakening, social movements had a new impetus to try.

Perhaps Obama should be viewed in much the same way.. What the election and the global embrace of Obama’s brand proved decisively is that there is a tremendous appetite for progressive change – that many, many people do not want markets opened at gunpoint, are repelled by torture, believe passionately in civil liberties, want corporations out of politics, see global warming as the fight of our time, and very much want to be part of a political project larger than themselves. Those kinds of transformative goals are only ever achieved when independent social movements build the ­numbers and the organisational power to make muscular demands of their elites. Obama won office by ­capitalising on our profound nostalgia for those kinds of social movements. But it was only an echo, a memory. The task ahead is to build movements that are – to borrow an old Coke slogan – the real thing. As Studs Terkel, the great oral historian, used to say: “Hope has never trickled down. It has always sprung up.”

The Disappeared Middle Class: Joe Bageant rants delightfully about why progressive ideas can never get real traction in the US:

A month or so ago I watched news footage of some fat guy being interviewed inside his the three car garage of his $300,000 cardboard house. The poor fellow was about to lose his bass boat, and maybe his home too. From the looks of it, I’d say the bass boat was a Ranger X520. Now these babies start at $45K, not to mention the $30K for the four wheel drive usually seen pulling. Looked like it was sitting on a 20-plus foot Hurricane boat trailer, another $4K or $5K. My wife, who was watching the show with me, turned and said, “What class is this man supposed to be in?” “I don’t know, they say middle class.” “Hmmm. Whatever it is, we’ve never been members.”

Entrepreneurs Who Make Millions Aren’t Risk-Takers: Malcolm Gladwell reviews the history of upstart businesses that made vast fortunes, and discovered that, far from being risk-takers, they made their millions by hedging risks and using others’ money so there was no downside at all. Unlike the gangsters in the financial services industry who made fortunes by being reckless (and then came begging for handouts when these bets went south), the shrewder gamblers bought assets for no money down, or bought credit-default swaps that let them profit obscenely from the fall in the market, with no risk if the market rose. These guys give entrepreneurship a bad name, but they do have one thing in common with legitimate entrepreneurs: They don’t take a lot of risks. As I explain in my book, Finding the Sweet Spot, entrepreneurship isn’t risky if you do it right. But if you’re moral about it, it’s not enormously profitable either. What it is is responsible, sustainable, and joyful. Note: the link above is to an abstract only; you have to buy the hard copy, or wait a while, to get the full article free online, but the abstract covers it pretty well.


Rick Mercer has a delicious rant on the usurious interest rates charged by credit card companies, a wonderful spoof of the new US airport security regulations that affect Canadians traveling there, and a hilarious explanation of everything you ever wanted to know about Canada but were afraid to ask. Thanks to Isabella Mori for the links. Bonus: Isabella also points us to Pat Robertson Voodoo Doll: All Proceeds to Haiti Relief.


Some thoughts from Brian Tracy, writer of a lot of so-so books on business, motivation, selling and getting things done, who seems, in the process, to have learned some important things about intention, adaptation, and collaboration:

If what you are doing is not moving you towards your goals, then it’s moving you away from your goals.

Never say anything about yourself you do not want to come true. We will always tend to fulfill our own expectation of ourselves.

It doesn’t matter where you are coming from. All that matters is where you are going.

Whatever you believe with feeling becomes your reality.

Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.

You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.

No one lives long enough to learn everything they need to learn starting from scratch. To be successful, we absolutely, positively have to find people who have already paid the price to learn the things that we need to learn to achieve our goals.

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3 Responses to Links & Tweets of the Week: January 17, 2010

  1. Janene says:

    Hey —

    On meat substitutes… although i don’t usually use anything “substitute”, I can say that I have had the quorn products and they are *really* good. But then, it depends on each individuals choice regarding fungus… I know *some* veg*ans won’t eat fungus, so…..


  2. Paul says:

    Dave, after checking out the enforcement of “new US airport security regulations” on travel from Canada to the US (The Rick Mercer Report which you referenced), I’m having second thoughts about visiting you. I would rather my return to the US be uneventful. Thanks for the warning!

  3. sue says:

    a happy synchronicity lead me to your blog today. the comment on the problem with community is very good, very true. As both a “community” sociologist and a person who both desires and fear community, the comment on the problem with community rang true — thanks for the link. The problem is that “community” (what Tonnies called Gemeinschaft) is rooted in foraging and horticultural societies where everyone in the community was homogeneous — engaged in the same tasks of survival, sharing the same world view. It was the conformity and closedness of community that helped to drive people to seek out urban environments (that and the fact that landowners disposed them, and made them redundant in rural areas). “Community” has always been about finding other like ourselves and imposing conformity. Yet decentralization and localization of food networks, resources, and decision-making is essential for sustainable survival. Perhaps we need some thing new, some new form of localism that is not “community” but something else?

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