New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted
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Wealth vs. Money

March 30, 2015 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Politics, Robert C. Koehler

Resisting the Forces of Privatization and Commodification

by Robert C. Koehler

“There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

Salk_Thank_YouThe words are those of Jonas Salk, developer of the polio vaccine, speaking to Edward R. Murrow in 1955, as quoted recently in an essay by Paul Buchheit. What was he thinking? Six decades later, the words have such a counter-resonance with prevailing thought. They exude an old-fashioned humility and innocence, like . . . striking it rich isn’t necessarily the ultimate point of life?

I read these words and sense so much spilled wisdom in them, so much wasted hope. The world we’ve created is governed these days by two unquestioned principles: commodify and dominate. And it’s chewing up the resources that used to belong to every occupant of the planet.

“Eighty people hold the same amount of wealth as the world’s 3.6 billion poorest people, according to an analysis just released from Oxfam,” Mona Chalabi wrote in January at FiveThirtyEight.com. “The report from the global anti-poverty organization finds that since 2009, the wealth of those 80 richest has doubled in nominal terms — while the wealth of the poorest 50 percent of the world’s population has fallen.” (more…)

Revolutions Happen

April 25, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Devon G. Pena, Ecology, Economy

On the Crisis of Neoliberalism and the Alternative of the Common

by Devon G. Peña

Revolutions happen. One has already started though many people are yet to recognize it. But they may already be participating in it and helping to bring alterNative[1] futures forward. The resurgence of the common is the revolution quietly unfolding around us and through each of our relations and actions.

Here, I explore the enactment of a new social revolution the multitude (a.k.a. the 99%) is creating to ‘sublate’ (aufheben)[2] neoliberal capitalism in the spaces of direct material production and bio-politics, qua reproduction. The resurgence of the common is the underlying force driving a largely subaltern and protean process of revolutionary change.

It is through the agency of collaborative networks and their spaces of autonomy that we are disrupting the empire of the commodity form and threatening the stability and long-term survival of the neoliberal state of economic exception (Negri 2008). (more…)

Walk Softly

February 22, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Economy, Robert C. Koehler

Toward a Profound Reverence for Planetary Balance…

by Robert C. Koehler

“When you go to dig your fields, or make a pot from clay, you are disturbing the balance of things. When you walk, you are moving the air, breathing it in and out. Therefore you must make payments.”

Oh, unraveling planet, exploited, polluted, overrun with berserk human technology. How does one face it with anything other than rage and despair, which quickly harden into cynicism? And cynicism is just another word for helplessness.

So I listen to the Arhuaco people of northern Colombia, quoted above at the Survival International website, and imagine — or try to imagine — a reverence for planetary balance so profound I am aware that when I walk I disturb it, so I must walk with gratitude and a sense of indebtedness. Walk softly, walk softly . . .

Instead, I live in this world: (more…)

Succession

October 28, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Victor Postnikov

Toward Harmonious and Stable Co-Existence

by V.I. Postnikov

Loitering the central streets of my native town, Kiev, where I had lived for 63 years, I involuntarily examine the passers-by.  Gosh, how changed the appearance of citizens! I notice some subspecies that I never met before — such as a subspecies of managers — short-Imagehaired young people in white shirts, a subspecies of guards — stern-looking lads with bull’s napes,  a subspecies of builders — lads from other towns. The old age people are rarely seen on the streets.  I peer at the faces, hoping to recognize familiar ones. But no, no way, they are all long gone.  The species, the environment have changed irrevocably. Sad, but true.

In ecology, there is the concept of “succession,”  an important term which explains serial mutability of a species and its habitat. William R. Catton, Jr., in his classic book Overshoot, shows how this principle works in the human environment [1].  To understand the succession in human society, it is useful to first consider nature’s succession. (more…)

Communities and Connections

July 30, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Economy, Jay Walljasper

Neighborhood Activism and the Pursuit of Happiness

by Jay Walljasper 

At one point in my life, my neighbors and I were fighting battles on two fronts to protect our community. Our modest Kingfield neighborhood in Minneapolis was threatened on one side by the widening of a freeway, which would rip out scores of homes, and on the other side by the widening of an avenue, which would escalate traffic speeds on an already dangerous road.

I remember a dizzying round of strategy sessions, protest rallies, public meetings, more strategy sessions, and, eventually, victory parties, which wound up redirecting my life and work in gratifying ways Until that point, I rarely thought about opportunities for improving people’s lives by boosting public life and revitalizing public spaces. (more…)

Importance of the Commons

July 17, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Economy, Jay Walljasper

In Praise of Vacant Lots and Community Development

by Jay Walljasper

It’s easy to talk about the importance of the commons in grand terms — vast stretches of breathtaking  wilderness, publicly funded advances in science and technology, essential cultural and civic institutions,  the air and water which we all depend on for survival. But let’s not forget the lowly commons all around that enrich our lives. Things like sidewalks, playgrounds, community gardens, murals, neighborhood hangouts, and vacant lots. Especially vacant lots.

Modern society’s obsession with efficiency, productivity, and purposefulness sometimes blinds us to the epic possibilities of empty spaces that aren’t serving any profitable economic function. The word “vacant” itself implies that these places are devoid of value. But think back to all the imaginative uses you could discover for vacant land as a kid. You probably realized someone else owned it, but it was still yours to run around, play ball, plant a garden, host tea parties, pitch a tent or just get away from the watchful eye of adults. Thankfully, commoners in many places are working to make sure that vacant lots will be there for future generations of kids. (more…)

Beyond Money

August 22, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Family, Robert C. Koehler

The Foundation of the System’s Replacement

by Robert C. Koehler 

“Everyone loved him.”

The hole was too deep; these words couldn’t fill it. But there they remain, floating on the regret, vibrant with the possibility of a different kind of world. We’ve always been in the process of building that world, but the process has lacked a central cohesion . . . a god, if you will, to bless it and keep it.

Antonis Perris, an unemployed musician from Athens, found himself at age 60 living in a world where the love of his community didn’t matter and probably wasn’t even noticeable: He had lost his means to earn a living. Until Europe’s economic crisis hit, he had sustained himself and his elderly mother performing at local taverns. He had done well. Then business dried up. Finally, he reached a point where he saw no way to keep on living. The brief story of his death last May — one more “economic suicide” — was reported recently in the Washington Post: (more…)