Humanifesto #3

“Misinterpretation of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar was the basis for a popular belief that a cataclysm would take place on December 21, 2012. December 21, 2012 was simply the day that the calendar went to the next b’ak’tun, at Long Count The date on which the calendar will go to the next piktun (a complete series of 20 b’ak’tun), at Long Count, will be on October 13, 4772.” Wikipedia
The next b’ak’tun will be complete in 134 years on 2146 when our great great grandchildren will be elders.

Doing the math: Destiny Kinal

The redistribution of wealth–or rebalancing of abundance–happens best at the local level. Each planning and action group has to decide for themselves what their area of influence is. This geography or sphere usually defines itself: local, regional, watershed, or common ground, the “fit” has to be right, with a commonality of mutual identification that makes sense to all those in the group, along a spectrum from those who resist sharing, through those who have more than enough and are willing to share, to those who don’t have enough, to those who are barely surviving.

Diggers in the Sixties had Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco as their immediate sphere of influence for action. Everyone living in the Haight self-identified as a Digger. In that overripe consumer culture coming out of the Fifties, Diggers found their mission moving food being thrown away as less-than-ideal in the Produce Markets at the docks to the parks adjacent to The Haight. These gratifying actions led easily to free stores, free medical clinics, job banks. A flat leadership structure was idealized and realized, where leaders had no visibility (except among themselves). Their hearing–perhaps made keen by political acumen (SDS, YSL, SNCC, Black Panthers, AIM)–was pitch perfect, their ears tuned to what was thought on the streets. Until Time Magazine commodified what was occurring, a melange of people–skewed to the young but including older politicos and beatniks, across socioeconomic and racial divides–converged to experience and invent the countercultural.

Perhaps too much is made of the fact that this was all bathed in the friendly light of psychedelics until the harder drugs of speed and heroin made inroads. it was going to take quite a lot, it turns out, to unplug all the wiring of the industrial revolution and the economic polarization that began to occur with the loss of common lands and the guilds, and the rise of pernicious entitled capitalism.

The U.S Civil War put paid to any decent alternatives that we had evolved as an agricultural craftspeople. The real experiment in counterculturalism began in the later Sixties when people moved out of the cities into the countryside, organizing themselves in small clusters, or common points of reference flung across the country, usually around at-scale watersheds, to invent what came next.

Fast forward to the turn of the Millennium and–only recently–a new Mayan calendar cycle. Pernicious capitalism has become toxic globalization, though this western value of limitless profit has always been toxic to indigenous people.

Forget the “precautionary principle,” capital only needs to show the potential size of a market to get the green light on any number of destructive products, masquerading as necessary and desirable social contributions, from GMO’s, to drones, to smart fabrics, to petroleum-based poisons, to continuous war, to interplanetary mining operations. The exploitation of resources–including indigenous people and the minerals resting in the soil of their reservations–make anything and anyone fair game.

Luckily, countercultural principles are still operating in their yeasty semi-invisible way at the local, regional, food and fibershed grassroots level.

Take a group here in the East Bay across from San Francisco. Planting Justice has trained themselves in permaculture, adapting ancient principles of gardening and growing food that are not very labor intensive once the structures are set in place. Permaculturists bring fertile “food forests” and the commons back into our lives. Planting Justice charges reasonable rates to plan and plant food forest in yards to people who can afford it, then use that money to teach inner-city kids how to plan, plant and maintain food forests in schools, social clubs, and community gardens.

Of course the Bay Area has been blessed with the vision of Alice Waters, the grandmere of the paradigm-tipping la nouvelle cuisine and more recently Edible School Yards. A scant decade after Alice’s contributions of influence, capital, and hands-on involvement, every school in the greater Bay Area has both a school garden and a cooking curriculum.

Like articulating our ancient relationship to our watershed which defines us as a culture (Berg, Dasmann, House et al), bioregionalism spread quickly across the country and now across the world. Alice Waters’ rehydration of local seasonal food, simply prepared, and her message that spawned the Edible School Yard movement is sweeping our continent even in areas not blessed with California’s twelve month growing season.

Now watch it happen with Fibersheds. Taking back our millennial relationships to fiber, to cloth ourselves in a non-toxic way, Fibershed (Burgess, Kahn et al) is spreading across North America.

When these movements meet those where the ancient strongholds of “homelands that feed and clothe us” are still indigenous, what will happen? It’s pleasurable to imagine an overflowing of spontaneous joy and celebration as indigenous populations from Lithuania to Ulan Bator, from Senegal to Lake Titicaca, find fellowship with us in resisting the forces of globalization that mean to unravel their cultures, “same as it ever was,” since 1492 and before.

Back to Planting Justice and young people who resonate to their Robin-Hood ways to rebalance resources, shifting from those willing to share their abundance to the needy–how Diggerish!

Within the loose population of the now-aging Diggers, a movement has caught fire to redistribute resources among the group (in size anywhere from a couple hundred individuals, to associated groups numbering perhaps a thousand, and on out in circles of correspondence.) Called Diggerbread, this group proposes to do at a small scale what is being increasingly called for in the larger population.

The redistribution of wealth is not a sly infiltration. The term has brought Republican ire down on our seated president Barack Obama. Capitalists everywhere, those feathering their lofty nests at the expense of an underclass and middle class, are reacting as one would expect a sleeping citizen to react when wakened by the cry of “Fire! Fire!”

Softening the terms to “rebalancing abundance” removes the whiff of Marxist revolution from the necessary process. Diggerbread willingly aggregates both cash and other resources from those who self-identify as having enough, to those in the community who don’t have enough, a sharp, pointed, snowballing condition as one ages in poverty.

Among the loosely-defined DIgger population, somewhat atomized over the last thirty years of diaspora as everyone spread out to apply our core values in as many milieu, a lack of regard for money or material comforts too often has resulted in individuals finding themselves isolated and living off the threadbare social safety net: social security, no dental care, Medicare A but not B for hospitalization, perhaps food stamps.

In particular, men and women who have been called to lead large social changes in restoration, indigenous rights, quality of universal education, inner city regeneration, and a host of anti’s: globalization, GMOS, nuclear
energy, for instance, have found themselves at the other end of dazzling careers, with books, accomplishments and awards aplenty, but no pension to make their elder years secure. Simply having been salaried for serving as an executive director, field project manager or social entrepreneur in the last quarter of the 20th century in many fields of social change was a mark of distinction. Enough of a distinction to make your contribution, make a difference in your field, raised principled children and see one’s life work flow into a society that values you in your elder years, yes? Not necessarily so.

Hence Diggerbread.

It’s my observation that while talent, brains and intellect are evenly distributed in the population–particularly in a population like the United State whose rich store of genetic material from all over the world, calls to those who myopically see only opportunity when they contemplate immigration–the laws of karma or chance (call fortune what you will,) are unevenly distributed.

I fell in love with a song-and-dance man who happened to be a radiologist. Others inherited family wealth or education. Still others, with extremely fortunate blends of gifts and character traits, made careers that paid out
handsomely. Often women, particularly single women with children, made careers out of necessity.

Take away my doctor husband and I wouldn’t have been able to write my novels without also having to teach. I feel my novels are important examinations of what values and practices we left behind as a society in that “vast cemetery of forgetting” (MIlan Kundera.) Take away my doctor husband and I wouldn’t have been able to practice my community organizing skills learned in Johnson’s War on Poverty and SDS’ initiatives to stop the War in Vietnam and bring our soldiers home. I have applied these skills for the last thirty years in the poor rural area we live in on the NY/PA border. Take away my doctor husband and I would be trying to live on less than $1000/month in social security, might become a burden on my daughters as my health deteriorated, given the capitalist-imposed fraying safety net for the poor, widowed, orphaned, returning vet, and undereducated and underemployed of all stripes.

People say: give yourself more credit! But life has a way of pulling us along on its tides, surprising us when we are marooned on the shores of being elder in a society that doesn’t value its elders.

Oh yes, I likely would have found a way. I have my education, the broadening experience of travel, my core values from radicalization in the early Sixties, fermented in a nutritious brew in the counterculture, values too strong to be coopted by my decade of making a living and building a resume while a single mom.

Diggerbread calls upon us to magnetize around those values which we have been practicing and refining all our adult lives. We are proposing a Third Act for those of us who forged our common values in our youth as a First Act, who went out into the world and applied them in broader contexts as a Second Act.

For many, whose names we honor, the mere act of recognizing the immensity of what we had set ourselves “counter” to, required some pain relief to go on. Deaths from overdoses of heroin in particular claimed many of our best and brightest, while the War in Vietnam and drive-by shootings in the inner city and wholesale incarceration claimed more. Alcoholism and despair on pitifully poor reservations, the privations of the elders reduced to witnessing the wholesale destruction of their sons and daughters…I could go on and on.

We have come through that Second Act in which we had to fight the Enemy toe-to-toe. We have come out on the other side, with casualties. We have to honor our dead, our wounded. We have to work on restoring the health and wellbeing of those who have paid an unjust bill for their contributions in the Second Act. (Treyvon’s mother!)

And then we have the privilege of contemplating what is left for our Third Act as our children and their children gather themselves for the next fifteen years, in which time, scientists say, the fate of our homelands, our planet, will have been decided.

We have time to rebalance resources, to take care of each other.

If the Mayans are among the ancient timekeepers we can trust because of their timepiece’s duration, we are at the beginning of another b’ak’tun of 134 years. Next piktun (20 b’ak’tun) will occur on October 13, 4772, by Long Calendar accounting, 2760 years into the future. Are we capable of demonstrating that we can plan eight generations out like the indigenous peoples of this continent urge?

Neither we nor our children will be alive at the end of the next b’ak’tun in 2146. But our great grandchildren will be, just as we are here as spokespersons for our great grandparents who struggled through the years of the Civil War and early Petroleum Age.

Calendars imply the possibility of improvement, of moving social change forward to the new dream that Thomas Berry has urged us to articulate.

In the next fifteen years, the potential energy of our coming together again, may have generated an evolved set of living principles as powerful as “free”, as potent as watershed and fibershed ar proving to be as units of organizing. We have to give ourselves permission to generate fresh philosophies for action in our perilous times, building on the old ones from the First Act…but not using the old ones as creeds to bind us from considering actions we experimented with and refined in the Second Act. We are the products of both our First Acts and our Second Acts.

Pharaoh! (Our own hierophants living in our brains and our histories of ourselves, our critics, our fearful selves, our reptilian brains.)
Set us free!– to discover the next thing, to become that thing and model it for the larger culture.

The next fifteen years may be all we elders have of productive contribution to society in our own limited lifetimes. Let’s spend that largesse together, freely, without stint, without cropping our own momentum. Do we trust ourselves enough to continue forward together?