YES! Magazine to the rescue. Just when I was feeling a bit lost, along comes such a hopeful YES publication with one article on decolonizing our minds and another on escaping the chains of capitalism and inventing more cooperative local economies. Most instructive to our work in NM.
Aside from studying Spanish, Sunday was spent reading, refreshing the mind and reinvigorating the spirit. Increasingly, we try to avoid meetings or events on Sunday just for this kind of restorative practice. YES! magazine’s most recent publication came to the rescue with a cover article about alternatives to capitalism and how as long as we allow ourselves to limit our options to market forces, profit and privilege will circumscribe our reality. From YES!:
“To escape this “capitalocentrism,” we need to broaden the definition of economy beyond capitalism. What if, instead, economy is all the ways that we meet our material needs and care for each other? And what if it’s not a singular thing? Then we would see that beneath the official capitalist economy are all sorts of thriving non-capitalist economies, where there may not be a profit motive or market exchange. They include tasks that we do every day. We care for our children and elderly; we cook and clean for ourselves and each other; we grow food; we provide emotional support to friends. These are all ways of meeting our material needs and caring for each other.” According to a study conducted by Economist Nancy Folbre from University of Massachusetts these largely unpaid activities comprise 26% of the US gross domestic product, yet they have no real value in the capitalist system.
The single most stirring passage in the YES piece was when it defined the alternative to the capitalist-centric thinking about what is possible: “Solidarity economics is more than just cooperatives. It is a social justice movement. It is shifting our consciousness not only to uncover root causes, but also to expand our vision of what is possible, and to inspire dreams of the world as it could be. It is building power, not just to resist and reform the injustices and unsustainabilities produced by current systems, but ultimately to control democratically and govern political and economic resources to sustain people and the planet. And it is creating economic alternatives and prototypes for producing, exchanging, consuming, and investing in ways that are more just, sustainable, and democratic.” I wish I could tattoo this on my arm to keep this quote front and center to my consciousness. It is a big part of what Retake is about.
The article goes on to describe how we can’t magically transform our economy into the kind of ‘solidarity economics’ model envisioned by YES, but that we can practice and develop smaller prototypes of how we could function as a society and then it provides brief descriptions of about 6-7 such initiatives in Cleveland, Boston, Springfield and other northeast communities. It is very much worth your reading over these programs as there could well be a lesson in it for New Mexico. A link is provided below.
The article also asserts that every day, whether we recognize it or not, we make decisions that define our values. “For example, I might pay more for lettuce from a local farmer who grows sustainably rather than from a distant supplier that exploits farm workers and uses pesticides.” They talk about career choices as one of those defining decisions and they talk about what you do in your spare time, as well. Finally, and here we strike very close to home, they ask what we do with our public land. They present the option of affordable housing or pricey condos, decidedly an issue here in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. And you could add to that, what does Sandoval County do with its public land: preserve it or exploit and despoil it? These policy designs define our communities ethically and morally. They describe who we are as a community and so, each of us has an activist role to play in helping to direct our local public policy.
In introducing the part of the article that provides summaries of local cooperative and collective programs, YES offers this: “Across the U.S., from Jackson, Mississippi, to Oakland, California; in rural Kentucky and on Navajo-Hopi lands; and throughout Massachusetts’ biggest cities, it is often poor communities and communities of color that are building solidarity economies around these questions. This is not new. In fact, this is where solidarity economics—collective strategies for survival—have been innovated out of necessity. Think mutual aid, community organizing, self-help, and cooperatives of all kinds. These practices have been embedded in Black liberation movements, the early labor movement, and many other progressive movements in the U.S.” Click here to read the full Yes! report. It is a tremendous article with lots of small cooperative and collective programs described and with links to more information on those efforts.
Decolonize Our Minds, As Well
Just as the above piece pointed to how our minds are circumscribed by the economic belief system that defines the limits of possibilities, in this second, far shorter YES article Mary Annette Pember. asserts that Anglos would benefit from a profound re-examination of how they conceptualize their relation to the planet and its people, i.e. a spiritual re-examination. “To decolonize is not only an act of humility and acceptance; it requires the courage to take responsibility for our role in this great, relentless process that is our life on Earth. In decolonizing our minds, we embrace the notion that we are a part of rather than apart from the Earth. Whether or not we enjoy camping or prefer to dwell in high-rise apartments without our feet ever leaving pavement, we are all subject to the same natural processes. There is no escape; there is only community and responsibility.” Pember had begun the article lamenting how tedious National Native American Education month can be for native scholars like her, as she is called upon to conduct brief presentations that only glimpse at the depth of Native culture and the genocide to which they have been subjected with people wanting to hear tales and talk that reinforce stereotypes rather than challenge them. But she also points to specific actions we can each take to liberate and decolonize our minds and a key element is simply to get out of our comfort zones, explore other parts of our community and engage other cultural groups and organizations. Click here to review the entire Yes! Magazine report.”
Retake leadership is meeting this afternoon and one of the topics on our agenda is going to be how we might facilitate a sustained community conversation about how we as a community could decolonize and de-capitalize our minds and open ourselves to creative, just, cooperative initiatives such as those described in the first YES article.
Paul & Roxanne