Olympia, where are your commons?
Community can’t exist without the commons. Where will we commune?
The rise of capitalism began with the enclosure movement, the removal of peasants from the land they worked and shared—the destruction of the commons.
In the current situation in which we find ourselves there is no more communal land. It is all owned by someone—especially if you think of corporations as people. Even the land we think of as public is really owned by city, county, state or federal governments.
The question of homelessness downtown and what is and is not allowed on public property goes right to the heart of what capitalism is. Is this public property to be freely shared by everyone and used for acts of living or is it to be regulated and controlled by local governments that clearly place the interests of one class of people above another and the belief in economy above all?
Why shouldn’t people be allowed to sleep in the park? Littering, public urination, drug use and violence—all the things that are brought up when discussing homelessness—are already crimes, so why is it also a crime to sleep on a park bench after dark? Why should parks, benches and gazebos sit empty when so many people just need a place to rest their heads?
Under the current economic system access to land—a necessity for life—is dictated by the amount of money a person has. Can’t we imagine something different?
Governments will never give us permission to retake the commons. The best we can hope from them is to leave us alone. Their first priority is their religion—the economy. People who live without paying rent, without a job, are in direct opposition to the goal of commodification of everything in the service of the economy. That is what we are up against to create a world where everyone’s needs are truly met even those who have no position in or allegiance to the religion of economy.
There are 18 million empty homes in America and less than 1 million homeless!? Economy is a religion based upon the myth of scarcity—the belief that there is not enough to go around. As the 99% slogan demonstrates, it’s not that there are too little resources to go around, it is that there are too few in control of those resources. So, on its face, the economy they never stop talking about is a lie because it’s based on the presumption that there is not enough when clearly there is plenty.
The occupy movement demonstrates that a large number of people fully support the use of public lands for displaced peoples. Each encampment provided a model—with all it’s beauty and flaws—of how societies based on voluntary association and cooperation could work—a place where food, shelter and time are shared freely. The state showed that it is in direct opposition to such a world. So, there will be conflict, but I can see no other way forward for those of us who want to be a part of a better world. We must recreate the commune—not an occupation—a community!
Jo Robinhood was a poor boy from the bible belt who came west to be a cowboy. He was disillusioned with “the American way” by images of child casualities from the 2003 US bombing of Baghdad and radicalized by port militarization resistance to that war. Now Jo is a gardener, father, and an anarcho-tribalist.