The Commons

I received a draft of a manifesto last week, and I promised to write something about it. Now that I have been given an update draft, I should get to work. The updated version is available as a PDF here (it’s in Swedish, though). I’ve just finished reading När vardagen blir politik and Stackars oss! En bok om jättemycket mer demokrati, as well.

It can be good to start with a little word list:

Gemenskap = Community, Fellowship, Solidarity. It’s a bit of a tricky word, as it doesn’t seem to have a direct equivalent in Swedish. I can’t even find the damn word in Nationalencyclopedin. It generally means having something in common, or a group of people who have something in common. The sense in which the word is used in the manifesto, it’s about looking past false gemenskap like that through nationality or biology, it’s a revolting ethic which means that we acknowledge that how we treat each other matters, and that there is no revolutionary end goal, just a continuous building of gemenskap and a defense of what is good in the world against what threatens it.

Allmänningar = Commons. Liberal democracy (under which socialism and conservatism also falls) splits society into two opposite parts: the private and the public. This sort of dividing is a child of the 19th century. It can be good to look back at Roman legal terms. They called that which belongs to all people res communes, that which belongs to the State res publicae, and that which belongs to the gods res sanctae, res religiosae, res sacrae. Of course, gods no longer have any juridical status, but there is instead a strong belief in market forces, ruled by an “invisible hand”, that which could be called the private sphere. I am astounded as to the degree in which res communes is ignored. It is our job to look at what commons exist, and try to expand the commons as much as possible. A world in which everything is res communes, one realises, is the communist utopia.

Communisation = The development in which the capitalist relations are broken down and at the same time new, non-measurable relations between people are created. It is a coin with two sides: one destructive and one constructive. Hate and love written on the fingers of each hand. It is an understanding that we do, in a sense, already have communism. A process without any clear end goal. A slow-motion revolution. As James Scott once said: “Just as millions of anthozoan polyps create, willy-nilly; a coral reef, so do the multiple acts of insubordination and evasion create political and economic barrier reefs of their own.”

Berättelse = Narrative. In this sense, it refers to the narrative in which our identities form, and the way in which one can encourage collaboration, generate new ideas and ignite change. This narrative form could perhaps be contrasted with the “information addiction” of some activists. Narratives are utopian and dystopian. They innovatively build up possiblities or catastrophies. Not as a paranoid future but as a possible now. Narratives are molecules, and the parts give each other new properties through resonance and pulse. Information is often atomic, and while they can sometimes be puzzled together and used in narratives, they often just make a heavy pulp.

Fika = a Swedish social institution. It traditionally includes coffee, but not necesarily. In the manifesto, fika was mentioned “fika groups” and contrasted them with traditional organizational meetings and local groups. I found it pretty interesting, considering coffee and coffee houses’ role in the public conversation, according to Jürgen Habermas. In the sense the manifesto means fika, I’m reminded of online internet forums. There certainly is something special about the public conversation, though. In a sense one feels disconnected with the world, in another sense one also feels connected with it. It’s a bit hard to explain. No doubt fika can be shown as a a contact space in which ideas can be shared and grow, it represents the whole network-thinking. It is a step towards breaking the role of passive consumers or producers of information, and becoming active shapers of it. It is what culture really is about.

I feel alltogether too tired to write anything more right now, but I know that this is grand project points towards organizing outside political parties, and laying the founding bricks for a whole new way of living.


One Response to “The Commons”

  1. fred Says:

    Oh yes, this was good and very interesting! By far the most interesting response so far, and there is competition 🙂

    I love that quote by James Scott. I just recently stumpled upon it myself, in the swedish book “arbetssamhället” by roland paulsen. I belive that is exactly how we should think about social change – not forgetting that the coral reefs are dying..

    Furthermore, I really like your thoughts on fika. We’re hoping that fika as a “revolutionary concept” will be able to break down the boundaries between political discussion and just hanging out, and also that this act of fika will remain open – like the most open-minded and socially inclusive group of friends one has ever seen 😀

    Well, we will certainly continue our discussion later on. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of something really good!

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