In and around the Occupy movement I’ve been talking with people about communities, communes, communalism, commons, communism, etc. The conversation I attended the longest at A Public Thing // Financial Engagement (an event organized on November 5 to promote public conversations on the Occupy movement in the Twin Cities) was about the possibility of forming a commune in the Twin Cities, which got me thinking about why we might want this and what need this might be a response to. Outside of the real economic and political demands that the Occupy movement has been making is there something lacking in our lives at the level of our relationships to others that the movement strives to articulate?
Indeed, one of the things I’m excited about in the Occupy movement is how it has resulted in the creation of ties that bond individuals together into communities outside of the ways in which relationships usually form. G.W. Hegel imagined that substantive civic communities are based on the model of families; community members are held together “by the bond of mutual need.” The movement’s bond is recognizable in the encampments that have sprung up, a nexus of sharing, singing, militating, collaborative teaching, protesting and learning.
We are surrounded by people, especially in large cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul, but why isn’t this enough? Maybe because of the habitual ways in which our relationships arise. For example, there’s friends we make at work. But these form around the capitalist production of a good or service – a very thin connection between people who would otherwise be strangers. There’s play. But we gather around mass distractions, like beer, booze or sports. There’s politics. But we’re too busy apologizing for what mainstream politics is failing to do, instead of organizing to make meaningful changes.
The Occupy movement has inspired me to think more critically about the communities I’m regularly a part of and motivated me to strengthen my relationships to others by becoming active in movements that share my mutual needs. Crisis can be the basis for the formation of a vibrant community of individuals who share bonding moments, like protesting and organizing, and there’s lots of movements out there to join. Here’s some that come immediately to my mind: unions (IWW, Worker’s International); Minneapolis Autonomous Radical Space; a social justice non-profit (like Minnesota Neighborhoods Organized for Change or Rock Star Supply Co.); community farming organizations (like Frogtown Gardens); the Experimental Community Education Organization of the Twin Cities. This list could go on and on. I’ve recently been fascinated by Ourgoods; find me there!