Friday, May 28, 2010

I was flipping through some old notes, and, being the lazybug that I am, thought today might be a good time for a "what did Marx actually say?" moment. Specifically, here's the ten point program he put forward in the Communist Manifesto (word for word but the emphasis is mine):

1) Abolition of property in land and the application of all rents of land to public purposes.

2) A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

3) Abolition of all rights of inheritance.

4) Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

5) Centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.

6) Centralization of the means of communication and transportation in the hands of the state.

7) Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

8) Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

9) Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country by a more equitable distribution of the population over the country.

10) Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc.

Interesting, no? Before you decide this (other than those parts that have been implemented already, which you like) is the most evil thing you ever heard, a few thoughts on interpreting it.

First, remember that it's highly contextual. This is what Marx thought would, generally, be a good political agenda for a communist party in "the most advanced countries" in the 1840's and 50's. It's extremely situational, instrumental. We encourage you to come up with a program suitable to your own context.

Second--I think this is the most important caveat of communism--remember that what we are looking for is a republic which exists for the sake of its people, particularly its most common people. Most of us in the United States have noticed that the government is no longer by or for us, so it's natural that we hesitate to engage. It's also natural that we don't want to give it any more of ourselves--our time, energy, funds--than we have to. To consider communism is to commit an egregiously assertive act of imagination. What would it be like, we ask, if our government were actually, fundamentally, for us? How could we make this happen?

Rather than being a distilled version of Marxist theory, the list is a thought-provoking historical artifact. Some items are contextual oddities; but the sections I've bolded, for instance, are the foundations of any meaningful equality of opportunity--let us all stand on the work of our own lives. And the sections italicized can be summarized: reclaim and protect a commons that can serve us all equally and well.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

My front yard has become weirdly important, ever since someone suggested it as a way to deal with fear. When fear is such a big part of you and your life, honor it; do the things you reasonably can to be more safe. Then after you've tried that, after you've given yourself that chance, choose the compromises you want, if you decide on the trade-off for more time and freedom.

As far as the outside of the house goes, the idea is "show no weakness"; don't look like a victim. Don't look like a target. It's become a very tiny, personal crusade. I find myself watching all the time--which houses seem like easy marks, like places where you could get away with it? Which ones don't? More tangibly, what are the details that make that difference? My goal is: just from looking, it will be clear that someone cares enough about the people in this house not to let things slide. Just from looking, it will be obvious that we who live here are well taken care of.

It's an enlightening study. Learning to do is hard, but so is learning to see, and suddenly there's the obvious connection that I've never made; to make things so clean and tidy and neat like that, to make a space that emanates strength, you have to be aware of your surroundings. You have to notice little details. It's a natural connection, so much more than just learning to bother--which is important enough on its own.

Somehow this is more important to me than everything else I should be working on. It's a slow building; half a step, stand back, consider--what can I do, with the tools I have? With the strength I have? How many more days will it take to finish weeding around the driveway? What other tools would be good for the job? Is there any way I might take that stump out by myself? Will it make a difference to sweep away that dirt, does that edge need to be straightened? Is there a solution to the weeds next to the house without buying pavers? My imagination is on walkabout; this will be a showplace, beautiful, clean, bountiful, precise, liveable. Just keep working every day, thousands of baby steps.

Stages and details of maintaining an everyday life are so new to me. What I'm probably best at, in fact, is keeping it nominally together after everything has gone to shit--and assuming that it's always going to be that way. I am scraping a different life from weeds and black clay, handful by handful.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Humans need each other; independence isn't about pretending we don't. Independence is having some measure of control over your relationships.* I imagine there are healthier and less healthy ways to go about this. Maybe healthy independence means being able to maintain a standard of how you will interact with others--how you will deal with needing and being needed--and being able to walk away from relationships that insist on violating that standard.

Of course, by definition it also must mean building relationships, of some kind--and keeping them. Because humans, we need each other.

*Credit for this insight goes to Tyrel.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Maybe morning should be my blogging time; it seems to be when I'm feeling suitably melodramatic.

Today for the first time I wonder if it might have been a mistake to buy the house. Like me, it wants for so much fixing. We are both high maintenance, leaky, cracked, jerry-rigged but still beautiful, needy if we're being honest with ourselves, and I wonder if there's really room in this life for the both of us; there don't seem to be enough resources to sustain us.

For the first time I remember, I've started craving sunshine so much I can't enjoy rain. I miss the overwhelming, careless plant growth that happens everywhere back east. I'm hungry for blues and browns and greens, for ultramarine and scarlet, for distilled malachite and skies so bright you can barely see. I'm hungry for wet heat that slams into you like a wall when you walk out of the air conditioning at the airport, wide lazy rivers that are barely cool at all, and the lush, dense forest that asserts itself when water is no object--where nothing chokes out life but other life.

This is better, probably--it's a different kind of sadness than what I'm used to. The old things are still present, but this is here also--carrot, tantalizing, painful but drawing me from my rut. I hope.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

1) depression. Woke this morning and imagined an enormous pallet load of red bricks falling from above as a packed mass, bones crunching, blood spatters everywhere.

2) deleting facebook and some other online accounts in hopes of focusing on real friendships.

3) Had dinner with some friends, and it was wonderful! Pale blue damask on the coffee table, crystal stemware, leg cramps, spicy chickpeas, and low-stress interesting conversation that made me wonder about gregorian chants and Wittgenstien and music school. Let me take this moment to reveal how much I sometimes love being a grown-up.

4) love--contemplating feeling unloved. . . which I do, almost all the time. Wah wah. This will be another post.

5) happy would look like light, and color, and music--and love. Thinking of how to go about it.

also safe.