**This is an old revision of the document!**

GTA's Newsletter #01 - July 2020

Editorial

Dear readers,

It is our pleasure to share Global TapestryThe weaving of networks of Alternatives of Alternative’s first newsletter with you. The Global Tapestry of AlternativesAre activities and initiatives, concepts, worldviews, or action proposals by collectives, groups, organizations, communities, or social movements challenging and replacing the dominant system that perpetuates inequality, exploitation, and unsustainabiity. In the GTA we focus primarily on what we call "radical or transformative alternatives", which we define as initiatives that are attempting to break with the dominant system and take paths towards direct and radical forms of political and economic democracy, localised self-reliance, social justice and equity, cultural and knowledge diversity, and ecological resilience. Their locus is neither the State nor the capitalist economy. They are advancing in the process of dismantling most forms of hierarchies, assuming the principles of sufficiency, autonomy, non-violence, justice and equality, solidarity, and the caring of life and the Earth. They do this in an integral way, not limited to a single aspect of life. Although such initiatives may have some kind of link with capitalist markets and the State, they prioritize their autonomy to avoid significant dependency on them and tend to reduce, as much as possible, any relationship with them. or GTAGlobal Tapestry of Alternatives as a process or a dialogue began in 2014. Through dialogues and deliberations with several networks across the world, it was felt that there is a need of a process to facilitate the emergence, visibility and interweaving of networks of collectives and groups on radical alternatives to the dominant regime, contesting their roots in capitalist, patriarchal, racist, statist, and anthropocentric forces. In 2018, a group of activists, academics, researchers, and students came together to form an interim as well as a continuously evolving team to hold the process. In early 2019, the process was officially launched seeking endorsements and support from organisations and individuals working on wide-range of alternatives across the world.

This newsletter comes to you at times of immense uncertainties that pose very serious challenges and have social, economic, political, cultural and ecological implications for most of us. The attempt of this newsletter is to bring to you the news, perspectives, thoughts, ideas, reflections, and dialogues on alternatives to the dominant regime and how can they offer us pathways towards more just, equitable and ecologically wise futures. It is a humble attempt to bring together the collective envisioning of these pluriversal alternatives by creating a space for sharing and dialoguing.

We intend to share this newsletter every month to share perspectives, news on activities being seeded through GTA, as well as perspectives/news/thoughts/questions from tapestry weavers and endorsing organisations and networks. We do not see it as a newsletter that is simply a conglomeration of news/updates but rather as a process of knowing each-others' work, engaging with ideas, facilitating collaborations and initiating co-writing and co-learning processes. Yes, the objectives are ambitious and that is why we need your support, your contributions and engagement. We invite you to this sharing, reflecting, dialoguing, healing, and envisioning space.

GTA’s interim core team

Note: this newsletter is compiled by Shrishtee Bajpai, Anna Hedin and Franco Augusto

About the GTA

The Global Tapestry of Alternatives seeks to build bridges between networks of Alternatives around the globe and promote the creation of new processes of confluence. You can know more about the project, in our introductory note.

The GTA process began to take shape in 2018 and is advancing today with the support of more than 40 international organizations and several dozen referents, activists and intellectuals from around the world. Its mission is embodied in a road map consisting of various actions already underway. You can know the detailed list of our current Endorsers, both organizations and individuals, in this website section.

Some of our alive definitions

In the context of the GTA, we defined different key concepts to clarify the use we give to them. We understand the concept of “Alternatives” as

"activities and initiatives, concepts, worldviews, or action proposals by collectives, groups, organizations, communities, or social movements challenging and replacing the dominant system that perpetuates inequality, exploitation, and unsustainabiity. In the GTA we focus primarily on what we call “radical or transformative alternatives”, which we define as initiatives that are attempting to break with the dominant system and take paths towards direct and radical forms of political and economic democracy, localised self-reliance, social justice and equity, cultural and knowledge diversity, and ecological resilience. Their locus is neither the State nor the capitalist economy. They are advancing in the process of dismantling most forms of hierarchies, assuming the principles of sufficiency, autonomy, non-violence, justice and equality, solidarity, and the caring of life and the Earth. They do this in an integral way, not limited to a single aspect of life. Although such initiatives may have some kind of link with capitalist markets and the State, they prioritize their autonomy to avoid significant dependency on them and tend to reduce, as much as possible, any relationship with them".

You can read this an other alive defintions in our Definitons section.

News from GTA

Webinars

Post the Covid crises and dramatic change in our plans of activities, GTA initiated the process to facilitate sessions with activists, scholars, researchers, mobilisers and practitioners across the world who have engaged on exploring systemic alternatives to the dominant regimes, contesting its roots in capitalist, patriarchal, racist, statist, and anthropocentric forces. The fortnightly conversations aim to collectively explore with a range of initiatives a possibility of a just, life-centred and respectful transition into the future. It is important to explore not only what can be done, but also the tough question of how, and by whom? And where possible, to make the discussion relevant to the current crisis.

We have had six dialogues until the end of June exploring the opportunities of promoting and creating systemic alternatives.

The first dialogue with Patrick Bond and Rehad Desai from South Africa explored the responses emerging from the labour movements, workers and social movements and progressive organisations in South Africa. You can listen in this to dialogue here.

The second dialogue explored the responses emerging from local, sustainable, bio-diverse farming movement in Bangladesh with Farhad Mazhar and Farida Akhter from Naya Krishi Andolan. How the Naya Krishi Andolan (New Agriculture Movement) in Bangladesh led by the small-scale farmers show us pathways to just, equitable, and ecologically resilient futures. You can listen in this to dialogue here.

The third dialogue with Ana Margarida Esteves from European Commons Assembly explored the initiatives, processes emerging among the Commons Movement in Europe and how it can provide pathways to move towards a Commons future that is democratic, socially just and ecologically sensible. You can listen in to this dialogue here.

The next GTA dialogue explored with Xochitl Levya Solano, researcher- activist living in Chiapas, perspectives of resistance and re-existence driven by the reflective experiences of the Zapatista and autonomous communities of Chiapas (Mexico) along with the challenges and actions in the context of the global crises of the pandemic. You can listen in to this dialogue here.

The fifth dialogue with Kali Akuno from Cooperation Jackson discussed the Black Lives Matter movement emerging in the USA and its global significance and critical pathways that exist and can support the radical transformations from the bottom-up. You can listen in to this dialogue here.

The latest dialogue with Dilar Dirik from Kurdish Women’s Movement who shared perspectives, challenges and progress of the Kurdish Women’s Movement in the context of the global crises and what lessons the movement offers for social organising. The dialogue explored the role of women, jineology and the struggle in Kurdishtan for radical transformations. You can listen in to this dialogue here.

These dialogues are being hosted along with Global Dialogues for Systemic Change. Read more about them in their website.

PeDAGoG (Post-Development Academic-Activist Global Group)

PeDAGoG is a global network of academics and academic-activists interested in post-development, radical alternatives, and related themes, initiated in early 2020. The main idea is to: share existing course curricula, materials, methods/pedagogy, and approaches; propose new ones; coordinate programmes across different geographies and cultures; and be able to offer learning experiences to people in various parts of the world, especially the global south. And through all this, contribute to the movements for radical, systemic transformation. We are collecting course materials, individual self-introductions, and links to related initiatives at a shared doc accessible at this shared document.

Our mailing list currently has 105 members from around the world, with regular discussions on new courses, pedagogy in the time of covid, and shared writings. You are invited to join the group.

News from the Weavers

Vikalp Sangam in India

By: Sujatha Padmanabhan (For Vikalp Sangam, India)

Over the last few months, the world has been dealing with a multiplicity of crises that COVID-19 has brought upon it. The perils of a hyper-globalized world have never been starker.

In India, as in all other countries, marginalized sections of society have most astutely experienced the fallout of the pandemic. Groups such as migrant workers, senior citizens, sex workers, farmers, transgender people, people with disabilities and their care givers have suffered isolation, starvation, insecurities and economic hardships of an unprecedented nature. In these times, there seems to be a realization that humanity has reached a tipping point. There are greater awakenings to a need for a different world, a world that is far more just and equitable, far more ecologically resilient.

A process that started in 2014 in India, called Vikalp Sangam, had its origins in this search. Vikalp Sangam (or Confluence of Alternatives) has provided a platform to hundreds of grassroots initiatives or alternatives that are attempting to create systemic change and are exploring alternative pathways to well-being. Broadly, they address issues of ecological degradation, social injustices and exclusion, economic inequities, undemocratic or centralized systems of governance, and cultural homogeneity. These alternatives work in a range of sectors like health, education, ecology, energy, gender/sexualities, crafts, livelihoods, food security, water, decentralized governance and autonomy, human rights and so on.

The broad objectives of the process were as follows: to create and build awareness around the alternatives; to facilitate sharing, networking and collaborations between the alternatives, especially between different sectors; to envision collectively what kind of alternative pathways would lead to a better future; and in the long run to be a strong political force bringing about change. A national core group of 58 organisations plays an advisory role in guiding the process and also supports the various activities.

Sangams or physical gatherings bring together organizations, individuals, networks and movements who have worked at practical or conceptual levels on alternatives to ‘mainstream’ development. These are organized either regionally (at State, district or ecoregional level) or thematically (e.g. energy, food, health, democracy for example) and to date 19 Sangams have been held. During these confluences, there is a lot of sharing of experiences, perspectives, dialogue and collective visioning.

At the first Sangam in 2014, Kalpavriksh -an environment action group- introduced a note “In Search of Alternatives: Key Aspects and Principles” for discussion. This note, which has been discussed and inputted into in almost all the subsequent Sangams is evolving and is a synthesis of the understanding of the key principles and strategies emerging in a myriad of grassroots initiatives. Thus, it provides a framework of overlapping spheres of transformation that these initiatives embody.
To increase the awareness around alternatives, a Vikalp Sangam website was launched in 2014 which has various kinds of outputs: stories in English and in some regional languages (currently over 1600 in number), films, case studies, perspective pieces and other resources. This has been a useful website accessed by many who seek information on alternative transformations as well as universities who have used it for curriculum design and resources.

Over the last few months, Vikalp Sangam has been involved in highlighting initiatives that have helped in stemming crises that have arisen due to COVID-19. For example, many initiatives have been involved in helping millions of marginalized groups with relief material, especially migrant labour who are desperately trying to travel back to their villages. Many others have shown that the transformative change in their regions have stood the communities in good stead in these times, in terms of food and livelihood security, or being able to support migrant labour returning to their villages. Vikalp Sangam has been holding a series of online dialogues called Vikalp Varta (Dialogues on Alternatives) with people from these communities, voluntary organizations, government bodies and other institutions.

It has also started a blog to share specific COVID-19 related stories and information from across India, in both urban and rural spaces. It is also currently producing a document in multiple languages that gives the key highlights of transformative initiatives from which lessons can be learnt with specific recommendations for communities, civil society organizations and government agencies.

A new idea that is being seeded through Vikalp Sangam process is called the Vikalp Sutra (Alternative Linkages). It aims to link, create processes and spaces to generate ,revive and strengthen livelihoods and self-reliance especially of the most vulnerable sections of society.

Crianza Mutua in Mexico

CRIANZA MUTUA 1- dismantling all hirarchies, reconstructing autonomy, healing and learning.

By: Crianza Mutua, Mexico

Some of us are convinced that the best way to resist a system that is based on the precarization of life, dispossession and aggression, as well as patriarchal domination, is to build alternatives. This article provides an introduction to Crianza Mutua, a network of collectives in Mexico constructing alternative, creative and autonomous ways of facing up to the health and economic crisis aggravated in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Crianza Mutua is an initiative that proposes to identify entramados comunitarios2 that have created innovative and radical alternatives for life i.e. broken away from the dominant regime. The idea is to link them so that they learn from each other and offer each other solidarity, as well as become a source of inspiration for those who are unhappy with the current situation but do not yet know how to resist or create another possibility for life.

Crianza Mutua will invite entramados comunitarios that are already living outside the dominant system. We think that a new world has already been born with them. They are advancing in the process of dismantling all hierarchies, assuming the principle of sufficiency and constructing autonomy. They are actively resisting all racist, sexist, statist and violent attitudes.
Two or more people, who have a practical arrangement to act together, constitute an entramado comunitario. They share motives, rather than goals, to be together –for sheer survival or in the name of old ideals, such as living in harmony with mother earth without harming or using it. They may or may not be part of collectives, groups, organizations, communities, or social movements, but they are expressions of ‘societies in movement’ that currently characterize Latin America.

Affection and friendship constitute the glue that nurtures the entramados. It is not mere ‘sentiment,’ but ways of relating to each other that have become political categories. The entramados can be seen as the cells of a new society.

We in Crianza Mutua will invite entramados who:

  • Have been created and act by their own accord.
  • Dissolve, in their concrete practices, any hierarchy in the relations between those belonging to the entramado and in their interaction with other peoples or groups.
    Are focused on taking care of life and adopting behaviors that are respectful to Mother Earth and all living beings. Openly challenge all forms of racism and sexism, with their attitudes and behavior within the entramado and in its surroundings.
  • Break with dependencies on the market and the State, through the continuous construction of autonomy and joyous creativity.
  • Avoid shaping their activities as commodities and try to reduce production and consumption of commodities in all areas of everyday life.

Mutual Parenting Action Strategies in the Face of Confinement

The organizations and initiatives of Crianza Mutua have taken in their hands the creation of projects and strategies to confront the COVID-19 pandemic from a horizontal perspective, putting the care of life at the center and acting from below.

Prior to the declaration of a quarantine period in Mexico to prevent a massive spread of COVID-19, a meeting of initiatives and groups of Mutual Breeding was planned in the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, specifically in Capulálpam de Mendez. However, the meeting was cancelled.

The cancellations and adjustments to our agenda have resulted in a call to meet virtually and we have done so twice. Thus, the confinement, far from being an impediment has been an opportunity to bond and continue to weave between the participants of Crianza Mutua.

On the other hand, each initiative and/or collective has generated its own strategies of action to confront this sanitary, economic and environmental crisis that we are going through, and we share some of them below.

From Oaxaca, the Universidad de la Tierra (Unitierra) en Oaxaca3 has organized itself to launch a campaign called “Against the politics of fear, the construction of hope”. The main intention of this campaign is to provide useful information about risks and basic care in the face of COVID-19, keeping hope and mutual care at its core.

Through this campaign we want to spread ways for how to protect ourselves and our families. This is done through diffusing useful information on forms of self-care and collective-community care. Other objectives are to strengthen and generate forms of free, informal learning; to encourage the creation of new lifestyles and organization in the face of the pandemic; to promote ways of staying healthy and to show the link between health and food autonomy.

The materials developed for the campaign have been created in conjunction with communities, collectives and partner groups with whom Unitierra has close links. In this process, social proposals have been documented that have generated strategies to deal with the pandemic and related conflicts. Together with healers, peasants and farmers, we collected information that allowed us to create graphic, video or audio materials.

Meanwhile, spaces of collective reflection and analysis have been generated in order to overcome the information overload and fear mongering provoked by the pandemic. In addition, we have compiled the reflections of the presential and virtual conversations organized by Unitierra.

From this virtual activity, another space of collective reflection was opened, dedicated exclusively to the analysis of the pandemic from the perspective of Iván Illich and others. These authors have contributed with new understandings on political and social issues in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For its part, Unitierra Huitzo Yelao4 has kept its doors open, especially on Saturday mornings when the organic market Mercadito Orgánico is held. The women who support this space consider healthy food to be a priority at this time and therefore dedicate their efforts to offering the community of Huitzo healthy, agro-ecologically and locally produced food.

Before the pandemic the Mercadito Orgánico was held fortnightly. Now, it has been decided to organize it every week, inviting people from the region to offer products such as sourdough bread, vegetables, honey, chocolate, traditional food and healthy products boosting your immune system.

Another strategy of Unitierra is to plant cornfields, onions, garlic and other vegetables that help strengthen the health of the population. For this activity they have allied with the Red de agroecología (the agro-ecology network) in Huitzo who are teaching about composting, seeds, the preparation of natural fertilizers and the organization of the space for planting.

Every Wednesday they meet at the Unitierra Huitzo facilities in order to care for the plants, reflect and learn together. The main purpose of these activities is to build the basis for food sovereignty through community building. Members of Unitierra Oaxaca have also joined this activity in order to produce videos spreading this knowledge.

On the other hand, the Red de agroecología en Huitzo has extended the distribution of its products to more communities such as San Sebastian Etla, Santo Domingo Barrio Bajo, Santo Domingo Barrio Alto and San Agustin Etla. They have organized to go twice a week to these communities and deliver their products. This exercise has required an effort on the part of consumers to communicate and organize on behalf of everyone, which has strengthened relations between neighbors and re-established links between communities.

The Diosas Parteras de la Oxitocina, a group of midwifes active in central Oaxaca and part of Crianza Mutua, have continued with home consultations during the pandemic, disseminating their knowledge through live links on various virtual platforms. They have also created informative videos on alternative and ancestral health care so that women in Oaxaca have the possibility to go through a safe pregnancy and birth, accompanied by the Diosas Parteras.

Interestingly, midwifery has regained momentum from the rising interest in giving birth at home, much due to the need for avoiding hospitals and clinics in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. For this reason, the Diosas Parteras have also been strengthening their alliances with others. They are aware that we will not return to normal and that other times are coming.

Another part of Crianza Mutua is the independent publishing house Fusilemos la noche. They are working along three strategic lines: Firstly, through the re-appropriation of the body from a political perspective. Secondly, through the constant collaboration with the ARRE (Amorosa y Rebelde Red de Editoriales – Caring and Rebelic Network of Publishing Houses), a network of publishers from various regions of the country, with whom they are working in order create a political definition characterizing their work as publishers not working for the elite. Jointly they are also striving to become autonomous in relation to areas such as food and health. So far they have managed to generate a directory of services of trade, exchange and barter. Finally, they are continuing to publish books.

In Guadalajara, additional initiatives making up Crianza Mutua can be found. The Cooperativa de consumo consciente Milpa recognizes that the last form of domination and control is based on food, which is why they are considering a hypothetical situation: what would happen if their only source of food was their own cooperative? From this analytical exercise they realized that further organization is needed, leading them to carry out collective discussions on the virtual platform Zoom, where up to 40 families participate.

In the same region, another collective, IXIM, is growing and processing their own food, focusing on preservation through the making of jams, sauces and syrups. Other actions include compost making and pot-making of recycled paper. Their intention is to have a food supply for the following months, enabling them to continue to investigate how to better use their resources.

In addition, IXIM is developing political education activities through reading, commening and analyzing various texts. Finally, they are supporting a network of solidarity cooperatives and have made their space into a distribution point supplying local products at a fair price.

Another of the collectives located on the Mexican peninsula, the Zotut'ha community, had to close their doors but maintain interaction with families who they are supporting by taking over their “Mayan plots”, a kind of backyard garden. The collective provides land and seeds so that the families can grow vegetables. Later on they intend to create a center producing preserves for consumption and exchange.

In addition to this effort, they are developing audiovisual materials for children, and are currently preparing a series of videos on organic waste, in which they intend to explain how to recycle and reuse waste.

In conclusion, the community networks that are part of Crianza Mutua show that the main interest in these moments of systemic crisis is the recovery of autonomous, local and community nutrition, healing and learning.

Perspectives from GTA core team

"Dandelion Floating Flower" by ArtCoreStudios

The day after

By Gustavo Esteva1)

No future

We lost floor underfoot.

Our world was reasonably predictable. Suddenly, from one day to another, deep trends that allowed us to anticipate the general and probable course of events and behaviors disappeared. We can no longer foresee what will happen. We are facing radical uncertainty.

There are inertias, obsessions and propensities. We can correctly assume that a variety of actors and sectors of society will persist in the lines of behavior that characterize them. But we cannot know the outcome of their actions in what will undoubtedly be a new balance of forces, under radically new circumstances.

The world we will experience after the pandemic will not have changed because of it, but for previous critical conditions. We know almost nothing about the climate that is emerging after the climate collapse. Even less do we know what will remain of the institutions after the socio-political collapse. The pandemic only heightened the challenges at the crossroads we had already reached.  

The end of the world

We must vigorously reject the apocalyptic randiness that has been proliferating to spread panic, but we need to acknowledge that the world we knew came to an end and will not return. None of the forms or definitions we can give to “normality” will come back…and many people are joining Evade Chile in its statement on March 19: “We will not return to normality, because normality was the problem”.

To the very real danger of the virus, another one is now added: an unprecedented authoritarian wave. The darkest forces in society, throughout the world, are using all their power to establish a society of control.

The Chinese government has been trying for years to create a “social credit system”, rewarding or punishing people for what they do or fail to do in their daily life. It is not yet fully implemented, but it was used during the pandemic to identify contacts of the people infected and to control the general behavior. The Western system goes a lot farther and in another direction. For years, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber and other corporations transformed personal information into a commodity. Their increasing knowledge of what the people think and do allows them to anticipate what they will do. Anticipations, increasingly precise, are an attractive commodity. A market for “behavioral futures” is now thriving. Within the frame of the extractivist imperative, the dispossession of personal information would be the ultimate expression of the dominant voracity.

The pandemic precipitated decisions that governments have not dared to try, like closing universities and schools to operate only online teaching. This kind of measures, temporary for now, mark a path towards conditions in which “machines will replace all contact -all contagion- between human beings”i Not even Orwell was able to imagine such dystopia.

As Boaventura de Santos warned, democracy is being democratically dismantled.ii In many places the police arrived long before the medical personnel. Many people, until yesterday passionate advocates of democratic practices, are fervently applauding the process that eliminates them. What Foucault called the fascist that we all carry inside, the one that makes us love the power that oppress us, is exploited in the name of the pandemic.iii COVID-19 would be justifying general obedience to often-foolish rules and instructions. The broth of social discipline necessary to establish the new authoritarian regime is thus cultivated.

A new horizon

People are using every opportunity of their inevitable local rooting to regain meaning in their lives and recover their senses. Millions of people are now forced to locally produce their own lives: neither the market nor the state will be able to take care of them. Thousands of urban and rural communities are no longer obliged to dance the music that all kinds of social forces played for them, and now are silent. They have to create survival conditions by themselves. Suddenly, unexpectedly, the importance of the local is restored.

The main battle of the war involving every one of us will be fought in the stomach.

Since the thirties there were not lines like those observed recently in the Great Food Depository of Chicago or in thousands of kitchen soups that distribute free food in the United States. Many people cannot pay for their food. Before the emergency, more than 800 million people in the world went to bed every night on an empty stomach. The number increases every day. In the coming months, according to the experts, famines not seen since the Middle Ages will emerge.

During the emergency, millions of people were fed at home by the dominant system. If that pattern continues and most people consume again the food offered in the market, agribusiness may intensify its devastating operation generating more pandemics. Rich Argentine pampas will continue to be used to feed Chinese pigs and the Amazon will become a soybeans factory.

The dominant food system loves to feed people in their home; if they could they would feed them in the mouth, as with babies. But people are already resisting. They are closing malls, multiplying partnerships between urban consumers and rural producers and increasing cultivation at home. The emergency propelled such arrangements like never before. The awareness that Eduardo Galeano formulated like no other is widening and deepening: “In these times of global fear, those who are not afraid of hunger are afraid of eating.“ The food offered in the market is sickening and killing us. It is time to embody the notion of food autonomy suggested by Via Campesina: to determine ourselves what we eat…and to produce it.

In April 2020 a peculiar shortage arose in New York and other big cities: the yeast to make bread ran out. Thousands of families were recovering traditions and skills to prepare their own food. Many people learned with the emergency that the places where they live may no longer be mere bedrooms and TV rooms; they could again become homes for the daily practice of the art of eating, the art of dwelling, the joy of living.              

Most people, either confined or forced to struggle in the streets for survival, either constrained by imposed rules that they consider appropriate to obey -even when they seem foolish- or in the freedom of towns and neighborhoods that are defining their own norms, were forced by the pandemic to reconsider the direction of the gaze. They began to see their places again, the specific persons around them, even those neighbors who barely said hello. Instead of looking towards the global, the national, the population, human lives probabilistically modeled by the experts, instead of a perception imposed by a maddened system, they began to recover their own gaze.

Day after day, the mental and practical fabric that refuses to accept immunity, the rejection of all reciprocal obligations (the common munus) to assert itself in the community, begins now to be forged.iv In “enemy’s territory”, just as Giap used the North American war machine to defeat it, new expressions appear. “Cultural hacking” consists of “making radicalism common sense. Open source insurrectional narratives. Defend life and territory; disrupt oppression systems one meme at a time”.v

Finally, it is about returning to what we are, what dharma expresses in India, or comunalidad among the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca: persons, knots of nets of concrete relationships, which can only be what they are when those nets form community. There is no better antidote against the rampant authoritarianism stimulated by the pandemic, in the last expression of the patriarchal kingdom. And it is bringing new hope to a world falling into desperation.

This piece first appeared in San Pablo Etla, April 15, 2020

Bibliographic notes

Giorgio Agamben in an interview: “The epidemic shows that the state of emergency has become the normal condition”, Le Monde, 03/24/2020.

Boaventura de Sousa Santos (Coord.), (2007) Democratize democracy. http://sitp.pichincha.gob.ec/repositorio/diseno_paginas/archivos/Democratizar%20la%20Democracia_Los%20caminos%20de%20la%20democracia%20participativa.pdf

Michel Foucault, “Preface”, in Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Oedipus: Capitalism and Squizophrenia, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983.

Roberto Esposito, Communitas: Origin and destiny of the community (1998, https://www.academia.edu/5422710/Esposito_Roberto_-_Communitas._Origen_y_destino_de_la_comunidad and Immunitas: Protection and denial of life (2002, https://www.academia.edu/17835542/147696323-Roberto-Esposito-Inmunitas ).

“Hackear la pandemia”. https://hackeocultural.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/HackearLaPandemia-1.1-HackeoCultural.pdf

News from the endorsing organisations

Coherence, Prayer & Active Solidarity: Learnings from the emerging “Defend the Sacred Alliance”

By Defend the Sacred Alliance

The crises we are facing as a civilization are not simply economic, political, ecological or just related to this latest pandemic. These are all symptoms of a greater polycrisis rooted in our separation from the natural world and expressed through a dominant culture that is sick at its very core.

The response from those entrenched in power has been to reassure the public that more economic growth will alleviate our problems. The response from “progressive” factions, including the large majority of activists, has been to fight back with anger, facts, and action. But what if part of the crisis is how we, as activists, are responding to the crisis? As many elders remind us, it is our best thinking that has gotten us into this mess.

Evolving practice of “sacred” activism

In its creative, nonviolent resistance movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline starting in 2016, the Indigenous people of the Standing Rock reservation along with many others, showed the world that a different type of activism is possible. This was an embodied form of prayer in action, guided by eldership, and bolstered by convergence of local and global communities.

The Defend the Sacred Alliance (DSA) was born from the notion that other ways of knowing, being and acting are possible when certain configurations of people come together to recognize the essential relationship of care for this Earth, for each other and to bear witness to the challenges of our time. This emerging global alliance includes around 100 people from 20+ countries – united in prayer, mutual support, culture-to-culture healing and shared action. We come together to contribute to the growing practice of sacred activism, to catalyze regenerative systems change, and to protect the sanctity of all Life.

In 2017 activists, community leaders, Indigenous youth and elders from around the world gathered at the Tamera Peace Research and Education Center in Portugal – in solidarity to what was initiated by the #NoDAPL movement at Standing Rock and to resist fossil fuel extraction in Portugal. Our aerial art actions on Portuguese beaches in 2017 and 2018 mobilized international attention and backing for the national climate justice movement. In combining protest, ceremony and displaying alternatives, those actions proved critical in tilting public opinion against offshore drilling and fracking in Portugal – and ultimately, preventing it.

As leaders of Indigenous communities, social movements, front-line groups, systemic alternatives and regeneration projects, we are coming together in growing trust and solidarity, holding the vision for deep healing, externally and internally. Through three annual gatherings (2017, 2018, 2019) as well as joint actions, shared prayers and virtual meetings in between those, we have seen an evolving practice of sacred activism in service to global systems change.

Rather than following pre-planned strategies, we're walking and learning together as a planetary community, asking what is needed and how we can be of help for one another. We endeavor to transcend personal and cultural egos, be in shared practice and to listen to what role we can play together in the world. One example is a statement against the Turkish invasion of north-east Syria and in solidarity with Rojava we published in The Guardian in November 2019.

While still in its formative stage, this initial group has evolved in both form and function. After our last in-person gathering in Tamera in August 2019, we installed a “coordination circle” of four volunteers to facilitate communications within the alliance and underwent a “refinement process” for previous participants of the gatherings to commit to their membership in the alliance, according to different degrees of time and work commitment. As the circle self-organizes in dynamic governance and broadens in terms of people, lineages, cultures and geography, there is also a widening of intellectual and spiritual exchange, vision-building as well as north-south and south-to-south community building.

Emergency response & solidarity

Since much of the world went into lockdown in March, we have held weekly calls to make sense of what is going on, support each other and tend to our logistic necessities. By listening to and holding each other, praying and singing together, these regular online meetings have sometimes activated intimate ceremonial magic and given strength for those struggling alone or on the front-lines of violent crackdown and/or the pandemic.

Covid-19 and the lockdown have most affected those already marginalized, oppressed and side-lined by the dominant system, and some of the Indigenous and global South communities involved in DSA have been among those taking the hardest hit. Whether it has been a brutally orchestrated crackdown against activists and homeless people in the Philippines, worsening famine and flooding in Kenya, dangerously high infection rates among the Diné people in Turtle Island (North America), families in the slums of Brazil loosing food supply from one day to the next or paramilitaries utilizing Covid-19 to tighten their bloody grip over rural communities in Colombia, they have all been humanitarian and human rights emergencies requiring immediate responses. Some started make-shift emergency response initiatives in their respective communities, while struggling to keep their organizations running. To help those efforts, we set up a solidarity fund that consists of 10 local projects with a total funding portfolio of $615,000 USD (~570,000 €), which the alliance members are sharing with allies and potential funding partners.

Recent global events, the pandemic and oncoming global economic depression, nested in the ongoing social, ecological, and economic crises, have led to an accelerated mass awakening that reform of the dominant system will remain flawed and inadequate. Ever more people are realizing that profound systemic change is indispensable for any meaningful way forward. Many of us have been leading projects for ecosystem restoration, agro-ecology as well as decentralized food, water and energy for many years, creating an important eldership role for the alliance globally. Despite the challenges and growing injustices, this moment also provides a historic opportunity to build the infrastructure for a post-capitalist world. Localization – deepening relations with our local communities and fellow beings, restoring ecosystems, regenerating regional autonomy, seizing power by and for the people, while interconnecting globally – will be key to this process of liberation.

Beyond resistance activism

Sharing spaces of ceremony, powerful spiritual lessons have come up for many of us during the pandemic, calling us to reconsider our habits and priorities.

While we cannot do justice to the rich discussions that have been held, we will share some essential messages and key frames that are emerging:

  • This is not the time for predicting and controlling, but rather, to be present and perceptive, to move in synchronicity and ceremony with the Earth. The Earth is calling for something deeper than resistance. We are taken into profound inquiries: What are the motives for and consequences of our actions? To ask not only, “What are we doing?”, but also, “Who are we being?” The compulsion to fix problems and impose solutions often, unthinkingly, perpetuates an anthropocentric (and Eurocentric) mentality of control-over the more-than-human world, which is symptomatic of the disconnect at the heart of this crisis. A genuinely sacred activism is based on dialogue with the living planet and on a good relationship with the broader community of Life.
  • Even as we move into a more non-dualist being, we must continue to root our desire for the emerging world in deep, structural analysis of the psychosis of modern culture (i.e. neoliberal capitalism, white supremacy, colonization, patriarchy, anthropocentrism, etc). We have to understand how capital and power move, and stay vigilant in our understanding and analysis. We do this to “connect the dots” and create a broader tent of solidarity through our understanding that “all oppression is connected.” By broadening our story to a systemic level and living a more inspiring counter-narrative, we can bring new allies into the process and hack the traditional media’s ability to marginalize our struggles.
  • There is so much grief that wants to move and find expression through us. Our aim is not to indulge in it, but rather to feel it all in order to hospice the old system that is dying and listen for what is arising. Our practice is to keep our hearts open. In these times, love and pain are twins that we must honour and care for together.
  • As powerful transformational energy is gaining strength around the world and shaking up the established orders, we must take stock and stay conscious. This is a bifurcation point: The dominant systems are bound to collapse. We see both a rise in violent polarization and totalitarian coups, as people hold onto the collapsing systems of domination and, simultaneously, even more healing, regeneration and emergence of cooperation-based communities and movements. System change will occur faster and more powerfully, as people align themselves with the inherent wisdom and intelligence of the Earth and learn the principles of genuine community. In principle, global healing can and will happen in ways we will not be able to fully understand or foresee. It might happen faster than we can currently conceive of.
  • Among these volatile currents of rapid change, small circles of people who co-create and maintain a field of reliable trust and active solidarity can become effective in the world, in non-linear and dynamic ways, far beyond simple cause-and-effect. As old orders crumble and new ones are yet to arise, we consider that these circles, “lifeboats of coherence,” will play a critical role in creating the post-capitalist infrastructure. Rather than attempting to impose global blueprints or masterplans, small, yet radically transformative communities of sacred activists may provide support and orientation for those seeking to leave the systems of domination behind, establishing systemic alternatives and activating the very blueprint inherent to Life itself.

The Defend the Sacred Alliance approaches this as a communal experiment with a prayer at the centre. A prayer through which we may remember the new and ancient ways of listening, connecting, and sharing our stories. And that our circle might inspire a creative process that yields fields of healing for ourselves and our communities. We honour our collective ancestors and feel that they have our backs while we listen to the songs of future generations calling us forward. We hold each other's stories with care and compassion, and we commit to carrying out our collective prayers together, one step at a time, trusting in Life to guide us.

Local Futures- showing pathways to the resilient and just futures

By Alex Jensen (Local Futures)

Local Futures was founded in the late 1970s as The Ladakh Project by Helena Norberg-Hodge. It was based upon her experiences of both learning from a then-largely-intact agrarian society in what would conventionally be considered a ‘harsh’ environment (Ladakh, located in the Trans-Himalaya on the Tibetan Plateau), and witnessing first-hand its rapid deterioration under the pressures of sudden modernization as it was officially opened-up for ‘development’ by the Indian government. Helena’s experiences in Ladakh, later chronicled in her book Ancient Futures (and in a documentary film of the same title), can be considered broadly part of the early wave of what became post-development studies. She used the term ‘counter-development’ to describe the work in Ladakh, focused on supporting Ladakh’s indigenous culture by bringing information to balance the idealized images of Western culture flooding into the region through tourism and development.

This was in many ways analogous to E.F. Schumacher’s experiences in Burma, where seeing and learning from small-scale, locally self-sufficient peasant societies caused the revolution in his thinking about the direction of 'development' and about the assumptions of Western, neo-classical economics, that he later elaborated on in his classic book, Small Is Beautiful. He realized the modern West had much more to learn from and emulate from the still existing land-based peasant societies, in terms of genuine well-being and sustainability, than the other way around. In addition he concluded that conventional economics based on discontentment, sowing of greed and endless expansion and competition, was a dead-end and doomed to cause massive destruction. Of course Schumacher was not the first to eloquently and convincingly articulate such a critique. He was preceded, for example, in India by the likes of Gandhi and J.C. Kumarappa (known as ‘Gandhi's economist’), and even from within the crucible of modern Western economics by, for example, John Ruskin (a major inspiration and influence for Gandhi) and William Morris. The critique of development also had much in common with Maria Mies’ later book, The Subsistence Perspective.

Against a common accusation of romanticization of traditional culture, The Ladakh Project responded in the manner of political psychologist and social theorist Ashis Nandy, who has constantly insisted on interrogating the much more dominant and consequential romanticization of world-consuming modernization, commercialization and urbanization. Whatever its shortcomings, the agrarian culture of Ladakh and the countless others that were (and to a lesser extent are) thriving around the world, enabled the future, and did not broadly externalize the true costs and consequences of its economic activity in time and space. It did not rob from and dump waste on others, and so on. This is the necessary precondition for deep sustainability, global justice, and survival with dignity. Not only this, especially in the early years, the Ladakh Project helped to establish a number of Ladakhi-led organizations (all of them still running) promoting tools, designs and systems building on and harmonious with traditional systems rooted in values of decentralization, autonomy, conviviality, freedom from fossil fuels, etc., to side-step the disastrous path and example laid down by the industrial world.

The Ladakh Project was converted into the International Society for Ecology and Culture in the early 1980s, running for many years with the tagline, ‘Promoting locally-based alternatives to the global consumer culture’, forming part of the early anti-globalization movement. The focus expanded beyond Ladakh only, analyzing and linking seemingly-disparate issues – from terrifying rises in rates of mental and physical illness to species extinctions and generalized ecological devastation across the world. The project stressed on moving away from the expansionist, extractivist, (neo) colonial economic system and consolidation of corporate power, and instead promoting a radical shift in direction towards decentralized, regional economies based in theories and principles like interdependence, relationality, cooperation, mutual care, reciprocity, sufficiency, contentment, happiness/well-being, and beauty, etc.

In 2014, the organization re-named itself Local Futures, continuing to promote a theory and practice of ‘resistance and renewal’ - i.e. the simultaneous resistance against capitalist/neoliberal/corporate globalization on the one hand, and renewal in the form of a systemic shift (or return) towards locally-based, ecologically wise, democratic economies on the other. The worldwide localization movement, along with many overlapping movements (e.g., the new economy movement, the food sovereignty movement, the solidarity economy movement, the cooperative economy movement, the simplicity movement, the degrowth movement), in many ways seeks to emulate the alternative values (subsistence, self-provisioning, reciprocal care and mutuality) and ontologies exemplified in the still-living peasant and indigenous economies of the world (thought they are under tremendous pressures and assaults). While the localization movement sees the importance of making these shifts in urban and rural places alike, along with groups like the international peasant’s movement La Via Campesina, it also opposes policies and structures that continue to discriminate against, ravage and empty out the countryside while swelling the size and ecological weight of ever-ballooning megacities. Accordingly, it sees the need for re-ruralization, decentralization, downscaling and re-peasantization, especially in the over/mal-developed and over/mal-industrialized areas.

To be clear, the localization that Local Futures promotes is akin to what degrowth scholar-activists Francois Schneider and Filka Sekulova have, in line with farmer-scholar Chris Smaje with his concept of left-green localism-populism, articulated as ‘open-localism’ or ‘cosmopolitan localism’.  “Open-localism”, they write, “does not create borders, and cherishes diversity locally. It implies reducing the distance between consumer and producers … being sensitive to what we can see and feel, while being cosmopolitan”. This localization is firmly internationalist, in other words, and distinguishes itself unconditionally from any strand of rightwing ‘nativism’, nationalism or especially xenophobia. To the contrary, it recognizes that global capitalism is violently wiping out genuine diversity and replacing it with a consumer monoculture everywhere, contra its popular self-image as a force for global cooperation and understanding.

Local Futures has a number of continuing projects to promote the needed systemic shifts, including: Planet Local, a regularly-updated library of, by now, over 150 inspiring grassroots localization initiatives around the world, in areas of food, health, energy, education, governance and policy, community-building, sharing and repairing, and more; and the International Alliance for Localization, a cross-cultural, global network of thinkers, activists and NGOs dedicated to exploring radically new visions of development and progress, currently counting some 900 individuals and groups from 58 countries as members. To promote global resistance and renewal, the website features a page of extensive links to organizations and movements, as well as a page of various online maps from other organizations of alternatives, showing just a fraction of the true breadth and scope of the worldwide movements pushing for ecologically and socially just societies.

As the social crises stemming from COVID-19 have clearly shown, economic globalization, long touted as an unstoppable force, is now revealed to be highly fragile: long supply chains organized around profit that stretch halfway across the world are nakedly exposed as not only brittle but scandalously negligent of peoples’ real needs. There is already discussion in some countries of abandoned crop fields and serious labor shortages. Core features of the global economy – from habitat destruction to factory farming to hyper-urbanization – have heightened the risk of outbreaks like COVID-19. To chart a path forward and to ensure that we are prepared to weather future shocks in an age of climate chaos, Local Futures believes the need to radically re-think our social and economic systems, to reject global corporate rule, monoculture and commercialization, has never been more urgent. Local Futures recognizes that the real economy is the living earth, and now is the time to begin (or continue) sowing the seeds of more ecological economies that treat people like members of a community, not numbers on a page. To that end, the organization has created a webpage to curate and highlight important efforts from a number of countries to help people contribute to the florescence of community solidarity and mutual aid actions, and especially, to strengthen and support local, ecological farmers and food systems in this time of stress and uncertainty.

May First Movement Technology: Technology for Transformation is the Path Forward

By Alfredo Lopez and Melanie E L Bush (May First Movement Technology)

These days are filled with intensity and uncertainty. Frustration, fear and confusion emanate from the smoldering shambles of capitalism that makes it difficult to map a future by those who seek fundamental and radical change.

In times such as this, it is important to recognize and remember the few certainties we have. For example, that information technology is center-stage in the struggle for saving humanity and building a better world. The protests and resistance that we are witnessing and participating in all over the globe, are taking shape as a result of the mass and effective communications of this technology. That truth bears a certainty: this technology must be protected, expanded and creatively re-framed to better serve the needs of contemporary movements. Structural inequalities embedded within society are reflected in access to technology and must be considered in our strategic plans for building forward.

The question is how. This is not an easy question to answer but there are three major points that we believe our movements must focus on in their work going forward. These will all be elaborated on below.

We Must Protect Our Data and Our Communications

The centrality of Information technology in our lives acutely raises the question of what those who control it are doing with their access to data. The reality is overwhelming and dangerous. At this point, everything we do, write and say is probably being recorded and stored someplace for the use of the government and its policing apparatus.

The explosive growth of on-line communications has realized the repressive state's dream ofcapturing virtually all activity by almost everyone in the world. The data of our lives is maintained on giant computers that draw information from all kinds of sources. Through sophisticated software, governments can use that data to draw a full and comprehensive picture of who we are, what we do, think and want. Your movements, purchases and bank transactions, cell phone use, driver's licenses, passports, websites visited on-line and email (if you use a commercial provider like Gmail) are all recorded, stored and, if requested, submitted to government agencies.

The natural inclination would be to hide our activity but that's actually part of the reason they do it. It is the fear of being the target of surveillance that is the greatest harm of surveillance because it often results in people “hiding” or limiting their activities and hiding makes communicating and organizing more difficult. The key ironically, is to become ever more public so that we are expanding our movements and building our capacities.

But how do we become more public?

We need to think about security when we communicate. If you do not want your email content stored in government computers, do not use Gmail. Alternatives are offered by many security-conscious email providers.

“Google searches” are captured and analyzed by Google for marketing profiles which can be turned over to governments. Another option is a search engine such as Duck Duck Go that performs equally robust searches and does not record them.

If you have a website, ask your provider if they will resist turning over your information to the government when demanded? If not, move the site to a provider that will.

For instant messages and texts, rather than using an insecure program that is bundled with the phone, Signal is the program everyone involved in activism and anti-systemic projects should use.

At the same time, while protecting ourselves reasonably, all progressive movements should support movements focused on the right of privacy and protection of data for every human being such as campaigns and legal challenges against surveillance. It is a tough fight since surveillance is so advanced but we can chip away at it little by little by using these campaigns to educate people about how important privacy is to projects seeking radical social change.

We need to Support Free Software

Software is the most important tool in our communications arsenal. Most of us use it without thinking about how it is made and who makes it, though these very issues are critical for our work today and in the future.

We use free software routinely for example, in accessing the Internet which is driven by servers. Linux Debian, a free and open source alternative, is among the most popular server software. Like all free software, this operating system is built by people who often work without compensation, engage in constant code-sharing, testing, amending, fixing and thinking collectively about what makes it better and more useful to users. Consistent with this development culture, this software is free. If you have the skills, you can actually expand and change its code to make it better suit your needs.

The good news: there are free and open source alternatives to most commercial software. The bad news is that they aren't well advertised so you have to look for them. Why do that? For one thing, they honor a culture of collaboration that we should support and encourage.

There is another important reason. Many of us seek to build a more equitable and sustainable society based on the cooperative work of people whose production is driven, not by profit, but by the benefits it brings people, based on people's needs. Free software is among the most powerful examples of how that can work. If you need an argument for the idea that cooperative work yields superb products, free software is proof. Supporting it is an important priority for social movements and alternative projects.

Let Us Imagine the Future!

Often we do not think of imagination as a political task because our current culture relegates it to a useless, time-wasting distraction. That perspective has to be challenged because we cannot fundamentally change society without thinking of what might replace it. An imagined future is the foundation for all effective resistance in the present.

Thinking about the future of digital communications is only part of that imagining but it can provide foundation for thinking about society in a broader way.

The first step is to realize that the Internet is nott the computers and wires that make it work; it is the billions of people who use that technology, sharing information about their lives and their thinking. So what if we eliminated the large wires that connect us to the network, shedding our reliance on corporations to connect us at exorbitant prices? What if all connection was handled by large towers in each neighborhood, controlled by its residents?

What if we each turned our computers into servers that store and serve, not only your data but the data of other computers across a giant, linked network – without agreements or even knowing each other? We actually do this now in many office networks and organization “hubs” that do some form of data sharing. In fact, it is the idea driving “cloud storage” and “file-sharing” software right now. What is we can massify that by joining each of our computers with thousands of others forming a massive hive of interacting computers whose task is not only to do what you want but also what the network needs?

As computer technology develops, it becomes easier to store information and retrieve it…we can do that all day long without “logging on” to any device. We can quickly and effortlessly share decisions we make, conversations we have, meetings we participate in with people all over the world, enriching our lives with their life experiences and contributing with our experiences to their lives and thinking. Essentially, every decision a person or organization makes in confronting an issue or situation now becomes part of the decision-making of all other individuals and organizations who want to join this process. Our lives become a continuous sharing of information and thinking.

In developing a network of sharing, we are doing what the human race has always done when its existence is threatened: collaborate, share ideas and engage in mutual support. Never has it been done on such a massive scale, of course, but the massive nature of the problems confronting us demand a world-wide conversation and coordinated solution. We finally have the technology to make this possible if we democratize and expand it. All problems of this planet could be confronted by the combined thinking of the entire human race,a population that has innovatively and steadfastly survived so many similar challenges.

This is just a glimpse of what is possible. This technology exists and our task is to organize people to think about it in creative new ways, and implement those ideas.

That organizing task should be part of a three-part program – security, creativity and imagination. We at May First Movement Technology believe that all those seeking social transformation should make this a priority because technology is central to building a future grounded in the common good. It will take work, but we can get there, together!

1)
A different version of this article was published in Spanish in the issue 66, February-March 2020, of Ibero.