Las Indias in English

An interesting life

las Indias Cooperative Group

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 72 ~ October 23rd, 2014 ~ 1

Sharing economy, direct economy, p2p production… what a mess!

atfab_opendeskFirst of all: this post is long, but it’s well worth reading it all (although there is a summary at the end). It aims to clarify the conceptual map that is gradually being drawn between the notions of “sharing economy,” “direct economy,” and “p2p production,” as well as taking stock of what each one brings to the table and understanding what are the requirements for them to make a real contribution against the crisis.

From the start of the crisis, the concern for small industry has been an issue for what it represents in terms of wealth and employment. A few years ago, Natalia argued on this blog that it was time to leave fabbing as a prototype, and that we had the opportunity and the need to incorporate tools and resources from the p2p mode of production to industrial SMEs in order to address the crisis. Why? Quite simply because the perspective of the p2p mode of production offered a horizon of higher productivity at a smaller scale of production. That’s why it already represents an alternative mode of production in sectors such as free software – that’s why it represents the future in the industrial sector, even if it’s still green.

Being aware of that contradiction between the urgency of the crisis that was coming and how green “pure” p2p tools were, the Garum Fundatio invited John Robb to Montevideo in 2011. The aim was to stimulate debate on what would end up being called the “direct economy“.

We thus define the direct economy as a series of production methodologies based on the binding of alternative funding schemes (such as crowdsourcing or selling in advance), the globalization of the small (producing at low cost in large facilities anywhere in the world) and the potential to increase marketing scope through the Internet. A cocktail that allows for astonishing productivity in small-scale organizations.

A turn that entailed an important loss of meaning

Cuaderno de la Ruta ArtesanaBut beyond this brilliant idea, John, concerned by the breakdown of the American middle class, began to prioritize the most basic resilience in his proposals, incorporating low-productivity yet useful elements for generating cash and income in case of the total destruction of the market. Things like putting a chicken farm in the yard or using “sharing economy” platforms in order to transform a room, a car, etc. into a tool for generating small amounts of income.

It was from this second interpretation by John that our friends from ARssa! and SomosReding incorporated the concept of direct economy to their conceptualization of the “Route of artisan entrepreneurs“: microentrepreneurs doing arts and crafts as a way of generating additional income. Domestic production was at the forefront.

The truth is we never felt comfortable with that idea. In another post, Nat insisted on the capacity for innovation as the key for the model beyond small tools in order to strengthen resilience or a more rational use of resources. The fear of a loss of meaning of that conceptual treasure that is the direct economy was definitely present there.

The encounter with the “sharing economy”

JUAN URRUTIA.-GIJON9.10.2014FOTO DE P. CITOULADuring the Anĉovoligo meeting in Gijón, the very title, “Beyond the Sharing Economy,” aimed at a better assesment of the relationship between the two worlds.

Juan Urrutia‘s interventions were especially helpful in this sense: the direct economy – which becomes the prelude to the p2p mode of production when united with devolution – appears as an engine for the dissipation of rents, and this as a adriver of new spaces based on the logic of abundance. The “sharing economy,” as protagonist of the actual moment, was rescued as a social practice that served mainly as a driver for cultural change, but that is also capable of generating social transformation when it becomes an engine for the direct economy through collaborative funding systems such as crowdsourcing.

It’s the cider!!

gijondesidra-votacionesBut the key was the return to the original definition of the direct economy as a form of highly productive small-scale industrial production. Of course, in order to realize this we had to go out on the street and stumble upon… cider.

During the days of the meeting the “2014 Gijón of Cider” was taking place, a true showcase of the year’s productions accompanied by cider routes throughout the city. A poster at each door informed about the brand of the cider one could try, its location, the founding year, and the production volume. The productions, of more than half a million liters in many cases (e.g., over 650,000 liters for Viuda de Palacios, pictured), are impressive when compared to the world of natural beer or artisan wine. Even more if we consider that over forty llagares participated in the event!!

viuda de palacioOur international guests were surprised and fascinated by the vivacity of a small scale industry and local market of this sort, rooted in local culture, with many established producers and so much diversity. “Diversity is the result and the claim,” we told them, but “the key is productivity.”

Insisting on the diversity of the cider industry is important because cultural diversity has to do with the ability to produce diversity among products and within each product. There would be no real culture of cider if there were only one or two companies, or if it were a very standardized product almost indistinguishable between llagares.

Chorizo_RiojanoNot too long ago, a friend who worked in a public R & D center told us how they were creating, in order to “save” the artisan production of sausages in a Spanish region, a standard for taste, size, and composition as a precursor to a brand. Without standardization, earning scope was counterproductive because each individual producer didn’t produce enough to satisfy even a medium-sized distribution chain. Because contrary to what is often argued, low productivity makes diversity impossible. Diversity, as shown in cider, is a product of small scale industry, but it can only break free from the strictly local, sell in larger markets, and generate real wealth, through gaining scope, and that is only possible by being able to cater to new demands, and thus increasing production without substantially increasing its scale. Exactly like many of the examples of the electronic marketplace that we use in our presentations.

etsyThis is true even in sectors such as handicrafts. In the Spanish-speaking world it is common to conflate handicrafts with crafts, the tiny scale of the individual producer that works with production runs of negligible volume. But one just needs to take a look at what today is the largest market for artisans in the world, Etsy, which reached 1.2 billion dollars in sales last year, to realize that the type of artisan who succeeds in this century is that who incorporates sophisticated production tools that allow for strong productivity without giving up the individuality of their work. Scope-enhancing platforms, such as Etsy itself, would not be of much value for them if they could only serve a few customers.

What we have learned

asidrasPutting it all together, the most important thing we’ve learned so far in this long discussion is that if the “sharing economy” teaches us how to live in an economy with ever widening non-market spaces, the development of small-scale productivity implicit in the rent dissipation model is the key that deconstructs the false alternative between culturally-impoverishing product homogenization, and the socially-impoverishing search for scale for its own sake that destroys real resilience and our capacity for innovation.

So what today drives us towards a “beyond,” towards a new way of producing and sharing, is the continuum between the direct economy of high productivity and scope that is flourishing in the many KickStarters of the web, and the p2p mode of production, already consolidated in the world of software and increasingly close to the SME thanks to the ever growing industrial design and 3D-printing commons.

Summary

  • The base for the new economy is the «sharing economy»
    • as a cultural change that reinterprets the nature of public goods and
    • as an industrial funding scheme for projects that aim to develop the productive commons and the direct economy
  • But most importantly, the key that allows for sustainable change in economic relationships is found in increasing productivity, and that is being driven by

Translated by Alan Furth from the original in Spanish.

Paul Blundell

Paul Blundell 1 ~ October 16th, 2014 ~ ~ 6 0

A commonard’s interesting life

What is an interesting life? That’s something I’m in the process of figuring out. In fact, for me, an interesting life is the very process of figuring out. It is the freedom to act, to try new things, to experiment, to explore your life and your world. But this freedom necessarily includes the symmetrical freedom from fear and from want; freedom from the things that might stop me from making those leaps and taking those roads less traveled by.

I live in an egalitarian commune of 30 adults called Acorn Community where we share everything we can, including our land, labor, and income, and where we govern ourselves by consensus. Our economy runs on personal initiative and responsibility and is organized as a strict adhocracy. On the other end of it, all members have free equal access to all the community’s resources and can take from them as much as they need. We have both of the freedoms I described above and we have them in spades. We are each forging our own path and making our own life but we never want for anything and when any one of us stumbles the other thirty of us are there to catch them.

For me, life is interesting in its vast diversity. Most interesting and diverse of all are its free people, each with an internal life at least as rich and complex and idiosyncratic as my own, and each free to pursue and explore their own fleeting whims, bizarre passions, crazy theories, and mad schemes. And so I find that to enrich myself I must enrich my world, I must tend to my people that they might be as free and interesting as they can be. This is my true work and it is endlessly fascinating.

The commune is an incredibly supportive place and easily the most effective educational institution I have ever been a part of. There is a great diversity of valuable projects to undertake and all the tools you need to undertake them. There is enthusiastic support for personal experimentation and the development of new creative pursuits. There are many insightful and experienced people to help you with self exploration and political development. And people take advantage of these resources constantly! A constant parade of self-transforming communards marches past me year after year, to my never ending delight.

Opposing my project and keeping me busy is the very world in which I work. Accidents, shortages, disasters great and small, unintended consequences, neglected problems, and the thousand competing desires and plans of my beloved people. A variable but never ending challenge. The project is hard enough with just that but I also find myself opposed at every turn by a bunch of deeply uncreative people. People who have such a lack of imagination that the only way they can see to meet their own needs is to use violence to shut others out of the negotiation or to horde all of the toys to themselves.

The deep project at Acorn, highlighted and honed by our use of consensus, is the continuing challenge of finding the creative solutions that work for everyone; the process of figuring out how to meet your needs within the context of the needs of others. It is the utilitarian project realized. Knowing how successful we and others have been in running complex and diverse micro-societies with the principles of consensus it becomes clear that violence, as Isaac Asimov was fond of saying, is the last refuge of the incompetent.

Violence, whether taking someone’s home away or denying medicine to the sick, is an admission that you’re not clever enough to figure out that creative solution. The market, based on the sanctity of private property and the myth of the independent self-made person, has become a Procrustean bed on a global scale forcing a mind-bogglingly diverse humanity to squeeze into or stretch to fill a narrowly defined economic format or suffer the consequences. Should our ideas and ideologies stretch and scrunch to fit our people or should we refashion our people to fit our ideology?

At Acorn, and in all the communes in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, we cast our economy instead as a collective project that we are all responsible for maintaining. That project needs all sorts of labor and resources to do what we want it to do and all of that labor is necessary. And so we treat all labor as equal and expect of our members an equitable contribution, based on ability. An hour of order fulfillment is equal to an hour of programming is equal to an hour of accounting is equal to an hour of auto maintenance is equal to an hour of child care is equal to an hour of cooking is equal to an hour of policy making etc. And from the riches created by our labor, whether money, food, knowledge, or what have you, we take whatever we need to be happy, healthy, and satisfied. We have achieved the old dream: from each according to their ability to each according to their need.

But what of the tragedy of the commons? What of the supply and demand curves? Won’t collective property be destroyed (or never purchased in the first place)? Won’t a pile of free things be instantly snapped up and horded by the first person to come across it? Luckily humanity is more complex than that and has evolved for a long time as a social species. Numerous studies and histories show that the true tragedy of the commons is its privatization and the loss of social control that it entails. Deforestation, pollution, over grazing, over hunting, degradation: all these ills have come in spades with privatization. And a rational person only hordes or over consumes if they fear for a future lack. Calm fear and secure supply and hording becomes costly and irrational in addition to being anti-social.

For us, sharing, cooperating, and trusting has made us incredibly wealthy, just not in money. Wealth, really, is an experience: the ability to always get what you need and often get what you want. To want for nothing would be the ideal, would make you truly wealthy. And we want for little. We are always fed well and housed, we are cared for when we are sick, we have friends and entertainment, we have meaningful work and flexible schedules, we both travel and receive visitors, we raise our children and pursue our passions. And yet we do it all working only 40 hours per week (income and domestic work) and with an annual income well below the poverty line.

My commune is a bubble within which we have rewritten the rules of our economy and our society, keeping the violence and cruelty of the mainstream at bay with a sturdy but permeable membrane. I have lived here and it is beautiful. For me, I could spend an interesting life as a blower of such bubbles.

las Indias

las Indias 21 ~ October 13th, 2014 ~ ~ 1 0

Beyond the “sharing economy”

JUAN URRUTIA.-GIJON9.10.2014 FOTO DE P. CITOULA
When Natalia published her post about the origins of the anchovy as we know it we surely found it inspiring, and quite a few friends called us for comment. But we never imagined that the conversation it opened up and of which we would take part of, would end up mobilizing a hundred people from four continents.

darwin ancovoligoOf course, in reality the credit was not at all ours, but of our friends from Gijón, whom we had known for many years from soirees and activism initiatives with ASATA, Pensar Consulting or Periodismo Humano. A few months ago they offered us to be part of a project to revitalize the “Sharing Economy” and new forms of social economy in the Atlantic Arc, and we loved the idea. We couldn’t get Bordeaux out of our heads after the trip with Teresa Querejazu and “Open Network Bilbao,” David was arriving from OuishareFest, where he had met Neal, Matt, Albert, and Antonin, and the Edgeryders experience in Tbilisi had reaffirmed the idea that a very interesting movement was taking shape around the world.

gps-project-ancovoligoAt the time of that first meeting, the movement was still not called The Anchovie League yet, but the idea of having the anchovy as a symbol had come up already. The first encounters with Neal in California and Sharon in Australia couldn’t have been more positive. Soon we were carrying out virtual meetings all together. The idea of an activity soon turned into that of a partnership, and the names of potential partners and allies began to emerge one by one. Everyone showed great enthusiasm, and so we started working on a first encounter.

During recent weeks we the Indianos have involved ourselves with all our heart and given a hand in everything we could. But we have received much more: an amazing participatory spirit -cheerful, constructive- of all attendees, and enjoyed wonderful conversations. We could not be happier.

desayuno ancovoligoThe format of the event was especially helpful. Instead of the TED format (12 minute monologues) or the traditional succession of “powerpoints” with questions, we decided to conduct interviews as a “prologue,” -as if projecting a video but in a much more personal fashion- and center the experience on spaces conducive to establishing a direct, personal relationship between respondents and attendees. We finally found a format that embraced the P2P spirit and put it above the old liturgy of traditional events. The breakfasts at the hotel, a very nice Asturian Espicha, Malena’s wines, a thousand walks along the beaches, and the many cider houses in Gijón, broke down the divisive barriers and allowed everyone to enjoy getting to know everyone else, which was the main objective of the meeting.

espicha ancovoligoObviously the format can’t take all the credit: it was all about the spirit and the desire to share of those who came, gave meaning to the title of the event, and went “beyond the Sharing Economy” to bring together all sorts of ideas and projects with no strings attached and out of genuine generosity, giving rise to new projects which we hope to continue having news of.

As Indianos, we have many people to be thankful for: first of all, our hosts – Cris, Alex, Jacinto, Lorenzo, Javier … – they have been amazing, wonderful, dedicated, and enormously generous. But mostly for our friends that we personally invited and who came from all over: from Bilbao, Orereta, Murcia, La Coruna, Madrid, and Badajoz, but also from Bordeaux, Stockholm, Buenos Aires or Rancagua. And of course, our wonderful musical accompaniment, “GPS project,” and our interviewees: Neal, Matt, Antonin, Carlos, Jean-Pierre and Christian. And even if it sounds a bit inappropriate, a little self-referential… we want to thank Juan Urrutia for coming along, for explaining the most complex ideas with amazing clarity, for opening our minds to new worlds and strategies, and having been, as always, the first willing to listen, to socialize, and to contribute something of value for each and every one of us.

Thanks to all!! These have been wonderful, energizing, and hopeful days. Count on us in the Anchovie League always and for everything, it is the most beautiful and rewarding associative project in which we have taken part so far!

Translated by Alan Furth from the orignal in Spanish.

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 72 ~ October 12th, 2014 ~ ~ 8 0

For elites only?

gustos y clases de los cincuenta en eeuuOn August 1st 2014, the New York Times reflected about the cultural effects of the growing economic inequality. The article vindicates Russell Lynes,

…a brilliant [TIME] magazine editor and pop sociologist whose 1949 Harper’s essay “Highbrow, Lowbrow, Middlebrow” remains instructive and amusing to this day. Even more influential (and infinitely entertaining) was the chart it inspired, published in Life, which neatly divided American taste into four echelons, splitting the middle rank into “upper” and “lower” and identifying, with an anthropologist’s precision and an ad man’s brio, typical preferences in food, drink, clothing and art.

As noted by the article, in 1949, with World War II as a recent episode, the scholarship systems and the growing global prestige of the Ivy League consolidated the myth of the new American meritocracy. The idea was that brilliant people managed to enter expensive universities, and that passing through them enabled them to reach the higher income levels. The most “clever” became the “rich.” Their demands were crucial in the materialization of the Maslow pyramid. “Aspirational” consumption, that of the ones who like to imitate the consumption habits of those who earn higher levels of income, also starts emulating higher cultural levels. A new type of intellectual conspicuous consumption is not limited to art.

Go as an expression of the intellectual elite

Einstein y MasayoshiThe NYT article took the idea from a couple of articles on other blogs that appeared during the previous months that emphasized the role played by Go. A buzz was emerging, and the blog of the American Go Association picked it up in June. Soon the complaints from offended readers began due to the classist assumptions projected on the game. When the NYT published its article, the debate was already there. A reader noted:

At the time of the article [1949] the only places to find go in America would be in the math and physics departments of universities. My dad learned, around that time, in a science laboratory from a mimeograph of a German article, because German scholars collaborated with Japanese scholars after the Russo-Japanese war [1905].

In “The Art of playing Go” we have seen that although this claim has a basis in reality, it is not accurate. Indeed, technical-universitary collaboration brought Go to Germany, but half a century before the Russo-Japanese War. Then Edward Lasker, brother of the chess world champion at the time, promoted the first groups of American players, which were closely linked to those science university departments. An environment that, with the world war and the R & D it led to, would see more and more Central Europeans developing a passion for the game, and the propagation of the game in the sixties and seventies in libertarian environments and the culture of the new technological revolution.

Only for geniuses?

In the USA of the late forties and fifties, everything considered to be cool and highbrow had the European and intellectual touch of those engineers, physicists, and mathematicians, so it is quite natural that Go was a symbol of the intellectual elite. Some of that has come to us through movies like “A Beautiful Mind.”

Surprisingly, according to surveys performed in our time in the Anglo world, Go remains associated with those environments, and therefore is seen as too “difficult,” too “intellectual,” or simply “out of reach” of the respondents. So all the evidence about the beneficial effects of Go on the ability to calculate, the resistance to frustration, or the ability to develop goals and long-term perspective, are of little use: it only reinforces the notion that the game is an intellectual passtime for the elite.

Go Nation

go-nationMeanwhile, Go is enjoying unprecedented growth in China: Go schools are emerging all over the country, and the middle class sends their children to them en masse. Berkley anthropologist Marc L. Moskovitz spent two years immersed in Beijing’s Go milleu, from the most prestigious university departments to groups of retired workers playing in the parks. The result, “Go Nation,” is an anthropological map of the values ​​and ideas associated with Weiqi in the new China.

Again, the association between the game and elites appeared clearly in the stories, but unlike USA or Britain, in China “becoming part of the elite” that comes from the best universities is considered possible. It takes great effort, family sacrifice, hours and hours of study and bombproof tenacity. But it is achievable. And this is projected in the game.

Go is associated with elites in China as much as in the USA or Britain, the difference is how the elites are preceived in each case. In China, as a desirable place one can arrive at through hard work; that’s why Weiqi in Beijing thrives in the hundreds of schools that flourish in the city, even more than in clubs or parks. In contrast, in the USA and Europe people increasingly suspect that becoming part of the famous one percent has nothing to do with effort or self-improvement. The elites are inaccessible and incomprehensible in their closed logic. And that’s also how they think about Go.

Alternative models

pintura xi copiando clasicos chinosBut there is an even more interesting idea that is repeatedly found all through Moskovitz’s book. The game is described by interviewees as an educational tool for “values​​,” as a way to “build character” that links to deep cultural models of citizenship and masculinity.

The ideal Chinese citizen is often seen as a manifestation of the Confucian gentleman. Men whose lives were centered on knowledge, and emphasized the importance of developing an iron will and unshakable integrity. In this sense, contemporary Weiqi players learn to be that certain type of man in an uncertain world.

Consistently, dozens of the Anthropoligist’s interviewees

recount the ways in which, from an early age, they learned from Weiqi the pleasure of getting personal rewards through a sound work ethic, and to use their intellectual capacities to meet the challenges they would face as adults. They are grateful to the game for giving them intellectual tools that helped them find their place in the world, and for showing them roards that led them towards becoming better people. (…) They believe that the game teaches the right balance between aggression and restraint. They say that it is instructive on how to direct others and, in turn, how to avoid being dominated by them.

This reassurance and reinvention of the Confucian ideal is therefore also used as an alternative and as a tool for criticizing to certain degree the Anglo-Saxon discourse on success that is all the rage in the country: models of masculinity that are associated with “wu,” individualism, and initiative-based competitiveness symbolized by physical strength and which distance themselves from intellectual effort and moral integrity.

van-gulik-pinturas-eroticas-ming-51In the Chinese tradition, the intellectual (the “wen”) is considered superior to the physical, the protein (“wu”). That’s why the Chinese military and martial arts practitioners have taken great care to give an appearance of intellectuality, a “wen” dimension to their disciplines throughout the centuries. Traditionally, instead of the criticisms of “weakness,” “clumsiness,” “impracticality,” or “separation from the real world” to which the image of the intellectual has always been associated in the West, the Confucian idea of ​​the “enlightened” projects an ideal of masculinity to which values ​​like subtlety, taste, and intellectual curiosity are linked. The physique of this archetype doesn’t have big muscles, and yet, as in the case of our dear Judge Dee, represents folk heroes and well established models of beauty and masculinity. The semblance seems dissociated from physical force, and bound to forms of competition that do not involve physical, but intellectual development such as Go (in fact, Weiqi in China is regarded by the state as a sport at the same level as athletics or basketball).

rebelion boxer china en la prensa americanaOn the toher hand, when colonialism arrived in China in the 19th century, the stereotype about the West was associated with the predominance of the physical among the new visitors, the martial, the “wu.” While in the West physical strength and bravery are associated with masculinity, in traditional China the keys for “becoming a man” were associated with strength of character and intellectual refinement. Western values started to be regarded as simply barbaric.

But the “barbarians” exercised immense power, ending the imperial system forever. In a historical synthesis of sorts, the exaltation of the army, the peasantry, and the industrial proletariat that characterized Maoism tried to create a Chinese identity capable of competing with the West by placing value on the “wu.” The contradictions between this new ideal and a CCP that saw itself as a new Confucian class were not few. And of course, they were reflected in the way that Maoism related to Weiqi until the rise of Deng Xiaoping.

It seemed that the opening and rapid development of China would reinforce this “wu” and “Westernizing” trend. But China’s development has not been military, not even predominantly industrial. It has been commercial and technological. The great models of Chinese success, like Alibaba, project a different logic, different ideals of the worker, and a strong sense of community responsibility that synthesize the contemporary “nerd” with the ancient Confucian models.

This is the spirit that Moskovitz’s interviews in the areas of science and engineering at the University of Beijing exude:

The people I interviewed used Weiqi to celebrate a tireless work ethic and determined, permanent intellectual development, while also criticizing the dangers of modern society.

The “nerd” as Confusian ideal

Gu-LiNo wonder that the “nerd” stereotype of technology innovator is associated to the Confucian ideal of masculinity:

Characteristics of what in the West would be considered “nerd” (studying or working from morning to night, avoiding heavy physical activities, intimacy with parents) are components of an idealized model of masculinity in China

And if Go is a matter of “nerds” and Meritocrats in the new China, playing the game is what was missing for them to become a new avatar of the old ideals. As Moskovitz points out, Weiqi incorporates a sort of minimalist ritual in the Confucian way: from how to grab the stones to the value of silences or the greetings among players. And the closing ceremony of the matches (the loser thanks the winner for what she learned during the encounter) points to the value of knowledge as a driving force for life, typical of the archetype of the Confucian hero … and of the contemporary techy.

And this is what encourages Chinese parents to take their children to Go schools en masse: the dream that their children embrace the ideal of moral strength, determination, community responsibility, and passion for intellectual life and lifelong learning that the game inspires and its surrounding culture exalts:

The wonder is that those values are ​​associated with forming the true elite of their society, that they understand, as a student at Beijing University said, that

it’s not only rules or ways of playing, but also a set of behaviors what gives the game its meaning


Translated by Alan Furth from the original in Spanish.

Alan Furth

Alan Furth 4 ~ September 28th, 2014 ~ 0

When the economic aspect is the excuse for getting together

cecosesola40aniosThe flood of bad news about the economic and political situation in Venezuela that has prevailed in recent years is overwhelming and even depressing. That’s why the case of CECOSESOLA (Central for Social Services of Lara State), surprisingly (expectedly?) ignored by the media, is a breath of fresh air, a cheerful reminder that when people decide to take responsibility to live an interesting life and cooperate to achieve this, there is nothing to stop them – even when the decomposition of the social and economic environment reaches critical levels.

Half a century of Venezuelan cooperativism

feriacecosesolaCECOSESOLA is a network of communities devoted to cooperative production spanning five states of western central Venezuela. Most of its operations are concentrated in Lara state, specially in its capital, the city of Barquisimeto (home to more than a million people), where CECOSESOLA hosts popular fairs every week through which one third of all fresh food in the city is sold, mostly produced locally by small producers – a feat in a country that today imports the vast majority of the food consumed by its inhabitants. The 31 retail spaces distributed in Lara, Trujillo, Barinas, and Yaracuy states, mobilize among all 600 tons of fruit and vegetables each week, with annual sales exceeding US$100 million. And all this at prices that despite not being subsidized in any way, are usually lower than those of the PDVAL State-owned food-shop chain.

The history of the network goes back to the early 60s, when it became necessary to create a funeral service for the ten cooperatives operating in Barquisimeto at that time, created years before by Jesuit priests linked to the Gumilla Center. Today, in addition to food distribution and funeral services (in fact, the funeral home operated by CECOSESOLA is the largest in the region), the network has expanded its activities through 50 community organizations engaged in a wide variety of activities: agriculture and small-scale agro-industrial production, household goods, savings and loans, and a holistic health center that involved an investment of three million dollars and serves, in addition to members, thousands of barquisimetanos every year at affordable prices.

That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

centrosaludBut it was in the mid-70s when CECOSESOLA underwent a profound transformation in its culture and organizational structure. And that change was the result of an experience that brought it to the brink of financial collapse.

During those years, the government launched a program intended to organize the urban public transport system cooperatively, and CECOSESOLA embraced the initiative taking a government loan to buy 127 buses.

But almost immediately the prevailing mentality in a government-administered sector began to pollute the management of the business. A large part of the cooperative’s workers were seduced by corrupt municipal authorities, and cooperated with these and local entrepreneurs on a looting operation that resulted in the forcible seizure and dismantling of the buses.

That crisis led, first, to the idea of ​​getting into the food-distribution business: they removed the seats of some of the buses they managed to recover, filled them up with vegetables, and started going around neighborhoods selling what they bought at the wholesale market, at producers’ associations, and the only agricultural cooperative that existed in the region: “La Alianza.” The success of the initiative was what allowed them to pay the debts they had contracted with the State to buy the buses.

But mostly, the disastrous episode made ​​it clear that the root of the problem resided in CECOSESOLA’s organizational structure, which by then was as hierarchical as any traditional company, and therefore capable of being exploited by internal or external actors who might capture the higher echelons of management in order to take advantage of the cooperative spirit of the rest of the members.

From then they gradually began to test a number of organizational changes until reaching an almost perfectly horizontal structure that today is characterized by several interesting features.

Spontaneus order

reunionesabiertasThe more than 20,000 CECOSESOLA associates coordinate their activities through a series of open meetings and spontaneous formation of ad-hoc working groups where the boss/subordinate figure is nowhere to be found. They define all this as “an organization in motion, whose only formal organizational body is a flexible and changing set of open meetings: get-together spaces that do not obey a previous design, and are created or disappear according to the needs of the moment.”

Equitable compensation and rotation of duties

feriacar 0021,300 of the 20,000 CECOSESOLA memebers are associate-workers receiving the same weekly anticipo, an advance on a bonus charged at the end of the year. There actually are some differences among the advances received by associates, especially when it comes to people with higher consumption needs like parents that sustain their families.

Also, almost all job posts at the cooperatives that comform the network are rotative. This not only reinforces the sense of fairness regarding the realization of tasks, ensuring that all members, regardless of their qualifications, conduct cleanup activities and others that in principle would require less skilled labor, but also celebrates and reinforces multi-specialization as a core value ​​of the community. Although highly knowledge-intensive positions that require the realization of more complex tasks rotate less frequently, all members go through virtually all positions in the organization throughout their lives. Some members learn to write while performing office tasks, and even the health center’s doctors work at some point as cashiers at food fairs.

Individual responsibility as a basis for cooperation

The concept of responsibility has a strong presence in the vocabulary of CECOSESOLA members. As expected, when people put aside the notion of authority and understand how fruitful it is to work in an environment of freedom, they assume and internalize responsibility quite naturally. It is not only understood that long-term success will depend solely on the dedication and effort of each one of the members, but constructive criticism is celebrated as a tool to improve performance and, from a pragmatic, day-to-day point of view, members assume full responsibility for the financial losses caused by mistakes as much as they enjoy the financial fruit brought about by the successes: cashiers assume missing money at the cash machines they operate during fairs, merchandise losses are assumed by the team responsible for the corresponding area, etc.

Consensus as directing principle

Another important organizational change implemented gradually from the bus-business 70’s crisis that naturally complemented horizontalization, was the overcoming of electioneering as a collective decision mechanism, and replacing it for the search for consensus.

Today, members spend approximately 25 percent of their time meeting, discussing, and reaching consensus on management. For example, the design of the holistic health center building entailed three years of debates, and food fairs are held only three days a week, in order to devote the rest of the week to deliberate on broader issues related to them.

But beyond ensuring that management, products, and services are in line with the values ​​of the community and with the desired quality, the most interesting thing about these meetings is that members see them as an end: they are open conversations that more than being the basis for management planning, are also occasions for sharing meals, experiences, and strengthening the fraternal ties that in the end are what fuels their quality of life.

Or, as explained by one of the founding members in his own words, the meetings are not subject to economic management, rather the opposite: “the economic aspect is our excuse for getting together.”

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 72 ~ September 25th, 2014 ~ 1

Separatists: migrate to continue being

Utah

For some time, I’ve wanted to edit and update all the strange stories I’d written for the first paper edition of “Phyles: From Nations to Networks,” and which in 2010, disappeared from the final edition of the “Network Trilogy.” Some, like the one dedicated to the origins of Esperantism (which would have been impossible to write without Pere Quintana‘s research) came to mind again and again while I was reading and researching contemporary movements.

nova-izrael-san-javier-urguaySo, these last few weeks, I dedicated my few free moments to it. The result is a small, short, and entertaining essay of 9,842 words: “Seperatists,” already available in html and which we will soon move to epub format in the Library of las Indias.

To rediscover “separatism” has been very interesting. In these recent years, its last avatars have evolved towards positions that no longer allow them to be classified as such. Seasteading has gone from being a foundation dedicated to making the dream of creating cities floating in international waters a reality to proposing “start up cities” to States that are discussing creating “charter cities” and “special development zones.” The movement closest to the original separatism that Zamenhof once espoused (a neutral community, with a neutral language, in a neutral place), the Esperanta Civito, is very far from proposing any kind of collective migration and is more evocative of any association for the defense of a “diasporic” culture than classical separatism.

And there’s no point even talking about attempts to create virtual countries. Following the bitter original experience, the disappearance of the recent Spanish replica less than a year after its foundation, and the similar fate of much-touted European attempts, there are few who will trust that new experiments in “digital Zionism” will amount to anything more than role-playing games. To summarize: separatism is dead.

wagontrainplains1And that’s partly why we can now enjoy the grandeur of their histories without having to focus on the miseries of one or the failures of another. If these stories have any use today, it’s as myths, as literary references. And in any case, it’s not bad to remember those who, in full effervescence of nationalism were able to advance their beliefs, their people and the desire to build a future for themselves, rather than simply accept the imagined community imposed on them by the State.

So with no need to say that, obviously, that things are very different today, I hope you enjoy Separatists.”

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish).

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 72 ~ September 16th, 2014 ~ 0

How ISIL is changing your way of seeing the world

comic del EIIS publicado en twitterSurely, the saddest thing about the historical period in which we live is that the most decomposed and most destructive organizations are in the vanguard of generating consensus and social stories.

Jihadis, more than a decade ago, were the first to organize themselves in a really distributed way on a large-scale. Though the pressure of North American propaganda after the death of Bin Laden did everything possible to erase what was learned in ten years of netwar, and some analysts are again portraying Al Qaeda as a “traditional” organization, the truth is that at that point, American withdrawal fed decomposition in Iraq, and jihadis had already a large African corridor. Only the European strategic view — and surely out of mistaken motives and in dangerous contexts, could guess that the war had moved to a new level.

Look at the maps, not Facebook or Twitter

twitter eiilForget about the jihadist virtual propaganda machine and its capacity for recruitment across half the world. That’s already routine for a netocracy that’s been around for decades.

However, in that whole process, which is organic in a network like the jihadists’, the way of representing territory, or space — the great metaphor of power — is fundamental to understanding why the military operations area of the jihadis has expanded to a point that seemed impossible only a few years ago.

Maps are cultural constructs, ways of relating that condition the way we see reality, and how we see ourselves in it. The contemporary form of the map, which is at the very root of nineteenth-century nationalism, projects the ideal of the unity of territory and collective fate. The contemporary map is a “political” representation of the state and its aspirations (I still remember in high school, when they distinguished between “geographic” maps and “political” maps).

During the first stage of the emergence of the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” the type of maps that the media used reproduced this very form of representation:

estado-islamico-territorios-1 estado-islámico-territorios-2

So, cartographic representation reinforced the idea of “State” with which the jihadist group adorned their name, associating it with the national idea of a state. But, paradoxically, the maps that ISIL’s propaganda showed were much more stylized, emphasizing territory much less than control of travel roues and waterways.

estado islamico estiliza

The implicit political message about the group itself and its growth reinforced the basic idea of netwar that we already had seen in Africa: borders are not borders; people live in cities and towns and travel along paths. Only those who move between them can consolidate power, because they control the paths. To control mobility, and with it essential supplies, is the base of a floating, agile, exhausting and resilient power. Territory is of no interest. It’s an empty desert (without people) and therefore, without value. Whoever controls nodes and vectors is the true state and today, from the city limits of Aleppo to those of Baghdad, that is a jihadist state. The map of the final program, the great territorial Caliphate, is only a consequence, an organic development, a limit that is built from the network.

A few weeks later, the hegemonic way of describing the war in Iraq on the map by the European press is entirely in terms of nodes and vectors:

estado-islámico-vectores

Jihadism has given itself a new way of mapping the world. This form of representation has allowed it to rethink itself and grow beyond which we could imagine. The media seem to have accepted it, perhaps mistakenly thinking that it would be less disquieting for the European reader, who is used to the nationalist cartographic story. But we can’t stop wondering what would happen if we began to represent Europe, its conflicts, its political movements, and its commercial spaces similarly.

Translation by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 72 ~ September 9th, 2014 ~ ~ 8 0

Esperanto and Go

brunorugerBruno Rüger was the first great Go activist in Germany. His tireless activity during the difficult years of the ’20s and ’30s sustained the first European magazine about Go and lead to the creation of the German federation. He was the author of the first didactic textbook for beginners and of nearly a dozen more books on the game, in the no-less-difficult years of the Cold War – when practically all the literature on Go in German had burned in the bombings and the country was divided in two antagonistic states – he had the courage to begin again and promote the game in the then-recently founded Democratic Republic of Germany. Before his death in 1972, he could paraphrase Bismarck saying:

I have placed German Go on the saddle and shown that it can ride alone.

What the homages and biographies on the Internet don’t usually tell is how he achieved level of play sufficient to beat Emmanuel Lasker himself in their first game, in an era where hardly any references existed and the isolation of European players was such that they had that build their own boards. It is known that he knew how to get ahold of Japanese literature of first level and exchanged letters with Japanese masters since the beginning of the ’20s. But they didn’t speak German and he didn’t speak Japanese. The mystery is solved by Rüger himself in a autobiographical review: he had learned Esperanto in the Teens, and through Esperantista correspondence networks, had talked with a well-known Japanese aficionado and player, Dr. Tsutsumi.

Sakata EioIt is the first reference that we have of the relationship between Esperanto and Go in the first years of the Western expansion of the game. But if we look a little we find that many of the figures that we have followed in this series, starting with Alan Turing, who was passionate about synthetic languages, actively spoke Zamenhof’s language.

But if the World War set back the expansion of Go in Europe by decades, la repression of the Esperanto by totalitarian regimes had a still more sweeping effect. And while Go maintained a certain development in the US during the war and benefitted from the libertarian boom of ’68, Esperanto always was a fundamentally European phenomenon, and France in the ’70s and ’80s, marked by the anti-utopian tradition of Marxism and the maximalism of social revolution, did not put linguistic democracy back on the table.

The re-discovery

invito al go ludoBut there was a place where Esperantism was developed after the war: Japan. Introduced early to progressive settings and intellectuals, the Esperanto movement, centered on Tokyo and Kioto, included more than a thousand of people for the first time in the second half of the Fifties.

In 1979, the “Japana Esperanto Go Asocio” emerges, led by Emori Minosuke, author of the first books on Go originally written in Esperanto: “Invito al Go-ludo” (also available on paper) and “Fundamento de Taktiko kaj strategio in Go-ludo.”

Fundamento de taktiko kaj strategioThe association soon leads to la “Internacia Go Asocio” with 150 members distributed across 28 countries, that, today, continues publishing an annual newsletter. Soon, they begin to work on a glossary that will give way to the first illustrated vocabulary and an extensive specialized dictionary of 400 terms.

Though not very active on the Internet, work of the original core has left an important pedagogical legacy that includes the translations of two books by the master Sakata Eio: “Facila Formaciado” and “Vivo aŭ morto,” making Go game with the most publications in Esperanto and embodying their motto: “Go-on per Esperanto, Esperanton per Go-or” (“Go, instrument of Esperanto, Esperanto, instrument of Go”).

Go en el Congreso Mundial de EsperantoWith that early push, the Internet reached Esperantism on the eve of the new century, and with it, there appeared new tools for basic learning, new groups of players linked to virtual game servers, glossaries, email lists and literary references.

Little by little, both worlds will approach each other once again, people will go back to playing Go at Esperantista congresses and a new kind of connector will appear, people like Russ Williams, habitual visitor of Esperantista congresses and Go tournaments, who organizes his summers around the congresses of one topic or another.

Conclusions

1909 Universala KongresoBoth Go and Esperanto were part of the culture of illuminated Europe before the Great War: open to the new, fascinated by the surprising Japanese development and the sophistication of Asian cultures. It was an era in which optimism and the idea of improvement began to be confronted by the darkness of the new totalitarianism, but in which faith in the future still seemed unshakeable. Destroyed by world wars, persecution, and the Cold War, both environments, which had overlapped, were reduced, and will have to learn to become networks.

It will be this profound community experience that, thanks to the Internet, breathes new life into them in new ways. I don’t know any player of Go that thinks of the game as an alternative to the once omnipresent hegemony of chess, but rather as a game that helps develop skills, self-control and values; similarly, there are more than a few of us who think of Esperanto as a stupendous community tool, independent from both its institutional role and from the social cost of English as the false “lingua franca.”

Esperanto and Go are still there, as free cultural tools, ready for those of us who want to use them to build our own meanings.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

Natalia Fernández

Natalia Fernández 9 ~ September 7th, 2014 ~ 0

When rebuilding is a vital option

If swamps could speak, their words would transport us to a rural Spain that decided to evacuate hundreds of villages during the 50’s in order to implement the “National Hydrographic Plan.” There are precious posts and photographs of those flooded villages, magical stories of bells ringing on key dates, and other popular legends born from nostalgia and pagan deification of the earth.

Iglesia sumergida en el embalseBut today’s story is about those saved at the last moment, those that, despite being classified as endangered by possible floods, were not reached by rising waters. Stripped of population, the weeds grew in tandem with the cracks on the roofs and facades. Soon, those villages became the image of desolation. They fell into administrative oblivion until they became a problem. What could be done with all those sites in ruins that represented a potential danger and even a cost to the State?

Classified as public domain, during the ’80s, the government started to negotiate the concession of their use for a limited period – about 50 years – in exchange for their rehabilitation and repopulation. At that time, unions took over various locations, now converted into resorts, schools, or craft-production centers.

Communitary models for various lifestyles

LakabeNear the Gabriel y Galán reservoir in Extremadura is Granadilla. Due to its artistic heritage, public agencies were responsible for its rehabilitation and revitalization model. It was decided to turn it into a school workshop in which young people from different parts of Spain learned a trade and enjoyed an experience of contact with rural life.

A completely different experience is found in Navarra, near the Usoz dam. Lakabe was occupied in the early 80’s by a small group of young people seeking to live in contact with the earth in a secluded and austere environment. Throughout this time, the community has grown to become one of the main leaders of the ecovillage movement.

RuestaWith a libertarian approach, CGT carried out the recovery of Ruesta, in the romanic heart of Zaragoza, on the banks of the Yesa swamp. Conceived as a creative social space where conferences and congresses of social and artistic content were held, today it is in the process of transforming itself into an ecovillage. Morillo de Tou, in the Aragonese Pyrenees, near the Mediano reservoir, was restored for tourism and rural purposes by CC.OO. Its economic model is based on services and activities related to tourism in a holiday resort context.

Ligüerre de CincaNearby, there is Ligüerre de Cinca, expropriated to build the dam of El Grade. The project, carried out by UGT, began under the cooperative formula with less than a dozen people, whose aim was the reconstruction of the town for using it as a resort. Today they have developed a sophisticated and quality offer, recovering the vineyards and launching their own winery, a spa featuring enotherapy, a hotel for events, and personalized packages, being able to accommodate up to 800 people in the holiday season.

Building one’s own life

These are communal adventures that have entailed common effort and hard work to achieve a sustainable economic model and commitment to the surrounding environment. Each of these examples has consolidated a community and has built different life models for its members.

They are radical examples of thinking of one’s own life as an integral option that we can shape from the bottom up with our loved ones, creating a shared economy based on making and selling valuable things for others.

This is a way of doing things that once again claims leadership after seven long years of crisis. Many will be moved by the need to find alternatives, others by a life option, an ongoing conversation, or both. Perhaps they are only marginal experiences in an economy going in another direction. Maybe they are the new settlers of an increasingly empty and unproductive countryside.

But what is certain is that that first generation of recovered villages, the people who made a life choice based on the act of rebuilding, show how small communities of determined people who are committed to a way of life can turn abandonment into vitality, ruins into homes, and inactivity into shared wealth.


Translated by Alan Furth from the original in Spanish.

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 72 ~ August 24th, 2014 ~ 1

The “international class” and the future of English as “lingua franca”

aburrimientoDuring our travels, we often meet members of a particular social group. Half jokingly and half seriously, we call them the “international class.” These are people of different nationalities who, having grown up and studied in Britain since childhood, have English-language skills that go beyond the proper handling of a foreign language. In our world, organizational and commercial skills are fundamentally linguistic skills. To the extent that firms have internationalized both their business and their rents since the nineties, those capable of seducing others using the false lingua franca easily won autonomy in corporate organizational charts, and became indispensable. They even reproduced themselves to the point of imposing English as the work language in the organization… which in turn often led to a shift in the composition of the management team and suppliers, among which, not surprisingly, native English speakers began to increase.

Of course, every material change and every imagined identity group bring parallel changes in the content of the conversations. The “international class” loves soirees between governments and “civil society”: great masses of non-conflictive-good-intentions that enshrine discourses that are fashionable in the Anglosphere as supposedly global stories. These spaces are generally good relationship and business environments, but obviously also serve to promote a true recentralization of conversations.

The “problem” is “non-English”

The system functions “organically” and successfully seduces many intelligent, non-billingual business people. Martin Varsavsky’s statements the other day are a good example:

I often find myself representing Spain because there are very few Spaniards who go to certain places where I go, I don’t know why… well, yes, I do, because they don’t speak English. I have spoken highly of Amancio Ortega, but it is amazing that he doesn’t speak English; nor Zapatero, or Rajoy; nor Aznar… well, now he’s learned a bit. But it’s a shame. In Spain, the problem is not Catalan, Basque, or Galician, the problem is English.

eventoIn other words, Amancio Ortega is an example of disrption for the managerial order of the “international class.” For them, as Varsavsky remarks, “it is a shame” that entrepreneurs like Ortega manage a global company in their own language. This bad example could even spread to politicians. Where is it all leading?

Of course! Managing in Spanish means giving an advantage to suppliers, managers, and executives whose native language is Spanish, and breaking up the centralizing logic of English. Because, first and foremost, the problem has to do, according to these champions of anglified globalization, with Spanish and French, languages ​​with enough native speakers as to satisfy any company’s needs in terms of suppliers and “native” experts in any field.

zaraSo, according to Varsavsky, languages ​​with fewer speakers “are not the problem”: as long as examples such as Inditex don’t proliferate, they will accept that, given the small scale of their labor markets, they will have to rely on professionals from the “international class,” and on companies managed by them.

Deep countertrends

But why is there so much violence in these statements? First of all, because there is an important countertrend: the reduction of the optimal scale of production multiplies market agents, and the globalization of the small decentralizes a great part of trade flows. So the global SME doesn’t bother to play the game of the “international class,” and doesn’t need to go through the Anglo-Saxon world to sell. If your market is not part of the Anglosphere, in the end, all you need to sell is to speak the language (or languages) of the destination country (or countries) of your products, regardless of whether it’s a language spoken by hundreds of millions of people or by a few thousand.

Second, at this point, unless the primary purpose of an organization is to capture the rents generated by supranational institutions like the EU, it doesn’t need to resort to the Anglophone labor market. Today, there are trained professionals in all languages. Languages ​​such as Portuguese, Italian, Catalan, Basque, and Galician, are university languages ​​that prepare all kinds of specialists, while attempts to substitute English for mother tongues in higher education have proven to backfire.

Alternatives

If these countertrends continue to develop, the intended monolingualism of global trade relations will continue to erode, even if the discourse of the international class refuses to see it or disregards it.

Of course, we will see an even more intense development of economic exchange within the linguistic continua. And surely, when what matters is setting up teams of people with different mother tongues, other approaches will become ever more frequent. Some of them will be born out of an appreciation for multilingualism and will be based on the development of intelligibility tools. Others will think of a common language as software that can be chosen and adopted according to common needs. It’s possible we may manage to (quasi-)automate the translation of our correspondence between languages ​​of the same families, but also that synthetic languages, which are going through an identity crisis today, will experience a new flowering with new perspectives.

In short, we will not see one alternative to English as “false lingua franca:” we will see the emergence and consolidation of many in different areas and uses. We are not, as it would seem listening to people like Varsavsky, in a dichotomy between a correct, Anglophone, and enriching globalization on the one hand, and a localist and impoverishing closure, tied to languages that are useless ​​for an open world, on the other.

The alternative is between the recentralization of conversations, companies, and economic flows that posits the “international class” – whose strength grows with the new protectionism and the hyperdevelopment of supranational bureaucracies – and the distributed diversity of the globalization of the small.

In the latter scenario, as in many other issues, there is no single, inevitable, and unique future for all, but many: as many and as diverse as the communities that build them.

Translated into English by Alan Furth from the original in Spanish.

What is «las Indias»?

David de Ugarte72 ~ October 30th, 2014 ~ 2

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Manuel Ortega4 ~ August 24th, 2014 ~ 0

“Not-English” is the world’s most spoken language

bla_blaIn many conversations about the expansion of languages and the use of English as a lingua franca, we hear statements about English being the most spoken language in the world. It is important to remember that the reality is quite different, the most spoken language in the world is “not-English,” i.e., all the other languages. The figures, which can be found in “The World Factbook,” clearly reflect this reality. In the light of this fact, it should also be noted that beyond the figures, the important points to note in the discussion about overcoming language barriers and the adoption of a lingua franca, are others, namely the rents and power structures supported by the adoption of a national language as a lingua franca, in this case English, and its limitations beyond superficial interactions.

Functional English, like all jargon, is useful for superficial interactions. For example, when a waiter in a cafe in Antalya describes the view of the sea as very beautiful. But it reaches its limits in the context of university education, a higher intellectual function that fully mobilizes our language skills. Because only on rare occasions do we see the same level of precision and nuance in a learned language as in the mother tongue. That iron law of linguistic competence is confirmed even in countries known for their knowledge of English.

David de Ugarte72 ~ July 26th, 2014 ~ 1

Bruce Sterling against the disguised recentralization of the “Sharing Economy” and “Smart Cities”

brucesterlingWhat happens if the taxis of major cities are replaced by Uber? What if a central part of your urban transportation system depends on an app based on California? Do you think that a city hall could stand up to an multinational with the kind of battles it wages against taxi unions? What happens when your streets and your cars are commodities that are coordinated thanks to software and a set of rules that you don’t control? And perhaps the most clarifying: Do you really think that in California would let its transportation system be run from Barcelona?

All these questions are part of the conclusions Bruce Sterling draws about “Smart Cities.” The discourse on the “Sharing Economy” has detoured the debate and hidden the project of recentralization of networks and the power of the Internet giants. But it’s still there. And as the father of cyberpunk reminds us, it not only has political consequences in the city, but globally, and geopolitically.

So, does Sterling want to close the door on the “Sharing Economy” or the “Smart City?” Absolutely not. He’s simply reminding us that is a battlefield on which the different subjects must recognize what network structures and what architectures of power create a world where we have space. And in recentralization, there’s no space for citizenship.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

David de Ugarte72 ~ ~ July 13th, 2014 ~ 0

Community and happiness

imageThe Philosopher’s Mail, the blog of Alain de Botton and the followers of atheism 2.0, published an article about the Epicureans. Its most interesting aspect is that, in a nutshell, it proposes that Epicurean communitarianism is based on its founder’s minimalist definition of happiness:

With his analysis of happiness in hand, Epicurus made three important innovations:

Firstly, he decided that he would live together with friends. Enough of seeing them only now and then. He bought a modestly priced plot of land outside of Athens and built a place where he and his friends could live side by side on a permanent basis. Everyone had their rooms, and there were common areas downstairs and in the grounds. That way, the residents would always be surrounded by people who shared their outlooks, were entertaining and kind. Children were looked after in rota. Everyone ate together. One could chat in the corridors late at night. It was the world’s first proper commune.

Secondly, everyone in the commune stopped working for other people. They accepted cuts in their income in return for being able to focus on fulfilling work. Some of Epicurus’s friends devoted themselves to farming, others to cooking, a few to making furniture and art. They had far less money, but ample intrinsic satisfaction.

And thirdly, Epicurus and his friends devoted themselves to finding calm through rational analysis and insight. They spent periods of every day reflecting on their anxieties, improving their understanding of their psyches and mastering the great questions of philosophy.

Epicurus’s experiment in living caught on. Epicurean communities opened up all around the Mediterranean and drew in thousands of followers. The centres thrived for generations – until they were brutally suppressed by a jealous and aggressive Christian Church in the 5th century. But even then, their essence survived when many of them were turned into monasteries.

De Botton forgets that that Epicurean, familiar, and mixed monasticism of the 5th century, common and even dominant in places like the Iberian peninsula and the island of Ireland, was gradually enclosed from Rome and finally removed with the Gregorian reform. The spirit of Epicurean communitarianism would then begin to thrive in a very different environment. But that’s another story.

Translated by Alan Furth from the Spanish original.

las Indias21 ~ May 17th, 2014 ~ 1

Market activism

Aesires en acción (From Indianopedia) Market activism is our term for the design and trade of products with the goal of spreading values and ideas. The name was coined in 2012 by Juanjo Pina from “aesirs,” based on a previous debate on entrepreneuralism held by “las Indias Group of Cooperatives” since 2009, linking the idea of the phyle to the medieval arts and guilds:

We believe the kind of knowledge that enables us to make beautiful and socially useful things cannot be reduced to technical knowledge. It must contain a social meaning, a work ethic and a worldview. Goods offered in the marketplace carry with them a vision of the world, of social projects and a moral points of view.

Some examples

  • In 2007 the indianos combatted «rankism», a narrative on the blogsphere spread by the media that we saw as a danger to its distributed structure. As a response, we developed feevy, the first dynamic blog-roll for blogs. It not only made it easy to link and share audiences between blogs, it made it obvious that the “star blogger system” was just a media myth. Feevy had soon 60,000 users/blogs, making it possible to map hundred of thousands of blogs in Spanish and how they were connected. We called this map the map of flowers, and was, itself, a refutation of the narrative imposed by the mainstream media. Feevy, carefully developed not to use personal data, was programmed as free software, and its platform sold later to a a big firm.
  • Since 2011, the whole “neovenetianist milieu” did its best to transform its knowledge into useful tools to combat the European unemployment crisis:
  • In 2010, Alain de Botton launched his atheism 2.0. His main tool would be “The School of life,” an international chain of stores supplying consumer goods, courses and motivational seminars for businesses

las Indias21 ~ April 22nd, 2014 ~ 0

Vote for Guerrilla Translation in the 2014 OuiShare Awards

Our friends of Guerrilla Translation are among the nominees for the 2014 Ouishare Awards. You can vote for them or in any case know a little more about them and this Awards.

las Indias21 ~ February 11th, 2014 ~ 3

The fruits of an interesting life

festival-de-las-linternasToday our front page has a new banner: series. That’s what we have called the thematic threads that have been forming since we started to focus “El Correo de las Indias” on the idea of an interesting life. And in fact, the first series tries precisely to answer the question what is an interesting life? This leitmotif that was born in another series, the only one now finished: “Towards a new narrative,” by Juan Urrutia. And of course, we can’t leave out our love of cooking, our pulp heroes, and Go. They all continue growing and will appear again in the future. For the moment take a peek, and we hope that you’ll like them.

(Note from your translator: if there are older posts you want to see translated, please leave a comment!)

David de Ugarte72 ~ February 7th, 2014 ~ 0

What’s left when the state falls?

These days, the press all over the world is talking about the Michoacan self-defense movement, since the Mexican State is confronting them, after letting the “Knights Templar” camp there for years. This mafia was the beneficiary of decomposition, accelerated by the State itself, of the formerly, and sadly celebrated “Michoacan family.” The debate is now the typical trap of decomposition between the defense of the monopoly on violence by the state and the verification of a captured and corrupt state that for years abandoned the life and treasure of thousands of people to a terrible mafia.

So rather than entering the debate, I’d like to draw attention to an element of “self-defense” and the form that its process of legitimation took: the reemergence of a series of forms, like open town councils, which come from the birth of urban democracy in medieval Europe.

These forms are not “natural,” but rather cultural and historical. Born with urban development, they became revolutionary in community revolts, and reappeared in the open crisis of the Napoleonic wars – which led to the birth of the Mexican State – and during the large civilian conflicts of the 19th and 20th centuries. And now they return in the middle of decomposition. Quijote told Sancho on the path to the island of Barataria to “be careful of your vassals or they will take the government from you or form communities by themselves.” The “Long live the commoners!” shout is heard in the Michoacan town halls. In my view, there are issues here to reflect upon and learn from.

las Indias21 ~ February 5th, 2014 ~ 0

Interesting people

marianoypilarTomorrow we will publish a beautiful post by Mariano Gistain answering what is an interesting life to you?

Before him, Michel Bauwens and Kevin Carson paved the way, and Steve Herrick, Daniel Bellón and Mar Abad not only wrote and provided posts, but joined the team to present us with new articles.

So, the most gratifying thing about “El Correo de las Indias” in this new stage is not, as we expected, debates about the direct economy, or even the exploration of new topics and ways of living… but rather the friends, the people who are joining us to do it… and surely, those still to come!

Steve Herrick7 ~ December 14th, 2012 ~ 9

Seeking feedback

English-speakers, I need to hear from you.

There is a thriving cooperative movement in Spain and throughout Latin America. In the English-speaking world, and in the US particularly, we hear nothing about it (apart from Mondragon). Some members of my co-op want to remedy this situation. This would likely take the form of an e-book with around a half-dozen essays in it, written by academics and established movement members, and translated by us. It would sell for around $2, and assuming the first one does at all well, there would be more.  I received several generous donations for my work on the Indiano Manifesto (thank you again!), which gives me hope that a larger number of people would support this work with smaller amounts.

So, the question for you is, would it be worth $2 to you to hear what Spanish-speaking cooperators are doing these days, in their own words, professionally translated by fellow cooperators? What topics would be most interesting to you, or, conversely, least interesting?

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El Correo de las Indias es el blog colectivo de los socios del
Grupo Cooperativo de las Indias
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