Doing the Work of the Commons
Photo: Rescuers digging out of the rubble of collapse after the earthquake in Nepal, April 2015. Resistance and protest against fascism, though necessary, are not enough. While we are desperately running around trying to put out the fires set by Trump and his small but dangerous cohort of White Supremacists, we have little energy to do something constructive about the global crisis of civilization that we face today and into the future. We don’t even have the time or emotional energy to think about it. In fact, that seems to be the point: the ruling class creates a parade of manufactured crises so we never get to focus on the critical and compounding issues we face. I’m talking about ecological collapse, the global loss of subsistence capacity, mass extinction and mass migration by the millions of populations destabilized by war, starvation and climate disruption. Buddhist social justice, ecology and service organizations, focused on their core issues (e.g. racism, climate, development), have little to say about the convergence of global crises confronting the human race. While some acknowledge the problems, they offer no credible solutions that match the scale and complexity of the issues.
Yet this series of interlocking global crises are exactly the point at which global systems break down and change becomes possible—fundamental, transformative change, epoch-dawning change. The two possibilities offered by contemporary Buddhism—doing nothing but meditation or focusing on personal change within their sanghas—does not address either the enormity of the issues nor the solutions.
But the truth is, we have the solutions. The answers have already been devised, tested and developed. One model is the Greek Alliance of the Commons. As I posted earlier this week, the Greek Alliance of the Commons offers a comprehensive state-of the-art summary of the Commons movement in its current evolution:
“There already exists a form of social organization that will solve many of the world’s social and ecological problems, gradually eliminating Capitalism and its client State. It is the global movement of The Commons. Commons principles are completely in line with dharma principles of social and ecological solidarity as taught by Ajahn Buddhadasa, Dr. Ambedkar, Joanna Macy, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Karmapa, and many others. It’s time for engaged Buddhists to understand these principles and start putting them into action in our local communities.”
= “a social alliance of individuals and initiatives that combines politics with production. It is an alliance of the initiatives / movements of both the Commons and the Social and Solidarity Economy”.
I have spent a lifetime on social justice issues, particularly poverty, power and class issues, gender and human rights, and most recently, environmental and climate justice issues. I have looked at many proposed solutions to all of these situations, and have concluded that the Transition to the Commons is the best direction we can take as a global civilization and as a human species. By no means does it have all the answers and solve all the problems facing humanity. The Commons provides a general framework through which we can devise coordinated solutions to the most critical issues that shape our civilization at a global scale.
I can spend all my time and energy getting angry at the terrible harm done by deluded people in a Fascist State. Or I can spend my time and energy, this one precious human life, working with others to create the world that we want to live in. Making this choice means letting go of focusing on other issues that many people consider to be crucially important, and for which I might be rightfully criticized. But I only have so much time left to do the work that needs to be done.
It also means letting go of focusing only on Buddhism, and working for change only with and within Buddhist communities. But it is the dharma itself that calls me to let go of ‘self’ and my personal identity as a ‘Buddhist’ to focus on what is necessary for humanity as a whole, for all living beings.
The world is already transforming, and I want help steer it in the right direction, with everything that I know, with all the love and commitment in my heart. If you are also interested in learning about Commons Transitioning, about doing the Work of the Commons, please contact me through this website: firstname.lastname@example.org