For the Love Of Bees: Auckland

Sarah Smuts Kennedy, an inspiring social artist, introduced me at a breathtaking pace to the ‘For The Love of Bees’, a bee social sculptural project that is animating bee life in Auckland. We went to the Bee School at the historic Campbell Free kindergarten at Victoria Park. This is a carbon reducing, biological and community art project to strengthen inner city living conditions for humans and our long suffering bee population.

ART BUZZ: Art buzz: Sarah Smuts-Kennedy and Taarati Taiaroa.

Sarah Smuts Kennedy and Taarati Taiaroa

For The Love Of Bees is a living social sculpture that imagines Auckland as the safest city in the world for bees. Our project offers opportunities for businesses, students, individuals, schools, community gardens, brand partners and beekeepers to collaborate and produce a vision that will live on through the city of Auckland for years to come. By working in collaboration with Auckland Council Parks and Activate Auckland we are creating an ecosystem that supports thriving beehive colonies by introducing hives and focusing on the quality and quantity of flowers throughout our city. Sarah animated a wide-ranging conversation, inviting a young teenage beekeeper along to teach children about bees, talking about the developing OMG partnership with  CRL over leasing a ‘waste’ lot for a bee garden, education and organic pocket park, explaining the biodynamic peppering approach to deterring slugs and snails-and more included . Questions explored the scarcity of organic and biodynamic produce in NZ, how NZ communal land needed re-imagining, ‘some land is never owned’.;land access for gardening, allotments and community gardens and Maori views of the very notion of ‘ownership’ being problematic..guardian, or custodianship better?How to introduce more profound biological knowledge? How to rebuild models  of collaborative action, and support others initiatives, but in a linked up way.

Commoning – perspectives on conviviality – Farm Hack

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Breakthrough Action Research Questions for co-creating a threefold commonwealth society.

‘What kind of society we want, and how do we get there?’ were the burning questions that emerged from a November 2016 US Lecture tour. This took me from New York City, through NY State, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, then California to finish in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the Biodynamic Association Conference.

This research and lecture tour was originally about Rudolf Steiner’s social threefolding vision for society and land trusteeship. However it was ambushed by the surprise election of Trump on 8th November. Just as the Brexit referendum shocked Britain on June 23rd, the Trump election also shocked many Americans. People even talked of ‘8/11’ as a follow up to ‘9/11.’

So with a Sacramento audience we discussed the relevance of Rudolf Steiner’s social threefolding at a seismic time. We asked, ‘ What kind of society do we want, and how do we get there?’ We explored what they saw as the Trump, Clinton and Sanders’ visions for the USA, and then relevance of Rudolf Steiner’s threefold commonwealth.

They contrasted Clinton’s neo liberal, market fundamentalist, business as usual, establishment approach with the Trump xenophobic, macho, racist, narcissistic, tax avoiding, protectionist, ‘America first’, approach. The Sander’s vision of free higher education, better healthcare, jobs, fair taxes, social inclusion, affordable housing and solidarity was seen as different, as positive, as was his personal integrity.

For me, a breakthrough light bulb moment was on the one hand to distill the comment, opinion, and analysis coming from the Brexit shock with the 11/8 Trump election, and Steiner’s social threefolding vision into four action research questions. Individuals can then choose to answer these questions, or a particular personal reformulation of a question question. So, instead of feeling powerless and confused, we can   take constructive action. The questions are as follows:

How are we developing a generative, mutual economy that works for all?

How are we caring for the earth?

How are we engaging politically for human rights, a more participative democracy, social justice, social inclusion, equity and peace?

How are we enabling creative, dynamic cultural life where every person can develop, and maintain, their whole human potential-so that they can freely contribute?

At Sacramento we also discussed the historic opportunity offered by the collapse of the neoliberal ideology to draw on Steiner’s seminal social thinking. Inquiring using the above four action research questions as individuals, as groups and organisations can make a difference culturally, politically, environmental and economically at a local, city and state level. We can start, or build further, from where we are. The Burlington, Vermont ‘model’ where Bernie Sanders had been the mayor came up as an example close to social threefolding. Some people said that we face such dangerous times with the Trump election that we consequently need to prepare realistically for the worst, yet also prepare for the best.

takingcareofearthourselves

However, I saw signs of hope everywhere I went, the ‘blessed unrest’ of individuals, groups and movements making a difference. There were thriving social businesses, biodynamic farms, creative schools, community gardens, and social movements like the Dakota pipeline protest, innovative housing schemes, civic initiatives and impressive evidence of good old American ‘can do’. In New York, the cityscape has been changed by the work of green guerrilla gardeners transforming waste lots, city parks, growing good food, addressing food poverty, increasing human security and community building. In small towns, you can see things like co-ops, community farms, free medical and dental services and signs of a thriving cultural life.

These green shoots can be seen as openings for a ‘commonwealth society. ’ This is happening all over the world. We only need to see what is happening, inquire, understand what is emerging, and connect up the dots. We live in a creative, enterprising age, and the lid just cannot be put on this social ferment. Just think how the invention of community supported agriculture, an application of Steiner’s associative economics, by Trauger Groh and others at Temple Wilton Community biodynamic farm in New Hampshire, has gone viral round the world? CSA offers a radical alternative economic model to the ‘free market’, where consumers, distributors and growers agree to associate together for fair prices for growing good food, guided by clear agreements.

Why a ‘commonwealth society’? ‘Commonwealth’ is an old word for society or state, meaning much more than just money. Massachusetts and Canada are formally called commonwealths. ‘Commonwealth’ includes our commons, such as land, air, water, language, relationships and culture, as well as industry, the economy, health service and our democracy. ‘Commonweal’ is connected, meaning common good.

farmworkerscanaries

I observed how social threefolding lived in the will of many people- seemingly just below the surface. They had an intuitive grasp of boundaries between culture, politics and economy and how to clarify these. This was expressed by proposals such as, ‘Lets get the money out of politics’, or ‘Get the state and corporations out of education’. The shared understanding of the threefold separation of powers in the US Constitution, of the judiciary, legislature and executive, led to a similar distinguishing of the tripartite dynamics of the political, economic and cultural systems.

Therefore, as we British and Americans need to see how things work, a number of people whom I met are writing up case studies for a 2017 anthology of how they are working with Steiner’s social threefolding in practice, for example on their biodynamic farm, in their school or bank[i]

However, the threats Trump poses also need recognizing. Just as it is hard for us to now view a film of Hitler speaking at the 1930’s Nuremberg rallies and not think, ‘How could they be taken in?’ so our grandchildren may view Trump in the same way. How can we understand those who voted for Trump? (Note: i.e. only 24% of the electorate voted for Trump, Clinton got 2.75 million more votes, and just less than 50% of the US electorate actually voted)

To answer the question of why people voted for Trump, it is vital to analyze the role of the corporate and social media. These were expertly used to manufacture consent and votes. Many people now get their news and ‘information’ from the social media, from friends‘ recommendations, and from the automatic recommendations of algorithms. ‘If you like this, then you will like this.’ Many people see uncritically through the lenses of their social media and personal ‘filter bubbles. ’ Just as with the Brexit campaign, it was possible to ruthlessly spread malicious, unfounded rumours, factoids, lies and half-truths. The more vicious and shocking, like the allegation Hilary Clinton was a paedophile which originated with some Macedonian youths, the more people clicked and forwarded their friends with a message, ‘Have you seen this?’ And the more negative the information, the angrier and ‘pumped up’ people got in their social media echo chambers. This was ‘post truth politics ‘ in action.

But such social media manipulation by Trump would not have resonated with people if there had not been real grievances to address. His campaign targeted a  mixture of social conservatives from all backgrounds- some with white supremacist and racist views, and ‘left behind’ working class people who were economically more radical. Many jobs had gone to China and   to Mexico, communities were run down, people were afraid for their jobs, health, houses, security and their children’s education. Trump was able to get through to such people and successfully blame the liberal capitalist elite such as Clinton for the loss of jobs.

From a deeper point of view, Trump also tapped into the many people who are suffering both psychologically and spiritually. [ii]They feel they have ‘failed’ to achieve the American dream, they feel losers, half human. Having internalized the neo liberal ideology of competitive individualism and Social Darwinism, they have no one to blame but themselves. Secondly, there is a deep lack of self worth, self-respect and human dignity coming from not feeling that their work, if they have any, is respected and has value. In any case, their labour is treated as a commodity to be bought and sold on the market, a point Steiner makes strongly in Towards Social Renewal. Consequently, they feel bad, self-hurting, afraid, failures. Moreover ‘the liberals’ try to make them ashamed of their socially conservative values. For example, this is a pivotal September 2016 quote (gaffe?) by Hilary Clinton, that was used with deadly effect by Trump:

‘You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic – you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people, now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric.’

Trump was able to mobilise ‘left behind’ peoples’ spiritual and psychological injuries, and direct the hurt and anger at   scapegoats such as the immigrants, liberals, big Washington government, Muslims, even war heroes like Senator John McCain and ‘crooked Hilary’. The use of social media, where you get constant confirmation of your views and grievances, really ‘pumped up’ people. We saw the same phenomena here with Brexit, where the Gloucestershire millionaire Arron Banks spent £7.5 mn on a toxic social media campaign that pumped up enough people to swing the vote to Leave.

neoliberalsocietydiagramDiagram of the Capture of Politics and Culture by the kleptocratic Plutocracy, Corporatocracy, Mediocracy for the Acquiring Private Wealth and Power. [iii]

So, from Steiner’s analysis of the social question, a key part of the answer to these deep human spiritual injuries is profoundly cultural. We need a dynamic renewal of creative education, the arts, sciences, spirituality, health, and our food culture so that people can develop and maintain their spiritual, creative, human, and social potential. If you think of the cost of this, consider the huge costs of not educating people for creative human freedom and dignity.

Creative cultural life is breaking through, despite the capture of large areas of culture by the corporate media and by government. (If you want to control people, command the pulpit, the schoolroom and the media.) But until we see culture, such as free creative education as centrally important, then the conditions for proto fascists like Trump and Farage will continue.

And the immediate future of the US looks dangerous. Firstly, Trump appointed the ruthless Steve Bannon as his chief of staff. He is ex-Harvard and Goldman Sachs, and an architect of the white supremacist leaning Breitbart website. Secondly, Trump has the police and military on his side. Thirdly, he can bypass an anyway Republican Congress if necessary with executive orders to push things through. And it only takes a ‘Reichstag fire’, a terrorist incident to exploit, so as consolidate power.  I already heard several personal stories of racist and sexist intimidation before I left the USA, as indicators of a conflictual, fragile social climate.

What are the positive ways ahead?

There is hope in the dark, as Rebecca Solnit writes so movingly. [iv]Preferring not to react by becoming an alcoholic or committing suicide, I choose to remain an optimist. People across the USA told me that its time to wake up more, to keep creating positive alternatives, whether in our own lives, with those we meet, with biodynamic farms as green oases for social, cultural spiritual, economic and ecological renewal, or creative Waldorf schools, ethical banks and our various projects.

We have significant capabilities, not least to address the spiritual and psychological questions of people seeking creative personal renewal. And the current situation offers an opportunity for us to answer in our own different ways the four action research burning questions that emerge from Steiner’s societal thinking:

How are we developing a generative, mutual economy that works for all?

How are we caring for the earth?

How are we engaging politically for human rights, a more participative democracy, social justice, social inclusion, equity and peace?

How are we enabling creative, dynamic cultural life where every person can develop, and maintain, their whole human potential-so that they can freely contribute?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: My US lecture and workshop tour, 1-23rd November, took in New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, California and Santa Fe New Mexico, was made possible by friends and hosts. One outcome will be a Collection of articles about social threefolding to be published in Sum

[i] For more details contact martin@hawthornpress.com.

[ii] See also Rabbi Michael Lerner in http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/psychopathology-in-the-2016-election-3

[iii] Large, M., Common Wealth, 2010

[iv] Solnit, R., Hope in the Dark, 2016

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US Lecture and Research Tour :Building Commonweal 1st-2nd November 2016 Dates and Venues

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November 2016 US Lecture and Research Tour by Martin Large

 Hope, Fear and Building Commonweal: Rudolf Steiner’s Threefold Vision for Society

 What social future do we want and how do we get there?

This lecture and research trip is an opportunity to learn from positive US social, economic and political develoments, meet people similary engaged,   and also share questions arising  with those  working practically with Rudolf Steiner’s social ideas and vision for a threefold commonwealth or society.

Visiting the USA in October/November 2003 on a Winston Churchill travelling fellowship, I was inspired by New York guerrilla gardeners and by community land trust pioneers across the USA such as the Fellowship community at Spring Valley, Burlington Vermont CLT and Temple Wilton Biodynamic Farm. This led to working with others on  CLT National Demonstratioon Projects to help set up many UK community land trusts for social housing, changing UK law, innovative co-op community financing and farm land trusts in Britain, including the Biodynamic Land Trust.

At a time of great change and challenge, amidst the mess of market fundamentalism, I will ask, ‘How does Rudolf Steiner’s dynamic social thinking inspire us to build a more free, equal, mutual and earthcaring commonwealth…… One biodynamic farm, vibrant school and social business at a time?’ … However the starting point is, ’ What are your burning social questions?”

I work as a facilitator and live in Stroud, UK. Books include, Social Ecology (1981), Futures that Work (2002), Common Wealth (2010), which draws on Steiner’s social threefolding to map an emerging commonwealth society. Asked when working in civil war torn former Yugoslavia in the 1990’s, ‘What, then, is the alternative to communism and capitalism?’ I have been action researching this question ever since..

Dates, Venues and Times of Talks and Workshop

3 November; Anthroposophical Society  138 W15th St   New York NY 10011 . New York City 7pm: Hope, Fear and Building Commonweal: Rudolf Steiner’s Threefold Vision for Society-How do we get there?

More information: walter@wawrite.com

4/5the November talk/workshop in Spring Valley: Hope, Fear and Building Commonweal: Rudolf Steiner’s Threefold Vision for Society: How do we get there?

More information: rafael@threefold.org

Sunday 6 : Restoring Hope: 

Rudolf Steiner’s Social Vision of a Threefold Commonwealth: 7pm Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School, Music Room

518-672-4465, x223 

or glamb@thecenterforsocialresearch.org

Thursday 9: Temple Wilton, New Hampshire evening talk Hope, Fear and Building Commonweal: Rudolf Steiner’s Threefold Vision for Society and Community Farm/Land Trusts

Contact: groh.alice@gmail.com

Friday, Nov 11, 7:30pm – 9:15pm; Rudolf Steiner College, Sacramento: Evening Talk: Hope, Fear and Building Commonweal: Rudolf Steiner’s Vision for a Threefold Commonwealth- What social future do we want and How do we get there?

Saturday Nov 12, 9:30am – 4:30pm , Rudolf Steiner College: Threefolding Conference

http://rudolfsteinercollege.edu/events/threefold-conferenceContact:

2016 Biodynamic Conference: Tierra Viva: Farming the Living Earth

November 16-20, Santa Fe, NM