Monday, August 24, 2009

Big Knob Fair

The Big Knob Grange Fair is coming up, September 1st through 5th. It's only a hop skip and a jump from my house, so you can visit me too if you plan to attend. The fair is really quite a delight. One of the things I enjoy so much is the the timing of the fair, for young people it's the last big summer fling. The picture wasn't actually taken at the fair, it's at a cousin's farm, but the old farm equipment displayed at the fair is alway one of my favorite attractions. The fair really is a way to connect with local agriculture. And it's a chance to meet some of the fine people who make their living plying the land.

Using a blog to think out loud is a sure way to make a blog unreadable. If any followed along even a little bit in my last post, you'll know I've been trying to think of a way to organize a we20 event. There's something pathetic about my inability to get anything together.

I had it in mind to pitch the event at a gathering of friends. I didn't. It was nice that a friend stopped by prior to it and we had a good long talk. The trouble was that my pitch sounded to him very much that I wanted my friends to make a plan for what I should be doing. That follows pretty logically from the fact that I can't seem to do anything I'm supposed to. But that's really not what I had in mind. Another issue is when I think of a small group, or think of my "community" I tend of think of people who might miss me a little when I die. Days after our talk my friend sent me a short list of people I should look for collaboration with. I'm not sure any of them really would care much if I died, but my friend is probably right that what I have in mind for a we20 meeting would make better hay with them instead of my more economically secure friends.

Recently I read one of those The Guardian debates. This one was between George Montbiot and Paul Kingsnorth. The debate, Is there any point in fighting to stave off industrial apocalypse? provoked a headache probably because it resonated with a rather persistent debate in my own head. Debates in my head tend to just go around in circles, so a good thing about debates in print is they suggest further development of the ideas. And in the last few days I've read or watched videos which have gotten me out of the rut so to speak.

What I can't figure out is whether or not any of my friends ever think about an industrial apocalypse? A couple of years ago I read or heard something regarding Peter D. Ward's book Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future (now remaindered). The point was made that our present trajectory of atmospheric Carbon could result in the extinction of all flowering plants. Needless to say, all people would become extinct prior to flowering plants. But the thought s of flowering plants going extinct filled me with such grief that for at least a few days after hearing it my actions were as if I was in a vat of molasses. I write off my reaction as a sign of my mental fragility, even still I wonder if sometimes my friends don't suffer when they encounter in one way or another evidence of the limits of planetary ecology and life on Earth?

I think they must at times. So when I think of economic conditions and getting together with a small group for discussion and for making a plan--no matter how small--the premise: What do we do now that we know there are limits? is central to what we'd talk and plan about. That premise makes me sound like a Cassandra. I don't think I'm trying to persuade, rather I'm curious about how others are feeling. What I gather from feedback is they aren't feeling up against any limits.

From Sharon Astyk's blog a really good post The Pedagogy of Collapse introduced me to a distinction made by John Michael Greer between a predicament as opposed to a problem to be solved. Astyk writes:
The obvious model predicament is death - something that can be addressed and handled in a whole host of ways, some productive, some not, but that can never be solved - we all die. How we approach our deaths, how we view them, the contexts in which they occur - these details matter enormously, but none of them approach the status of solution, eliminating the basic problem.
The debate between Monbiot and Kingsnorth seems to me to have generated more heat than light. Perhaps one of the reasons I tend to get blank stares from my friends when I bring up the topic of limits is they presume I'll launch into some millienialist rant about a coming apocalypse; or at minimum boor them by telling them how sad I feel about the state of life on Earth. I'm optimistic, however, about the possibilities for viable and humane responses whether we face problems to be solved or predicaments. It's our responses that seem most worth talking about. But how to begin the conversations?

When we got together my friend made some very good suggestions about what I could do about my economic situation. The implicit message is that what I do will have a lot more effect than what I say. As I already mentioned he also gave me a list of people I know that will probably be more receptive to my dour outlook. So that's good advice, and probably qualifies as a mini we20 gathering. My next plan is to tell as many of my friends as possible about the Big Knob Fair and hope to see at least some of them on their way to the fair.

One last link to offer is a 40 minute video of Slavoj Zizek at YouTube. It a debate with Alex Callinicos on the topic "What does it mean to be a revolutionary today?" at Marxism 2009 from early July of this year. I also watched the Callinicos video. Oddly each of their responses to each other are on their respective videos without them offering the questions. It's more compact that way, but also a bit hard to follow. I'm hardly a revolutionary! Nevertheless found their remarks, especially Zizek's commentary quite interesting.

If you plan a trip to the fair, please stop by, I'd love to see you.


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