“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
– Socrates –
Intentional space and space making is a massive topic that is still relatively new despite being integral to everyday life. It is the practice of creating a space that is responsive to the constantly evolving needs and desires of those in the space – a dance with time and collaboration with all who enter. Here I will try to succintly explain why spacemaking is so crucial to rethinking society – creating a world, space by space, that solidly supports its people/environment and allows for the organic evolution of thought and social structure.
That being said, every day I explore more spaces and learn new things (see subsequent posts) that necessarily allow me to reassess my perspective so please bear with and accept the incomplete-ness 😊 of my impassioned ramblings and do contact me if you would like to discuss further or have a contrary or resonant perspective. In building a better world we will need the perspectives of all.
Ok so to give some level of organization to my thoughts, I will discuss four crucial aspects of space to consider – 1) The temporal political context of space 2) Space provides the ability to experiment tangibly with social theory 3) Space is increasingly limited for under-served populations, and therefore, 4) Self sustainable space holds political and transformational power.
1. Current Political Context of Space
Space and time are, in the simplest terms, locators. For example, if I tell you to meet me at 4 pm on the 4th floor of a building on 44th street and 4th Ave, I have not only exposed my affinity for the number 4, but I have also given you one temporal dimension and three spatial dimensions to pinpoint a specific location. Space and time are inseparable and must be studied together.
So what does all this mean? Yup, you guessed it, we gotta talk about Trump.
Well not just him, the systemic oppression permeating the globe. Our current nationalistic political structure is not working. Well it’s working for those who made it, but not for the masses. Colonization remains rampant. Bombing and invading countries for the wealthy’s gain while turning its own people into wage slaves and media addicts, the United States must seriously reconsider its existence. Meanwhile, everyday persons in all pockets of the world are increasingly distancing themselves from the sport of international politics. Opting instead to form communities and independent means of self sufficiency – creating spaces that are fundamentally revolutionary in their mere independent existence. Initially I felt the urge to create such a space. My 100 Acre Wood (weeattogether.org) was a failure but through it, I slowly I began learning of other spaces. Now I seek to find and learn from these spaces across the globe.
Any space created will be affected by and should respond to/inform its environment. Now more than ever, autonomous spaces are necessary to building resistance to a ruling class systemically drunk on power. Consider them addicts, they know no other way. Rehab will not be effective unless we can create safe spaces for them that do not encourage greed and separation of the other from the self. The answer does not lie in our current system. The Democrats will not save you – they’re oligarchs, addicts too. We are located in a toxic political temporal climate and in need of a radically different society/space that can truly address the needs of all persons as well as the multidimensional disasters of racism, oppression, economic inequality, environmental degradation, climate change, waste, etc.
2. How can space help?
It is important to bring theory into practice to find a realistic alternative to the current system. Society is a structuring of relationships. Relationships are constantly transforming and unpredictable. In order to create solid, self sustaining spaces responsive to the needs and desires of those in the space, we have to experiment with real people and relationships.
Let’s think for a moment of building a space as building a house. If you seek to build a solid house, you must look to the foundation and the building materials. Our building materials are our people. Our people have largely been neglected and used as slaves instead of nurtured and protected to allow for their full potential.
Our society, our house is rotten – built with slave labor on stolen land. Our strongest members have tried to renovate through heroic efforts in civil rights, unions, policy reform and NGOs. But the cancer of oppression continues to recurr, and has metastasized over the planet. Our pillars of society, the civil rights attorney, the science teacher, etc, are underfunded and overworked, crumbling under the heavy heavy weight of a rotting house.
“To minimize suffering and to maximize security were natural and proper ends of society and Caesar. But then they became the only ends, somehow, and the only basis of law—a perversion. Inevitably, then, in seeking only them, we found only their opposites: maximum suffering and minimum security.”
A Canticle for Leibowitz — Walter M. Miller Jr.
We cannot build rooms off the side of this rotting house like NGOS or unions that do the things government refuses to do – protect and provide for the people – because they too will rot and collapse with the house. If you look at the insides of NGOS and unions today they operate on basic capitalistic frameworks and often severely mismanage their workers. We must rebuild. We must create separate spaces that focus on a strong foundation, learning from past mistakes.
Small, autonomous spaces allow a myriad of perspectives to experiment tangibly with social theory. Why can this not be done within the current system? Glad you asked! There are some aspects of our society so pervasive that we assume them as fact. For example, the compartmentalization of time. We have been trained to split our time in separate segments: work, consume, family / socialize, activism. In practice for the majority of working class persons this leaves little time and energy for anything other than wage work. To shift this reality one must create a space where persons can “make a living” while socializing with like-minded people, spending time with family and doing something towards building a better world and promoting their ideas. This is not possible within the current system on a working class wage and lifestyle.
The good news – spaces and experiments focused on these issues are already being made! My quest is to find them, present the evidence that another world/relationship structure is possible, and hopefully connect them to other spaces and persons that resonate.
3. Who owns space?
Ownership, haha that’s a whole topic. We are firmly in a system that operates on ownership so to be realistic, we must save that discussion for a later date and play along with the concept of the existence of ownership. Space is increasingly difficult for the average person to own. The highest percentage of personal spending since 2009 according to the Zero Hege 2017, “Personal Consumption Report” is for recreational vehicles. RVs. Rent is so damn high that we are going back to being nomads. The need to exist and have a home paired with the increasing cost of owning a home (autonomous space) has created a rental economy which is not economically viable for working class persons.
It’s also just not mentally healthy. Having a home – a solid, reliable place to live – is a huge component of feeling secure, having a solid sense of identity and building a strong community. It’s where your friends live, it’s where you took your first steps, it’s where you feel safe. We have people working multiple jobs just to survive, working full time but living paycheck to paycheck, and still, unable to afford a home, relying instead on rental properties at the whim of the market, not to mention leaving little time for them to participate as members of a body politic.
Time is taken from us through wage slavery we comply with to afford a space/a home/independance, but then space is taken from us through colonization and the increasing rental economy. Meanwhile the wealthy get more wealthy. It’s a trap.
Gentrification is the new colonization, pushing lower income locals out of their homes. Colonization has both a mental and physical aspect. To colonize a space (i.e. the founding of the United States and its subsequent invasion of oil rich countries) – is to strip it of its culture, drain resources and eliminate previous inhabitants. To colonize a mind ( i.e. a fundamentalist religion, or one could argue the current state of academia) – is to strip a mind if its independent thought, deprive access to alternative education, opting instead for systematic processing and acculturation, and drain resources through overstimulation and attention manipulation (our media).
There is a precedented and tradition of need for spaces for underserved populations. Underserved communities and underfunded professions such as artists, scientists, academics rely on external sources to support their livelihood and are therefore unable to purely pursue their passions or craft – often taking other jobs or compromising their work.
This is most apparent in lower income neighborhoods. Look at the housing. Where are the back yards? Where is the space to play? Working class people are more likely to live in apartments, in areas with fewer parks and community spaces. The largest predictor of health in the United States is not your diet, is not your race – it is your zip code. It is the space you are in.
This need for space is also vividly apparent in the art community. In our current capitalist art economy, art is valid when you have a sponsor, are in a collection or make money. Artists are not seen as laborers that serve a purpose in existing, performing, creating, collaborating, expressing, critically thinking, inspiring others to question the world around them and to individually find meaning. This is a labor. Art takes space. Physical studio space to explore creations and mental space to challenge existing concepts and beliefs. Instead, our society claims art to be what money has provided a platform for, boxed up sound bytes for sale, things hanging on walls in galleries, thereby reinforcing capitalistic practices of subjecting intangibles (human workers, art, expression) to the cold rules of the market. Turning artists’ names into trading cards for collectors, value assessed by the market and leaving poor artists at a perpetual disadvantage without space to hone their craft/connect to others in the art world.
The same can be said for academics. If you are a philosopher or scientist without the backing of an academic institution or a slew of publications tacked to your name or even a blue check next to your twitter handle- your thought labor is not considered valid. But how does one enter this realm of professional thought maker? Through academia or art galleries – institutions historically slanted to favor the wealthy. Meanwhile, we have an academic world so focused on publishing they’ve largely lost the ability to show our younger generations the wonder of education, of learning, of questioning and instead bred an anti-intellectual strain of millenials so focused on stupid people the media has made famous. Do I sound bitter? Good. I am. Cash me ousside howboudat? Donald fucking Trump. Hello turning human being into brands *cough* kardashians *cough* young girls showing their bodies for likes as instagram models *cough*
I see this deprivation of space, mental and physical, as a violation of the fundamental rights of free speech and liberty. We are silencing the working class through economic means and thereby renouncing democracy and depriving the whole of society.
4. But, again, how can space help?
Having autonomous space allows someone to focus on building self and community in contrast to fighting adversity within the existing socitey. This necessarily strengthens resistance through individual and community empowerment as well as directing energy and money away from the system. Although fighting for social justice is important, it is also crucial that individuals are strengthened through community otherwise we will continue to have little to no oppositional power. If you wake up everyday and help people, you should be loved, supported and strengthened. You should not be beat down by red tape. As long as we are putting energy towards our current system we will limit the strength of local organizations. Once local organizations are solid they can work equally with other local organizations to oppose oppressive societal forces. Obviously these spaces would not be completely disengaged from society. We must remain politically aware and active in protecting others. For example, showing up to resist in the airports when Trump first passed his ban. These communities, above all recognize that an injury to one is an injury to all. However, the real transformational political power we have is in our economic independence and sheer numbers. You take the money away and the greedy will listen.
My hope is that these communities will not only be able to shelter the underserved from the current political maelstrom but will also be the organizing structures for solidarity, democracy and economic independence. With the revival of working class persons – through the libidal energy misguided towards extremists like trump/Isis, as well as the powerful waking up of liberals – spaces that at their foundation are centered on the equality, respect and interconnectedness of all life offer the true experience of real social power and change. Once these communities are self sufficient they can be connected to create a network of resonant communities that solidly come together to challenge the current power of society.
Right now the only vehicle of working class politics lies within a system that is fundamentally not in their self interest. It is necessary to build a political alternative as this moment is a moment of profound crisis that has opened many people to political participation.
I have so much hope that with the post-trump invigoration and normalization of political discourse, things will change. The libidal energy expressed on the right and the fact that we have ordinary people getting involved in their community and deciding to take action – that’s where the hope lies – The reinvigoration of the body polytic. However, we cannot allow these open people to not have space to fully contribute. We cannot let their light be extinguished through bureaucracy and inefficient, inaccessible means of resistance. Now more than ever we need to answer real pressing questions of humans lives and provide space where people feel they are tangibly making a difference. If we don’t, those who are open now will become disillusioned.
This answer lies in focusing our energy in building self sustainable spaces not in squandering our energy in working within the system. We can truly transition the power back to the people in spaces where you can do more than just join a protest or donate money – where people genuinely have a voice and are heard within their community.
We are in a building phase. Communities are sprouting up internationally with separate intentions and focuses but all along a similar vein of resource and economic independence and communal space for the use of all. More and more young people are looking to live together on the countryside, working & celebrating in harmony with nature, co-creating art & technology that can develop over long periods of time, actually leaving a positive trace regarding our environment by not only avoiding waste but using sustainable energy sources, taking care of the land, building up soil, planting trees & food forests, etc…
We do not yet have the power to challenge oppressive society effectively. Former movements have failed to bring true revolutionary change into a hierarchical society because they brought down a system before they had an alternative space in place. By rethinking how we can truly address concerns and value each member of society and bringing that into practice – slowly but surely we will create self sustainable spaces that are not reliant on society. This is a painstaking experimental process. However, there are many spaces already in existence that we can learn from and work with! I am seeking communities across the globe that create spaces that offer an alternative.
In making the transition we will of course make mistakes, learn and shift direction. But we will be building a solid foundation for future generations who do not wish to contribute to militaristic, egotistical societies. Another world is possible, already exists.
Hello and welcome to the world of space exploration.