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Nowtopian

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Nowtopia is for Tortoises!

I had a really good visit to Philadelphia and now I’ve landed with my daughter in New York for the next 9 days. At Wooden Shoe Books in Philly yesterday, on a spectacularly nice spring afternoon (I never would have gone indoors to hear someone speak!) a little over 20 people turned up to jam into the small space and hear my rap. I am happy that I’ll have help in keeping track of questions in the next couple of weeks because as much as I love how great the feedback and questions and comments have been, I just cannot remember much of it after it’s over. But it was really gratifying at Wooden Shoe yesterday.

One thing I do remember is another person asking me about how to get from here to there, or how to kind of leap over the gap between the small-ish activities I’m describing and the big changes the Nowtopian analysis implies. Of course I don’t have a convincing answer for that. It actually flies in the face of my sense of history. I spoke to it at each of my stops and I was pondering this a bit on the train ride from Philly today. If I’m anywhere near right that there’s something new cooking at the base of society, and it might someday recognize itself as movement for the emancipation of all of us from the stupidity of economic logic and a life of pointless, self-defeating work, then it’s not something that will happen quickly.

I use the received idea of ‘revolution’ as a foil, since it’s an idea that generally connotes something quick and dramatic, even cataclysmic, in which suddenly life is completely different. I really don’t believe in such a vision, which strikes me as fundamentally religious. I can imagine revolutionary moments where authorities fall for one reason or another, but if we haven’t been on the path for a good length of time, building trusting relationships and solid communities that can self-manage the complexities of daily life in an open and democratic fashion, it’s most likely that some version of how we live now will re-emerge soon after. The Tortoise approach means we accept that we have to take slow, ponderous, deliberate steps more or less all the time, to get where we’re going, which is a radically different life in all its nuance and detail. It takes radical patience, the calling card of the (politicized) Tortoise…

Anyway, here are a few photos of Philadelphia:

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Nowtopian moments in Dystopian America

I’m in Philadelphia, having given a Nowtopia talk at A-Space today, and tomorrow I’ll be at Wooden Shoe. Last night in Baltimore I spoke at Red Emma’s. I really like Baltimore! It was fun to walk in to Red Emma’s and feel such a cozy, welcoming space. The audience wasn’t huge last night, about 23 or so, but very intelligent, and full of great questions. In fact, all the audiences so far have been quite attentive and responsive, really rewarding me for showing up. Here’s a shot of Red Emma’s:

Some years ago I came to Baltimore on the Critical Mass book tour and spoke at Black Planet, a now defunct space, and some of the refugees from that helped form Red Emma’s, which is in the city center on Mt. Vernon Hill. The collective seems rather large, 15+ people (?), and all of the folks I met were really smart, engaging, and warm. Such a pleasure to visit a place like this and receive such great hospitality. I even got to stay at a gorgeous old apartment that one of the collective members lives in, overlooking Washington Plaza from huge windows and a lovely balcony.

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Layering History

On my way down from Penn State to Frederick, Maryland a couple of days ago I had extra time and took the opportunity to pass through the Antietem battlefield (Civil War) and then to pay my respects to the birthplace of the U.S. military-industrial complex at Harper’s Ferry. It sits at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenendoah Rivers, close to the place where West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland all come together, and not far from Pennsylvania either. It is beautiful springtime here in the east, a bit chilly some days, but mostly warming up rapidly, dogwood and azaleas in full bloom everywhere. Here’s a photo of a small row of trees on the campus of Pleasant Valley elementary school not far from Harper’s Ferry. I’ve seen incredible numbers of these trees in bloom everywhere, open road and in suburbs…

Before I got to Harper’s Ferry, the first site of a U.S. arsenal (founded at the suggestion of George Washington), the place where they made the rifles and hardware that accompanied Lewis & Clark on their epic journey through across the continent in 1803, I passed quickly through the Antietem battlefield. It’s set on grassy rolling hills and is littered with signage put up by the then-aptly named War Department in 1896 as part of an effort to establish an outdoor classroom of war knowledge. I was a big Civil War freak when I was a child, so it still resonates a bit for me, though nowhere near as strongly as it did in my youth. I climbed a stone tower, also built in the 1890s, and took this photo down what was known as “Bloody Lane”… in the three-day battle in September 1862, this stretch was fought over with great intensity, leading to the trench between the two fences being filled with bodies.

A later exhibit established by the National Park service is called “I Hate Cannons” and quotes a battlefield surgeon who had to handle the thousands of casualties caused by frontal charges into the maws of full firing artillery.

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