Category Archives: Eugene Mutual Aid Society

The Whole Elephant

In my last post I mentioned that I was working on a presentation for a table at Eugene’s Neighborhood Green Faire. It was last Saturday, and it went well I thought. People took 49 of the flyers I created home with them, and paused to read a lot of the 3-sided poster board I put together.  I also got into some great conversations with people, a few of whom self-identified as anarchists or professed leanings in that direction.

Most of these folks had just listened to a “what’s ahead and why” talk by peak oil expert and author Richard Heinberg, ending with suggestions that we’re going to have to downsize, simplify, and come together. I tried to lead them from that into the need for a radically different way of doing things politically and socially.

I’m more convinced than ever that we’re going to have to start knowing, caring about, and taking care of each other. One young woman who stopped by the EMAS table told me, for example, that she and her 8-year-old son had been living in their van for over a year due to her extended unemployment. She held her head high, but there was a quiver in her lips and a brightness in her eyes that spoke of the difficulty of feeling good about oneself in the midst of what our society tells us, self-servingly, is personal “failure.” It’s not; this woman’s situation is the result of a society, an economy, and a culture that’s serving fewer and fewer. She wants to work, and a grassroots network of caring people that’s created an alternative currency, cottage industries, and a just way of sharing its resources will enable her to do so.

Another woman who works with disabled people painted a picture of folks without friends or relatives nearby who can’t work or get along at home without help. Little by little, government is dropping them by the wayside, too. We, their neighbors, have to take up that slack.

Some of the people who stopped by the table, including some I know, thought they got – instantaneously –  what EMAS was all about. They didn’t — a lot of it would have been brand new to them, had they taken the time to read or hear about it. New and valuable, despite being outside their normal frames of reference. Our name, traditionally anarchist, but a little vague for the uninitiated, was part of the problem. “Crime prevention, right?” was one man’s take. “That could be part of it,” I replied. Another man read a bit of the poster and assumed our main focus was “skill building,” what he does with teenagers. Another part of the picture, but not the whole of it. Remember the story about the blindfolded people touching one part of an elephant, but not getting to see the whole animal? Well, this elephant may be outside your usual frames of reference, but it could save and enhance your life in the years to come. After all, it’s our normal frames of reference that have gotten us into the fix we’re in!

I was excited to meet some likeminded folks at a nearby table who are presenting a “fully participatory,” “open space” event in a few weeks on working “toward a more resilient community and bioregion.” They’re also interested in developing a gift economy, and through that creating real relationships and community. The young man I spoke with, Eamon, didn’t seem to have heard of Genevieve Vaughan’s work on the subject, but he was wonderful to talk to, his handsome young face shining with love and spirit. He’s working on computer software for a community gifting system called Kindista. You can check all this out at

The future is, at least partly, in our hands — and in our hearts. As I said to everyone last Saturday, “Thanks for your interest.”



Enthusiasm renewed

Yesterday I attended a great rally and march protesting corporate personhood and a business meeting of the Eugene Mutual Aid Society, and both events restored my enthusiasm to keep on working for needed changes. My friend Judi and I were among 100 people who came to the rally, some from as far away as Corvallis. There were Raging Grannies with cool, crazy hats, who sang protest songs written for the occasion, and protestors dressed in judges’ robes labeled with Supreme Court justices’ names. A totally energetic and enthusiastic guy with a megaphone rapped and mic-checked and got us chanting and raising our hands and fists — all on themes of working together (the 99% and the 1%), persistently, for radical change. One of our chants was “Money is not free speech! This is free speech!” One young woman held a cardboard sign that said, “If you don’t poop, you’re not a person.”

When we marched on the new federal building, I realized how expressive its architecture is: massive, gray, and cold, with no visible doors or windows, an impregnable fortress defending the “Just Us” system of the 1%. Another marcher told me that if you want to visit Representative de Fazio’s office there, you have to be approved and can only go in two at a time. Our supposed “representatives” don’t want to face or hear from us; they just want our votes and tax dollars. When the chants “Whose courts? Our courts!” and “Whose government? Our government!” flew through the air, I was silent. I don’t want these courts or this government. I want something completely new (old): localized, non-hierarchical self-government, in which everyone’s voice is equal.

Judi had a  letter printed in yesterday’s Register Guard expressing her passion for change, and spelling out the kind of change she thinks is needed. (See Eugene RG letters for 1-20-12.) I was excited that this kind of revolutionary talk would make it into our relatively conservative local paper. The word is spreading.

There was lots of passion, enthusiasm, warmth, humor, and solidarity at our EMAS meeting, held in public (at Cozmic Pizza) for the first time. Some excellent ideas, too. Come to our next meeting next Friday (5-7 PM), same place, and gather round our “fire.”