Wednesday, June 24, 2020

With regard to autonomous/free/self-organized zones, it seems best to avoid identifying them too closely with any particular group of people. The participation and support of vast numbers of people are involved in the creation and continuation of such a place. A major defining characteristic is that it's open to, and organized for the benefit of, everyone, to a significantly greater extent than was the case at the location previously. (This is true of the zone as a whole, within which people have their respective private areas/structures.) Attempts to determine "the goal," or "the message," of such a phenomenon, seem likely to be missing some of its most significant aspects. Whatever other messages and goals there may be, the phenomenon is a prime example of McLuhan's paradox: the medium is the message. If there's a welcoming, self-organized space, where people can have a relatively decent existence and the opportunity to participate peacefully and meaningfully, then that in and of itself is an important goal and an important message.

For a more optimal paradigm to emerge, we'll ideally want to have more optimal systems and mindsets ready before deactivating systems of the previous paradigm. But we also find that systems of the previous paradigm constrain us, and constrain the development of more optimal systems and mindsets, so significantly that in some cases, and in some places, it's important to be able to exist free of those constraints, in order for that development to happen and in order to address ongoing humanitarian disasters.

The mutual aid that occurs in such places has sometimes drawn disparagement. A friendly, free, centrally-located space can make possible a comprehensive continuum of care - shelter, food, clothing, etc. (It can simultaneously help with higher parts of Maslow's hierarchy too.) There's clearly an ongoing emergency, and these zones, whatever else they may be, are a way of addressing the emergency. Many in this world have tended to be forgotten or left behind. Effective, comprehensive, large-scale caretaking is a relative novelty. A situation in which such caretaking becomes possible in a very sudden and very visible way is likely to elicit some alarm and concern, despite the urgency of the underlying situation. The emergency has gone on for so long that in many ways, it seems we've gotten used to it, or become numb to it. But an emergency, especially one that could very well become even worse than it is already in the near future, calls for a response - not a panicked or ill-considered response, but an effective response, which may involve thoughtfully altering certain familiar patterns in how things function.

An emergency is a serious situation to deal with, often difficult and unpleasant, and often tragic, but it can sometimes spur innovation yielding results that are useful beyond the emergency situation. Besides the fact of many people currently facing serious dangers and hardships like extreme poverty, plenty of other aspects of our world may be ripe for restructuring. There's an appropriate eagerness to help those facing immediate emergency situations, so we would expect those types of things to be among the first issues to be addressed in a free space. But if we let it, such a place can also become a hub for experimentation and innovation, reverberating everywhere.