unoccupied territories

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archives and archipelagos

by way of introduction

plum village new year 2006

“It wasn’t till I did your course that I realised that the propaganda against communism was nothing compared to the propaganda against the past.” (Student comment on ISEC’s Roots of change community study programme).

The aim of this weblog is to gather together testimonies, intepretations, clues, indices, signs, evidence of all sorts, gleaned from the distant past, the not-so-distant past, and from other places and cultures, which argue for the possibility of reinventing our societies as non-hierarchical, vernacular communities, rooted in the local, yet welcoming to strangers, and providing the kind of security which can nurture individuals who are truly spontaneous and creative. My project is not to identify an anarchist utopia lying readymade in the works of historians, anthropologists, and ‘activists’, as a model waiting to be applied; but simply to assist in the collective process of remembering those strategies for sharing power which once were part of our common heritage, which really worked, and which have been largely obliterated throughout much of the world by the bulldozer of industrial modernity.

Chief inspirations and guides: Simone Weil, Ivan Illich, Pierre Clastres, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Jaime Semprun, Claude Alvares, Wendell Berry, and all the staff and contributors of The Ecologist magazine throughout the 1990s, who opened my eyes to the rest of human history, beyond the smoke-screen of ‘development’; my family, who successfully entered the modern world of education and mobility without learning to look down on their working-class roots; and the many people I have met around the world whose continuing contact with the land and with older, simpler forms of sociability and relatedness, along with their endurance and nobility in the face of the worst forms of oppression, have taught me so much about the potential of human nature.