Day Three of Tragedy of the Market: From Crisis to Commons

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Tragedy of the Market: From Crisis to Commons
January 6-8, 2012

All panelist biographies are here.
Below are some lessons learned and observations from the sessions.


The opening panel is recorded in the Twitter storify here.


My notes are here.


Opening Panel

Radical Squares: Reflections on the Global Indignant Moment

Nefertiti Altán, George Caffentzis

Nefertiti Altán

Crisis in the economy:

  • Greed leads to assaults on living wages, off-shoring, migrant workers, slashing pensions.
  • US unemployment is 9.7% or 14.9 million people, 16% for African-Americans and 42% for African American youth.
  • The number is higher when we include those who stopped looking for work, the definition of which ignores even more people.
  • The unemployment rate is 16.8%, or 25 million people when you include the underemployed.
  • 6.6 million homes are empty from foreclosure.
  • 25% of Americans have mortgages higher than their home values.

Crisis in ecology:

  • Profit motive has lead to consumable commodity crisis, with resulting stresses on disempowered communities around the world.
  • Economic and military empire are required to ensure access to resources.

Crisis in empire:

  • The Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement are a response to empire.
  • The growth of Occupy was surprising because it wasn’t initially fanned by groups representing the oppressed and marginalized groups.
  • But there was a unifying demand and vision, which allowed various groups to align their actions.
  • Now, where and how do we continue to converge across sectors, identities, issues?
  • We need to be committed to working it all out together.
  • There is still a lack of race-consciousness in America, so that’s an ongoing element of expanding the movement through collaboration.
  • Each section of the 99% has a role to push it all forward.

Occupy Oakland today:

  • There are four General Assemblies/week.
  • Working groups are meeting, including foreclosure support: including occupying empty homes, deeming them to be part of the Commons.
  • They are supporting families facing eviction, helping prevent auctions/evictions.
  • Oakland police have been harassing the occupation since the beginning. Now the focus is on those who live-stream and record police activity and African-American men, hoping to catch people for their third strike in California’s three strike context.
  • Participatory budgeting in Oakland is a movement to empower citizens to have more direct control over civic operations.

George Caffentzis

  • We need to think about why Occupy has affected us politically and emotionally.
  • Critics of Occupy suggested that people get a job. Many occupiers had jobs. But also, any working people relied on the occupiers to fight on their behalf because they don’t have the freedom to fight. So the occupiers are defending the jobs of others.
  • Millions are rejecting representational politics. Representatives require us to be absent for them to lead. People are engaging for themselves when they realize they aren’t actually being represented.
  • We need to put a lot of energy into healing the cleavages in the different groups of the 99%.


The Media Commons
Dorothy Kidd, Riel Manywounds, Claudia Medina & Isaac Komalathukizhakkathil Oommen

  • Equally distributing media/expression tools to people is empowering, and undermines the power of corporate media.
  • Filmmaking is a powerful way of telling stories of marginalized people. People with media skills should mentor others in being able to tell their stories.
  • Our institutional upbringing is often the main thing that’s holding us back to our own expressive freedom.
  • There is no Commons without community and collective decision-making.
  • The Commons is about sharing culture and relationship.
  • We know more about enclosures than about the Commons that was enclosed.
  • The Commons is not homogenous, so we shouldn’t expect a homogenous 99%.
  • The old labour and social contracts are dead. So is the old media contract. We now make our own news, hearts, feelings and stories.
  • Some smart 1%ers are now trying to appropriate all these decentralized media/cultural experiments, perhaps like the Huffington Post model.
  • The corporate media is not the mainstream. They’re the radicals. We’re the mainstream.


Plunder of the Planet: the Ecological Crisis
Claudia Medina, Cease Wyss and Steve Collis.

Stephen Collis

  • There are two ways of looking at the Commons: Metabolic Commons and Future Commons.
  • The Metabolic Commons
    • The economic imperative always trumps the ecological impact. We worship GDP growth.
    • Social metabolism is examining the full consequences of events and activities, so there’s more to economic activities than GDP.
    • How do we inject the Commons into our contemporary economic understanding, in order to reframe it?
    • If the economy began and ended with the Commons, we’d be obligated to preserve the Commons for the future, and we’d have a healthy social metabolism.
    • The social and the natural are inseparable, despite centuries of propaganda otherwise.
    • Our historical collective existences have created this Commons. The market has perverted our capacity to maintain a healthy relationship with the Commons.
    • How we make our living needs to be in balance with where we make our living.
  • The Future Commons
    • Capital wants to enclose the future before it arrives.
    • We need trans-generational thought and planning.
    • The Occupy movement is asserting a right to the future.
    • The Occupy movement is about opening possibilities for change and resistance, and a commitment to the potential of the future.
    • The Occupy movement has suffered from an inability so far to work with other struggles, particularly indigenous movements. This may be helped by an idea to fix the name to De-Colonize Vancouver.
    • Harsha Walia: De-colonization is a process and a goal.
    • De-colonizing is an unlearning of a world view. And embracing respectful co-existence and engagement with the land.
    • A future Commons must release the land from colonization, privatization and resource extraction.

Claudia Medina

  • The Occupy movement has many messages. Essentially it is an anti-war movement: against the war against the Commons.
  • We must oppose this war on life.
  • There is no relationship to reality in pursuing unlimited GDP growth.
  • People are baffled with the idea of replacement for GDP or growth itself.
  • We can only talk about sustainability by moving past the current system and how we measure it, in GDP.
  • There doesn’t have to be one thing to replace our system, as in one object to replace GDP. We need many alternatives so that different communities can choose a model that can work for them. We have to stop thinking in a monolithic way.
  • There is now an intensification of interest in replacing this broken system by putting ecology in the centre.

Cease Wyss

  • We need to consider simplicity more.
  • We need to recognize the need for movements to work together in peaceful, sustainable activism.
  • We need to fight for our rights, but also recognize ceremony, which acknowledges our relationship with our world: ecology.
  • If humans are the children of creation, why are we destroying creation?
  • “In this day and age, all of us are colonized.”
  • Being here today may be more energizing for many of us than our jobs. There’s room for improvement.
  • We each need to grow at least one thing every year, even if we live in an apartment. We need to stay connected to the earth, even in small ways.
  • “If you don’t know where you are or where you’re from, then learn it.”
  • A small cob of corn will feed a community.


Defending Land, Water & Future Generations Panel

Arthur Manuel

  • When looking to protect the land, we need to take direction from the people of the land
  • The premier says BC needs to sign non-treaty agreements with first nations before the new mines can go ahead because she recognizes the land is unceded.
  • Recognizing aboriginal title really means adding a constitutional level of authority that can defend the land. This is why Delgamuukw hasn’t been implemented, despite the Supreme Court ruling.
  • To protect the land and water by working with first nations’ constitutional authority to intervene, indigenous groups need to do expensive research on traditional land use.
  • The province does not currently have the legislative permission to integrate provincial and indigenous planning bureaucracies. This needs to change.
  • Indigenous groups are not against development, they’re for informed development.
  • The UN asserts prior, informed consent from indigenous people for development, but Canada hasn’t signed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Billie Pierre

  • Oka and Gustafson Lake really woke up a lot of people to issues of independence.
  • The government uses their power to apprehend the children of first nations activists.

Rita Wong

  • The more we take the chances to strategize together, the more chance we have of stopping bad policies.

Eric Doherty, Stop the Pave

  • Capitalism is a cancerous growth-dependent economy.
  • We have to say no to TINA [there is no alternative – Margaret Thatcher]
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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist. at Politics, Re-Spun
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, professor, speaker, consultant, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website,

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