a bureaucrat for the revolution

“So you work in the garden.”  Francesco was not asking a question, he was assuming that anyone who lived on a sustainable eco-village that grew a huge fraction of it’s own food would be involved in helping with that significant task.  He assumed wrong.

Francesco came to us as part of the Portrait Story Project which started after Hurricane Katrina and interviewed survivors and drew strong pictures of them.  He drew portraits of Coyote, Edmund and myself in 2010, like the one below.

Francesco had ridden his bike from Philadelphia to ask me questions about areas i had helped others with.

In response to Francesco’s assumption of my participation in agricultural work i replied.

“I dont work in the garden, i am a bureaucrat for the revolution.”  Francesco laughed at my answer.  He had of course heard tales of my fighting reactors in eastern Europe and the US, doing jail time for my beliefs.  He did not think of me as a bureaucrat.  Activists are interesting, exciting, important people and bureaucrats are dull and mostly useless.

But often i am.  i push papers around and get approvals and schedule work crews, as i am for the TCLR roof, rather than swing a hammer.  Part of my job is talking down people who we need to work with who are upset with us (as has happened with outside contractors on the CLR roof project), classic bureaucrat work.  Bochie has tricked me into two garden shifts over my nearly 15 years here, both times when i was not a member of the commune.  My thinking is there are a lot of people who love gardening and i hate it.  They should clearly do these shifts.

And i do things that no one else here wants to do, especially asking lots of members if they want to help with the many different things it takes to run this place and i get lots of “no’s” in response.  A large commune critically needs people who are willing to hear a lot of “no’s” or it needs a different internal communication culture than we have here.

And i have some mild guilt that i am not up on the TCLR roof swinging a hammer, which is inside my capacity and i do have some desire for, but in this compressed month it is not on the list of reasonable ways i might spend my time.  So i will keep pushing papers, so others can keep swinging hammers.

speaking of getting rid of bureaucrats

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

4 responses to “a bureaucrat for the revolution”

  1. moonraven222 says :

    Activists are important and gardeners are necessary, but once something becomes an institution it needs bureaucrats.

    Hooray for a system that uses everybody’s talents.

    • paxus says :

      this one certainly tries

      • Francesco says :

        Dear Paxus,

        Thank you for posting Edmund’s Portrait-Story, more of those of those visible at voicesforappalachia.org

        For the sake of accuracy, I actually hadn’t heard any tales of any of your doing jail time for your beliefs, (I wouldn’t be able to tell you any at this moment either) I only knew what you told me when I first met you, and I don’t believe you mentioned it then – I remember you speaking about the issue and movement-building, mostly in large moreso than personal terms.
        I first heard from a member of NIRS, that some adherents of the anti-nuclear movement lived in and near Twin Oaks, and that we should sojourn there as part of the VFA PSP, but no name stuck out for me at that moment, in part because the other co-bottomliner at the time did more of the itinerary details.

        You are correct that I didn’t think of you as a bureaucrat.

        When you referred to yourself as a bureaucrat for the revolution I did laugh because it sounded humorous to me and I often laugh when hearing a novel-sounding notion.

        “Novel-sounding” because I knew you must have a non-Trotskyvite, non-Stalinist, non-Leninist meaning, which you specified quickly and well-enough.

        Would you agree this might sound humorous, even novel, at least “novel” out of the mouth of one self-identifying as anarchist?

        I did know that you worked on hammocks and in the kitchen.

        I don’t know if you recieved it, but in an earlier e-mail, before you had written this article, I typed the following to you:
        I agree with your stance on specialized division of labor, that
        community-members should get to do the work they like and are proficient at, and that all such productive work should be valued as contribution.

        I agree that bureaucrats are “mostly useless.”
        I recognize that you have a niche at Twin Oaks because you do work that most members say “no” to, and that the high quality of life at Twin Oaks is due, in part, exactly to that work.

        It occurred to me to ask about gardening because the garden was visible and very beautiful at that moment. I had asked several crop-related questions, and not getting much in the way of answer, was starting to suspect you had little interest in gardening – and I was correct.

        One thing that I disagree with (to the extent that it makes sense to disagree with an emotion) is that you “have some mild guilt” about not swinging a hammer.

        If you would choose to humor any advice from me I would say address your “guilt” by either

        #1.) fully asserting that what you do is necessary and valid enough in and of itself – in other words subconsciously agreeing with your conscious mind.


        #2.) swing a hammer.

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