Names have power. I spent years going to a summer environmental youth festival in Europe called “Ecotopia”. Regular participants consider themselves Ecotopians. We talked about “Ecotopian Principals”. When things went well, we marveled at the “Ecotopia spirit”. It was originally the title of a book by Ernest Callenbach, who coined it in his 1975 popular classic, which was a prophetic tale of the Northwest region of the US succeeding and reversing industrial capitalism. But the name quickly went on to mean much more to many people. If we had, for example, called it Summer Green Fest, we would have identified with it less deeply and it might well have died a decade sooner. Some of the best names are ones which occur organically. I remember when we were designing an all womens anti-nuclear office in Prague which was staffed by internationals. Emily said “Why don’t we just call it the Prague International Anti-Nuclear Office?” I said “don’t you think that is a little long?” She said “We would call it PIANO for short, the acronym.” Instantly there was no other choice, we just started calling it Piano from that day on. The Point A project wrestled a bit initially with what to call ourselves, we wanted a good name. But the more we talked about it, we realized that the communities that the project created would have their own names, identities and origin stories – so a good name would be nice, and i like Point A, personally. But it is not a brilliant name. Busy people compress things. Your goodbyes are shorter, repetitive tasks get shaved by seconds where you can and multi-word names you have to type repeatedly become acronyms. Point A has a growing number of specific urban sub-projects (including currently DC, NYC, Baltimore and Richmond). So i started writing Point A – NYC and then PA – NYC and finally PANYC. omg what a great name. We are often told “don’t panic”, not just in the context of the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, but to maintain order. From where i sit, if we follow this strategy the chances for the planet to survive are vanishingly small. The people who want us to stay calm are often the same ones who think Climate Disruption is not a thing. They think business as usual is the way to go and they most certainly think that we should respect the powers that be and the current authority structure.
I could not disagree more. We need to be panicking. We need to be doing things dramatically differently. Business as usual is suicide, convenient and lucrative for a tiny fraction of the population, certainly. But no less suicide for the planet and everyone we care about. Well see if the other folks in the project are as excited as i am by this name and the implications. But i have a spring in my step just thinking about it.
It has been at least 10 years since we have had so many participants at the communities conference, and because of indoor overnight accommodations (which were not available in the past) it looks like we will make more money than we have in a long time.
But neither of these metrics are as important as a number of others. There was a long line of exotic and interesting communities which are forming and looking for new members. There were a significant number of spiritual communities represented in the meet the communities presentation this year and that is relatively new. We still are a dominantly white middle class group, but there are certainly some people of color and economic diversity represented.
And what makes the event magical is the perception that many of these dreams might actually manifest, that progressive and radical participants are finding communities and are find new folks to live with. One participant joked to me “Stop it already with these helpful and friendly people, i have to go back to the real world where it is nothing like that.” And it is a very pleasant crowd and the content from reviewing the transformational components of the occupy movement to what secular communities can learn from spiritual ones, to join or start a new community, were well received.
I explained to Janel the idea of organizer myopia. She was worried that the water was only intermittently available because our well was damaged in the earthquake and adding 160 outsiders for the conference is a significant demand. We had to make a number of quick housing changes to accommodate for mistakes i had made in room assigning. The food lines were long and she was concerned the event might be flopping.
One year at Ecotopia France there were a host of problems. The water line up the mountain broke and there was no water for 200 people. A polish bus had gotten stopped at the French boarder and they were keep a dozen participants from arriving. So of the food which was suppose to come from town had gotten lost and the toilets were not being cleaned and the fax machine had died. A hut of half a dozen organizers were in small building freaking out at various levels and there was an overall feeling of gloom. Then an organizer came in and as people tried to heap their woes on her she batted them off.
“Look i was just outside, there are dozen workshops going on and people are engaged. There are 3 different language trainings that are on going. The coffeehouse last night had talent thru the roof and people were loving their experience here. The fact that what you see is the logistical problems which abound does not mean people are not having a great time.”
Organizer myopia is when you see all the problems with an event and you assume the participants are having the same critical evaluation of it that you are, when often they are not.
Pictures at 11