Welcome to Territories, the monthly newsletter from Inhabit. Every issue, we share perspectives, strategies, and tools to meet the challenges of revolution in the 21st century.
This month a light one, featuring recent writing from friends and fellow travelers on topics ranging from the George Floyd Rebellion and the climate crisis to utopian architecture and design thinking.
We’ll be back with more original content in a few weeks.
“Against the long-standing segregation of the city, the uprising was one of few spaces in which mutual presence could be felt across racial lines.” Nevada on race and rebellion.
“The end of lockdown has revealed one of the lingering effects of the George Floyd Rebellion to be a more belligerent conception of how public space can be used.” P.M.A. Gittlitz & J.F. on punk, covid, and the uprising.
“Our collective is interested in withdrawing and creating something else that can’t be captured by the political machine.” Lausan and Black Window on building power in Hong Kong.
“Every age has its kairos, those moments of possibility where the fate of humanity and all life on the planet hangs on the smallest of threads.” Mutual Aid Disaster Relief on exiting from empire.
“Unless there is a systematic path for homes, land, and food production, there is going to be a lot of tension and people without any relief.” Ella Fassler on Cooperation Jackson’s plan for climate exodus.
Welcome to the June edition of Territories, the monthly newsletter from Inhabit.
For this stretch of hot days, we’ve got a reflection for you on the limits of small-scale farming and the challenges of feeding ourselves on our own terms.
This essay first appeared in the Earthbound Farmers Almanac, now available in a lovely print edition. Speaking of, check out the latest episode of Partisan Gardensto hear excerpts and discussions with several of the authors involved.
Are We Really “Feeding Ourselves?”
Written by Gabriel Eisen, cofounder of Atplanta, a sliding scale vegetable garden installer in Atlanta, GA. These reflections are the product of conversations with Atplanta cofounder Azhar Khanmohamed.
Nearly every small farm, community garden, and radical agricultural project claims to be “feeding people.” Such claims are generally taken at face value and celebrated: “Our CSA feeds 50 families,” “Students in our urban agricultural program are learning how to feed themselves,” “Our community garden provides food for the neighborhood.” But there is reason to investigate this language and these claims critically. While it’s technically true that local food initiatives produce some food that some people do eat, I argue that our discourse tends to paint an overly optimistic picture of our ability to be food-autonomous and obscures how reliant we continue to be on big agriculture.
I see two main points of tension here. First and most significantly, small organic agricultural practices focus on producing nutritionally dense, rather than calorically dense, crops. While our bodies of course benefit from the nutrients in fruits and vegetables, most of the energy we need to live comes from staple foods that have high calories per serving. With the exception of crops like Irish and sweet potatoes (and to a lesser extent the production of meat, dairy, and eggs) most local agriculture resources, time, and energy are poured into growing things like greens, roots, and fruiting vegetables. While these foods are healthy and provide us with necessary vitamins and micronutrients (so often absent in the world of fast and processed foods), they leave us reliant on big ag for the bulk of our caloric needs. Wheat, rice, soy, nuts, corn, sugar, and other staples continue to be produced almost exclusively by big corporations. This means that even if we significantly “scale up” our existing local agriculture practices—to the point that every neighborhood has a community farm and every home has a garden plot—we will still not be in a position to meet our food needs.
Second, many (if not most) of our local food initiatives are not productivity-driven. Community gardens, school urban agriculture programs, non-profit farms, and home garden builders (like us) are at least as focused on education, building community, and providing healthy outdoor activity for folx as they are on growing food. In my view, this is how it should be! But it must be acknowledged that such projects produce significantly less food than their local farm peers. And given that the bulk of this food, again, tends to be nutritionally, rather than calorically, dense, I argue that the extent to which such projects can be said to “feed people” is token at best. Participants may get a salad here or some tomatoes there, but they are not cutting down on their grocery bill in any meaningful way.
Ultimately, it is my observation that the present day limitations on our ability to substantively feed ourselves with local food systems go unacknowledged by many players in the local food world. In fact, it sometimes feels we are actively working to build the illusion—through our discourse—that we are meeting more of our food needs locally than is actually true. As Azhar and I help folx without experience setup vegetable gardens here in Atlanta, we notice that people have been sold this strange conspiracy. We have the unfortunate task of explaining that one or two garden beds will be but a small effort in achieving their food sovereignty.
I do not want to disparage the amazing work being done by comrades across the country to reclaim food for ourselves. I have dedicated my own heart and hands to this effort. But I also urge everyone to be frank about the limits of what we have built so far, to not get caught up in the fluffing up of reality for marketing purposes, in the ways that neoliberal capitalism and non-profit industrial complex culture encourage us to do. It does us no favors to have people believing that when capitalism falls tomorrow we will easily be able to fill our stomachs.
I call loudly for us all to do a better job of actually “feeding ourselves” by putting more resources into growing caloric foods. Growing the filling things should no longer be left to the fringes of the gardening world. If global food supplies do collapse, we will not be able to survive on our broccoli and collard greens. We can start with the easy—the dried beans, Irish and sweet potatoes, and fruit trees—and work towards the hard: grains, soy, nuts, meat, and dairy.
Finally, rather than put so much (dishonest) emphasis on our role in feeding people, we should not forget to celebrate and advertise the fact that our work is about far, far more than growing food and eating it. We do this work to get our hands in the soil, to have the sun on our faces, to be in touch with our ancestors, to use our bodies, to build relationships with people, to be in control of our own lives, to work collectively, to be amazed by plants, and to feel alive. In this world, these things can feel like salvation.
“If our assumption that communication technology brings people together were true, we should be seeing a planetary outbreak of peace, love, and understanding.” Nicholas Carr on the mythology behind Silicon Valley.
“Investors LARP as Promethean saviors, seemingly to secure humanity’s future, while crusading solely for the future of capital.” Kevin Rogan on startup cities.
“With so much evidence withheld, it’s hard to say anything about Covid-19’s origins with certainty.” Zeynep Tufekci on lab-leak theory.
“We can visualize how plastics entangle sea life, but it is much harder to realize the way plastics ensnare lives lived along so many river valleys.” Rebecca Altman on the infrastructure behind the plastic industry.
“The heavily armed, camo-clad white far-right ‘patriots’ were often indistinguishable from the militarized forces sent in to quash the revolts.” Natasha Lennard on American fascism and Black liberation.
“The central problem lies in imagining how we can amplify the constitution of free communes easily joinable by others and organically linked to the construction of an insurrectional movement.” Mauvaise Troupe on the post-airport ZAD.
Welcome to the May edition of Territories, the monthly newsletter from Inhabit. This time around, we’ve got some springtime advice for the gardeners out there and reflections on the state of the world from a variety of friends, comrades, and worldwide partisans.
Why Did God Make Mosquitoes?
Thanks to Alex for writing to us with this seasonal tip!
Individuals in community gardens may each have their own mission that led them to their plot, but once they spend some time gardening in the rainy season everyone is on a mission to kill mosquitoes. Let’s get organized and shift the balance of the ecosystem to reduce mosquitoes.
The first step to having an effect on an organism is to understand its lifecycle. The life of the mosquito starts in stagnant, pooling water where larvae feed on organic matter and grow into adults in as little as five days. Adult males and females feed on nectar and drink water on calm days to sustain themselves. Male mosquitoes typically only live for about a week, but females can live for many months. Females can also travel up to ten miles during their lifetime.
Males are attracted to the tone of female wing-beating at 484 Hz and allow females to produce a raft of about 200 eggs three days after mating. Females can lay several times over the season but males only mate once. Females provide nutrition for their eggs through a blood meal from various warm-blooded creatures that they find via heat signatures, carbon dioxide, and other trace emissions. (Mosquitoes are not attracted to lights.) Once winter hits, females either lay eggs on moist ground or vessels that could supply puddles in spring, or she retreats to protected areas to hibernate.
On a large scale, the best way to reduce mosquitoes is to fix the root of the problem. This means getting the entire community on track to reduce unnecessary pools of water. Costa Rica, for instance, has seen united community action to prevent mosquitoes in order to reduce Dengue fever. The country was able to drastically reduce mosquito populations and the occurrence of Dengue by regularly disposing of trash piles that collect water and banning cut flowers with vases in cemeteries. Other effective techniques include flipping buckets and dumping any water every four days, filling or cutting off any pools that form in dead trees, planting willows near or providing drainage for puddles in paths, spraying down birdbaths every four days, stopping drippy faucets, and fixing gutters to allow for better waterflow.
Reducing breeding sites can be a daunting task because of the scale required to make a significant impact. One smaller scale approach to reduction is to trap mosquitoes. Trapping females is best done using bait, whether humans or animals (specialty products to trap 'skitoes work too). The idea is to convert chicken coops, human gathering locations, and window screens into minnow traps where the concave angle of an exterior screen leads mosquitoes through a hole to a container where the convex interior angles make it difficult to get out. A similar minnow trap system could be applied to attract males using a speaker to generate a tone at 484 Hz.
It may feel good to trap mosquitoes to show them who’s boss, but humans are often less effective than nature. There are many ways to tweak the structure of the area to make an environment more hostile towards mosquitoes. Dry air, wind, birds, and bats all drive shivers down the spine of mosquitoes. Swallows and bats both thrive in areas without a canopy but with boxes or overhangs to rest underneath. Additionally, if you would like to plant trees and bushes for a forest garden, it is preferable to plant those in relatively thin strips perpendicular to the predominant wind with areas open between rows for predators. On days of high speed crosswind, swallows will pick every bug that blows out within forty feet of the forest edge. I couldn’t find any specific research on the benefit of edges perpendicular to the wind for predators, but I have seen incredible feasts of mosquitoes and mayflies!
In general, mosquitos do not like wind, both because it makes it difficult to fly and because it disperses the trail of carbon dioxide they are attracted to. So the final systemic environmental change is the most experimental: to create wind with heat. Hot and cold drafts create global and local scale winds which can be manipulated even on small to medium scale. Hot areas create light air, causing updrafts that suck air towards the hot area; cold areas create heavy air that will flow down hills. To apply these concepts, one can use a few simple methods. Place pools of water on tops of hills to create a focused cold airflow downhill in the afternoon. Place roads or rock piles going up a hillside to cause a focused airflow in the afternoon up the hill and towards heat from nearby areas.
Of course, the final line of protection is changing yourself. Legend has it that applying lemongrass and/or eucalyptus to your skin repels mosquitoes. Additionally, I have heard that eating more garlic and less sugary or yeasty food can reduce how attractive you are to mosquitos. Please report back if you try this, as I would love to hear the results.
In the village, Malok, the resident mosquito catcher, catches the specific mosquito that causes problems (the alpha) by running around the entire village with their entire body covered in OFF other than one spot. Once the mosquito lands, Malok captures the problematic one to free the village of troubles. I can highly recommend this method too.
We just got our hands on a copy of the Earthbound Farmer’s Almanac. It’s a lovely little book, full of practical wisdom and grounded reflections on our changing world. Order yours now from Emergent Goods.
This is a Farmer's Almanac for the end of the world. Growing food used to be a lot more straightforward, when you'd plant your okra the same time every year like your grandpa did. Now we've got to be ready for anything—late spring freezes, freak heat waves that bring plants out of dormancy too early, fire season longer every year, the polar vortex—and if that wasn't enough, we've also got to contend with the fallout from breakages in the global supply chain, when millions of gallons of milk get poured down the drain and mountains of potatoes are left to rot. It's a world that calls for a new kind of Farmer's Almanac.
Today's crisis has roots in the earliest moments of land theft against native peoples, a process that has continued alongside hundreds of years of slavery and colonization. The way forward, out of this mess, will mean grappling with the crimes of the past as well as charting a new course guided by black and indigenous knowledge, creative experimentation in food production and paying attention across generational and species divides.
"Just when the state was due to arrive with their bulldozers, the construction of a big fuck off finger to the authorities began." Watch a new video on the ZAD's lighthouse.
"The endgame is that no one can survive outside their rule, that everyone and everything must walk into the jaws of the planter or, in other words, that the earth itself is what must be consumed." Fred Moten and Stefano Harney on communism as life beyond rule.
"Shifting ownership of the means of computation is not as straightforward as workers taking over a factory or a mine." Ingrid Burrington on the power, property, and policy beneath the internet.
"The police, facing strained working conditions and national crises, are also organizing themselves into a politically legible force." Rona Lorimer on the police, law, and repression.
"As a system based on cooperation and solidarity among humans and non-human nature, permaculture offers a radical reimagination of the possible." Rebecca Ellis on the limits and potentials of the permaculture movement.
"Any technology we adopt should be both appropriate to the world as it exists and to the future we desire." Jackie Brown and Philippe Mesly on the meaning of appropriate technology.
"A new species is attempting to be born. Its basis for solidarity is a commitment to struggle, shared risk, and radical desires of liberation." Shemon on race, revolt, and the left.
"We have to build an ungovernable force by expanding practices of autonomy that provide for our and others’ sustenance and well-being." Crimethinc on the juncture in Chile.
We’re trying out some new things with Territories—design tweaks, different types of content, embedded articles, a more streamlined format. Let us know what you think: email@example.com.
When summer rolls around, you know the high latitude comrades are going to take advantage of it. Last year we first heard about the annual gathering in Sweden, where friends come together for a week of "applied communism." This year we look at the most recent gathering through multiple perspectives, drawn from participants from seven different countries. Centered around contrasting themes of isolation/community, hopelessness/hope, and impasse/breakthrough, this collective text portrays building a life in common despite the challenges we face individually and culturally. With a moving introduction from Ocean, this is essential reading about the interwoven layers of transformation we call "revolution."
In Scandinavia our sense of collectivity is so bound to the state. Those of us trying to build structures of life outside the frameworks offered meet a lot of social challenges. At the gathering, we try to recognize that deepening our relations is one of our most powerful forces. We are people who were not supposed to meet. The state would rather see us isolated in each of our individual communities. Our commitment to meeting becomes our dynamite.
Ella Fassler recently wrote up the #1400challenge for Vice. Features great interviews with New World Growers and Lobelia Commons, and some quotes from yours truly. For more wild ideas and DIY blueprints, make sure to check out last month’s newsletter.
Seems like everyone’s been reading There Is No Unhappy Revolution by Marcello Tarì, just out from Common Notions. It's a brilliant and beautiful account of our revolutionary era, a fierce argument for the “destituent potential” of today's global uprisings. Beyond a dive deep into the concept of destitution, Tarì offers some remarkable interludes on the meaning of territory, architecture, and even love. For more on the book, check this conversation on the Acid Horizons podcast.
"Starlight is subversive because it provides conditions for our mourning and our militancy." Keno Evol on nights of fire and protest.
"We are loyal to the spirit of last summer, not only because of memory, but also because proletarians are still being murdered by police, and because the entire world is in revolt." Shemon & Arturo on the latest wave of American revolt.
"Climate change portends the destruction of both awesome and quotidian infrastructures, without many of which our lives would be diminished." Laleh Khalili on reworking the basis of planetary life.
"The stories we’re telling about our future all seem to end with apocalypse." Annalee Newitz on the afterlife of civilization.
"The perfect place to grow pawpaw is next to a stripmall parking lot. The asphalt provides additional warmth, while the dumpster attracts the flies which pollinate its flowers." Listen to Partisan Gardens on the exceptional pawpaw.
"Antagonism begins first with a mode of dwelling, occupation, or crossing in which subjects are situated in relation to the Earth." Frédéric Neyrat on cosmological communism.
"Will there ever be a greater work of capitalist art than the total destruction of the climate that made it possible?" Vicky Osterweil on the NFT nonsense.
+ ylva (FIN), Lou (SE), Stille (DK/NL), Toni Bashy (DK), Minerva (FIN), Shastin (SE), Liero (FIN), Lev Tahor (DK/PL), Alfred (DK), David (DK/BE/ES), Aaron (DK/UK), & Kay (UK)
Photos by Lev Tahor & Ocean
Ever since my late adolescence, I’ve been at unease with Danish culture. I think that’s because it’s a culture where it’s hard to be genuine—as being genuine means trouble and conflict in our vocabulary. It may be difficult to understand when you’re not from here, but in Scandinavia we try hard to not cause any tension (absolutely no tension at all!) by compromising, adapting to scenarios with well-meaning presumptions, and excusing our lack of energy for not taking responsibility or initiative. We’re not risk-takers. We’re socialized to think of risk as irresponsible. We dread failing. We eventually stop trying.
One of the biggest struggles in my own life is overcoming the types of cultural mannerisms I inevitably adopt when I’m in Denmark. My strongest weapon in this fight is an annual gathering that I have helped organize for the past three years in Southern Sweden. Here, comrades from around Northern Europe meet to contemplate the state of our lives: politically, communally, mental health wise, and much more. The gathering has served as a place where I become inspired to stick around and keep fighting the fights I need to fight. Leaving Scandinavia behind has felt like the easier choice at times—and a bunch of friends I respect have done just that.
In order to get out of bed inspired, I’m very dependent on looking towards the larger gestures unfolding. Carrying big ideas makes the endless chain of small actions exciting. Talking in ambitious terms is unfortunately not an appreciated trait in Northern Europe. At the gathering, however, we experiment with such gestures and dare to share bolder statements that expose our dreams. We need such a place to return to, because it offers us what we lack in our day-to-day.
Our annual gathering sets an important precedent for sharing life in the Northern European context. Its format invites us to speak truthfully on matters that deeply affect us and that we, because of the conflict-avoidant cultures we come from, sweep under the rug (voluntarily or involuntarily). At the gathering, it’s more difficult to hide and so we allow ourselves to make mistakes and to try new things in the safe micro-cosmos established during the week. When at its best, it becomes a wild place to be.
Especially in Scandinavia our sense of collectivity is so bound to the state. Those of us who are trying to build structures of life outside the frameworks the state offers meet a lot of social challenges. At the gathering, we try to recognize that deepening our relations is one of our most powerful forces. We are people who were not supposed to meet. The state would rather see us isolated in each of our individual communities. Our commitment to meeting becomes our dynamite.
One would think that Scandinavia, with its cooperative history, would be the ultimate place to explore the frontier of a life in common. Paradoxically, the social reality of our region makes for abundant challenges when trying to establish common grounds for autonomy. Growing up in highly systematized societies, high standards inevitably become internalized. We have created a culture where interpersonal needs get expressed in indirect ways and are barely shared on a day-to-day basis. We are more used to asking the state for help than asking each other.
Countless projects here never develop past the stage of ideas, as the messy process of materializing them causes too much anxiety and discomfort. We are used to living comfortably within the state-setting and, even though we suffer, finding basic stability elsewhere is not something we have learned to do. The projects that succeed on our latitudes are often run by friends that have known each other for decades and tend to become quite insular. Trust and sense of belonging can take a very long time to manifest.
The sense of commitment we try to cultivate at the gathering is less dependent on long friendships and, instead, based more on shared ethics. Our goal is not to have everyone be the best of friends—even though there are plenty of friendships among us—but to focus on formalizing methods that can communize our lives.
We look at communism not as an alternative that removes itself from the outside world. We have a bone to pick with society. We want to involve each other and our surroundings. In the future, we will hopefully become resilient enough to hold strategic conversations on how to position ourselves against the rise of fascism in Northern Europe or the social-economic control of Scandinavian societies. The gathering is a promise of working towards such nuance in our positions. It’s an opportunity to find ways to reaffirm our desires to build communes and to learn how to defend ourselves outside of our immediate affinity groups.
Slowly, but steadily, a small transnational network of Gatherers is growing. To be honest, they give me a lot of hope. The Gatherers make me proud of my regional belonging.
In the fall of 2020, I conducted one-on-one conversations with twelve of them. Below, I share glimpses of the wisdom and aspirations for a life in common that they hold.
I have structured their words into expressions of three struggles and three counter-experiences, so as to give an idea of the common challenges we face as well as how we use the gathering to counteract them.
Isolation, Hopelessness, and Impasse are what we struggle with and experience as blocking our ability to organize our lives according to our ethics. Community, Hope, and Breakthrough are what we practice and taste at the gathering in order to overcome these difficulties.
ylva (FIN): When we're at the gathering, we are reminded that we're on the right path—one that breaks with our sense of loneliness and political isolation. We get to create magic together and build up our fighting morale. The tight schedule of the common daily rhythm is a practice in creating infrastructure that can transform our daily lives away from the isolating mechanisms of capitalist societies. On the path of going from theory to practice, we experience that another form of life is possible as long as we nurture the truths that we hold collectively.
Shastin (SE): At the gathering I get out of the bubble I live in. I see what we experience similarly and differently in our different contexts. The gathering confronts me with the importance of friendship as a foundational aspect for giving life meaning. When we are there together for a week, I cannot not expose my need for wanting contact with others. I have no back-ups or possibilities for setting up walls there. When I attended the gathering for the first time in 2018, I was not prepared for the strong experience it would turn out to be. To find people with whom I could have affinity with. That erased a certain nihilism in me.
Ocean (DK/SE): I feel claustrophobic within the local Danish context. The gathering helps me grow a feeling of belonging to our whole region, by finding a home within our network of comrades that goes beyond the borders of the nation-state.
Lev Tahor (DK/PL): With the pandemic, it became very clear this year what being so alone and isolated from others does to me. In gathering, coming back to a more communal way of being, doing simple tasks like cooking together suddenly have even more value. This year was my first time of physically participating and it took me time to digest and arrive in the house. Going from being very isolated to being with a lot of people took time to adjust to.
Kay (UK): The gathering was quite the opposite than what I am used to when going to new places. Usually I go with my friends and don’t make new friends. At the gathering, I felt assured that people would want to meet me. Together we met without a specific purpose or focus. We had to navigate a more open atmosphere collectively from the pre-set intentions.
Stille (DK/NL): The gathering facilitates a whole network which adds to my immediate one. The network I come from was an anti-network. I found that the sentiment at the gathering is more of a counter-network. The difference for me is that the “anti-” doesn't imply what you are for by showing what you are against, whereas the “counter-” defines and builds upon what you are for. Like prefigurative politics. Since my first gathering and then participating again this year, my politics have grown. I think the “counter-” is more sustainable for us, as well as for our surroundings. That's what is unique to me at the gathering.
Alfred (DK): To me, community is like sex and love in the sense that you learn by practicing. To take for granted that you know how to engage in community is a fault. Even those of us who think of communism a lot have to practice by applying it.
Toni Bashy (DK): When at the gathering, my understanding of the community that we are is beyond those of us who gather. Through practice, we connect to a broader community around the world—from Kurdistan to the ZAD and other rural initiatives around Northern Europe.
Kay (UK): The shift in intentionality for gathering opens up another way of relating to each other. That is something in itself. I think what we who gather have in common is a set of values, not a political program. We look for ways to relate to each other that feel safe, which means relating as persons and not as representatives. The surrounding forest does the magic of helping you arrive with whom you stand in front of. The forest helps you meet. The gathering is a center of gravity outside the urban setting that I otherwise rely so much upon. Even those of us who live in the same city, like London or Copenhagen, don’t get to see each other as much as we could, so spending a week together in the forest also strengthens our bonds.
Ocean (DK/SE): I have experienced at the gathering that I feel more safe to set my own standards. That I dare to set an intention and that magic happens then. In my opinion, community happens when people with different positions find ways to stay together. It’s a weak notion of community to think that everyone of us has to agree on everything. That is only possible if we suppress a lot. Learning to have more compassion for our differences, so that we can do things better together without triggering each other, feels crucial to learn.
Minerva (FIN): I would love to hear more about what is happening in our different local contexts. I wish we could gather more than once a year, since coming together obviously helps us grow. The growth may only show itself after years, but I believe in the act of gathering as part of generating a larger process of transformation within our movements.
Lou (SE): We rely on each other to figure out how to create the lives we long for. As society leaves us in hopelessness and with depressive thoughts, we must sort out what strategies to adopt. It's my experience that we are much more affected by capitalist society than we would like to acknowledge. At the gathering, we don't shy away from that fact and work to break down all that holds us inside the hopeless internalized mechanisms of society—by spreading a feeling that it can be possible to live beyond the control of capitalist ethics. It's another way to attack capitalism, by learning to live a way that is not formed by its mindset.
Aaron (DK/UK): Most people in my circles are either depressed, burned out, or constantly distracted by being busy. When I first attended the gathering, it came from a need to get out. Being offline in the beautiful surroundings of the forest, accepting that all other responsibilities are on the backburner, allows space for a kind of focus and reflection that feels far too rare otherwise. It’s a deeply good space and time to simultaneously reflect on our lives and nurture new commitments, ideas, and friendships.
Toni Bashy (DK): At the gathering you are allowed to be responsible for others for a time. One can facilitate workshops, cook, and engage in creating a nurturing space for others, which we lack opportunities for in our day-to-day lives. The gathering is a safe space for trying to take responsibility for processes that mean something to us and display the inner resources we carry. We can leave our shells and experience the joy of doing. The gathering becomes a framework for overcoming and regaining our belief in what we hold dear. It’s a week of skill-sharing, without making it the only center of importance as some anarchists tend to do. What makes me feel hopeless is the fact that we do not learn to take care of each other’s basic needs and mental fragilities. Communism is about basic needs and the gathering is a week of applied communism.
Ocean (DK/SE): The gathering is culturally out of the norm, which took me time to understand. We will only grow in small numbers. We will never be the norm, not even among larger so-called affiliated political circles. Today I have a lot of appreciation for the small group of people gathering, but during the first year I participated I thought the social culture at the gathering would be the norm for when arriving back in Copenhagen. Realizing that’s not the case was devastating.
Lou (SE): Sometimes our ways of life can feel so dead, but in moments like the gathering it's truly alive. The commune becomes alive as we share space, food, and emotions with each other. I get hopeful. With each year it becomes easier and easier to generate moments of a life in common.
Ocean (DK/SE): I believe that you can learn a lot by playing around. The play counters understanding everything on a high intellectual level. When we play, we can't stay in the mind—we have to do, trying it out and seeing how it goes. Play can build us up socially and turn us away from always meeting over dark and heavy matters.
Toni Bashy (DK): It makes me very happy when the structures we practice get successfully implied in other places, like the big autonomous house where Stille lives in Copenhagen. The organizational transformation they did there is amazing. That’s where the effect of the gathering extends itself.
David (DK/BE/ES): It brings me joy to connect with people where skills around shoplifting are openly shared amongst us, where such a tool can legitimately become part of how we organize ourselves economically.
Stille (DK/NL): At the gathering, we center joy and pleasure as much as theoretical discussions. I think we do better when they co-exist. It feels special to have a whole week of talking life and politics with comrades in the forest. During the week we cover a wide range of silly madness ("HEPULI, HEPULI, HEPULI! ") to theoretical seriousness. [The Finnish word hepuli describes a mood of being completely silly— Translator’s Note.]
Minerva (FIN): The power of beauty. Creating beautiful moments together that lift our spirits.
Stille (DK/NL): I have collaborated with multiple people from the gathering in political projects outside of the gathering. That would not have happened if we hadn't had the possibility to find each other at the gathering.
Alfred (DK): To me, setting small reachable goals and doing something that can succeed leaves me with hope for our future. We can’t crush capitalism, but we can make a gathering.
Lev Tahor (DK/PL): I think the gathering is a way to deal with the general hopelessness of society. Seeing how we can make things happen together is empowering. At the gathering we organize around shared responsibility. It’s important that we become more accountable to each other. Even in corona-times it has proven to be possible and that people will show up. It’s a lot of work to have people come together and requires effort to maintain the network, so that’s something in itself. Besides that, I had a great experience in terms of understanding how to organize in different ways. There are several organizational tools that I now have with me.
Aaron (DK/UK): I want to make more intentional conversations in my everyday network now. To build deeper trust. I see that I can use tools and experiences from the gathering like restorative justice and the wheel of consent to initiate that. Training Muay Thai every morning also made clear to me the importance of commitment to physical conditioning.
Toni Bashy (DK): When we gather to discuss, the content of our discussions is not always the most important. What is important is to create a room that is a bit holy. Where you speak truthfully and there’s respect for what is being said. That’s not a room of the day-to-day. We need truthful speaking. We hunger after truthful speaking and free ourselves from making anxious assumptions about each other. We need truth to live on like plants need water to grow. The atmosphere of truth is one that we all understand. We can make statements that are a bit more visionary and important than what you dare say in the day-to-day. I live on such moments of truth for the rest of the year.
Liero (FIN): I can be so caught up in my everyday life that I don’t get to reach out to new people. Thereby I can’t grow. Coming to the gathering I learn to spend time, waste time, decompose in a productive way with friendly strangers. It was a lesson for me, knowing that I still have some learning to do in regards to doing what I really want instead of what I think I ought to want.
ylva (FIN): At the gathering we are organized into a common daily rhythm of sleep, food, and activities. Our daily lives are in most cases organized in the opposite way—where we live alone or in smaller units, having to make every day-to-day decision on our own. My experience at the gathering is that we practice organizing ourselves around reproductive labor in a way that we take collective responsibility even for individual needs like dietary allergies.
David (DK/BE/ES): We have to invent our own path. Finding people where you can speak openly about the kinds of organization of life that we believe in. How can we sustain our forms of life within the capitalist conditions that we are given? I want to shift the norm and not have the capitalist norm forced upon me. Family members can really throw me out of myself with their questions around careers and relationships. I want to get to a place where their questions don’t provoke me more, but where with confidence I can turn the questions around and give rich answers that stem from my ambitions and not merely react to their premises.
Lev Tahor (DK/PL): I doubt if I will meet people from the gathering again. Is there really a possibility for continuity? Will the others reach outside of their small networks? I’m unsure. I had a good time at the gathering though and got inspired to think of my future in Denmark as less individualistic. My past was very communal. I haven’t experienced that in a Danish setting, so in that sense the gathering was a good experience. I still struggled with all the social anxieties that I feel in Copenhagen, which was somehow unexpected. I don’t find people so curious. I’m socialized very differently. Northern Europe in general is an uncomfortable social environment for me.
Ocean (DK/SE): Especially after the first gathering, I experienced that when we got back to Copenhagen the social guards were up again, both from other people and from people who went to the gathering. We started to internalize the social dynamics that we had tried to counter at the gathering and had a hard time keeping spirits up during the year. I felt hopelessness and the fear that we would not establish and sustain contact with each other.
Liero (FIN): Why don’t we think of Europe more like the US, as a single unit? Europe becomes so much bigger in our minds than it deserves to be! As someone living in Helsinki, it’s pretty strange not to feel any kind of real affinity with folks living in Stockholm or Tallinn right across a small body of water. By the simple act of spending time together, we could start to feel a sense of shared fate or belonging, by being engaged in lived experiments that have a similar, if not the same, direction.
Toni Bashy (DK): These two terms are important for us to understand in relation to each other: revolution and reformation. Revolution occurs when we do something for the first time that works so well we want to do it again. Revolution is empowering. Reformation, on the other hand, is a bit heavier—trying to solidify the revolution by implementing it in day-to-day life. Reformation is not inventing, but doing the boring, invisible, and farsighted work of extending the revolution into reality. The gathering is revolutionary practice. The time in-between is time for reformation. I know that these can be big words, but to see the bigger perspective in what we are doing without ridiculing it—I think that’s healthy for us. We should rise up and not speak down to ourselves. See the greatness in our meeting. It’s Northern European to not speak about yourself in big terms. Let’s change that.
Stille (DK/NL): Even among our political affinity groups we gatherers are a minority. We who practice theory are not the norm. At the gathering, we create a hub where life in common blossoms in rich ways. As for now, that hub is what’s important to nurture, so it can keep making ripples and effects into bigger and smaller contexts outside of its actual time and space.
Minerva (FIN): The Kurdish Freedom Movement encourage us to organize ourselves and thereby have more solidarity with ourselves. The revolution is within us and in between us. We need to build up instead of breaking down and getting wounded in the battlefield of the big systems. We can create revolutionary moments together and see that the ways of life we are fighting for are possible. When we test our theories in practice, we can make them better if they don’t work like we imagined. We get to see that there is a lot of magic among us. It’s easier to be against—it can be scary to say what you are for. If we don’t articulate what we are for, we’ll stay in the impasse of what we’re against.
Shastin (SE): We are growing as a collective, more than just me growing as an individual. Our larger contexts are getting wiser and stronger and more mature. The gathering is a stabilizing place for collective growth. We set an example through practicing what we dream about. It’s challenging for many to make it happen, to get to participate, but it can give energy to know that it happened.
Kay (UK): The Tekmîl structure reminded me how difficult it is to give and receive critique. This has been very helpful for me to begin that process. We are not socialized to help each other grow through critique. It’s interesting to look at critique as something helpful, even a gift.
This has been a glimpse into our journey so far. Let me be very honest: it has been fragile and, in many ways, still is. We want to create a tradition and a place for ourselves to return to, one that will be able to contain more than just our youthful dreams of a life in common.
The challenge is to teach ourselves to build sustaining structures that allow us to become growing adults within. A place where we can raise kids and become masterful artisans. A life in common is not merely a dream—it’s a devotion we do our best to keep alive.
This text is dedicated to my mother Inga. Fearlessly you contain my deepest pains.