Dave Pollard recently engaged in a conversation on the cult of individualism that's destroying the world, or more more specifically, that's allowing industrial systems to destroy the world. It's good, and you should go read the whole thing. Though I wanted to particularly respond to this point about the tension between the need in our current situation to take collective action and build more cohesive communities and the natural desire to develop an individual identity:
... I think we can be altruistic and collectivist and part-of-all-life-on-Earth while still being "nobody but ourselves". But because we confuse the need to struggle against the loss of our individuality due to cultural indoctrination (a good struggle), with the need to struggle against all government and all collective and cooperative and collaborative work (a bad struggle), we get it exactly backwards: Instead of becoming 'nobody-but-ourselves' we become 'ourselves apart from everybody'.
It takes great self-knowledge and self-confidence, I think, to be truly yourself and think critically, while also committing yourself absolutely to optimizing the collective well-being of the community. ...
I'd guess at least part of the problem is the way our current events storytelling so often focuses on one person's vision and motivation either bringing about great projects (usually wealth) or, after having created great wealth, a brave and filthy rich philanthropist setting out to change the world for the better. This is what's held up for emulation. One brilliant, managerial mind is the thing to look for to solve a crisis; find that and the problems almost solve themselves.
|Detroit is a city with issues. It has, as they say, a subscription. CNN finds a hero riding to the rescue:
John Hantz is a wealthy money manager who lives in an older enclave of Detroit where all the houses are grand and not all of them are falling apart. Once a star stockbroker at American Express, he left 13 years ago to found his own firm. Today Hantz Financial Services has 20 offices in Michigan, Ohio, and Georgia, more than 500 employees, and $1.3 billion in assets under management. ...
A brilliant idea comes to him by way of his daily time of solitude.
... Not long ago, while commuting, he stumbled on a big idea that might help save his dying city.
Every weekday Hantz pulls his Volvo SUV out of the gated driveway of his compound and drives half an hour to his office in Southfield, ... Along the way he passes vacant buildings, abandoned homes, and a whole lot of empty land. In some stretches he sees more pheasants than people.
... Then one day about a year and a half ago, Hantz had a revelation. "We need scarcity," he thought to himself as he drove past block after unoccupied block. "We can't create opportunities, but we can create scarcity." And that, he says one afternoon in his living room between puffs on an expensive cigar, "is how I got onto this idea of the farm." ...
It was a private revelation about the hopelessness of creating opportunities. Right. But he's sought out expert advice from a major philanthropic foundation, pish-toshing all along at the people who see his desire to create a whopping 50 acres of urban farming space as a land grab. Then down, way, way down in the article, it mentions who some of these ridiculous, Lilliputian gnats biting at his ankles are.
No less than Detroit's long-standing urban farming community. Tossers. The article notes that these twerps barely even try to make money.
... Some of Hantz's biggest skeptics, ironically, are the same people who've been working to transform Detroit into a laboratory for urban farming for years, albeit on a much smaller scale.
... That actually sounds a lot like what Hantz envisions his farms to be in the for-profit arena. But he doesn't have many fans among the community gardeners, who feel that Hantz is using his money and connections to capitalize on their pioneering work. "I'm concerned about the corporate takeover of the urban agriculture movement in Detroit," says Malik Yakini, a charter school principal and founder of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, which operates D-Town Farm on Detroit's west side.
... Hantz, meanwhile, has no patience for what he calls "fear-based" criticism. He has a hard time concealing his contempt for the nonprofit sector generally. ("Someone must pay taxes," he sniffs.) ...
The article mentions that these small scale whiners have at least managed to grow food and keep some of society's throwaways occupied on their 900 little plots. They even ... hmmm. You mean there are already 900 urban farms and community gardens in Detroit? That sounds like kind of a lot. I wonder how much land that is?
They quote Bill Knudson, Michigan State University agriculture economist, saying that Detroit is among the cities showing leadership with urban farming and that 100 years ago, the land beneath the city was fertile farmland. He adds that "Traditional supermarkets have moved out of the inner cities and created a food desert. These farm communities increase access to healthier food and fresh produce to inner-city people ... land around Detroit has an opportunity to be productive."
27% of this land is vacant, says Ashley Atkinson of the Greening of Detroit, a collaborative that includes 320 family and 170 community gardens for a total of 80 acres.
The collaborative, formed in 2003, grows 41 different fruits and vegetables, and has extended its season into the fall so there are multiple harvests. The yield, which last year totaled 120 tons, is sold at farmers' markets and to restaurants and food banks, but the majority ends up on family tables, she said. Many of the volunteers live near the farms they work on. ...
When I first met someone from the Greening of Detroit in 2007, I remember being told they had over 40 acres under cultivation. They've been busy. And if they've got 490 farm and garden plots going (that produce an average of 1.5 tons of food per acre,) out of 900 in the city that have developed through other community efforts, you know, that sounds like a real movement.
It sounds like maybe Hantz' brilliant, singular idea might have 'come to him' on his daily drive through the barren, blasted cityscape when he spotted evidence of people already doing something to better their community. Instead of deciding to help them out, he wants to use his money and influence to buy out the place they've improved on the cheap. Instead of growing affordable food for local consumption, food to replace the missing supermarkets in this urban food desert, he wants to grow high-value crops that will presumably be sold at a premium.
Hantz didn't, by a long shot, try and secure local buy-in for a worker-owned cooperative farming business among the people who were already working in the space, like successful urban sustainability pioneer Majora Carter did, when she came to town.
That's why Hantz is a hero, whose sneering attitude towards the peons who work together for the common good CNN is glad to feature.
I wonder where any of us get the idea that teamwork is a mug's game, aside from at our actual workplaces. Makes banding together to save the planet so challenging.