Initially there was disappointment, frequently blended with relief, over cancelled events and the slowing down of social life.
Then came the realisation that space and time no longer matter when the only place you are is your bedroom desk at whatever time of day or night you choose.
It suddenly seemed not only sensible, but important to attend webinars, training, forums and socials all over the English-speaking world.
You came across more and more and more people doing fascinating, exciting projects, you checked their websites, their articles, their projects, their podcasts. You followed more and more twitterers and heard more and more incredible news, horrifying facts, looming disasters, fabulous responses.
Instead of slowing down for COVID, the world increased its rate of acceleration.
For a networker and ‘bigger picture’ person, this should be ideal, the dream. But what does one do with all this inspiration and information?
To be fair, this was a problem long before COVID. I live life as a series of exclamations and desires.
Let’s set up a lounge in the street and just get people to talk!
Let’s work in the library at the same time every week and call it a co-op drop-in!
Let’s set up a mutual sick pay fund for freelancers!
Let’s graffiti the area!
Let’s set up a radical book-keepers collective!
And the more ace projects you hear about elsewhere, the more you want to do and the more information you want to spread. You’re on the lookout for the most inspiring, the least politically-compromised, the most relevant projects that you can learn from or replicate.
And this is where reality hits – there’s not enough time for it all and no crew to do it with.
My reactions have become more muted as I think about projects that got planned but never happened, projects that stalled, projects that were co-opted by liberalism or reformism.
I have inspiration fatigue – a self-inflicted condition of constant researching to no end, where new information results, at most, in a retweet or at least, a permanently open browser tab for a half-read article or interesting-looking podcast.
I read and read and then forget what I’ve read.
Each new hit of inspiration lasts for a shorter time and I want more.
But there are sooooo many things to be inspired about!
- The Walthamstow art project selling community-printed currency as a fundraiser to write off debt.
- The mutual aid projects that are actually building long-lasting community mutual aid structures, especially under the ‘Co-operation Town’ label.
- The Democratic Confederalism of the majority-Kurdish Rojava region of Syria – a pluralist, stateless society based on assembly-led decision-making and co-operative economics, who practice ‘Tekmil’, a culture of constructive criticism.
- Cooperation Jackson (Mississippi), developing a co-operative, resilient, autonomous, black-led economy.
- The digital tech that can replace Google, Twitter, Facebook, Dropbox, Zoom with co-operative and open-source alternatives, even alternatives to money – Cloudron, Framasoft, Mastodon, Holochain, Meet.coop, FairCoop, Bank of the Commons, the Digital Life Collective.
- The possibilities of ‘community shares’ for rescuing community assets like pubs, shops, pools, gardens, clubs and turning them into ‘commons’, owned by the community.
- The US Federation of Worker Co-ops’ multiple programmes for building workplace democracy and economic power, particularly with communities of colour.
- The development of Sociocracy, a governance structure and set of decision-making practices that has equality and inclusivity at its heart.
- The Losing Control Network, Liberation Permaculture, CTRLshift, the Catalan Integral Co-op.
- The mushrooming of subscriber-supported media: Stir to Action, Double Down Media, Jacobin, the Bristol Cable, Revolutionary Left Radio, Unicorn Riot.
- Student Co-op Homes, a national co-operative of student housing co-ops in Brighton, Bristol, Glasgow, Nottingham – and the successful £300,000 share issue to support more.
- The potential for an all-Ireland co-op network and the exciting Affinity Collective’s purchase of a potential housing co-op/social centre in Cavan, in the Republic of Ireland.
My housemate is happy to be almost entirely disconnected from the news. They say: ‘It’s better to dig where you are’ and ‘I’d rather fight a person who’d practised 1,000 kicks once than a person who’s practised one kick 1,000 times’.
I think: I’d get bored.
So, as my nanna would say: everything in moderation. Read, talk, work, dig, walk, connect, rant, care, love, teach, learn, organise.