The Enclosure Of The Commons

Community exists out of commonality. It’s pretty banal. We speak and so we are ‘we’. In communication we become a link. No longer isolated nodes on our individual islands we are opened up to the other. My speech is directed to you, an other. Writing is the same, but more closely related to an echo. I speak now but you the reader will here me later. Both imply something of a communion.

Community, communication, communion, commune.

There’s something in common here.

Communion is the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially on a mental or spiritual level. For example, in Catholic Theology, communion is a sacrament that one consumes the body of Christ i.e. one is part of Christ and Christ is part of one. To be in communion then is to be connected to another outside of the material.

Communication is the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium. Communication then, unlike communion but so closely linked to it, implies a material exchange of information i.e. by speech, or by writing etc.

Community has a number of definitions, all poor but some examples include: 1) A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. 2) A group of people living together and practising common ownership. Living in the same place is a very weak part of community’s definition. To go on a tangent for a moment, if I no longer live in my place of birth and where I grew up does that exclude me from that community. If everybody from that same place moved away, would the community exist. And if it did exist how so? Similar experiences i.e. all were required to move because of economic necessity. The same language? Part 2 of the definition above is also problematic but much more interesting. The idea of practicing common ownership. Language is non material. It is but air. Yet it is in common ownership in the truest sense of the word. It can’t be owned yet it is owned by all. It may be possible for it to be manipulated, flattened out, made uniform, essentially by what Bakhtin calls centripetal forces (Think of dialects being ironed out across Europe in the past century and a half to produce a uniform language, a BBC English) yet within this there is always a reaction also (slang, dialects, close companion’s own idiosyncratic idioms). What I’m getting at here is ownership of language can be attempted, languages have been annihilated at a vast scale over the past few centuries, the dominant imperial languages pushed on subject people (people literally made a subject of another’s tongue) but this language then becomes a tool by the subject people, it can be used by them also. Nobody can fully own it and fully control it as it is us. It exists outside of us immaterially and shapes us materially. Community lies somewhere here. It lies outside in air outside of space. 

Commune is a group of people living together and sharing a common life.

Communism is the…there’s no reason for me to even go there.

All these words come from the latin word communis meaning to have in common.

And the commons? To be lazy for a moment and quote wikipedia (itself a commons) the commons is the “cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately.”

Community exists out of commonality. It’s pretty banal. But what when we no longer have anything in our common possession? Take the crisis of space affecting western cities now, especially Dublin. The city is being closed off by neo-liberalist policies. The space is still there but they are surveilled. As Johnny in Leigh’s Naked says,

Johnny: And what is it what goes on in this postmodern gas chamber?

Brian: Nothing. It’s empty.

Johnny: So what is it you guard, then?

Brian: Space.

Johnny: You’re guarding space? That’s stupid, isn’t it? Because someone could break in there and steal all the fuckin’ space and you wouldn’t know it’s gone, would you?

 

What is going on with this guarding of space, so often so empty?

The stupefaction of community.

“Henceforth the crisis of urbanism is all the more concretely a social and political one, even though today no force born of traditional politics is any longer capable of dealing with it. Medico-sociological banalities on the ‘pathology of housing projects,’ the emotional isolation of people who must live in them, or the development of certain extreme reactions of rejection, chiefly among youth, simply betray the fact that modern capitalism, the bureaucratic society of consumption, is here and there beginning to shape its own setting. This society, with its new towns, is building the terrain that accurately represents it, combining the conditions most suitable for its proper functioning, while at the same time translating in space, in the clear language of organization of everyday life, its fundamental principle of alienation and constraint. It is likewise here that the new aspects of its crisis will be manifested with the greatest clarity.” Tom McDonough

Community i.e. the people in communication about the management of resources in common in a local place is now being replaced by the alienating system of bureaucratic functioning that is actively shaping the environs of its towns and cities to alienate us both from the space and insidiously from each other and ourselves. How and where then can community exist if power retains its alienating drive in shaping our human landscape according to its alien promises. These are the questions which this blog aims to explore.

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