Localism and The Urban Environment

Localism and The Urban Environment

by NICOLAS "WATER" SAVVIDES

One could say that our social and economic development, in addition to our population explosion within the last century can be attributed to our advancements in technology, medicine, food science and nutrition. Then, it is generally understood that as our population continues to grow we will need ever increasing revelations in science and in the dynamics of our culture in order to sustain humanity. Unfortunately, competition amongst humans has led to poverty and a lifestyle that has proven extremely harmful to our global ecosystem. The poorest people in our society have been plagued by unemployment, educational disparity, and a vast array of health issues due to bad eating habits and pollution. There are significant social, economic, public health, and environmental costs associated with the current production systems and the luxury-based economy—most of which go overlooked by the federal government.

I am we.

We are writing to propose a cultural, social, economic, and political, re-evolution of the society we are currently a subject to. We believe that the American dream, or the world’s for that matter, is not meant for stagnation, but for continued progress. We must remember that our nation began in the revolutionary spirit that stood against unjust imperialism. It was the foolish devotion to freedom through hard work and the first institution of democracy since Greek antiquity that allowed modern capitalism to grow. Yet, we must not forget that our nation’s beginning included brute force, Native American (and other) genocide, slavery, and all sorts of social and literal rape.

Figure 1 | Free Public Performance by Brain Dead Society in Astoria, Queens, NY

Figure 1 | Free Public Performance by Brain Dead Society in Astoria, Queens, NY

Though American democracy and capitalism in its birth was the latest and greatest evolution of government—spawning in reaction to old world imperialism and feudalism—it was itself, of its time, established by a bourgeois governing class who distributed its equality only amongst those they already viewed as equals.

We believe government and economic structure worldwide is not only ready but already going through another stage of evolution. With popular opinion turning its back to colonization and slavery, it has become evident that what we may have defined as colonization has become known as democracy and capitalism—primarily through loans and free market trade. We have seen through our own history the ways in which the upper class has manipulated the lowest classes which under any scrutiny, are subversive manifestations of slavery; free and abundant labor was a driving factor in the "New Worlds’" growth spurt after all.

It is crucial to recognize the problems we face cannot be solved with one move—as we are not dealing with one imbalance as a species. Yet, certain lifestyle changes can have a significant effect on living conditions while dealing with current economic, health, and environmental pressures.

We are not looking to start a new movement either. We are simply seeking to catalyze the existing energy and disposition of our times. We are looking to pick up on contemporary grassroot and counterculture sentiments to work towards liberated human(e) relations. These are to transcend cultural, economic, political and even spiritual activity. 

Figure 2 | Living Pyramid at Socrates Sculpture Park at Long Island City

Figure 2 | Living Pyramid at Socrates Sculpture Park at Long Island City

We should not be considered anarchists - capitalists - communists - or any other existing definition of a socio-political philosophy. We do not deny any influences or similarities but we do not accept any existing definition in its entirety. A fully materialized self-definition is a slow process if we wish to do it right.

In a globalized society no solution can be global. All solutions should be direct responses to local conditions. Though these local responses would be impossible to efficiently duplicate, our interconnectivity would allow these ideas to spread and inspire other specific responses around the world.

Educating the world to be self-sufficient is a necessity.  Our small communities must grow independently but without allowing ideas of territorial expansion to overcome survival. There has to be a balance—and that balance is what our next evolution will be. It is a hyper-consciousness of our own existence. One which we have the intelligence to conquer and grow through vitality but we maintain the understanding and wisdom that our existence is dependent on our constraint, or discipline, as a species.

Figure 3 |  Aerial of Brooklyn Grange Farm in queens; Courtesy of Brooklyn Grange Farm

Figure 3 |  Aerial of Brooklyn Grange Farm in queens; Courtesy of Brooklyn Grange Farm

We need to begin designing the physical and cultural infrastructure that would allow for small urban-scale communities to grow and sustain themselves. Consciously producing our basic necessities is key. Food is our most basic form of sustenance. Spaces that promote public cultural activity are necessary to stimulate groups and build community ties, values, and collective ideas. It would be most natural and effective to analyze the conditions and trajectories of the communities we understand best. This analysis could lead to the next step of action.

Even though they were in college, they were still prisoners in the—of exploitation and racism that black people have been subjected to for centuries.
The hypocrisy of American fascism forces to conceal its attack on political offenders by the legal fiction of conspiracy laws and highly sophisticated frame ups. The masses must be taught to understand the true function of prisons. Why do they exist in such numbers? What is the real underlying economic motive of crime and the official definition of types of offenders or victims? The people must learn that when one offends the totalitarian state, it is patently not an offense against the people to that state, but an assault upon the privilege of the privileged few.
— George Jackson, Blood in My Eye (1996)
Figure 4 | ReNew Lots gathering space in East New York

Figure 4 | ReNew Lots gathering space in East New York

I am we.

The task is to transform society and only the people can do that. Not heroes, not celebrities, not stars. A stars place is in Hollywood; the revolution’s place is in the community with the people. A studio is a place where fiction is made, but we seek to create non-fiction. We are making (r)evolution.

As an optimist, I would even go on to say that this evolution - will manifest itself through its own necessity.  Therefore whether or not we share our ideas for a better tomorrow and whether or not we try to implement a better establishment, it, in time will manifest itself through other individuals who have already reached these conclusions.

People who come out of prison can build up the country.
Misfortune is a test of people’s fidelity.
Those who protest at injustice are people of true merit.
When the prison doors are opened, the real dragon will fly out.
— Hô Chí Minh

So why try? Because once we have come to these ideas for the possibility for a better tomorrow, we should not let another mass extinction - or another power hungry aristocracy - or premature advancement of technology - empire - or any other sort of injustice keep us from reaching this necessary - worldwide – inter-species peace. If it does not evolve in time - our current state will drown itself before it has a chance to reach enlightened self-actualization.

figure 5 | mural by nicolas savvides at renew lots artist and Market incubator

figure 5 | mural by nicolas savvides at renew lots artist and Market incubator

Figure 6 | East New York Farms under livonia avenue 3 train in brooklyn; courtesy of Eric E. anderson, BKLYNR

Figure 6 | East New York Farms under livonia avenue 3 train in brooklyn; courtesy of Eric E. anderson, BKLYNR

Photographs by Nicolas Savvides (unless otherwise stated).

References

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. The New Press, 2012.

Bender, Frederic L., and Karl Marx. Karl Marx, the Communist Manifesto. New York: Norton, 1988.

Hawken, Paul, Amory B. Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins. Natural Capitalism: Creating the next Industrial Revolution. Boston: Little, Brown, 1999.

Hô Chí Minh, and Walden F. Bello. Down with Colonialism! London: Verso, 2007.

Jackson, George. Blood In My Eye. Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 1996.

McDonough, William, and Michael Braungart. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. New York: North Point, 2002.

Newton, Huey P. Revolutionary Suicide. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973.

Udall, Stewart L. The Quiet Crisis. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963.

 

Nicolas Savvides can be reached at savvides@aesirlab.com.

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