Fall 2023 Update

About This Logbook

Climate change has really pushed people and the planet into terrible situations this year. I won’t recount all of the records that have been broke, but from what I understand, the worst climate models are coming true. You can imagine the kind of privilege I feel, then, living in northern SD, the Paha Sapa, where the weather has been most heavenly: lots of rain showers all the way until now, cooler climate, little wind. Definitely odd, definitely welcome, but trying to enjoy it knowing that it’s literally burning almost everywhere else is a challenge and strange experience. It’s like living in an isolated garden as everything else around is total chaos. Places in the “lucky latitudes” (Turtle Island, Europe, Russia, etc.) should obviously prioritize their immigration policies for climate refugees over the next century, but, doubt that will happen. Anyway, fewer things I enjoy than opening up the windows of the house, turning off the HVAC fan, and listening to nothing but a few leaves ruffle in the cloudy crisp air that pours through into the house. Tea and hoodie time. The changing of seasons in this part of planet truly is a spiritual experience. I’m currently reading the classic work The Sacred and Profane as I write perhaps what could be my final journal article in the field of theology; I wish I would have encountered religious studies before theology, for so many reasons. Oh well.

Aside from the regular housekeeping of airbnb season, trying to take care of friends with cancer, and teaching online, it has been a relatively busy but enjoyable summer. Jessica and I traveled to Belgium, where I spoke at a conference for the ICA on cooperative economics and education. You can view the presentation here. The highlight of the trip was not just the “cunty” sour beers, but sneaking over to Italy for a few days to visit good friends; the flight was direct from Brussels and quite cheap. Now I know what real “pizza” is! But honestly, what’s good is just that…there are restaurants outside of SD. Ugh. There just isn’t hardly any good food here in Rapid City–though we are improving the ramen scene, with 4 new place, all very good.

A couple new book reviews of mine were published here and here. Both fantastic works. Fabulous authors I hope to follow in years ahead.

Reading alot of random books related to social, political, and economic history. My main focus right now (I’ve had to drop teaching until January for U of People) is finishing two encyclopedia articles (both in socia/economic inequality) and this other one for a volume some LCC colleagues are editing (on the meaning of life, religion, and linguistics). I mentioned them earlier, but apparently the primary project for the two reference works was canceled and reincorporated into a reference work on “global problems” by Palgrave. Whatever. I just want them in print so I can move on, though I think I’ll be proud of them if they get published (unlike most of what I write).

In the meantime, I’m re-writing/updating the bylaws for the Breadroot Natural Foods Cooperative, where I now serve as Treasurer. Very informative, exciting work–especially as our store is third (3rd!!) in the nation for capital growth in its category. So I’ve been reading up on law, bylaws, and parliamentarianism and other matters–not to mention countless other legal documents–in putting this together with our committee. We’ll have a formal legal review (hopefully voluntarily out of our membership to save some cash) and a big vote, perhaps in 1-2 years. Ideally it would take place in April but will probably be too ambitious, and, well, some shifting around on the board might also be worth waiting for as well–though our team is generally quite solid right now. We just hit $4.5m in annual sales, and our expansion committee is finally getting ready to look at properties to move. Anyway, I’m also chairing the finance committee and on the board dev committee, so, lots of volunteer work this year.

Oh, and shop coop! (Every dollar you spend at a coop is taken away from a greedy bastard and retained in your community).

While I’m doing that, I decided to revisit the…well, “constitution” project. For many reasons. Partly for my own peace and imagination, to enter into a world that can be better. Also for self education. And for, well, whatever, “keep the thing going while things are stirring” (Sojourner Truth); resistance to neoliberalism and fascism is super important right now it seems, and making plans for legal amendments and alternatives during peace time is so much more important than during revolutions, even (well, especially) from those on the power margins. Like, the more I think about it, the more I realize how dumb it is to enact constitutional reforms and replacements during revolution. All of that kind of stuff should take place when bullets aren’t flying, people aren’t starving, and people aren’t trying to make desperate power grabs. But its just weird like that: most constitutions were never written when people had the space and environment to actually think about what they were doing in the long haul; reading constitutions reveals what contemporary struggles the people or group were dealing with, which can be a benefit for development sake, but its just not ideal at all. I gave up on the Creative Common Law project (creativecommonlaw.com) years ago because it failed and was undesirable; I wrote it as an experiment in libertarian/anarcho-capitalism. Now, in reading bylaws and writing them, I’m asking, “the constitution of a country should at least be as advanced and robust and sound as a constitution for a grocery store.” But it isn’t. The qualifications to be a substitute teacher are a thousand times more complicated and far higher than those to be the US President. It’s just bizarre: the more power one gets, the more concentrated it gets, institutionally there is less accountability and qualifications. It should be the reverse, but it’s not. So, I’m plucking away–with occasional help from ChatGPT 3.5–at a new constitution for the 21st century. It’s fun.

I’m also deep in Roberts Rules of Order vs. AIPSC (American Institute for Parliamentarians Standard Code), because, well, one was written by a military general dude named Bob, and the other by a brilliant woman who worked for the Red Cross in WWI and was sort of pseudo-feminist, and I obviously suspect the latter would be better. It is, in fact, adopted by the American Bar Association, American Medical Association, Dental Association, etc. And, interestingly, it’s being updated from the 2012 to a 2024 edition. Such rules are boring for most people but it’s really the mechanics of democracy; I’m constantly thinking about how Trotsky broke that one vote in that one committee (yeah I forget but it was a big deal in USSR history…something to do with WWII I think), and how the Bolsheviks said “to hell with democracy” and came in with guns in spring of 1918 when they lost the vote to the Socialist Revolutionaries. A person either respects democracy or they don’t. Yes, sometimes, in very rare occasions, force may be needed to undo what democratic institutions are doing, because they’re simply wrong and it matters for the world. However, even when looking at Hitler and other groups that rose to power, it really wasn’t “democratically” in a genuine sense of the term: direct, participatory, and adhering to sound rules that are themselves democratic. So these kinds of rules really do matter, and that’s what’s fascinating about Parliamentarian groups: they have people on the left and right (mostly on the left, these days). (Filibustering is dumb fyi, along with many other rules that only apply to the american empire…)

Ha-Joon Chang is one of my favorite authors right now; I read three of his books. I also finished The Cambridge History of Socialism: Vol 1, which was fantastic. It’s basically a history of anarchism, anarch-communism, cooperatives, and syndicalism. As I say in the upcoming review, its a long time coming because most people think of socialist history as being social-democratic, the history of USSR/Maoism, and the history of socialist parties. None of that. It should really help shape some perceptions and open some curious eyes. I look forward to the second volume.

And also to Veracini’s Global history of colonialism. Another absolutely important and essential book. Everyone talks about colonialism and decolonialism, but there’s like hardly any entry-level survey books on the subject from a global perspective. Super excited about that one as well.

I’m entering grad school again to take an MBA class, Organizational Theory, at U of People. Because I’m faculty there and its free as continuing ed, and I should have taken that class for my MS in Econ but didn’t somehow. Lifelong learning!

Still getting over this long-covid thingy. We both got the summer covid cough, but the ear-ringing and cough isn’t entirely gone, even now, 2 months later. Ugh. We should leave animals alone so we don’t have all these viruses…

Got asked to join a funk and jazz band; three part. Great sax player who has opened at New Orleans Jazz festival and apparently was a popular skater back in the day (featured in Thrasher Magazine). Bass player is also great and also apparently went to Dordt for undergrad. We do a short gig on Sept 1st at the Dahl Arts Center.

Jessica and I are both having this weird experience in our 30s where a bunch of memories from childhood and college are coming back. It’s been happing quite consistently for the last year. I suppose the mind has its own scheduling time for processing; and after all, its not deep in the past until you’re into the future. So, we get older, and have more to think about behind us. Still weird.

Heading to Bangkok Thailand from Sept 11-17 for a conference. I was asked to speak on cooperatives and decolonialism; going to be talking about religion and the role of cooperative resistance as well. Kinda of fancy; fully paid for by World Council of Churches. Not excited about 12 hour jet lag. I don’t do well like that; Lithuania was bad enough at 9 hours difference.