‘Everybody has equal responsibility to the commons and shares a direct responsibility to transfer its wealth to future generations. The commons radically oppose both the State and private property as shaped by market forces, and are powerful sources of emancipation and social justice.’
-Ugo Mattei , First Thoughts for a Phenomenology of the Commons.
This quote aptly captures the predicament that society faces today, a paradigm of corporate control and private property that opposes the reality of commons: commons as shared resources, cultures, knowledge, histories, freedoms and justice. Historically communities, especially indigenous people have been custodians of commons, but today the commons paradigm and sovereignty of people is threatened and destroyed by the capitalist economy and neoliberal policies. In this juncture, the CURLS 2016 brought together people from different countries and highlighted significant aspects of strengthening the commons, building communities and nurturing compassion as a radical re-imagination of society.
The pedagogy of the course incorporated dialogue, lectures, group discussions, field work as also creative action through mind and body exercises. The important themes of discussion were Buddhist Economy, Commons theory, private property, the myth of development, Participatory Research Action and other related topics. The field visit to the fishing community of Prachuap Kiri Khan, was a particularly an insightful experience in understanding the commons of the sea. The fisher folk are struggling to preserve the species of crabs, fish and sustain a local market, but are confronted by large fishing companies that exploit the sea through mass scale fishing and destructive fishing practices. While living with the community, accompanying them to fish and exploring their histories; I realized that the vast oceans in its very essence is the commons of the earth, connecting shores and people. However today, these waters are corporatized, the seabed rung for oil and shores captured for mass tourism. Yet many communities like the fisherfolk of Ao-noi village, continue to articulate a future of sustained livelihood and a sovereign sea for people and fish. It reinstates a philosophy that community is not only that of people, but the intrinsic link between nature and humans. The CURLS also provided a space for participants from different regions to share experiences. It was an important learning for me to know about the social and political realities of Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia through interaction with the people in the course. This regional solidarity is important, given that today most of the mass information and research is Global North centric. Moreover as a visual artist during the course, I could draw upon the experience and explore ways in which creative expression could build a collective.
Being a member of the Food Sovereignty Alliance, India I believe in the vision of the alliance to defend the commons and rights of mother earth, through ascertaining people’s governance of resources, strengthening agro-ecological food farming systems and building collective knowledge through inter-generational learning. Initiatives like the CURLS 2016, builds a narrative that brings together people, ideas and actions of solidarity that further strengthen such visions of people’s sovereignty and commons.
Written by Charanya R. Food Sovereignty Alliance, India