Well, I am kind of paranoid of someone poaching my idea… and there are others I think would need to be involved from the start… so, maybe I’ll start with some personal background to give you an idea of where I am heading with this.
I am former military and have just moved to Bloomington in the past few years. Before that, I lived in one of the most violent neighborhoods in Chicago. I was involved in property management and put in over a decade at the intersection of 55th and Ashland. The first building I was involved with was the big yellow brick building on the corner, later, a smaller, but older, building across the street. From the moment we started work, gangs, violence, addiction, drug dealing and a general breakdown in the fabric of the community became apparent cause of the misery and hindrance to any hope of change. However, in persistence to an ideal and long consideration, possible solutions began to occur to me. Strategies and activities which interrupted the stupefying psychology of the thuggery and addiction.
Two things occurred to me, a life of instant gratification and perpetual insecurity were at the root of the destructive social patterns. It wasn’t lost on me that these same patterns were rampant, if less obvious, in the society at large. That these patterns were destroying our social fabric right down to the level of the family and rendering us all vulnerable to the imperatives of a much more resilient and persistent set of marketplace imperatives–namely, the devaluing of individuals in their employment and offering up of the workers and consumers interests to the imperatives of those entities employing workers and supplying goods and services.
Two things being wielded against the very psychology of those wishing to find a place for themselves in the society were a diminishing need for participants and the quality of their participation–a take it or leave it scenario where we as citizens have less and less say. So, in this, there is created a need within the community. A need for mindful, and meaningful, participation, and a need to be recognized and to belong. Unfortunately, these are needs which render people easily exploitable, and therefore great care, attention and planning must be employed to answer these needs. And these needs, in the context of our marketplace society, must be met in a constructive and progressively meaningful way.
I have been thinking about these things for a very long time and have a rough outline on how to grow an organization that would not only empower it’s participants, but would address the greatest obstacles to their emancipation from a life of vacuous consumerism and wage based depravity (this pattern of far off corporate headquarters opening big box operations to siphon out the wealth of a community by nickle and dime leaving skill sets barely beyond register tender in it’s wake).
My ideas aren’t original… One growing community activities, initially around volunteerism, so as to train people how to work in an organizational structure cooperatively and to an end that would show a concrete communal product, into which these efforts would be pooled, to show and teach and serve as proof that we recreate the world around us from moment to moment–either through conscious participation or idiotic somnambulance.
Mission number one, for such a march on the failings of our modern era of anomie, a community garden. No great innovation there, right? Wrong. The community gardens I have seen are overly structuralized and hack… opting to purchase a bed of flowers from a local vendor than to organically grow a space which takes into account the act of creating the space as much as merely pursuing an end product.
I purchased a vacant lot across the alley from where I lived in Englewood–I still own it. A dealer, who used to let his vicious pitbulls roam free, lived there in a tiny house till the city got him out of there and tore down the building. The building was basically bulldozed into the basement and the lot collected broken glass, cigarette butts and what all else serves as jetsom in such a place for years. I actually sifted the dirt to remove the glass, I spent years tending the beaten clay into something that would support plant life. And as I did this, I would run the drug dealers, users, drinkers, pissers and shitters out of the alley. The kids on the block got used to stopping by from time to time just to see what was going on… every once in a while I would cook up hotdogs and hamburgers for whoever was passing by. It gave me a lot of room and clout to exercise my vision on the block. I grew pumpkins and let the children see their progress and gave them away at halloween… I grew strawberries and not only gave away the fruit but the little plants to others who planted them in their yards in the neighborhood… I put in flowers and began to trade gardening experience and wisdom with neighbors.
Anyway, the kids would grow up fast… and it occurred to me that it would be easier to remember their names and family connections if I started to portraiture in the garden… Throughout the year there could be several different natural settings developed to serve as background. And as my ideas about neighborhood organization developed, I realized that chronicling the development and stewardship of the garden photographically would be a great way to grow a local history and participation in the endeavor. This is where you would come in.
My ideas have grown much further than this, however, and I have a rough idea how to go about putting together a cohesive… long range plan. But I am doer, not an organizer, or a manager, or an accountant… etc,. So, I have been collecting in my mind the different types of participants we would need to move forward. However, one nut with no resources and a crazy vision is not enough… to pick up a third nut a second is needed. I actually have someone in mind for the third nut… a recent graduate in business administration. I also have a space in mind for the garden which we might be able to get donated to the cause… With these things put into order, we might be set to start phase three and four of the plan which I cannot go into yet. But I think you get the idea, I have been thinking about this for a long time, and no joke, I have several possible routes of growth in mind to meet any success.
I will just close with two things. The history of struggle for people to gain back their sense of dignity and control of their own fate is one of a series of failures with an occasional triumph which has lasting importance. And… the highest pinnacle of human endeavor is artistry; and artistry is sinking ones abilities into efforts which will yield up one humiliating failure after another which the artist must look squarely upon devoid of pride and insecurity so that those failures serve as lesson for the next execution of effort, until, artistry is achieved. This is what I want to bring into the life of the community. I want people to stop fleeing from an ever more debased reality through arrogance, addiction, self-delusion and random viciousness in some vain quest for a sense of power in the midst of their powerlessness and to start taking steps consciously toward the creation and recreation of the world around them with those around them in a very deliberate way.
I understand this is a lot to drop on you, so… if you choose not even to reply, I understand…
Charles F Jurgus