Friday, 1 July 2011

Starting as we mean to go on...

We have already written the bulk of our secondary rules, and the gist of most of them is that it is the co-op's responsibility to help and encourage it's members to be socially aware and responsible people. Part of this means finding ways to help each other to get involved in things we may find challenging - whether that be doing the co-op's accounts or attending a demonstration - rather than admonishing people for not taking part.

Today this manifested as us going on a picnic in order to discuss the concept of social change. A tricky subject, and thus best accompanied by a tasty lunch and a nice view. As members of Radical Routes (RR) we have promised to be involved in radical social change, but what this really means is a hot topic of debate both within RR and our own co-op. Personally I feel like I have an understanding of the concept of social change, but one person's radicalism is another person's every day, and arriving at a working definition is fraught with difficulty.

To try to work out what radical social change means to us, and how we can help each other to do more of it, we took ourselves up to Rosehill Quarry, assembled lunch on a bench and tried to get our heads around the matter. We used one of our favourite meeting tools - the go-round - to find out what it is that interests us as a group. Queer issues were at the forefront, closely followed by environmental ones. Parenting also got a look-in. We pondered whether our aims involving these things were radical, how we might support each other in campaigning on these fronts, and what we could work on as a group to provide a focus to our activities.

What struck me about these discussions was that they come from a solid foundation of wanting to support each other in our own interests. We thought through ways to use the co-op structure as a basis for forming a wider group, and devised ways in which to lend weight to each others' plans.

Predictably, some of these plans involve cake.

What we end up doing is still open to discussion, but we have ideas, and know that we will have others to help us. We each stated what we were prepared to do, and we have a full spectrum from letter-writers to those keen on more direct action. Change takes all sorts.

Sometimes I think about the notion of the housing co-op, and it seems like a lot of work for somewhere to live. I already have somewhere to live, and so does everyone else in the co-op. We could stay where we are and save a lot of time spent in meetings. But in the short time we have existed, and without us at any point owning a house or even all living in one place, we have already become much more than just a group of housemates. We cook and buy food together, share childcare, help each other with all manner of projects. We are learning about consensus decision-making, non-violent communication, and the compromises and strength that co-operation brings.

Having the co-op as a focus enables us to do far more than just dream of living in a non-landlord-controlled property. I don't know if any of this counts as radical, but our society would certainly be changed for the better if we were more able to share, work together and resolve issues peacefully.

As a rather over-used, but still true, Gandhi quote goes: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world".


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