A New Zealand publication, Freerange, has published an artful collection of essays about the commons for a popular readership. The publication focuses on a wide range of commons themes, including urban commons, global pharmaceuticals, Maori society, the commons possibilities in food activism, and early childhood education as a commons. A free download can be had here, or a beautifully designed print version can be ordered here.
I was captivated by an interview with Anne Salmond, a New Zealand historian and anthropologist, who pondered the different cosmological outlooks of Māori, as commoners, and Westerners, as neoliberals. She notes that, for the West, “the Order of Things, which is based on Cartesian logic, divides mind from matter, the observer from the observed, and culture from nature…..”
But for the Māori, not to mention quantum physics, brain sciences and the life sciences, a very different order prevails – “the Order of Relations.” This worldview, she explains, bases its forms of order on “complementary pairs of elements and forces linked in open-ended arrays, often ordered as networks or webs (for example, the internet), interacting in exchanges that drive change while working toward equilibrium.”
Such relational perspectives are much more adaptive and open to collaboration and incoroproation of other ideas, says Salmond, than the non-adaptive myths of Western thought” that are destroying our bio-physical systems. It is easy to slip into the dualism of Western thought that polarizes “the material” with “the spiritual.” The point is that in relational worldviews, the two are integrated.
In an essay, Barnaby Bennett reflects on “the commons that can’t be named” -- and that therefore remain invisible He notes that our own language establishes “a veil between our lives and that which-is-not-named, the things and stuff that are too big, too small, too complex, too profound, too obvious, too complete or too ubiquitous to see. In doing so it is too easy to forget the common grounding of reality.”