Sunday, July 03, 2005


THANKS TO ALL those heroic farmers, tradesmen, bankers, writers, and seamen who fought and argued and thought so passionately to win our independence, two hundred twentynine years ago, from the hated tyrants five thousand miles across the Atlantic.

How sad it is to see our own nation evolved through those two and a quarter centuries to be so like the empire we had to fight to gain our independence.

We watched interviews on the McNeill News Hour, Friday night, with Americans who were very recently fighting in Iraq. They spoke of the insurgents there in the same terms that the Redcoats used to complain of their enemies in the French and Indian War: they wear no uniforms, they strike and disappear back into their undistinguished context.

I don’t know if the News Hour will observe its usual schedule on Monday, that being July 4: if so, you can see that interview in full on that day; if not, perhaps the next. It’s provocative.

ON ANOTHER NOTE, there’s a significant piece in the current issue of Sierra, the magazine of the Sierra Club, in which Jonathan Rowe, director of the Tomales Bay Institute ( discusses the concept of the Commons. He writes about “The Common Good.” The idea began in the universal awareness that certain things, because of their transcendant importance to human life, could not be privately owned: at first, notably, pasturage and the spaces needed for publc gathering and communication — “the realm of life that is distinct from both the market and the state and is the shared heritage of us all.”

The concept of private ownership has been extended so far, in recent decades, that the concept of Commons has had to be extended as well: it now includes water, seeds, the atmosphere. In future years I believe the concept will extend to include what is now called “intellectual property,” that is, the universe of human thought, whether creative or analytical, that is necessary to produce both the technology and the wisdom that will be needed to deal with crises, both environmental and political-militaristic, that will otherwise threaten the very continuance of our species.

I recommend this article. As our forebears fought to maintain independence and self-suffiiciency and to protect them from distant imperiialists, our children and grandchildren are likely to find in tecessary to fight to reaffirm basic practical moral positions in the face of imperious profiteers at home. Jonathan Rowe’s article puts this in very clear perspective.

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