Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My Intentional Life



Today on the environmental news outlet Grist, I came across the first few episodes of a new web comic called My Intentional Life.

(You can enlarge above image by clicking on it.)

In this week's episode, a white kid in his upper-twenties adopts a duck, has his heart broken, rides across Europe on a bike, and ends up moving to an intentional community in the city.

You can read more about Gabriel Willow's housemates in their intentional community here. They raise bees on the roof and chickens in the backyard, lead wilderness tours in the city, and raise money by DJing and working for non-profits.

In short, they're a lot like many of the people I know from various collective and projects here in Baltimore City.

And I feel kind of weird about that! I know it wasn't their intent, but "My Intentional Life" made me feel like this is all just some kind of scene.

Maybe I was already a bit sensitive after reading "Wringing the Art Out of Rubble in Detroit" an article that was posted in the New York Times this morning.

In the Times article, they also describe projects that are really similar ones in Baltimore City. (Detroit has a community fundraising dinner with local food called "Soup." Sound familiar?)

One paragraph describes a newbie to the city who is so excited about "how tight and welcoming the community is. A guy like Kevin Putalik can arrive... [in] a booming part of life in Detroit, where grocery stores are scarce — and within three weeks find himself making sausage at a party in someone’s home.

“It’s the land of opportunity,” said Mr. Putalik, 28, who described himself as “funemployed,” as he rinsed casings at the sink."


A lot of insecure feelings and sociological questions got stirred up in my head as I read about these fun foodmaking adventures. I am familiar with these tight communities, and know that most people involved are from a certain section of the social pie.

Or as one commenter on the "My Intentional Life" page put it:

Am I the only person who is tired of this classicist, white washed, hipster crap? They deliberately move into predominantly communities of color and do little to engage with/interact with the local populace.

Yikes.

I've got to admit, my arms are literally sore from writing and re-writing my thoughts on this issue so many times. If you are interested in reading the dialogue that ensued, I highly recommend checking out the comments section.

Here is small section of the response I gave after reading the debate:

@SpincycleSwirl, thank you for opening the dialogue to an issue that is an undercurrent of so many activist projects. Please do not feel like no one is thinking about these issues. They just run so deep and are so complicated to solve. I know that I for one would love to hear your suggestions.

I really hope to write more in depth about this soon. Interviewing some friends and neighbors is probably going to be a good place to start. If we want our urban gardens, bike shops, community event spaces, and other projects to be long-term solutions for changing our cities, we've got to truly ask ourselves:

Which community is our community art and activism really serving?

I look forward to discussing the question with everyone.

1 comment:

s_baghaii said...

It's okay to feel awkward about your strange white twenty something community being full of strange white people. There is this glorification of living within artificial limitations right now that people who have real hard limitations to live within do not glamorize in the same way as do the people who have never had to live within those limitations, people who have some one or place that they can fall back on if their plans do not quite work out. Living within these bounds can be good practice for a time when we are all going to have to figure out how to make do with less, and that is not a bad thing. However, some of these artificial boundaries like freeganism go to an extreme that would not work out for most people. I heard a story on NPR about Crop Mobs that may be of interest to you.

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