It all turns on affection

My grandmother had a phrase “the longer you live in a place,
the longer you live”.  I found it a
curious phrase, one that tended to be used on the death of a friend or
neighbour I remember.  Like many of my
grandmothers utterances,  I never stopped
the conversation or brought it back to explore the particular phrase.  Regret for sure.

My Grandmother lived in a home where at least two
generations had lived previously.  Her
mothers father, Bill Malone had moved to the area during the famine that swept
Ireland in 1847.  He moved with what he
owned using a small Prong (local boat)as transport.  Rowing from a small area up the river Barrow
called (from memory) Clearystown.  Did he
marry in to an existing family?  I never heard
my Gran talk on it, I certainly never thought to ask.  If he had, then obviously our homestead is a
lot older than I imagined.

 My Gran, apart from
her time living in homes as a maid spent her whole life in and around this acre
of land in Cheekpoint beside the Suir.

She often lamented those that had to move away, those who
had emigrated.  I remember her sadness,
her thoughts far away, as she recalled the Great Western carrying the body of
her dead brother home from England following a fall from scaffold on a building
site in Brighton.  He laid in a hospital
bed for a few weeks, enough for her father and brother to get across and be
with him as he died.  Years later I saw a
photo of the ship passing up the harbour within view of the house, carrying his
body back to be buried. 

The photo was returned in an album from American
cousins.  No doubt it was part of a
package that was sent across, I imagine the letter long faded, that communicated
the tragedy of Michael Moran’s death to his brother and extended family.

The American connection was also real and tangible.  As kids we used to get the packages, funny
smelling clothes, stange designs and patterns that we never saw the like of, and bunches of
school supplies.  At some point, these cousins
arrived.  Strangely dressed, strangely
accented.  They drove a car, and as a
child I believed they drove from Long Island New York. 

Three brothers resided there belonging to my gran.  Only one would ever return to her, to die
within a few short years, the other two died in America.  All dying, in her opinion, before their time.

I often wondered was it from this she took her saying.  This cycle of emigration, hard work and early
death.  In her own way was she reflecting on an economic system that crushed the very life out of people.  If she was, it was an analysis that certainly never extended to the Catholic Church and it’s role in our life.

I was reminded of her phrase as I watched Wendell
Berry deliver the 41st Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, entitled “It All
Turns on Affection,” from the Concert Hall of The John F. Kennedy Center for
the Performing Arts on April 23rd, this year. http://events.tvworldwide.com/Events/NEH2012JeffersonLecture.aspx?VID=events%2Fneh%2F120423_NEH_Jefferson_Lecture_KennedyCtr.flv&Cap=events%2Fneh%2F120423_NEH_Jefferson_Lecture_KennedyCtr.xml

 Wendell championed the position of small farmers and their
unique and intrinsic value to a small community.  He spoke of his own family, back to his
grandfather in the 1890’s and how he was mistreated by big business, and almost
reduced to penury.  He spoke of how his
family has persisted however, how they had roots, how they belonged, identified
with and gave value to a small piece of land and a small rural community that
afforded them a meagre income. 

I thought of my gran as he spoke of abuse by the rich tobacco
tycoon James B Duke how he had through political and economic control, essentially
decided what he would pay to farmers, not what their crops were worth.  I remembered my grandmother’s story of the
day she had sold a fish on her way to market. 
How the fish monger heard and warned that if she ever did likewise, he
would blacken her name and not only would he not buy her families fish, but
neither would anyone else.

But I thought of her too in the love and genuine affection
that both he has and she had for the place they were born.  For the place of family.  For the place of neighbours.  For the place of friends. 

I loved Wendell’s turn of phrase.  Obviously a well educated man.  But for all my Grans lack of an education, I
loved hers more.  The longer you live in
a place, the longer you live.

principals of a sustainable rural community that I think are worth considering

From Wendell Berry
[The concept of “Mendo Island” is not to be isolationist or provincial, but rather to focus our attention and efforts locally, transitioning to more community-sufficiency, and in that process we also help those in far away places who are being devastated by the so-called “global economy” and “green revolution”. -DS]
A community economy is not an economy in which well-placed persons can make a ‘killing’. It is an economy whose aim is generosity and a well-distributed and safeguarded abundance.
Wendell Berry is a strong defender of family, rural communities, and traditional family farms. These underlying principles could be described as ‘the preservation of ecological diversity and integrity, and the renewal, on sound cultural and ecological principles, of local economies and local communities:
1. Always ask of any proposed change or innovation: What will this do to our community? How will this affect our common wealth.
2. Always include local nature – the land, the water, the air, the native creatures – within the membership of the community.
3. Always ask how local needs might be supplied from local sources, including the mutual help of neighbors.
4. Always supply local needs first (and only then think of exporting products – first to nearby cities, then to others).
5. Understand the ultimate unsoundness of the industrial doctrine of ‘labor saving’ if that implies poor work, unemployment, or any kind of pollution or contamination.
6. Develop properly scaled value-adding industries for local products to ensure that the community does not become merely a colony of national or global economy.
7. Develop small-scale industries and businesses to support the local farm and/or forest economy.
8. Strive to supply as much of the community’s own energy as possible.
9. Strive to increase earnings (in whatever form) within the community for as long as possible before they are paid out.
10. Make sure that money paid into the local economy circulates within the community and decrease expenditures outside the community.
11. Make the community able to invest in itself by maintaining its properties, keeping itself clean (without dirtying some other place), caring for its old people, and teaching its children.
12. See that the old and young take care of one another. The young must learn from the old, not necessarily, and not always in school. There must be no institutionalized childcare and no homes for the aged. The community knows and remembers itself by the association of old and young.
13. Account for costs now conventionally hidden or externalized. Whenever possible, these must be debited against monetary income.
14. Look into the possible uses of local currency, community-funded loan programs, systems of barter, and the like.
15. Always be aware of the economic value of neighborly acts. In our time, the costs of living are greatly increased by the loss of neighborhood, which leaves people to face their calamities alone.
16. A rural community should always be acquainted and interconnected with community-minded people in nearby towns and cities.
17. A sustainable rural economy will depend on urban consumers loyal to local products. Therefore, we are talking about an economy that will always be more cooperative than competitive.

road testing my template

Some responses to the key areas for the community plan

Rather than design a survey, I have used the mind mapping
format to generate ideas for myself.  I
am listing them here, and also some further notes on the survey idea.  Ray will also send on a sustainability
template from previous word re Ireland-Newfoundland exchanges.

Need to revisit older community consultation processes –
Weisbord etc

As I responded to prompts found that some flowed more easily into catagories so will need to change original key area.  Also whn looking at the responses found that some could more easily fit under the headings below.

People – retirement home, early years setting, community
café/meeting place, quality space to live in, socialise in, work in

Safety and security issues for locals

Health – prevention, access, complimentary, good food, healthy buildings, access to exercise etc
Environment – this is our future we need to protect it.  Habitats; strand, fields, woods, minaun, hedgerows,
river, park, trees

Walks; marsh, minaun, woods, hurthill, church, glazing
woods, faithlegg

Transport;  roads,
place of cars, cycle, walking, footpaths, access to city, river

Energy – wind, river, bulk buying, future proofing,
community ownership

Housing; social, second home/holiday home issue, living
quality, energy efficiency, Radon, elderly, vacancy,

Heritage – Minaun, Farming, Fishing, Sea faring, river map,
Bolton, schooling, Churchs, Ita’s well, Field /place names, (see also fishery
plan)
Employment; dormant village – services thereof, social
services elder care etc, resturants, pubs, cafes, shop, post office, heritage,
fishing, farming, tourism, crafts, micro enterprises, working from home,
broadband issues, walks, fishery skills

Fishery; sustainability, value add, respect, trips, angling, tourism, eels, salmon, sheelfish, cod, herring, shellfish

Need for a catch all – people may not know where to put an
idea, what goes under specific category etc

Need for a pilot re its applicability

thinking towards a community plan

Some notes on areas
for an action plan

Possibility of using an electronic survey – survey monkey to
do some initial information gathering via current email addresses of mine, the
community alliance group and via the village facebook page.

Need to explore the potential of a community enterprise structure
– >http://alternativeeconomicorganising.wordpress.com/

Need to consider a decision making and governance structure.

Need to explore potential funding for many of the activities.

Possible structure

People – Early years
– youth – families – elderly:  Audit of
needs

Services – what
we have and what’s required for the area into the future

Employment
audit of what we have, the potential, the needs, the future needs – River –Fishing-
Farming- Tourism – Heritage- Services –

Educational
Early years – Primary – Secondary – Tertiary – Adult – Community

Environmental – Transport
– Housing – The river, The land – drinking water

Energy – future issues
and how to meet these

Health – prevention
– alternatives – access

Volunteer section
– Human Resources to implement a plan

Possible methodology

·        
Questionnaire based on key areas as above

·        
Community meeting with stakeholders – representative
of all groups in the community

Community
Association

Parish Council

Development
Group

Thursday Club

Primary School

Credit Union

Scouts

Irish Country
Woman’s Association

Book Club

Fisherman’s
Association

Gaultier
Historical group

Environmental
Alliance

Friends of
Cheekpoint Quay

St Vincent De
Paul

·        
A public consultation highlighting areas of
interest, ideas generated, further input/critique

·        
Write up of main plan followed by further consultation

·        
Publication

Should we look for outside expertise to oversee the plan,
bring some objectivity

Should we look for funding, and if so from where?

Need for a template around implementing the plan, needs to
be SMART at a minimum

Need to initiate discussion, generate ideas, bring some
critical analysis to getting peoples ideas around current/future issues ;
environmental, social, economic

Need to identify some people to support this based on their current
critical analysis and vision for a better future

               

should we show tolerance to our neighbours

“We see people and things not as they are, but as we are” Anthony De Mello

These last few
weeks of revisiting previous musings and re writing them in a reflective way
has helped to refine some thoughts, but also to stimulate new ideas and
directions.  A colleague has offered some
critique of my views, that I tend towards pessimism, the glass half empty.  Rightly or wrongly it’s a perspective.  She also offered some new avenues for
exploration which I have added to the fb page and which I can also explore as
time comes to me. 

 
Two elements of my thinking are becoming clearer about my
community.  That the ideas, initiatives, projects
being discussed are disconnected from each other and as such are just reactions
to opportunities, rather than a specific direction, or a clearly defined
strategy.  Also that to engage with all
in the community may be a struggle, as there is so much new blood, so many
different lifestyles, so many different perspectives on life, community, work
and play.

How do we encourage and engage with those new people.  Do we?

Some time back, while still studying I introduced a word
into a workshop on defining community that once it was out of my mouth I felt
it was like a snake in the room.  The
word was tolerance.  Tolerance is a word
that has been going around in my head a long time.  In speaking it out that night it was a
revelation to me.  Not the discussion, or
reactions or perspectives on the word but my own reflections on the word.  It offered an opportunity to reflect on my
own community and the tolerance shown to new comers or blow ins. 

This notion of speaking out is a concept I learned many
years ago, the value of speaking your mind in a safe place and even the hearing
of the words allows us to rephrase it, reshape it or clear it out of our
system. So tolerance.  not really a nice phrase.  consider – I show tolerance to my children, or I tolerate them, I tolerate my neighbours, I tolerate my friends.  Tolerance is a word often used by politicians or religious leaders etc to reflect an attitude to others opinions or beliefes.  But at the back of it in my opinion is a view that I/we are right, but we acknowledge your right to another view.

I have had a big problem with new comers to my small traditional
fishing community.  I have stereotypes
that pop into my head; labelling people as yuppies, SUV drivers, smart dressers,
posh talkers, new money or “mortgaged to the hilt”.  I realise now that my images are determined
by the experience of living where I do. 
I don’t have issues with emigrants, refugees or asylum seekers for example.  They will never have access to my
village.  The property prices are too
high, the rent to exorbitant.  My
connection with these will be secondary, through media, through services,
through work as a community worker.

I come in contact with my new neighbours at the school, in
the shop or church, walking on the road or at parties where we are invited by
mutual friends or at our kids birthdays. 
But the opportunities are rare and sometimes awkward.  For example the evening we christened our
nephew over seven years ago.  Another
child was being christened at the same time. 
He was of a new family, developers and business people originally from
Dublin.  We were at opposite sides of the
church, or side was full, loud with children and casually dressed.  There’s was a small crowd, no children save
the baby and as memory serves (though perhaps a value laden reflection!) all
well groomed, men in collar, and if not tie, at least jackets.  But it was the priest that poured oil on the
flames.  From the moment he started to
speak the stereotypes abounded.  They
were aimed at our family however, how he had christened so many (as if we bred
like rabbits) or how the village could be called Dohertyland there were so many
of us.

Perhaps the worst feeling towards the newcomers is that they
are not locals.  The locals that I grew
up with but who hadn’t land to build on or who weren’t lucky enough to inherit
as I was are now living in Waterford city or elsewhere, generally because they
can’t afford a site or a house in their own village.  The market has ruled, and it has ruled in
favour of the well off.  This will be the
reality for my children in years to come. 
Where will they live, where will my grandchildren (if any) be raised?

 The reality is however, that locals have refused to sell to
locals.  They have opted for the big
money, they have held onto land in the hope of a big earner.  The new arrivals are not to blame, but it is
easier to blame them than look at the reality of the housing market, government
policy, how developers operate or the changes that are impacting on farmers.

 Another reality is that there have always been new people
coming into the village.  My great, great
grand father Bill Malone rowed to the village during the famine (1847) in his
boat in the hope of finding food.  My
fathers side came to Waterford as sail makers during the ship building period sometime
during the early 18th Century.  People
have married in also, including my wife, brother in law, sister in law.  So what is my problem.

Whats the difference now to the past, whats the difference
to my wife and those building from outside. 
I guess my wife is invited in, the other invites themselves.  Or is it that my wife has an
introduction.  She is with a local, she
fits in to an instant family, has sisters in law to talk to, visit or socialise
with.  A thought for me is that what has
changed in Ireland particularly in my generation is the opportunities for new
comers to integrate.  In the past people
who moved here, most usually worked here also, as farm labourers or as fishermen.  The kids went to school, they all went to
church together, the pub was the central point. 
Transport was poor, people had to get on with each other there was no
escape. 

Essentially one of the biggest problems is that the changes
that affected the country through the modernisation period we have experienced
are having a significant impact on the ability of people to enter into
community.  Not all children attend the
local school, church attendance is low, despite the downturn people still work
long hours outside the village (or abroad) and we now socialise more in our own
homes than in the local pub.

The net effect of all that is that it is easier to sneer or
ignore the new comers rather than as locals seeing ways to welcome them
in.  It’s not that it would be too
easy.  We are surrounded by messages
about keeping to ourselves.  But in
essence humans are social beings, we want to be part of, we want to get along,
it’s important for us to be included. 
What is a community if it is not united in some ways, comfortable with
each other, mindful of our neighbours needs and at least open to understanding
each other and respecting each other.

As a community worker I feel I should be looking at ways of
welcoming people, providing opportunities to hear each other, to get to know
each other to begin a process of building trust.  In essence its about breaking down barriers,
starting with my own, my immediate family and beyond.  I don’t underestimate this however. 

I think there is a strong tendency in all of us to yearn for
a gilded past, whether Tonnies Gemeinschaft,
or a rural idyll, or Thomas Hardys “Tess
of the D’Urbervilles”
an innocent thrown to the mercy of the industrial
age.  I have a strong urge towards both.

Yet if I am to have any clarity around what this community
can be, how it will look in 100 years time, what direction it needs to go in,
it will be a vision clarified, planned and driven by a mixture of old and new
residents.