The 14th Northern Winter Solstice Epistle

Jamaican Sorrel

Snowflakes in motion? Nah, fractal design which may be a clue to how the universe works.

Hibiscus sabdariffa
It is my personally chosen task to "speculate freely," to theorize, to play hunches, intuitions, and in general to try to extrapolate into the future ... The pioneer, the creator, the explorer is generally a single, lonely person rather than a group, struggling all alone with his inner conflicts, fears, defenses against arrogance and pride, even against paranoia. He has to be a courageous man, not afraid to stick his neck out, not afraid even to make mistakes, well aware that he is, as Polanyi has stressed, a kind of gambler who comes to tentative conclusions in the absence of facts and then spends some years trying to find out if his hunch was correct. If he has any sense at all, he is of course scared of his own ideas, of his temerity, and is well aware that he is affirming what he cannot prove.
~ Abraham Maslow, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, 1972 ~

The few own the many because they possess the means of livelihood of all ... The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labor. The majority of mankind are working people. So long as their fair demands — the ownership and control of their livelihoods — are set at naught, we can have neither men's rights nor women's rights. The majority of mankind is ground down by industrial oppression in order that the small remnant may live in ease.
~ Helen Keller ~

… we are attempting to use the logic of a scarce marketplace to negotiate things that are actually in abundance. What we lack is not employment, but a way of fairly distributing the bounty we have generated through our technologies, and a way of creating meaning in a world that has already produced far too much stuff.
~ Douglas Rushkoff ~

Well, i've survived all that cardiovascular uncertainty to see another winter solstice. Sorry i can't say the same for Christopher Hichens who shuffled off this mortal coil last week after a valiant struggle with cancer. His energy, sharp tongue and mind will be missed, a reminder, if reminder we need, that we'll all go. Indeed, starting with Steve Jobs, there seems to be a sudden rush for the exits, followed by Vaclav Havel, Kim Jong Il and Cesaria Evora. Do they know something we don't?

While i may have the hypertension under control, there is still the arterial plaque buildup and now it seems my age is telling in my prostate. Two tests have returned high PSA numbers so the urologist has suggested a biopsy. Naturally, i'm avoiding the allopathic protocol and supplementing with saw palmetto, tomatoes and pumpkin seed. I'm also reducing intake of acid-forming carbohydrates and increasing raw vegetables. I'll let you know if it works if i'm around to write next year's edition which will coincide with the End of The Age, according to Mayan and other prophecies. It would be nice to be at the beginning of the Age of Aquarius ef laif spier. As a connector/gatekeeper in the tradition of Mercury and Elegba i am witness to transitions. Born a subject of George VI, i grew up in the second Elizabethan age and with luck will see a new Carolingian.

All this to say that i'm reminded more than ever that i don't have any time to waste. I feel there's still work for me to do before i dig off. I had thought it was to organize the world's wisdom but it seems Intelligence has other ideas and has hit on me, innumerate candidate that i am, to bring a new economic theory to light. It struck me as ironic but, as the theory took shape, i realized that conventional economic minds, steeped in the dismal science, would be the last to admit the possibility, much less grasp the import, of an alternative system. They are doctrinally blinkered with what i call moneytheism and brook the existence of no other gods.

In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few.
~ Shunryu Suzuki ~
My unlikely qualifications include being born under the counter of a chaini shap; seen imperialist extraction and wealth appropriation first hand; witnessed and endured class, race and colour prejudice; been an entrepreneur, artist/designer, social deviant and intuitive empath; combined with a boddhisattvic compassion, all contrived to prepare me to question deeply the current status quo as the Occupy protesters are doing. I had at first only vague intimations that would coalesce into a coherent system. I daresay not many others, certainly not economists, can claim a similar hodgepodge of experience. That seeming diffusion resulted in a generalist overview with a holistic grasp of systems. Life prepares you for itself. You just have to be ready to see the opening door.

Like everyone else not part of the 1%, i was faced with diminishing financial prospects, qualifying me for food stamps, Medicaid and a free monthly cell phone service, without a single dollar coming to me. This basic life support allowed me to work in the community and on creative projects, work that is not readily counted in GDP or that attracts remuneration. Granted my needs are minimal but could this safety net not be extended universally and distributed digitally? There are enough resources to go around if some don't get too greedy.

I became aware of the the work of Jacque Fresco and The Venus Project proposing, with the help of The Zeitgeist Movement, a Resource Based Economy where all the world's resources are owned in common and managed rationally. It is a single system after all. Everyone would share access to these resources without the need for money. Considering the ongoing financial crisis which seems to have no end, every day bringing new problems resulting from the last round of adjustments, precipitating further tweaks in a downward spiral, money seemed to be the central problem, so why not do away with it? Money is after all only a symbol of wealth, a means of exchange. Somewhere along the line, we have mistaken it for wealth itself, even trading it as a commodity. Systemic change is needed and not structural adjustments as proposed by conventional economists.

My concerns with all the moneyless proposals i came across was a conspicuous absence of a means to control distribution. As evolved as we'd like to think that human beings are, fear and the greed that it engenders are part of our survival responses. I have seen near riots when rice was rationed in our shop in the 1970s, and the behavior of Black Friday crowds is evidence that the instinct has not been restrained by conscious evolution. It is very difficult to overrule the reptilian brain.

We have the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth and, if necessary, the selfish memes of our indoctrination.
~ Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, 1976

NPV balance

Our total assets in a closed system is equal to our total wealth or Net Planetary Value.

Without the incentive of profit, would creators and producers continue to innovate and produce? These two concerns led me to consider an index similar to GDP but greatly expanded. This index i call Net Planetary Value would be calulated by algorithm using three types of criteria — ethical, social and environmental — over time — past, present and future. Each individual, company, product and organization would be pegged according to how much it contributed to NPV. That index would in turn determine how much access they had to goods and resources, a reciprocal effect. The system would be self-regulating with a constant flow of information providing feedback in a fractal-like structure, hence the animated graphic at the beginning of this post. I believe this arrangement would be a tool for the rational management of resources and provide the incentive necessary to motivate. I have grandiosely dubbed the system PANACEA, an acronym for Planetary Accounting Network Affording Communities Equitable Access. Communities includes ecosystems, bioregions, animal populations and indigenous tribes which are all recognized as sovereign entities, much in the same way that Bolivia has recognized the Rights of Mother Earth in its constitution. You can Like PANACEA on Facebook.

So imperative do i regard this contribution at this time of imminent global economic collapse, compounded by climate change and the growing unavailablity of fossil fuels that i have devoted most of this year to documenting and propagating these ideas. I've stepped down from leadership positions with Ecolocity, Petworth Market and our tenants association, all initiatives i helped start, but happily they have matured and can stand on their own. I feel like Paul of Tarsus must have felt when struck by revelation on the road to Damascus. My world view has been completely changed. To quote myself, once you know something you cannot unknow it. The response so far has not been encouraging; though it's early days, this is no time for dawdling. We'll see whether i come to be known as a crazy, if harmless, eccentric, or if like Copernicus and other proponents of unorthodox views, time will vindicate me.

Blind Value

Blind Justice co-opted to determine value of x

A new set of values — holistic, syncretic, relationship and process oriented, organic, spiritual — is rising within us and around us. Though forces of entropy and fear seek to contain or regress us, we know there is no going back. Our complex time requires a wiser use of our capacities, a richer music from the instrument we have been given.
~ Jean Houston, Jump Time, 2000


Art installation that graced my apartment for several months.

Other highlights of the year:

My building has new owners and has been undergoing renovation for almost the entire year. In addition to the personal discomfort and inconvenience – see picture of the mess in my kitchen which sat there so long i came to see it as an art installation – as a tenants' association board member i've been caught between sharp developers and irate, uncooperative residents. The work should have been completed by now but the year will be done before it. Thankfully i have extricated myself from that. The dust, noise and disruption continue, hopefully not for much longer.

Chang Ah Chun

My dad, Chang Ah Chun, 1956

It was the year of the family in the sense that i've been able to construct my family tree with only a few missing links. Thanks to Facebook i was able to find and contact most of those still living. Turns out i'm connected, by about twenty degrees of separation, to several Jamaican notables including governors-general, prime ministers, and to some childhood friends. The one i'm most tickled by is the eighteen step connection to Frederick Cassidy who devised the orthographic system i use on my Jamaican language website, an ongoing project. If you have an interest in your genealogy i encourage you to download the free software at and begin the most absorbing and interesting exercise.

Frederick Cassidy

Frederick Gomes Cassidy, 1907-2000


Ecolocity has had a good year despite my not taking such an active role. We have become a go-to reference point for sustainability and urban farming issues and have participated in a number of city-led projects like the Mayor's SustainableDC initiativeand the city council's Roundtable on Community Gardens and Urban Agriculture. We were chosen to establish a community garden in a redesigned public park, have planted a food forest and will extend it to the surrounding neighborhood pending grant approval. We continue to work with the University of the District of Columbia College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES), and with the citizens group trying to preserve historic McMillan Park.

Petworth Market Opening 2010
Opening day of the 2010 season with neighborhood Commissioner and directors

Petworth Market had its second successful season. We were able to hire a market manager, extend food stamp benefits and adopt the Potomac as the market's currency.

The Gay Freedom Movement archives are finally available online courtesy of the Caribbean Internation Resource Network. I was invited to the launch at Brooklyn College in June and made much of. Great to see Thomas Glave again and privileged to meet Caribbean scholars Rosamond King, Angelique Nixon and Natalie Bennett, and Guyanese activist Joel Simpson. The August issue of Small Axe was centered around this milestone.

Friend and former business partner in Xaymaca Craft, Gillian Royes, was in DC on book tour for her first novel The Goat Woman of Largo Bay. It's the first in a planned series of detective novels à la Miss Marple set in Portland with a protagonist bartender named Shad who gets into everybody's business. It's an entertaining read. Watch out for the second novel which i helped edit.

Gillian Royes

Gillian at Black Congressional Caucus Authors Pavilion, Washington Convention Center, DC, September 2010.

  We are fortunate to be present at this time of change, known variously as The Great Turning, or The Great Shift. There are many responses you can choose, but whatever you do, be ready. Your decision will determine whether you are destabilized or catch the wave and ride it.  
  If there is any period one would desire to be born in, is it not the Age of Revolution; when the old and the new stand side by side ... when the glories of the old can be compensated by the rich possibilities of the new era? This time ... is a very good time.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882 ~

Year-end 2011

These annual epistles have been archived for ready retrieval:
1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010

Quotations from Wisdom for the Soul: Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing except otherwise credited.

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