[Text from Paths toward Utopia: Graphic Explorations of Everyday Anarchism (PM Press, 2012), a collaborative book of picture-essays by Cindy Milstein and Erik Ruin, with a foreword by Josh MacPhee, who also designed the book]
What’s hidden in the box?
Hand wrapped so meticulously, crowned by a bow.
It waits, patiently, to be opened.
It evokes, pleasurably, conjecture, attempts to draw out hints.
The inside, so less important than this feeling bond, tying giftee & giver, bound by shiny ribbon & patterned paper.
What’s boxed in by capitalism?
Hastily picked so carelessly, stuffed in a bag.
It marks, imperfectly, a holiday or celebration.
It elicits, obediently, compulsion, efforts at precise equivalence.
Inside us, more important, this estranged feeling, untying giftee & giver, bound by shiny illusion & patterned behavior.
We have so many gifts.
We give them away, freely yet almost unthinkingly.
Without concern for what’s returned, or when.
What if we opened ourselves up to the gift?
As containers of futures, packages of potential, gifting reciprocity daily?
No longer a privatized marketplace of taking.
Instead, the socialized commonplace of giving.
We can discover fragments, now, in infinitesimal acts of individual kindness:
Lending a hand & handing down clothes,
Mending fences or tending to others,
Giving directions or picking up a hitchhiker,
Holding a door, playing host & watching a child.
But kindness isn’t enough.
We can gather hints from unquantifiable acts of communal generosity:
Barn raisings & free boxes,
Free open-source software or social centers,
Community garden plots, neighborhood potlucks, or pirate radio,
Tool-lending libraries, support groups & street art.
But generosity isn’t enough.
Sharing, we can expose immeasurable cracks:
Self-worth obtained through what we contribute, not what we possess.
Joy gleaned from relations between people, not things.
Harmony forged by incalculable goodness, not calculations of goods.
Abundance, rather than scarcity, fulfilled by doing what we love & receiving what we need & desire.
But sharing isn’t enough.
Nothing, alone, is enough.
Shiny-new objects will always tempt under the Christmas tree of capitalism.
But so many humble gifts might start to be enough,
If bestowed as sabotage against a market economy, for an economy of largess.
Gifting community, not commodities.
Presents, without compunction, intertwining giftee & giver.
* * *
If you’ve run across this blog post as a reposting somewhere, you can find other blog-musings and more polished essays at Outside the Circle, cbmilstein.wordpress.com/. Share, enjoy, and repost–as long as it’s free, as in “free beer” and “freedom.