(De)institucionalizacija vrtičkanja

(DE)INSTITUCIONALIZACIJA VRTIČKARSTVA

– English bellow –

Delo na vrtovih je še ena redkih dejavnosti v naših življenjih, ki zaenkrat še ni v celoti uspešno integrirana v obstoječe družbene strukture. Pričujoči sestavek bo poskušal opredeliti temeljne probleme institucionalizacije vrtičkarstva, jih razložiti ter predstaviti možne rešitve oz. načine delovanja onkraj norm, vsiljenih s strani formalnih struktur. Postavlja se vprašanje, kako lahko v danih pogojih presegamo postavljene okvire delovanja; tako kot posamezniki, predvsem pa kot skupine, ki se ukvarjamo z vrtovi.

Na spletni strani Mestne občine Ljubljana je pod zavihkom »Vrtičkarstvo v Ljubljani« moč najti naslednji zapis:    

V Mestni občini Ljubljana nadaljujemo z urejanjem področja vrtičkarstva in spodbujamo občane MOL k sodelovanju. 

Mestna občina Ljubljana je z odstranitvijo vrtičkov z območij, ki za vrtičkarstvo niso primerna in z ureditvijo vzorčnih vrtičkov nakazala, kakšen naj bo razvoj vrtičkarstva, za katerega se zanima vedno več ljudi. Zaradi velikega povpraševanja po obdelovalni zemlji za vrtičke, ki presega razpoložljiva zemljišča v lasti Mestne občine Ljubljana, smo vam pripravljeni posredovati pobude lastnikov zemljišč, ki želijo svojo zemljo ponuditi vrtičkarjem (http://www.ljubljana.si/si/zivljenje-v-ljubljani/okolje-prostor-bivanje/vrtickarstvo/ (21.11.2014)).

Delo na vrtovih oz. vrtičkarstvo v osnovi predstavlja precej preprosto in bazično dejavnost – pridelavo hrane. Skupaj s to dejavnostjo pa se predvsem v urbanih sredinah pojavlja vrsta drugih pozitivnih praks, kot so izmenjava znanj, izboljšanje splošnega zdravja, pestro kulturno dogajanje, neposredna vpetost v okolje, sooblikovanje skupnega … . To so sive cone sistema, cone spontanega, samoniklega upravljanja, kjer si pravila uporabe vrtičkarji določajo sami v povezavi z njihovim neposrednim okoljem in odpirajo prostore, kjer je možno eksperimentirati z alternativnim družbenim organiziranjem, saj jih država in njene strukture zaenkrat še ne nadzorujejo v celoti.

Institucije so v kapitalizmu integrirale že večino aspektov naših življenj, čedalje bolj pa se začenjajo ukvarjati tudi z vrtički in vrtičkarji. Oblasti jih začenjajo nadzorovati, popisovati, opazovati, dopuščati, prepovedovati, monopolizirati, kaznovati, predpisovati, itd.

Mestni svet Mestne občine Ljubljana je 25.11.2013 sprejel odlok o urejanju in oddaji zemljišč Mestne občine Ljubljana za potrebe vrtičkarstva:

13. člen 

Nadzor nad ravnanji na delih območij vrtičkov, ki so namenjeni javni rabi, (zelenice, poti, otroška igrišča, parkirišča in drugo) opravlja Inšpektorat Mestne uprave MOL na podlagi odloka, ki ureja način opravljanja gospodarske javne službe urejanje in čiščenje javnih zelenih površin.

Nadzor nad ravnanji zakupnikov na vrtičkih na podlagi zakupnih pogodb opravljata oddelka Mestne uprave MOL iz 5. in 6. člena tega odloka preko skrbnikov zakupnih pogodb.

Tečna lastnost kapitalizma je njegova sposobnost absorpcije alternativnih in marginalnih idej ter procesov. To se zgodi, ko so te ideje oz. procesi dovolj veliki in močni, da ga ogrožajo ali pa predstavljajo potencialno tržno nišo, v katero se splača penetrirati. Tako se je iz bojev aktivistov proti uničevanju okolja razvil zeleni kapitalizem, iz bojev proti globalni prehrambeni industriji eko, bio in fair-trade znamke. Iz boja za javne površine v mestih so se razvili najemniški vrtovi in njihovi upravljalci, ki si ustvarjajo t.i. zelena delovna mesta, na področju kmetijstva pa je aktualen boj proti privatizaciji semen.

Zelena mesta so postala norma civilizirane družbe, osnovne potrebe ljudi po pridelovanju hrane pa se spreminjajo v zadnjo modno muho. Komercializacija zelenih politik deluje na vseh ravneh; od načelnih direktiv evropskih birokratov do vseh državnih in občinskih odlokov in predpisov – vrtičkarstvo je v zadnjih letih čedalje bolj posiljeno s strani institucij. Le-te pa s pomočjo nevladnih organizacij in nekritičnih posameznikov večino okoljskih problematik zavijajo v celofan popularne kulture.

Modno je, če imaš vrt. Uspešen si, ko dobiš potrditev ostalih. Največji uspeh pa je, če iz vrtičkarstva ustvariš projekt, ki ga na finančen ali drugačen način požegnajo lokalni, državni ali naddržavni veljaki.

Gentrifikacija

Pri regulaciji vrtičkarstva se podobno kot na primeru (»centraških«) mestnih četrti vrši proces gentrifikacije. V obeh primerih državni aparat oz. vladajoče elite uporabljajo besednjak načelne dobrohotnosti, pod katero pa je skrita želja po nadzoru in dobičku. Tako kot »neugledne« mestne četrti kazijo podobo »evropskih metropol«, jih sedaj kazijo vrtovi. Spreminjanje četrti v elitne soseske je podobno spreminjanju neurejenih vrtov v unificirane najemniške vrtove, oboje pod krinko »prepotrebne reurbanizacije«, ki naj bi dvigala kvaliteto bivanja v mestih z oblikovanjem prostorov po splošno priznanih standardih, ki nam kot uporabnikom vežejo roke in onemogočajo kreativnost in ustvarjalnost. Zanimivo je, da se problematika vrtov na javnih površinah izpostavlja kot estetski problem v isti sapi pa se druge javne površine privatizira in spreminja v »čudovita« nakupovalna središča. Kar ne uspe občini ali državi, postorijo podjetni posamezniki s »pravo« idejo in/ali institucijo.

9. člen

Zakupnik mora obdelovati vrtiček kot dober gospodar in ves čas skrbeti za njegov urejen videz.

Direktno akcijo, ki je bila osnoven princip vrtičkanja (najdi – prekoplji – zasadi – poberi – pojej) začenja nadomeščati birokracija (prosi – izpolni – podpiši – plačaj– …). Po eni strani občina uničuje samonikle vrtičkarske oaze in jih nadomešča s plačljivimi, tipiziranimi kvadrati, po drugi strani pa podjetni posamezniki namesto občin za integracijo tovrstnih površin poskrbijo kar sami, če je potrebno, tudi onkraj gradbišč. V njihovih očeh so v sistem neasimilirana območja degradirane cone s potencialom za realizacijo podjetnih idej. Poceni cone, ki si jih vsi uglajeni meščani želijo urediti po lastnih merilih, merilih spodobnega meščanstva. Kdor pa ima soglasje dominantne družbe, ima tudi moč izpodriniti samonikle žepe, ki se lahko kalijo v teh neintegriranih predelih.

DSC07039

Etablirane ali novonastale institucije so se, kot ponavadi, zlile s tokom zelenega kapitalizma in popularizirano politiko zelenih mest ter napele vse napore, da tudi same dobijo kos pogače, ki jim jih obljublja ta dokaj nova politična usmeritev. Gre za politiko ustvarjanja tako imenovanih »zelenih delovnih mest«, »participatornih praks«, »revitalizacijo degradiranih območij«, »vključevanje socialno ogroženih skupin«, skratka, gre za politiko Evropske unije, ki si je te smernice izbrala za zadnji hit. V času, ko ljudje zahtevajo več demokracije, več prostorov, kjer bi se lahko družili, delali ali živeli na nekomercialne načine, in se čedalje bolj zavedajo bede svojega položaja, je to odgovor, ki ga dajejo oblastniki ljudem, da bi jih uspavali, pri čemer jim uspešno pomaga nevladni sektor, katerega institucije kar tekmujejo katera bo prva zaorala urbano brazdo v svojem mestu.

O tem, kaj si misli Mateja Doležal iz Oddelka za urejanje prostora Mestne občine Ljubljana, pristojna za opredeljevanje vrtičkarstva v Prostorskem izvedbenem načrtu (18. 5. 2009), v zvezi s ceno 1,1 evra za kvadratni meter, ki je predvidena za zakup območja ter kaj o razmerju med socialnim statusom prosilca in ceno:

»S ceno se jaz nisem posebej ukvarjala, ampak nič ni zastonj. Prej, ko so bili nelegalni, so morda bili zastonj, sedaj pa to več ne bo tako.«

»Ja, seveda, socialni status. Ampak meni se to ne zdi drago, pač je treba plačati za neke stvari, če jih želiš imeti. To je ena vrsta rekreacije in če jo primerjaš recimo z eno karto za fitnes, ki je tudi rekreacija, se meni to ne zdi drago.«

*iz diplome Karmen Bukvič: Problematika vrtičkarske dejavnosti v Ljubljani – estetski vidik

Mehanizmi integracije delujejo brezhibno. Če ljudje igrajo po pravilih, ki jih diktira oblast, dobijo raznovrstne priboljške. Če vstopijo v kultiviran dialog z občinskimi veljaki, dobijo zemljo, če se znajo lepo izražati, dobijo pet minut slave na nacionalni televiziji in še deset na simpoziju o dobrih praksah na kakšni fakulteti, če pa so pripravljeni namesto produktivnega dela na vrtu ta čas nameniti delu za računalnikom, jim kakšen cent izpljune tudi Evropa.

Vendar pa se je potrebno za dostop do teh privilegijev prebiti v tisti del družbe, do katerega v praksi kot zgolj fizična oseba ne moreš. Potrebno je postati pravna oseba, saj je zgolj ta lahko sogovornik, pa čeprav podrejen ostalim pravnim osebam v družbi. Pravne osebe pa za svoj obstoj potrebujejo obilo servisiranja, saj so same po sebi nesposobne preživeti. Potrebujejo sedež delovanja, potrebujejo denar, potrebujejo izpolnjene obrazce, zunanji nadzor in asistenco, pisarniško opremo in material, človeške vire ter še marsikaj drugega. Šele, ko ima pravna oseba zagotovljene te pogoje, lahko začne opravljati svojo dejavnost. Vendar mora to dejavnost opravljati po strogih, od zgoraj postavljenih pravilih. S tem pa se razblini iluzija o praticipatornih praksah in delovanju v javno dobro. Kako lahko nekdo trdi, da je participatoren, če je že sam popolnoma podrejen hierarhičnemu sistemu pravil in kako lahko nekdo deluje v javno korist, če se mora večino časa ukvarjati sam s sabo ter lastnim obstankom?!

IMG_9233

Logika konkurence, potrošnje in prisilne inovativnosti je prevladala tudi v sferi civilne družbe in njenih nevladnih organizacijah. Te si med seboj konkurirajo za sredstva in v tem boju si večji kos kruha lahko obetajo tiste, ki imajo bolj megalomanske projekte in vključujejo več ljudi. Posebne nagrade gredo institucijam, ki ljudi uspejo prepričati, da delujejo horizontalno, in ki uspejo vključiti v delo eno queerovko, par invalidov, pet črncev in tri nezaposlene. Vsi ti vključeni naj bi bili nato zadovoljni, ker jim institucija omogoča vrtičkanje, višek demokracije pa je moment, ko se lahko odločijo, koga bodo izključili iz svoje vrtičkarske kolonije. V resnici bi lahko rekli, da gre za fevdalne odnose, kjer se vazali – za tri »zelena delovna mesta« – zaobljubijo oblastniku, da bodo organizirali tlačane in s pomočjo teh brezplačnih človeških virov razširili nadzor in gospodarstvo oblastnika, po možnosti pa sodelovanje pri projektu prostovoljcem še zaračunali.

Namesto opolnomočenja lokalne skupnosti se zgodi ravno obratno; posamezniki postajajo pasivni, samonikle nekomercialne iniciative pa izgubljajo svoj prostor. Različni navidezno participatorni projekti v sodelujočih posameznikih vzbujajo lažne občutke samostojnosti, svobode odločanja ter soustvarjanja. Pogosto vse skupaj bolj spominja na dobro zrežiran dogodek v zabaviščnem parku, kjer kot konzument vnaprej plačaš za interaktivno predstavo. In rešuješ svet. Pomembna je lepa lopa, oranžna samokolnica in novi gumijasti škornji, ne pa aktivna participacija, prevzemanje odgovornosti in grajenje skupnosti. Možnost interakcije, ki ti omogoča pritisk na ta ali oni gumb »Časovnega stroja« z v naprej določenim koncem knjige, se prodaja kot vključevalna praksa.

Ker je tak način dela v družbi postal norma, se postavi vprašanje, kako je mogoče skupino ljudi povezati onkraj vnaprej določenega. Odgovor je preprost: težko.

Kontra-kultura vrtičkanja

Skupnost je močna, kolikor je v njej človeške sile, in v poplavi vseh zelenih pobud je težko najti takšne, ki delujejo izven okvirjev in posledično niso družbeno priznane, nimajo projektnih sredstev, niti nimajo svojega mesta v tradicionalnih prostorih srečevanja (fakultetah, knjižnicah, muzejih, …) oz., če ga že imajo, so tam razstavljene kot eksotika za popestritev suhoparnih, vnaprej poznanih, priznanih »dobrih« praks.

Kljub vsemu pa določeni posamezniki mislijo in verjamejo, da obstaja tudi način oz. smer delovanja, ki presega omenjene okvire. V Zadrugi Urbani kot neformalni avtonomni platformi poskušamo delovati nehierarhično, inkluzivno, nekomercialno; predvsem pa se poskušamo zavedati določenih omejitev oz. pasti združevanja. Ne zanima nas le, kako se združevati, ampak tudi kako se ne združevati. Elementi, ki so pomembni tako pri združevanju kot pri samem delovanju skupine, so njena vizija, interes, struktura, sredstva, način dela in časovni okvir delovanja.

Pri ustvarjanju skupnosti je pomembno opazovati, od kod prihaja motivacija za konkretno akcijo. Ali je prva zakopana lopata odvisna od uspešno prijavljenega razpisa ali od osebne zainteresiranosti? Pomembno je predvsem, kakšno vizijo skupnosti imamo, iz česar tudi izhaja način dela. Ali gre za projekt, ki ima svoj začetek in konec ter v naprej postavljeno agendo in cilj, ki mu je potrebno slediti, ali gre za organsko povezovanje posameznikov, osnovano na iskreni samoiniciativnosti in želji po gradnji nečesa novega – želji po procesu, ki ga sodelujoči sproti usmerjajo in kjer cilj ni določen s končnim rezultatom, ampak je nerazdružljivo prepleten s samim procesom?

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Progresivne samonikle iniciative in skupnosti so tiste, ki so samoorganizirane, egalitarne, avtonomne in horizontalne, kjer se ljudje srečujejo iz osebnih vzgibov po (so)delovanju in izhajajo iz sebe. Ne razmišljajo o tem, kaj bi bilo dobro, da bi delali drugi, ampak z direktno akcijo v sodelovanju drugimi realizirajo sebe in skupnost, katere del so. So aktivni zaradi lastne potrebe po tem in svojega delovanja ne (pred)pogojujejo z dejavniki onkraj skupnosti, katere del so. Zato, da so aktivni v smeri izpolnjevanja svojih želja, pa ne potrebujejo že pripravljenih pogojev – te lahko šele (so)ustvarijo.

Po eni strani je najlažje, po drugi pa najtežje ustvariti horizontalno druščino, ki predstavlja enega glavnih stebrov delovanja na drugačen način. Horizontalna mreža predstavlja ogromno socialno moč in potencialin je sposobna doseči marsikaj. Alternativo onkraj vsiljenih družbenih okvirjev je možno zgraditi z vlaganjem v gradnjo mrež in povezovanjem med njimi. Deljenje izkušenj, znanj in kolektivno delo predstavljajo vzajemno podporo, h kakršni med drugim teži tudi Jallina sonaravna sreda. Potrošnjo je treba nadomestiti z darovanjem, menjavo in izposojo, kot to dela Zelemenjava; ukaze pa naj nadomesti dialog in svobodni dogovor, kakršna je praksa dela na skupnostnem vrtu Čolnarska.

Ključno je, da se mreže povezujejo tudi s takšnimi, ki se prvinsko ukvarjajo z drugačnimi dejavnostmi, in tako prispevajo k vzpostavljanju dolgoročnih vizij drugačne družbe, utemeljeni na egalitarnosti, avtonomiji in svobodi.

Potrebno je normalizirati uporabo najbolj prvinskih orodij delovanja skupnosti. Skvotiranje oziroma kolektiviziranje zapuščenih površin in prostorov mora postati vsakdanja praksa. Nazaj si je potrebno prisvojiti odtujene javne prostore in jih začeti uporabljati pod našimi pogoji. Če hočemo imeti sestanek iniciative v prostorih četrtne skupnosti, je njihova dolžnost, da nam jih zagotovijo, ne pa, da proces otežujejo z obrazci, odgovornimi osebami, stroški in podobno. Če potrebujemo skupnostne prostore ali delavnice za spravljanje orodja, mora biti samoumevno, da jih najdemo v zapuščenih kolesarnicah, neuporabljenih sušilnicah ali da si postavimo svoje lope brez kakršnih koli birokratskih zapletov. Če stopamo v dialog z namišljenimi predstavniki oblasti, pa moramo od njih pričakovati zgolj servilnost. Neproduktivnih monologov s pozicij moči, ki smo jih v takih primerih vajeni, imamo dovolj, čas je za akcijo!

Seveda je to dolgoročna vizija, ki jo je potrebno graditi počasi in dograjevati z leti. Potrebno je narediti veliko napak in se upreti veliko skušnjavam, ki nam jih ponujajo navidezne bližnjice na poti k skupnostni samopreskrbi, predvsem pa je potrebno vztrajati. Takšne skupnosti delujejo na dolgi rok, brez v naprej predvidenega časovnega okvirja, saj lahko le tako presežejo omejenost projektnega dela in najdejo čas za razvijanje načina delovanja, ki jim odgovarja. To je pot polna eksperimentiranja in sprotnega skupnega učenja. Družba nas ima za čudake in izgleda, kot da se borimo z mlini na veter, a to so vse znaki, da brcamo v pravo smer, saj nam dolgoročno delovanje, kolektivna samokritika in skromnost prinašajo majhne, a za nas pomembne dosežke.

Ne zagovarjamo vnaprej predpisanih vzorcev delovanja, ki bi ustrezali vsem. Zavedamo se, da smo si različni in da nekateri raje delujejo na takšen ali drugačen način, zavedamo se tudi, da ne želijo vsi delati z vsemi, vendar pa kljub temu verjamemo, da je težnja k samoorganiziranim, avtonomnim, horizontalnim skupnostim dobra praksa, ki ima na dolgi rok potencial vzpostaviti drugačne, ne-omejujoče in ne-hierarhične odnose med nami.

V tedaj popularno vrtičkarstvo je zapadla tudi kraljica Maria Antonietta in si dala v versailleskem parku postaviti idilično kmetijo ter si tako krajšala ležerne urice – tik pred francosko revolucijo.

Zemljo si vzemimo nazaj!

Zadruga Urbana – 17.5.2014 (osveženo 21.11.2014)


 

(DE)INSTITUTIONALISATION OF GARDENING

Gardening is still one of the few activities in our lives that has not yet been fully and successfully integrated in the existing social structures. This text is trying to define basic problems of the institutionalisation of gardening, explain them and introduce possible solutions or ways of operating beyond norms that are being forcefully introduced by formal structures. The question is how can we, in the given conditions, overcome the given frameworks; as individuals and especially as groups that are actively involved in gardening.

On the webpage of the Municipality of Ljubljana under the section “Gardening in Ljubljana” we can find the following statement:

In the Municipality of Ljubljana we continue regulating the sphere of gardening and we encourage the citizens of Ljubljana to participate.

The Municipality of Ljubljana has – with the removal of gardens from places that are not appropriate for gardening and with the arrangement of exemplary gardens – shown how the progress of gardening, which more and more people are enthusiastic about, should look like. Because of the bigger demand for cultivatable land than assigned by Municipality of Ljubljana, we are willing to forward the offers of private land owners (http://www.ljubljana.si/si/zivljenje-v-ljubljani/okolje-prostor-bivanje/vrtickarstvo/ (21.11.2014)).

At its core, gardening is quite a simple and basic activity of producing food. With it, specially in urban areas, other positive practises also occur, such as an exchange of knowledge, improvement of health, various cultural activities, direct contact with the surroundings, co-creating of commons, etc. These are all the grey zones of the system; zones of authentic autogestion where all the rules are decided upon by the gardeners themselves in a direct connection to their environment. Through this they open the spaces where it is still possible to experiment with alternative social organising. All this is possible because the state and its structures do not fully control them yet.

Institutions in capitalism have already integrated most of the aspects of our lives, and more and more they are also trying to deal with gardeners and gardening. Authorities are beginning to control, monitor, observe, allow, restrict, monopolise, penalise, prescribe, etc.

On the 25th of November 2013 the City Council of the Municipality of Ljubljana (MOL) passed the decree for the regulation and lease/rent of municipaly owned land designated for gardening:

Article 13

Control over the activities on the parts of the garden land meant for public use (meadows, paths, playgrounds, parking spaces and other) is with the Inspectorate of the City administration MOL on the basis of this decree, which arranges the form of regulation of the economic public service for arranging and cleaning public green spaces.

Control over leaseholders of the gardens is done on the basis of lease agreements by the sectors of City administration MOL on Article 5. and 6. of this decree through the guardians of the lease agreements.

The annoying feature of capitalism is its capability of absorbing alternative and marginal ideas or processes. This occurs at the moment when those ideas or processes become so powerful, that they endanger the system or they present a potential marketing niche through which it is possible to penetrate. So it happened that the fight of the activists against the destruction of the environment turned into green capitalism, fight against global food industry turned into eco, bio and fair-trade brands. From a fight for public spaces in the cities we got rented gardens and their managers who create so called green working places, and in the agricultural sphere the current, intriguing fight is the one against privatisation of the seeds.

Green cities became a norm of civilised society and the basic need for producing the food is turning into the newest trend. Commercialisation of green politics is present on all levels; from the directives of European bureaucrats to all the state’s and municipality’s decrees and regulations – in the last years gardening is more and more constrained by institutions. Institutions themselves with the help from non-governmental organisations and non-critical individuals wrap most of the environmental issues in a shiny cellophane of popular culture.

It is hip to have a garden. You have succeeded when the others say so. The biggest success is if you create a gardening project that is financially or otherwise approved by influential local, state or above-state elite.

Gentrification

With the regulation of gardening, as for example with the “central” city quarters, we can observe the process of gentrification. In both cases, the state apparatus or the governing elites use the language of good intentions under which the will for control and profit is hidden. Just as the “disreputable” city quarters, garden today worsen the appearance of the “European metropolis”. Transforming quarters into elite neighbourhoods is similar to transforming disorderly gardens into unified rented spaces – both under the mask of the “much needed re-urbanisation”, that should be raising the quality of living in the city through creating the spaces up to generally approved standards which tie hands of the users and prevent the creativity among them. It is interesting how the problem of gardening on the public areas is emphasized as a question of aesthetics when at the same time other public spaces are privatized and turned into “beautiful” shopping centres. What the municipality or state cannot do, is done by the ambitious individuals with “the right idea” and/or an institution.

Article 9

The leaseholder has to cultivate the garden as a good landowner and take care of orderly appearance.

Direct action, which was the basic principle of gardening (find – dig up – sew – take – eat), is replaced by bureaucracy (ask – fill out the form – sign – pay – ..). On one hand municipality is destroying self-organised gardening oases and transforms them into rented, uniform squares; on the other hand business oriented individuals take care of integration of such spaces on their own, if necessary even “Beyond a Construction Site” ( https://onkrajgradbisca.wordpress.com/english/ ) . In their eyes spaces that are not assimilated in the system are seen as degraded zones with a potential for realising business ideas. Cheap zones, which well-mannered citizens want to arrange by their own rules, the rules of the bourgeoisie. The ones who work in harmony with the expectation of the dominant society have the power to push away the authentic initiatives that sprout in such disintegrated places. DSC07039Established or recently created institutions have, as usual, become one with the flow of green capitalism and popular politics of green cities, and have furthermore done everything in order to get their piece of the pie, which is promised by this quite new political direction. It is the politics of creating so called “green working places”, “participatory practices”, “revitalisation of degraded spaces”, “including underprivileged groups”. It is the politics of the European Union that chose those guidelines for the last hit. In times when people demand more democracy, more spaces where they could hang out, work or live in a non-commercial ways; when they are more and more aware of the misery of their status, this is the answer to make them passive – provided by the authorities and encouraged by enthusiastic help from non-governmental sector, whose institutions are competing for the digging of the first “Urban Furrows” ( http://brazde.org/ ) in their city.

What does Mateja Doležan from the Department for the Shaping of the Space of the Municipality of Ljubljana, which is in charge for defining the gardening in the Spatial Construction Plan (18.5.2009), say about the price 1,1 Euro for one square meter which is estimated for the lease and more about the relation between social status of the applicant and the price:

I did not bother too much with the price, but nothing is for free. Before when the gardens were illegal, then maybe they were for free and now it will no longer be that way.”

Yes, of course, the social status. But to me this does not seem expensive. For some things you just need to pay, if you want them. It is a sort of recreation and if you compare it to for example one ticket for fitness, which is also a recreation, it does not seem expensive to me.”

*from the bachelor thesis Karmen Bukovič: Problems of the gardening in Ljubljana – perspective of aesthetics

Mechanisms of integration work perfectly. If people play by the rules dictated by the authorities, they get all kinds of benefits. If they enter the cultivated dialogue with the municipality authorities, they get the land. If they can express themselves in a nice way, they get their five minutes of fame on the national television and ten more on the symposium about good practises on some faculty. If they are ready to sit behind the computer instead of doing productive work on the garden, they can even get a cent or two from Europe.

But for the access to those privileges you need to push your way into that part of society, which it is practically impossible to reach as an ordinary person. You need to get a formal status, because only through that you can become a co-speaker, even if inferior to other legal persons in society. Furthermore business entities need for their existence a lot of service, because they can not survive on their own. They need a registered seat, money, they need filled out forms, outer control and assistance, office equipment and materials, human resources and much more. Only when all those conditions are met the formal person can start with its activities. Moreover, those activities must be done by strict and top-down rules. With this, the illusion about participatory practices and public good activities are gone. How can it be claimed that something is participatory, if it is totally inferior to the hierarchical set of rules? How can someone work for the public good, if he/she needs to waste most of his/her time dealing with himself/herself and to cope with his/her own existence?

IMG_9233The logic of competition, consumption and forced innovativeness prevailed even in the sphere of civil society and its non-governmental organisations. Those compete with each other for the funds and in this fight the biggest piece goes to the ones with megalomanic projects that include as many people as they possibly can. Special rewards go to the institutions that managed to convince people that they are horizontal and the ones that include one queer person, a few disabled persons, five black people and three unemployed. All those included should be happy that the institution makes it possible for them to do gardening. The peak of the democracy is considered to be the moment when they can decide whom to exclude from their gardening colony. We could say those are feudal relation, where vassals – for three “green working spaces” – promise to the rulers that they will organise the serfs and with the help of those free human resources expand the control and the economy of the rulers. Moreover, innovative ones might even charge the volunteers for the participating in the project.

Instead of empowering the local communities the opposite happens; individuals become passive, and self-organised and non-commercial initiatives lose their space. Various seemingly participatory projects raise false feelings of independence, freedom of decision making and possibility of co-creation among participants. Often the situation seems to resemble a fairly good directed event in the amusement park, where as a consumer you can pay in advance for the interactive play. And you are saving the world! Important things are a nice shed, orange wheelbarrow and new rubber boots and not the active participation, taking responsibilities and building community. The possibility of interaction that makes it possible for you to press the button of the “Time Machine” (*interactive book which allows reader to choose where in “time” he/she wants to jump through “buttons” on the end of each chapter), with the end of the book already decided, sells as an inclusive practise.

Because such a way of working became a norm in our society, the true question should be how is it possible to connect with each other beyond what is decided upon in advance. The answer is simple: with difficulty.

Counter-culture of Gardening

In an overflow of different green initiatives it is hard to find ones that are working beyond the given social frames and are therefore not recognized by the society, do not have project funding, or access to recognized public meeting places (faculties, libraries, museums,…), or if they do are accepted in places like this, they are only there, shelved or exhibited as some form of exotic attraction to diversify the dull, already known and acknowledged “good” practices.

Despite all this, there are individuals who think and believe that there is a way or direction of operating, which surpasses the existing frameworks. In Zadruga Urbana (Urbana cooperative), as an informal, autonomous platform, we try to operate non-hierarchically, inclusively, non-commercially, etc. But we also try to be aware of certain limitations, or traps of working collectively. We are not only interested in exploring ways how to collaborate, but also how not to collaborate. Elements that are also important when grouping together and later for the functioning of the group, are: the vision, interest, structure, funds and resources, way of work and a time-frame of initiative.

When creating a community, it is important to observe where the motivation for action and work comes from. Is the first shovel of dirt dependant on a successfully approved grant funding, or from personal interest? It is important to recognize our vision of a community, because our way of work will be primarily based on this. Is it a project with a pre-determined date, agenda or goals that need to be followed, or is it more of an organic structure and collaboration of individuals, based on sincere self-initiative and a desire to build something – a desire for a process, which the participants are changing and improving along the way and where the goal is not set by a fixed final outcome or result, but it is inseparably connected with the process itself?

_DSC9141-Edit-2Progressive grass-root initiatives and communities are the ones that are self-organized, egalitarian, autonomous and horizontal. It is where people meet because of personal interest for collaboration, and it derives from themselves. They do not think about what others should be doing, but do cooperate with others to realize themselves and the community through the process of direct action. They are active because of their own personal need, and they do not (pre)condition their work with factors beyond the community. To be active in fulfilling their wishes and desires, they do not need pre-prepared conditions, because they are only just co-creating them.

It looks fairly easy, but in fact it is quite a challenge to create a horizontal community which represents one of the main pillars of working and creating in a different way. A horizontal network represents a vast social power and has the potential to achieve quite a lot. An alternative beyond the boundaries of social frameworks forced upon us from outside can be built through investing energy into building networks and connecting them together. Sharing experiences, knowledge and working collectively represents a reciprocal support, as it is, for example, reflected in work of “Jalla’s Sonaravna sreda” (Co-natural Wednesday – *free workshops, exchanging of seeds, etc). Consumerism needs to be replaced by gifting, exchange and lending, as Zelemenjava (Veggies exchange) is doing. Orders need to be replaced with a dialogue and voluntary agreement, as is the practice in the “Čolnarska” community garden.

It is essential that these networks also are connecting with ones that are not primarily working on the same activities, and with this contribute to the establishment of long term visions of a different society, based on egalitarianism, autonomy and freedom.

We need to normalize the use of the most primal tools used in a community. Squatting, or even better, collectivization of unused and abandoned areas has to become a daily practice. We have to gain back the public spaces that were taken away and start using them on our own terms. If we want to have a meeting in the facilities of the district community council, it is their duty to provide them, and not to make the process harder with paper work or by charging us. If we need a place for workshops or a place to keep the gardening tools at, it has to be taken for granted, that a place can be found in abandoned bicycle basements, unused drying rooms,… or that we can put up sheds without any bureaucratic complications. If we go in to dialogue with imaginative representatives of the government, we must expect only servility. We have had enough of non-productive monologues from the positions of power that are so common in cases like this. We have had enough. It is time for action!

But of course this is a long term vision, which needs to be built up slowly and be upgraded as the years pass. Many mistakes have to be made and many temptations, in form of virtual shortcuts on the path to community self-reliance, need to be surpassed. Above all, we need to persist. These sorts of communities are operating on the long term, without a planned time frame, because this is the only way they can exceed the limitations of project work and find time to develop their proper and unique way of functioning as they are travelling along their path. It is the path full of experimenting and learning as you go. The society may find us a bit weird, and as though we are fighting with windmills, but those are all signs that we are kicking in the right direction, because the long term engagement, collective self-critique and the modesty bring small, but for us, very important achievements.

We do not advocate in advance prescribed patterns of functioning that could meet everyone’s needs. We realize that we are all different and that some of us like to operate in one or another way. Also, not everyone wants to work with whomever, but we still do believe that striving towards a self-organized, autonomous and horizontal society is a good practice with a long term potential to establish different, non-restrictive and non-hierarchical relations among us.

Even the queen Marrie Antoniette fell into – at that time very popular – gardening and an idyllic farm was set in Versaille park so that she could fill up the time – just before the French revolution.

Let’s take the land back!

Zadruga Urbana – May, 2014 (with an update from November 2014)

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