It is going to be 90 degrees today so of course, I am thinking about winter. Winter and a return to the whole puzzle/problem of practical economies. While I did all right last winter with my spastic form of recycled insulation, this summer I am looking towards making it even more efficient (less electric heaters) and, wondering how I can apply what I learn to creating a cottage industry that can be replicated.

But not just replicated.

There are two problems that are going to be felt in a lot of cities this winter. One, the dramatic increase of the numbers of newly homeless because of continued unemployment and the recession. Two, the absolute pain and danger that is going to happen as a direct result of the loss of funding for emergency heating programs.

So I am back on to what do you do that helps people help themselves and help others while contributing to their local economy?

I think about this in between trying to survive myself. And I think about it because it is a necessary part to my own survival, but it also effects other people.

And I think about all this, and imagine how it could be done, without grants.

I had a long talk, several actually, with people about the whole “grant thing” and we were all in basic agreement. Grants, like any source of funding, are good temporary resources. However, when a program or person becomes reliant on a grant for something it creates a very unique psychsocial dynamic that undermines the original purpose. After all, if one is reliant on grants to fund and provide salaries to work towards the resolution of an ill (say homelessness) the undercurrent in the psyche is a fear of the loss of the grant funds because it means that you lose you means of living. Particulary in today’s economy, the anxiety about maintaining grants is high and that is one of the reasons. It is not something that is talked about, which is a disservice to both the community serving and the community served. Without being able to bring that fear out in the open (loss of means of living) what is created is a hidden need to preserve the problem in order to avoid the loss.

The same thing happens with artists. Artists pursue grants because they allow them time to live and to work on their art. However, grants for artists are awarded based on a complex set of criteria that in the end is arbitrary. We don’t have a standard model of what is considered “art” or a “work-in-progress” and each program is based upon matters of taste of the grant committee. Not on the surface, but hidden down below. To get a grant, to keep a grant, to use grants to fund the artist’s life carries the task of customizing and marketing artistic ideas to fit the funding. Again, rather than promote freedom for the artist, grants can create a trap.

Both instances set up a dynamic in which the project funded becomes a commodity. The emphasis is on the production of a specific product without regard to its future implications. That is the essence of poor product planning. While that sort of brings us back to the question of what is the role of art and the artist in society, the modern reality is that artists are perceived and treated as product manufacturers. It is just how a market economy works, whether in supporting capitalism, social services or artistic endeavors. The market economy can only understand the worth of something based on its potential to create profit.

So back to cardboard and tinfoil.

Several problems (future implications) are present – low income heating needs and safety (the elderly, the poor), unemployment (create jobs and skills), the homeless (create independence from services) and managing waste (the materials).

The materials are all on the city streets. The manufacturing requires no machines and few hand tools. The workers are all available it is just the design and logistics that need to be put in place.

How practical all this is begins in the cave and trying it out for myself. I saw last winter how effective the small things I did were in keeping me warm and safe. But I know that the design could be better and more efficient. And to be used in the way I imagine, it would also have to meet fire and health codes. So I research and ponder.

Just as an aside, I had no idea that the reason little rodents chew on wires is that the plastic wire coatings are made with sugar. They are sweet.

And an update to the diet thing, I mostly have it figured out. And it is showing, I have had an enormously crappy past 7 days filled with tons of upsets and bitter disappointments but am sailing through. More importantly, I have discovered how to cheat. If my blood sugar starts speed dropping I literally have “a coke and a smile” and then can start eating every 20 minutes to stop that crash and am back on track.

The only thing I have to watch is given that I am now eating all day long I am also losing weight without doing anything. But, ah well, such is life.

c.2011. Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.


About cassandratribe

"There are few artists that can do what Cassandra Tribe does. Whether with her poetry, her videos or her blog, Cassandra examines the truths that most of us can never come close to realizing and shows it for what it is, both beautiful and frightening at the same time. She exposes our inner-most workings like the cross-section of a powerful but flawed machine, our gears and springs, nuts and bolts removed and laid out before us. She is a true artist. Her new video, Requiem for a God, is the latest example of Cassandra's willingness to tear open and examine the very things that make us human. Shooting the film entirely by herself, she also eliminates all the little excuses we come up with to keep us from ourselves and our truth. You see, even when she's not trying to be, Cassandra Tribe is a beacon of truth and humanity in this darkest of worlds." (Michael E. Quigg, The Culture Network, June 2009)
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