21 June, VIRUS 2020

Why Americans don’t learn about Tulsa, or Juneteenth. The legacy of two moments in history that many Americans are just beginning to learn — Juneteenth, and the Tulsa massacre. Washington Post

Italian team covers glacier with giant white sheets to slow melting. The Guardian

Reading stabbings: Three people dead after Forbury Gardens attack. BBC

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was not aware of any Australians being involved. ABC

Count the stars in the Southern Cross during the winter solstice this weekend and join world record attempt to map light pollution across Australia. ABC Science

The Winter Solstice

The winter solstice is the day of the year that has the least daylight hours of any in the year and usually occurs on 22 June but can occur between 21 and 23 June. Because the path of the Earth around the Sun is an ellipse, not a circle, and because the Earth is off-centre on its axis, these combined phenomena can create up to several minutes difference between solar and mean time. Around the date of summer solstice, these effects make the Sun appear to move slightly slower than expected when measured by a watch or clock. As a result, the earliest sunrise occurs before the date of the summer solstice, and the latest sunset happens after the summer solstice. For the same reasons, around the winter solstice, the time of sunrise continues to get later in the days after the solstice. [1]

Not only does the solstice occur on a specific day, but it also occurs at a specific time of day, corresponding to the instant the North Pole is aimed furthest away from the sun on the 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth’s axis. This is also the time when the sun shines directly over the Tropic of Capricorn. [2]

Solstice derives from the Latin scientific term solstitium, containing sol, which means “sun,” and the past participle stem of sistere, meaning “to make stand.” This comes from the fact that the sun’s position in the sky relative to the horizon at noon, which increases and decreases throughout the year, appears to pause in the days surrounding the solstice. www.mentalfloss.com

Soyal is the winter solstice celebration of the Hopi Indians of northern Arizona. Ceremonies and rituals include purification, dancing, and sometimes gift-giving. At the time of the solstice, Hopi welcome the kachinas, protective spirits from the mountains. Prayer sticks are crafted and used for various blessings and other rituals. [3]

Inti Raymi is a winter solstice, and this Incan celebration is in honor of the Sun god. Originally celebrated by the Inca before the arrival of Spanish conquistadors, the festivities included feasts and sacrifices, of animals or possibly even children. The Spaniards banned the holiday, but it was revived (with mock sacrifices instead of real ones) in the 20th century and is still celebrated today. [4]

For the Nahuas (‘Aztecs’), the winter solstice was the birthday of Huitzilopochtli, patron god of the Mexica, lord of the sun and of combat. To celebrate, the Daughters of Huitzilopochtli (a group of unmarried young women who had lived for a year in the temples) would bake a “tzoalli” or life-sized figure of Huitzilopochtli from amaranth dough and toasted maize, kneaded together with maguey nectar. The tzoalli was decked out in paper garments by priests and then carried in a grand procession to the Great Temple. There the Sons of Huitzilopochtli received the effigy along with four hundred amaranth “bones” also prepared for the occasion. The people of Tenochtitlan gathered in the sacred precinct. There would be much singing and dancing and praising the god, and then by the end of the day, the priests would consecrate the effigy and four hundred bones, declaring them the “flesh and bone” of Huitzilopochtli himself. [5]

Even Antarctica gets its share of solstice celebration, thanks to the researchers staying there over the long, dangerously cold season. While those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are enjoying the most daylight hours, in the Southern Hemisphere they are celebrating Midwinter. Festivities include special meals, films, and sometimes even handmade gifts. [6]

English Heritage has cancelled this year’s celebrations due to a ban on mass gatherings but is streaming the sunrise live on social media instead. Senior druid King Arthur Pendragon said it was “not very pagan” to watch a “false sunrise” on a screen. Wiltshire Police said officers would have a “presence in the areas of both Stonehenge and Avebury” and local authorities warned people to stay away. [7]

The Bello Birders visited the Bundagen Community half an hour north of here to start a bird list for them (the list is at end). As we drive in the first thing I notice is a goal
and the second is an Eastern Rosella.Clare spots a bird,’ third tree, past the dead branch, about a foot up, come back here, third tree, see it?’ It’s a rainforest a tangle, eventually I spot it, further back than I was looking, black and white elegance. ‘Varied Triller’ I call out – a rare sighting around here. Here being a beautiful apart of the world.
Bundagen has ten or so ‘villages’ which organise themselves. Sally, who lives here and loves being here, says there is sometimes tension between those who want to live cooperatively, and those who want to live off grid, who want to live independently, isolated from ‘society’.

1973, the year of the Nimbin Aquarius Festival, saw a surge in communes and communities starting up. Revolution was in the air and in the seventies land was cheap, the landscape beautiful.

‘Something really important happened at the Aquarius Festival,’ says social historian Bill Metcalf, who has devoted his academic career to studying local and international communes. . . . The rush proved short-lived, with most of the communities falling apart fairly quickly due to lack of planning and resources, or simply personality clashes. ‘There was a great deal of naïveté with a lot of the groups in the early days,’ says Metcalf.[8]

I met various hippies in the late seventies after university, but was never tempted by the ideal of dropping out. A few I met living in Wales were leading a tough existence, I lived in a large squat in a village near Bristol and was ‘treasurer’ for a while. I found out how difficult it can be dealing with people.

In the early 1980s, a development company planned to buy two farms and bushland at Bundagaree Head for a tourist development and golf course. Local environmentalists, concerned about the loss of valuable forest, secured the first options to buy and called for support.
Bundagen is an intentional community established in August 1981 with three guiding principles:

  • social harmony;
  • environmental responsibility; and
  • economic independence.

We are a rural land sharing co-operative and wildlife sanctuary. We see our community as having essentially a caretaker role for this piece of coastal land and aim to create only low impact development. Regeneration of native vegetation in environmentally fragile areas is a focus, as is an emphasis on organic gardening. Bongil Bongil National Park forms all our boundaries including a headland and ocean beach. Bundagaree Creek runs through part of the land and we have two freshwater lakes.
Living on community can also be hard work. It is not just maintaining our own water and power and communication systems, or the battle with weeds, it is the work of getting along together which can be both exhausting and rewarding. Our decision-making and conflict resolution processes often seem cumbersome and we tweak at the edges as they slowly evolve. [9]

About the same distance from us as Bundagen is Patanga community in the Thora Valley. They saw the place as a place of healing and the first thing they did was tear down all the fences, which have cost us thousands to put back up again. Only a few people wanted to have a tractor. Well, out here, if you don’t have a tractor and slasher, you just disappear into the jungle in a year or so. It would be uninhabitable. And there were all sorts of struggles like that, of really getting the place on a practical level.[10]

The economics of scale affect every aspect of life on community. Shares at Patanga were originally $9,000 each. Now a share is $50,000. But that’s just for the share itself. A house costs around $70,000 to $100,000 on top of that. But before you think that’s a steal for a slice of rural paradise, and you can spend your days lounging about watching the grass grow; think again.[11]A COLLAPSED shared-living community at Mt Burrell [just north of Nimbin] serves as a warning to potential investors of alternative housing schemes. With its court-ordered dismantling this week, the Bhula Bhula Intentional Community has left in its wake at least 20 financially ruined investors and a litany of complex legal clashes.[12]It is so sad that naivety has led to a terrible waste of hope, energy, creativity and optimism. I Googled Bhula Bhula and there was only one page the search engine mined from its website:

‘How to Wash Fruits Effectively’. Did you know that washing fruits with water is not enough? A recent study was made by scientists from Massachusetts University comparing three ways to wash fruits and vegetables: washing fruits with pure water, washing fruits with special soap with chlorine, and washing fruits with baking soda solution. Which method do you think is the best?[13]

Rich Thornton in a piece called, ‘I Spent a Year Visiting Communes Around the World: Here’s what I learned’, wrote:

‘In reality, true communes are almost extinct. A commune is only a commune when the members share all their possessions. In order to understand how today’s communes function we have to call them by their proper name: intentional communities.
All the communes I’ve visited were started and maintained by thoughtful, intelligent, sensitive people who have a commitment to a cause . . . They are normal people living a slightly different life to the rest of us, struggling to live more consciously and simply in this increasingly mechanised world.

When they first arrived at the site (Sieben Linden a German eco-village) everyone imagined their ideal future house: turrets, slides, balconies, domes; creativity was abound [sic]. But when the eco-kids found out that the most sustainable way to build a straw-bale house was to make it rectangular, two-storey and covered with solar panels they succumbed to their higher vision and threw out their romantic designs. Now they’re left with the uniform aesthetic of Soviet Russia and a content asceticism that frowns on art for art’s sake.’ (Rich Thornton, ‘I Spent a Year Visiting Communes Around the World: Here’s what I learned’, SBS Viceland, 15 September 2017.)

I am full of admiration for what they have achieved at Bundagen.Back home I hear news of the stabbing. Just a week ago (13 June post) I was writing about a peace and love concert. The flute sailing peace vibes through the afternoon sunshine in Forbury Gardens, Reading.

‘One eyewitness told the BBC how he saw a man move between groups of people in the park trying to stab them and how the man ran towards him. There were reports a police officer had ‘rugby tackled’ the suspect to the ground . . . Thames Valley Police said the incident was not connected to an earlier Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest in the park.’[14] The world is an unpredictable place, what kind of perspective are we talking about, how has this changed the subtle chemical balance of my mood, what does the news do to my pause when I ask – what should I be doing next?

Study truth? (see footnote 12).

Bernard Williams towards the end of his life explored ‘the virtues of truth’ which he characterised them as Accuracy and Sincerity.[15]

  1. Accuracy about our beliefs about what is true. Or rather our disposition to be careful and alert to and impartial to the evidence. This has a positive force, to seek out the truth.The other side of Accuracy is defensive, being alert and sensitive to being conned, to fakes and falsities, propaganda, and this includes the subject. Humans have a great propensity for self-deception and laziness.
  2. Sincerity is about communication, not lying, being ‘true’ to what one believes in, avoiding deception.

Colin McGinn points out that: ‘These are virtues, and not merely dispositions, because there are temptations and obstacles, both external and internal, that interfere with achieving Accuracy and Sincerity.’ [16]

But of truth itself in all its forms? Roy Bhaskar suggests that there are four components to truth.

  1. ‘Truth as normative-fiduciary, truth in the ‘trust me – act on it sense’… Truth here has a communicative dimension.
  2. ‘Truth as adequating, as ‘warrantedly assertable’, as epistemological, as relative in the transitive dimension.’ The transitive dimension in the domain of knowledge (not reality or ontology).
  3. ‘Truth as referential-expressive, as absolute.’ Truth is still tied to language use but it does refer to reality and what is real.
  4. ‘Truth as alethic, as the truth of or reason for things and phenomena (not propositions), as ontological and objective – ‘real things and structures, mechanisms and processes, events and possibilities of the world and for the most part they are quite independent of us.’ [17]

 

21st June                               Birdlist from Bundagen                                 Bellingen Birders
Australian Brush-turkey Brown Gerygone Spangled Drongo Birds at ‘The Lakes’
White-headed Pigeon Brown Thornbill Grey Fantail Pacific Black Duck
Brown Cuckoo-Dove Striated Pardalote Torresian Crow Little Pied Cormorant
Wonga Pigeon Little Wattlebird Magpie-lark White-throated Treecreeper
Topknot Pigeon Blue-faced Honeyeater Eastern Yellow Robin Yellow-throated Scrubwren
Masked Lapwing Noisy Miner Silvereye Yellow Thornbill
Scaly-breasted Lorikeet Lewin’s Honeyeater Welcome Swallow Striated Thornbill
Australian King-Parrot Eastern Spinebill Mistletoebird Spotted Pardalote
Eastern Rosella Eastern Whipbird Red-browed Finch Varied Triller
Laughing Kookaburra Golden Whistler
Satin Bowerbird Grey Butcherbird
Variegated Fairy-wren Pied Butcherbird
White-browed Scrubwren Australian Magpie
Large-billed Scrubwren Pied Currawong

 

[1] Geoscience Australia

[2] www.mentalfloss.com

[3] Encyclopaedia Britannica

[4] Encyclopaedia Britannica

[5] www.medium.com

[6] Encyclopaedia Britannica

[7] BBC News

[8] Annie Hastwell, ‘Life on a hippie commune, 40 years on’, Blueprint for living, ABC Radio National, 6 May 2016. ‘Bill Metcalf agrees that communities that have stood the test of time, have done so through a serendipitous mix of a few rules, natural leadership and some control over who can join.’

[9] https://bundagen.org.au/

[10] Tim Aitken with Julie McCrossin, ‘Re-imagining Utopia 5’, Life Matters, ABC  Radio National, 2 June, 2003.

[11] Kath Duncan with Julie McCrossin, ‘Re-imagining Utopia 5’, Life Matters, ABC  Radio National, 2 June, 2003.

[12] arylko, ‘Living in a nightmare’: failed community leaves families broke’, Northern Star, 12 August 2017. ‘The NSW Land and Environmental Court ordered the community to ‘cease habitation’, remove its makeshift homes, caravans, spiritual yurts and unauthorised roadworks . . . A Byron Bay woman, who does not want to be named, said she lost $320,000 after her non-DA approved home at Bhula Bhula had to be knocked down. She said the community was plagued by infighting, bullying and squabbling factions, some of whom incorrectly believed a DA could be granted retrospectively . . . First marketed in 2014 by the Truthology movement, the commune at a 250ha former farm at 3222 Kyogle Rd was purchased by Wollumbin Horizons Pty Ltd for $1.175 million in 2015.’

‘Two men who were part of a bungled “Truthology” commune in northern NSW have successfully sued a blogger for defamation after she accused them of fraud and deception over their plans . . . The commune was partially led by Mark Darwin, who conducted seminars on alternative living at Byron Bay’s Lighthouse Cafe and numerous other locations, under the banner of Truthology, which he described as ‘the study of the truth’. Mr Brennock and Mr Dixon were associates of Mr Darwin, who was originally also a plaintiff in the case but discontinued.’ Michael Koziol, ‘Blogger ordered to pay $400,000 in defamation suit over commune ‘debacle”, Sydney Morning Herald, 9 April, 2020.

[13] http://bhulabhulacommunity.moonfruit.com/

[14] https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-berkshire-53123975

[15] Bernard Williams, Truth and Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy, Princeton UP, 2003.

[16] Colin McGinn, ‘Isn’t It the Truth?’, New York Review of Books, April 10, 2003.

[17] Roy Bhaskar developed of ‘critical realism’, to defend rational scientific and philosophical enquiry against sceptical challenges while admitting the socially situated nature of knowledge. See A Realist Theory of Science (1975), Verso 1997; The Possibility of Naturalism (1979), London: Routledge 1998. He wrote many books after these first two (of which I am supremely ignorant of). See Ruth Groff , ‘The Truth of the Matter: Roy Bhaskar’s Critical Realism and the Concept of Alethic Truth’, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, September 1, 2000.