Who is responsible for commoning? Story time amidst intellectual conversations.


I had a great conversation with my mother this morning. I was telling her all about my classes and explaining to her what ‘commoning’ was all about; being a grade 4 teacher, she got very excited because it was exactly what she kept trying to teach her students. She then proceeded to tell me a great story which she found in one of the their textbooks, it has been slightly adapted as I don’t remember it exactly, but goes something along the lines of this:

The Little Girl Who Taught The Community

There once was a King who ruled over a great land. He was a good King, he listened to his people, he took care of the land, and offered great public services.

But he started to realise that his people were becoming spoiled and always expected his public service team to do all the work.

‘Why is there no water?’ they would cry, or ‘someone should really pick up that trash’ they would comment to their neighbor as they carefully avoided the stinking pile.

One day, a large pothole was discovered in the centre of the busiest road. The people were very upset and approached the King and stated ‘There is a large pothole in the middle of the road, something should really be done about this’.

The King, now completely exhausted from all of his hard work and dedication, became infuriated. ‘I have done so much for you people, yet you cannot think enough to take care of anything on your own and are destroying this land!’

He sent them away and thought, and thought, ‘how can I teach them to work together and love their land as much as I do?’ Then he came up with a brilliant idea: he would fill up a pot with gold, place it in the pothole, then put a giant boulder on top of it! Whoever moved the boulder would get the gold! ‘Brilliant!’ He thought as he patted himself on the back.

Soon enough a farmer on his cart passed by the boulder on on the way to the market and was very annoyed by the inconvenience, ‘who put this giant boulder on the road? I’m in such a hurry, someone should really move it!’ He proceeded to dismount and lead his donkey around the boulder then carried on with his journey.

A Lord and Lady soon came across the boulder on their way to the town to town, the Lord haughtily stated ‘what a dismal town this has become, no one cares if we dirty our feet in the mud. Someone should really move this boulder!’ And they walked in the mud on the side of the road and carried on with their journey.

Finally, a little girl came happily down the road. ‘Oh my, there’s a giant boulder in the middle of the road. I really must move it.’ She gathered all the townsfolk that she could find and they all lifted the boulder out of the way. They found the giant pot of gold and lived happily ever after.

The End

This story has a lesson to teach (I sincerely hope you found it!).

One thing that capitalism has done is to separate ‘jobs’ or ‘responsibilities’ amongst individuals/groups, claiming that certain functions are to be managed by certain work forces (ie- trash collection is done by garbage men, road maintenance is done by construction workers, etc…) This has been so engrained in our society that we expect someone else to do the dirty work, we sometimes fail to realize that we too are responsible for some of these jobs, we too are capable of cleaning trash, fixing the broken, and helping our fellow commoner. But it is so much easier to say ‘shucks, someone really should take care of this!’ and happily carry on with our lives assuming someone will do it. Commoning (and our little heroine), on the other hand teaches us that if we all contribute to maintaining the world we live in (no matter our age, social position, or schedule requirements), jobs will be done faster and there are great rewards to be had (unfortunately not always a pot of gold).

I hope you enjoyed this simplistic version on what it means to be a commoner.

Happy blogging and story telling!


7 Responses to “Who is responsible for commoning? Story time amidst intellectual conversations.”

  1. u0953238 Says:

    i have enjoyed the story and I find interesting that the capitalist and the colonial master have the same motives.

  2. mundurugertrude Says:

    Very interesting that people even knew that the road is theirs but wanted some one else to take care of it. This is very common every where. I think the responsibility of commoning and reclaiming our commons is on the individuals who own the resources. Much as the capitalists are to be blamed, what are the people doing?

    In fact in this nice story, some of the people who by-passed the boulder were farmers. which has little to do with capitalism. This means, the community has a big role in protecting their commons from being enclosed. if the people continue to think some body else will do it for them, then the capitalist will do it.

    In my opinion, the individuals in the communities are responsible for commoning.

  3. izabelamichno Says:

    Very nice story, with a lot of meaning…

    What is true and difficult in rural area seems to me even harder in urban areas…where there are so many people in one place that the common land we are sharing, seems not to belong to anyone!
    Therefore to care, protect and maintain the city on an individual level seems like a drop in the sea: all efforts we do, will be easily diluted in the mass of careless actions done by busy and insensitive people, thinking: “ah I pay my taxes, so someone should clean this for me”.

    I have a dilemma everyday: I take the tube and I am given (a bit forcefully) a free newspaper, which quality and depth of information disappoints me each time, but which I read to kill the time during my commute. Then the dilemma comes after the journey is finished: what to do with this newspaper?!
    On one hand, I think I should throw it in the bin – but then its short lifespan doesn’t justify, in my eyes, the environmental cost of its production.
    On the other hand, I can put it on the side of the seats inside the carriage, thinking that later in the day, people will sit down and read it. Then the newspaper is re-used and recycled, which makes me feel already a bit better about its existence.
    However the danger is that it will never be read again, it will fall on the seats and then on the floor and will litter the carriage, which is an absolutely inacceptable end of life for my newspaper that I didn’t even want in the first place.
    TFL says we should throw them away, but there are not enough bins…!
    So maybe you can help me to decide what I should do when forced to take this newspaper?

    What do YOU do with your newspaper?

    Thank you for sharing…

  4. jpriyarollins85 Says:

    I find it interesting that you viewed the King as a capitalist. I actually saw him more of enabling the growth of the commons– he wanted to see people working the land and putting in their own efforts. But perhaps there is some truth in what you say. Gertrude– yes, I think the point was that we are all responsible for maintaining the commons, no matter our background or age.

  5. bay222013 Says:

    I think the issue of taking responsibility has always been a problem in society, especially in the capitalist economies. No one is prepared to do anything for free because of the culture that others are paid to do same jobs. Much to the point that some patient relatives will expect staff to feed their family members while they watch on or escort them to the toilet. A particularly worrying trend is litre left on public transport because they will be cleaned by paid worker. What such people forget is that such rubbish is an eyesore and a potential hazard to commuters. My sister who is a manager of a cleaning company left a half can of coke in a bus as we were about to alight, with the explanation that she is giving someone a job. My argument was that in the mean time, someone can slip on the slippery floor and end up in hospital, costing NHS ( tax payer) several thousands of pounds for the treat and also for loss of productivity if they are in employment, all because of one act of carelessness. She thought I was being too sensitive. I believe that simple acts can be positive or have negative consequences and people need to appreciate that it does not cost a lot in time or money to take responsibility.

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