I went to two conferences in the last couple of weeks, one on mental illness stigma and one on the economics of happiness.  I keep busy.  In the early seventies, I was conferring somewhere most months, usually de facto trying to figure out how to get more money from the feds for local community development of one sort or other, although usually we couldn’t just say that.

I was grateful for the change of pace and scenery, especially since I didn’t have to drive, and I appreciate getting to see all those people with the same intent, more or less, and actually talking to a few.  It’s encouraging just to know there are other people trying to do the same thing.  Mental illness stigma can be as harmful as mental illness, and self-stigma keeps people with a mental illness from getting help.  “Anything but that.”

I wore my lime-green ribbon to the economics of happiness conference the next week, and only one person asked me about it.  Apparently, the rest of them didn’t care what my lime-green ribbon was for, and I don’t blame them one bit.

The economics conference was a lot homier than the one about stigma the week before.  The mental illness stigma conference was at the Hyatt in downtown San Francisco.  The economics of happiness conference was in a church on the outskirts of downtown Portland.  Different vibe altogether.

Some of the talks and workshops discussed:  From GDP to Happiness and Well-Being, Community as Currency, Corporate Personhood and Trade Treaties, Community Rights in Action, Toward a Caring Economy, The Eloquence of Stones, Envisioning Local Learning, The Genuine Progress Indicator, and The Space Between Stories—some charts, no spreadsheets.

The lead-off man was a stand-up economist, a professor of economics who is a stand-up comedian.  I laughed, so I’ll say Noram Bauman is a funny guy, though no doubt many would disagree.

I most liked a workshop about community rights, where local laws take primacy over other laws, specifically including those of the State and federal government that grant the status of persons to corporations, so that communities can control their environments, instead of a legal fiction with no emotional stake in the neighborhood, a little like Wayne Cook.

From an article by Thomas Linzey:  “[New community laws] not only prohibit fracking, drilling, corporate water extraction, sludging, or factory farms, they also establish local bills of rights which recognize the rights of residents to clean air, clean water, a sustainable energy future, sustainable energy us, and sustainable agriculture. . . .  These communities have come to recognize that environmental and economic sustainability cannot be attained without fundamental changes regarding who the structure of law recognizes as the legal authority to make the rules within those communities.  Attaining that structural change means openly defying the laws that got us here in the first place.”  Amen to that.

Locally there are ways to give people back the power we’ve ceded gradually and by big jumps to our sorry-assed elected officials and the corporations we allow to exist right in our front yard.

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