rebuilding a village from the future

Many houses in Pödelwitz are empty, as are those of many other villages, and the ecosystems of the region are severely damaged, just like everywhere else. Only that in Pödelwitz it is probably a little worse. The open-cast mining has not only torn up the earth, it has also eroded and blown away the village community.
But even if, like so much else, it almost didn’t survive it: Pödelwitz, with its at least 700 years, existed before capitalism. People lived in Pödelwitz when there were no tomatoes from Spain in the supermarket all year round, no antibiotics in the pharmacy and no police stations. Pödelwitz also experienced how the knowledge of how people got through the winter with the fruits and vegetables of the summer without a refrigerator, how they healed illnesses and wounds with the help of plants that grew in the meadows around the village and how they organised their life together, was lost, destroyed.

Pödelwitz may also have experienced its inhabitants being deprived of their home, their land already before, because at the same time as the voyages of conquest to “overseas”, colonisation and appropriation of land and able bodies began also in Europe itself. From the large landholdings that richer farmers, princes and the church were able to accumulate through the expulsion of small peasants, and from the flow of these now destitute people into the cities, where, without the possibility of securing their own survival, they became wage labourers, capitalism was able to grow into a global economic and social system. And since capital must always continue to grow, hundreds of years later it continues to eat up the means of life for all of us, the earth and its bounty.
 But already four hundred years ago, people tore down the fences that enclosed their commons and still – always – the destruction and expropriation meets resistance, in Pödelwitz and worldwide.

Where do we get the strength for this resistance, with all its setbacks, the repression that responds to it?
The strength and centuries-long endurance of indigenous people’s anti-colonial resistance is fed, as Amanda Luna Tacunan told me in 2019 in a workshop at the climate camp where I learned about Pödelwitz, by their strong rootedness in an earth that is their community, their cosmology and the actual earth where their ancestors are buried, where they learned to walk and from which their food grows.
It is true that many of us born in the western world have more privileges and access to resources, but a world that could carry us and hold us like a basket, in which all the relationships, to the environment, to fellow human beings, to the past, are woven into a strong mesh; we hardly have that any more, it has been too long since we were torn from the earth and from communal life contexts. And the self-certainties of the Western world view have also long since become rotten for many of us.

It was resistance that saved Pödelwitz, its history, all the layers of soil that support the place and cover the coal, from dissolving into dust and rubble. And so resistance itself becomes the history of Pödelwitz, and as recent events slowly compost, they form the breeding ground for what can now grow out of Pödelwitz: For a place in which awareness of the destructive power of capitalism and the experience of a successful David versus Goliath struggle is irretrievably inscribed.

Pödelwitz can become a place that nourishes resistance, that gives strength to resisters, that returns in gratitude the resistant power that saved Pödelwitz and that the whole world, all the many worlds need.

Grandpa tells us stories of the village while eating strawberry cake: This is the oldest house in Pödelwitz, he says, a basket maker once worked there.
 Maybe the house will become a networking place, a place where actions can be planned, where we can reacquire old and resistant knowledge in skill-shares, where activists can come to retreat.
Then we weave a new basket, of sharing, of self-determination and sustainability, of solidarity and care; a basket in which lie the fruits that the earth of Pödelwitz gives us year after year, if we also care for it.

We have already collected several baskets full of blackberries this summer, and the hedgehogs, birds, maggots also feed on this abundance, on this generosity. Blackberry plants grow everywhere in Pödelwitz, their prickly tentacles snaking through the rotten fence slats, overgrowing the “Private property. No trespassing” signs. They belong to the so-called “pioneer plants”, which are one of the first steps in ecological succession towards reforestation, towards wildness. They, too, the wild plants and many animals, are reclaiming Pödelwitz, are reclaiming it from formerly smoothly mown lawns, are reclaiming their right to the world, just as the people of Pödelwitz reclaimed it from the diggers.

Pödelwitz existed before capitalism and we can weave a basket to carry it a little further towards its end, to pass it on to the next generation, its landscape and community a little more intact than we found it.

Kea Weber
Pödelwitz, Groitzsch, Germany
24
www.poedelwitz.de

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