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Cordage-making as therapy/restorative justice  RSS feed

 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I visited Hawaii a while back, and a museum exhibit mentioned an old tradition, where if you wronged someone, society might require you to make that person a very long and uniform coil of coconut fiber cordage.

That has really stuck with me, because it is so elegant. The cordage is useful (like, the difference between seafaring and not). Using it helps make up for the wrong, but also reminds the wronged party about what good the perp has done for them lately. Making cordage takes a long time, and making it well takes solid attention. Mindfulness maybe isn't required for the job, but it would help...at least you have a long time to think about what you've done.

And then there's the symbolism of the task. The pieces of husk you peel off a coconut are trash, but if you arrange the fibers with the right sort of relationship to one another and get them all working together, you have something very worthwhile.

It seems in some places the modern justice system still accepts fines in this form, as an alternative to money.

I wonder if this tradition could work here on the mainland. We might have to substitute nettle or something.
 
Emerson White
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Location: Alaska
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In the era where you can buy a mile worth of rope for a weeks wages I don't think receiving it would have the same impact.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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>you can buy a mile worth of rope for a weeks wages

Good point!

There are intrinsically labor-intensive goods like saffron, but even for those, a week's US wages might be a year's wages for the global median wage-earner.

I think that where this tradition is still alive, it is on life support. Part of what keeps it going may be a set of traditions that somehow places special value on hand-made cordage, or might be some distance from the industrial economy.

Some of the impetus in building intentional communities is a movement to rely less on the mainstream economy. Whether that is based in values that suggest un-plugging is the right thing to do, or predictions that the grid will fail, I could imagine circumstances where one or both sides of that equation (a week of minimum-wage work=a mile of mass-market rope) is taken off the table.
 
                              
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I got heavily into studying restorative justice when I went back to school a few years ago and there is a program in MN that uses restorative justice to deal with crimes against a community i.e. littering, urinating in inappropriate places.  One of the tenets of restorative justice is to allow the perpatrator a way of reintegrating into society--usually by some kind of service work.  I remember reading about some of the "punishments"  helping in a community garden or center etc. The results they describe were amazing--previously marginalized individuals feeling "part of" the larger community and feeling like the process changed their life.

Restorative justice is to our current justice system what permaculture is to conventional ag.
 
Matt Ferrall
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Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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Its probably a fine line before it starts to look like slavery.Prisoners do all sorts of "tasks" in our culture.Manufacturing the products for civilization.I do love the practical aspects so perhaps slavery could be part of a future permaculture.You would want the task to meditative .I would hate to confront someone whos been splitting my firewood !That action tends to be agression building sometimes,as can weeding/killing.
 
Emerson White
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Prisoners don't do that much, typically it is fairly limited by the need to keep them confined. Even with out the prison operators skimming off the top prisons would not pay for themselves with out tax dollars to support them.
 
Matt Ferrall
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Here they have "community service"for low level crimes,"work crews"for good behavior folks.The county jails dont have much else but on a state level,they make license plates ect..Other states allow for "jobs"like manufacturing products for corporations at really low pay but that is more contriversial.The state womens prison has some program that has women growing food for local food banks on an organic farm which I use as an example of agriculture being desighned to accomidate slave labor.And yet people still idealize it?? and WANT to do the work traditionally deligated to slaves(these days economic slaves).
 
                    
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I thought you might all be interested in my friend Geoffrey McMullan & his work, he assists troubled folks through Nature Awareness Therapy.

"Geoffrey Mc Mullan Born in Belfast, Geoffrey trained at London Southbank University London in Addiction Psychology and Counselling, where his dissertation explored the effects of Nature Awareness on people with addictions."

Here is a video about his work:

http://www.holisticheartbeat.com/video/tedxwestcork-geoffrey?xg_source=activity
 
                                      
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Very interesting idea! I'm thinking any activity that allows a person to create something of value for the larger community would give a person a sense of connection and possibly redemption.  It doesn't have to be Nature Therapy, just productive. Like being tasked (and taught) to build 20 toy boxes for a local daycare center, paint a mural on a public wall, bake 100 loaves of bread--or better make 200 mini-pretzels (do you know how challenging it is to master that simple twist-flip technique of the perfect pretzel??)  You get the idea.  Just make it something the person and the community could point to in remembrance and appreciation for all it entailed.
 
Lee Einer
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Emerson White wrote:
In the era where you can buy a mile worth of rope for a weeks wages I don't think receiving it would have the same impact.


It's the principle.

Up until a few years ago, it was common here for young men convicted of petty offenses to be sentence to community service - splitting firewood for the elderly in the community. Not strictly restorative justice, since they weren't necessarily splitting wood for the people they wronged, but it was a step in the direction of restorative justice, as it brought them back, arguably, into relationship with the community.
 
                          
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Location: Bremerton, Washington
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greenthumb wrote:
Very interesting idea! I'm thinking any activity that allows a person to create something of value for the larger community would give a person a sense of connection and possibly redemption.  It doesn't have to be Nature Therapy, just productive. Like being tasked (and taught) to build 20 toy boxes for a local daycare center, paint a mural on a public wall, bake 100 loaves of bread--or better make 200 mini-pretzels (do you know how challenging it is to master that simple twist-flip technique of the perfect pretzel??)  You get the idea.  Just make it something the person and the community could point to in remembrance and appreciation for all it entailed.


The original idea (coconut cordage) was very intriguing.  Your interpretation/development of the idea is growing into brilliance!  I would like to see more of this principle discussed, and observe how it might be implemented perhaps especially with youth.  I love the teaching aspect of it, as well as the production/community responsibility aspect.

I think I'll suggest this idea to a mother I know who is having much trouble with her rebellious 11yo. It is worth a chance.
 
Destiny Hagest
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What a beautiful idea - I love the concept of using physical labor and trades as a way to make amends. This video says it all - making rope is so incredibly time consuming. What a labor of love.

 
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