Challenges

The need for thinking differently


THE DESERT ISLAND SCENARIO

One of the analogies Michael Albert uses in thinking of a new economics such as Parecon, is the “The desert island” scenario. What happens when the surviving passengers from a ship reach dry land. People with various capabilities and skills – The doctor, the mathematician, the millionaire, the boss of the corporation, the carpenter, the warehouse man, the waitress….

Does the millionaire, after swimming to shore, reach for the nearest hammock and say, “I don’t need to work, I am a millionaire”? Does the doctor join him and say, “There is no one sick yet, I need not work”? Does the waitress run around serving everyone while the carpenter builds the shelter?

Probably not, at that stage in time the value hierarchy would reverse. For, what good is a millionaire on a desert island? Whereas a carpenter could produce, maybe even life saving possibilities, by the use of his or her skills, in designing and constructing a shelter. So, should the carpenter head for the hammock and say. If you pay me well I may build a house for you? No of course not.

They all would have to dig in and decide on the allocation of work to be done by each, if they are to survive. New skills would need to be learned and decisions made by each of the group, could be crucial for their survival.

We need to work in this way building our new world and it can only be achieved if it is driven by our own compelling story, that is understandable to the many we will need to involve if it is to happen. We are feeding a smaller and smaller elite of people with more and more of our wealth. As those at the top get more bloated on the wealth of the land, those below them are getting hungry and angry. But we can’t fight this system by the systems own rules. We would never win. What we need is a system, or the tools to change a system that will encompass as Albert would say,”values that we hold dear”. Capitalism has nowhere to go apart from devouring us – then itself. We can’t afford to wait and watch that happen.


SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE VANITY OF BEING

There are so many problems we face today that 20 years ago we had never heard of. Life seemed to be simpler. But was it? Our basic needs in order to live our lives has not changed that much. Health security shelter and so on from those days. What has changed drastically is the physical and mental burden put on people that is specifically designed that they never reach the goal of satisfying these basic needs.

We are not allowed to be satisfied, but need constantly to be caught up in a whirling vortex of acquiring things we don’t need, services we don’t require and ideas that undermine our quest for solidarity and agency. In Neal Postman’s words. “We are entertaining ourselves to death.” Not only is our IT boat rudderless, but our oars are all pulling in all different directions.

How we learn to parse, particularly the young who have been brought up with it, all of this data coming in all directions which generally hides from us what we need to know and exposes us to the vain and superficial calculation of the algorithm.

The information super highway was transferred to e-commerce without any consultation. The internet needs to be made fit for purpose again, it is far too important to be left in the hands of idiots with one purpose in mind. The internet is part of our commons not just a mirror that reflects back our vanity, idle chat and lifestyle choices. If indeed they are even choices. Program or be programmed are the watch words of the Free Software Community. And they should also be those of the discerning citizen.

SURVIVING TECHNOLOGICAL FEUDALISM



Technological feudalism is much the same as Industrial feudalism, it is just feudalism by another name. What happened to the investment in sweat and blood of those in the north England towns, who actually built the Industrial Revolution. Where is the legacy that was left to their descendants, to their children? Poverty de-investment and blight. While the fat cats in the south grew fatter on the wealth they produced. Technology is easier to move than factories at the blink of an eye.

Geography doesn’t even matter to our new feudal lords, the Gates, Bezos, et al. Development of technology in our learning institutions we pay for. The end product of this development is privatised, practically by default, then used to exploit the people who paid for it? It is time to take back control of this important technology from the feudal lords back into the hands of the public commons.

PAINTING OURSELVES INTO THE PICTURE


It is important to paint ourselves into the picture. Meaning the big picture, not what we do, but why we do it. If we are to build some kind of common project that will affect institutional change. We need to be in it to win, to know why and how we are, or will be involved. It is not just about projects and making peoples lives a bit better. (Which is important) but about changing lives. How do we sustain ourselves and life events that will keep us committed to doing the work for the long run. For our vision and our place in it. What is it we tell people when they ask. "Who are you anyway?" If we want to win we need to paint ourselves into the picture. If we can’t put ourselves into the picture how do we get others to do the same?

A COMPELLING STORY


In creating a compelling story to replace capitalism we need to base our actions around the pragmatic questions coming out of our communities. How else are we to engage the many folk we will need if we are to win sustainable change? The alternative to capitalism is from the ground up. In discovering this vision of the world it will need to be done through community work that can help again to compel others to join us. And in this: Sometimes there is too much action and not enough thinking. Too much complaining and not enough alternative vision. Failing to plan is planing to fail but the lessons of failure are as important as success in building robust movements and in compiling our story.

CLARITY AND PURPOSE


It is difficult to make it clear to people about climate issues when most people can’t see beyond the day to day toil and struggle to survive. It is difficult for enough for them to see beyond the day, the week, month, never mind the future.

The only way this major event that will affect all of our lives is to be understood is in human terms and the basic needs of all human beings no matter where they are. It can be no longe only be a local affair it is about internationalism or perish.

Too much emphasis on organization and too little on purpose can create little bureaucracies that drain everyone's energy. Often so much effort goes into maintaining the organisation there is little left to pursue the reason for creating an organization in the first place. Our purpose needs to be well defined before forming a non-profit society, writing grant applications, fundraising, annual reports, and the many other components of organisational quicksand.

SELF DETERMINED COMMUNITIES


The thing that terrifies the elites on the right most is self determined communities. What keeps them awake at night is the thought that people start to think for themselves. That they find the confidence to act in their own interest. That they start to depend on each other. That they start to care and worry about each other than only ourselves.

That we start to return to old fashioned community and be concerned about the old lady who stays up the road and the guy upstairs who has been made redundant. Because they know when people start to think about these things, they will star to think about other things.

The elite are perfectly aware and know when that happens their ball will be kicked off the field and a new kind of game will start. Which is why they throw every distraction they can find at us to keep these kind of thoughts at bay. How we inspire determined communities for the wider concerns like climate is to rebuild the social base with small achievable winnable aims that will create in the community the confidence and platform to look at the wider issues.

THE GENERALIST TRADITION - THE LOSS OF INNOVATION - AND THE PROBLEM WITH STATE EDUCATION

The destruction of our institutions of learning. It is no coincidence that libraries close and also the study of labour, socialism and working class history being whittled away in universities. It is all the more reason that it needs to be remembered, that it was through local institutions of social struggle that working class history was taught in universities and the education system the first place.Full Article        Or audio below

BUILDING AGENCY

We need to build our agency and capacity to challenge these things and to change the dynamic of who is at the table when we sit down to plan. We need to feel invested in, valued and respected in the process of what is being built. Without this all we will have is crime and disrespect for each other and be constantly pushed to the out- sides of society rather than being actors in the core of it. There is a crisis of agency that has been brought on in people feeling impotent around climate change, covid, the surveillance state, and the present threat to many of our civil liberties. But these are times when we need to, as Colin McLeod would stay to “Stand Firm” amid the chaos threats and challenges the miscreants make agains us. We need to learn to build with the bricks they throw at us. That is what agency is and what is needed if we are to become the agents of change.

FACE TO FACE READING A BOOK

We are 50% non verbal visual expression when we communicate as humans we do not just express things we nuance, gestures and express mood. Reading body language is as important as the language we speak and in understanding speech. You can only fully understand what is meant with the complex picture of non verbal conversation.

Using the internet is not a great starting point in the real understanding of people, their feelings thoughts and needs, particularly for kids and young folk. These things need to be compensated for and need to be made aware of in times when we are being encouraged to use them as our main communication. It is also a time for reflection in how easy it is to slide into these habits and how easily they can also be used as barriers to communications for right or wrong reasons.

We can’t learn a clear understanding about the world because we can recite the first paragraph from wikipedia on any given subject. Knowledge and information is not intelligence. Intelligence is shaping knowledge and information into ideas. We are encouraged to believe our concentration level is limited to 3 minutes or so, mostly by advertisers. Why would we want to read books

A book gives guaranteed provenance of the information because it has a designed narrative and a traceable ISBN based on logically proven formula in its un-sanitised form. A book gives a more complete understanding of the subject. The internet on the other hand is the realm of sanitised and prioritised and abbreviated information.

The internet is an important component in learning but requires some prion knowledge to filter it effectively where books can help to serve as that prior knowledge. With the closing of libraries and the education system taking on the same fracture knowledge Books have become even more important in educating for a more in-depth understanding of the world. We can not say this about all books of course. But the point is we should never rely on any one medium for information. What happens when the internet fails? Do we wait till then, to discover the lack of alternatives available to us.


LEARN FROM FAILURE & ALF SMART

I worked on many projects. I worked for years on community reinvestment, like getting the base to do the right thing, on red lining and spending time in congress. We organised peoples federal credit union, which no longer exists but was amazing when it did. We negotiated agreements with various financial institutions, never imagining that some of them. But one of the ideas out of all of that was that ownership, we didn’t learn from the mistakes of these giant irresponsible organisations we learned from our own mistakes. We particularly learned from our collective mistakes. Every campaign I have ever been involved in hasn’t been successful but it informed the next one to a large degree. We don’t leave it with failure we leave it with a bigger foundation of people and people knowledge and collective integrity.Gillda Hass L.A. Co-op Lab
The L.A. Co-op Lab is a collective that builds capacity for worker ownership in Los Angeles.Offering coaching and a variety of workshops and events for aspiring worker-owners to learn how to start and sustain a cooperative business, together.
A.L.F. S.M.A.R.T.