Mark Boyle, the ‘Moneyless Man‘ came to visit last Wednesday. It was the first time we’d met, although we’ve exchanged emails for years. As I suspected I would, I found him to be an inspirational character. We talked into the small hours, and we started at a point of mutual understanding that meant one thing was a given from the start – our problems are way, way beyond policy changes. Our system of corporate capitalism is undemocratic, unsustainable, and is pushing us down a path towards extinction. If you’re not at the same starting point by the way, see here and here. We have to grasp the nettle – sooner rather than later.
Between us we know hundreds of extremely talented people working on ways to get us off this path – but as yet the nettle remains ungrasped. We are losing. The essentials of life are slipping into corporate hands all over the world – land, housing, energy, food, employment, finance, media. You may move in circles where this is less obvious, but it’s true nevertheless. Until and unless we replace this system, we will continue to lose. It’s our business to change it – yours and mine. There is nobody ‘else’ who is going to do it. We will fail in our work and in what we’d like to achieve unless we replace this system.
- Democracy: we live in a corporate empire that concentrates wealth and power in capital; and it’s becoming more concentrated, which would be fine if you don’t think democracy is important. We can survive without democracy; but we can’t survive without nature.
- Nature: corporate capitalism eats nature. The growth inherent in it has caused the current mass extinction event that peer-reviewed ecologists are telling us will, if unchecked, lead to a ‘cascade point’ when ecology will begin to irreversibly haemorrhage away from us and lead to our extinction. It will remain unchecked in this system because there are no mechanisms to check it.
- Leadership: this system rewards bad qualities – selfishness, greed, ruthlessness, ego. Any system that gives wealth and power to a person with the intelligence, compassion and integrity of Donald Trump is a bad system.
- Ugliness and alienation: this system fills the world with supermarkets, motorways, telesales jobs and ready-meals; it cannot and will not allow beautiful and interesting places, communities and jobs to exist if money can be made from their destruction.
Approaches that won’t work or won’t be enough
- Incremental change: this is a good thing, and it’s part of the solution (see distributism, below) – it’s just not enough on it’s own. Anything that looks as though it might challenge their power will be bought or crushed. Remember how the Body Shop, Green & Black’s and Ben and Jerry’s were going to usher in an entirely new way of doing business? They’re now owned by L’Oreal, Cadbury’s and Unilever respectively; and the Co-op Bank has just been swallowed whole by the Empire. I’ve had conversations with people in the Transition movement who believe that incremental change will result in a tipping point being reached, after which we will inevitably shift to a sustainable system without a plan for systemic change. Not only are we moving in the opposite direction, but if the Transition movement or anything like it begins to challenge the corporate sector, they’ll understand what those in power will do to keep it. The Transition movement is a wonderful thing, in that it brings like-minded people together in their communities, but again, it’s not enough. To really challenge the corporate sector, change needs to be more, well – revolutionary.
- Violent revolution: however, as Bakunin warned Marx at the end of the 19th century, violent revolution requires military men to take power, and when military men take power, they never give it up. History has proved him right, and so in my opinion, non-violent revolution is the only way to bring about real change. Mark gave me another perspective however, in that you wouldn’t walk past a rape – you’d do something, and it would probably have to be something violent. Doing nothing would be a more violent thing to do than confronting the rapist. As the corporate system is destroying ecology (our life-support system), this represents such violence that doing nothing may be more damaging, and more violent, than using force to prevent it. If your only source of food was an apple tree (ignoring the fact that one can’t survive on apples alone), and someone tried to cut it down, to survive, you’d have to stop them by any means possible, including violence as a last resort. It’s an interesting concept, but still doesn’t resolve the problem of violent men taking power and actually introducing a worse system than the one they replaced; or giving the corporate military the excuse they need to crush attempts at change with force; or scaring the masses so much that they oppose change.
- Voting: we should maybe ask members of Syriza how possible it is to challenge the corporate empire by voting. Syriza and the Greek people are now being punished for challenging the corporate status quo. The same would happen to Podemos, the Greens or any other radical party that, against the odds, wins power in a Western country. The Empire will punish them, as will international investors who will remove their funds from that country with the click of a mouse. Both these attacks will impoverish the country and ensure that a pro-corporate party is returned next time. Policy changes help with symptoms of the problems, not the causes. We can’t keep using policy sticking plasters for the cancer of capitalism, and by capitalism I don’t mean the free market. A free market would be much better than the corporate-dominated market that forces taxpayers to bail out failed corporate banks (for example). Although of course if someone comes up with a better idea for allocating resources, we should investigate it. Michael Albert certainly has one, although implementation is a problem.
- Utopian blueprints: there’s no need to have a vision of what society will be like in a post-corporate world. In fact I’d like to argue that such a vision will cause more problems than it solves. Historically, people with utopian visions who reach positions of power tended to do quite savage things to people who opposed their vision. Best I think to remove power from the corporate hierarchy and discuss how society will work democratically. See here for more on this.
- Only opposing: again, I have nothing but admiration for those fighting TTIP, palm oil plantations, the arms trade, sweatshops, GM, war and all the other horrors introduced by the corporate sector to increase their profits and market share. But it will be a never-ending battle that we will eventually lose, unless we replace this system.
- Trying to engage the masses: a common refrain is that all we have to do is stop buying what the corporate sector produces. I wish we could put this simplistic approach to bed. For every person who realises the need to challenge the Empire by not giving it our money, there are thousands who have not the slightest clue. For every person who struggles to work out how to live without supermarkets and corporate products there are tens of thousands who gleefully fill supermarket car parks, read the corporate media and follow corporate fashions. The masses are not going to be reached. Change will come from a minority of us. The best we can do is hope that the masses won’t challenge us when change starts to happen. My experience of talking with all kinds of people is that they won’t if it doesn’t threaten their security. Most people intuitively know that we’re headed in the wrong direction, and the future is going to be full of environmental disaster, famine, war and strife, with the 1% becoming the 0.1%. They’d like to avoid that if possible, but not if their family’s safety is compromised. We have to show that we have a plan for a better world that can be transitioned to safely, and I believe that most people will support it.
Approaches that might work
- Distributism: more on this in future, but distributism is the principle of spreading the wealth and power away from the corporate centre, out to independent businesses, co-ops, smallholdings and family farms, the self-employed, community-owned businesses, not-for-profits etc. There are many people already working on this, in the community energy, community-supported agriculture, co-operative, open source and peer-to-peer sectors (for example), and we should support them. There is cause for optimism in that they often (if not usually) offer better returns than corporate banks, and in the case of open source, are free. If successful, the logical end-point of distributism (i.e. flattening the hierarchy) is a completely flat, non-hierarchical system – i.e. anarchism, the political philosophy that dare not speak its name (let’s hope that changes in future). Distributism was and is embraced just as much by the right as the left (our local Tory parliamentary candidate considers himself a distributist. This hugely increases the likelihood of success, the difference being that he would most likely want to stop with an incompletely-distributed society, whereas I’d push on towards the dreaded A-word). Here’s some more on distributism. However, distributism alone isn’t enough, as it will take too long.
- Revolutionary change: revolutionary, as in fast, so they can’t see it coming and buy it or crush it. For this, we need to talk – see below.
I don’t want to debate whether the corporate sector is a good thing or not – or whether it can be reformed. I have no interest in playing that game, as in my opinion it’s entirely pointless. If you do, you have plenty of options. If you don’t want to give corporations your money under any circumstances however, your options are few and becoming fewer. I’d like to increase your options.
At the end of the 19th century, the Internationals brought people together to discuss ideas for change. Marx’s idea won, although hindsight has shown that it was the wrong idea. We need a new one. For that we need to discuss and debate, and for that we need a platform.
I’d like to give Lowimpact away to a board of directors drawn from the non-corporate sector (co-ops, community energy, community-supported agriculture, even cryptocurrencies etc.). I’ve broached the idea with several people, and I’ll be pushing this agenda more over the coming months.
At that point, I’d like to suggest that Lowimpact.org would be the ideal platform for promoting the distributist agenda of spreading wealth and power thinly, to the non-corporate sector, and for hosting discussions and debate about systemic change. Lowimpact has 15 years worth of content in 200+ topics, plus blog, forum, directory and we’re about to go international (hello Dani in Australia). At the moment, the ownership / decision-making structure is undemocratic and therefore a barrier.
So let’s hear your thoughts. I’ve spoken with lots of people who have ideas for a new system. The main problems always seem to be a) a rigid utopian vision, or b) lack of a plan for implementation. But let’s hear them anyway, whether that’s the case or not. Maybe cross-fertilisation will mean that someone else will have the implementation idea. We’ll have a new section on the website to showcase ideas for systemic change.
The best idea I’ve found is Julius Nyerere’s ‘ujamaa’ – but the fact that it was tried in just one country was the weakness that the Empire (in this case the World Bank) exploited to bring it down. The corporate empire is global, and any challenge to it has to be global too. That wasn’t possible for Nyerere, but in the age of the internet it’s possible for us. More on the ujamaa idea here and here.
However, that’s just one idea to throw into the mix. We could even have a competition, based on likes and shares on the page for each idea uploaded/blogged. The important thing is for us not to splinter, but to decide which is the idea most likely to work, and to get behind it. We can all continue to do our own things, but spare some time and energy for this. Otherwise our ‘own things’ are not going to work.
So, two questions – the first is, what do you think of this approach? The second is, what’s your idea?
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's
1Lēoht Steren September 12th, 2015
This is an excellent article that highlights some very real obstacles to systemic change.
The single biggest obstacle is direction of change. Many people desire change, but in so many different directions. When my allies fight amongst themselves my enemies need do nothing to win. Do I have a way to overcome or bypass this obstacle? I have a suggestion, yes. Two, in fact. The first is very simplistic – the creation of a coalition of the disparate for the one, single purpose of enacting real, comprehensive change. To then fight it out between the various ideological factions afterwards, in the power vacuum. Alternatively, those of like mind come together to agree to work together in common interest, but to also allow each the freedom to do their own thing otherwise. Basically, tribalism.
The second obstacle is numbers. I live in the Westcountry. We still remember the “pitchfork rebellion”. No matter what we want to achieve, it will remain a dream until we have the necessary support to back us up. So, how to increase numbers? That’s a hard one, for me. I am not a great “people person”. So, logically, what is needed is people that are. I see a very simple difference between a ruler and a leader. A rule sits back and tells people what to do. A leader shows people, by example, how to do what is needed. Leadership is not about power, it is about service. The single most important thing that defines a leader, though, are their followers. If, like me, you are not a leader; then follow. If you cannot follow the leader, find one that you can follow.
The third obstacle is method. Just *how* do we enact the kind of change that we all recognise as necessary? We have a couple of options here and I would actually recommend doing them in combination. First is ignorance. Do not play their game, wherever possible. Avoid using money for transactions if you can manage it. Direct barter, make do and mend. There are an ever increasing number of ways to have non-fiscal transactions. Use them. Second is cohesion. If someone else is struggling against the system, support them even if you do not agree with them. Third is direct protest. This, really, is a PR game, in order to draw attention to the over-arching cause and gain numbers. Finally, the controversial one. Prepare for violence. We have been shown that those trying to overthrow a system will have violence thrown at them, whether it bureaucratic violence of throwing expensive court cases against people or even heavy handed tactics of “crowd control” at protests. As such, we need to be ready for such inevitable responses, in an intelligent manner.
To end, whatever else any of you say or think, just remember that we are *WE*. Divisions will not help. Only united is there hope.
2Kade September 12th, 2015
should we maybe approach problem solving from a ‘post crash’ perspective? Do we honestly believe the capitalist growth economy has long to live? By the reports all over the web we are heading for a not so distant melt down and or WW3 ….. not wanting to be alarmist but these factors or possibilities need to be taken into account when attempting to communicate or mobilize new paradigms to folk that are likely to be in a panic. Communication skills are paramount – living without fear equally so. An extreme economic crash may be the only way to birth a new paradigm …. its human nature to only make change after disaster strikes.
3Dave Darby September 13th, 2015
‘When my allies fight amongst themselves my enemies need do nothing to win.’ – great quote, but I’d go further than that. When my allies do nothing that challenges my enemies, they win by default.
‘the creation of a coalition of the disparate for the one, single purpose of enacting real, comprehensive change.’ – again, great stuff. it’s what we’ve been trying to do for years. very, very, very difficult.
‘To then fight it out between the various ideological factions afterwards, in the power vacuum.’ – absolutely. Left, right, anyone who wants to build a non-corporate system (and that does include many on the right). As you say, we can argue about the other differences later.
‘allow each the freedom to do their own thing otherwise.’ – yes – do your own thing, as long as we collaborate to get a new system.
I don’t think that we need huge numbers to get things moving. System change has always been brought about by a minority. Do you think that a network organisation can be considered a ‘leader’, rather than an individual?
The ‘method’. I agree with your points about what individuals can do, but I can’t say this clearly enough – not enough people will do it, so it won’t work for system change.
‘Only united is there hope.’ – agreed. But we need a plan. Those lifestyle changes you mentioned are good, but they’re not a plan.
4Dave Darby September 13th, 2015
‘Do we honestly believe the capitalist growth economy has long to live?’ – I’d say not. Ecologists are certainly telling us not, and they should know.
An extreme economic crash we can come back from – it might be beneficial in the long run, in fact. An ecological crash, we might not be so lucky.
5Dave Darby September 13th, 2015
I chatted with Oliver at NaturalHomes.org. He disagreed that Lowimpact.org would be the best platform for this. He suggested that member organisations start a new website / brand. I don’t mind at all. Maybe we shouldn’t focus on the details, just talk to people as to whether they agree in principle with the need for collaboration/networking for system change. So, rather than asking for ideas about a new system, maybe the first step is to ask for ideas about how to come together to actually talk about it. Come together how? Where?
6Dean of the portable village September 13th, 2015
Monoculture as a model for society
As with most complex systems a society cannot thrive if it is limited by the number and type of components it is made from.
The more diverse the components of a society the more chance of success therefore a society made from many different groups and styles of living is more resilient to influences both natural and manmade, a system that works on many different models at the same time is poised to take advantage of any opportunity that may arise, and that part of the system growing more quickly as a result of little competition or less strong alternatives, free growth is the quickest form of advancement in any form.
When a system is controlled or lead in a way that confines the number of styles or ways something can be done the opportunities that arise cannot always be taken advantage of as quickly or efficiently as with a free system.
Deciding to work in a particular way can reduce the effectiveness and speed of change,
A large single group is an easily visible and identifiable one that can be manipulated, stopped, discredited, and or outlawed much more simply than a lot of individuals or smaller groups with a common goal.
With these ideas in mind I think promotion of the free growth of systems that can run parallel to but not reliant on and so not supporting the monoculture society we have at present, but instead supporting and interacting with other
“tandem living systems” (systems separate but running alongside others) would be the quickest way to change,
So I propose a collection of un connected but linked under a common goal of systems groups and individuals based on ecological sustainability, and not just economic sustainability would be my favoured approach,
it could have a name and an approval system to belong, and so identify truly sustainable business organisations and individuals cross promoting their causes and products building into a new way of living that would outgrow the outdated and unsustainable by offering a better alternative to everyone,
My individual system is the “Portable Village” ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/352805851562686/)
A self governing complete village that is free from the confines and restrictions of council rules and regulations but held together by peoples connections to one another and the laws of the country,
This village allows people to live work and trade with one another and the wider society but remain responsible for themselves,
Responsibility and control
These too things should go hand in hand with each other, But in a modern society are often separated, in this village the control and responsibility are reunited and handed back to the individual,
This is just one model and would not suite people that are not ready to take control of or responsibility for themselves. but I do think that alongside other tandem living systems it would open up the chances of change
7woodi September 13th, 2015
Right now, we face a situation where the vast majority of people either have a vested interest in, or have been led to believe that they have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. For millions, the difference between a home and destitution is currently a couple of percent increase in bank interest rates. A tipping point could come in many forms – most likely being ecomomic instability as global banking finally unravels.
Until then, you are setting an incredibly high bar in the form of “Bring down the current system or we have failed”. As you rightly point out, changing the minds of the masses, or forcing change through violent insurgency are unlikely to be successful strategies.
I sat in a room full of folk on a permaculture course last week, and one question was ‘what can permaculture bring to capital investment’. My answer was ‘nothing’, because the model of large corporate capital investment is not one that can ever serve anything other than the maximisation of shareholder value.
This just emphasises how embedded the current societal model is in people, even when they are reaching out to learn more about alternatives.
So I feel is that we should face the possibiity that sufficient resources don’t currently exist to force change in the current system. That doesn’t mean we can’t act, but it means we need to focus energy in other directions. Currently there are a huge number of groups, tribes, organisations out there who recognise the issues we face, but little directed interaction between them. Surely we can facilitate that, and continue to encorage and strengthen the informal network of people out there who are taking action to change the way they live, and who can share their knowledge with others who might not otherwise be exposed to these ideas. This is something we do here, and we know it works, although on a small scale.
Getting together to talk about it could be the best way to begin. How about going back to one of your previous models. We frame the debate quite specifically, hold small local meetings, and then arrange for a representative from those local meetings to attend a regional version of the same debate. They can take forward ideas, and the regional meetings then send pooled ideas to a national? meeting.
You could roll this through quite rapidly, though I do think its important to set a broad agenda to make the results of these discussions manageable. Maybe some common threads will emerge? New connections could be made. Perhaps these gatherings could be embedded into existing events, where some common ground exists.
Certainly we meet a lot of people on a regular basis who would participate, and as wwoof hosts those ideas can be passed on easily, all over the world via volunteers.
Lackan Cottage Farm http://www.lackancottage.co.uk
8Lēoht Steren September 13th, 2015
“Do you think that a network organisation can be considered a ‘leader’, rather than an individual?”
Absolutely. It is not, and should not be, about *a* single leader. It is about leaders, plural. Indeed, I would love to see multiple organisations working together.
I see a mild contradiction in what you are saying, by the way:
“I don’t think that we need huge numbers to get things moving. System change has always been brought about by a minority.”
“…not enough people will do it, so it won’t work for system change.”
We don’t necessarily need a majority, but we do need *enough* of a minority to affect change.
I guess the single biggest issue, at the moment, is the very word “change”. I skirted that in my first comment, but I should probably address it.
Change is the an act or process through which something becomes different.
What we have is not what we want.
What we have is an over-consuming, under-responsible, over-populated, under-thinking society that is sleepwalking to its own inevitable demise.
What we want is far harder to pin down, as that is where disagreements will come in. So far, the only agreement that we have is that we share something that we do not want.
Either we approach this with a short term view of seeking to tear down that which we disdain or we approach with a long term view of seeking to install something new. Regardless of which, there will be a transitional phase. As things stands, the long term approach is the one that is fuelling inaction. That is what people argue about. This is why I feel a power vacuum is the best way. We can argue what to do with the world when we have it.
9Dave Darby September 13th, 2015
What you’re suggesting is building a network of sustainable, non-corporate organisations whose whole would be greater than the sum of its parts. Is that right? If so, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting with no. 1 in ‘approaches that might work’ in the article above – i.e. Distributism.
However, as I also said above, this is not going to be enough, because a) not enough people are going to do it – most people are quite happy with bread & circuses (and security), b) we have our small victories – say your portable village, for example – and they (i.e. the corporate sector) continue with their land grab all over Africa, Asia and Latin America, bring in TTIP or continue to control governments an international institutions. Our tiny victories are not even noticed by them, as their grip gets tighter and their market share gets bigger every year. We’re not winning – we’re not even coming close to winning. They hardly know we exist, and they are firmly in control.
1. ‘it could have a name and an approval system to belong, and so identify truly sustainable business organisations and individuals cross promoting their causes’ – but what’s ‘it’? A website? A membership organisation? What’s the name? A new website or an existing one? How do you join / how does it work?
2. I like your portable village idea, just as I like what Lowimpact.org is doing, and community energy groups, and open source, and the co-op movement, and permaculture, and transition – etc. etc. But do you see that we also need to take decision-making powers away from the corporate sector? And that this approach isn’t going to do that? (notice that I include my own organisation in there as well). And if we don’t take decision-making powers away from them, they’re going to continue to take us down the wrong path towards ecological collapse?
10Dean of the portable village September 13th, 2015
Dave I see the points you have made regarding the lack of them noticing us but I think that is actually good, they will not obstruct something they cannot see, I do see that without larger numbers of people joining in change is not likely to happen quickly, but if we can provide alternatives for people that are affordable and sustainable and better value then I believe more will join in, promoting something different to the norm is hard to do and always meets with some disapproval or opposition and suspicion, I believe the answer to getting more onboard is to do what the government and big industry do,
suggest success is doing it this way and that the old-fashioned out of date use of large companies for anything is only for the unsuccessful old-fashioned out of touch ones left behind it will become true soon enough anyway, we all have access to multimedia outlets my own Devonblacksmith (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfPAoQHFhO0HnriHDMcjSWQ) channel on you tube has had over half a million views although it doesn’t promote success to the masses, but it does give an insight as to how to connect with large numbers of people, I am fully onboard with anything that helps people take back control of their own circumstances, this should not be a protest movement but a ” self improvement movement ” for iderviduals and companys and organizations, if we can remove people from supporting the outmoded system of central government s with its illusion of freedom in democracy and the reliance on big companys we can reduce the impact they could have , ie if no one uses an unethical supplier it disappears, it would be a case of mass withdrawal of funding bringing change, it would take a lot of promotion but could be done between the small number of groups you have mentioned there is a seed population to spread the word with the right promotion and techniques of selling to the masses I do belive it could have a big impact ?
11Dave Darby September 13th, 2015
‘I see a mild contradiction in what you are saying, by the way:
“I don’t think that we need huge numbers to get things moving. System change has always been brought about by a minority.”
“…not enough people will do it, so it won’t work for system change.” ‘
Yes, I meant that high numbers are needed for incremental change, but not revolutionary change.
The rest sounds good. A power vacuum is better than what we have now. So, how do we get there?
12Dave Darby September 13th, 2015
Yes, I think it’s well worth a try and a good idea – in the way that Transition is a good idea, and permaculture and the co-operative movement and community-owned enterprises and communes – but they’re all incremental and just won’t attract enough people. This doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be supported – they should. But the vast majority just won’t buy into it. You know they won’t if you just look at what’s happening in the real world. Almost everyone reads the corporate press, shops in supermarkets, follows corporate fashions. I know that you’re not part of that world, and so it’s not so clear to you. I live in London and it’s very clear.
Plus – if something grows incrementally to the point that it threatens the power of the corporate sector, do you think they’re just going to let it happen? They’re not. As I said, they’ll buy it or crush it.
Yes, let’s get people behind your idea – but it’s not going to replace this system any more than Lowimpact is going to replace this system without an implementable plan for taking power. And that doesn’t exist yet.
13Dave Darby September 13th, 2015
‘you are setting an incredibly high bar’
I’m not setting the bar, nature is; and nature is saying ‘live in harmony with me or I will remove you’; and corporate capitalism doesn’t allow us to live in harmony with nature.
‘what can permaculture bring to capital investment’ Really? That’s a bit off-the-wall. I agree with your response.
Yes, I agree – we could build a parallel system with no power, after which will come the really tricky part – prising corporate hands off the steering wheel. They’re not going to do it willingly.
14Daphne Francis September 14th, 2015
I find the approach of Deep Green Resistance as the only one that faces our situation squarely and unilke most other approaches it is based on a radical femisnist analysis of power and has women and men as allies
15Dave Darby September 14th, 2015
I agree, but how would you respond if I said that not enough people are going to do that to challenge the status quo?
16Dean of the portable village September 14th, 2015
I do see the majority of people blindly following their neighbours lead without thinking, they just act in the way that is expected of them, and this is seen as normal behaviour, this is done with such blindness to the consequences of their actions,
it is so easy in a large system to abdicate the responsibility of their actions to another to the point that it is not even something they can be aware of doing, This means it is almost impossible to enlighten any of them of the impact of these actions until it has a direct influence on them as an individual, I did read something intresting today in the old john seymour’s book about intelligent people being the ones leading the way with change and embracing the idea that things cannot go on as they are, perhaps we need to examine how to capture people’s self importance of image to make it trendy to be wanting change to the way things are done, how I do not know, but it whatever it is has to be promoted or sold to the masses as something they would wish to be part of, if it can be suggestions of intelligence and or success then it would stand a chance of getting people won over, if it is perceived as quirky or different then it will have problems with large scale acceptance.
17Dave Darby September 14th, 2015
Dean – yes, I see what you mean. There was a time though – late sixties, hippy culture – when it was trendy to want change. Then most of them joined the corporate empire. This is what I mean by the corporate sector buying things that might otherwise challenge them. So sad to hear Thunderclap Newman singing about revolution (‘Something in the air’) on a TV advert for an airline recently. That was probably more to do with their record company – but don’t get me started on ‘anarchist’ Johnny Rotten and Iggy Pop selling corporate butter and financial services. And ‘political’ George Clooney selling Nescafe! Funny how money makes (some) people abandon their (apparent) principles – even when they’ve already got loads of it.
18Dave Darby September 14th, 2015
PS, Dean – when most people still get their news and opinion from the corporate sector, that’s a massive problem. Imagine if we could turn that round somehow – what a huge leap forward that would be, in terms of weaning the masses off corporate bullshit. Cause for optimism is that younger people are moving towards more disparate and independent sources of online information I think (print newspapers aren’t going to last another generation, surely?), and then there’s adblock – what a superb invention. And who knows what else is round the corner? Open source, cryptocurrencies (and even, back in the day, the co-operative model) were superb ideas. I think the turning point will come with an idea. Marx’s was the last big systemic change idea – just the wrong one.
19Ibrahim Hublou September 15th, 2015
Hi Dave & Lectori Salutem to the other readers too
Read your announcement an like some other people had to sit back and give it some thought.
Started writing some stuff; reacting on what people said etc.
What sticks is that whatever change you make to how the LILI-assets are managed the aim IMO should be to have continuity.
When the time is right outreach will increase but talking about sustainability I think continuity is paramount.
I like what Woodi writes a lot. Capacity building, linking ideas, groups, people,… that is how and where ideas develop.
The salons of pre-french revolutionary France brewed up the ideals from which much of our blooming reality springs.
Dave, we talked about my sailboat project (nomadtribe.net) to bring people together. Even to ’embed’ sailing opportunities in a fair system that exchanges hours worked on e.g. a WWOOF farm with numbers of days that can be taken as a holiday onboard of sailship “Nomad”.
The boat is a bit small (8.20m / 27 feet) for trade so bringing over coffee, cocoa, honey and tea with it isn’t much of an option. The sailing would be mainly recreational, educational, linking up coastal experiences and indeed giving an incentive to work in frameworks like WWOOF.
Another place to gain “Sail-points” could be by working in what has been turned for now into a storage depot for material to be shipped to the migrants in Calais, Italy and Greece: the shop space in Croydon that is up for development. It won’t take much to turn the place into a coffee-info-space. Would create an meeting point, an outlet and could promote green business by keeping samples or catalogues in stock.
Could it be there are resources to lift a green project on a higher level, to enable co-operation, to facilitate the merging of ideas, to increase the impact we might have on each others and our environment but that for some reason the opportunity to do so is lost too many times?
For sure the boat can be sailed by its owner on its own and the shop will might go to an entrepreneur who will turn it into his nice to survive the corporate rage for some time.
The examples given, real and part of my own reality, can IMO be extrapolated to other, similar, situations where the human factor fails to handle resources well enough to clarify a perspective, step by step or by kicking if needed, that can save the planet. We must assume that always more can be done. Once that idea, that mentality, is accepted change can start to happen. It’s not just the others. It is also us.
“We have got to get it together. Now” (aka “Something In The Air”)
“Games People Play” – Joe South
20Edmund September 15th, 2015
I’ve been asked for my thoughts on this article so here goes,
I don’t know enough about the intricacies of political and economic techniques surrounding the theft of resources and therefore livelihoods by the corporate elite from the general public to perform a coherent dissection and prescribe a remedy. I could discourse at length about what I think. However I strongly suspect that I would be preaching to the converted. Suffice to say that I am coming from the standpoint that the corporate consumer funfair will eventually kill the planet and perpetuate a lot of suffering in the process.
I think it is worth mentioning as it’s made an impact on me, that I am currently visiting Hungary, following my long held interest in off grid living I have been invited to become involved with one or two organisations that are working with Roma communities in central and eastern Europe. We are exploring ways to help them to become self sufficient.
It so happens too, that this latest visit to Budapest for me has coincided with the huge migration of refugees to Europe which everyone, I’m sure, will be familiar with. We have been travelling by train from and to various projects in Slovakia and southern Hungary and so in passing through Budapest Keleti station the situation with the refugees awaiting transportation there is impossible to ignore. They are crammed into the concourse, sleeping, washing, and being fed by volunteers. There are some small tents but many families sleep on the pavement. The Serbian border with Hungary has been equipped with a steel razor-wire fence and today has been closed.
So what I’ve seen here just now and in other places where there is an immediate need is that people with the least are often the most generous and also that a large number of people regardless of social status can perform the most spontaneous acts of selflessness that surprise even themselves when faced with the immediacy of crisis. Why is it though that this should be the case only when you find a thousand people walking down your street with no homes, safe refuge or even shoes in some cases.
“Impossible to ignore”
I hope that we will not be too late. I hope that we, the majority of people, come to realise that nature commands, that we are all part of it, that you can’t eat money, that living life is more important than selling it, before we are showing an ID card to pay for water under the supervision of an armed guard. Before freedom becomes the right to share in the proceeds of one’s own permanent enslavement as Mr Graeber so eloquently puts it.
Thankfully, perhaps, I have no real experience with direct action like industrial sabotage or the large scale physical destruction of corporate property and while I think it’s true that those who love peace should organise as effectively as those that love war. It shouldn’t be forgotten though that those who organise effectively for war follow a chain of command, a situation that sits uneasily with independent thinkers. My background is engineering and art so I am too often almost entirely consumed with the urge to do, which in the best case benefits people but In the worst case is an ineffectual and energy sapping waste of time. The latter scenario is often the result of not preceding action with thought.
As far a coherent plan goes It seems that we are still thinking about it, However whilst waiting for the wave we can get ready to surf rather than drown.
In my opinion we need to educate, liberate, provide for and strengthen ourselves and those around us in an ecological responsible manner. This could apply also to some sections of society that are vilified or persecuted by authorities and slated by some mainstream media, they are often so because they represent a threat to their supremacy, or a convenient divisive source of distraction. Discernment and objectivity is important. In these could be found very strong allies and friends.
If no-one learns the skills required to thrive in the kind of post industrial, inclusive, supportive, sustainable world being talked about here then the inhabitants of that world, in the shock of victory, would be just as likely to mi-manage it up as the current crowd of aggressively unappealing and dangerous lunatics.
21Dave Darby September 16th, 2015
‘whilst waiting for the wave we can get ready to surf rather than drown’ – brilliant. yes, incremental change to move towards the kind of world we want to see, but at some point, if we’re going to get to that world, we’re going to have to replace our leaders. True leadership is about service, not power, but for our current leaders (unelected corporate and financial leaders, not political leaders), i’ts about seizing power. They have an imperial mindset, not a service mindset. Apologies to Mr Graeber – I think he’s right, and I’m an anarchist at heart, and we’ll get there in the end, I’m sure. But for now, most urgently, we need better leaders. I know so many people who would be better leaders than the crop we have now.
22isitavideo September 16th, 2015
Great read! Very much enjoyed it! We have some small disagreements, but I completely share your sentiment and that the end goal should be (very simply put) decentralised collectives of commons that organise globally. Although there are minor differences, this is ultimately the end goal of communism, anarchism, left-libertarianism and (omitting the right to property ownership) the only possible positive outcome of right-wing libertarianism.
My outlook is not so bleak though, obviously we have a flawed system of living that is in a state of accelerating economic and ecological collapse, and in recent years we have seen the return of feudalism (and truly Stalinist levels of state intervention or ‘socialism for the rich’ in the form Q.E) as the power structures that exist try to prop up this three legged table of zombie capitalism.
I think that we have to recognise that there is almost no grass roots movement – certainly not sufficient for a popular revolution such as in France or Russia, or even that which Atlee’s post war government had in their mandate for house building & the NHS. And whilst there are loads of amazing things happening (in my home town there is an extremely active protest movement developing around the environment and the economy and even a free community is starting up) and we need to continue to grow the movement from the bottom up. I am not however, diametrically opposed to using the current system of government that we have to facilitate this change. We really do have a once in a life time opportunity with a new opposition leader who was elected on a (albeit reformist) socialist mandate. If we turn our noses up at that because we ultimately don’t want hierarchical systems of government then we are cutting off our noses to spite our face – particularly when these people are working from a platform of grass-roots movement and actually have policies regarding decentralising state power and creating further democracy. We ultimately have no popular movement and the left-wing is fractured to the point of effervescence, we have to coagulate and work as a unified partisan, anarchists, communists, socialists, greens, even – social democrats & reformists, as much as we may disagree we need to work together to occupy and obsolete the current systems of government and corporate domination.
This system is succeeding in creating thousands of activists. In the UK we have hundreds of thousands of people getting active, against fracking, and there are many local groups operating against this political ideology campaigning against cuts and austerity. If we look at national centralised movements in the UK, the people’s assembly and jeremy corbyn have brought thousands of people back into being left-wing activists after many years of disillusion. This gives me hope for building a movement of popular support, and the emerging politics of these movements are not so bland as one might think.
In this end there are a few areas which I think are vital for maximising the good work that is already being done.
>>Networking is where it’s at – in the UK most of our activist groups need legal support and education on their rights and how to communicate safely with the police, there are organisations like the Green and Black Cross which do this up here in the North East and the Gaia foundation that helps people fighting extractionism overseas. Activists need to have access to this knowledge as a first step and the level of networking in this regard is frankly a joke.
>>I’ve also been thinking about technology, and I think it’s a great shame that occupations and camps are doing their work out of tents and generators, even though the equipment we use has to be portable, there’s no need why our most active members have to sacrifice hygene and comfort to work – it limits their staying power and limits their effectiveness. I’d be interested in forming a crack team of engineers and going to all the occupations and camps, building and helping them maximise their standard of living (and their ability to communicate with the outside world and-when necessary-defend themselves from private security forces) using cheap and commonly available technologies. I am currently working on a light-weight, deployable house that folds out from a small, carry-able package to a full sized living system with comfort exceeding that of a modern house. There are plenty of people who have knowledge that can help in this way, so it’s really more of a matter of networking again.
>>Education. Whilst the fracking movement is succeeding immensely because of it’s decentralisation, they could still communicate with eachother and the outside world far more effectively. There is also the matter of taking green activists who are — and I hate to say it — often lacking in political theory, and getting them to see that parliamentary politics is not a side show to the war against corporate domination but one of it’s most important theatres.
All of these things can be done in a distributionist fashion – I think that your statements about distribution are bang on (raised fist) and that the movement itself needs to be a reflection of its utopian vision and actually manifest this as much as possible. Ultimately what we are talking about is a new human system of living, that is able to manage the transition away from the current toxic system and obsolete it. I think that the grass roots activism that is already occurring is the best place to manifest this system.
Regarding low-impact, I think a board of directors is a lovely idea, but I think that it might dilute the energy which has allowed you and others to push this website to where it is. I am happy for low-impact to remain as an autocratic system until the revolution has succeeded ? Low impact is currently well positioned to act as more of a network and learning resource. I’ve been thinking of projects like an inventory of human technology – that gives guidance on how to develop technology and products from the stone age up to LCD screens – and is run like wikipedia. Low impact is already very close to this resource although I think you’d need to change your website slightly (lots of ideas – we can talk more about this off thread.)
Anyway – that’s a massive reply, congratulations if you read through it!!
23Dave Darby September 19th, 2015
‘decentralised collectives of commons that organise globally’ – love it.
So if Corbyn becomes PM, and if he introduces policies that are hostile to corporate capitalism – as he should and probably would, international finance capital would flee from the country. In my opinion, if he can bolster the ‘decentralised collectives of commons’ (community energy, CSA, credit unions, co-ops etc.) with tax breaks, subsidies etc, then let it flee. He almost definitely won’t be able to build the non-corporate sector to the point that it can make up for the lost international investments, and so will go the way of Syriza. But – if he can double, treble, quadruple the size of the non-corporate sector, it’s a huge step in the right direction – towards a point where a country isn’t held to ransom by international capital. Very tricky, but worth a go. As the article says, parliamentary anti-austerity parties are just one arrow in the quiver – what they should be focusing on is building non-corporate institutions, because without them, corporate capitalism will have its claws in us forever.
Absolutely brilliant post by the way, and like you, just small disagreements. Calling opposition to corporate capitalism ‘left’ for example, might be shooting ourselves in the foot. I’ve been talking to Tory parliamentary candidate in London who narrowly missed becoming an MP last time, and he’s an old-fashioned Adam Smith-ite who believes in the free market, but can see that this one is anything but free. He opposes corporations and supports small businesses. There’s nothing in genuine right-wing thought that naturally supports corporations. If we focus on building a non-corporate infrastructure, and flattening out the hierarchy, there’s no reason that left and right can’t work together on this – we can argue about everything else later.
Yes, yes, yes to networking. The rest is inspirational – let me know how I can help. Promotion of what you’re doing, for example.
The techno-wiki – have you seen this – http://opensourceecology.org/ ? and this – http://opensourceecology.org/wiki/Global_Village_Construction_Set ?