Thoughts about the Breaking the Frame gathering and an idea for a potential spin-off

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Posted Jul 14 2015 by Dave Darby of
unstone grange

I’ve just returned from the Breaking the Frame gathering – a long weekend at Unstone Grange in Derbyshire. My head is still spinning from the workshops, talks and panels featuring specialists on technology around GM, the military, nuclear power, surveillance, synthetic biology, health, energy, toxics annd climate, plus TTIP, emerging and alternative technologies. And of course, as with all gatherings, contacts were made, alliances built and some of the most interesting conversations were had outside of the scheduled sessions.

It was an incredible experience spending three days with really passionate, super-intelligent and slightly Aspergic people. It really did feel as though I’d found my tribe. How many of you have friends and family who think you’re slightly, erm, eccentric? I certainly do (including my partner).

There was no need at all to explain that we are living in a corporate empire – that was a given, and conversations began way beyond that. Nuclear power, artificial intelligence, robotics, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, weapons technology, the global financial system – these are all controlled by the corporate empire and they could all kill us. At the moment, decisions about these technologies are based on whether they can make money or not – and if they can, they happen, because there’s no way of applying the brake, even just to have a discussion as to whether they’re safe or whether they’re even required. We’ve got to get technology under democratic control – and quickly.

GM is a prime example. It’s supposed to be a solution to world food shortages, but there is a global food surplus. If people are hungry, it’s because they’re poor, not because the world doesn’t produce enough food. GM is an ostensible attempt to provide a technical solution to an economic and social problem, which is never going to work. I say ostensible, because the real reason that corporations are developing GM crops is to control more of the world’s food supply and make more money.

For me however, a slight downside of the gathering was that it felt as though we were fighting a rearguard action. We talked a lot about problems, but we didn’t talk much about taking back control, and when we did it was disjointed. We were talking about stopping the situation getting worse – and to be honest, we’re not having too much success. It’s too complicated for most people to understand, and it’s too much like hard work to climb that learning curve. And so it’s difficult to get the message across when people don’t understand the dangers.

Passion, super-intelligence and slight Aspergers don’t go down too well with other people sometimes. A group of loud people discussing political philosophy, feminism, economics and technology on a packed train is more likely to annoy people than to recruit them. It’s bad PR. The conversations on the train home were super-interesting, and I listened in, but I didn’t take part because I thought it was annoying other people. I could see people’s expressions – they were hearing loud opinions and I have a suspicion that they were persuading themselves that the opposite must be true.

Let’s talk as much about delivery of the message as about content. Let’s have sessions about how to reach people and communicate with them – ordinary people, not just Aspergic, passionate intellectuals (although of course, them too). That’s why I’m making this conversation public – to try to reach more people who would be interested in attending events like Breaking the Frame, and commenting on blogs like this. The more the merrier.

I think Breaking the Frame is incredible – my mind is fizzing this week. I’d like to suggest that we organise another gathering, but with a slightly different focus. Instead of tracking corporate activities and trying to push back against them, let’s meet up and talk about building positive components of a future, non-corporate system.

Between us we know enough good people to build something better. We know people who have built housing co-ops, worker co-ops, land co-ops, community energy schemes, open source software, community-supported agriculture schemes, credit unions, renewable energy systems, complicated websites and cryptocurrencies – extremely clever, committed people, in other words. We have the resources to build something better, and if we hire the right people (i.e. not us), we can introduce the mainstream to it as well.

So let’s have two gatherings – ‘Breaking the Frame’ and ‘Building the New Frame’. I volunteer to organise the latter if you can see the value in it. The workshops, panels and talks could be on the topics mentioned in the previous paragraph, and how they could complement each other, plus plenaries on building a new economic and a new political system – a flatter one, and maybe even a completely flat one, who knows? As a totally flat, non-hierarchical system is anarchism, and as that word scares most people (mainly because the media has skewed the true meaning of the word), it needs some rehabilitation. Plenaries on governance could focus on prising the corporate grip off the steering wheel, and at the very least delivering higher-quality leaders with no vested interests to make sensible decisions about our lurch into an increasingly technocratic future. Let’s talk about it.

But mostly, thank you to everyone – it feels reassuring that there are people out there doing such great things.