Category Archives: occupy

notes: rules for radicals

from rules for radicals: a practical primer for realistic radicals, by saul d alinsky, vintage books 1989 (copyright 1971)

“it is the universal tale of revolution and reaction.  it is the constant struggle between the positive and its converse negative, which includes the reversal of roles so that the positive of today is the negative of tomorrow and vice versa.

“this view of nature recognizes that reality is dual.  the principles of quantum mechanics in physics apply even more dramatically to the mechanics of mass movements.  this is true not only in ‘complementarity’ but in the repudiation of the hitherto universal concept of causality, whereby matter and physics were understood in terms of cause and effect, where for every effect there had to be a cause and one always produced the other.  in quantum mechanics, causality was largely replaced by probability.” p17

“this grasp of the duality of all phenomena is vital in our understanding of politics.  it frees one from the myth that one approach is positive and another negative.  there is no such thing in life.  one man’s positive is another man’s negative.  the description of any procedure as ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ is the mark of a political illiterate.

“once the nature of revolution is understood from the dualistic outlook we lose our mono-view of a revolution and see it coupled with its inevitable counterrevolution.  once we accept and learn to anticipate the inevitable counterrevolution, we may then alter the historical pattern of revolution and counterrevolution from the traditional slow advance of two steps forward and one step backward to minimizing the latter.  each element with its positive and converse sides is fused to other related elements in an endless series of everything, so that the converse of revolution on one side is counterrevolution and on the other side, reformation, and so on in an endless chain of connected converses.” p17-8

“i present here a series of rules pertaining to the ethics of means and ends: first, that one’s concern with the ethics of means and ends varies inversely with one’s personal interest in the  issue.  when we are not directly concerned our morality overflows…

“the second rule…is that the judgment of the ethics of means is dependent upon the political position of those sitting in judgment.  if you actively opposed the nazi occupation and joined the underground resistance, then you adopted the means of assassination, terror, property destruction, the bombing of tunnels and trains, kidnapping, and the willingness to sacrifice innocent hostages to the end of defeating the nazis.  those who opposed the nazi conquerors regarded the resistance as a secret army of selfless, patriotic idealists, courageous beyond expectation and willing to sacrifice their lives to their moral convictions.  to the occupation authorities, however, these people were lawless terrorists, murderers, saboteurs, assassins, who believed that the end justified the means, and were utterly unethical according to the mystical rules of war.” p27

“the eighth rule of the ethics of means and ends is that the morality of a means depends upon whether the means is being employed at a time of imminent defeat or imminent victory.  the same means employed with victory seemingly assured may be defined as immoral, whereas if it has been used in desperate circumstances to avert defeat, the question of morality would never arise.  in short, ethics are determined by whether one is losing or winning.” p34

“gandhi’s opposition not only made the effective use of passive resistance possible but practically invited it.  his enemy was a british administration characterized by an old, aristocratic, liberal tradition, one which granted a good deal of freedom to its colonials and which always had operated on a pattern of using, absorbing, seducing, or destroying, thru flattery or corruption, the revolutionary leaders who arose from the colonial ranks.  this was the kind of opposition that would have tolerated and ultimately capitulated before the tactic of passive resistance.

“gandhi’s passive resistance would haver have had a chance against a totalitarian state such as that of the nazis.” p41

“[orwell] ‘he believed in ‘arousing the world,’ which is only possible if the world gets a chance to hear what you are doing.  it is difficult to see how gandhi’s methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the regime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard of again.  without a free press and the right of assembly it is impossible, not merely to appeal to outside opinions, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to your adversary.” p41-2

“in essence, mankind divides itself into three groups; the have-nots, the have-a-little, want-mores, and the haves.  the purpose of the haves is to keep what they have.  therefore, the haves want to maintain the status quo and the have-nots to change it.  the haves develop their own morality to justify their means of repression and all other means employed to maintain the status quo.  the haves usually establish laws and judges devoted to maintaining the status quo; since any effective means of changing the status quo are usually illegal and/or unethical in the eyes of the establishment, have-nots, from the beginning of time, have been compelled to appeal to ‘a law higher than man-made law.’  then when the have-nots achieve success and become the haves, they are in the position of trying to keep what they have and their morality shifts with their change of location in the power pattern.

“eight months after securing independence, the indian national congress outlawed passive resistance and made it a crime.” p43

“all great leaders, including churchill, gandhi, lincoln, and jefferson, always invoked ‘moral principles’ to cover naked self-interest in teh clothing of ‘freedom’ ‘equality of mankind,’ ‘a law higher than man-made law,’ and so on.  this even held under circumstances of national crises when it was universally assumed that the end justified any means.  all effective actions require the passport of morality.” p43-4

“[rousseau] ‘law is a very good thing for men with property and a very bad thing for men without property.'” p44

“conflict is another bad word in the general opinion.  this is a consequence of two influences in our society:  one influence is  organized religion, which has espoused a rhetoric of ‘turning the other cheek’ and has quoted the scriptures as the devil never would have dared because of their major previous function of supporting the establishment.  the second influence is probably the most subversive and insidious one, and it has permeated the american scene in the last generation:  that is madison avenue public relations, middle-class moral hygiene, which has made of conflict or controversy something negative and undesirable.  this has all been part of an advertising culture that emphasizes getting along with people and avoiding friction.” p61-2

“conflict is the essential core of a free and open society.  if one were to project the democratic way of life in the form of a musical score, its major theme would be the harmony of dissonance.” p62

“the education of an organizer requires frequent long conferences on organizational problems, analysis of power patterns, communication, conflict tactics, the education and development of community leaders, and the methods of introduction of new issues.” p64

“frequently personal domestic hangups were part of the conferences.  an organizer’s working schedule is so continuous that time is meaningless; meetings and caucuses drag endlessly into the early morning  hours; any schedule is marked by constant unexpected unscheduled meetings; work pursues an organizer into his or hr home, so that either he is on the phone or there are people dropping in.  the marriage record of organizers is with rare exception disastrous.  further, the tensions, the hours, the home situation, and the opportunities, do not argue for fidelity.  also, with rare exception, i have not known really competent organizers who were concerned about celibacy.” p64-5

“the organizer becomes a carrier of the contagion of curiosity, for a people asking ‘why’ are beginning to rebel.  the questioning of the hitherto accepted ways and values is the reformation stage that precedes and is so essential to the revolution.: p72

“curiosity asks, ‘is this true?’ ‘just because this has always been the way, is this the best or right way of life, the best or right religion, political or economic value, morality?’  to the questioner nothing is sacred.  he detests dogma, defies any finite definition of morality, rebels against any repression of a free, open search for ideas no matter where they may lead.  he is challenging, insulting, agitating, discrediting.  he stirs unrest.  as with all life, this is a paradox, for his irreverence is rooted in a deep reverence for the enigma of life, and an incessant search for its meaning.” p73

“the organizer knows that the real action is in the reaction of the opposition.” p74

“a sense of humor is incompatible with the complete acceptance of any dogma, any religious, political, or economic prescription  for salvation.  it synthesizes with curiosity, irreverence, and imagination.  the organizer has a personal identity of his own that cannot be lost by absorption or acceptance of any kind of group discipline or organization.” p75

“with very rare exceptions, the right things are done for the wrong reasons.  it is futile to demand that men do the right thing for the right reason – this is a fight with a windmill.  the organizer should know and accept that the right reason is only introduced as a moral rationalization after the right end has been achieved, altho it may have been achieved for the wrong reason – therefore he should search for and use the wrong reasons to achieve the right goals.  he should be able, with skill and calculation, to use irrationality in his attempts to progress toward a rational world.

“for a variety of reasons the organizer must develop multiple issues.  first, a wide-based membership can only be built on many issues.” p76

“the organizer in his way of life, with his curiosity, irreverence, imagination, sense of humor, distrust of dogma, his self-organization, his understanding of the irrationality of much of human behavior, becomes a flexible personality, not a rigid structure that breaks when something unexpected happens.  having his own identity, he has no need for the security of an ideology or a panacea.  he knows that life is a quest for uncertainty; that the only certain fact of life is uncertainty; and he can live with hit.  he knows that all values are relative, in a world of political relativity.  because of these qualities he is unlikely to disintegrate into cynicism and disillusionment, for he does not depend on illusion.

“finally, the organizer is constantly creating the new out of the old.  he knows that all new ideas arise from conflict; that every time man has had a new idea it has been a challenge to the sacred ideas of teh past and the present and inevitably a conflict has raged.  curiosity, irreverence, imagination, sense of humor, a free and open mind, an acceptance of the relativity of values and of the uncertainty of life, all inevitably fuse into the kind of person whose greatest joy is creation.  he conceives of creation as the very essence of the meaning of life.  in his constant striving for the new, he finds that he cannot endure what is repetitive and unchanging.  for him hell would be doing the same thing over and over again.” p79-80

“the leader goes on to build power to fulfill his desires, to hold and wield the power for purposes both social and personal.  he wants power himself.  the organizer finds his goal in creation of power for others to use.” p80

“another maxim in effective communication is th at people have to make their own decisions.  it isn’t just that moses couldn’t tell god what god should do; no organizer can tell a community, either, what to do.  much of the time, tho, the organizer will have a pretty good idea of what the community should be doing, and he will want to suggest, maneuver, and persuade the community toward that action.  he will not ever seem to tell the community what to do; instead, he will use loaded questions.” p91

“while the organizer proceeds on teh basis of questions, the community leaders always regard his judgment above their own.  they believe that he knows his job, he knows the right tactics, that’s why he is their organizer.  the organizer knows that even if they feel that way consciously, if he starts issuing orders and ‘explaining,’ it would begin to build up a subconscious resentment, a feeling that the organizer is putting them down, is not respecting their dignity as individuals.  the organizer knows that it is a human characteristic that someone who asks for help and gets it reacts not only with gratitude but with a subconscious hostility toward the one who helped him.  if is a sort of psychic ‘original sin’ because he feels that the one who helped him is always aware that if it hadn’t been for his help, he would still be a defeated nothing. all this involves a skillful and sensitive role-playing on the part of the organizer.  in the beginning the organizer is the general, he knows where, what and how, but he never wears his four stars, never is addressed as nor acts as a general – he is an organizer.” p93

“love and faith are not common companions.  more commonly power and fear consort with faith.  the have-nots have a limited faith in the worth of their own judgments.  they still look to the judgments of the haves.  they respect the strength of the upper class and they believe that the haves are more intelligent, more competent, and endowed with ‘something special.’ distance has a way of enhancing power, so that respect becomes tinged with reverence.  the haves are the authorities and thus the beneficiaries of the various myths and legends that always develop around power.  the have-nots will believe them where they would be hesitant and uncertain about their own judgments.  power is not to be crossed; one must respect and obey.  power means strength, whereas love is a human frailty the people mistrust.  it is a sad fact of life that power and fear are the fountainheads of faith.

“the job of teh organizer is to maneuver and bait the establishment so that it will publicly attack him as a ‘dangerous enemy.’  the world ‘enemy’ is sufficient to put the organizer on the side of the people, to identify him with the have-0nots, but it is not enough to endow him with the special qualities that induce fear and thus give him the means to establish his own power against teh establishment.  here again we find that it is power and fear that are essential to the development of faith.  this need is met by the establishment’s use of the brand ‘dangerous,’ for in that one word the establishment reveals its fear of the organizer, its fear that he represents a threat to its omnipotence.  now the organizer has his ‘birth certificate’ and can begin.” p99-100

“in the early days the organizer moves out in front in any situation of risk where the power of the establishment can get someone’s job, call in an overdue payment, or any other form of retaliation, partly because these dangers would cause many local people to back off from conflict.  here the organizer serves a a protective shield:  if anything goes wrong it is all his fault, he has the responsibility.  if they are successful all credit goes to the local people.” p107

“it is primarily a subconscious feeling that the organizer is looking down on them, wondering why they did not have the intelligence, so to speak, and the insights, to realize that through organization and the securing of power they could have resolved many of the problems they’ve lived with for these many years – why did they have to wait for him?  with this going on in their minds they throw up a whole series of arguments against various organizational procedures, but they are not real arguments, simply attempts to justify the fact that they have not moved or organized in the past.” p109

“rationalizations must be recognized as such so that the organizer does not get trapped in communication problems or in treating them as the real situations.” p109

“from the moment the organizer enters a community he lives, dreams, eats, breathes, sleeps only one thing and that is to build the mass power base of what he calls teh army.  until he has developed that mass power base, he confronts no major issues.  he has nothing with which to confront anything.  until he has those means and power instruments, his ‘tactics’ are very different form power tactics.  therefore, every move revolves around one central point:  how many recruits will this bring into the organization, whether by means of local organizations, churches, service groups, labor unions, corner gangs, or as individuals.  the only issue is, how will this increase the strength of the organization.  if by losing in a certain action he can get more members that by winning, then victory lies in losing and he will lose.

“change comes from power, and power comes from organization.  it order to act, people must get together.” p113

“if your function is to attack apathy and get people to participate it is necessary to attack the prevailing patters of organized living in the community.  the first step in community organization is community disorganization.  the disruption of the present organization is the first step toward community organization.  present arrangements must be disorganized if they are to be displaced by new patterns that provide the opportunities and means for citizen participation.  all change means disorganization of the old and organization of the new.” p116

“and so the labor organizer simultaneously breeds conflict and builds a power structure.  the war between the trade union and management is resolved either thru a strike or a negotiation.  either method involves the use of power; the economic power of the strike or the threat of it, which results in successful negotiations.  no one can negotiate without the power to compel negotiation.” p118-9

“in the beginning the organizer’s first job is to create the issues or problems….he simple fact is that in any community, regardless of how poor, people may have serious problems – but they do not have issues, they have a bad scene.  an issue is something you can do something about, but as long as you feel powerless and unable to do anything about it, all you have is a bad scene.” p119

“thru action, persuasion, and communication the organizer makes it clear that organization will give them the power, the ability, the strength, the force to be able to do something about these particular problems.  it is then that a bad scene begins to break up into specific issues, because now the people can do something about it.  what the organizer does is convert the plight into a problem.” p120

“always remember the first rule of power tactics: power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.* [*power has always derived from two main sources, money and people.  lacking money, the have-nots must build power from their own flesh and blood.  a mass movement expresses itself with mass tactics.  against the finesse and sophistication of the status quo, the have-nots have always had to club their way.]

“the second rule is: never go outside the experience of your people…the result is confusion, fear, and retreat.  it also means a collapse of communication…

“the third rule is: wherever possible go outside of the experience of the enemy.  here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.

“the fourth rule is:  make the enemy live up to their own book of rules…

” the fourth rule carries within it the fifth rule:  ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.  it is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule.  also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.

“the sixth rule is: a good tactic is one that your people enjoy…

“the seventh rule: a tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag…

“the eighth rule:  keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.”the ninth rule: the threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.

“the tenth rule: the major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.  it is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign.  it should be remembered not only that the action is in the reaction but that action is itself the consequence of reaction and of reaction to the reaction, ad infinitum.  the pressure produces the reaction, and constant pressure sustains action.

“the eleventh rule is: if you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break thru into its counterside; this is based on the principle that every positive has its negative.  we have already seen the conversion of the negative in to the positive, in mahatma gandhi’s development of the tactic of passive resistance…

“the twelpth rule: the price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.  you cannot reisk being trapped by the enemy in his sudden agreeent with your demand and daying ‘you’re right – we don’t know what to do about this issue.  now you tell us.;

“the thirteenth rule: pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.

“in conflict tactics there are certain rules that the organizer should always regard as universalities.  one is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and ‘frozen.’ by this i mean that in a complex, interrelated, urban society, it becomes increasingly difficult to single out who is to blame for any particular evil.  there is a constant, and somewhat legitimate, passing of the buck.  in these times of urbanization, complex metropolitan governments, the complexities of major interlocked corporations, and the interlocking of political life between cities and counties and metropolitan authorities, the problem that threatens to loom more and more is that of identifying the enemy.  obviously there is no  point to tactics unless one has a target upon which to center the attacks.” p127-30

“it should be borne in mind that the target is always trying to shift responsibility to get out of being the target….the forces for change must keep t his in mind and pin that target down securely.  if an organization permits responsibility to be diffused and distributed in a number of areas, attack becomes impossible.” p132

“one of the criteria in picking your target is the target’s vulnerability – where do you have the power to start?  furthermore, any target can always say, ‘why do you center on me when there are others to blame as well?’  when you ‘freeze the target,’ you disregard these arguments and, for the moment, all the others to blame.

“then, as you zero in and freeze your target and carry out your attack, all of the ‘others’ come out of the woodwork very soon.  they become visible by their support of the target.

“the other important point in the choosing of a target is that it must be a personification, not something general and abstract such as a community’s segregated practices or a major corporation or city hall.  it is not possible to develop the necessary hostility against, say, city hall, which after all is a concrete, physical, inanimate structure, or against a corporation, which has no soul or identity, or a public school administration, which again is an inanimate system.” p133

“with this focus comes a polarization.  as we have indicated before, all issues must be polarized if action is to follow.  the classic statement on polarization comes from christ:  ‘he that is not with me is against me’ (luke 11.23). he allowed no middle ground to the money-changers in the temple.  one acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other.” p134-5

“the real action is in the enemy’s reaction. the enemy properly goaded and guided in his reaction will be your major strength.  tactics, like organization, like life, require that you move with the action.” p136

“with the universal principle that the right things are always done for the wrong reasons and the tactical rule that negatives become positives, we can understand the following examples.” p144

“you can’t do much bluffing in this game; if you’re ever caught bluffing, forget about ever using threats in the future.” p146

“the threat was delivered to the authorities thru a legitimate and ‘trustworthy’ channel.  every organization must have two or three stool pigeons who are trusted by the establishment.  these stool pigeons are invaluable as ‘trustworthy’ lines of communication to the establishment.  with all plans ready to go, we began formation of a series of committees: a transportation committee to get the buses, a mobilization committee to work with the ministers to get their people to their buses, and other committees with other specific functions.  two of the key committees deliberately included one of these stoolies each, so that there would be one to back up the other.  we knew the plan would be quickly reported back.” p147-8

“organized shopping, wholesale buying plus charging and returning everything on delivery, would add accounting costs to their attack on the retailer with the ominous threat of continued repetition.  this is far more effective than canceling a charge account.” p148

“i have n occasion remarked that i feel confident that i could persuade a millionaire on a friday to subsidize a revolution for saturday out of which he would make a huge profit on sunday even tho he was certain to be executed on monday.” p150

“the reaction of the status quo in jailing revolutionary leaders is in itself a tremendous contribution to the development of teh have-not movement as well as to the personal development of the revolutionary leaders.  this point should be carefully remembered as another example of how mass jujitsu tactics can be used to so maneuver the status quo that it turns its power against itself.

“jailing the revolutionary leaders and their followers performs three vital functions for the cause of the have-nots: (1) it is an act on the part of the status quo that in itself points up the conflict between the haves and the have-nots; (2) it strengthens immeasurably the position of the revolutionary leaders with their people by surrounding the jailed leadership with an aura of martyrdom; (3) it deepens the identification of the leadership with their people since the prevalent reaction among the have-nots is that their leadership cares so much for them, and is so sincerely committed to the issue, that it is willing to suffer imprisonment for teh cause.  repeatedly in situations where the relationship between the have-nots and their leaders has become strained the remedy has been the jailing of the leaders by the establishment.  immediately the ranks close and the leaders regain their mass support.” p155-6

“the trouble with a long jail sentence is that (a) a revolutionary is removed from action for such an extended period of time that he loses touch, and (b) if you are gone long enough everybody forgets about you.  life goes on, new issues arise, and new leaders appear; however, a periodic removal from circulation by being jailed is an essential element in the development of the revolutionary.  the one problem that the revolutionary cannot cope with by himself is that he must now and then have an opportunity to reflect and synthesize his thoughts.  to gain that privacy in which he can try to make sense out of what he is doing, why he is doing it, where he is going, what has been wrong with what he has done, what he should have done and above all to see the relationships of all the episodes and acts as they tie in to a general pattern, the most convenient and accessible solution is jail.  it is here that he begins to develop a philosophy.  it is here that he begins to shape long-term goals, intermediate goals, and a self-analysis of tactics as tied to his own personality.  it is here that he is emancipated from the slavery of action wherein he was compelled to think from act to act.  now he can look at the totality of his actions and the reactions of the enemy from a fairly detached position.

“every revolutionary leader of consequence has had to undergo these withdrawals from the arena of action  without such opportunities, he goes from one tactic and one action to another, but most of them are almost terminal tactics in themselves; he never has a chance to think thru an overall synthesis, and he burns himself out.  he becomes, in fact, nothing more than a temporary irritant.  the prophets of the old testament and the new found their opportunity for synthesis by voluntarily removing themselves to the wilderness.  it was after they emerged that they began propagandizing their philosophies.” p156-7

“jail provides just the opposite circumstances.  you have no phones and, except for an hour or so a day, no visitors.  your jailers are rough, unsociable, and generally so dull that you wouldn’t want to talk to them anyway.  you find yourself in a physical drabness and confinement, which you desperately try to escape.  since there is no physical escape you are driven to erase your surroundings imaginatively: you escape into thinking and writing.” p158

“human beings can sustain an interest in a particular subject only over a limited period of time.  the concentration, the emotional fervor, even the physical energy, a particular experience that is exciting,  challenging, and inviting, can last just so long – this is true of the gamut of human behavior, from sex to conflict.  after a period of time it becomes monotonous, repetitive, an emotional treadmill, and worse than anything else a bore.  from the moment the tactician engages in conflict, his enemy is time.” p159

“speaking of issues, let’s look at the issue of pollution.  here again, we can use the haves against the haves to get what we want.  when utilities or heavy industries talk about the ‘people,’ they mean the banks and other power sectors of their own world.  if their banks, say, start pressing them, then they listen and hurt.  the target, therefore, should be the banks that serve the steel, auto, and other industries, and the goal, significant lessening of pollution…

“if a thousand or more people all moved in, each with $5 or $10 to open up a savings account, the banks’s floor functions would be paralyzed.  again, as in the case of the shop-in, the police would be immobilized.  there is no illegal occupation.  the banks is in a difficult position.  it knows what is happening, but still it does not want to antagonize would-be depositors.  the bank’s pubic image would be destroyed if some thousand would-be depositors were arrested or forcibly ejected from the premises.

“the element of ridicule is here again.  a continuous chain of action and reaction is formed.  following this, the people can return in a few days and close their accounts, and then return again later to open new accounts.  this is what i would call a middle-class guerrilla attack.  it could well cause  an irrational reaction on the part of the banks which could then be directed against their large customers, for example the polluting utilities or whatever were the obvious, stated targets of the middle-class organizations.  the target of a secondary attack such as this is always outraged; the bank, thus, is likely to react more emotionally since it as a body feels that it is innocent, being punished for another’s sins.

“at the same time, this kind of action can also be combined with social refreshments and gathering together with friends downtown, as well as with the general enjoyment of seeing the discomfiture and confusion on the part of the establishment.  the middle-class guerrillas would enjoy themselves as they increased the pressure on their enemies.

“once a specific tactic is used, it ceases to be outside the experience of the enemy.  before long he devises countermeasures that void the previous effective tactic.” p162-3

“it was then that the chief of all c.i.o. organizers, lewis, gave them their rationale.  he thundered, ‘the right to a man’s job transcends the right of private property!  the c.i.o. stands squarely behind these sit-downs!’

“the sit-down strikers at g.m. cheered.  now they knew why they had done what they did, and why they would stay to the end.  the lesson here is that a major job of the organizer is to instantly develop the rationale for actions which have taken place by accident or impulsive anger.  lacking the rationale, the action becomes inexplicable to its participants and rapidly disintegrates into defeat.  possessing a rationale gives action a meaning and purpose.” p164

“”tactics are not the product of careful cold reason, that they do not follow a table of organization or plan of attack.  accident, unpredictable reactions to your own actions, necessity, and improvisation dictate the direction and nature of tactics.  then, analytical logic is required to appraise where you are, what you can do next, the risks and hopes that you can look forward to.  it is this analysis that protects you from being a blind prisoner of the tactic and the accidents that accompany it.  but i cannot overemphasize that the tactic itself comes out of the free flow of action and reaction, and requires on the part of the organizer an easy acceptance of apparent disorganization.” p165

“the mythology of ‘history’ is usually so pleasant for the ego of the subject that he accepts it in a ‘modest’ silence, an affirmation of the validity of the mythology.  after a while he begins to believe it.

“the further danger of mythology is that it carries the picture of ‘genius at work’ with the false implication of purposeful logic and planned actions.  this makes it more difficult to free oneself from the structured approach.  for this if no other reason mythology should be understood for what it is.” p168

“other ideas began to occur.  this was a whole new ball game for me and my curiosity sent me scurrying and sniffing at the many opportunities in this great wall street wonderland.  i didn’t know where i was going, but that was part of the fascination.  i wasn’t the least worried.  i knew that accident or necessity or both would tell us, ‘hey, we go this way.’  since i didn’t seem disturbed or confused everyone believed i had a secret and totally organized machiavellian campaign.  no one suspected the truth. ” p175

“remember that even if you cannot win over the lower middle-class, at least parts of them must be persuaded to where there is at least communication, then to as series of partial agreements and a willingness to abstain from hard opposition as changes take place.  they have their role to lay in the essential prelude of reformation, in their acceptance that the ways of the past with its promises for the future no longer work and we must move ahead – where we move to may not be definite or certain, but move we must.

“people must be ‘reformed’ – so they cannot be deformed into dependency and driven thru desperation to dictatorship and the death of freedom.  the ‘silent majority,’ now, are hurt, bitter, suspicious, feeling rejected and at bay.  this sick condition in may ways is as explosive as the current race crisis.  their fears and frustrations at their helplessness are mounting to a point of a political paranoia which can demonize people to turn to the law of survival in the narrowest sense.  these emotions can go either to the far right of totalitarianism or forward to act ll of the american revolution.”  p189-90

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notes: the political mind by george lakoff

the political mind: why you can’t understand 21st-century politics with an 18th-century brain, by george lakoff, viking, 2008

“american values are fundamentally progressive, centered on equality, human rights, social responsibility, and the inclusion of all.  yet progressives have, without knowing why, given conservatives an enormous advantage in the culture war.  the radical conservatives seek and have already begun to introduce: an authoritarian hierarchy based on vast concentrations and control of wealth; order based on fear, intimidation, and obedience; a broken government; no balance of power; priorities shifted from the public sector to t he corporate and military sectors; responsibility shifted from society to the individual; control of elections through control of who votes and how the votes are counted; control of ideas through the media; and patriarchal family values projected upon religion, politics, and the market.” p1

“we will need to embrace a deep rationality that can take account of, and advantage of, a mind that is largely unconscious, embodied, emotional, empathetic, metaphorical, and only partly universal.  a new enlightenment would not abandon reason, but rather understand that we are using real reason – embodied reason, reason shaped by our bodies and brains and interactions in the real world, reason incorporating emotion, structured by frames and metaphors and images and symbols, with conscious thought shaped by the vast and invisible realm of neural circuitry not accessible to consciousness.  and as a guide to our own minds, especially in politics, we will need some help from the cognitive sciences – from neuroscience, neural computation, cognitive linguistics, cognitive and developmental psychology, and so on.

“we will further need a new philosophy – a new understanding of what it means to be a human being; of what morality is and where it comes from; of economics, religion, politics, and nature itself; and even of what science, philosophy, and mathematics really are. we will have to expand our understanding of the great ideas:  freedom equality, fairness, progress, even happiness.

“and subtlest of all, we in the reality-based community will have to come to a new understanding of how we understand reality.  there is a reality, and we are part of it, and the way we understand reality is itself real.” P13-4

“language gets its power because it is defined relative to frames, prototypes, metaphors, narratives, images, and emotions.  part of its power comes from its unconscious aspects: we are not consciously aware of all that it evokes in us, but it is there, hidden, always at work.  if we hear the same language over and over, we will think more and more in terms of the frames and metaphors activated by that language.  and it doesn’t matter if you are negating words or questioning them, the same frames and metaphors will be activated and hence strengthened.” p15

“the neural circuitry needed to create frame structures is relatively simple, and so frames tend to structure a huge amount of our thought.  each frame has roles (like a cast of characters), relations between the roles, and scenarios carried out by those playing the roles. the sociologist erving goffman discovered that all institutions are structured by frames.  a hospital, for example, has roles like doctors, nurses, patients, visitors, operating rooms, x-ray machines, and so on, with scenarios like checking in, being examined, having an operation, being visited, and so on.  the frame structure would be violated, or ‘broken,’ if, say, the visitors were performing operations on the doctors at the check-in desk.” p22

“when you see a blue square, it appears as a single object.  yet the color and shape are registered in different parts of the brain.  neural binding allows us to bring together neural activation in different parts of the brain to form single integrated wholes.” p25

“the main thing to remember about neural binding is that it is not accomplished by magic.; it has to be carried out by neural circuitry that links ‘binding sites’ in different parts of the brain.  each neuron has between 1,000 and 10,000 incoming connections from other neurons, and another 1,000 to 10,000 outgoing connections.  there are between 10 and 100 billion neurons in the brain, which means that the number of connections is in the trillions, as s the number of circuits.  a great many of them are binding circuits.” p25-6

“in addition, neural binding can create emotional experiences.  in the area of the limbic system, the oldest part of the brain in terms of evolution, there are two emotional pathways with different neurotransmitters:  one for positive emotions (happiness, satisfaction) – the dopamine circuit – and one for negative emotions (fear, anxiety, and anger) – the norepinephrine circuit.  there are pathways in the brain linking these emotional pathways to the forebrain, where dramatic structure circuitry seems most likely to be located.

“activations of such convergent pathways are called ‘somatic markers.’  it is they that neurally bind the emotions (downstream, near the brain stem) to event sequences in a narrative (upstream, apparently in the prefrontal cortex, at the front and top of the brain).  the somatic markers allow the right emotions to go where they should in a story.  they are the binding circuits responsible for the emotional content of everyday experiences.  just as color and shape can be neurally bound, yielding an integrated experience of a red rose, so emotional content can be bound to a narrative, yielding a melodrama – a narrative with heightened emotional content.” p27-8

“let’s start with the tags-to-riches, or pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, narrative.  the hero/heroins starts out poor and unknown (the precondition).  he or she undergoes a series of hardships:  the odds are against him/her (the buildup).  through an exercise of will and discipline, he/she does something extraordinary (the main even) and so achieves success (the purpose) and recognition (the result), and gains respect, fame, and/or wealth for the achievement (the consequence)…

“by contrast, there is no honored narrative for the reality of americans who work hard and can’t climb the ladder of success because there are no rungs on it.  there is no classic american narrative for the cheap labor trap, in which  companies drive down the cost of labor by outsourcing and other means, thus trapping tens of millions of workers in low-wage jobs from which they cannot escape.” p29

“in a new enlightenment, cultural narratives will not be gone, replaced by cold, hard reason.  cultural narratives are part of the permanent furniture of our brains.  but in the new enlightenment we will at least be self-aware.  we will recognize that we are all living out narratives.  it will be normal to discuss what they might be, to raise the question of what influence they have, and whether we can or should put them aside.

“there is also a dark side of narrative.  the people in our national security apparatus – the military, the cia, and private contractors – know that personal identity is largely defined by the narratives we live out.  methods of torture have been devised to break down the ‘subject’ being interrogated by destroying the narratives that define him so that he no longer has his old identity.  they then use techniques such as sensory deprivation, isolation, fear, and physical shock to forge a new identity for him in which he is dependent on his torturers and is willing to help.” p36

“the deep narratives are fixed in the brain;  the synapses of the neural circuits characterizing them have been so strengthened that the highly general, deep narratives are permanently parts of our brains.  neural binding allows these permanent general narrative structures to be applied to ever new special cases.  that’s why the same narrative structures keep recurring, from war to war, from celebrity to celebrity, from one political figure to another.” p38

“the same part of the brain we use in seeing is also used in imagining that we are seeing, in remembering seeing, in dreaming that we are seeing, and in understanding language about seeing.  the same is true of moving.  the same parts of the brain used in really moving are used in imagining that we are moving, remembering moving, dreaming about moving, and in understanding language about moving.  mental ‘simulation’ is the technical term for using brain areas for moving or perceiving, imagining, remembering, dreaming, or understanding language.  it is mental stimulation that links imaginative stories to lived narratives.

“but what links your lived narratives to those of someone else?

“our most plausible hypothesis at present is ‘mirror neuron circuitry, which integrates action and perception.’  we apparently have ‘mirror neuron circuits’ in the premotor cortex that fire when we either perform a given action or see someone else perform the same action.

“this is not magic.  mirror neuron circuits are connected via two-way pathways to other brain areas:

“1.  to the primary motor cortex, which connects to motor neurons in the muscles of the body and directly controls muscle movement;
2.  to the parietal cortex, wh ich integrates sensory information arising in the visual, auditory, and somatosensory regions;
3.  via the insula to the positive and negative emotional pathways;
4.  to the posteromedial cortex, which must be active in the experience of empathy, say, in compassion and admiration; and
5.  to the so-called super-mirror neurons in the prefrontal cortex, which modulate the activation of the mirror neurons, apparently to either enhance or limit their capacity for empathy.

“mirror neuron circuits are apparently used in so-called mind reading, when we guess from seeing part of a  familiar action what the rest of the action will be.” p39

“naomi klein has documented the rise of ‘disaster capitalism’ under the bush administration, where private contractors get huge no-bid contracts to do jobs in disasters (such as 9/11, katrina, iraq) that government used to do, while government agencies are made nonfunctional through budget cuts.  this is essentially a major transfer of wealth from taxpayers to private corporations, an overwhelming weakening of government, and a capacity-shifting from government to corporations that profit mightily from disasters at great cost to the general public.  such relatively invisible ‘reality creation’ is below the public radar screen.  why is this possible?

“the brain supplies the reasons.  first, stressed like fear (of terrorist attacks), worry (say, about finances, health care, and so on), and overwork tend to activate the norepinephrine system, the system of negative emotions.  the result is a reduced capacity to notice.  second, the right conceptual framework must be in place in order to recognize apparently different events as the same kind of event.

“for example, as i write this, there are three front-page news stories that seem to be about different things:  blackwater mercenaries killing civilians in iraq, the president’s veto of the continuation of schip (a government-run children’s health care program that has been working), and the fda no longer having the resources to monitor food and drug safety trials.  but they are about the same issue:  the radical conservative political and economic agenda is putting public resources and government functions into private hands, while eliminating the capacity of government to protect and empower the public.  the public has no conceptual framework to see all these as the same and to comprehend what this means, and with the stress of fear and worry and to create the substantial neural structres needed to comprehend what is happening in hundreds of areas of life.

“the democratic leaders are not, as they say, connecting these dots.  on the contrary, their appeal to supposed enlightenment reason – conscious, logical, unemotional, disembodied, based on perceived self-interest, and open to rational discussion as classically conceived – plays into radical conservative hands.” p41-2

“though the old enlightenment mischaracterized the human mind, enlightenment values nevertheless wrought the foundations of american democracy.  a new enlightenment should likewise articulate america’s original values, both conscious and unconscious, and extend them further in the same direction.  america was founded and developed as a progressive country, and it is crucial that its values be reclaimed and extended to fit the needs of our century.” p44

“at the same time, conservative modes of thought and language have come to dominate political discourse in the media.  we can see this in the everyday use of conservative language and the ideas that go with it:  illegal immigrants, not illegal employers or illegal consumers; war in iraq, not occupation of iraq, surge, not escalation; supporting the troops, not squandering tax money, and so on.  though the progressive mode of thought expressed the ideals of american democracy as seen in our founding documents, it has become less and less dominant in public discourse.  the denial of habeas corpus, unrestricted tapping of citizens’ phones, and routine torture have brought forth little discussion of the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” p46

“behind every progressive policy lies a single moral value:  empathy, together with the responsibility and strength to act on that empathy.” p47

“empathy leads to recognizing that unfair and discriminatory treatment is a form of harm requiring government protection.  this correlates with the idea that we are all equal, and that the denial of equality counts as harm.  this is the moral basis of civil rights laws – voting rights laws, antidiscrimination laws, and so one.  it is also the moral basis of labor law.  the right to unionize, for example, recognized the unfair advantage that employers have over employees in negotiating the conditions of their employment.” p49

“neoliberals sometimes mistake real reason for relativism, because real reason recognizes that there are multiple ways in which the brain sees reality.  i have previously criticized neoliberals for assuming that just citing facts and figures will carry the day politically, when what is needed is an honest, morally based framing of the facts and figures, showing their moral significance, and conveyed with the appropriate emotions and with words, images, and symbols that really communicate.  when conservatives answer liberals’ facts and figures with no facts or figures, but with their own morals-based frames presented with emotion and symbolism, their framing will win.” p52-3

“neoliberal thinking in terms of facts and figures on the one hand and serving the interests of demographic groups on the other also leads to ‘issue silos,’ the isolation of one issue from another – food and drug safety; children’s health care; controlling military contractors – as if there were no general moral principle and political issue governing all of these.  but there is: privateering (see chapter 7).  privateering is the destruction of the capacity of government to carry out its moral missions, together with the privatization of government functions with no public accountability and the enrichment of corporations at the public’s expense.” p54

“neoliberal policy think tanks therefore tend to be silos – cranking out issue-by-issue policies, while not addressing the deeper threats to our democracy, such as the threat of privateering.  their thought also leads to policy as technocratic solutions and ‘rational systems’ to be instituted through legislation and implemented in government.  the assumption is that the rational system of law, the enforcement of law, government regulation, and the courts will win the day.  meanwhile, conservatives have figured out ways to undermine all such strategies, by defunding or reassigning regulators, hiring lobbyists in government positions, letting corporate lobbyists write laws, refusing to enforce laws, and getting their judges into the courts.  let us call this ‘administrative undermining.’  because old enlightenment reason creates issue silos, the general case of administrative undermining has not even been named, much less called a general threat to democracy and made an issue of.  old enlightenment reason is not even up to the job of making the moral case that such general conservative policies as privateering and administrative undermining are threatening democracy.” p55

“the political effect is that neoliberals tend to surrender in advance to conservatives, simply by accepting their frames.

“neoliberal reason, besides starting with self-interest, also depends on the idea of optimization:  let’s get all we can get, even if it’s not all that much.  this is incrementalist thinking:  better to get a little something now than nothing at all, even if it means accepting conservative framing.  what’s wrong with that?  in some cases, everything.  the question is whether the incrementalist solution will be a long-lasting one.  take health care.  insurance companies get their money by denying care, by saying no to as many people in need as they can get away with, while maximizing the premiums they get from healthy people.  health insurance will always work this way.  it is not the same as care; ‘coverage,’ when you read the fine print, may not even include care.” p56

“neoliberal thought arises from the old enlightenment view of the mind.  it is anything but a trivial matter, since it has important political consequences.  one of the things cognitive science teaches us is that when people define their very identity by a worldview, or a narrative, or a mode of thought, they are unlikely to change – for the simple reason that it is physically part of their brain, and so many other aspects of their brain structure would also have to change; that change is highly unlikely.” p59

“conservative thought has a very different moral basis than progressive thought.  it begins with the notion that morality is obedience to an authority – assumed to be a legitimate authority who is inherently good, knows right from wrong, functions to protect us from evil in the world, and has both the right and duty to use force to command obedience and fight evil.  he is ‘the decider.’  obedience to legitimate authority requires both personal responsibility and discipline, which are prime conservative virtues.  obedience is enforced through punishment.  in large institutions, there will be a hierarchy of authority, used, among other things, to maintain order.  loyalty is required to maintain the hierarchy.  freedom is seen as functioning within such an order.” p60

“prosperity is seen as a mark of discipline, which is turn seen as moral, since discipline is required to obey moral laws and whatever is required by those in authority.  by the logic of this system of thought, if you are not prosperous, you are not disciplined, and therefore cannot be moral, and so deserve your poverty.  it follows that if people are given things they have not earned, they become dependent and lose their discipline and with it their capacity to obey moral laws and legitimate authority.

“we can now see where neoliberals and conservatives converge.  in conservative thought, people are born bad – greedy and unscrupulous.  to maximize their self-interest, they need to learn discipline, to follow the rules and obey the laws, and to seek wealth rationally.  the market imposes discipline.  it works rationally by rules and laws, and requires disciplined rational thinking.  it rewards those who acquire such discipline and punishes those who do not.  the market, from this perspective, is fair and moral.

“neoliberal thought applies enlightenment rationality to the market.  markets are ideally constructed to be fair and moral, though they may need government regulation to guarantee it.  rational choice in a well-regulated market will lead to an optimal, natural distribution of wealth.  well-regulated markets, from the neoliberal perpective, are fair and moral.” p61-2

“the myth is that the deregulation or privatization of a moral mission of government eliminates government.  but it doesn’t.  large corporations also govern our lives – often making life-and-death decisions that affect us.  government isn’t eliminated.  it is just shifted from the public sector, where there is an ethic of protection and public accountability, to the private sector, where there is an ethic of profit and no public accountability.  the principle here is the ‘conservation of government,.’  deregulation and privatization do not eliminate government; they only make it unaccountable and take away its moral mission.” p63

“what’s wrong with medicare for all?  if we take the profit and ‘administration’ out of health care and stop treating it as a commodity, enough money could be saved to cover everybody.  but from a conservative perspective, it would be immoral:  no one should have their health care paid for by anyone else, lest they become dependent, lose their dicscipline, and be unable to function morally.

“but from a progressive point of view, there is a moral bottom line here:  health is fundamentally life-affirming; denial of care when health and life are at stake is fundamentally life-denying.” p67

“in its moral basis and its content, conservatism is centered on the politics of authority, obedience, and discipline.  this content is profoundly antidemocratic, whereas our country was founded on opposition to authoritarianism.  yet conservatism also lays exclusive claim to patriotism.  there is a contradiction here.  how do conservatives get around it?

“the answer can be found in the word ‘conservatism’ itself.  those who call themselves by that label typically say there are in favor of conserving the best of the past traditions.  yet contemporary ‘conservatives’ are often quite radical, wanting to impose near-radical values where they had not been before, such as eliminating habeas corpus and other safeguards of liberty, eliminating checks and balances and supporting the powers of the ‘unitary executive,’ abolishing public education, and so on.  fiscal conservatism used to be seen as holding back on government spending, but today it means accumulating an astronomical deficit as a way to justify cutting social progrmas and government protections, while supporting militarism.” p68

“biconceptualism is made possible by the brain.  first, there is mutual inhibition, which permits conflicting modes of thought, but only one at a time.  second, there is the difference between general modes of thought versus the special cases.  neural binding is the mechanism for applying a general mode of thought to a special case, say, applying general conservatism to health care, or applying general progressivism to global warming.” p72

“the strict father is the moral leader of the family, and is to be obeyed.  the family needs a strict father because there is evil in the world from which he has to protect them – and mommy can’t do it.  the family needs a strict father because there is competition in the world, and he has to win those competitions to support the family – and mommy can’t do it.  you need a strict father because kids are born bad, in the sense that they just do what they want to do, and don’t know right from wrong.  they need to be punished strictly and painfully when they do wrong, so they will have an incentive to do right in order to avoid punishment.  that is how they build internal discipline, which is needed to do right and not wrong.  with that discipline, they can enter the market and become self-reliant and prosperous.  as mature, self-disciplined self-reliant adults, they can go off on their own, start their own families, and become strict fathers in their own households, with out any meddling by their own fathers or anyone else.

“mapped onto politics, the strict father model explains why conservatism is concerned with authority, with obedience, with discipline, and with punishment  it makes sense in a patriarchal family where male strength dominates unquestionably.  authority, obedience, discipline, and punishment are all there in the family, organized in a package.

“why would someone in the midwest genuinely feel threatened if gays in san francisco are allowed to marry?  the explanation is simple:  there can be no gays in a strict father family; the gender difference and the role of masculinity are crucial.  suppose that kind of family – its values and its politics – defines who you are in everyday life.  suppose those values define your personality, not only how you function in your family but with your friends, in your business, in your church.  suppose that strict father marriage, with its version of masculinity, is a major narrative you live by.  then a threat to its legitimacy is a threat to your very being.  marriage isn’t the real issue; the real issue is identity.

“why is it that conservatives, not progressives, tend to be against abortion?  think of some of the people who need an abortion:  a woman who sees a conflict between motherhood and a career, or a teenager who has had sex outside marriage.  in both cases, a decision by the woman on her own is an affront to the strict father.  he is to determine whether his wife gives birth – and conservatives in many states have supported husband notification laws.  the pregnant teenager has disobeyed her father and should be punished – and many states have parental notification laws.

“there is a second reason as well.  for the father to know right from wrong, there must be an absolute right and wrong, and that means that categories must be absolute.  if category lines are fuzzy, it could be hard to tell if a rule or a law was broken.  absolute categorization requires essences, properties that define absolute categories.  though it took aristotle to spell out how the theory of essences worked, he was simply noticing the everyday version in the cognitive unconscious.  there is an unconscious but pervasive folk theory of essences, in which essences define strict categories.  essences in this folk theory are inherent, don’t change over time, and are the causal sources of natural behavior.

“the logic of essences is all over conservative thought.  take the concept of character.  why do conservatives dote on it?  if you can train people to have the right (read ‘conservative’) moral character, they will do the right things even when not told.  as for babies, if they have the essence of a human being at birth, and if that essence cannot change, then they had the essence of a human being before birth…all the way back to conception. t the folk theory of essence is not conscious.  it just defines intuitive ‘common sense.’

“in a strict father family, it is assumed that the father merits his authority, and indeed, throughout conservatism, hierarchies of power and wealth are justified on ‘merit.’  why should ceos make so much more money than other employees?  they deserve it.

“competition is crucial.  it builds discipline.  without competition, without the desire to win, no one would have the incentive to be disciplined, and morality would suffer, as well as prosperity.  not everyone can win in a competition, only the most disciplined people, who are also the most morally worthy.  winning is thus a sign of being deserving, of being a good person.  it is important to be number one!  strict father families often promote competitive sports and take them very seriously….

“why are fundamentalist christians conservative?  because they view god as a strict father:  obey my commandments and you go to heaven; if not, you go to hell.  well, i’ll give you a second chance.  you can be ‘born again.’  now obey my commands (as interpreted by your minister) and you go to heaven; otherwise you go to hell:  authority, obedience, discipline, punishment.  note that ‘individual responsibility’ is a hallmark of this view of religion – it is up to you and you alone as to whether you get into heaven…

“if your very identity is defined with respect to a strict father family, where male-over-female authority rules, then the legitimacy of gay marriage can threaten your identity  so can anything that violates the strict father family, such as extramarital sex.

“on the other hand, war and torture at a national level are carrying out the protective function of the strict father.  why torture?  if your enemies are evil, you can – and may have to – use the devil’s own means against them.” p78-80

“progressives, correspondingly, have a nurturant parent model:  two parents, with equal responsibilities, and no gender constraints – or one parent of either gender.  their job is to nurture their children and raise them to be nurturers of others.  nurturance is empathy, responsibility for oneself and others, and the strength to carry out those responsibilities.  this is opposite of indulgence:  children are raised to care about others, to take care of themselves and others, and to lead a fulfilling life.  discipline is positive; it comes out of the child’s developing sense of care and responsibility.  nurturance requires setting limits, and explaining them.  it requires mutual respect – a parent’s respect for children, and respect for parents by children must be earned by how the parents behave.  restitution is preferred over punishment – if you do something wrong, do something right to make up for it.  the job of parents is protection an empowerment of their children, and a dedication to community life, where people care about and take care of each other.

“here we see the politics of empathy emerging in the family.  when mapped onto the nation, the result is the progressive politics of protection, empowerment, and community.

“there is a reason why this model is gender neutral.  fathers can, and do, form deep positive attachments with their kids.  they, as well as mothers, can do all the things required by the nurturance model.  conservatives, however, often parody this model by describing it a a mommy or nanny model, calling the democrats the ‘mommy party’ and speaking of the ‘nanny state.’  the same is often true of those who grew up with strict fathers and nurturant mothers.  but it is a mistake.  nurturance is not gendered and requires strength.” p81-2

priests and prophets

talking to jim about ex-kurt in the machine.  he’d been thinking about it, and saw a resemblance to kurtz in heart of darkness.

He starts out, years before the novella begins, as an imperialist in the best tradition of the “white man’s burden“. The reader is introduced to a painting of Kurtz’s, depicting a blindfolded woman bearing a torch against a nearly black background, and clearly symbolic of his former views. Kurtz is also the author of a “pamphlet” regarding the civilization of the natives. However, over the course of his stay in Africa, he becomes corrupted. He takes his pamphlet and scribbles in, at the very end, the words “Exterminate all the brutes!” He induces the natives to worship him, setting up rituals and venerations worthy of a tyrant. By the time Marlow, the protagonist, sees Kurtz, he is ill with “jungle fever” and almost dead. Marlow seizes Kurtz and endeavors to take him back down the river in his steamboat. Kurtz dies on the boat with the last words, “The horror! The horror!”

and while i didn’t name my character after marlon brando, the similarity is kind of cool.

kurtz starts out idealistic, but becomes corrupted by his power and grows bloated and sick, looking forward to being defeated so he can end his misery.  and ex-kurt is really very tired of being god of the machine and spends a lot of his time figuring out a way to be relieved of his burden.

at first, when jim was describing kurtz’s character, i thought that this characterization really must belong to the boy, who is on the wrong side for most of the story.  but the boy is never world weary, never longs for death, never really sees how ridiculous his posturing is until he sees it in the eyes of the girl.  but ex-kurt has no such mirror, no peers, no companion, only adulation and worship from those he considers inferior.  so maybe we can inform kurt’s character with marlon brando.

i can see it.

***

and how did that get to priests and prophets?  something else jim said.

institutionalized religion exists to hide the knowledge of the christ consciousness within you.  priests exist to enforce rules, and prophets exist to break them and remind people of the ultimate existence of consciousness thru love. 22:36

prophets are in touch with the spirit of god.  they’re wild, they don’t listen to human admonishments, they’re driven by their personal experience with god.  as such, they’re dangerous to an orderly society; loners – unpredictable, intransigent, fanatical.  priests, on the other hand, gather and maintain flocks of believers, educate them in doctrine, enforce laws and traditions that promote the organized religion that has grown up around the prophet’s energy and probable flame-out.

The priest is a formal role in a formal system which is engaged in a more-or-less permanent and regular set of rituals. Because of this, the priest’s claim to legitimate authority rests with his or her adherence to traditional or legal requirements for the role.

The magician, on the other hand, may be similarly involved with influencing sprits and gods, but this effort is individual (rather than part of an organized system) and occasional (rather than as part of an ongoing effort or set of rituals). Magicians might be thought of as being specialized in an unorganized and even informal religious system. A magician or sorcerer’s claim to legitimacy rests almost entirely with his or her effectiveness. Tradition certainly plays a role, but due to the largely informal nature of the role, a magician who is unable to “produce” what is promised is one whose authority simply won’t be acknowledged for long.

Finally, the prophet was for Weber an idealized religious figure who is motivated by a “calling” of a higher power which places him or her outside traditional or legal religious structures. If people recognize this person as having any legitimate authority, it is on the basis of his or her personal charisma and the belief that claims to divine revelation are correct. Should enough followers join the following, a social and/or religious revolution may result. Such leaders also typically posses extraordinary powers,

One type of religious specialist which later researchers have focused upon, but which Weber didn’t address, is that of shaman. A typical shaman shares certain characteristics which can be found in all three of the others discussed thus far. Like a charismatic prophet, the shaman derives his legitimacy through personal contact with the divine rather than through standardized religious education or structures, as with the priest.

Like the priest, however, the shaman is engaged in regular and organized religious rituals, very different from the magician. On the other hand, like the magician, the shaman’s legitimacy is also in part dependent upon effectiveness — a shaman who doesn’t “produce” will end up being replaced. Shamans are not separated from the people in the way that priests usually are; instead, they are very much a part of the community’s life.

***

3. Managing the causes of social unrest is vastly more effective than managing unrest. A lot of people – the old and the young – have lost their chosen futures. Pensions have evaporated, and graduating into a recession is a horrible experience. People need to see real accountability from those who skimmed the cream off the good times, and continue to skim it off the bad times. Yes, I understand the argument that paying reasonable salaries to top brass in banks will cause talent flight. Yes, I understand that the Duke of Westminster really does need all that land. But you are not explaining this to me: you are explaining it to bankrupt store managers who slotted themselves into a machine that promised a stable life and future, and then fired them out the back end when the economy turned. You’re explaining it to kids who did four years in university to graduate into a world they cannot practice their profession in. People are angry and they are going to force change. The question is in what areas can ground be given – in what areas can people be made accountable for their behavior on the way up the curve – which is not simply beheading people who are standing in the wrong crowd? The rich are not by their nature villains, and those who profiteered on lax regulation and more fundamentally, on unrealistic expectations are hard to pick out of the crowd in a manner which will satisfy people who have witnessed their pensions evaporate. People, in general, do not want blood, but they want to feel that the hardship is shared in at least a somewhat equitable manner. Irrational things like seeing the ultra-rich abandon their sixth home sooth people at a level which has little to do with reason. Strategic management of public outrage to produce positive change where possible (national transformation) without it turning into, ahem, class war requires real political innovation in government. Very serious thought should be given to designing those pressure valves before Summer 2009. Remember: creating positive ways for people to manage their outrage is vastly cheaper than policing. Destructive rage can be turned into constructive measures if there is a public perception of integrity and shared sacrifice in the process. In 2009, however, a public perception of integrity means actual integrity must be present and the same is true of shared sacrifice. Welcome to the panopticon.
4. How the young are to shape their lives when deprived of hope of progress through stable career paths. The vast majority of young people today will be poorer than their parents, often far poorer, and there are few if any cultural reserves to tell people that money is not the goal of life at that stage. Unrealistic expectations not backed by real productivity have built up most people’s understandings of their rational entitlements to implausible levels, and yet there is no clear path to puncturing those expectations in a manner which does not make a mockery of the investments that people have made in education, in simple work, and in career. The social contract between the individual, the state and the market has been violated, and there is no way to repair that damage in the short term, although sincere apologies help. The way out is offered by education, particularly liberal education and broad-based vocational training (plumbers who do roofs,) the arts, sports, musical culture – any area where a person can define themselves as successful, as worthy, even as great – without requiring massive access to money through a healthy, functioning economy. The “brass ring” is gone for perhaps an entire generation, but creative and productive use of talent should not have been artificially restricted to market success in the first place: money was how, not why, and it is by examining this fundamental identity again that we can find the creative freedom to offer cultural roles to people who might have wished to be rich, but find that path blocked.

infrastructure

some things i need to think about.

As previously noted, infrastructure is expensive. Making a service like electricity available can be very expensive. One approach to reducing those costs is to build big, efficient systems like power stations. But this requires a large organization to raise the capital required to construct the system, and a long period of stability to pay for it. Part of the success of the developed world is that it has successfully financed and deployed complex infrastructure systems, making basic services like electricity available, cheap and near-perfect. It involves science, technology, engineering, law, finance, a large and sophisticated manufacturing base, educated workers and many other systems to produce cheap and effective services.The ownership arrangements around essential services like electricity are often fiendishly complex mixtures of market relationships, law and governance. A typical arrangement is something like this. A government generates a contract to provide services, operate sections of a national grid. Companies bid to operate local power stations and sell power into the grid. Quality and standards are sometimes set by professional bodies which are not bound to any given nation state. These, plus fuel contracts, transportation contracts, health and safety regulations, anti-trust laws and so on comprise the complex system of ownership which lets you turn on a light switch. In general there are seven common layers of infrastructure ownership.
1. Individual 2. Household 3. Neighborhood / Village 4. Municipality / Town / City  5. Region 6. Country 7. International

Above the household layer infrastructure systems typically have complex and sometimes conflicted relationships between their owners, users and guards. Small-scale systems often have much simpler financial and administrative models, making them easier to deploy in distressed environments

***

3. Managing the causes of social unrest is vastly more effective than managing unrest. A lot of people – the old and the young – have lost their chosen futures. Pensions have evaporated, and graduating into a recession is a horrible experience. People need to see real accountability from those who skimmed the cream off the good times, and continue to skim it off the bad times. Yes, I understand the argument that paying reasonable salaries to top brass in banks will cause talent flight. Yes, I understand that the Duke of Westminster really does need all that land. But you are not explaining this to me: you are explaining it to bankrupt store managers who slotted themselves into a machine that promised a stable life and future, and then fired them out the back end when the economy turned. You’re explaining it to kids who did four years in university to graduate into a world they cannot practice their profession in. People are angry and they are going to force change. The question is in what areas can ground be given – in what areas can people be made accountable for their behavior on the way up the curve – which is not simply beheading people who are standing in the wrong crowd? The rich are not by their nature villains, and those who profiteered on lax regulation and more fundamentally, on unrealistic expectations are hard to pick out of the crowd in a manner which will satisfy people who have witnessed their pensions evaporate. People, in general, do not want blood, but they want to feel that the hardship is shared in at least a somewhat equitable manner. Irrational things like seeing the ultra-rich abandon their sixth home sooth people at a level which has little to do with reason. Strategic management of public outrage to produce positive change where possible (national transformation) without it turning into, ahem, class war requires real political innovation in government.

4. How the young are to shape their lives when deprived of hope of progress through stable career paths. The vast majority of young people today will be poorer than their parents, often far poorer, and there are few if any cultural reserves to tell people that money is not the goal of life at that stage. Unrealistic expectations not backed by real productivity have built up most people’s understandings of their rational entitlements to implausible levels, and yet there is no clear path to puncturing those expectations in a manner which does not make a mockery of the investments that people have made in education, in simple work, and in career. The social contract between the individual, the state and the market has been violated, and there is no way to repair that damage in the short term, although sincere apologies help. The way out is offered by education, particularly liberal education and broad-based vocational training (plumbers who do roofs,) the arts, sports, musical culture – any area where a person can define themselves as successful, as worthy, even as great – without requiring massive access to money through a healthy, functioning economy. The “brass ring” is gone for perhaps an entire generation, but creative and productive use of talent should not have been artificially restricted to market success in the first place: money was how, not why, and it is by examining this fundamental identity again that we can find the creative freedom to offer cultural roles to people who might have wished to be rich, but find that path blocked.

must be a full moon

i’m up another night at 3 am, driven awake by the relentless pressure of the full moon on my eyeballs.  as bodies of water, they too are affected by the moon’s tides, and so shit happens and i lay awake thinking for hours.  but now i’m down in the studio, with the dogs settling down around my feet, and i can proceed to think with my fingers.

tonight i was musing about the great and growing wealth disparity in this nation.  it pisses me off.  i’m not part of the 1% and it would be laughable to think i could ever get that way; nor would i want to be that rich, because i’m not stupid and i don’t think money buys happiness.  in fact, i’m fully aware that the rich have so much more debt than i ever will and so little free time, that they’re actually poor, and i’m the one who’s rich because i don’t owe anything or anybody.

but this is getting ridiculous, and people actually make $30,000,000 a week.  thirty million dollars a week.  one week.

my problem is translation.  how do i take the actual reality – the powerful are grabbing more power and the masses are getting fed up – and translate it to a fight over quantum physics, where the status quo is classical physics and the quantum side is suppressed?

they’re not even congruent subjects, they’re not analogous.  they are to me, emotionally, but my reason just sputters to a stop when i try to make a statement of it.  so let me see if i can work it out digitally.

the similarity is this.  when the gamers start manifesting quantum powers, the status quo is threatened to its core and responds with violent suppression.  when the huddled masses start manifesting the power of numbers, the plutarchy is threatened to its core and responds with violent suppression.

the problem is this – when a few people grab all the resources and leave the rest to fight over the crumbs, how do the rest behave?  we can see the result when we look at the middle east this year, but when we turn our eyes to our own country and a similar situation, we forget our words.  and when i try to translate it to quantum, i freeze up and my brain spins on a tangent.

i guess the analogy of quantum power is taking to the streets and saying we will not be moved.  it disrupts the hell out of the old order, calls all sorts of inconvenient things into public discourse, and illustrates novel ways to organize life.

when quantum effects begin occurring in the realworld, they disrupt the hell out of the way things are done, calls all the unspoken attitudes and inequalities out of the closet, and empowers a bottom up way of running the world.

this of course scares the hell out of people who live in reality, because reality is classical, newtonian, there’s one right answer, things are mechanistic and predictable, and if you started fucking with that you’d bring the whole thing down.  the old argument springs to mind  – if everybody stopped paying their credit card bills, the whole financial system would collapse.  and this would be bad because?  because, duh, our current system wouldn’t work anymore, the system where we live on credit and people take profits from labor they didn’t do, the system that uses debt to enslave people into bad jobs.

and this would be bad because?

i don’t think i’m hiding the fact that i think capitalism has had its day.  and this is not yet an offense under the law.  but it would be if the radical right had its way.  treason, it would be.  direct antiamericanism, because true patriotism and capitalism are the same thing.

or some such reasoning.  and that’s going to be an issue with me because i find it very difficult to understand how people can think this way.  how people who have no chance in hell of joining the 1% nevertheless act like poor people deserve nothing, and in fact, they really deserve a whole lot of nothing – negative nothing, to punish them for not being rich.

again, it makes no sense to me.  until i understand it as fear.  fear-based people think there’s not enough to go around, they have to get theirs first, and if they can have it all they will only begin to feel secure once everybody else is permanently prevented from even coveting it.

i’m the kind who want everybody to have theirs, and for those with more than they need to share theirs, because it’s not the money that counts.  it’s the happiness that counts.

and i can hear a whole bunch of my friends and family snort and chortle at that.  because happiness is unimportant.  it’s the things you have that matter.  it’s winning, being right, having everything you ever wanted.  but it’s never enough; none of my friends and family are happy with all they have, they’re actually unhappy because they don’t have enough yet, and they spend all their time focused on their lack and their abundance and they never enjoy themselves and can’t stop worrying and all that crap.

and if i never enjoy myself and can’t stop worrying, at least i’m not in debt and don’t have to go squandering my time and energy on someone else’s project in return for not enough to pay the extra bills i uncur by doing paid labor.  it’s like the simple solution to having more than one kid – the mom stays home because it would take all she could make just for childcare.  at a certain point, you can’t afford to work because of the hidden costs.

i’m going back to my analogy of the quantum videogame to the occupy movement.  quantum effects begin in the realworld.  they go unregarded by most, but certain watchful elements are freaked out and start screaming in the ears of the powerful that this is a really urgent threat.  the powers that be have enough problems, and ignore these early warnings.  shit continues to happen as a result of the game, and the warnings spread and grow more shrill.  when more shit happens, the media pick it up, and suddenly regular people feel threatened, and call for the powerful to do something to protect them from this evil menace.  so leaders are arrested and made examples of.  laws are passed.  sympathizers protest, and troops are called out to restore order, which means more sympathizers, etc, escalating right up to pantomime proportions where the powers that be are leaving the country and going underground while mobs rule the streets and the army fights its own people.  all the while, the evils of quantum are pounded into peoples’ heads, and those who use quantum are demonized, and punishments are bizarre, and neither side can talk to the other at all, and families turn against each other and civil war breaks out with one side having all the weapons and the other side having the weight of numbers.

i can’t get any more specific than that.  i have an emotional block i can only sense.  i’m going to have to get really specific about all this repression and struggle, down to the level of characters and named and faced Thems.  like in the moon is a harsh mistress, a reworking of the 18th century revolutionary war.  whereas at the moment i sound like a conspiracy theorist.

it’s just a tiny little quantum change in the realworld.  it starts when the testers are on level 1 fucking with the arcade game settings.  they are minute settings, but some instrument somewhere registers a whole bunch of realworld anomalies.  like maybe a satellite somewhere out in space collects a bunch of different measurements of the weight of the earth.  some unique measurement, anyway.  how many satellites are out there measuring the earth’s mass?  can’t be that many.  or maybe a whole bunch of sensors detect a wild fluctuation in the visible light spectrum.  something.

it takes a few tiny little things in a few different areas to freak people out.  maybe at first they think it’s an effect coming from the sun, like a solar storm.  or massive instrument error.  or massive human error.  or maybe it’s the core of the planet suddenly hiccoughing.  but then they realize that it’s happening to everything, everywhere, and that in fact it’s fucking with the fabric of the universe in a perhaps permanent nonzero way.

maybe one day the sun pulsates with the rhythm of something kurt’s listening to on his headphones while he’s working in the quantum kernel.

quantum effects on the macro level, maybe computer calculations start coming back with multiple answers, nonconsistent answers, quantum possibilities forced by classical mechanics to show up as consecutive different answers, so you could add 2+2 and keep coming up with different answers.  that would screw things up immediately.  there wouldn’t be a computer around that could cope with that for more than a few operations, say a tenth of a second.  we’d have to leave that for the end, i think.

it’s only after the public is exposed to kurt’s face in the clouds that the authorities admit there’s anything going on.

the boy and girl are busy making the game and putting all their quantum energy into making the game real.  so they don’t generate any quantum effects in the realworld.  kurt generates fleeting but definite effects when he’s working in the kernel, before it’s locked down and he dies.  the alpha testers start creating weak effects as they learn the game’s quantum techniques, but these are baby steps and very local.  however, it’s enough to have watchers notice them at dragoncon.  the testers notice the effects, think they are side-effects of gameplay, and only report them in the bug database.  the beta testers notice the effects, and assume they’re part of the game experience.  their quantum skills add to the effects the other testers are creating, and the notice is much sharper and more organized among the watchers.  the players notice the effects and begin to use them openly in their everyday lives, exulting in their quantum skills.  this is what freaks Them out.

the joyful use of sticks of dynamite by babies.  that’s why snake’s religion has so much purchase in the game, even the players are freaked out by their own quantum powers.  they believe it’s too dangerous for individuals to use, and think it should be owned by an elite few who can use it for everybody.  or so.  and this is really crazy, because they’re in the game learning quantum skills to be used by all, and insist on locking it up for the use of a few, even in the game.

but people are like that.  like my ex, over the other evening, who insisted that there is only one reality out there, and that at best, subjective reality is in error particularly because it differs according to one’s reference frame.   there is no relative reality, he insisted.  but quantum physics says there is, and quantum physics works in our everyday world.  your gps isn’t in error, is it?  but he ignored my arguments and called me arch.

so even among otherwise hip, reasonable people, you have this instinctive insistence that there is one right way, arguing for a punishing daddy god right out of the box.  you have to drag people kicking and screaming into being their own god.  most will willingly play god in a videogame, but suggest that they can live their own reality and they will scoff.  we do of course all live our own realities, and that’s why our memories of the exact same events will be markedly different from one another.  we call it subjective, and dismiss it as a lie our minds play on us.  but quantum physics suggests that these are actually different universes that we are remembering and that there’s nothing wrong with our minds.  we just need to learn to trust our own selves.  and who can do that, really?  who isn’t full of doubt really should be, and saints have the most doubts of all.  imagine how doubtful god is, especially if there’s only one?  if we’re all god, then we can talk it out and come to a consensus about reality, but who’s going to say there’s one right reality when we’re all god?  which of us has the one reality that the others are supposed to acknowledge?

this of course is why there’s only one god in the classical system.  because it’s easier.  there’d be endless argument about when the sun was going to come up if we all pitched in.  but this kind of classical view breaks down as we move from babyhood to something approaching adolescence as a species.  we learn to think outside our little heads, to experience wider reality, which isn’t as nice and orderly as classical physics would have us believe, and works a lot more on individual levels than anybody’s comfortable with.

except kids growing up with it.  and that’s why the change from classical consciousness to quantum consciousness is inevitable.  because the old order just fucking dies out.  it won’t change.  classical realists will never give up thinking there’s one god and it happens to be their god, and everybody else is going to hell.  but to quantum realists, they just look calcified and flattened.  and not part of the consensus, which is the reality.

plutonomy

the rich are getting richer, and they just love it; times couldn’t be better.  this is from the citigroup 2006 update to their 2005 report

Back in October, we coined the term ‘Plutonomy’ (The Global Investigator, Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances, October 14 2005). Our thesis is that the rich are the dominant drivers of demand in many economies around the world (the US, UK, Canada and Australia). These economies have seen the rich take an increasing share of income and wealth over the last 20 years, to the extent that the rich now dominate income, wealth and spending in these countries. Asset booms, a rising profit share and favourable treatment by market-friendly governments have allowed the rich to prosper and become a greater share of the economy in the plutonomy countries. Also, new media dissemination technologies like internet downloading, cable and satellite TV, have disproportionately increased the audiences, and hence gains to “superstars” – think golf, soccer, and baseball players, music/TV and movie icons, fashion models, designers, celebrity chefs etc. These “content” providers, the tech whizzes who own the pipes and distribution, the lawyers and bankers who intermediate globalization and productivity, the CEOs who lead the charge in converting globalization and technology to increase the profit share of the economy at the expense of labor, all contribute to plutonomy. Indeed, David Gordon and Ian Dew-Becker of the NBER demonstrate that the top 10%, particularly the top 1% of the US – the plutonomists in our parlance – have benefited disproportionately from the recent productivity surge in the US.

and the advertisers have picked up on it.

As the very rich become even richer,” as Ad Age observes, “they amass greater purchasing power, creating an increasingly concentrated market for luxury goods and services as well as consumer goods overall.”

In the future, if current trends continue, no one else but the rich will essentially matter — to Madison Avenue.

“More than ever before,” the new Ad Age paper bluntly sums up, “the wealthiest households will be the households with significant disposable income to spend.”

On the one hand, that makes things easy for Madison Avenue. To thrive in a top-heavy America, a marketer need only zero in on the rich. On the other hand, a real challenge remains: How can savvy Madison Avenue execs identify — and capture the consuming loyalties of — people on their way to wealth?

Before the Great Recession, the Madison Avenue conventional wisdom put great stock in the $100,000 to $200,000 income demographic, a consuming universe populated largely by men and women 35 years and older.

These “aspirational” households, ad men and women figured, could afford a taste of the good life. They rated as a worthwhile advertising target.

Targeting this $100,000 to $200,000 cohort, the new Ad Age report contends, no longer makes particularly good marketing sense. These consumers don’t “feel rich” today and won’t likely “graduate into affluence later on.”

Only under-35s who make between $100,000 and $200,000, says Ad Age, will likely make that graduation. This under-35 “emerging” tier will have “a far greater chance of eventually crossing the golden threshold of $200,000 than those who achieve household income of $100,000 later in life.”

Mad Men’s real-life ad agency brethren, 50 years ago, behaved the exact same way — for an eminently common-sense reason: In mid-20th century America, the entire U.S. economy revolved around middle class households. The vast bulk of U.S. income sat in middle class pockets.

The rich back then, for ad execs, constituted an afterthought, a niche market.

Not anymore. Madison Avenue has now come full circle. The rich no longer rate as a niche. Marketing to the rich — and those about to gain that status — has become the only game that really counts.

“Mass affluence,” as a new white paper from Ad Age, the advertising industry’s top trade journal, has just declared, “is over.”

The Mad Men 1960s America — where average families dominated the consumer market — has totally disappeared, this Ad Age New Wave of Affluence study details.

progressives versus regressives

this is research.  i didn’t make it up.  it’s offensive, but oh well.

conservative personality

•Religious dogmatism
•Right-wing political orientation (in Western society)
•Insistence on strict rules and punishments
•Ethnocentrism and intolerance of minority groups
•Preference for conventional art, clothing, and institutions
•Anti-hedonistic outlook (the tendency to regard pleasure, particularly sexual, as necessarily bad)
•Superstition and resistance to scientific progress (Boshier, 1983, p. 51)

The following is a series of statements or beliefs which can be attributed to the individual who manifests a conservative personality:
•Religion of a dogmatic and fundamental nature
•Commitment to political organizations which favor maintenance of the status quo (even by force)
•Strict regulation of individual behavior
•Militarism
•Preference for people of one’s own kind
•Resistance to change
•Conventional in art and clothing
•Refusal to accept new ideas
•Superstitious and fatalistic

at the core of political conservatism is the resistance to change and a tolerance for inequality, and that some of the common psychological factors linked to political conservatism include:
Fear and aggression
Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity
Uncertainty avoidance
Need for cognitive closure
Terror management

many people appear to shun and even punish outsiders and those who threaten the status of cherished world views. Concerns with fear and threat, likewise, can be linked to a second key dimension of conservatism – an endorsement of inequality

-***-

Over the last quarter of a century, psychological accounts of differences between liberals and conservatives have focused largely on the dimension of open-mindedness versus closed-mindedness. Building on earlier traditions of research on authoritarianism and uncertainty avoidance, numerous studies have shown that liberals tend to score higher than conservatives on individual difference measures of openness, cognitive flexibility, and integrative complexity. Furthermore, conservatives tend to possess stronger personal needs for order, structure, closure, and decisiveness in comparison with liberals. These findings and many others seem to fit an uncertainty-threat model of political orientation

Liberal/Left-Wing

Slovenly, ambiguous, indifferent
Eccentric, sensitive, individualistic
Open, tolerant, flexible
Life-loving, free, unpredictable
Creative, imaginative, curious
Expressive, enthusiastic
Excited, sensation-seeking
Desire for novelty, diversity
Uncontrolled, impulsive
Complex, nuanced
Open-minded
Open to experience

Conservative/Right-Wing

Definite, persistent, tenacious
Tough, masculine, firm
Reliable, trustworthy, faithful, loyal
Stable, consistent
Rigid, intolerant
Conventional, ordinary
Obedient, conformist
Fearful, threatened
Xenophobic, prejudiced
Orderly, organized
Parsimonious, thrifty, stingy
Clean, sterile
Obstinate, stubborn
Aggressive, angry, vengeful
Careful, practical, methodical
Withdrawn, reserved
Stern, cold, mechanical
Anxious, suspicious, obsessive
Self-controlled
Restrained, inhibited
Concerned with rules, norms
Moralistic
Simple, decisive
Closed-minded
Conscientious

traits such as expressive, excited, enthusiastic, sensitive, and tolerant—theorized to be stronger among liberals— as well as stern, cold, mechanical, withdrawn, reserved, stubborn, restrained, and inhibited—theorized to be stronger among conservatives

Liberals were more expressive, smiled more, and were more engaged in conversation with confederates. Conservatives did not generally behave in ways that reflected greater Conscientiousness. In the context of the experimental situation, conservatives behaved in a more detached and disengaged manner in general. Although this behavior was not indicative of Conscientiousness, it did reflect the kind of withdrawn, reserved, inhibited, and even rigid interaction style that many theorists have associated with conservatism over the years

Conservatives’ bedrooms tended to include more organizational items, includng event calendars and postage stamps. They also contained more conventional decorations and items, including sports paraphernalia, flags of various types, American flags in particular, and alcohol bottles and containers. In general, conservative bedrooms were somewhat neater, cleaner, fresher, organized, and well lit. They were also significantly more likely to contain household cleaning and mending accessories such as laundry baskets, irons and ironing boards, and string or thread. These results appear to confirm theoretical contentions that concerns with cleanliness, hygiene, and order are related to political conservatism (see Table 1). Conservative offices tended to be more conventional, less stylish, and less comfortable, in comparison with liberal offices. The bedrooms of liberals suggested that their occupants were indeed relatively high on Openness to Experience. They contained a significantly greater number and variety of books, including books about travel, ethnic issues, feminism, and music, as well as a greater number and variety of music CDs, including world music, folk music, classic and modern rock, and “oldies.” Liberal bedrooms also contained a greater number of art supplies, stationery, movie tickets, and a number of items pertaining to travel, including international maps, travel documents, books about travel, and cultural memorabilia. Offices and workspaces used by liberals were judged by our coders as being more distinctive, colorful, and “fresh,” and as containing more CDs and a greater variety of books.10 It should be noted that because of the fairly large number of statistical tests conducted, it is possible that some of the significant findings were obtained by chance. Results, therefore, should be interpreted with caution.

Liberals did appear to be more open, tolerant, creative, curious, expressive, enthusiastic, and drawn to novelty and diversity, in comparison with conservatives, who appeared to be more conventional, orderly, organized, neat, clean, withdrawn, reserved, and rigid.

unionizing amazon

I used to think a union started like this: You round up all the hotheads, get them in one room, and storm the castle. Which would be great if it were true because then it would only take a couple of weeks out of people’s lives instead of years. First you have to build a good organizing committee. Ideally, that means getting people from all jobs and shifts, ethnicities, genders-about one person for every ten workers-so you can talk to each other in some kind of sane fashion. These were things I’d learned talking to union folks at the WTO protests and I wanted to pass them on.

I had to find the people who could find the right people, not just anybody who was frustrated. They had to really love their jobs and love the company because those are the only people who would stick around to make it better. All of which meant that the people I was looking for were the ones who believed in Amazon and Bezos the most.

He was the one who told me Bezos was going to close the Seattle warehouse. It was too expensive to run. Huge fulfillment centers were springing up around the country. In Nevada, they were getting $5.15 an hour and people had to work 12-hour shifts, five days a week. Mandated overtime pay didn’t start until after 40 hours of a workweek. So when production lulled people were sent home or told not to come in the following day to shave costs. These were the new models. This was the future.

Shaving overtime by sending people home mid-shift, or giving them “the next few days off,” was the practice in Seattle too, but in Nevada there was no velvet glove, no nod to personal identity. Workers there were herded through long security lines and body searched on their way in and out before they could clock in. The ventilation was terrible and they got fired for the slightest complaint-at least these were the reports.

Some managers who had been sent out to these warehouses and had expressed concerns were fired. So were the managers who cast doubt on Bezos’ plan for mechanization. A few of them wrote a heartfelt letter to Jeff one night, and that was the end.

Everywhere we saw the movement of a new plan, something I was told Bezos and his upper echelon developed sequestered away in a wooded camp. Bezos apparently had a weakness for coded project names and, according to several of the longtime workers this one was originally, “Project Fargo.” But some of Bezos’ closest team had seen problems and voiced them. They, too, were fired. In fact, many of the 150 workers let go before the fourth-quarter posting were from upper management and appeared to be people who had quietly spoken against Project Fargo, which was Bezos’ plan to become the Walmart of the Internet.

People in the warehouse weren’t talking about the ethics of Project Fargo, though. Their issues were more immediate. Temps were flooding in and benefitted employees out. There was a production speed up. Wages were half the local, living wage. Health care was inaccessible. Furthermore, stock options, which had been the carrot, were becoming worthless. If you weren’t there in 1997 when Amazon went public, you were out of luck.

You had to buy in at prices as high as $105 a share, which is hard to do on $9 an hour. Those who had were watching their stock plummet. Between December 1999 and the close of 2000, the stock’s value fell by 90 percent.  Beyond that, small things irked people. Bezos was buying multimillion-dollar companies left and right and simultaneously taking the free Tylenol away, which, let me tell you, the Amazon employees needed. And everywhere, on the periphery, was the threat of closure.

Workers I met over the next few weeks whispered about conditions in the Nevada warehouse, glad they weren’t there. Some feared it would happen in Seattle but most felt protected. They trusted Bezos and many of them worked with him. They felt a part of Amazon’s success and were proud of what they’d built. I frequently heard people say that if “Jeff” knew what was going on in the warehouse, a whole bunch of things would change.

But Bezos had been hiring Walmart executives for a couple of years by then, specifically so that they could redesign the distribution centers. Walmart actually sued him in late 1998, claiming he was hiring for privileged operational information about Walmart warehouses. They settled out of court but Bezos was ordered to move some of the ex-Walmart executives into other departments. The changes, however, were already in motion. The idea that “Jeff” was the good king away from the castle remained. It was one of the hardest things to let go because it meant what you believed in might be a lie and that’s a blow to anyone.

Our first organizing committee meeting was held in a small apartment and there were about six of us. I had invited an organizer from the ILWU to come talk about labor law. Among the employees, the big surprise was that this one woman, greatly admired by her coworkers and an extremely loyal employee, had shown up. And she was pissed. She had kids and the overtime stoplight was the bane of her life. She was sick of spending all her money on emergency childcare and having to tell her kids she wasn’t going to be able to come home, again. She was a key part of the operation and few people could step in to do what she did, so for her, the yellow stoplight may as well have been red. She was mandated to stay. One day during Christmas, she couldn’t get extra childcare to cover and said she was going to have to go home. They told her she might not have a job when she came back. For most of us without kids that ridiculous stoplight was an annoyance. For her it was nightmare. She wanted to organize to change stuff like that. That was the character of the whole group. They wanted to make Amazon better.

Organizing had died out in the warehouse over the summer when Amazon announced they were letting go of 70 percent of their permanent workforce by fall. They couldn’t say which 70 percent, though, which is certainly one way to keep people on their toes. As always, the assertion among employees that they weren’t really “workers,” but rather, “associates” made it more difficult to organize them.

After the stock Market crash in 1929, the German philosopher Kracauer looked around at his generation of workers and said-they don’t know where they belong. He saw the piano lessons of the would-be bourgeois girls training them for typing pools. He claimed the “social space of the office” was creating a working class alienated from its own issues and he dubbed them the Salaria. They were paid like workers but their self-conception was bourgeois. And he attributed their numbers to the rapidly growing workforce that was emerging “out of the apparatus of distribution.”

With the Occupy movement now reinvigorating the discourse on class, and our narratives on tech gurus like Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos crystallizing into myth, it is worth reflecting on one of the moments when our models of identity as it relates to business shifted gears. In the close of 2011, I can say that I know a couple of millionaires. I know way more people who make under $25,000. I know almost nobody in the middle. In many ways, Amazon is the perfect snow globe of late stage capitalism. You shake it up and watch the pieces fall into place, but no one can call it a natural process. The brilliance of their approach was that they let you belong. They wanted your ideas. They took them and made money off them and paid you $9.50 if you put in some years. But for a generation of latchkey kids, many of whom craved that tribal sense of belonging more than anything, it really was a family.

WashTech was beaten on the customer service side a year after I left. Subsequent drives were squelched wherever they came up. Mostly they didn’t get started because temps aren’t legally employees and have no rights. In 2001 Bezos hired the Burke Group, the most formidable “union avoidance” consultants in the world, to address his labor problems. He was getting taken to court in the United Kingdom and needed an aggressive campaign to get around the stronger labor culture. In the US, more fulfillment centers opened in states where union shops were illegal. I still see small headlines here and there, on this failed Amazon union drive or that, or some worker passing out from exhaustion. Just last week, Germany’s Der Speigel railed on Amazon’s practice of repeatedly hiring temps for two weeks, letting them go, then rehiring them so that they were paid out of German job creation subsidies. But it all goes by in the background, a video stream or a shortened link on twitter.

Today, I think Amazon probably did know about me, and that what they knew was that I was essentially harmless. I was more valuable for my production speed than dangerous for my organizing. But to make the case that Amazon is anti-union barely approaches relevance. Most companies are anti-union, that’s not important right now. What made Amazon unique was the way in which it was.

Bezos once bragged in a Wall Street Journal interview that he told temp agencies to hire the “freaks.” The assumption at the time was that Bezos wanted creativity. But his creative staff wasn’t coming out of the temp agencies, the warehouse recruits were. And I never met a “freak” who wouldn’t throw over a decent wage to work somewhere lousy if they felt they belonged. These were people who wanted to be a part of something. They wanted to be valued for who they were, rather than what they produced. I often wondered if what Bezos really figured out was that if you gave freaks a home, they would give you everything they had-their best ideas, their longest days, and their rights on the job.

sit down strikes

The sit-down strike movement began January 27, 1936, when workers at the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. in Akron, Ohio, sat down on the job to protest the company’s suspension of an official in the workers’ union. Fifty-five hours later, the company capitulated, reinstating the union official with back pay and even compensating the strikers (at half-pay) for the time during which they occupied the plant. Successful imitation strikes were soon launched at other tire factories.

Workers were willing to use nonlethal force to defend their occupations, and they managed to repel attempts to forcibly remove them. The number of strikes mushroomed. In 1937 alone, roughly 400,000 workers participated in nearly 500 sit-down strikes. The GM sit-down strike in Flint involved tens of thousands of workers and was resolved just as the Supreme Court was hearing arguments in a pivotal case concerning the constitutionality of federal labor laws. Indeed, several legal historians attribute the court’s famous “switch in time” — upholding the National Labor Relations Act in the case of NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. — to the sit-down strikes.

A generation later, the 1960 sit-ins began as seemingly spontaneous lunch-counter occupations by college students in Greensboro, North Carolina. They quickly spread to dozens of cities throughout the South. Now canonized, at the time they were extremely controversial, even among African-American civil-rights veterans. Thurgood Marshall was notoriously furious with the students for violating private property rights in a way that he both opposed in principle and feared might generate a backlash.

Despite Marshall’s worries, the students were more successful than anyone could have hoped. They were well-organized and committed to nonviolence, and their quiet discipline was only made more visible by the hoodlums who frequently assaulted them. Their actions smoothed the road for the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which (among other things) prohibits racial discrimination at lunch counters.

Although political theorists typically make room in their accounts of democratic politics for principled disobedience, most distinguish conscientious lawbreaking from disobedience motivated by self-interest. But the categories of self-interested and conscientious lawbreaking are not easily separated. Moreover, far from discrediting acts of disobedience, an intermingling of the strategy of principled lawbreaking with a degree of self-interest can actually render a protest more intelligible to nonparticipants.

In shifting their efforts away from public parks and toward foreclosed homes, Occupy is forging a tighter link between its acts of occupation and its political objections. This will ultimately enhance the effectiveness of its message. It also brings Occupy Wall Street more closely into line with the most effective occupation movements of the past century.

occupy techniques

A novel counter approach to guns and pitchforks is the video camera that documents the police state. Deplorably the ordinary exploited bystander is characterized as an extremist and soon will be incarcerated into internment camps, built by the Uber Elite. What many naive observers see is not the brutality of the Gestapo police, but the disrespect of the unclean protestors of the Capitalist kingdom.

Most Americans refuse to face the facts of their enslavement and rather condemn the social rebel. Bringing true social justice to an economic system that has eliminated all vestiges of real Free Market enterprise is viewed as a betrayal.

The establishment refines the elements of mass propaganda and psychological indoctrination to create image campaigns that the system is a moderate and stable force, and must be maintained. As with most left or progressive oriented mindsets, the articulation of social wrongs and injustices are often well stated. However, when it comes to providing meaningful alternatives, the peasants just demand a larger sliced of bread because they are unable to learn the skills to bake their own cake.

Until society embraces the insight that the establishment is behind most radical social movements, they will just keep falling into a dark coffin, designed for them by the very elites that they protect.

act 3

back in the real world, the game hits and people love it.  tho it has no corporate backing, it goes viral.  music and fashions change and a distinctive culture grows up right away.  as the game grows, so do the boy’s ambitions.  he is both pope and king of this new quantum universe.  funny quantum things start happening in the real world.  the press picks up on it.  the right picks up on it.  there is an outcry.  quantum physics is demonized.  laws are passed, or brushed off and creatively applied.  demonstrations happen.  there is police brutality.  more people gather.  the boy feels dissed when the dominant culture brands him a devil.  the girl is focused on seeing the game to a position of self-sufficiency (critical mass) and doesn’t care, but the boy is looking to the future, and decides that he needs to take control of everything because of the threat from the dominant culture.

inside the game, lots of players are learning social movement and resistance skills, and more players are working their way to level ! and going off to create their own worlds and recruit their own players.  the outcry grows shriller and more frantic.  the repressions grow more brutal.  the crowds grow and grow.  quantum effects become more frequent.  more laws, more crowds, more riots, more disappearances.

the boy is approached by the other side and decides they can be used for his own ends, and cuts them in.  people use the skills they have been learning playing the game to change the standing of the people.  the dominant culture falls back in confusion, but come back with more force and repression, isolating the rebels and cutting off vital supply chains.

they start to dictate policy, the boy changes things in the game, altering rules and missions, twisting the lessons, identifying and capturing certain types of players.  he discovers the sabotage the replacement programmer inserted into the game and confronts him.  they join forces, blame the engine programmer for the sabotage and call into question the intent and purpose of the quantum kernel.

the girl stands up to him and throws him out, but she is too weak and disorganized, and he returns with backup, leading the call for the kernel’s confiscation because of its vast power, only to try and steal it himself, and in a struggle over a decoherence bomb, sets it off and destroys the original kernel.
the dominant culture is poised to deal the final blow to the resistance, cutting off all outlets, all communications, all supplies, all power, so there is no more game except on individual computers running on batteries or solar, because the internet itself has been shut down.

then a miracle happens.  the quantum effects keep happening in the real world.  the game’s internal communications structures are still intact, and people are still using the quantum skills they’ve developed, and still coming out in force.  but the perception of the masses has changed, and the powers of the dominant culture suddenly shatter because they’re emperor’s new clothes.  so the remains of the dominant culture squeeze itself into their gated communities and fight among themselves for limited resources while the new dominant culture enshrines the new institutions it has developed in response to the repression of the old order., and people quietly create the world they want to live in house by house.

and the story closes by letting the reader choose the ending.

diogenes and the power of the disadvantaged

this is very important.  i’m reposting it minus its notes but otherwise whole.  the dispossessed can have no stronghold, there is only winning thru theater.

SUBVERSIVE TACTICS OF NEUROLOGICALLY DIVERSE CULTURES

By Ine Gevers
The DeCenter, Center for Neurologically Diverse Cultures,founded in 1999, aims to de-marginalize the positions of autistics (and people with related “disorders”) and to support the self-representation of these and other cultures of people who are “differently brained.”

Even though mental disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and learning disabilities are far from comparable from a medical point of view, such disorders suggest a united opposition against normative culture that the DeCenter seeks to promulgate. There is little chance for self-advocacy and self-representation of people with such disorders if autistics and their many correlatives accept the extensive labelling with which the medical discourse attempts to distinguish one disorder from an other. There are certainly appropriate reasons to differentiate between Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Rett’s Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDDNOS)—all of which are DSM-III terms referring to differentiated autistic conditions. But when issues emerge like how to acquire an identity, how to meet sisters or brothers with similar modes of perception and ways of thinking, how to integrate in a community to guide you in developing empowering strategies, this labelling can seem an endless fragmentation of useless nomenclature.

Inspired by a number of philosophical and artistic positions, the DeCenter is interested in researching and representing alternative modes of viewing, of interpreting and interacting with the world. Many of these alternative systems of signification may have started out purely as individuals’ tactical maneuvers for survival in a dominant order or culture. Some people, sharing similar disadvantaged positions, have managed to celebrate these methods as alternative modes of consciousness and as interfaces from which to relate to the world. The DeCenter pursues the possibility that more than one symbolic order—the order of language and symbolic representation—will allow for other ways of meaningfully engaging with reality than those prescribed by the dominant culture. The DeCenter initiates and guides projects and cultural interventions which try to place these different “languages” on the map. The projects of the DeCenter aim at “transcultural” communication between so-called neurologically typical (a term autistics tend to use in reference to “normal” people) and neurologically diverse cultures whose (extra)symbolic order is based on alternative operating tools with which to engage the world.

The writings of the French historian and ethnologist Michel de Certeau enable us to evaluate the strength of counteractions launched by those whose brains are differently organized. De Certeau’s celebration of “the Other,” in its most pluralistic sense, is an important source of inspiration for the DeCenter. The tactics used by these “Others” in resisting and surviving the normative order are described in his book, The Practice of Everyday Life. De Certeau writes of these tactics as diversionary practices, which he compares with “la perruque’” (a French term for engaging in personal activities on company time).

De Certeau distinguishes between strategies and tactics: contrary to strategies employed by those in power, who “postulate their proper place from which to manage and dominate the world around,” those without power must calculate their actions using subversive tactics in a space which is not their own. De Certeau describes these alternative operating tactics as forms of “bricolage” (like building a house from bottom to top without any plan).

The interaction between Spanish colonizers and indigenous Indian populations resulted in an attendant cultural ambiguity characteristic of bricolage: indigenous Indians subverted Spanish colonizers’ “success” in imposing their culture by dismantling it from within. Submitting, and even consenting to their subjection under the Spanish regime, the Indians nonetheless made use of the rituals, representations, and laws that were imposed on them in ways completely different from those which their conquerors intended. They subverted the colonizer’s practices not so much by rejecting or altering them, but by using them to their own ends and purposes. De Certeau writes:

They were other within the very colonization that outwardly assimilated them; their use of the dominant social order deflected its power, which they lacked the means to challenge; they escaped it without leaving it. The strength of their difference lay in procedures of ‘consumption.’

Whether it is in walking, cooking or speaking, users of such a “productive consumption” make innumerable and infinitesimal transformations within the dominant cultural economy, altering and adapting it to their own interests, their own rules. This kind of subversion is viable for even the most disadvantaged and victimized groups in our society. De Certeau for instance compares the “signifying practices” of consumers within their jungle of functionalist rationality with the “wandering lines’” (lignes d’erre) drawn by autistic children as studied by the French pedagogue Francois Deligny:

These children trace “indeterminate trajectories” that are apparently meaningless, since they do not cohere with the constructed, written and prefabricated space through which they move. These (trajectories IG) are sentences that remain unpredictable within the space ordered by the organizing of techniques and systems. Although they use as their material the vocabularies of established languages (those of television, newspapers, the supermarket or city planning), although they remain within the framework of prescribed syntaxes (the temporal modes of schedules, paradigmatic organizations of places), these “traverses” remain heterogeneous to the systems they infiltrate and in which they sketch out the guileful rules of different interests and desires.

The space of the disadvantaged is always the space of the Other. The disadvantaged must use alternative tactics within a terrain imposed and organized by laws and rules they did not create. “It operates in isolated actions, blow by blow, takes advantage of ‘opportunities’ and depends on them, being without any base where it could stockpile its winnings, build up its position, and plan raids. What it wins it cannot keep. This nowhere gives a tactic mobility, to be sure, but a mobility that must accept the chance offerings of the moment, and seize on the wing the possibilities that offer themselves at any given moment.” These “nowhere” or “non-places,” as de Certeau refers to them in The Mystic Fable, are of tremendous strategic value. A non-place is, on the one hand, the necessary precondition for those in power to create their own community (to create their sense of place at the expense of those who are excluded), while on the other hand, such a non-place suggests the only possible place from which to critique and undermine normative culture, language and the meanings we tend to take for granted when embedded in a particular place.

De Certeau’s concept of “non-place” or “nowhere” is not his invention. For centuries, artists and thinkers have been seeking and finding (or creating) places from which to attain power through subtle acts of manipulation and play—non-places where they could withdraw, hide, and from which they could raise voices against normative order by employing guises, by appropriating the media and creating cultural interruptions. The German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk uses a whole set of alternative tools but his work covers familiar territory and reaches some strikingly similar conclusions.

In his book, Critique of Cynical Reason — a careful play with Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason — Sloterdijk attempts to explain the difference between “cynical reason” and “kynical irony.’” Cynical reason is, in his opinion, “enlightened false consciousness.” The cynic knows his beliefs to be false or ideological, but holds to them nonetheless for the sake of self-protection, as a way to negotiate the contradictory demands placed upon him. In other words, a cynic is a person who recognizes the reality of aesthetic conflict or political contradiction, but who disavows this contradiction nonetheless. Actually, the cynic just ignores this reality, and hence is almost impervious to ideology critique. Already demystified, already enlightened about his ideological relation to the world, the cynic believes himself beyond the need for self reflection and feels superior to ideology critics. Ideological and enlightened at the same time, the cynic is, to quote Sloterdijk, “reflexively buffered”: his very splitting armors him, his very ambivalence renders him immune.

Opposed to cynical reason is what Sloterdijk names “kynical irony,” the bold resistance of truth laid bare. The two are not always distinct. In fact, the one follows from the other (both cynicism and kynicism are constants in history) and, according to Sloterdijk, only within a balanced situation between these two states of mind (perceptions of things) can a third version of the notion of cynicism evolve to become a “phenomenology of polemic states of awareness.”

So what is this kynicism? Where cynicism embodies repression, kynicism shows resistance, where cynicism comes near to a splitting of the self, kynicism becomes the embodiment of such a resistance. For instance, the boldness of the famous Greek philosopher Diogenes is a good example. According to Sloterdijk, Diogenes’ so-called embodied philosophy contains a method and a manner of argumentation — kynismos — to which any serious thinking has no reply. Through the fundamental philosophic practice of kynismos, there is no division between agent and cause, between theory and practice. In fact, the embodiment of a certain conviction here implies making yourself the medium of that message (which is the opposite of demanding a certain behavior according to a certain set of moral ideals). And so, Diogenes picks his nose when Socrates conjures the oracle of Daimon to speak about the divine soul; Diogenes reacts to Plato’s doctrine of Ideas by farting, and masturbates in public to mock Plato’s theory of Eros. Diogenes despises fame, has no consideration for architecture, refuses to show respect, parodies the narrations of Gods and heroes, jokes with prostitutes, and tells Alexander the Great to move out of his sunlight. These are just a few examples from a life full of provocative behavior. Such behavior can be read as so many subversive variations of a burlesque “low theory” that pushes to the extreme a practical embodiment of philosophy through a grotesque pantomime. As such, Diogenes’ philosophic practice contrasts with the “elevated theory” that ever since Plato, has cut off ties to material embodiment.

One can say that Diogenes started the resistance against the propped-up discourse of European philosophy. His, is a straightforward assault upon the swindling of idealistic abstractions and the silliness of an abstract thinking. In fact Diogenes replies to the languages of abstract philosophers with that of a fool; he makes use of the same tools, first by turning idealistic truths into their materialistic opposite, second by doing so publicly.

Throughout history the threat of this kind of kynical cultural revolution (laying bare the low, the distinct and the particular; showing the opposite of abstract ideas and moral convictions) has been picked up again and again. Art, as Sloterdijk points out, is the ultimate region that has repeatedly revived this neo-kynical undercurrent. Through art, kynicism teaches us the maneuverability, the decisiveness, and the ability to adapt to the possibilities of the moment. The same qualities are mentioned by de Certeau. Whenever the time is right, these bold “Others” are the ones capable of inverting, transforming, and making changes that produce new meanings.

Mental states of artists and philosophers are of course not necessarily “different” in any medically or pathologically established way. Although sometimes it is indeed a thin line that divides the officially diagnosed neurological difference from the eccentric mind of a genius (Albert Einstein is said to have had Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Ludwig Wittgenstein probably had Asperger Syndrome), in general the possibility of choice remains for the latter and a more or less permanent position of disadvantage for the former. Nonetheless, it is probably for reasons of empathy and recognition that artists have made so many serious attempts to side with the idiot or “mad Other.” Often these moments of collaboration and support did not achieve the effect the artists wished for. Mostly, these incommensurate worlds remain separate. Even within an artistic or philosophical context it is deemed utterly impossible to represent the “mad Other’,” whether by imitating insanity or any other way of translating it to a dominant discourse. Stuck in a dualistic worldview that presupposing sameness, it has proven extremely difficult to see beyond external signs of difference. These variations are repeatedly viewed as deviations in language, self organization and/or social behavior.

Some poststructuralist philosophers have made major attempts to resolve this binary reductivism, but unfortunately, they tend to rely on situations highly abstracted from everyday life. In the course of life, it may be an almost impossible task to escape the system of signs through which each of us is compared and measured—on a scale from fully identical (conformist) to absolutely different (deviant). This classificatory symbolic order persists, even though Homi Bhaba, Judith Butler and many other “Others” have shown that Otherness is not measurable in this way. Any attempt to assimilate the Other to the terms of the selfsame necessarily robs it of the very “difference” that makes the other “Other”; falling back onto the scale of sameness unavoidably leads to misrecognition. We are necessarily limited in approaching the neurologically different unless we are willing to examine our own limits, our own idiocy, our own imprisonment in language and the culture of the norm.

There are exceptions. At the turn of the 20th century there were artists who took it upon themselves to reveal something of this inner madness. In some instances, they pointed to the incarceration within the operations of language and writing, in other cases, they highlighted society’s entrapment in its own mechanistic and unifying instrumentalism (Marcel Duchamp, Franz Kafka, Antonin Artaud). One of their formal tactics in undermining the supremacy of a means-and-end society that idolizes and celebrates its own techniques, its own administration, and its own rationality, is of course to pinpoint exactly those characteristics and then invert them. This is how the assemblage-principle, a practice of both Dadaist and Surrealist artists, can be understood. These interventions became essential to their “anti-aesthetical” practices for which they became famous.

The assemblage-principle enabled Dadaist artists to invert the system in which they were captured from within, and in doing so, they were able to show its ugliness, its abjectness, its wounds. In fact they laid bare the violence that was necessary to achieve the (dominant) symbolic order, even as it was sublimated to fully abstracted heights. According to Adorno the montage is: “the expression of a subject who, because he can no longer speak, must speak through things, through their alienated and injured form.”11 Along these same lines, it is also possible to interpret the intentionally incoherent conjunction of cries, noises, carnavalesque gatherings and absurd buffoonery of Dadaist artists like Arthur Cravan and Jacques Vache. Surrealism eventually resolutely sided itself with insanity. Disconnected from the conscious, well-adjusted and civilized individual in a kind of mimetic regression, its “other” side was exposed, as it were: the speechless chaos, the bloody tracks, and the abject remains to which rationality owes its success in attempting to achieve total control.

Another artistic attempt to reveal the madness of society’s means-and-end logic has been the turn to non-production. By becoming “the in-famous hero” artists laid bare the many exchange values of cultural economy. Non-production, or production only for the one who produces (living your life only for yourself), and madness go hand-in-hand in a joint attempt to challenge society’s neuroses called capitalism. Probably for much the same reason, French philosopher Michel Foucault gave one of his papers on madness the title: “Madness, the Absence of Work.” But there is a mirroring aspect to this insistence on non-production or production for oneself as well.

In Le Réel, traité de l’idiotie, Clement Rosset introduces his writing on Duchamps’ non-production by making an interesting comparison with what he explains to be the actual meaning of the term “idiot.” Apart from describing idiotic behavior as “simple, particular, unique,” Rosset states that, in fact, all persons are equally idiotic in the sense of “existing for themselves only.” The second definition of the idiot is more widely known: that of the irrational reaching towards pathology, of immaturity that approaches folly. To this Rosset adds: “somebody who is deprived from his intelligence, who has lost his reason.”

Here is another trajectory where the notion of the idiot fluently engages the tactic of the fool. Some historians have even gone so far as to state that the whole of modernity can be characterized by the invention of laughter (Marcel Duchamp, Samuel Beckett). It is through laughter and irony that art and idiocy come close enough to both become “strangers” within dominant culture, intruders in a society full of norms and rules. Of course such a mutually supporting context only works at those very moments in which both the cultural and the natural fool manage to merge so that clear distinctions can no longer be made between them. Or, to follow the words of Gilles Deleuze in analyzing the possibilities of a true politics of anti-psychiatry: “Here, madness would no longer exist as madness, not because it would have been transformed into ‘mental illness’, but on the contrary because it would receive the support of all the other flows, including science and art.”

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, as well as Michel Foucault have made serious attempts to approach madness from a critical cultural perspective rather then blindly following the still dominant medical/psychoanalytical view. Instead, they question the idiocy which characterizes normative societies. Foucault does so by declaring that humanity takes as its starting point limitation rather than freedom — with language as its largest organizer of prohibitions. He states that with the future elimination of the visible face of madness (through pharmacological control, genetic engineering and other methods of neutralization) something extremely valuable will be lost to humankind forever. In that near future, madness — almost “naturally” transgressive of the limits of language and therefore equated with forbidden language — might prove to have been the only unlocked door through which culture could have gotten to know itself.

Deleuze and Guattari more or less place the neurotic (who is accepted as normal within contemporary society) on the same plane as the idiot (who is not). According to Deleuze and Guattari, the neurotic is trapped within the residual or artificial territorialities of current capitalist and oedipalized society, only to be freed by flows of what they call deterritorialization, introduced by celebratory schizoid breakthroughs. Fruitful as these theoretical detours may be, the romanticising tendency in their celebration of the “mad Other” worries me. Deleuze’s Schizo for instance has been popularised to such an extent that the whole term has become hollow and meaningless. Aren’t we all schizos in postmodern society? Indeed, we all have split minds. The problem is that, whereas “normally brained” people do not seem to have any problem living such lives, people who have been diagnosed as schizophrenic are somehow unable to make necessary transitions.

Without falling into the trap of implying that one signifying practice would be better than another, I think the first step in coming to understand neurologically diverse cultures is to acknowledge the limitations of the “neurologically typical.” Most people have not considered that there might be other ways to participate meaningfully in life besides taking refuge in the symbolic order, in abstracted language, in adapting to the norm, subjecting to the illusion that this will protect us from being devoured by reality. Preoccupied with its own system of management and control, the dominant order does not acknowledge, indeed, may not even be able to recognize, the importance of the atypically brained. Yet, it is this diversity in mental states that provides us with the pluralism of meaning that may well be essential to the survival of humanity at large.

With biotechnological and digital revolutions promising us ever new territories of freedom, we easily forget about those very constraints by which we still are captured. Take the invention of cyberspace: informed by gen-technology, globalization and virtual reality, we are seduced by the promise of the disappearance of old schemata. No longer are we tied to our own physical contexts.
Geographical restraints or cultural frameworks have become interchangeable too. We just zap or mouse from one context to the next, like eternal nomads. Perceptions, processes of thought, and new neurological networks develop in less then no time. Generations evolve more and more quickly and have increasing difficulties with cross-generational communication. Like machines that have rapidly become obsolete, today’s generations are no longer compatible with each other. In some areas, intelligence is no longer measured as a static potential, but instead is measured in terms of adaptability.

Of course many of these signs of a rapidly changing society are not negative. The existing symbolic order is about to explode. Some conclusions are, however, drawn too quickly. For instance, on what effect these developments may have on the existing symbolic order. Some assume this order has already come to a full implosion. The symbolic, but at the same time transparent, world order we have shared for centuries is being rapidly replaced by cyberspace. Far from transparent, this new lifeworld is said to be premodern and concrete. It is a world of signs and images that has no need for any reference besides its own blunt existence. No longer requiring any knowledge of the referent behind the screen, this new technology creates full opportunity for escape. The practice of taking things “at their interface value” is criticized by Slovenian cultural critic, Slavoj Zizek. In his opinion, we place too much confidence in the screen. We lose ourselves in the play of appearances.

With a complete implosion of the symbolic as the result of digital revolution, the symbolic representation of reality would be scattered. And, without a thorough evolutionary preparation, we will find ourselves in the midst of an irreparable disintegration of perception and meaning. Having lost the underlying structure, our system of ordering information and making sense of the world, we will have lost our self-evident skills to interpret the world. All shared meaning will disappear. Without a standard frame of reference, people, and even the most familiar objects, will no longer be recognizable. Even words will not come automatically anymore. The necessary illusion of subjectivity and identity will no longer be a given. No longer capable of differentiating between inside and outside, there will be no way we to distinguish ourselves from others. Having lost the screen, which not only translates the world for us but protects us from a devouring reality, we will be hopelessly lost. We can only pray that there might then still be some schizophrenics and autistics around, whose tactics of survival remain untouched, to guide us through an as yet unknown land.
With the DeCenter, we create some distinctive turbulence within (the narrowly defined) symbolic order predicated on the power of language. The DeCenter was founded to give form to research and projects dealing with communication between people who differ profoundly in terms of the functioning of their brains. People who are neurologically different — people with autism, schizophrenia and/or related developmental disorders – are, through the DeCenter, supported in their attempts for self-advocacy and self-representation as distinct cultures. The positions we aim for implies an acceptance of these “other” modes of perception, signification, behavior and communication, even if incompatible with(in) the dominant order. In fact, we try to put into practice Michel de Certeau’s notions of resistance tactics for the disadvantaged by inviting people who are differently brained to actually tell their stories, or display their alternative tactics of survival and modes of communication. By taking a critical stance towards the normative order, often in a humorous and playful way, many contribute to a relatively new discourse: one that investigates the concept of physical and/or mental disability as a social construct. This discourse focuses on why the exclusion of disabled people has seldom been questioned, whereas disability has always existed in any culture, at any historical moment. In part, this is due to the biological/medical view that still dominates the discourse regarding people who are said to be physically and/or mentally disabled. People who have been diagnosed with a developmental disorder, a psychiatric disease or other physical/mental disabilities can either be cured and become like us, or they must settle for life at the periphery of society. The dualistic worldview on which the medical model is still based (operating in terms of normal-abnormal, sane-insane, healthy-ill) has in fact played a major role in the segregation of people with disabilities and in the labeling of them as aberrant, deviant, abnormal. As such, for centuries the medical model has discouraged full citizenship for people with disabilities.

A new, humanities-oriented approach to disability has begun to present alternative perspectives. Disability studies links in with, and borrows from, many fields and movements, including cultural studies, area studies, feminism, race-and-ethnic studies, and gay-and-lesbian studies. New-style disability researchers consider disability as an ordinary human variation, like gender, race or ethnicity, and approach the topic accordingly. Informed by post-structuralist literary and cultural criticism, this new area of critical discourse pulls apart concepts about disability to see what cultural attitudes, antagonisms and insecurities went into shaping them.

A reconsideration of people who are differently brained is partly instigated by this new discourse. Other sources of inspiration include the activist projects of younger generations of people diagnosed as having High Functioning Autism, Asperger Syndrome, or Schizophrenia. By communicating on the Internet, and/or by publishing their personal stories, more and more people who perceive, think, and act differently than what has been accepted as “normal” are coming out. People with autism organize themselves in self-help and self-advocacy groups and they represent themselves as a separate communities. The culture of autism as a mode of being has already become accepted in some medical circles as well as in sociological and cultural research. Autistics, schizophrenics and other people whose brains are differently organized than what is generally accepted as mainstream, will introduce their own symbolic orders into culture at large. Different mental capacities through which to know and experience the world will not only contribute variety to a pluriform society, they may even be welcomed as proffered escape-routes necessary to deal with a crisis of meaning that has haunted us ever since we started to take meaning, mind and self for granted as fixed entities beyond our reach.

our open prison

this is so important i’m reposting it in its entirety (except footnotes)

Penitentiary Urbanism

In many ways, American ghettos resemble prisons. On an aesthetic level first, the architecture often looks defensive and authoritarian: straight angles, windowless walls, raw bricks, high buildings, long stretches of cubical houses, gridded streets, fenced windows, closed lots, barbed wire, guard dogs, and surveillance cameras. Public buildings such as prisons, police stations, hospitals, governmental agencies, schools, and residential housing all have similar architecture. In addition, ghettos are usually isolated geographically or at least out of sight. They are blind spots on the psychogeographic map of the socially integrated population. Like a mental system, the city forgets what it does not want to see.

Kea Tawana on top on his Ark. Photo by Camilo Jose Vergara

New York City ghettos are disconnected from the rest of society, but are in no way autonomous. Police presence has increased in recent years and public buildings attest the presence of the state. The omnipresence of the grid reminds residents that the space they inhabit is planned and controlled. Abandoned buildings usually fall into ruin, and junk often piles up on the streets. The destruction of the Ark that an enlightened Newark resident built on a vacant lot exemplifies the spatial politics of the authorities. What artist Kea Tawana constructed to symbolize unity and hope was destroyed by order of the courts, along with his self-constructed house [Vergara: 1999, 159]. Prohibiting personal intervention clearly means that that the land does not belong to those who live on it. It posits the state as an exterior, supreme, and dominant entity.

Ghetto residents are by definition marginal. Had they been given the choice, they might have agreed to the “social contract” and integrated the cultural, ideological, social, and economic consensus. But the majority is disconnected from the social, economic, and cultural mainstream. From the start they are deprived of many incentives and benefits given to all other citizens. The social tie is non-existent. The mechanism of reciprocity, whereby citizens playing by the rules of the game are materially rewarded for their subjection, appears to be broken in the ghetto. This “fracture sociale” delegitimizes the state and its institutions, which are therefore not integrated mentally nor adopted as guiding principles of social behavior [Deleuze & Guattari: 1987, 464]. Mainstream institutions, rules, and norms, which constitute the platform upon which social and economic exchanges take place and upon which the social identity of the middle class gets constructed, are at best irrelevant to most of the ghetto population and at worst perceived as a repressive apparatus. Hence, the ghetto is like a disjunctive social machine. What Foucault [1975, 244] calls “positive” discipline only partially takes hold because it is not relayed at the individual and social levels by a set of values and norms. Instead, residents are subject to the more archaic form of “blockade” or “negative” discipline, which also structures urban space. Defensive architecture, high police presence, and restrictive regulations (for instance making difficult to open a bar) are all strategies aimed at “neutralizing danger, fixing useless or agitated populations, preventing excessive gathering” [Foucault: 1975, 245]. Where “positive” discipline does not penetrate the social fabric and individual minds, “negative” discipline intensifies. When “increasing the possible utility of individuals” [Foucault: 1975, 245] is impossible, efforts concentrate on direct physical control, on “maintaining the street” [Virilio, quoted in Deleuze & Guattari: 1987, 479].

Evasion Tactics

Graffiti by Banksy http://www.banksy.co.uk/

We could describe the space not controlled by “positive” or mental discipline as non-colonized, non-stratified, open, and smooth. Because the dominant institutions do not occupy that space, the social platform has to be reinvented. This does not mean that these spaces develop independently from the constrained urban and social environment in which they emerge. On the contrary, it is only by climbing the wall or by finding the fault that prisoners escape the jail. The physical and social grid conditions the actualized form of the smooth, open space emerging within it. Moreover, the institutional, social, economic, and cultural pressure exercised on the ghetto increases the need for spaces of decompression. If it were not for the wall on which it stands the graffiti would not exist. However, once the code has been broken, once secret tunnels have been dug, once the graffiti has been adopted as a way of expression, it is almost unstoppable: use Japanese technology to make graffiti-proof subway trains and the windows will be scratched.

“When a State does not succeed in striating its interior or neighboring space, the flux that traverse it will necessarily take the appearance of a war machine directed against it [the State]” [Deleuze & Guattari: 1987, 480]. Indeed, much of the culture that was born in the ghetto has stemmed from an attitude of defiance towards established rules and norms. It seems that the power of ghetto culture and its potential of resistance are commensurable with the pressure imposed by the institutions. Project housing produces high crime and good hip-hop. Hip-hop is to a large extent a culture of transgression. It has no moral and no limits. From gansta-rap and the worshiping of the Uzi to marijuana-blunts and the canonization of crack dealers passing by sexually explicit lyrics and the cult of porn, hip-hop culture transgresses the values and beliefs of the establishment. Breaking the rules and resisting control and assimilation are more than evasion tactics, they are also cultural strategies allowing the permanent creation of an “other” identity, which is more than the negative reflection of the dominant culture. It is a war machine creating a borderless local culture; “deploying itself on a milieu without horizon” [Deleuze & Guattari: 1987, 469]; “a locality of the absolute or of the infinite” [1987, 602]. The taking-over and local remixing of hip-hop culture throughout the world seem to attest of its infinite capacity to mutate and evolve.

The language of the ghetto [slang, code words, expressions, signs, body language, etc.] is also a local and situational, fluid and dynamic, social and cultural self-organizing system. It is a social-cultural capital shared and created by the community over which no one has control. The ability to speak it tells where you come from; it makes you a part of a community. It serves as a collective space where values, meanings, and roles can emerge beyond the etiquette that has been put on the back of ghetto residents. In a hostile urban, social, and institutional environment, the creation of a language that is one’s own and impenetrable by the mainstream creates a virtual space of freedom: a temporary autonomous zone (TAZ) where another reality can emerge. Indeed, essential to its autonomy is its inaccessibility by outsiders. It is kept as a secret or inherited knowledge. Various mechanisms prevent the outsider from grasping it. First, far from being only a collection of words that one could list and learn, it is also a body language, a know-how to speak, move, and behave. Secondly, and this is crucial, it is in constant movement. It permanently dies or mutates. Maybe worst than not knowing the language of the street at all, is to know an outdated version of it: go to the school yard with expressions two years old and you will be an outsider.

Because of their fast minds, creative spirits, and dense social networks, kids are often the inventors of new words and expressions. In this survival of the sleekest, the expressions of the most creative and admired ones get imitated and spread out. Sources of inspiration range from TV and hip-hop songs to foreign languages. Innovations are always incremental, but the rate of change is extremely rapid, with new expressions disseminating at the speed of a virus, soon contaminating the entire community and spreading beyond it—and down to the mainstream via MTV.

New expressions express a collective experience. They are always totally relevant, simultaneously dominant, and ephemeral. The impermanence of ghetto expressions is their strength. That is why they are always challenged and never allowed to become standards. The only rule is transgression; war and creation. A new rule emerges out of the transgression of another. Then in a second it disappears, gets ruled out by a new transgression more in tune with the moment. And the second it gets ruled out, it does not exist anymore. It is dead; it does not have any relevance or legitimacy. Therefore, hierarchies or strata do emerge in the smooth space of street language, but only momentarily. Further research will help clarify how informal, smooth, rhizomatic cultures emerge even in the most stratified and controlled environment. In the context of the ghetto, smooth cultural spaces seem to be places where collective identity and social roles get played out and are actualized.

Deleuze and Guattari warn us “never to believe that a smooth space suffices to save us” [1987, 625]. Nonetheless, they are the spaces of the possible, where new, local axiomatic can develop. It seems that it would only be fair for policy makers and urban planners to allow the ghetto to develop in its own terms. To actually let new institutions emerge from the local might be the only way to see marginal communities develop social patterns that are compatible with dominant institutions and able to interact with them.

author’s note: random bits

i’m working away on describing the video game i’m creating for this story.  and it’s so complex and so actively developing that i’ve gone thru all sorts of stages.  i just figure i’ll cut and paste a few paragraphs from the mess it’s currently in now.

so many things to think about.

you travel not by getting in a physical boat and rowing across the sea, because it’s a computer game after all and you can’t get wet. what you do is concentrate and move along a map, so you have this tiny boat icon and it traverses the map with sound effects – gulls and waves and creaking ropes, or horse hoofs and groaning boards, or crunching gravel or swishing grasses, all the sound effects of a varied world. then when you arrive at your destination, there’s a cut-scene showing a zoom into the map, establishment shots of the area you’re arriving in where you can hover and learn about the place, and then you’re down in the street. what powers the boat is your concentration, as well as the horse and cart or flying or whatever. the icon doesn’t move unless you will it.

how about walking around in the landscape? it’s not just a keyboard or joystick move. can we invent a glove that functions as your body, with feet and hands and your pinky for something else, like jumping, or speed? then people playing the game tap and rattle their fingers all the time. so for the mobile gamer, a pair of sunglasses with hud, a glove, and earbuds. and the game console, which is your online connection of choice.

you can walk around using your pointer and middle fingers, but you can also develop the skill of willing movement, which comes from your middle, and is expressed with the glove as a bowing forward, an extension of the wrist, a leading with the knuckles.

in the first two levels the boy and girl are keeping in touch because they’re testing and giving feedback, and their main concern is how the lessons work. they’re not caring about the details in the two levels, the two tutorial levels and they never care how many people understand the real work. their main care is for the real work, and they let everything else be player-driven or leave it up to the new programmer or a team of fans.

so they make it thru the two primer levels together. what diverges them? and what happens in the outside world when they enter antarctica? no, it starts in foggy level 3. as they learn how to shift the fog, there begin to be outgame effects. first seen in the clouds and rain, then in mirrors and glass, dust and wind, smoke and flame.

it’s when they start to learn how to affect the world that they diverge. she wants to use it for all good, he wants to use it for themselves. and when they land in antarctica, they are alone, and separately rescued by seals. they find each other in the settlement, and they could be on peninsula or marie byrd or ellsworth, or any of the small islands in the chain. how they get off is instructive. the boy goes off to fight the aliens in transantarctica, and becomes a pirate. the girl joins the crew of a ship and goes to ronne and the inland seas. then he goes around to martha and works his way down to dronning and becomes a warlord. then he goes to hell and becomes a captain of industry. she goes around to adelie (passing him) and becomes a healer, and to vostok and mary and up to hell thru elizabeth. in hell she helps organize the resistance. they meet again in hell.

someone turns the npcs into fairy characters. someone starts drilling in amery bay. someone builds that big city. was there supposed to be a city? they didn’t design one like what they found, but by the time they get there, the city is an inevitability. the civilization is actually developing as they play the game, altho they’re not directly responsible for building it. but as our attention broadens past the peninsula and archipelago these things appear.

at first there’s only rocks and what people can coax to grow by asking the fairies. they help the settlement grow, and at some crucial point of development they have contact with the outside world, and hear about new things.

the outside world is the next level of development, with farming and trading, or fishing and piracy. they work to build and grow this into networks and spheres of influence. at a crucial point they journey to another part and find new things.

warrior tribes with city-state strongholds and contested resources, versus cooperative farms and shared resources. at a crucial point, they go to the city.

hell city is full of businesses and corporations all out to win, versus masses of downtrodden people helping each other and finding ways to even wealth out.

this is a natural progression – within the plot of the story as well as the development of the game as well as the development of the conflict between the characters.

i’m going to need to describe his path as well as her path thru this level. and perspective from the other two (at least). maybe every character in the outside world has a counterpart in the game.

what’s a society predicated on quantum principles look like? it’s all relative, there’s no center of power. non-locality, interconnectivity, entanglement, discontinuity

players – at first the engine programmer who built the kernel. he’s still in there as an npc. then the boy and girl as creators of the game document. and the replacement programmer / mole. the players show off the features of the game, learn the lessons, practice the quantum exercises, experience the drama. so how many do we need? quantumly speaking we only need to do this once, but since there are multiple outcomes, we need more. both the boy and girl go thru to the end. the spy goes similarly to the boy but gets caught taking the dark side seriously. and we need a fan who is on the girl’s side but gets caught up in it.

antarctica changes over time, from a barren rock to a huge city, developing into all levels of subsistence in all areas of climate from desert to glacier. it develops as we follow the two players around in it.

he takes one route and she takes another. he’s going for power, trading, mineral, then financial and military. she’s going for community, connecting, sharing, healing, growing, song, story, helping, building, resisting. she naturally goes for the underclass, he hobnobs with powerful people. he likes things, she gives things away. the spy wants to conquer antarctica too, but goes around gaming the system. with the knowledge that you’re supposed to learn about quantum things, he invents a church of quantum that keeps quantum a secret and charges to tell people they’re unworthy, spreads intolerance of the open practice of dangerous powers, tries to suppress it. stays in this level of the game as the boss and tries to shut down the quantum stuff, but ends up in his own world as the game antarctica bounces back toward its created version.

you travel not by getting in a physical boat and rowing across the sea, because it’s a computer game after all and you can’t get wet.  what you do is concentrate and move along a map, so you have this tiny boat icon and it traverses the map with sound effects – gulls and waves and creaking roaps, or horse hoofs and groaning boards, or crunching gravel or swishing grasses, all the sound effects of a varied world.  then when you arrive at your destination, there’s a cut-scene showing a zoom into the map, establishment shots of the area you’re arriving in where you can hover and learn about the place, and then you’re down in the street.  what powers the boat is your concentration, as well as the horse and cart or flying or whatever.  the icon doesn’t move unless you will it.

author’s note: antarctica map

another map.  this time with rivers.  so many things to consider when making a world.  like where are the people going to live?  if you were designing a world, where would you put the population centers?  on the first map i made a stab at it, but you’ve got to look at the elevations and the rivers and how deep the ports are going to be, and whether the land is going to rise or sink and whether your area will silt up or flood.

all these various parts of antarctica will be drastically different from each other, even tho they’ll all be subject to long dark winters, and the most temperate part of the place will be the northern fringes, especially the peninsula.

so even tho everyone except the plains tribes will fish and farm and raise ruminant animals and build houses of wood, they’ll all have pretty much the same resources.  except for there’s coal in transantarctica, and oil and gas in the inner part of the ross sea and amery bay.

i haven’t yet found names for the seas around adelie, or the inner sea, and indeed haven’t come up with a name for the inner ross sea.  these will come as i consult more maps, or better yet make things up.

some thoughts on the process of writing this.

i’ve only been at it officially for about 3 weeks, and i’ve done tons of research in all the various topics this story will address – antarctica, the occupy movement, quantum physics, video gaming.  it’s exhausting, but i bound out of bed in the morning just thinking about it.  and it’s all coming together, but what a mass of details i have to master in order to write about it with any kind of sense at all.

the stuff i’m putting up on this blog about the plot is basically my first thoughts.  you’re actually seeing some of this as it comes out of my head (author’s notes) and you’re seeing the plot as it gets worked out.  but this is such a strange story that it can’t really be presented straightforward.

it’s a quantum story, and everything happens at once.

it’s more important to follow the principles of quantum mechanics in building the story than it is to follow a timeline, because in quantum physics there is no time.  it all happens simultaneously, and it’s our focus that determines the apparent time stream.

so, for instance, in the game.

the game is giving me fits.  because it’s a massively multiple game, for millions of simultaneous players around the globe, and there are very few rules about what you can and can’t do in the game.  the only limitations are within you the player.  so i’m having to construct a video game.

i don’t even play video games anymore.  i stopped with leisure suit larry and jazz jackrabbit and myst.  so i had to learn about game programming.  and game level design.

that’s why i love the library.  and internet search engines.

back to the game.  i’m in the middle of constructing the game document, the written description of the game and all its salient points.  but this game isn’t one long tunnel to the end that can be described by ‘and then, you…’  because at each turn you can do fucking anything you like.  there is no one path, or one right answer, or even a best path or answer.  because the outcome of the game depends entirely on you the player.  and you can spend all the time you want playing your own version of the game, and never once address the game’s actual purpose.

the game’s actual purpose is to teach you the player how to function in a quantum world, how to master the art of quantum thinking, and how to create the world you want to have.

which is a tall order, i know.  but not impossible.  in fact, it’s quantumly inevitable.

up until yesterday i was going to have the tester play the game.  in the beginning i was going to have ‘people’ play the game, but i realized that it wouldn’t be consistent enough unless it was one character.  one guy playing from start to finish.  but i can’t do that, because there are so many possibilities for the game that to track one would only give you the barest idea of the potential of the game.

and then there’s the interaction between the boy and the girl.  the two who had the quantum experience that started it all.  i need for their relationship to develop thru the whole story, and can’t take that much time off to have some third party play the game without them.

so they have to be playing the game.  both of them in there making unique decisions, having an entirely different game experience, learning different things.  that way i can have more experience and more choices and two branching paths.

and i will need others playing the game, filling other roles, showcasing other possibilities, developing other skills and other versions of the game.

so i’ve got to have a passel of characters.

boy
girl
kernel programmer
replacement programmer
them

that’s all i have so far.  them is rather nebulous, but at this point everybody is an npc to me, because i’m just laying them out.  when it comes time to write them they’ll become people.  their states will be chosen by being observed, and they’ll appear as they are in the story.

i could do it that way.  just materialize them into the story.  but it won’t make sense, so i’ll give them backstories and real pivotal roles in the story.  because there are so many damn crises that it’s not funny.

the talents are developed by playing over and over, until thinking quantum becomes a habit.  but in the story, we only need to play the game once, because it’s a quantum game.  the act of the boy and girl playing the game is the same thing, quantumly, as the universe of players playing a million times each.

and that’s where it gets mystical.

how the hell can i write this?  it’s already too complex and it’s only going to get more entangled as i figure it out and the pieces fall together.

but i can’t stop because the pieces are falling together.  the whole thing makes sense, and each part enriches the other, so i know i’m on the right track.  and my little voice is jumping up and down.

antarctica and a video game
quantum physics and the occupy movement

what have they got in common?

the links between quantum physics and the occupy movement are obvious to me.  horizontal organization and bottom up politics is very like quantum physics, but at the moment i’m having trouble saying why.  it’s very obvious in my head, however.  that’s the challenge.  how to make all this into a simple fairy tale, how to find the places where all these things intersect and describe that.

okay, time for dinner.  i just wanted to set down some of the process i’m in now.  i’m still trying to work thru the game and describe it, just taking one path and following it, even tho that’s against the spirit of quantum mechanics (multiple paths), just to get it written down so i can go on to the next part, which is the reaction of the outside world to the game, the actual action, and the real crisis.  but i’ve got to get thru scene 2 before i move to scene 3 or there’ll be hell to pay.

and it’s not like the scenes will be run one after the other, either.  there won’t be a break to go play the game and then come back to the real world.  the three scenes will be all tangled up, as is quantum mechanics, and it’ll take a better storyteller than i to put it together.

which is why i’m letting the fairies write this one.

monastic living the answer

this is so important i’m reposting it in its entirety.

Chris Hedges’s Endgame Strategy

Why the revolution must start in America.
Chris Hedges , 16 Jun 2011
Tyler Hicks / Redux / The New York Times
Tyler Hicks / Redux / The New York Times

The unrest in the Middle East, the convulsions in Ivory Coast, the hunger sweeping across failed states such as Somalia, the freak weather patterns and the systematic unraveling of the American empire do not signal a lurch toward freedom and democracy but the catastrophic breakdown of globalization. The world as we know it is coming to an end. And what will follow will not be pleasant or easy.

The bankrupt corporate power elite, who continue to serve the dead ideas of unfettered corporate capitalism, globalization, profligate consumption and an economy dependent on fossil fuels, as well as endless war, have proven incapable of radically shifting course or responding to our altered reality. They react to the great unraveling by pretending it is not happening. They are desperately trying to maintain a doomed system of corporate capitalism. And the worse it gets the more they embrace, and seek to make us embrace, magical thinking. Dozens of members of Congress in the United States have announced that climate change does not exist and evolution is a hoax. They chant the mantra that the marketplace should determine human behavior, even as the unfettered and unregulated marketplace threw the global economy into a seizure and evaporated some $40 trillion in worldwide wealth. The corporate media retreats as swiftly from reality into endless mini-dramas revolving around celebrities or long discussions about the inane comments of a Donald Trump or a Sarah Palin. The real world – the one imploding in our faces – is ignored.

The deadly convergence of environmental and economic catastrophe is not coincidental. Corporations turn everything, from human beings to the natural world, into commodities they ruthlessly exploit until exhaustion or death. The race of doom is now between environmental collapse and global economic collapse. Which will get us first? Or will they get us at the same time?

Carbon emissions continue to soar upward, polar ice sheets continue to melt at an alarming rate, hundreds of species are vanishing, fish stocks are being dramatically depleted, droughts and floods are destroying cropland and human habitat across the globe, water sources are being poisoned, and the great human migration from coastlines and deserts has begun. As temperatures continue to rise huge parts of the globe will become uninhabitable. The continued release of large quantities of methane, some scientists have warned, could actually asphyxiate the human species. And accompanying the assault on the ecosystem that sustains human life is the cruelty and stupidity of unchecked corporate capitalism that is creating a global economy of masters and serfs and a world where millions will be unable to survive.

We continue to talk about personalities – Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama or Stephen Harper – although the heads of state and elected officials have become largely irrelevant. Corporate lobbyists write the bills. Lobbyists get them passed. Lobbyists make sure you get the money to be elected. And lobbyists employ you when you get out of office. Those who hold actual power are the tiny elite who manage the corporations. The share of national income of the top 0.1 percent of Americans since 1974 has grown from 2.7 to 12.3 percent. One in six American workers may be without a job. Some 40 million Americans may live in poverty, with tens of millions more living in a category called “near poverty.” Six million people may be forced from their homes in the United States because of foreclosures and bank repossessions. But while the masses suffer, Goldman Sachs, one of the financial firms most responsible for the evaporation of $17 trillion in wages, savings and wealth of small investors and shareholders in the United States, is giddily handing out $17.5 billion in compensation to its managers, including $12.6 million to its CEO, Lloyd Blankfein.

The massive redistribution of wealth happened because lawmakers and public officials were, in essence, hired to permit it to happen. It was not a conspiracy. The process was transparent. It did not require the formation of a new political party or movement. It was the result of inertia by our political and intellectual class, which in the face of expanding corporate power found it personally profitable to facilitate it or look the other way. The armies of lobbyists, who write the legislation, bankroll political campaigns and disseminate propaganda, have been able to short-circuit the electorate.

Our political vocabulary continues to sustain the illusion of participatory democracy. The Democrats and the Liberal Party in Canada offer minor palliatives and a feel-your-pain language to mask the cruelty and goals of the corporate state. Neofeudalism will be cemented into place whether it is delivered by Democrats and the Liberals, who are pushing us there at 60 miles an hour, or by Republicans and the Conservatives, who are barreling toward it at 100 miles an hour.

“By fostering an illusion among the powerless classes that it can make their interests a priority,” Sheldon Wolin writes, “the Democratic Party pacifies and thereby defines the style of an opposition party in an inverted totalitarian system.” The Democrats and the Liberals are always able to offer up a least-worst alternative while, in fact, doing little or nothing to thwart the march toward corporate collectivism.

It is not that the public in the United States does not want a good healthcare system, programs that provide employment, quality public education or an end to Wall Street’s looting of the U.S. Treasury. Most polls suggest Americans do. But it has become impossible for most citizens in these corporate states to find out what is happening in the centers of power. Television news celebrities dutifully present two opposing sides to every issue, although each side is usually lying. The viewer can believe whatever he or she wants to believe. Nothing is actually elucidated or explained. The sound bites by Republicans or Democrats, the Liberals or the Conservatives, are accepted at face value. And once the television lights are turned off, the politicians go back to the business of serving business.

Human history, rather than being a chronicle of freedom and democracy, is characterized by ruthless domination. Our elites have done what all elites do. They have found sophisticated mechanisms to thwart popular aspirations, disenfranchise the working and increasingly the middle class, keep us passive and make us serve their interests. The brief democratic opening in our society in the early 20th century, made possible by radical movements, unions and a vigorous press, has again been shut tight. We were mesmerized by political charades, cheap consumerism, spectacle and magical thinking as we were ruthlessly stripped of power.

Adequate food, clean water and basic security are now beyond the reach of half the world’s population. Food prices have risen 61 percent globally since December 2008, according to the International Monetary Fund. The price of wheat has exploded, more than doubling in the last eight months to $8.56 a bushel. When half of your income is spent on food, as it is in countries such as Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Somalia and Ivory Coast, price increases of this magnitude bring with them widespread malnutrition and starvation. Food prices in the United States have risen over the past three months at an annualized rate of five percent. There are some 40 million poor in the United States who devote 35 percent of their after-tax incomes to pay for food. As the cost of fossil fuel climbs, as climate change continues to disrupt agricultural production and as populations and unemployment swell, we will find ourselves convulsed in more global and domestic unrest. Food riots and political protests will be frequent, as will malnutrition and starvation. Desperate people employ desperate measures to survive. And the elites will use the surveillance and security state to attempt to crush all forms of popular dissent.

The last people who should be in charge of our food supply or our social and political life, not to mention the welfare of sick children, are corporate capitalists and Wall Street speculators. But none of this is going to change until we turn our backs on the wider society, denounce the orthodoxies peddled in our universities and in the press by corporate apologists and construct our opposition to the corporate state from the ground up. It will not be easy. It will take time. And it will require us to accept the status of social and political pariahs, especially as the lunatic fringe of our political establishment steadily gains power as the crisis mounts. The corporate state has nothing to offer the left or the right but fear. It uses fear to turn the population into passive accomplices. And as long as we remain afraid, or believe that the formal mechanisms of power can actually bring us real reform, nothing will change.

It does not matter, as writers such as John Ralston Saul have pointed out, that every one of globalism’s promises has turned out to be a lie. It does not matter that economic inequality has gotten worse and that most of the world’s wealth has become concentrated in a few hands. It does not matter that the middle class – the beating heart of any democracy – is disappearing and that the rights and wages of the working class have fallen into precipitous decline as labor regulations, protection of our manufacturing base and labor unions have been demolished. It does not matter that corporations have used the destruction of trade barriers as a mechanism for massive tax evasion, a technique that allows conglomerates such as General Electric or Bank of America to avoid paying any taxes. It does not matter that corporations are exploiting and killing the ecosystem for profit. The steady barrage of illusions disseminated by corporate systems of propaganda, in which words are often replaced with music and images, are impervious to truth. Faith in the marketplace replaces for many faith in an omnipresent God. And those who dissent are banished as heretics.

The aim of the corporate state is not to feed, clothe or house the masses but to shift all economic, social and political power and wealth into the hands of the tiny corporate elite. It is to create a world where the heads of corporations make $900,000 an hour and four-job families struggle to survive. The corporate elite achieves its aims of greater and greater profit by weakening and dismantling government agencies and taking over or destroying public institutions. Charter schools, mercenary armies, a for-profit health insurance industry and outsourcing every facet of government work, from clerical tasks to intelligence, feed the corporate beast at our expense. The decimation of labor unions, the twisting of education into mindless vocational training and the slashing of social services leave us ever more enslaved to the whims of corporations. The intrusion of corporations into the public sphere destroys the concept of the common good. It erases the lines between public and private interests. It creates a world that is defined exclusively by naked self-interest.

Many of us are seduced by childish happy talk. Who wants to hear that we are advancing not toward a paradise of happy consumption and personal prosperity but toward disaster? Who wants to confront a future in which the rapacious and greedy appetites of our global elite, who have failed to protect the planet, threaten to produce widespread anarchy, famine, environmental catastrophe, nuclear terrorism and wars for diminishing resources? Who wants to shatter the myth that the human race is evolving morally, that it can continue its giddy plundering of nonrenewable resources and its hedonistic levels of consumption, that capitalist expansion is eternal and will never cease?

Dying civilizations often prefer hope, even absurd hope, to truth. It makes life easier to bear. It lets them turn away from the hard choices ahead to bask in a comforting certitude that God or science or the market will be their salvation. This is why these apologists for globalism continue to find a following. And their systems of propaganda have built a vast, global Potemkin village to entertain us. The tens of millions of impoverished Americans, whose lives and struggles rarely make it onto television, are invisible. So are most of the world’s billions of poor, crowded into fetid slums. We do not see those who die from drinking contaminated water or being unable to afford medical care. We do not see those being foreclosed from their homes. We do not see the children who go to bed hungry. We busy ourselves with the absurd.

The game is over. We lost. The corporate state will continue its inexorable advance until two-thirds of the nation and the planet is locked into a desperate, permanent underclass. Most of us will struggle to make a living while the Blankfeins and our political elites wallow in the decadence and greed of the Forbidden City and Versailles. These elites do not have a vision. They know only one word: more.  They will continue to exploit the nation, the global economy and the ecosystem. And they will use their money to hide in gated compounds when it all implodes. Do not expect them to take care of us when it starts to unravel. We will have to take care of ourselves. We will have to rapidly create small, monastic communities where we can sustain and feed ourselves. It will be up to us to keep alive the intellectual, moral and cultural values the corporate state has attempted to snuff out. It is either that or become drones and serfs in a global corporate dystopia. It is not much of a choice. But at least we still have one.

the game: the horizontal level

players go thru the wormholes in groups, to quest. you can visit an unlimited number of worlds in the horizontal level. you can explore and establish trade, or join raiding parties and wreak havok, or anything you like. you learn different physics skills on every world and practice communicating thru the wormholes, including quantum tunneling, clairvoyance, and action at a distance.

one of the skills you learn is the ability to tweak the game conditions in that world. starting at the horizontal level it’s possible to take over and remake a world your way, changing the rules and resetting the quests. a world so altered becomes a new world, with you as god, taking its place in the multiverse of the horizontal level. like other worlds, it is accessible from level 4, and can be cross-linked to other worlds by the players.

eventually you get stranded in an alternative antarctica when your wormhole closes unexpectedly. in this antarctica, the ice has recently melted away and a vast and varied land has emerged. you can go where you want in this new land, and do what you like using your many skills, and there are special challenges you must pass before you exit the level. gameplay is difficult and strenuous, and you must solve problems using quantum tools and working with others to overcome obstacles. faster and more complete change is possible when players build cross-challenge alliances.

the cut scene

as the level begins, you are drifting on the southern ocean. it’s very cold, and you are thankful there’s no wind – it’s as calm as glass thru the drake passage. and this is good because you are adrift on a tiny, leaky raft, with only a few provisions. among the most helpful are a blanket and a stick. it is summer, and the sky stays light all evening. eventually – you’re not sure – but you think you see land far to the south, so you head that way. seabirds appear and follow your raft. so do sharks. as you approach land, the wind picks up, the waves grow rough, and you try to outrun a storm blowing from the west. but your raft breaks apart – too far from shore to swim. the water is cold, and you quickly lose command of your arms and legs, but a passing seal notices you and shepherds you to shore – mostly dead

back to the land

you wake in a crude stone shelter wrapped in seal skins. strange players tend your scrapes, congratulate you on making it to shore alive, and fill you in on where you are and what’s going on.

you’re in an ex glacial valley full of barren rock. a stream trickles down the middle, all that is left of a mile high river of ice. there might still be a glacier or two far inland. a few tufts of grass grow in sheltered areas. penguins nest here, and seals, and there is plentiful fish. there are a few other players; they seem to have come here as refugees from the harsh northlands, seeking survival and a better life. conditions are harsh, there are frequent storms, there isn’t enough to eat, it is cold and dark for six months of the year, and life is short and brutal. it’s the garden spot of the planet at the moment, however, so you get to work making your living.

the grind is survival – hunting and fishing, making things grow. but hunting and fishing are not firstperson shooter skills. in antarctica, the skills you learn are cooperative and quantum. there is always someone who will trade you something you desperately need for anything you have, no matter how pitiful, but you will make a better trade if you are honest and generous. you can trap and kill to find your food, but you will get better quality food if you negotiate with the animals. you can plant seeds if you can find any, but you will get better results if you work to improve the land and coax the fairies to grow things. you can erect massive walls against the storms, but you’ll get better results if you talk to the wind and ask it to go easy on your shelter.

your task is to cooperate with everybody, to learn strength in numbers, and to use your quantum skills to help terraform antarctica. as you practice your skills you gain the power to change the climate, the ocean’s circulation, even the tilt of the poles to bring antarctica to a more temperate latitude. you can leave at any time, and are free to behave any way you want. there are opportunities to cheat and steal if you like, but in this environment the victim usually dies.

alien attack

evil vampire aliens have almost captured the planet and they have to be found and fought wherever they appear in antarctica. the grind is searching and finding clues. finding them takes you all over, gives you essential knowledge about the way things are, and teach you about hunches and intuition. you learn visualization and extrasensory communications skills, as well as the use of force fields and psychic weapons. captured aliens reveal vital information about their mission without being waterboarded, but you can torture them if you want to.

droid life

in a vast gray city there is a vast gray corporation where you are a droid. based on a short interview you are assigned a job title and duties, and are expected to give 110% to the job. the grind is makework. you have bills to pay and mouths to feed at home, and you’re in the hole with all kinds of credit card debt. the wolf is constantly at your door, but you have friends and family who help you find solutions to your problems, and get back at your employers – evil vampire aliens. your quest is to find ways of getting all your work done and still have time to enjoy yourself.

revolution

you are caught in a bleak totalitarian society where the hopeful thing to do is die, but you keep incarnating again in equally bad situations. the evil vampire aliens run everything to benefit themselves, and have so oppressed the people that the death rate is enormous. your grind is to find something to eat and stay away from the forces of evil.  you starve to death, are beaten and stabbed and robbed and shot and run over and exploded by practically everybody you meet. teams of riot police with tanks and grenades mow down desperate starving masses in the squares, and players cower in their homes in fear of being turned in to the secret police. your only hope is to join the resistance and defeat the aliens. you learn all about urban nonviolence and the techniques of social movements. you join different workgroups and help create alternative food supply chains, healthcare, education, a new money supply and economics based on a horizontal structure. your challenge is to help recreate society and destroy the power of the evil vampire aliens.

players go thru the wormholes in groups, to quest.  you can visit an unlimited number of worlds in the horizontal level.  you can explore and establish trade, or join raiding parties and wreak havok, or anything you like.  you learn different physics skills on every world and practice communicating thru the wormholes, including quantum tunneling, clairvoyance, and action at a distance.
one of the skills you learn is the ability to tweak the game conditions in that world.  starting at the horizontal level it’s possible to take over and remake a world your way, changing the rules and resetting the quests.  a world so altered becomes a new world, with you as god, taking its place in the multiverse of the horizontal level.  like other worlds, it is accessible from level 4, and can be cross-linked to other worlds by the players.
eventually you get stranded in an alternative antarctica when your wormhole closes unexpectedly.  in this antarctica, the ice has recently melted away and a vast and varied land has emerged.  you can go where you want in this new land, and do what you like using your many skills, and there are special challenges you must pass before you exit the level.  gameplay is difficult and strenuous, and you must solve problems using quantum tools and working with others to overcome obstacles.  faster and more complete change is possible when players build cross-challenge alliances.
the cut scene
as the level begins, you are drifting on the southern ocean.  it’s very cold, and you are thankful there’s no wind – it’s as calm as glass thru the drake passage.  and this is good because you are adrift on a tiny, leaky raft, with only a few provisions.  among the most helpful are a blanket and a stick.  it is summer, and the sky stays light all evening.  eventually – you’re not sure – but you think you see land far to the south, so you head that way.  seabirds appear and follow your raft.  so do sharks.  as you approach land, the wind picks up, the waves grow rough, and you try to outrun a storm blowing from the west.  but your raft breaks apart – too far from shore to swim.  the water is cold, and you quickly lose command of your arms and legs, but a passing seal notices you and shepherds you to shore – mostly dead.

author’s note

i’m actively working on this story now. it takes bits and pieces i’ve been collecting and researching for years, and pulls t hem all together in a quantum way that does just what i need to make a good story.

so the ideas are spilling out of my fingers, and the research just brings up more questions, and i have to be dragged from the computer when it gets dark, and if we didn’t have someone staying in the studio at night these days, and if it wasn’t so cold, i would be down here in the middle of the night writing and reading.

i’m very glad that i’m going to be using all my story ideas in this one story.

antarctica

piracy

amusement park

quantum physics

accelerated evolution / freedom year

even tho i’m nowhere near writing the story, i’m looking up all the shit and figuring out how to link it to something else, and then it all looks different, and i go off into an alternate universe…

in the last week i’ve researched and thought about and written about the occupy movement, tactics of social change, horizontal organization, quantum thought, quantum mechanics, quantum philosophy, magic, tarot, language, neurochemistry, epigenetics.  and a bunch of stuff i’ve hopefully bookmarked.

if i do this to enough of my story, then by the time i start writing i’ll have it all ready to flow out of my fingers.

usually i bail on my impulse to write down my inspiration of the moment, but this time i’m finding too many echoes of it in the real world, and it’s too physically and emotionally compelling for me not to do it.  so i’m writing it online and i’m hoping people who are interested will get involved and help me write it, but i don’t depend on it, as it’s never happened yet and i’ve been writing otherwise unpublished novels online since 2005.

but i’ve got a vision of how i want to see the world, and i’m doing my best to manifest it.  if we all do this, we’ll chnge the world.  it’s a quantum law.

horizontal is the way

horizontalism – the way out of this mess.

The Power of Occupy Wall Street Is Not Just What They’re Doing, But How They’re Doing It

November 29, 2011
By Sarah Jaffe
After major crises at hierarchical institutions from Penn State to the Catholic Church, it’s time to give the Occupy movement’s horizontal structure a chance.

Waste your summer prayin’ in vain for a savior to rise from these streets
Well I’m no hero girl that’s understood…” —
Bruce Springsteen, “Thunder Road”

“I know some members say the groups are leaderless. But I have trouble believing this is an entirely organic movement that grew without a leader. I’d push hard to see if there are leaders and to profile them,” Jerry Ceppos, journalism dean at Louisiana State University recently told the New York Times‘ public editor, Arthur S. Brisbane.

Brisbane was attempting to answer the question “Who is Occupy Wall Street?” It’s a question that continues to confound observers of the movement. Reporters, politicians and others used to traditional, top-down, hierarchical movements (or even grassroots movements that are easily boiled down, in history books, to the actions of a single charismatic leader like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) simply cannot seem to wrap their heads around the movement’s commitment to “horizontalism,” a form of organization that doesn’t recognize one leader, but rather emphasizes the value of each participant equally.

Great men are how we tell our history. Great men, and very occasionally great women, individual accomplishment and heroism. History isn’t so different from Twitter’s trending topics, acknowledging spikes more so than slow builds and rewarding celebrity more than quiet hard work. Or, for that matter, the biases of the mainstream media and editors like Brisbane and Ceppos, authorities in their field who only understand the world through other authority figures. It’s why the US only understands the civil rights movement in terms of the life of MLK, rather than the quiet work of nameless hundreds who trained in nonviolent techniques and were beaten and fire-hosed and attacked by dogs without their names making it into history books.

The way Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movement worldwide are structured is drawn from another way of thinking. Marina Sitrin, an early participant in the Occupy movement in New York and the author of the book Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina, describes horizontalism thus:

“Horizontal, as it sounds, is a level space for decision making, a place where one can look directly at the other person across from you, and discuss things that matter most to all of us – we decide the agenda. Horizontalism is more than just being against hierarchy, or people having power over others – it is about creating something new together in our relationships. The means are a part of the ends. The forms of organizing manifest what we desire; it is not a question of demands, but rather a manifestation of an alternative way of being and relating.”

Horizontalism and consensus might seem complicated, especially after watching the houses of Congress descend into a battle of egos and wills. Trying to get a simple majority of the Senate, let alone the 60-vote supermajority that is essentially required for every vote now that the filibuster is routinely abused, to agree on anything is a near-impossible task, so how would 95 percent consensus ever work?

But the fact is that thousands of people can come to agreement on complicated issues. Witness the reported vote of 1720 to three (with six “unsure”) at the University of California-Davis over a student general strike this week in the wake of the pepper-spraying of unarmed students by a university cop. And some of that perhaps comes from the fact that they are not playing power games, jockeying for higher position (and more fundraising dollars), or making grandstanding speeches. The people’s mic, the Occupy protesters’ amplification system, actually contributes to the horizontal structure by cutting down on the ability of any one person to hold court for too long. Any speech requires the consent of those participating in the people’s mic, and they can revoke it at any time by simply not choosing to repeat those words.

The people who seem unable to comprehend horizontalism are mostly those who come from hierarchical institutions themselves. (There isn’t a more hierarchically structured media organization than the New York Times, for instance, which also sits at the top of the hierarchy of mainstream media as the “paper of record.”) But horizontalism has proved appealing to the Occupy protesters, I think, because those same hierarchical institutions, from Congress to churches to universities, and obviously, corporations have utterly failed most Americans.

Institutional Crisis

After the recent crisis at Pennsylvania State University, where legendary football coach Joe Paterno was forced out after having covered up the rape and abuse of children by assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, a young Iraq War veteran, Penn State graduate, and product of Sandusky’s charitable foundation wrote an op-ed that was forwarded around by the likes of Michael Moore. Thomas L. Day wrote stirringly at the Washington Post of his loss of faith in his parents’ generation and his desire for new leaders to replace the old, but Micah Sifry at TechPresident responded:

“While [Day] may be right about the failures of the current generation in power, he’s wrong in calling for ‘a leader’ who will fix things. But it’s understandable why he might see the world this way–having grown up in institutions that are all run as hierarchies–the Catholic church, the Army, the Penn State system–why expect anything different?”

As Chris Hayes noted on his MSNBC show the Saturday after the scandal erupted, the cover-up within the Penn State hierarchy had a lot in common with the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Hendrik Hertzberg pointed out to Hayes that in the hierarchy, those who discovered Sandusky’s crimes simply were required to tell the person above them, who could then choose where to go from there. Hierarchy works the same whether it’s a football team or a religious institution—each person’s obligation is only to report up the chain of command, leaving terrifying power in the hands of one or two individuals, who are often the object of mass adoration from below. Paterno’s departure sparked riots on the Penn State campus from students who simply refused to believe the legendary coach could possibly have done wrong.

In contrast, when sexual assault was reported at the Liberty Plaza camp at Occupy Wall Street, the occupiers had no authority to turn to—the problem had to be dealt with by a variety of people rising to the occasion to try to provide for the survivor, control and monitor the perpetrator, and create systems to deal with future incidents. Not everyone contributed in the same way, but by the nature of the movement, there was no way to simply pass the buck by reporting to a higher-up and then sitting back. When they did report an assailant to the police, he was released from jail and returned to the park, leaving the Security and Safer Spaces working groups with no choice but to figure out a way to protect the rest of the encampment.

Melissa Byrne at Role/Reboot argued, “For the occupation to be successful, we need to transform into a culture that never passes the buck.”

As Micah Sifry noted, quoting Detroit organizer Adrienne Maree Brown, the horizontal structure creates a “leader-full” movement, one where everyone is responsible for themselves, but also responsible to each other. The Right likes to talk about personal responsibility, but in a nonhierarchical structure, personal responsibility mingles with group accountability to, at its best, push individuals to do things they didn’t think they could do.

Manissa McCleave Maharawal wrote about this phenomenon in a piece about her “block” on the original Declaration of the Occupation of New York City. She and other South Asian women disagreed with language about race in the document, and rather than leave the movement or sit quietly and accept it, she spoke up and forced the general assembly to listen and to change the words:

“It was hard, and it was fucked up that we had to fight for it in the way we did but we did fight for it and we won. The line was changed, they listened, we sat down and re-wrote it and it has been published with our re-write. And when we walked away, I felt like something important had just happened, that we had just pushed a movement a little bit closer to the movement I would like to see– one that takes into account historical and current inequalities, oppressions, racisms, relations of power, one that doesn’t just recreate liberal white privilege but confronts it head on. And if I have to fight to make that happen I will. As long as my people are there standing next to me while I do that.”

Occupy has learned from the past that individual charismatic leaders are always vulnerable to attack—and it has been more than happy to target such leaders on the other side, from Mayors Michael Bloomberg in New York and Jean Quan in Oakland to Chancellor Katehi at UC Davis. But there is no equivalent leader to take out at OWS. During the march to Times Square, Citizen Radio’s Jamie Kilstein tweeted “They arrested Hero [Vincent, a Liberty Plaza regular who’s been arrested six times] cause they thought he was the leader. There is no leader.”

The arrest of one “leader” simply allows others to take over.

Maintaining a Horizontal Movement

Horizontal organizing isn’t new to the US. It has a long history, particularly in the feminist movement, where one of the most famous critiques of its drawbacks originated. Jo Freeman noted that leaderlessness and structurelessness often masked privilege and allowed some to exercise power over others while pretending not to. She wrote, “But because there are no official spokespeople nor any decision-making body that the press can query when it wants to know the movement’s position on a subject, these women are perceived as the spokespeople. Thus, whether they want to or not, whether the movement likes it or not, women of public note are put in the role of spokespeople by default.”

Occupy Wall Street has certainly seen its own share of this phenomenon; taking a sampling of media appearances by members of the movement will turn up certain names and (often white male) faces over and over again. But there is still a difference between a structureless movement and one with a specific structure that operates differently than we are used to, and between a leaderless movement and a “leader-full” one. While the occupations don’t have official spokespeople per se, they have a decision-making body—the general assembly—and in many cases working groups whose job it is to handle press. Not only that, but the livestreams and Twitter feeds have done for media what the GA does for government—done an end run around the old, official systems of power and simply created their own.

The general assemblies consist of whomever is there at the tim. As a reporter and observer, I have wondered at times whether it was appropriate for me to participate in discussions over whether there should be a march or direct action taken, or most obviously, in debates over spending money donated to the movement. If I do choose to vote, my vote, in that moment, is given as much weight as that of someone who’s been sleeping in the park since the beginning.

This has obvious drawbacks, but also benefits. Not everyone has the ability to give 24-7 of their lives to the movement, for reasons ranging from full-time employment to responsibility for children or family members to fear of arrest. Yet their voices are still accepted as being valid and worthwhile.

In contrast, even most progressive organizations or labor unions rely on hierarchical structure and often charismatic leadership. The people who wound up in charge of the nonprofits and other groups that constitute the institutional Left in the US are often connected to the Democratic Party and dependent on the web of liberal philanthropy for funding, and that requires a leader to sit in meetings and make fundraising calls.

While online petitions have scaled down the amount of commitment necessary for the average citizen to participate in activism, the agenda of most organizations is still controlled by small groups. Though many of those organizations have gotten on board with Occupy (and several of those leaders offered themselves up for symbolic arrest on the Brooklyn Bridge November 17, including SEIU president Mary Kay Henry), a lot of them still have trouble dealing with the way Occupy operates and those same leaders are defensive about the idea that they might be co-opting the movement.

Yet it’s worth noting that the young people who make up the backbone of Occupy Wall Street and the movement around the country have blended the skills they have as “digital natives,” used to social networking, with training they’ve gotten working with the more traditional progressive movement. Many of them got their first political awakening working on the Obama campaign, which was both tightly controlled from the top and also oddly open, easy to join and willing to trust volunteers with a large amount of information and responsibility. Disappointed not only with the personal failure of their charismatic leader but with the entire system in which he functions, those young people are quite literally doing it for themselves now.

As Sifry noted, at the occupations, “[T]he insistent avoidance of traditional top-down leadership and the reliance on face-to-face and peer-to-peer networks and working groups creates space for lots of leaders to emerge, but only ones that work as network weavers rather than charismatic bosses.”

So the media will continue to have trouble locating leaders, particularly here in New York now that the NYPD has cleared Liberty Plaza of its tents and structures (and over 5,000 books) and the movement is shifting to a new phase. And yet the people working within the movement are finding themselves empowered and able to make that shift, adjusting to an even less centralized style, where those many leaders find many tactics and targets, networked and layered within a still-growing, still-expanding movement.

scribbles

the transformational stories of 21st century change will celebrate the heroes at the margins, inspire us to face the true scale of our problems, and herald visions of a world remade. they will accommodate complexity, embrace diversity, and foreshadow the challenges and triumphs we all will face.

direct action is any action where people step out of their traditional scripted roles and challenge the dominant expectation of obedience. this shifts power relationships in the moment and makes lasting imprint in imaginations – fundamental change at the deepest levels.

story-based strategy is an exploration of how social movements can operate in the realm of narrative to create a shared story for interpreting political issues that inform the understanding of a critical mass of society.

***

heroes at the margins

face the true scale of problems – challenges / triumphs

visions of the world remade – complexity, diversity, nurturing, people before profit

step out of scripted role

challenge expectations of obedience

shift power relationships in the moment

lasting imprint of new possibilities setting the stage for fundamental change

create shared story for interpreting issues

inform the understanding of a critical mass

***

two visionaries break thru and see a new world

the easy part is done – 90% of the effort is trying to get back to nirvana on your own.

spreading the word. merry pranksters.

the real problem is how to change hearts and minds. how to get the scales to drop from their eye. how to convince them we’re right and they’re wrong.

did anything i just studied say it was advisable or possible to do that? that’s the battle of the story, where i first demolish their story and then build my own.

the kids in my story have to do this. have to demolish classical thinking and tell a story enabling the quantum way of thinking.

while they’re doing this, after a period of success, and while opposition is high, there’s a split between the two and divide and conquer happens. then the job is to make the enemies within see this, which is harder than persuading tea partiers.

***

plot

so there’s discovery of the new, presented as a flash.

then reality reasserts itself (according to the dominant culture). our heroes realize the system is changeable at that point, when reality comes back.

then they have to develop their ability to get back to the quantum state of thought, they have to make converts, teach others, all that.

then it takes off – costumes, music, diet, drugs, art, language, sex practices, rituals, religion, philosophy, natural allies and enemies.

then resistance, infiltration, divide and conquer, violent suppression by forces of the dominant culture.

then there’s a split between the two sides and then the other side gains allies and gets stronger and our side makes losses and suffers destruction.

then a miracle happens.

critical mass.

***

but – why hasn’t the other side reached critical mass first? it’s so much better funded.

because it’s wrong. because it’s an attempt to use quantum thought to support the dominant culture’s use of power over rather than power with. and it doesn’t work that way. quantum is not hierarchical. you can’t divide and conquer quantum because there’s no Us versus Them. because we’re all one.

in fact, the other side is using the equivalent of black magic trying to wield quantum power selfishly, and it bounces back on the them.

***

so we’re teaching quantum thought, magic, zen and sufi training, activist techniques, and changing the story. have i left anything out?

***

commenting on the notes i took yesterday.

how does the frame create conflict? what is the frame? dragoncon geeks against the world. who’s the villain? the proponents of classical thinking. what do they want to do ? stop our heroes from quantum thought.

so once the word gets out and there’s a track at dragoncon, then infiltrators and smears and divide/conquer and scandals. occupy wall street type events and militarized responses as the elite is threatened.

why are the powerholders threatened? because in a quantum world they lack support, their stories don’t hold up. so they try to coopt the movement by backing the would-be king against the inclusive leader.

why do the elite lack support in a quantum world? because things are bottom up in the quantum world? because the principle that rules the quantum world is consciousness and so the higher consciousness rules?

why is progressive thinking evidence of higher consciousness than fundamentalist thinking?  because fundamentalist thought is fear-based and exclusive, us or them, coercive, one right way.

how can this tale inspire us to face the true scale of the crisis, challenges and triumphs, complexity, diversity, nurturing?  because there is another way, because the way the powers that be say is the only way is only the way that suits them, and not the actual only way, because everything is relative, and there are many ways. an infinity of ways. multiple universes of ways.

step out of scripted role, challenge expectations of obedience, withdraw permission to be ruled. dragoncon direct actions with all the tracks – science, literature, film, art, cosplay, skeptic, even xian.

shift power relationships in the moment, leave lasting imprint of possibilities, fundamental change at deepest level – direct action / metaverb

going thru the day in denial of the reality. being the man in the middle of his day, suddenly stripped of all the illusions, then thrust back into the same day. the surreality of everything that follows.

hearts and minds. surreality. the stories we’re programmed with by our cultures. the filters these stories provide to anything different. in the brain, neurons confronted with something new become distressed and seek to find peace by rejecting the discomfort and the challenging facts that cause it.

occutards – the right’s refusal to listen to anything that seems liberal. anything not looking and sounding like and saying things they agree with or are familiar with. so you can’t talk to them the normal way, with facts that go counter to what they know.

the medium has to be totally divorced from politics. comicbooks. video games. sports. us versus aliens?something that embraces both sides, where people don’t discuss politics or religion. you’re not allowed to talk about either in a corporate environment, so how can we use that?

so we invent an adventure fantasy where gamers learn zen and sufi and the rudiments of quantum thinking, and earn points the better they get, and the music is quantum, and the costumes, and the language, and the story is epic and transformative.

and this is just the development part of the story.

***

plot

so these kids have a quantum experience and come back to a surreal world which happens to be dragoncon, maybe sunday morning.

then they start a quantum track and develop the techniques, a story, a path to quantum thinking. they develop a multi-user game. this part of the story is a sub story. where we tell the tale of the game as a true tale. the techniques are taught differently – as exercises? as live action scenes with people playing the game? interspersed with the story line of the game?

then it gets popular. and infiltrated. and at this stage it more resembles the freedom year / occupy actions. when powerholders notice, feel threatened by, and begin suppression of the movement, this only makes it grow.

but what’s the issue? freedom to use quantum methods. inventions? technologies? practices like falun gong? can they suppress a game? religion, music, all that can be outlawed. especially practices using paraphernalia. all the usual tactics are used, first seen from the dominant culture’s point of view, then seen thru and explained as this or that technique of oppression. so this part is an explanation of propaganda and control techniques used by the coercive culture.

but always prefiguring the future, always offering another way right along with the bad news analysis of the way things are.

so do our heroes get peppersprayed? does it go as far as live rounds and tanks against rocks? does the government fall or is there brutal repression? do the power-holders reframe the progress as victory and continue on the same path as before? sure they do. and sure the rebel army falls for half measures because the top echelon has been coopted by the dark side, because of ‘there is no alternative’, because liberals believe in good, because the power-holders have too much to lose.

so the good side is on the verge of extinction because of betrayal and overwhelming force of darkness.

when a miracle happens.

well, not yet. the quantums regroup and make headway, but the classicists aren’t thru, and brutal oppression comes out into the open. but the whole world is watching, and they step in and force a new order. which is immediately coopted by people who have been in place from the beginning.

so then there’s war between the factions, with agents of the power-holders ruthlessly fighting to win. lenin trotsky stalin. the most psychopathic rise to the top. aided by the military, and finally taken over by the military and open police state. foolproof methods are developed to detect quantum thought. punishments are dire.

and then a miracle happens.

critical mass.

an event that shakes everyone out of their old stories, lets them step outside their traditional posture of subservience and sheeplehood. people see things as they really are. this leads them to question authority and challenge rulership and claim their own power.

the new story reframes the dominant culture convincingly, shifts power, flips relationships and history, instantly invalidates power-holders and withdraws permission of the ruled. like today when the banks were exposed and everybody turned against them.

so wtf could this event be?

it illustrates in a flash what’s wrong with the system – emperor’s new clothes – and people instantly react and take direct action.

it instantly obliterates all false divides between the people, makes them come together in solidarity to take back their power (and later has to deal with retrenchment).

change is inevitable. growth is optional.

but this is taught in level x of the game.

you are a god with amnesia.

change agents

a lot of this is from smartmeme‘s Re:imagining change, some of it verbatim, most of it notes.

‘the way things are’ – dominant culture narrative – they have power, we don’t, and there’s nothing we can do to change it.

the consent theory of power, when the governed withdraw their consent and the government falls from lack of support.

it all boils down to a struggle between collaborative and coercive power – power with versus power over.

hegemony – the values of the elite become ‘common sense’, limiting the terms of debate to make challenge impossible.

control mythologies shape political reality, normalize the status quo, and obscure options / visions.

power shapes the point of view of the story – winners write history.

underlying assumptions filter facts – confirmation bias.

potentially troubling information activates neuron network that produces stress, and the brain looks for ways to turn it off.  filters are rooted in dominant culture’s control myth.

ad revenue (designer stories) $500 bn in 2011.

mass psychology defines popular culture values:  individualism and consumerism.

branding burns in inseparable recognition.

control meme – a designer myth containing control myths, inserting power-holder perspective into cultural narratives.  spreads specific framing of an idea that reinforces status quo.

columbus discovered / invaded america.

control meme – narrative power that thwarts social change ideas, justifying oppression.

truth and power belong to those who tell the better story – stephen duncombe.

how does the framing of a story create conflict?

characters embody the message.  the dynamics of who gets to speak are keys to the battle of the story.

communicate by connecting to what people already know – values.  make them use own values to decide.

how does story suggest / promise a specific future?

assumptions – unstated parts you have to believe for the story to work; can be shared values, distorted info, control myths.

the story of the battle is about mobilization
the battle of the story is about persuasion.

mostly mobilizations is among people who already agree, so the story shares assumptions.  partisan.

since an audience’s existing stories filter new information, you need to give them a new story.  battle of story tells the why of the movement.

the frame defines a story by setting the terms for how to understand it.

who is impacted – victims, heroes, villains?

power-holders sometimes frame their story by casting the people hurt by their actions as the characters in the story.  the real people are sympathetic characters, and to protect them they propose whatever.  guarding against forest fires by clear cutting.

then the fight becomes whose ‘real person’ is real and whose is an actor dressed as a farmer.

foreshadowing a new future is essential for taking on a favorite control myth, like there is no alternative, the only realistic option is ours.

targeting a brand uses the corporations’ budgets against them – aikido – hijacking familiar imagery.

you need to deconstruct the current story using the battle of the story before constructing a new one.

center of meme campaign is narrative, and the contagious self-replicating meme capsules that spread the story.

at its core an effective meme campaign requires strong grass roots organizing, and a flexible network-based structure to flourish.

using street theater to illustrate exposing meme.

the battle of the story challenges assumptions and frames issues differently.

the story of the battle relies on empirical examples that get distorted and dismantled as exceptions rather than rules.

telling the story of the battle fails to frame issue to challenge the spectator role of the general public.  protesters vs police is seen as someone else’s fight.

[most people don’t really think of themselves as the 99%  or the 1%]

this part is from the documentary zeitgeist moving forward

in a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay.  and unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable, and help to change it – ernst fischer.

man in middle – us (me) [observer].  in the middle of unthinking daily life.  when breakthru of truth (they live) shatters daily life for a moment, the man in the middle comes back in shock to pick up and go on, but it’s all surreal now.

continuing with re:imagining change.

intervention is the deliberate interference or interaction with a previously existing narrative, audience, social structure, system, venue or space.

points of intervention are specific places in a system where an action can effectively interrupt and influence the story of a system and build momentum for change.

points of intervention are traditionally physical points in the systems that shape our lives.  points of production, destruction, consumption, decision (power-holders HQ).

direct action is any action where people step out of their traditional scripted roles ad challenge the dominant expectation of obedience [artists].  when it is effective, direct action shifts power relationships in the moment it is happening and builds lasting movement by leaving an imprint of new possibilities in our imaginations.  creating fundamental change at the deepest levels of power relationships.

actions at a point of assumption in the narrative are like physical action at points of intervention.  in this case you’re challenging and shifting underlying assumptions.

point of decision actions reframe issues by unmasking hidden interests and challenge assumptions about who is to blame for a problem.

story-based strategy is an exploration of how social movements can operate in the realm of narrative to create a shared story for interpreting political issues that inform the understanding of a critical mass of society.

the idea is to identify and target underlying assumptions that sustain the status quo.  aiming to pass thru the filters of the audience and change their story.

assumptions are what you have to believe to buy the story.  when exposed and found to be contradictory to real life and the values of audience, they’re vulnerable.

one place to find points of assumption is at the place where endings become contestable, where effective action can forecast a different future.

intervention at the point of assumption can reclaim public space for the discussion of a problem untethered from the confines of the power-holder’s framing.

repurposing pop culture narratives.  popular culture can provide unique opportunities for social change messages to hitch a ride on specific memes, metaphors and cultural narratives. [star wars, lord of the rings]

[what movies, what superheroes will i use?]

action logic, where people can plainly see what’s going on without having to share values.

metaverbs, summarize action logic in one word, and are seen as the benchmark of an action’s success.  clear logic, anchored in broader narrative about intentions, demands, worldview.

pop culture offers detailed cultural codes that help popularize messages that would otherwise get filtered.  trouble is not everyone knows the code, and it changes quickly due to fashion.

the strategy should be not only to confront an empire, but to lay siege to it…with our art, our music, our literature…and our ability to tell our own stories.  stories that are different from the ones we’ve been brainwashed to believe – arundhati roy.

save the whales.  traditional image of heroic whalers and moby dick.  greenpeace showed activists as heros defending helpless whales from giant whaling factories.

[reversal.  saying the same thing about each other.  the one thing that links the right and the left right now is what they’re saying about each other.  each is trying desperately to save the country from the evil clutches of the other side, who are bent on destroying america.]

if you don’t want to be cast as victims of x, use a large powerful hero mascot to run the bad x guys off.

denial is the assumption that US can go green on its current path rather than fundamentally change our system to operate within ecological limits.

denial is one of the key psychological undercurrents in the dominant culture that is preventing widespread acknowledgement of the scope of the crisis.  this denial is also present on the other side – the attitude that if we just keep fighting we’ll eventually win.

seismic events trigger mass psychic breaks where the status quo stories don’t hold and new perspectives congeal – like after 9/11.  the narrative landscape shifts rapidly and unexpectedly as the terms of the debate are redefined.  these moments are often hijacked by power-holders who use fear to manipulate trauma and re-entrench old power dynamics.

this bit here from zeitgeist.

why should someone feel unhappy or engage in antisocial behavior when that person is living in the freest and most prosperous nation on earth?  it can’t be the system.

addiction – any behavior associated with craving, temporary relief, with long term negative consequences, along with impairment of control over it.  the greater the harm, the more respectable the addiction.

back to re:imagining change

as the control myths unravel, our movements can offer new narratives and foreshadow just futures, but we must be ready to wage the battle of the story in the midst of upheaval, fracture, and rapid change.

our movements need to nurture a culture of strategic innovation.

leaders are forging new alliances that build unity among different issues, constituencies and movements without creating structures that deny our differences or compromise our diversity.

the transformational stories of 21st century change will celebrate the heroes at the margins, inspire us to face the true scale of our problems, and herald visions of a world remade.  they will accommodate complexity, embrace diversity and foreshadow the challenges and triumphs we all will face.

[even when you expose them as psychopaths (bush and saud) their supporters ignore the facts and revere their heroes all the more.]

this is from matt bai’s 2005 nytimes article the framing wars.

in order to reach voters all the individual issues of political debate must tie into a larger frame that feels familiar to us.  voters respond to grand metaphors – (conservatives as strict fathers, liberals as indulgent moms).  republicans are skilled at using loaded language and constant repetition to play into the frame in our unconscious minds.  democrats are wrong to assume we are rational actors who act on facts.  cognitive science proves we are programmed to respond to deeply imbedded unconscious frames, and if facts don’t fit the frames, our minds reject them.

republicans stand for (8 words), lower taxes, less government, strong defense, family values.  democrats can’t sum it up that simply.

miniature models

Another OWS sign, “The beginning is near,” caught the mood of the moment. Flowers seem like the right image for this uprising led by the young, those who have been most crushed by the new economic order, and who bloom by rebelling and rebel by blooming.
Ordinary people shone that morning. They were not terrorized; they were galvanized into action, and they were heroic. And it didn’t stop with that morning either.  That day, that week they began to talk about what the events of 9/11 actually meant for them, and they acted to put their world back together, practically and philosophically.  All of which terrified the Bush administration, which soon launched not only its “global war on terror” and its invasion of Afghanistan, but a campaign against civil society.  It was aimed at convincing each of us that we should stay home, go shopping, fear everything except the government, and spy on each other.

You can think of civil society and the state as a marriage of convenience. You already know who the wife is, the one who is supposed to love, cherish, and obey: that’s us. Think of the state as the domineering husband who expects to have a monopoly on power, on violence, on planning and policymaking.

Of course, he long ago abandoned his actual wedding vows, which means he is no longer accountable, no longer a partner, no longer bound by the usual laws, treaties, conventions. He left home a long time ago to have a sordid affair with the Fortune 500, but with the firm conviction that we should continue to remain faithful — or else.  The post-9/11 era was when we began to feel the consequences of all this and the 2008 economic meltdown brought it home to roost.

Think of Occupy as the signal that the wife, Ms. Civil Society, has finally acknowledged that those vows no longer bind her either. Perhaps this is one reason why the Occupy movement seems remarkably uninterested in electoral politics while being political in every possible way. It is no longer appealing to that violent, errant husband.  It has turned its back on him — thus the much-decried lack of “demands” early on, except for the obvious demand the pundits pretended not to see: the demand for economic justice.

Still, Ms. Civil Society is not asking for any favors: she is setting out on her own, to make policy on a small scale through the model of the general assembly and on a larger scale by withdrawing deference from the institutions of power.  (In one symbolic act of divorce, at least three quarters of a million Americans have moved their money from big banks to credit unions since Occupy began.) The philandering husband doesn’t think the once-cowed wife has the right to do any of this — and he’s ready to strike back. Literally.

The Occupy movement has decided, on the other hand, that it doesn’t matter what he thinks. It — they — she — we soon might realize as well that he’s actually the dependent one, the one who rules at civil society’s will, the one who lives off her labor, her taxes, her productivity. Mr. Unaccountable isn’t anywhere near as independent as he imagines. The corporations give him his little treats and big campaign donations, but they, too, depend on consumers, workers, and ultimately citizens who may yet succeed in reining them in.

In the meantime, a domestic-violence-prone government is squandering a fortune on a little-mentioned extravagance in financially strapped American cities: police brutality, wrongful arrest, and lawsuits over civil-rights violations. New York City — recall those pepper-spraye captive young women, that legal observer with a police scooter parked on top of him, and all the rest — you’re going to have a giant bill due in court, just as you did after the 2004 Republican convention fiasco: New York has spent almost a billion dollars paying for the collateral damage already done by its police force over the past dozen years.

One of the complicating factors in the Occupy movement is that so many of the thrown-away people of our society — the homeless, the marginal, the mentally ill, the addicted — have come to Occupy encampments for safe sleeping space, food, and medical care.  And these economic refugees were generously taken in by the new civil society, having been thrown out by the old uncivil one.
and here’s another article addressing the same thing.

There are three key elements that have made the global movements of
2011 so powerful:

  1. The extraordinary capacity to include all types of people;
  2. The impulse to move beyond traditional forms of the protest and contention, so as to create solutions for the problems identified;
  3. The horizontal and directly participatory form they take.

Rather than reproducing the logic of the traditional “sit-in,” these occupations quickly turned to the construction of miniature models of the society that the movement wanted to create—prefiguring the world while simultaneously creating it. The territory occupied was geographic, but only so as to open other ways of doing and being together. It is not the specific place that is the issue, but what happens in it. This is what we could call the first phase of the movement. Solutions began to be implemented for the urgent problems, like the absence of truly representative politics and the lack of access to basic necessities, such as housing, education, food, and health care. In Spain and in the United States, this first phase saw the creation of two problem-solving institutions: the general assemblies and the working groups.

The participants in these movements create spaces of sociability, places where we can be treated as free human beings beyond the constant demands of the profit motive.

The ways in which we organize in these spaces of assemblies and working groups is inextricably linked to the vision of what we are creating. We seek open, horizontal, participatory spaces where each person can truly speak and be heard. We organize structures, such as facilitation teams, agendas, and variations on the forms of the assembly, from general assemblies to spokes councils, always being open to changing them so as to create the most democratic and participatory space possible.

In these working groups the dynamic of the second phase of these movements was already implicit. In Spain this phase began over the summer; in the United States it is beginning now. This phase is characterized by the gradual shift from a focus on acts of protest (which nonetheless continue to have a crucial role, as we must confront this system that creates crisis) to instituting the type of change that the movements actually want to see happen in society as a whole. The capacity to create solutions grows as the movements expand in all directions, first through the appearance of multiple occupations connected among themselves, and then through the creation of—or collaboration with—groups or networks that are able to solve problems on a local level through cooperation and the sharing of skills and resources.

In the case of Spain, this expansion began in June, when the movement decided to focus its energy more on the assemblies and the working groups than on maintaining the encampments themselves. To maintain the miniature models of a society that the movement wished to create did not necessarily contribute to the actual changes that were needed in the populations that needed them the most. Which is why the decision to move away from the encampments was nothing more than another impulse in the constructive aims of the movement: the real encampment that has to be reconstructed is the world.

In any case, to return to the example of Spain, what is certain is that while the indignado movement no longer has encampments, its presence is felt everywhere. It’s a culture now, composed of thousands of micro-institutions that provide solutions through the common efforts of people affected by the same problems. There are cooperatives addressing work, housing, energy, education, finance, and nutrition, and many other things, as well as a web of collaboration that connects these cooperatives. Catalunya and Madrid already have “Integral Cooperatives” whose function is to coordinate the different services offered by various cooperatives within a particular locale, to the point that in some places in Spain it is almost possible to live without having to depend on the resources hoarded by the one percent.

While the tumult of raids and returns jolts occupiers and the public alike, thousands of working groups around the world meet weekly in libraries, community centers, churches, cafes, and offices to share their extraordinary abilities and resources. They are already creating the schools, hospitals, houses, neighborhoods, cities, and dreams of the 99 percent.

a novel about a quantum world

it’s suzie, of splat, but grown up.  she used to be a waitress, and in her off hours she would patrol the highways in a superhero costume, and punish traffic assholes with a paint gun.  shit happened, but she lived thru it, and that was years ago now.

so she’s about 30.  after the tony country club full of white supremacists, she abandoned the puritan work ethic forever, and sank into a hand-to-mouth existence – little throwaway jobs, a series of apartments on one-year leases and boyfriends month-to-month, a friendly and workable addiction to whatever was handy at the time, ranging from booze to pills to coke and meth, and always soothed by weed.

she kept falling for the wrong guys.  the first one was a coke dealer who up and left in a hurry one day.  this was followed by a narcotics cop who got her pregnant and then went down in a sting.  after that she fell in love with an adonis fresh out of jail who tried but couldn’t find anything that paid better but the same old game.  and once he got her pregnant a second time, he went for a big score to set them up for life, and that was that.

so she’s homeless.  with a four year old and one on the way.

or something.  maybe a baby is a little much.  not to mention two.  once dfacs gets involved you can forget about any real plot development.

a single suzie at 30, then.

her life sucks, she’s trying to work herself out of a bottom of homeless drug addiction, she’s plucky, but her ironic sense of humor is becoming bitter.  she’s still her own worst enemy.

somehow, she discovers quantum physics – the theory of everything.  she discovers that it works in everyday life.  by focusing the will.  she learns to change very small things about her life that way.

her friend (her enemy) also learns how to do it, and they work to develop it.

they develop meditation methods, and physical exercises, and a list of hints.  they make costumes.  they create a religion with merchandising.

learning how to be god has a learning curve.  changing more than one thing at a time is very difficult.  as they learn, they start to grow apart.  she’s fine with small changes, baby steps, the cautious approach.  her friend, her enemy is more ambitious, gets more, does more, interferes more.

in the end she has to stand against her enemy, her friend, and fight for one version of reality over the other.

like the reason arab spring was so successful this year; they could all feel it.  and trying it in cuba is not working because they’re not feeling it.  here either.  for paradigm shift to occur there must be a new feeling, beat, slogan, gestalt, attitude, fashion, music etc.  way of seeing the world that is instinctual, appeals to the senses and not reason, the emotions.  that way they don’t have to think about it, they can get it, like ? with how to play the queen mum.

the central myth is jim’s take on the garden of eden.