“Plant or muppet” is the WRONG question for social movements

Say you’ve got someone who comes to you from another campaign which has imploded. Say he’s full of confidence, full of charisma. Say he’s good at making sure his needs and ambitions are talked about. Say he’s good at seeming to agree with everyone else, but is actually determined to push through what he wants, regardless of the consequences for the health of the group. Say his finances are murky – no clear visible means of support.

You COULD start to wonder, are they a cop, or perhaps an activist who has been talent-spotted and “hired” by the dark-side. And you could look for evidence for ages and ages. And while you were doing that, you’d be exhausting yourself, and creating paranoia. And if your search was rumbled, you’d give the person – if they were cop/agent – a perfect get-out-of-jail-free card – “it’s a witch hunt.”

Or you can look at it another way; it’s not the motivation, it’s the behaviour.

If someone is unhealthily disruptive (challenging everyone’s assumptions is fine, but hijacking and derailing agendas is not), if someone is interested in creating emotional intensity instead of long-term movement-building, then THAT is the problem, not who they may or may not be.

But confronting behaviour that is destructive is a thing most activists find very very difficult. They know their own imperfections will be thrown back in their faces. They know they will be accused of trying to assume power; “who are you to tell me how to act? Who voted you chief fascist dictator? We are non-hierarchical here, which means everyone gets to do what they like.”

And so they defer doing anything through idle speculation on cop-ness, or by hoping the activist will go elsewhere (once he’s destroyed the campaign, and has no more audience for his psychodrama, he probably will. Might be a bit late to be helpful), or that he will magically change his ways.

Anything to avoid a confrontation and accusations of being a “splitter” (“we should be fighting the oil companies/the government/the Zionists/the weapons-sellers, not each other.”)

And so there is never any selection pressure on shitty behaviour, and new activists whose hearts are broken by the crappy behaviour learn – as they leave the movement – that activism is pointless.

Whether they are cops, agents or just good old-fashioned muppets, the behaviour is working.

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Isis, Ebola and … Abba. 2014 as a trailer for the “End of Civilisation” movie…

It’s always the end of days. The apocalypse is always almost upon us. This I know. The boy is always crying wolf. But this doesn’t mean there isn’t a wolf. And that he is hungry.

How will it all end? Probably not with a thermo-nuclear war, with hundreds of short-range missiles taking seven minutes to go from Russia to Germany or vice-versa, with those slow-poke ICBMs taking 25 minutes.

Not with a zombie apocalypse (we’re all too savvy now, anyway).

Will it be a long slow grind, a ratcheting decline, the “world”(1) ending with a series of more plaintive whimpers rather than a bang.

Or will it be a ridiculously abrupt change (forced by the Gulfstream flipping or some such). If you’d told Europeans in 1346 that in 5 years a third of them would be dead, I doubt you’d have too many takers (though of course, God was bigger back then). If you’d told someone in Vienna in 1913 that in 5 years the Empire (and others) would be gone, and that there would be some exceptionally well-fertilized fields in Northern Europe, they probably would have laughed.

In hindsight, these things look inevitable and OBVIOUS. Before, not so much, and certainly not the speed.

So, is it going to be a disaster movie ending (but without the redemption). And are Isis and the Ebola outbreak trailers for that film?

And the Abba? It’s not click-bait, it’s this -

I was at a party and this fella said to me
“Something bad is happening, I’m sure you do agree
People care for nothing, no respect for human rights
Evil times are coming, we are in for darker nights”
I said, “Who are you to talk about impending doom?”
He got kinda wary as he looked around the room
He said, “I’m a minister, a big shot in the state”
I said, “I just can’t believe it, boy I think it’s great
Brother can you tell me what is right and what is wrong?”
He said, “Keep on rocking baby, ’til the night is gone”

(1) And what is this “world” I speak of, anyway? The comfortable life of an able-bodied middle class white man? Most of the world doesn’t live with clean water, regular electricity, freedom of speech and disposable income?)

Btw, here’s what a good friend suggested as a possible scenario when journalism is gone;;

Accelerates current trends of Fox-type media such that a dystopian future shows up sooner as societal systems fail due to climate change, trends generating increased receptivity for all’s well propagandistic messaging from political and corporate elite? The masses are manipulated with zero interference as per Orwell’s 1984 but without torture and guns and so on?

We slide down past Truthiness to OFFICIAL TRUTH?

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Dwight returns; “Creative compartments” etc etc

Right, am sick of *not* putting daily posts. Most of what I put up will be quick stuff – stuff I’ve typed up from various reading thinking “hmm, must do summat with that”. Well, if I just accumulate, without dispersing, I help nobody, inc. self…

Here’s the first quote, on hierarchy….

Creative Compartments: A design for future organisation
Gerard Fairtlough

Hierarchies work particularly well when there are only a few well-educated, knowledgeable people available, whose knowledge is clearly advantageous for the organisation, or when the people at the top have a clear vision, for which some reason cannot easily be shared with the rest of the organisation. This was certainly the case a hundred years ago, when hierarchies were starting to proliferate. It was also the case more recently. Amid the confusion after the Second World War, the top-down policies, set by senior management, were readily accepted. But the experts from the centre quickly taught their colleagues on the periphery, and as a result the expert became to be less valuable. By the 1960s the central office started to be resented, and since the 1970s, at least in business, the hierarchical mode of organisation has come under pressure.

So why do hierarchies continue I believe the reasons are, first, the love of power, and, second, the fear of change. If what might replace a hierarchy is unfamiliar and unproven, resistance to change must be expected, and not only from the top but throughout the organisation.

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Words I didn’t know, have googled/wikipedia-ed

Actinic (Solar page 118) Actinism is the property of solar radiation that leads to the production of photochemical and photobiological effects
Agapanthus Some species of Agapanthus are commonly known as lily of the Nile (or African lily in the UK), although they are not lilies and all of the species are native to South Africa, from the Cape of Good Hope to the Limpopo River
Erethism Erethism or erethism mercurialis is a neurological disorder which affects the whole central nervous system, as well as a symptom complex derived from mercury poisoning. This is also sometimes known as the mad hatter disease.
Godhead (page 170) Divinity, the quality of being God
Conceptions of God
Godhead in Judaism, the unknowable aspect of God, which lies beyond his actions or emanations
Godhead in Christianity, the substantial essence or nature of the Christian God
Inanition (page 119) Starvation is a severe deficiency in caloric energy intake. It is the most extreme form of malnutrition. In humans, prolonged starvation can cause permanent organ damage[1] and eventually, death. The term inanition refers to the symptoms and effects of starvation.
Jeroboam Jeroboam /ˌdʒɛrəˈboʊ.əm/ (Hebrew: יָרָבְעָם yarobh`am, Greek: Ιεροβοάμ Hieroboam) was the first king of the northern Israelite Kingdom of Israel after the revolt of the ten northern Israelite tribes against Rehoboam that put an end to the United Monarchy.
Maquette A maquette (French word for scale model, sometimes referred to by the Italian names plastico or modello) is a small scale model or rough draft of an unfinished sculpture. An equivalent term is bozzetto, from the Italian word that means “sketch”.
Ruched (Solar page 40) In the sewing technique, ruching, a large number of increases are introduced in one row, which are then removed by decreases a few rows later. This produces many small vertical ripples in the fabric, effectively little pleats.
Plainsong Plainsong (also plainchant; Latin: cantus planus) is a body of chants used in the liturgies of the Western Church. Though the Eastern Orthodox churches and the Western Church did not split until long after the origin of plainsong, Byzantine chants are generally not classified as plainsong.
Plainsong is monophonic, consisting of a single, unaccompanied melodic line. Its rhythm is generally freer than the metered rhythm of later Western music.

Saturnalia Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honor of the deity Saturn, held on the 17th of December of the Julian calendar and later expanded with festivities through to the 23rd of December. The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, in the Roman Forum, and a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms: gambling was permitted, and masters provided table service for their slaves.[1] The poet Catullus called it “the best of days.”

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Books I just bought (while giving away many many more!)

Having a bit of a clear-out. Long overdue of course. I took a backpack mostly full down to a ‘burb of Manchester where there are lots of charity shops. I surprised myself by coming away only with the following -

Christopher Isherwood “Goodbye to Berlin” (£1.50) The inspiration for I am a Camera and Cabaret
Arthur Hailey “Airport” (£0.50) I intend – if advanced industrial capitalism doesn’t collapse first – to write about aviation and its meaning. So, this and Airframe and others will be read…)
John Monaghan and Peter Just “Social and Cultural Anthropology: A very short introduction” (£1.99) Anthropology is on my long list of things to get my head around properly.
Estelle Phillips and DS Pugh How to get a PhD (£2) No-brainer
John Maxwell and Jim Dornan “Becoming A Person of Influence: How to positively impact the lives of others” (£3.49) Hmm. Wouldn’t it be nice…
Margaret Heffernan “Wilful Blindness: Why we ignore the obvious at our peril” (£3.49) And, hopefully, “how we stop ourselves and others ignoring the obvious…”

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*Excellent* video on Big M and small m meetings by Johnnie Moore. Watch this!!!

http://johnniemoore.com/big-m-meetings/

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Charity shop goons

Went out for a lovely lunch with the lovely Mrs Towers. Haloumi fish and chips!

Charity shop people are getting more and more vicious. As we were innocently walking past they would leap out and force us at gunpoint to buy books.

I got
The Survivor by James Herbert. Guy survives plane crash in which everyone else is crispy. Film of it was shot in Adelaide. I remember we’d drive into the city past the growing Jumbo jet, which one day was torched (they filmed the crash the night before). I have an idea to write on the mechanics and meaning of civil aviation. It’s in the “maybe one day” file.

The Consumers’ Guide to the Protection of the Environment by Jonathan Holliman. Published originally in 1970, my “revised and updated edition” of 1974 has a mention of carbon dioxide accumulation and the ‘greenhouse effect’ (I am going to write something on the (very) early days of popular awareness of climate change…

Easy Learning German Verbs, published by Collins. Did you know that “William Collins’ dream of knowledge for all began with the publication of his first book in 1819. A self-educated mill worker, he not only enriched millions of lives, but also founded a flourishing publishing house.”
Why? If I want to be more employable, being a competent German speaker would be a Good Thing. Watch this space…

Peace for Beginners by Ian Kellas. One of those cartoon/text books. I am shamefully ignorant of the history of the peace movement.

The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope . Melmotte and all that – big “decadence” jeremiad form the 1870s. Will be interesting to read using the Multi-Level Perspective…

Helmsman and Heroes; Control theory as a key to past and future by William Gosling. Yep, also need to read Beniger’s The Control Revolution

Bloody charity shop goons.

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