Workshops in Ideas is an attempt to inspire interest in creative political thought.
There is no beginning and end as such, although I will attempt to keep some structure and links to relevant sources. I will add new installments every two weeks or so. If you wish to be informed of updates I’ll can put you on the mail list.
There are also many instructional,s on the web. One of the best being Z net. What I am offering here is a bit more fragmented in order to draw on impressions and make a variety of connections between different things. What I am aiming for is to encourage the reader to look around and perhaps examine their social environment an come up with and express ideas of their own that might improve their community or at least understand it a bit more.
As usual I am up for ideas, comment, participation help in anything from content to spelling mistakes and general feedback on this project and it’s presentation.
I will use this stuff to kick off some workshops in the summer and combine it with talks, visits and City Strolls.
If you are interested in inspiring others, or need some encouragement or if there is anything you don’t understand or I don’t understand. That’s what this site is here for
There is no reason to accept the doctrines crafted to sustain power and privilege, or to believe that we are constrained by mysterious and unknown social laws. These are simply decisions made within institutions that are subject to human will and that must face the test of legitimacy. And if they do not meet the test, they can be replaced by other institutions that are more free and more just, as has happened often in the past.
Oppression – obsession
Here we are at the turn of a new century the world is running riot. Oppression for the poor countries, obsession for the rich is the order of the day.The new technology which should liberate us, set us free, is used to help bludgeon the population into a state of anxiety, fear and paranoia. A state in which we find spending money, instead of time with each other, a remedy for our ills.
The life we imagined
History and vision
We have placed our future hopes and trust in the hands of imbeciles and tyrants. It may be we need to regain our vision. That is a people’s vision. We have ignored Rousseau’s sound advice and stopped “Attending to our (own) garden.”
If we are to re-establish this vision.
1.We need to study the achievements of the people who struggled before us. The struggle that gave us the quality of life we now are finding ourselves needing to defend.
2. And we need to study the schemes and strategies of those who plan to deny us this vision.
Reclaiming the commons
Through out these pages I mention Government in the same breath as Big Business. I make no apoligies here, for to me they are almost one and the same thing. And never more so than in the political situation the world finds itself in today. It is too late to deal only in the parochial situation, or in single issue politics.
Our problems and their solutions are world wide. It has become only too plain in the recent past that politics, politicians and their policy decisions are made in isolation and are uneffected by the views of the people that these agents and policies are suppose to represent.
Things won’t, and never have gotten better on there own.
What I am aiming for in the following sections is:
1. To look at some of the devices and language used through public relations, the media and propaganda that is used to:
*Antagonize and dissuade the public from taking issue and exploring the disparities and unfairness that they find themselves up against.
*The class system that cements such inequality.
*The strategies that are used to defend it.
2. To point towards ideas, people, historical and contemporary references for positive change that will:
*Empower and encourage people in our communities to understand how to rationalize the problems and to discover where the answer to these problems lie.
*To percieve the distractions designed to take their eye off the ball.
*And to make the experience enlightening and as enjoyable as possible.( Which is potentially the biggest fear of those who deem to control and exploit us.)
What it’s all about
There is a history of radical working class struggle which bears witness that positive change is determined and won by ordinary people. This is the history from which we have become disconnected. We need to reconnect. Don’t confuse this with the history we learned at school –
This is the history that makes clear that iIt is not leaders who create positive change but it is the people in our communities, who not only create but underpin such change. A history that warns against complacency to the tricks and contrivances carried out by the architects of the class structure. Those who divide and rule and reward for conformity and competition.
It is worth remembering that most of what the working people struggle against, both nationally and internationally, are fundamentally to do with class. Class means the same thing in any language.
Commons is the generic term. It embraces all the creations of nature and society that we inherit jointly and freely, and hold in trust for future generations.
The Class System
In this section we will look at some stuff that highlights the systems; tools, and devices unchanged through recent history (last hundred years) to restrain and subvert public opinion. (Propaganda being the main one, we will study in detail latter)
Protecting the system
Maintaining the division
Some people deny that there is such a thing as the class system especially in government .There are good reasons for this. To understand the workings of the class system is to unlock the toolbox that can tackle a great many of our social ills and inequalities.
Citizens managed to abolish slavery. (rich people invented it) Black people, women, children have gained rights and liberty’s which where once only the privilege of elite and mostly rich white males. The extent of these rights we will keep to later, suffice to say these rights were fought hard for. But it must be remembered Governments only gave-way so far in these hard win reforms – While still protecting and maintain the structure of power at the top.
So we don’t send children up chimneys any more but we are still ruled by the same structures of government which did allow it. And still allows the poor children of Arab states an even worse fate.
Through out history the whole gamut of civil unrest, social change, wars, uprisings, tumults riots, reforms and social progress the one factor has blighted the liberty of the citizen is. The overall hierarchy of power always remains the same.
Among the tools for sustaining the class system are race, nationalism, gender, competition, chauvinism, propaganda and armies The fundamental idea of preserving a class system ruled from the top is to:
1. Maintaining the division between rich and poor while the rich get richer. (this is the obvious bit)
2. Organizing and understanding each other ie corporations, conglomerates, governments, in their strategies for the upkeep of this disparity between the upper and lower orders. (The people who rule us are very organized therefore to counter them needs organization.)
3. Dissuading the underclass from becoming aware of such strategies through – controlled education and the illusion of a democratic process.
When middle-class activists approach organizing with the assumption that they need to enlighten and educate the duped and the unaware, they may be contributing to the class divide that exists in current social change movements.
In scarcely more than a century education has become a basic human right and the school as major social institution. But has the learning industry contributed to social equality? Wayne Ellwood reports.
Tony Blair informs us that there is no such thing as class any more. So are we all middle class or something? The following are figures from the Class War web site.
Rich – Poor
The Ruling Class About 5% of the population.
Some examples: Owners of major companies, landowners judges ,top cops, church leaders and the aristocracy including the Royal Family.
The Middle Class About 20% of the population
Some examples :professionals e.g.journalists,doctors,teachers,management,social workers Also priests officers in the armed forces and the owners of small businesses
The Working Class About 75% of the population
Some examples: Factory shop and office workers,nurses,technicians agricultural workers, soldiers up to NCO level and the unemployed
The above figures are not the invention of Class War – they come from the State’s own figures and were updated after the 1981 census.
“Maybe the class system could be simplified to help Tony Blair to understand it better. The rich class -The poor class”.
Within the ruling classes racism is of no account. Color means nothing when money and power is involved. The upper classes don’t care what colour you are, what nationality, Arab; African, Chinese, Russian or what religion or anything else. They do not care how many die in their wars created to achieve what they seek. Whether it’s the enemies troops and civilians, or whether it’s their own is also of no account. They only care about power and the accumulation of wealth. How they achieve it or what it costs is secondary.
Racism was invented to keep poor whites and poor blacks apart in the days of slavery. Lest the poor black and white joined to organize against there rulers. Class, is a very useful word when describing the gap between the top and the bottom for really that is what it is all about. For what ever the issues under discussion, whether it be race, politics or religion you will find the class system at its core. Which is why people like Tony Blair deny the existence of class
Think global act local
As I have said. We don’t send kids up chimneys anymore. However, today the devices of domestic exploitation and repression are of a more subtle nature than they were the days of our ancestors.
While then, and now on shores detached from our island our government, along with others can murder and brutalize to gain submission to their agendas. Today on the homeland, while racism is still a staple device. Television, entertainment and public relations are the main submissive forces.
We need to understand that both these forms of repression both violent and submissive at home and abroad are inextricably linked and in solving one we can help solve the other.
Exploitative wages anywhere, every worker will eventually suffer at home and abroad. We do not progress by being in competition with each other but by cooperation and understanding that what hurts one hurts us all. Understanding the class system is an important tool in achieving this end.
The emancipation of the working class must be the work of the workers themselves.
Do we learn from history
Everyone has the right to work, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection for himself and his family [and] an existence worthy of human dignity.. everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
We have 50 per cent of the world’s wealth, but only 6-3 per cent of its population. In this situation, our real job in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which permit us to maintain this position of disparity. To do so, we have to dispense with all sentimentality… we should cease thinking about human rights, the raising of living standards and democratisation.
George Kennan, US Cold War planner, 1948
The above statements illustrates a contradiction in western politics that existed long before 1945. The above has been an on going theme of governments for hundreds of years. That of maintaining the disparity between the powerful rich and the sustainment of a despondent poor.
The question is. Are we any smarter then than we are now? There are two things that should worry people One is There is no end to the amount of information and material available to highlight and inform of the wrong doings of powerful nations and corporations in robbing and destroying the worlds resources.
Yet, even with wide protest and important progress made in civil liberties mostly ignored by media attention we still have an atrophy and zombified reaction by people to a lot of what is going on. We should be saying first. Stop this! Then, How can we stop this. Rather than. That’s just the way it is.
The other concern is It is always a good measure of the active dissent in a society by. How deep governments bury or attempt to hide unpopular legislation and policies from public scrutiny. Today much these dubious ideas thinly disguised as reforms but blatant cons are thrown in the publics faces with no excuses, warranty debate or protest.
There are various reasons for public apathy. One is the overpowering saturation of information. Followed by more of the same. Until all that is seen is a blurred and incomprehensive abstraction that can be difficult to understand or rationalize into any structure of importance.
Another is. Telling people what is wrong all the time can wear down peoples resistance. Without structuring a debate that can help them to understand how to put the wrongs right. This of course is much harder.
But this is the challenge to socially minded people if we are to counter the odious mentality that creates projects such as “The new American Century”
To summarize We need to concentrate on as well as the issues the machinery that drives the issues
*We need to understand the structure of oppression and the tools used that deny us the right in deciding how we would like to live
* The propaganda system used to manipulate the public mind that creates the illusion of democracy.
The structure of the system. That doles out just enough reward to the middle class in order to cushion the rich from the poor. And to maintain the above disparity of wealth and power.
*And finally.We do not have to agree with each other all of the time. But we need to insure we are all heading in the same direction Single issues need to join as one issue. In the struggle for a better world –
We will not find salvation in any one party, strategy, theory, book, leader or ideology. The job is finding the good parts and working with those while trying to avoid the bad parts .
Reading the right food
Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Richard Steel,
Use your time wisely
We need to be careful of being distracted by colorful diversions. Use our time wisely and allocate time to the job in hand and read the right stuff . Books and political rallies while useful in educating for effecting change can also be time wasting and distracting.
The former in sometimes telling you all there is to know in the first hundred pages. Then spending the other hundred pages repeating the same thing.
The latter can build an audience into a fervor with a good idea. But instead of letting the assembly go home with the idea ringing in their head. On and on they drone until the weight of words deflates the moment of inspiration.
In a world saturated with information. If we need to make intelligent decisions we must not mistake knowledge or information for intelligence. Intelligence is the ability to logically shape the knowledge we poses into ideas. Ideas that will further develop and enhance the way we wish to live. A step towards this ends (if you hope to win) is to avoid distractions and concentrate on what produces the most effective results.
Possession is Nine tenths
of the law of war
Question. What has war ever did for ordinary people apart from killing them, robbing them and making them frightened.
This is worth giving some serious consideration to. What do we actually gain from wars? Especially regarding the present situation.
The Just War
Citizens around the time of the first and the second world wars were, then, as we are today encouraged to understand that war is a necessity in protecting our liberty, democracy and “the right to work”. Yet I am reminded that.
After the first and second world war while the men were abroad fighting, the women and children were at home and in the factories, working to supply both the troops at the front and the country with food and arms.
The new machine technology was used at home to automate the production, while the male workforce fought for their liberty, King and country.
By the time the troops returned home from their bloody war, to “a country fit for heroes. The new automation was well established in the factories. This setup could have afforded each returning man a job and a twenty hour working week. Or. Half the workforce could be employed and the other half could be put on the dole.
We know which option was picked. Work for the chosen, unemployment for the rest
Women, who, during the war had proved themselves as worthy as men in the workforce went back to being housewife’s regardless of new discovered skills. Who would employ a woman to do mans work? We fight wars to be unemployed and to make the wealthy wealthier
Choice in the spoils
These decisions concerning employment of the returning war veterans were made by whom? the public? No way, the public was never given any choice in these matters.
You fought in the war for the right of someone else to make these decisions for you. i.e. a statesman. Someone who was as far away from the bullets as they possibly could be. Today fifty years on the same process goes on. Only It’s eight hours a day plus, if you are lucky to have a job. And the dole if you are not.
We need to look at the facts. Not the rhetoric of politicians, who don’t fight in the wars
1.Who pays for war?
2. Who starts wars?
3. Who fights wars?
4. Who gains from war?
1. The death toll on both sides of ordinary troops and civilians. The unemployment before and after wars, should answer the first question.
2. The people furthest away from the fighting.
3. The young who have most of their lives before them.
4. The industrialists who produce the weapons, expensive food and cheap labour, before during and after wars.
When was the last time you heard of a soldier who became rich because of war? Then. Try and find an industrialist in history who gave up his wealth to fight a war. The opposites are true.
Franklin D. Roosevelt said to a friend at a time the workers were in revolt against poverty “What this country needs is a war, any kind of war.” Roosevelt wasn’t thinking of the enemy abroad when he made this statement. He was thinking about the enemy at home (the citizens of the United States) Roosevelt knew then what Bush knows now. The threat of war is the cloak that hides the undermining of the democratic principals and process of domestic politics. Allowing the state to do it’s dirty work with impunity.
The Bush Hitler Thing Comparing the Bush administration to Hitler Germany
Three day week
It was proved and noticed by many, when, in the 70s British Layland workers who were working a three day week, and who also had a vested interest in the job, created as much productivity as when workers worked a five day week under management.
Pre Industrial revolution weavers also worked a three day week. Why do you think they fought the factory owners who demanded six?
Is it a measure of our progress in a technologic debilitating world (as was the case during and after the second world war and from the time of industrial revolution), that a person has to work eight hours a day in (non creative) employment, while the rest of society stands idle. The rich as well as the unemployed.
The system our government adheres to cannot work without unemployment and a cheap dispensable work force. What else would explain the above?
The favored outcome of employment is fear of unemployment. The favored outcome of unemployment is a docile mass. And the favored outcome of war in the home country is to draw the populations attention away from domestic issues such as unemployment and poverty and push it towards nationalism and hatred of foreigners (i.e.fellow workers). Much like what has been happening in this country recently.
A QUESTION OF ATTITUDE
The questions that need to be re examined constantly in national, international and community affairs are
1.Is the system we live under serving the vision of ourselves and the future of our children?
2.What good did blowing up civilians ever do apart from keep other civilians in fear.
3..Can you envisage the situation getting any better considering world events, job un satisfaction xenophobia, fear, paranoia, consumption and ever present threat of war, if we accept it and go on as we are.
4.Do you want to join the struggle to make the world a better place to live – for everyone?
The last question is the most important. I will ask it a lot. For it is only when the answer to this question is yes can we connect to your history and vision of what we endeavor to be. And then take Thoreau’s advice to -”Go confidently in the direction of your dreams” and “Live the life you’v imagined” -not the life someone else has imagined for you.
IS THIS THE LIFE YOU IMAGINED
Communities What’s it to do with us ?
One of the obvious myths about market capitalism (this is the system we live under) is, we are told that wealth filters down from the top to the needy, when we all know it’s the other way around.
Eventually the effect these filtering up strategies reach local communities in two ways. Either in the form of cuts to social infrastructure, or Injections of cash for the right motives i.e. the benefit of business and profits.
Not all but much of these developments are at the whim of the local council trying to please developers and business interests rather than the interest and needs of the communities affected.
Local swimming baths closed. Centralized sports complexes open in their place, is a case in point. Creative ideas born in the streets of communities are plagiarized and bought off through short term funding. Or. Projects controlled and made pliable to commercial needs by the funds drawn from the communities own tax returns is another.
While cities such as Glasgow are presented in glossy magazines as a booming vibrant places of entertainment, art, drama, culture, luxury hotels, luxury housing, business opportunity and so no.
Yes it’s true as we look around our communities there is money being spent. There are new buildings going up everywhere. The dilapidated areas are taking on a new shine giving the impression of prosperity. But our communities are being set on F.I.RE. That is by Finance, Insurance, and Real-estate interests. Most of the money being spent represents investment in a sponge that sucks up revenue then moves on rather than any presenting any lasting investment in communities
Communities that do not meet or adapt to these new visions and planning requirements or accept these value systems, will suffer. Why? First. Because the faceless people who decide on “community infrastructure” who are involved with the above, don’t care about any community apart from the business community.
Unless the faceless start to see a process unfolding that challenges the things that they hold dear, i.e. their systems, their profits, their institutions they will never care. (Albert)
The only way communities can protect themselves from the onslaught of outside interests is to act like a community and take on the job of protecting their interests. And connecting with other communities under the same situation
How to boil frogs to taste like chicken
The cauldron bubbles with boiling water and they say frog tastes like chicken. Question is: are we too chicken to leap frog out of the pot?
Think like a Martian
The amount of our lives that is taken up by consumption makes it difficult to define a picture of a rational existence.
There are other ways of living. Other than the “That’s just the way it is” root that is to frequently muted. We need to remember that governments and corporations spend literally billions on trying to convince us that what they have to offer is better than what we can do for ourselves. Big business has the same scruples as a drugs dealer. Cheap finance and promises to get you hooked then suck you dry as you get in to deep. And just like a junkie your habit can send you to jail.
“The absurdity of consumption under capitalism is difficult for those of us living inside the system to recognize.
In The Dispossessed (Avon, 1974), science-fiction writer Ursula LeGuin has a character named Shevek who comes to earth from a moon habitat devoid of consumerism to visit a capitalist shopping mall. His reaction is as follows:”
“Saemtenevia Prospect was two miles long, and it was a solid mass of things to buy, things for sale. Coats, dresses, gowns, robes, trousers, breeches, shirts, umbrellas, clothes to wear while sleeping, while swimming, while playing games, while at an afternoon party, while at an evening party, while at a party in the country, while traveling, while at the theater, while riding horses, gardening, receiving guests, boating, dining, hunting-all different, all in hundreds of different cuts, styles, colors, textures, materials. Perfumes, clocks, lamps, statues, cosmetics, candles, pictures, cameras, hassocks, jewels, carpets: toothpicks, calendars, a baby’s teething rattle of platinum with a handle of rock crystal, an electrical machine to sharpen pencils, a wristwatch with diamond numerals, figurines and souvenirs and kickshaws and mementos and gewgaws and bric-a-brac, everything either useless to begin with or ornamented so as to disguise its use; acres of luxuries, acres of excrement. … But to Shevek the strangest thing about the nightmare street was that none of the millions of things for sale were made there. They were only sold there. Where were the workmen, the miners, the weavers, the chemists, the carvers, the dyers, the designers, the machinists …? Out of sight, somewhere else. Behind walls. All the people in all the shops were either buyers or sellers. They had no relation to the things but that of possessions. How was he to know what a goods’ production entailed? How could they expect him to decide if he wanted something? The whole experience was totally bewildering.”
(from p212. Participatory economics)
To much of our lives is becoming like science fiction we are taking for granted. Participatory economics offers some rational to replace the market forces sweeping us along out of control towards what? We need an alternative.
Cycle of desire
Unfortunately it is well known to advertisers that we are capable of happiness through the un-posessing of things.
Getting rid of things is also a road to happiness.
Why work to poses Why buy when we can share? The control of consumption to sensible desirable levels is one of the main factors in achieving an enjoyable life and an imperative in sustaining a healthy planet.
Why do corporations and government preach to us every day that production and economical growth is our most important agenda for survival? Because they know if people (the workers in the boring jobs) start thinking about it they may well reject it They may well discover that there is more to life than giving up your time to wage slavery, then giving back the money that you have earned to the cycle of market consumerism that enslaves you in the first place. And more importantly . Why are we allowing the brainwashing our children into the same consumptive cycle?
The need to examine our own ideas
There are activities in our communities that offer hope and an alternative to the daily grind and television. (some I will highlight on this web site) The ideas of these groups, individuals and institutions who offer creative and empowering alternatives. It is these community values that need nurtured and protected from the agents keen to separate communities from what they should and do hold dear.
And there is a need to debate and examine the foundational requirements to sustain a lasting movement for change within these communities – And how alternative community avoids and protects themselves from becoming part of the same disenpowering system they seek to escape.
Projects for a Participatory Society
Projects for a Participatory Society exists to propose, investigate, debate, explore, and advocate radical ideas for a desirable future.
What do we want?
These are not impossible goals and are achievable with effort. But they are not gifts they need to be demanded. And most importantly you need to believe that they can happen and only you can make them happen.
*Do we want a society.
Where, privilege looks down on poverty:
When Language, in matters of state is used to deceive rather than inform,
*Do we need to rely on an education system that depends on competition, winners and losers.
Where big business leeches on the tax system while the small or independent go under crippled by overheads.
*Where the unemployed are offered meaningless rote jobs or further education that leads nowhere.
A rentier society where homes mean investment rather than a place that everyone should have.
*A society to tired from overwork when there is plenty who could share in the work.
*A society so obsessed by entertainment that a considered opinion is based on last nights viewing.
*Where the old and frail are robbed of their dignity and their money in institutions founded on profit rather than care. Hospitals, run down to speed privatization where it is just as easy to catch an infection as it is to rid yourself of one, through a lack of the most basic and fundamental premise of medicines, cleanliness.
*Where the business’s in our high street who are seen to be at the principle of British Quality are in name only. As they
hive off jobs and production in this country and sell manufacturing contracts to the cheapest taker in the poverty stricken third world.
*Where the intellectual community sits on their hands and remains silent about what they know, and play apologist for financial gain against intellectual integrity. And where once again the liberating technology is used to confuse, entertain, spy-on, de humanize and degrade social interaction. It should be no secret to anyone, this is what we have
What we could have
Do we want people to represent us that we can trust. Respite from worry for the old where they will feel safe and secure.
* Education for our children that will help them lead a good life. That will teach them cooperation rather than competition.
* Communities that are in control of their own environments and not left to the will of the planners.
* Communities where children feel part of and feel safe as they play. Where People can feel safe 24 hours a day on the street.
* Do we want our institutions. hospitals, schools, run by people who care about such things. Our transport systems designed with ecological considerations. Most people would agree to a community that incorporated these ideas.
These are not impossible goals and are achievable with effort. But they are not gifts they need to be demanded. And most importantly you need to believe that they can happen, and only you can make them happen
Planning a vision
These are some the choices we need to consider when planning our vision of community for ourselves our children and their children. We need the strength of these visions to see us through the adversities we will meet on our way to change. Some of it is unpleasant, some of it hurts and some sacrifices need to be made. On the other hand we cease to become helpless victims to the demands of a system that is out to use us.
Poverty, is terror
There is also much to enjoy and learn and new like minded companions to meet along the way. And the thing to think about is. What’s the alternative. Do we carry on as one generation “thinkers” and forget our children futures. Or, do we join the struggle for a freer and better society. Do I want to? There are many who are working towards these ends but there aren’t enough of us. People need to look at what is actually happening around them both locally and globally. And ask the other question. Is this what I want? Our liberty is being eroded by the day, using laws and legislation under guises such as the “war on terror” . The rundown of public services prior to privatization. The privatization of our education system is being planed as I write, and much more on the constraining of our public life. While we wait for terror?
What can I do
There is always much needing done and never enough to do it. But more importantly. After you have asked the question. Do I want to join the struggle for a better world? What you then do is do what you can. You can spend half your life at it or, half your day, when you can. You can lick some stamps, write some letters, give some money each month, offer your morale support attend some meetings, challenge some views, give an opinion. support an action, noise up your MP. What you do, how you do it, how long it takes, how much it costs is not the important thing. The important thing is answering that question. Do I want to join the struggle for a better world? The rest is up to yourself. Then-
What ever you can do or dream you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. [Goethe.]
*Find something you are good at.
*Set yourself achievable goals. Then surpass them if you need to
*Offer your services to something you are interested in other groups and people ar always grateful for any help they can get no mater how little.
*Try and make it as enjoyable and sociable as possible
*Don’t burn yourself out. Progress can be slow (but sure
*Recognize your own achievements. Don’t wait for anyone to tell you how wonderful you are.
*Remember The little things ar infinitely the most important
*Your time is precious make sure what you are doing will achieve maximum effect. Bounce ideas off people before committing time to them. They may have a better idea or offer to help. Take help and ideas from anywhere you can get them be grateful and and generous with credit.
*And remember it’s only you and you’s like you that can make change happen.
How do we get it?
We cannot take on all the problems of the world at the same time, we can’t even think about our own personal problems all at once, we would be driven to distraction
Tools for thinking
We are bombarded every day through television, reading the papers, people we talk to, stories we hear, and things that go on in our immediate environment. School, housing, rent, violence, drugs, war nuclear threats, work, kids, unemployment, homelessness, globalization, the environment, to name but a few. Issues that are battling for your attention every day, whether you are rich or poor.
The question is. How do we rationalize these problems and deal with them sensibly. Regarding fear and anxiety,Bertrand Russell, reminds us.
” First we have to assess the genuine levels of concern and dangers that present themselves to us in our day to day lives and dispel unwarranted fear and anxiety. There are to many important things to worry or think about without adding things that do not justify the anxiety. And there are people whose main aim is to keep such superfluous anxieties at the forefront to discourage any attempt at questioning those genuine concerns.”
is these “people” we need to concentrate on and the devices they use in order to protect our liberty. Where has listening to the bare faced lies of politicians gotten us when we have divorced common sense for propaganda. The following page looks at a good historical example –
Always demand to see the proof
Lessons from history: McCarthy
“I have here in my hand a list of 205 names known to the secretary of State as being members of the communist party….still shaping policy in the State department”
“These where the words of Senator Joe McCarthy in an 1950s speech …which was to paralyze American politics for five years” (Bagdikian.)
This was the beginning of the witch hunt to expose and persecute communists in 50s America.The piece of paper in McCarthy’s hand was blank.
William Randolph Hearst Jr. the newspaper magnate was informed of the blank piece of paper soon after the speech. And said nothing. Instead set up his newspapers
“to provide McCarthy with as much help as possible to keep the anti communist hysteria alive.” (Bagdikian.)
We still buy into such nonsense today. Iraq, War on terror, war on drugs. We do not have problems anymore we have wars on everything. The fact remains and has not changed throughout the ages. Business men create war because it makes them rich. McCarthy created war on his own people.
As Orwell reminds us “wars are mainly internal.” That is they are mostly fought against the people who are asked to fight in them. Mainly through the use of propaganda to create hate where none exists.
“Mark Twains interpretations of the psychology of self deception still holds true today The loud little handful will shout for war. The pulpit will warily and cautiously protest at first…The great mass of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes, and will try to make out why there should he a war, and they will say earnestly and indignantly: “It is unjust and dishonorable and there is no need For war.”
Then the few will shout even louder.,.. Before long you will see a curious thing: anti-war speakers will be stoned from the platform, and free speech will be strangled by hordes of furious men who still agree with the speakers but dare not admit it…
Next, the statesmen will invent cheap lies…and each man will be glad of these lies and will study them because they soothe his conscience; and thus he will bye and bye convince himself that the war is just and he will thank God for a better sleep he enjoys by his self-deception.”
About Senator Joseph McCarthy
The Media Monopoly Ben Bagdikian
Ground breaking work on the media
What is radical thinking
To deal with our ideas problems and solutions we need to think radically. We need to understand how things are connected. How one thing affects another, how language is used. How we analyze what is being said, offered and executed on behalf of ourselves.
One of the first things you learn in dealing in radical ideas is people are very wary of the title radical. The title conjures up for some the pejorative “trouble making disgruntled lefties” ,a form of vilification used in right wing quarters for anyone who speaks against their policies or ideology.
Of course if you do a “Radical Thinking” search on the internet, far from the views of disgruntled lefties, you are more likely to come up with titles such as “Annual plan for business requires radical planning,” or “Knowledge revolution demands radical thinking,” or “Modern materials handling requires radical thinking” and “Institute of Radical Thinking”.
Business uses radical thinking, radical planning, radical changes constantly, mostly in order to cut costs, staff and increase profits. Only when “radical thinking” is applied by the person in the street does the term become pejorative, trouble making and dangerous.
My idea of radical thinking is the same as the businessman’s. That is getting down to the root of the situation or problem. It is not useful to concentrate on the beauty of the blooming flower if its roots are infected by disease. You might appreciate the flowers beauty in the short term. But if you wish to enjoy the flower next year, radical action needs to be taken to save the roots. The question to ask is how much do you see happening around you in society that relies on surface gloss but has no basis for sustainability?
The plant and root analogy can be applied to a great many things in our personal and community life. If industry feels the need for radical inspiration in order to exploit the goods and jobs market it would stand to reason that radical thinking would be needed to protect the individual from the same type of forces.
So you can find terms such as “radical” when applied to business are seen as progressive, but the same term used in social inclusion, poverty, unions, or workers rights the word becomes derogatory.
So. What are the benefits of radical thinking and why should we use it when trying to affect change or improve our situation? We need to think radically because we want a lasting effect. We need good foundations to build upon. We need to be sure of the premise (reason) for the arguments put forward as progressive change. Discussing the ideas, how they came about, who will benefit by them and if they are of any real use to ordinary people.
Think of words by what they mean not by what they are used to represent. The term radical from the Latin “radicalis” means “root”… It means getting to the root of the issue or problem. So if we want to understand more about what is going on around us sometimes we need to apply some radical thinking. If you want think of it as common sense
Interactive television Education
Radical thinking exercise. Watch the news, (or better tape it) Listen to the words used. Write some down that you don’t understand. Try to remember what the speaker was talking about. Look up the meaning of the words in the dictionary and see what they mean and if they make sense to what he or she was talking about. Or if you can’t be bothered with dictionaries. Count up the words in sound bites that mean nothing. Figure out how much of the articles and information has any relevance to you. Compare the sports coverage to the news coverage and news coverage to business coverage. And you will soon see why TV news is boring to most people. (apart from those who radically analyze it) You could do it between the adverts they are getting long enough these days. Then apply the same logic to other areas of interest.
Who is qualified to do what
Where do we learn to think Let us look at some of the tools used in radical thought that will help us tackle the obstacles that stand in the way of expressing an opinion.
First. Education is somehow seen in industrial societies as a formal notion. i.e.Your most important educational experience is in school?
Yes school is important in the education of basic reading and writing, english, math’s and so on. But school also enforces in children an attitude of; discipline, conformity to the rules, rote learning, competition, paper qualifications, boredom management and a forced curriculum of what is deemed important in the world of commerce.
Lets face it school is where you learn and are disciplined to spend your day working 8 hours + at the behest of your employer until you retire. Without school training this existence that takes up the best part of your day usually in mindless uncreative work would be unimaginable to normal thinking people.
Yes I know for some school and work was, is, a wonderful experience. But I’m not talking about them I’m talking about the vast majority, who after school do boring jobs or sit on the dole.
If you think about it. Real education is attained in the community through experiences with your family; friends, associates, neighbors, acquaintances and cooperation in day to day life. A question would be. How many of these experiences are dealt with in school? What I’m suggesting here is to put aside the formal education of school and concentrate on the education of citizen.
In school all our outcomes are decided for us by rules that don’t necessarily have our best interests or qualities at heart. We are judged by not what we are capable of or what we desire but rather by what authority deems fit and necessary as education. That is, more or less, trained for the jobs market. (The above also applies to further education).
When we leave the institute of school or college we join the institute of work, which to describe is like describing school all over again. What people need to realize when they send their off-spring to school or college is that. The exam system as well as instilling a competitive spirit of winners and losers i.e. you need to stand on those below to succeed. Is also assessing the students ability to stick to even the most boring, mindless tasks and the ability to conform to any kind of orders for the reward of financial and promotional achievement at work.In the work environment only this kind of talent is needed.
Creativity at work is the reserve of the few and of course- the boss for good reason. My main aim of the parent regarding young peoples education should be to preserve and encourage the creativity that school will attempt to knock out of them. It is the creative urge in the individual that makes the person think, not, what can I do? but – How will I do it ?
Can you imagine how difficult it would be to fill the factories and man the conveyer lines and fill the pockets of the rich if school really made people think creatively.
What is work
First of all: what is work? Work is of two kinds:
first, altering the position of the matter on or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matter:
second, telling other people to do so.
The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid.
The second kind is capable of indefinite extension: there are not only those who give orders, but those who give advice as to what orders should be given.
Usually two opposite kinds of advice are given simultaneously by two organized bodies of men; this is called politics.
The skill required for this kind of work is not knowledge of the subject as to which advice is given, but knowledge of the art of persuasive speaking and writing, i. e. of advertising.
Public relations, is a friendly sounding term which implies relationship with the public. But the only relations that the business community needs from the public is a one way financial relationship which is exactly what advertising serves –
Is intelligence cost effective
Qualifications of citizenship
Now if we look at the people who make decisions for us. The boss, the politician, the various experts and their qualifications.
Who is qualified to do what? Am I qualified to write this stuff? Is tony Blair qualified to lecture me on what is a good or healthy society? Do you need university degree to speak your mind? Do you need letters behind your name to give an informed opinion? Are politicians and the bosses anymore qualified to make decisions than you?
Part of your educational training is to instill in you that the answer to these questions is yes. But the answer is no. As Noam Chomsky reminds us.
“Politics is trivia. Anyone can understand it. You may have to do a bit of study and research here and there but on the whole politics is straight forward. There are of course people who would like you to think otherwise. These are experts, those qualified (by the government) to speak on our behalf.”
As a general rule of thumb. If you can’t tell what these experts are on about they usually don’t want you to know. That is why government and business spend millions on public relations to educate the public in anything other than, what they (our leaders) do not wish them to know.
What don’t we understand
I know because I have the big words to describe it, the experts seem to be saying. There are a lot of ways to describe a problem, but that is not the same as understanding the problem. If a person wants you to understand something, they will describe it in a language you’re liable to understand. Economics, science and such like are more difficult subjects to understand but not impossible in some respects for ordinary people with guidance and encouragement to grasp. You need to remember. In the affairs of the citizen everyone has the same Qualifications
The circle of words When words are used to say nothing or used to complicate meaning.
Language is something we use every day to communicate ideas, information and knowledge. The more we know about the tools of communication and persuasion used by our political advisers and such like the more we are equipped to asses what we should and should not be worried about.
What’s on the news
Does the news tell you what you need to know? If you tried the exercise mentioned earlier your answer is probably. Not a lot that is of use.
The illusion of debate is what takes up most of the space in the media especially the news. Most of the rubbish people watch on TV can be taken as such. But the news, the news is serious.
The spinning rostrum cameras the flashy backgrounds, tacky furniture, voice-over, background music, simpleton grafts and graphics, personality profiles, sport, personal tragedy, mundane or meaningless film clips, experts and boffin’s, bias business interests, broken up by quiz show type sound bites and adverts. This is what the news has become.
When the news get around to the real news (business news) it’s as if the people it will affect do not exist unless it’s an article to scare them, or impending unemployment, which incidentally never seems to be framed as the fault of the employer (another exercise)
In the news we are served up facts and figures, workforce statistics, world economics, capital flow and stuff, that – You stupid people wouldn’t understand but will probably be paying for.
Try watching or listening to the news for the mention of one statement that affects ordinary people that has no strings attached. Such as “Every pensioner will receive an extra five pounds a week benefit, period.” It never happens. If you want worthwhile news you need to dig deeper or concentrate on reading between the lines.(another radical thinking exercise). And with the question. Is there really a debate and are we involved?
What is the news for
This is where we need to think for ourselves. Remember, in school they may prepare you for working in a business; or starting a business, but they most probably will not teach you, how to protect yourself from business- or, run your own union. (Which would be more relevant to most people)
The affairs of business
The news, if you look closely, is concerned mostly with the affairs of business. You will notice how the news, highlights the achievements of big business deals, and says very little about the communities that will be affected by them. Watch when there is an industrial dispute, the emphasis is always put on protecting the profits of the business (important); the workers’ trying to improve wages, or conditions, are seen as troublemaker; radical; greedy; threatening, (unimportant).
People feel bad when they hear about industrial disputes, strikes for pay and conditions. Why? Shouldn’t they feel good, that some people are fighting for better conditions and pay? Are they happy with the status quo, of unemployment, low wages and massive, business profits?
Probably not, but we are each effected, to a greater or lesser extent, by the drip feed of indoctrination produced by the media and education; that we are here to serve business; and; working under any conditions for whatever rewards, we should be grateful- and not cause trouble – Remember you have the mortgage.
(Thatcher. People with mortgages don’t strike)( Rent, Ricardo. How to rob the poor by the abstraction -rent.) Rent works much the same way as, community charge which is; to sponsor roads services for business polluters whose main aim in life is to avoid paying corporate tax and lining the pocketsof landlords -who do not do any work and get rich on the sweat and worry of their tenants. :See rentier society
Illusion of the media debate
“One of the ways you control the way people think is by creating the illusion that there is a debate going on. But make sure that the debate stays within very narrow margins. Namely, you have to make sure that both sides in the debate accept certain assumptions, and those assumptions turn out to be the propaganda system. As long as everyone- accepts the propaganda system then you can have a debate”
Television, baby food for the mind
If, you do not accept the premise Chomsky mentions above. That is; If you try to explain or make clear what is going on, you will be made to look stupid. There is no space or time, in main-stream media, (unless it concerns business) for explanation; only short sound bites, qualified expert opinion, and jingoism; and of course there is sport and tragedy, which has no immediate relevance; other than it’s not happening to you, feel lucky
Television, is occupied by people who can supply and control such things within the cycle highlighted above: off the top of their head. That is why you see the same people on TV; who can play to the cameras and read the script; as for the experts, it is worth remembering, most politicians are ex-lawyers; they know how to be non-committal and stay out of trouble by the manipulation of facts, words, and the law. This is also why, on the rare occasions when we see on TV, an event: group; organization; person; or program; that inspires us, it proves the rule; that television is not the place to seek inspiration. That place usually lies somewhere beyond our front door, in the community at large. Television is anathema to community affairs and is being designed, more and more to induce apathy, and the acceptance of stupidity, rather than constructive debate, or inspiring entertainment.
Propaganda Model (The necessary illusion)
Vilification in place of answers
Another reason why the news is not such a great place to gather facts, is, that most of the arguments turn into mug slinging matches, between the various parties and their spokespersonalities.
This kind of stuff suits the sound bite nature of the news; but will often leaves the viewer ill informed. Lets face it, if we wish to watch and listen to personal drama and insults, we can watch a soap. We really want to watch the news; to be informed about important things; not to be subjected to a personality-cult showcase, for politicians.
Sticking to the facts
Here again; there always are the exceptions which prove the rule; but these are thin on the ground. I listened to a master of the debate on the radio; Tony Benn, was in discussion with three others, of varying political persuasions. Each time Benn made a point, his opponents; rather than addressing the statement, answered with a derogatory remark, about his (Benn’s) character. When again it was Benn’s time to speak, he simply reiterated and strengthened the point he had last made. Eventually as the discussion progressed; his opponents; realizing he was making verbal mince meat out of them; and that they were being left behind, stopped their character assassination tactics and tried to join the debate. By then it was to late. Benn had sewn it up, and into the bargain made his opponents look a bit silly. At no time did he reply to the personal remarks made against him, but instead, stuck to the relevant points of the discussion.
Whether you agree or not with what Tony Benn says; there is much to be learned from his style of debate. His knowledge of history and his ability to expose the charlatan, by facts, rather than personal insults; are useful devices to remember, when analising the idea behind the clever or deceiving rhetoric
Margaret Thatcher, made a career on the tactics of vilification. Why listen to them, (anyone on the left) when you can deride them as winging lefties, was a favorite of hers. Various forms of jingoism and vilification is used across the whole spectrum of political debate and should be guarded against when attempting to understand whether the debate is meaningful, or not.
In politics; what People need to know is information that is useful to them; not castigation’s on peoples characters. So you could add to Chomskies statement -“Language is, after all, a tool for thought. If you debase the language, you debase the thought”. – If you debase the personality, you debase their ideas. Therefore you need to concentrate on what the person is actually saying and meaning; rather than, who is winning the personality destruction, match
Semantic blanks and meaningless babble. (Bush)
I first heard the expression semantic blanks; (empty-words) in a book by Stuart Chase called The Tyranny of Words. Chase used the expression to describe the babble that comes out of, particularly politicians mouths; as they explain their ideas, promises, and policies, (This is the stuff that gives people the impression that “politics” is boring) George Bush, is a classic example of a user of semantic blanks. A typical Bush speech will go on endlessly about flags; countries, passion, defense. Margaret Thatcher was also an expert; and Tony Blair, can’t do anything else. Endless words going around in circles, without actually saying or meaning, anything. The purpose of this meandering; is to avoid making statements the speaker or his party cannot live up to; or, may have to explain to the public at a later date; if their policies or ideas fail. (The invasion of Iraq is a case in point).
The reason for this again; is because most of what information is useful on the news; is only useful to government, business and perhaps, sports, concerns. Anything regarding ordinary peoples lives; is smothered in babble, tragedy, and useless statistics; that tells people, what they cannot get or achieve; rather than what they can. This is why, when listening, or watching; we need to read between the lines and try to ignore the emotional babble, or visual distraction.
Books open the world
We need to remember, that there are alternatives to the media; television and such like that offer wide range of knowledge and entertainment. Most importantly the world that opens up to the individual; through books; Listening; discussion; involvement; and the art of communication; can bring endless avenues of interest and pleasure. Economically, it cost nothing to join the library. Boring, I hear you say. Have you tried it recently? Has school put you off reading for life? Has television numbed your mind to the written word?
There can be a certain amount of mental and physical discipline involved. You need to find the right book, that inspires; which starts a continuum to finding others. You may not find up to date news in books; but what you will find in the right book; is ways to interpret the news and what is going on around you. The finger needs to find the strength to press the button on the remote to – off. You may need to escape the chaos of the household (go to library) But once smitten the rewards are enlightenment.
Books vs human contact
Having said that; books are not essential to intelligence, or knowledge. Books are a tool like any other and should be used as such. We must not confuse information and knowledge, with intelligence. Intelligence is gained through the shaping of knowledge into useful ideas. The oldest cultures in history were oral cultures, and had no need for the written word; in communicating ideas. (That’s why we write their histories for them.) But these cultures relied and rely heavily on community contact to express such ideas. Yes books and technology are useful resources in communication and information gathering; but they do not come anywhere near the resource we all have in abundance; cost nothing; can be adapted to anyone’s use and understanding; and has stood the test of time – human contact -without human contact knowledge wanes.