PREGNANT PAUSE

— Remarks on the Corona Crisis —

 

We were already living in a general global crisis, but most people were only vaguely aware of it since it was manifested in a confusing array of particular crises — social, political, economic, environmental. Climate change is the most momentous of these crises, but it is so complicated and so gradual that it has been easy for most people to ignore it.

The corona crisis has been sudden, undeniable, and inescapable. It is also taking place in an unprecedented context.

If this crisis had taken place fifty or sixty years ago, we would have been totally at the mercy of the mass media, reading about it in newspapers or magazines or sitting in front of a radio or television passively absorbing whatever instructions and reassurances were broadcast by politicians or newscasters, with scarcely any opportunity to respond except perhaps to write a letter to the editor and hope that it got printed. Back then, governments could get away with things like the Gulf of Tonkin incident because it was months or years before the truth eventually got out. Continue reading

The development of social media during the last two decades has of course dramatically changed this. Although the mass media remain powerful, their monopolistic impact has been weakened and circumvented as more and more people have engaged in the new interactive means of communication. These new means were soon put to radical uses, such as rapidly exposing political lies and scandals that previously would have remained hidden, and they eventually played a crucial role in triggering and coordinating the Arab Spring and Occupy movements of 2011. A decade later, they have become routine for a large portion of the global population.

As a result, this is the first time in history that such a momentous event has taken place with virtually everyone on earth aware of it at the same time. And it is playing out while much of humanity is obliged to stay at home, where they can hardly avoid reflecting on the situation and sharing their reflections with others.

Crises always tend to expose social contradictions, but in this case, with the intense worldwide focus on each new development, the revelations have been particularly glaring.

The first and perhaps most startling one has been the rapid turnabout of governmental policies. Since the usual “market solutions” are obviously incapable of solving this crisis, governments are now feeling obliged to resort to massive implementation of the kinds of solutions they previously scorned as “unrealistic” or “utopian.” When anybody, rich or poor, native or foreign, can spread a deadly disease, anything less than free healthcare for all is self-evidently idiotic. When millions of businesses are closed and tens of millions of people are thrown out of work and have no prospect of finding a new job, the usual unemployment benefits are obviously hopelessly inadequate and policies like universal basic income become not just possible, but virtually unavoidable. As an Irish satirical website put it: “With private hospitals being taken into public ownership, increased welfare supports for the vast majority of the nation and a ban on evictions and the implementation of a rent freeze, Irish people are still trying to comprehend how they woke up today to find themselves in an idyllic socialist republic.”

Needless to say, our situation is actually far from idyllic. Although Ireland and many other countries have indeed implemented these kinds of emergency measures, when we look closer we find that the usual suspects are still in charge, with their usual priorities. Particularly in the United States, where the first to be rescued were the banks and corporations, as several trillion dollars were pumped into the financial markets without the slightest public debate. Then, when it became apparent that a more general bailout was needed, the vast majority of that bailout money also went to those same huge companies; much of the smaller amount designated for small businesses was snapped up by large chains before most of the actual small businesses got a penny; and the allotment for ordinary working families and unemployed people was a one-time payment that would scarcely cover two weeks of typical expenses. To add a twist of the knife, governors in several states have come up with the clever idea of prematurely reopening certain businesses, thereby making those workers ineligible for unemployment benefits if they refuse to endanger their lives.

The point of such bailouts is that certain industries are supposedly so essential that they need to be “saved.” But the fossil fuel industries don’t need to be saved, they need to be phased out as soon as possible. And there’s no reason to save the airlines, for example, because if they go bankrupt they can then be bought for pennies on the dollar by someone else (preferably the government) and restarted with the same workers, with the losses being borne by the previous owners. Yet these immensely wealthy and grossly polluting industries and others like them are getting hundreds of billions of dollars of “crisis relief.” But when it comes to things that lower- and middle-class people depend on, suddenly the message is: “We need to tighten our belts and not increase the federal debt.” Thus, Trump continues to push for a payroll tax cut (which would sabotage Social Security and Medicare) and he has threatened to veto any bailout that gives any assistance to the U.S. Postal Service (though UPS and Fedex have already been given billions of dollars of taxpayer money). The Republicans have tried for decades to bankrupt and privatize the Post Office — most blatantly in their 2006 act requiring the Post Office to fund its employees’ retirement benefits 75 years in advance (something no other entity, public or private, has ever been obliged to do) — but Trump’s particular vehemence on this topic at this time is due to his desire to prevent the possibility of mail-in voting in the coming election.

It shouldn’t take a genius to realize that the people at the lower end of the scale should be prioritized. Not only do billion-dollar corporations not need any more money, if they get more money most of it does not “trickle down” but is salted away in offshore tax shelters or used for stock buybacks. Whereas if each lower- and middle-class person gets, say, $2000 a month for the duration of the crisis (which would cost the government much less than the current bailouts of the super-rich), virtually all of that money will immediately be spent for basic needs, which will help at least some small businesses to remain in business, which will enable more people to keep their jobs, and so on. Small businesses also need immediate assistance (especially if they have been temporarily forced to suspend operation during the crisis) or they are likely to go bankrupt, in which case large businesses and banks will buy them up at bargain rates, thereby exacerbating the already extreme gap between a few mega-corporations at the top and everybody else at the bottom.

The corona crisis has exposed many national governments as criminally negligent, but most of them have at least attempted to deal with it in a somewhat serious manner once they realized the urgency of the situation. This has unfortunately not been the case in the United States, where Trump first declared that the whole thing was just a hoax that would soon blow over and that the death count would be “close to zero,” and then, when after doing virtually nothing for more than a month he was finally forced to admit that it was actually a serious crisis, announced that thanks to his brilliant leadership “only” around 100,000 or 200,000 Americans will die. Months into the pandemic there is still no national stay-at-home order, no national testing plan, no national procurement and distribution of life-saving medical supplies, and Trump continues to downplay the crisis in a frantic effort to open things up soon enough to revive his reelection chances.

Since his dillydallying has already been responsible for tens of thousands of additional deaths, and since he is also presiding over an economic chaos not seen in America since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Democrats should normally have no trouble in defeating him in November. But as it did four years ago, the Democratic Party establishment has demonstrated once again that it would rather risk losing to Trump with a business-as-usual corporate tool than risk winning with Bernie Sanders. Sanders’s programs (Medicare for All, Green New Deal, etc.) were already popular with most voters, and they have become even more so as the corona crisis has made the need for them more obvious. The fact that such commonsensical reforms are seen as radical is just a reflection of how cluelessly reactionary American politics has become by comparison with most of the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, since it soon became clear to just about everyone that Trump hasn’t the dimmest idea of how to deal with the corona crisis except to showcase his amazing medical knowledge and brag about his TV ratings, everyone else has been left to deal with it on their own. Though some state and local governments have helped, it should be noted that many of the earliest, most extensive, and most creative responses have been carried out by ordinary people on their own initiative — young people doing shopping for older and more vulnerable neighbors, people making and donating the protective masks that the governments neglected to stockpile, health professionals offering safety tips, tech-savvy people helping others to set up virtual meetings, parents sharing activities for kids, others donating to food banks, or crowdfunding to support popular small businesses, or forming support networks for prisoners, immigrants, homeless people, etc.

The crisis has vividly demonstrated the interconnectedness of people and countries all over the world, but it has also revealed, for those who weren’t already aware of it, that vulnerability is not equally shared. As always, those at the bottom bear the brunt — people in prisons or immigrant detention centers or living in crowded slums, people who can’t practice social distancing and who may not even have facilities to effectively wash their hands. While many of us are able to stay at home with only mild inconvenience, others are unable to remain at home (if they even have a home) or to share so many things via social media (if they even have a computer or a smartphone) because they are forced to continue working at “essential jobs,” under dangerous conditions and often for minimum wage and no benefits, in order to provide food, utilities, deliveries, and other services for the people who are staying home. (See Ian Alan Paul’s provocative analysis of the “domesticated/connected” sector and the “mobile/disposable” sector in The Corona Reboot.)

The “mobile/disposable” workers are usually too isolated and too vulnerable to dare to struggle (especially if they are undocumented), but because most of their jobs are indeed essential, they now have a potentially powerful leverage and it is not surprising that they are starting to use it. As the dangers and stresses build up, their patience has given way, beginning with widespread wildcat strikes in Italy in March, then spreading to several other countries. In the United States protests and strikes have broken out among workers at Amazon, Instacart, Walmart, McDonald’s, Uber, Fedex, grocery workers, garbage workers, auto workers, nursing home workers, agricultural workers, meat packers, bus drivers, truck drivers, and many others; nurses and other healthcare workers have protested medical equipment shortages; workers at GE have demanded repurposing jet engine factories to make ventilators; homeless families have occupied vacant buildings; rent strikes have been launched in several cities; and prisoners and detained immigrants are hunger-striking to expose their particularly unsafe conditions. Needless to say, all these struggles should be supported, and frontline workers should be first in line in any bailout.

After months of staying at home, everyone is naturally anxious to resume some degree of social life as soon as possible. There are legitimate debates about just how soon and under what conditions it is safest to do this. What is not legitimate is to deliberately ignore or deny the dangers simply so that businesses can resume and politicians can get reelected. The most grossly illuminating revelation of the whole crisis has been seeing pundits and politicians openly declare that it’s an acceptable trade-off for millions of people to die if that’s what it takes to “save the economy.” This admission of the system’s real priorities may backfire. People have been told all their lives that this economy is inevitable and indispensable, and that if they just give it free rein it will ultimately work for them. If they start seeing it for what it actually is (a con game that enables a tiny number of people to control everyone else in the world through their possession and manipulation of magic pieces of paper), they may conclude that it needs to be replaced, not saved. “Once society discovers that it depends on the economy, the economy in fact depends on the society” (Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle).

In the links list below, you can find articles going into detail about these and other aspects of the crisis. But at this point I’d like to step back and look at what I consider the most significant aspect of this whole situation: the experience of the shutdown itself.

This experience is so unprecedented, and it is changing so dramatically from day to day, that we still don’t quite know what to think of it. We keep secretly hoping that we’ll wake up and discover that it was just a nightmare, but each morning it’s still here. But as we have gradually gotten at least somewhat used to it, it is offering its own revelations.

Any pause may give us time to reflect on our lives and reassess our priorities, but knowing that everyone else is doing this at the same time gives these reflections a more collective focus. This pause is shaking us out of our usual habits and presumptions and giving each and all of us a rare chance to see our lives and our society in a fresh light. As each day brings fresh news, things seem to be speeding up; yet so many things have stopped or at least drastically slowed down, it also sometimes seems like everything is in slow motion; or as if we’d all been sleepwalking and were suddenly awakened — looking around at each other in amazement at the strange new reality, and how it contrasts with what we previously considered normal.

We come to realize how much we miss certain things, but also that there are things we don’t miss. Many people have noted (usually with a half-guilty hesitation, since they are of course quite aware of the devastation that is going on in many other people’s lives) that they personally are appreciating the experience in some regards. It’s much quieter, the skies are clearer, there’s scarcely any traffic, fish are returning to formerly polluted waterways, in some cities wild animals are venturing into the empty streets. There has been much joking about how those who like quiet contemplative living are hardly noticing any difference, in contrast to the frustrations and anxieties of those who are used to more gregarious lifestyles. In any case, whether they like it or not, millions of people are getting a crash course in cloistered living, with repeated daily schedules almost like monks in a monastery. They may continue to distract themselves with entertainments, but the reality keeps bringing them back to the present moment.

I suspect that the frantic urgency of various political leaders to get things “back to normal” as soon as possible is not only for the ostensible economic reasons, but also because they dimly sense that the longer this pause goes on, the more people will become detached from the addictive consumer pursuits of their previous lives and the more they will be open to exploring new possibilities.

One of the first things that many people have noticed is that the social distancing, however frustrating it may be in some regards, is ironically bringing people closer together in spirit. As people get a new appreciation of what others mean to them, they are sharing their thoughts and feelings more intently and more widely than ever — personally via phone calls and emails, collectively via social media.

Many of the things shared are of course pretty modest and ordinary — reassuring each other that we’re doing okay (or not), comparing notes about how to deal with this or that inconvenience, recommending films or music or books we’ve been bingeing on. But people are also coming up with memes, jokes, essays, poems, songs, satires, skits. However amateurish many of these things may be, the ensemble effect of thousands of these personal expressions being shared all over the globe is in some ways more moving than watching professional performances under ordinary circumstances.

The simplest and most common social-media posts have been memes: short stand-alone statements or captions added to illustrations. In contrast to traditional political slogans vehemently for or against something, these memes typically have a more deadpan tone with an ironical twist, leaving it up to the reader to recognize the contradictions being revealed.

It is interesting to compare these memes with the popular expressions of another crisis just over fifty years ago — the graffiti of the May 1968 revolt in France. There are some obvious differences in tone and context, but in both cases there’s a marvelous mix of humor and insight, anger and irony, outrage and imagination.

The 1968 crisis was intentionally provoked. A series of protests and street fights by thousands of young people in Paris inspired a wildcat general strike in which more than ten million workers occupied factories and workplaces all over France, shutting down the country for several weeks. When you look at the graffiti, you can sense that these people were actively making their own history. They were not merely protesting, they were exploring and experimenting and celebrating, and those graffiti were expressions of the joy and exuberance of their actions.

Our present situation resembles that earlier one in the sense that suddenly everything has come to a virtual standstill, leaving people to look around at each other and wonder: What next? But during May 1968, when the government had momentarily backed off (since it was powerless in the face of the general strike), that meant: What should we do next? (Should we take over this building? Should we restart this factory under our own control?) In our more passive situation it mostly means: What’s the government going to do next? What’s the latest news about the virus?

The memes being shared during the present crisis reflect this passivity. For the most part they express people’s reactions to finding themselves in an unpleasant situation that they did not choose, let alone provoke. Some frontline workers are striking, but only sporadically, out of desperation. Virtually everyone else is staying at home. They may denounce various outrages, or advocate various policies that might make things better, or root for politicians who they hope will implement such policies, but it’s from the sidelines. Participation is limited to things like signing petitions or sending donations, though there are occasional mentions of things that people might do once they are free to go out into the streets again.

At the same time, however, millions of people are using this pause to investigate and critique the system’s fiascos, and they are doing this at a time when practically everyone else in the world is obsessively focused on the same issues. I think this first ever global discussion about our society is potentially more important than the particular crisis that happened to trigger it.

It is admittedly a very confused and chaotic discussion, taking place within the even more chaotic background noise of billions of people’s ongoing individual concerns. But the point is that anyone can take part whenever they wish and potentially have some impact. They can post their own ideas, or if they see some other idea or article they agree with, they can email the link to their network of friends or share it on Facebook or other social media, and if other people agree that it is pertinent, they may in turn share it with their friends, and so on, and within a few days millions of people may be aware of it and able to further share it or adapt it or critique it.

This discussion is of course far from being a democratic decision-making process. Nothing is being decided beyond vague fluctuations of the popularity of this or that meme or idea. If a significant global movement comes out of this crisis, it will need to develop more rigorous ways to determine and coordinate the actions that the participants feel are appropriate, and it will obviously not want its communications to depend on privately owned and manipulated media platforms as they do now. But meanwhile we have to work with what we’ve got — on this terrain where virtually everyone in the world is already connected, however superficially. It’s already a big first step that everyone is able to personally weigh in instead of leaving things to leaders and celebrities. To go further, we need to be aware that this is happening, aware that what is going on within us and among us is potentially more promising than all the farcical political dramas we are watching so intently.

These ideas may seem extravagant, but they are hardly more so than the reality we are facing. The International Labor Organization has reported that nearly half of the global workforce is now at risk of losing its livelihoods. That amounts to 1.6 billion workers out of a total of 3.3 billion — a level of social disruption far more extreme than the Great Depression of the 1930s. I have no idea what will come of this, but I don’t think that 1.6 billion people are going to meekly curl up and die so that the ruling elite’s economic con game can continue to thrive. Something is going to give.

Whatever else happens, it is clear that nothing will ever be the same again. As so many people have noted, we can’t “return to normal.” That old normal was a mess, even if some people were in sufficiently comfortable circumstances that they could tell themselves that it wasn’t all that bad. In addition to all its other problems, it was already propelling us toward a global catastrophe far worse than what we are going through now.

Fortunately, I don’t think we could go back even if we wanted to. Too many people have now seen the deadly insanity of this society too clearly. Organizing a different kind of society — a creative, cooperative global community based on generously fulfilling the needs of everyone rather than protecting the exorbitant wealth and power of a tiny minority at the top — is not simply an ideal, it is now a practical necessity. (My own views on what such a society might look like and how we might get there are set out in The Joy of Revolution.)

The coronavirus is simply one side effect of climate change (one of the many new diseases being generated by deforestation and its resulting disruption of wildlife habitats). If we don’t act now, we will soon face other crises, including other pandemics, under much more unfavorable conditions, after climate change and its associated disasters have crashed our social and technological infrastructures.

The corona crisis and the climate change crisis are very different in timing and in scale. The first one is sudden and fast-moving — every day of delay means thousands of additional deaths. The second is far more gradual, but also far more momentous — every year of delay will probably mean millions of additional deaths, along with a miserable existence for those who survive under such dystopic conditions.

But this shock we are now experiencing is also an opportunity for a new beginning. Hopefully, we may one day look back and see it as the wake-up call that managed to bring humanity to its senses before it was too late.

BUREAU OF PUBLIC SECRETS
May 17, 2020

An evening with Michael Albert Wednesday 10 Oct 2018 6:30 PM 8:30 Pearce Institute.

 If ever there was a figure dedicated to changing the world it is Michael Albert. And other folk on the left doing the same thing would need to wonder what they are doing if they have never heard of him. My own political development has been greatly influenced by Albert’s work. Along with people like Chomsky, Michael Albert has been a go-to when inspiration is low and are great connectors to others doing important and inspirational work. Albert lives for the movement and proves it not just by words but continually doing things. By trying things by developing ideas and if they don’t work trying something else.

His honesty through these endeavours, their effectiveness, trials, errors, successes, failures is the most important part of his contribution to the movement for change. You can almost think you know him because so much of what he speaks about resonates through the experiences that those engaged in grass roots struggle come up against constantly. He does not shy away from failure but uses it to drive coherent points that will strengthen the next part of the struggle. Continue reading

Failure is one of the most important parts of an activist life. We do not advance very far riding on highs, clutching to our successes. These things are important to have, but what gets us through failures and lifts us up when we are down is the knowledge that failure brings, knowledge that can be used and shaped into new and effective ideas. We do not do Michael Albert’s work a disservice to go on about failure because that is precisely where our strength lies. In learning what we need to do next.

So what do we do next. Do we continue along the same lines to see if something different happens? Continually protest till the government changes? Participatory Economics (Parecon) is part of Michael Albert’s lifework. A challenge to the present economic system. An attempt not to just alter it, to change it, but to replace it.

It would seem like an opportunity in the long term aims of the various struggles  around the place to maybe look at some alternative economic ideas. At the end of the day what keeps many of us in constant defence mode no matter what we struggle against is constantly fighting the economic system we struggle under. Albert is one of the few working on economics within grass roots struggle that looks to making real economic change for ordinary people. Read the book, Check him on You tube, Z Mag. Some good listening explaining Parecon here: http://citystrolls.com/parecon-listen/ 

Another aspect of left activism which Albert speaks to which should interest us all is the lack of vision and hope in many of where we are going collectively.

“I happen to see as part of my daily activity a large proportion of what is written by social change seekers, at least in English. If I actually read it all, every day, I would wind up in an asylum or an early grave. Too much negativity to endure. Too little aspiration to bear. Too little agenda to adopt.” 

So much of left energy is used up in mobilisation, speaking truth to power and describing how bad the war is, there is little left for organising, little left for vision. And particularly in taking these ideas into working class communities. 

“So what is a society? In the view we are slowly elaborating, a society is the immensely rich and varied combination of a “human center,” which is us with our consciousnesses, capacities, and agendas, plus an “institutional boundary” in the form of the roles that we must fulfill or avoid as a means to gaining various ends in society. Taken this way society is like an incredible mosaic with each multifaceted part affecting and even defining all the other multifaceted parts. And how do we judge a society? We decide on the broad kinds of outcomes and relations that we desire and appreciate, and we then ask: Does society’s human base and institutional boundary, or the base and boundary in each of its social spheres, further those preferred values or violate them? Given these simple insights, a reasonable next step for becoming better able to understand societies is to refine our means for understanding each of the four social spheres as a basis for saying more about how their aspects interrelate and about change and history.” From Practical Utopia: Strategies for a Desired Society. 

So what are the social spheres, what are our desires for society. What ideas do we have to share with each other? Join the discussion.

This visit Michael will be talking about his new book Practical Utopia: Strategies for a Desired Society (preface by Noam Chomsky and published by PM Press) and connecting it with what is going on in Scotland.

Tickets https://m.bpt.me/event/3620056 (It’s a pay what you want event or free)

The Billiard Room, Pearce Institute, 1st Floor Rear Staircase Wednesday 10 Oct 2018 6:30 PM 8:30

Book: https://secure.pmpress.org/index.php?l=product_detail&p=861

Michael Albert is an organiser, publisher, teacher, and author of over twenty books and hundreds of articles. He co-founded South End Press, Z Magazine, the Z Media Institute, ZNet, and various other projects, and works full time for Z Communications. He is the author, with Robin Hahnel, of the economic vision named Participatory Economics.

Event Hosted by Centre for Human Ecology

Listen To Albert on Parecon here

The flowers of Scotland – Tap roots history and education

Not to know what happened before one was born is always to be a child.” Cicero

About the need for grownups to take on some of the responsibility for what is going on around them. We can not leave the understanding of what is going on in the world to the education system.

Children are the flowers. We are the cultivators. We pass on the rich knowledge, the important nutrients, in our mentoring and guidance. Without these nutrients the aspirations of our young will continue to wither on the vine of capitalist indenture.

In our educational institutions we are not training thinkers we are training technicians. Ones that can do the job and get on with it without a question. That is the lucky ones. Young people are leaving university to jobs in coffee shops. Where do those they displace go? We are educating more students than we have ever done and giving them nothing to do. Continue reading

Our education system has become one that trains for business and ill prepares students for the world of living. We fill class rooms in schools, colleges and universities with book learning and a promise, that sometime in the future, the learner might get a job. There are no jobs! What we need from our education systems is to train and encourage innovators to look at the work that is needing done. And most of that work should be done in the community not in classrooms. With real problems and real people. How can we expect to progress and challenge that which is destroying us when those in charge of the destruction have such an influence over our education system? We should be encouraging objectivity in education not subservience to career paths.

“Generally, the idea of ‘objectivity’ has to do with carrying out activities such as thinking and writing (activities that are subjective in the sense that they are done by subjects—that is, by humans, who have feelings, attributes, desires and biases) in a manner that is maximally faithful to the external objects with which those activities deal.  Objectivity in this sense, is most likely to be achieved when one’s conclusions are based on precise measurements, careful observations, and rigorously logical appraisals of relevant evidence—in short, on a maximally attentive and responsive engagement with the object being investigated” David Detmer

Corporations should have no place within our universities. They are the main reason why so many students feel useless when they leave university particularly if they can not fit into the jobs market nor can find a use for the specialised knowledge they have acquired. There was a time we sent our kids to university in order to find out about the world and become more knowledgeable active and involved citizens. Now our universities are mainly serving business interests. There was a time when business paid for specialised training of their workers, not the education system.

The cynicism that you can meet today as crackpot to have these kind of views on education is proof of how indoctrinated we have become in the ways of the market and how our success is measured only by how well we can survive within market forces. The possibility that our taxes could be directed towards looking at the fundamental flaws in an moribund economic system. That work could be made enjoyable rewarding and creative after what our young sacrifice to “education”. As we sit on the cusp of ecological extinction, at least disaster, we still believe in useless jobs that push us further towards our doom. While our young folk, with so much potential, are made to feel useless.

We need to turn back and see where we went off the rails to get back on them. We need to be doing the work/jobs of drawing us back from the cliff edge from all manner of disasters. Working for ourselves and the sake of humanity. Lemming do not have any prospects apart from following the rest to jump of a cliff. What has happened to our objectivity, when we need it most? Why are so many of our precious flowers withering through a lack of care and attention?

“The natural tendency of children is to solve problems, but we try to indoctrinate them with facts, which they are supposed to feed back, and then we fail them. And that’s child abuse. And you should never raise children that way. You should cultivate and encourage their natural tendencies to create solutions to the problems around them.” Grace Lee Boggs

“It is not good enough to do your community-development work only at the grass roots” He would tell us “So much of the grassroots are just at the level of spectator sport, television, cigarettes, drink and consumer culture. No you have got to get down to the taproots.” Alister Macintosh on Tom Forsyth

After 50 years in the continuous deterioration of our institutions we now live in the myth of a democratic society. At the same time there is so much knowledge in the world about what is happening, so much in terms of intelligent answers, directions we should be taking, alternatives to the hegemony of empire that is consuming us. You need to wonder the addiction that keeps us zombie-like and transfixed to its conditions.

We will protect anything that threatens our indenture to our jobs, no matter how miserable our jobs make us. Even the military industrial complex can be justified and protected as jobs so long as we steer clear of understanding the misery it causes for great swathes of humanity and the billions it removes from the economy in private profits and fraud that could be making life pleasant for so many. Our cynicism towards the idea that life could be more pleasant for folk is only matched by the depth of propaganda that assures us that austerity will need to last forever.

Without even taking Trump into the equation the situation is bad enough. Look at the people who are determining our future. What on earth do ordinary people have in common with them? How common is the house of commons and who’s peers are they, the peers of the rich? Everything that comes out of their mouths is to tell us we are to blame; we have to pay, we have to change, we have to move on? Yet they themselves have not moved an inch for three hundred years in their policy of protecting their own interests at all costs. The wealth of our country was built on empire. Our history is we conquered and colonised nations, robbed them of their natural resources and at present we are still blowing such places up along with our cousins of death in the US administration. Then we are convinced to persecute those fleeing from our carnage arriving on our shores, that they are here to steal our jobs! What happened to class solidarity? Why do so many feel that they have to protect the rich  and persecute their own class?

The difference between ourselves and the average asylum seeker is that they have done something about there situation. They have taken the steps any normal human being in their position would take. Why we need to ask are we so insulated on our island from cause and effect. Why does the BBC talk about the asylum problem and ignore the millions in arms and bombs we sell and use that have helped to create it? Why do so many not want to talk about, or understand this. Probably because if frightens us. Probably because we do not want to rub shoulders with those who suffer from our ignorance. We have more in common with those who suffer from the crimes of our master warlords and we should seek solidarity with them against the source of most of our collective problems. Serving US imperialism through our puppet state.

We will not inconvenience ourselves enough to survive but rather entertain ourselves to death. The common dream was about integrity, hard work discretion modesty discipline and how we define ourselves. These things have been replaced by bling, narcism, disconnection, the addiction to the unattainable. The hamster wheel of sameness.

Trump was right when he says “It’s not about me, it’s about you.” Trump didn’t start the melt down of the collective conscience, or the deconstruction of democracy. These things have been happening for a long time. We should be thankful for his wake up call of exposing just how bad things have got.

It is not about the failures of government, it is about the failure of citizenship, responsibility and accountability. It is not about the failures of the present education system it is about our expectations of it and the expectations that are promised whilst it decays like the chances and prospects of our children through our failure to hold society to account.

While the responsibility of the National Health Board and the Department of Work and Pensions, is passed to local authorities, then passed to arms length organisations, then sold in turn to make more profit off those who need these services most. In the U.K. we have in the last financial year exported a record breaking sum of six hundred and eighty billion pounds, in goods and services to the rest of the world. Yet the ruling parties keep telling us we have no money to run our own health and education services. And while the department of work and pensions withdraws support of those unable to work and in a country with a declining population has decided to limit the families of the poor to two children. And where a prominent politician offers a way out of poverty as suicide. That is not about the profiteers it is about ourselves and the many being brainwashed into believing that our situation is hopeless and there is nothing we can do.

Today the UK government has announced the highest Budget Surplus in 18 years, further highlighting the truth of Austerity as Ideological policy and not driven by a “Lack of Money” in the nations finances!

We have contained in our rich cultural tap-roots the evidence that this has always been the case. We were once world renowned in the quality of our education system in a time when there truly was no money. The vision of these tap roots have been obscured by a dysfunctional neoliberal process hell bent on instant gratification, profiteering, lying and no foresight of the future apart from their own. We need to re-connect to the tap roots of our heritage culture and power to get us through the isolation of the fragmented gig economy, And through this re-connection we might find the answer to replacing the institutions that once gave us a sense of power agency and community. And an understanding of who the real fraudsters are. We were once proud of our public institutions that cared for the old, the weak and the poor. When did so many start to blame them for their poverty, while unquestioningly feeding the bloated liars in Westminster and elsewhere with our taxes?

The Radical Imagination Project

Opening up (Open Source and the commons)

Opening Up Francis McKee

In November 2003, Wired magazine published an article on the rise of the open source movement, claiming that. “We are at a convergent moment, when a philosophy, a strategy, and a technology have aligned to unleash great innovation.”

Open source ideology has now moved beyond the coding and programming to inform the broader fields of information and content distribution. At this level it acquired the power to fundamentally change the way in which society is organised.

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The term ‘open source’ originally referred to the development of computer software. Rather than a propriety piece of software that a customer would buy but could not then modify, open source software is developed collaboratively by many programmers and the source code is shared freely in the public realm thereby allowing anyone to modify or improve it. Often the programmers developing this software are volunteers, part of a larger collective enterprise producing reliable products that are then in competition with those sold by corporations.
The most obvious success story in open source must be the development of the Linux operating system. In 1991, a Finnish student called Linus Torvalds began writing a new computer program and solicited help via the internet from other volunteer programmers or hackers. Within a few years their exchange of information had spawned a global network of participants who had created a new operating system that was more reliable than many commercial alternatives. And it was free.
As Thomas Goetz points out in his Wired article1, this use of collective intelligence has spread far beyond the basics of computing:
Software is just the beginning. Open source has spread to other disciplines, from the hard sciences to the liberal arts. Biologists have embraced open source methods in genomics and informatics, building massive databases to genetically sequence E. coli, yeast, and other workhorses of lab research. NASA has adopted open source principles as part of its Mars mission, calling on volunteer “clickworkers” to identify millions of craters and help draw a map of the Red Planet. There is open source publishing: With Bruce Perens, who helped define open source software in the ’90s, Prentice Hall is publishing a series of computer books open to any use, modification,
or redistribution, with readers’ improvements considered for succeeding editions. There are library efforts like Project Gutenberg, which has already digitized more than 6,000 books, with hundreds of volunteers typing in, page by page, classics from Shakespeare to Stendhal; at the same time, a related project, Distributed Proofreading, deploys legions of copy editors to make sure the Gutenberg texts are correct. There are open source projects in law and religion. There’s even an open source cookbook.

ROOTS AND SOURCES

Open source ideology is closely bound up with the right to free speech and it is argued that there are links between the rise of the free speech movement in Berkeley in the early 1960s and the later developments in software in the same locality. Ironically, it is an attack: on machinery that lies at the heart of the most celebrated moment of the free speech movement. Concluding a speech on the Berkeley campus in December 1964, activist Mario Savio declared :

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

In his history of free software, Andrew Leonard3 cites a graduate student from Berkeley at that period who was familiar with both the free speech movement and knew the developing Unix software scene in the area:
Gage grins. Berkeley Unix, he proposes, offered a different way forward from the painful agony of hurling oneself into the operation of a demonic crankshaft. Berkeley Unix, with its source code available to all who wanted it, was the “gears and levers” of the machine. By promoting access to the source code, to the inner workings of that machine, the free-software/open-source movement empowered people to place their hands on the gears and levers, to take control of their computers, their Internet, their entire technological infrastructure.

“The open-source movement is a free speech movement,” says Gage. “Source code looks like poetry, but it’s also a machine—words that do. Unix opens up the discourse in the machinery because the words in Unix literally cause action, and those actions will cause other actions”

It wasn’t just the free speech movement however that provided the context for the development of free software in Berkeley. As the hippie culture evolved in San Francisco it also spawned groups that began to formulate ideas and practical solutions that would provide a framework for an ‘alternative’ society. One of the most important of these groups were the Diggers, activists who tried to create an infrastructure for the burgeoning Haight-Ashbury scene. Their work ranged from radical street theatre to more practical support for the communities appearing across the city, setting up free clinics and soup kitchens. Like Mario Savio, they vilified an industrial culture that folded man into machine though they identify computers as a means to free people from this relationship. In ‘Trip Without, a Ticket’, they state that Industrialization was a battle with 19th-century ecology to win breakfast at the cost of smog and insanity. Wars against ecology are suicidal. The U.S. standard of living is a bourgeois baby blanket for executives who scream in their sleep. No Pleistocene swamp could match the pestilential horror of modern urban sewage. No (children of White Western Progress will escape the dues of peoples forced to haul their raw materials.

But the tools (that’s all factories are) remain innocent and the ethics of greed aren’t necessary. Computers render the principles of wage-labor obsolete by incorporating them. We are being freed from mechanistic consciousness. We could evacuate the factories, turn them over to androids, clean up our pollution. North Americans could give up self-righteousness to expand their being.

This vision grows into a declaration of a free economy that is linked to a freedom of human impulses:
The Diggers are hip to property. Everything is free, do your own thing. Human beings are the means of exchange. Food, machines, clothing, materials, shelter and props are simply there. Stuff. A perfect dispenser would be an open Automat on the street. Locks are time-consuming. Combinations are clocks.

So a store of goods or clinic or restaurant that is free becomes a social art form. Ticketless theatre. Out of money and control.
“First you gotta pin down what’s wrong with the West. Distrust of human nature, which means distrust of Nature. Distrust of wildness in oneself literally means distrust of Wilderness.” (Gary Snyder).

Diggers assume free stores to liberate human nature. First free the space, goods and services. Let theories of economics follow social facts. Once a free store is assumed, human wanting and giving, needing and taking, become wide open to improvisation.

Written in 1968, these statements provided a Utopian blueprint for the communes and alternative cultures that followed. The practical realities of such schemes often meant they crashed quickly or descended into the same power struggles and petty greed of the society they were supposed to replace. Some practitioners though found practical applications of these ideas in a limited form which worked and revealed alternative economic models which were viable. One remarkable example was the archetypal hippie band, The Grateful Dead, who tacitly permitted the taping of their concert by fans. This led to the formation of a tape-swapping community that bypassed the traditional economics of the recording industry where music was heavily protected by copyright and taping was perceived as a threat. One taper, Alexis Muellner, recalls the events that sprang up around the tapes :

Software is just the beginning. Open source has spread to other disciplines, from the hard sciences to the liberal arts.

The beauty of it was that we were doing our part to expand the taping phenomenon by educating more and more people, and helping to unlock mysteries surrounding the tapes…At the same time, we spread the magic of the music through our events, which then went beyond just the music. They became a fertile ground for exploring artistic and creative freedom through multimedia, dance, and improvisation – some of the same themes the Acid Tests explored. In doing all of this we were creating a large community of active Deadheads in western Massachusetts, who in turn were sharing the music with all of their friends. It was a classic snowball effect.

The tapes not only spread the word about the Grateful Dead’s music but spawned a whole new series of cultural events. The real economic impact of this phenomenon only became clear long after the demise of the Haight-Ashbury culture. By the eighties, the band seldom recorded but toured prodigiously. The tapes in circulation generated such a reputation for the group that they consistently expanded their fan base and established themselves in a secure, and lucrative, position outside the trends of pop or fashion.

THE FREE WORLD

It was within this radical, Utopian context that programmers at Berkeley developed the world’s first standard operating system for computers – Unix. While few of these programmers were active radicals themselves, the general spirit of the region at the time certainly seems to have permeated their labs and gelled with a general academic respect for the sharing of knowledge. As Andrew Leonard6 points out, the most striking aspect of the Berkeley coders was their attitude:

Berkeley’s most important contribution was not software; it was the way Berkeley created software. At Berkeley, a small core group — never more than four people at any one time — coordinated the contributions of an ever-growing network of far- flung, mostly volunteer programmers into progressive releases of steadily improving software. In so doing, they codified a template for what is now referred to as the ‘open-source software development methodology.’ Put more simply, the Berkeley hackers set up a system for creating free software.

This general spirit of freedom and cooperation would have consequences that eventually reverberated far beyond Berkeley. Richard Stallman, a programmer who worked at Harvard in the ’70s, practiced a similar philosophy of sharing, establishing an ‘informal rule’ that if he distributed free copies of the software he was developing, hackers would send any improvements they made baCk to him. When Stallman’s lab community of hackers was eventually drawn into a private company in the ’80s, Stallman retaliated by matching their innovations program by program (distributing his work freely) in an unprecedented bout of coding that lasted almost two years. Setting up GNU in 1984, an organisation dedicated to ‘free software’, Stallman laid the foundations for the emergence of the open source movement in the ’90s.

At the same time, the world’s media was being transformed by several key developments. The video recorder was about to become a domestic commonplace, revolutionising viewing habits for cinema and television as films became infinitely reproducible. For musicians, the rise of sampling technology revealed an equally radical future as elements of one song could be lifted and then dropped into an entirely new musical context. The economics of cultural property and intellectual copyright began to be Challenged in ways in whiCh the movie industry, the music business and the art world had not foreseen.

THE NEW WORLD

In the early 21st century ‘open source’ begins to make sense of many of these developments. The ’90s saw traditional media industries flounder as they attempted to come to terms with a changing world where Napster, video pirates and web publishing overturned previous certainties for good. Now, recent initiatives in science and business are beginning to describe a new landscape. Looking at ways in which open source could benefit his business, for instance, Paul Everitt, of Digital Creations explains:

Thus, the question was, “Can going open source increase the value of our company?” Here’s what we saw:

Going open source will increase our user base by a factor of 100 within three months. Wider brand and stronger identity leads to more consulting and increased valuation on our company.

Open source gives rock solid, battle-tested, bulletproof software on more platforms and with more capabilities than closed source, thus increasing the value of our consulting.
Fostering a community creates an army of messengers, which is pretty effective marketing.

This is not the last innovation we’ll make.
In the status quo, the value of packaging the software as a product would approach zero, as we had zero market penetration. What is the value of a killer product with few users? The cost to enter the established web application server market was going to be prohibitive.

The investment grows us into a larger, more profitable company, one that can make a credible push to create a platform via open source. Since our consulting is only on the platform, a strong platform is imperative.
Open source makes the value of our ideas more apparent, thus the perceived value of the company is apparent.

Our architecture is ‘safer’ for consulting customers. With thousands of people using it, the software is far less marginal. The customer is able to fix things themselves or reasonably find someone to do it for them. Finally, the software will “exist forever”. Dramatically increasing the base of users and sites using it gives us a tremendous boost in “legitimacy”.

The exit plan isn’t about the golden eggs (the intellectual property) laid last year. It is about the golden goose and tomorrow’s golden eggs. The shelf life of eggs these days is shrinking dramatically, and the value of an egg that no one knows about is tiny. Give the eggs away as a testament to the value of the goose and a prediction of eggs to come. The community can work with us to dramatically increase the pace of innovation and responsiveness to new technical trends, such as XML and WebDAV.

Ride the coattails of the nascent Open Source community and its established Channels suCh as RedHat. OSS has a certain buzz that is greater than its real customer-closing value, but this buzz is getting hot. Moving aggressively towards Open Source can make us a category killer for the web application server market segment.

Perhaps the developments in science have been even more surprising. Interviewing biologist Michael Eisen, Thomas Goetz (2003) discovered that older models for scientific publishing are in decay:

“The guiding principle of science has been that freely available material is more useful; it’s more likely to generate better science,” Eisen says. But freely available is not the same as free of Charge. Science journals, with their historically narrow readerships, often charge thousands for a subscription. One of the biggest disseminators is Elsevier, the science publishing unit of an Anglo-Dutch media conglomerate, which distributes some 1,700 academic journals, from Advances in Enzyme Regulation to Veterinary Parasitology.

“The whole premise for that model just evaporated with the Internet,” Eisen continues. “Technology now makes openness possible; it’s maximum openness. The rules of the game have changed, but the system has failed to respond.” Proof that the scientific community at large have recognised this failure came in 2003 when TheWellcome Trust: produced a position statement on scientific publishing that acknowledged the value of open source8:

With recent advances in Internet publishing, the Trust is aware that there are a number of new models for the publication of research results and will encourage initiatives that broaden the range of opportunities for quality research to be widely disseminated and freely accessed.

The Wellcome Trust therefore supports open and unrestricted access to the published output of research, including the open access model (defined below), as a fundamental part of its charitable mission and a public benefit to be encouraged wherever possible.
This statement returns science to the spirit of the early natural philosophers sharing discoveries through networks of letters and journals such as the Transactions of the Royal Society.
With the acceptance of open source ideas in such areas of society it becomes more likely that these concepts will have a lasting impact. The collapse of the dot com bubble proved that older models of entrepreneurship lack the intuitive grasp of the internet as a medium and do not yet comprehend the odd mix of gift economy and commerce that have shaped its development. A more agile approach now seems necessary for any entrepreneur entering this new economy.

THE CCA – CENTRE FOR CONTEMPORARY ARTS IN GLASGOW

In 2006 CCA began to develop an ‘open source’ approach to its organisational structure as a pragmatic response to the expansion of the building in 2001. The lottery refurbishment of CCA added greatly increased the size of the building which now occupied most of the Greek Thomson structure, and all of the 19th villa behind it. The organisation struggled economically to fill such a large set of spaces and the aggressive business model that accompanied the new building did not work with the kind of programming that was expected by CCA’s audiences. It was clear though that the new building has fine resources, excellent gallery spaces, an acoustically perfect performance space, a dramatic central courtyard with a restaurant, a wood workshop, a small cinema, an artist’s flat. And Glasgow is a city with a large artists community, a great music scene, audiences hungry for film, literature and performance. It seemed clear that the building had much to contribute to those wider groups. In its debilitated state in 2006, the preciousness

The collapse of the dot com bubble proved that older models of entrepreneurship lack the intuitive grasp of the internet as a medium

of the building as a ‘lottery jewel’ had also faded. This gave us an opportunity to ‘repurpose’ several spaces. The bookshop space that felt misplaced became a third gallery on the ground floor. CCA office spaces that felt overly luxurious became a hack-lab and the Creative Lab residency space. Glasgow Life came in to support an independent programme for Intermedia Gallery which had become unmoored from King Street. Initially through word-of-mouth the theatre, clubroom and cinema were made available to artists and organisations that needed temporary project space.

When it became clear that offering the space in this way was useful and supportive to other organisations we started to formalise the process. For artists and organisations with minimal funding we would offer space for free. Technicians and Front of House staff would have to be paid for if needed but we offered our staff at cost, taking no profit from the organisations. Of course, if organisations clearly had additional funding we would charge for the space but still at a subsidised rate. The galleries on the ground floor remain at the heart of CCA’s own programme and are programmed solely by our own curatorial team.
To make this policy work two elements are vital. The first is co-ordination. As activities grew in the building, we created a role for someone to liaise and co- ordinate the multiple events across the building. The second vital element involves selection. Clearly such a policy could easily be taken advantage of or it could quickly become a kaleidoscope of random events. To prevent this, each event and every partner programme is considered internally and every new event must be proposed to the CCA.
Our criteria for inclusion in the programme are based on a wide variety of things. Quality is a priority and we also give a great deal of consideration to whether the proposal is appropriate to CCA. Our programme stresses experimental work and activities that cannot be easily housed in other venues. So, for instance mainstream theatre proposals are not a high priority as there are many venues

across the city that are better suited to those proposals. Equally, proposals that tend to demand high amounts of rehearsal time are not high priorities as they occupy space that could be used by other, more public, activities.

Over several years we have built up many long term partners through this open source policy. Regular users tend to come to. us at the beginning of the year and speak to us about dates across the entire year. The benefits for everyone from this include a much greater feeling of ownership of the space by a wider spectrum of the arts community. The openness of the programme also brings in a broader variety of audiences and helps us break down some of the barriers to access that can easily grow around an art centre. The building can provide support for a large section of the arts

community in the city and the programme can reflect more cultural perspectives than our small team could achieve on its own. Perhaps the bottom fine is we hope the activity cultural momentum and diversity of the programme demonstrates the best possible use of public funding for the arts in the city.

Opening up Francis McKee

Source: East End Transmissions I 15
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May Day on the Green 2017

A group of us are trying to bring May Day back to the Green and make it
what it was meant to be, a family day, a fun day, a day to celebrate the
solidarity of the working class. Continue reading

May Day event at Free Wheel North. Monday May 1st from 2:00. Bringing
May Day back to the green. The workers day and celebration of spring,
out in the open where it belongs.

It will be a day to meet up with friends and comrades and have a
friendly afternoon. May Day belongs to the people, and belongs outside.

Join us at Free Wheel North on 1st of May 2:00

See website for details: Updates for activities will be posted as they
come in.

https://maydayglasgow2017.wordpress.com/

So you want to be…

There are many ways of engaging in public life. There is the part where you learn about things. Then there is the part where you start to take part. This series look at some directions people go in. For beginners and finding out what is good for you. This is not instructions on what to do. Just some encouragement to do something. The only instructions we need is. Never do or believe anything till you have checked out the facts yourself. Part 1. https://youtu.be/zR7CMVlywEY