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
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
Britain will be celebrating 100 years of the RAF in venues all over Britain. One being Glasgow Science Centre.
RAF 10 Website
“On 1 April 2018, the Royal Air Force celebrated its 100th birthday. To mark this occasion, we reflected on our history and our achievements. We also celebrated the work the RAF is currently doing and look forward to the next 100 years.”
To commemorate the achievements of a hundred years of the RAF will be about letting kids play with simulators of RAF warplanes, plus charity balls, flower shows and from the list of activities: “The UK’s biggest gaming convention will have an RAF twist.” War games with drones perhaps?. The technology in games machines and software it needs to be remembered has the same detail and in its portrayal, execution and sophistication and sadistic portrayal of death indistinguishable from the real thing. Kids in there bedrooms fight wars every night on their Xbox and PlayStations. Not much difference the tech shift in directing a lethal drone…
dropping mustard bombs and phosgene in the first world war.
About the bombing of Dresden in the second world war.
About the bombing of Iraq under false pretenses.
About bombing the Balkans under the guise of humanitarian relief.
And countless other atrocities our country, through our Royal Air Force command, has colluded in, with other Western warmongers
So, shortly after the promise of no more arms fairs in Glasgow. The Glasgow Science Centre, will have Meet members of the Royal Air Force in an interactive STEM/Techno Zone and learn more about “how we’re creating the next generation Air Force.”
Why is there never enough money to celebrate a hundred years of social and technological development that actually has the possibility to enhance peoples lives, but plenty to celebrate what we “force” on others, with country wide propaganda events to entice our kids with lethal toys. What’s the RAF doing in the Glasgow Science Centre, not I would guess reminding kids of the very real horror of war that can not be expressed on a plasma screen directing missiles to targets?
Glasgow Science Centre (Our mission)
“Our mission is to be an essential bridge between citizens and science and technology. We inspire people of all ages to explore and understand the world around them, to discover and enjoy science and understand its relevance to their own lives.”
If this is the Science Centres mission, Getting technology and understanding into communities, schools and community groups for the purpose of social development should be part of that. Another should be the use and effects of technology particularly around arms. Just defining science as neutral might be factual but it is a cop-out. And it is a cop-out to educate our children with the toys and technologies of the arms race without teaching along side it the cause and effect of the use of such technologies. Like. How they are used to drop bombs, usually illegally, many people suffer, many people die.
We need a wider debate on technology and a better understanding of what our taxes are supporting. Because the war machine is sucking up funding that that should be available to the developers the innovators particularly among our young who will suffer most from the disasters of the old man’s war machine. So what is to be done? Is the above mentioned STEM the answer on its own? This abbreviation has no relevance to the impact or misuse of science, technology, engineering or mathematics.
Here is an idea. We need STEAM in the STEM (Radical Imagination Project)
Here STEAM culture is a bit different from raw STEM, an emphasis needs to be based on the functions and uses of technology not only the technology itself.
Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics
Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics
The arts bias created in our current project for instance (chose your own, democracy, agency, politics and so on) is to encourage imagineers as well as engineers. Creativity based on human morals rather than just raw statistics. Because the same technology that is capable of enhancing our lives, is also capable of destroying us. A dichotomy that should be a basis for any scientific study in schools or anywhere else.
The difference being we need to understand the use of technology through creativity not just by raw fact and rote learning alone.
The raw facts being for instance: The atomic weight of a particular atom being made up of the weight of its protons, neutrons and electrons, should not only be worked out for the purposes of calculating the yield of a weapon.
But when we understand why these calculations are not only important to arms manufacturers, but also to medical science we are better informed of their uses. And the science bias in a civilised society should, you would think be towards saving lives rather than destroying them.
Cynically we could suggest the only reason to teach kids about strong and weak nuclear forces would be for the intent of insuring that we have a steady stream of weapons developers. Rather than departments of nuclear medicine at the local hospital (Where there is a shortage of doctors in these departments).
And technologies that are sometimes blatantly avoided are those like liquid fuel reactors,(LFR) and such like, because the benefits are generally humanitarian and less commercially profitable. For instance. Why should we be shackled to a debt when energy suppliers bolt solar panels to our roof. People should be able to enjoy the direct benefit of the free energy of solar technology without business converting it to, profit for business and debt for the tenant or home owner. Solar energy should not be about blue sky thinking and profiteering but directed towards answering the pragmatic questions around fuel poverty and the environmental impact.
Science education it would seem to a great extent is only focused on the commercial benefits of the arms race. We can use depleted uranium in bullets bombs and missiles but also in medical equipment and chemo therapy. Who makes these decisions of death over life and why the bias on arms when cancer patients are dying on waiting lists who could be saved by the same technology?
These are the problems we should be focused on and what most folk care about, both here and in the countries that are bomb with our sophisticated technology. We are human beings not cannon fodder for the arms-race-rich. The problems are nothing to do with technology, but with those who control it. And technology will never solve that problem without the democratic will, ideas and people to direct it towards better things.
Only human beings can decide what technology is used for. Most of us want it used for good thing, but think it has nothing to do with them. Half an hour with “The Common Good Awareness” science and tech coach could convince them, that this does not need to be the case.
Radical Imagination Project
The need to reclaim technology
Another industrial eyesore removed from the historical conscience
The antiques warehouse that used to sit on the waterfront giving a bit of diversity of why folk would be attracted to the river side. Burnt to a cinder over a weekend. No doubt to be replaced by more sterile blocks of flats. Eyesores to the gentrifiers, or should we say cultural colonisers, is anything that might sit at a funny angle, never mind architectural or historical significance, to the grid mentality that builds, not so much flats, but rather, sells investment in cubic meters of walled concrete.trigger more text
If we didn’t have the shipyard museum in Govan, and the one lonely column, that stands outside the supermarket in Springburn, what would we have? Where is our industrial heritage? What was once the site of the engineer works that built and exported steam engines all over the world. (25% global market share) Only one single pole remains there, one stanchion from the Hyde Park Works in central Springburn, is what Springburn has physically to represent the industry sweat and labour of its steam engine building past. What an embarrassment. Maybe the city planners should sneak in of a night time and remove it, or it may internally combust on its own, if neglected long enough. With this kind of disregard towards our industrial architecture, it should be no surprise that another remnant of our industrial past is bulldozed after going up in flames…
“Glasgow continues to maintain its reputation as the city in which historic buildings “go on fire”, the latest victim of ‘spontaneous combustion being Scotway House in Partick, close to the river Clyde.
A large two-storey pile of polychromatic brick and sandstone, it was designed by Bruce & May and built as offices for the shipbuilders and engineers, David & William Henderson & Co. Many of the record-breaking yachts built in the Meadowside Shipyard were designed in the building, which was listed at Category B. Empty and derelict, however, it had long been on the Buildings at Risk register for Scotland.
With the decline of shipbuilding, Scotway House found itself isolated on cleared ground between the new Riverside Museum – that absurd, impractical shed designed by the late Zaha Hadid – and the new Glasgow Harbour flats. It was first proposed for demolition in 2002. Three years later, the Glasgow Harbour developers proposed re-erecting it on another site as a restaurant. In 2011 it was proposed to restore it as a rock ‘n’ roll hall of lame. Last year it was proposed to convert it into a bar and restaurant next to a planned complex of student flats. All in vain. Last January part of the roof was damaged by fire, and last month the whole building was gutted by a far worse fire. It now stands as a roofless shell, and no doubt what is left will soon be (is being) cleared away for development.” Piloty Private Eye.
Neoliberalism as a Water Balloon
By Edward Said In the decade after the fall of the Soviet Union, most of the world is in the grip of an ideology whose most dramatic embodiment is currently to be found in the race between the two main candidates for the American presidency. Without wishing to list the various issues that divide them, more »
By Edward Said
In the decade after the fall of the Soviet Union, most of the world is in the grip of an ideology whose most dramatic embodiment is currently to be found in the race between the two main candidates for the American presidency. Without wishing to list the various issues that divide them, I should like very quickly therefore to note what it is that unites them and in many ways makes them mirror images of each other. As I said in my last article (Al-Ahram Weekly, 24-30 August), both are passionate, indeed unquestioning believers in the corporate free market system. Both advocate what they call less government, oppose “big” government, and together continue the campaign against the welfare state that was inaugurated two decades ago by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. It is this 20-year continuity that I would like to describe in view of what has been the emergence and hegemony of neo-liberalism, a doctrine that has almost totally transformed the British Labour Party (now called New Labour) and the American Democratic Party under Clinton and Gore. The dilemma we all face as citizens is that, with few exceptions here and there (most of them desperately isolated economic disasters, like North Korea and Cuba, or alternatives that are useless as models for others to follow), neoliberalism has swallowed up the world in its clutches, with grave consequences for democracy and the physical environment that can be neither underestimated nor dismissed.
As practiced in Eastern Europe, China and a few other countries in Africa and Asia, state socialism was unable to compete with the energy and inventiveness of globalised finance capital, which captured more markets, promised rapid prosperity, and appealed to vast numbers of people for whom state control meant underdevelopment, bureaucracy and the repressive supervision of everyday life. Then the Soviet Union and East Europe switched to capitalism, and a new world was born. But when the doctrines of the free market were turned on social security systems like those that had sustained Britain in the post-war period, and the United States since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, a massive social transformation was to ensue. I will come to that in a moment. But one must make an effort to remember those genuinely progressive policies had once produced a relatively new condition of widespread democratic equality and social benefits, all of them administered and financed by the central state. They were what gave strength to post-war Britain and the United States in the 1940s and 1950s. Taxes were therefore quite high for the wealthy, although the middle and working classes also had to pay for the benefits that accrued to them (mainly education, health and social security). Many of these benefits were the result of an aggressive and well-organised labour union system, but there was also a prevailing idea that the large costs of health and education, for example, which the individual citizen could not afford to pay alone, should be subsidised by the corporate body of the welfare state. By the beginning of the ’90s all this was not only under attack but had started to disappear.
First the labour unions were dissolved or broken (the British miners, and the American air traffic controllers). Privatisation of major services like transportation, utilities, education and heavy industry followed, mainly in Europe. In the US (where except for utilities, most industries were already in private hands, but prices were controlled by the government in the basic services sector), deregulation was the order of the day. This meant that the government would no longer play a role in making sure that the price of travel, basic commodities, health, education, as well as utilities such as gas and electricity, should stay within certain bounds. The market was to be the new regulator, which meant that costs and profits of individual airlines, hospitals, telephone companies, and later gas, electricity, and water were left to the private companies to set, frequently at considerable financial pain to the individual consumer. Soon even the postal service and a major part of the prison system were also privatised and deregulated. In Britain, Thatcherism virtually destroyed the university system, since it viewed each institution university as a supplier of learning, and hence like a business that in terms of profit and loss tended to be a loser, rather than a maker, of money. Many teaching positions were slashed, with an extraordinary loss in morale and productivity, as thousands of professors and teachers looked for positions abroad.
With the collapse of socialism everywhere and the triumph of aggressive right-wing parties and policies such as those headed by Reagan and Thatcher, the old liberal left in British Labour and the US Democratic party had two alternatives. One was to move closer to the successful policies of the right. The other alternative was to choose an approach that would protect the old services but make them more efficient. Both the British New Labourites under Tony Blair and the American Democrats under Bill Clinton chose the former course (moving towards the right), but skilfully kept some of the rhetoric of the past, pretending that many of the welfare services the state used to provide were there, albeit packaged differently.
That was simply false. Deregulation and privatisation continued, with the result that the profit motive took over the public sector completely. Budgets for social welfare, health for the poor and aged, and schools were slashed; defence, law and order (i.e. police and prisons) were fed more state money and/or privatised. The major loss has been in democracy and social practices. For when the country is ruled by the market (in the US a period of great prosperity for the top half of the country, poverty for the bottom) and with the state in fact given over to the most powerful corporations and stock market businesses (symbolised by the tremendous growth in electronic business), there is less and less incentive for the individual citizen to participate in a system perceived as basically out of control so far as the ordinary population is concerned. The price of this neoliberal system has been paid by the individual citizen who feels left out, powerless, alienated from a market place ruled by greed, immense transnational corporations, and a government at the mercy of the highest bidder. Thus elections are controlled not by the individual voter but by the major contributors, the media (who have an interest in maintaining the system), and the corporate sector.
What is most discouraging is the sense most people have that not only is there no other alternative, but that this is the best system ever imagined, the triumph of the middle-class ideal, a liberal and humane democracy — or, as Francis Fukuyama called it, the end of history. Inequities are simply swept out of sight. The degradation of the environment and the pauperisation of huge patches of Asia, Africa and Latin America — the so-called South — are all secondary to corporate profits. Worst of all is the loss of initiative that could bring significant change. There is hardly anyone left to challenge the idea that schools, for instance, should be run as profit-making enterprises, and that hospitals should offer service only to those who can pay prices set by pharmaceutical companies and hospital accountants. The disappearance of the welfare state means that no public agency exists to safeguard personal well-being for the weak, the disadvantaged, impoverished families, children, the handicapped, and the aged. New liberalism speaks about opportunities as “free” and “equal” whereas if for some reason you are not capable of staying ahead, you will sink.What has disappeared is the sense citizens need to have of entitlement — the right, guaranteed by the state, to health, education, shelter, and democratic freedoms. If all those become the prey of the globalised market, the future is deeply insecure for the large majority of people, despite the reassuring (but profoundly misleading) rhetoric of care and kindness spun out by the media managers and public relations experts who rule over public discourse.
The question now is how long neo-liberalism will last. For if the global system starts to break down, if more and more people suffer the consequences of a dearth of social services, if more and more powerlessness characterises the political system, then crises will begin to emerge. At that point, alternatives will be a necessity, even if for the time being we are being told “you never had it so good!” How much social suffering is tolerable before the need for change actually causes change? This is the major political question of our time.