Activist Diary #5

In an hour and a half I board the coach from Exeter to London. Tomorrow I will be in Parliament Square with hundreds, perhaps thousands of others, for the declaration of Extinction Rebellion. Others who, like me, have realised that drastic measures are needed to wake up the governments of the world to the worsening ecological crisis -particularly to climate breakdown.

Of course, as a whole our governments know what is going on. They would rather sacrifice many of our lives than take on the hard and initially unpopular work of global system change that is so needed. If we were in their shoes, of course we would do no better. Changing our politicians within the current system won’t help us respond to this drastic emergency. With compassion and assertiveness, we rebel against our governments, and we do it civilly.

This starts today.

I feel petrified but exhilerated to be travelling to London at this important time. Today I put my habit of social anxiety aside. I must. Today is part of a wider series of events and trends globally that speak of a turning point in modern global history, and the stirrings of a mass mobilisation of people willing to peacefully ‘fight’ for their lives, as well as the lives of other species on this planet.

What we are beginning to witness, what we must help to manifest, are the rumblings of a leviathan of a movement that is projected to be far greater than the mobilisation of the Allied forces during WWII, and more decisive.

So how do I feel? I feel disappointed in humanity that I have to face these days that make me so anxious for myself and deeply fretful about likely future scenarios that my nieces and nephews will be growing into. I feel angry and bitter towards folk in the street that I walk past every day, their apparent obliviousness to what is going on as they consume, consume, consume. I feel angry and sad.

I feel resolute, after spending time with my blood-niece recently, that I will do what I can to help change the course of history at this pivotal time, even if that means being arrested for peaceful direct action, blocking the roads that taken us in the wrong direction for far too long.

I feel resigned to this potentially difficult path of civil disobedience that lies ahead of me. I feel wearied by it ahead of time. But I also feel the stirrings of a warrior within me. That warrior that must awake within me to carry me forward beyond the limited behaviours of my life that have carried me thus far. That warrior spirit that must awake within all of us if we are to truly rise to this deepest challenge of our times.

Once this spirit begins to awaken, joining with others in Extinction Rebellion, there is a great feeling of shared purpose, a joyful and deep purpose, perhaps the purpose we were all born for in these times.

It is this joy I want to share with you. I feel it only in moments, but I suspect that it will grow.

And grow and grow and grow.

Launch of free curated spreadsheet for activists on 30/10/18 -but only if you give me feedback :-)

Email me at matthew.tehanu@gmail.com to get your free copy of the spreadsheet. I will only be dishing them out until I get 50 engaged respondents -that’s fifty people who give me constructive criticism to feed into the next version. These respondents will get free updates on this product for life, and this product will always be free to active members of XR and Rising Up! (You know who you are). Everyone else, if you wait until January, you’ll pay for it. 🙂

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It’s going to be messy, but I don’t care. I’ve waited for too long to get a product out into the world. What better date to launch it on than the 30th October? This will be exactly one year since I started the Epic Tomorrows blog and exactly one day before the announcement of Extinction Rebellion in Parliament Square, London. Extinction Rebellion (XR) is the NVDA movement I am involved with and for which I co-edit the blog extinctionrebellion.org

XR is the movement that, using the vehicle of mass civil disobedience in London this autumn, resulting in multiple arrests, will demand of the UK government that carbon emissions are reduced to zero by 2025, to prevent catastrophic climate breakdown, and that a democratic citizens’ assembly is created to bring about this decarbonisation.

Due to spending all my time organising for Extinction Rebellion, my blog-business development has fallen by the wayside -or so I thought. Trusting the process of my unfolding life and business, I can now see that that all my experience of activist organisation over the past few months has directly informed the development of my ideas for information products for activists.

On 30th October I will soft launch a free version of my first information product, a curated spreadsheet of websites useful to activists, simply made with MS Excel, with a guiding document on how to use the spreadsheet. It will be messy, it will be a work-in-progress, and it will only contain a couple hundred entries, but I am confident that I have wisdom, empathy and experience enough that many activists will find this to be a useful list. Since I have been hanging around with a lot of climate activists and vegans in recent months, and have recently made the change to total veganism myself, this first free version of the spreadsheet will be weighted in these directions.

I am a generous person (ask anyone who knows me well).

Anyone who gives me significant constructive and honest feedback, (not just, ‘hey, great spreadsheet’ or ‘this spreadsheet is a pile of shit’) will get free updates of this product for life. I have come far enough against the odds to know that eventually, this will be a resource you will feel blessed to have access to. It will take me a little while to get it to that level, so bear with me. More than that -I’m asking you to help me build this thing. If you help me build it at this early stage, you’ll always be a part of it and you’ll never have to pay. If you are an active member of Extinction Rebellion, you will also never have to pay.

In January 2019 I will start charging for the product.

The theory behind my product, and behind Epic Tomorrows, is that disconnection is the final cause, or the umbrella feature, of much catastrophe in modern globalised society, including the likely collapse of global civilisation within the next century. The extent to which we connect and re-connect is the extent to which we can mitigate the collapse and turn it, broadly speaking, into a managed transformation into a more advanced version of human society.

For the activists amongst you, like myself, the need to connect and re-connect is particularly urgent for you to be an effective activist. A key element of this connection is to those information resources that help you ACT! Being an effective activist also means being a healthy person of course. You know this, but you probably struggle with putting it into practice, like I do.

My free spreadsheet and accompanying guide (try them out) will eventually expand to include all these areas of connection and re-connection for activists:

1) Activist to activist (community building)

2) Activist to wholeness / potential, of theirself

3) Activist to basic sustainable physical resources 

4) Activist to wholeness / potential, of regenerative culture

5) Activist to informational, emotional and other resources

6) Activist resource to activist resource

7) Activist org / movement to activist org / movement

There is urgency for ecopreneurs such as myself to disrupt the precarious situation of neoliberal globalised capitalism in enterprises which re-connect what neoliberal capitalism has helped disconnect. This re-connection can help subvert capitalism into a more sustainable and relocalised version of itself, into a truly regenerative culture. This culture isn’t ‘socialism’ by the way, although some socialists I’ve met are friendly to my vision.

If I can kill three bloated corporations with one stone, as the saying should go, and help activists with system change, help set an example for ecopreneurs for system change, and provide a basic living for myself in the meantime, then Epic Tomorrows is serving its purpose.

Email me at matthew.tehanu@gmail.com to get your free copy of the spreadsheet. I will only be dishing them out until I get 50 engaged respondents -that’s fifty people who give me constructive criticism to feed into the next version. These respondents will get free updates on this product for life, and this product will always be free to active members of XR and Rising Up! (You know who you are). Everyone else, if you wait until January, you’ll pay for it. 🙂

 

Square in The Face and The Voice in The Night

Square in The Face

Rise For Climate is an international movement that today will see over 850 rallies happening around the world to demand climate justice from governments and corporations.

This is a great initiative, but will it be enough? Extinction Rebellion goes one step further. As members of XR we are employing mass civil disobedience (for instance, road blocks) to demand action NOW.

Sometimes I get accused of being miserable, of not knowing how to have fun, even of being ‘square’. But these people don’t see when I’m dancing around my flat or in a trance playing jazz dance on my electric piano. I may be square to some, if square means wanting to live meticulously in a way which improves the suffering lot of the species -including humans- on this planet. A lot which it is very reasonable to project will worsen due to climate breakdown in the coming decades.

I only appear square at face value because I am looking civilisation square in the face. You don’t face me by calling me names. If you dare face me, look at the dying civilisation reflected in my eyes.

 

The Voice in The Night

A few nights ago, in the middle of the night, a man’s voice stated to me plainly,

‘I didn’t know about it. Nobody told me.’

He was referring to climate breakdown and he was referring to the Extinction Rebellion.

I think this man has a job which involves some manual work. I think he works in engineering, but in some kind of assistant capacity. He is fairly switched on about trends in society and politics, but he knows next to nothing about climate breakdown (or what he would call ‘climate change’).

This man is indicative of the massive problem we have around climate breakdown -that most of even the most intelligent people in society are not aware of it.

This man’s voice was a warning to me. He was calling to me from the future. He was asking me to try my hardest to get through to him now, even though the whole machine of industrial civilisation wants to prevent our meeting and our communicating.

 

Activist Diary #4: Out on a limb

A few days ago I returned from a short trip to the wild west of Cornwall, where I had given two talks on Extinction Rebellion, the activist campaign run by Rising Up! of which I am a member.

Talking first at Penzance, and then at Porthtowan, I was really out on a limb, geographically and psychologically. I had never given the talk alone, and had only once before delivered it (with a co-activist).

It turned out that the whole two-day experience was productive but intensely draining, including a fair degree of psychological exposure and vulnerability, and some criticism absorbed because I wasn’t robust or clear in my thinking enough to rebut it. Criticism that would not have been forthcoming, I feel, if I had been better prepared.

Knowing something of the workings of my mind and the human unconscious in general, even as I was going through the whole experience I understood that I had engineered the situation to be a difficult one for myself, as a toughening experience on the extreme western edge of the UK to prepare me for the campaign ahead.

Even before the first talk which I gave in The Lugger Inn in Penzance, I walked right to the far edge of the beach, away from the shops, and literally ran across the boulders piled up there. Slipping could mean a serious injury or worse, but at the time it was imperative to maintain the highly strung mind-state that I had cultivated for that first talk.

Sat on the far edge of the boulders, I delighted in the company of juvenile gulls and cormorants, and practised the talk a little, reading to a brick wall.

Thankfully the audience at The Lugger turned out to be much more engaging than the wall, but they had a toughness to them; perhaps it was their Cornishness. I knew my talk was successful when a few people walked out during the early minutes of the second half of the talk. They hadn’t disagreed with the science of catastrophic climate breakdown, but when I started talking about the necessary solution of direct action to force governments to enter war-time level mobilisation, to reduce carbon emissions to zero within just a few years, in heated frustration they claimed ‘it can’t be done!’

I was glad to get the sign-ups for the campaign at the end of the talk.

The second night didn’t go so well. I was over-tired, and didn’t manage to give the audience much eye contact. I think this led to a lack of trust, which contributed to the break down of the talk before the end, with interruptions turning into a discussion at the wrong moment i.e. before I had a chance to fully explain myself. I got no sign-ups this second night, but at least we were all in agreement that ‘something needs to be done, and soon’. (I can still maximise the Facebook interest that this event generated).

Getting a lift back to Redruth from the venue with the owner of the Vegan Cornish Pasty Company and her partner, was the highlight.

The Cornish experience overall reminded me that Extinction Rebellion and the science and principles behind it, occupy the extreme edge of intellectual thought in this country, even though our contention is that they should occupy the mainstream of intellectual thought, such is the climate breakdown emergency that we are currently facing.

I was also reminded of the human need or drive to express underlying emotions and preoccupations in unconscious behaviours, which can become more conscious if we let them. Personally, I am becoming increasingly aware of a momentum inside me that wishes to act out the extreme, the wild edge of thought and emotion and behaviour. This need to act out the extreme is a reflection of the generally unexpressed urgency of climate breakdown that I see in the denial of the eyes of the people that surround me.

Covey’s 7 habits in activist contexts #1: Be proactive

I know many of you will be familiar with the best-selling personal development and business book by Richard Covey, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’.

I have enjoyed reading, studying and acting from this book, even though I haven’t yet fully digested every section. I am also aware that a book like this, culturally very American, is a product of a neoliberal capitalist culture which emphasizes personal agency in making change (change for self and community) at the expense of systemic forces of oppression which work against some individuals, for instance those in marginalised minority groups.

Nevertheless, the genre of self-development literature, often overlapping with entrepreneurial and business literature, can be utilised to serve activism and the overcoming of systemic oppression and injustice in society. At least as a privileged white, middleclass, (sort of) male activist, I can utilise and subvert lessons from self-development literature which afterall, on a personal level (the level of the author) often comes from a very noble and empathic place (we can say this much about Richard Covey). We can still acknowledge that there are unexamined prejudices and privilege dynamics in any author, including myself.

In Covey’s book he argues that we must make traits, attitudes and behaviours of personal excellence habitual, if they are to have any effect. For this post I would just like to concentrate on Covey’s first habit which is deceptively simple: ‘Be proactive’. The most ‘successful’ people (successful personally, in community, in business etc) Covey argues are ‘proactive’.

Covey explains this proactivity in various ways, including the suggestion to ‘always choose a positive response’ to a situation, including stimuli which are part of cycles of addiction. In the context of addiction this amounts to strengthening neural pathways by engaging in creative alternative behaviours in response to stimuli which usually bring about the addiction response. Thus we can see that fundamentally Covey believes in free will -our ability to choose to be better, to choose to grow and change.

The proactive person, Covey argues, has a large circle of influence and a small circle of concern, the latter being the arena of things that we worry about but do nothing to change; whereas the reactive person (that one who is always complaining) has a small circle of influence and a large circle of concern. I have found this model useful but it is simplistic and says nothing of the systematically oppressed person, for instance the drug addict who needs help but is criminalised, who has a small circle of influence, but may also have a small circle of concern, or may have a large circle of concern but because of systematic oppression linked to her gender, colour and background, finds it especially difficult to widen her circle of influence by ‘being more proactive’, as Covey would suggest she do.

Nevertheless, as a privileged activist I can be proactive to raise awareness, campaign and engage in direct actions, in ways which help to reduce the systematic oppression of others, not least by challenging moment by moment the complacent and sometimes addiction-forming responses I exhibit to certain stimuli which may reinforce my own privilege in an unhelpful way.

In a wide sense, we are a culture of addicts. In fact, addiction is at the core of neoliberalist capitalist economics: addiction to greed, addiction to wealth, addiction to status, addiction to beauty, addiction to materialism and addiction to power. Addiction to ‘making a name for onesself’, addiction to ‘being heard’ (by whatever media), addiction to the craving of acceptance by the prevailing society and its norms. Our addictions are fed by the marketing and advertising industries.

‘Proactive people make “love” a verb’ says Covey, whilst ‘reactive people make “love” a feeling’.

As activists, how can we develop the strength and consistency of active love required to raise awareness in ourselves to the height of understanding all our impulses and attitudes, and root out that which distances us from, by culturally raising us above, those that ‘the systems of our types’ (whether white, male, or comparatively wealthy or educated types) routinely oppress, including every non-human species upon this planet?

Breaking chains takes loving awareness, moment by moment.

 

 

The red flower fell at my feet…

The red flower fell at my feet, as I walked past the high hanging basket in Exeter High Street. This was divine providence; synchronicity. On the bus journey to Exeter this morning I had been studying The Roots of Civilisation by Abdullah Ocalan. I am near to the end of this momentous literary and historiographical achievement, written by Ocalan from the prison cells where he has been incarcerated for the past twenty years.

I am at an exciting stage in the book, where Ocalan is describing the crisis of contemporary global capitalism and the corresponding crisis in democracy. His incredibly pragmatic and yet optimistic view of the progression of history is that contemporary capitalist civilisation, inseperable from contemporary democratic civilisation, is the most advanced form of human society that we have yet seen upon Earth -advanced towards our highest good. This is despite the obvious gross abuses within the system, which are in fact integral to the system.

Ocalan does not whine for some communist utopia like some other leftists. Instead, he is a truly radical and progressive leftist. He sees that within the limited democratic institutions and societies that already exist, alongside the disruptive technologies of the 21st century which show great potential for widespread distribution in a democratic and commonly owned way, there are seeds for a truly scientific socialism, as the next natural stage of advancement for human civilisation -in fact a necessary and urgently required stage in the face of the capitalist-ecological global crisis.

Ocalan gives a compelling and damning critique of what he calls ‘real socialism’ -the historical (actually ignorantly a-historical) attempts at socialism which have claimed to be scientific, but which have failed due to their gross materialism (divorced from the creativity and diversity of Nature), their adoption of oppressive centralised state structures in order to maintain their ‘liberated’ systems, their failure to address the oppression of women and finally the technological and scientific immaturity of the historical contexts which could not facilitate the true transcendence of class -not for very long anyway. This overall failure of ‘real socialism’, shows Ocalan, was down to an incomplete understanding of history.

In ‘The Roots…’ it is shown that level of technological advancement and class are intertwined within a society, and it is actually only now within the first quarter of the 21st century that we have the beginnings of the scientific and technological conditions that, in tandem with a grassroots democratic culture, can allow the development of forms of scientific socialism. My own view is that this scientific socialism, although it has not yet been defined to my satisfaction, could be arrived at via hybrid entrepreneurial-socialist localised economic and political systems which compete peacefully against wider capitalist-democratic systems for local dominance and local, democratic economic stability. In other words, my current understanding of ‘scientific socialism’ is a localised economic and political system with vastly reduced disparity between the rich and poor, and increased participation of everyone in democratic life, enabled by ubiquitously shared, close to zero cost, technologies (such as democratic decision-making mobile phone apps). I will expand on this in future posts. Localised food and energy production is also implied, and civil disobedience is also implied, as at least some of the functions of the state are relocalised in grassroots decision-making bodies.

When the blood-red flower fell freshly at my feet, it was as if the fresh scientific socialism advocated by Ocalan had entered the immediate physical world around me in a symbol of Nature-borne presence -but soon to decay if not acted upon.

I then sat in a cafe -a fine capitalist institution that sold me a hazlenut and chocolate croissant and a soya milk latte, an institution that despite its ethical credentials cannot claim to be seperated from the gross oppressions of capitalism- and wrote the bulk of this post.

After I left the cafe I hurried to the Quay and met for the first time an ‘indie online content creator’s group’ (advertised on Meetup.com.) I can’t tell you how enriching this experience was, in terms of how much I learnt about presenting my online writing in a more accessible and commercial way (since I intend to make money from my writing) and meeting other friendly people sharing the struggles of creating and marketing content and some of the solutions. Even the free version of the platform of WordPress that I use to blog, is an incredible system of magic (to anyone except the most technologically minded, those who understand coding) which the democratic culture of modern civilisation has allowed to be propagated and used freely by anyone with a computer and an internet connection (anyone who can get to a public library).

I do not see it as problematic at all that I exist and work in the capitalist sphere in a very active way, as an entrepreneur, and also exist in an activist socialist political sphere, where I aspire to the redistribution of wealth for a more balanced and stable society. This hypocrisy is integral to contemporary capitalist-democratic civilisation and I can’t pretend to be outside of it. Can you? The question is, how do we utilise this hypocrisy constructively, towards greater moral ends. The hypocrisy is in fact necessary in the transition phase to something like ‘scientific socialism’ or a scientific, technology-enabled socialist-capitalist localised hybrid. The hypocrisy of capitalism (and the hypocrisy of all oppressive human civilisations throughout history i.e. in some aspects, every civilisation) continues but is potentially resolved in the current transition phase between the decline of global capitalism and the emergent democratic (including technological) forms which contradict global capitalist forms in many respects, but simultaneously are enabled by them. The so-called sharing economy could be the typical and dominant phenomenon of what I describe. Needless to say, this sharing economy is not available to all. Not yet anyway.

Perhaps another feature of the necessary progression through the current global crisis is the full automation of all menial jobs globally, (excluding sustainable farming which should be fairly shared, fulfilling work) if coupled with a reversal of the negative impacts on the ecological environment of contemporary capitalist civilisation. Anthropogenic climate change could be the worst of these impacts and the one needing addressing most urgently, but not in isolation from every related negative environmental impact of modern human society.

Abdullah Ocalan, freedom fighter, more deeply feminist than some of the feminist Western women I have met, nobody knows whether you are still alive or whether you have died at the hands of your Turkish oppressors. In your honour Ocalan, and for the sake of the positive evolution of the human species, I internalise the strategically evolved tear-like petals of the red flower-head that earlier today was on the coffee-shop table in front of me, that every petal may symbolise a flame of tactical advance towards a reconciled global society -reconciled with Nature and honestly reconciled with the bloody history, including the oppression of women, that the progression of civilisations throughout history has depended upon.

Let these delicate flames not tell of more bloodshed and misguided ‘revolution’ (I do not refer to the Rojava revolution as misguided). As you say, Ocalan, the seeds of the new world system are already with us, are already beginning to flower in some places. All our courage, all our peaceful civil disobedience, all our entrepreneurship, is called upon to optimise the fate of the contemporary capitalist crisis.

Spelling, grammar and punctuation

It is no exaggeration to say that, if you are between the ages of 18 and 25 or thereabouts, the language you use from day to day, in your speaking and in your writing, is a fulcrum on which the future of humanity may depend i.e. whether we survive or not as a species. The human species faces severe ecological crisis this century (see The Evidence) and the words we use and the way we arrange them, are crucial to our survival.  It is the youngest generation of adults that is best placed to lead the necessary revolution in human civilisation. This is because of their familiarisation with the sharing economy, their technological savvy, their ecological awareness, and their average physical health and fitness (i.e. resilience and capacity for a diversity of work).

For us to behave in the most effective and focused way, our linguistically expressed intent must be structured and focused, whether that intent is expressed out loud, on paper or screen, or only in our thoughts. It is true that motivation may be pictorial also (images in mind) but on closer examination these images have stories embedded in them which can only be understood in words.

It is also true that we can act on the spur of the moment, without thought but mindfully. However, there are dead and oppressive narratives, tied up in hypocritical knots of language, which must be combated or reshaped according to logical and linguistic capacities. Yes, we can act with one-pointedness and presence, free of cluttering thoughts, but until we set aside time to question and contemplate the speech forms and written forms we use, there will still be unconscious elements in even the most mindful self-expression. These elements are often malignant, preserving power imbalances in society of men over women, white over black, rich over poor and so on. The malignancy may be protected in hypocritical or obfuscating word play. For instance, take the phrase, ‘Hey you guys!’, an American greeting of groups of either or mixed genders. It may seem like quite an equitable phrase, treating everyone the same, in a ‘cool’ kind of way. Yet the apparent benignity of this phrase may conceal the obvious: the male takes precedence over the female; a ‘guy’ is a man. As if we all must identify as men to be recognised / greeted.

Spelling: In uncovering the unhelpful and unhealthy narratives and phrases which underlie decaying and toxic elements in human society and culture, and constructing therapeutic and holistic narratives, spelling plays at least two roles. These roles apply to all human linguistic expression, but when the transformation of global culture is at stake, the roles take on extra import.

Firstly, we spell in the conventional ‘correct’ manner so that our intentions are not misconstrued and interrupted (by bad spelling). Secondly, we may choose words which are spelt in a way which suits what we want to say, rather than words whose spelling may detract from or contradict our message. Additionally we may choose words whose spellings (and corresponding meanings) point towards a renewed human culture.

Grammar and Punctuation: The role of grammar and punctuation, including as in the transformation of culture, is to ensure the clear, accessible and coherent representation, division and emphasis of the words that we choose to communicate.

The unique challenge in modern conscious contexts of responsible spelling, grammar and punctuation is to be clear in our reshaping of culture, from moment to moment. Messy expression reflects in messy understanding from others and in the worst cases, misdirected behaviour, or at least delays between understanding and action which perhaps can’t be afforded.

It seems to me that there is an underlying narrative concerning spelling, grammar and punctuation which may be unique to contemporary times. The story goes like this: ‘it doesn’t matter so much to be good with spelling, punctuation and grammar these days: the important thing is getting your message out there’ This is subtle and slight, as spelling etc are universally still seen as important to a degree, but it seems to me that standards of English in general have been willingly dropped in recent decades. This is predominantly the influence of online culture -or influences within online culture- including the fact that the boundaries between publicly accessible casual communications / content, and ‘professionally published’ material have become blurred. This blurring can also be understood as a blurring of cultural boundaries in general. Although these boundaries are complex and the driving forces of increased ambiguity cannot simply be ‘capitalist’, nevertheless blurred edges are potentially, both the sign of a civilisation approaching its limits, and a fertile ground for the reshaping of cultural norms -the reshaping of civilisation.

Without wanting to sound like that old English teacher at school who you hated, if we are serious about transforming this world that we live in, I propose that we start off with improving our basic English skills, or the skills of whichever our native language happens to be. For the youngest adults amongst us, those beginning to appreciate the burden of the disintegrating civilisation that the rest of us have laid on their shoulders, and those who are most malleable and nimble on the internet and with the fastest rates of technological change, the imperative for clear communication is all the more urgent.