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.

 

 

Why Write? #1

Answering the question Why Write? is not just an intellectual exercise: it is a matter of the life and death of individuals and of human culture as a whole.

Everything that has ever been written has political and cultural aspects to it. This is unavoidable. For writing which is not explicitly political, the political biases of the writer (we all have them) will still come through, however subtly that may be. Political bias can come through as much in what is omitted, as in what is included. From fairy-tales to magazine articles to copy-writing for businesses, political views inherent to the author will be inherent to the text. This is true regardless of whether or not the author is aware of their bias. In fact, when the author is unaware of their bias, it will likely come through all the stronger, untempered by self-awareness and self-reflection.

Every piece of literature that is written, whether an award-winning novel or the label for a convenience product, contributes to complex interdependent narratives of power in global society which dictate, amongst other things, who gets to live and who gets to die from unnatural causes. This may seem extreme, but I ask you to consider it for just a few moments. You will find that it is the truth.

In a deeper and more comprehensive way, all writing plays a strong cultural role, globally. The language of human beings, whether written or spoken, perpetuates, evolves or disintegrates the culture which it expresses and in which it is embedded, as well as any potential culture which is ‘alien’ to it, with which it comes into contact. In contemporary times, cultures are constantly synergising, co-evolving or battling with one another, particularly via the medium of the internet.

To answer the challenge of ‘Why Write? in a truly responsible and conscious way means to take control of the power of writing, especially online, to shape politics and culture, and consciously write in a way which strengthens healthy culture and challenges unhealthy culture, whatever our subjective definitions of these may be.

In the current phase of history, the declining days of the current form of global capitalist civilisation, the responsibility is further to make sure that in our writing, whatever form it takes, we smooth the evolution of this civilisation to the next one, whatever that may be, and in these turbulent times ensure as minimum an amount of human and non-human suffering as possible.

There is no form of writing that is exempt from this calling. Language shapes and expresses intent, which shapes behaviour and society.

In order to respond to this call we must look at the underlying narratives which guide human society and culture. These narratives are often unconscious and often unexpressed in language, so that all we can do is paraphrase and estimate them, (mainly by using language, of course -retrospectively.) Commonly discussed underlying social narratives of contemporary times are often strongly related to the globally dominant capitalist society that we live in, and the corresponding system of ‘liberal democracy’ which is touted by the most powerful as the most desirable method of governance for all countries.

For instance, ‘capitalism makes everyone richer’ is an underlying story that we cannot help but live by at least some of the time, in advanced capitalist countries, even if we are the most critical people in society of those narratives. This is because of their all-pervading nature, in advertising, in news articles, in the fairy-tales we read out children and in the products we buy from day to day -even the ‘ethical’ ones. A related narrative is ‘we are free to choose our leaders’ i.e. we believe that the common global Western / Northern style of liberal democracy really is ‘government by the people, for the people’, even when plenty of daily evidence demonstrates quite the opposite. The story is often stronger than the reality, especially when powerful elites, and their language of domination, are perpetuated by the story and vice versa. The elites have the money to spread the story, day by day, to shore up their wealthy positions. Despite their very existence being a refutation of the story, they may yet believe the story themselves, and most likely will believe it. Their hypocrisy is the most extreme form of that which is common to all of us, discussed in my recent posts on hypocrisy, #1 and #2.

This is not to deny that there are healthy narratives of resistance, and even narratives of grounded and bioculturally diverse cultures and cultural elements that precede capitalism and continue to exist outside of capitalism. Also it would be simplistic to say that every narrative which has an investment in capitalism is ‘bad’. That cannot be claimed by any means. Nevertheless, in our modern interdependent society which in this digital age has developed faster than we can keep track of, fragmentation and conflict often feature in the underlying narratives that guide us, and hence in our language.

Ultimately, in order to co-create with one another the healthy cultural narratives that we need for a renewed and more sustainable global culture, and in order to become aware of all the underlying narratives that currently guide us, lest in our ignorance we let them shape us unconsciously, we need to write a comprehensive and ever-evolving catalogue of narratives. Such a project would utilise the best tools and insights from the disciplines of the social, political and economic sciences, as well as the study of history and historiograhy, as well as media studies and indeed wherever else ‘narrative wisdom’ presents itself. The evolving catalogue would reflect the evolution of culture from day to day, and it would be online, and reflexive, using intelligent software. At least, this is while we still have the capacity for digital technologies. If that capacity ends, then who knows?

Once we can properly take account of the whole of the narrative complex within society, only then can we truly responsibly decide how to contribute to that narrative complex and shape it, to some degree ‘from the outside’, if that is possible.

Meanwhile, using limited tools, all we can do is write as responsibly as we can, knowing what we know. This means knowing ourselves as thoroughly as we can first of all. Meditation and mindfulness practices are good at uncovering oneself to oneself. The more we practice these techniques, if with a good and courageous moral stance of getting to the truth of ourselves, even where that truth is dark and conflicted, then the more we can write, whether a simple political banner, an email to a friend, a book review or the most well-researched scientific essay (which are actually never objective in their nuances of expression. although they may claim to be), with sensitivity as to how our writing is shaping the politics and culture around us.

Indeed, we may discover and intuit underlying narratives in society precisely by working on ourselves and giving ourselves space to listen to the streams of data and cause and effect, from all quarters in society that flow through us, without our conscious control, largely, from day to day.

And then we may be called to decide, of course, precisely which narratives we strengthen, challenge, show care around, hold in a humourous light etc etc, and which narratives we choose to replace, or begin to replace by clever wording and marketing -for the most successful narratives are amalgamations and adaptions etc of what have come before. It is simply against the laws of physics to try to stop dead a narrative.

In other posts and on other pages I have stated the importance of the Relocal narrative for the decades ahead, but really it is up to every individual -every writer- to intuit the way forward for themselves.

 

Before you write something next, whether it be a shop receipt, a demonstration for eligibility for a government benefit, an off-hand text message or a very personal poem, I ask that you pause, just for ten seconds, and ask yourself, ‘What exactly am I about to write?’ and ‘Why exactly am I going to write that?’