!Sensitive & serious strategy tips for heroic activists

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This post is constantly evolving. It may be messy in places, but use it! I will keep it topical by updating it regularly with links to current world events. I will also link to my video interviews with activists where I think it might be helpful. I’m facilitating the emergence of an activist community on YouTube here. In time I will consult specific activists for authorial / editorial contributions for this post, and add the names of those who provide significant contributions (if they wish).

It will probably be quite obvious from reading this extended post that I lean to the left politically, but as much as possible I have tried to make these strategy tips accessible to a variety of people from across the political spectrum (excluding the Far Right and those on the extreme Left who don’t think twice about taking innocent human lives).

A strategy is ‘a plan that is intended to achieve a particular purpose’. Strategy is also ‘the process of planning something or putting a plan into operation in a skillful way’. Strategies include tactics within them. A tactic is ‘the particular method(s) you use to achieve something’ -including to achieve a strategy.

An activist is, for the purposes of this post, ‘a person who works to achieve political or social change, especially as a member of an organization with particular aims’.

For every strategy tip below, at least six approaches could be borne in mind:

  1. The strategy tip can be applied to NVDA or mass civil disobedience.
  2. The strategy tip can be applied to conventional activism including legal protest, political campaigning / NGO-type activism / activism as education etc.
  3. The strategy tip can be applied to a dual, combined or ‘meta’ strategy of different groups, including where one or more are using civil disobedience and one or more are using conventional activism.
  4. The strategy tip can be applied to the meta strategy of a broad, society-wide ‘movement of movements’ (MoM) for a significant regime change or deeper systems change.
  5. The strategy tip can be applied to localised partnerships of activists and activist groups, with the purpose of furthering social or political change in their locality (a localised MoM which could also contribute to a society-wide or global MoM).
  6. The strategy tip can be applied to what is known as ‘dual power’ -creating the new society we wish to see -including governmental structures- in the shell of the old (without asking for permission) including in localised contexts.

1. Activism is a matter of life and death! Take your activism extremely seriously and develop international perspectives.

Women of the Civil Disobedience Movement against the February 2021 #MilitaryCoupInMyanmar

I hate war, but I also see that there is a great deal of useful advice to be found in military strategy texts, when they are applied to non-violent activism. Sun Tzu, in the Chinese military classic The Art of War said: ‘War is…a road to survival and extinction’. In war, if you get it wrong, you die. In activism, if we continue to get it wrong, other people and living beings will continue to die, and ultimately the human species could be at risk of extinction. If we are indigenous people defending our lands against States and corporations, or if we are trying to reclaim democracy from a military coup, our lives may be directly at risk right now. Even if we are engaging in conventional, non-confrontational activism, for instance campaigning for political candidates within existing local governmental structures, we could still bear in mind that the political and social impacts of all our actions have a global, if sometimes subtle, reach, affecting the life chances and even the mortality of people we have never met or even thought about. The globe is irrevocably interconnected like never before, and even a potentially de-globalised future will hopefully nevertheless be an internationalist one.

It is far easier to determine the wrong reasons for engaging in activism, rather than the right ones. The wrong reasons would include:

  • Being an activist because it’s cool (or because we look cool doing it on Instagram). There is nothing wrong with feeling ‘cool’ whilst doing activism or political organising, and having an appealing image can help a cause -the problem comes when the image is the prime motivation.
  • Joining a social movement primarily to use it as a ‘security blanket’ for hard times, without actively developing ourselves as activists and therefore developing the movement (helping it to move). We have to want to win!
  • Conversely, doing it only because we are sure we will win -for the sake of an easy victory. We must be active even when victory is not assured.
  • Doing it only because ‘it is the right thing to do’, hoping to be carried forward on a wave of moral righteousness, with no thought of strategy (see 2. below). Even if there is a clear moral imperative to act, that doesn’t give us any special protections, status or guaranteed victory as activists. In fact, a clear moral imperative to act makes it all the more important that we develop our strategy carefully to maximise our chances of success.

Additionally we must consider carefully if ‘activism’ is for us, and if so, what kind of activism, and what kind of role within any activist group we may be involved with. We have to consider carefully what kind of sacrifices, in terms of well-being, job options and freedom we may be prepared to make, considering such factors as our general health before beginning, and the potential impact on our families.

2. Do have a strategy i.e. a detailed plan of action to achieve concrete (let’s say granite!) goals.

I have fond memories of attending a Theatre of the Oppressed event at this community hub in Bristol, UK

Whether we are focused on the modest (but potentially challenging) aim of saving our local community centre from closure, or initiating a campaign to start or develop a society-wide revolution -we need to get organised and get ‘strategised’! Some activists are afraid of developing plans of action and the human organisations needed to implement and sustain them, because these imply the responsibility of leadership (or if we don’t like that word or concept, then ‘facilitation’, ‘co-ordination’ or ‘organisation’). See 4. below.

Where mass protests or movements are relatively spontaneous and without strategy, they often die off quickly -unless some kind of plan is developed. Spontaneous protests are necessary and often play important catalysing roles, but alone they are not enough. The energy of spontaneous rebellion must be harnessed in a structured way before it dies off, or turns to impotent violence and is repressed, or is co-opted and subverted by corporate or established political interests, however progressive they may appear to be.

Many people have heard of the so-called Arab Spring uprisings that occurred across the Middle East in the 2010’s, but not so many people are aware of the strategising -or lack thereof- that affected their success. As recounted in chapter 10 of This Is An Uprising, after the Egyptian revolution of 2011, the original student organisers fully admitted that they committed a strategic blunder in not having a grassroots democratic organisation or plan ready to fill the power vacuum left by the departing President Mubarak. It is one thing to take to the streets and another thing to facilitate a peaceful democratic transition. As a result, elections were dominated in 2011 by the highly organised Muslim Brotherhood, whose leader Morsi, once he gained power attempted to introduce measures and ‘reforms’ largely seen to be undemocratic. If plans for establishing or improving democracy are not thorough enough, anti-democratic opportunists will jump through the loopholes with potentially disastrous consequences. In response to Morsi, protestors were forced to take to the streets in massive numbers for the second time in two years.

Moreover our ‘enemies’ or their protective institutions (including state governments) will have tried and tested strategies and tactics to deal with activists, campaigns and social movements, so we mustn’t be complacent! These can vary in severity, including the passing of regressive anti-protest laws, as we have recently seen in the UK and around the world. Activist strategy must constantly counter and account for the strategy of the opposition, as well as what we know to be their basic resources and capabilities. Again, with reluctance we can learn from military examples; a military general would not take their army to war without systematically learning everything they could about their enemy and how to win against them. On the global level, the climate, ecological, humanitarian and underlying political and economic crises are a matter of increasing genocide and ecocide, so we need to get serious. (We also need to get sensitive).

Even if our activism is around narrow localised issues, these intersect with larger global crises. It’s a good idea to plan around these intersections. Saving our community centre today may be useless if unaddressed wider forces are likely to shut it down tomorrow.

‘Going with the flow’ in the context of activism is generally not an option; ‘the flow’ is by default heavily controlled by the opposition, including the oppositional culture that exists around us in contrast to the form and often the very essence of our activism. On a basic level we must also not confuse tactics for strategies and think that we are being strategic when employing isolated tactics, even when these have some immediate success. Tactics without overarching strategies to cohere and direct them may only provide short-term symbolic victories. We owe it to our causes to do better. For instance, the tactic of holding up placards and banners to raise awareness of an issue is fine as a tactic, but quite useless in achieving concrete (or granite!) change by itself, without a larger strategy including specific goals. Otherwise, the benefit could be little more than ‘feeling good’ or mildly irritating those in power.

3. Don’t over-strategise (or mis-strategise)!

Click on the image for more insights on how not to over-strategise (over-plan)

As we can infer from over-planning / obsessing around matters in our personal lives, over-strategising can prevent us from seeing activist / revolutionary opportunities for growth and success that are in some ways constantly unfolding all around us. This is related to the importance of designing flexibility into our strategising (see 9. below). Three factors that can drive ‘over-strategising’ are:

  1. Fear of failure / the unknown; trying to account for every possible scenario by over-detailed planning i.e. trying to entirely control the future, which just isn’t possible. The best we can do is design plans that are responsive to change, and train ourselves to be as aware as possible of the ecological and societal changes going on around us all the time.
  2. Not understanding what strategising is. For instance, writing out a detailed vision of what you want to happen is envisioning, not the strategising needed to achieve the vision.
  3. Lack of intel. i.e. information on boundaries to effective action: boundaries provided by political, economic, social, technological, legal and ecological (PESTLE) factors. A lack of information on these constantly changing factors can result in us developing meticulous plans of action that have no bearing on what is possible in the real world.

Moreover, ‘the more you plan, the more attached you become to your plan. And when you become too attached to the plan, you become inflexible. And then you tend to become frustrated and give up when the plan doesn’t go just as you imagined it.’ (Erin Gobler).

4. Know the difference between Grand Strategy, campaign strategy, tactics and tactical methods.

This classic book by Gene Sharp is a good place to start. More to be added soon, including regarding momentum-driven organising and the examples of XR and Social Ecology, and the relation of strategy and tactics to minimum, transitional and maximum programmes for change.

5. Know yourself as an activist.

What stage are you at and where could you be most useful? Do you feel able to work within an existing group, organisation or movement?If not, are you really sure?Perhaps it is personal psychological insecurity / unresolved issues rather than a genuine lack of alignment that is preventing you from working with a pre-existing group? If you are sure you want to go it alone, what impact do you intend to have?If you want to start a new group, organisation, or movement, do you have the friends / skills to achieve this?Alternatively, perhaps you consider your role to be a free-floating supporter and magnifier of existing movements, groups and campaigns, whether you do your amplifying work face to face or on digital media.

6. Have a realistic and clearly defined strategic aim(s) or Grand Strategic aim.

Including, don’t confuse your (possibly romantic) vision of global systems change(s) with what is strategically possible. We owe it to everyone to make concrete advances towards emancipatory strategic goals. ‘Fighting’ willy-nilly against an adversary just because it is morally the right thing to do, without a deeper consideration of realistic strategic objectives, can actually be counter-productive and obstruct serious social movements from making gains. Additionally, don’t aim too high, or too high too soon. Wishy-washy aims will produce wishy-washy movements. On the other hand, a ‘utopian’ long-term vision / aim, not time-bound or bound by current situations / resources, but made possible by the incremental strategy of the current context, is essential.

6.5 Know the difference between the necessary and the sufficient.

6.6 Know the difference between socail and political movements, and know that both are needed.

7. Don’t be limited by ‘realism’. Gay marriage rights, This Is An Uprising, p 89 ‘rather than being based on calculating realism…’

8. Balance Symbolic and instrumental demands and know when to use both: 119-120 This Is An Uprising. Movement demands are rarely purely symbolic or purely instrumental / practical

Symbolic wins can precede concrete wins, such as case of Salt March, MLK and potentially XR after symbolic wins of declarations of climate emergency and non-binding citizens’ climate assembly.

9. Know how to frame, and declare, minor and major victories. Gandhi and ‘the minimum consistent with the truth’.

10. Set targets publicly and achieve them. This Is…page 135

7. Develop & be guided by shared visions of the ideal result or society you are working for, & a shared strategic vision of how to get there, incorporating minimum, transitional & maximum visions of change.

Understand how these visions relate to your Grand Strategy and campaign strategies (if you are working on a big enough scale to be planning more than one campaign). More to be added soon, including avoiding entropy / wasted energy across diverse groups that have the same or similar aims i.e. the development of strategic partnerships for all stages of vision. With thanks to XR, but XR doesn’t go far or deep enough. The shared vision must include a maximum diversity of voices, for strategic as well as ethical reasons.

8. Develop ‘transitional concensus’ with different groups. (Develop my own theory).

8. Be for, as much as against.

In the absence of alternatives, stopping an injustice will not stop the injustice occurring again.

9. Define and then strategise to attack / influence all the pillars of power simultaneously, to bring the power down… (start top page 92 This Is An Uprising)

9. Make sure your strategy is flexible, but not too flexible.

Relates to 8. below. As more people join your group, there will be more collective experience and insight to contribute to the development of strategy.

9. Power exists; deal with it! Balance between leadership and horizontal organising, including democratically sourced strategy.

This could be the issue that makes or breaks your activist group, organisation or movement, as it has made or broken many others. If you are a communalist, like I am, or if you are an anarchist, you will always be looking towards abolishing all social and political hierarchies, and therefore initiating and growing groups and movements that are as decentralised and horizontally organised as possible. Even if you are a centrist or mildly right wing, if you’ve read the corporately biased book The Starfish and the Spider you will appreciate that it is decentralised and to an extent non-hierarchical businesses and organisations that have often had the competitive edge. (This doesn’t mean everything in an organisation has to be decentralised).

Types of decentralisation…cultural, political, strategic etc

Make sure that ‘decentralisation’ isn’t done in a way which looks like ‘centralisation’. Best way is to be fully decentralised / locally autonomous as soon as you have more than a handful of people involved.

Cultivate leadership but not the cult of leaders. Do not be afraid of leadership, initiation, co-ordination, or facilitation. Make it strictly boundaried and accountable where it has to exist. Lead yourself and encourage others to lead themselves.If you are part of a social movement, let it be leaderful! The leaderless social movement or revolution is a myth. Bookchin quote…

Therefore power must be institutionalised in directly democratic structures, but movements for social and political change must also be leaderful, so that leadership and social / activist innovation are also institutionalised / held accountable / prevented from becoming entrenched, but encouraged to the extent that we need a passionate diversity of leadership and experimentation to achieve social and political change in current societies…

Incorporate again The Tyranny of Structurelessness.

Balance horizontal organising with fluid and temporary vertical organising when the situation calls for it, but beware the cult of leadership!Every group, organisation or movement needs founders or initiators. [hard strategy element]Beware the cult of leadership!Don’t letinitiators of activist organisations and movements own and direct those orgs and movements, or become entrenched spokespeople or dominators of strategy, however nice or charismatic or clever or well-researched in strategy they are.The wisdom of the crowd is greater than thewisdom of one on strategy, however much of a specialist that one appears to be, and no-one is perfect, so faults in the one that has too much power will be magnified disproportionately and have a disproportionately negative effect onthe org or movement that the one purportsto lead. Beware the manufacture of leaders by lazy and simplistic journalists and media platforms -keep relative control of your org / movement narratives! [hard strategy element]

My own guiding utopia of communalism…doesn’t have to be yours, for you to appreciate this strategy tip.

Institutionalise an ongoing democratic strategy-forming process, and allow some actions outside of the strategy.

10. Consider that different stages and domains of a growing group / movement require different frms of organisation, so holacracy could suit a rapidly growing movement but not a stabilising / consolidating one

10. Don’t rely on professional strategists (but do listen to them).

11. Ensure strategic literacy across your groups and movements -share your knowledge on strategy.

(For instance, you could discuss these strategy tips with all your members). For larger groups, consider developing strategic literacy workshops to ensure that the whole group / movement remains strategically fertile.

12. Critical connections are more important than critical mass.

(Can happen in a bad way too -Priti Pathel and Rupert Murdoch). Many successful activist organisations and groups were started by a very small group of friends who knew each other very well and trusted one another. [soft strategy element]

13. Balance between organisation and mobilisation -use momentum-driven organising.

Page 96 This Is An Uprising

14. Be a heroine, a hero or a theyro.

(Non-hierarchy doesn’t mean no hero quest, despite colonialist, patriarchal etc myths) Self-development, risk, vitality…socio-eroticism.

15. A strategy is more than just the sum of its tactics.

More needed, including regenerative cultures.

16. Be intersectional.

Define the basic terms and language of your activism clearly and accessibly to the general population, and creatively expand definitions. For instance, consider having a fluid conception of the term ‘activist’.Ideally, most of society could be classed as ‘activist’, if only we could convince everyone of their value in fighting for what they believe in. Many people are engaged in this fight without considering themselves ‘activists’. This is not about goals and demands, but basic language. And diverse language!

17. Have leaderful movements but avoid the cult of personality (Otpor, This Is An Uprising, 68-69.)

18. Be aware of the Overton window, what its position is and how to shift it…as it shifts a movement’s stragey can evolve, e.g. XR helped shift Overton window and now uses glass breaking, whereas at the start of XR this wouldn’t have been so acceptable.

18. Know some history, but don’t sacrifice the present to the past. Link to NVDA database. Part of Heller’s CRITICAL PHASE.

19. Get to the real history e.g. Claudette Colvin before Rosa Parks

19. Know the present (info and intelliegence gathering).

20. Study war strategy seriously -then subvert it..

21. Study business, management and marketing strategy seriously -then subvert it.

22. Study ‘personal development’ industry strategy -then subvert it.

23. Employ PESTLE.

24. ACT UP! -divisiveness is unavoidable and boundaried anger is okay.

25. 240-241 This Is… Black Bloc, mostly white young men, are an insult to strategy…but they must be planned for

25. Polarisation tactic (has XR used it wisely?) Know WHEN and HOW to use polarisation and balance with transitional concensus.

24. Brainstorm dilemna actions, from history, and imagined.

24. This Is…p150 ‘A common misconception…’

25. Sharp’s political jiu jitsu, expand, including luring large forces to the wrong place

24. How to start a group (link to Activist Handbook) DIVERSE founding group with DIVERSE and always expandin / refining P&V. I will use XR’s P&V as a guide, and expand.

25. Understand the centrality of mass participation civil disobedience in social (and political, but Chaia’s qualification) change.

26. Disruption is essential

27. Sacrifice is essential to inspire public and strike fear in foe…disruption PLUS sacrifice is ideal.

28. Escalate carefully.

29. Know whether to escalate quickly or slowly (my argument for global systems change is escalate slowly),

30. including a useful reframing of the global struggle up to this historicl point)

26. Use non-violent DISCIPLINE, but don’t judge aggressive or violent protest when it erupts. (Burning station to the ground after George Floyd, polled well in America) Context is everything.

27. Levels and types of non-violence -build resources for solidarity and movements, not for arguments and division. Gnadhi ‘to use violence is to co-operate with the government’ but this doen’t cover covert sabotage.

28. 237-238 This Is An Uprising, peripheral violence at marches not useful, but are there counter-examples? Look at successful disciplined actions of the Shell 7…and Money Rebellion moving forward. Need to distinguish between undisciplend and disciplined propety damage / sabotage

29. 249 This Is An….Rqdical violent flank or threat of violnec could have use, look at Black Panthers-MLK dynamic.

29. 249-250 This Is… non-violent discipline across a movement is not easy and needs frontloaded training / culture

29. 242-243 This Is… performative vioence and agent provocateurs…beat them with disciplined non-violence.

29. 244-245: Learn from the failure of the Weathermen…

29. Even if not working strategically with other groups, include all groups and movements in your vision, because they exist…e.g. support covert sabotage even as an overt non-violent movement that doesn’t use sabotage….be aware of the eco-syste of activism (an important part of intel) however make sure boundaries are clear –

30. Be wary of working with strong, established, structured orgs, however radical they purport to be…they have a lot to lose, are not agile in the face of opportunity and revolutionary change and may be an obstruction to our goals (especially if they hierarcgical / dominated by a few minds)… This Is…page 255…they may be useful in early days for recruitment / prmotion etc and in later days but don’t count on them…

30. – ‘mixing civil disobedience and monkey-wrenching is suicidal’ Judi Bari, but that was a moment of history, surely it depends on the discipline, and where the Overton window is at.

31. p261 This is…’when it comes to mass upheaval…activity’

32. p262 ‘When mass mobilisations…to flourish’.

28. Ends don’t justify means.

28. This Is…278, ‘A healthy movement ecology…from this history’

29. Practising getting in and out…

29. Winning over the army could be easier than winning over the police 93-94 This Is an Uprising

Don’t think that you don’t have good ideas on strategy! The best strategies are crowdsourced. [soft strategy element]

Learn to discern between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ strategy elements, or yang and yin. Hard does not equate with strong and soft does not equate with weak.In fact, over the long term of an activist campaign or movement, it is the so-called ‘soft’ strategy elements which are likely to sustain it the most. Learn to appreciate when you have too much hard or too much soft in your strategising and strategy. All strategy elements will have a ratio of soft to hard in them. The soft / hard categorisations in this list are my own subjective choices [soft strategy element]

Emergent strategy covers a range of soft strategy elements. It is advisable to become familiar with the classic text on soft strategy, ‘Emergent Strategy‘ by Adrienne Maree Brown.From the book: ‘Emergent strategies are ways for humans to practice complexity and grow the future through relatively simple interactions’. [soft strategy elements]

Have an understanding of the pivotal importance of non-violent direct action (NVDA) and mass participation civil disobedience to achieve the radical social changes that we need to see across the world to respond to ongoing planetary crises, including the climate crisis. Since 1988 when James Hansen first warned the US government about anthropogenic climate change, over 30 years of conventional political campaigning, petitioning, marching, protesting, lobbying and Green politics has failed to stop greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from rising. This is why direct action must be central to all activism moving forward -history shows that mass civil disobedience can work, where other methods have failed. [hard strategy element]

Do not throw the baby out with the bath water, regarding conventional activism. Everything and everyone is interconnected. We can only move forward to a new changed reality by utilising every existing element in our favour. Thus, although direct action should be central to any serious global movement for radical societal change, other ‘softer’ forms of activism can still be useful and complementary. The best strategy looks to incrementally gather support from all quarters of society, or as many as possible. [hard strategy element]

Use tactical diversity. According to research by Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan, the most successful social movements for regime change have been the most tactically diverse. This means that any overarching strategy must allow for and encourage tactical diversity on the ground. Tactics can in turn be employed by a huge diversity of tried and tested methods, and plenty of untested ones. See Gene Sharp’s famous 198 Methods of Non-Violent Action for some ideas. There are many methods not included on Gene’s list. [hard strategy element] Tactical diversity does not mean violence!

Have a laugh! Use humour in your tactics. This can be at the expense of your adversaries.’Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon’ said the community organiser Saul Alinsky, on page 128 of his classic, Rules For Radicals. A social movement that is famous for using humour, including ridicule, is Otpor. [balanced element]

Critical connections are more important than critical mass. (A. M. Brown).

Avoid cliquiness, especially in initiatory / founding groups of orgs or movements. Cliquiness is a barrier to the application of a strategy of mass mobilisation. [soft strategy element]

Low barriers to inclusion in your groups and organisations are essential. [hard strategy element]

Orientate your strategy to an ecosystem of theories of change, but don’t take that ecosystem too seriously or rigidly.

Timing is important.

Know the difference between an organisation and a movement, and between organising and mobilising.

Don’t take the ‘3.5% rule’ too narrowly: ‘…the victorious [movements] uniformly fostered broad-based public sympathy.’ p109 This Is An Uprising…Also expansion of theory, what is 3.5% of global population, and of internet users…?

Use scenario planning in a specific, boundaried way and don’t let that detract from a realistic strategy responsive to currently unfolding events.

Know the difference between regime change and systems change.

What do you personally mean by global systems change(s)? Make sure you are working to a definition that is intelligible to others in your group / movement.

Improve your propositional / logical thinking and research skills. See through media spin, and critically analyse deeper deliberate or unconscious media narratives and other narratives that serve ruling elites -including some CEO’s and bankers- but also don’t be co-opted by totalising conspiritual ‘conspiracy narratives’ that encourage you to ‘come to your own conclusions’ by rejecting logical thinking to link together disparate emotive events and facts that have been presented to you as related, for obscured and potentially right wing anti-globalist ends. Seek out anti-globalist narratives which are intelligent, scientific, and directed by social justice. Encourage others away from dodgy narratives and towards narratives of global systems change(s) to post-capitalism.

Become aware of the cognitive function of narrative thinking. Become aware of when you are using narrative thinking in a strategically useful way, and when you are not. Become aware of the cultural narratives that may have co-opted and disintegrated your life and your mental health. This will be highly person- and context- specific.

Beware falsely siloed and polarised, tribal and memetic narratives and identities, manipulated if not created by social media companies and Big Tech. These narratives and identities divide our capacities for collective strategising and civil disobedience. 

Be less of a fairy-tale consumerist, keep getting back to Nature and mend some broken stories -this will help ground your activist strategy.

If you are privileged enough, develop a conscious activist life strategy. By ‘activist life strategy’ I refer to the unconscious or conscious strategies, tactics and practices that we use to move forward in our lives towards the strategic activist ends that we wish to see, such as achieving targets of social and environmental justice within the movements we are involved in, in a way which simultaneously meets our requirements as holistic human beings. These requirements include our need for balanced lives in respect of our homes, families, communities and our overall well-being -including the prevention or mitigation of ‘activist burn-out’. Do this in a way which supports the less privileged. Travel outside of your comfort zone.

Develop an understanding of ‘narrative integration’ as potentially key to strategic goals, as well featuring in the means to achieve those goals.

Use narrative thinking in the important work of the creative envisioning of global systems change(s), as well as scenario planning; include the envisioning of realistic pathways as opposed to just utopian end-states, important though those visions may be for keeping us emotionally engaged with our activism.

Be the best a heroine can be.

Celebrate victories and anniversaries!

Vanessa Nakate, Ugandan climate activist

Hypocrisy -a defining feature of the civilised psyche, #1 (part two of two)

In the first part of this post I described the typical hypocritical mindset of the modern ‘civilised’ person, which is reflected by the impossibility of ‘ethical consumption’ in our globalised consumerist culture. We are forced to continually ‘bracket off’ the uncomfortable truth about the human suffering and environmental destruction inherent in even the most ‘ethical’ of modern lifestyles.

I then put forward six criteria for truly ethical consumption, as benchmarks to work towards. I recommended that we treat our hypocritical failure to achieve these criteria, as ‘moral persons’, with gentleness, vigilance and humour. Also, let me here inform you that this post ends on a very positive / constructive note.

Now I want to look at the underlying narratives and stories that we tell ourselves as a society, which allow the continuation of our gross hypocrisy.  These narratives and stories are often pushed aggressively by the institutions, including corporations, of the financially richest people on Earth, in order to shore up their positions. This aggressive pushing is often not done consciously -it is a manifestation of unconscious (perhaps genetically driven) patterns of domination of certain quarters of society over other certain quarters, but amplified through technology and the powerful marketing machine of global corporate capitalism.

Thus, although these aggressive narratives are bringing humanity and whole ecosystems to the brink of extinction, characterised by their promotion of deeply unethical consumption (as opposed to the six criteria I have laid out), this is not something we can blame individuals for. Nevertheless, the behaviours of some individuals must be stopped.

My perspective on how unconscious narratives (as well as conscious stories) guide human behaviour from day to day is strongly influenced by my reading of Vivien Burr’s introduction to social constructionism’.

According to social constructionism, a branch of social science that also serves as a critique of the social sciences, the whole of reality is socially constructed, meaning that so-called ‘facts’ are only facts by social agreement between human beings. Obvious examples are institutions like nations and money, which are only real insofar as we believe in them and act in their image. What is harder to understand is the contention that even the ‘facts’ of physics and biology are social constructs with no objective reality.

The ‘critical realist’ branch of social constructionism contends that there are ‘brute facts’ underneath our linguistic and socially constructed understanding of reality, but of course we can never see them objectively -only through our perspective of human language.

I am not a postmodernist, in the sense that I think that clearly, there is an objective truth of ‘brute facts’. The critical realist branch of social constructionism is useful in helping us understand knowledge in a fluid and social way. Once we realise that, regardless of brute facts, the way that knowledge is gathered, understood and expressed is by social agreement, and so is highly political, then we can begin to understand how better to understand and express reality in ways which promote environmental and political justice.

‘Narratives’, in social constructionism, are wholly unconscious drivers of human behaviour -threads of meaning which tie the social constructs of reality together.

Various hypocritical narratives (or stories that become hypocritical when they are internalised by so-called moral people, which most of us think we are) in modern global culture, prevent the six criteria of ethical consumption from being realised.

One such narrative is the one that says ‘capitalism makes everyone richer’. When we look at the living conditions of half of the population of the world, and the traditional community ties, including ties of efficient resource use, that have been broken by capitalism, we can easily see that this narrative is false. The narrative becomes hypocritical when internalised by folk who see themselves as moral, who unconsciously lean on the narrative to maintain their affluent lifestyles. I am not exempt from this.

This narrative and other related narratives have become deeply embedded in our culture and so in our psyches. You could say they are a means by which hypocrisy has become an essential feature of a functioning modern psyche. How could we live with ourselves without this integral hypocrisy? Because it is integral, it causes most of us minimal stress, except in moments of crisis and breakdown (which may become increasingly common as the current version of global civilisation reaches its natural resource limits and we are confronted with the truth). These hypocritically internalised narratives are not only abstract ideological bases for the continuation of a destructive global culture. They are stories that are continually lived and re-invented from day to day, in the culture that we consume and create, and in our social interactions and conventions of speech. These capitalist and related industrial lullabies (for an industrial communism of luxury is just as bad as industrial capitalism) are embedded in even the simplest of objects and phrases that we use from day to day.

For instance, vague and seemingly benign phrases like ‘hard work always pays off’ tend to be used in contexts which encourage us to equate hard work with personal profit to be spent at the expense of other people and the environment. ‘Organic and fair trade’ cotton clothes from halfway around the world persuade us that we are moral in how we clothe ourselves, but such goods could be worse overall for maintaining our hypocritical psyches than goods compared as ‘unsustainable’.

To reiterate and rephrase, as modern individuals we internalise and constantly refine and redefine a complex system of narratives, in unconscious agreement and compromise with one another. The narratives that dominate in contemporary civilisation are the ones that are pushed most ubiquitously and aggressively by the marketing forces of capitalism and the richest people on the planet. We internalise them despite ourselves. These marketing forces don’t just work in obvious channels of advertising, but in the very categorisation and expression of human knowledge and experience. In fact, the essential underlying driving narratives of capitalism are themselves forces of marketing. Forces of marketing which are internalised by aspiring moral human beings as hypocrisy.

The complex system of narratives that we draw upon daily includes ethical narratives which take us in the direction of planetary repair, community building and even the positive evolution and transformation of global civilisation as a whole. However, these constructive narratives yet have a relatively small purchase on our psyches, compared to the prevalent destructive ones. This truth, and our knowledge of this truth, compounds our general hypocrisy. This again brings home the importance of taking our integral hypocrisy as modern beings, lightly. Taking a harsher approach could easily be the recipe for mental breakdown. While on the positive side there is a human tendency to attempt a moral synthesis of all narratives within the self (largely on an unconscious level) there is also the tendency of narratives to fragment and interfere with each other. Thus, even the most noble of narratives become polluted and co-opted by the more dominant and oppressive narratives e.g. stories of capitalism and the related patriarchy.

Conflicting narratives within individuals, groups, nations and humanity as a whole can be rooted in differences in ideology, climate, race, historical culture, national identity and so on. While most of these differences are social constructs i.e. not objective or at least not ‘final and fixed’ differences, considering the ‘brute facts’ – or let me say ‘beautiful facts’- of Nature, we can use what we know of Nature and Natural events to provide a grounding for new synthesized global narratives which are regenerative of humanity and the planet, and which actually hold true. However, it is not enough to ‘create wonderful stories of how we want the world to be in the New Age’, although I admire the efforts of philosophers and others in this area, and they do have positive stories to contribute to the synthesized whole. Much more than this, it is vital for a more sustainable human civilisation i.e the next stage of human civilisation that will emerge after the coming turmoil, that the current dominant and oppressive narratives, especially the hypocritical stories of capitalism, are subverted and integrated into new forms. For the advance of humanity, to attempt to ignore or destroy the momentum and oppressive power of capitalist narratives would be naive, and cause the unnecessary mental breakdown of individuals -something which will increasingly happen too often anyway.

A truly regenerative, wholistic and therapeutic narrative is one that is not only ‘true’ as far as is possible in a socially constructed reality, (thus reducing hypocrisy) but one that magnetises, subverts or integrates less sustainable and more oppressive narratives / narrative aspects to or with it. Such narratives potentially are simplifying beacons and purifiers within the whole over-complicated global narrative complex that we carry around with us from day to day. In social constructionist terms, the most ‘true’ stories are the most sustainable ones. I personally think that narratives must be simple and dynamic in order to become unconscious driving forces in a wide diversity of human beings.

Let me give you an example. Related to the narrative of ‘capitalism makes everyone richer’ is the narrative of ‘anyone can make it as an entrepreneur. All you have to do is work hard and believe in yourself’. Clearly this is bullshit, and creates hypocrisy, although thousands of YouTube videos would have you believe otherwise. Ability to succeed at running your own business depends very much on which country you live in, what kind of education you have had, etc etc. This is not to deny the value of individual self-belief, hard work and passion to make change (and some ecopreneurs I think, do make relatively positive change, if they are working ultimately towards supporting the six criteria of ethical consumption).

But this narrative can be subverted and rephrased to support relocalised, sustainable human culture, in a way which minimises hypocrisy. This could also be called ‘ethical marketing’. Try, ‘anyone can make it as a productive local community member. All you have to do is work hard and believe in yourself’.  This is a thousand times more true than the equivalent entrepreneurial narrative. It may seem that I am making an obvious point. Perhaps I am, but it is also a profound one. If this alternative narrative were marketed in the right way, and to the right level, as part of a strategy of narrative re-telling and re-marketing in general across society, significant cultural shifts could be achieved, and many aspiring entrepreneurs could be subverted to support community and Nature. The point is, it is not enough to perpetuate this narrative in the same old ‘alternative’ circles. (Although it is fine to do that.) For a smooth Transition / Descent to a relocalised post-corporate-capitalist culture, there is a clear need for some of us to challenge dominant oppressive narratives more thoroughly by engaging with the whole contemporary marketing system and subverting it. This is about using a very powerful tool, while we still have it, to reach as many people as possible, to lessen the potentially increasing hardship inherent in our current civilisation reaching its natural limits.

This implies accumulating capital, in as ethical a way as possible, to fund the ubiquitous telling of these new integrative stories. However, perhaps so much capital may not be needed. With the rise of social media and near zero marginal cost of online content creation and sharing across the internet, narratives such as ‘anyone can make it as a productive local community member’ can be spread as never before, and indeed this is beginning to happen. To truly challenge and integrate dominant oppressive narratives however, and win over audiences, the new narratives must mimic (and perhaps gently mock) the old narratives, and the way that the old narratives have been told, as closely as possible. It is common business knowledge -and true- that it is notoriously difficult / unwise to try to change a potential customer’s behaviour. The key to gaining customers / audience members is ‘giving them more of what they want’ or in this context ‘giving them a more sustainable version of what they want’. This cannot be done by telling people that their current consumption habits or entrepreneurial aspirations are wrong. Not without giving them clear and attractive alternatives.

I would like to bring up my concept of ‘Deep Story Telling’ here. Deep Story Telling acknowledges that the underlying narrative complex in society is perpetuated across all social interactions and in the entire physical human-made environment, including the online and virtual environments. The re-telling of narratives and the telling of new ones, to support Transition, means story-telling on the level of the conscious reconstruction of language, including the phraseology of the everyday, the reconstruction of how we associate and understand ourselves as social human beings (including online), the reconstruction of economics, and the embedding of positive sustainable futures -epic tomorrows- in every building, and every object that we use.

This is an exciting opportunity for all of us to create literary, artistic, entrepreneurial and practical forms which obviously or subtly manifest a fresh and Nature-integrated narrative landscape. One that is permeated with truth i.e. deep sustainability. One that normalises a new kind of civilised human psyche which is not dependent on hypocrisy -such a moral psyche as has never before evolved. This moral narrative landscape must be shared online as much as possible, to subvert the dominant oppressive narratives. The hypocrisy of using an internet which may itself be unsustainable, can be acknowledged and integrated.

Finally, it is crucial that we live out the new story-complex as we create it. We cannot tell stories of relocalisation without at least beginning to relocalise ourselves. The great ecological advice for our times ‘think global, act local’ might be more helpfully redefined, for some of us doing this Deep work, as ‘think global, tell stories online, live them out locally’.

If, by telling these stories some of us are able to accumulate global capital, in order to redistribute it and further propagate sustainable Deep Story Telling, whilst at least living in a relocalised way some of the time ourselves, then I suggest that this could be a viable and noble path. We may have to sacrifice ourselves to hypocrisy more than we would like, in order to enable more of humanity to live sustainably and hypocrisy-free in the future.

 

 

 

Ideas (maximising edge)

Two nights ago, whilst asleep I had a vision. I call it a vision and not a dream because it had no narrative; it was just an image. Soon after I saw the image, I woke up. It was an image of a Permaculture tanker. It was a converted oil tanker, half a mile long, converted into a floating forest garden -based alternative community and human economy, growing its own biodiesel for the engines as well as having wing sails attached for extra propulsion. Who will help me realise this dream? You can buy a second-hand oil tanker for a few million on websites such as this: Tankers

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Two days ago I joined the monthly meeting of the Hatherleigh Edges Permaculture and Community Regeneration Group. This group is not just open to folk from the village of Hatherleigh, but also anyone who can get to the meetings who is interested in sustainable, ecology based community work, starting from Hatherleigh and expanding outwards. After feeling lonely recently, it was great to connect with my neighbours about issues and ideas such as supporting isolated elderly people in our local community and seed swapping.

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Yesterday morning, on my 30 mile cycle to Dartington for continuing counselling foundation skills training with Heartwood, I was simultaneously inspired and disgusted. Inspired by the Devon hedgerows and dry stone walls on the edge of Dartmoor, and disgusted by the fumes from passing vehicles that I could not help but inhale. Where is the network of motor vehicle – free bridleways criss-crossing Dartmoor, allowing cycle and horse travel between towns? Where are the public stables and undercover bike shelters? How’s this for a business idea?: a pub that caters specifically for cyclists and horseriders, with stables (as used to be common) and dormitory accommodation.

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And another thing: Is it Council for the Protection of Rural England or Council for the Protection of Industrial Agriculture?

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Yesterday’s Heartwood training was an introduction to Gestalt theory, in the context of counselling. A gestalt is an organised whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts.  Thus, a human being is a gestalt of sorts. Gestalt-based counselling and psychotherapy aims at greater integration of all the parts of a person with each other / the whole, including the physical body and all the various aspects of the mind / personality. There is a focus on the experience of the present moment, and how psychological integration can be achieved in this present moment. How could this approach be used to integrate human society better with itself and Nature? I would love to start a discussion on this theme. Please comment below! Here is some more on Gestalt: Gestalt

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Sometimes, distinct words will pop into my mind as if from nowhere, in the voices of different kinds of people that I have encountered in the past. There is often emotional content to these words, and they often have a double or triple meaning. For instance, yesterday as I was approaching Newton Abbott by bike, the word FTSE / ‘footsie’ appeared in my mind, and I heard it spoken by a woman of my age or perhaps a little younger, with some humour and warmth. It was spoken in a confiding way, as if advising me on the direction I should take (the words often have this feel). The meanings were that first, I could do with paying more attention to the stock market (it could be useful for any entrepreneur) and secondly that it is ok for me to be in a warm, flirty place with women, although I struggle with this. Does this experience sound bizarre? It is just part of my gestalt; it is how my unconscious sometimes alerts my conscious; by using semi-fictional identities of generic characters, based on people I have met in the past or encountered through digital and other media. I think my unconscious has developed this dynamic guiding process in line with my very conscious yearning to ‘learn from everyone in order to help everyone’.

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Positive affirmations: they only work if you imbue them with emotional content, and if you also work to manifest what they relate to. Otherwise they can result in internal conflict and soul-destroying disappointment.

Here are some positive affirmations and wisdom sayings I’ve used, some self-penned, some assimilated from elsewhere: ‘I am enough’ /// ‘I am innocent’ /// ‘I am fearless’ /// ‘Enlightenment is…total observation of Nature’ /// ‘Love is the Law, Love under Will’ /// ‘Enlightenment is…beginning everything with death in mind’ /// ‘Enlightenment is…total freedom from addiction’ /// ‘Character is greater than personality’ /// ‘The best heroes have a combination of vulnerability and strength’ /// ‘Anxiety and stress can often be a sign of doing too much or too little’ /// ‘Private victory before public victory’ /// ‘Victorious warriors win in their hearts before going into battle’ /// ‘Everything is me’ /// ‘The opposite of addiction is connection’ /// ‘Be proactive’ /// ‘Begin with the end in mind’ /// ‘I am not afraid to be a leader. I am not afraid to explore uncharted territories.’

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City-country conduits: Statistics like these show that the world’s population is increasingly urbanised. Articles like these show that humanity could be at risk of a major breakdown of civilisation either this century or the next. Since cities import most of their food, energy and water from outside the city limits, their densely-packed populations are more immediately at risk from a society-wide breakdown in economic and energy infrastructures.  I have long thought that the resilience of civilisation as a whole could be improved by establishing conduits between city and country in a way which increased understanding and communication between rural and urban populations, as well as flows of energy and resources both ways to reduce the impact of infrastructure breakdown on cities, and the potential burden on the country of fleeing urban citizens. This would in essence be a releasing of pressure on cities by ‘merging’ them better with their rural surrounds, but not in an environmentally destructive way. Regional food security is also implied in this vision, so that ideally, polyculture food growing systems would surround the city and provide all of its food needs (not a new idea). Most importantly I would like to see well-planned and sustainable mobility between city and country increased significantly. I smile at the prejudice of ignorance that exists between city and country dwellers. When I am in the city, sometimes even my most intelligent city friends may make ignorant remarks about rural dwellers and rural life, and when I am around my rural home, I will likewise hear fearful and ill-informed remarks about city-dwellers. This isn’t necessary! This kind of two-way prejudice will only make any serious large-scale infrastructure shocks -which as I’ve said are not unlikely this century- be felt worse and dealt with less efficiently.

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Ensuring Earth is fit for the next seven generations: This is the ‘7th generation principle’ of governance and human culture in general, as propounded by various Native American tribes. It is the idea that every human action and every human decision should have a benign or regenerative effect on the next seven generations of humans to live on the planet, by caring for Nature as a whole (that which supports us). By average modern understandings seven generations amounts to 7 x 25 years = 175 years. This benchmark of sustainability is often quoted in modern movements towards ecological living, but we don’t always stop to appreciate that seven generations is 175 years. Perhaps we should. I advocate sitting in meditation, alone or as part of a group, and trying to envision what the Earth might be like in 175 years. It is almost impossible to guess at, which is precisely the point. How often do communities, businesses and governments plan this far ahead? With the the increasing intelligence of our software, one hopes that more of this will be directed towards scenario planning and global strategy with Earth’s overall ecology at its core. If well-directed, and that means by human beings with deep empathy and experience of Nature, AI could be a force for greatness in putting the 7th generation principle into practice. It’s time to bring the wilderness into Silicon Valley!

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DEEPLY SUST: sustainable events management. Don’t you think it’s a good name? Use it if you like and please feel free to credit me. This is just a vague idea I had for a company. Festivals, even the most ecological ones, have dubious sustainability credentials. They involve the transportation of materials and people from miles around, sometimes even from abroad, to all converge on one poor overburdened location before being transported all the way back again. A truly sustainable events management company would look at how different festivals and events could better network with each other and share infrastructures and materials. It would also advise events and festivals within a given region or even nation on how to organise and synchronise calendars for maximum efficiency, skill-share, custom and positive ecological impact between all. Additionally, lasting legacies for all local communities that hosted festivals and events would have to be looked at. How about that for sustainability?

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‘REAL BOYS’, ‘REAL GIRLS’ and ‘TRANSREAL’: Where are the magazines for real girls and real boys, and for that matter, trans kids and the genderwild? When I walk into a big newsagents and look at the magazines sections for children and teenagers, I want to throw up. They are full of damaging stereotypes, plastic toys and the usual bullshit obsession with celebrity. I know that isn’t what every child wants, but somehow, because it’s what most children have been convinced they want, this vacuous culture revolving around Barbie and Action Man -like stereotypes still dominates. Apparently there are no risk-taking entrepreneurs in the children’s magazine industry. Where is ‘Real Girls’ magazine? ‘Real Boys’? ‘Transreal’?

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CO-OPETITION: My idea for a co-opetition is a competition that rewards co-operation over competition at every step of the process. I understand this is a paradox. It would take some clever designing to create motivating and sustainable co-opetitions with prizes. I know there are people doing this already, and maybe I / you can join them. We need innovation to save the world from ourselves, but innovation does not just happen in ruthlessly competitive contexts, as the hyper-capitalists would have us believe. Innovation happens in regenerative community contexts, indeed it must if society is to survive.

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POSITIVE SCENARIO MATHEMATICS: Where are the software designers and mathematicians working together with ecologists, permaculturists, alternative financial analysts, energy experts and complex systems theorists to design scenario planning apps for the lay person, and the activist or business organisation, ensuring the greatest positive ecological impact of all our trajectories, in ways which reflexively weave as many human life-paths as possible into well defined mutually agreeable outcomes? Come on people, get to work!

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ECOMOVES: Where are all the companies that offer to clear houses and bankrupt business premises in the most ecologically sound ways possible? Including the recycling and ‘upcycling’ of objects and materials and selling for profit, using the timing of moving to new homes and premises to introduce more sustainable practices and materials as standard? These companies could build up databases of sustainable clients and businesses with which to woo their customers, providing much more than standard removal and installation services.

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PSYCHEDELIC CARE-HOMES: Where are all the psychedelic carehomes? I mean the ones playing 60’s and 70’s music, the ones with space hoppers, magic mushrooms, meditation, radical politics and all the other signs of the counter-cultural revolution? I haven’t visited any care-homes for the elderly in a while, but the people who turned 18 in 1960 are now aged 76. Are the more alternative and radically left wing elderly types being catered for? Are they being catered for enough?

Loneliness

PART ONE:

This is really hard. I’m listening to Seth Godin, the marketing guru give me advice on how to connect with people and develop a free blog that people will actually be interested in, in a time-poor and choice-saturated modern world. Surely with my writing skills, envisioning skills, empathy and imagination I can do this?

But I want to do more than just this. I want to provide a service that helps our relationship with the rest of Nature, that integrates society more closely with Nature and itself, that there are no more lonely people; that the multiplicity of possible connections online actually translate better into meaningful face to face connections, and those all-important oxytocin-releasing hugs. (Anyone got a hug for me? I need one.) Here is a great TED talk on Youtube about the negative feedback loops, biological and neurological, that happen as a result of loneliness: The lethality of loneliness

It seems to me, from what I’ve observed and the reading I’ve done, that the capitalist model of society, as it currently exists in its dominant form, prevents a proper integration of culture that could almost eliminate loneliness.

Three examples (which overlap in various ways):

  • A key unit of contemporary capitalism, the monogamous family unit, does not always bring with it an extended network of familial support. Further, when the unit is encouraged to compete with other units in a capitalist sense, this can often prevent a well-connected social embeddedness in a community, or in wider society -especially when waged work is done away from home. Social embeddedness is key to preventing loneliness, felt both on the inside and outside of families. The relative economic predictability of the monogamous family unit plays a role in its prime position in contemporary capitalist society. See The Extraordinary Political Power of Moving Beyond Monogamy But economic predictability is not mental health. Many monogamous families are very happy, but I hypothesize that this norm creates the polar opposite of many lonely people, the incidence of which would be reduced in a society that wasn’t mono- family unit -centric. A properly integrated culture, one relatively free from loneliness, is surely one where the shared identities of everyone are constantly reinforced in face to face interactions, (not just online ones), including at home. These interactions are on some level ‘cultural events’ in that they propogate or carry forward culture, ideally often involving a degree of human touch as well, and not just between lovers, family and friends. This can still all function if you are someone who ‘likes their own space’ (as I do) -that’s fine.
  • In the UK, the relatively large number of single person households (7.7 million in 2016), I think does not reflect the desires of those people for human connection. See Families and households in the UK: 2016 The modern consumerist mantra is ‘I want whatever I want and I want it now’. We are marketed capitalism-driven stories by mass Media that tell us we shouldn’t settle for anything less than the perfect home, with the perfect life partner, and the perfect job. We ‘happily’ continually dislodge ourselves from neighbourhoods in the hope of finding better ones. I contend that this has a detrimental effect on the coherent sense of culture that I think is integral to making meaningful human connections. Many people say they ‘just like living alone’ and ‘can’t share’ but I contend that this is a faulty attitude (which I often have myself, in my own flat!) borne of a lack of understanding or exploration of the diverse private / communal living boundaries and arrangements which are possible, or alternatively a lack of appropriate communal living situations on offer.
  • Economically-driven loneliness is common in modern society. I suffer from it myself. There are different kinds of economically-driven loneliness; I discuss only one kind here. For people who find it difficult to make money, and for people like me who find it difficult to orientate their lives around making money, the financially affordable options for meeting like-minded people face to face are drastically reduced -especially in rural areas, unless you are lucky enough to be connected to charitable land-based enterprises or fulfilling volunteering opportunities. In modern society the ‘like-mindedness’ of people is often dependent on the type of culture they spend money on consuming. Although internet-based culture is largely free, if I am financially poor I am by default uncultured by the dominant capitalist model and moreover there are large gaps in my very understanding of the whole culture I live in. It is largely up to individuals to work out a sense of the whole culture they live in, based on what they consume. So the important work of cultural integration in modern society, you could say, is done by individuals and groups of individuals in a haphazard way, depending on what culture they have consumed, largely dependent on what they’ve spent their money on (whether food or cinema trips or academic textbooks), in turn dependent on the capitalist forces of marketing. The financially poor are often emotionally isolated from this whole process, and end up lonely. This blog is my own haphazard project of integration, but by eventually including as many sources (especially integrative sources) and people as possible, I hope that over time it may bear useful fruit. Otherwise, I may just be another force for disintegration, especially if I charge people for what should be free, once the business wing of this blog is developed. I do think capitalism can be reformed or gradually usurped by something more evolved. A re-orientation of society to Nature / land -based socialising and culture must be key.

Possible solutions to these examples of loneliness, briefly (to be expanded on in future posts):

  • More normalisation and society-wide support -including legal and financial -for extended family living units (as used to be the case in this country, for instance), communal living units and polyamorous (ethically non-monogamous) living units. In normalised polyamory living units, the travelling of some individuals between units would be common, in a culturally supported way. This type of living unit is potentially inclusive of individual-types who are failed by the strict monogamous standard.
  • More support in Government Planning and in architectural practices, for more of a diversity of housing designs and living arrangements for single people, including more allowance of self-builds, and different options for managing private / communal boundaries and spaces. On a deeper level, the reduction in power of consumer-driven culture.
  • More opportunities for socialisation and the consumption of culture for the financially poor, especially in rural areas. Alternative localised economies which are not aggressively competition based. On a deeper level, the evolution of capitalism into something which has the whole of Nature, alongside human social justice, at its core.

The internet may be the most powerful tool that we’ve ever had, ironically, to reconnect with Nature and with each other face to face. How can I use the internet to translate the multiplicity of possible online connections into actual face to face connections (and hugging!) ? How can we use diverse connections online to reshape the actual, physical society we live in, in a way that all but eradicates loneliness?

Perhaps this blog -Epic Tomorrows- could be a force for good on this mission. Will you help me?

PART TWO:

Why am I lonely? I practise gratefulness -gratefulness for everything in my life. So with every aspect of loneliness I discuss, I can reflect on how it’s a whole lot worse for others. That’s not to discredit the nuances of my personal experience.

Although I have a basic safety net of financial support from my family, I struggle to find work. This is partly due to my mental health needs. In general I can’t afford to go out and socialise in the ways that people tend to do. The stress and anxiety of looking for work exacerbate this loneliness.

Yet, I am skilled and versatile. How much worse this kind of loneliness must be for those who have no family, or less skill sets than I have. Capitalist culture isolates and devalues the mentally ill, and the skilled creative person who hasn’t got entrepreneurial savvy.

I live a semi-nomadic lifestyle. This is the way I am and is the only way that makes sense to me in this decrepit modern society. I give society that label from a place of wanting justice for all. For myself, if I wasn’t compassionate for others globally, I could conceive of my life and live it as comparatively one of the most privileged people in history.

As it is I can move around and pick the best bits from the city and the country, and the so-called rich and poor neighbourhoods. Thus I can begin to form within myself a wholeness that I intuit is true and sustainable for me and for the globe as a whole. My intuition is bound to be some way off, but I can hone it, especially as I gain knowledge of what is going on in the world, and what has gone on.

This does not mean I am not loyal to community and place -I am loyal. But I like to travel inbetween the places I am loyal to, and sometimes outside those places.

Capitalist culture does not support the nomadic and the semi-nomadic. It is not easy for me to connect meaningfully, as I move. I am lonely. But how much worse it must be for certain homeless wanderers, and some single people who feel they have to move house every few years in order to get the right kind of paid work.

I am lonely through self-awareness. Through a heightened sense of self-awareness and thus awareness of society, I am forced into loneliness. This includes awareness of the insubstantiality of my ‘self’, of all human identities. Modern society is falsely stratified according to skill sets, with the aim of greater economic productivity for the various nation states. This has resulted in arbitrary ‘personality types’ of, for instance, the so-called ‘sporty’, ‘creative’ and ‘scientific’ types which are actually just facets of one humanity, nurtured to a lesser or greater degree in different people. This isn’t denying the role of genetics -in fact genetics are responsible for perpetuating these arbitrary divisions- but they are not to be set in stone.

It is lonely not to meet people who are aware of this fragmentation of society and self and who are positively addressing it in themselves. But I realise that I need to get out more. But lack of money. See above. And lack of confidence. See below. Yet how blessed I am! How much more lonely must be the person who feels fragmented, or feels like a fragment of the wholeness of what it is to be human, without any awareness or knowledge of why they feel this way!

The nation state makes me lonely. Getting my news from various YouTube channels (including, but rarely, the BBC) it is clear that international politics is 80% about aggressively maintaining national borders / identity, and those borders and identities as extrapolated across the world in trade agreements and branches of corporations. Of course it is lonely to live in this world of competing national warlords. When will we dispense with them? But how much more educationally privileged I am than the nationalist who believes in her nation, and yet in her mistrust of all immigrants, foreigners and non-nationalist natives, is potentially still very lonely.

Okay, now take these modern statements:

‘I am shy.’

‘I suffer from social anxiety.’

‘I am an introvert,’ (except when I’m not.)

Being tired rather than energised by human company is supposed to be the sign of an introvert, and yet sometimes recently I have begun to be energised by some forms of company, and by company in general. I have a theory that like ‘personality types’, the ‘introvert-extrovert’ binary is a false construct which has grown in strength due to entrenched interests and oppressive power structures in society, especially in the latest form of society known as globalised capitalist society. In other words, ‘the extrovert’ denotes the person who on the surface has adjusted to capitalist society, and the ‘introvert’ is the person who on the surface, hasn’t. There will be exceptions and subtleties. Isn’t it then, usually the introverts who are the most incisively critical of modern society? This is the beginnings of a theory and needs a closer looking at.

As an ‘introvert’ (although I am purposefully becoming more balanced) and as a ‘shy’ and ‘anxious’ person to whom modern society doesn’t make much sense, I am of course lonely. Despite achieving positions of facilitation and leadership, sometimes the most basic human connections, or conventions of connection, elude me. Nevertheless I am infinitely luckier than the introverted person who believes they were born introverted, and than the socially anxious person who believes in the biomedical model of mental illness to the extent that they will take tablets for years before addressing their own personal growth.

I am polyamorous. I am also sexually liberated. In contrast I live in a society that is monogamous, and both sexually promiscuous, in a negative way, and sexually repressed. Being thus at odds, I am lonely. Especially as there is a very small pool of partners available to me. But I would rather be lonely and free in my expression of love and sex -if only in my head- than deeply connected within the web of hypocrisy of modern intimate relationships.

PART THREE:

I understand that aloneness is a rich state to be in, but it is no excuse for the endemic loneliness at the heart of modern culture.

Here I am again, with some more ways in which I am lonely! Ah, but I am grateful. I am really grateful. Every waking moment of mine is full of the luxuries of relatively clean air, relatively unpolluted food, and signs of a biodiverse Nature around me. I am fit and healthy and versatile. What more do I want? Well, I want to ensure that these ‘luxuries’ are standard for everyone, in the likelihood of approaching global upheaval.

I am heavily critical of contemporary society and culture, and so I am lonely. I am deeply aware of how the current global civilisation-mesh -global capitalist civilisation as a whole- cannot last. Just as all previous empires and civilisations have collapsed and evolved, so will this one. What makes you think that capitalism is so special?

Fossil fuels are becoming more scarce and there is not enough time to develop infrastructures based on other fuels, before the disintegration and Descent of the old infrastructures. We are globally ‘way behind time’ in terms of preparedness for the necessary civilisational shift of the coming decades. This is largely due to the stubbornness and fear of the kings of the old systems. This could be a good thing, as civilisation breakdown-breakthrough will finally show us the irrelevance of these kings and their habits-of-highly-ineffective-people.

But I am lonely in my realisation of the transience of capitalism. I attempt to educate others, so that I don’t feel so lonely. I suppose it is the loneliness of the leader that I feel, but I wish to encourage leadership in all of us.

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I live in an alcoholic culture. A culture that uses alcohol to subvert valid anger, displace carnival and to dumb down the revolutionary intellect that is within all of us. Hone your revolutionary intellect kids -you’re going to need it!

I don’t like to drink much. In that sense I could be lonelier than the average drinker. Maybe I’m just in the wrong country.

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I am genderqueer, or I prefer, ‘a gender rebel’. Not to identify with traditional masculine and feminine concepts, puts me at a disadvantage of connection, you could say. A certain loneliness results.

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Being a change-maker and an entrepreneur is lonely. I am on a bridge over an abyss. I am afraid of what is on the other side, and I may fall and have to climb my way back up to the wrong side of the chasm -where I started from. Ironically, in order to strive ahead to build strong post-capitalist community, I have to sometimes sacrifice my connection in-the-meantime to the scant community that is already in my life.

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I am celibate, but erotically so. This is the result of the disjunction between my liberation and the repression of the society around me. It is especially lonely when in my attitude I am misjudged as ‘easy’ or on the other extreme, ‘prudish’. Nevertheless, celibacy contributes to my rich aloneness which is something separate to my loneliness. Without some of this fertile solitude, I would not be able to write about the isolation that so pains me.