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A (Gulp!) of Utopia 2

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[Sorry for double post, but it's a bit long because lineated like a poem, so have used smaller font to compress...This just reads on from where last post ended. Hate to hog space, but...]

Liberty, Equality and Fraternity

have now been extended and specified

in a large number of human rights.


Central to these are the rights to democracy:

to civil liberties, free political activity, the rule of law

and the absence of any form of discrimination.


Equally central are the rights to social justice:

to equal access to the means of securing a livelihood,

to meaningful work, education, housing and health.


Are these human rights compatible with our current system?

We think that both democracy and social justice

can be as little realized within capitalism

as can ecological sustainability or spiritual well-being.


Democracy cannot be realized

because the ultimate major decisions affecting people’s lives

and the very shape and texture

of those lives and  societies

are not made openly and publicly

in democratic conflict and debate.


They are not made politically and morally, but economically.

They are made by so-called ‘markets’ and ‘corporations’,

that is: within distant invisible boardrooms

by unelected, faceless people accountable to no one

but the mega-rich owners of capital.


These few decide where and where not capital and resources

will flow and how things will be produced.

These few thus automatically also decide

who will bear the costs and who the benefits.

These few decide which areas, products, services, technologies

will be researched and developed and which will not.


These products, services, technologies, jobs then determine

the very fabric and form of everyday life for the millions

much more than any politicians’ decisions.

These products, services, technologies

also very often tend to be highly detrimental

or completely ruinous to the planet’s health.


We were never asked whether or not to develop

nuclear weapons and power plants,

biocides, asbestos, PVC, PCB, CFC, dioxins,

thousands of other toxic chemicals,

genetic engineering, cloning, patents on life forms,

animal factories and feedlots, mass private transport,

expensive high-tech medicine, total ‘free’ trade.


We were never asked whether or not to develop

renewable energy systems, public transport systems,

organic farming, preventative grass roots health care,

fair trade, self-managed factories and schools.


None of this was ever democratically debated

in any country, ‘free’ or ‘socialist’.

We, our grandchildren and the planet’s beings

are now all hostages to these past decisions

made undemocratically behind closed doors

by interlocking political and money elites.


If unchecked, the world created by them

will end up where it is headed:

to the increasing elimination

of nature, human nature and community

as we have known them since the dawn of time.

These are the stakes.


Thus, to implement democracy,

safeguard and extend human rights

and ensure ecological sustainability,

communities will sooner or later have to

confront the socially central issue of  Power :

they will have to find forms

of democratically gaining control over

the key form of power: over investment decisions.


That is, they will have to democratically

debate and decide on what will be produced

and how and at what cost to whom and what when.

And how access to and distribution of

necessary work and products, income,

services and technologies will be implemented.


If history is any guide,

this will necessarily entail

a power struggle of some kind or other

with the current holders of these decision-making privileges,

the owners of capital and their political representatives.


Nor can social justice be realized under capitalism.

Eco- and people-centered development is incompatible

with profit- and power-centered development.

Global wealth has now accumulated and concentrated

to such an incredible extent that a mere 100 or 200 individuals

now own as much as almost half of humanity. It is now

‘Two Hundred Pharaohs and Five Billion Slaves’.


However, this is also the good news.

It means that ‘communism’ (in its original sense)

is now objectively possible.

Enough social wealth has been accumulated

to provide a basic living for all.


A guaranteed minimum income at subsistence level, for example,

could now be provided for all, whether they worked or not,

not as a handout, but as a human right.


Such a generalized ‘social wage’ would allow people

freedom from the daily struggle for survival

freedom from the compulsion to sell oneself

freedom from material fear

and thus the time and the space

that is so desperately needed for personal well-being,

for both active democracy and civil society to function

and for the gradual regeneration of community,

families, spirit and the biosphere.


The ‘good society’ and personal and social creativity

could, for the first time in history,

become more than the prerogative of elites

whose leisure has hitherto always been bought

at the expense  of others’ labour or outright exploitation

and nature’s degradation and diminishment.


The above vision informs our Way of Getting There,

our strategies and tactics.



B.       Strategy, The Ethics of


Our goal, our vision, is also our strategy.

Our means are our ends.

One Spirit informs both.

To get to the social generalization of democracy,

human rights and ecological sustainability,

our actions  must strive to contain these themselves,

i.e. be democratic, ethical, sustainable.

This may not always be possible.


(The terrible paradox of democracy’s historical birth

in bloodshed and unethically waged struggles

has already been noted). We shall endeavour

to dance with the differences between the real and the ideal

as they arise. Bread and roses, reform and utopia.


The real and the ideal need each other.

Too great a gap between them, and we have deadness

or hypocrisy:  too many boring committees

manned by the power-seeking or committee-minded (‘the politicos’),

too many Greens jetting to too many climate conferences.


And yet we can drive to that meeting on sustainability.

Our CO2 debt will have increased but, hopefully,

sustainability will also have been furthered a tad.

The contradictions and ironies are real, the daily soul weight

of living with awareness in the 21st century.

Humour always helps, guilting others certainly does not.


To get to democracy means being democratic now.

Human rights are universal and indivisible, pretty much either/or.

They apply to all, no matter of which persuasion.

Violence is usually the death of both human rights and democracy,

the way our opponents, sometimes internal parts of ourselves,

take us over as we fight them.


(Even here exceptions are conceivable:

to assassinate a torturing tyrant  

would doubtless be a justifiable denial

of the latter’s human rights in most people’s books).


Violence is not always of the obvious kind, however.

We also understand the silent structural violence

of the economy and/or oppressive institutions

(the violence of being compelled to soul-numbing labour

and/or oppressive obedience by the threat of hunger, unemployment,

ostracism). We understand how this breeds counter-violence,

which, when it succeeds, often feeds

into new forms of structural violence. And so it goes.


Our strategies aim to consciously break

with this well known Vicious Circle of Power,

with the demoralizing replacement

of old oppressive elites with merely new ones.


And thus our struggle is a double one:

as we struggle with our powerful opponents,

we shall also struggle against our own temptations

and against those supposedly with us

who seek to gain power for their own (always ‘good’) ends.


C.      Tactics


Embedded in our vision and strategies, our tactics

are eminently situational, flexible,

fluid, creative, humorous and serious,

as diverse as we are, our spirits are, nature is.


Tactics are responses to specific problems and situations.

Millions engage in them everyday, just surviving

the systems they live under. Our tactics are local

and global at the same time. Thanks to the Internet

we can now, for the first time, be truly planetary

in our minds and actions and communications.

We are practising what we want to achieve:

a democratic globalization from below.


We have learned many tactics  

from our struggling brothers and sisters

in the past and in the present.


We have learned that empowered assemblies

are the best real way to learn and practise democracy.

We have learned that the self-activity of civil disobedience

is the best route to self-empowerment.

We have learned that boycotts, bans and strikes

are the ways of withdrawing our  supportive energy from our opponents. [Goes on for a few lines, but gotta stop here...]


Discussion 8 Comments

  • Caragh - 12th Jun 2012

    Ola Elder

    I like the idea of GULPing - it feels like it should be in italics :)

    I would like to know how it ends

    Thank you

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 12th Jun 2012

    Ola Caragh of the Roof, dear daughter of the revolution, and merci beaucoup for the comment. So kind to request the end of GULP!, so here it is:

    We have learned that go-ins and be-ins and laugh-ins
    are creative forms of confronting their institutions.
    We have learned symbolic actions and guerilla art forms
    as ways of challenging their image hegemonies.
    We have learned alternative media, culture and networking,
    appropriate, human- and natural-scale technologies,
    cooperatives and support networks, subsistence food production.
    We have learned bioregional organising and regeneration,
    land care, river care, ocean care, forest protection.

    All this is not pie-in-the-sky.
    All this is happening now.
    It simply needs to understand itself.

    The revolution is evolutionary:
    ongoing, discontinuous, spiral, spiritual.

    There is so much more to learn.
    Through us Life is trying out new forms,
    tentatively stretching out antennae,
    making global consciousness as natural
    as breathing, world music or the internet.

    We need to talk together more,
    support each other more, locally, globally.
    Freedom, mutual aid and solidarity,
    the poetry of bread and the prose of roses.

    And we need to have times of doing
    absolutely nothing.
    To be silent.

    Let us enjoy
    The Dance.

    (Winter 2001)

    And hope your translation project is going well.

  • Caragh - 13th Jun 2012

    Thank you sir!

    It is lovely

    It would be nice to have it written in a spiral on t-shirts to keep us all humble and sparkling :)

    Here is a present for you- they are my favourites


    and for everyone else who doesn't understand why holism is so important - I found this in my spam this morning -


    Blessings - And I think I am supposed to say OUR translation project is doing more than I could ever dream of. :)

  • 18th Jun 2012

    what a beautiful explication of revolution. the art of revolution. and thank you for completing the piece.

    so many things caught my eye, not the least of which "Humour always helps, guilting others certainly does not." as an animal rights activist i've found guilt to be quite a destructive force that has terribly stigmatised the movement. the material used to 'guilt' people is highly motivational to those who have made a shift in their consciousness and are willing/able to use such material as a motivating force for radical behaviour change. but to those who have not yet reached that point of awareness, guilt pushes them further away. i've seen a similar effect with climate change and environmental degradation, only this appears also to be infused with the 'problem of the commons' and 'not in my backyard' mentalities. but its all our backyard, and yet, no ones backyard (what right do we have to make grandiose claims over the lands, oceans and other inhabitants?)

    the political treatise needn't be dry. as you say (and i wrote, but did not end up posting in another area of iops), the real needs the ideal - my interpretation is that such processes as these need artistic creative vision with all the emotion of lived experience, as much as any planned and highly structured presuppositions littered with theoretical concepts and assumptions. these will each resonate with different types of people, of different experiences ... but really, its the artists that have proven most daring politically in history (and targetted as dissidents and reactionaries). there is something in that, surely. they are a motivating force - like pied pipers playing the songs of revolution to the people in need of a new melody to tune their lives to. perhaps a bad metaphor? - i dont mean to insinuate people are rats! (but i love rats) :-)

    thank you for sharing peter

    • David Jones 18th Jun 2012

      Well Alison, the pied piper of Hamelin drowned all but one of the rats following his tune in the Weser river! Hopefully that's not what Peter wants to do to us ;-)

      But yeah, posts like this are cool.


    • David Jones 18th Jun 2012

      Also, RE what you say about activists "guilting" people into getting involved in causes, yeah, I think that's a big problem. Here's a talk on "psychology for activists" that I found especially interesting and useful: http://www.ecopsychology.org/journal/ezine/archive4/Creative-Maladjustment.pdf

  • 18th Jun 2012

    hahaha - darn, i new my sweet imagery of a flute toting piper would come back to haunt me! i could have chosen fidler, of course with equal disasterous consequences ;-)

    but then, when people do become transfixed by a new melody to which they tune their life to, when the old one has ceased to sing, there is no guarantee that the leader is a noble, affable, self deprecating or other such type.

    charismatic leaders of revolutions have proven equally capable of blood thirsty terror as those they replace. so yes, sometimes the transfixed (rats, sheep, humans) are led straight to their next state of 'death'. that, i guess, is the danger of ideology.

    bookmarked the video to watch tomorrow - getting really late! (thank you, looks really interesting).

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 18th Jun 2012

    Alison, David, lovely to have you 'EARTHERS' responding. Have also filed that Chase article for later reading, David, thanks.

    Yep, leaders, charismatic or not, bugger 'em. Personal anecdote: I played basketball with Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Joshka Fischer in Frankfurt, knew them quite well (part of Revolutionaerer Kampf, a libertarian group in Frankfurt at the time). One is now a loud-mouth Brussels MP who advocated bombing the shit out of Iraq, Serbia and Libya, the other, Germany's ex-foreign minister 98-2005 also advocated bombing Serbia, sending German troops (constitutionally committed to merely defending Germany) to Afghanistan and now works as a lackey consultant helping Capital assess political risks before they go and trash some country. Even naive-left past and present heroes like Castro, Mugabe, Chavez or even the deified Mandela, all are dominators and/or players of bloody 'realpolitik'. New Age heroes no better: the Dalai Lama is pretty vacuous and appeared on Master Chef in Australia where contestants then almost prostrated themselves before his Holiness' sandals.

    But Alison, you're absolutely spot on I reckon about the importance of artists. Not Pied Pipers, but mind expanders, juice deliverers, symbol makers, image players, Tricksters whom all ideologues and fundamentalists are uncomfortable with for good reason. Artists and anarchists, often the first to be imprisoned or shot...

    Another personal anecdote. I joined the movement in 68 as much for its 'poetry' and vibe ('It was the way they moved, it was the way they moved'!) and street theatre (and strong, good looking girls, or at least hope therefore) as I did for the theory (e.g. Marcuse) and abstract debates. Since then never been interested in any political or grass roots activism that doesn't have a least some small smidgen of 'more', of mind expansion, of utopianism...

    One of my old 'gurus', American anarchist theatre-maker Julian Beck (Living Theater) said in Avignon in 68: 'Il faut que les ouvriers et les artistes se reunissent pour faire la revolution'.
    Amen. (Ouvriers? Workers?)