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Uneven Development and IOPS

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                               Uneven Development and IOPS

 IOPS Blog started 16 January 

 One would be naïve to think that radical political sentiments, let alone the number of people wanting, indeed prepared, to oppose and organise against capitalist oppression, will be evenly spread also the globe. The briefest study of revolutionary history over the past 200 years proves that resistance and revolt develop unevenly.  And this is not the place to catalogue and discuss what factors help to explain this unevenness.

 Yet, in the case of the geographic spread of IOPS and where its approximately 3,000 current members reside, I would argue that TWO main factors (individually and /or jointly) explain the results. They are:   

a) whether or not the most widespread or predominant language in that country is English;

b) the percentage of people in a given country who have access to computers and the Internet (which is often closely linked to the per capita income of its people.)     

 The evidence?  Here is a roll call (done on 14 Jan.) of various countries with their number of IOPS members in brackets.

 First, the predominately English-speaking countries (and all with a relatively high percentage of residents with Internet access): The United States of America (1218), England (260), Canada (249), Australia (131), Ireland (44), Scotland (40), New Zealand (36).

 Now here is a list of 17 other countries which are included first because they are not predominately English-speaking countries and then because of other factors that may or may not apply to them AND may or may not be relevant for building an international organisation as IOPS aspires to be.

 What factors were chosen for inclusion in this second list? They may have large, sometimes very large, populations; they are often more influential countries politically, regionally and/or globally, than many others ‘on average’ (which I appreciate is a bit of a weasel word); they may have a low level of Internet access, they sometimes have oppressed colonial histories and are, on average, relatively poor economically due primarily to imperialism; they are countries in political or economic crisis/turmoil and sometimes with large dissenting sectors; they may have political histories that are ‘important’ (another weasel word) in the current conjuncture, and so on.

This is not intended to be either a comprehensive or nuanced list and is presented in no particular order: Egypt (9), Bolivia (3), Greece (18), India (51), Indonesia (9), Brazil (28), Argentina (36), Chile (3), Nigeria (1), Ghana (0), Kenya (0), France (45), Germany (54), Iran (10), Pakistan (15) Bangladesh (8), the Philippines (4) Russia (6). (As one reference, here is an English-language Wikipedia link to the population of the world’s countries:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population )

It is impossible to comment on whether the current level of political experience and IOPS political activity is higher, on a per member basis, in some countries than others. So this roll call avoids the KEY ‘quality’ issue of IOPS members and of current IOPS activity. Nor does this blog address the KEY questions of the possibilities for political advance in certain countries compared to others and then which ones in the next few years…and the strategical consequences of such conclusions.      

But, and here is the main point: the geographic and linguistic and income imbalance/unevenness in IOPS’s membership is obvious and pronounced. To take, at random, several examples from Asia/Oceania: Indonesia has a population of 237 million, Pakistan’s is about 180 million, and New Zealand has just over 4 million residents.

 In addition, as at least one other interim IOPS interim member and I have recently commented, men almost completely dominate the postings on most recent IOPS blogs. Most of these men write in these blogs as English language speakers.

 As IOPS passes its first birthday, this blog asks two questions:  

 1) Are these current imbalances of significant political importance for a revolutionary grouping that calls itself an ‘international organisation’ and which may hold an ‘international’ convention in the next few years? Why or why not?

 2) If you do think these imbalances are important, what should be done practically to try to overcome them?

 I have views on both questions, but will refrain from expressing them at the start of this new blog.    

 Alan Story, Nottingham, UK.

 

Discussion 48 Comments

  • Marlo Pedroso 16th Jan 2013

    Great, thought-provoking post Alan.

    In response:

    1. Of course it's important. There are numerous reasons. A few that immediately come to mind:
    A. We would be replicating current systems of domination that exist in so-called representative governments (colonialist, imperialist, and so forth), which claim to speak for people who are not at the "decision making table".
    B.We would lose of wealth of ideas, creativity, knowledge, experience and wisdom these nations/groups have to offer.
    C.Many of the most revolutionary movements and potential exist in these poorly represented countries.

    2.One way to approach this is to recognize that IOPS is not a one size fits all movement and that the our method of organizing, while working well for some groups (educated/technologically connected/english-speaking, may not do well in other places where those factors are predominant.

    Perhaps instead of trying to bring IOPS to these areas (true to missionary style), we can align with revolutionary struggles and groups that already exist, while continuing a dialogue about ideology and strategy. This would value the histories and efforts indigenous to these communities, while allow for a exchange of ideas that could lead us both to grow and build stronger alignment.

    I mean, Communist ideas spread through-out the world and this was not exclusively due to colonial type of imposition. Often the ideas just made sense to colonized groups and they borrowed what worked and synthesized it with ideas from their own cultures. That in my mind is what is so great about the flexibility of de-centralized, anarchist thinking: we value the right to self-determination and diversity of approaches.

    Thanks for bringing these things to the forefront.

    As for the gender imbalance online, I'm part of the problem. Maybe it's about men stepping back a bit.

    It's interesting because in our local Boston chapter women and men are pretty equally represented. So it seems there is a disparate connection between IOPS online vs real world activity. Not sure what to make of that.

  • Lambert Meertens 16th Jan 2013

    Thank you for bringing this up.

    The questions raised in this blog posting have no easy and obvious answers. Here are some of my thoughts.

    I suspect that the distribution of the current membership over the countries of the world to a large extent reflects the distribution of regular visitors of ZNet. Many of the members, in particular those who joined in the first few weeks and months after the website became operational by the end of March 2012, were alerted to the possibility of joining IOPS when the website's going online was widely and repeatedly advertized using the outreach capabilities of Z Communications. And that immediately introduced a bias towards English-speaking people, and thereby to English-speaking countries. Many later members will have heard about IOPS from other members, and so an initial skewed distribution tends to reproduce itself. It is only when a certain saturation sets in that you can expect an initial skew to even out.

    The bias towards English-speaking members also manifests itself in the predominance of English on the website. It is hard to tell what the influence is of the relative lack of French content. When I first visited France in 1968, I hardly met anybody who understood English, but now most people in France can at least read and understand English texts, and many speak English well enough to maintain a conversation – although often with some difficulty. An interesting point of comparison is Canada. In the mostly French-speaking province of Quebec, we have 4.6 members per million inhabitants. For the rest of Canada, where English is the dominant language, this number goes up to 8.1.

    Surely, the main factor is that most people have simply never heard of IOPS; they simply don't know it exists. I try to bring up the topic of IOPS whenever possible with whomever I meet, and after half a year I still have to meet the first person who unexpectedly turned out to already know about it. The awareness of the existence of IOPS is bound to be stronger in English-speaking communities.

    As to the questions themselves, yes, I think that the very strong Anglo-Saxon predominance will co-determine the image of IOPS and detract from its message. This may actually become worse when the growth of IOPS is such that local chapter activities are becoming visible, which will happen first in countries with relatively high densities of members.

    I have no clear idea what can be done about it, but I think it is important that we recognize it as a problem and develop ideas for dealing with it. It is the reason I have suggested to hold the founding convention in a country such as Bolivia (see http://www.iopsociety.org/forum/interim-goals-for-founding-convention/whole-world-week). Elsewhere (http://www.iopsociety.org/blog/founding-convention) I've written: "I've no idea how to do it, but I've been thinking we should somehow, collectively, spend more effort on a concentrated outreach to the Third World." The sad fact is, however, that we are still far too weak to mount any such efforts. Moreover, even if we had the strength, we have no mechanism that allows us to reach the decision to actually do something about it.

    • Alan Story 17th Jan 2013

      Lambert:

      You have written [16 Jan.]:
      ‘I suspect that the distribution of the current membership over the countries of the world to a large extent reflects the distribution of regular visitors of ZNet…. And that immediately introduced a bias towards English-speaking people, and thereby to English-speaking countries. Many later members will have heard about IOPS from other members, and so an initial skewed distribution tends to reproduce itself.’

      A well–explained point, I think, and a very serious problem.

      Taking the roll call from my initial post, this means that almost 2000 of IOPS’s 3000 members are from seven 7 countries that are predominantly English-speaking.

      We need to overcome this, because if we don’t, the problem is just going to keep reproducing itself.

      A couple of quick thoughts:
      1) Perhaps, in a spirit of some humility and to counter the widespread English-language chauvinism and cultural imperialism that is rampant on the Internet, we should drop the word ‘International’ because, in the first place, we are NOT international.’, indeed we are a long way from it and let’s admit this.

      2) In the past, there has been a few blogs devoted to the question of translating of IOPS docs. But they seem to have fallen by the way side. Unless and until we have a whole range of document available in languages other than English, we are going to remain in an English-language world. And that is a very narrow world.

      OPS organisational resources should be directed to this matter as a matter of urgency, some language communication policies should be developed …and this should NOT be the responsibility of IOPS members who do NOT speak English.

      We cannot say it too often: the overwhelming majority of people in the world do NOT speak or understand English.

      3) People might reply: too much work, it cannot be done, not worth the effort.

      A 200+page book written in 2006 by a very small group I was a member of has had 11,500 online reads in English; it was fully translated into Spanish two years later and had had 7,500 reads on one website; many more on others where it is also available for reading or downloading.

      A 70-page book I wrote myself in 2009 in English has had 13,000 reads in English; the Spanish edition that came out two years later has had more than 4,000 reads on one website (and is also available on a number of Spanish language websites.)

      One tangible result: I have been invited next month to go to Havana to give two lectures at the Cuba Book Fair.

      So don’t say it cannot be done.

      4) On the many blogs of IOPS, non-English speakers should be encouraged to write in their own language. Writing in English should NOT be a seeming condition for writing on our blogs, but actually it is.
      We are really missing out on the contributions of non-English speakers!
      There are many computer translation programmes available for those who can only speak English and who might need blog posts translated.

      5) I do note your final point: ‘we have no mechanism that allows us to reach the decision to actually do something about it.’
      Perhaps we could have a response to this from people who believe: ‘everything must be done from the bottom up.’ Will spontaneity solve this problem? I do not think so.







  • 16th Jan 2013

    Excellent blog and responses focusing on an issue that should be of some concern to us all.

    Just looking at the contiguous countries of North America raises interesting questions about membership distribution and its relation to language, economic development, race and political turmoil: United States 3.87 members/million, Canada 7.11m/m and Mexico 0.15m/m.

    Of the three the population of Mexico faces the gravest challenges, and I think Marlo expresses a valid concern that we not replicate current systems of domination and potentially loose the knowledge and experience gained by the people of Mexico in their struggles against their more powerful northern neighbor.

    Marlo’s other point is valid, that perhaps instead of focusing on bringing IOPS to these underrepresented countries we should be aligning and expressing solidarity with their existing movements and groups, acknowledging their histories and efforts in order to further an atmosphere that will lead to exchanges benefiting us both. In the meantime we probably have to accept that for many struggling under economic hardship and political oppression membership in IOPS will not be seen as an immediate necessity, that is, if they know of its existence.

  • Alan Story 17th Jan 2013

    A few points:

    1. I am finding difficult as an IOPS member in following all of the many strands of discussions on IOPS blogs. Is anyone else?

    I only have so much time in a day to devote to IOPS matters…and I have no household duties (except looking after myself) and few work duties. I can only imagine the difficulties if you are a single working parent several young children.

    And there is no real leadership in IOPS that is saying: ‘this is important politically, this issue is something we should make a priority as a group.’

    2. Take the question of the absence of women as initiators and commentators on blogs in recent weeks. It is a VERY serious political issue, I think, and this is why I raised it AGAIN above in this blog. Yet the common attitude in IOPS seems to be: ‘yea, yea, of course it is an issue, we will get to it later.’

    3. Mind you, it turns out that there already has been some amount of discussion on this issue on a London UK based blog (that I missed on my radar until last night; see my first sentence above).

    http://www.iopsociety.org/england/blog/gender-and-race-issues

    This blog bears re-reading …or reading for the first time.

    Here are a few comments from three colleagues.

    Preeti Kaur

    Thanks for starting this very important conversation Mark. I liked the two questions you asked too.
    1. How to address issues of gender and race politically?
    2. How can IOPS support women and non-white people in participating?...

    As a non-white woman, I would not ordinarily stick around in an organization dominated by white men. I think some serious thought needs to go in to the two questions that Mark has raised….

    Creating an environment where members are aware of how we have inherited unhealthy ways of communicating -- or not communicating -- and work to consciously challenge them will be important, I think….

    Mark W.

    I'm sick of being in 90% white male groups. I want to work in a truly diverse environment where learning and growing is a constant thing….

    Laura Necchi-Ghiri

    I agree that it is vital to avoid IOPS becoming a white male dominated organisation

    Women's experiences of marginalisation, of discrimination and violence often tend to be regarded as a 'side issue' to the main concern of Leftist activity which focuses on class and economics.

    ………………………..

    So colleagues, male, female and transgender, what are we going to do about this issue?

    I totally agree with Laura: women’s oppression is not ‘a side issue.’

  • Lambert Meertens 17th Jan 2013

    1. I too find it difficult to keep track of all strands, and I find the somewhat unclear distinction in purpose and use between fora and blogs confusing. Some ideas were formulated by Roderick van S. on the site's wish list at http://www.iopsociety.org/forum/the-site/wish-list for features that would allow one to more easily keep track of new contributions – it's easy to see how these suggestions could be generalized. Wikipedia users also have a "watch list" of pages for which they are alerted in case of changes. But in a way it is also encouraging that it is not too easy; it means that at least something is happening – although it generally doesn't seem too lead anywhere. If we had 3 million members instead of 3000, there would be no way to keep track of everything however hard you try.

    I wish we had some way of collectively deciding on some priorities, but I'm glad we have no leadership deciding it for us.

    2. One thing I hear from women, something that also fits with what I see happening, is that they have been trained – if that is the right term – to feel that if there is an issue involving them, that it's their problem and not yours. Even if they intellectually know this and understand it's all nonsense and that they should not automatically seek the fault with themselves, it is still what they feel. I don't know how general this is, but I've heard this from several sides. Now I imagine that if you feel like that, you need to feel safe to come out of your shell and present your ideas for public scrutiny that you aren't too sure about yourself in the first place. Of course, this does not apply to all women, and also not to only women. I see in myself that when I feel uncomfortable in a situation I tend to think that I've nothing interesting to say, which is a good excuse to remain silent. I have to push myself out of that. But when I feel comfortable, you'll have a hard time shutting me up. I take it for granted that what I say is interesting, and that the only reason you yawn is that you did not have enough sleep last night.

    So what we could do and, I think, should do, is make sure IOPS is a safe place where you can say what you think or feel without having to fear that you will get bashed. Now I'm not too sure we have done well in that respect. One person's assertiveness is another person's intimidation. People trying to communicate their feelings of frustration have been bashed and belittled, or at least apparently have felt like that and have felt hurt. Some have left because of that. Others have fallen silent. We are preciously few, and we should see each other here as family. We have to respect our differences. We have to respect that some are militant, and we have to respect that some are not militant. We have to respect that some only want to talk about organizing and recruiting, and we have to respect that some want to talk about anything except organizing and recruiting. After all, we are not all the same, and we will never all be the same. But we're in this thing together, and we can only make this work if we are prepared to accept that, with all its consequences. I think that if we can do that – but I realize it is a tall order – we will see more contributions from women.

  • Will Henry Lapinel 18th Jan 2013

    Alan,

    You make some very good points. As I understand you, we currently face the danger of never getting off the ground due to lack of sufficient representation, or pretending to represent people that we don't.

    1) I think these imbalances are certainly cause for concern, but I also think that we don't need perfect balance in order to found the organization. I think that even if we don't succeed in obtaining significant membership in non-english-speaking countries, we could still legitimately call ourselves "international." I don't see a need to drop that from the title.

    2) I think we should continue to monitor ourselves for traits that exclude certain sectors of the population, but we should not be paralyzed by a lack of diversity, which we can do little about at this point. I think that diversity will improve once we begin to take action and put ourselves out there. Not that we won't have to actively pursue diversity, but I think we must get IOPS started first. At this point, we are barely recruiting anyone, let alone diversely. Our vision is one that genuinely seeks to liberate all people from the uneven distribution of power; thus our vision represents the interests of all people, regardless of who is a member, so I don't think the lack of representation puts us in danger of skewing policies in favor or against one group or another. At least for the short term.

    Here's one thought for improving diversity in the mean-time: I personally feel that our current mode of communication is somewhat off-putting, and chat rooms might improve peoples' sense of "welcomeness", which might in turn help with gender diversity. I just posted a blog about that.

    Side-note: I was reading Chomsky's "Rogue States" just an hour ago and saw the reference to your article "Property in International Law" in the Journal of Political Philosophy.

    • 19th Jan 2013

      Will, you wrote: “Our vision is one that genuinely seeks to liberate all people from the uneven distribution of power; thus our vision represents the interests of all people, regardless of who is a member, so I don't think the lack of representation puts us in danger of skewing policies in favor or against one group or another.”

      Without adequate diverse multi-group representation I don’t think anyone can make the claim there is no danger of skewing policies in favor or against one group or another. Would an all male group be fully versed in policy matters effecting women for example? That can be generalized to other groups as well: ethnic, religious, racial, national, etc.

    • Will Henry Lapinel 20th Jan 2013

      John - I know, I know, you're right. That's why I added "at least for the short term," but thank you for calling me on it. :) I guess what I'm trying to say is, I want us to move forward and come up with some recruiting strategies and campaigns with an eye for attaining diversity, and I think it is far too early to decry the lack of diversity now. We have to project an image of ourselves by embarking on campaigns and writing communiques and the like.

      I think we will need to demonstrate our ability to act collectively before anyone, of any gender, race or ethnicity, will be attracted to joining our cause (on a significant scale). We should choose our actions based on the desired effect on our image. If we want women to join, let's publicly fight for equal pay. If we want brown and black people to join, let's publicly fight against racial profiling.

      Otherwise, I fear that trying to figure out why we're not diverse now is like questioning the trim of our sails before they're even raised.

    • 20th Jan 2013

      I don’t think it would be appropriate for a group primarily made up of males to choose actions, embark on a campaign and lead a public fight for women’s rights unless that group were working in solidarity, by receiving input and direction, from a group primarily made up of women fighting for the same thing, in which case they should consider joining ranks to increase their effectiveness, exposure and diversity. As suggested above the focus from the outset should be demonstrate our ability to overcome “women’s experiences of marginalization, of discrimination and violence”.

      And following through with your sailing analogy. If I’m a nonwhite female standing on the dock watching an all white male crew raise and set their sails, embark on a course of their choosing, and slowly sail away from me, am I going to feel compelled to join that crew? Or would it have been better if the crew comprised a gender-diverse, racially mixed, and equally skilled crew before the ship even left the dock?

    • Will Henry Lapinel 20th Jan 2013

      Damn John, you're really giving me a hard time here. Ok, maybe so. I just don't think we'll be having a lot of luck recruiting ANYONE, much less diversely, until we raise the sails. And yes of course I don't expect anyone to figuratively jump in the water and try to swim after us. Instead of "slowly sailing away" we would pull into ports with lots of minorities and women, welcome them aboard with comradely arms, feed them good food and grog, and offer them a full-fledged membership in our non-hierarchical pirate crew. Then together we'd go plunder and pillage some corporations. And yes, I realize you would have to lower your sails in order to pull in again... maybe it was a bad analogy.

      Joking aside - again, maybe you're right. I just think we shouldn't beat ourselves up about not having a diverse and active membership when we only have 3,000 registered members worldwide, and we really haven't succeeded in making any kind of a splash. I don't think there's much we can do internally to improve diversity, short of members having sex changes. I don't think there's anything about our website, or about our organization, which is inherently repulsive to minorities or women. I think it is more probable that white males are simply more likely to have been exposed to IOPS, due to the places it has been advertised. For example, has anybody done a survey to see how many Z Net sustainers are women or minorities? I'd be kinda surprised if white males weren't the majority.

    • 22nd Jan 2013

      I was reluctant to continue this dialogue since it might be a bit irrelevant for two west-centric males like us to be debating how a fledgling international organization should overcome its lack of diversity, but a few comments anyway.

      For an organization that considers local chapter building to be highly important to its growth and success, and consistent with its framework and vision, I don’t see why we should expect our ability to promote diversity to improve by going from interim to full-fledged.

      At this point I think it would be premature for us to say there’s nothing much we can do internally to overcome our lack of diversity. It may be true that IOPS’s current membership is heavily influence by its affiliation with Znet, but so what? That gives us one reason for the current lack of diversity but it doesn’t do anything to address it. And taking the position that there’s nothing much we can do is probably self-defeating, projecting the wrong message to those we’d like to encourage to join.

      I don’t think we’ve fully explored or addressed the issue. There are many we haven’t heard from, or maybe didn’t fully appreciate when they did speak, so I don’t think we’ve exhausted all the ways to overcome our lack of diversity.

      There are many creative minds that have already joined and are working on projects to develop multilingual translations, introductory videos, handbooks, etc. that will expand our reach, but I suspect there is more we can do – we haven’t plumbed the full capacity or capability of our membership.

    • Will Henry Lapinel 25th Jan 2013

      John, perhaps so. Either way, we'll get there I'm sure!

    • 4th Feb 2013

      Hello John,

      I would say that the non-white female would have to believe that the values that the men on the ship were embarking to defend and propagate were her values in order for her to get on the ship.

      Equality, democracy, solidarity, and mutual-aid. If a person's skin color, and gender, as well their area of origin does not define them, then what is left to define them by is how they relate to those values.

      If all the other non-white females in this woman's area were capitalists elitists who thought that only those who can out-trick the other should enjoy the benefits of society's collective labor and that others, whether white or black, woman or man, or anything else, who fail to out-trick others for personal gain should be wage-slaves with no decision-making ability, I would imagine if she disagreed with that worldview that she would get on the boat.

      In order to together make rules for everyone to follow, to set up a new society, we need to hear the voices of all who are going to be affect by those rules, and they need to be a part of crafting those rules.

      True, I need to know what it is like to carry a child (as well as many other aspects of reproduction and child-rearing) before I can help make the decisions about abortion. Talking with women and building trusting relationships with them helps me with this process.

      But it is a mistake, and not one I am accusing anyone at IOPS of making, to believe that only 'faces like theirs' will attract people to this movement for equality and real democracy.

      please check out the book We CAN Change The World by Dave Stratman if anything I said sounded good, or not so good.
      Thank you for being here, In Solidarity-Abe

    • 4th Feb 2013

      Hi Abram,

      You are correct, there is nothing that precludes the male crew on the ship and the woman on shore from sharing the same values and vision that represent IOPS. It's a matter of perception: Why then has the crew remained all male, surely there are an equal number of women who share these values? I think it would be a mistake not to ask that question. If we seek diversity we should continue to work to achieve it.

      The link Zane provides below leads to an interesting thread. I thought Kapil's comment at the end of that link were very perceptive; my significant other appreciated it greatly, especially point 1). Which implied I still have a ways to go.

      Thanks for the reference, I'll look for it.

    • 5th Feb 2013

      Very cool, good talking with you. Keep commenting:) -Abe

    • 4th Feb 2013

      Hello Will,
      I really like this statement of yours:

      "I think we should continue to monitor ourselves for traits that exclude certain sectors of the population, but we should not be paralyzed by a lack of diversity, which we can do little about at this point. I think that diversity will improve once we begin to take action and put ourselves out there. Not that we won't have to actively pursue diversity, but I think we must get IOPS started first."

      I believe that what will ultimately determine how represented by the values and goals of IOPS people of different countries and cultures will feel is what their personal values are. If it is made explicit that what IOPS stands for is democracy, mutual-aid, solidarity and equality, people of all and any nation will become interested in IOPS. What defines people is not their culture as much as their values. People do not Need to see a face 'like theirs' in order to believe that an organization represents them, - they need to see that the organization is fighting for the values that they hold dear.

      As we develop the message, it will resonate across all lines except class. Seeing Al Sharpton somewhere doesn't make the black people I know feel represented any more than seeing Barack Obama defend drone planes and the deaths of teenagers in other countries. A group of people, white or black or both, who are fighting for what is right, is what makes my black friends feel represented. This is what they tell me.

      We of course need to be sensitive to differences, but also to the horrible effects of the idea that what people have in common is not their values, but what country they are from.

      Of course, the extreme approach I am criticizing here is very likely not the approach that you advocate. I hope I did not give the impression that I have negative view of your outlook.
      Thank you for being here and fighting, -Abe
      please check out: We CAN Change The World, by Dave Stratman:
      http://www.newdemocracyworld.org/old/Revolution/We%20Can%20Change%20the%20World%20book.pdf

    • Will Henry Lapinel 4th Feb 2013

      Abram - very well said. I'm in 100% agreement. As others indicate, there is of course something to be said for diversity. However, I think the barriers to achieving diversity, at this stage, before we have achieved any kind of publicity, or taken any kind of meaningful collective action, are so significant that we should not make diversity a precondition that without which no collective actions can be taken. I think we should strive for diversity in our methods but the lack of it should not, as I say, paralyze us.

      I think there is an assumption that the predominance of white males in IOPS is due to something within the website. I think that is mistaken, and I think there are a lot of external factors causing that result.

    • 5th Feb 2013

      You should elucidate by listing the many external factors and barriers that are prohibiting us from achieving diversity at this stage before we have publicity so that perhaps we could act on them now; and please explain why are interim state prevents us from taking any action and how you propose that we advertise ourselves in the future.

    • Will Henry Lapinel 5th Feb 2013

      Thanks for the invite, John. I don't have a list, I just have a sense. Though I will say I do think that women are less likely to join any group that identifies itself as "revolutionary" simply because of the connotation with war. Am I wrong? Perhaps. No supporting data. I don't necessarily think that means we should change that aspect of it, but it may be something for many people to get past, and right now we don't have a reason for people to get past it. I also think that white middle class educated people are more likely to view Z Net than others, which is where a good portion of our membership comes from. I don't have any data to back that up, but it just seems likely - that's some pretty heady stuff. So are all the other sites we've advertized on. I'd be interested to see the male/female ratio of that pool as well. As far as why our interim state prevents collective action, I thought that was the whole point of being an interim organization - that we can't make decisions now that can be put off until we have a quorum. Taking any collective action worth noting would require making major decisions about strategy and tactics. We haven't even established the means by which to make those decisions except through the ICC, which has demonstrated a strong hesitance to make any decision that doesn't have to be made now.

      If you compare our numbers with the world birth rate, I think we are actually a shrinking organization. I am hearing the death knell of IOPS. I am starting to think that we will be unable to recruit people without doing something politically powerful that attracts people to our cause. I think we need to demonstrate a capacity for collective action - somehow - I don't have any ideas. But being "interim" stands in the way of that. All I know is, what else are we going to do? There are some ideas out there, for sure. Posting fliers, attending meetings and events of other groups, etc... I just think we should go ahead and take the kid-gloves off, commit, "de-interim" ourselves, and establish the decision-making structure now, while the iron is still warm. I think having an ICC is paralyzing us. There's hardly an ICC. Who in the ICC is active in discussions? Nobody is a stakeholder. We don't own this. It's coming up on a year with no forward movement. There's no momentum. I'm not saying there aren't internal problems. Perhaps the documents and appearance of the site are off-putting in some way. But I don't see anything.

      Sorry this went so long!

    • 5th Feb 2013

      You think one problem is that because IOPS considers itself a revolutionary organization women will associate that with war, but you don’t think we should change that perception right now. In other words you think it is okay that they continue to associate IOPS’ future program with war? I find that incredibly disturbing. I don’t see war as a program for advancing the vision of IOPS; it would be suicidal. You are entitled to have that opinion but I think it misrepresents our vision.

      I don’t see what prevents anyone from taking proactive action to correct the disparity you are suggesting. Each chapter can take action now if they want to. They could poll their members, or in the case of single member chapters anyone they know, to determine some of the reasons people are not joining in their region or country in order to address the lack of diversity in a manner compatible with our vision.

      There is already an ongoing collective effort to grow the organization so to say that our interim state prevents collective action I think is incorrect and self-defeating.

      Why did you join IOPS? What types of changes would you like to see in the immediate future? In what way has the ICC prevented you from taking positive actions in your local chapter?

      IOPS members were able to arrange for Michael Albert to give talks in England in the organization's interim state. Sure, that particular action has its limitations, Michael can’t fly all over the world, but surely there are other efforts that can be made, such as participating in actions with local groups which then provides an opportunity for discussing IOPS with others.

      Is it easy? No. Developing an organization that seeks to win a better world by overcoming capitalism is going to be a struggle, like developing a social movement only more so. But given capitalism's destructive tendencies it’s certainly one worth undertaking in solidarity with others.

  • Mark Evans 19th Jan 2013

    Alan - what I don't understand is why you think IOPS isn't already trying to address these issue and has been committed to doing so from day one.

    What gives you the impression that "these current imbalances" are not seen in terms of "significant political importance" by the ICC and broader membership?

    What gives you the impression that currently nothing is being done "practically to try to overcome them"?

    That aside I would be very interested to hear your ideas on how we might better address these challenges.

    • Lambert Meertens 19th Jan 2013

      Alan did not state that he had the impression that these current imbalances are not seen in terms of significant political importance. He just asked questions, obviously with the aim to get possibly useful reactions to the questions.

      What is actually being done practically to overcome the imbalances? Is it enough to reasonably expect relief, or should more be done for that?

    • Mark Evans 19th Jan 2013

      I do not see how asking the two questions that Alan poses at the end of his blog make sense unless he has the impression that they are not already understood as being significant / important by IOPS members.

      The questions that you raise - Lambert - are different. There are, of course, existing efforts to try to overcome the imbalance - this is what the interim phase is about - but if members have ideas that they think can help improve on these existing efforts then they can share them.

  • Kuan Phillips 20th Jan 2013

    Hi All. Great contributions, as always. Thanks for posting this, Alan, very well written and inviting of debate. Also, I very much liked Lambert's posting that began "1. I too find it difficult to keep track of all strands" - I agree with your sentiment, Lambert, especially in the last paragraph.

    I'm turning into a bit of an idealoge for radical democracy in recent times, so I'm seeing democracy/anti-hierarchism within IOPS as a cure-all for many of these problems. I've blogged and commented a lot about that subject, though, so I'll keep off it here (well, er, sort-of....)

    Assuming our decision-making issues have been sorted out to everybody's satisfaction then I think that international and gender diversity are 2 reasonable issues for us to choose/vote to tackle. So I'd answer Yes to your first question, Alan - I see international and gender diversity as significant for IOPS.

    So, what to do about it...

    Saying "let's get more female and non rich english-speaking participation" is only the starting point. We have, in my view, to adopt policies, projects, structural changes etc. that will be the engine of this greater diversification.

    One structural idea I had, that we can do right now, is to rotate the admins at world level. At the moment we've got Jason Chrystostomou, Michael Albert, Preeti Kaur and Ilya Ribin. I've not seen any evidence of Ribin being active in the group - apologies Ilya, if I'm wrong about this! - and Jason and Michael are blokes from English countries (as well as being powerful enough in the group already). As far as I can see there's no need to have 4 admins. I'm not sure what a good number of admins is. Let's say 2 and replace Jason, Michael and Ilya with Kapil Bajaj, who describes himself as a Delhi-based Journalist. If he doesn't want to do it, there are a few other Indian members who have written blogs.

    I think that if we break our "keeping decisions to a minimum" phase, that will naturally create options for diversity. For example if Kapil proposed that IOPS (international) releases a statement against Indian Government corruption (which was the focus of his blog), giving specific examples of Government scams, then most of the rest of us (me especially) would say "oops! If I have to vote for or against releasing this statement I better find out more about what's happening in India".

    Another idea wot I had, related to this, is that we could do a joint writing project about something to do with India, say. Again, this could be led by one of the Indian members. (India's just a suggestion here, we might choose somewhere else outside the rich/English-speaking world).

    In terms of internal IOPS democracy I did suggest in my Blog "My view of IOPS" that countries get voting power on IOPS decisions in proportion to their population size. It has some drawbacks, but I stand by this proposal. All the best.

    • Lambert Meertens 20th Jan 2013

      Kuan, FYI, Ilya is registered as a member and an admin solely to be able to test and fix things as a website developer.

    • Kuan Phillips 20th Jan 2013

      Ah. Thanks very much for that. If he's still needed for that then I'd be happy for him to stay as an admin. Nice work Ilya!

    • kapil bajaj 21st Jan 2013

      Hi all,
      Nice to be mentioned in this engaging discussion. Thanks, Kuan.
      Rotating the admin job sounds like a pro-participation idea, even though I'd need to be explained what the job would entail. Moderating discussions on these pages would probably be a part of the job, I guess.
      Kuan's idea seems to imply that admin-ship can be used rotatively to challenge members, who are less active on account of structural disadvantages, to become more engaged and involved in the birthing of IOPS.
      I admit too to struggling to keep pace with the important-looking threads of discussions on these pages, such as the issue of organization and decision making.
      I am comfortable with the ideas being discussed, i.e. the content of the discussions, as I enjoy browsing and reading up on unfamiliar concepts, but suspect that there may be a bit of a problem here for some other members.
      A lot of people from India and other non-Western countries, for instance, might be less than familiar with the Western leftist, especially anarchist, histories/traditions -- which inform IOPS' conceptual framework and a lot of the concerns of the Blog-page discussants -- and find it difficult to fill the 'knowledge gap'.
      That, along with the language barrier, could be one of the reasons for their inadequate participation in threads started by the anglophone members, even though it does not explain the level of their overall participation or unwillingness to initiate their own threads.
      I've myself been an inadequate participant in this important stage of IOPS' birth mainly because of the following reasons.

      (a) It's quite a depressive phase, I feel, here in India, especially after the anti-corruption movement went phut and for other reasons some of which I've explained elsewhere.
      (http://www.iopsociety.org/blog/human-survival-and-iops)

      (b) My non-participation in IOPS' national and local chapters that also seem to be inactive overall. I've had no interaction so far with any IOPS member from India.

      (c) Personal circumstances that have done little to shore up the spirit or to foster initiative/activism.

      Other parameters of diversity, such as gender, are obviously important. I regret to note that the profile of Rosi Thornton, presumably a female who'd argued strongly against tiered membership, has disappeared from this site. I discovered some very valuable and greatly invigorating ideas of her's on education.

      In addition to the knowledge gap, measured with the Western yardstick, monetary contribution to the local, national and international chapters of the IOPS could be another hitch in allowing fuller participation by the people from economically less secure countries, considering especially that members from even the richer West are compelled to look to raise funds from Fanfare, which should ideally be available to all free of charge.

      (That, BTW, reminds me of another manifestation of the rich-poor gap, namely the domination of the world's knowledge system by the Western countries through their control of copyright regime, explained so well by Alan, who initiated this thread, in a primer that's widely read and freely available on CopySouth website.)

      I too would like to fear Alan's ideas in light of what everyone participating in this discussion has said so far.

    • kapil bajaj 21st Jan 2013

      'Hear', not 'fear', in the last sentence.

    • Jane Johnson 22nd Jan 2013

      Hi all. Just wanted to say I think it's a wonderful idea of Kuan's to have Kapil as an international administrator, if he would be so good as to take on the role! :-)

      And thank you Kapil for mentioning about Rosi Thornton, I hadn't realised that she had left IOPS. That is a real shame.



    • kapil bajaj 22nd Jan 2013

      Hi, Jane. Thanks for your comment, but I do realise that unsatisfactory participation from non-Western and non-English speaking countries as well as a general lack of diversity is a much broader issue that needs more suggestions to be tackled.
      So I am all ears, but may come up later with some of my own ideas.

    • Jane Johnson 22nd Jan 2013

      Of course! I look forward to hearing your ideas as well as other peoples suggestions on how this issue can be tackled.

    • Kuan Phillips 23rd Jan 2013

      Hi all. Thanks for your comment, Kapil, and your support Jane.

      Yes, Kapil. Please come up with your own ideas, message me anytime or do another blog. Sorry you've had a few problems that have distracted you from activism. Last year I had some problems with stress at work and am out of work now, and feeling a lot better. We've also gone through a depressing time politically in the UK. We've also got the most right-wing government for a generation. The only good thing our current government has done, in my view, was to give the people a referrendum on an alternative voting system. Depressingly the people voted no!

      I wouldn't worry too much about reading the Fanfare books if I were you. I've only read a few chapters and they're only the opinion of Michael Albert and some other members on things. There's plenty of Michael Albert stuff free online. If money is making it difficult for Indian members to participate then this seems to be an important issue to address.

      You mention a "knowledge gap" between Indians and the Western Leftist traditions. You would know better than me whether such a gap exists, but I'm sure the gap works in both directions. I'd be interested in how Indians view politics, and radical politics. And there's no particular reason for IOPS to follow western traditions rather than Indian ones, so we ought to educate one-another about these things.

      Yes, the copyright laws sound like an interesting issue to potentially do a project together on. There's also tarrifs etc. which, I believe, are skewed in favour of rich countries. Another issue that I thought we might look at together might be how Britain is selling arms to India, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia and others, making profit out of tensions in the region. (I looked at http://www.caat.org.uk/ to see who Britain is selling weapons to). I think I feel more comfortable criticising my own governement rather than the Indian one, in general, considering all the bad things the UK Government does.

      Lastly, being an international admin doesn't seem to include much or be difficult. I think the main thing is that you can choose the articles that appear on the home page and what blogs get featured. We'd be very happy for you to take on the role.

    • Kuan Phillips 23rd Jan 2013

      ....I mean, I can't speak for the other members, but if they've got any sense the'll be happy to have you in the role.

    • kapil bajaj 25th Jan 2013

      Thanks Kuan. Another blog is a good idea. I need to rouse myself to write a piece or two on everything I’ve thought so far about IOPS.

      1. I empathize with you. It’s grim for a population, even if largely well fed, educated, wired and with declining-but-still-significant social wage, to struggle against a former empire that has continued in its neo-liberal ways – based on an ideology that, I think, has pushed the world to the brink – and in playing the sidekick to the reigning empire.

      It should be grimmer for a population, 19 times larger, the majority of which has little by way of economic security, to be mired in a class war prosecuted by a State on behalf of the domestic and global elite with backing of the imperial powers.
      (Class war is how I see loot of public funds, State-assisted land grab, commercialization of public services and crony corporate capitalism in India.)

      India’s case is compounded by the laws and bureaucratic systems inherited from its colonial past that add to the oppressiveness of the State.

      The population has had only about 64 years, since the Subcontinent got rid of the British, in which to develop the political savvy and the capacity to fight their battles.
      And the majority of the Indians have got little in terms of social security – no NHS for example – unlike Britons.

      The neo-liberal policies along with corporate globalization – a Western imposition – may take a genocidal form in a country like India amid intensifying resources war, with the powerless being deprived of livelihood or denied basic necessities.

      Even when a Briton and an Indian begin to see a common enemy to fight, it’s difficult not to notice where each of the two stands with reference to the centre of power and privilege.

      2. I mentioned Fanfare only in reference to the need to raise funds for IOPS. Money is an important issue as well as a non-issue, and everything in between, depending on who you are. Indian members haven’t even begun to meet yet. So I won’t suggest they’ve been passive so far because they are unwilling to contribute money.

      3. I am sure too that the ‘knowledge gap’ works in both directions, which is why I used the phrase “measured with the Western yardstick”.
      As I’ve tried to explain elsewhere (http://www.iopsociety.org/blog/human-survival-and-iops), Indian urban middle class, which is all you’d find in IOPS, has largely been a depoliticized lot and quite removed from progressive politics, let alone ‘radical politics’.
      Most educated Indians must have an idea as to what Marxist parties stand for, as the country has a few of them, but I don’t think a lot of people are familiar with European anarchist traditions.
      I for one discovered the European anarchist point of view and history quite recently.

      4. I’d be happy to take part in collaborative tasks.
      I’d mentioned BTW the ‘world knowledge system’ which includes academia, media, research organizations, publishing and other means of knowledge creation, information flow and dissemination -- as are found in a world where a few languages and cultures have a long history of dominance over all others.

      So open educational resources, things like MOOCs (massive open online courses) and building resistance against copyrights give me hope.

      I find it astonishing though that the progressives across the world don’t seem to have made creating media alternatives their first priority despite all the evidence that corporate-run media organizations run propaganda systems for the elite.
      What change is possible in a world where people are constantly being fed falsehood?

      5. I hope to have some IOPS-related work in the days ahead, as I have messaged the members of my local chapter for convening our first meeting.
      I am sure there are others who would be happy to perform the role of international admin.

    • Kuan Phillips 1st Feb 2013

      Hi Kapil. I hope you're good. Thanks for your reply and all the info. Don't worry too much about the admin thing, though. It was just a suggestion. If you do end up communicating with other Indian members then I think it would be good if you think in terms of leading the way with projects. I and I'm sure lots of other members in the west would be happy to follow.

      Yes it's true that if someone from a country like Britain works with someone from your country then the British person's ideas might come across as patronising, as life is relatively easy here in lots of ways. If I or someone else sound this way then let me know. This is the first time I've talked to an Indian about political projects so I don't really know what I'm doing. I've also never been to India, so as I said, I'm happy for you to lead the way.

      With regard to Anarchism, it's not very popular in the mainstream in Britain and I never met an Anarchist until I got involved in radical politics a few years ago. I've picked most of it off Youtube, to be honest.

      I think that radicals are trying to do their own media. We have the Morning Star here - A communist newspaper that is also online (any even on some newsstands here) and lots of others. There's also Russia today and Democracy Now. But you're right that people could do more.

      As I said previously, I wouldn't try to get people to contribute money or worry too much about getting copies of the occupy books (this is just my personal view) as most of Albert's ideas can be easily summarised and his main works are available on the Znet website.

      I'll have a look into MOOCs - which I hadn't heard of - and look forward to your future postings. All the best.

    • kapil bajaj 4th Feb 2013

      Hi Kuan. Thanks for your openness and candour. I appreciate that.

      1. As regards this Britain-India equation, let me say something I've wondered about of late.

      It may be necessary for people in former colonies of Europe, at some stage, to gain a fuller understanding of and come to terms with their colonial past -- which often continues to have an influence over their present, especially because of the existence of forms of neo-colonialism in modern times.

      Won’t a young person in Kenya feel, at some stage in his life, the need to gain a fuller understanding of Britain's motivations and doings in colonial Kenya -- and how those motivations and doings affected the Kenyans in the past and present?
      (In other words, he/she may be interested in the full story.)

      The younger generation belonging to former colonizing states may also feel the need to learn about the past and to be reconciled to it.

      To me that’s inevitable.
      I suspect a lot of horrible things about colonialism are still hidden from our eyes.
      The ‘world knowledge system’ that I talked about – which is both an outcome and an instrument of colonialism and neo-colonialism -- has a lot to do with this lack of public knowledge and understanding.

      I also believe that the UK government still controls a lot of information that can reveal its fuller role in colonialism and neo-colonialism.
      (Read this report, for instance: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/apr/18/britain-destroyed-records-colonial-crimes)

      2. I found some Anarchist ideas very invigorating, particularly self-management, distrust of authority, rejection of nationalism and all states as colonial/repressive, and resistance against imperialism.
      I believe these ideas need to be propagated in India.

      3. MOOCs are part of this larger movement to free education from the confines of academia and copyrights and make it available in the public domain. The resources thus available have been called ‘open educational resources’ (OER). I can’t tell you enough how incredibly good I think this development has been.
      To me Wikipedia, for instance, is nothing less than a revolution.

      4. Four people listed as members of IOPS New Delhi chapter have replied to my call to convene our first meeting. That makes five of us, out of 12 listed. Vandana Shiva, the mot widely known name in IOPS from India, hasn’t responded.
      That’s perhaps an index of what I suspect to be the current state of apathy in India.








    • Kuan Phillips 7th Feb 2013

      Hi Kapil. Thanks for your reply. The situation in Britain with regard to its colonial past is pretty much to ignore it. Considering it was a big part of British history it's not really mentioned much in the media. I've barely spoken to anyone in my life about it either.

      I think its probably a subject that is likely to annoy some people if you talk about it. On one hand about a tenth of the British population (at a total guess) is from, or is descended from people who are from a country that was occupied by Britain in the past. They might be upset by anything positive being said about the british empire. On the other hand there are British nationalists and the whole nationalistic agenda which would be upset by focussing on negative aspects of Britain. So the mainstream, probably for those reasons, stays off the subject.

      I think if Britain had some humility about its past, as Germany does, it would be less of a danger to other countries, like Afganistan and Iran. I think it would be good if people were more aware of British crimes against humanity, past and present.

      Great to hear you're planning to meet up with some other members, by the way.

      I'm also very excited about the possiblities of the internet and democracy - hopefully we can get some interesting things moving in that area. All the best.

    • Alex Lewis 28th Jan 2013

      oops, i should have just posted my comment under here, but i posted at the bottom, in regards to rotating admins.

      cheers

  • Zane Hannan 20th Jan 2013

    Hi all!

    First: yes, I also find it very difficult to keep track of the various postings and discussions. Early last year there was a discussion about implementing a tagging system for this purpose. I don’t know how far that got, though.

    About the blog: great discussion.! Nice to see these issues being brought to the foreground again.

    My comment is quite long, and quite personal, so you can ignore it if you don’t have time. Some may also find it divisive, but please at least try to give me the benefit of the doubt and understand that my motivations are not only to achieve what is best for IOPS, but also to benefit those real suffering human beings whose lives IOPS intends to improve.

    In my comment I want to focus on IOPS gender imbalance, while remaining cognisant of the fact that many of the same dynamics apply to issues of race, culture, etc.

    First, I’d like to state a proviso about terms. We’re throwing around gender terms such as ‘male’, ‘female’, ‘man’, ‘woman’, etc., but the reality is infinitely more complex than this simple binary describes. And many women may have no problem with the way things are. So while we are using general terms as categories, it is important not to literally generalise and so subsume all under one reductive polarising category.

    Back to the blog.

    There was a massive amount of discussion about this in the first few months of IOPS, and they were discussions which included, and were often initiated by, very committed, knowledgeable, and articulate activist women. In those discussions you can concretely see the mechanisms of gender silencing occurring. Well, it would be truer to say that some people could see it, but obviously not everyone!

    Lambert’s descriptions in his last paragraph above are exactly to the point, and accurate. If you (meaning those interested enough in these issues to be following this thread) re-read those discussions, you can plainly see what those women are very clearly and eloquently asking for. They state their needs quite clearly, but they were not made to feel that they were in a safe space, and quite a few left IOPS.

    For purposes of transparency, I must disclose that I also left IOPS largely because of that. I have now re-registered in the hope that safe spaces can be created.

    Further, also in the interests of transparency, I should also say something else. I am extremely nervous about admitting this in a global public forum, where it will exist forever, but while I am an old white (Southern African, if not European) male, I am not heterosexual, but bisexual. As such I partly live in the experience of the periphery, of the marginal, which is why I so strongly identify with these women’s positions. I also know there are many IOPS members who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, or simply queer, and they must see that they too are welcome here.

    I want to provide the links to some of those old articles where gender issues were discussed, but I am nervous about resurrecting what became an extremely heated discussion around the middle of last year.

    The first is a blog on Communication Styles by the Australian sociologist Alison Thompson. I’d like to say something before you read it.

    In this blog, you will clearly see some extremely strong emotions being expressed. Depending on your position in the debate, you may find yourself becoming quite angry. That would be perfectly understandable. I would like to caution you that these discussions occurred many months ago, and we all moved on to other projects, though I have returned to IOPS. I also believe that some members who posted fairly dismissive comments have, after reflection, become more receptive to actually listening to the voices of these women now. An excellent example of this shift is journalist Austin Mackell’s comment which he posted after a 2 week break. So please do not form present judgements about the participants based on a 6 month old blog. People learn and change, so please do not judge them by their past.

    Anyway, I’m delaying because I’m nervous, so I’d better just get on with it. The blog is by Alison Thompson:
    http://www.iopsociety.org/blog/communication-styles

    As you can see, she posted it out of a massive sense of frustration at what had been going on. I am the comrade she refers to at the beginning who left a previous blog, and IOPS, so you can understand how high the emotions were running.

    Another person I’d like to reference is Caragh du Toit. Read all her blogs:
    http://www.iopsociety.org/profile/caragh

    Again, please don’t judge the participants too harshly. I’m posting this to show that the ground being discussed in this blog has been covered before, with the passionate initiation and participation of highly intelligent women themselves. The fact that it is being repeatedly brought up is testament to how important this is. Thanks, Alan!

    I’d like to make one very important additional point. In the discussion of 6 months ago, several of us were expressing our experiences of difficulties within the IOPS environment. We explicitly and repeatedly warned that if the issues we were raising were not urgently addressed, it would be the IOPS project itself that would suffer through losing the participation and membership of many women, and of those who empathise with the stance the women were articulating. At the time it seemed to be a merely abstract claim, probably dismissed at the time as being an over-emotional, even hysterical threat. I think that it is now clear that the warnings we voiced back then were far from empty. While women were a definite minority back then, there was still some participation. It is an empirical fact that the situation is even more dire now. The issues raised back then cannot be ignored again. If they are, I cannot see how IOPS can survive.

    Potential and existent IOPS members who identified with the positions expressed by Alison and Caragh perceived a lack of solidarity, sensitivity, and awareness being shown by many commentators. This uncomprehending response to the women’s expression of their concerns automatically triggered a sense of injustice in the witness. Such a reaction is not desirable for an organisation intending to fight against injustice.

    As with many issues of difference and diversity, I have come to realise that no matter what arguments are made, no matter how clearly one articulates the position, and how solidly one supports it with evidence, there are many who follow the arguments but still disagree. There are also others who will simply not ‘get it’. I suspect that for many this isn’t so much a matter of personal failure, than of a simple lack of experience of genuine and profound difference and diversity. I am coming to the conclusion that, beyond a certain point, it is not useful to attempt to argue with such people. There is so much information out there in the world about these issues anyway that an online debate is not going to achieve anything more than to increase frustration, waste everyone’s time, and distract from doing useful work.

    Forgive me if I appear combative and confrontational here.

    I will say that I do completely understand that these issues may genuinely not be important for many people, but I know as an empirical fact that they are important for many others. So I would prefer to engage with those for whom they are important, for the benefit of those for whom they are important. For those who do not believe they are important, I will now simply take the ‘we’ll agree to disagree’ approach, and respect diversity of opinion. Which is, as I see it, partly what self-management is about.

    So what to do? All of the above. And more.

    IOPS is about self-management, so there is no need for us to attempt to persuade others, whether on the ICC or not, that these issues are important and worthwhile. We are not trying to change foundational elements for the entire organisation.

    Offer a suggestion, see who else is interested, link up in a virtual chapter, affinity group, project, private chat over Skype, e-mail, on Z-Social, even Facebook. (Yes, I know it’s the essence of the Capitalist Satan itself, but it’s still incredibly useful until other networks displace it.) Try anything.

    Above all, I’d like to reiterate Lambert’s point about creating a safe space and a family environment of real solidarity and support. From reading the blogs I’ve referenced, and much of the discussion still ongoing, such as this blog, I think it is clear that no matter what political projects we come up with, such efforts may not realise their potential unless we improve the personal and interpersonal dimensions of IOPS.

    Politics is not only about policies. It is, first, about people.

    If we want more diverse, participating members, we as people should be more welcoming of diverse participation.

  • Zane Hannan 26th Jan 2013

    A quick post about language. This discussion reminded me of the fascinating talk a couple of years ago given by the cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky, titled How Language Shapes Thought:
    http://fora.tv/2010/10/26/Lera_Boroditsky_How_Language_Shapes_Thought

    It's a brilliant talk, and an extremely useful, evidence-based perspective on the issues being discussed in this post. Enjoy!

  • Alex Lewis 28th Jan 2013

    this blog makes me think of a few things. but i thought i'd take up one thing for a moment. i know blogs have a tendency to slip away as a communication form but there are next steps to the proposal, if of interest.

    i like the idea of rotating admins on a world level, as well gender. if everyone that signed up for IOPS was actively participating and we have no serious requirements to be an admin, then we might even use a random selection of all that balances regional membership and gender gap… like, if there are 2 males for every one female, then chances for a female choice must be doubled to be equal. ok, that doesn't account for other gender difference or sexuality any more than regional choices substantially encompass cultural difference, but it opens some possibilities.

    as it is, we don't have full member participation, so it does no good to select individuals that will not respond. so, i instead start with the question of what an international admin's responsibilities are. Ilya is anomalous in that as a developer.

    choosing the featured article is one current responsibility. there are other ways we could ultimately use to promote articles and page content, but in general it is the admin responsibility on any local level to maintain the page of the location, based on local member input. so it makes sense the same is true internationally. so it could be interpreted that a new admin could change multiple aspects of the presentation on the home page, based on member input.

    it also makes sense that if there has been existing activity and reasons things are displayed as they are that should be respected. that is, i set up Seattle's page and would not appreciate it being completely changed without at least some conference. but again, it should reflect the desires of the community it affects.

    there are a number of ways to go about selecting rotating admins. and those admins could have a term like a few weeks. there could be a set number based on membership like 5 admins, and each could be selected in a different way, with possibilities for extended stay. it could start one way as a test and change next time.

    the selected group could have a responsibility to make a monthly report about decisions, reflections and ideas. the coming polling feature could be used to ask for feedback and to help keep the homepage more dynamic and democratic.

    thoughts?

    • Lambert Meertens 28th Jan 2013

      There is also the Wikipedia way, where normally anyone can edit any page on the Wikipedia website and registered users can create new pages and edit "semi-protected" pages. Admins can delete pages, but will normally only do so after a discussion has established "consensus" for deletion. They can also edit fully protected pages – usually high-profile articles on politically sensitive topics, and usually in response to a request for a specific improvement. They can further block editors who are out of hand, a capability local admins on our site don't currently have. Wikipedia has no local admins, but the English-language Wikipedia has some 1000 global admins, of which about 700 are regularly active. So both regular members of the Wikipedia community and Wikipedia admins have more power than their IOPS counterparts currently have. Equivalent powers, such as for creating content, are more distributed and more bottom-up on Wikipedia.

    • Kuan Phillips 1st Feb 2013

      That's really interesting, Lambert. I'm a bit obsessed with wikipedia myself. Sounds like you know quite a lot about it. I think that we should be using innovative ideas like this in IOPS. I agree with you that the lack of decision-making is a problem right now.

    • Kuan Phillips 1st Feb 2013

      Hey Alex. Those ideas are great, in my view. I'm happy to support them. Maybe I'd have 2 world admins at any one time. At least one from a poor country, at least one non male, at least one not of european race? Rotating every 2 months. I'd have a forum thread in which they have to report any decision they make and any member can suggest/complain to them etc. We could start putting a proposal together about this, thrash out some details? Great contribution mate.

    • Alex Lewis 6th Feb 2013

      hi Kuan and lambert

      sorry i haven't replied to this yet. i took a few notes, have been caught up in other bits and pieces, but was wondering, if pursuing the idea, maybe it should move to a forum topic which stays relevant per use, and moves outside of the box of a blog that fleets.

      hmm, sidenote. maybe that's a distinction i see possible. blogs are more for broad dialogue, but specific ideas that generate move to forum topics to formulate tangibility. and if there seems to be a valid idea with support, a project or other means can be used carry out.

      thanks for your drive to get creative with democracy, kuan. what do you think? move from this blog?

    • Kuan Phillips 7th Feb 2013

      I think that's an excellent idea Alex. I think the forums are a better place to continue this discussion. If you can start off a thread I'll be happy to join in. If you'd rather it if I started one then let me know. All the best.

  • Zane Hannan 1st Feb 2013

    I’d like to alert you to a series of interactions in a comment thread which enacts the issues discussed here. The comments by Jody Macintosh are near the bottom. They are full of passionately intelligent and principled eloquence:
    http://www.iopsociety.org/events/uk-national-gathering