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Perfect As Enemy of the Good?

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Over at ZSocial, which everyone should join, there is a “commons” area for discussions on a wide range of topics, one of which is ecology and climate change. There, Michael Albert asks a provocative (he himself labels it a “heretical”) question:  “Is it possible to curb emissions and otherwise deal with climate and other oncoming dangers BEFORE we succeed in transforming society as a whole?” I am bringing it up here because the ZSocial discussion ended before I could throw in my two-cents worth.

This question contains a lot of important elements, IMO, and deserves some attention by all who consider themselves change agents and/or revolutionaries. For me this is not just an intellectual exercise as it applies specifically to strategy and tactics going forward. Theory helps guide practice, right? So after this initial prod, Albert then goes on to also ask: “How do people see disaster being averted?”  (given that our revolution is a ways off) and supplies his own possible, though he admits remote, scenario of “sane science and economic advisors telling Obama  “that this climate thing is Real and since it is his job to “defend elite interests” we might imagine him battling the Energy Giants and putting together the equivalent of “fifty Manhattan Projects” to tackle the threat head on, as the US did in WWII( his example). Basically, Michael thinks the reasonable thing to do would be to support this effort and is challenging those who use the dire imperative “as an argument for ignoring reform”.

There are lots of moving parts here, beginning with the possibility these irrational arguers are straw men ( does anyone really want to sacrifice the planet on principle?).  Then we really have to look at the term “deal with climate”, which Michael later delineates into “stemming the tide of global warming” and “curb the worst outcomes”. This is a bit subjective but we might assume that bringing the atmospheric CO2 concentration down to 350 ppm is a good start and that some “Manhattan Project” could accomplish this, such as massive scale techno-fixes while ending the use of all fossil fuels .

To answer the first question then, I am pessimistic and agree with the Club of Rome that even rational elites will not find consensus around long term versus short term gains in time. In other words, the world system will not be flexible enough to avert disaster and that, in fact, disaster is already upon us. But to follow through with Michaels “what if” scenario, the question in my mind becomes: should capitalism  prove itself to be nimble and dynamic enough to overcome any and all contradictions by rejecting not just neo-liberalism but liberalism itself ( Ricardo through von Hayeck through Friedman), does that eliminate all opportunity to advance the project of a Participatory Society? And does that matter as long as climate change is reversed and disaster averted? Could we be satisfied with a new New Deal or a social democratic “mixed economy” if CO2 concentrations were brought down?

We are also assuming, for the sake of argument, that capitalism also overcomes all the other “oncoming dangers” Michael mentions, a short list of which might include depleted fresh water supplies, collapsing fisheries, species extinction, nuclear weapons, famine, I know, I know, that’s probably enough for now. Anyway, while it’s pretty clear to me this hypothetical “overcoming” is never going to happen for a number of reasons, I think it is valuable to think of the ways the left could both support positive reform and advance the vision of a more Participatory Society. One major point advancing the cause of systemic change is that the quantity of issues does affect the quality of the response. Most people are radicalized in part through their comprehension of the sheer magnitude of the challenges we face and the realization that piecemeal reform is no longer a rational option. So we highlight the links between issues.

Which brings us to the hypothetical What Is To Be Done? Since long before Rosa Luxembourg wrote her essay Reform or Revolution, this question has bedeviled those trying to effect system wide change, so we know there is no simple, clear solution, and perhaps there is not even one correct answer. Still, we might start with this concept of “elite interests” and ask: are these interests themselves necessarily rational or might ideology trump material motives? What of competition between spheres of the power elite? Any US political leader calling for massive government intervention in the economy (carbon price or tax, social investment in alternatives, etc.) would in effect be supporting the conclusion of the Stern Report that “climate change is the greatest market failure the world has seen.” This is an ideological precipice that elite right-wing libertarians and market fundamentalists, along with the public at large, would resist going off. We have only to witness the failure of the UN Climate treaty process, commentary in the mass media or “debates” in the US Congress around climate to get some idea of the push-back.   

In her Nov 28 2012 article in The Nation, author Naomi Klein talked about the “revolutionary meaning of climate change”, in that “the real solutions to the climate crisis are also our best hope for building a much more enlightened economic system.” For this to be realized, the Obamas of the world cannot be allowed to save capitalism from itself once again, and walk away with the basic structure and market ideology still in place. I agree with Fredrick Jameson when he writes: “the fundamental level on which political struggle is waged is that of the legitimacy of concepts like planning or the market –at least right now and in our current situation.” He goes on to say, “ ‘The market is in human nature’ is the proposition which cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged: in my opinion, it is the most crucial terrain of ideological struggle of our time.” This struggle does not have to take place “before” or after “we succeed in transforming society” (as implied in Michael’s question) but can take place concurrently.

In other words, if Obama wants my support he will have to admit energy markets have failed and that any tax or regulation or artificial carbon price is in fact planning. Otherwise, a crisis will have been averted at the expense of any possibility for deeper transformation. This is precisely what happened with the global economic meltdown of 08 where the left helped save capitalism, both proving its weakness and incoherence and ending up with the shaft.

Discussion 25 Comments

  • Eric Wind 27th Aug 2013

    There should be no reason -- outside of being a strict, utopian ideologue -- that revolutionaries can't support measures that will help society before "the revolution" comes. I'm not entirely sure why there is such faith in a revolution; perhaps it comes from a fear that reforms will put off the "need" for a revolution, but that's ridiculous. Just because many industrial countries have good safety nets doesn't mean that they should or are stopping progress. There always needs to be a push to revolutionize society, but it should never be done at the expense of the people. You don't win people over by telling them "starve or join us."

    I think in America, in particular, we need to revisit the Black Panthers' survival programs for the poor. United fronts and solidarity groups should set up programs to feed people, house people, get essential free medical care, legal aid, financial assistance, education assistance on and on. And then work at the local level of integrating these programs into local and state government bodies.

  • Eric Wind 27th Aug 2013

    I wish I could edit my comment. I realize that this is specifically targeting climate change, but the same question has be asked of most other programs and reforms.

  • Lambert Meertens 27th Aug 2013

    Considering how things have been going thus far, I think that revolution may actually be the only way to force the change that is needed to avert disaster. But I fear that in the end it will only come by the time it is apparent – not from climate science but from actual climate change visible to everyone – that we're headed for disaster, and thus be too late to prevent the collapse of civilization.

    • kapil bajaj 1st Sep 2013

      Hi everyone,

      I find it interesting how Dave and other discussants in this thread perceive the 'disaster' on time-scale.

      While Dave believes that the 'disaster is already upon us', Lambert talks of us being 'headed for disaster' and the change needed to 'avert disaster'.

      Some questions that arise from the varying perceptions of 'disaster' are:

      Has the 'disaster' started to happen?
      Has the 'disaster' just struck?
      Has the 'disaster' been taking place for a long time?
      Will it occur sometime in the near or not-so-near future?

      The varying perceptions betray - in my opinion - the inability of not just IOPS to comprehend the nature, timing and magnitude of the 'disaster', but that of the entire 'civilization'.

      (I recall Bush junior saying something like 'it's beyond our comprehension' when the Asian Tsunami struck in 2004. And the way the Bush Jr.'s administration handled Hurricane Katrina fills even a 'third-worlder' like me with horror.)

      It's easy to interpret Lambert's comment to mean that the 'civilization' has already rendered itself paralyzed in the face of this 'disaster'.

      (Which would suggest that the 'collapse of civilization' precedes the 'disaster', won't it?)

      So I don't think there are many people (among those few who concern themselves with the question) who have confidence in the capacity of the 'civilization' to adequately comprehend, let alone attempt a collective response to, the kind of 'disaster' we are discussing.

      At the same time, billions of people across the world experience their share of both the 'collapse of civilization' and 'disasters' of various kinds.

      I suspect that those who've experienced the former are not too concerned about the latter. We are, after all, ludicrously mortal creatures.

    • Lambert Meertens 1st Sep 2013

      I can imagine that people to whom everyday survival is a continuous struggle don't experience climate change as an urgent threat. But I think that also for them things can get much and much worse than they are now. And if not for them, then for their children and grandchildren.

      We are fighting for a world in which everyone can lead a good existence, but that requires that something of a world is still left.

      There may be a tipping point such that, once a certain concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has been reached, the progress of global climate change can't be stopped anymore, even if greenhouse gas emission is reduced to zero overnight. Then climate change has become irreversible. Based on what we know it is very likely that such a tipping point exists, but climate science is insufficiently advanced to reach a consensus on a plausible value. Since nothing visibly dramatic happens at that point, it is even conceivable that we are already beyond it, but I think only very few scientists actually believe that. But I wouldn't like to bet on the theory that there is no tipping point and that any climate change remains reversible in a reasonable amount of time.

    • Dave Jones 3rd Sep 2013

      Lots to chew on, gentlemen. The language of "crisis" and "tipping points" itself seems inadequate, yet we persist in trying to gain some clarity. I personally sense a new underlying tension ( zeitgeist?) in the culture due to this vast uncertainty Kapil expresses.Whether it translates into opportunity for change or nihilistic resignation might depend on us.

  • Howard Goldson 30th Aug 2013

    I think we are biting off more than we can chew. I would like to simplify the disc ussion (without in any way belittling its importance). From our perspective I think we must concentrate on the issue of voice. If we could raise the issue of people being able to participate as peers in the matters that affect them then we will have started the ball rolling towards a more people centered world and will at the same time diminished the power of elites. Given all the attention to Dr. Kings famous speech this week I thought we might adopt a slogan, "I want to be heard". One of you talented people could design a logo and we could wear T shits, buttons, bumper stickers etc. to further our point of view. Does anyone want to salute this flag? Howard Goldson

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 31st Aug 2013

    Thanks for drawing attention to this Dave. Here again, I find this recurring strange cogitive dissonance between IOPS' anti-authoritarian, libertarian vision/values and concrete suggestions by Michael Albert and others for outright social democratic strategy and practice that differs not at all from the narrative of Democrats, Labour, Greens etc.

    Maybe this is just my problem, but I'm getting the increasing feeling that IOPS isn't what I'd hoped it would be based on its declared libertarian visions and values.

  • LedSuit ' 1st Sep 2013

    I think the idea is not isolated from a time span. The idea of some sort of "radical" reform is connected the dire warning that something needs to done within the next 20-30 years or we are screwed. A time span that makes systemic transformation seem unlikely. Here's the whole "heretical" idea that Michael wrote at ZSocial,

    "Okay, here is a heretical idea - on the left.

    Could it be that the disaster scenarios are over stated - DDT once upon a time, was pinpoitned as killing us all, then nukes, polyvinal chloride, or whatever it was, and so on? Sometimes the left does identify dangers, with real nasty effects, but also overstates? And so could it be that there are, or will be technical solutions?

    If the dangers are not overstated, and if there are no technical solutions within existing social relations - it is an excellent argument for transforming underlying social relations - of course - but, given how far we are from achieving that, it is also a very sad basket of news. So my hope is that it is possible to curb emissions and otherwise deal with climate and other oncoming dangers, BEFORE we succeed in transforming society as a whole...otherwise, again, if the dire consequences are in fact real, the horrors are going to be huge.

    So, let's entertain that possibility. It is possible, albeit very difficult, to envision scenarios that would curb the worst outcomes greatly - even occuring within capitalist constraints. Okay - what is such a scenario? I know one could say everyone starts behaving differently, etc. etc. But that is virtually the same as saying, change the whole society. So, what is a scenario that involves pressure from realistic movements, yet succeeds in stemming the tide of global warming. Ideas?

    This is a question, again, if the scenarios are broadly accurate, of whether your kids or grandkids have a livable world - and it has to succeed, so the left experts tell me, in the next ten or twenty years to ward off incredible calamities."

  • Dave Jones 1st Sep 2013

    Eric, I agree the social programs of the Panthers are a good model, as long as the soup comes with a radical critique.
    Lambert: Don't we still have to try?
    Howard: This is from The Nobodies by Eduardo Galeano: "Fleas dream of buying themselves a dog: and nobodies dream of escaping poverty..." Or I could add, having a "voice". I don't see T-shirts doing much to turn the dream into reality. I prefer to start with the knowledge that the concept of a "national conversation" where everyone has a say is a farce and go from there.

    I am speaking at a rally next Sunday to try to stop coal export from Montana. Just like our action last year, the civil disobedience doesn't stand a chance in hell of actually stopping the trains. BUT I will mention market ideology and its opposite, participatory planning and who knows who might be listening and already wondering. So its a case of walking and chewing gum at the same time, attending a reformist rally ( Alberts "realistic movement") and planting the seeds for deeper change. The "success" will be hard to measure, but if some links can be made...?

    • Lambert Meertens 1st Sep 2013

      — Don't we still have to try?

      Imagine that a benevolent dictator would save humanity and make everyone happy, shouldn't we then collectively embrace such dictatorship? The counterfactual assumption of this question is inherently idiotic and any proposed answer that takes the assumption seriously is going to be meaningless.

      Tell me what the concrete "reformist" proposals are and I might have a reasoned response as to whether we should support them as being a step in the right direction, or reject them as a manoeuvre to take the wind out of the sails of the protesters. But I cannot answer the abstract question whether we should support obviously inadequate steps under the assumption that they are adequate measures.

      Civil disobedience can stop the train if enough people support it. I think our main task now is to convince people of the necessity and urgency of us acting together, which I believe involves explaining why waiting for politicians to take appropriate action is a bad strategy.

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 1st Sep 2013

    Gotta get a bit of my chest. Dave, you quote Michael Albert as follows: “How do people see disaster being averted?” (given that our revolution is a ways off) and supplies his own possible, though he admits remote, scenario of “sane science and economic advisors telling Obama “that this climate thing is Real and since it is his job to “defend elite interests” we might imagine him battling the Energy Giants and putting together the equivalent of “fifty Manhattan Projects” to tackle the threat head on, as the US did in WWII( his example). Basically, Michael thinks the reasonable thing to do would be to support this effort and is challenging those who use the dire imperative “as an argument for ignoring reform”.

    I interpret all this as the following rough narrative line:

    1. Forget any participatory visions, we need to survive first
    2. Survival means being 'realistic'
    3. Being 'realistic' means supporting 'sane science and economic advisors'('coordinator class') who politely point out to the US president that climate change is 'real' (apparently Obama doesn't believe this?) and that it is in the general interest of the ruling elites to disempower or expropriate (?) the fossil fuel wing of their own class so that the world can go on being profitably exploited for a while yet by the other factions of Capital
    4. The Pres should thus be 'pressured' into some form of Green New Deal, some green Manhattan Project to save the world via green technical fixes.

    As Lambert intimates, why stop there? A 'realism and survival' narrative is always close to the notion of authoritarian 'solutions': well, it's tough and unpalatable, but unfortunately that's what's needed to survive, cf Hobbes' Leviathan. (Which again is a bit like Michael's strange framing of authoritarian Leninists: we're really anti-authoritarian at heart but unfortunately we have to be a bit authoritarian for your own good, people...).

    The assumption all the while is that (a) technical fixes can save us (why not some geoengineering and synthetic biology, all also advised by eminently 'sane science and economic advisors'?), and (b) the President/executive/state should be the focus of libertarian politics...

    Maybe the Pres could also be 'sanely advised' and 'pressured' into taking on another threat to human survival: the military-industrial-prison-entertainment complex and financial capital, i.e. the very class he works for. Go for it, libertarians. Be realistic, demand the absurd.

  • LedSuit ' 2nd Sep 2013

    So what does one do?

    Get out in the streets and yell and scream?

    Is what Gar Alporevitz doing "important work" as Chomsky says. Is he heading in the right direction? Doing shit now, "on the ground"? Does it address climate change in the right way if at all? Does one try to tell Gar that Balanced Job Complexes could be a good idea to introduce into the coops he is directly involved in ? Would that be a silly idea? Would it help avert climate change disaster?

    Does one go out and do a workshop on Parecon, Inclusive Democracy, A Simpler Way, Municipal Libertarianism, Social Ecology? Can we mix them all up like westerners do to eastern mystical traditions and come up with the prefect answer? Do we ignore all visions and hope for the best that "from each to each" will just materialize? Does one stick to one's guns and promote one vision over the rest as the most preferable and then hold ground until one dies against all criticism?

    Has anyone actually tried to explain Parecon to an average everyday concerned citizen and seen the look one gets afterwards?That is if you can get past the values and into the institutional structures. Let alone Inclusive Democracy or A Simpler Way.

    Do we occupy the BBC?

    Do we go off and interview the new boss of Venezuela and talk about communal councils, IOPS and Parecon?

    What about Marx? Will he help? Tap fingers and wait for history to unfold? David Harvey's Rebel Cities?

    All of the above?

    Do we load up on reforms with radical narratives attached suggesting that we don't go ahead with them unless everyone is on board with the radical narrative? Radical narrative baseball bats?

    Do we go to weekly, fortnightly, monthly IOPS chapter meetings of rag tag bunches of people, some newbies, people who may not even know each other and discuss Occupy Theory, Vision, and Strategy? Spend time formalising the group with constitutions? Principles of association? Will that avert disaster?

    Should we Occupy everything and anything?

    So if technical fixes can't save us do we all just try to cut back. Go the Simpler Way as Ted Trainer thinks we should? Eco villages? Transition Towns? Sharehoods? Will these things save us form impending doom? Could we do it quickly enough? Could we get the numbers? China, India? If not, why would anyone join up? May as well go down with the ship with a bottle of whiskey in hand listening to The Drones Shark Fin Blues?

    Is there enough time for anything at all?

    Do I read more?

    Do I get involved on blogs and forums here or do I get involved in some small voluntary gardening group that goes out helping people do, well, gardening? Do I buy Chickens? Do I go organic or permaculture?

    Do I tell my wife she had better join and support me in my activist endeavours to save the world or she's back on the shelf?

    Do I leave my job to devote as much time to anything and everything that anyone comes up with or do I show some discretion and choose carefully? How do I do that? How do I know?

    What about GOD, eh? Pray? Meditate so I can die calmly?

    What to do? What to do? What to do? How to know? So little time? Perhaps, maybe, possibly, who knows? Choose. Choose that? Choose this? That approach? This approach?

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Billy Joe, disguised as a door got his knob shot off!!

  • LedSuit ' 2nd Sep 2013

    For those interested in going down with the ship.

    "Keep your eye on the horizon man you best not blink.
    They're comin' fin by fin until the whole boat sinks."


  • Lambert Meertens 2nd Sep 2013

    Don't put Descartes before the horse: I sink, therefore I am.

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 2nd Sep 2013

    Nice one Lambert. And nice Drones tune, James. Here's one I like in similar vein by Tom Waits:


    Down with door knobs. Down with doors. Windows. Walls. Screens. Free horizons with circling sharks for all. (Add to Vision statement as a revolutionary reform demand).

  • LedSuit ' 3rd Sep 2013

    Yes,nice one Lambert. So the s's are silent like the last L in Maxwell!

    I always thought that Descartes did do that himself. Postpre-erous.

    Perhaps it should have been I think,therefore I,m sunk.

  • Dave Jones 3rd Sep 2013

    I knew I could count on my EARTH project comrades to liven this thread up!
    Peter: I feel your pain, as old Clinton would say, but remember, thought experiments are just that. Meant to stir the juices get something flowing, so in that sense, Michael's pitch has done the work.
    James: yes, yes, yes, no yes maybe, yes, perhaps, I haven't a clue, yes yes. I say we have a friggin convention and hash it all out on the floor, waving fists and shouting above one another! But seriously, I do think radical critique changes the quality, or perhaps we could say the form, of reform. The content is not as important as the rupture that can occur when you casually mention,say, market ideology, or imperialism, or exchange vs use value AT THE SAME TIME you ask someone to sign a useless petition. IMO.

  • LedSuit ' 4th Sep 2013


    Agree with you. I think radical critique should be attached to any reform, or thought of reform.

    The subject of my past blog, Joe Toscano, anarchist agitator, radio host and activist of 40 or so years promotes many things that could be seen, or perhaps are, reformist. The Wednesday Action Group, which is promoted by the Victorian chapter of IOPS, is a place where, predominantly older folk, and now some younger folk, not huge numbers, every week "occupy" public space. Usually outside some city landmark where they defy the protestations of security guards and the local coppers. They do it to make a statement about, well, "public" space for one thing and also to get passers by to sign petitions relating to getting a royal commission into corruption in Victoria going, a peoples bank up and running, spruiking the idea of a 1% stockmarket turnover tax on any transaction on or above 10,000 bucks (I think it's 10,000). All pretty reformist type things I reckon. Toscano is a radical and realises the need for radical change and for mass movements to make that change but meanwhile.... He is also running on a senate ticket with Beth Mathews. Not to get elected, that would be absurd, both the idea of it and if it actually happened. He runs to raise awareness of radical issues even if only a few people get the message. He does not concern himself with numbers or recruiting. He just does shit. Whatever he thinks may have some effect. Here's his eight point plan for running in next weeks federal election here.


    The Eight Pointed Star Movement takes its inspiration from the Eureka rebels.

    The Eureka rebels used the eight pointed star on their flag – the Eureka Flag.

     Human beings are born with inalienable rights and liberties no
    Government can legislate away or corporation take away. Ultimate
    political authority rests in the hands of the people, not the State, the Government of the day or the Corporate sector.

     Citizens should have the ability to initiate legislation through citizen initiated referendums and have the power to recall their political representatives in between elections.

     All human beings have the same rights irrespective of race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, age or role in society.

     Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders never ceded sovereignty. The 1992 Mabo High Court decision that recognised they had legal rights to land and sea has been drowned by bucket loads of Parliamentary extinguishment. A treaty is the only way to ensure reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians becomes a reality.

     Climate change is real and due to human activity. We need to make significant economic, social, cultural and political changes to deal with the greatest challenge faced by human beings in the 21st century.

     The domination of the world economy by corporate capitalism, an
    economic system based on the creation of ever increasing profits
    irrespective of the human, social and environmental costs, needs to be met head on by the creation of an economic system based on cooperatives and collectives that satisfies real, not manufactured, human needs.

     The Australian states need to be replaced by a Federation of 50
    Regional Councils based on direct democratic principles who use the common wealth for the common good, not private profit.

     The tax base needs to be widened by the introduction of a 1% stockmarket turnover tax and a wealth tax to ensure adequate resources are available to fund public health, public education and essential public services and public infrastructure.

    "We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties" – Eureka Oath 29th November 1854. Sentiments that are as relevant in 2013 as they were in 1854.

    Dr. Joseph Toscano and Ms. Beth Matthews are standing as Independent Senate candidates for Victoria at the Federal Election on the 7th September 2013.

    We are participating in the Federal Election on the 7th September, not because we think or seek to be elected to parliament, but because we believe elections provide an opportunity to raise issues that go beyond the two minutes of illusory power that
    occurs every time we vote and give a Parliamentary representative a signed blank cheque to make decisions for us for the next three years.

    Dr. Joseph Toscano & Ms. Beth Matthews
    Joint Convenors Eight Pointed Star Movement

    Unfortunately I cannot do pictures here so will describe that at the top of the page there is a picture of the Eureka flag. Above and along the top are the words, direct democracy, down the left, direct action, down the right, solidarity, and along the bottom, internationalism.

    He has been hosting an anarchist radio show on community radio since 1979. Still going and he is Joel's (a member of IOPS Victoria) hero.

    I think that any reform needs to be underwritten (if that's the right phrase) by a radical narrative however whenever I hear debates on these matters it always reminds me of the great English free improvising guitarist Derek Bailey, remembering how once, before a concert, a number of musicians entered into a debate about the difference between composing and improvising and how things went back and forth for a length of time with no definitive answer being reach. After which they disbanded, coming back together later to play music and as Derek said, improvising of course!!

    John Stevens, another Pom drummer once told the story of when he first started playing and learnt of an army guy in his street who played the trumpet. I think he was quite young at the time but organised a get together, or the trumpet player popped over because he heard him playing or something. They talked and John decide they should play. The army guy had no music with him. John said it wasn't needed, we'll just play anything. The army guy said, "I can't do that". John said "yes you can. You play that", pointing at the trumpet, "and I'll play these", pointing at the drums. That was all that was necessary and informed his musical career for the rest of his life.

    Not sure of the relevance of all that but here is some more music.



    Oh, and Peter, the other thing Tom Waits has in common with Gareth Liddiard (singer of The Drones) is that you can't understand a word they are saying!! :)

  • Kristi Doyne-Bailey 4th Sep 2013

    james, i get it...the arts all have a form of improv...music, dance, visual, performance... so that’s what we’re doing...creating an equitable system thru improv (:

  • LedSuit ' 4th Sep 2013

    Yeah Kristi, I think you are right. I mean basically we are all fumbling in the dark with a few people here and there yelling, "hey, come over here and take a look at this". And while we're looking at it all, studying it, trying to know it, believe it, analyse it, time just keeps passing. We are and in the improvisation. Real time. A process. The composition is unfolding and it's considerably longer than Wagner's Ring Cycle!

    I once played a free improvisation of Derek Bailey and drummer Tony Oxley playing together to a rather young student, 12ish or something. I stopped it at a point and asked him what he thought. he said it sounded like people stumbling round in the dark bumping into things. I restarted the tape, we listened for a bit longer and the thing morphed into something else. I stopped it and asked again what he thought. He said it sounded like someone had turned the lights on. I pissed myself laughing. Best description I had heard and only 12 or thereabouts.

  • Lambert Meertens 4th Sep 2013

    From our Structure and program document:

    The organization’s broad action agenda or program, while of course regularly updated and adapted, nonetheless always:
    * ...
    * seeks changes in society both for citizens to enjoy immediately, and also to establish by the terms of its victories and by the means used in its organizing, a likelihood that citizens will pursue and win more change in the future.
    * ...
    * seeks short term changes by its own actions and programs and by support of larger movements and projects as its affected members decide, both internationally, by country and also locally, including addressing global warming, arms control, war and peace, the level and composition of economic output, agricultural relations, education, health care, income distribution, duration of work, gender roles, racial relations, media, law, legislation, etc., as its members choose.

    I read this as saying that IOPS is not against social changes just because they fall short of being revolutionary, but that we may actually seek such changes. I myself am in favour of many proposals that are in no way revolutionary by themselves (for example, the introduction of a basic income). It only becomes a defeating strategy if we start to believe that such changes can solve the essential major world problems and that we therefore do not need a fundamental social change.

  • Kristi Doyne-Bailey 5th Sep 2013

    never underestimate those savvy teens...!
    if we draw parallels between the improv arts...and seeking fundamental social change...then maybe theres this...you can’t really improv without having a good working knowledge of the instrument, medium, craft, right ? otherwise, you might not get that morph from unstructured improv into something amazing... so, can there be fundamental social change if people don’t have, at least, a working knowledge of that vision...?

  • Howard Goldson 23rd Sep 2013

    what could be a more fundamental change than the demand to have a voice in the decision making process. I also support many causes that fall way below the ultimate goals of our organization. I am pleased to read important comments concerning concrete proposals for specific change. However, I view our organization as on-line OCCUPY. No leaders. no specific agenda because that is not what we are about. The world has to change in a "human value" way. What will that change look like is not now determinable, but the method for such change certainly contains the issue of voice as a major element and it is that issue which we must constantly insist upon in whatever manner(s) seem bet at the time and circumstances.