THE JOURNEY TO A SUSTAINABLE AND JUST WORLD:
A PROPOSAL FOR MEDIA PRODUCTIONS, A COURSE SERIES, AND AN INTERNATIONAL NETWORK
(DRAFT VERSION 2017.02.18)
Provisional program name: The Journey to a Sustainable and Just World. Short form: The Journey.
Objective: Build toward the critical mass of agreement and involvement of the public that is needed to dismantle capitalism, effectuate universal land reform, and establish a sustainable and just society.
Basic idea: Develop and promote a course series, customized and targeted to diverse groups in the affluent countries, aimed at convincing those not already convinced, and forging a practical overlap of affections, worldviews, agendas, and practices that can be effectively acted on to achieve transition to a sustainable and just world.
The course series will aim not only to impart information, but to change people’s dispositions and relationships, and provide alternative social space that nurtures such journeys, so that people become inclined to build relationships with oppressed communities, seek out relevant information, and act to bring about a new society.
Struggles of indigenous and peasant communities will be informational content of paramount importance in the courses, among other topics related to the environmental and social crises that confront us.
Media productions will supplement and promote the courses, while an international network of students, mentors, and graduates will seek to foster movement building, relationships of solidarity, and action.
Exponential growth toward reaching a critical mass of public agreement and involvement will be pursued through an “evangelistic” movement dynamic, as members of the international network work strategically to attract all people they know – applying diverse approaches adapted to different kinds of people – into a personal and collective journey leading to radical personal, social, and economic change.
Basic Strategic Perspectives:
In view of grave intertwined crises of social injustice, environmental destruction, and resource limits that are facing the world today, there is no realistic hope for achieving decent prospects for human and nonhuman flourishing unless exponentially growing movements converge upon a sufficiently radical agenda for needed systemic change, and achieve a critical mass of public support in favor of, and capable of implementing, said agenda. Given the destruction that is in progress and accelerating, we must aim to achieve these changes within the next 15 to 30 years. The endeavors envisioned in this proposal are aimed at facilitating such exponential growth and convergence, by promoting reflection and dialogue, among ever increasing numbers of people, concerning the true gravity of our predicaments, the changes without which we cannot realistically hope to achieve satisfying outcomes, and the steps we must take to achieve these changes.
To achieve the needed changes on such a short time frame, it is crucial that effective alliances be formed between the growing number of people in the affluent countries, who, while being generations removed from sustainable land-based ways are becoming aware that such ways must be recovered, and the roughly half of the world’s population who are not so distantly removed from such ways. Members of this latter category are either fighting to hang on to their land and land-based ways or have recently (within a generation or two) been pushed off their lands. They still remember, and, in spite of colonizers’ efforts to crush and erase and repress their deepest aspirations, deep in their hearts they still treasure, and long to defend or recover, the relatively sustainable ways of their indigenous and peasant societies. Current movements of solidarity in the affluent countries with resistance movements led by indigenous and peasant communities throughout the world must be greatly expanded and scaled up. This is the key to making the “impossible” possible. Right now both of the above groups – those in the West who are aware, and the roughly half of the world’s population who have lost or are fighting to keep their lands and ways, may feel outnumbered and marginalized. They may feel that defeating the hegemony of capitalism is a hopeless task. But a combined force of the two, united around a common agenda, would be a force of massive proportions, and might tip the scales. More and more oppressed peasants might be emboldened to reject the false aspirations imposed by colonizers and give full expression to their deepest and truest aspirations, and join the movements of resistance. More and more people in the West may consider, for the first time in their lives, a radical agenda of redistributive land reform, rebuilding the countrysides, thinning out the hyper-urban settlements, and managing resources collectively for the common good, because significant people in their lives are mobilized behind this agenda and lending credence to it. Out of this there could arise a critical mass of concerted action leading to more and more victories, instead of defeats, for the forces of equality, cooperation, equitable land access, and sustainable land-based ways.
Snapshot 1: Imagine that on any given day of the week, thousands of groups are meeting in homes, offices, universities, schools, places of worship, etc. throughout the affluent countries. Each group is studying specific indigenous and peasant struggles, using resources provided by La Vía Campesina, Global Justice Ecology Project, Rights Action, and others. Each cell group follows up with actions of advocacy for affected communities.
Snapshot 2: Imagine workers and middle class families taking their children to live and work for a week in intentional communities, ecovillages, revolutionary autonomous zones, indigenous and peasant villages, etc. Parents may have jobs in the unsustainable economy, and they are educating their kids to be able to get such jobs. But they are also teaching and modeling to their kids the JOURNEY of transition that we need to take. They may be preparing their children to survive in the world that is, but they are also modeling a lifestyle of working toward replacing that world with another.
Snapshot 3: Imagine a flash mob music performance, in a large shopping mall or municipal park, reaching out with literature to everyone in the crowd, promoting awareness of how unsustainable and undesirable our current way of life is, and inviting people to attend an introductory lecture / party about a JOURNEY to a better world. This is just one possible activity, among thousands that may be conceived and implemented, to invite every person on the planet (and not just the already convinced) to ponder a new path.
VISION FOR A NEW SOCIETY
Partial, approximate content, to be continually evolved through the experience of the courses —
* Redistributive land reform.
Three principles of historical movements (cf., e.g., 19th C. huasteco rebellions):
1. Enough land for everybody.
2. Nobody controls more land than they can personally work.
3. Universal mutual defense of this equitable land access.
Implementation of the above would reverse the current power dynamic, whereby power concentrates in the hands of predominantly urban-based corporate managers and shareholders, in the case of capitalist countries, or in the hands of centralized bureaucratic planners, in the case of “socialist” countries, and would disperse power equitably throughout society. It would re-establish the peasant village as the fundamental locus of social, economic, and cultural life. Peasants, who for the last several centuries have been disempowered, dominated, and marginalized, would have decisive power in the organization of society.
We should strive for this, because peasant society, so long as it is not parasitized by militarily superior forces from outside, has proven over many centuries to provide a sustainably prosperous and happy way of life (cf. Helena Norberg-Hodge and her studies of Ladakh, documented in the film The Economics of Happiness, and the book and film Ancient Futures). A society in which the peasant village structure is predominant is the best way to sustainably and justly provide for today’s large human populations while leaving substantial room for nonhuman forms of life to recover and flourish.
The critical factor which has been missing over some 10,000 years of peasant movements of resistance against concentrated power, but which is present now, is the ability to coordinate resistance efforts worldwide, and thereby to make it harder for forces of domination to muster superior forces from outside. Before, victories of resistance movements could only be partial and temporary, and would end the moment a superior force invaded from outside. This longstanding trend has led to the destruction and marginalization of peasant societies, and the hegemony of industrial consumer capitalism in virtually every corner of the globe today. But, today, there is no longer an “outside” from which to invade. The forces for domination are everywhere, and are coordinated transnationally. And the forces for egalitarian cooperation (and, hence, for a predominantly peasant society) are also everywhere, and are becoming coordinated transnationally. While the former remains a formidable power, there now emerges, through global cooperation among resisters, the possibility that their victories may become more numerous and enjoy greater permanence. Up to and including the present moment, we have lost more often than we have won. Now, so long as a critical mass of the world’s population can be convinced to support peasant struggles against concentrated power, we could start winning more often than we lose, and consolidate our gains, and see the power of urban industrial capitalists diminish.
The industrial sector, instead of growing out of control, cancerously, as the engine whereby ever greater amounts of capital (productive assets) are concentrated into fewer and fewer private hands, a re-empowered population (because they are re-landed) may now manage a downsized industrial sector to meet socially determined needs. So, to the three goals enumerated above that have been at the center of notable movements for redistributive land reform in the past, we may add a fourth:
4. The people, now empowered by restored access to a land base, democratically plan and manage a sustainably-sized industrial sector, to produce those needed things which are not best produced on one’s farm or in one’s village.
* Collective democratic planning of economies.
Cooperation rather than competition. Not market-driven. Not private profit seeking. For common good.
Replace our culture’s idolizing of “getting ahead” as individuals with an ethic of bettering all of our lives together.
* Local and global solidarity.
* Significantly localized steady state economies.
* Moderated consumption and fertility.
Not through draconian and coercive measures, but by democratically agreed upon policies and social customs, shaped by the accurate feedback concerning impacts that is provided by participation in a democratic process of economic planning.
* Human-intensive agriculture (family farms, cooperatives).
* Applied ecological science (agroecology, permaculture).
* A radical physical reconfiguration of human settlements and support systems…
– Moratorium on conversion of natural habitat to farming.
– Moratorium on conversion of farmland to urban “development.”
– Replace cars with walkable communities and public transport.
– Optimum positioning of people, places, and resources.
– Replace disposable container based distribution with local provisioning using durable reusable containers.
– Restricted use of air conditioning
Something like the above vision is soon to be summarized in a 5- to 10-page statement, provisionally entitled “Agenda for a Sustainable and Just World,” currently being drafted by an international team that is close in sympathies to the work of Ted Trainer, author of The Conserver Society, The Transition to a Sustainable and Just World, and other works.
A committee, provisionally named The Journey Program Standards Committee, operating under the governance and fiscal oversight of a nonprofit’s board, will define and enforce standards required for course providers, media content producers, and others to be entitled to carry the Journey label and receive certificates from the Journey Program Standards Committee. The sponsoring nonprofit has yet to be determined.
CONTENT OF PROGRAM
50+ YouTube videos of 3 to 5 minutes each.
Each short video serves as a “doorway” to the rest, approaching the same Agenda from the angle of a particular issue or area of interest.
Example topics, among many others:
What really makes people happy?
Why are U.S. wars really fought?
Is the U.S. a force for good in the world?
The Sixth Great Extinction
Should democracy apply to the economy?
The Rio Grande Watershed
Can renewable energy power current levels of consumption?
Capitalism: A structural genocide? (featuring Garry Leech’s book of that title)
What would a sustainable and just society look like?
Goal: Hundreds of millions of people see at least one of the videos over the first 5 years.
25 one-hour lectures.
On YouTube and delivered in person, each focusing on a “doorway” theme that leads people to consider taking the flagship 2-week course, and to consider pursuing a new community, worldview, agenda, and set of practices to achieve transition to a sustainable and just world, and new practices to implement the agenda.
Goal: Tens of millions of people view online, or attend in person, at least one of the lectures over the first 5 years.
72 hour standard course.
Delivered over two weeks or a series of weekends.
While it is called a “course,” it is about much more than achieving mere dissemination of information. Four elements:
1) Personal change – Acknowledging and confronting fears, expanding one’s circle of mutual caring, and changing one’s changing one’s expectations of what is normal and inevitable, affections, beliefs, hopes, sense of identity and belonging, etc.
2) Transformational interpersonal encounters with “others.” Experience of new community. Exercises in recognizing privilege, building cooperation, and forging a sense of shared purpose. (Shared purpose: Dissolve classes and privileges, build cooperative, just, sustainable world.)
3) Mobilization of action. Each student will devise a personal plan for action, in consultation with fellow class members and with persons outside the class and Journey programs.
Informational content: Story of our world: Understanding history and dynamics of class societies and modern capitalism. The evolutionary and ecological nature of reality. Environmental predicaments. Social predicaments. The issues surrounding the points of the Agenda for a Sustainable and Just World.
Course delivered in local face-to-face sessions, facilitated by local mentors, and in contact with a worldwide community of mentors and students connected via Internet. Venues and sponsors can be individuals’ homes, universities, schools, churches, mosques, synagogues, labor unions, nonprofits, etc.
Goal: Hundreds of thousands, or millions, of people take the 2-week course over the first 5 years. After 5 years, nearly everybody in the affluent countries personally knows someone who has taken the course, and that someone has invited them to take the course.
For many, the 72-hour course will be taken before, during, or after a trip to a frontline community in, e.g., indigenous lands in Ontario, a walk with indigenous people across the length of a river, Chiapas, Cherán in Michoacán, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, etc. Students and mentors in the 72-hour course will endeavor to raise funds to enable low-income students from the affluent country to go on the delegation, and to fund a reciprocal visit to the affluent country by residents of the area visited.
Fundraising standard: Funds are raised for one low-income traveler per every traveler who pays her or his own way, before the trip takes place.
Goals: At least one out of every 10 people who take the 72-hour course go on a delegation TO a frontline community. Every local group that has gone through the 72-hour course together hosts a delegation FROM a frontline community.
3 year plan of studies.
Our current global environmental and social predicament means that people in the affluent countries should generally endeavor to seriously prepare themselves to take on TWO careers, one which pays the bills and is usually severely constrained by the perverse dynamics of the capitalist world system, and the other which is concerned to replace that world system. The purpose of this plan of studies is to prepare people for this second, simultaneous career.
Courses will delve into greater detail on subjects that were introduced in the 2-week introductory course. It will equip people to become facilitators of the 2-week course, and to be community leaders and activists with specialized knowledge of relevant topics.
We will refer people to existing courses sponsored by other entities such as Open University, Gaia University, permaculture course providers, universities, and others, while offering our own courses as well. Credit for all suitable courses goes toward our certificate. Successful completion of a Permaculture Design Course may be required for our certificate. Some other courses offered by other providers may also be required.
Successful completion of individual courses and course modules within the plan of studies will also be documented and certified. Rather than there being one “complete” stage of studies, the program will certify completion of various stages of study.
Goal: Tens of thousands have completed the plan of studies after the first 8 years. At least 5% of those who attend the 2-week course take the 2-3 year program.
International solidarity network.
Typically, a group that goes through the 72-hour course will endeavor to form one or more local cells of the international solidarity network.
Each cell will typically form a close relationship with a specific front-line community, maintaining contact via delegations to and from it, and via other means. When anything happens that requires international advocacy, such as when leaders of a peasant struggle for land are assassinated or criminalized, the cell spread the news across the network.
The network will endeavor to create ongoing alternative social space to nurture people’s journeys, raise awareness, build relationships of love solidarity between privileged and oppressed communities, and mobilize action to dismantle class and privilege and create a sustainable and just world.
Members will participate in one or more local cell groups which focus on specific issues, and build direct personal relationships, via delegations, Internet conferences, and other means, with specific frontline communities.
Members will strategize and work to bring about the same kinds of personal, relational, and action outcomes in other people in the community, whether by inviting new people into our own programs, or by other means.
Members will encourage one another to be involved in a wide variety of other organizations, movements, and community endeavors that are not directly affiliated with or governed by The Journey Program Standards Committee. It is hoped that the influence of knowledge and experience gained in our programs will serve as a positive, leavening influence in other movements, and promote integration and consensus-building among essential perspectives and schools of thought that have historically evolved in isolated or even mutually hostile cultural conversations.
The network would seek to make “local and global solidarity” real by means of:
* The cell groups, as discussed above.
* World forums in which various cell groups communicate.
* Possibly at a later stage, grassroots mapping of land access across the globe, with on-the-ground review by visiting international solidarity teams, followed up by worldwide advocacy for individuals, families, and people groups that have inadequate land, and advocacy for the sake of Earth spaces that have inadequate human care.
* Raising funds and other resources for communities fighting strategic battles for land and against mining, megaprojects, land grabs, etc. Vastly expanding the number of people doing this is a major goal of the entire project.
Citizen journalism network.
Flowing out of the international solidarity network, when there is a strong web of connections between cell groups throughout the affluent countries of the imperial core of the global capitalist empire and communities on the exploited periphery of that empire, a network of citizen journalism should also be cultivated. In doing so, we will endeavor to establish a new kind of journalism with new practices and standards. Current conventional journalism, which relays an endless stream of “timely,” isolated, sensational bits of who, what, and when, with little or no attention to the connective tissue of systemic forces, class interests, and historical context, leaves readers entertained but distracted from understanding the factors which would inform efforts to achieve the systemic changes that are so urgently needed. The new journalism, by doing what conventional journalism largely avoids doing, would be a crucial tool of movements of change.
Included in the list of resources that may figure significantly in the development of the course series is the book Grabbing Power: The New Struggles for Land, Food and Democracy in Northern Honduras, by Tanya M. Kerssen. It is not that everybody in the world who takes the courses should focus their energies on Honduras in particular. But the story it tells is a case through which to understand the workings of the systems we need to change. And it tells its story in a way the empowers readers to better discern the nature of similar situations throughout the world and take meaningful action. It is included on the list partly because it is a model of the practices and standards that could characterize a movement of people’s journalism.
A set of curriculum standards defining desired outcomes will be produced, to inform the design and delivery of the videos, lectures, and courses that constitute the content of our program. The desired outcomes will include not only mastery of intellectual content, such as “Student gains a general understanding of major competing views of the ‘agrarian question’”, but also affective, relational, and action outcomes such as, “Student falls passionately in love with the ecosystem of her bioregion, and is willing to fiercely defend it,” and “Student comes to care for, and feel cared for, by particular oppressed persons or communities, through direct and profound personal encounter,” “Student engages in a direct action.”
Certificates for courses, however, will be awarded based on mastery of the intellectual content, and not on agreement with the Agenda for a Sustainable and Just World.
The courses aim not at generating agreement with the points of the Agenda for a Sustainable and Just World, but at broadening understanding of the issues surrounding these points. One defined outcome could be: “Student reads material, and directly engages people, which disagree with a point of the Agenda, demonstrate understanding of their point of view, and share their experience with the class.” A student project could be writing their own agenda statements or manifestos, or suggesting and defending changes to ours. The program aims to promote building of movements with certain agendas and points of view, but also a movement culture that continually questions and revisits its assumptions in the light of new information and situations.
SOME PERSPECTIVES INFORMING THIS PROGRAM
The development of this program is motivated by a recognition that:
* Our environmental and social problems are severe and unprecedented.
* The solutions involve radical system change and unprecedented levels of cooperation, solidarity, and concerted action among people worldwide.
* The solutions must be implemented very QUICKLY in order to avert the worst catastrophic scenarios and achieve satisfying outcomes. The time frame guiding our strategies and actions should be 30 years or so. We do not have multiple generations to work out satisfactory outcomes.
Class domination, exploitation of labor, and abuse of the creation have been with us for some 10,000 years. Resistance to these evils has been around for as long. But now capitalism has greatly intensified these, and accelerated their destructive effects, such that the physical basis for human and nonhuman flourishing is now being rapidly eroded. If we are to leave a decent future to our descendants, we – the people of THIS generation – MUST replace capitalism and all forms of class society with a radically different kind of society. Is this possible? Well, we won’t know if we don’t try? And who is to say that the unprecedented scope of the problems we face will not provoke unprecedented cooperative action in response?
* To achieve such comprehensive system changes in so short a time, there must be EXPONENTIAL growth in awareness and action. Even if the initial growth of our movements seems slow at first, so long as the growth is exponential, change may become much more rapid at the end of the time frame.
* This will not happen, we will not win, and our descendants and many more species will lose, if we cannot mobilize massive numbers of those who are currently ignorant of the problems, aloof to these concerns, or unconvinced of the problems and solutions. We must not only mobilize the already convinced, but must appeal to and win over massively more people who currently are not convinced.
* This difficult and neglected but essential task is no less than to facilitate a JOURNEY that alters people’s AFFECTIONS and invites them into a new COMMUNITY with a new WORLDVIEW, a new AGENDA, and new PRACTICES aimed at transition to a sustainable and just society. Not just information, but, just as importantly, new and attractive social contexts and personal interactions, are needed to facilitate such great changes in people.
As Jonathan Smucker wrote:
“Social change work is less about convincing people through rational arguments – this rarely works on its own – than about creating the conditions (and experiences) in which those arguments will resonate. It’s about looking for the primal switches that turn on pro-social behavior.”
* But here we are faced with a very serious contradiction to overcome: The tendency of activist movements, and the tendency of supportive media production projects, is to appeal to the already convinced. After all, who is going to buy a film documentary, except those who are already aware of the importance of its topic and sympathetic to its viewpoint? The market does not support this, because people generally do not buy books or videos, or attend meetings, that promote views contrary to their own prejudices. Rather, they seek to confirm their current biases, and these have in turn been shaped by the very system we are trying to replace.
Likewise, activists may often feel like they are accomplishing something if they get good showings of people at their their rallies and marches. And to achieve that feeling of success, the bang-for-buck use of time and energy is to work on mobilizing those who are already convinced – normally, people who are the “low hanging fruit” – those people who are easier to convince, who are more naturally attractable to the activist’s subculture, than people in the population at large. It is much more difficult, and it often generates little quick affirmation of one’s efforts, if one seeks to nurture a long and difficult process by which new people, and other kinds of people, come to accept the need for radical changes. And yet this latter task must be done if we are to win. Carrying out this task will require different methods, attitudes, and ways of ascertaining effectiveness than those which activist movements geared primarily to mobilizing people who are already convinced or easier to convince than the massive numbers of other people without which we cannot possibly hope to win.
* We cannot effectively reach the unconvinced by using the same tactics that have been used in mobilizing the already convinced or the easier to convince. We must adopt methods, attitudes, vocabulary, and ways of ascertaining effectiveness that are suitable to the task.
* Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of people who are not yet convinced: 1) The oppressed, who do not want to risk giving up their miserable niche in the system by supporting a movement to replace that system. 2) The privileged, who do not want to confront uncomfortable truths or give up their privileges, or make changes to what they see as a comfortable life. (But, for the latter, concern for future generations is key – the wealthy and powerful can insulate their descendants from the ravages to come only to a certain extent, and for a limited time.)
* Anything that effectively reaches the unconvinced must help accomplish the following:
1. Shake people’s complacencies.
2. Help people to name and overcome their fears.
3. Change people’s affections, expanding the circle of people and realities that they love (people who were “other,” nature, etc.).
4. Provide a safe and unthreatening and attractive, even if challenging, social environment for undergoing a personal process of change.
5. Create social confirmation. The dynamics of the new community must awaken and satisfy people’s deepest desires, even when these are newly-discovered and long-repressed desires.
6. Provide tangible group help in navigating the contradictions and practical dilemmas of having lives and livelihoods embedded in a system that must be replaced. The lack of a coherent and realistic map to address these problems, and the lack of a viable support network to accompany people, may be one of the most powerful impediments keeping people from even considering system change.
* Who is doing this work? Who is reaching the unconvinced and leading them through a process?
Could consider this question, arriving at varying answers, re Democracy Now, left documentaries, the Transition Network (Rob Hopkins), Local Futures (Helena Norberg-Hodge), progressive religious groups, and others.
* The viability of a peasant-driven economy. While solidarity with peasant struggles for such things as land access, credit, market stabilizing measures, freedom from dumping of imported grains on local markets, etc. is widely supported on the left, the viability of a peasant-production-centered society as a path to “development” or betterment of living standards is hotly disputed, e.g., by many Marxists. Land reform is thus seen by many as merely a transitional measure, whereas the default position of this proposed program sees it as an end goal. In the courses, all major perspectives would be listened to and engaged, encouraging students to make up their own minds.
Abundance must replace scarcity for there to be social cooperation. And yet social cooperation produces abundance, properly defined, even in a peasant economy.
* The strategic importance of achieving critical mass. Real power for change comes when there are enough people who agree on what to do, whose agreed course of action can actually achieve the desired goals, and who carry it out at the same time. With critical mass, we can accomplish ANYTHING – we can subvert the most powerful armies, dismantle the surveillance state, take over land and re-allocate it democratically and equitably. Without critical mass, we can achieve no enduring victory.
Many past peasant struggles, managed commons, and experiments in social cooperation were defeated, not by inherent flaws in their ways, nor by a lack of industrial production to eliminate scarcity and generate an abundance that favors social cooperation (scarcity was generally a function of unjust relationships, not a lack of technology), but simply by the invasion of militarily superior conquering forces from outside. The Spanish conquerors, for example, were vastly outnumbered by the “New World” “Indians” they conquered, but the latter were not united. Today we see something unprecedented developing, something “new under the sun” that could bring about more complete and enduring victories, as opposed to the more limited and partial victories of the past: Peasants and indigenous peoples are now communicating and cooperating globally, through movements such as La Vía Campesina. Global capitalism and class dominance have extended to every corner, but so has resistance. Difficult as it may be to achieve, if once resistance is successful, there will be no more “outside” from which to invade. In that there may be special hope for our time.
* Victory of the cooperators against the dominators/cheaters will not likely occur or endure if the latter are able to replace soldiers and workers with robots on a massive scale. In the opinion of some futurologists, there is a danger that hegemonic elite power might be established in an extremely stable and difficult-to-challenge form, for example, if overwhelmingly superior coercive force and surveillance can be deployed, e.g., from space, using very few human operators. A world without human soldiers or workers could spell the end of consumer capitalism as we know it, leading not to a more egalitarian and cooperative successor system, but to reversion to a command economy of production for elites, not unlike that of the ancient empires except supported by souped up technologies of domination. This must not be allowed to happen, and the key point of leverage in stopping this is for popular movements from below to block the mining and resource grabbing that is necessary to feed this development.
* The need for movements that replicate an energetic dynamic of multiplication. We need movements that are intensely evangelistic, and that aim for literally everybody on the planet to come on board. Here questions of who is a viable “revolutionary subject” must be addressed. This program will maintain that it is not in the truest, long-term, multi-generational material interests of anybody to allow the current genocidal and ecocidal world capitalist system to continue, and the viable revolutionary subject is anybody who is convinced of that. We need to proceed as if just about anybody is capable of being converted to our cause, even if some will be won over more readily and sooner than others. The courses and the network aim at nurturing effective “evangelism,” not aimed at quick and easy “conversions,” but at nurturing processes of personal and political change which, though long and difficult in many people’s cases, if undertaken by exponentially increasing numbers of people, could result in sufficient action by massive numbers of people within a 30 year time frame.
* The revolution will not be led by one organization.
Three models of organization:
1) “Leninist” approach of directives from central committee controlling all actors.
Won’t work, inadequate self-correcting mechanism. Creates new class.
2) Decentralized actors, but with scattered agendas.
3) Substantially shared agendas acted upon by de-centralized self-managed actors and groups of actors.
The third is the approach advocated here. There does not need to be, and should not be, a central organization with top-down control. There does need to be a substantial overlap in affections, worldviews, agendas, and practices. The purpose of the “course series” is to facilitate forging of such overlap that can be effectively acted on, by the widest diversity of actors, to achieve social, cultural, and economic transformation toward a sustainable and just world, and to bring massively more people into that overlap or consensus.
* It is important not to let the movement subculture become static, and to ensure that both its ideas and tactics are appropriate to realities as best as they can currently be rationally ascertained.
It is important for some sorts of people, such as those of a certain disposition that led them to be attracted into the movement earlier than others, to understand that the approaches taken to attract them into the movement and nurture them will not necessarily be effective with other sorts of people, whom we need to attract or else we will not win. Often traditions and habits in a movement become frozen. Often a movement only attracts certain types of people, because the first types of people who entered the movement actually can’t relate to or do not like other types of people. If this is not consciously addressed, and worked on very hard, the movement’s growth will level off once all those it can attract of the first types of people have already joined the movement. As this is the kind of movement that needs to achieve very difficult objectives within 30 years, we must beat this perverse dynamic that has limited most movements in history.
We must also foster a movement tradition of self-criticism, continually reexamining our assumptions, views, agenda, and practices, via a free and open process of ongoing rational inquiry. Of course as we do this, we must ensure that, if key ideas and practices are to be changed, it is due to genuine rational considerations, due to genuinely new insights about reality that eluded us before, and not due to any of the typically recurring errors (e.g., fear-driven clinging to simple analysis or simple solutions, selecting ideas and practices that reinforce people’s power within a movement, etc.) that often plague movements. The movement’s very sense of identity should be determined more fundamentally by the fact that we continually engage in this process of rational revision than by our ideas or practices at any given time. Over time, if we carry out this process faithfully, the best ideas and practices will survive the process and be repeatedly reaffirmed. We must continually conduct this process of critical reflection, even as we seek to implement, with utmost energy in activism, the results of the latest iteration of the process.
This is a hard thing to grasp and to apply. At least with the history of Anglo-European movements with which I am familiar, I cannot point to a single example of a movement that practiced this for very long, beyond an initial formative process when the ideas and energy were fresh, before internal movement politics reinforced traditions and habits of thought and rhetoric that made self-correction impossible, leading to a decline in the movement’s relevance and numbers, leaving the movement a shell of its former vitality, now led by an insular clique of dogmatists. Overcoming this difficulty entails promoting this practice of continual movement criticism with energetic action in activism, as a distinctive of the movement’s culture and identity. It also entails helping people to BECOME the sort of people who can maintain this tension effectively, by nurturing and practicing this SKILL of practicing continual rational reevaluation without diminishing passion and energy in action. People in the affluent country cultures do not generally have this skill – it must be learned – because, by default, many or most people lose passion and energy, and they cut back the intensity of their action, when the basic ideas and assumptions underlying their agendas are subject to rational scrutiny.
The 72-hour course will endeavor to introduce and help people to begin practicing this uncommon habit, as a defining feature of the movement we are trying to create. It will do so, for example, by advocating agenda points but then leading students to engage people and materials that oppose those points. The hoped-for result is that students will be able defenders and advocates of those points, or become effective in helping all of us as a movement to rationally reconsider a given point.
* The way history has worked to this point does not work. We cannot wait for “objective conditions” to favor the system change we seek. We must generate the necessary conditions through the actions of our movements and their transformative effects on people. We must change the way history works by changing people. Such an approach is the most promising for achieving the needed changes in time to achieve satisfying outcomes.
This is a partial and evolving list of representative works that may be useful in the development of the overview course and other courses. They each contain helpful content for achieving the informational, affective, relational, and/or action outcomes aimed at in the envisioned curriculum.
Inclusion on this list by no means implies that the perspectives of each work agree entirely with those of the others. It is more important to get vastly more people thinking about the issues in the first place, and taking action on a growing practical overlap of views, than to achieve complete uniformity of opinion, and each of these resources can be used toward that end.
In early offerings of the overview course, as it is being developed, students may read and discuss entire books or large excerpts, attracting students from the more book-oriented portion of the population. In later, more popular versions of the course, works such as these may be used less directly, informing the development of popular presentations and learning activities. Some of the authors may be invited to consult in the design of various courses and course modules on the topics of their expertise.
Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, Failing States, Collapsing Systems: BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence.
Miguel Amorós, various essays.
Manuel Casal Lodeiro, La izquierda ante el colapso de la civilización industrial: Apuntes para un debate urgente.
Ashley Dawson, Extinction: A Radical History.
Kerryn Higgs, Collision Course: Endless Growth on a Finite Planet.
Eric Holt-Gimenez, What Every Foodie Needs to Know About Capitalism (forthcoming).
David Holmgren, Future Scenarios: How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change.
Tanya M. Kerssen, Grabbing Power: The New Struggles for Land, Food and Democracy in Northern Honduras.
Philip McMichael, Food Regimes and Agrarian Questions.
Anitra Nelson and Frans Timmerman, Life Without Money: Building Fair and Sustainable Economies.
Helena Norberg-Hodge, The Economics of Happiness (film), Ancient Futures (film and book).
Utsa Paitnaik and Sam Moyo, The Agrarian Question in the Neoliberal Era: Primitive Accumulation and the Peasantry.
Ariel Salleh, Ecofeminism as Politics: Nature, Marx, and the Postmodern, and various articles.
Saral Sarkar, Eco-Socialism or Eco-Capitalism?: A Critical Analysis of Humanity’s Fundamental Choices.
Richard Smith, Green Capitalism: The God That Failed.
(Or web versions of same material.)
Ted Trainer, The Conserver Society.
Ted Trainer, “The Simpler Way” web site.
Ted Trainer, The Transition to a Sustainable and Just World.