Asking the wrong people the wrong questions in the wrong way: WW2 bombers and social movements

Those who know me will put two and two together, but the rest of you can wonder why and what.

This.

There’s a story about the beginnings of Operations Research, I think from De Landa’s War in the Age of Intelligent Machines, which goes like this:

trying to figure out what bits of bombers required (heavy and therefore necessarily scarce) reinforcement, the people assessing would look at planes which came back from hitting German targets, see where all the holes in the fuselage/wings were and say “reinforce the bits with the most holes.

No.  No, that’s wrong.  Because the planes that made it back, with that damage, were the ones that were still flying, by definition.  Those bits full of holes were precisely the bits that did NOT need reinforcing.  But it’s hard to look at planes that got hit in their weak spots and went down in flames, them being in thousands of pieces in Nazi Germany and all.

Fortunately, the mistake was seen, the right bits reinforced and We Won the War.

 

So, when I see an excruciating survey, full of the wrong questions, being aimed at people who are STILL INVOLVED, I weep.  Because nowhere does it ask “do you know anyone who is no longer coming? Did they tell you why they stopped coming?  If not, could you ask them to tell you, anonymously?”

THEN we might be looking at the right bits of the shot-down planes.

But that would open up a different can of worms, and quite a squidgy one. And require a level of emotional intelligence that is lacking. Has always been lacking, not just from this particular iteration.
We are just not smart enough. Or we are smart enough – on our good days – but simply not BRAVE enough.

Whatever it is, we are toast.

 

 

The Murray Andersen Syndrome – of #climate memory-holes, farces and doom (natch)

No, not that Murray Anderson. No, not that one either.
Let me describe it to you, and see if you can figure it out for yourself. Stuff embeds better that way anyhow.

In reverse order. (drum roll please)

Everybody secretly knows that the game is rigged, the war is over, that the fine words and fripperies and fineries describe – nothing, a phantasm. Unless you are a complete imbecilic coward (and they do exist), you have seen it and have to suppress it, for reasons of career/mortgage/the same old story.


That’s bad enough, that in this terminal phase of human history, we are too scared to break out and call it like it is.

But even worse. EVERY DAY WE WAKE UP AND IT IS THE SAME. We have seen this movie before. We saw this movie (the climate movie- it’s always about the climate these days) from 2006 (An Inconvenient Truth) through to the joke of Copenhagen. (2009) We saw it from Hansen to the Senate committee (1988) through to Rio (1992). We saw it (or read about other people seeing it from Santa Barbara (1969) through to Stockholm (1972). And now we are seeing it with Greta and the 1.5 (late 2018) through to… well, probably the Glasgow Shitshow (Nov 2020).

There’s preening, and promising and posturing. There’s hopium pipes being sucked, and a conga line of con artists, throwing out glossy reports, pathways, roadmaps.

We saw this movie. We know how it plays, how it ends. Over and over.

So, “can you tell what it is yet”, as I am no longer allowed to say?

It’s the horror of Groundhog Day (Bill Murray) where every day, instead of Punk-so- tawny Phil we are treated instead to the Freaking Naked Emperor (Hans Christian Andersen), with his zero carbon this and his sustainable that, as he parades through town and everyone looks at each other during the Two Minutes Love (yeah, mixing it up now) and … applauds wildly.  Nothing to see here… move along.

FFS.

This is not a comedy. Or a dramedy. This is a farce.  We could have been better than this.  Instead we’re just a bunch of planet-trashing shaved monkeys with opposable thumbs.

Explaining *that* video #AustralianFires #ScottyfromMarketing #fear #patriarchy

Earlier today the Australian Prime Minister released an astonishingly tone-deaf advert – branded as Liberal Party – spruiking the role of “Our Defence Forces”. As the Guardian noted, it met with derision from the Australian Defence Association and Piers Morgan.

In this short piece I want to explore what I think is going on, and what it tells us about what is coming

Firstly, this comes from a place of fear and desperation. It’s rare to see so many spectacular own goals, especially from an “expert” in marketing. From the secretive holiday to Hawaii, to the forced handshake, these are signs of a man just out of his depth, and flailing – trying all the repertoires he can think of to recover to a position of safety and predictability (1). The expert in marketing turns out to be, well, not very good at marketing. Oops. Seen.

What is left for him to reach for? Only the strong man, the purveyor military action. Recently Laura Tingle wrote a brilliant piece saying that these fires might be Morrison’s equivalent of Dubya’s Hurricane Katrina. There’s a connection here, to Dubya’s dad. When the Rodney King riots kicked off in 1992, and black bodies, usually containable if not ever particularly docile, threatened The Natural Order, Bush took relish in announcing that he was mobilising the military (2)

So far, so cod-Freudian.

But there is a deeper strand, beyond the Trumps of this world and their fascination for military parades (3).

As Amitav Ghosh notes in his magnificent The Great Derangement (seriously, you MUST read this book), a) climate change is a beast that simply can’t be contained within the bourgeois narratives of individual action (and so is terrifying to those who need to be In Control and b) States gonna use (indeed are using) their security forces to crack dissident heads.

What we are seeing here is the early-ish stages of this. The military as saviour, the military as protector (though protector of what is usually a good question).

It’s a way of coping with short-term political problems, and longer-term security problems. It will probably not “succeed” in helping Morrison, and it will certainly not succeed in helping this species unfuck the world. For that we need democracy, avivocracy, the people who have the privilege of freedom of speech, assembly and information to get up on their hindlegs and refuse to back down. Also, we’re gonna need hella lot luck, around climate sensitivity and ecosystems fraying but not snapping. If I were a betting man…

Help me (and everyone else) out – if there are other thinkers you think have particularly important things to say about the links between white patriarchy, contempt for nature/women/people of colour and especially ‘what is to be done?’ add them in the comments. I have failed, for example, to weave Cynthia Enloe’s great work into this blog…

Footnotes

(1) At the end of Terminator 2 (spoilers, obvs, but it’s been 30 years) the T1000 desperately runs through all previous disguises as it boils alive. I overuse this image, but damn that is an amazing movie to think with.

(2) To be fair, Bush Snr had lied about his age to join the war effort, and was shot down over the Pacific.

(3) Samuel Johnson wrote “Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea.” Trump, at least superficially, cannot think meanly of himself. But what might be going on below that surface?

Looting the Ivory Tower “The work after ‘it’s too late’ to prevent dangerous #climate change

lootingivorytower(Blog posts about academic articles and what value they might have for activists.)

Article

Moser SC. The work after “It’s too late” (to prevent dangerous climate change). WIREs Climate Change. 2020;11:e606. https://doi.org/10.1002/wcc.606

The TL;DR

If you have read much on social and psychological responses to climate change you will have come across the work of Susanne Moser http://www.susannemoser.com/about.php

In this paper, part of a special issue on whether it’s too late to avoid 1.5 degree of warming she says (sort of – I paraphrase)

“We may or may not be toast (probs yes – but that the question is now legitimate is an interesting thing), but there’s stuff to be learnt from previous and ‘smaller’ endings. Meanwhile, we gotta do mitigation as if every degree mattered, and that means resilience building, “transformational adaptation” and “inner work.”

The argument in a tweet: (220ish characters)

It may be “too late”, but we gotta mitigate, adapt, do mitigation as if every degree mattered, end separation + ‘inner work’. #lootingivorytower

Should activists pay attention?  

Yes, this is a good pointer to recent literature and a contribution in its own right
The stuff on psychological responses to endings (section 3) is particularly neatly done. Also this-

4.3 | Resilience-building and transformational adaptation

With costly and deadly flooding in many countries, droughts expanding in time and space, wildfires consuming entire cities, and real-world adaptation limits increasingly recognized (IPCC, 2014), endings have become palpable. Calls for stepped-up resilience-building efforts and transformational adaptation are gaining in urgency because many adaptive efforts continue to be stalled by persistent barriers and most still aim at maintaining the status quo (Atteridge & Remling, 2018; IPCC, 2018; Juhola, Glaas, Linnér, & Neset, 2016; Moser, Coffee, & Seville, 2017). The work after “too late” requires serious grappling with what resilience actually means, conceptually and in practice (Moser, Meerow, Arnott, & Jack-Scott, 2019). It demands that meanings of resilience and desirable outcomes of resilience building are negotiated (Harris, Chu, & Ziervogel, 2018; Ziervogel et al., 2017). It means that the deep drivers of vulnerability, social injustice and environmental destruction must be challenged (Gillard, Gouldson, Paavola, & Van Alstine, 2016; Moser et al., 2017; Patterson et al., 2018).

How convincing is their methodology?

Moser has read heaps, cites lots of the recent stuff

What else could they have said?
Re: scientists and display of emotions –

  1. The self-censorship by scientists – well, there’s Orwell’s (ironically suppressed) introduction to Animal Farm
  2. And more recently/on point is Brysse et al. 2013 on scientists erring on the side of less drama.
  3. Though it is dubious, the whole ‘Spiral of Silence’ stuff too
  4. Hope versus courage – Kate Marvel
  5. Joanna Macey, especially the early stuff on ‘despair and empowerment in the Nuclear Age’
  6. Oh, and Nevil Shute’s “On the Beach” about how to face The End.

What else would a critic say?

Doesn’t engage with the long history of people saying ‘there may be trouble ahead’ on climate (see Lydia Dotto’s Thinking the Unthinkable from 1987) (but space is limited!)
Doesn’t really go into what we have been doing WRONG these last thirty years.

What are the implications for (Manchester-based/climate) activism?
Not so much specifically, but all grist for the mill.

What papers/books to do these people refer to that looks (or is) interesting?

Heaps – these leapt out at me

O’Brien, K., Selboe, E., & Hayward, B. M. (2018). Exploring youth activism on climate change: Dutiful, disruptive, and dangerous dissent. Ecology and Society, 23, 42

Patterson, J. J., Thaler, T., Hoffmann, M., Hughes, S., Oels, A., Chu, E., … Jordan, A. (2018). Political feasibility of 1.5 C societal transformations: The role of social justice. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 31, 1–9

Sawin, E. (2018). The magic of “multisolving.” Stanford social innovation review, 16. Retrieved from https://ssir.org/articles/entry/the_magic_of_multisolving

Scheffer,  M.  (2016).  Anticipating  societal  collapse:  Hints  from  the  stone  age. Proceedings  of  the  National  Academy  of  Sciences, 113(39), 10733–10735.

Woodbury, Z. (2019). Climate trauma: Toward a new taxonomy of trauma. Ecopsychology, 11(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1089/eco.2018.0021   (sadly, paywalled)

Who should read this?
Pointy headed academics Yes
Activists wanting to get beyond the smugosphere Maybe
The (mythical?) generally curious and concerned citizens maybe

Looter: Dr Marc Hudson.

Depending on how relevant they are, these lootings may be posted on one or more of the following sites –

marchudson.net, manchesterclimatemonthly.net, climateemergencymanchester.net

TV Smith: Chomsky meets Cohen, but punk

Crikey I needed that. After Thursday’s shitshow (albeit revealed in the company of friends, which momentarily softened the blow), what happened last night was just perfect.

Given that TV Smith is a guy with a 40 year back catalogue of brilliant – perceptive, funny, lyrically astonishing – songs, and with a work ethic that would shame someone a third of his age, this was unsurprising. But still, much much appreciated.

Image result for tv smith
nicked from wikipedia

Smith has been at this game since punk screamed onot the stage in 1977.  He’s kept the faith – a DIY ethos, biting observations on how the rich get richer, the poor stay poor (and it’s expensive being poor).  I’ve seen him a bunch of times over the last 15 years, always at small venues (in a sane world a) he would be playing enormous stadiums and b) he wouldn’t, because a sane world would provide little material for his clarity, his cynicism, his stubborn but realistic optimism).  There’s never less than 100% engagement with his material, his audience.  There’s old crowd pleasers (most of the audience tends to remember the early days well), some new stuff and lots in betweens.  Last night I asked for (and got) both March of the Giants


and Can’t Pay Won’t Pay.

If you’re not familiar with his work, you’re missing out (seriously).  He next plays Manchester on Friday 27 March 2020.  See you there I hope.

PS There’s a third C – (Barry) Commoner, the American ecological thinker. Smith has several songs which speak to the ecological crimes of our species (and especially capitalism/industrialisation).

A year from now… aka The Glasgow Shitshow #COP26 #socialmovements

Right now there’s a lot of politicians flapping their meat in Madrid, at the 25th “Conference of the Parties” to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  Late next year they will be flapping their meat in Glasgow. It will be the first COP to be held in the UK (though there was 1994’s “Global Forum – of that, more later).

And what will the build-up to the Glasgow COP allow (or “afford” if you do all that ANT hand-wavy stuff)?  It will allow groups to forget their differences (internal, external), their failures, their inability to do local capacity-building, their aimlessness.  It will allow them to put on a series of feeder events for the mother of all emotacycles – a big set-piece climate conference in the UK (I’m assuming indyref2 can’t happen by next November).

The whole thing is deja vu all over again, for those of us with memories stretching back to 2009.  Then – after 3 exhausting years – climate groups decided that a “big” march in London with some bumbling on to the COP in Copenhagen (“last chance to save the world, TM”)  would “build a mass movement… international this… solidarity that”  (my memory may be playing tricks, but I don’t think the words “decolonising” and “inter-sectional” were thrown around so much).

So, I have made a graphic, and there are other things afoot.

glasgow shitshow

 

Not because I expect to change a single soul’s mind, but so I can say “I told you so” in March 2021, when the fallout is at its most clearly radioactive.  Schadenfreude is a dish best served… in advance…

 

 

 

 

Excruciatingly obvious advice following excruciating event. Innovate4GodsSake

Tell your attendees what it is that they are going to be asked to solve.

Tell them that in a preliminary email Or two.

Tell them that when they arrive

In writing.  In big letters. Maybe with some cartoons/graphics. (Perhaps not in rubbish videos with awful sound quality. #justsaying)

Respect their intelligence and their time by keeping the self-serving, boring, pointless introductions to 15 seconds instead of 15 plus minutes.

When the pizzas arrive, let people eat them before they get cold and cardboardy

Have icebreakers that connect to the challenge(s) that are being set (“your favourite toy when you were 10″? Seriously?  FFS)

Give them time to chew over which challenge(s) they might like to try to tackle, and what skills  they might need.  So that they’re not being asked to pitch while ice-cold.

Run the meeting on decent facilitation principles (pro-tip, top-down talking at people is not facilitation. Nor is a horse’s arse. Sorry, “shoe”.)

Sorting  by birthday is fine if you’re trying to getpeopel to talk to someone they don’t already know, but not if it is just a pretext to re-arrange people who wil l then address the whole group.  FFS.

Still, G&Ts were liberated, so not all is lost.

Oh god, oh god, it was so diabolically bad. Heart-breakingly so, when the issue is so important.  People were defo voting with their feet before me, and by tmrw afternoon, fuggedaboudit – judges will outnumber punters.

 

(This was LA/Quango bad. For real appalling you need to get progressive social movement organisations from the smugosphere together. That, that shit is epic, and topic of next blog post.)

 

Words, ideas, videos