“This Changes Everything” changes nothing #smugosphere #emotathons #samemistakes #RoadtoParis

Here we go.  Here we go with the summit-hopping and the protestations that we have to Build a Mass Movement and the only/best/sensible (delete as appropriate) way to do that is to have a big march/ruck at (Prague/Genoa/Copenhagen and… Paris.  (Yeah, well – screw Paris. No, seriously, screw Paris.)

Here we go with the sages on the stage. Here we go with the ego-foddering,  the emotathons and all the pathologies of the smugosphere.

And, most unforgivable of all, here we go with the cynical or careless misuse of the language of liberation for a bunch of stale, unimaginative and exclusionary events that want to be sexy so wrap themselves in the cool lingo of the day, devaluing it. The lyrics change, but the song remains the same.

Example the first

Naomi Klein has written a new book (great review here) (some of us are old enough to remember the first biggie – “No Logo”).  It’s called “This Changes Everything”.

The facebook event says

changesevertying

“On 28th March, three weeks after the national climate demonstration, [you know, the one that got an attendance of 10,000 ish and caused the barest ripple imaginable in the mediaverse] we will be hosting a radical, participatory event called This Changes Everything. Inspired by Naomi Klein’s new book, the day will bring hundreds of people together in interactive workshops with leading campaigners and climate scientists….”

And to quote myself from an email I wrote to someone about whether I would go

“radical, participatory event” my fat arse. It will be same smug emotathon and egofoddering and sage on the stage tosh that they always do.

I’d just get too angry about it.

There will be denunciations of

a) the Conservatives
b) the Americans
c) Capitalism/Industrialism/Finance  (the three wil be conflated, elided etc)
d) “Big” green organisations that are, you know, totally complicit with the System, man.

And there will be precisely zero genuine searching critique of what the grassroots movements have been DOING WRONG.

And there will be ritual invocations that Paris Really Matters.
And there will be grandstanding and tussles for attention from various radicals who like to stand on soapboxes and lecture everyone about how participatory their movements are[redacted – we have libel laws in this country].
And loads of paper sellers and the hippy equivalent of paper sellers.
I refuse to be complicit.  To hell with the lot of them.

I am sure the organisers will survive my absence, just about.

Example the second; the  “Boom Bust Boom” conference happening in Manchester the following week. They have the brass bloody necks to call what they are doing an unconference, because unconferences sound ooh so sexy.

boomprogramme

Oddly, my comment on their volunteer section about how it was perfectly okay and nothing to be ashamed of to be running a conference, but that you shouldn’t call it something IT ISN’T didn’t get approved.  How radical.

So one thing promises it will be radical and participatory but will be stuffed to the gills with “Celebrities” and experts talking at people.  The other claims to be an “un-conference” but simply isn’t.

Why do I care?  Because it debases the coinage.  Because I hate it when the corporations steal our dreams and sell them back, and I also hate it when Trotskyists –  be they liberal, anarchist, Trotskyist or whatever – do the same.  I hate being conned. To quote myself again –

“Throwing around terms like un-conference and “open space” and then perpetrating what Compass did seriously devalues the currency of innovation. If people who attended think “that’s what World Cafe is” or “that’s what open space is like” then they become cynical and dismissive about them. But these tools are are not – in the right hands – marketing ploys.

We laugh at  the economists when they present emissions reductions graphs that point downwards in a nice straight line to the chosen target but actually rely on fantasy technologies like carbon capture and storage and on nuclear-rolled-out-everywhere-tomorrow.  Ha ha ha.  That’s right. We should laugh.  Ha ha ha.

But apparently you’re not supposed to laugh when people use the words ‘social movements’ instead of CCS, as if those are any less a “fantasy technology” for achieving emissions reductions.  We. Will. Not. Mitigate. We haven’t in the last 25 years, and we won’t in the next 25. We will wrap our ickle opposable thumbs around every last lump of coal that we can. The savannah did not equip our brains or our political institutions to think about everyone’s long-term futures. Deal with it.

There is only one thing funnier than the magical use of the term ‘social movements’ and that’s when those proponents think that they are going to magic those social movements into existence using exactly the same formats and tools that haven’t worked the last 25 years.

That? That really cracks me up.

But try to change it?  Well, to steal from another email –

Good luck with your attempt to restructure.  Final unsolicited advice – “expect resistance“.  Folks have their comfort zones, and they largely perceive no problem with the existing set-up. They will not take very kindly to the implicit rebuke of their previous actions in your proposal to change things.

“Radicals” are some of the most conservative people I know….

References

The Law of Two Feet

Unconferences

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2 thoughts on ““This Changes Everything” changes nothing #smugosphere #emotathons #samemistakes #RoadtoParis”

  1. Hiya. Interesting. What would you recommend though, in the absence of a ‘broad social movement’ (which term, I agree, one hears 100x times a day in these discussions to the point where I don’t think anyone is seriously thinking about what it means or should mean).
    Can we really move our carbon curves downward without them?

    1. Hi Zareen,
      thanks for commenting!
      We absolutely cannot move our carbon curves downward without them (‘green’ buildings, for example, become very ‘brown’ if the people in them prop windows open, ‘rebel’ etc). And we won’t get those technologies (massive offshore wind, massive retrofit) without huge and effective social movements.
      So I would say that ‘they’ are ‘necessary but not sufficient’. Or would have been, if we had acted in the 80s and 90s. I fear that there comes a point where things are ‘too late,’ and that we are at that point.
      In terms of what we should have done differently, I am mostly interested in the ‘micropolitics’ – of how “new people” experience their first engagements with a social movement group. Are they made welcome? Are their previous skills and knowledge acknowledged? Can they be involved in ways useful to themselves and others without becoming a core member of the group (and it therefore taking up heaps of their time). What are the invisible barriers and messages that are sent by (old) white (mostly) men that “magically” replicate the pale male and stale nature of the movement organisation. How do movement organisations refresh themselves, learn lessons, etc etc…
      All best wishes
      Marc Hudson

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