Of Aristotle, courage and #ussstrikes

Anger fades. This is both a ‘good’ thing and a bad one. After all it’s no fun to go through life as angry as I am (trust me on this). Angry at our so-called ‘leaders’ who mouth pieties and platitudes while not taking actions which would give our species the slenderest chance of survival. Angry at social movements for bumbling along in the smugosphere and ignoring both their failures and the possibilities of useful innovation. And angry, of course – narcissistically and neurotically – at myself for missed opportunities, for failing to have the courage and discipline to change and to speak out effectively, and to demonstrate consistently how things could be done differently.

Please stay with this post. That is the last lot of “I”-ing you’ll have to endure.

Aristotle said

Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.

More recently, climate scientist Kate Marvel argued that what we need is not hope but courage.

Imo, that courage includes the courage to innovate, to get out of the stale ‘zombie repertoires’ that we so easily fall into.

Throughout this strike I’ve heard people talk about the “feeling” on the picket line. Feelings fade. I’ve seen this cycle play out on a bunch of occasions – people get enthused, hopeful for having hope again, believing “their side” can win. And then comes the dolchstoss – often from our own side – because we have followed the same old script of poorly (or NOT) designed and facilitated meetings, where big mouths make small points, where the same stale rhetoric and repertoires rule.

We have/had this opportunity on the picket lines and in our meetings after the pickets to begin to break down the isolation and silo-ism that is one of the defining features of any modern workplace, and especially the university. And to my eyes, at my university, we have not taken it. We have not created loose networks based on roles, interests, skills etc. We have not started each meeting with a ‘turn to someone you don’t know, introduce yourself, share an anecdote’.

Yesterday was the nadir (so far). Our union branch told us there was a meeting. About 40 or 50 of us were there, and waited for it to start. I made sure that various people I knew got to know each other. And we waited. And then, finally, with no explanation, the meeting was cancelled and we were told to come back tomorrow.


We need novice lines, we need small group discussions about how we cope with the inevitable hangover from these strikes. We need to talk about what the management will do over the coming months to punish trouble-makers, to chip away at solidarity and whatever deal finally emerges.

We actually needed to start with the movement-building (as opposed to mobilising) weeks, nay, months, nay, years ago. Maybe we will start today. But going on what I have seen so far of the skills, knowledge, atttitudes and aptitudes of those in office if not in power, I doubt it.

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