IMO, we need a new word: The Anthroposcene.
Defined as: the space (scene) where everyone who uses the word Anthropocene unself-consciously (without finger-wavy ‘air quotes’) gathers to exchange book recommendations, memes, attention, credibility etc.
And where everyone who has just woken up – thanks perhaps to the IPCC’s 1.5 degrees report – to the fierce urgency of …. 30 years ago, when climate change first got some public attention.
The Anthroposcene is, of course, full of scenesters, all of them believing that they’re the cool kids, and everyone else is a pale copy, hipsters, wannabes, drones and followers. Each has their own take on how we get here, on what has to happen next, what will happen next While busily chasing grants, clicks, bums on seats, and whatever else passes for metrics in these imperial days.
“What’s my scene?” indeed
Right, enough tossing off word salad. On with the show.: Anthropological gits and shiggles.
In the temporary absence of she who knows better, she who must be obeyed, I seem to have recidivized into a filthy and tawdry habit, which after momentary ‘pleasure’ leaves me feeling hollow and sordid. I refer, of course, to … attending meetings.
This week I went to three, count ’em THREE, when old me, better me, wiser would have steered well clear. I even paid good scarce money to attend one of them. Still, I’m not completely beyond redemption, at least I had the good sense to walk (not flounce) out of all three, before the end.
Two of these meetings purported to be about network building. Er, no, not really. One I had higher hopes for, but these were dashed fairly quickly.
Did I learn anything? Yeah, very little bits and pieces, but nothing that was worth the time drain, and, to be brutally honest, the MORALE drain. I lay in bed this morning, next to/under cats, rather than walking around the park with a backpack full of books, which makes me feels good, and is slowly getting rid of lard. Why? Because the week’s worth of accumulated despair that even our so-called progressive/radical/democratic/radical/artsy people can’t break free from stale repertoires which we KNOW, from endless bitter experience, DON’T WORK. The full force of the state will come down on us all soon, especially if the Extinction Rebellion crew get their wish and a climate-state of emergency is declared. The window for doing things differently is already small enough, and yet we seem unwilling, or – scarier still – unable to see how to do things differently.
Specifics, I suppose, are demanded of me. So I will do it as mostly a series of ‘don’t’s. Yeah, yeah, I know you’re supposed to frame your suggestions positively, but life is too short etc etc. These are from the three meetings.
- DON’T imagine that giving people name badges and asking them to say where they are from is in any meaningful way discharging your responsibilities, as organisers, to facilitate the formation of loose connections. Seriously.
- Round tables are such a cliché. I realise I wrote about this years ago [footnote 1], but don’t assume that round tables make discussions easier. And just because there are round tables, doesn’t mean that you’re not actually sat in rows, being ego-fodder. The host/organisers of your event will want to blather on about themselves. That first 20/25 minutes that they do that will set the (wrong) tone for the day. Seriously.
- Maybe learn from the plea of People of Colour activists who ask white activists not to centre themselves and their emotional needs. And take that into our own meetings?
- You want a network, you believe in democracy, activism, networks. Great. Don’t tell me (for 25 minutes). Show me. Get us DOING it. There will be time enough for your organisational ego-needs to be met later. And if there isn’t, well so what?
- Don’t have us on the tables answering the questions that YOU set. Find ways of finding out what the people in the room want to discuss. It’s not rocket science. It’s open space.
- Don’t put the “how do we build a movement” stuff at the end of the day, when everyone is tired, bored, having to leave. If it’s the most important thing of the day, then is should be threaded through the day, and should be headlining, no?
Oh, there’s more, but I already wasted enough time and energy GOING to these wretched things, and more again writing this blog post. And none of us is going to live forever. A decade might even be a push, if it all unravels as quickly as it might.
So, in the very very unlikely event that I ever drag my sorry fat arse to another “network creation” event, here are 10 predictions which I will turn into a checklist and then blog against.
- They will give us name badges and ask us to point on a map where we came from today. This won’t be used in any meaningful way (i.e. facilitating connections between hyper-local people), but will give the all-important appearance of giving a damn.
- There will be round tables that we are sat at, as if this is somehow inherently democratic.
- The day will start with an overlong explanation of why we’re here (we know) and an advert for the host organisation and/or the venue owners. This will suck (up) at least 30 of the first, crucial, 30 minutes
- There will be a q and a after that, but no opportunity to discuss among ourselves our questions/thoughts, so the q and a will be dominated by usual suspects.
- We will be asked to respond as tables to questions set by the organisers.
- There will be a video-vox pop booth, a honeypot for narcissists, and an opportunity for the organisers to show how cool and democratic they are.
- There will be minimal (zero) attempt to effectively connect attendees on the basis of their stated needs and current abilities (no skill/knowledge swap shop, for instance).
- The ‘how do we build a network?’ question will be raised, but only given any time at the very end, when some have left (physically or mentally) and everyone is tired/looking at their watches. It will not, therefore, be anywhere near as effective as it could have been, but some flipcharts will be filled with different coloured scrawls, which looks good in a blog post about the event, so that’s alright then
- Integrating people who can’t physically be there will not be done in any meaningful sense (or any sense whatsoever), despite there being, you know, information technologies that would make this possible.
- If you raise concerns/complaints about this, you’ll be disregarded as pathologically negative and negatively pathological, or something. Who cares, frankly.
- From here:
In the Bad Old Days of Industrial Capitalism, where nature was not respected, venerated and Valued, then we would have been sat in rows, listening to the various big cheeses at the front telling us that while there were some problems, everything would be alright as long as the current system was refined and tweaked.
In the New Collaborative Days of post-Industrial Capitalism, where nature is most definitely being Valued, we sit… at round tables, with some of us having therefore to twist around on our seats to listen to the various big cheeses at the front telling us that while there are some problems, everything will be alright as long as the current system is refined and tweaked.
We have swapped a system that was at least honest about who talked and who listened for one which is uncomfortable for some, who have to pretzel themselves in order to fit, but with the same underlying result.