We’re all going to die. And we’re all going to die in large or small (1) part because social movement organisations run on emotion rather than anything approaching strategy. And they spend all their time trying to get the next hit (2), rather than getting folks to do the long, slow, boring work of social change and of changing the system from “without” (3).
This matters to me in general because I am part of a group trying to build capacity to respond, in Manchester, to the insane scale of the climate emergency. We will fail, but as long as we fail but do not flail, then I’ll be “happy.”
This matters to me in specifics right now because next Tuesday I am presenting at an academic conference on the subject of political emotions, on the emotacycle.
I’ve already come up with various neologisms (new words) for aspects of this – the smugosphere, ego-fodder, potemkinclusivity. The wife, aka Dr Wifey,aka TSG (The Short Genius) reckons that’s enough neologisms for one… lifetime. So, I am switching to retronyms now. A retronym is an acronym where the word comes first and the acronym is retro-fitted.
As I walked around the park with my
proverbial (as in literal) backpack full of bricks, yesterday, I was thinking about the mechanics of the emotacycle, and the moment at the top right of the diagram, currently called ‘The Main Event’, where the peak moments of emotional resonance are to be had. The orgasmic moment. So I started playing around with P.E.R and pretty soon I came up with PERM-
Peak Emotional Resonance Moment. (PERM)
In SOME ways its perfect – all about preening, presentation, wasting good money on frivolous things… and…
Deeply gendered. There’s already a nasty vein of Puritan critique of consumerism as silly women’s business. Would PERM not be more of the same?
So, as I walked around the park, up and down the hill steps five times, up and down the grandstand five times, I kept going with the PER…
Peak Emotional Resonance Incident, Negatively Effecting/Undermining Movement-building.
- That should be affecting, not effecting
- It’s a mouthful, taint it? (see what I did there?)
- It’s still quite genital/sexual (as my shrink would point out, if I had one).;
How about Ostentatious Rebellious Gatherings, Against Social Movement-Building
Or , or…
Yeah, look, it was fun as I walked around the park, but TSG may be right. I like the PERM thing best, tbh, but the sexism baggage – unless it can be illustrated with 80s stadium-rocker hair etc, renders it problematic.
Or am I overthinking this, censoring myself out of the pithiest term?
Or perhaps PERMIAN extinction?
Peak Emotional Resonance Moment Inadvertently Accelerating Negativity?
(1) Sometimes in my focus on social movement pathologies I forget that there are people out there trashing the planet for shits , giggles and profits. So I have been told, anyhows, by people who don’t want to look too closely at our own failings…
(2) There’s a critique of big NGOs (Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth etc ) that the y spend all their time fundraising and so cutting their cloth accordingly, not saying or doing the things they should. Well, same goes for the so-called grassroots groups, in the sense that they too spend all their time creating opportunities for donations to keep them afloat. But the donations are of time, passion. The longer slower movement-building stuff is simply ignored and actively hurt by the churning involved… Put more pithily here –
Activists keep hopping from cause to cause based on whatever’s currently getting media attention. Does that develop collective power for anyone? Political ambulance chasing is fine for NGOs
(3) As someone, I forget who, once sang – “They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom, for trying to change the system from within…”
Re: your opening line. We’re all gonna die whatever. Social movements and their targets just affect the when and how.