“Participation? Show don’t tell” #egofodder #insultation #AcademicCulture #ActivistCulture #Smugosphere

A few examples spring to mind.

In 2007, while my eyes were opening wider and wider to the reality of Climate Camp, I was at an event in Manchester aimed at getting university students involved in the “non-hierarchical” organisation. And two self-described “non-hierarchical leaders designed the meeting that involved rather a lot of talking… by them. For literally 45 minutes they talked at the increasingly restive and bored students, about how important and invigorating non-hierarchy was. (There’s never an irony policeman when you want one.) I (still having some ‘authority’) then monkey-wrenched the format with some actually interactive and physically engaging activities, salvaging something, or at least stopping it getting worse.

In 2015 or 2016 we students on a PhD programme were called to a meeting by a senior academic who promised he wanted to hear our views on issue x and would only make one or two introductory comments. Forty-five minutes later…

At a public lecture on permaculture (which is, after all, all about unexpected connections and fruitful dialogues and growth), the (Cuban) speaker went on for well over an hour. The room was pummelled into submission, and the tone-deaf chair was about to go into a Q and A which was going to entail speeches-not-questions and even longer answers. I managed to get us all a few minutes of “turn to the person next to you” and it – for me at least – salvaged the shituation.

I have countless examples of this (including the excruciating first public meeting of Extinction Rebellion in Manchester), but they won’t add anything. If a meeting is top down and stultifying but about, I don’t know, Mongolian yak herders, with no promise or pretence of being about exchange, movement-growth, whatever, then while it isn’t exactly good that it is a top-down stale pale (mostly) male format, it isn’t hypocrisy and wasted opportunity.

If. You. Are. Organising. An. Event – in meatspace or online. About. Interactivity. And/Or. “Movement-building.” Then. For. Heaven’s. Sake. MODEL. WHAT YOU ARE ADVOCATING.

“Be the change you want to see” and other hippie bollocks. Or,

Don’t tell, SHOW.

And yes, this is related to something that happened today.

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