Letter in New Internationalist about movement-building and (lack of) learning… #emotacycle #smugosphere

An edited version of the letter I sent to New internationalist has appeared in the latest issue. I’ve put the stuff they edited out in bold…

I opened the latest issue, with its teasing headline “How We Stop Big Oil” with a sense of trepidation and weariness. I feared it would follow a format I’ve seen many times in your publication, and others (Red Pepper, Peace News etc). I would be told, in great detail, about the sins of the oil companies. There would be some mention of various policies that might help clip their claws, followed by a brief rousing exhortation to “grassroots movements.”

And so it came to pass. This is not a reflection on the authors’ skills or intentions, but I have had enough. I have been on this planet over half a century, politically conscious for over three decades and I rarely see any,  reflection by those working for a better world on why “we” are failing, at a granular level.

Why do we fail to build sustainable organisations that can welcome new people, and – crucially – keep a good percentage of them for the long haul? Why do we go through boom-and-busts of mobilisation and attention (what I call “the emotacycle”) and what can we do about that? Why do we never seem to learn anything, but instead exist in a kind of Groundhog Day of placards and marches?

How can we answer the question “how stop big oil” (or pharma, or weaponry, or torture or whatever) if we persist in the above-mentioned format, and take the existence of a strong citizenry, capable of forcing decent policies through legislatures, as a given?  If New Internationalist isn’t going to lead these discussions (and I believe it could and should) then who?  And if not now, then when?

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