Schoolboy Powerpoint Fail AND “the costs of doing social movement.”

Two things before I feed the swans and then work into the evening on industrial decarbonisation and multiple streams approach

ONE – I did a mostly good talk about ID and MSA today. Halfway through I realised I was sharing the screen of my penultimate powerpoint presentation and that I really ought to have the final one, with additional slides etc up (Attention. To. Detail). And then I tried to switch mid presentation and much hilarity ensued because people could see – well, see below.

Pro-tip, don’t be the old dinosaur who does this. Sigh.

TWO – the document that people saw was my thoughts (still half formed but those swans won’t wait so I am gonna publish and be damned ignored) was about the “cost of doing ‘business'” as a citizen. When people ask “why aren’t more people ‘involved’?”, they rarely, in my experience, talk or think about the barriers to involvement, the costs that have to be borne.

Here I am not talking about costs in time and money (social movements scholars talk freely and for once wisely of “biographical availability” – if you don’t have kids, poverty, career, sick parents etc, then you might be ‘available). In the short piece that follows I am more interested in the OTHER costs and barriers.

So, the world is turning to shit, and few people are doing much of anything about it. Why? In what follows column one is what choice people might make, second column is what it costs, third is any inane comments I might have

(In)ActionWhat it costs youComments
Ignore itBlotting out bad news. Some psychic costs, but you soon get numbed We numb ourselves with alcohol, soap operas, sex etc all the time. It’s encouraged.
Deny that it is all that badHmm, at least on climate change, in polite circles denial is beginning to have some social consequences (you can still deny all the other crises – around soil loss, nitrogen, biodiversity, and hardly anyone will look askance) Denial is how we get through the day, anyway (see Stanley Cohen, Ernst Becker, the Terror Management Theory crew)
“Nothing to do with me/above my paygrade”Psychic cost of living in “bad faith” – you feel powerless. But most people don’t read Camus/Paul Goodman for fun, so it’s no biggie There have been so many Pilate projects over the years, eh?
“I pay my taxes, send some money to various green groups/do my recycling”For many this has been ‘enough’, historically For a long time, this was “enough”, and for many people it still is enough.
Join a reformist/monitory/clicktivist groupOh the boredom and futility of the meetings… Being used as a figleaf by various politicians for their photo-ops. Being ignored/gaslit/lied to by bureaucrats etc. Dealing with awkward personalities within the group. Having to defend the group’s failure to others.  Looking into the abyss and having your powerlessness thrown back at you Ugh. Too many poinitless meetings.
Go on a couple of demos a year, as long as they aren’t going to kick offCoach tickets, sore feet, listen to inaudible and irrelevant “the cat should wear a bell” speeches from someone who hasn’t really had a new idea in decadesEasily the easiest way to get your good guy/gal tokens.
 Join a direct action stunts group Obvious costs in physical discomfort, coming into close contact with the Repressive State Apparatus, as opposed to merely rubbing up against the Ideological State Apparatus. Criminal record and the economic consequences Loss of some friendships/acquaintanceships etc. Dealing with awkward personalities within the group. Having to defend the group’s failures and more outlandish actions to others.  Looking into the abyss and having your powerlessness thrown back at you Tends to be mostly those with biographical availability, thought that does seem to be changing.


Looking at this, no wonder “we” don’t engage. And there are so few “role models”, so few examples of people actually being citizens without becoming party hacks or zealots or burnt out. Etc etc

UPDATE 3 November.

Based on the fab comment by Alice (see below), I made this video and stuck it on Twitter

And there’s also this lovely Tweet from @kevinanderson. If you don’t already follow him, do (assuming you want to know what is actually going on with climate change).

Kevin rightly includes a quote from an interview given by the late great Herman Daly (if we had a sane society, Daly would have been a household name. But then if we had a sane society, Daly wouldn’t need to have said what he said, so persistently and elegantly.)

2 thoughts on “Schoolboy Powerpoint Fail AND “the costs of doing social movement.”

Add yours

  1. Marc – your thoughts were a lot more than “mostly good” and your grace in handling the ppt challenges we all fear was fantastic!
    But more substantively, on the post, isn’t there an option about doing what you can, when you can, and doing your best to live coherently, talking to others when the conversation might be fruitful, but recognising when you don’t live coherently and when the conversation will not help? I worry about champions and role models always being something beyond my reach, and all I can do with integrity is doggedly keep on doing my best.

    1. Thank you very much Alice. Yes, you’ve put your finger on the main problem – the existing groups are very very bad at making it possible for busy people of good will who, for multiple reasons can’t join a group regularly, but want to do MORE than go on a couple of demos a year. It’s what is called “legitimate peripheral participation” and it is absurdly difficult to support (or at least it was for me, when I tried!). Will think more on this. Keep going with your dogged integrity. Best wishes. marc

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