What’s BUGging me today? #MovementPathologies

tl;dr The ‘Bottom-Up’ Grift (BUG) is the spinning of a line – for profit and/attention – that the true path to utopia is via ‘bottom up’ activity. This post defines the BUG, explains how to spot it, where it comes from, what to do about it.

The Grift

Making a career out of saying “we need a bottom-up movement,” without ever explaining what that would actually entail, in the here and now, or demonstrating how to do things differently to make that more likely to emerge. Instead the grifter just co-opts the “right on” language to jostle their way forward and gain the attention/approval of some. We denounce capitalists when they steal our dreams and sell them back, but don’t even spot the BUG types, most of the time, because we’re so desperate for any sense of progress.

How to spot it

Someone on literal or metaphorical soap box/on a panel or a manel, who is doing a celebration of “bottom-up” energy and independent activity, but without ever talking about

  • how that has been captured and co-opted in the past, and will likely be again in the future
  • the sheer amount of new skills, knowledge, relationships and responsibilities embedding “bottom up” activity would actually entail
  • the ways that the very formats of the “left” contribute to sheepish behaviour.

Where it comes from?

Charitably – folks who can see something is wrong with what is laughably called our “theory of change,” and say it loud and repeatedly, but who then discover that they don’t actually need to keep going and think through the specifics of what needs to change (which in any case might upset their patrons and the very mechanisms by which they have gained their thin sliver of approbation/attention). And so they, understandably, don’t do that extra difficult and potentially career-limiting thinking.

Uncharitably – grifters who are looking for a language they can use to climb the greasy pole, and are going to use it while betraying it and cheapening it, consciously.

Why we fall for it

Remember, cons usually work because the mark (the person the grifter is trying to separate from their money/prestige/critical faculties) is greedy for something – money, feeling good about themselves – or is feeling lonely and misunderstood/ignored.

The BUG works because it seems to identify what our problems are, at least around sclerotic, unimaginative, captured organisations. And we feel so relieved that someone else, someone in a position of “authority” (even if they are just a slightly bigger fish in a small pond) ‘gets’ it that we fail to ask any follow-up questions, to do any due diligence before “buying”.

What to do about it

If you are bothered by it (and it is perfectly possible to have a Zen-like calm about the BUG, so I am told) then you can do challenge those who are propounding it. You could

  • Ask them “what do we have to do differently, here and now? Why will that be difficult?” (For my answer to these questions, on public meetings, check out this- Standard Public Meeting Syndrome).
  • Figure out if THEY are doing anything differently (n.b. this is a second order issue. Just because someone is a hypocrite does not mean they are wrong, and responding to all BUGs with chants of “hypocrite” from the get-go can a) be anti-intellectual and b) simply reinforce cynicism about the possibility of ‘bottom up’ activity that matters by persisting and growing (i.e. the principle becomes collateral damage from shooting at the particular grifter in front of you).

What to expect over the longer term

As conditions deteriorate ever more rapidly, expect to see an infestation of BUGs. Sadly, the solution that will be used to deal with this will cause lots of toxins to be splashed around liberally and probably poison everything forever, leading to a Silent Summer, Autumn and Winter as well. But that shit is baked in anyway, I guess.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: