All posts by marchudson

Ex- health care professional, ex-ing activist and ambivalently aspiring academic. Climate doomster. We are so toast.

Perm or Perineum? Of social movement emotions, retronyms and… sexism.

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.

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.

PERNIEUM.

Except

  1. That should be affecting, not effecting
  2. It’s a mouthful, taint it? (see what I did there?)
  3. 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.

whitesnake.JPG

Or am I overthinking this, censoring myself out of the pithiest term?

Or perhaps PERMIAN extinction?

Peak Emotional Resonance Moment Inadvertently Accelerating Negativity?

 

Footnotes

(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…”

Advertisements

Anything but the E word. Holdfast Bay council rejects #climate emergency motion

“The shit is hitting the fan,” but it’s not an emergency, according to Holdfast Bay Councillors

Holdfast Bay’s elected members have overwhelmingly rejected a bid for the council to declare a climate emergency. In front of a packed public gallery of young and old, councillors were at pains to display their environmental concerns and credentials, while simultaneously watering down a motion put forward by one of the newest members.

After hearing from a delegation of a 14 year old and an 80 year old, both articulate and compelling, the council had the chance to act on what they heard. A recently elected Councillor, Philip Chabrel, put forward a motion noting recent alarming scientific reports, and calling on the Council to join many others around the world in declaring a climate emergency.  However, it quickly became clear that almost all of his fellow councillors were not in agreement.  An amendment, which removed the offending  term climate emergency and replaced it with an anodyne statement that “ALL levels of government” needed to act, was immediately put forward by another councillor, of many years standing. As other councillors spoke up in favour of that amendment, it quickly became apparent that they were all more interested in declaring that they knew how dire the situation was than in, well, committing the Council to doing anything new about the situation.  An almost accidental and incoherent attempt by another councillor to re-insert the climate emergency term was brushed aside,  The final vote was overwhelmingly in favour of the amended- and weakened – motion.

Holdfast Bay is a sea-side council, and as such could be expected to be particularly concerned about climate change, which is already bringing sea-level rise.  Instead, the Councillors were more interested in blaming State and Federal government and highlighting the City’s purported credentials..  While there is a lot of truth to this, you can’t have your cake and eat it.

Councillor Chabrel, who repeatedly argued that a climate emergency declaration would not cost the council inordinate sums of money, and would bring focus and urgency to the Council’s action, was palpably frustrated. His telling argument that previous Council goals (e.g. to be carbon neutral in its own operations by 2023) were not being implemented, was basically ignored.

After the motion was defeated, most of the 30 or so people present left the meeting and congregated outside the council chamber, amidst the displays that celebrate the city’s radical and pioneering past.  There was a distinct sense of confusion and despair, alongside déjà vu – recently two other metropolitan councils – Adelaide and Marion – have rejected calls for a climate emergency, with similar arguments used.

If this is a situation where, in the words of the Councillor who moved the watering-down amendment, ‘the shit is about to hit the fan’, then it IS an emergency, and talking about plastic bags and abandoned tyres is not discharging your responsibilities.

Eventually, as the impacts pile up,  these incoherent and irrelevant arguments will go away. However, the opportunity to prepare individuals, communities and society for the major challenges ahead will also have gone.  Future generations are unlikely to look kindly upon almost all of Holdfast Bay’s ‘leaders’.

Expect (lots) more magical thinking, from eco-types as well as reactionaries

Easy it is to see the dynamics playing out in people we don’t like.  Easy it is to see how the complexities, ambiguities and downright extra-messiness of Modern Life can lead people to reach for simple(minded) “solutions” and slogans like “Make America Great Again” and “Take Back Control.”

Not so easy to spot it, or admit it, in your own tribe or your tribe’s fellow travellers. but it IS there.  Look at all the Kool-Aid swigging folks getting on with hare-brained cult-like nonsense at the moment (you know who I am talking about).  As one particularly astute friend put it to me –

“Like talking to a bloody cult member now when I gently suggested trying to innovate and do some different tactics and try a little different marketing/publicity approach on Facebook to get more turnout. I knew he could be very close minded but my goodness. I guess sometimes you just don’t know how people will react when they get in a bit of mob/group think thing.”

It’s all magical thinking –

the belief that one’s ideas, thoughts, wishes, or actions can influence the course of events in the physical world. It is something people all over the globe engage in, and many religious and folk rituals center around it. [source]

As I said in reply –

I think it’s a symptom of how scared and desperate people are now. People who are that freaking freaked out are not good at innovating. They want simple solutions to complex problems. It’s the mirror image of the Trump/MAGA thing…. magical thinking all the way.

And it’s going to get worse before it gets… worse.

 

My goodness we are toast.  What a species – a toxic brew of hormones, heuristics and hubris (h/t Toni Fish).

Look Sharp- underlying vectors and factors for the emotacycle?

My very smart Canadian friend (no, not you, Cameron – I have another very smart Canadian friend) just sent me an interview conducted with a researcher/activist called Marcie Smith, by a chap called Branko Marcetic.  It’s title is Gene Sharp, the Cold War Intellectual Whose Ideas Seduced the Left and it is brilliant (as in Smith is on the money, and the right questions were asked).

I think I may have to adjust/expand my thoughts around the emotacycle, which I am doing a presentation about at the end of the month.l.

 

I will deal with this more in the second part of the essay, which will come out soon — it’s about how Sharp’s ideas spread and migrated throughout the Left, how they show up. One of the things I began to see, and others have commented on — and this was not just in the climate movement but in the US protest scene more broadly — was a kind of instrumentalization of protests. By which I mean, elevating protest as an end in itself as opposed to recognizing it as a means to specific political outcomes. This idea that if we do protest, good things will happen. If we perform righteousness, power will notice and we will get the justice and freedom that we demand, whatever that means. Protest gets elevated way above other skills, like organizing, political education, intellectual labor, debate, the skills of alliance building, i.e. diplomacy, etc.

I myself am implicated in this. I was a college climate activist and it’s a very heady thing to get involved in protest movements, to connect and cathect in the street with others who are rightly outraged at the injustice of our current state of affairs. But always we need to be clear, what are we demanding? And who or what are we demanding it of? And is this the best, most strategic use of limited time and resources, is it informed by history and the dynamics of class struggle? And I think intergenerational movements are essential if we are going to answer these questions well. I don’t think it’s coincidental that many Sharpian movements have been driven by middle-class, urban university students, young people with lots of energy, so-called moral clarity, but who are still negotiating their relationship to authority, have few or no bills to pay, etc., and may be “cosmopolitan provincials” in their worldview.

and later

So, we are operating with these very moralistic categories that don’t offer much in the way of specifics about what kind of world we want, what kinds of productive relations we want, and what would it actually take to achieve them in the face of extremely powerful opposition.

That’s dangerous. It puts protest movements in a position where they can be easily co-opted, where they can serve as a kind of battering ram, and then the neoliberal experts with the “good ideas” come rolling out and with the content.

The morality of morale maintenance – of days off, nihilism, 4/1/23 and #oldfartclimateadvice

I

One of my go-to Nietzsche quotes is the one where he says “when you look long enough into the abyss, the abyss begins to look back into you”.  And for years I had a get out (a CVE, for the classic Doctor Who geeks) from this – I could be climate activist/abyss-starer at night and weekends, and Sanctioned Good Person (I had a job that was indisputably socially useful and rewarding) by day.

Now, well, now it’s just abyss staring all day long, and the morale-maintenance thing is even harder since we as a species are running every red light on survival lane.

So, how do you keep hope alive?

Simples. You don’t.

Hope is a crock. Hope is a (self) – indulgence.  What we need instead is courage (this observation is not mine, it’s Kate Marvel’s).

To keep “hoping” you have to be wilfully ignorant of physics, chemistry and political inertia. You have to be willing to suspend your critical faculties when some dreadful idiot, in legacy-mode, makes vague promises that she won’t have to fight for. You have to ignore that we have had 30 years of this crap, and it hasn’t worked.

tweet about give self day off

Taking fake victories at face value strengthens the fakers, reassures the waverers that they don’t need to get involved, and does nothing to build our own capacity to tell the truth and expose lies (I forget who, but somebody said that that was the responsibility of intellectuals, no?)

II

Because I spend too much time on Twitter, I this morning saw this claim

“Climate de-nihilism is the new climate denialism”

My reply:

Hmm. Not to centre me or anything, but… I often get accused of being nihilistic when I point out that current strategies/actions have failed in the past, & that we need to innovate. Fearful of 2nd half of that sentence, ppl ignore it, quote mine the 1st half to say “nihilist!”

Specifically I think back to an event a couple of weeks ago, when having pointed out that traditional methods had not worked in the past, I was accused of being negative, even when I had a very specific set of implementable proposals about how to do things differently.  But ones which would de-centre the bosses, and force them to stop turning potential involved-people into ego-fodder.

And I keep saying, we’re only doomed for sure if we don’t innovate. But for various reasons, people don’t want to innovate.  They want instead, it seems – or don’t have the courage to get out of – their smugosphere (it’s a great term, and the fact that people don’t like to be accused of being smug came as a shock to me: who knew?!)

There’s this post, about the fourth of January 2023, which I will re-write, re-polish, but it does for now.
Fwiw, my #oldfartclimateadvice – if you want a different outcome, you are going to have to behave differently (and be lucky). And that is going to require you to step a very long way outside your comfort zone, and keep stepping out of it. You will resist that, for a variety of reasons, not least the resentment that you don’t believe that you should have to, since you’re a Good Person.  Sure, but we live in an unjust world (as 4/5ths of the world’s population, and all the other species with the exception maybe of domestic cats and dogs would tell you for free).

Suck it up.

Have courage.

Not simples, but so what.

The law of two feet: or “refusing to be #egofodder” #Manchester today

You have two feet. One is for learning, the other is for contributing. If you find yourself in a place where you are doing neither, it is your responsibility to respectfully use your two feet (or wheels) to go somewhere that you are.  If you don’t, chances are you’re gonna be ego-fodder.

Respectfully: So, no resentment-grenades tossed over your shoulder as you flounce out.

But then, as long as I don’t reveal the details of the event, I’m allowed to rant, right? Right?

Fuck me sideways, I have had enough of this shit.

No tea, no coffee, no lunch. No attempt to get us talking with other folks. No written programme with agenda timings.  Just bang, straight into some old white guy self-satisfiedly talking about other self-satisfied white guys. And it was gonna continue like this.

I’ve been around the block(heads) enough to know that while it is theoretically possible for an event to start badly and get better, we don’t live in that theoretical universe, and that if you throw good time after bad, you don’t get the sympathy from the Wife.

It’s a pity, because I suspect there were some interesting people there, but the cost of finding them was simply too high.

Whose fault is this?  It’s easy (and fun, and largely right) to blame individual academics, or individual activists who put on these events (I hesitate to use the term ‘design’, because no design effort appears to have been made.  But it’s also incomplete – they are simply monkey-see-monkey-do-ing.  They came up seeing these meetings, and think it’s the norm (it is, it’s just that it is a – deep breath – REALLY SHIT NORM.)

So, they’re complicit, but the simplicity of the complicity can defer action.

Will I reach out and tell them any of this?  I should, but I simply can’t be bothered.  And the big wheel will, regardless, keep on turning.

Another terrible poem: The simplicity of our complicity

The context of is this. I recently met someone who writes good poems (unlike me). And gets paid for doing so (ditto). And this person (age, gender etc will not be mentioned) swerved the suggestion to write on what is already the central issue, and will soon become the overwhelming issue, for our species (and indeed all the other species we “share” this planet with), because they aren’t a saint.  We set the zealot-hypocrite trap for ourselves, and waltz into it willingly. And it’s not fucking good enough.

The simplicity of our complicity
Explicitly de-hooks us
The poet knows things are going from bad to verse
But stays averse to naming our curse
Asks us to swallow his wallow in the shallow end
(Of our bitter end)
Of our collective hypocrisy

The luxury of silence as the silence of extinction
Descends upon us
Some rebel yell
Some rebel squeak
Some go meek

Some go meek
We all go, of course, head first but eyes clamped shut
Our mouths self-sewn
Because we all have shown  what we are capable of.

The simplicity of this complicity
“I’m guilty as sin”
As if we didn’t know, as if we cared
The cloak of shame we hide in front of
Will not unhook us
We cannot unlook us.

We are worms on that hook
And if we live by our books
If our words give us our daily bread
If we are unacknowledged legislators
Refusing to call out the legislators
Refusing to call those who stuff the ballot boxes

Refusing to call on those with eyes and ears and hands to hear and see and do this  work
If we shirk
If we allow our complicity to be the simplicity of our
Muteness

Then are we poets, or are we lion in slumber?

Are we human?