Category Archives: activism

Of Monbiot, Manchester and miserable ‘feral’ futures.

Nature as redeemer, nature as escape, nature as the solace for our “gridded, controlled, mannered urban lives.” So far so romantic.
Well, nature is on the road, and she’s gunning for the lot of us. We’ve poked the beast, and now it really is waking up. On a quiet day, you could hear it snoring. Nowadays you can hear it going about its morning ablutions while preparing to unleash a can of whoopass on the species wot woke it up.
Which made the Manchester Literature Festival event I went to all the more weird. Row upon row of staggeringly white (this is Manchester?) people, of a certain level of (cultural) capital – not so many upward omnivores here – sat in rows while downloadGeorge ‘Feral’ Monbiot and Sarah ‘Carhullan Army’ Hall stood at t’podium. Hall read from her latest novel, The Wolf Border, which is about a woman, Rachel, involved in a project to reintroduce wolves to the UK. George does what George does well – some witty observations, confidently delivered with a smile. I first saw him do this at the Schumacher Lectures in, bosh, 1996?, when he alarmed the assembled ‘hippie’ gentry by advocating for land rights in the FIRST world. (They were underwhelmed, given the tacit deal with the Schumacher Lectures is that rich people get to be telescopically philanthropic, not locally so. But I digress).  He did not epater la bourgeoisie on this occasion however, but advocated the roaming of the four-legged beasts, especially ones that might contest the ‘white plague’ (sheep, not TB). And deer. [What do you call Bambi with his eyes poked out? No eye-deer. What do you call Bambi with his eyes poked out and his legs chopped off? Still no eye-deer. I’m digressing again, aren’t I?]

This is all well and good, but as the host alluded to, there are slightly bigger fish (well, planets) to fry. So, uncharacteristically, I stuck up my hand and asked this.
“On climate change. We’ve been warned since 1988 by the scientists and some politicians. We’ve done nothing. We WILL do nothing. So we are going to get acidified oceans, seven metres of sea level rise and four degrees plus of warming. Given that, to be provocative, what does it matter if we re-introduce this species or that. “Mother Nature” will introduce – and eliminate – species over the next hundred years as she sees fit.” 
George’s answer was in two parts. I will try to report each fairly, and then editorialise.
1) You mustn’t say that we will do nothing, that we are doomed, because that is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The species is hugely altruistic, it’s just a few (percentage) who are screwing it up.

2) Ecosystems with lots of biodiversity (and apex predators etc) are more resilient to shocks.

George – if you’re reading this and I’ve been unfair, lemme know. Ditto if anyone who was there is reading this…

What I wanted to say in response, but obviously didn’t.

1) The “you mustn’t say we’re doomed because that means people will give up” argument is beginning to get on my tits. I think it can and should only be made by people who have done a thorough job of studying WHY our response has been so poor (it’s not ALL Exxon’s fault) and – this is the crucial bit – have some clearly-stated suggestions about HOW TO DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY ‘GOING FORWARD’. George may have these, but he didn’t say them on Sunday (fair enough – folks were coming to hear him talk about wolves and rhinos, not social movement strategy).
We don’t say “you shouldn’t tell people with lung cancer that they have lung cancer because then they’ll get upset.” We expect to treat ourselves/each other as adults, who can read a Keeling Curve, read the emissions trajectories and understand the concept of climate sensitivity, and do some pretty rudimentary guesstimating.
ALSO, it’s not my ‘doom’ that is killing the species’ chance of seeing the 22nd century in reasonable shape. It’s capitalism, technological hubris, consumerism, population, the failure of social movements to cope with neo-Gramscian passive revolution strategies, and good old fashioned inertia baked into ‘the System’ (, “man”).

2) Hmm, that’s

a) curiously anthropocentric and

b) kinda misses the point about the shocks to the System. The second half of the 21st Century is (probably, okay, probably) going to make the first half of the 20th look like a picnic. This or that species of wolf is not going to mean there isn’t starvation, plague, war and all of that zombie apocalypse stuff. Wishful/magical/totemic thinking to think otherwise, no?

Sarah Hall’s answer I can’t categorise so clearly (I’m sexist man only paying attention to men? Maybe. Or just getting old? Or both). She seemed to be saying, with the example of the 2005 floods in Carlisle, that the cities will be affected, and it’s only when that happens that we will do something.

Worth reading on this “back to Nature” malarkey

  • EM Forster’s short story “The Machine Stops
  • Kingfisher Lives by the late Julian Rathbone, denied the Booker Prize – because one of the judges, the wife of then Prime Minister Harold Wilson, could cope with the incest, murder, cannibalism, but not the (in context) dropping of the C-bomb.
  • Paul Theroux The Mosquito Coast
  • And of course all the feminist sci-fi/spec fiction writers – Marge Piercy (Woman on the Edge of Time, Body of Glass), Barbara Kingsolver, Ursula Le Guin, Octavia Butler.  And I STILL haven’t read Carolyn ‘The Death of Nature’ Merchant. #lazy

PS Thanks to CG for the ticket!!


Terrible meetings? Here’s a nesta reasonable ideas…

According to the American humourist Dave BarryMeetings are an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity that corporations and other large organizations habitually engage in only because they cannot masturbate.” (As in, meetings aren’t just ego-potlaches, they’re also for the recycling of anxiety and responsibility).
While meetings might be full of wankers, they’re surprisingly joyless experiences. “Nesta”, a UK think tank, thinks it has some ideas on “Meaningful meetings: how can meetings be made better?

meetingslonelyThey sort of do, but the paper, as it states is “part of a larger research programme” and couldn’t/is not intended to stand on its own.
The author, Geoff “Connexity” Mulgan explains that we have “old formats and new tools”, ponders on “why so many meetings?” and then offers advice on “linking meeting format and purposes” (see Barry above) and gives some recommendations;

  • The ends and means of meetings need to be visible
  • Meetings need active facilitation and orchestration
  • The best meetings are often multi-platform, and use visualisation as well as talk and paper

Good meetings make the most of their participants – and rein in the extroverts, and the most opinionated and powerful

“one recent psychology study found that three factors were significantly correlated with the collective intelligence of a group: the average social perceptiveness of the group members (using a test also used to measure autism, that involves judging feelings from photographs of people’s eyes); relatively equal turn taking in conversation; and the percentage of women in a group (which partly reflects their greater social perceptiveness).” [Woolley, A. W., et al. (2010) Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups. ‘Science.’ 330(6004): 686-688.]

    • Good meetings begin and end with a deliberate division of labour
    • Good meetings benefit from a conducive physical environment that heightens attention
    • Good meetings apply ‘Meeting Maths’: balancing time, scale, knowledge and breadth
    • Good meetings are cumulative – part of a longer process
    • Some of the best meetings don’t happen (or why you shouldn’t hold unnecessary meetings)

Mulgan then goes on to give succinct explanations of flipped conferences (send in youtubes of your presentations first, then turn up and engage), world cafe , dynamic facilitation, open space technology, the revolutionary thinking method (no, I am not making this up) , De Bono Six Thinking Hats, Sytegrity (see above for RTM), buurtzorg, holocracy governance meetings and agile.
As he drily observes
“There is relatively little evidence about when these work and when these don’t, and an odd feature of innovation in this field is that new models quickly crystallise as highly prescriptive methods, with little feedback to help them improve, or create hybrids, and very little formal testing or evidence.”

So, this is definitely worth a read, and perhaps thrusting into the hand of the stale activocrats who run stale meetings (for all the good it will do). As to what’s missing-
Parkinsons Law of triviality
Any sense that the radicalism of the “open space” will be captured, co-opted and used as a marketing gimmick, or just done so cack-handedly that it will empty the terms of meaning (Instead of ‘how not to be bossy‘)
The psychological needs of both the bosses (to be in charge) and the attendees (to be infantilised)

“The rest of us, with less responsibility in our day-to-day lives, are able to regress merely to being a school-child, sat in rows, listening to the Clever Parent at the front. No jobs, no direct-reports, no kids to look after, we can, for the length of the event, just be the docile/obedient Child.
Attempts to turn us into Adults in this setting will be resisted, both by those who wish to be Parents, and by those who want to be Children. Efforts at de-ego-fodderification are, thus, futile.”

I think there is a glancing reference to Jung [can’t find it now], but nothing on the fantastic psycho-analytically informed work of Rosemary Randall – “Collective and Community Group Dynamics… or your meetings needn’t be so appalling”- which someone has helpfully scanned and uploaded onto the interwebs

Other concepts worth exploring

Letter in #Manchester Evening News about broken #climate promises

The Manchester Evening News has a letter today that slams Kate Chappell, the Executive Member for the Environment for a broken promise (she said she would set up a blog, never did so). The letter (written by some Moss Side malcontent) also points out that the so-called and needs-to-be-killed-off “Stakeholder Steering Group” won’t even allow elected members of the Council to view its meetings.
Here’s the letter.

And here is the text of what I sent, which they’ve not altered;

Thank you for your report on the draft Transport for Greater Manchester report, with its vision of “nightmare scenario” of floods and heat-related deaths by 2040.
Since 2008 various public bodies, including the council, have been producing principles documents, ‘mini-Sterns’, ‘Calls to Action’, Climate Change Action plans, delivery plans, refreshes and pink and polka dot plans. All say action must – and will – be taken to avoid future disaster. If documents full of bureaucratic bluster could save the world, then the upcoming Paris climate meeting would have been cancelled thanks to Manchester’s council.
Two examples of the escalating failure will suffice. In February 2014 the Executive Member for the Environment, Kate Chappell, wrote a letter, on council letterhead, that promised to set up a blog detailing what she was doing, by March. She never did that, or explained why not.
At the last Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee meeting Councillor Dan Gillard (chair of the committee) asked if he would be able, as an elected representative of the people of Manchester to attend meetings of the “Stakeholder Steering Group on Climate Change”, which was set up in 2010 to galvanise action. He wasn’t even given the courtesy of a straight answer, yes or no. That’s stakeholder democracy for you! If it weren’t so serious and tragic, it would be funny.

Need a venue for a meeting in #Manchester? Madlab

Madlab is back! The Northern Quarter venue (‘here be hipsters’ say the old maps. The new maps say ‘here be more hipsters’) has been tarted up from industrial grime to post-industrial sleek without losing its essential charm.
They’ve done away with the rickety stairs (bloody health and safety gone … sane), left the exposed beams in the loft, and got rid of a big pillar in the middle of the ground floor (It was load-bearing, but don’t worry, the roof won’t fall in. Probably.)
It’s got, as is obligatory, some exposed brickwork, and some funky zig-zag lighting, and nice big windows so you can hipster-watch (did I mention the Northern Quarter has been hipsterised?)
Most of all, the staff are friendly and keen to help. It’s venues and endeavours like Madlab that make Manchester vibrant and interesting. If you’re planning an event, or you have a group that needs a meeting space, then you should give them a lookIMG_8150_sm. There is already a seriously long list of seriously interesting groups meeting there.

PS there’s a Manchester hackathon happening at MOSI next weekend (24-25th October).

PPS Nope, not paid to do this. I used Madlab as a venue back in the day, attended some other stuff. Glad to see it back. May use it for a January 2016 meeting with the provisional title “what can we learn from 10 years of unrelenting and escalating failure to build a UK climate movement”.  The title needs a little work…

On (failing at) piercing the smog of the smugosphere

The tl;dr is this – we come up with all kinds of rationalisations for the dismal failure of our social movement organisations to either change/modify government policy or even retain the talent that passes through its meetings and slip through its fingers.  When someone tries to raise it, there are a variety of defence mechanisms and blame-shiftings. NB Lots of quoting of comments I’ve recently posted on facebook – #selfplagiarismupthewazoo

The smugosphere is a fine and semi-public place, but none do there I think embrace the measures of success and progress towards the world we (1)  need.  In fact, that’s the definition of the smugosphere

smugosphere-page001The Smugosphere is not a place you’ll find on a map. It’s a state of mind: it’s the place where deeds are done not so much because they might actually have a positive effect on the world but because they will raise the status or self-esteem of the person/group doing them.

Why am I writing this?  Because in the aftermath of Jezza’s win, and in the tedious ‘build-up’ to Paris (2) there are a lot of people saying things like  “We need to build a climate movement.”

As they were saying TEN YEARS AGO, when we all (cough cough) got involved in the first Climate Camp. And we failed. And we will continue to fail, because we refuse to learn. We just do the things that make us feel good. Emotathons. Smugospheres. Sage on the Stage and Ego-fodderfication. Rather than actually engage with the facts that social movements are losing – because they’re obsessed with a small number of comfort-zone repertoires  – state and corporate – have (long ago) learned how to contain us.

the same contained and constrained and constipated repertoires over and over again, because we can, because they make us feel good, because they are easy.” Right this very minute, for example, I can ‘hear’ someone giving a speech at the rally. Lousy amplification, but no loss, because I am sure they are mouthing exactly the same pieties and banalities and exhortations that have always been mouthed, to people who already totally agree (why else would they be on the fricking demo?). Shepherds and sheep. Yawn yawn yawn.

egofodderSo like (as) a fool, I’ve been trying to have this conversation on Facebook. Yeah, I know.  And there are certain patterns which I’ve noticed.  I’ve listed them below as a) change the subject, b) reject the idea of critique (including ‘it’s not our job’),  c) construction of false binaries and d) ad hominems (you’re mad, you’re middle-class).  You’ will be delighted to learn that, after using a quote from 20 years ago, I close out with a modest proposal.

a) Changing the subject (from the thought that we have failed/the current uptick will fade)

  1. “I am growing food and encouraging other people to do the same”
  2. There are new people

To which I replied

Did I dispute there were lots of new people? Why not address the *actual point I made* – that we don’t have open cultures that ‘exploit’ – as in KEEP these people involved? We have been here before, with surges of numbers and optimism, and we’ve learnt nothing from those moments’ passing, I fear. And yes, marches are a lot like therapy.

b) Rejecting the idea of critique of social movement activity

  1. Chiding people for “negativity” when we should all be “positive” and “loving”
  2. We should do what we love
  3. “It’s not our job”

“a lot of advocacy groups get blamed for climate change – like blaming a firefighter, the person at the end of the hose, for the fire, or the ambulance driver for the heart attack… “

So, just accept that protest movements are the “theme park” of late consumer capitalism and identity crisis, for most people briefly and for some people for decades.

c) Creating a binary between “doing exactly as we have been doing” and “giving up”

To quote “What then?! Recognise its a life-long slog or give up letting the powerful know we know what they are up to. Do nothing is giving that inch that turns into a mile.”  [Actually, I think the powerful know that we know what they are up to.  And they know that, as currently behaving, we won’t stop them.]

My favourite here is ‘the only way forward is [my kind of group]’ – “how else are people going to organise outside of their union’s?

And the reply I gave (it sank without trace, of course)

Well, there are church groups, environmental groups, all sorts of ways that people can organise. Tenants associations, community-based groups, shared-oppression types of groups. Not just unions. And to be clear (I had hoped that I was). I am NOT opposed to organisation, or unions. I am opposed to boredom, and I am opposed to wasting the enthusiasm and energy of ‘newbies’. What I am saying is that the existing formats of meetings is intensely alienating unless you are an insider (and probably even then), and ‘newbies’ tend to not stick around when they realise that the talents and skills they have are not going to be tapped into, and their desires for learning new skills are going to be ignored.

d) Ad hominems

  1. “You are depressed”  [To which the actual reply is ‘mostly by your defensiveness and unwillingness (inability) to engage in a critique of the way we’ve been failing for decades, you walking Dunning-Kruger example’.]
  2. “You are middle-class” Personal favourite example – “And I don’t come from some toffy nosed middle class never left university background either!!”

Twenty years ago someone (and I now know who) wrote an anonymous analysis of the climate ‘movement’ – or rather, the hypocrisies and evasions of those who Care. It’s called No-one ever is to blame. After recounting his inability to get people interested in the concept of personal carbon allowances, he moves on to thinking about the dynamic of how we choose Bad People to hate.

Perhaps these career scapegoats [corporate and state] even encourage us, by adjusting their rhetoric so as to continue to attract our anger. After all, they wouldn’t want us to face reality, would they? Whatever the case, having established our supply of excuses, we continue to buy whatever we like for ourselves, rewarding the politicians with votes for a job well done, and blessing businessmen with an uninhibited market. Even the environmental pressure groups now find a comfortable nest in this collective rottenness. They soon learned that subs and fame came only from telling the sort of truth that people wanted to hear. We were thus instructed to direct our hatred at governments and multinationals. With our lifestyles quantitatively exceeding sustainable levels many times over, the most that mainstream environmental groups thought we should have to cope with was the suggestion that we put our bottles in a different shaped bin, or pump up our car tyres properly. Pleased with their words, we gave them some money. Pleased with our money, they gave us newsletters full of invective about big business, and coloured stickers to stick on our unsustainable cars.

It is logical enough, I suppose, that our environmentally corrupt society should have an even more corrupt environmental movement to protect it. Perhaps everyone else has known this for years, but it is new to me, and something of a shock.

But why give someone else the last word? I should always have the last word. On the question of what we could do differently, two quotes;

Hi xxxx, my question is this – what have you seen that has been learnt by the organisations that have to now try to absorb/sustain/amplify the energy and hope of those who felt battered, from previous failures to do so? How will they hold their meetings differently, measure success differently, build their campaigns differently? Because if they HAVEN’T learnt, and they HAVEN’T got plausible plans in place, then there is every likelihood that they will simply go through the same miserable emotathon cycle, as they did the last five years, and the five years before that, and the five years before that. And it’s for you to decide, but it’s interesting that you rule out psychoanalysing your love of demos. Surely we should be suspicious of that which we ‘love to do’? But that’s for you


Crucial things, imho, is legitimate peripheral participation – people being able to feel useful and part of a group without having to come to (endless) fucking meetings. And the other thing is to find out what skills people have and people WANT, and then work to use their existing skills and design mentoring and apprenticeshipping so they feel they are learning. And as a plus, your group ends up with three or four people who can, for example, do websites, instead of only one. Fewer single points of failure…


(1) Our species, its future generations, other species

(2) Seriously?  Anyone want to bet me that the November march in London will be bigger than the 2009 ‘Wave’? And if it is, so what?

To read
Dauvergne, P. and Lebaron, G. (2014) Protest Inc:The Corporatizatio of Activism Cambridge: Polity Press

Weaver, K. (1986) The Politics of Blame Avoidance’ Journal of Public Policy 6:4

See also

“That’s a courageous decision minister”

Folk Song Army by Tom Lehrer –

Remember the war against Franco?
That’s the kind where each of us belongs.
Though he may have won all the battles,
We had all the good songs.

Coda: The inspiration for this post was the pointless facebook interactions, the more interesting face-to-face interaction yesterday morning and this – Blame Games and Climate Change: Accountability, Multi0Level Governance and Carbon Management, a fascinating and useful article published this year in the British Journal of Politics and International Relations.  It has a good literature review on the mechanics of blame avoidance (as this relates to politicians and bureaucrats). This could usefully be applied to social movement organisations. I haven’t done that here, but I have written the first draft of the first draft…. I need to talk more with people about ‘the wrong kind of guilt’…

Oh, and this, from 2006.


Save Karen and the “limits” of Australian democracy #SaveKaren #FreeKaren

KarenLast Friday the Government released a booklet with a set of anti-radicalisation homilies every bit as subtle as the movie ‘Reefer Madness‘.  One in particular spoke of ‘Karen’, the sweet well-meaning lass who became a green Jihadi Jane because she cared too much –  or in the wrong way – about the environmental destruction we choose to call development. By the end of the day a twitter backlash, with the obligatory ironic hashtag,  #saveKaren, had swept across the screens of Australia.

By eerie coincidence this was almost exactly the one year anniversary of Queensland MP’s George Christensen statement that anti-coal protesters were ‘terrorists ‘and ‘green germs’.

Five months earlier there’d been similar claims from Andrew Bolt and Judith Sloan of anarchists and eco-terrorists running amok.

Six months before that the then president of the Australian Coal Association, Nikki Williams, gave a speech at the Sydney Institute which spoke of anti-coal activists and “fundamentalist eco-activism”, drawing a distinction between “ local  people seeking answers and reassurance … political campaigners, whose only objective, by whatever means  and on the basis of whatever cause, is to extinguish the industry.”

The list could beat onwards into the past; this disdain for those who believe in limits is nothing new.

Limits to Growth

The American scientist Kenneth Boulding once quipped ‘Anyone who believes in indefinite growth in anything physical, on a physically finite planet, is either mad or an economist.’ Had he known Australian history, he might have added ‘or settler colonist’.

In the 1880s, South Australian planner George Goyder, who designed Darwin, was derided for warning farmers not to plant wheat and barley north of a certain line.  A run of wet years appeared to ‘prove’ him wrong – you can still see the ruins of the buildings that housed the people who ignored him.  The ‘Goyder Line’ is, by the way, moving south under the influence of climate change.

Forty years later, Thomas Griffith Taylor,  a polymath explorer and scientist  who was a founder member of the Australian National Research Council in 1919, came under similar attack for pointing to environmental limits to the population growth of Australia. Labeled ‘unpatriotic’,according to his entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography

“Western Australia’s education authorities and university senate banned his text on Australia because of his temerity in employing the terms ‘arid’ and ‘desert’.”

Clearly, we take aim at the messengers who remind us that there are limits.

Modern Times

From the 1979 Terania Creek blockade that marked the beginning of environmental non-violent direct action in Australia through the 1980s, the extractive industries decided that protesters were feral extremists, luddites who sought to emulate Pol Pot and Joseph Stalin.  The Australian Journal of Mining ran a column called ‘Know your enemy’, and an anonymous columnist railed at greens and Aboriginal land rights activists.  The response to the 1991 decision to ban uranium mining at Coronation Hill provoked a response in keeping with this. Addressing the Adam Smith Institute, mining magnate Hugh Morgan warned

”This decision will undermine the moral basis of our legitimacy as a nation, and lead to such divisiveness as to bring about political paralysis. …. The implications of it will, inevitably, permeate through the entire body politic, and cause, imperceptibly, like some cancerous intrusion, a terminal disability. ….”

In the 1990s there were (unfounded) claims of environmental terrorism in Tasmania (See Bob Burton’s “Inside Spin”)and the 1998 Esso Longford plant explosion) provoked short-lived speculation of Green Terrorism.

At the end of the 1990s, Hugh Morgan described four reports about emissions trading by the  Australia Greenhouse Office (which, let’s remember, was set up by John Howard, hardly a radical greenie himself) as “Mein Kampf declarations”  (Hamilton 2001, 138)

The Institute of Public Affairs has consistently framed greens as at best well-meaning dreamers and at worst ‘watermelons’ – green on the outside, red on the inside, and accused journalists of alarmism.

Inculcating a State of Fear, framing the enemy
In 2004 Michael ‘Jurassic Park’ Crichton released State of Fear, a novel that hinged (or perhaps ‘unhinged’) on the idea that environmentalists were melting glaciers and causing environmental damage to gain funding and adherents for their religious crusade.  The book found approving reviewers in the IPA’s Jennifer Marohasy, and Crichton’s ludicrous  ‘DDT ban has killed more people than Hitler’ was echoed by Miranda Devine.

In early 2012 a Greenpeace campaign strategy  “Stop the Mining Export Boom” response was reported by the Sydney Morning Herald.    A month later the paper was reporting that ASIO  “has been providing intelligence to the federal government on environmental groups that campaign against coal-mining.”

Mining impresario Clive Palmer then pitched in, claiming  “Greens and the environmental group Greenpeace were tools of the CIA in a plot to undermine Australia’s coal exports”.

Perhaps, as an author counselled on ‘the Conversation’

“We should remember the words of US Senator Wyche Fowler. He argued that a balance of power that was distributed to democratic institutions was meant to keep politicians on their toes, and “bureaucrats from doing something stupid”.”

Why Now and What Next?
Framing people who speak of environmental limits and act on those beliefs as extremists is not unique to Australia. Canadian police and security agencies are framing petitions and protests as ‘attacks’ . In the United States both state and corporate responses to environmentalism have been extremely robust for decades. In the United Kingdom the police ran an expensive and extensive undercover operation against environmentalists.

Ad hominem arguments work not just to distract from consideration of the substance of a position, but also to prevent that view from spreading.   As a perceptive commentator on the Guardian wrote in 2014, the mining interests and their supporters are

“consciously framing the everyday Australians who actually live in these communities, and send their kids and grandkids to school in them, as “fringe” or “radical”. Such a tactic softens the ground for future attacks on democratic participation and community input on the things people have a right to be concerned about: their health, their livelihoods and the beloved natural places which surround them. The last thing the miners want is a community groundswell delaying their mammoth projects. Turning on the community suggests they are spooked by the growing support to protect our national treasures.”

Forty years ago green bans by environmentally-minded trades unionists saved parts of the heritage of Melbourne and Sydney that had been earmarked for destruction.  Forty years hence, will today’s ‘ferals’ have become similar (forgotten) saviours?   Certainly, given the projections for emissions increases and temperature rise, we will be asking who are the radicals – the people who think that economies can and should continue burning enormous amounts of fossil fuels, or those trying to stop them?

“The Girl in the Mirror” – 80s pop and #feminism

Today on Youtube, while doing grunt work on the PhD (goes quicker with a soundtrack), I stumbled on something I don’t think I’d ever heard – a political (feminism) pop song from the 1980s. You can watch it here, followed by my attempt at lyrics and a John Berger quote that seems to fit….

“Following Jo Jo Zep Clifton once again collaborated with Joe Camilleri in the recording studio on her first solo single ‘Girl On The Wall’. The Camilleri produced track was a fantastic pop-rock song with really clever lyrics, which took a sharp edged look at the whole question of self image for women. The inspiration for the song came from Jane Clifton’s role in the Robyn Archer penned cabaret show ‘Pack Of Women’.”

Lyrics (if anyone can figure out the bits I couldn’t, lemme know please)

Every time I go to catch a train
An image stares down at me
Oh every time I buy a magazine
An image stares out at me
And I feel so insecure
Cos I know one thing for sure
That the girl in the mirror
Ain’t the same as the girl on the wall

Baby’s….. to know
He says that it must be love
In bed when he closes his eyes
Is it me that he’s thinking of?
Because everything I say and do
Is all from his point of view
And the girl in the mirror
Ain’t the same as the girl on the wall

Cos I’m overweight, underweight
Too strong, too frail
I got lifeless hair and dirty finger nails
Too dry, too greasy
I’m a prisoner locked in a body cage

Flat chested big busted
Flat footed flat face
Big-bottomed short-legged and my nose is out of place
Too pretty too ugly
Too forward too shy
I got no self-image and I wonder why

Every day I’m walking down the street
I feel every eye on me
Everyone that I meet
I wonder who do they see
Perfection in disguise
With regimes and alibis
And the girl in the mirror
Ain’t the same as the girl on the wall

The girl in the mirror
Ain’t the same as the girl on the wall

“A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. Whilst she is walking across a room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping. From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as the two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman. She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life. Her own sense of being in herself is supplanted by a sense of being appreciated as herself by another….

One might simplify this by saying: men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object — and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.”
― John Berger, Ways of Seeing