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I am someone who stopped going to protests in May of 1970 when I was asked to chant in front of a GE stockholder's meeting, "Save Mother Earth."  I swore at that moment that I would NEVER do something that irrelevant and goofy again.

Now there is NOTHING wrong with street action.  I don't even believe it saps energy.  If that is what you think your calling to be, make puppets and march in the streets with my blessing.

However, I don't think street action is what the folks who come to Eurotribune should be doing.  Let me explain.

Because I am graceful with tools, I get along VERY well with the members of the building classes.  The idea that our problems are due to insufficient political and cultural awareness of the car mechanic or carpenter is just plain wrong.  The grassroots are FINE!!!

The real problems exist at the level where the conventional wisdom is hatched.  Our politicians make preposterous economic decisions NOT because they are corrupt, but because the guys with all the "credentials" are filling their heads with utter bullshit.

See, that is OUR job.  Not to fill our leaders heads with more bullshit, but giving them good, sound, ideas that allow them to at least ask meaningful questions.  It is why I think our Jerome is bucking for sainthood with his crusade to relabel neoliberalism as "Anglo Disease."

Let others march in the streets and organize "grassroots" campaigns.  We have other fish to fry.  If we could come up with 20 ideas as effective as "Anglo Disease" we WILL change the world.  Ideas ARE important and the time has come to ridicule the right-wing crazies out of the debate.  There is NO way to meaningfully address the big problems like peak oil and climate change without changing the operating economic assumptions.  

This is OUR battle and Eurotrib is a damn good place to figure out how to fight it.  We MUST create the new "conventional wisdom."  It is a HUGE problem but there are some seriously smart people who come here.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Sun Mar 30th, 2008 at 06:30:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
for those most uplifting words!

I've been feeling a bit useless and out of things to say lately. it's good to have things put in perspective again, so as not to give up too quickly...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Mar 30th, 2008 at 07:20:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome, don't feel down. Feel knurd. It's unpleasant but it works.

What you're doing has nothing to do with Greenpeace/Bové style activism. The "Anglo disease" is about framing the discourse and, interestingly enough, the action is directed towards the media and politicians, not ordinary citizens. In some degree, it's lobbying.

Plus, you have a pretty serious ally in this affair: reality. The Anglo disease is not an important issue because you feel very strongly about it (the ward single-issue activist use to gauge their own importance). It's important because it's real and it's bitting the whole lot of us right now.

That's more what I call citizen expertise: developing and articulating knowledge about important issues outside of the anointed circles so it is possible to tell them "No, you are wrong and here's the proof" when they serve their usual "expert" crap. That works even (and, probably especially well) for highly technical issues.

But you don't go around hectoring passers-by on how immoral they are for not caring deeply about the Anglo disease. That's what Greenpeace and the single-issue activists are doing and then they are all outraged and indignant when the passers-by just answer "whatever".

by Francois in Paris on Sun Mar 30th, 2008 at 09:56:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But you don't go around hectoring passers-by on how immoral they are for not caring deeply about the Anglo disease. That's what Greenpeace and the single-issue activists are doing

That is really one over the top and one too many, François. Belittle protests, or oppose the notion of protesting, if you like, but this is not even accurate.

Funny that I started this by sighing over the protest I had attended.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Mar 31st, 2008 at 03:11:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is my experience.
by Francois in Paris on Mon Mar 31st, 2008 at 01:23:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Have never once seen it. Ditsy useless songs and slogans, oh yes, but not harassing passers-by with accusations.

But you're the tough guy around here, if you're to be believed. So you should agree with activists for being unpleasant and threatening rather than ineffectual, right?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Mar 31st, 2008 at 02:44:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unpleasant if they want. Threatening, certainly not. It will land them in jail. Ineffectual, always.

But you're the tough guy around here, if you're to be believed.

No innuendo, afew. What do you mean?

by Francois in Paris on Mon Mar 31st, 2008 at 03:06:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A reference to a number of your comments:

When I hear the Greenpeace whining, it really makes me want to harpoon a whale and club a baby seal just for the heck of it

I'm going to be mean and vindictive again

you should have spent more time shooting down the old guard of the PS

I don't want soft-spoken goo-goos à la Jimmy Carter. I want real sons of a bitch who don't hesitate to yield power and club the other side to pulp.

I thought that, finally, you might find that activist s-o-bs who hector passers-by were your kind of folk...

:-P

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Mar 31st, 2008 at 03:47:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, 'cause they are ineffectual. Outcomes matter :>
by Francois in Paris on Mon Mar 31st, 2008 at 04:09:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good comment, techno.

We've talked, off and on, of forming a "ET ThinkTank" and it always seems to bog down.

In my opinion we have a wide range of expertise with a wonderful potential waiting to be harnessed.  The harness, IMNSHO, is money and, allied to that, is a 'customer.'  The latter solves the former.  If we could find a customer willing to throw ~150,000€ a year for two years we could write a serious of position papers that would destroy the intellectual foundations of the Washington Consensus.  

Hell, we've already done it, but in an inchoate manner, spread across the years of diaries and comments.  

The job would be to go through ET, construct coherent arguments, do a bit of research, toss in the proper academic dongles, and write, write, write.  At the end of two years the output should be a minimum of two books and 10 papers.  (That's off the top of my head, we might double or - if things work out right - even treble it.)

Getting the books published is a known solution.  Getting the papers published is more - heh - academic but they could always be hand-delivered to various decision-makers and the media.  Since we're not really interested in getting tenure that's good enough, IMO.

Realistically, in order to qualify for support at that level a team would have to be formed, a funder found that would agree to fund if the teams proves itself, a set of criteria from the funder needing to be met, and the team prepare a paper meeting that criteria.  

I know, cuz I done done it - along with many other people here, doing the research and writing the paper is the easy part.  Finding the funder is the problem.  

And on that I'm of no help.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Mar 30th, 2008 at 07:23:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ATinNM:
In my opinion we have a wide range of expertise with a wonderful potential waiting to be harnessed.  The harness, IMNSHO, is money and, allied to that, is a 'customer.'  The latter solves the former.  If we could find a customer willing to throw ~150,000€ a year for two years we could write a serious of position papers that would destroy the intellectual foundations of the Washington Consensus.  
The idea of a "meta-consultancy" has legs, I think. It has been floated by a number of people. What we really need, though, is someone with sales/fundraising ability to convince potential customers that our expertise is what they need.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 04:17:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, yes, yes, but with a quibble.

I actually believe the puppets makers/street marchers are noxious. They trivialize protests and when really substantive protests come along, they have no longer any effect.

Example : the anti-war protests in the US and UK in 2002 which were 1) massive and 2) had zero effects, in large parts because the idiots have poisoned that well long ago with their narcissistic street theater BS. The March on Washington of August 1963 would have no effect whatsoever if it were to happen today.

Protests should be very rare, only about really important matters, and they should be massive and brutal.

by Francois in Paris on Sun Mar 30th, 2008 at 09:05:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
make aware the public of a problem, not change how people think about it. Of course the anti-war protests were useless in changing public opinion. Everybody knew there would be a war and it didn't lack awareness.
But there are other issues, which can profit enormously just from awareness.

I guess by the way there are a lot of people, who would oppose protesters and potentially their issues, just because they are "massive and brutal", as you write they should be. If you really can change something, like stopping a war or destructing a nuclear power plant, this can still work, but such protests won't be constructive.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Mon Mar 31st, 2008 at 01:27:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Partially so.

But partially it is probably also due to the very simple fact that protests today are substantially more toothless than protests forty or fifty years ago. It used to be that when someone put a hundred thousand pairs of feet on the streets in the capital, it presaged a general strike, extensive blockades, large scale organised sabotage or some other suitably nasty reprisal if their demands were not met - or at least approached.

In other words, the Left used to have the Parliament of the Street with which to oppose the Right's control of the Parliament of the Dollar. Today, the Parliament of the Street has been left to disorganised anarchist rabble with more guts than sense and little in the way of political program or parliamentary representation [2], while the Parliament of the Dollar is still fully operational - and likely more so than back in the bad old days.

It has been postulated - and I think I tend to agree - that rapid and real progress is made not by revolution, but by the credible threat of it. Looking across the history of European democracy, the greatest democratic progress has been in the late 1840s, in the interbellum years and in the immediate aftermath of WWII. In all three cases, revolution was a very real possibility [1], with potentially extremely unpleasant consequences for the elites, were it to happen.

Sadly, though, the credible threat of revolution tends to work best when said revolution is happening to someone else at the time; and revolutions have a way of eating their children...

- Jake

[1] Respectively the Franco-German liberal revolts, the aftermath of the Russian revolution and the way the European communists had been boosted in public opinion by being the only faction to put up a more than half-hearted fight with the fascists during the War.

[2] But do note that they did get a new Ungdomshus.

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Mar 31st, 2008 at 03:55:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know how old you are, Jake, but a disorganised anarchist rabble with more guts than sense was the kind of thing that was said about the protests forty or fifty years ago that you consider were efficient.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Mar 31st, 2008 at 04:35:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True. But methinks you overlooked the qualifier with little in the way of political program. Not being old enough to remember it personally, I have my information second-hand at the best of times, but even if half the things I hear are post-facto rationalisations, there was a lot of political program back then.

Not so much with the present-day anarchists. They make a showing at the G8 summits, but not much more than that (and that's still a Hell of a lot more than can be said for the Serious lefties). But if you read their manifests, they specifically eschew political platforms as reactionary. Libertarians on the left.

Now, that's not to say that they couldn't be effective. The right has used right-wing libertarians to move the Overton Window quite effectively. But I don't see anything in their public statements (or their operational planning) that suggests that they are working along those lines.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Mar 31st, 2008 at 05:05:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This comment would be worth a diary.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 04:46:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Since you're addressing your comment to me, techno, (at least formally), please let me point out that you are preaching to the converted. My view of what we can and should be doing at ET is exactly what you say, and it's why I'm here.

I'm finding it quite amusing, though, that my admission that I'd gone to a street protest against GMOs is gathering me quite a basket of lectures... Some of them very good ones, of course, like yours :-)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Mar 31st, 2008 at 03:05:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am someone who stopped going to protests in May of 1970 when I was asked to chant in front of a GE stockholder's meeting, "Save Mother Earth."  I swore at that moment that I would NEVER do something that irrelevant and goofy again.

When 'normal' people go home just because they don't like the company of the nutters the nutters remain.

If 'normal' people really cared, they'd easily crowd out the nutters and street theatrists.

In fact, things could get as bad as for you in May 1970 only because the majority of 'normal' people bowed out of activism long before you.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Mar 31st, 2008 at 10:30:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll add that I did not go to an anti-GMO demo in order to prance around dressed as the Green Giant. I went in hopes there'd be a significant number of "normal" people like me. I was disappointed.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Mar 31st, 2008 at 11:40:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You have the luxury to be disappointed :-) I can be happy when even just the nutters turn up.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Mar 31st, 2008 at 12:40:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, that's true.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Mar 31st, 2008 at 01:01:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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