Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Nostalgia Isn't What It Used to Be

_Nostalgia Isn't What It Used to Be_ by Simone Signoret
NY: Penguin Books, 1978
ISBN 0-14-00.5181-3

(31)  At about that time [1933-34], she noticed one day that a toothbrush she had just bought herself said “made in Japan.”  We returned to the store and there faced the owner, who wore a Basque beret and was probably a Croix de Feu militant [French neo-fascist movement].  Very politely, my mother said, “I would like to exchange this toothbrush.  You see, it’s made in Japan.”  “So?”  “Well, you see, monsieur, the Japanese have just signed an agreement with the Germans and Italians so any Japanese merchandise, even a little toothbrush, becomes armaments for Japan, Italy, and Germany.  Fascist countries.”  I wished the ground would open and swallow me up.  The man replied, “So you want a French toothbrush, is that it?”  “No, I’m not a chauvinist.  No, all I want is a toothbrush that is not German, Italian or Japanese.’  We went home with a toothbrush that was made in England.  My mother considered her day to have been well spent, and today I agree with her.  But at twelve or thirteen one gets terribly embarrassed.

(94)  So that was the end of that. It has taken a long time to tell it all, 1940-44.  It seemed like twenty years.

That was the end of it for us.  But it wasn’t finished for those who were in the camps.  And it wasn’t finished for the soldiers.  And it was just beginning for the collaborators.  And it had been finished a long time for those who had died.

(141)  Autheuil was bought with the sous earned by an artisan who exploits himself by producing only the things he likes.

(151)  [Instead of reading Ethel Rosenberg’s Deathhouse Letters at a movement gala] I would go and read a very beautiful letter by Émile Zola, which Roger Pigaud suggested to me.  It was called Lettre á la Jeunesse, and it has been enormously useful to me every time I get invovled in this sort of event.

(165)  … as Gramschi had written, “Only the truth is revolutionary…”

(204)  Montand on following their consciences:  “From now on we’re going to be on bad terms with everybody - but on what good terms we’ll be with ourselves!”

(245)  She had something to tell us.  She said it very fast and very low.  Did we know [Louis] Aragon?  Would we be seeing him?  And how!  Well we must give him a message.  A friend of his, a young Hungarian poet, was in prison along with a number of other writers, since January.  Neither she, who was his ex-wife, nor his present wife had been able to obtain the slightest information concerning his fate.  A letter had already been sent to Aragon a month and a half ago.  Aragon knew Tibor very well.  Elsa did too.  Tibor had joined the banned French Communist party during the war, in 1942, in France, where had been a political refugee since 1938.  Aragon must do somethign to help;  he knew that Tibor had never been a fascist.  I promised her I would deliver the message.  I did not promise her that Aragon would do anything.  She gave me a long look, in silence, and then she took both my hands and said, “Well, then, ask him not to sleep for one night.”  I wrote down the name Tibor Tardos.

(316)  One never really knows anything about the true guilt or innocence of the people whose part one takes.  Most of the time, one takes a stand against people who think they have a right to take a stand against the accused.  And they have none.

(337)  She [Marilyn Monroe] made me tell her my stories, which were neither more nor less original, comic, or emotional than any actress’s stories in any country in the world.  Basically they’re stories of marvelous complicity, the kind childen have in their early school years.

(353)  The people I worked with never ate in a restaurant where there wasn’t a portrait of Kennedy.  However, one day I strayed into a pseudo cheap dive;  there on the table stood a minute porcelain bust of Kennedy.  It was a salt cellar, with holes in the precise spots where the bullets - fired by whom? - had penetrated his head.

(373)  Does one act better after one has aged?

Well, one doesn’t act better:  One doesn’t act anymore.  One is.  The compliments you get from people who speak about “the courage to show oneself in an unflattering aspect”  are just pious remarks.  It isn’t courage;  it’s a form of pride, possibly vanity, to show yourself as you really are in order to better serve the character that has been offered to you as a gift.

(442)  I’ve never thought that any couple was safe from a possible separation.  I’ve never had that kind of certainty.  I’ve always been wildly astonished, every day, that things go on.

We’re just the same age, Montand and I.  He’s lived beside me while I aged, and I’ve lived beside him while he matured.  That’s one of the differences between men and women.  _They_ mature;  their white hair is called “silvery temples,” the lines on their faces are “chiseled,”….

(449-450)  But one’s recollections are never entirely shared.  When one puts them to the test of a confrontation, it’s often as helpless as a witness for the defense who says in all good faith that the dress was blue when it was green.

It was green for me.

It was colorless for another.

It was blue for a third person.

All of us liked one another.  We didn’t see the same things.  Or rather we saw the same things together at the same moment, and we saw them differently.

When one tells a story one usurps the memory of others.  Because of the simple fact that they were there, one has stolen their memories, their recollections, their nostalgia, their truths.

When I said “we,” I took possession.  But that was to tell the tale.  My memory or my nostalgia have made me weave threads.  Not forge chains.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Ecology of Freedom

_The Ecology of Freedom_ by Murray Bookchin
Palo Alto, Ca:  Cheshire Books, 1982
ISBN 0-917352-09-2

(32)  Wholeness, in fact, is completeness.  The dynamic stability of the whole derives from a visible level of completeness in human communities as in climax ecosystems.  What unites these modes of wholeness and completeness, however different they are in their specificity and their qualitative distinctness, is the logic of deveopment itself.  A climax forest is whole and complete as a result of the same unifying process - the same _dialectic_ - that a particular social form is whole and complete.

(44)  Dorothy Lee, _Freedom and Culture_ (Englewood Cliffs, NJ:  Prentice Hall, 1959)

(48)  Indeed, far from dealing with nature as an “it” or a “thou” (to use Martin Buber’s terms), the ceremonial validates nature as _kin_, a blooded, all-important estate that words like _citizen_ can never attain.  Nature is _named_ even before it is deified;  it is personified as part of the community before it is raised above it as “super nature.”  To the pygmies of the Ituri forest, it is “Ndura” and to the settled Bantu villagers the same word strictly designates the forest that the pygmies regard as a veritable entity in itself, active and formative in all its functions.

(56)  Paul Radin, summing up decades of anthropological experience, research, and fieldwork, once observed:
If I were asked to state briefly and succinctly what are the outstanding features of aboriginal civilizations, I, for one, would have no hesitation in answering that there are three:  the respect for the individual, irrespective of age or sex;  the amazing degree of social and political integration achieved by them;  and the existence of a concept of personal security which transcends all governmental forms and all tribal and group interests and conflicts.

Thes features can be summarized as:  complete parity or equality between individuals, age-groups and sexes;  usufruct and later reciprocity;  the avoidance of coercion in dealing with internal affairs;  and finally, what Radin calls the “irreducible minimum” - the “inalienable right” (in Radin’s words) of every individual in the community “to food, shelter and clothing”  irrespective of the amount of work contributed by the individual to the acquisition of the means of life.  “To deny anyone this irreducible minimum was equivalent to saying that a man no longer existed, that he was dead” - in short, to cut across the grain of the world conceived as a universe of life.

(131)  The practice of direct democracy was an affirmation of citizenship as a process of direct action.  Athens was institutionally organized to convert its potentially monadic citizenry from free-floating atoms into a cohesive body politic.  Its regular citizen assemblies (Ecclesia), its rotating Council of Five Hundred (Boule), and its court juries that replicated in the hundreds the polis in miniature, were the _conscious_ creations of a public realm that had largely been fostered intuitively in tribal societies and were rarely to rise to the level of rational practice in the centuries to follow.  The entire Athenian system was oranized to obstruct political professionalism, to prevent the emergence of bureaucracy, and to perpetuate an active citizenry _as a matter of design_.

(142)  Not until the Middle Ages did this Teutonic word (as we know it) [freedom] begin to include such metaphysical niceties as freedom from the realm of necessity or freedom from the fortunes of fate, the Ananke and Moira that the Greeks added to its elucidation.

(168)  The word “freedom” initially appears in a Sumerian cuneiform tablet that gives an account of a successful popular revolt against a highly oppressive regal tyranny, thousands of years ago.  In _The Sumerians_, Samuel Noah Kramer tells us that “in this document… we find the word ‘freedom’ used for the first time in man’s recorded history;  the word is _amargi_ which… means literally ‘return to the mother.’”  Alas, Kramer wonders, “we still do not know why this figure of speech cane to be used for ‘freedom.’”  Thereafter, “freedom” retains its features as a longing to “return to the mother,” whether to organic society’s matricentric ambience or to nature perceived as a bountiful mother.

(204)  Gerrard Winstanley is best known as the leader and theorist of the Diggers, a minuscule group of agrarian communists who in 1649 tried to cultivate the “free” or waste land on St. George’s Hill near London….

As Rexroth accurately emphasizes, “All the tendencies of the radical Reformation” - and, we may add, the most important millenarian movements of earlier times - “seem to flow together in Winstanley, to be blended and secularized, and become an ideology rather a theology.”  Winstanley was not a military communist like the Taborites;  he was a committed pacifist, and so far as we know, he remained one throughout his life.

(244-245)  The real powers of the Asian village to resist technical invasions or to assimilate them to their social forms lay not in a fixed “systemic division of labor,” as Marx believed.  Its powers of resistance lay in the intensity of Indian family life, in the high degree of care, mutualism, courtesy, and human amenities that villagers shared as cultural norms, in the rituals that surrounded personal and social life, in the profound sense of rootedness in a communal group, and in the deep sense of meaning these cultural elaborations imparted to the community.

(250-251)  But a new technics had supplanted the old:  the technics of supervision, with its heartless intensification of the labor-process, its conscienceless introduction of fear and insecurity, and its debasing forms of supervisory behavior.  Where the “factors” had bought products, not people, the factory bought people, not products.   This reduction of labor from embodiment in products into a capacity of people was decisive;  it turned fairly autonomous individuals into totally administered products and gave products an autonomy that made them seem like people.  The animate quality that things acquired - qualities which Marx aptly called the “fetishism of commodities” - was purchased at the expense of the animate qualities of people.

(260)  For the present, however, I must emphasize again that terms like “small,” “soft,” “intermediate,” “convivial,” and “appropriate” remain utterly vacuous adjectives unless  they are radically integrated with emancipatory social structures and communitarian goals.  Technology and freedom do not “coexist” with each other as two separate “realms” of life.  Either technics is used to reinforce the larger social tendencies that render human consociation technocratic and authoritarian, or else a libertarian society must be created that can absorb technics into a constellation of emancipatory human and ecological relationships.

(261)  Post-scarcity, as I have emphasized in earlier works, does not mean mindless affluence;  rather, it means a sufficiency of technical development that leaves individuals free to select their needs autonomously and to obtain the means to satisfy them.

… Richard J Barnett, _The Lean Years_:  But his data reveal that we are faced not with an absolute shortage of materials but with an irrational society.

(263)  The Hellenic ideal of freedom - an ideal confined to the citizen - was different.  Freedom existed _for_ activity, not _from_ activity.  It was not a realm but a practice - the practice of being free by participating in free institutions, by daily recreating, elaborating, and _fostering_ the activity of being free.  One was not merely “free” in the passive sense of freedom from constraint, but in the active sense of “free_ing_,” both of oneself and one’s fellow citizens.  An authentic community is not merely a structural constellation of human beings but rather the practice of _communizing_.  Hence, freedom in the _polis_ was a constellation of relationships that was continual in the process of reproduction.

(265)  No less important than the ensemble is the technical imagination that assembles it.  To think ecologically for design purposes is to think of technics as an _ecosystem_, not merely as cost effective devices based on “renewable resources.”  Indeed, to think ecologically is to include “nature’s_ “amor” in the technical process, not only humanity’s.

(292)  Production, in effect, implied not only reproduction as Eliade has observed for metallurgy, but also animation - not as “raw material” bathed in the “fire of labor,” but as nature actively imbuing its own substance with a “vital spark.”  The spirited nature of technics is reflected in a highly suggestive body of possibilities that only recently have entered into our accounts of the history of technology.

(318)  I have chronicled the commitment of traditional socieities to usufruct, complementarity, and the irreducible minimum against class society’s claims to property, the sanctity of contract, and its adherence to the rule of equivalence.  In short, I have tried to rescue the legacy of freedom that the legacy of domination has sought to extirpate from the memory of humanity.

(333)  The present does not disappear, it persists and acquires externality at the expense of the future.  Futurism, in effect, does not enlarge the future but annihilates it by absorbing it into the present.  What makes this trend so insidious is that it also annihilates the imagination itself by constraining it to the present, thereby reducing our vision - even our prophetic abilities - to mere extrapolation.

(339)  To exercise one’s powers of sovereignty - by sit-ins, strikes, nuclear-plant occupations - is not merely a “tactic” in bypassing authoritarian institutions.  It is a sensibility, a vision of citizenship and selfhood that assumes the free individual has the capacity to manage social affairs in a direct, ethical, and rational manner.  This dimension of the self in self-management is a persistent call to personal sovereignty, to roundedness of ego and intellectual perception, which such conjoined terms like “management” and “activity” often overshadow.  The continual exercise of this self - its very formation by one’s direct intervention in social issues - asserting its moral claim and right to empowerment stands on a higher level conceptually than Marx’s image of self-identity through labor.  For direct action is literally a form of ethical character-building in the most important social role that the individual can undertake:  active citizenship.

(346)  For social “paradigms” one can turn to such memorable events as the May-June upheaval in France during 1968, or to Portugal a decade later, and possibly to Spain a generation earlier.  What should always count in analyzing such events is not why they failed - for they were never expected to occur at all - but how they managed to erupt and persist against massive odds.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Alinsky's Tactical: Rules for Radicals

I read Saul Alinsky’s _Rules for Radicals_ (published 1971)  in the 1990s and wanted to remind myself of what my thought was then of what Alinsky wrote long before his name became a conservative slur.  Alinsky was a successful organizer and a seasoned tactician.  Alinsky, however, was not a strategist.  The difference between strategy and tactics is often confused:  Tactics are the means used to gain an objective and strategy is the general campaign plan or goal.  

Here are some of the tactically radical rules of Saul Alinsky that I noted then and now note again:

Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.

Never go outside the experience of your people.

Whenever possible go outside of the experience of the enemy.

Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.

Ridicule is man's most potent weapon.

A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.

A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.

Keep the pressure on.

The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.

The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.

If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside.  

The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.  

Pick a target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.

The real action is in the enemy's reaction.

The enemy properly goaded and guided in his reaction is your major strength.

Tactics, like organization, like life, require that you move with the action.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century

_The Next American Revolution:  Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century_ by Grace Lee Boggs with Scott Kurashige
Berkeley, CA:  Univ of CA Press, 2011
ISBN  978-0-520-269240-8

Introduction by Scott Kurashige

(6)  Reflecting on the limits of her prior encounters with radicalism, Grace fully embraces the feminist critique not only of gender discrimination and inequality but also of the masculinist tendencies that often come to define a certain brand of movement organizing - one driven by militant posturing, a charismatic form of hierarchical leaderhsip, and a static notion of power seen as a scarce commodity to be acquired and possessed….

Her observations of these encounters have reinforced her repeated observation that marginalization serves as a form of liberation.

(12)  The only certainty with capitalism is that it never stands still.

(15)  In words that will resonate throughout this book, we must define revolution both by the humanity-stretching _ends_ to be achieved and the beloved community-building _means_ by which to achieve those ends.

(17)  As Grace argues, echoing author Margaret Wheatley, movements are born of critical connections rather than critical mass.

(25)  It is easy to unite against that which you are _against_.  Hence, the Bush era produced heightened cooperation between liberals, progressives, and radicals.  Grace directs our focus to the greater task:  defining what we are _for_ while enacting proposals to govern the whole of society.

(47)  We urgently need to bring to our communities the limitless capacity to love, serve, and create for and with each other.  We urgently need to bring the neighbor back into our hoods, not only in our inner cities but also in our suburbs, our gated communities, on Main Street and Wall Street, and on Ivy League campuses.

(48)  Now, in the light of our historical experiences and thanks especially to the indigenous cultures that the Zapatistas have revealed to us, we are beginning to understand that the world is always being made and never finished;  that activism can be the journey rather than the arrival;  that struggle doesn’t always have to be confrontational but can take the form of reaching out to find common ground with the many “others” in our society who are also seeking ways out from alienation, isolation, privatization, and dehumanization by corporate globalization.

(50)  In what Wheatley calls “this exquisitely connected world,” the real engine of change is never “critical mass”; dramatic and systemic change always begins with “critical connections.”
NB:  Only connect

(51)  We must have the courage to walk the talk, but we must also engage in the continuing dialogues that enable us to break free of old categories and create the new ideas that are necessary to address our realities, because revolutions are made not to prove the correctness of ideas but to begin anew.

(52)  What we urgently need are impassioned discussions everywhere, in groups small and large, where people from all walks of life are not only talking but also listening to one another.

(53)  We especially need to explain how and why the ideas of most leftists about revolution have become narrow, static and even counterrevolutionary.

The historian I have found to be most insightful about he rethinking of radical strategies mandated by the movements of the 1960s is Immanuel Wallerstein, author of _The Modern World-System:  Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixtennth Century_.

(54)  The movements of the 1960s, writes Wallerstein in _After Liberalism_, published in 1995, culminated in what he calls “the world revolution of 1968.”  Since that world revolution, he says, six premises that were accepted as axiomatic by revolutionaries since the French Revolution have become questionable:
The two-step strategy (first take state power, then transform society) is no longer self-evidently correct.
We can no longer assume that political acitvity is most effective if channeled through one party.
The labor-capital conflcit is not the only fundamental conflict in capitalism;  there are also contradictions revolving around gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality.
Democracy is not a bourgeois concept but a profoundly revolutionary, anticapitalist idea.
An increase in productivity is not an essential goal of socialism.  We need to address capitalism’s ecological and human consequences, including consumerism and the commodification of everything.
We need to reassess our faith in science and reconsider the complex relationships between determinism and free will and between order and chaos.

Next, in his little 1998 book, _Utopistics:  Or, Historical Choices of the Twenty-First Century, Wallerstein explains how 1968 dethroned both the Leninists and the Social Democrats, the two anti systemic movements that had emerged from and prevailed since the French Revolution.

(55)  The next year, in _The End of the World as We Know It:  Social Science for the Twenty-First Century_, Wallerstein assured us that uncertainty rather than certainty about the future provides the basis for hope.
NB:  Conversation between Boggs and Wallerstein at 2010 United States Social Forum in 2010 in Detroit:

(57)  I have learned over the years that _when_ you become a radical usually decides your politics.

(62)  These two notions - that reality is constantly changing and that you must constantly be aware of the new and more challenging contradictions that drive change - lie at the core of dialectical thinking.
NB:  Add Karl Popper’s Open Society where you don’t know everything.
Rojava as today’s possible Paris Commune

(67-68)  In the Black Panther Party and the rebellions of the 1960s, there was a lot of righteous anger because in the sixties we defined ourselves more by our expression than by the power that we have within us to create new loving relationships.  That is why, beginning in 1968, Jimmy and I felt that our main responsibility as revolutionaries was to go beyond “protest politics,” beyond just increasing the anger and outrage of the oppressed, and concentrate instead on projecting and initiating struggles that involve people at the grassroots in assuming the responsibility for creating the new values, truths, infrastructures, and institutions that are necessary to build and govern a new society.

(70)  By contrast, as citizens of a nation that had achieved its rapid economic growth and prosperity at the expense of African Americans, Native Americans, other people of color, and peoples all over the world, our priority had to be in correcting the injustices and backwardness of our relationships with one another, with other countries, and with the Earth.

(71)  Jimmy [Boggs] in the chapter titled “Dialectics and Revolution” in _Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century_:  
The revolution to be made in the United States will be the first revolution in history to require the masses to make material sacrifices rather than to acquire more material things.
NB:  Systemic changes to local production (swadeshi) and integration with new and existing infrastructure can provide the same (or better) quality of life with less energy and materials intensity.

(74)  Our City of Hope campaign involves rebuilding, redefining, and respiriting Detroit from the ground up:  growing food on abandoned lots, reinventing education to include children in community building, creating co-operatives to produce local goods for local needs, developing Peace Zones to transform our relationships with one another in our homes and on our streets, and replacing a punitive justice system with restorative justice programs to keep nonviolent offenders in our communites and out of multibillion-dollar prisons that not only misspend monies much needed for roads and schools but also turn minor offenders into hardened criminals.

(75)  Despite the huge difference in local conditions, our Detroit-City of Hope campaign has more in comon with the revolutionary struggles of the Zapatistas in Chiapas than with the Russian Revolution of 1917.
NB:  Zapatistas and Gandhian economics

…  Therefore, World War IV, the war in which the whole world is now engaged, is a new kind of war:  an ongoing and total war, the war of the “Empire of Money” against Humanity.  The Empire of Money seeks to impose the logic and practice of capital on everytying, to turn every living being, the Earth, our communities, and all our human relationships into commodities to be bought and sold on the market.

(79)  History is not the past.  It is the stories we tell about the past.  _How_ we tell these stories - triumphantly or self-critically, metaphysically or dialectically - has a lot to do with whether we cut short or advance our evolution as human beings. 

(89)  The struggle for independence from Britain, he insisted, should not be mainly a struggle for state power.  It should revolve around going to people at the grassroots, helping them to transform their inner and outer lives, and encouraging them to think for themselves in order to create self-reliant local communities.  Such communities should be based on two pillars:  Work that preserves rather than destroys skills while fostering cooperation rather than competition and Education whose goal is the building of community rather than increasing the staus and earning power of the individual.  Stressing the importance of human relations beyond the nation-state, Gandhi began projecting a new concept of global citizenship - one that especially appealed to Martin Luther King, Jr. 

(92)  We must begin the shift from what [ML] King called a “thing”-oriented society to a “person”-oriented society.  “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people,” he declared, “the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

… [ML] King:  “Communism fails to see the truth in individualism.  Capitalism fails to realize that life is social.”

(96-97)  Instead of pursuing rapid economic development and hoping that it will eventually create community, we need to do the opopsite - begin with the needs of the community and create loving relationships with one another and with the Earth.

As Jimmy Boggs used to remind us, revolutions are made out of love for people and for place.  He often talked about loving America enough to change it.  “I love this country,” he used to say, “not only because my ancestors’ blood is in the soil but because of what I believe it can become.”  Shea Howell, Oakland University rhetoric professor and former director of Detroit Summer, has helped hundreds of students and community organizers appreciate what Jimmy meant:  Love isn’t just something you feel.  It’s something you do every day when you go out and pick up the papers and bottles scattered the night before on the corner, when you stop and talk to a neighbor, when you argue passionately for what you believe with whoever will listen, when you call a friend to see how they’re doing, when you write a letter to the newspaper, when you give a speech and give ‘em hell, when you never stop believing that we can all be more than we are.  In other words, Love isn’t about what we did yesterday;  it’s about what we do today and tomorrow and the day after.
(99)  King was very clear that suffering and oppression are not enough to create a movement.  African Americans began the Montgomery Bus Boycott because that had “replaced self-pity with self-respect and self-depreciation with dignity.”  In other words,  a movement begins when the oppressed begin seeing themselves not just as victims but as new men and women - pioneers in creating new, more human relations and thus advancing the evolution of the human race.

(99-100) Movement builders are also very conscious of the need to go beyond slogans and to create programs of struggle that transform and empower participants… engage in “self-transforming and structure-transforming” direct action 

(100)    Confident in their own humanity, movement builders are able to recognize the humanity in others, including their opponents, and therefore the potential within them for redemption…. nonviolent struggles can become swords that heal…
NB:  Aikido

At the heart of movement building is the concept of two-sided transformation, both of ourselves and of our institutions…

Thinking dialectically is also pivotal to movement building because it prepares us for the contradictions that inevitably develop in the course of a struggle.
NB:  Open Society uncertainty, Buddhist logic

(101)  Yusef Shakur’s _The Window 2 My Soul:  My Transformation from a Zone 8 Thug to a Father and Freedom Fighter_

(103)  Ron Scott and the Coalition Against Police Brutality as well as Peace Zones for Life.
NB:  Violence interrupters and public health solutions

It promotes “community-based conflict resolution and mediation initiatives,” using methods that will allow the citizens options to submit their grievances for resolution by their neighbors or persons whom they trust;  thereby, remaining outside the police/criminal justice system and eliminating conflict within our communities.”
NB:  This can also be a two-edged sword

(111)  In a 1985 speech, he [Jimmie Boggs] had said that we needed to go where we have never gone before and focus on “creating communities.”  During the 1988 debate on casino gambling, he projected a new kind of city whose foundation would be citizens living in communities who take responsibility for decisions about their city instead of leaving these to politicians or to the marketplace and who create small enterprises that emphasize the preservation of skills and produce goods and services for the local community.     

(112-113)  Recalling how the Freedom Schools of Mississippi Freedom Summer had engaged children in the civil rights movement, we asked Detroiters to just imagine how much safer and livelier our neighborhoods would be almost overnight if we reorganized education along the lines of Detroit Summer, if instead of trying to keep our children isolated in classrooms for twelve years and more, we engaged them in community-building activities with the same audacity with which the civil rights movement engaged them in desegregation activities forty years ago:  planting community gardens, recycling waste, organizing neighborhood arts and helath festivals, rehabbing houses, and painting public murals.

By giving our children and young people a better reason to learn than just the individualistic one of getting a job or making more money, by encouraging them to make a difference in their neighborhoods, we would get their cognitive juices flowing.  Learning would come from practice, which has always been the best way to learn.  In Detroit Summer we combined physical forms of work with workshops and intergeneraional dialogues on how to rebuild Detroit, thus further expanding the minds and imaginations of the young, old, and in-between.  Instead of coercing young people to conform to the factory model of education, the time had come, we said, to see their rebellion as a cry for another kind of education that values them as human beings and gives them opportunities to exercise their Soul Power [satyagraha].
NB:  Gandhi’s Constructive Programme

(115)  Detroit Summer brought us into contact with the Gardening Angels, a loose network of mainly African American southern-born elders, who planted gardens not only to produce healthier food for themselves and their neighbors but also to instill respect for Nature and process in young people.

(115-116)  Gerald [Hairston] maintained close ties with the naitonal and local black farmers movement, which spread the vital message that “we cannot free ourselves until we feed ourselves.”  In other words, it is only when we can provide for own basic needs that we are empowered to make our own choices.

(121)  So CFA [Catherine Ferguson Academy] students now learn science by running a fully functioning on-site farm with a community garden, fruit orchard, bees, and horses, as well as ducks, goats, and chickens that provide eggs and meat for the school community.  They learn physics by buildilng and raising their own barn on the school site.  and most notably, the school is remarkably successful, graduating an overwhelming majority of teenage mothers, considered most at risk of dropping out, and sending nearly all of them to college.

Marjetica Potrc, Slovenian artist who creates visionary and practical solutions of communities around the world

(122)  They [Potrc’s projects] include a dry toilet in the La Vega barrio of Caracas, Venezuela, which reduces the amount of water used by residents while also providing a sustainable solution to the wastewater problem, and a roundhouse for earthquake victims in El Retiro, El Salvador, which is resistant to small earthquakes and can be built by as few as two people in ten hours…

(124)  In 2000 and 2001 students involved in Kyong Park’s studio at the University of Detroit Mercy’s School of Archtiecture created a vision of how a prairie-like area of two and a half square miles on the Eastside of Detroit near my house could be developed into a self-reliant community.  They called this vision “Adamah,” which roughly translates to “of the Earth” in Hebrew.  Drawing from the work of Steve Vogel, dean of the architectural school, they proposed unearthing Bloody Run Creek, which had been covered over and absorbed into the city’s sewer system aroudn the turn of the twentieth century, and remaking it into a canal for both recreation and irrigation.  They envisioned greenhouses, grazing land, a dairy, and a vegetable farm to produce food;  a tree farm, a lumber sawmill, and a shrimp farm;  windmills to generat electricity;  and living and work spaces within the massive structure housing the former Packard auto plant.  They saw cohousing as well as individual housing, and schools that include community building as part of the curriculum.

(131)  In the past, working within the Marxist-Leninist tradition, we would have tried to unite them [different urban gardening groups] all within one organization, to have them following one set of leaders and subscribing to one central strategy.  But in the twenty-first century I have come to appreciate (in the words of authors Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri) the value of the “singularities” that compoose the “multitude.”  Our diversity is the source of our strength.  We are not aiming simply to impact one election or one government.  Rather, we are striving for long-term and sustainable transformation, and for that we need the wisdom that comes from many cultures, movements, and traditions.

(132)  Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen and Maria Mies, The Subsistence Perspective
pamphlet with Grace Lee Boggs ‘Another World Is Necessary, Another World Is Possible, Another World Has Already Begun

In the ensuing discussion [in New Orleans after Katrina] folks who had never heard of Adamah made proposals that seemed to come right out of the Adamah vision: community gardens to grow their own food;  grocery stores, banks, barber, and beauty shops within walking distance, green spaces with trees;  more intergenerational activities;  a small neighborhood school where, instead of the old kind of schooling for jobs, children would develop responsibility for one and other and for the community through a curriculum that engages them in community activities;  a resource center with a community theater, artists’ studios, and information about the different skills available in the neighborhood (e.g. car repair, plumbing, carpentry, tutoring).

(136)  1969 speech and pamphlet, Education to Govern by GL Boggs, Harvard Educational Review

(144-145)  Because [John] Dewey insisted that education is “a process of living and not a preparation for future living,” he called for the school to “represent present life - life as real and vital to the child as that which he carries on in the home, in the neighborhood or on the playground.”  “Our present education,” he said, "is highly specialized, one-sided and narrow.  It is an education dominated almost entirely by the medieval conception of learning."

(146) Teach people what will truly help them, he [Gandhi] said, not to become servants and bureacrats for the Empire but to aid them in all the little things of village life.  Education, he said, should be of the Heart, the Hand, and the Head.  It should give people an understanding of themselves and where they stand in the world and, from there, their obligations toward their neighbor.  The three main resources for this popular education, he said, are the community, the natural environment, and the world environment.

(148-149)  Transforming relations means that revolution is not about the oppressed switching places with the oppressors, nor is it about the “have-nots” acquiring the material possessions of the “haves.”  It is about overcoming the “dehumanization” that has been fostered by the commodification of everything under capitalism and building more democratic, just, and nourishing modes of relating to people.  Critical of the Marxist-Leninist and nationalist parties that had led most of the anticapitalist and anti colonial movements around the world, [Paolo] Freire insisted that what was needed to revolutionize society was not a narrow focus on seizing state power but a cultural revolution in the form of a continuous struggle to transform human relations.

(154)  [George] Siemens recommends that educators celebrate local excellence and innovations, let people teach each other, and allow students to organize themselves.  Education, in other words, serves as a model democracy.   

(168)  Every environmental group, every class in public health, should discuss them [Seventeen Principles of Environmental Justice] periodically.  Some of the most vital principles include
Principle #1:  Environmental Justice affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity and the pinterdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction.
Principle #7:  Environmental Justice demands the right to participate as equal partners at every level of decision-making, including needs assessment, palnning, implementation, enforcement and evaluation.
Principle #17:  Environmental Justice requires that we, as individuals, make personal and consumer choices to consume as little of Mother Earth’s resources and to produce as little waste as possible;  and make the conscious decision to challenge and reprioritize our lifestyles to ensure the health of the natural world for present and future generations.   

(171)  from Gar Alperovitz, _America Beyond Capitalism_:
In all, 130 million Americans are now involved in co-ops, mostly credit unions, and cooperative housing.
Eleven thousand employee-owned companies already exist in this country.  Together they involve more workers than the total membership in unions of private corporations.
The number of community development corporations (CDCs) and municipally owned utilities is steadily growing.
Since the 1960s, countless nonprofit organizations have been created to serve community needs.  Most of these are funded by foundations but many support themselves by organizing local enterprises.
The share of locally owned businesses has also increased from 30 to 60 percent.  Many of these were founded by socially conscious entrepreneurs not only to make a profit but also with the aim of protecting the environment and promoting social justice.

(174)  One of the highlights of the 2008 Allied Media Conference was an especially moving video presented by Sista II Sista, a grassroots community organization based in Brooklyn, New York.  These are people in a community, living together like family, taking care of children and of elders, dealing with each other and with conflict in new ways, not out of anger at injustice but from love for one another and for our communities.  They are not building power over others but empowering each other.  I believe that these and like-minded activists have arrived at these practices mainly because so many activists these days are female and queer.

(175)  We are creating a revolutionary alternative to the counterrevolutionary and inhuman policies of the U.S. government, but we are not subversives.  We are making the leap forward in the precious human qualities of social responsibility and creativity, now necessary and possible in the evolution of the human species.  We are creating the kind of global citizenship that Martin Luther King Jr. said every nation needs to create to preserve the best in its traditions.  We are struggling to change this country because we love it.

(176)  Beloved Communities Initiative

The BCI began with a “These are the times to grow our souls” call to those celebrating MLK’s birthday in January 2005 and continued with visits to sites that we identified as in the process of creating new kinds of communities in the United States.

(177)  We visited Will Allen’s urban farm, Growing Power, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Will is at the forefront of the urban agricultural movement, which may be the fastest growing movement in the United States.  “We’re having to go back to when people shared things and started taking care of each other.  That’s the only way we will survive.  What better way than to do it with food?” said Will, as he was honored with a 2008 MacArthur Genius Award.

(178)  These visits [around the USA] have reaffirmed my belief that the movement today, in this period and this country, is being created not by the cadres of a vanguard party with a common ideology, but by individuals and groups responding creatively with passion and imagination to the real problems and challenges that they face where they live and work.                                                                                                        

(187)  Urban Ecology:  Detroit and Beyond edited by Kyong Park (Hong Kong, Map Book, 2005) - founder of International Center for Urban Ecology [ICUE]

(189)  New econmics institutions, locations, and experiences at Democracy Collaborative http://www.community-wealth.org

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Former CEO of BP at Harvard

Lord John Browne

Oil will be between $35 to $90 although oil is becoming more expensive to produce.  
North America and Europe are the biggest consumers of oil and changes there are more important for demand than China, India, and others.  Efficiency globally is driving down demand.
Renewables are about electricity
Not corporate social responsibility but radical engagement.  CSR good when it is aligned with clear business purpose but now it is detached and institutionalized.  Boards now bored with it - what boards talk about at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon.  Radical engagement is listening to stakeholders on their own terms.  Unilever is one example of a company that is doing this.
30% of corporate profits depend on regulation 
30% risk [for a company] of having the wrong relationship with society “We estimated it was about 30 per cent.” As it happens, after the emissions scandal broke, VW’s stock price fell by the same amount. “That is not meant to be the perfect, single-point validation of the theory [put forward in the book],” he went on, “but it’s an interesting observation.”
30% of time dealing with regulators
2% per annum increase in performance by companies which have strong engagement with stakeholders
Talk was in support of Browne's book Connect
Every incident is handled before the incident happens based upon your preparation and engagement - vis a vis Macundo blow out.
Black Rock  [VC firm] asking for more detailed business strategies now


Asked him after the event about peak oil and he seemed to agree that peak has already happened for conventional oil.
Also asked him about stranded costs of fossil fuel carbon.  He indicated that only coal would have to be left in the ground and he wouldn’t speculate when I raised the issue of divestment.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Big Money

James Houston was the man who brought Inuit art to the world, retrieving throw-away carvings to be sold in Montreal, Ottawa, and New York back in the early 1950s.  Here is his story of how he taught Inuit people the economics of art and they taught him something else. 
(from page 276 of his book _Confessions of an Igloo Dweller:  Memories of the Old Arctic, Houghton Mifflin Co, Boston  1995 ISBN 0-395-78890-0)
While they understood the idea of barter or trade perfectly - these furs in exchange for these bullets and this kettle - helping Inuit understand the use of money was anything but simple at first.  Big Red Pedersen lent me a white fox pelt for a demonstration to the printmakers.  Next to the fur, I spread out its current value in Canadian dollars and coins then explained denominations under the watchful eyes of hunters.  I began by changing a blue five-dollar bill into five green one-dollar bills and so on.

"Only paper," they would sigh.

Paper had always been fragile and useless in their lives except to wrap a cigarette and burn it.  To dispel that thought I displayed one of their prints, a stone block or stencil, printed on paper, then laid out beside it all the various dollars it would gain.

"Bigger money can be made from printmaking than from trapping foxes," I stressed.
After one of these heand-spinningly clever monetary discussions of mine I slid home and slept as soundly as Disraeli must have slept after purchasing the Suez Canal for the British government on the strength of his financial prowess. 

Early next moring, when I went into the senlavik, print shop, I discovered on the drying line the printmakers' idea of what I had meant in my demonstration.  Hanging between two clothes pegs was a huge, chest-wide, stencilled print of a green dollar bill - the monarch's head in the center and a "one" on all four corners.  That's big money, I thought!

Perhaps the whole idea of printmaking was coming through to them.  Or was that marvelously naive piece of Inuit folk art just one of the better jokes they played on me?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Information by James Gleick

_The Information:  A History, a Theory, a Flood_ by James Gleick
NY:  Pantheon Books, 2011
ISBN 978-0-375-42372-7

(22)  He [John Carrington] finally published his discoveries about drums in 1949, in a slim volume titled The Talking Drums of Africa.

(25)  Songe, the moon, is rendered as songe li tange la manga - "the moon looks down at the earth."  Koko, the fowl, is rendered koko lonogo l bokiokio - "the fowl, the little one that says kiokio."  The extra drumbeats, far from being extraneous, provide context.  Every ambiguous word begins in a cloud of possible alternative interpretations;  then the unwanted possibilities evaporate.  This takes place below the level of consciousness.  Listeners are hearing only staccato drum tones, low and high, but in effect they "hear" the missing consonants and vowels, too.  For that matter, they hear whole phrases, not individual words.  "Among peoples who know nothing or writing or grammar, a word per se, cut out of its sounds group, seems almost to cease to be an intelligible articulation."  Captain Rattray reported.

The stereotyped long tails flap along, their redundancy overcoming ambiguity.  The drum language is creative, freely generating neologisms for innovations from the north:  steamboats, cigarettes, and the Christian god being three that Carrington particularly noted.  bUt drummers begin by learning the traditional fixed formulas.  Indeed, the formulas of the African drummers sometimes preserve archaic words that have been forgotten in the everyday language.  For the Yaunde, the elephant is always "the great awkward one."  The resemblance to Homeric formulas - not merely Zeus, but Zeus the cloud gatherer;  not just the sea, but the wine-dark sea - is no accident. In an oral culture, inspiration has to serve clarity and memory first.  The Muses are the daughters of Mnemosyne.
NB:  Alfred Lord, Singer of Tales

(39)  Oral people lacked the categories that become second nature even to illiterate individuals in literate cultures:  for example, for geometrical shapes.  Shown drawings of circles and squares, they named them as "plate, sieve, bucket, watch, or moon" and "mirror, door house, apricot drying board."  They could not, or would not, accept logical syllogisms.  A typical question:

In the Far North, where there is snow, all bears are white.  Novaya Zembla is in the Far North and there is always snow there.  What color are the bears?

Typical response:  "I don't know.  I've seen a black bear.  I've never seen any others... Each locality has its own animals."

By contrast, a man who has just learned to read and write responds, "To go by your words, they should all be white."  To go by your words - in that phrase, a level is crossed.

(166)  "A word is a tool for thinking, before the thinker uses it as a signal for communicating his thought," asserted in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in 1873.

(229) Looking at correlations extending over eight letters, [Claude] Shannon estimated that English has a built-in redundancy of about 50%:  that each new character of a message conveys not 5 bits but only about 2.3.  Considering longer-range statistical effects, at the level of sentences and paragraphs, he raised that estimate to 75% - warning, however, that such estimates become "more erratic and uncertain, and they depend more critically on the type of text involved."  One way to measure redundancy was crudely empirical:  carry out a psychology test with a human subject.  This method "exploits the fact that anyone speaking  a language possesses, implicitly, an enormous knowledge of the statistics of the language."

(247)  Information is surprise.
NB:  Surprise is an attitude.  It does not have to be novelty.

(266)  Later, he [Claude Shannon] wrote thousands of words on scientific aspects of juggling - with theorems and corollaries - and included from memory a quotation from E. E. Cummings:  "Some son-of-a-bitch will invent a machine to measure Spring with."

(280)  To the physicist, entropy is a measure of uncertainty about the state of a physical system:  one state among all the possible states it can be in.  These microstates may not be equally likely, so the physicist writes  S = -∑ p sub i log p sub i.

To the information theorist, entropy is a measure of uncertainty about a message:  one message among all the possible mesages that a communications source can produce.  The possible messages may not be equally likely, so Shannon wrote H = -∑ p sub i log p sub i

It is not just a coincidence of formalism:  nature providing similar answers to similar problems,  It is all one problem, to reduce entropy in a box of gas, to perform useful work, one pays a price in information.  Likewise, a particular message reduces the entropy in the ensemble of possible messages - in terms of dynamical systems, a phase space.

(298)  Crick's Central Dogma:  "Once 'information' has passed into protein it cannot get out again.  In more detail, the transfer of information from nucleic acid to nucleic acid, or from nucleic acid to protein may be possible, but transfer from protein to protein, or from protein to nucleic acid is impossible.  Information means here the precise determination of sequence."

(337)  The Kolmogorov complexity of an object is the size, in bits, of the shortest algorithm needed to generate it.  This is also the amount of information.  And it is also the degree of randomness - Kolmogorov declared "a new conception of the notion 'random' corresponding to the natural assumption that randomness is the absence of regularity."  The three are fundamentally equivalent:  information, randomness, and complexity - three powerful abstractions, bound all along like secret lovers.

(343)  As [Gregory] Chaitin put it, "God not only plays dice in quantum mechanics and nonlinear dynamics, but even in elementary number theory."

Among its lessons were these:
Most numbers are random.  Yet every few of them can be _proved_ random.
A choice steam of information may yet hide a simple algorithm.  Working backward from the chaos to the algorithm may be impossible.
Kolmogorov-Chaitin (KC) complexity is to mathematics what entropy is to thermodynamics:  the antidote to perfection.  Just as we can have no perpetual-motion machines, there can be no complex formal axiomatic systems.
Some mathematical facts are true for no reason.  They are accidental, lacking a cause or deeper meaning.

(361)  On the contrary, it seemed that most logical operations have no entropy cost at all.  When a bit flips from zero to one, or vice-versa, the information is preserved.  The process is reversible.  Entropy is unchanged;  no heat needs to be dissipated.  Only an irreversible operation, he argued, increases entropy.

(362)  In every case, Bennett found, heat dissipation occurs only when information is _erased_.  Erasure is the irreversible logical operation.  When the head on a Turing machine erases one square of the tape, or when an electronic computer clears a capacitor, a bit is lost, and _then_ heat must be dissipated.  In Szilard's thought experiment, the demon does not incur an entropy cost when it observes or chooses a molecule.  The payback comes at the moment of clearing the record, when the demon erases one observation to make room for the next.

Forgetting takes work.

(365)  It [qubit] is not just either-or.  Its 0 and 1 values are represented by quantum states that can be reliably distinguished - for example, horizontal and vertical polarizations - but coexisting with these are the whole continuum of intermediate states, such as diagonal polarizations, that lean toward 0 or 1 with different probabilities.  So a physicist says that a qubit is a _superposition_ of states;  a combination of probability amplitudes.  It is a determinate thing with a cloud of indeterminacy living inside.  But the qubit is not a muddle;  a superposition is not a hodgepodge but a combining of probabilistic elements according to clear and elegant mathematical rules.
NB:  Buddhist logic:  yes, no, not yes, not no, neither yes nor no, both yes and no.  I have discovered that when you use Buddhist logic as the responses in a poll, readers like don't understand the question? and none of the above.

(369)  In quantum computing, multiple qubits are entangled.  Putting qubits at work together does not merely multiply their power;  the power increases exponentially.  In classical computing, where a bit is either-or, n bits can encode any one of 2 to the n values.  Qubits can encode these Boolean values along with all their possible superpositions.  This gives a quantum computer a potential for parallel processing that has no classical equivalent.

(389)  onomastics "is the study of proper names of all kinds and the origins of names."

(395)  A gigabyte also encompasses the entire human genome.  A thousand of those would fill a terabyte.

(399)  Elizabeth Eisenstein The Printing Press as an Agent of Change

(477)  Aunger, Robert, ed.  Darwinizing Culture:  The Status of Memetics as a Science.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2000

(479)  Bikhchandani, Sushil, David Hirshleifer, and Ivo Welch.  "A theory of Fads, Fashion, Custom, and Cultural Change as Informational Cascades."  Journal of Political Economy 100, no. 5 (1992);  992-1026.

(487)  Goody, Jack.  The Interface Between the Written and the Oral.  Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1987.

(492)  Lynch, Aaron.  Thought Contagion:  How Belief Spreads Through Society.  New York:  Basic Books, 1996.

(495)  Ong, Walter.  Interfaces of the Word.  Ithaca, NY:  Cornell Unviersity Press, 1977
Ong Walter.  Orality and Literacy:  The Technologizing of the Word.  London:  Methuen, 1982