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Theses on P2P Politics, published in “The Square”

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Stacco Troncoso
16th September 2014


The latest issue of “The Square” newspaper, edited by Ivor Stodolsky, features articles by Michel Bauwens, Nika Dubrovsky/ Feminist Pencil, Grey Violet (aka Maria Shtern), Núria Güell, G.U.L.F., Noah Fischer/Occupy Museums, Teivo Teivainen & Ivor Stodolsky, Telekommunisten and Nadya Tolokno (Tolokonnikova) of Zona Prava/Pussy Riot. Michel’s piece is entitled “Thesis in P2P Politics”

 

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Posted in Activism, Culture & Ideas, Featured Content, Featured Essay, Networks, Open Government, P2P Collaboration, Politics | No Comments »

Essay of the Day: Local vs. Centralized Resilience in Responding to Disasters

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Michel Bauwens
13th September 2014


* Article: Walker, B., and F. Westley. 2011. Perspectives on resilience to disasters across sectors and cultures. Ecology and Society 16(2): 4.

Brian Walker and F. Westley:

“Discussion of accountability led to consideration of where responses to disasters should best originate. Participants viewed the greatest threat as originating from the highly interconnected nature of our communication system and economies but, although consistent with resilience perspectives, there was little discussion of the fact that government institutions at any level were rarely interconnected except to note the amount of jealousy, turf issues, and struggles for resources that characterized coordination attempts. However, government representatives who were present expressed the need to push power up to the international level, in an attempt to anticipate and provide adequate response to threats such as terrorism, which seemed to have a truly global dynamic, but at the same time to push power down to the local community level where sense-making, self-organization, and leadership in the face of disaster were more likely to occur if local governments felt accountable for their own responses. One discussion framed the need in terms of promoting the philosophies of both Hobbes, i.e., a social contract ceding freedoms to a higher authority, and Rousseau, i.e., look for the good in people to develop personal responsibility from the bottom up. This is reflected in the social-ecological resilience literature on the need at local scales for adaptive governance and comanagement, and at higher scales for global scale institutions in the face of looming global scale failures (as articulated in a recent Science article, Walker et al. 2009). Current efforts and emphases are focused too much at the levels in between.

This brought to mind the notion that for general resilience we need both top-down and bottom-up institutions. For dealing with disasters society needs both. This corresponds with the conclusions of E. Ostrom and colleagues (e.g., Dietz et al. 2003) on the need for both in common property adaptive governance institutions. However, barriers to adaptation are different at the two scales as Ditchley discussions revealed. In particular, from a resilience perspective the mechanisms for building social learning and memory were identified as different.

Building local general resilience

There was considerable discussion about building local resilience and some interesting evidence presented that exercises such as simulations help considerably in this regard. We came to see such rehearsals for disaster preparedness as the equivalent of probing the boundaries of resilience. Conducting evacuation exercises, for example, not only identifies particular areas that need addressing to improve response capacity, but the exercise itself increases community collaboration, communication, and identity and therefore response capacity. This is related to the need for sense-making and social memory in situations of disaster. Response is slowed by the disorder of breakdown and requires framing, often by particular leaders, to ignite action. Rehearsals and exercises provide an opportunity for making sense in advance of the actual disaster, which allows for better response and triggers self-organizing capacities. In effect, this is a kind of storytelling that builds a repertoire of alternative scripts. It appeared that exercises and rehearsals also triggered memory and social learning which at times produced more scripts as alternative responses.

Building general resilience in central agencies

As noted above, the need for speed in times of crisis can reduce general resilience by privileging specific resilience. It can also reduce the capacity for learning which is key for transforming short-term disaster into longer term resilience. In emergency operations responses are by definition highly specific and formal, with little room to improvise. There is also a general tendency with consequent expenditure of effort to assign blame, and failure to follow the prescribed formula can result in having to accept an undue proportion of that blame. However, by definition, if disasters are unexpected improvisation, a kind of in the moment experimentation, may be essential and the capacity to share such rule breaking can allow for deep learning and innovation in the central agencies responsible for disaster relief. Creating such a safe space for a temporary suspension of rules and of accountability assessment is challenging but can be transformative. One fascinating comment in regard to how the breakthrough was made around Northern Ireland peace negotiations was that a consensus was achieved in one meeting that peace was more important than justice. Unless such rule free zones are temporarily invoked the tendency is to look for blame, which shuts down the capacity to learn from the crisis. Those familiar with the ecosystem dynamics part of social-ecological systems will recognize that it is during times of major disturbance that novelty and experimentation come to the fore. It is in the social part of the system that conservative caution dampens it. The contemporary systems of accountability, although important, must at times be seen as real barriers to resilience.”

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Essay of the Day: Peer Production as a Model for the Provision by Food Services Collectives

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Michel Bauwens
11th September 2014


* Article: Peer Production and Prosumerism as a Model for the Future Organization of General Interest Services Provision in Developed Countries. Examples of Food Services Collectives. By Katarzyna Gajewska. World Future Review March 2014 vol. 6 no. 1 29-39

From the Abstract:

“Based on the examples of two collectives preparing lunches and giving them for free with an option of donation at Montreal universities, this article considers how services of general interest could be organized in an alternative way — namely how the combination of paid and unpaid work, spontaneous work involving high number of volunteers, and the dissociation of annual income from sale of output can serve as a model for providing needed public services. The probable expansion of such services in the future is supported by several current trends in the developed countries: for example, underemployment of human resources, a new work ethos, and the democratic deficit inherent in the current system of service provision by state or market providers. This article applies the case study method to illustrate citizens’ attitudes and to consider what structural and organizational changes may be needed to set up an alternative form of service provision potentially applicable to other venues.”

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Posted in Featured Essay, Food and Agriculture, P2P Research | No Comments »

Essay of the Day: The Commons as a Template for Transformation

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Michel Bauwens
9th September 2014


* Article: The Commons as a Template for Transformation. David Bollier. Great Transition Initiative, April 2014

Here is the summary:

“This essay argues that, in the face of the deep pathologies of neoliberal capitalism, the commons paradigm can help us imagine and implement a transition to new decentralized systems of provisioning and democratic governance. The commons consists of a wide variety of self-organized social practices that enable communities to manage resources for collective benefit in sustainable ways. A robust transnational movement of commoners now consists of such diverse commons as seed-sharing cooperatives; communities of open source software programmers; localities that use alternative currencies to invigorate their economies; subsistence commons based on forests, fisheries, arable land, and wild game; and local food initiatives such as community-supported agriculture, Slow Food, and permaculture. As a system of provisioning and governance, commons give participating members a significant degree of sovereignty and control over important elements of their everyday lives. They also help people reconnect to nature and to each other, set limits on resource exploitation, and internalize the “negative externalities” so often associated with market behavior. These more equitable, ecologically responsible, and decentralized ways of meeting basic needs represent a promising new paradigm for escaping the pathologies of the Market/State order and constructing an ecologically sustainable alternative.”

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Essay of the Day: Social Philosophies and Ostroms’ Institutionalism

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Michel Bauwens
7th September 2014


* Article: The Social Philosophies of the Ostroms’ Institutionalism. By Paul Dragos Aligica, Peter J. Boettke | Mercator Center, George Mason University, Apr 22, 2010

From the abstract:

“The main objective of this paper is to explore what we call the “social theory” or the “social philosophy” that presumably shapes, inspires and defines the Ostroms’ research program. Our argument is that what we have called the “social theory” behind the Bloomington School’s research agenda has in fact two facets that may or may not be consistent with each other. Even more, they may or may not be necessarily and inseparably connected with the rest of the program. The first is built around the concept of “polycentricity” and a series of Public Choice insights, and is a challenge to two of the deepest assumptions of political and economic sciences in the 20th century: the monocentric vision of social order and the “market” versus “state” dichotomy. The second is built around a view of social order seen as a knowledge and learning process, along with a series of observations about the human condition, fallibility, coercion and error as well as about the factors engendering institutional order as a response to the challenges posed by them.”

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Posted in Commons, Featured Essay, P2P Theory | No Comments »

Essay of the Day: Information Asymmetry and Power in a Surveillance Society

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Michel Bauwens
6th September 2014


* Article: Information Asymmetry and Power in a Surveillance Society. Lightfoot, Geoffrey and Wisniewski, Tomasz (2014). Munich Personal RePEc Archive.

Summary:

“In this paper we look at how information in societies is organized and how power relationships arise as a consequence of this organization. We argue that many of the observed information asymmetries are not happenstance and, drawing from a wealth of scholarship from the economics and finance literature, we posit that outcomes are inevitably detrimental. The paper concentrates on the techniques that foster information imbalances, such as media and propaganda, knowledge production, educational systems, legal and organizational structures, exclusive information networks, and surveillance. We conclude that in the absence of greater transparency, the deleterious effects of unequal access to information will continue and deepen.”

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What if Psychological Distress came from inequality and domination ?

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Michel Bauwens
4th September 2014


From the author ‘David’:

David ?:

“The impression of healthy competition among a wide variety of counselling and therapy approaches that this picture may give is, in my view, in itself misleading, for in fact they all share one very important assumption. What’s more, despite the appearance of radical contrast, they share it also with psychiatry. This is the assumption that psychological disturbance has its origin within the individual, whether the latter is conceived of as mind or body.

The principal causes of emotional distress are in this way thought to be traceable either to the person’s physical structure—genes, biochemistry, etc.—or to their psychological makeup. It follows logically enough from this that cures will be effected, or at least adjustments made, by ‘treating’ those physical or psychological aberrations within the individual that careful diagnosis reveals.

The arguments in the psychological camp are not over whether this basic picture is right, but rather over how psychological aberration might best be understood: whether as a mechanical difficulty on the one hand or as a moral or aesthetic difficulty on the other. For example, is someone’s ‘obsessive-compulsive disorder’ the upshot of a faulty interpretation of experience reflected in neural connexions in the brain (an essentially mechanical problem), or is it the result of morally unacceptable repressed wishes overwhelming the person’s ‘ego’? Many approaches to therapy – especially perhaps those falling within the so-called ‘humanistic’ schools that flourished in the second half of the last century – have an at least implicit model of how human beings at their best ought to be, whether as ‘fully analyzed’, experientially ‘congruent’, ‘self-actuating’, and so on. These set up aesthetic standards against which it is all too easy to be found wanting.

This concentration on internal faults and shortcomings leads almost inevitably to a subtle or not-so-subtle emphasis in treatment on individuals’ ability to change themselves. Having, through patient enquiry, clarified how the patient came by his or her problems, the therapist can in the last analysis only leave it up to the individual to make the necessary changes. Therapy thus becomes a matter of leading horses to water, but whether they drink or not is up to them.

Over the years, the psychotherapies have attempted to deal with this difficulty in various ways, often by trying to represent the movement from diagnosis to cure as somehow automatic. The psychoanalyst’s interpretations, etc., will lead through the process of ‘insight’ to an adjustment of the internal, unconscious processes that were causing the trouble. At the other extreme, it will be incumbent on the client of cognitive therapy actively to undertake the learning regimen prescribed by the therapist such that the offending ‘cognitions’ may be ‘restructured’. It’s usually not long before the inadequacy of these ideas (principally, the observation that they don’t work) leads to the conviction that nothing much can be achieved without the patient’s willed co-operation in the process of cure. This boils down in the end to the frank acknowledgement that whether or not someone gets better is a matter of their own ‘responsibility’, and indeed the notion of ‘responsibilty’ became a central pivot of humanistic approaches.

Now I think we’re operating with a very strange, essentially pre-scientific model here, one in fact that has more in common with seventeenth century magic and astrology than it does with modern scientific medicine (not that that’s always everything it’s cracked up to be). Indeed, I think one could call the philosophy that underlies most present-day psychotherapy and counselling one of ‘magical voluntarism’. Distressed people, that is to say, are supposed, via a short but perhaps intense period of interaction with a practitioner, to transform themselves into people no longer feeling distress.

Now a lot of people, I’m sure—and especially counsellors and therapists—will see nothing much the matter with this, but in my view it does begin to suggest that there is something really rather important that we have been leaving out of the picture. We seem to have been assuming, that is to say, that ‘there is no such thing as society’—or that if there is, it has no particularly significant role in determining how we feel.

With a few honourable exceptions, the idea that people suffer psychologically because of the way the world is has not greatly preoccupied mainstream psychological and psychiatric theorists. Even though those who have taken society seriously may have enjoyed a voguish success in their time (I’m thinking of the obvious names like Alfred Adler, Erich Fromm, Karen Horney, Harry S. Sullivan, R.D. Laing), their fate seems to be to end up in the margins, where also are to be found minority disciplines like social psychiatry and community psychology. It is not that, throughout, there have not been profound, even compelling, critiques of therapeutic orthodoxy, struggling to bring to the fore the surely not contentious notion that social organizations and structures, political, economic, ideological and cultural influences can and often do adversely affect the individual’s subjective well-being. The cause for wonder, in my view, is that such observations and critiques have been, ultimately, so consistently and persistently ignored. Why should this be?

To understand this, I think one has to have recourse to a set of concepts that do not normally figure prominently in our everyday thinking about ‘motivation’, etc. Popular psychology (i.e. the assumptions we take for granted when we start to think about why people do things) does not really allow us to think beyond processes like desiring, willing, intending, deciding, and so on: all mediated by inferred internal structures like unconscious impulses, cognitions, beliefs, fantasies, etc., etc. At the centre of our picture is always the individual—thinking, wanting, deliberating, willing, choosing. And then, at long last, acting!

This kind of picture not only receives strong intuitive endorsement from everyday introspection (in most people’s experience it seems obvious that that’s the way it must be), it is also extremely convenient.

For a start, it is convenient and reassuring for the person-in-the-street to believe that they are at least potentially in control of their own fate. Even if the going’s a bit rough at the moment, at least we can in principle choose to live how we like and be who we want. If we’re suffering, the means to relief lies ultimately in our own hands.

It is also convenient for those who have a controlling influence over our lives (e.g. politicians, big business) that we should interpret any personal pain that results from their activities as the product of defects in our individual makeup. Many are the patients I saw during the cruel Market take-over of the 1980s and 90s who attributed their subjective distress to personal weakness and inability to keep up with the exacting demands of modern life and work.

Last but not least, it is convenient for those who make their living from the treatment of personal distress for their clients to believe that it can be alleviated through the intervention of a ‘trained professional’.

What we have at work here, I suggest, is an interweaving of interests. And it is precisely concepts like interest that point us towards explaining both our conduct and our consciousness in social rather than individual terms.

Outside the hermetic bubble in which theory and research in the psychological therapies have been conducted, a great deal of thought has gone into trying to account for what we do and feel in terms of the social structures and processes in which we are embedded. Sociology, philosophy, even to some extent neuroscience have all contributed to a view of the person as social being, constrained to act within the parameters set by power and able to experience ‘self’ only within the strict limits determined by culture and political economy. On this view, we are not the free agents we think we are, able to choose the kind of life and experience we want, but rather, so to speak, atoms in social space-time whose sense of freedom is largely illusory.

My experience of practice as a clinical psychologist is far more consonant with this society-based understanding than with the individualistic theories of the psychological therapies, and it is this that I have tried to elaborate in my writing over the years. All I have time to do this evening is to sketch out very briefly, and of course inadequately, what a theoretical alternative to the current orthodoxy might look like.

First let me say very quickly how I think ‘clinical experience’ reveals the inadequacies of current approaches.

People who come for ‘therapy’ don’t necessarily ‘change’ even when they:-

a) can see the need to (i.e. ‘have insight’)

b) desperately want to (are ‘fully motivated’)

c) try really hard and courageously to (are fully ‘compliant’)

Although a therapist can be an important source of comfort and support, the beneficial effects of that solidarity very often do not extend beyond the period of treatment itself.

What does—sometimes—permit people to change tends to be alterations in their circumstances outside therapy: new or different personal relationships; new or altered work, educational or financial opportunities; improved living conditions (e.g. housing); developments in their social lives opening up new areas of solidarity with others.

The ‘sometimes’ above is important—early social injury is not necessarily reparable whatever later environmental opportunities may arise: we are embodied as well as social creatures, and what happens to us early on may get indelibly ‘wired in’.

The alternative to what I have called ‘magical voluntarism’ is to investigate and elucidate the influences which hold us in place as social entities. Those which are closest to us—the influence of family and immediate social environment—may be relatively easy to identify, but they will in turn be held in place by ‘distal’ influences that are much more difficult to spot, and of which individuals affected may indeed be entirely unaware. It is important to remember too that these distal, fundamentally shaping influences may be a long way from us in time as well as in space.

Society, I suggest, is structured by power, and power is transmitted largely through the operation of interest. A decision made in a corporate boardroom may end up as the most intimate private pain of, say, the call centre worker who loses her job as the result. The biggest mistake she can make is to attribute her despair to her personal inadequacy. (It is, of course, fairly easy to see where responsibility lies in a case such as this, but there are many others where the chain of influence is very much harder to identify.)

What ‘clinical experience’ teaches, in my view, is that we are as individuals not freely-choosing originators of action, but rather the hosts of influences which impinge upon us or flow through us. There is no faculty of pure ‘will power’ upon which we can call in times of trouble, and what we are able to do about adverse circumstances will depend upon the powers that are or have been available to us in the outside world. The almost irresistible feeling of free choice and moral independence that subjectively accompanies our everyday activity is an illusion that stems from our singular embodiment (that is to say, we can only be directly aware of what is happening physically and psychologically inside us, and so we accord it undue causal prominence). This illusion is endlessly exploited by those who benefit most from it. Individual blame, for example, finds a ready reception in the tender conscience cocked and primed to receive it.

Let me just end by saying that I don’t regard any of what I’ve said as invalidating the practice of counselling and psychotherapy per se, though I do regard it as cutting back fairly radically the kinds of claims that can legitimately be made in the name of ‘treatment’. My own feeling is that ‘therapy’ needs to recast itself as a way of helping people to understand their predicament in terms of the social environment in which they find themselves. In some important respects this is a liberating project – one that frees the person from a burden of personal responsibility for their distress, even if it does so at the cost of denying them magical powers of self-cure.”

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Essay of the Day: Metaprogramming and the Labour of Code

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Michel Bauwens
4th September 2014


* Article: Cultural Techniques of Cognitive Capitalism: Metaprogramming and the Labour of Code. Jussi Parikka. Cultural Studies Review, VOL 20, NO 1 (2014). (UTS ePress)

From the abstract:

“This article addresses cultural techniques of cognitive capitalism. The author argues that to understand the full implications of the notion of cognitive capitalism we need to address the media and cultural techniques which conditions its range and applications. The article offers an expanded understanding of the labour of code and programming through a case study of ‘metaprogramming’, a software related organisation practice that offered a way to think of software creativity and programming in organisations. The ideas from the 1970s that are discussed offer a different way to approach creativity and collaborative and post-Fordist capitalism. The author brings together different theoretical perspectives, including German media theory and Yann Moulier Boutang’s thesis about cognitive capitalism. The wider argument is that we should pay more attention to the media archaeological conditions of practices of labour and value appropriation of contemporary technological capitalism as well as the cultural techniques which include ‘ontological and aesthetic operations’ that produce cultural, material situations.”

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Labour in the circuits of global markets: theories and realities

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Vasilis Kostakis
1st September 2014


Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 8.19.10 AMThis is to announce the new issue of Work Organisation, Labour & Globalisation, entitled “Labour in the circuits of global markets: theories and realities:

It is Supply chains are becoming ever more tightly integrated as corporations vie with each other to bring their products to global markets before they lose their value through replication or obsolescence. This restructuring of supply chains involves the interaction of a range of different public and private, local and global actors, including companies involved in ‘knowledge-based’ activities as well as those producing and shipping material goods. Both intellectual and manual labour are implicated in these processes of consolidation and acceleration and feel the squeeze: in intensification of work, the precarisation of working conditions and the fragmentation of the workforce, raising challenges for the organisation and representation of labour. This volume brings together accounts of what is happening to logistical labour along global supply chains with theoretical discussions of the problematic relationship between the ‘knowledge-based’ and real economies, and material and immaterial labour. It also presents research on other dimensions of labour precariousness, with contributions from Europe, Asia and the Americas. This volume makes important contributions in the fields of political economy, geography and labour sociology.

Two articles, included in the issue, might be of special interest to the readers of our blog: Henrique Amorim discusses the theories of immaterial labour providing a critical reflection based on Marx, while our friends Pavlos Hatzopoulos and Nelli Kambouri with Ursula Huws write on the containment of labour in accelerated global supply chains using the case of Piraeus Port, a recently privatized Commons in Greece.

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The Malware

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Charles Eisenstein
31st August 2014


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“This is not about being nice. It is about staying focused on our real goals and not letting ourselves be hijacked by other motives. Again, there is no formula for how to do this, but I think that striving to accurately understand the world of the CEO – what it is like to be them, their humanness, and not a caricature of them as a monster – can only enhance our effectiveness. If we operate from a delusion we perpetuate the image of that delusion. “

I want to add to my reflections on my Green Party visit and my relationship to social and environmental activists in general, because I have been told that I seem to be much more critical of them than I am of the CEOs, politicians, etc. who are driving the world-destroying machine. Toward them, I counsel love and understanding – well don’t the people who have dedicated their lives to protecting the earth deserve it even more?

Usually, I feel more at home among social and environmental activists than I do among people with mainstream views, because I know we feel a lot of the same pain. A big issue in the air in Minnesota was the vast expansion of mining happening in pristine wilderness areas in the northern part of the state. I was happy to be among people who didn’t need convincing that this is a terrible calamity. I felt at home knowing that each person there feels it as intensely as I do; that no one justifies it for all the GDP and jobs it will supposedly produce, that no one covers it up with one or another glib story in which normal is normal. These are people who know, to varying degrees, that the story we call civilization bears a deep sickness.

When I identify habits of hatred and domination within activists, along with hidden motives of seeing oneself as good and right and better-than-thou, I don’t mean to impugn the fundamental wellspring of these lives of service, which can only be reverence for our planet and grief for what is happening here. We are, however, all born into a society of separation and we all carry its wounds. The hidden motives and habits I describe go along with these wounds. They are a kind of malware that steers the host toward behavior that no longer serves the original sponsoring motives of compassion and service. The malware motivates ineffective strategies: ineffective at creating real change, but effective in serving the agenda of the malware. One of these strategies is to arouse as much loathing as possible toward the people running the corporations and their collaborators in politics. 

I am familiar with this malware only because I have so often witnessed it running in myself. Sometimes when I am attacked, I notice a nearly unconscious, reflexive program to dominate the attacker, to beat him into submission, to humiliate him. Because I am well-versed in my logic and enjoy a lot of support, I could probably win such battles most of the time, come out smelling like a rose, leaving a trail of defeated enemies behind me until the day of my own humiliation. I might win each battle, but I would lose the war. Knowing this, when I get the occasional piece of hate mail around a certain sensitive topic that starts with, “Shame on you Charles for…” I do my best to suspend the domination program, responding instead along the lines of, “Thank you for your forthright expression of your feelings,” or something like that. (There isn’t a formula; it comes from a moment of understanding what it is like to be the other person.) Now I cannot say that the results are always good, but sometimes an adversary is converted into an ally, or at least a modicum of understanding and human connection is born. The questioner might still disagree, but it will not be in the spirit of “shame on you.” 

When it doesn’t work, I sometimes realize to my chagrin that dominance-behavior still snuck into the interaction despite my attempt to avoid it. A part of me hurts when I get attacked, and that hurting seeks expression sometimes by hurting back. This is the habit we call “fighting.” I don’t think that any of us, even if we have devoted our lives to serving what is beautiful, are exempt from habits like this, woven as they are into the fabric of our society. 

That is not to say there is never a time in the world for a fight. It is the unconscious, reflexive habit of fighting that is most dangerous.

How to translate the approach I described in personal interactions to important goals on a larger level, such as stopping the sulfide mining projects in northern Minnesota? I wish I knew. I am certainly not advocating that we shy away from exposing uncomfortable truths in order to avoid offending the mining CEOs. This is not about being nice. It is about staying focused on our real goals and not letting ourselves be hijacked by other motives. Again, there is no formula for how to do this, but I think that striving to accurately understand the world of the CEO – what it is like to be them, their humanness, and not a caricature of them as a monster – can only enhance our effectiveness. If we operate from a delusion we perpetuate the image of that delusion. 

How to effectively resist the mining companies? I do not know. I don’t think there is a short-cut answer, a trivial solution; if I were to offer one I would be insulting the intelligence of the dedicated activists who are intimately familiar with the situation. I think that all of the tools used today, from legal challenges to petitions to direct action on-site, are valid and needn’t be run by the “malware.” 

Here is an example of how the malware operates by contaminating truth with hatred. Initially, one might describe in graphic terms the damage that sulfide mining can cause: the dead fish and birds, poisoned lakes devoid of life, devastated forests, heavy metal contamination. This description evokes horror and grief. Then the malware takes over and says, “And the mining companies are well aware of the damage and they are doing it anyway! In service to their greed!” Aren’t they awful, appalling, inexcusable. I see this kind of argument all the time, as if the main point were to convince you to hate along with me. Unfortunately, such tactics repel the undecided, who are likely to discount the graphic descriptions of the effects of mining by thinking, “Those are just fighting words. They are exaggerating so that they can defeat these people they hate.” That’s what people do in a fight – they exaggerate the bad behavior of their opponents. That is one reason why I think the truth will be more receivable if it doesn’t accompany the invitation to hate. The same is true for many kinds of resistance action.

I am aware that sometimes it is hard to find another interpretation for corporate behavior; for example, when they actively suppress evidence that shows that their activities are harming people or the environment. It sure seems like pre-meditated evil in service of greed. When cover-ups are discovered, they should be exposed as well. But again, we don’t need to resort to the explanation that “they are just wicked.” Instead we can ask what story they are living in. And we can ask ourselves, When have we told lies, hurt people, and covered it up? Why did we do it and what were we feeling? 

Marshall Rosenburg famously said, “Every judgement is the tragic expression of an unmet need.” The same wounds that get activated as the malware in resistance actions also express themselves in the internal workings of activist groups themselves, if perhaps on a subtler level. The same character assassination, infighting, lying, and cover-ups play out, destroying solidarity, consuming energy that could otherwise go toward creating change, and generating untold stress. We cannot accomplish much from a fractured foundation. This is another reason to deprogram from the habit of judging and fighting; another reason to recognize our projections and use them as tools for self-inquiry. I find it a fruitful exercise to attempt this with the people (like anti-environmentalist politicians and right-wing hatemongers) who trigger me the most. It builds a new habit that also operates with respect to my allies and the people I love. 

I offer these observations about hidden malware so that my brothers and sisters who have dedicated their lives to healing our world will be more effective. It is not to take them to task, bring them down a notch and puncture their self-importance. That is not my crusade. I’m simply describing a virus whose virulence subsides when it is no longer hidden.

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