At a public talk someone asks you, "okay, I understand what you reject, but I wonder what you are for? What institutions do you want that you think will be better than what we have, for the economy, polity, gender, race, ecology, or whatever you think is central to have vision for?
While outlining institutional vision is very important, I think developing a shared set of encompassing values is just as important for vision. People have unusual relationships with the dominant institutions of current society. While there is awareness whether explicit or implicit of the negative effects of capitalism, of a division of labour within workplaces, of sexist and racist practices and cultural systems, people also have an unhealthy dependency on these institutions at the same time. This often leads to a seemingly irrational response in defence of these institutions on many occasions. So while developing and detailing alternative institutions is important, often people can’t imagine or conceive where their place within such arrangements will be. This can cause fear, anxiety, a return to the arms of their institutional abuser so to speak.
Hence, it is more important to create agreed values to drive our vision. Such values if properly considered and acted upon will lead to desirable institutions in the end. What they do though is allow for people to personalize alternative vision, to take up not a completed vision, but the lens which to create their own vision. By placing progressive values- I propose self-management, equity, liberty, diversity, solidarity, sustainability- and by creating common understandings of these values, we enable people to not only critically understand the world around them, but to also understand how alternative institutions and arrangements might better meet their values and needs, creating institutions that reflect local arrangements and purposes.
Next, someone at the same event asks, "Why do you do what you do? That is, you are speaking to us, and I know you write, and maybe you organize, but why do you do it? What do you think it accomplishes? What is your goal for your coming year, or for your next ten years?
I contribute as I have empathy for others. I recognize my position of privilege and feel either burning injustice or heartbreaking sorrow for the suffering that is inflicted upon many of those on this Earth in part to secure my privilege. To me this is an affront to decency, to the concept of justice, to the ideal of equality. I also do the little that I do out of self-interest, out the hope or dream that life can be fulfilling. That the potentiality that I feel within me can be developed at some future time, whatever it might be, in a way where I feel a nourishment of soul and body. Deliberate ignorance is complicity, so there is no other choice but to do what we can, even if it’s a little, to make the world a better place for all who enjoy life on it.
You are at home and you get an email that says a new organization is trying to form, internationally, federating national chapters, etc. It asks you to join the effort. Can you imagine plausible conditions under which you would say, yes, I will give my energies to making it happen along with the rest of you who are already involved? If so, what are those conditions? Or – do you think instead that regardless of the content of the agenda and make up of the participants, the idea can’t be worthy, now, or perhaps ever. If so, why?
I can imagine participating in such an organization if it reflects the values and processes that I think are desirable or necessary to creating a more just society. I think that such an organization can act as a catalyst to create and give greater direction/meaning to local organizations seeking to belong to such a federation.
Such an organization would need a charter; it would need an outline of its core principles and aims. It would need a means of resource generation that is in keeping with such principles and it would need to be active in its efforts, an organizational purpose and momentum that avoids stagnation or corruption. Any organization would also need to be able to provide some value/benefit to its member organizations, provide a symbiotic relationship between local and international.
Do you think efforts to organize movements, projects, and our own organizations should embody the seeds of the future in the present? If not, why? If yes, can you say what, very roughly, you think some of the implications would be for an organization you would favor?
Our efforts today should contain the seeds of the future otherwise what’s the purpose of organizing to begin with? This allows us to practically develop our understandings, to experiment with organizational forms to best determine structures and processes that best reflect our values. It provides an advocacy element in that we can use our functional or successful experiments as an example of how a better society might be organized. We can point to failed experiments to show that with every failed experiment we take a step closer to a solution.
Obviously there are limitations on what we can do today. There are limitations on what people can contribute today. Our movements, projects and organizations should be continual works in progress, possessing a fluid nature in which tweaks, improvements, and corrections can always be made to greater reflect our values and vision of the future. In this way, while limitations may be present we may seek to overcome them a step at a time. This can only occur by possessing an overarching vision, by understanding the situation we are in now and where we want to be. This allows those seeds to grow.
Why did you answer this interview? Why do you think others did not answer it?
I answered this interview because I feel that the ReImagining Society project is important. That while limited, my contribution supports its endeavours. Projects such as this can help develop understanding, can lead to greater collaboration, and shift focus towards not only present problems but future solutions.
Others perhaps didn’t answer this interview not because of time constraints-‘busy’, but perhaps more out of the effects of feeling ‘busy’. The working day is tiring, the daily grind becomes a burden, and it’s easy to want to escape with the few hours of spare time rather than spend those few hours one has free responding to questions that others have more adequately respond to. Or whose responses reflect one’s own ideas and position, making a response feel redundant. Redundancy and use of time are the two main reasons I suspect.