My Resoc Interview

1. 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?

I have written a 50page+ chapter on this [and even so i don’t deal with gender or race]. I am for nationalising the banks, making them lend to green & social projects at zero interest, making credit, under certain well defined rules a public good; investing in a green new deal instead of dispersed plans like the tarp, social enterprises in which the investors/workers/customers contribute to the decisions and when these enterprises become numerous enough linking them together. I am for cancelling totally the debt of the poorest countries but with green conditionality and i am for dozens of other rational solutions.

But it doesn’t matter what i’m for because i have no power. I also think, frankly that gender and race all the time are american hang-ups which prevent us from getting to the real issues of enormous poverty and inequality, particularly in the us, but of course increasingly in europe as well. If i were the neoliberals, i would be funding every "identity politics" group in the country to keep everybody focused on their victimisation and prevent them from ever coalescing and making alliances with others in basically the same boat. The people who really run things are laughing all the way to wherever their yachts are moored.

2.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 do  it first because i don’t know what else there is to do when faced with such massive and obvious injustice. Second i do it because you never know. It is scientifically established that all our systmes are constantly on the brink between order and chaos and you never know when something you might do can change the pattern in the system. It’s not because you’re better or more important than somebody else–just that your grain of sand came at the right point, the right time.

And then let me tell you i used to know the people on the other side and they are *boring*, you wouldn’t believe how little you would like to spend an evening, much less a month or a lifetime with any of them. Life is too short, it’s better to fight for ecological safety and social justice than not. I am scared to death by climate change and i do after all have four grandchildren who are going to be my age in about 2060 or after.

3.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 have often said yes but it is nearly always difficult to put in the same energy as the people who had the idea to begin with. It’s not that they are wrong, but they often start from premises which would be time-consumingly, self-evidently [to me] non-starters in my own context or other contexts i know about. Sometimes too it is easier to lend one’s name than one’s time which is always in short supply.

4.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?

I can’t say i really understand the question. Obviously action has to be linked to intuitions of the present. I often feel that most of our actions which do not fully recognise what will be the effects of climate change are in any case beside the point and doomed to failure. But it is – and i understand that as well–impossible to disregard people who are suffering now – from unemployment, or have been turfed out of their houses, or have no health care [in the us] or any number of other issues staring them in the face. It’s just that things are destined to become much much worse if we ignore the total overwhelming changes humanity is going to have to confront, with no practice and little chance of winning. You don’t " win" against nature.

5. Why did you answer this interview? Why do you think others did not answer it? You said five questions.

Maybe others didn’t answer it because they realize that everyone will have their own obsessions unchanged before and after. I am for establishing hierarchies of priorities and at the top of mine is climate. I also want to get finance under control and establish democratically organised societies, especially in the highly undemocratic european union structures. But why should i ask an american black or latino or lesbian to agree with me? They think their immediate problems are more important. So maybe people don’t answer because it’s too depressing to tell the truth and the left, we know, will just go on, hairsplitting and useless, me included, as everything goes to hell in a handcart but the right makes a bloody lot of money on the way. Is that the reason? I don’t know.

Leave a comment