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The Oppenheimer Moment - Alan Cooper | Open Transcripts
[direct link to video: https://vimeo.com/254533098 ]

[via: https://twitter.com/TopLeftBrick/status/1123865036370468864 ]

"All of our social sys­tems bias us toward a pre­sen­tist focus: cap­i­tal­ist mar­kets, rapid tech­no­log­i­cal advance, pro­fes­sion­al reward sys­tems, and indus­tri­al man­age­ment meth­ods. You have to ask your­self, how will this be used in ten years? In thir­ty. When will it die? What will hap­pen to its users? To be a good ances­tor, we must look at the entire lifes­pan of our work.

I know I said that there were three considerations, but there’s a strong fourth one, too. Having established the three conduits for bad ancestry—assumptions, externalities, and timescale—we now need some tactical tools for ancestry thinking.

Because it’s a systems problem, individual people are rarely to blame. But people become representatives of the system. That is, the face of bad ancestry will usually be a person. So it takes some finesse to move in a positive direction without polarizing the situation. You can see from the USA’s current political situation how easy it is to slip into polarization.

First we need to understand that systems need constant work. John Gall’s theory of General Systemantics says that, “systems failure is an intrinsic feature of systems.” In other words, all systems go haywire, and will continue to go haywire, and only constant vigilance can keep those systems working in a positive direction. You can’t ignore systems. You have to ask questions about systems. You must probe constantly, deeply, and not accept rote answers.

And when you detect bad assumptions, ignored side‐effects, or distortions of time, you have to ask those same questions of the others around you. You need to lead them through the thought process so they see the problem too. This is how you reveal the secret language of the system.

Ask about the external forces at work on the system. Who is outside of the system? What did they think of it? What leverage do they have? How might they use the system? Who is excluded from it?

Ask about the impact of the system. Who is affected by it? What other systems are affected? What are the indirect long‐term effects? Who gets left behind?

Ask about the consent your system requires. Who agrees with what you are doing? Who disagrees? Who silently condones it? And who’s ignorant of it?

Ask who benefits from the system? Who makes money from it? Who loses money? Who gets promoted? And how does it affect the larger economy?

Ask about how the system can be misused. How can it be used to cheat, to steal, to confuse, to polarize, to alienate, to dominate, to terrify? Who might want to misuse it? What could they gain by it? Who could lose?

If you are asking questions like these regularly, you’re probably making a leaky boat.

Lately I’ve been talking a lot about what I call working backwards. It’s my preferred method of problem‐solving. In the conventional world, gnarly challenges are always presented from within a context, a framework of thinking about the problem. The given framework is almost always too small of a window. Sometimes it’s the wrong window altogether. Viewed this way, your problems can seem inscrutable and unsolvable, a Gordian Knot.

Working backwards can be very effective in this situation. It’s similar to Edward de Bono’s notion of lateral thinking, and Taiichi Ohno’s idea of the 5 Whys. Instead of addressing the problem in its familiar surroundings, you step backwards and you examine the surroundings instead. Deconstructing and understanding the problem definition first is more productive than directly addressing the solution.

Typically you discover that the range of possible solutions first presented are too limiting, too conventional, and suppress innovation. When the situation forces you to choose between Option A or Option B, the choice is almost always Option C. If we don’t work backwards we tend to treat symptoms rather than causes. For example we clamor for a cure for cancer, but we ignore the search for what causes cancer. We institute recycling programs, but we don’t reduce our consumption of disposable plastic. We eat organic grains and meat, but we still grow them using profoundly unsustainable agricultural practices.

The difficulty presented by working backwards is that it typically violates established boundaries. The encompassing framework is often in a different field of thought and authority. Most people, when they detect such a boundary refuse to cross it. They say, “That’s not my responsibility.” But this is exactly what an externality looks like. Boundaries are even more counterproductive in tech.

A few years ago, a famous graphic circulated on the Web that said, “In 2015, Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.”

The problem is that taxi companies are regulated by taxing and controlling vehicles. Media is controlled by regulating content. Retailing is controlled by taxing inventory. And accommodations by taxing rooms. All of the governmental checks and balances are side‐stepped my business model innovation. These new business models are better than the old ones, but the new ideas short‐circuit the controls we need to keep them from behaving like bad citizens, bad ancestors.

All business models have good sides and bad sides. We cannot protect ourselves against the bad parts by legislating symptoms and artifacts. Instead of legislating mechanism mechanisms, we have to legislate desired outcomes. The mechanisms may change frequently, but the outcomes remain very constant, and we need to step backwards to be good ancestors.

And when we step backwards, we see the big picture. But seeing it shows us that there’s a lot of deplorable stuff going on in the world today. And a lot of it is enabled and exacerbated by the high‐tech products that we make. It might not be our fault, but it’s our responsibility to fix it.

One reaction to looking at the big picture is despair. When you realize the whole machine is going in the wrong direction, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with a fatalistic sense of doom. Another reaction to seeing this elephant is denial. It makes you want to just put your head back down and concentrate on the wireframes. But those paths are the Option A and the Option B of the problem, and I am committed to Option C. I want to fix the problem.

If you find yourself at the point in a product’s development where clearly unethical requests are made of you, when the boss asks you to lie, cheat, or steal, you’re too late for anything other than brinksmanship. I applaud you for your courage if you’re willing to put your job on the line for this, but it’s unfair for me to ask you to do it. My goal here is to arm you with practical, useful tools that will effectively turn the tech industry towards becoming a good ancestor. This is not a rebellion. Those tools will be more of a dialectic than a street protest. We can only play the long game here.

Our very powerlessness as individual practitioners makes us think that we can’t change the system. Unless of course we are one of the few empowered people. We imagine that powerful people take powerful actions. We picture the lone Tiananmen protester standing resolutely in front of a column of battle tanks, thus making us good ancestors. Similarly, we picture the CEO Jack Dorsey banning Nazis from Twitter and thus, in a stroke, making everything better."



"Now fortuitously, I had recently been talking with folks at the engineering school at the University of California at Berkeley about teaching something there. Renato Verdugo, my new friend and collaborator with the great hair, agreed to help. And we just completed co‐teaching a semester‐long class called “Thinking Like a Good Ancestor” at the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation on the Berkeley campus. Renato works for Google, and they generously supported our work.

We’re introducing our students to the fundamentals of how technology could lose its way. Of awareness and intentionality. We’re giving the students our taxonomy of assumptions, externalities, and time. Instead of focusing on how tech behaves badly, we’re focusing on how good tech is allowed to become bad. We’re not trying to patch the holes in the Titanic but prevent them from occurring in future tech. So we’re encouraging our students to exercise their personal agency. We expect these brilliant young students at Berkeley to take ancestry thinking out into the world. We expect them to make it a better place for all of our children.

Like those students, we are the practitioners. We are the makers. We are the ones who design, develop, and deploy software‐powered experiences. At the start of this talk I asked you to imagine yourself as a tech practitioner witnessing your creations turned against our common good. Now I want you to imagine yourself creating products that can’t be turned towards evil. Products that won’t spy on you, won’t addict you, and won’t discriminate against you. More than anyone else, you have the power to create this reality. Because you have your hands on the technology. And I believe that the future is in the hands of the hands‐on.

Ultimately, we the craftspeople who make the artifacts of the future have more effect on the world than the business executives, the politicians, and the investment community. We are like the keystone in the arch. Without us it all falls to the ground. While it may not be our fault that our products let evil leak in, it is certainly within our power to prevent it. The welfare of our children, and their children, is at stake, and taking care of our offspring is the best way to take care of ourselves.

We need to stand up, and stand together. Not in opposition but as a… [more]
alancooper  design  ethics  ancestors  2018  time  systemsthinking  systems  capitalism  neoliberalism  technology  lifespan  externalities  economics  ancestry  legacy  side-effects  morality  awareness  intentionality  renatoverdugo  powerlessness  longgame  longnow  bighere  zoominginandout  taiichiohno  problemsolving  johngall 
19 days ago by robertogreco
Protesters Don't Block Traffic to Gain Your Support They Do It So You Can See What if Feels Like to Be Stuck in a Powerless Situation How Do You Respond to This Situation? Are You Calm and Peaceful? Do You Want to Spend Years Organizing Political Talks Ab
Jason Nelson:

"Protesters don't block traffic to gain your support. They do it so you can see what it feels like to be stuck in a powerless situation. How do you respond to this situation? Are you calm and peaceful? Do you want to spend years organizing political talks about it? Nope, you want to run those protesters over, kill them, kill them all. If you want to kill protesters who have you stuck in traffic, imagine what you would want to do to a system that patrols, harasses and kills you. The sooner you learn perspective the sooner you won't have to be stuck in traffic."
protest  jasonnelson  power  activism  powerlessness  perspective  traffic  roadblocks 
july 2017 by robertogreco
The Instagram Obituaries of the Young Manchester Victims - The New York Times
"Teenage girls rarely get control, not in life and certainly not in death. Teenagers document their lives — and, frankly, so do adults — because it gives them a kind of agency over their own narratives. No one gets to tell you what your story is if you tell it yourself. The very things we throw back at teenage girls as noxious self-indulgences, from selfies to the recording of daily minutiae, are the things we look for when unexplainable tragedy hits.

No one is better equipped to speak for you, even after your death, than you. Through photos and posts and inside jokes, these people born in the 1990s and 2000s who died far, far sooner than anyone could have predicted wrote their eulogies for us. The details are often slim and seemingly irrelevant — and ultimately, only represent a curated version of themselves — but they’re a reminder that these were real people we lost."



"Death leaves people feeling panicked and powerless. It’s easy, then, to use someone’s final published moments as proof of something: That they were a good person, or that they were troubled, or that there’s any meaning to be mined from the wreckage of loss. After Manchester, we’re doing the same to the young victims who left us a record of their lives. It’s not solely to let them regain some control of their own narratives, but it’s also for us: Maybe, by looking at what they spun out into the world, we can get some respite from the chaos, too."
instagram  socialmedia  2017  machester  identity  control  narrative  storytelling  agency  obituaries  scaachikoul  death  mourning  meaning  powerlessness  panic  life  living 
may 2017 by robertogreco
I do not recognise the stereotype of John Berger as a dour Marxist – his work embodied hope | Books | The Guardian
"John Berger had the most amazing eyes. I do not mean that in the abstract, though it is true; his way of seeing the world has become part of the way we understand visual culture. I am thinking simply of those great baby blues. He was never not looking. He was a painter and he took up photography at one point but gave it up because once you have taken a picture “you stop looking at what you’ve shot. I was more interested in looking. I think I gave my camera away.”

When I heard he’d died at the great age of 90, of course I thought of his eyes, of what it was like to have them focused on you – he did that to everyone, it was absolutely compelling. To be human for him meant always seeing, listening, exchanging.

He wrote to me out of the blue when I was a film critic. It was the most brilliant letter of warmth and encouragement that had me floating with joy. He wrote many such letters to many people. It is what he did, that old-fashioned thing: engagement.

He wrote to me about the nature of criticism. Like many, I was interested in criticism as a result of his work, because of the idea that criticism could be radical, that it was a conversation not an evaluation. Yes, that remains idealistic as we live in a world where criticism is debased to stars, to a TripAdvisor mentality that requires no thought or knowledge whatsoever, the precursor to the sneering at experts mentality.

But in 1972 Berger had shown what could be achieved. His TV series and book, Ways of Seeing, remain revelatory. He blew up everything we thought we “knew” about art and its reproduction. He said: “The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled”, freeing up a space for us to wonder about meaning. This is quite beautiful to me still, this wondering.

A letter from Berger was an invitation to be somehow involved in one of his myriad projects – a film, a novel, an idea – so I did meet him, but more often we talked on the phone. Not about geopolitics, though of course he was one of the first people to grasp that migration, “forced or chosen, across national frontiers or from village to metropolis”, was “the quintessential experience of our time”. Instead, he might call to ask how best to describe dreadlocks (dreads or locks?), or about my children, or what colour I was painting the kitchen. This amuses me now, this chatting about the details, but he always wanted the details. The everyday was not trivial to him.

That may be why I simply do not recognise him in some of the snippy obits in which he has been reduced to the stereotype of the dour Marxist. He was the complete opposite. I guess the challenge he presented still stands. Nor is he reducible to a methodology of decoding. This is to miss all his stories, poems and thinking that were so grounded in the material. One does not have to like all his work or agree with his various political stances (many could not stomach his stance on Rushdie) to see his significance is huge.

In any situation where political power was in play, his very instinct was to side with the powerless. He was undeniably a romantic. But everything went back to experience in the end.

Episode two of Ways of Seeing remains seared on my mind. Remarkable television, so far from how the 70s is now often envisioned. Here, Berger talks about the difference between being naked and nude, explaining who owns the gaze – men. Men act and women appear. He talks of how women always survey themselves, even in moments of grief. Then, halfway through the programme, he says that he has shown images of women but not heard their voices so hands over the discussion to a group of women, while he listens and smokes.

Here then are the beginnings of understanding how visual culture – art, TV, film, advertising – depicts women for the presumed male spectator/owner’s pleasure. Feminists took this much further and still use these insights. No wonder Kenneth Clark, Auberon Waugh, Stephen Spender et al – the old elite – did not like Berger. This was an oppositional reading of “their” culture.

Berger’s way of seeing, I came to understand, was a way of being. Here was a public intellectual who never divvied up the world into “politics” and “culture”, a learned man who shied away from academia but could talk to anyone. He knew observation has consequences. He knew that not from theory but because he rode a motorbike.

As he trained his eyes and his ears on whoever he was with, this intense listening meant he was a wonderful storyteller of searing moral clarity. He always seemed to know, implicitly, that protest and anger derive from hope. His work embodies the hope involved in our everyday human exchanges, whatever the circumstances. His very being radiated it.

“Hope,” he once said, “is a contraband passed from hand to hand and story to story.” What contraband. What treasure. I am for ever grateful for it."
johnberger  suzannemoore  2017  hope  marxism  storytelling  listening  seeing  power  powerlessness  politics  waysofseeing  wonder  wondering  engagement  criticism  feminism  kennethclark  auberonwaugh  stephenspender 
january 2017 by robertogreco
John Berger, Written in the night: The pain of living in the present world
"I WANT to say at least something about the pain existing in the world today. Consumerist ideology, which has become the most powerful and invasive on the planet, sets out to persuade us that pain is an accident, something that we can insure against. This is the logical basis for the ideology's pitilessness.

Everyone knows, of course, that pain is endemic to life, and wants to forget this or relativise it. All the variants of the myth of a Fall from the Golden Age, before pain existed, are an attempt to relativise the pain suffered on earth. So too is the invention of Hell, the adjacent kingdom of pain-as-punishment. Likewise the discovery of Sacrifice. And later, much later, the principle of Forgiveness. One could argue that philosophy began with the question: why pain?

Yet, when all this has been said, the present pain of living in the world is perhaps in some ways unprecedented.

I write in the night, although it is daytime. A day in early October 2002. For almost a week the sky above Paris has been blue. Each day the sunset is a little earlier and each day gloriously beautiful. Many fear that before the end of the month, US military forces will be launching the preventive war against Iraq, so that the US oil corporations can lay their hands on further and supposedly safer oil supplies. Others hope that this can be avoided. Between the announced decisions and the secret calculations, everything is kept unclear, since lies prepare the way for missiles. I write in a night of shame. By shame I do not mean individual guilt. Shame, as I'm coming to understand it, is a species feeling which, in the long run, corrodes the capacity for hope and prevents us looking far ahead. We look down at our feet, thinking only of the next small step.

People everywhere, under very different conditions, are asking themselves - where are we? The question is historical not geographical. What are we living through? Where are we being taken? What have we lost? How to continue without a plausible vision of the future? Why have we lost any view of what is beyond a lifetime?

The well-heeled experts answer. Globalisation. Postmodernism. Communications revolution. Economic liberalism. The terms are tautological and evasive. To the anguished question of where are we, the experts murmur: nowhere. Might it not be better to see and declare that we are living through the most tyrannical - because the most pervasive - chaos that has ever existed? It's not easy to grasp the nature of the tyranny for its power structure (ranging from the 200 largest multinational corporations to the Pentagon) is interlocking yet diffuse, dictatorial yet anonymous, ubiquitous yet placeless. It tyrannises from off shore - not only in terms of fiscal law, but in terms of any political control beyond its own. Its aim is to delocalise the entire world. Its ideo logical strategy, besides which Osama bin Laden's is a fairy tale, is to undermine the existent so that everything collapses into its special version of the virtual, from the realm of which (and this is the tyranny's credo) there will be a never-ending source of profit. It sounds stupid. Tyrannies are stupid. This one is destroying at every level the life of the planet on which it operates.

Ideology apart, its power is based on two threats. The first is intervention from the sky by the most heavily armed state in the world. One could call it Threat B52. The second is of ruthless indebtment, bankruptcy, and hence, given the present productive relations in the world, starvation. One could call it Threat Zero.

The shame begins with the contestation (which we all acknowledge somewhere but, out of powerlessness, dismiss) that much of the present suffering could be alleviated or avoided if certain realistic and relatively simple decisions were taken. There is a very direct relation today between the minutes of meetings and minutes of agony.

Does anyone deserve to be condemned to certain death simply because they don't have access to treatment which would cost less than $2 a day? This was a question posed by the director of the World Health Organisation last July. She was talking about the Aids epidemic in Africa and elsewhere from which an estimated 68 million people will die within the next 18 years. I'm talking about the pain of living in the present world.

Most analyses and prognoses about what is happening are understandably presented and studied within the framework of their separate disciplines: economics, politics, media studies, public health, ecology, national defence, criminology, education. In reality each of these separ ate fields is joined to another to make up the real terrain of what is being lived. It happens that in their lives people suffer from wrongs which are classified in separate categories, and suffer them simultaneously and inseparably.

A current example: some Kurds, who fled last week to Cherbourg, have been refused asylum by the French government and risk being repatriated to Turkey, are poor, politically undesirable, landless, exhausted, illegal and the clients of nobody. And they suffer each of these conditions at one and the same second. To take in what is happening, an interdisciplinary vision is necessary in order to connect the fields which are institutionally kept separate. And any such vision is bound to be (in the original sense of the word) political. The precondition for thinking politically on a global scale is to see the unity of the unnecessary suffering taking place. This is the starting point.

I WRITE in the night, but I see not only the tyranny. If that were so, I would probably not have the courage to continue. I see people sleeping, stirring, getting up to drink water, whispering their projects or their fears, making love, praying, cooking something whilst the rest of the family is asleep, in Baghdad and Chicago. (Yes, I see too the forever invincible Kurds, 4,000 of whom were gassed, with US compliance, by Saddam Hussein.) I see pastrycooks working in Tehran and the shepherds, thought of as bandits, sleeping beside their sheep in Sardinia, I see a man in the Friedrichshain quarter of Berlin sitting in his pyjamas with a bottle of beer reading Heidegger, and he has the hands of a proletarian, I see a small boat of illegal immigrants off the Spanish coast near Alicante, I see a mother in Mali - her name is Aya which means born on Friday - swaying her baby to sleep, I see the ruins of Kabul and a man going home, and I know that, despite the pain, the ingenuity of the survivors is undiminished, an ingenuity which scavenges and collects energy, and in the ceaseless cunning of this ingenuity, there is a spiritual value, something like the Holy Ghost. I am convinced of this in the night, although I don't know why.

The next step is to reject all the tyranny's discourse. Its terms are crap. In the interminably repetitive speeches, announcements, press conferences and threats, the recurrent terms are Democracy, Justice, Human Rights, Terrorism. Each word in the context signifies the opposite of what it was once meant to. Each has been trafficked, each has become a gang's code-word, stolen from humanity.

Democracy is a proposal (rarely realised) about decision-making; it has little to do with election campaigns. Its promise is that political decisions be made after, and in the light of, consultation with the governed. This is depend ent upon the governed being adequately informed about the issues in question, and upon the decision-makers having the capacity and will to listen and take account of what they have heard. Democracy should not be confused with the freedom of binary choices, the publication of opinion polls or the crowding of people into statistics. These are its pretence. Today the fundamental decisions, which effect the unnecessary pain increasingly suffered across the planet, have been and are taken unilaterally without any open consultation or participation. For instance, how many US citizens, if consulted, would have said specifically yes to Bush's withdrawal from the Kyoto agreement about the carbon dioxide greenhouse effect which is already provoking disastrous floods in many places, and threatens, within the next 25 years, far worse disasters? Despite all the media-managers of consent, I would suspect a minority.

It is a little more than a century ago that Dvořák composed his Symphony From the New World. He wrote it whilst directing a conservatory of music in New York, and the writing of it inspired him to compose, 18 months later, still in New York, his sublime Cello Concerto. In the symphony the horizons and rolling hills of his native Bohemia become the promises of the New World. Not grandiloquent but loud and continuing, for they correspond to the longings of those without power, of those who are wrongly called simple, of those the US Constitution addressed in 1787.

I know of no other work of art which expresses so directly and yet so toughly (Dvořák was the son of a peasant and his father dreamt of his becoming a butcher) the beliefs which inspired generation after generation of migrants who became US citizens.

For Dvořák the force of these beliefs was inseparable from a kind of tenderness, a respect for life such as can be found intimately among the governed (as distinct from governors) everywhere. And it was in this spirit that the symphony was publicly received when it was first performed at Carnegie Hall (16 December 1893).

Dvořák was asked what he thought about the future of American music and he recommended that US composers listen to the music of the Indians and blacks. The Symphony From the New World expressed a hopefulness without frontiers which, paradoxically, is welcoming because centered on an idea of home. A utopian paradox.

Today the power of the same country which inspired such hopes has fallen into the hands of a coterie of fanatical (wanting to limit everything except the power of capital), ignorant (recognising only the reality of their own fire-power), hypo critical (two measures for all ethical judgments, one … [more]
johnberger  2013  presence  present  consumerism  pain  ideology  worldhealthorganization  aids  africa  health  healthcare  priorities  power  powerlessness  kurds  turkey  iraq  war  tyranny  baghdad  saddamhussein  democracy  decisionmaking  participatory  participation  dvořák  us  military  freedom  economics  capitalism  language  euphemisms  media  resistance  words 
january 2017 by robertogreco
CM 048: Dacher Keltner on the Power Paradox
"Is there a secret to lasting power? Yes, and Dacher Keltner has been teaching leaders about it for decades. And the secret is not the ruthless, manipulative approach associated with 15th-century politician and writer Niccolo Machiavelli. It is actually the opposite.

As a University of California, Berkeley, Professor of Psychology, and Founder and Director of the Greater Good Science Center, Dacher Keltner shares research-based insights he has gained. And in his latest book, The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence, he discusses a new science of power and 20 guiding power principles.

In this interview, we talk about:

• How the legacy of Niccolo Machiavelli continues to inform power
• Why power is about so much more than dominance, manipulation, and ruthlessness
• Why we need to question a coercive model of power
• The short- versus long-term impact of different kinds of power
• Why power is about lifting others up
• Why lasting power is given, not grabbed
• The important role that reputation, gossip and esteem play in who gains power
• How, within days, group members already know who holds the power
• What makes for enduring power
• How our body language and words speak volumes about power
• Why Abraham Lincoln is a fascinating study of empathetic power
• The fact that great and powerful leaders are incredible storytellers
• How feeling powerful makes us less aware of risk
• How feeling powerful makes us less empathetic, attentive and responsive to others
• How feeling powerful actually overrides the part of our brain that signals empathy
• How drivers of more expensive cars (46 percent) tend to ignore pedestrians
• How powerful people often tell themselves stories to justify hierarchies
• The price we pay for powerlessness
• Concrete ways we can cultivate enduring, empathetic power
• Gender and power
• Why the key to parenting is to empower children to have a voice in the world

Selected Links to Topics Mentioned [all linked within]

Dacher Keltner
Greater Good Science Center
Frans de Waal
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
Thomas Clarkson and the abolition movement
Why Civil Resistance Works by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan
House of Cards
The 100-Year Life by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott
What Works by Iris Bohnet
Arturo Behar and Facebook
Greater Good in Action
Science of Happiness course on edX"
dacherkeltner  power  hierarchy  machiavelli  influence  paradox  coercion  2016  thomasclarkson  abolition  slavery  history  greatergoodsciencecenter  resistance  ericchenoweth  mariastephan  houseofcards  andrewscott  lyndagratton  irisbohnet  arturobejar  fransdewaal  chimpanzees  primates  privilege  superiority  psychology  empathy  class  poverty  wealth  inequality  poor  happiness  humility  altruism  respect  sfsh  leadership  administration  parenting  friendship  dignity  workplace  horizontality  sharing  generosity  powerlessness  recognition  racism  gender  prestige  socialintelligence  empowerment 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Hot Allostatic Load – The New Inquiry
"HI

I am too sick to write this article. The act of writing about my injuries is like performing an interpretative dance after breaking nearly every bone in my body. When I sit down to edit this doc, my head starts aching like a capsule full of some corrosive fluid has dissolved and is leaking its contents. The mental haze builds until it becomes difficult to see the text, to form a thesis, to connect parts. They drop onto the page in fragments. This is the difficulty of writing about brain damage.

The last time I was in the New Inquiry, several years ago, I was being interviewed. I was visibly sick. I was in an abusive “community” that had destroyed my health with regular, sustained emotional abuse and neglect. Sleep-deprived, unable to take care of myself, my body was tearing itself apart. I was suicidal from the abuse, and I had an infected jaw that needed treatment.

Years later, I’m talking to my therapist. I told her, when you have PTSD, everything you make is about PTSD. After a few minutes I slid down and curled up on the couch like the shed husk of a cicada. I go to therapy specifically because of the harassment and ostracism from within my field.

This is about disposability from a trans feminine perspective, through the lens of an artistic career. It’s about being human trash.

This is in defense of the hyper-marginalized among the marginalized, the Omelas kids, the marked for death, those who came looking for safety and found something worse than anything they’d experienced before.

For years, queer/trans/feminist scenes have been processing an influx of trans fems, often impoverished, disabled, and/or from traumatic backgrounds. These scenes have been abusing them, using them as free labor, and sexually exploiting them. The leaders of these scenes exert undue influence over tastemaking, jobs, finance, access to conferences, access to spaces. If someone resists, they are disappeared, in the mundane, boring, horrible way that many trans people are susceptible to, through a trapdoor that can be activated at any time. Housing, community, reputation—gone. No one mourns them, no one asks questions. Everyone agrees that they must have been crazy and problematic and that is why they were gone.

I was one of these people.

They controlled my housing and access to nearly every resource. I was sexually harassed, had my bathroom use monitored, my crumbling health ignored or used as a tool of control, was constantly yelled at, and was pressured to hurt other trans people and punished severely when I refused.

The cycle of trans kids being used up and then smeared is a systemic, institutionalized practice. It happens in the shelters, in the radical organizations, in the artistic scenes—everywhere they might have a chance of gaining a foothold. It’s like an abusive foster household that constantly kicks kids out then uses their tears and anger at being raped and abused to justify why they had to be kicked out—look at these problem kids. Look at these problematic kids.

Trans fems are especially vulnerable to abuse for the following reasons:

— A lot of us encounter concepts for the first time and have no idea what is “normal” or not.

— We have nowhere else to go. Abuse thrives on scarcity.

— No one cares what happens to us.

This foster cycle relies on amnesia. A lot of people who enter spaces for the first time don’t know those spaces’ history. They may not know that leaders regularly exploit and make sexual advances on new members, or that those members who resisted are no longer around. Spaces self-select for people who will play the game, until the empathic people have been drained out and the only ones who remain are those who have perfectly identified with the agendas and survival of the Space—the pyramid scheme of believers who bring capital and victims to those on top."



"
TRASH ART

When it was really bad, I wrote: “Build the shittiest thing possible. Build out of trash because all i have is trash. Trash materials, trash bodies, trash brain syndrome. Build in the gaps between storms of chronic pain. Build inside the storms. Move a single inch and call it a victory. Mold my sexuality toward immobility. Lie here leaking water from my eyes like a statue covered in melting frost. Zero affect. Build like moss grows. Build like crystals harden. Give up. Make your art the merest displacement of molecules at your slightest quiver. Don’t build in spite of the body and fail on their terms, build with the body. Immaculate is boring and impossible. Health based aesthetic.”

Twine, trashzines made of wadded up torn paper because we don’t have the energy to do binding, street recordings done from our bed where we lie immobilized.

Laziness is not laziness, it is many things: avoiding encountering one’s own body, avoiding triggers, avoiding thinking about the future because it’s proven to be unbearable. Slashing the Gordian Knot isn’t a sign of strength; it’s a sign of exhaustion."



"SOCIAL DYNAMICS

COMMUNITY IS DISPOSABILITY
There are no activist communities, only the desire for communities, or the convenient fiction of communities. A community is a material web that binds people together, for better and for worse, in interdependence. If its members move away every couple years because the next place seems cooler, it is not a community. If it is easier to kick someone out than to go through a difficult series of conversations with them, it is not a community. Among the societies that had real communities, exile was the most extreme sanction possible, tantamount to killing them. On many levels, losing the community and all the relationships it involved was the same as dying. Let’s not kid ourselves: we don’t have communities.

—The Broken Teapot, Anonymous"

People crave community so badly that it constitutes a kind of linguistic virus. Everything in this world apparently has a community attached to it, no matter how fragmented or varied the reality is. This feels like both wishful thinking in an extremely lonely world (trans fems often have a community-shaped wound a mile wide) and also the necessary lens to convert everything to profit. Queerness is a marketplace. Alt is a marketplace. Buy my feminist butt plugs.

The dream of an imaginary community that allows total identification with one’s role within it to an extent that rules out interiority or doubt, the fixity and clearness of an external image or cliche as opposed to ephemera of lived experience, a life as it looks from the outside.

—Stephen Murphy

These idealized communities require disposability to maintain the illusion—violence and ostracism against the black/brown/trans/trash bodies that serve as safety valves for the inevitable anxiety and disillusionment of those who wish “total identification”.

Feminism/queerness takes a vague disposability and makes it a specific one. The vague ambient hate that I felt my whole life became intensely focused—the difference between being soaked in noxious, irritating gasoline and having someone throw a match at you. Normal hate means someone and their friends being shitty toward you; radical hate places a moral dimension onto hate, requiring your exclusion from every possible space—a true social death."



"There is immense pressure on trans people to engage in this form of complaint if they want access to spaces—but we, with our higher rates of homelessness, joblessness, lifelessness, lovelessness, are the most fragile. We are the glass fems of an already delicate genderscape.

Purification is meaningless because anyone can perform these rituals—an effigy burnt in digital. And their inflexibility provides a place where abuse can thrive—a set of rules which abusers can hold over their victims.

Deleuze wrote, “The problem is no longer getting people to express themselves, but providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say. Repressive forces don’t stop people from expressing themselves, but rather, force them to express themselves. What a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, or ever rarer, the thing that might be worth saying.”

>>

ENDING

People talk about feminism and queerness the way you’d apologize for an abusive relationship.

This isn’t for the people who are benefiting from these spaces and have no reason to change. This is for the people who were exiled, the people essays aren’t supposed to be written for. This is to say, you didn’t deserve that. That even tens or hundreds or thousands of people can be wrong, and they often are, no matter how much our socially constructed brains take that as a message to lie down and die. That nothing is too bad, too ridiculous, too bizarre to be real when it comes to making marginalized people disappear.

Ideology is a sick fetish.

RESISTING DISPOSABILITY

— Let marginalized people be flawed. Let them fuck up like the Real Humans who get to fuck up all the time.

— Fight criminal-justice thinking. Disposability runs on the innocence/guilt binary, another category that applies dynamically to certain bodies and not others. The mob trials used to run trans people out of communities are inherently abusive, favor predators, and must be rejected as a process unequivocally. There is no kind of justice that resembles hundreds of people ganging up on one person, or tangible lifelong damage being inflicted on someone for failing the rituals of purification that have no connection to real life.

— Pay attention when people disappear. Like drowning, it’s frequently silent. They might be blackmailed, threatened, and/or in shock.

— Even if the victim doesn’t want to fight (which is deeply understandable—often moving on is the only response), private support is huge. This is the time to make sure the wound doesn’t become infected, that the PTSD they acquire is as minimized as … [more]
porpentine  community  via:sevensixfive  feminism  abuse  disposability  identity  interdependence  ptsd  trauma  recovery  punishment  safety  socialmedia  call-outculture  society  culture  violence  mobbing  rape  emotionalabuse  witchhunts  silviafederici  damage  health  communication  stigma  judithherman  terror  despair  twine  laziness  trashart  trashzines  alliyates  social  socialdynamics  stephenmurphy  queerness  jackiewang  complaint  complaints  power  powerlessness  pain  purity  fragility  gillesdeleuze  deleuze  solitude  silence  ideology  canon  reintegration  integration  rejection  inclusivity  yvetteflunder  leadership  inclusion  marginalization  innocence  guilt  binaries  falsebinaries  predators 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Rob Grayson - ““People whose governing habit is the...
““People whose governing habit is the relinquishment of power, competence, and responsibility, and whose characteristic suffering is the anxiety of futility, make excellent spenders,” wrote Wendell Berry in The Unsettling of America. “They are the ideal consumers. By inducing in them little panics of boredom, powerlessness, sexual failure, mortality, paranoia, they can be made to buy (or vote for) virtually anything that is ‘attractively packaged.’” And there are no shortages of experiences that, for a price, promise to stimulate us, make us powerful, sexy, invincible, admired, beautiful, and unique.”

— Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle

[via: http://bettyann.tumblr.com/post/131415265782 ]
chrishedges  power  consumerism  boredom  powerlessness  mortality  paranoia  spectacle  literacy  government  politics  wendellberry  capitalism 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Stowe Boyd — Our society constantly proclaims that anyone can...
"Our society constantly proclaims that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough, all the while reinforcing privilege and putting increasing pressure on its overstretched and exhausted citizens. An increasing number of people fail, feeling humiliated, guilty and ashamed. We are forever told that we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited. Furthermore, those who fail are deemed to be losers or scroungers, taking advantage of our social security system.

A neoliberal meritocracy would have us believe that success depends on individual effort and talents, meaning responsibility lies entirely with the individual and authorities should give people as much freedom as possible to achieve this goal. For those who believe in the fairytale of unrestricted choice, self-government and self-management are the pre-eminent political messages, especially if they appear to promise freedom. Along with the idea of the perfectible individual, the freedom we perceive ourselves as having in the west is the greatest untruth of this day and age.

The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman neatly summarised the paradox of our era as: “Never have we been so free. Never have we felt so powerless.” We are indeed freer than before, in the sense that we can criticise religion, take advantage of the new laissez-faire attitude to sex and support any political movement we like. We can do all these things because they no longer have any significance – freedom of this kind is prompted by indifference. Yet, on the other hand, our daily lives have become a constant battle against a bureaucracy that would make Kafka weak at the knees. There are regulations about everything, from the salt content of bread to urban poultry-keeping.

Our presumed freedom is tied to one central condition: we must be successful – that is, “make” something of ourselves. You don’t need to look far for examples. A highly skilled individual who puts parenting before their career comes in for criticism. A person with a good job who turns down a promotion to invest more time in other things is seen as crazy – unless those other things ensure success. A young woman who wants to become a primary school teacher is told by her parents that she should start off by getting a master’s degree in economics – a primary school teacher, whatever can she be thinking of?

There are constant laments about the so-called loss of norms and values in our culture. Yet our norms and values make up an integral and essential part of our identity. So they cannot be lost, only changed. And that is precisely what has happened: a changed economy reflects changed ethics and brings about changed identity. The current economic system is bringing out the worst in us."

—Paul Verhaeghe, Neoliberalism Has Brought Out The Worst In Us
neoliberalism  2014  paulverhaeghe  privilege  freedom  success  individualism  parenting  careers  culture  society  economics  capitalism  ethics  identity  zygmuntbauman  power  powerlessness  politics  policy  significance 
december 2014 by robertogreco
What Happened? | The Reykjavik Grapevine
"Q: Why did you decide against running for a second term?

A: Because the Best Party is a surprise party. And surprise parties can only go on for so long. You can’t stand up in the middle of a party and yell: “surprise!” That’s absurd. No one would be surprised. The party is already in full swing. Parties that just keep on going, without any element of surprise, they’re just normal parties. And the Best Party was never meant to be a normal party.

Besides that, there is a certain flaw to the Best Party, in that it isn’t a democratic party. It does not play by those rules, and it’s important that it doesn’t. If I were to run again that would have to change. And then it wouldn’t be the Best Party. And I’m not interested in that.

Q: You’ve said the political system is in need of a massive reformation—“a full scale cultural revolution,” as you called it when we interviewed you before the last election. Was the party’s non-democratic nature an attempt to circumvent that system, to instil changes?

A: Exactly. You can think of the Best Party as an intervention. An intervention is temporary; the counsellor doesn’t stay on the family’s couch while it is in the recovery process."



"Q: What about your own beliefs and expectations? Did you compromise them? Did you ever have to stand for something you didn’t believe in, to go against your principles?

A: No, never. I have never done that. I have never gone against my conscience or acted contrary to my beliefs. I know that in life, you sometimes have to swallow bitter pills, that’s just the way it is. Regardless, I have never lied. I have not been dishonest. Even when that was an easy option. I have rather opted for honesty, to admitting that I do not know the answer to a question, rather than telling a lie or diverting the conversation."



"12 STEPS TO DEMOCRACY

Q: You’ve said that you modelled the party after AA…

A: Yes. I really like the philosophy behind AA. It’s very unique; it’s really a lifestyle of sorts that the members adopt. And it seems to work. You never hear anything about a scandal connected to AA. The organisation receives donations and handles money, but you never hear about a charter somewhere that was misappropriating funds or anything of the sort… that type of thing doesn’t seem to happen in AA. This indicates that the programme and the organisation work, that it’s healthy.

The Best Party is built like a 12-step programme—you could call it a political 12-step programme, or a 12-step programme for democracy. I think this is one of the reasons why the Best Party works better than your average protest party or joke party. Those parties don’t work. They have no ideology to build on, no philosophy to ground them. Their basis is often an emotion, like rage, or plain tomfoolery."



There are lots of great ideas out there. But they get misunderstood. And the cause is more often than not simple human frailty, which the theories don’t account for, because they exist solely on the ideological plane, without taking into account emotions and error. Just look at our best thinkers over the past few centuries. From Schopenhauer and Nietzsche to Marx and Engels. Their ideas led to a lot of misunderstanding, a lot of horror. Schopenhauer was Hitler’s favourite philosopher. Karl Marx created communism because he was outraged by how the underclass was being treated. But then, their theories eventually inspired all sorts of atrocities, events and ideas that in no way reflect their intentions.

We thus figured that the best ideology would be no ideology, save for the one espoused by the AA: Powerlessness, humility, frailty. To realise that we don’t have all the solutions.

And Taoism. Taoism has definitely been an influence.

ORTHODOX ANARCHISTS

Q: What about anarchism? You’ve proclaimed on many occasions that you were an anarchist…

A: "To me, anarchism and Taoism represent the same idea. The only difference is that anarchism went the way of any other ideology. It was written down and demarcated, what counted as anarchism and what didn’t—and in that instant, it fell dead.

You can’t be an anarchist if you’re this way or the other. And in effect, this is oppressive. Take straight edge, a really cool movement that sprang up right in the heart of consumer culture preaching different values, preaching health. All of the sudden, you could be cool and a punker without always being wasted. But that quickly turned into a kind of elitism, the group instated rules and even turned to violence against outsiders who didn’t share their outlook. This is a clear example of something that started as a positive force, but quickly turned negative. And it’s of course due to human error and selfishness, frailty and all that crap.

Q: It became an orthodoxy?

A: So easily! And this is why when I say I’m an anarchist, it´s not because anarchism is some perfect ideology, but because there is no perfect ideology.

The whole idea—what’s important—boils down to the right to remain an individual within a community, to be able to live your life as you will so long as you’re not stepping on anyone else. That you can live in peace, whether you’re a homosexual or like to smoke cannabis or whatever, so long as you don’t disturb others. And that is the only ideology that matters."
jóngnarr  iceland  politics  2014  punk  anarchism  ephemeral  intervention  temporary  pop-ups  bestparty  humility  reykjavík  taoism  anarchy  ideology  frailty  powerlessness  ephemerality 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Creaturely Poetics
"Simone Weil once wrote that “the vulnerability of precious things is beautiful because vulnerability is a mark of existence,” establishing a relationship between vulnerability, beauty, and existence transcending the separation of species. Her conception of a radical ethics and aesthetics could be characterized as a new poetics of species, forcing a rethinking of the body’s significance, both human and animal. Exploring the “logic of flesh” and the use of the body to mark species identity, Anat Pick reimagines a poetics that begins with the vulnerability of bodies, not the omnipotence of thought. Pick proposes a “creaturely” approach based on the shared embodiedness of humans and animals and a postsecular perspective on human-animal relations. She turns to literature, film, and other cultural texts, challenging the familiar inventory of the human: consciousness, language, morality, and dignity. Reintroducing Weil’s elaboration of such themes as witnessing, commemoration, and collective memory, Pick identifies the animal within all humans, emphasizing the corporeal and its issues of power and freedom. In her poetics of the creaturely, powerlessness is the point at which aesthetic and ethical thinking must begin."
books  animals  animalstudies  via:anne  anatpick  vulnerability  film  literature  toread  poetics  identity  speciesidentity  simoneweil  existence  power  freedom  humans  ethics  aesthetics  powerlessness 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Little Things of Great Importance | This Moi
[Wayback link: https://web.archive.org/web/20110123052115/http://www.thismoi.com/2010/11/little-things-of-great-importance/ ]

"It would be easy to say, that no one *needs* a piece of lemon loaf, and you might be correct, but maybe *this* boy *did*. Maybe he had a very real need for a piece of iced lemon loaf. Maybe he needed it for comfort. Maybe he needed it for power. Maybe he needed it for the Indian in his cupboard that would only eat iced lemon loaf and would starve to death if he didn’t get it for him. Maybe he had a whole wealth of emotional difficulties or mental challenges I didn’t know about. Who knows? Do you? I don’t…

…It was a panic that I remember having experienced sometimes. Perhaps you do too. The panic in realizing that you have no power at all. You are a child and you are powerless. There is nothing you can do.

I understand it may be extremely hard for many to have sympathy for a little white western boy deprived of a sweet as this is precisely what I would say if I had not observed the child in person, but the look  on his face is a universal one: “Life is not fair”."
powerlessness  childhood  kartinarichardson  fairness  poetry  life  empathy  power  insignificance  frustration  emotions 
july 2011 by robertogreco

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