Posts Tagged ‘democracy’

Raw notes on the subject of Critical Mass

August 19, 2009

I’ve been participating in a couple online debates about Critical Mass. (one and the other)  I’ll do something with these raw notes a little later…

There’s a difference between making your world a better place and making the world a better place. Critical Mass, and really is developing community, connecting with real human riders only a selfish indulgence? Are the car driver stuck in traffic, who get angry, and not all the drivers get angry, happy in the current transportation system? Is it possible that cyclists are scapegoats of drivers and planners trapped in an inefficient, and frustrating system? Road Rage is a cultural phenomenon that has nothing to do with cyclists. Is the desire to shift traffic patterns, and create transportation alternatives selfish?

I read Luke’s post and think Critical Manners is more than somewhat open to interpretation. And fixed thinking, fixed meaning, the lack of open ability to interpret is, and I’m using this word with an understanding of the full possibility that you’ll recoil in smug indifference, fascist. I haven’t checked, but I’m pretty sure freedom of movement is a human right. I’d like to decide for myself, in community (read democratically) what that means, not have it decided for me by a self-legitimating power, or sycophants who ally themselves with that power.

One concern seems to be that this democratic expression (Critical Mass Ride) violates the rights of others. Are “freedom from delay” or “freedom from inconvenience” rights? I think it’s a stretch to call Critical Mass a violation of others’ rights.

Another concern is the flouting of law. Law is an institution of power, which in this case is confronted by a democratic multitude. But even this concern is weak. Critical Mass is a procession, like a parade or a funeral, a celebration of cycling in the city and as such it stays together. I don’t think the maintenance of a procession is too far outside accepted social behaviour.

We’re working with different definitions and not really understand each other.

Darren wrote:
“Just to be clear, you’re saying that if I choose to “ally myself with” a democratically-elected power, I’m a fascist? Does that make every citizen who voted for a government in power a fascist? That’s a peculiar point of view, particularly given the definitions of ‘democracy’ and ‘facism’.”

The definition of democracy on wikipedia includes this: “Even though there is no specific, universally accepted definition of ‘democracy’, there are two principles that any definition of democracy includes, equality and freedom. These principles are reflected by all citizens being equal before the law, and have equal access to power.”

By the standards in this definition we do not live in a democracy, and I’ve noticed over the past month that most of the people opposing Critical Mass are arguing under the assumption that we do live in a democracy or under a democratic government, when it would be more referent to our reality to speak of living in an oligarchy or under a pastoral government. I think it’s this confusion of definitions that places Critical Mass outside the notion of democracy in public perception (a confused public that also erroneously perceives itself as democratic.)

I wrote “allying yourself with power against those confronting power is” fascist. I said nothing of a democratically-elected power, because the terms cancel each other out. The creation of a hierarchy is the end result of elections, and hierarchic power structures are not democratic (by definition which requires equality) I’ll try to be more clear this time around because I think these definitions are very important for bridging the gap in perception that has been expressed in this thread.

Because of the difference in power between those who rule and those who are ruled, this can be seen when thousands of people are systematically excluded from the decision making process, (don’t confuse an exclusive decision making process with democracy, it’s an oligarchy, let’s call things by their name) the excluded are confronted with a decision making power, a power that must be contested.

The contestability of freedoms written or desired is the basis of confrontational politics. So you can check any list you want but when a multitude appears on bicycles exercising that freedom you’ve got your reality.

This debate was started by a police warning and monopoly capitalist media sensationalism. How are these institutions of power democratically elected? How then is public perception important to consider if it has been manipulated by these powers? We often see what we know, and we know how power informs us. Why do the people who ride in critical mass have such a different perception of the meaning of the event than those who read the Province or the Sun? (or who side with the police force?) Critical Mass is definitely confronting institutional and capitalist power. Things are not the way they are for no reason. To try to change things is to confront those reasons.

Those reasons concern the systems of money and power; systems which in no way can be referred to as democratic. These systems have criminalized dissent/protest. So yes, Critical Mass operates outside the system, democratically mobilizing in public.

My point of view may be peculiar to liberal capitalists who’ve accepted the misnomer of democracy, but there is a huge body of work called Critical Theory written by Jews who fled from Nazi Germany, this stuff is definitely the point of view of outsiders. And the link I put to the guide to a non-fascist life is definitely worth reading. And then there’s Noam Chomsky, he’s also written extensively on the illusion of democracy. Point is, if we called things what they are and restarted this conversation, which I’ll say it again, was started by the institutional powers of the police and capitalist media, Critical Mass would be the democratic expression, opposed by non-democratic, oligarchical, capitalist, armed power.
Which side are you on?

Do you see that we are at odds in our terms?

There are two clear, reasonably well written posts preceding, but are in no way addressed by your question. I tried to express earlier the communal and democratic appeal of Critical Mass, which you constantly reduce to “personal enjoyment” and then even the term “entitled” is anti-democratic.

You say there are “infinite ways to find personal fulfillment” and you’re totally right on the mark with that. What’s missing are ways to find free communal fulfillment. Critical Mass is a rare free communal event. In a democracy access to power is equal, there is no need to produce a title. Critical Mass is an expression of this social alternative, and in our current totalizing system, an alternative can only be confrontational. I think it’s necessary for democracy to create the ability to say, “We are here.” Critical Mass presents an alternative. And I think the issue you have is with the alternative. There are people in our social body who think differently, and in our representational system, they don’t really exist, but for a few hours once a month, the last Friday of every month to be specific, Downtown, between the hours of 5:30 and 8 or so. Would you like to pretend that difference doesn’t exist? And that the difference will not sometimes express itself in blocked flows?

Critical Mass is about more than traffic, it’s an alternative form of social organizing, free and democratic, which just happens to get in the way of law and order.

I think liberal capitalists need to understand that their order impinges on the enjoyment, more the full development of life of a multitude that desires that full development. This desirous multitude is without access to media of power and money(capital/resources) towards the process of communal and human development, and every once in a while, through different channels, this multitude will make itself known. This is the world we live in for now.

There is a major bias or false foundation in all the arguments against CM here. (except Morten who doesn’t express the bias at all. He clearly sees our reality.)

I’m talking about the uncritical acceptance of a democratic society.

Raul starts with this statement: “One of the most powerful manifestations of a democratic society is the ability of citizens to raise their voices wanting to be heard on policy issues.”

Is this really one of a democratic society’s most powerful manifestations? That’s it? …the ability to raise your voice wanting to be heard? How do you define democracy? How do you define what is not? One problem with empirical research lies in its inability to discover the unrealized possible. I’d contend that democracy is a Utopian notion worth creating, and that the society in which we’ve found ourselves (selves created and socialized, prior to that discovery (I’m just saying..)) is not democratic.

It, that we don’t live democratically, comes through in what Victoria writes: “I’m fully for having mobility options versus vehicle usage, but when mobs like Critical Mass take to the streets it seems that far fewer influential ears are prepared to actually listen to our cry.” We live in a society where a larger number of bodies are classed ‘mobs’ and where a lesser number of bodies are classed ‘influential’. And it is through obedience to this smaller influential class that our cries will be answered. This is not democratic, but pastoral society.

The expression of desire by the multitude in a pastoral society will logically lead to conflict. but Victoria writes: “Critical Mass has no place in civilized, logical protest.” And in a confused society, one that names things what they are not, maybe protest can be civilized, whatever that means to you, but in our world, where civilization is an imposition, sometimes called colonization, and to be civilized is to be obedient, protest can never be that.

The society in which we’ve found ourselves and its institutions are not democratic. (Morten gives a good example to show this. And then he writes: “the utopian and unrealistic notion that the masses are better equipped to do the right thing than people in power. (sometimes called democracy!) It’s a nice thought but fundamentally flawed because most people are not equipped to actually make decisions that are for the betterment of everyone – in the end we are all pretty selfish!” Morten doesn’t believe in the possibility of democracy!!) That we believe society and it’s institutions to be democratic confuses our perception of nascent democratic (self-determining) practices like Critical Mass. Do you know what democracy looks like?

Riding in Critical Mass I feel democratic.

I’d define democracy, like sustainability, not as a concept, but as a practice. I also see the Critical Mass ride as a democratic practice/act. This democratic practice has been called “illegal” and a “criminal act” by the monopoly capitalist media in Vancouver (see this and this ) What researcher of social movements would miss the trend towards the criminalization of dissent? (And in the history of social movements tyranny hasn’t quieted democratic voices. Voices don’t cry out to be heard because some form of government allows it. And if it is grudgingly “allowed” today it is only because we cannot be stopped.)

Are you open to being convinced of your bias, or that we do not live in a democratic society? If you define democracy as rule by anyone or everyone, then the descriptions of our society by Morten and Victoria showing us (the mob) being ruled by the few should be enough to convince you that we are not ruled/governed democratically. What’s interesting is that both Morten and Victoria are opposed to Critical Mass in much the same way, but Morten clearly opposes democracy in favor of a rule by those in power (the entitled few) while Victoria sees the same thing, the same way and understands it as democracy.

I wonder if I could convince you of your bias… I also called it a false foundation. I could also call it a presupposition. If you desired a democratic society, that would be idealistic. Believing that we live in a democracy is false, not idealistic. A false belief, is paradigm shifting, and a bias is clearly expressed in your conclusion: “I asked online – “when is the tipping point? when does disruption become unruly social order?”. I think Critical Mass creators and their proponents should re-think this and their strategies. A democratic society is a collaborative society, not a confrontational one.” Raul, you show a bias toward social order, an order you falsely believe to be a democratic society. Our contemporary social order is heavily mediated by money and power. It is exclusive, unequal, and hierarchical. In our society where the titled expect compliance, the untitled voices/democratic voices can be nothing other than confrontational. If you re-think your foundational paradigm, that a collaborative society is a society of equals is a democratic society, not a confrontational one, you’ll hopefully recognize your error. We are not a society of equals and as such the political order of the day is confrontational. We must assert our voices, against an oligarchical regime of money and power who call us “illegal”. Our voices are untitled and deemed illegitimate. This regime must be confronted until every and any voice is legitimate, until democracy.

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Mid-Summer…

August 10, 2009

I’m feeling the end of summer coming on. I’m thinking about a couple more adventures before it comes to a definitive end, so this might be my first and last post in a while.

I watched Che over the past two nights, and today finished reading Ranciere’s the Hatred of Democracy. Maybe toward the end of summer I’ll start writing more on these. I did make a comment on Raul Pacheco-Vega’s Blog. After a couple weeks away I checked my twitter account. I had an @ message from Raul. Here’s something ridiculous, the message referred to the preceding tweet. Raul makes about a hundred tweets each day.  I scrolled through two weeks (is there another way to get to a specific date?) but I did come across his blog post on Critical Mass. I thought about commenting on this one about being an activist and a scholar, but couldn’t help commenting on the Critical Mass post.

Summer Veloloving

June 29, 2009

Bike Month Critical Mass

Originally uploaded by Rodger Levesque

I want to put down some notes. First is a link to a post on the Google Public Policy Blog. The post states that “there’s an open government revolution afoot in British Columbia.” And while this might be overstating the case a bit the City of Vancouver has passed a motion to open its data to the public.

the city hopes to promote civic engagement, improve decision-making, and deepen accountability.

I’m just going to leave that quote there like that for now.

The second link is to the Toronto Star’s June 17 edition. Here’s an interesting bit…

There has long been skepticism over the effect of New Brunswick’s media concentration on coverage. The Irvings own all three English dailies and most weeklies, as well as radio stations. With stakes in oil, forestry and other industries, the family’s wealth has been estimated at $3.9 billion by Forbes magazine.

Efforts made over the decades to break the family’s media hold have failed, despite the scrutiny of at least three federal inquiries. A 2006 Senate report stated that “the Irvings’ corporate interests form an industrial-media complex that dominates the province” to a degree “unique in developed countries.”

At the Senate hearing, journalists and academics cited Irving newspapers’ lack of critical reporting on the family’s influential businesses.

One critic, sociology professor Erin Steuter, said the Irving papers’ perspective “tends to be pro-business, anti-labour and very self-serving toward their own interests.”

How does this situation differ from anywhere else in Canada?

To end on a positive note the Critical Mass Ride was amazing. There were thousands out. What a great feeling to be a part of the swarm.

I’m going out as often as I can this summer. I’ll be heading to the Crab Park Festival on Wednesday with a small bicycle convoy. If you’re interested in pedalling with us get in touch.

Designing For Democracy

June 22, 2009

Kicking off the 2009 Web of Change calendar on Thursday, March 5th at Vancouver’s District 319.

Originally uploaded by Rodger Levesque

The difficulty I’ve had in writing up this post is related to the inspiration of Favianna’s presentation. It was transformative for me.  I changed. The transformation clearly isn’t complete, and obviously it wasn’t instantaneous. It also wasn’t miraculous. It’s not like a right wing pundit was turned inside out, but I was definitely changed by Favianna during her visit to Vancouver. (Favi preparing for trip to Vancouver)

I’ve always, as long as I’ve been conscious, been at odds with the world. I was given a loving, left-wing, working-class consciousness through my upbringing. So I was raised into a world that needed changing. Before hearing Favianna, I was already an advocate for feeding the poor, housing the homeless, radical education, worker control, democracy, sexual liberation and the self-determination of indigenous peoples.

What changed, or more precisely, what is changing is my approach to activism.

Prior to attending Designing For Democracy, I’d cultivated for myself an abstract, disembodied activism. Watch Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire and the angels on the train, street, library, watching, listening to the plight of people. This is a good way to see my idealized form of advocacy. This wasn’t an emotionless abstraction I was after. I’ve always held in high regard the line, “Jesus wept.” But it wasn’t simply an emotional spectacle that I was after either. I have been reading and writing, working out a critical theory of the world. My theory has been constantly changing, and along with it the way I behave in the world.

I developed a depersonalised, journalistic style of advocacy. I see it now as a way of staying out of the confrontation, become the messenger. I have kept to a small circle, truly radical thought is always discomforting, and people tend to react emotionally, to avoid trouble I’ve practiced my activism in secret.

Favi’s history is political and emanates from her body/person. She is also a completely creative being. You might sense that I’m still trying to work out the difference that’s been created in me. One change in my approach has been to take on a more creative practice in local activism. Over the years, I’ve been turned off by the differences in theory that I’ve had with other activists/groups. My journalistic approach was to photograph and report what they said. And only off-record would I criticize what they were doing. I wanted to be an advocate. What I really wanted was a community to which I could belong. I guess I’ve always expected to stumble upon, or discover this pre-existing space. What I learned from Favi is that I need to create that space. I need to develop it through my activism/revolutionary practice.

But Favi’s brilliance is that she didn’t say, “You need to create your own space in the activist community.” What she did was tell the story of how she created a space for her activism.

links:

Favianna Rodriguez’s Reflections
Kate Milberry wrote it up the next day
Sue Main wrote it up nine days later
Event on youtube

A couple suggestions from Favianna’s blog:

Talking about Open Relationships is as hard as fighting the War on Drugs!

Let’s talk about sex! Latina girls still having more babies than any other teenage group

Media Democracy — What is to be done?

May 28, 2009

Here’s a very short post about last night…

Raul at Hummingbird 604 wrote about the Where’s the Money in Media? panel.

they’ve said things that I’ve already heard, so that’s why I am slightly distracted. I mean, we all know that the newspapers and news outlets are in crisis. I don’t think they (the panelists) nor us (the public) have a response or a policy option that we can offer/suggest.

And early this morning in another conversation about the event the talk turned to a lack of solutions.

How do we make media democratic? I’ve got some ideas, but then this wouldn’t be a short post anymore…

[update] more links:

Video and Audio of the panellists:
http://www.workingtv.com/money.media.html

Vancouver Independent Media Asks ‘Where’s the Money?’
http://www.newslab.ca/

Georgia Straight on CBC layoffs: http://www.straight.com/article-224051/cbc-eliminates-26-jobs-vancouver-according-union-rep

Vancouver Observer: http://www.thevancouverobserver.com/show1255a1s/CBC_Layoffs_Murdoch_Poised_to_Pounce_on_Canwest_Stock

Review: Digitize This Book

May 22, 2009

The question of access is totally political. Democracy, and to be clear we do not live in a democracy, needs an open environment to be possible. Without access to relevant information, we are incapable of both our highest self-development and informed participation in social questions. Today information is exclusive in its distribution. Decision making is also an exclusive process. In capitalist systems of government, the decisions that affect our lives are not ours to make, and the information on which those decisions are made is not ours to scrutinize.

New media has given the potential of broadcasting to everyone with internet access. This growing access has been revealing the limits of access, as well as the possibility of information distribution. It has called into question notions of authority, and the control of ideas. The lines between the private and communal right to ideas have been blurred. The control of ideas by commercial organizations has become an active question, the situation has become political. In Bolivia when private commercial organizations tried to control the flow of water, the question of the possibility of democracy in a country controlled by private interests erupted in a wave of social organization. And while information is not as important to life as water, the question of who controls the flow of substances necessary for human development in each case, nonetheless, is activating the political.

Digitize This Book!: The Politics of New Media, or Why We Need Open Access Now is a completely frustrating read. What are the politics of new media? And why do we need open access? Those  questions have radical implications. The title, however, with its allusion to Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book!, is misleading. I had expectations of a freedom-loving-people-first radical “we” in need of open access, but, unfortunately, the “we” in the title refers to career-building professional academics.

And unfortunately the politics in this book limits itself to the institution. Hall delivers a book on using open access for professional political purposes. The idea of open access as it relates and presents the  possibility of free education and real democracy is the idea I’d have liked to see written out. But Hall didn’t do that. Hall limits himself to an academic discussion in a way that makes the book nearly irrelevant to anyone outside that world. I’ve been putting off writing up the book.  My reaction is to write off the academic world as career-minded, grant-chasing, intellectual conservatives, and while the academic world is definitely heavily populated by this type, of which Hall fits, the academic world is also all we’ve got. The main space left where thinking happens is the academic world. So writing them off isn’t really an option. This book of Hall’s is a disappointment for sure, but in it there are some points on which to get started.

First, there’s the difficult concept of a desire for changing one’s place in the order of things. This concept — and you can correct me if I’m wrong, or out of line – may not be a concept so much as a cognitive disorder; a desire for change without anything changing. Gary Hall seems, and he’s not an activist, to suffer the same affliction as a lot of activists. He wants a better world for himself — and others — without making a change in the world. Sure he calls the institution into question, but finds it necessary, it’s just maybe if he had a little more control over his work. This idea of a little change is something that needs to be thought through. Any change is a leap, a little change is a big change. In the case of institutional legitimation, where an author’s work needs to go through a series of controls, these controls can seem oppressive. Hall has found the process of publishing online can bypass these controls, but without the control, his status as a legitimate academic is at risk. Hall needs the oppressive control to exclude others and maintain his identity.

Hall conceals this return to a desire for oppression and control in the face of the possibility of freedom, in the terminology of Derrida. He uses Derrida as a cover, but also a legitimate currency. He draws on Derrida like one draws on a bank.

This is another starting point, the academic use of the names of our most radical thinkers as coinage. Hall does this on a number of occasions. The issue of legitimacy and authority, through drawing on the value of names. But the name becomes separated from the body of work, legitimating in this case a Cultural Studies critique.

Halls desire to maintain, in the shift toward digital publishing, the authority of print is just not a concern that anyone outside the university would have. It could be seen as similar to the grumbling of journalists, and Hall’s dismissal of the amateur is very similar but the question is New Media. What are the politics? What is happening to whom and how? But can an academic, especially one with an interest in career building, clearly think the university? How does the commercialization, the manipulating market forces on the practice of the university look to an academic? And in Hall’s case an “academic with no preconceived politics”? How much of this thought was forged in the free-market furnace?

On authority, and it’s similarities and difference to worth, an essay of Derrida’s is difficult to follow, and a book like Hall’s which trades on Derrida’s style and terminology is difficult in its counterfeit. The question of worth. It’s something to think about. No one is going to take the time to read anything I write. They might be interested in a quote from Deleuze. But Hall does something less. He drops names, Benjamin, Foucault, Deleuze, he drops these names without a direct reference to their work. Nietzsche  says something about those who use superlatives reaching beyond their grasp. And in this instance, the use of these names to legitimate his book, Hall completely steps out of his depth.

Financial Fools Day

April 1, 2009

Today the TILMA agreement comes into effect. If you’ve never hear of it, that makes two of us. But there’s a campaign underway to get the information out. Tonight at SFU Harbour Centre, the Council of Canadians organized a panel discussion. The panel was a diverse group of interests, that hold in common our social well being. Here are some notes and links. (There is another meeting Wednesday April 22 7pm at the VPL Downtown to discuss the harmful effects of privatization. “What You Should Know Before You Vote On May 12” (no link yet))

These agreements are about corporate access to resources and restructuring economies to facilitate profiteering.

The Panelists:

Caelie Frampton (BC Stop TILMA Coalition) -From NAFTA to TILMA: Re-examine trade agreements.

Proma Tagore (No One Is Illegal) – Bilateral Trade Agreements: Canada displacing communities in the Global South.

Kyla (SFU Students against corporate education) – Reduction in public funding, privatization of education

Colleen Fuller (PharmaWatch and the BC Health Coalition) – Neo-liberal agreements, corporate lawsuits and the healthcare system.

Gord Hill (Olympic Resistance Network and No2010.com) – Looking back to Seattle 1999 and forward to Vancouver 2010.

How does neoliberalism affect our lives?

Caelie Frampton (is not at all responsible for these notes!!!) Why are we seeing agreements? The Bilateral agreements (Canada and Colombia, Canada and the EU, etc.) are a response to collapsed talks at WTO level. There has been an increase in trade agreements. The government in power has a deregulatory agenda. TILMA (Trade Investment Labour Mobility Agreement) is an agreement on Internal trade. It’s main thrust is “No obstacles to investment” and it sets up a “Private Courts Systems” to deal with disputes. This agreement threatens to block any social and political alternatives to capitalism. It was signed and passed behind closed doors. Why doesn’t the government want any public consciousness? In the past anti-trade agreement activists have talked about saving Canada. What? Save a colonial and imperialist nation?

Proma (is not at all responsible for these notes!!!) – No one is illegal – “The people may or may not use the word, but they live globalization.” – Trade Agreements are form of Colonial and Capitalist Expansion – Free flow of capital – white settler state – 1994 NAFTA Implemented – displaced farmers from Mexico move north into low paying work. – Immigrant detention industry is the fastest growing industry on the west coast – Global racism – directly and actively – states role in perpetuating global racism – “Israel’s values are Canada’s values” Paul Martin

Kyla (is not at all responsible for these notes!!!) – SFU Student – shaping social, who has access good jobs, power is moved from accessible institutions to private business models – offer degrees – labour market preparation

Colleen (is not at all responsible for these notes!!!) Pharmawatch NA is becoming increasingly integrated – Insurance is a NA industry – BC government undermined access to health care – People are fighting to maintain health care. Health care and education – link HC to housing, social assistance, disability, – fight to expand not simply defend. Develop allies across the spectrum of society.

Gord Hill (is not at all responsible for these notes!!!) organizing against the 2010 Olympics Antiglobalization protest time line – 1989 – state communism collapses, the triumph of a straight global capitalist system. 1994 Zapatistas develop language of neo-liberalism and anti-capitalism – re-inspired social movements – 1999 Seattle – convergence of social movements, mass mobilizations “Resistance within the belly of the beast” – anti-globalization anti-capitalist – Trade agreement impacts are so widespread workers – poor – even middle class – 2001- the movement gains momentum – Quebec Security fence taken down – movement reinvigorated. – War on terror – chilled social movement – climate of fear – movement set back – 2007 re-emergence of strong movement – militant campaign against G8 – Scares the ruling class. They don’t even want to see people taking action!! – Unemployed , crisis, – (there is a contradiction here.) – Public Direct Action No 2010 Olympics. There has been an increase in homelessness in Vancouver since the Olympic bid was won – Sea to sky highway is having detrimental environmental effects – fight social and environmental impacts of Olympics/Capitalism. The resistance is promoting an anti-capitalist ideology. Why? Capitalists don’t care about people. Thousand of people involved – Alternative media helped build the movement – civil disobedience – show respect for diversity – there’s no one correct way to do things – anti-colonial aspect housing homeless – movements are diverse – Will show the impacts.

Discussion: solidify our movements so that regardless of government (and corporate rule) we can be a force. Taxpayers and parents – holding government accountable. Converge on the Olympics – want to see more people there after the Olympics – bringing people together for after the olympics all these cmovements came together for one big coalition Save the CBC Unionized workers – Appeal to the mainstream – take advantage of this crisis. Socialism for the rich is fundamentally unjust – Lou BC Health Coalition – on behalf of patients? What? right to challenge, right to a need (health care)– legal strategies? – rethink how we organize – how are we organizing? – Saul Alinsky – Do something good – tactics – sport medicine for-profit clinics will be legacy of Olympics – housing – oppose the olympics – So was a different time the 50s – door to door – Current media is better for seniors and writing letters – language translation for cross-cultural coalition building – talk to people for organization – old school union union style: small, workspace, simultaneous organizing – The government plans to use the Olympics to promote their economic plan – indigenous issues, education, race, sexism, work, all together – Olympics a springboard for continuing to organize. – AND FINALLY – STV Win and we won’t have a majority government ever again!

Did she say “revolution”?

March 28, 2009

Naomi Klein speaks at the National Conference on Media Reform:

Now I want to return to another moment of profound crisis, after the market crash of 1929, that was the moment that created the new deal. Now it didn’t happen because FDR was a great guy. It happen because people in this country were so radicalized, so determined, so organized that he was able to sell the New Deal to the elites as a compromise because the alternative was Revolution.

Matt Taibbi writes about the 2009 financial crisis:

And all this happened at the end of eight straight years devoted to frantically chasing the shadow of a terrorist threat, eight years spent stopping every citizen at every airport to search every purse, bag, crotch and briefcase for juice boxes and explosive tubes of toothpaste. Yet in the end, our government had no mechanism for searching the balance sheets of companies that held life-or-death power over our society.

Then he says something interesting about democracy, education, and revolution as a two way street:

By creating an urgent crisis that can only be solved by those fluent in a language too complex for ordinary people to understand, the Wall Street crowd has turned the vast majority of Americans into non-participants in their own political future. There is a reason it used to be a crime in the Confederate states to teach a slave to read: Literacy is power. In the age of the CDS and CDO, most of us are financial illiterates. By making an already too-complex economy even more complex, Wall Street has used the crisis to effect a historic, revolutionary change in our political system — transforming a democracy into a two-tiered state, one with plugged-in financial bureaucrats above and clueless customers below.

Net Neutrality Campaign

February 9, 2009

Net Neutrality - Net Tuesday

Here’s Steve Anderson and Kris Krug (sitting) at January’s Net Tuesday. They’re letting Vancouver’s social net scene in on the issue of Net Neutrality. (You can read all about it on humminbird604’s blog.) The two of them are also in an informative video about Net Neutrality at Vancouver I Am.

Net Neutrality is important for anyone concerned about Canadian democracy, and that’s pretty much everyone, so let the CRTC’s decision makers know what you think. You can send a letter from here to make your voice heard.

Canadians must seize this opportunity to tell the CRTC that it must ensure we have an open, fast and accessible Internet in this country.

An Open Letter to My Dad

October 10, 2008

or

Reading Vaclav Havel’s The Power of the Powerless

or

In Praise of Lost Causes

or

Why I’m Voting Communist

The other morning on the radio I heard Stephen Harper giving the Conservative political line that “in these times of uncertainty you should vote for the only party with an economic plan,” the subtext, if it wasn’t directly stated before I started listening or after I turned the radio off, is the Conservative promise of certainty. This probably would have made me smile, that smile of sad understanding, as I turned off the radio, I mean on any other day, but this day I heard this knowing that you, my own father, might be voting for this certainty. This day I turned off the radio knowing that my dad had succumbed to the fatalistic thinking that threatens another term of inhumane government. I say fatalistic in the sense that life is always and can only ever be uncertain. Death is the only certainty and in this sense a wish for certainty is a death wish.

Faced with the mainstream political choices available (what you call the Fiberals and the Non Democratic Party) death is a reasonable alternative. Death may seem too strong a word, but the Conservative plans to step up our role in the military industrial complex abroad and remove aid to the most vulnerable here at home is a choice for actual death. And with this agenda softly mirrored by the only other viable voter choice, a strategic vote is a vote for the same, of course with a little less fear and resentment.

Luckily I’m currently reading Vaclav Havel’s Power of the Powerless. He saw that democracy as it’s practiced can do nothing to change the corporate agenda for a human agenda. But he shows an alternative. He refuses to give up hope.

“It would appear that the traditional parliamentary democracies can offer no fundamental opposition to the automatism of technological civilization and the industrial-consumer society, for they, too, are being dragged helplessly along by it. People are manipulated in ways that are infinitely more subtle and refined than the brutal methods used in the post-totalitarian societies. But this static complex of rigid, conceptually sloppy and politically pragmatic mass political parties run by professional apparatuses and releasing the citizen from all forms of concrete and personal responsibility; and those complex focuses of capital accumulation engaged in secret manipulations and expansion; the omnipresent dictatorship of consumption, production, advertising, commerce, consumer culture, and all that flood of information: all of it, so often analysed and described, can only with great difficulty be imagined as the source of humanity’s rediscovery of itself.”

What’s needed? What is to be done? It’s a simple, basic plan that Havel offers. We need to simply develop values like trust, openness, responsibility, solidarity, love. It’s a matter of renewing our relationships with other human beings. These values and relationships do not exist in the corporate system. There is a major contradiction in Harper’s aura of Christian values and his drive for war and withdrawal of support of Canada’s most vulnerable people. Jesus wept. Harper smirks. But there is no viable alternative to this corporate agenda in our system of government. This is why we need to rekindle hope by renewing our human relationships, sure I can vote communist as a joke, as a way of confirming that if you’re not in line with the system you’re outside the system. Values like trust, openness, responsibility, solidarity, love are outside the system as well.

The problem is not with the Liberals or the NDP, and voting Conservative will not fix anything. The problem today is with life itself. Are we living to serve the system, or is the system serving us? Havel writes,

“Every society, of course, requires some degree of organization. Yet if that organization is to serve people and not the other way around, then people will have to be liberated and space created so they may organize themselves in meaningful ways.”

“Thus defending the aims of life, defending humanity, is not only a more realistic approach, since it can begin right now and is potentially more popular because it concerns people’s everyday lives; at the same time (and perhaps precisely because of this) it is also an incomparably more consistent approach because it aims at the very essence of things.”

There’s more hope in not voting at all than in voting Conservative, because really things need to change. I’m voting communist because I like the idea of community councils, small structures and the development of human relationships. I have hope for a better, and of course, distant future, because I also have hope for my children, your grandchildren. A hope that they’ll be prepared to not only cope but thrive in the new world of difference, and have the strength to overcome the fear and resentment that’s fueling this Conservative vote. Do you really want your granddaughters growing up in a society that’s opposed to women’s liberation? Overcome your fear of freedom, and by that I mean the freedom of others as well as yourself to be who we will become and vote with hope.

Your son,

Rodger

[from facebook notes]

Jodi Kessel Levesque at 1:33pm October 10

I agree with Rodger’s words.

There are ways to develop positive, loving, nurturing human relationships. There are ways for people to discover the true essence of their being and live a truly happy life, loving, forgiving, living in the moment, walking with God, if you wish. We must end the pursuit of personal happiness through the consumption of goods and services. This only leads to more misery and personal suffering.

One way to achieve a personal state of peace (I do believe we need to achieve personal peace and love before we can nurture this in our relationships) is Vipassana. It is a process of self discovery that transformed some of the worst criminals, in some of the worst jail systems in the world; namely India. I figure there are not many differences between criminals and politicians. A very fine line separates all of us really. We all have the potential to lie, steal, harm others with our thoughts, words or actions. Politicians wander around full of ego, with supposed agendas to serve. Not realizing they are just a bunch of I’s bumping into each other and this pursuit of power only harms the individual (and the group) in the end.

I propose that our politicians (like the criminals in India prior to entering civilization) should be required to take a Vipassana course, including a 10 day silent meditation, prior to joining a political party! Just my thoughts. Let’s lead with our hearts, reach for something bigger and treat all human life with love and respect. We can’t fight war with more war. There are countless individuals who have demonstrated the ‘Power of One’ creating great change on this planet through love and acceptance. What can we do? First step; be the change you want to see in the world.

Jessica Wadsworth at 2:05pm October 10

Thanks Rodger. And thanks Jodi. I guess the Levesque’s change the world as a family….. How’s that for family values Harper??

Maggie McLean at 9:35pm October 10

We are in the season of Thanksgiving.

I am thankful for family who have the freedom to talk politics and have choices in who leads our country.

I am thankful to not be under a Communist system of government who thinks that the people are too stupid to make decisions for themselves, and the wise all knowing Government will make ALL decisions for them.

I am thankful for a brother (Raymond) who loves me & is ready to help me anytime that I ask.

I am thankful not to fear death because I have the Faith in Jesus for eternal life.

I am thankful that God is no respector of persons, meaning that we are all created equal, man or woman, rich or poor.

I am thankful that I have found peace and freedom in obeying God laws, the first being: “Love the Lord thy God” and the second: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

I thank the Lord for sending His Son to die for me so that I may have eternal life.

I am thankful that we can love each other despite out differences.

I am thankful that we don’t have walls between us, (like the one the Communists built in Berlin).

Deuteronomy 5:16 “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

Renee Nantais at 2:50pm October 11

ok, voting communist, c’mon rodger you’re just trying to stir up the shit! and using havel that way…shameful!

why don’t you vote green?

Rodger Levesque at 6:45pm October 11

I would vote Green if it were possible to vote for all the parties that could represent me. I’d also vote NDP, Communist and why not, for the Marijuana Party as well. But we can only hand our responsibility over to one party, so I’m voting for a party, Communist, that would help develop small, local organizations, community councils that would try to make life better for everyone. So yep, stirring it up.And if by shameful, you mean that I’m using Havel’s essay, an essay critical of The Communists, to explain why I’m voting communist then you should read the essay. (http://www.vaclavhavel.cz/showtrans.php?cat=clanky&val=72_aj_clanky.html&typ=HTML ) He is definitely proposing a form of communism. It’s a form very similar to deep participatory democracy, but Havel doesn’t give up the ideas of self-determination and complete liberation, that means the abolition of wage slavery, and that is communism. Can you smell it?

Raymond Levesque at 7:11pm October 11

It is said as you think so shall you be. A truth is a truth until you try to organize it, then it becomes a lie. Very often because the organization becomes more important than the truth that were attempting to learn. If removing aid to the most vulnerable here at home you are referring to the cut back of money to the arts then I am with him on that. With all that schooling, with grants and loans, paid for by us the taxpayer, that will never be paid back, because they can never support themselves after all that schooling and want to live on more gov. money to support their lives, yes I agree with him on that.

Raymond Levesque at 7:26pm October 11

Vaclav Havel’s Power to the Powerless, he saw that democracy as it is practiced today, can do nothing to change the corporate agenda. He is absolutely right because the corporations run the governments,they have the power and the money,not us. this tells me that you can elect Pavlov’s dog and nothing will change until these people with the university educations get into the main political parties and start making changes that are needed to bring the gov. back to the people. the problem with that is most of these people will get corrupted by the corporations along the way. Our gov. do not run Canada, the corporations do along with the G7, the W.T.O the F.T.O. and a few more that don’t come to mind at the moment.

Raymond Levesque at 8:00pm October 11

Voting, that is something they allow us to do to make us believe that we are in a democracy. We can develop all the values, like trust,( who can we really trust?) solidarity, love, ( who can we really love without being hurt or rejected by the ones you love). You are right the problem is not with the libs, ndp.or the conservative gov. But with the corporations that run them, that we the people allowed to happen. We the people cannot even elect the proper people to run our provinces or cities, let alone our country. The reason being that we are programed by the corporate agenda from kindergarten on to university, so we are programed to follow. That is why you will never see a real change in our gov. so vote for the one that will extort the least money from you and give you a little more to live on, but watch out what the feds give you back the province will take back, you know the one you forgot in all this. Canada as a whole does not oppose women’s liberation, and I as a person am not opposed to equal rights for both men and women, but by women’s liberation do you mean the killing of babies that they don’t want after a night of unprotected sex, and I am not talking about rape or incest, that is different. I as a person with four beautiful children,10 gorgeous grandchildren and one beautiful great grandchild am strongly opposed to. I believe that after an egg is fertilized we have a baby, and it disposal through abortion is nothing short of murder. Freedom? I have freedom, all the freedom that the system will allow me. If this were communism I could not write this letter. Love to all.

Rodger Levesque at 3:35pm October 12

No. The most vulnerable here at home are the homeless and the drug addicted. Debbie was just at a conference where Gabor Mate spoke. He’s a doctor working in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside where those most vulnerable collect. Mate found in his research that 100% of drug addicts have been abused. I mention this because no kid chooses to be abused, and that type of violent conditioning leads to self-destructive behaviour that no healthy person would freely choose. Haven’t these abused kids been punished enough? The Conservatives are pulling money/support from programs, health programs set up to help with the problem.And where is the money being diverted from health, education, culture going? Into the pockets of the working class? Maybe the little tax break promises sound good now but the coming higher costs of health and education, and increased military spending, which converts the taxes you do and will pay into violence, don’t sound all that appealing.

The Liberals will only more softly take us down this same violent/corporate path. The Greens, the NDP and the Communists are the parties that will stand up to the corporate system, for people, their health and well-being. Fighting corporations is a lost cause, sure, but what else can you do? Give in?

Rodger Levesque at 3:38pm October 12

http://www.vch.ca/sis/

Rodger Levesque at 3:39pm October 12

http://stophomelessness.ca/

Rodger Levesque at 9:46pm October 13

Aunt Margaret, I wasn’t ignoring you these past few days. It’s just that your response was so overwhelming. At first I didn’t know what to do with it, but then I thought maybe a sentence by sentence approach would work.

“We are in the season of Thanksgiving.”

Yes and the season coincides with an election. So unfortunately there will be criticism. And also unfortunately the only time people seem to be able to stomach heavy political discussion is during an election so I launched a pretty massive criticism.

“I am thankful for family who have the freedom to talk politics and have choices in who leads our country.”

So let’s talk politics! I’m not happy with the choices I’ve got, and really if you think about it, I mean really think about it, there are a lot more possible choices than who will lead our country. What about how our country should be organized? Many of the First Nations would choose a number of chiefs prior to being forced under the dominion of Canada. After their colonization the different groups were allowed only a single representative. I mention this only to show that the choice you’re so thankful for isn’t really that free, it has been given to us. If you were really free to choose, I mean really free, what would that choice look like?

“I am thankful to not be under a Communist system of government who thinks that the people are too stupid to make decisions for themselves, and the wise all knowing Government will make ALL decisions for them.”

First, this is the system of government that Havel criticized. I’m not voting for a totalitarian regime, but a future organization of community councils practicing radical participatory democracy. This is the kind of communist organization that Havel proposed; truly liberated people making all the decisions for themselves. Secondly, what decisions are you making under this capitalist system of government? The Masters of Industry are free to make choices without concern for the affected communities. And we wage-slaves are forced to deal with those choices. If we lived in a truly democratic system, a system that was truly based on equality, major decisions like plant closures that devastate communities, would not be out of the hands of the affected communities, truly empowered workers in a truly democratic system would make very different choices than the ones being made outside the democratic system today under this capitalist system of government.

“I am thankful for a brother (Raymond) who loves me & is ready to help me anytime that I ask.”

That’s my dad. He’s always working for somebody, without any concern for payment. He loves working with and for people. He loves people. And this is why I wrote this note. He mentioned on Rodney’s wall that he was voting conservative, and it was a shock. How can somebody who’s always there to lend a helping hand vote for the party that’s not willing to help anything but industry. And you may say that we need industry, but it’s also true that industry needs us. And I’d also say that industry should be democratized. If our democratically elected government is more concerned with industry than people shouldn’t industry be run democratically?

“I am thankful not to fear death because I have the Faith in Jesus for eternal life.”

No comment.

“I am thankful that God is no respector of persons, meaning that we are all created equal, man or woman, rich or poor.”

Rich and poor are not equal. Seriously, do the math. (And how easy for a rich man to enter heaven?)

“I am thankful that I have found peace and freedom in obeying God laws, the first being: “Love the Lord thy God” and the second: “Love your neighbor as yourself.””

In a nod to Jodi, I’ll use a little Gandhi to deal with this. For anyone who wants to change the world, a world conditioned to obey, how do I even finished this sentence? You see the trouble? If everyone is doing what they are told by authority, how do you fight that authority? Gandhi used fasting as a weapon for change, but he was aware of its limitations. He said, “I must state that I cannot give up an opinion honestly held even if the whole world fasts against me. I might as well give up my belief in God because a body of atheists fasted against such belief.” That said, in a world at war, peace can only be found in freedom from reality. I need the freedom to change the world, that means doing things differently, get it? Change = Different. That means from time to time I can’t obey.

“I thank the Lord for sending His Son to die for me so that I may have eternal life.”

Wow. I mean, No Comment.

“I am thankful that we can love each other despite out differences.”

I like to think we can love each other for our differences.

“I am thankful that we don’t have walls between us, (like the one the Communists built in Berlin).”

What about the wall the Capitalists are building on the Mexico-US Border? Just saying… But on another topic, but still talking walls, I’d like to see everyone in Canada protected from the weather, by walls and a roof and doors that open and close freely.

“Deuteronomy 5:16 “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.””

Here we go again with the “do as you’re told” line. I don’t want what I’m being given, and I can’t believe that anyone living in Windsor, or aware of what’s been happening in Windsor would want what they’re being given. There are other ways.

Rodger Levesque at 11:39pm October 13

If you think we’re really free in Canada to know what is going on in our government, just check this out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6L14UpOVg0