There's a lot of different visions of the future out there, and even for those of us who agree (mostly) on where we want to go, some very different ideas about how the hell we actually get there.
A little while later, he replied, volleying back at several of my points. This is my immensely overdue reply, divided into several convenient categories.
Also, this isn't ending. We're going to be making this dialogue a weekly feature at both places. You should read. It's going to get very interesting.
I think they didn’t shout “We’re Here!” loudly enough. What they should have done is be far more public. Showcase their revolution-in-living with blogs; get testaments from the much happier locals. In short, make it cool and appealing to the greater public.
I agree that an aggressive media strategy is an absolute necessity for anyone looking to change society, but inside and outside "the system" is a false division. Indeed, the little support that the Tarnac group's received is because they made themselves a part of the local "system."
Imagine if they'd gone one step further and actively gotten some French parliamentarians or local police on their side before launching a media blitz. What then?
Futurists have generally failed to devote the attention to social and political innovation that they do to other fields. Tarnac fits the bill: they weren't really doing anything that revolutionary, just the kind of basic communal living arrangement present throughout history. Broadcasting that far and wide (a strategy that relies on getting at least some attention from "system" media outlets) would have probably helped protect them from prosecution, not because people would have been flocking to join, but because the police would have looked laughable (you're going after anarcho-farmers? Really? Were they guerilla-training the cows?).
A communal set-up of their particular variety can be useful, even quite admirable, but it's hardly futuristic. Indeed, as a solution, it's generally proven to be rather limited, because larger communities quickly break into factions.
Again, I think demonstrating loudly and publicly that an alternate way can exist is a far better response to ‘working within the System’. Be the Leader and the rest will follow. Make it cool, and they will beg to join. Imagine some bastard hybrid of this scenario and Big Brother. Not only should the Revolution Be Televised, it should be the highest rating show on the planet!!!
For at least 30 years "demonstrating loudly and publicly" has been the response. For the last 50, "make it cool and they will beg to join" has been the approach of almost every alt culture.
Where has that left us?
It's time to change strategy. The old lines should be dead, here as elsewhere. Create connections with media, build alliances within and without what's viewed as "the system." It's possible to both proclaim another way and draw strength from what's already there. Indeed, other paths have tended to fail miserably.
Anyone who wants to enact change, to bring about the future, should learn the kind of relentless organization that's been sadly missing, and has to start thinking about politics in ways more innovative than "our society is too individual/industrialized, I'm going to pack up and live on a communal farm."
The maxim should be "any port in a storm and any friend in a fight." This is everyone's future, not just ours, and it's long past time to stop falling prey to the old assumptions and strategies.
Born to the whip, ravenous
And then there's technology, the role and importance of which is probably where Grinding and I most often take different views (amiably, mind you). I've expressed skepticism over technology's role as potential savior. This is the response:
I don’t think technology itself will save us. But we’ve reached a radical point here; the creation of a technologically-facilitated, global human network. Through social media (twitter, blogs, wikis, forums, etc etc) we can collaborate world-wide and prototype in parallel a wide array of solutions to the world’s problems. All in real-time, with immediate feedback. It’s going to take everyone working together to get us out of this mess.
Amen to that last sentence. That's what makes scrapping "us/them" thinking so important, it's why rioters torching mom-&-pop shops is monumentally stupid and it's why figuring out structures to resolve disputes -- instead of assuming that they'll disappear -- is more important than ever.
The key word in that passage is "human." It is a human network, with all the attendant flaws and glories. It can act as an amazing tool to rally against oppression while also merrily spreading panic and lies (imagine, for a second, YouTube comments as the founding doctrines of tomorrow). Any vision of the future has to account for the latter as much as the former.
I think the politics here comes with the technology. In short, the need for a Managerial Class is eliminated. The hierarchies are collapsed and we can revert to our natural state of individuality and equality.
I completely disagree. Throughout history, in many different places, humanity's set up ways to fleece and control each other. Rebellion is as old as the opposable thumb, but so are its enemies.
Consider then, that power, hierarchy and a mob mentality are all just as natural as dreaming of a better world. Consider there's a side of us that likes it bloody and mean. Born to the whip, ravenous.
New technology is not going to put that away, just like it didn't 100 years ago when revolutionaries were prophesying that industrialization would finally level the playing field. Today, tech and its attendant networks still relies on some measure of industrial structure to produce it, experts to fix it and financial structures to provide the cash. Any social group of sufficient size is going to develop a modicum of hierarchy. The question is: what does a better one look like?
Ironically, the current managerial class is its own worst enemy, but for political and class reasons. By eliminating much of the meritocracy and turning management into a dumping ground for scions of the rich, many corporations have become grossly incompetent.
The danger now is this: by ignoring the pitfalls to which all social creations are vulnerable, by assuming they'll disappear because of technological change, those old demons will only be worse when they emerge, and they will face movements ill-prepared to deal with them.
It would be the worst kind of horror to see the just-born future shackled to the lash.
I'm enjoying this discussion and await your response.