The Shortcomings of Transition & Necessity of Revolution: Extinction Rebellion, The Zeitgeist Movement, and Occupy Reflections
For over a decade I’ve written ideas about our post-scarcity world, a world without money or the market that it drives, what Peter Joseph began calling Resource Based Economy, something that was supposedly more concrete as a platform rather than post-scarcity as a culture, as loosely hand waved by his popular documentaries that began in 2007.
As an Occupy London camp resident and librarian, I watched many movements come together, including Joseph’s Zeitgeist Movement, which ended up being more of a modest following, a banner left to be discarded a few weeks later, with a few conferences that continue today. I’m still curious if people around Joseph’s work will produce anything, but I’ve yet to see anything remotely concrete (Anna Brodskaya will be an exception, of course). Indeed, those with post-scarcity ambitions have yet the luxury of being concrete due to the pressures of capitalism (low income gigs, debt, rent, union-busting) that fragment on the microscale any effort of collaboration, while supressed on the macroscale by large instititions, notably the CIA and related agencies, by instigating coups in socialist or communist declared countries with no regard to democratic elections. As one wise woman put it: if voting changed anything, it would be made illegal.
Remember the OuiShare festivals? That was supposed to radically transform the world into a commons. What came of it? Nothing but a few pet projects. But like Occupy, where it trashed parks, maybe OuiShare will inspire more radical global systems redesign? You know, the type that needs to happen now in a million or so different ways!! And maybe some things will need to be trashed again for a time — just so we can focus on what really matters.
Occupy was often a toxic environment, as various activist groups and personalities clashed constantly within a two tier system: the resident worker bees and the smug middle class that swooped in and out once the meetings were over, all uppity with their smart phones most of us couldn’t afford at the time, with Starbucks coffee in tow. There is also a very special third group I call the Grandmother Brigade. This sector simply visits for an hour or so, genuenely asks you how you are doing, while donating a few items to the camp, wishing you well as they leave. These grannies, some attended meetings, but mostly gave the workers truly personal attention, a gift in itself, while leaving something materially useful behind. If the two tier were the body, the Grandmothers were the life blood. Another dividing line within Occupy came from those wanting the abolition of capitalism with tactics— most of them camp residents — and those that stood for reform (somehow)— most of those being middle-class.
As far as I can tell, this same conflict quietly exists within XR, but with a principle not to criticize individuals (As noted on item eight above) this has helped unite the circle. There is far more anti-capitalist sentiment within XR than Occupy, as the system of capitalism takes center stage in what continues to shape our ecocidal surroundings. Occupy was about unfairness, XR is about avoiding annihilation. The stakes are way higher now; the destructive path of capitalism is far more apparent. But the clash of Occupy needed to happen, we needed to come together to stop writing unread pamplets (more often blogs) and work in solidarity. While the camps lasted, this enabled many groups to form and begin engaging different groups a little. A few of us made lasting friendships or a greater variety of connections, at least.
The common dismissal of Occupy, that all it did was trash parks, fails to show what gains trashing parks worldwide did for those months of clusterfuckery. It brought those who have suffered brutal hardship under capitalism (the working class camp resident) and those squeezed by capitalism (the fleeting middle class) together if only as momentary imagined community, yet that global discussion amplified by mass media of the exploited masses based around a few deciding to sleep rough on a camp site left a mark in history to be returned to as a notable unifier of struggles and cross-pollinator of ideas.
The presence of the Zeitgeist at the camp was minor. They basically aligned with the middle class tier, and simply left a banner that eventually got removed (as mentioned), and left the washing up to us as they did the high minded stuff. I went to one Zeitgeist meeting in London during Occupy, and it was a small group of five or so people. And like most meetings I went to during Occupy, no one had a fucking clue about anything. Today, of course, within XR, we’re still trying to figure this stuff out. But we began a reclaiming of fragmented groups during Occupy forming the seed that would soon join the ranks of antifa and later XR, two different modes, but both wanting the same outcome. It is here Antifa related groups can defend or further expand the walled garden of XR, much like a stereotyped gender role of male protector (Antifa) guarding the female child bearer (XR). Regeneration on one side defended by, if need be, a diversity of tactics on the other.
XR has inspired the world after festivities in London, April 2019, which show-cased the many lessons learned from past activism. Its becoming clear if the lands and waters of the Earth continue in ruin that all life on Earth, the same life we depend on for our own survival, will be destroyed.
Sure, it would be possible to grow all of our food in an underground bunker, while a few of us live underground for a few hundred years until the planet regenerates itself could be an option for some, but in doing so will mean the increasing rise of fascism that is presently stewing. We’re in a soft-fascist phase now, but given multi-bread basket failures, and starving people of color migrating north, it is horrifically easier to see the return of Nazi death camps for whoever cannot afford a get-out-of-gas-chamber free card on our monopoly capitalism board game life is constrained under.
So returning to these two groups: XR and Zeitgeist, we can see a gulf, a bridge that will need crossing, as both presently are not getting the change they want. I view XR going toward the state, while Zeitgeist remains on the other side, an alternative to replace the system (With? How?). One thing that needs to happen, especially since few people are willing to participate and not yet forced to do anything, all activist and assertively leftist groups (and the few odd concerned billionaire) need to be mapped, with coordinators making links, and coming together as a whole for weeks or even months of festivities until the change needed to drive us forward is under way.
- Map global damage
- Map the multitude of solutions to said damage
- Pay the people working and implementing the solutions triple the corporate wage.
- Make all productive buildings and machinery observable and potentially remotely operational from the web.
- Balance transparency and revisability with security and privacy.
XR is presently looking at augmenting the state with sortition, a process run by an independent group of facilitators that educate randomly chosen members of the public on critical thinking skills before elaborating on the various issues around the globe, and the array of solutions to follow. There’s probably an ongoing debate on how much facilitators will influence the agenda. Personally, if we know the problems and solutions, the solutions should be swiftly left to experts or people capable of solving them. I feel we do not have time to continue pretending democracy, unless sortition somehow puts pressure to form research labs that deliver the goods. Sortition in my view would be a sort of facade anyway; just another place for clueless people to feel important. It will be experts and workers that end up doing the work, so why not just let them decide, and present these decisions in a radically transparent fashion instead (as pointed out above), where all activities are monitored by the public on the web; and if harm is being done, it can be called out by a single user, corrected by a worker, and done. No meeting of randomers required.
At the moment XR is pointing — if but briefly — to Paul Hawken’s book and website, Drawdown, which calls for a variety of technologies to avert ecocide. XR is wise not to focus too much on solutionism as rightly they need to focus on how dire things really are, for authorities to tell the true, ect. as not to get bogged down in the millions of changes that need to happen; in this regard; they point to sortition and move on.
XR is in a recruitment phase, so it makes sense that wonkery is minimal at least at a glance. Hawken’s next book will describe how the labor economy can be grown by implementing these technologies, which I assume will influence the multitude of legislation known as the Green New Deal. Those on the Zeitgiest end of the spectrum will scoff, pointing out correctly that this is just another form of wage slavery repackaged as eco-salvation. I side with Joseph that the market system needs to go away entirely. But how could ending capitalism be done abruptly without mass panic and the emptying of shelves, I still wonder?
For much of my life I’ve been pretty much an antiwork anticapitalist while sympathizing with the democratic socialist stance: yes, post-scarcity is the goal, but we need to put incremental measures, make millionaires and billionaires feel comfortable, and let us all rise up. But the ecological science and observations from space show us we are heading for extinction within a matter of decades if something — millions of somethings — are not done in just a few years time. This is an emergency and even though climate emergencies are being declared, we need to maybe rebrand and call it an extinction emergency, and this time, fucking act like we’re in one.
So how has the progressive agenda gone? Why not a liberal led transitional phase which has received more press with Andrew Yang’s presidental run? This continues the progressive conversation via proposals of basic income, basic assets, and (Remember this one? Is this communism?:) basic human rights. This has always seemingly been promised by libs, but through gritted compromise, both-sides-have-fair-points rhetoric, and backroom deals with top banksters — the bottom line is capitalism always wins — it comes first — meaning that progressivism — however much blustering has occured — has never happened in my lifetime. Liberalism to me now means a sugar coating to swallow the brutal truth of capitalism: you do not matter, the joke is on you, better own a stake or get impaled by one. The only difference is gender pronouns are accounted for with a few buzzwords like ecofriendly and diversity. I find liberalism more and more insulting and humiliating the more technology progresses, now more than ever, enabling the overthrow and replacement of the entire system as we know it.
So instead of an increasing standard of living progressives have promised, the working and middle class English speaking countries of the world are getting hammered by austerity. This shows the sham of democracy. How long will we continue to be owned; when will we no longer submit to mortgage payments because we have kids, and unite as one to end the system that will further reduce our children to rubble? Will it take empty food shelves before anything remotely benefits the majority? Are we really that fucking stupid? With the level of petty bullshit that has overwelmed the Internet, I’m dreadfully concerned it will take social collapse before any radical grand scale platforms are even considered — and by that time it will be too late. We have the gift of foresight, however damaged by the ever-present dystopian endless-scroll reality. The mid-90s bright eyed optimism of what the World Wide Web would bring needs re-embracing. The vaporwave aesthetic of today wallows in our failure to create that imagined future.
XR is nurturing the seeds of the future being lived now within the group and will continue after the group is no longer required. That seed, what they call regenerative culture, along with the very real threat of annihilation, is what Occupy was lacking. Zeitgeist has a few basic design points, but needs to work on the RBE platform’s user interface, factory machinery that makes on-demand, removing the need for warehousing or retail, how robots will do all the boring stuff, all without money, and so on. There are not enough people within both groups, XR and Zeitgiest, able to achieve these goals, what we’re talking involves everyone, everywhere: it needs all capable hands on deck.
There seems to be two future possibilites to bridge the gap between the monopoly capitalism of today and post-scarcity. The first is a progressive liberal agenda, but the only way such an agenda will pass will be through a significant number of mass disruptions until, say, basic income policy is put in place to further free up people’s time, to further refine and engage in the political economic process. Or, better — because time is running out — takeover, put in basic income, liberate intellectual property, replicate and elaborate upon the systems within monopoly capitalism that work, merge it all into one, and little by little, but perhaps over just a few decades, enable everyone to have any material item they could possibly want, living in spacious ecologically regenerated luxury.
Sacrifices however need to happen. You will work less, get paid more, but maybe not fly a plane, you might have to travel slow sometimes, but you will have more time to enjoy the ride with people you no longer need to impress. All transport for people needs to become public transport, unless it is a bicycle with some exceptions to electric vehicles for the physically impaired. Planes need to be grounded. Beggars who cannot seem to live on basic income bringing people down need drafting into an eco-army, removing plastics from the waters and planting trees. Landlords will only get enough in payment to maintain a property and no more. If money is needed to fund a startup or expand a company, they will come from the government who are no longer unran by useful idiots, but by people knowledgeable in a company’s field and have knowledge of finance, however the need for additional enterprises will become obsolete if all processes are completely interlinked through the future web interface of the telerobotic mirror world.
It is funny how the web went from bright eyed optimism with terribly slow loading and cheesy graphics, to now a sleak and streamlined buffett of “call-outs,” and “cancellations”, with top YouTube video plays titled with “destroys” or “annihilates.” The apocalyptic cinema of the 80s and 90s basically engulfed the web since the 2010s and there is seemingly no new ideas for how to use the web. Faith in the future is gone. We have the ability to know more than ever, but unable to see the whole picture (and to act upon what is presented) as it gets cluttered by memes and Twitter spats and other confrontational-escapisms that keep the medicine of capitalism going down thanks to ever splintering groups that feed platforms that keep us all in the dark.
I thought for a time that basic income would free enough people up to make an alternative to the system. Now, I see how basic income under capitalism could just keep people in the video game chamber (including social media, a sort of game) until the few at the top that know everything happening in the world turn you off when you go to sleep after the last cyborg inserts that last bit of code that makes our final invention (post-human level artificial intelligence).
The only way I see us having any chance of equally sharing in the future — indeed — the only way we will survive into the next century, will be for doing something we really don’t want to do, but needs doing. I’m certain many of the founders of the United States would say we are well overdue for a Revolution. The US has become what it initially faught against. Anyone who has had a simple history lesson with a bit of reflection will know that to be true.