Some people think this other future will somehow manifest itself, by a magical transformation of human consciousness, or by the intervention of either ‘light workers’ or aliens from outer space. This is wishful fantasizing by people who have resigned themselves to helplessness and powerlessness. Such fantasies as sheep or children might entertain.
Ironically, it is the very hopelessness of our situation, as elites tighten the screws, that opens a path toward creating our ‘other future’. As long as politics offered hope, activists were trapped in that rigged game. And as long as the economy was delivering prosperity, there was no constituency for radical initiatives. As the collapse of the Old World Order becomes more and more apparent, promising initiatives are emerging — initiatives that are not consciously political, but that have transformational potential.
These initiatives are oriented around localism, as summarized here, by Anna White:
Around the world, there is a growing movement to pull back from the relentless march of corporate globalisation by re-rooting economic and social activities at the community level. From the burgeoning popularity of farmers’ markets and food co-ops to the revitalisation of community banking, people are organising themselves to reclaim the economy from large profit-driven corporations and instead build sustainable, local alternatives.
— Anna White, “Why Local Economies Matter”
Responding to economic globalization is one of the motivations for localism, and there are others as well, such as seeking to reduce the local carbon footprint, and seeking to achieve local self-sufficiency.
The people involved in these localization initiatives are aware that the economic system is in deep trouble and that global resources are being stressed — and they can see that governments are not dealing effectively with these problems.
So the people are taking responsibility themselves, for doing something about the problems in their own communities.
There is a kind of radical thinking behind these initiatives, but it is not political in nature. It is radical in the sense that activists are hoping to bring about radical changes in how society operates, by transforming one community at a time. And it would be a very radical change indeed if our societies became sustainable, or if communities became self-sufficient.
Underneath this non-political kind of radicalism — and unsuspected by the activists themselves — there lies a radical political perspective. By undertaking these localization initiatives, the activists are in a very real sense saying, “We the people can solve society’s big problems, working together in our communities, and we don’t need government to help”. From that unconscious latent perspective, combined with the notion of local self-sufficiency, it is only a small step to this even more radical perspective: “We the people can manage our own affairs in our communities, and we don’t need governments at all.”
I am not suggesting that we go out and try to awaken this latent perspective, and seek to turn the localization movement into a radical anarchist movement. The activists themselves would recoil at such a suggestion, and if they embraced it, they would immediately lose whatever support they’re getting in their communities for their initiatives. However, let us consider a certain ‘what if’ scenario…
What if the localization movement started making real progress in its various initiatives. What if communities began to move off the grid of society’s supply chains, and began providing a significant percentage of their local needs through local production. What if communities adopted local currencies, and were able to develop lively local economies independent of what was happening with the dollar or the Euro. What if communities developed processes, by which local residents generally participated in the planning and management of these local changes.
What if this began happening all over society, in community after community. What if these communities began engaging in mutual-benefit exchanges among one another, using either barter or some settlement arrangement among their local currencies. What if, as these things unfolded, people began to realize out of their own experience that self-governance is possible, and that governments are both unnecessary and undesirable.
I imagine you can see where I’m going with this. What I’m suggesting is that the localization movement, if it began to succeed in its non-political agendas, would naturally be moving toward our ‘other future’ — even though the movement isn’t thinking in such terms.
Real democracy can only be based on local sovereignty, because in a larger unit of governance delegation of decision-making power to representatives becomes a necessity. The representatives then evolve into a politician class, and the dynamics work inevitably toward centralization of power in the government itself. The empowered government then becomes a vulnerable target for usurpation of power by wealthy interests, by means of corrupting the politician class. This has proven to be true everywhere such systems have been implemented, ever since the days of the Roman Republic.
On the scale of community however, it becomes feasible to have inclusive processes, where everyone’s voice is heard in the taking of policy decisions. There need to be agencies with authority to carry out their limited missions, like a fire department, but there does not need to be a mayor or city council with policy-making authority — an authority that can be and usually is abused. The same corrupting dynamics work at the local level, with the ‘wealthy interests’ usually being developers and real estate agents. Just try to get a controversial development project approved here in Ireland, for example, without a cash-filled brown envelope in your hand.
And as we can see from the embryonic localization movement, people at the grassroots tend to develop very enlightened policy agendas, once they take on the responsibility for dealing with problems themselves. They think about things like sustainability, and food security, and better education for their kids, and improving the local quality of life. They don’t think about starting wars of conquest or any of those other terrible things that governments have always done. Vancouver has nothing to fear from a liberated Victoria, while it has a lot to fear from an all-powerful and totally corrupted Ottawa.
In the book, I will be developing this line of thinking quite a bit further and deeper. As I hinted in the ‘what if’ exercise above, the impetus toward localization and local empowerment opens up an organic evolutionary process that gravitates toward precisely the ‘other future’ that we all want in our heart of hearts. That organic process extends to dealing with large scale issues as well, and it even deals with the challenge of dislodging the oligarchs. Furthermore, such an emergence of collaborative popular empowerment amounts to a profound cultural transformation, which in fact becomes the
‘transformation of human consciousness’ that some people are hoping will occur magically.
We can talk about this more if you like, but for now let’s look at the major obstacles standing in the way of this organic evolutionary process.
It turns out that elites are way ahead of us on all this. They know very well that as conditions continue to deteriorate, as the NWO agenda moves forward, and as politically-based movements continue to be suppressed or co-opted, the only quarter from which they can expect trouble is from grassroots uprisings of one kind or another. Local self-sufficiency, in particular, amounts to an effective frontal assault on capitalism itself, even if the people pursuing self-sufficiency have no awareness of that fact, and even if they aren’t anti-capitalist in their thinking.
Even though the localization movement has barely begun, and has so far accomplished very little in terms of moving toward sustainability or any other of its objectives, systematic countermeasures have already been launched.
Some of these counter-measures are aimed at making localization difficult, such as outlawing or taxing local currencies, or imposing ‘health and safety’ regulations that make it too expensive to do certain things on a small scale, such as a meat-packing operation. In Washington, there’s a new ‘food safety’ bill, which would give the FDA the authority to ban local food-growing altogether, as being ‘not up to modern food-safety standards’. Already selling or giving away raw milk is illegal, at least in some states, and people have been busted by swat teams for trying.
And then there are counter measures aimed at co-opting localization energy, and channeling it into harmless cul de sacs. That’s what Agenda 21 is all about, and the Transition Towns movement has been successfully co-opted by Agenda 21. The Totnes experience demonstrates this very well.
Totnes, in Cornwall, is the most advanced of the Transition Towns,. Indeed it is at present the model Transition Town. According to their obviously proud website, the project was launched in 2006, and they have an official Energy Descent Action Plan, with 39 projects on the go, and the activity has generated more than £8,000 income for the community. They also have a local currency, the Totnes Pound, and out of a population of less than 8,000, over 3,000 have signed up as supporters of the project.
Does this sound like a good thing? Yes it does sound like a good thing, but let’s look at the bottom line. With all that local support, an abundance of local activists, and four years of effort, the income generated has amounted to only about £1 per resident. And the Action Plan, at this point, is actually just a plan to create a plan, which in turn will hopefully outline a path to somewhat reducing carbon footprint by the year — are you ready for this? — 2030.
Of the two kinds of countermeasures, co-option seems to be the most threatening to our ‘other future’. Totnes has now become the least likely place for us to expect anything interesting to happen. The goals are no longer open-ended but have been narrowed down to reducing carbon footprint. And that goal has been narrowed down still further, by the notion that a Plan 2030 would represent a major accomplishment. Meanwhile very little of significance has actually been accomplished, and everyone involved is satisfied with what they’re doing, and they see Totnes as a model success story.
In fairness, the Totnes activists never had our ‘other future’ as a goal, so in that sense they haven’t been co-opted. The Agenda-21 / Transitions-Towns program has helped the activists along, more or less, toward their goal of reducing carbon footprint, arising from their fear of global warming and peak oil. What has been co-opted is the potential Totnes had, with all those motivated activists, to move on to more productive initiatives that might have some transformative potential.
This is exactly how co-option always works. Into a potentially volatile activist scenario, the oligarchs introduce a limited objective and give that limited objective official support and sanction. If that limited objective is close enough to what is motivating the activists, then they cluster around the limited objective, like moths around a lamp, seeing a chance to achieve ‘success’ for once, in their typically frustrating activist lives. If the co-option is really successful, the activists end up spending most of their time writing grant proposals and spending the money on sanitized projects.
Let us now turn to the question of what makes sense for us to be doing, as strategically-minded activists, if want to facilitate progress toward our ‘other future’.
The first thing we need to be aware of is that conditions are going to become much more favorable for localization, in terms of motivating local people to participate, because conditions are going to get very much worse economically. It is one thing to invite people to grow food because it’s the ‘green thing’ to do. It is quite another thing to invite people to grow food if they’re hungry and they can’t afford to buy any, or the supermarket shelves are empty. Some of the most creative and successful local empowerment initiatives in recent history emerged in Argentina, when the economic system totally collapsed some years back.
Furthermore, when real need and urgency are involved, co-option programs like Agenda 21 have minimal chance of success in distracting people from what needs to be done. Hungry people are not going waste their time on any Plan 2030.
As it stands, even where Agenda 21 has not screwed things up, localization is not making much progress. Lots of initiatives are underway, by all those activists who have given up on politics and turned toward the local, but participation in each community remains marginal. Localization at present is a fringe phenomenon, and most of the participants are motivated by idealism rather than by necessity. Not enough momentum has been achieved to offer any kind of substantial benefits to anyone.
As strategic activists we need to get ahead of the curve. We need to anticipate a
dramatic increase in grassroots receptivity to localism, and do what we can to help prepare for it.
We need to realize that localism is currently being promoted to the wrong people and for the wrong reasons.
It’s not about inspiring environmentalists to shop at the farmer’s market, it’s not about getting grants for solar panels, and it’s not about targeting wealthy progressive towns like Totnes. It’s about focusing on the communities that are suffering, with heavy unemployment, and introducing initiatives that can deliver real benefits through the cooperative efforts of the people themselves. That’s the kind of scenario that can evolve into the emergence of empowerment.
Also, as strategic activists, we can keep our eyes open for elite countermeasures, and do what we can to help localization activists respond effectively to them. Those who are working on the front lines, promoting some particular local initiative, will be all to vulnerable to co-option, if some tempting government-funded program is made available to them that seems to move that initiative forward.
We need to do what we can to help people keep their eye on the prize of learning how to manage our own affairs and solve our problems ourselves by working together. Government assistance is the enemy of the ‘other future’. That’s one of the reasons why Obama is so dangerous, with all of his phony public-participation projects. Obama did deserve a Nobel prize, but it should have been for Outstanding Success in Advancing the Art of Co-option.
For my own part, my new book is aimed at doing what I can to promote and support this kind of strategic activism. Probably the most useful part will be
Chapter 5, “Community development as a unifying focus”
. I’ll be exploring the inherent synergies among the various threads of localization, and showing how a primary focus on community development, rather than sustainability or whatever, best taps into those synergies. Local currency + sound monetary principles + worker-owned coops = employment + economic revitalization. That sort of thing.
thanks again for your question,
stay in touch,
all the best,