New Years 2011


Richard Moore

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     Of course there is a class war, but it’s my class, the rich
     class, that is waging the war, and we’re winning.  
     — Warren Buffet
     The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s
     profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the
     illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just
     take down the scenery, pull back the curtains, and you will
     see the brick wall at the back of the theater. — Frank Zappa
     It will never rain more roses. When we  want  more roses, we
     must plant more roses. — George Eliot


New Years is a time for reflecting and for reassessing, usually at a personal level. In this year of 2011, it makes sense to begin by reflecting on the larger world, because that is going to be increasingly affecting us where we live.
Consider, for example, the economy. Do you get it that there is no hope whatever for any kind of recovery? That every bailout is like removing part of the hull of the Titanic, so the flood of debt can come in quicker? That the banks have no interest in reviving the economy, and are using the bailouts either to salvage their balance sheets, or to buy bargain assets? That austerity plus debt is a self-feeding spiral to total collapse? 
And then there’s ‘security’. Did you know that plans are already underway, to have airport type security for trains, busses, and shopping malls? Highways will be next. The day will soon come when you can’t go anywhere without going through a checkpoint, and woe to you if you’re on any kind of list. And of course, such mechanisms of tight control are useful, in times of collapse.
Let’s not forget the world of geopolitics. Are you aware of how thoroughly surrounded Russia and China are by US bases? Do you really think Russia and China are going to be allowed to emerge from the collapse scenario as the world’s new superpower combo? Do you think all those forward bases and tactical nukes are there for defensive purposes? Can’t you hear the war sabers rattling ever louder, from Iran to Korea? What do you expect from an aggressive empire, when it is backed into a desperate corner, eclipsed by an up-and-coming economic and industrial power?
These are things that are just over the horizon, already visible from the crows nest. Keep in mind also the Shock Doctrine of Disaster Capitalism, where times of crisis and chaos are seen as opportunities to ‘do the impossible’ re/ social engineering, and I won’t speculate here about what that might bring. The point I’m trying to make is that ‘the world’ is becoming ‘the personal’. Everyone’s way of life is threatened, and this New Years is the time to take it all personally.
     Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t
     mean politics won’t take an interest in you.
     — Pericles (430 BC)

Which brings us to the question of reassessment. The Sufis say that with knowledge comes responsibility. If you know the ship is sinking, you can’t just keep playing shuffleboard or reading your novel. You’ve got to do something to save yourself and your family and alert the other passengers. 
Our ship, our society, is sinking. It’s too late to fix it. Our responsibility, as conscious beings, is to get ourselves and those around us onto a lifeboat as quickly as possible. And a lifeboat cannot perform its task if it remains tethered to the mother ship. Unless it wants to get pulled under, it’s got to disconnect and strike out on its own. 
Our lifeboats are our communities. As the system crumbles, our familiar lines of supply, systems of transport, and sources of energy, will become increasingly unreliable. The only thing we can count on is what we can manage locally. Our only hope is to organize ourselves in our communities, and work with neighboring communities to achieve regional self-sufficiency.
The actual tasks involved in achieving local sustainability are not rocket science. They have to do with setting up a local system of credit and exchange, developing a culture of local production for local consumption, adopting sustainable agricultural methods, and minimizing dependence on imports from the outside (eg, Walmart). Information on all these things is available if you look for it, and I’ve got quite an archive of ideas and sources for anyone who’s interested. 
The really difficult work is mobilizing our communities to pursue our own survival. Most people are in denial regarding collapse, and most of those ‘doing something’ are unfortunately rearranging deck chairs (engaging in politics), or trying to bail out the ship with teaspoons (individual life style choices). A few wise souls are pursuing localization, but they have been able to achieve only marginal mobilization. 
What is needed is a new kind of leadership in our communities. Those of us who have ‘knowledge’ – who appreciate the nature of the challenges we are facing – must take responsibility for providing that leadership. And it is a very special kind of leadership that is called for. Not a leadership that has all the answers, and a plan to promote, but a leadership that focuses on the difficult task of community mobilization.
Rather than a plan, there is a goal: a community that can take care of itself. That is the prize, and the new leadership must keep their eyes on this prize. Rather than having all the answers, this kind of leadership is about helping the community to develop its own answers. Rather than being about enlisting in a program, this kind of mobilization is about inviting people to engage in the process of developing and implementing their own programs.
The key principles behind this kind of leadership are inclusivenessnon-partisanship, and listening. Inclusiveness and non-partisanship are about rallying everyone in the community around their shared self-interest in creating a resilient community. The ideologies and alignments that divide citizens in the larger society have no relevance at the local level. Listening is about organizing the kind of gatherings where everyone gets a chance to be heard, enabling synergies to emerge among people’s various ideas.
Earlier, I mentioned specific program elements, such as a local credit system, local production for local consumption, etc. Those kind of ideas are not key principles in the kind of leadership needed. Rather those kind of ideas become obvious, and will emerge by themselves, once there is a focus on taking care of ourselves locally
When leaders propose a program, that encourages people to be passive followers. When people develop their own program, through inclusive dialog, then they are developing the processes of taking care of themselves. Ultimately such processes are of much greater importance than any particular program initiatives. 
You may be thinking that you are not qualified to provide this kind of leadership. To this I have two things to say. First, you would not be doing it alone. You first task would be to seek out other people who have a similar perspective that you feel comfortable working with. Second, keep in mind these gems of wisdom:
“The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.  A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.”
—W. H. Murray

“If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”
—Mahatma Gandhi

time to mobilize,
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