New Years 2011
“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.”
There’s a Sufi story, about someone who keeps getting swept up into new life adventures, seemingly randomly. Finally, at the end, it turns out that each of those adventures had a lesson to teach, enabling that person to perform an important task, that no one else was able to accomplish. In retrospect, and only in retrospect, each of the lessons was necessary, and they all complemented one another.
My life has been like that. Sometimes circumstances pushed me into a new adventure, as in the story, but more often it was my own habit of plunging into new waters at the deep end, with no understanding of what I’m getting into. It’s what the Irish call ‘being a chancer’. Like when I decided to move to Ireland and start writing, and didn’t have a clue what that really meant, or how I would get by financially. Or like twice, when I started companies, and both times ended up broke and in debt. Or the time I organized an international conference in Ecuador, which accomplished none of the outcomes I had in mind, but which turned out to be a very rich learning experience.
In my new years message I suggested that we take a bit of time for reflection and reassessment, and that we be bold in our new intentions — taking encouragement from the words of Gandhi and Murray. I don’t know if the message persuaded anyone else to follow its advice, but it persuaded me. Upon reflection and reassessment, I find myself ready to plunge into my next adventure. And this time, rather than just another adventure, I’m thinking in terms of my destined ‘important task’.
I’ve devoted over fifteen years to this writing adventure. Many people have expressed appreciation for things I’ve written, but in truth, I think I’ve gotten more out of the adventure than anyone else. In retrospect, and only in retrospect, I can see that what I’ve called ‘writing’ has been primarily a vehicle for my own learning process. Every essay has been my struggle to get my head around this or that topic. It was never just prior knowledge being presented to an audience. And every time I’ve argued or chatted with someone, I’ve learned something from them, even though the arguments and chatting seldom led to any kind of resolution.
Despite this retrospective focus on learning, the immediate intent of my writing has always been persuasion. I’ve always been issuing wake-up calls, to one group or another, trying to persuade them to reflect on their assumptions, and reassess their agendas, so as to move closer to ‘doing what is necessary’ to help create a better world, a sane global society.
Almost never have I succeeded in persuading anyone to shift what they are doing. Those few successes that have occurred, have only happened when I could be on site personally. To persist so long with persuasive energy, in the face of so little success, seems in retrospect to be quite silly. I kept thinking that if I refined my vision enough, and my persuasive skills, my message would finally ‘get heard’ in some useful way.
I’ve given up on that. It just isn’t going to happen. Non-activists are not going to be persuaded by essays to become activists, and activists always have their pre-existing agendas. And the more promising the activists are, in terms of their energy and vision, the more committed they always are to their existing agendas. Duh! Wasn’t that always obvious?
I suppose the reason I am now willing to recognize the futility of persuasion, is that I’m no longer getting much out of writing as a learning process, as regards my main purpose, the pursuit of a better world. The time has come to pursue further lessons in another kind of school, to move from the world of ideas to the world of engagement.
My primary area of investigation has always been social transformation — how and why do societies change from one form to another. And the goal has always been to figure out how modern society can change to something more organic, something more in tune with the best of human nature.
In the course of this investigation I’ve probed the minds of leading-edge thinkers and activists in many domains. Each has a piece of the puzzle to offer. Over the past year the overall picture has come into increasing clarity in my mind. If there is going to be a transformation of the desired kind, I understand quite a bit about some of the things that will need to happen, and some of the things that will need to be avoided.
I’m convinced of two things. First, I cannot advance my understanding any further without jumping in and pursuing the ideas in the real world, the local world around me. Second, no one else is acting, or is likely to act, from what I see as the whole picture. The call is clear to my next adventure. I’ve prepared to the best of my ability and learned as much as I’m able to assimilate.
My main focus is now here in Ireland. I’m done with trying to persuade, and writing and the net are now on a back burner. I no longer consider the Internet to be mission critical, which is fortunate, given the various ominous threats to clamp down on open discourse. Already twice this week I’ve needed to refresh my IP address, to get around someone’s blocking filter, in order to be able to send messages. Such loopholes around blocking are gradually disappearing.
You’ll still be hearing from me, while the net continues, but it’ll be a different kind of material, and I’ll be devoting a lot less time to writing. This will be my last lengthy posting for a while. I’m putting a lot of thought and time into this one, partly because I want you all to know what I’m getting up to and why, and partly, in the remainder of this message, to get my head around what I’m getting into, using my usual essay method.
Let us now turn our attention to Ireland, beginning with an objective look at the Irish situation, vis a vis the EU.
The Iceland Option
From an objective perspective, given the realities of the EU-IMF criminal-syndicate financial regime, the most sensible economic path for Ireland would be to withdraw from the EU, re-declare its sovereignty, re-introduce its own currency, and repudiate all the bailout debts — debts that were all due to bank fraud and malpractice, and which were only taken on due to political corruption. In short, Ireland’s best economic option is to retroactively emulate Iceland.
If Ireland were to take such a path, there would of course be consequences, some desirable and some not. On the plus side, Ireland would become an example, an inspiration, to the other EU nations who are suffering under bank-dictatorship austerity. For this reason, and on the minus side, the criminal EU syndicate would seek to isolate, demonize, and punish Ireland. Ireland would become the Cuba of Europe: a living example of an alternative — an example that poses a threat to the imperial regime.
Because of the threat of isolation, Ireland would need to be prepared to pursue a path of self-sufficiency, to revive an updated version of DeValera’s vision for Ireland. Fortunately, Ireland is relatively well-suited to achieving self-sufficiency. It’s a large island, with plenty of water and wind and seacoast, with most of the land devoted to food production, and with a relatively low population density.
From an economic perspective, Ireland could go it alone in Europe and survive well enough, if it organized itself creatively around that project. Another verse could be added to the Irish rebel ballad, “A Nation Once Again”. As a side benefit, it would also mean that Ireland would become a sustainable society, with a minimal carbon footprint. If there’s going to be austerity anyway, it might as well be a sensible form of austerity, under local control.
And there would be trading partners. Venezuela would be a good one, with its oil. Even better China, who’s trying to get its commercial nose into every available tent, who has excess hard currency to invest, and who favors anything that promotes multi-polarism in world affairs. Plus Iceland, and any EU nations that might follow Ireland’s example. Also Cuba, who is always willing to help good causes, and who has valuable experience in achieving self-sufficiency under difficult conditions. And of course Russia, the resource-rich wild card in today’s ‘great game’.
Such a path could of course never be pursued by means of the political system as it exists in Ireland. Indeed, the government, the political parties, the Church hierarchy, and the state-run media would unite in vigorously seeking to oppose and undermine any such initiative, were it to emerge into public consciousness. Sinn Fein might go along with the Iceland Option, if they are true to their principles, but their partisan nature would make them more a hindrance than a help.
Next, let’s consider how Ireland might find its way to a sensible path, despite the established powers that be.
The potential for a transformative social movement
The Iceland Option is my own favorite suggestion for Ireland. Perhaps there are better ideas. But any sensible path for Ireland would need to be counter-systemic to the EU financial regime, as that regime is clearly aiming to put Europe into perpetual debt slavery, under some kind of IMF-central-bank regime. Indeed, that project is in its later stages already, particularly in Ireland. That’s how the New World Order is coming down in this part of the world.
In order for Ireland to pursue any counter-systemic path, the initiative would need to come from some kind of mass grassroots social movement. It would need to be an inclusive, non-partisan, non-sectarian, and non-violent movement, as was Gandhi’s movement for independence, and the Eastern European movements that saw out the Soviet-era regimes. Such a movement would have its own special Irish character, and would need to emerge out of the context of Irish civil society as it exists.
And it so happens that Ireland has a rather highly evolved civil-society infrastructure. In fact there are many things about Irish culture, and Ireland’s current situation, that would be favorable to the emergence of an appropriate grassroots movement. At the same time there are cultural obstacles to the emergence such a movement. In an attempt to understand what kind of movement might be appropriate, all of these things must be taken into consideration.
Let’s consider first the social infrastructure of Irish civil society. Most of Ireland is rural — towns surrounded by agricultural land — and there is a relatively strong connection to place, community, and extended family. The main national sports are non-professional, based on enthusiastically supported local teams. There are countless clubs, associations, and volunteer organizations, not to mention the church parishes themselves.
These things bring people together collaboratively in their communities, and they also provide ongoing links with other communities all over Ireland, as every group seems to be affiliated with some national association. All of this infrastructure would naturally serve as an effective grassroots communication and coordination network, with trust-based linkages, in any kind of mass movement scenario.
Next, we need to take into account the deeply-rooted civility and tolerance of Irish culture. People here are polite to one another, they listen to one another, they defuse conflict with humor, and they respect eccentricities. There is a citizen-to-citizen respect that underlies all interactions. There are status games as well, of course, but relatively speaking, Irish culture is characterized by egalitarianism and tolerance.
This civility extends as well to the Irish media. There are no shock jocks, no hate shows, no vitriol, although we can get that on the satellite channels from the US and UK. On Irish-based radio and television everything is polite, and real grassroots voices are heard uncensored. In general, in Irish society, there isn’t that underlying polarization that seems to characterize US media and culture. Such a culture of civility is of considerable benefit to any movement that seeks to bring people together on a non-partisan basis.
Next, let’s consider the question of political consciousness. People think for themselves here, in down to earth terms, and have their own ideas about things. In general, you can’t categorize people into left vs. right, or politically-correct vs. not, as you can in so many places. People here tend to see the different sides of an issue, and come up with their own personal middle ground.
And the media is relatively open. One of the widely respected local pundits, David McWilliams, has been publishing a series of articles in one of the mainstream papers, offering a sound economic analysis. He talks of a “titanic struggle” between the people of Europe and the banking interests.
And then there’s Jim Corr, of the hit group The Coors, who’s been getting mainstream radio time, with friendly interviewers, where he has been calmly and clearly explaining to people about the New World Order. He presents much the same information as Alex Jones, but he’s seen as ‘one of the lads’, who’s been doing his research, not a ranting extremist.
There’s an openness to considering alternative views, in this rebel land. People listen and people ponder. This combination of savviness and open-mindedness is of considerable benefit to any movement that seeks to facilitate the emergence of a national consensus around counter-systemic objectives. Furthermore, there is already a considerable degree of EU-skepticism in the land, and an even higher degree of awareness of the corrupt nature of Irish politics and the banking system.
Finally, there is the scale of Ireland. There are only six million people in the whole country, less than in many cities. When you listen to national radio stations, it has the feel of community radio, not at all like the BBC or NPR. When you take also into account the coherence of the culture, Ireland begins to feel very local, almost one spread out community.
This together with the civil-society infrastructure, and the civility of the culture, creates an environment where one can easily imagine the emergence of coherence in public opinion, a palpable sense of We the People on a nation-wide scale. If only the right kind of conversations were being pursued.
At the same time, there are cultural obstacles to take into account. The same energy that creates clubs and associations also clings to partisanship in politics. And the bonds that bring Irish people together come encumbered with a bit of cliquishness. And there’s an unfortunate degree of reliance on leadership hierarchies, as a way of organizing activities. In any kind of transformative movement, these issues would be of central importance. Non-partisanship and participatory inclusion would need to be at the core of movement consciousness and movement dynamics.
When one is acting in a play, one pretends that something is real — the world of the play’s story line. And one must be always ‘in character’: that is, one must pretend at a deep level to be a designated character in that world. In this way an energy field is created that brings the world of the play into experienceable manifestation.
I find this acting scenario useful in thinking about what role I can play here in Ireland. I want to tap into energy-field dynamics, and I see something very close to pretense as being relevant. Consider again the words of Gandhi. How far from pretense is his notion of choosing to believe you can do what you aren’t yet capable of doing?…
“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.”
I am going to pretend and believe that a certain dramatic story line is going to play out, on the stage of Ireland, and that I have a designated role to play in that story line. It will be relatively easy for me to ‘really believe’, which is a stronger intentional position, and indeed I’m nearly convinced already.
I ‘believe’ that a public conversation is beginning emerge in Ireland, motivated by the objective conditions of the situation, sparked by the emergence of sensible counter-systemic voices, and facilitated by the nature of Irish culture. When this conversation reaches a certain critical level in public consciousness, I ‘believe’ that Ireland’s civil-society infrastructure will begin to act as a vehicle for this conversation.
Given the nature of the objective conditions, and the degree of practical common sense in the Irish mentality, I ‘believe’ that the potential exists for this conversation to move into transformative territory. There is a recent cultural memory of ‘rising’ as a people, from the grassroots, and succeeding with a counter-systemic agenda. And it was the ability to reach a general consensus on goals and intention that empowered that rising. The means were chosen pragmatically based on circumstances at the time, and implemented by mobilizing the civil-society networks.
I see my role as catalytic: ‘holding the space’ for the kind of small conversations that can help spark larger conversations, that can help harmonize the energy that is already beginning to emerge into the public arena.
‘Holding the space’ involves careful attention to who is part of a given conversation, and it involves careful attention to process. As regards who, the basic aim is to include a reasonable cross-section of relevant voices. As regards process, the basic aim is that everyone gets listened to. If those two areas are properly attended to, one can expect outcomes based on creative collaboration, outcomes that would be useful inputs to larger conversations.
In both of these areas I have a reasonable beginning competence, enough to get started, in anticipation of ‘acquiring additional capacity’ through practice and attentiveness.
Besides ‘holding the space’, in whatever small conversations I participate in, there is also the question of identifying those areas of conversation that could be most useful to the larger conversation, at any given stage of the unfolding process. This is where what I have learned in my writing / research adventure comes into the picture.
That learning has been focused around the dynamics involved in the emergence of community empowerment, based on economic localization as the seed focus for an evolutionary process of economic and cultural transformation. If that evolutionary process can be short-ciruited, by reaching the national level in one step, the process of whole-society transformation would be greatly accelerated.
That is one of the reasons why Ireland is particularly well-suited to the emergence of a transformative mass movement. I ‘believe’ that Ireland is a place where the principles involved in community empowerment make sense at a national level, that Ireland has enough cultural coherence that it has the potential to behave as a ‘spread out community’, capable of having a coherent conversation with itself.
As regards identifying ‘useful areas of conversation’, I would be focusing on the following questions, among others… What is not happening in the public conversation, that needs to be happening, if Ireland is to come together as a community? What relevant voices are not being represented in the public conversation, and how might they be brought in? In what ways does the public conversation seem to be developing along productive lines, and how can those developments be nourished and spread more widely?
More than that I cannot say at the moment. This is improv theater, and with improv it is a mistake to fixate too rigidly on pre-existing script sketches. The important thing is to be deeply ‘in character’, and to respond accordingly based on what unfolds on stage.
Already the universe has been coming to my assistance. There have recently been a series of ‘chance encounters of the local kind’. New and renewed connections, with some very interesting people, and new energies emerging around promising areas of collaboration.
</ end of writing era>
Timestamp: 18 Jan 2010 02.06 GMT
<beginning of direct engagement>
2012: Crossroads for Humanity:
Climate science: observations vs. models