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The Anarchists and the Bankers

By GPaul Blundell
If you really want to learn how to make organizations work, try organizing demanding and productive consensus based organizations composed of feisty and opinionated anarchists.  Rewards, punishments, and hierarchies are convenient crutches that you just don’t get to use.  This is our theory on why the FEC communities generate process consultants and facilitation trainers.  It’s like Frank Herbert’s theory of the Sardaukar but with group process.This summer I had the pleasure of visiting Las Indias, an anarchist transnational cyberpunk commune currently based in Bilbao.  Delightful folks, really.  They, like many other modern communards, have gotten into the organizational consultation business and operate a worker coop providing consultation.

Somewhere in Bilboa

Somewhere in Bilboa

Over the years, they’ve been hired by a long list of impressive and, for an anarchist collective, unlikely seeming clients.  Then, in 2006, they were approached by one the biggest banks in Latin America and Spain.  It was suffering from organizational malaise and wanted help for fueling innovation in its ranks.  Las Indias took the job and, after analyzing the situation, decided, like the good transnational anarchists that they are, that the bank was suffering from two major ills: they had too much hierarchy and they were too divided nationally.  The prescription was simple and radical.  They insisted that the bank stuff -more than 120,000 workers- should learn to talk and work out of the hierarchy with a focus in internal open conversations rather than communication segregated by nation or department.

And so they built up the first internal blogsphere used by a big multinational corporation.  And what did they see?  According to Las Indias, the new open transnational space immediately started fostering innovation and quickly six new products where designed by volunteer teams. What is probably even more important: the conversation changed the atmosphere and allowed a collective and wider reflection on including differing perspectives.

eyes surreal

As part of this wave of rediscovery, with workers rediscovering their own environment and the future living inside and around it, the bank financed the first book series of collected of essays by living authors released under Public Domain in Europe. The books, on such at-the-time arcane subjects as P2P systems, the sharing economy, and workers’ transnational cooperativism, were both free for download as ebooks and as a paper edition. The commercial success of the print version was a rare and surprising success in the Spanish editorial scene: even though everybody had the option to have them for free as e-books, thousands of copies of every single title were sold in traditional bookshops.

However, anarchist transnationalist organization was a bit too much for the bank in the long run. The “Innovation Department” who contracted las Indias closed (their members were all promoted) and the bank turned progressively towards a flashier policy of buying dotcom businesses and trying to integrate them into the existing organization. Emphasis on internal conversation was decreased and emphasis on promoting external blogs and marketing was increased. In 2010, after a few years as a successful but then orphaned experiment, they closed the internal blogosphere, the first massive conversational space in a big worldwide organization.

monkey with gun

The bank weathered Spain’s financial crisis in 2008 relatively unscathed. Las Indias suspects that the reflection and innovations fueled by the open conversations had outside of the structure of the hierarchy helped them to avoid dangerous policies then common in other banks. Las Indias walked away from the project, but with a recognized and salable experience that later opened doors for them to more big institutions and businesses of the European Union and Latin America.

Exactly the wrong thing to say – Hitching Stories

A British racing green jaguar convertible sports car pulled up next to me as I was hitching outside Boston. I am surprised to see the door of the expensive vehicle pop open and the driver wave me over.

“Come on get it!”

“Thanks I needed a ride from here” I hop into the leather bucket seat.

“Where do you want to go? My wife says I am too drunk to be home”

"You can't have any more, if you have not yet had any."

“You can’t have any more, if you have not yet had any.”

 

 

=======================

Some years later I was driving in Los Angeles and picked up one of the quite rare hitchhikers inside the city limits.

“Thank you so much, I have been waiting there all day and I just got out of jail.”

In case you are unfamiliar with prison culture it is considered poor form to ask an excon what they were in the slammer for. If they want you to know, they will tell you. So assuming you are familiar with the culture, this statement (and the following lack of clarification) is basically saying, “i need you to trust me right now, and I am not giving you much info on why you should.”

hitchiker prsion roadside

The New Prometheus Myth

In the original myth of Prometheus, the hero ascends mount Olympus, where he fools the gods and steals fire from them [The myth then morphed into him going to the underworld.] Returning to the surface world, this fire is given to humanity and used to build civilization. But Zeus becomes angry with Prometheus and condemns him to be tortured for eternity.

prometheus

The old story was pretty depressing

Recent information made available thru the Freedom of Information Act indicates some important details of the myth have been left out. It turns out the gods knew Prometheus was coming and was planning to rob them. So the gods hid all of the good fires and left only the worst one behind for Prometheus to steal [Prometheus wrongly assumed there was only one kind of fire]. Thus Prometheus returned to earth with the wrong fire and with the wrong intent and correspondingly built the wrong society.

There is now a place for a new kind of Prometheus. One who works with the gods instead of stealing from them and uses the best fires, which the gods hid from Prometheus in the places we have only now started to look for them – in the wind, in the sea and in the sun.

Let's look elsewhere

Let’s look elsewhere

It is time we started working with nature – instead of stealing from it, harnessing the power of renewable resources in wind, solar and sea-based technology. And with these we can build a new civilization.

harvest renewables at home

 

The Renewables Revolution tipping point

Mostly real progress is slow.  It took decades to end slavery (which gave way to wage slavery in many places).  It took longer to get even some of the most basic rights for women in this country.  It took a decade of protest to end the Vietnam War.  Decades for gay marriage.  I am doubtful multi-partner marriages will be legalized in my lifetime.

Early in my clean energy campaigning career (the 1990s), a renewables expert explained that they preferred we not call it “alternative energy” because this was not our long term objective.  And for decades we have heard “wind is not ready from prime time” or “solar is too expensive for utility scale application”.  But when someone says that to you these days, you should respond with the same incredulity you would if someone suggested we strip women of the right to vote.  “Hey, have you been living under a rock?”

Germany has made the shift

Germany has made the shift

The triple meltdown at Fukushima hit the accelerator for clean energy solutions in a number of countries.  Perhaps most dramatically in Germany, where parts of this shift have been underway for decades.  If you stay closely on top of the German energy transition (called Energiewende) you will have no doubt heard that in the early stage after closing reactors after the Fukushima disaster the country was actually opening more coal fired power stations.

germany gdp and ghg graph

GHGs are down again, to their lowest level in decades in Germany

But as the bar chart above shows, the “Fukushima means more coal in Germany” story is old news.  These distortions were caused in part by their being a number of incomplete high tech coal plants in the pipeline when Fukushima hit and distortions in the European carbon tariffs which (hopefully temporarily) were favoring coal.  As the longer term graph above shows, unlike many countries, Germany is serious about reducing it’s carbon footprint.  Central to it’s success is that more than half of the renewable investment in Germany in recent years has been from individuals (including farmers) rather than large utilities or governments.

Japan is arriving later to the party, but is still showing up in significant ways.  Most recently there has been an explosion in the number of companies registering to sell electricity.  These include Honda Motors, Panisonic, Softbank and some giant Japanese homebuilding companies.  This is critical, because unlike Germany, Japan has 10 nuclear power utilities which have had a monopoly on electricity sales.  The government for it’s part has (like Germany did) created above market pricing for power which is generated from renewables.  Even before the opening of the market, Japan has seen a surge in home/business electric generation for personal/industrial use.  The Japanese court just handed anti-nuclear activists a rare victory in stopping the restart of 2 reactors.

Japan, unlike the US, does not have a single authority to restart it’s currently closed 48 reactors.  Even the newly restructured safety authority is telling the Abe administration that they need to check with local governments before restarting reactors, even if the safety authority says it is okay.  Recently elected anti-nuclear provincial governor Taizo Mikazuki of Shiga prefecture on July 13th, indicates that the Abe governments plans to restart reactors are far from secure.  The longer Japan continues to function will all of it’s reactors off and without blackouts, the less plausible the utilities arguments are that they are completely necessary to run the country.

Japan's solar growth is impressive

Japan’s solar growth is impressive

Germany has the solar profile of Alaska. Japan has very few conventional energy resources.  Both countries are using tax structures, market mechanisms, feed in tariffs and public education campaigns to change the ways they produce energy.  Germany is ahead of schedule to close all it’s reactors by 2022. Japan currently has all its reactors closed.  These were the number 3 and number 4 nuclear countries in the world (after the US and France).

 

Is there a trend here?

Is there a trend here?

It is far form a done deal, but the above graph shows an important trend.  It is worth pointing out that at a 25% capacity factor, the installed wind power worldwide represents the equivalent of 35 full size reactors – which is still a long way for replacing the almost 400 operating reactors worldwide, but if you compare it to 6 reactor equivalents in place in 2009, you can see that this real progress in energy is moving right along.

 

 

 

Can Polyamory Help Destroy Rape Culture? [re-post]

Comrade Tikva has penned a great piece for Elephant Journal [Which posted my review of the Movie Wanderlust]  If you want to see this article on EJ , with it’s links (and odd image) it’s here.  She also does a brilliant comic on polyamory.

Objectification is at the center of rape culture

Objectification is at the center of rape culture

 

Many romances begin with wordless flirtation, stolen kisses and vague communication.
In a culture where disinterest is often interpreted as shyness or “playing hard to get,” men are encouraged to think women need to be skillfully interpreted and convinced, instead of taken at their word. Even the clearest “no” is still up for debate.

I’ve had men tell me I was “asking for it” by making eye contact with them on the street instead of averting my gaze. And when they discovered that my polite smile was not a request for sex, they reacted in outrage as if I was purposefully leading them on.

A stranger misinterpreting our smile as an open invitation to our body sounds ludicrous, but watching any romantic comedy will show us how our culture views consent.

no more rape culture

How many times does the woman turn the main character down before he grabs and kisses her—and doesn’t she secretly want it all along, perhaps without even knowing it herself, until he figures out how to prove that they are meant to be?

It may be entertaining to watch awkward fumbling and forceful passion on the screen, but this kind of indirect communication seeps out into our actual romantic encounters far too often and can be very dangerous.

When men identify with that main character who wins the girl in the end, they feel cheated when their own efforts aren’t achieving the same results. They can sometimes decide to take it forcefully if the woman isn’t catching on quick enough, because “no” just means she hasn’t been convinced yet that this is what she really wants.

Most women have encountered men who feel entitled to have access to their bodies. Just look at the recent gruesome events involving Elliot Rodger and the resulting stories on Twitter with the hashtag “#YesAllWomen.”

Clearly there are a lot of men out there who think they deserve the girl, regardless of what she has to say about it.

In polyamorous relationships, unclear communication will have us drowning in a sea of interpersonal drama much more quickly than it would in a conventional, monogamous relationship.

One reason for this is that monogamy is the expected norm, so if we’re monogamous, it’s pretty easy to coast through the beginning of our relationship without putting any effort into communicating our intentions or expectations.

If we say nothing at all about what we want, it is assumed that our eventual goal is a monogamous until-death-do-us-part with someone. Polyamorous relationships are more complex and less understood, so therefore require explanation right from the beginning and skillful communication throughout.

Poly folks will often discuss their specific intentions with people they are attracted to and even sit down with everyone’s other partners and discuss it with them as well, way before the first date is even considered. It is very likely that a first kiss won’t come with a silent assumption of consent, but after it has been discussed with everyone involved instead.

Clear communication is a must for long-term poly relationships, so this is a skill that gets exercised often.

But what does this have to do with rape culture? Rape culture is fed on silence and assumptions. By insisting on communicating clearly every step of the way about any intention of sex or romance, we kill those old ideas of romance being about silent flirtation and stolen kisses.

We make consent sexy.

yes means yes

We might think that clear communication is overkill, boring and that it will stifle the romance—but the opposite is true. When people are open and vulnerable in relationship to each other, expressing the full extent of their desires and (most importantly) wanting to hear and understand the desires of their partners, there is absolutely nothing sexier than that.

I used to think that stolen kisses were sexy, but now I see them as a sign of emotional immaturity and dissociation. I would much rather my partners be obviously interested in what I want than trying to see what they can get out of me.

When can kisses be "stolen"?

When can kisses be “stolen”?

I would much rather be telling them what I want than waiting for them to guess.

Margaret Atwood’s quote, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” illustrates why it is more important that men take on the task of communicating clearly and receiving consent, but it is incredibly empowering to take on the task as a woman as well.

girls kissing

We don’t need to be in a polyamorous relationship to get our clear communication groove on, obviously. But if we’re in a polyamorous relationship we need to communicate impeccably, just to keep up with what’s going on.

Making clear communication and consent sexy is a huge part of what’s needed to feed the revolution of consent culture. So whether we are monogamous, polyamorous, monogam-ish, or poly-curious, we need to push ourselves to communicate more openly with everyone and see how it affects our romantic life.

Author and Muse (R to L)

Author and Muse (R to L)

 

The Dark Side of the World Cup

Most days i am blissfully outside of the influence of nationalism*.  But my Dutch wife gets very excited about the World Cup and i recently watched the Dutch surprise victory over top ranked Spain.

They are fantastically talented athletes

They are fantastically talented athletes

And there are important problematic aspects to this event which should not be ignored.  This post is a quick summary of my findings.

Evictions:   US$11 billion is being spent on the stadiums and other support for the Brazilian World Cup.  Construction project in cities across the country have resulted in 250K evictions and thousands of destroyed homes.  In many cases there was little or no warning of the planned evictions.  But even in the best cases, displaced persons are living in state subsidized housing with a fraction the value of their previous space.   Promised public assistance projects have all but vanished.

simple economics

simple economics

US$2 billion has been spent on security alone for the event.  Much of this is going to the 100K troops and 57K police deployed over the event.   In demonstrations across the country, millions of Brazilians have protested.

Stand your ground

Stand your ground

Corruption/Bribery:  The behemoth construction firm Andrade Gutierrez gobbled up nearly a quarter of the $11.5 billion in building contracts connected to the World Cup  thanks to a whopping US$37.1 million election contribution spending spree in 2012.

Resource Mal-distribution:  Brazil has made gains over the last 3 decades in raising citizens out of the most desperate poverty.  But many see this expensive soccer event as a distraction from more pressing infra structure solutions the country really needs.

Sex trade: Prostitution is legal in Brazil and the age of consent is 14.  The World Cup with it’s influx of tourists is sparking a sex trade explosion.

brazilian prostitutes

Pimps in Brazil are purchasing children from their parents for between $5K and $10K.   This combined with drug addiction of sex workers continues to oppress locals and breeds misogyny.

 

What you focus on affects your journey.

What you focus on affects your journey.

As i close this post, i am not sure what the “ask” is.  I will look into who is recommending people concerned about the conditions do what.

indigenous people fight back

indigenous people fight back

* It would be completely reasonable to argue that no one alive today is outside the pervasive influence of nationalism.  And this is not what i am talking about.

Celebrating the Tea Party victory over Eric Cantor

In 2005 and 2006 i managed the catastrophically failed congressional campaign of Radical Honesty author and advocate Brad Blanton against Eric Cantor in the 7th district of Virginia.

Blanton arrested in Congress in 2012

Blanton arrested in Congress in 2012

During this campaign i learned a lot about Eric Cantor and how completely corrupt he was.  Quoting the Urban Dictionary,Eric Cantor is “possibly the most immature douchebag ever to grace the halls of congress.”  Last night in a stunning Tea Party upset, Cantor lost the Republican Party primary by 44% of the electorate to 55%.  That is a spanking.

One of the political encyclopedias declared district 7 to be the safest Republican district in the country.  That was written back when there was just one Republican Party.  The district is so politically red, that Cantor ran unopposed for one of his 7 terms.  Tonight a challenger with less than 1/10th the campaign funding of Cantor’s routed the second most powerful politician in the party.

VA District 7 a classic Jerrymander

VA District 7 – a classic Jerry Mander

This represents a fantastic political miscalculation by Cantor who won his last election by a margin larger than the total number of votes cast in this weeks primary.  Cantor spent too much time out of the district campaigning for other Republicans and raising money.  But before we forget Mr Cantor, who’s political career may blissfully be over.  Let’s look at how he performed as far as rating groups are concerned.

  • 0% rating from Alliance of Retired Americans (ARA), indicating an anti-senior voting record
  • 7% from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which means he is anti-civil and constitutional rights
  • 0% from the ALF-CIO indicating he is anti-labor
  • 0% from League of Conservation Voters (LCV), which means he is anti-environment
  • 92% from the Christian Coalition – a fundamentalist right wing group.
  • An “A rating” from the National Rifle Association (NRA),
  • 0% from The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE), which means he wants more nuclear weapons and less control on their use.
  • 0% from National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), he opposes abortion.

More disturbing is that Cantor had a 98% identical voting record with corrupt and convicted Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay

Look, we know we screwed up when we were in the majority. We fell in love with power. We spent way too much money – especially on earmarks. There was too much corruption when we ran this place. We were guilty. And that’s why we lost.

Cantor on why Republicans lost the Presidency and Senate 

And as terrible as David Brat is, i am thrilled he won.  For several reasons.

The Tea Party is Special

The Tea Party is Special

It means Tea Party is not dead, despite having done much more poorly this election cycle than in the last one, with this notable exception.   Which means the Republican party is still in danger of civil war.

It also means mainstream Republicans will not touch immigration reform (which was the hot button issue at the center of Cantor’s defeat).  This in itself if bad for the country, but it will likely cost Republicans at least the increasingly Hispanic state of Florida in the next presidential election, which could well cost them the White House.

It means that an entrenched, corporately controlled, corrupt, powerful politician has fallen and will be replaced by an extreme but freshman member of the House of Representatives, which bases much of it’s power structure on seniority.

Curiously, Brat’s opponent in the November election will be another professor from the same college.  Brat’s is expected to easily beat Democrat and sociology professor Jack Trammell.

Good bye Eric, you won’t be missed.

 

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