Reddit Thread: “What does effective dissent actually look like?”

Unknown-4This thread, via ranprieur, features “erinacious” in response to a 2008 alternet.org article —

Turning Your Lawn into a Victory Garden Won’t Save You; Fighting the Corporations Will.

submitted 2 days ago by cryptorchidism

[–]hydrolith 10 points 2 days ago

What kind of political dissent is the author suggesting? I wish he would have included some examples.

[–]Erinaceous 31 points 2 days ago*

I think this sort of gets to the heart of the problem. Political dissent in democracies, even in dictatorships, to run in to the Arab Spring problem. You can push for a massive social movement and get it but then the next worst option simply takes power. You overthrow Mubarak and you get the Muslim Brotherhood. Where i live we fairly successfully took down the corrupt Liberal government only to have the Partie Quebecios come in and make everything worse. Mass movements don’t seem to be especially effective anymore. So what does effective dissent actually look like?

So you might take the Lierre Keith DGR type position and say you need look at the vulnerabilities of the existing system and strategically target critical nodes. And this is largely true, any network with a power law type hierarchical structure is going to be robust against random coordinated attacks but highly fragile at critical nodes. Or you could take the Holmgren strategy of disinvestment as a way to crash the financial system. Probably this won’t be terribly effective as it effectively is the same strategy of making random attacks from the periphery.

There’s also the problem of devoting your life to resistance. It’s a very hard path. It can be rewarding but it is a lifetime of constant struggle.

Personally I think we need what I call the two hands strategy. First of all you need to change the material conditions of your existence. You need to get your house and garden in order. You need to break dependencies. Systematically and progressively. Mostly though this means getting out of the rent or mortgage system by whatever means possible. Growing your own food is easy. Free shelter is hard. But that hand lifts you up a bit. Which is great but you still have this slow juggernaut of climate change and peak oil and mass extinction bearing down on you. But now you have a certain amount of room to move. You are less dependent on the energy system or the rental system or the financial system. This gives you more ability to resist and build effective institutions. This is the other hand. Building spectacles is for teenagers. We want to be building institutions that are better than the existing ones. Think of how the Black Panthers or the Zapatistas function(ed). They spent more time building and organizing than fighting. You have to be ready to fight. Legally in the courts. As protest. Even violently.

But it’s important to remember two things. One resistance only defines the edge or the margin of the system. It might be important to define that limit but it’s just the limit. And the social limit is a hard place to be. What defines the centre is the institutions, the guilds, the permanent effective networks that are space filling and area preserving. More interesting though is that the centre of the network isn’t where the power lies. The pivot points are more marginal, more eccentric. Barabassi has started to show that the control points in these hierarchical systems are not the centres. They are lower down. It’s the sales guy who moves between the management and branches and talks to all the people on the shop floor. It’s the minor bureaucrat who actually makes the government run. It could be the bottom up institutions that people know to go to because they are so much more effective than the government services that are constantly cut back and falling apart. The ones that actually make them less dependent and more capable of being fully realized people. The institutions that are working hard to put themselves out of job instead of trying to maintain their power. So taking the centre is not really the strategy either. It’s building the alternative that the centre has to contend with.

Which is interesting. So the two hands are one hand lifts you up and changes your material conditions. And the other hand makes it possible for others to change their material conditions through political action and institution building. Each moves up and up. Each time one hand moves it makes it possible for the other hand to lift up a bit. And if one hand gets knocked down the other hand is still there to make it easier to get back to the same place. And if and when the centre collapses and these mass movements happen there exists something that can be better than the PQ or the Muslim Brotherhood or whatever comes after the fall of the Ukraine.

[–]Dysnomi 5 points 2 days ago

I wish I had something to add but you said it so well. Individual dissent and collective revolution arise from the same place and have the same goals. Every success of one is the success of the other.

What defines the centre is the institutions, the guilds, the permanent effective networks that are space filling and area preserving…. Barabassi has started to show that the control points in these hierarchical systems are not the centres. They are lower down… taking the centre is not really the strategy either. It’s building the alternative that the centre has to contend with.

I’m watching this Barabassi video now (thanks!) but I gotta confirm what /u/Erinaceous said as I’ve been arguing this for so long: The power in the system doesn’t lie at the top, rather it is somewhat disproportionately spread throughout the system. The way forward, then, towards a revolution of the means of production (agriculture and the resultant technologies) is to change your own state of being to fit into the new paradigm in which you wish to live. Simultaneously with that, I think, you will find organizations already starting to flourish that offer that alternative Erinaceous was talking about, and notice that in joining that organization you are widening it’s effect on the old organizations.

[–]reposessions 1 point 2 days ago

Curious as to what political party you align with?

[–]Erinaceous 2 points 2 days ago

I’d have to go with none of them. I think it’s safe to say that all the available parties are engaged in old paradigm thinking. ‘We need more growth. We need more jobs. etc’. The green party at least gets it a bit but there’s been a lot of shady moves to isolate and render ineffective small parties and independents in our parliament. So the green party vote that I usually cast is basically a protest vote.

Glad to hear it. Another curious question, are you also a prepper? Anarchist?

[–]Erinaceous 3 points 2 days ago

I tend to associate prepper with the gold, guns and dried goods scene so I don’t really identify with that so much. Anarchist is sort of the same. I know a lot of people that come to political consciousness that way, especially now that it’s the dominant narrative of the left, but it seems a bit self limiting. Concensus decision making and anti hierarchy as primary principles kind of back you into a corner when you see them through networks and complexity. As we know in permaculture hierarchy appears as a function of scale and of preferential attachment as a organizing principle. Designing a completely horizontal garden of equal individual plants isn’t very effecitve ecological design. So hierarchy is something to be managed and designed for rather than wished away.

So maybe i’d say I’m a communitarian ( which is basically a way of saying I’m a bottom up communist but without ringing a bunch of alarm bells for people who grew up in cold war propaganda environments ) or a radical localist. They’re both kind of the same thing.

[–]reposessions 1 point 2 days ago

So small local governments. Instead of states counties

[–]Erinaceous 2 points 2 days ago

More or less. Though i think i prefer to think in terms of local institutions rather than government. Government can and probably will be part of the that mix but rather than thinking only in terms of government institutional forms (or even worse a false opposition between public and private institutions) i’d rather see a system with a diversity of integrated institutional forms aligned around a set of common ethical principles. Though I think that ownership by the members of an organization and accountability to those members needs to be the basic requirement of organization. So, for example, if you want to be a private business where one person makes all the decisions that’s fine but you will be limited to what you can do as an individual since as soon as you hire someone they would become an owner/operator of the company with you.

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