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June 23, 2008

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JJ Commoner

Make your Dumpster mobile, go on tour parking it out in the back alley behind the homes of America's Wealthiest Families ?

It might be surprising what they want to unburden themselves from, or what they throw out as a matter of course.

Jay Taber

This sounds like a rehash of pre-WTO analysis. Fugitive democracy emanating from the non-profit sector? Surely this was said tongue in cheek.

Phil

Jay, he was looking for leadership and asking where it would appear outside corporate hierarchies, West Point, Lobbyits, the Think Tanks, Pundits, etc. His assumption, I think, is that a counterforce to Superpower takes leadership honed by experience managing people, ideas, money. He looked towards NGOs for that. A wan hope, as things stand?

Do you agree re: leadership as opposed to demotic or democratic milling around? Where do you find leaders who can mobilize counterforces? Where would you start the analysis? (Conferences on grassroots democracy funded by NGOs/Foundations? And is that risible in its own right? Bioneers? Religious leadership? Moveon? The loose liberatarian talk shops on the intenet? Wolin admits that the universities have become co-partners with Superpower, not only as feeders, but as subcontractors and creators of patents, studies, intellectual property, and as part of the revolving door with government and bidnis as usual.)

Do you see vital centers outside the stovepipes of Superpower?

Nonprofiteer

"We are all driven to invent these new terms because the fusion of business and government for private ends masquerading as public ends is new . . ."

No, actually, it's not: it's called "fascism."

Jay Taber

Operating from the assumption that government and industry will continue to make our lives worse, we might want to ask what we can do in our own communities to inoculate our neighbors and ourselves against panic. One activity we've used to good ends is having discussions based on the future we expect, rather than on the future we hope for. This is not something fundable, nor especially popular, but nevertheless essential to effective community organizing. Leadership emerges organically out of social conflict, and is aided by good research and education. As an adjunct to what you call Superpower,the non-profit industry does not create leaders, but largely promotes those lacking innate ability and initiative in this regard into managerial positions. The managerial mindset, which undergirds this sector, is completely syntonic with that of the power elite. If you're looking for an example of organic leadership, I would recommend reading first hand accounts of SNCC and Mississippi Freedom Summer. These people were fighting for their lives, not for better payroll benefits for manipulating people's emotions.

Phil

@nonprofiteer, funny you said that. The book consists in large part of a detailed comparison of Nazism with the Neocon State. He calls the latter, "inverted Fascism." Fascism wanted on Volk united. The Neocon State wants us divided into warring niches, markets, interest groups, so they can tip the balance. Fascism wants fanatical support. The Neocon State wants lassitude, hopelessness, disengagement, anomie, wants us to shop, go to Disney world. Hitler was a clear case of "charismatic leader," but Bush? The Prussian military disdained market values, and had honor as its elite code. Our whole society is permeated by shopkeeper ideals. Both ruled by lies, true. Both relied on secrecy, fear, and covert force. Both were boundlessly expansionist. But the differences with Wolin are worth noting. How we become active citizens again rather than passive consumers and an "electorate" is a question he poses, but does not answer in any detail. Civic engagement outside party politics is where he tends, as with the teach-ins of the 60s.

Phil

@Jay, I get that. The MBA as credential for nonprofit leadership is spreading fast, and is a trend that I have been tracking and blogging about. The professionalization of good citizenship. Now you need a degree; pretty soon you may need one to procreate.

On organizing around scenarios, one angle I am exploring is financial analysis and planning around scenarios. What will the future be life on various assumptions, and how well aligned are even comfortable, even wealthy people with quite possible scenarios like hyper-inflation, social unrest, government crackdown, military law? Asking people to do their financial plans around such possible scenarios draws to light the obvious: We can't buy our way out of this as individuals, or only solutions are collective, which is to say political in some primal sense, not one involving voting between parties, but in the sense of our having a common fate as a community, nation, people, or planet. That kind of thinking comes hard, but starting with individual finances opens the mind and makes the political personal in a new way.

Jay Taber

Yes, hope is a miserable consolation. Interesting that the top of the social hierarchy is exploring the same scenarios based on the factual trends and trajectories Phil Williams and others present daily to those in power. Makes sense, even though their interests are more individually and less collectively motivated. I wonder if they are less inclined to conflate reform with revolution than the beneficiaries of their largesse in the non-profit industry?

Phil

So, let's say a dark scenario of inflation, scarcity, and crackdown plays out. Say you live in a small town with $10 mill of net worth, mostly in a lumberyard you own and three apartment buildings. You are active in your church. You have two children active in the business. What do you see, think, and do, when it sinks in how bad it will get? You run the business financials and personal financials and see losses. You also see your town coming apart. Do you sell the businesses, take the money and build an armed compound? Or do you become more active in politics, church, and giving? For some it will go one way, for others another. Hard times bring out the best and worst in people. The thing to remember is that there is still more wealth on Main Street in local firms than on Wall St. The Main street small business owner is a key player in this. Will they continue to be patriotic in the sense of bellicose and gullible?

Jay Taber

People over-complicate things, let themselves be overwhelmed by the scale of criminal negligence in the world. In reality, the crimes we see emanating from high-level operatives in Congress or the White House rely on an extensive network of support from the local to the international. Striking back at their vulnerable points wherever opportunities arise may appear to be futile when we allow ourselves to be distracted by big league spectacle, but weakening our enemies one community at a time can have amazing results.

In Blind Spots: A Citizen's Memoir, I presented some useful local tactics, as well as strategic discussions about what has worked in terms of regional cooperation in fighting the right-wing. There is no silver bullet to rid ourselves of this menace once and for all; it takes constant research, education, organizing and community action to make any headway.

When I speak to distraught young people, I tell them anecdotes from my organizing experience, some of which are included in my book. They seem to find that inspiring.

Phil

Thank you, Jay, for the concrete suggestions and for the personal example. Lonely work, I would think, and one that requires a strong stomach.

Jay Taber

I've never had to look for trouble, I just deal with the trouble that shows up. Over time I've learned to recognize patterns useful to those who contact us looking for help in understanding the particular trouble they're confronted with. The fact they've decided to do something about it, and realize they need experienced advice sets them apart.

Knowing that there are numbers of fellow citizens willing to do something makes it less lonely; discussing this stuff makes the lessons worthwhile.

Phil

Is there a business in helping those targeted for trouble? Seems like a growth area.

Jay Taber

The merging of crime and state in the US is indeed a growth area. Unfortunately, individual citizens who take it upon themselves to protect their communities from this betrayal of trust usually find themselves ostracized.

In most cases where communities belatedly realize the threat from letting the status quo get out of hand, those who took risks are quickly marginalized in order that previous levels of corruption can be re-established by the power elite.

In no instance have I noticed uncorruptible organizers to benefit in any way from devotion to the duties of citizenship. Due to their upright principles and tenacity, they are almost never in a position to access monetary resources of any kind.

Phil

Write a guide on how to prosper as an ordinary citizen through this mess. How does one ride the big horse of corruption as a peasant? Praise Folly, as Folly, and Vice and Vicious. We may as well celebrate what we cannot change.

Jim

It's not that new. It was identified a long time ago. It's called fascism. This is a variety of it called "friendly fascism." Or, as they say in the Middle East: "when you see the lion's teeth, don't think it's smiling."

Phil Cubeta

But that is such an ugly word. You hate America? You hate freedom?

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