The Need for Constructive Social Action

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The Need for Constructive Social Action

Postby TheBlackSheep » Wed Feb 26, 2014 8:25 am

Many users on this forum and concerned individuals otherwise perceive grave injustices that are not being effectively addressed in the world. Despite this awareness, many are unable to think of a way to take action constructively, hence continuing the cycle of non-address towards these perceived injustices.

I am creating this post in the hope that we can come together and define some strategies and provide resources that can help others and ourselves to better deal with the issues of either individual or collective concern.

I will begin with some of the misgivings I've had towards this process so far, and hopefully open this topic to discussion from there.

I've mentioned a couple of times on this board an article I saw once on the guardian (I believe it was about spying, but I might be wrong, anyway that isn't the point I'm getting at) where a commenter expressed upset at what he or she had read, and asked the journalist what they could do. The journalist made a response which was that the commenter should continue to read the guardian and perhaps donate to a fund... In my opinion this advice is extremely unhelpful and ultimately breeds helplessness, powerlessness and a feeling of disconnect regarding world events.

Many already institutionalized activist platforms are mainly seeking donation from individuals rather than participation, and of the few that do allow for participation, it is generally in the form of listening to the speeches of figures who are conceived as leaders. I think this latter situation creates a dependence in those who desire to use their effort constructively, as well as leave the situation open to manipulation from demagogues who wish to rally individuals under a banner and delegate responsibilities that may not be in the interest of those who are expected to perform such tasks.

It is from here that I would like to hear some opinions on this situation, perhaps tips you might find helpful for those who are interested in engaging in some meaningful and constructive action to make a change in the world for what they perceive to be the better.
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Re: The Need for Constructive Social Action

Postby TheBlackSheep » Wed Feb 26, 2014 9:44 am

I would like to take a moment to add a following thought to what was stated above. Ideally I would like the conception of Social Action to be expanded from what is generally thought of as activism. I am going to attempt a preliminary interpretating of what I mean by social action, but first I will note that my definition is open to revision in light of subsequent discussion and suggestions.

I want to put forward the thought that perhaps our idea of social action should not be limited to what has conventionally been considered under the term "activism". Some form of action is natural to the lives of people every day. The reason for my wishing to discuss 'constructive social action' here is because I feel like the energy of most of the population is being directed to pursuits that are not constructive to what they perceive as their own interests. One example of how this is being done is through the reliance of a greater portion of the population of assigning themselves to work in companies, etc. and devoting their energies to creating a situation that they might not necessarily want in the world...

It is my hope here to come up with some suggestions on how we can begin to redirect our energy towards creating the situations in the world we feel are truly valuable, whether this be in isolated incidents of activism or through constructing sustainable lifestyles.
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Re: The Need for Constructive Social Action

Postby TheBlackSheep » Thu Feb 27, 2014 3:15 am

Well, since no one has given any thoughts yet, I thought I might add a few more of my own.

First I want to make it clear that the reason I am opening this up to discussion is because I do think it is ultimately a social issue... maybe we might be able to run off and live off wild grass huddled in a hill somewhere, but then again with satellite technology we'd probably be stopped from doing that as well..

One of the most hopeful ideas I've come up with is that people start forming together with those they know and trust to make self-sustaining communities. Combine this with an international solidarity movement... among other things if you are creative (pod cast your activity for example...) and at first try to succeed at this (self-sustaining)... once you have already built a solidarity network internationally and hopefully locally etc, begin to practice civil disobedience and break away, demanding the right to be unharrassed...

Admittedly, being from a western nation that tries to give the image of being peaceful, I think it would work better here, as the image of governments coming and destroying peaceful communities might have more effect...

I take partially as inspiration for this ideas from for example Rousseau where he says if the government oversteps its bounds it is the duty of the citizens to abolish it and begin anew... and the only way (in my mind) for such an activity is to act outside of the system, not demand within it...

This is also a way to begin a peaceful movement in that direction.

This is a working idea I have currently, opinions, criticisms, suggestions are all appreciated... Just one idea, others are appreciated.
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Re: The Need for Constructive Social Action

Postby coffin_dodger » Thu Feb 27, 2014 7:47 pm

Hey Blacksheep. I'll get straight to the point. The majority of people in the US-concentric West are still far too comfortable to be thinking about changing our system. The majority of the minority are trying desperately to keep their head above water.

The system that binds us to itself is extraordinarily powerful. It is born of hundreds of years of experience, ever quickening towards what it has become today. Only the individual can mentally step outside the system and look inward at it, to study, to see the glaring holes - and once this has been initiated (and everyone's trigger may be different), it's impossible to unsee again.

I take some hope as I look around, because I see more people, daily, becoming vocal in their critisism of the system. But this is a delicate moment, because the system is designed to deal with this problem. Historically, if the natives got restless, it was the trauma of all-out, total war. This is no longer an option. The collection and collation of our private lives looks to be the new weapon of distraction/compulsion.

Fear will drive social action - and will probably drive us closer to totalitarianism - in the face of no other options.

And the options open to us for discussion are extremely limited. Even a basic talking point - such as, is there an overarching conspiracy (an 'octopus') or not? will find no consensus. Unfortunately, to know how to dismantle and change, one has to know the components to be changed.

The individual (remote, disassociated, disaffected) is very much how the system has tailored us. This makes more than two people agreeing on any number of principles difficult, to say the least.

For instance, I believe that to effect real sweeping change we need a new way of thinking with regards to the enchange of goods and services. Not money. How many people can envisage that? Not many, I'll wager.
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Re: The Need for Constructive Social Action

Postby brainpanhandler » Fri Feb 28, 2014 1:15 am

coffin_dodger » Thu Feb 27, 2014 6:47 pm wrote: Not many, I'll wager.


Chickens?
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Re: The Need for Constructive Social Action

Postby brainpanhandler » Fri Feb 28, 2014 1:44 am

TheBlackSheep » Thu Feb 27, 2014 2:15 am wrote:Well, since no one has given any thoughts yet, I thought I might add a few more of my own.

First I want to make it clear that the reason I am opening this up to discussion is because I do think it is ultimately a social issue... maybe we might be able to run off and live off wild grass huddled in a hill somewhere


Actually you'd be surprised how much wild edibles are all around you.

I love Dean Green's Eat the Weeds youtube series:



And I love Hobbit holes.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

One of the most hopeful ideas I've come up with is that people start forming together with those they know and trust to make self-sustaining communities. Combine this with an international solidarity movement... among other things if you are creative (pod cast your activity for example...) and at first try to succeed at this (self-sustaining)... once you have already built a solidarity network internationally and hopefully locally etc, begin to practice civil disobedience and break away, demanding the right to be unharrassed...

Admittedly, being from a western nation that tries to give the image of being peaceful, I think it would work better here, as the image of governments coming and destroying peaceful communities might have more effect...

I take partially as inspiration for this ideas from for example Rousseau where he says if the government oversteps its bounds it is the duty of the citizens to abolish it and begin anew... and the only way (in my mind) for such an activity is to act outside of the system, not demand within it...

This is also a way to begin a peaceful movement in that direction.

This is a working idea I have currently, opinions, criticisms, suggestions are all appreciated... Just one idea, others are appreciated.


I would suggest doing some research on alternative communities, current and historical. It would be an interesting study. There's got to be quite a variety... everything from Jonestown to far right patriot militia to luddite to primitive to marxist hippie communes to ufo cults...

It seems to me for any such endeavor you would want to learn as much from history as possible.
"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." - Martin Luther King Jr.
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Re: The Need for Constructive Social Action

Postby TheBlackSheep » Fri Feb 28, 2014 5:01 am

Haha, yeah most of the "communities" have not worked out well, even the hippy communities that tried to create safeguards against a dominant figure taking over the whole. I watched a program about it once where they would have group sessions where everyone got a chance to talk and express their complaints, and ultimately it would be dominated by the most vocal of the members flying into a rage while many of the others did not wish to express disapproval and others following in agreement, thus leading to the splintering of the group.

My vision (though I wouldn't be the one creating every communitiy) would be a fairly loose associated community, not living together, giving support most frequently in an indirect way, rather than contributing directly to the work of each individual "community".

When I mention self-sufficient I am trying to get at the type of life often described as "off the grid", of only vaguely associating parties expressing mutual solidarity.

That being said, no doubt any such endeavor would be fraught with complications both internally and externally... Though, that being said as well, I am still not necessarily convinced that the best option is just to forget it and go switch back on the TV, though that is a personal conviction and not in any way an imperative for anyone else.

Thanks for the eat the weeds video. I've been interested in that though after looking deeper into it I realize more and more what a complicated field bontany is...

As for the exchange question, I might personally envision (again I want to be clear that this is my own perspective and not meant to be thrusted upon others) that many people might find it unnecessary to have many of the objects we currently hold to be of utmost importance... and that ideally food could be shared in some kind of banquet hall or similar setting (though this would entail a somewhat close knit arrangement to a prospective community) and that shelter would be separate and somewhat makeshift...

Again those are all personal visions, and I don't really believe that they would come to pass if only because this kind of thing would be by necessity a social arrangement and so entail the desire and collaberation of many diverse people..

I just want to note as well that my interest in that idea is not for the sake of creating any kind of uptopian situation where all people become happy and live in harmony... I'm aware that life will still be in many ways tough and possibly moreso than a lot of people would like to bare, and that is perfectly reasonable... The only reason I even bring up the possibility at all is because I have a fear (justified or not) that our system might be moving towards something like a totalitarian one, and the goal would mainly be to soften that process (however feasible or not that might be). I do not take that cue entirely from certain conspiracy theories, though they have no doubt played an influential role, but also from the idea of Max Weber that as rational planning increases the society will move towards an iron cage of rationality (or a shell as hard as steel), as well as the developing trend of technocracy, which might even be seen as the same thing, so again this is more related to a personal conviction (not so much about the trend towards totalitarianism, as a desire for a spontaneity which is not really possible in such a rationally constructed system... and others might not even care for such kinds of spontaneity at all.)

In other words I want to be upfront that my personal vision for such communities actually entails taking a greater burden onto our shoulders for the sake of enjoying some of the benefits that might otherwise be lost. This might be enough to scare the majority away immediately, and rightly so... I already have my own plans for where I am headed, as sucessful or unsuccessful they will be.I see this more as a personal quest than as a desire to lure other people in, and my asking for suggestions and criticisms is as much a call for aid in my own brainstorming as anything else. Does that make sense? I understand some of what I've said is contradictory and I take full responsibility for that, it is through this process that I wish to iron out my own contradictions.

I think all one can do is guide oneself, but even that kind of radical individualism is to a degree a social process, in that we always live among others even in a degree of isolation, and/that much of our behaviours are learned from or in relation to others.

If none of that makes sense, I might ask:

On another note, if we were to disregard the idea of communities altogether, does anyone have any ideas on constructive social action in a more limited sense of the word, regarding conventional activism, but perhaps avoiding some of the pitfalls I talked about in the first post (the factors which create dependency, put individuals into positions of subjection to a preconceived plan from a designated leader figure, helplessness, apathy, etc.)?
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Re: The Need for Constructive Social Action

Postby TheBlackSheep » Fri Feb 28, 2014 5:31 am

Hey, though I ranted probably much too long in the post above I thought I might add one thing though it may be of less relevance. I want to thank the above posters (coffin_dodger and brainpanhandler) because I have come to realize the necessity of disentangling my speech so that in the future I more clearly distinguish between my own quest to understand my convictions possible course of action and the statements I make in a generalized way that appear to be suggestions to others. I now realize that is going to be very useful for progressing with my own understanding of myself and my standing in the world and my relation to others. Much appreciated.
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Re: The Need for Constructive Social Action

Postby coffin_dodger » Fri Feb 28, 2014 7:08 am



Thank you, bph, for pointing out exactly the backward-looking problem we face.
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Re: The Need for Constructive Social Action

Postby TheBlackSheep » Fri Feb 28, 2014 7:37 am

brainpanhandler » Fri Feb 28, 2014 1:44 am wrote:I would suggest doing some research on alternative communities, current and historical. It would be an interesting study. There's got to be quite a variety... everything from Jonestown to far right patriot militia to luddite to primitive to marxist hippie communes to ufo cults...

It seems to me for any such endeavor you would want to learn as much from history as possible.


I might follow you up on this. I might begin by reading more about the Amish and Quaker communities and things like that. I wonder how much of their "success" is due to an expectation of conformity... I do have an insurmountable quantity of reading material already though, but I agree it would definitely be worth while to look into these things to accompany any kind of reasoning. I think I have this problem becauseI am by nature interested in everything, and while this is somewhat helpeful to opening my mind and finding connections between disparate subjects, it probably detracts greatly from an in depth understanding on any given subject. That's probably why I long so strongly for a sense of community, whether real or virtual. I hope I will be able to use this forum wisely becuase it seems like there are a lot of people with amazing information and ideas to share.
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Re: The Need for Constructive Social Action

Postby brainpanhandler » Fri Feb 28, 2014 11:29 am

TheBlackSheep » Fri Feb 28, 2014 6:37 am wrote:I hope I will be able to use this forum wisely because it seems like there are a lot of people with amazing information and ideas to share.


A flock of black sheep so to speak.
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Re: The Need for Constructive Social Action

Postby TheBlackSheep » Mon Mar 10, 2014 2:36 am

coffin_dodger » Thu Feb 27, 2014 7:47 pm wrote:For instance, I believe that to effect real sweeping change we need a new way of thinking with regards to the enchange of goods and services. Not money. How many people can envisage that? Not many, I'll wager.


I had an idea about this, it is not new and you might have heard about it. It was the ancient technique of trade. It would be particularly effective in countries where a form of government is already established.

What you would do is write out a contract which would state something like this "This contract entitles its bearer (whomsoever that may be) to exchange it with ________ (the contractor) for ________ (such and such good or service) at the time of its presentation. (followed by a signature) _____________"

You could also add something like "This contract becomes void upon the signature of the above contractor following _________ (signature)."

The language I used isn't perfect, but technically the contract could be something like that, and it could be used as an exchange among various people. For example lets say you give the contract to me for a good or service I have provided you. Maybe instead of cashing it in I trade it to someone else for a good or service, they would be able to cash it in themselves to you (figuratively) as being the bearer of the contract. And you would take it and either sign it or redistribute it depending on your desire. I know that in many countries such contracts between people are legally valid...
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