Notes from Naomi Klein’s Doppelganger – part 3

Here’s the notes from the first part of her book. There isn’t a second part yet, I skipped to the end of the book because I need to ask about growing communities and needed to prepare it and the last part of the book has good bits for that.

My current interest is in getting people to fight back, to fight for a world we want, in actionable ways. And I want us to all do it in some definition of “together” because the populism and demagoguery really scares me and I am genuinely afraid we’ll head into a war again like Hitler and WWII and I think the only way to stop people from being so … uh .. populist is to actually just, listen! to why they’re frustrated and do something about it. Even if thinking that the vaccine has a chip that surveils us, well, social media surveils us, but getting out of that is hard, it’s a complex issue that threatens our feelings of being connected. Refusing the vaccine feels like we’re more in control. So rather than getting our tits in a twist because people are so stupid for believing there is a chip in the vaccine, find common ground in the need to curtail surveillance and sortof just bounce over whether the chip exists or not. Hack the back-end code that breaks the chip!

Finding common ground

p167 – It’s entirely possible that Bannon and Wolf’s war on reality is just what happens when so many of the big lies that built the modern world visibly crumble. As the house collapses, some people choose to take flight into full-blown fantasy, sure—but that doesn’t mean that the rest of us who were also born and raised in that house are guardians of the truth. What, then, are many of us still not seeing, still avoiding, in these shadow-laden woods?

How do we tap into the frustration that the alternative truthers have and direct it to a constructive energy? To an extent this is what we all feel!

(p78?) I think what we are seeing may be more like a reflex, an instinct for what feels, to its participants, like self-preservation.
It’s tough to live in a moment when so many truths that had been sold as settled suddenly become wobbly and wavy under our feet. It’s especially tough at a time when a great deal else feels uncertain: the possibility of owning a home, or scraping together enough money for soaring rents, or holding on to any given job, or even knowing how much the basics of life are going to cost week to week. It’s all tilting and rolling, and so much, like the assumed predictability of seasons, will never be stable again, at least not for several generations, and that is in a best-case scenario. All of this destabilization places demands on us: to change, to reassess, and to reimagine who we need to become. It should not be a surprise that a moment this demanding is conjuring up some extreme behaviors and apparitions.

That’s common ground. We can all agree on that and know what we all feel. That’s a starting point.

p205 – “Change requires collaboration and coalition, even (especially) uncomfortable coalition.”

And before you scoff, (p207) conspiracy theories are both symptoms of confusion and powerlessness and tools of division and distraction that benefit elites.
If we call others ‘stupid’ or ‘insane’ because we know about science and FLOSS and the facts and we’re so intellectual, then we fall into exactly the same trap and the elites still win.

“Trump’s people”, or, “diagonolists” as Klein references them, because they cut sideways across the political spectrum with odd alliances, (p215) “still believe in the idea of changing reality, an ambition that I fear too many on this side of the glass have lost. We shouldn’t make up facts like they do, but we should stop treating a great many human-made systems—like monarchies and supreme courts and borders and billionaires—as immutable and unchangeable. Because everything some humans created can be changed by other humans. And if our present systems threaten life to its very core, and they do, then they must be changed.

Building better systems and structures

The book ends with this paragraph. Great paragraph, but this is where a book or a thing should START. How do we go from here? Give me the action plan.
p215- Vertigo invades when the world we thought we knew no longer holds. The known world is crumbling. That’s okay. It was an edifice stitched together with denial and disavowal, with unseeing and unknowing, with mirrors and shadows. It needed to crash. Now, in the rubble, we can make something more reliable, more worthy of our trust, more able to survive the coming shocks.

p211: What kind of system is most likely to light up the best parts of all of us—and sustain the fire beyond a protest, or a summer uprising, or a presidential campaign?
And how do we get there, step by step? What is our “10 step plan” that is as easy as refusing to wear a mask in public or refusing the vaccine, but actually makes sense?

The pages after 211 are annoying. There’s quotes from Sally Weintrobe, a psychoanalyst who specializes in the climate crisis, which starts promising with “I believe the starting point for building a more caring society,” … and then ends in a puddle of “never forgetting that care and uncare are inherent parts of us all,” and “we need better structures and systems.” Well no shit Sherlock.

There is mention of the democratic socialism that Rosa Luxemburg imagined as the only alternative to barbarism. I should look into that.

The bits that gets lauded as good examples sound terrible to me, and I feel myself radicalising. At first glance, comments like “It seems vital to consider what forms of care, treatment, and assistance this age of disability will require.” and ““environmentalism of the injured: the insistence on fighting for a world in which the injured can flourish.” (p213) makes me want to punch someone. I don’t want to sit and kumbaya in a circle. The point of course is not that the strong are in the wrong or have to carry everyone else, the point is we are all disabled and injured in this neoliberal system (which gave me an idea for the game mechanic), but I can’t help feel that we value victims more than people who contribute. And so I feel like those diagonalists.

Volunteering on common ground, across difference

We were talking last night about justifying flying. For me, 1) it’s a neoliberal con to individualise contributions that should need a unified approach (aka government needs to tax the rich and be held accountable, and I think we should hack their systems and just do it ourselves if they don’t), so it’s a very easy way to distract us from actively resisting neoliberalism by worrying about our air miles,and 2) while we should be thoughtful about how much and for what reasons we fly, if we are attending hacks and sprints and actively working together to provide these “better structures and systems.” well, that’s worth flying for.

But then Simon countered that Canonical, the parent company of Ubuntu (similar to how Microsoft owns Windows) builds a lot of things that Google and Facebook and these “bad companies” use. And there are many in Debian, for example, who scoff at or actively reject Ubuntu for that reason. Well folks, that’s shooting ourselves in the foot. We are so eager to splinter off to stay “ideologically pure” and morally superior that we end up being idiots freezing our morally superior arses off in the cold.

This is exactly what Klein talks about. p207: Stuck in the realm of words, we will never run out of reasons to fracture. But when we take action to change material circumstances … those tensions do not disappear, but they are often balanced by the recognition of shared interests, the pleasures of camaraderie, and, occasionally, the thrill of victory.

p78: Left movements often behave in ways that are neither inclusive nor caring.

p78: there is something else that I have noticed while listening to Bannon—he sticks, fairly judiciously, to the issues where there is the most common ground: hating Biden, rejecting vaccines, bashing Big Tech, fearmongering about migrants, casting doubt on election results. He skates lightly over more traditionally conservative issues that he may care about but that are likely to alienate some of his newfound friends, including abortion and gun rights. He doesn’t ignore them, but they don’t take up nearly as much airtime as one might expect.
This, once again, is the opposite of what happens on large parts of the left. When we have differences, we tend to focus on them obsessively, finding as many opportunities as possible to break apart.

p206: If our situation seems uniquely challenging (and on bad days, borderline hopeless), it likely has to do with how much we have come to expect from our individual selves combined with the brokenness of structures—trade unions, close-knit neighborhoods, functioning local media, and so on—that once made it easier to do things together. It’s our fragmentation that daunts us, as much as the challenges themselves.

p206: None of these changes will happen fast enough until more of us figure out how to soften the borders around our individual selves and around our various identity groups to allow for a coming together in common cause.

So how do we get more people into volunteering that actively builds a better world? This is the biggest why, why I am doing what I’m doing – building a game.

(A bit of a rant about how it’s not working)

Why do I feel welcome in OMI, the open metaverse interoperability group where we are all for open, but we don’t really get into the details, if it’s on github we’re happy, basically, and if a proprietary product is good we pay for it and basically it’s a balls to the wall hustle. But I do not feel welcome in Debian, even after 8 years of helping out with socially organising stuff. Last week I shared a project with a Debian friend. I think the project is really cool and I want to help out with and integrating into my game. So I shared it with this person as a cool, look what I found, and hoping we can shape and structure it so it complies with FLOSS principles to fit with Debian. Instead, and maybe he was just having an off day, but it’s a pretty predictable and typical response from Debian people, to be frank, he replied with “thanks, but still smells a lot like consumption not collaboration”. Well, it’s a start-up, the guy (and me) lives off savings and we’d like to build something that makes money to live off. I just *also* want a sister platform that is fully compatible and interoperable and fits with Debian. I AM about collaboration, I AM here, and that should be enough for him. Let me deal with if the guy is consumption oriented or not. But I am tired of dealing with this, I haven’t replied to him since. We don’t grow the community like that. And we all acknowledge that we do this but somehow we don’t get our heads out of our arses and change our behaviour, and I am more likely to be kicked out for being fast and loose than changing anything, so I’m more likely to splinter off and do my own thing, aaaaand the cycle continues.

I feel like we need the glue to jell the ideological projects together. My role in OMI seems to involve chatting to a lot of people and then seeing, hey, this little part of your project here in this corner is perfect for this little hole in my project here. But no thanks, keep your blockchain to yourself. This ability of your data integration is really useful to me in my platform, but keep your whatever that thing is, thanks. I love your museum and I can help with that, but keep your people stuff, that’s too much for me. I feel like we discount an entire person if they, say, like blockchain. Or if they use google maps rather than OpenStreetMaps or whatever. Maybe we just need random clueless people to be the glue, to do their silly things – and here, I am speaking of myself, definitely. I’m random and clueless. Maybe we don’t need to try educate me or try to convert me to the wonders of FOSS. I showed up dammit, now let’s do stuff! Think about what is serving people’s immediate needs rather than trying to “serve” our abstract needs of FLOSS because you think it’s important. (reading this draft post a week later, the design workshop at the Ubuntu Summit spoke about this “glue bit” too. Yay!)

Finding common goals

p208 When individuals organize toward a goal, they discover not only that they share interests with people who might look (and vote) very differently from them but also that a new sense of power flows from this alliance. “The struggles we engage in create the potential and possibilities of uniting because it clarifies what’s at stake and how we might overcome it,” Taylor explained.

Something else changes, too: when our actions begin to integrate with our beliefs, when we are doing some of the work that we know needs to be done, we have less need for the various doubles our culture offers up disguised as a good life.

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