April 14, 2013

A "ten-year plan" of activism

Last year, I devised what I called a "ten-year plan" of activism for myself to help build towards participatory economy. I'd like to share that plan here:

Step One - Write a blog consistently to chronicle it all. (Status: Done!) :-)

Step Two - Devise some database, or simulacrum, or role-playing game of sorts, for a participatory economy. The idea is to show to ourselves (that is, parecon advocates) that the idea, frankly, is worth pursuing. If it's not, we can drop the idea and look for something else. Plus, we can use this as a testing grounds of sorts to show for various circumstances and find things we didn't foresee or imagine. (Status; I'm currently working on it; I've got a database schema drawn up and I'm presently building up the databases. I hope to share a skeletal framework and a small example or examples in a few days. I'll call for help to populate them, but one thing at a time...)

Step Three - Devise some kind of outright tangible economics playoff. There are resources and pages, like those on ZNet, that do a comparison between on the one hand the unholy trinity of markets, capitalism, and corporations, with parecon on the other hand. But if we can somehow show a comparison of sorts between the two, building on the testing grounds idea in Step Two, I think we can convince more people. The playoff could be done using the ideas of what's called agent-based computational economics -- devising a simulated computer economy with the same "players" playing different "games" (that is, one person or society in a participatory economy, another in a market/corporate/capitalist hellscape), showing the outcome and comparisons between the two, and using this as a teaching tool (disguised perhaps as some clever game).

Step Four - Craft some kind of epic fictional story or novel set in a participatory economy. (Rumor has it that one noted sci-fi author is apparently doing something along these very lines; we'll hopefully see the results soon.) This is harder than it looks, but if successful can have huge payoffs. For one, a good fictional envisioning would require some grounding in the real word, and that would require research -- perhaps as much research as writing a nonfiction work. Even so, an envisioning is bound to get things wrong, embarrassingly so in some instances. The history of predictions is littered with howlers. ("It's very hard to predict things. Especially the future.") That's why I think we must test the ideas we want to espouse first and learn about problems or concerns with them first before putting them in a wider arena and getting our lessons back in a more public and more painful manner. What's more, fiction can be a useful vector. If we can disguise our ideas correctly, we can hopefully have a better chance to smuggle them into the stories that can pass through corporate media filters that would normally block such ideas outright. After all, it worked for Star Trek...

Step Five -- What I call "The Patton Maneuver": to convert an existing well- known institution into a participatory framework. I cite here the idea brought for by Eric Patton in his essay "Winning", where he suggests the idea of converting an institution into a participatory example that can't be ignored anymore by the dominant culture or for that matter even by opponents of the dominant culture (who themselves sometimes have a vested stake in current circumstances). I find the idea intriguing, but in order to build towards it, we have to make such ideas thinkable, preferably pointing to examples (even if fictional) that can spur such action and enable that hoped- for "snowball effect".

There is one thing about this plan that I'd like to mention. It doesn't entail a whole lot of what might be typically construed as "activism"; no protests, no marches, no signs, no dramatic arrests. It's a lot of writing, thinking, and arguably some computer programming (the last of which I admit is due to a personal bias of my own since my job is programming computers). But the goal is progress, and we've seen that "typical" activism doesn't always work. Ten years ago, on February 15, 2003, the world staged the largest ever mass-protest against a war (the 2003 escalation of the War in Iraq) before the war even formally launched, not to mention other marches, signs, arrests, and so on -- but the war happened anyway. Sometimes, you need to take a step back in order to take two steps forward, and that's what this "ten-year plan" is all about.

And for anyone reading this plan: Feel free to steal any parts of this plan. :-)