Fighting the ‘Cybermob’!

‘Tropes vs. Women in Video Games’ creator Anita Sarkeesian talks about sexual harassment in cyber space and video games. With patriarchy, discrimination and harassment part of the day to day existence of most women, it didn’t take long for cyberspace to embrace the same! Read about her experience “climbing out of a ‘cybermob’”… ! (click on […]

Happiness

I’ve been feeling a little down all of this year. When I started this programme, I made a conscious decision to stay away from activism because I wanted to spend all my time intellectualizing. This was going really well in the beginning: I quickly came to be known to my peers as ‘theory girl’ (not really, but I think this word captures the general sentiment) who says words like flexibilization (yes, Candlelight, I went there!) and reification when hanging out at the IDS bar on a Friday night. But something was missing: I wasn’t in my element.

I didn’t realize how sad I was until I started feeling really happy and energized a few weeks ago. It started off with mobilizing IDS folks to sign a letter of support for the Occupy Sussex campaign and working on a film on the marginalization of gender in teaching and research at IDS. But it was really during the Rainbow Week of Unruliness when I felt happiest. There is something unique about disrupting the course of your own everyday space with a collective which sparks a feeling of agency and happiness.

Getting together will a fearless bunch of unrulistas to use our highly sophisticated senses of humour and our ability to print stuff all the while challenging the hierarchical, patriarchal and exploitative way our everyday community is run was truly exhilarating. While we never fully decided on what our overall ideology, aims and objectives were, there was still an unspoken sense of solidarity I felt throughout this process. This makes me think of Hannah Arendt’s understanding of looking at interests in collective political action as as an intimate reliance on others around you. So the need for collective action is not a mere strategy to achieve critical mass to overthrow structures of power. Instead, being political in collectives is part of a basic human need to express our own material interests and have them recognized by others. So I guess this is a long-winded of saying that happiness for me is necessarily in the political collective and that I’m feeling happy right now.Thank you unrulistas!

Posted by HA

Action // Reflection

This is an attempt to reflect on the last few days of action. It might be a rather rambling blog – apologies.

Let them call me rebel and welcome, I feel no concern about it;

But I should suffer the misery of devils, were I to make a whore of my soul

Thomas Paine, The Crisis

Tom Paine’s words are used as the dedication for Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. I trained as a community organiser in the mode of Alinsky, who agitated his way across the US from the 1930s onwards, and began the spread of community organising ideas across the nation. For organisers, the value of these ‘rules’ is in how far you can make sense of them in your life, for your experience: how far you can tell a story about them, and use them to plan action or reflect with others. Personally, I think that’s a good perspective to have for any theory: how much can you make sense of it for you? How far does it affect what you do?

One of Alinsky’s lessons is, ‘any negative, if you push it far enough to its extreme, becomes a positive’. I’d puzzled on this for a while, but never really understood what it meant. I think I do now, after a conversation with a fellow student yesterday.

What we had wanted to do as a group was create a space for open discussion, conversation, sharing etc, which had the potential for organising. What we had was two weeks to do it in. Our initial conversations had centred around organising a general assembly. Unrulistas pointed out there wasn’t time to organise this properly, or to speak to everyone, and wouldn’t it be a bit boring? Why not something playful and fun, a referendum? So the very thing we were after – a democratic process, lots of conversations, openness – became the opposite – an exercise in messages appearing without consultation, announcements, suspicion. But in doing so we opened up that space where conversations about accountability, democracy, openness, the community and the collective could happen – and further organising towards that could be achieved. I’ve finally understood what it means to push a negative to the extreme, until it breaks through to be a positive.

The ultimate lesson from all this action, for me, is the power of the collective. This is one of the reasons, for me, that participation is so important – more heads, more ideas, more points of view, more understandings of the world: this means better ideas, more sensitive decisions, better outcomes. I’m not pretending we achieved that this week – lots of voices were excluded, accidentally, not least those of staff around the building. It’s something we’re keen to work on. But the lesson remains: we necessarily need to speak to more people when organising actions. Collegiality, if you will. The mix of our four temperaments, interests, language, how comfortable we were with tension, all these kept us in balance.

The specific collective organising strategy we used was, personally, one of the most interesting and valuable things about the action. We didn’t define a group, who’s in or out – we had meetings, shared documents and emails. To me it felt like if you came to meetings and started acting, you were involved. In the beginning there were many, by the end, four (although we’re still part of a broader unruly group, and I hope it opens out again). We didn’t allocate tasks to people – we took them on and did them as we saw fit. If someone suggested something to do, but they didn’t do it and no one thought it was crucial to do, it didn’t happen. We didn’t ‘sign off’ on statements, although we did check in with each other. We took responsibility for ourselves. Pragmatism, not process, drove us – with strong values that underpinned them. To me, the brilliant fluidity, flexibility (not to mention challenge and tension) came from this. None of this we planned – it emerged. I don’t even know if others share this point of view! I only noticed it in my reactions to people’s interventions in different ways, or expectations of different ways of organising in different groups (e.g. having tasks allocated to you). It did require lots of ‘checking in’ with each other, and at the height of action a couple of people, myself included, did send anxious messages checking we were stepping outside of the bounds of the group – when in reality, I think, we didn’t have bounds, aside from those we were constantly negotiating. Our face-to-face meetings were crucial for setting the tone of the action. We’re going to reflect on this more this afternoon, I hope, so I’ll leave it for now.

A final note: one tired reflection that had us in stitches for a while was, “the question really is, ‘is it better to do or not do’”. As silly as the framing is, there’s a point to it I think – a lesson about action. Many of us took such energy and joy from this action, it makes me more convinced there is intrinsic value in exercising your agency and doing something. And both despite and because of all the risk and all the tension, it is through ‘doing something’ that things change.

I know the following words are about suicide: but flip the verb and the meaning and they are an interesting reflection on action: 

To do or not to do – that is the question:

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them…

 

…Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprise of great pitch and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry

And lose the name of action.

William Shakespeare, Hamlet Act 3 Scene 1

 

Political moments are there to be seized.

 

Posted by Candlelight

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Ps. As I’m writing this a brilliant interaction is occurring on the train between an American woman asking about government fear-mongering, and an older British lady with a younger woman with her – they are now talking about this act of talking. It’s making me think about public spaces, what they mean to us and how we interact in them….. and also making me laugh in the (British?) way of having two different conversations at the same time: they are discussing how people are afraid of eccentrics talking on and on at you, both are agreeing with each other. I’m not sure the eccentric lady going on and on at her fellow passengers realises the subtext!

No time for revolution

I’m looking at my dairy’s page for the last week at IDS. It’s all covered with ‘serious’ thing to cope with, written with pen, pencil, in bold, highlighted, written horizontally, vertically can diagonally over other things and ending with a farewell party, woohoo! The end of the term actually made me started thinking that combining work, family, enjoying foreign culture and full-time degree in English may be not the wisest idea ever. But it’s not missed classes that make me sad.

Through all these seven months I was always too busy to engage with the political life at Uni and in Brighton.  I didn’t find a time to fully understand the anti-privatization case, didn’t meet with No Dash for Gas folks, and learned so little from our own ironical revolution, what a shame!

While I hope my classmates will forgive my half-presence at times and my teachers would tolerate my running into class 10 minutes late, there’s a lesson I learned from this busyness. The people you want to involve in a fight are also busy! They have children, parents, loans, dogs, dentists… Lots of people are much less privileged than me in terms of independence and free time. So you should always consider how those busy people can join the cause. To organize brief meeting instead of long, to have online petition for those who can’t come to even a short event, to send badges by post for those who don’t have time for internet. If people have 1 minute a day for revolution, lets think what meaningful can we propose them for this minute. So that everyone has time for revolution!

[picture taken from here

By MM

IDS Referendum Results

http://unrulypolitics.tumblr.com/dayofrevolution

Total number of voters: 133 (online and paper ballots)

1.Do you think the work-points system should be abolished to foster a more conducive environment for the production of critical, creative, innovative and cross-cutting knowledge? 

YES – 76%

NO – 24%

2.Do you think that IDS should be run as a horizontal, direct democracy where values of equality, diversity, and healthy debate are strived for?

YES- 71%

NO- 29%

 

3.Research shows that the reputation of fancy institutes matters. Given your experience at IDS, would you dissuade a friend from coming here?

YES- 24%

NO- 76%