A GULP (!) of Utopia 1

[A long thingo of mine I wrote ten years ago, masquerading as a poem. Self-explanatory I hope. I love manifestos. This is part A, the Vision. Part two, on Strategy and Tactics, shall follow tomorrow. The graphic above is a situationist classic from Paris 1968. Enjoy.]

A GULP (!) OF UTOPIA

A contribution to discussion on a positive program
for the international alternative globalisation movement

A map that does not contain utopia is not worth having.
– Oscar Wilde
The twentieth century, in its violence, has brought about the marriage of Poetry and History.
– Helene Cixous

One fine day in the middle of the night 20 million people woke up to fight.
And they said: ‘Well, that’s it. I’ve had enough’
And they got together in Mass Assemblies of the Annoyed and Sleepless
And let out one big collective sigh of frustration.
And then one big collective sigh of annoyance.
And then one big collective sigh of anger.
And then one big collective sigh of relief.
And then one big collective sigh of clarity.

And then they got down to business.

And after about a year of deliberation and celebration
and fighting and fractioning and mass daydreaming,
they came up with their GRAND ULTIMATE LATERAL PLAN
(GULP !) to save their souls, the planet and a humane future
and to discreetly smash capitalism
which now, for the edification of all, follows.

GULP !

Preamble

To our sisters and brothers on all continents!
The Federated Mass Assemblies of the Bioregional Republic of Australia,
gathered here in the Murrumbidgee Bioregion (formerly Canberra),
wish to submit the following Grand Ultimate Lateral Plan (GULP)
to save the human soul & planet
for their perusal, discussion, stimulation & delight
& for their further modification & re-use
in the light of their own cultural, social & ecological realities.

A. The Vision

Our Vision is based on the three pillars of
Sustainability, Spirit, & Human Rights.

These over-arching notions aim to cover the relationships
between the three basic elements of current human reality:
Nature, the Individual & Society,
the primary triad.

1. Sustainability

By this we mean ecological sustainability.
Anything that is not ecologically sustainable
at least unto the seventh generation
has, from nature’s viewpoint, literally no future
(this viewpoint we now recognize as our own).
It should thus be eliminated or phased out. Now.

Nature & her criteria (‘ecological indicators’)
can often be a touchstone, providing centering
& clarification & the potential for consensus.
A smooth, firm, maternal kind of touchstone
when we otherwise tend to get a little lost
in the often shortsighted, egoic & heady swirls
of our wonderfully, typically, human conflicts & discussions.

So what are nature’s criteria?

After much debate we have tentatively come up with
the following general key question to ask
of any current practice or proposal :
is a development, activity, product, technology, lifestyle….
energy-intensive, water-intensive or material-intensive
at any point of its life cycle ?

If so, then its ecological footprint will be too large
for the planet to sustain in the long run.
Future generations will be left with a diminished planet.
It will also be at the expense of the health
& well-being of someone or something
somewhere on the planet right now.

If we do not have full knowledge at present
about any development’s full cumulative long-term impact,
but that impact could be irreversible,
then we shall also not permit that development.

All research & development will be publicly debated
within the framework of these fundamental criteria.

Nationally & globally we are in ‘overshoot’ :
that is, some of us (in particular the wealthier)
are consuming more resources & emitting more wastes
than our biosphere can cope with, while others
& future generations are left with the degradation & loss.

All this has been well known since at least the 1970s.
Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD)
is now official government policy on this continent.
Its implications are radical & question the very basis
of the current system we live & work under.
We aim to fulfil those implications.

Sooner or later this will mean dismantling capitalism,
its power structures & hold over our collective psyches.
The later, the more difficult it will be to save
& build upon what’s left
of nature & humane community.

Sustainability can thus not be separated
from the other two pillars of our vision,
Spirit & Human Rights.

2. Spirit

By this we mean the infinite depth,
complexity, paradoxicality, ambiguity,
subtlety, unpredictability, & sheer
wonderfully stubborn contrariness
of human nature, the glory of the individual,
the hands-on everyday spirituality
beyond all dogma & religion
that all live & breathe by,
whether they know it or not.

This is precious, both at the centre
of all our deliberations & absent from them.
The silence behind our words.
The immense dark around our brave little lights.
The gap between the lines. The poetry pulsating
under our prose. ‘The still point of the turning world’.

Our revolt comes from there.
Our solutions come from there.

We do not wish to continue to live
under an economic & political world order
that is not only planet-, but soul-destroying.

Although essentially always free, the spirit
can only really breathe when all are free.
And this, to us, would seem to imply
a different world of human-scale,
nature-grounded communities linked
in global solidarity
radically implementing human rights,
in particular the right to creativity
& meaningful work for all who want it.

The spirit being what it is,
we have no wish to prescribe
One Big Solution, One Big Truth,
One Big Story for ever & for all.
We know the universe is 95% Dark Energy.
So too, the spirit is deep, dark, diverse,
like the universe, of which it is the more internal form.

Like the universe, like nature,
spirit can never be really straightjacketed
or externally controlled. Its power is beyond all Power.
It can only be respected, listened to,
protected from controlling interference
of whatever provenance (even, perhaps especially,
the well-intentioned & ‘political’…).

Spirit cannot be legislated for or against,
but it can in-form legislation, governance, community.
Its language is often that of symbols & aesthetics,
the forms, the ways, the style in which we do things.
Politics ignores it at its own peril.

We want a democratic politics of sustainability
informed by spirit, but a mature politics
that is no longer blind to its own shadows,
conflicts, contradictions & thus has no need
for demonising projections or scapegoats.
Nor a need for naive, harmonising denials
of real power structures & their human carriers.

We want a mature politics of liberty & diversity,
humour & seriousness, complexity & awareness.
Of spirit.

3. Human Rights

By this we mean the definition as accepted in 1948
(after the dreadful lesson of a world war)
by the world’s communities in the United Nations’
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The notion of universal human rights
is the West’s lasting contribution
to the global democratic culture
now more clearly emerging
since the fall of the soviet empire.

This notion did not fall from the sky
or intellectuals’ heads. Human rights
are the development & summation
of almost four hundred years
of (often bloody) social struggle
since the English, American, French,
Russian & Spanish Revolutions.
Liberty, Equality & Fraternity
have now been extended & specified
in a large number of human rights.

Central to these are the rights to democracy:
to civil liberties, free political activity, the rule of law
& the absence of any form of discrimination.

Equally central are the rights to social justice:
to equal access to the means of securing a livelihood,
to meaningful work, education, housing & health.

Are these human rights compatible with our current system?
We think that both democracy & social justice
can be as little realized within capitalism
as can ecological sustainability or spiritual well-being.

Democracy cannot be realized
because the ultimate major decisions affecting people’s lives,
the very shape & texture
of those lives & societies
are not made openly & publicly
in democratic conflict & debate.

These decisions are not made politically & morally, but economically.
They are made by so-called ‘markets’ & ‘corporations’,
that is within distant invisible boardrooms
by unelected, faceless people accountable to no one
but the mega rich owners of capital.

These few decide where & where not capital & resources
will flow & how things will be produced.
These few thus automatically also decide
who will bear the costs & who the benefits.

This is the real source of all social power.
It is also undemocratic, a form of structural violence.

These few decide which areas, products, services, technologies
will be researched & developed and which will not.
These products, services, technologies, jobs then determine
the very fabric & form of everyday life for the millions,
much more than any politicians’ decisions.
These products, services, technologies
also very often tend to be highly detrimental
or completely ruinous to the planet’s health.

We were never asked whether or not to develop
nuclear weapons and power plants,
biocides, asbestos, PVC, PCB, CFC, dioxins,
thousands of other highly toxic chemicals,
genetic engineering, cloning, patents on life forms,
animal factories & feedlots, mass private transport,
expensive high-tech medicine, total ‘free’ trade.
We were never asked whether or not to develop
renewable energy systems, public transport systems,
organic farming, preventative grass roots health care,
fair trade, self-managed factories and schools.

None of this was ever democratically debated
in any country, ‘free’ or ‘socialist’.
We, our grandchildren & the planet’s beings
are now all hostages to these past decisions
made undemocratically behind closed doors
by interlocking political & money elites.

If unchecked, the world created by them
will end up where it is headed:
to the increasing elimination
of nature, human nature & community
as we have known them since the dawn of time.

These are the stakes.

Thus, to implement democracy,
safeguard & extend human rights
& ensure ecological sustainability,
communities will sooner or later have to
confront the socially central issue of Power :
they will have to find forms
of democratically gaining control over
the key form of power: over investment decisions.

That is, they will have to democratically
debate & decide on what will be produced
& how & at what cost to whom & what when.

They will have to decide how access to
& distribution of necessary work, products, income,
services & technologies will be implemented.

If history is any guide,
this will necessarily entail
a power struggle of some kind or other
with the current holders of these decision-making privileges,
the owners of capital & their political representatives.

Nor can social justice be realised under capitalism.
Eco- & people-centered development is incompatible
with profit- & power-centered development.
Global wealth has now accumulated & concentrated
to such an incredible extent that a mere 100 or 200 individuals
now own as much as almost half of humanity. It is now
‘Two Hundred Pharaohs and Five Billion Slaves’.

However, this is also the good news.
It means that ‘free communism’ (in its original sense)
is now objectively possible.
Enough social wealth has been accumulated
to provide a basic living for all.

A guaranteed minimum income at subsistence level,
for example, could now be provided for all,
whether they worked or not, not as a handout, but as a right.

Such a generalized ‘social wage’ would allow people
freedom from the daily struggle for survival
freedom from the compulsion to sell oneself
freedom from material fear
& thus the time & the space
that is so desperately needed for personal well-being,
for both active democracy & civil society to function,
for the gradual regeneration of community,
families, spirit & the biosphere.

The ‘good society’ of personal & social creativity
could, for the first time in history,
become more than the prerogative of elites
whose leisure has hitherto always been bought
at the expense of others’ labour or outright exploitation,
of nature’s degradation & diminishment.

The above vision informs our Way of Getting There,
our strategies & tactics.

[to be continued]

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~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on February 8, 2012.

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