Posted by: goatberg | April 11, 2008

Food For Thought

Disclaimer: This could be my last post here for a while. 

Taken from The C-Realm, Episode 86 around minute 50, a reading from Thomas Homer Dixon‘s The Upside of Down.

We can’t know exactly what breakdown will look like, and we don’t know when it will happen, but we can start figuring out now how we’ll respond. In vigorous, wide ranging yet disciplined conversation among ourselves we can develop scenarios of what kinds of break down could occur. In this conversation, we shouldn’t be afraid to think “outside the box”; to try to imagine the unimaginable. Because in a non-linear world under great pressure we’re certain to make wrong predictions if we just extrapolate from current trends. Then we need to lay down plans and orgainze ourselves so that we’re prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that various types of breakdown might offer to build a better world. For instance, depending on the scenario, we might plan to aggresively disseminate information through the itnernet, mass media, and social networks to frame the rapidly changing situaion in a humane and constructive way, or we might plan non-violent distruption of efforts by extremists to organize themselves, or we might organize and coordinate mass civil disobedience like the kind we’ve seen recently in democratice popular protests in the Serbia and the Ukraine. In general, we can be sure that when breakdown happens, we’ll be much better off if we have contigency plans ready to go. In preparing for breakdown, we need to keep one thing in the forefront of our minds: people who aren’t extremists face a huge disadvantage in any kind of political struggle with extremists. To use the jargon of social scientists, non-extremists have a formidible “collective action problem.” They are rarely organized into coherent groups and thus find it hard to act in a coordinated way. They differ widely in their values and perspectives, and they vary in the strength of commitment to political and social causes. Extremists, on the other hand, are often orgainzed in coherent and well coordinated groups that have clear goals, distinct identities and strong internal bonds that have grown around a shared radical idealogy. As a result they can mobilize resources and power effectively. Also, since extremists usually believe that their ends justify any means, they’re williing to be violent and ruthless to get what they want. Faced with such adversaries, people who aren’t extremists must work hard to build bonds of trust and understanding among themselves, and lay down action plans for a wide range of possible futures.



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