“I love not man the less, but Nature more.” A collection of resources on writer and activist George Monbiot
"The narrative we build has to be simple and intelligible. If it is to transform our politics, it should appeal to as many people as possible, crossing traditional political lines. It should resonate with deep needs and desires."
In his latest book 'Out Of The Wreckage: a new politics for an age of crisis' George Monbiot, outlines his blueprint for a new politics - a vision that overcomes fear and despair with hope and imgination, a vision that certainly chimes with our findings after a summer of taking Campfire Conversations out on the road around the UK and, I suspect a great deal of our co-conspirators out there.
I've certainly sensed that most of our so-called political leaders in both our leading parties have mostly lacked the ideas and inspiration - in short, the imagination to start to bring about the paradigm shift that is needed.
So I've picked out some of the salient points from his latest blog How Do We Get Out of This Mess? and from this can confidently say that this is the most important book of the year - a call to arms that neatly summarises how the silent majority can rise up and change the narrative.
The beginnings of a new order, he writes, are based around networks, altruism, empathy and deep connection and and eschewing big data, big spend budgets and big staff "Rather than relying on big spending, big data and a big staff, it uses proliferating networks of volunteers, who train and supervise more volunteers, to carry out the tasks usually reserved for staff."
Restoration stories are what is needed, he suggests.
"I came to the second, more interesting, observation with the help of the writer and organiser George Marshall. It is this. Although the stories told by social democracy and neoliberalism are starkly opposed to each other, they have the same narrative structure. We could call it the Restoration Story. It goes like this:
Disorder afflicts the land, caused by powerful and nefarious forces working against the interests of humanity. The hero – who might be one person or a group of people – revolts against this disorder, fights the nefarious forces, overcomes them despite great odds and restores order.
Stories that follow this pattern can be so powerful that they sweep all before them: even our fundamental values. For example, two of the world’s best-loved and most abiding narratives – Lord of the Rings and the Narnia series – invoke values that were familiar in the Middle Ages but are generally considered repulsive today. Disorder in these stories is characterised by the usurpation of rightful kings or their rightful heirs; justice and order rely on their restoration. We find ourselves cheering the resumption of autocracy, the destruction of industry and even, in the case of Narnia, the triumph of divine right over secular power.
If these stories reflected the values most people profess – democracy, independence, industrial “progress” – the rebels would be the heroes and the hereditary rulers the villains. We overlook the conflict with our own priorities because the stories resonate so powerfully with the narrative structure for which our minds are prepared. Facts, evidence, values, beliefs: stories conquer all."
Put simply, we've failed to replace the neoliberal narrative :
"the narrative structure of the Restoration Story is a common element in most successful political transformations, including many religious revolutions. This led inexorably to the fourth insight: the reason why, despite its multiple and manifest failures, we appear to be stuck with neoliberalism is that we have failed to produce a new narrative with which to replace it."
"The neoliberal story explains that the world fell into disorder as a result of the collectivising tendencies of the over-mighty state, exemplified by the monstrosities of Stalinism and Nazism, but evident in all forms of state planning and all attempts to engineer social outcomes. Collectivism crushes freedom, individualism and opportunity. Heroic entrepreneurs, mobilising the redeeming power of the market, would fight this enforced conformity, freeing society from the enslavement of the state. Order would be restored in the form of free markets, delivering wealth and opportunity, guaranteeing a prosperous future for everyone. The ordinary people of the land, released by the heroes of the story (the freedom-seeking entrepreneurs) would triumph over those who had oppressed them."
"You cannot take away someone’s story without giving them a new one. It is not enough to challenge an old narrative, however outdated and discredited it may be. Change happens only when you replace it with another. When we develop the right story, and learn how to tell it, it will infect the minds of people across the political spectrum."
"The narrative we build has to be simple and intelligible. If it is to transform our politics, it should appeal to as many people as possible, crossing traditional political lines. It should resonate with deep needs and desires. It should explain the mess we are in and means by which we might escape it. And, because there is nothing to be gained from spreading falsehoods, it must be firmly grounded in reality.
This might sound like a tall order. But there is, I believe, a clear and compelling Restoration Story to be told that fits this description."
"With the help of this ideology, and the neoliberal narrative used to project it, we have lost our common purpose. This leads in turn to a loss of belief in ourselves as a force for change, frustrating our potential to do what humans do best: to find common ground in confronting our predicaments, and to unite to overcome them. Our atomisation has allowed intolerant and violent forces to fill the political vacuum. We are trapped in a vicious circle of alienation and reaction. The hypersocial mammal is falling apart."
Monbiot then gets onto the really important part - the solutions :
"But by coming together to revive community life we, the heroes of this story, can break the vicious circle. Through invoking our capacity for togetherness and belonging, we can rediscover the central facts of our humanity: our altruism and mutual aid. By reviving community, built around the places in which we live, and by anchoring ourselves, our politics and parts of our economy in the life of this community, we can restore the best aspects of our nature."
"Where there is atomisation, we will create a thriving civic life. Where there is alienation, we will forge a new sense of belonging: to neighbours, neighbourhood and society. Community projects will proliferate into a vibrant participatory culture. New social enterprises will strengthen our sense of attachment and ownership."
"Where we find ourselves crushed between market and state, we will develop a new economics, that treats both people and planet with respect. We will build it around a great, neglected economic sphere: the commons. Local resources will be owned and managed by communities, ensuring that wealth is widely shared. Using common riches to fund universal benefits will supplement state provision, granting everyone security and resilience."
"Where we are ignored and exploited, we will revive democracy and retrieve politics from those who have captured it. New methods and rules for elections will ensure that every vote counts and financial power can never vanquish political power. Representative democracy will be reinforced by participatory democracy, that allows us to refine our political choices. Decision-making will be returned to the smallest political units that can discharge it."
"The strong, embedded cultures we develop will be robust enough to accommodate social diversity of all kinds: a diversity of people, of origins, of life experiences, of ideas and ways of living. We will no longer need to fear people who differ from ourselves; we will have the strength and confidence to reject attempts to channel hatred towards them."
"Through restoring community, renewing civic life and claiming our place in the world, we build a society in which our extraordinary nature – our altruism, empathy and deep connection – is released. A kinder world stimulates and normalises our kinder values. I propose a name for this story: the Politics of Belonging."
"Some of this can begin without waiting for a change of government: one of the virtues of a politics rooted in community is that you do not need a national movement in order to begin. But other aspects of this programme depend on wider political change. This too might sound like an improbable hope – until you begin to explore some of the remarkable things that have been happening in the United States."
"The Big Organising model developed by the campaign to elect Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee is potentially transformative. Rather than relying on big spending, big data and a big staff, it uses proliferating networks of volunteers, who train and supervise more volunteers, to carry out the tasks usually reserved for staff. While Hillary Clinton’s campaign was organising money, the Sanders campaign was organising people. By the end of the nomination process, more than 100,000 people had been recruited. Between them, they ran 100,000 events and spoke to 75 million voters.
"His bid for the nomination was a giant live experiment, most of whose methods were developed on the job. Those who ran it report that by the time they stumbled across the strategy that almost won, it was too late. Had it been activated a few months earlier, the volunteer network could have abandoned all forms of targeting and contacted almost every adult in the USA. If the techniques they developed were used from the outset, they could radically alter the prospects of any campaign for a better world.
"When, after reading a book by two of Sanders’s organisers, I argued in a video for the Guardian that this method could be used to transform the prospects of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party, I was widely mocked. But it turned out to be true. By adopting elements of the Sanders strategy, Labour, supported by Momentum, almost won an election that was widely predicted to be a Conservative landslide. And the method that propelled this shift is still in its infancy.
"But none of this will generate meaningful and lasting change unless it is used to support a new, coherent political narrative.
"Those who want a kinder politics know we have, in theory at least, the numbers on our side. Most people are socially-minded, empathetic and altruistic. Most people would prefer to live in a world in which everyone is treated with respect and decency, and in which we do not squander either our own lives or the natural gifts on which we and the rest of the living world depend. But a small handful, using lies and distractions and confusion, stifle this latent desire for change.
We know that, if we can mobilise such silent majorities, there is nothing this small minority can do to stop us. But because we have failed to understand what is possible, and above all failed to replace our tired political stories with a new, compelling narrative of transformation and restoration, we have failed to realise this potential. As we rekindle our imagination, we discover our power to act. And that is the point at which we become unstoppable.
George Monbiot’s book Out Of The Wreckage: a new politics for an age of crisis, is published by Verso.
On it! It feels so good to be here, writing the new story with you and all the other folks around the fire. It's like the book has been the hope we have all been looking for after all the chaos in the world these past few months. Here's to the 'Politics of Belonging' and getting busy with community action. Time for the uprising!
Here's a link to George's interview with the Independent's Kirsty Major and to his talk at The World Transformed in Brighton a few days ago.... http://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/george-monbiot-out-of-the-w...
Big organising - something Campfire should be looking towards, @Angela Barney .. Big objectives will, I'm sure, be clear for this year after our Convention event in November
Wow! George's speech is excellent- I think it deserves to be widely heard. It's good to hear him directly address environmental and social justice issues which aren't normally heard amongst traditional left wing organising.