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This wave of global protest is being led by the children of the financial crash | Jack Shenker | Opinion | The Guardian
““I’m 22 years old, and this is my last letter,” the young man begins. Most of his face is masked with black fabric; only his eyes, tired and steely, are visible below a messy fringe. “I’m worried that I will die and won’t see you any more,” he continues, his hands trembling. “But I can’t not take to the streets.”

The nameless demonstrator – one of many in Hong Kong who have been writing to their loved ones before heading out to confront rising police violence in the city – was filmed by the New York Times last week in an anonymous stairwell. But he could be almost anywhere, and not only because the walls behind him are white and characterless, left blank to protect his identity.

From east Asia to Latin America, northern Europe to the Middle East, there are young people gathering in stairwells, back alleys and basements whose faces display a similar blend of exhilaration and exhaustion. “The disaster of ‘chaos in Hong Kong’ has already hit the western world,” the former Chinese diplomat Wang Zhen declared in an official Communist party paper, following reports that protesters in Catalonia were being inspired by their counterparts in Hong Kong. “We can expect that other countries and cities may be struck by this deluge.”

Wang is right about the deluge. In the same week that those seeking independence from Spain occupied Barcelona airport and brought motorways to a standstill, Extinction Rebellion activists seized major bridges and squares across London, prompting nearly 2,000 arrests. Both mobilisations adopted tactics from Hong Kong, including fluid targets – inspired by Bruce Lee’s famous “be water“ mantra – and a repertoire of hand signals to outwit security forces.

Meanwhile Lebanon has been convulsed by its largest demonstrations in two decades, dozens have been killed during anti-government marches in Iraq, and in Egypt a blanket ban on dissent by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s brutal dictatorship failed to prevent sporadic anti-regime protests breaking out across the country late last month. In the Americas, where Wang once served as a Chinese government envoy, Ecuador, Chile and Haiti are all experiencing citizen uprisings that are virtually unprecedented in recent history, ushering vast numbers of people into the streets – as well as soldiers tasked with containing them.

Each of these upheavals has its own spark – a hike in transport fares in Santiago, or a proposed tax on users of messaging apps like WhatsApp in Beirut – and each involves different patterns of governance and resistance. The class composition of the indigenous demonstrators in Ecuador can’t be compared with most of those marching against the imprisonment of separatist leaders in Catalonia; nor is the state’s prohibition of protest in London on a par with the repression in Hong Kong, where officers shot live ammunition into a teenager’s chest.

And yet it’s clear that we are witnessing the biggest surge in global protest activity since the early 2010s, when a “movement of the squares” saw mass rallies in capital cities across the Arab world, followed by Occupy demonstrations in the global north. Historically speaking, the past decade has seen more protests than at any time since the 1960s. Despite their disparate grievances, some common threads do bind today’s rebellions together. Tracing them may help clarify the nature of our present political volatility.

One obvious link is also the most superficial: the role played by social media, which has been widely noted in the press. While it’s true that digital technologies have enabled more agile and horizontal forms of organising, the ubiquity of these tools in 2019 tells us almost nothing about what is driving people to take to the streets in the first place. Indeed, in many states, social media is now an instrument of state repression as much as it is a tool of revolt.

The most significant connection is generational. The majority of those protesting now are the children of the financial crisis – a generation that has come of age during the strange and febrile years after the collapse of a broken economic and political orthodoxy, and before its replacement has emerged.

One direct impact of the crash has been a rapid diminishment of opportunity for millions of young people in rich countries – who now regard precarious work and rising inequality as the norm. At the same time, the aftermath of the crash has cracked the entrenched structures that had evolved to detach citizens from active participation in politics – be that through authoritarian systems or via an institutional consensus on the inevitability of market logic and technocratic management. Amid widespread economic and social failure, it has become harder than ever for elites to justify power, even on their own terms.

All this has produced a generation charged with hopelessness and hope. Afflicted by what the anthropologist David Graeber calls “despair fatigue”, protesters are putting their bodies on the line because it feels as if they have no other choice – and because those who rule over them have rarely seemed more vulnerable. Most have spent their lives under the maxim “there is no alternative” – and now circumstances have forced them to widen their political imaginations in search of something new. As one poster proclaims in Chile: “It’s not about 30 pesos, it’s about 30 years.”

Facing them down are states determined to put citizens back in their box and reseal the borders of political participation. The problem for governments is that there is no longer an established centre ground to snap back to, and their opponents know it – which is why so many of those involved in the current mobilisations will not settle for token concessions from the authorities.

“We need a whole new system, from scratch,” declared one demonstrator in Lebanon. The crackdown on Catalan separatists by the Spanish government has brought back dark memories of the state’s dirty war in the Basque country in the 1980s and the Franco era that preceded it; troops are marching through city centres in Chile for the first time since Pinochet.

In China, Xi Jinping has claimed that any attempt to divide the nation will result in “bodies smashed and bones ground to powder”. In many places, grassroots victory – and radical political transformation – feels to many like the only possible resolution, lending clashes an “all or nothing” antagonism and urgency that is hard to roll back.

What has intensified this urgency is the backdrop of looming ecological catastrophe. Even where protests are not explicitly about environmental concerns, the prospect of planetary catastrophe in our lifetimes raises the stakes for all political action. “The kids who are walking out of school have a hugely radical understanding of the way that politics works, and they recognise that our democratic processes and structures as they stand are designed to uphold the status quo,” Jake Woodier, one of the organisers behind the UK climate strike movement, told me this year. “They know that they will be worse off than their parents, know that they’ll never own a home, and know that on current trends they could live to see the end of humanity. So for them, for us, politics is not a game, it’s reality, and that’s reflected in the way we organise – relentlessly, radically, as if our lives depend on it.”

The Cambridge political scientist Helen Thompson once argued: “The post-2008 world is, in some fundamental sense, a world waiting for its reckoning.” That reckoning is beginning to unfold globally. They may come from different backgrounds and fight for different causes, but the kids being handcuffed, building barricades, and fighting their way through teargas in 2019 all entered adulthood after the end of the end of history. They know that we are living through one of what the American historian Robert Darnton has called “moments of suspended disbelief”: those rare, fragile conjunctures in which anything seems conceivable, and – far from being immutable – the old rules are ready to be rewritten. As long as it feels like their lives depend on winning, the deluge will continue.”
protest  protests  yout  greatrecession  crisis  economics  2008  2019  catastrophe  chile  china  catalonia  barcelona  hongkong  latinamerica  asia  spain  españa  lebanon  egypt  ecuador  haiti  london  extinctionrebellion  climatechange  policy  inequality  youth  activism  ows  occupywallstreet  repression  future  pinochet  franco  separatists  statusquo  elitism  uk  us  robertdarnton  jackshenker  government  governance  military  globalwarming  capitalism  socialism  democracy  technocracy  disenfranchisement  politics  democrats 
12 days ago by robertogreco
Capitalism and the Urban Struggle | Boston Review
“One of the things that interests me is the simultaneity of what goes on in the urban network. Occupy Wall Street was about Wall Street, but Occupy movements sprung up in a hundred odd cities in the United States, and you can find Occupy movements in Europe and around the world. So the urban network is actually a very powerful set of political possibilities. Part of my argument is that we should be thinking about how to use the urban network and how to use the political power that lies with closing cities down or intervening in cities as part of what political struggle is all about.”



“DJ: Mainstream liberals who talk about urbanism focus a lot on environmentalism and culture. Cities promise greener forms of living, since they offer greater density and more efficient energy use. And these liberals obsess over green architecture, high-speed rail, and so on, as well as about cities as centers of “creative culture.” Would you say they’re guilty of a certain fetishism over green living and culture?

DH: Very much so. As I try to point out in the book, the culture industries are very much caught up in the search for monopoly rent. It’s interesting that they’re called “industries” these days, which means that there’s a commodification of culture and an attempt to commodify the cultural commons and even commodify history, which is an astonishing process.

A lot of the green stuff is about planting trees and making things look greener. But I’ve yet to see a really radical reconfiguration of urbanization that would really confront the questions of global warming. So the liberal view does that, but what it doesn’t pay attention to is the tremendous social inequalities that exist. In New York, the social inequalities are dramatic, and we have huge concentrations of what we call precarious and insecure, employed people in these cities. In a way it’s an urban proletariat that is engaging in the production and the reproduction of urban life, and I don’t see the liberals taking any notice of that as being a problem. I mean, the levels of social inequality in New York City are far, far greater now than they were 30 years ago, and I would not be at all surprised to see an urban insurrection going on over those levels of inequality.”



“DJ: There you argue that Murray Bookchin had a more reasonable answer to the problem of how to organize for large-scale reform, given the limits of horizontal, anti-hierarchical political structures.

DH: One of the things I criticize the left for is what I call “fetishism of organizational form,” and it’s not only anarchists. The communist parties of yore used to have a democratic centralist model from which they would never depart, and it had certain strengths and it had certain weaknesses. Now there are certain elements within the anarchist movement that now believe totally in this horizontality idea and will not contemplate anything that is hierarchical. So I say, “Well, look, you’re disempowering yourself by sticking to that as the only organizational form which is viable.”

Again, there are certain anarchists who think that it’s reasonable to negotiate with the state or to try to reform the state and certain anarchists who say they want nothing whatsoever with anything that looks like state power. I have problems with that. My concern would be to say, “Let’s try to think of an organizational form that can confront the nature of the problems that we face,” which include, by the way, the one that you talked about earlier about the global nature of the struggle. You cannot imagine that we could simply have socialism in New York City and nowhere else. We’ve got to start thinking about all of the international relations and international divisions of labor and the like. So I’m more concerned with finding a practical form of organization, which can confront the nature of the problems we face, and I find that these rather dogmatic assertions by the communists, on one hand, and some of the anarchists, on the other, that “This is the only form of organization which is acceptable” get in the way of a fluid discussion over what would be a good form of organization for political mobilization right now.

DJ: Do you think that we’ve come to any sort of promising conclusions about organizational form, or is this a debate that needs to take place over the course of many years?

DH: Oh, I think it’s a debate that’s unfolding, but it can unfold very rapidly. I mean, there are places in the world where people seem to have found ways to pin together both the horizontal and the hierarchical. I mention the case of El Alto in Bolivia, where that seems to have happened. There are other cases; I’ve been very impressed by the example of the Chilean student movement, which is very democratic and horizontal but at the same time accepts that there is a need for decisive leadership. As more and more models of that sort come to our attention, I think that more and more people will start to converge on a practical organizational form. At least that’s my hope. And I think what I was trying to do in the book was to contribute to that process by both critiquing fetishism and then talking about examples where it seems some mixture of organizational forms has been very successful.

DJ: Now that we’re in Spring, people in the Occupy movement are wondering, “Where do we go from here?” Can there be an Occupy movement without occupation—without actually occupying public spaces? It seems as though occupying public spaces is a very powerful form of protest that has succeeded in Egypt and elsewhere. So why not just continuing occupying?

DH: Well, I think there are intermediate forms of it. One example that I was talking about with some people the other day is the Madres de Plaza de Mayo in Argentina who, instead of occupying all the time, turned up once a week to a particular space to demonstrate over the question of what had happened to their disappeared children and grandchildren. Of course, they suffered a great deal of police harassment and in some cases violence, but they just kept coming there every week. We could do something like that: we could go to Zuccotti Park once a week and say, “Look, we are still here!” It could be a visible thing. Some weeks, there’d be 500 people there; maybe occasionally there’d be 5,000 people there. But if it became a tradition, that once a week we all went there to reassert the significance of our political movement, then this would be a very good step.

I think that one of the problems we have in New York City is that we have a vast amount of public space in which the public is not allowed to do what it wants. We have to liberate public spaces for these sorts of common political actions, and this is one of the arenas of struggle.

DJ: In terms of changing our politics, are there any steps that you think are promising? For example, some critics, such as Lawrence Lessig, point to money in politics as a central problem. There are others who talk about how we need more participatory democracy in place. Is there a political step that you think will make progress?

DH: There’s a political step that I think that we should take and be very clear about. This is what was so impressive about the Chilean student movement. They recognized very clearly that the situation they’re in was defined by what happened under Pinochet. Now Pinochet is dead, but they’re still living with the legacy of Pinochet. What they are struggling with is what you might call “Pinochetism.” In this country Reagan is long gone, but Reaganism has been doubled down on by the Republican Party in particular, but also accepted by large chunks of the Democratic Party. So we’ve got to go after Reaganism. In Britain, Thatcher is long gone, but we’ve got Thatcherism. In Egypt, Mubarak is gone, but Mubarakism is still there. So we’ve got to go after the systems of power and the systems of appropriation of wealth that have become pretty universalized right now, and we’ve got to see this as a real serious point of confrontation. As Warren Buffett says when asked if there’s class struggle, “Sure, there’s class struggle. It’s my class, the rich, who have been waging it, and we’ve been winning.” Our task, I think, is to turn it around and say, “His class shall not win.” And in order to do that, we’ve got to get rid of the whole neoliberal way of organizing contemporary capitalism.“
davidharvey  2012  capitalism  urban  urbanism  economics  democracy  cities  davidjohnson  henrilefebvre  righttothecity  anticapitalism  neoliberalism  politics  policy  liberalism  class  classstruggle  pinochet  warrenbuffett  chile  inequality  thatcherism  margaretthatcher  activism  murraybookchin  argentina  bolivia  ows  occupywallstreet  culture  society  green  greenliving  progress 
july 2019 by robertogreco
‘People are finally talking about class’: Astra Taylor on US democracy, socialism and revolution | Film | The Guardian
"Astra Taylor hasn’t always been interested in democracy. “There was this vagueness about the word that just seemed to be not just corruptible but almost inherently corrupt,” says the writer, film-maker and activist. “I was attracted to words like liberation, emancipation, equality, revolution, socialism. Any other word would get my pulse going more than democracy.” For her, democracy was a word imperial America used to sell free markets and push its agenda.

Yet Taylor, a lifelong activist, says that she also always felt there was “a contradiction” inherent in democracy that puzzled her. For all the cynicism the word attracted, she could see there was power in an idea meant to strengthen the people, a power that she explores in her new documentary, What Is Democracy?, and her upcoming book, Democracy May Not Exist, But We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone.

In the US, the election of Donald Trump in 2016 sundered the body politic, while that same year, the Brexit referendum split the UK. Trump has used his office to undermine the media, the legal system, the electoral process itself and anyone who questions his will – all while praising dictators and suggesting the US may one day have “a president for life”.

Russia has shown how foreign powers can use technology to hack democracy, the economic success of China’s one-party capitalism has demonstrated a different model, and the seemingly unstoppable rise of the 1% has laid bare how big money skews the system.

The D word really started to grip Taylor while she was writing her previous book, The People’s Platform, a critique of Silicon Valley’s self-interested “utopianism”, published in 2014. “I wanted to look at what a ‘democratic internet’ would look like,” she says. “Not an empty, Silicon Valley-type democracy, but a real one.”

Then there was her work with Occupy. In 2011, New York’s Zuccotti Park, a grim sunken square near Wall Street, became the focal point of a leaderless movement calling for change. Exactly what it wanted or how it would get it never really seemed clear, but the movement swept the US and the world. Occupy protests spread to 951 cities in 82 countries.

Critics were, and still are, cynical about Occupy. History may be kinder. “We are the 99%,” shouted the activists. The 1% had taken the reins of power. That idea has stuck and can be seen in most progressive political campaigns today, down to the eschewing of corporate cash for the small donations that are funding US politicians including Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke and Elizabeth Warren.

Taylor also co-founded the Debt Collective, which grew out of Occupy; this buys student and medical debt on the debt markets and forgives it. It has wiped out $1bn (£770m) of debts so far and helped put student debt on the political agenda.

Occupy was “a shitshow – that’s a technical term,” says Taylor. Zuccotti Park was as divided by its constantly percussive drum circle as it was by its politics. “I love democracy more than I hate the drum circle,” read one sign in the park. Many Occupy activists were reluctant to engage with the existing system or even agree to properly define what changes they wanted, she says. There was a failure to translate protest into action. Democracy can’t be a place where “everyone has a voice but no one has any responsibility,” she says.

Taylor’s experience did get her thinking more about democracy. “There was this call for ‘real democracy’. So when you say that then you obviously believe there is ‘fake democracy’.”

In her new film and book, Taylor traces democracy back to its origins in Athens (a patriarchal slave state – we should have seen trouble coming) and then quizzes a diverse group of people, from the academic Cornel West to Syrian refugees and Trump-supporting Florida teens, asking what they now think of the word. The result? It’s not clear what any of us think democracy is or should be, or even if true democracy has ever existed (Taylor thinks not, although she thinks of democracy as a dynamic evolving concept that has yet to be achieved, and is more interested in exploring what the idea means to others than giving her own tight definition). That is Taylor’s aim: to make us think, to ask new questions and hopefully come up with new answers.

She is excited by some of the recent political shifts in the US. “For the first time in my life people are talking about class,” she says. “It’s just ridiculous that this was an unspeakable concept for so long – that is why we are in the predicament we are in.”

She is heartened to see a new generation of politicians, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, talking about “democratic socialism”. The S word was a no-no in US politics for generations, one that had “this sort of dated ring”, Taylor says. Now it is “something new, something that’s never been tried. Something in the future.”

While there has been plenty of bad news for democracy in recent years, there is no doubt that politics is changing. More women, more people of colour, teachers, LGBTQ candidates and people from low-income backgrounds are running for office, and winning. A new generation of activists are interested in union organising and strikes.

“People are thinking about power and how to take it, whereas the previous generation was more ambivalent about it, more anarchistic. Occupy was in that mould. There was a refusal to make demands – to do so was to legitimise the state,” she says.

And now? “You have millennials who are cheering on labour struggles. That’s amazing.”

While Taylor is hopeful change will come, she is wary of the powerful forces ranged against it and the left’s ability to mess it up. Nor does she think a “democratic socialist” future – if it’s even possible – would provide all the answers.

“We don’t live in an infinite world,” she says. Even a more equitable system would have to deal with inequality, not least in a world facing apocalyptic climate change. “To me, democratic socialism would just mean more interesting democratic dilemmas. We would no longer be arguing over whether billionaires should exist or be abolished – they should be abolished – but there are still so many questions,” she says.

Taylor is ready to ask those questions. Hip and lanky, she is the nice cool kid, the one in the band whose books and records you wanted to borrow, and who would let you. On top of her other work, Taylor is a musician who has played with her partner Jeff Mangum’s band, Neutral Milk Hotel. She’s a vegan who lives in Brooklyn (if this wasn’t obvious), and one of those interviewees who asks as many questions as she answers.

Her enquiring nature comes from her childhood. Born in Canada and raised in the other Athens, in the US state of Georgia, Taylor was “unschooled” – meaning she was allowed to learn, or not, when and how she liked and was never forced to go to school. The freedom inspired her. At 16, she enrolled at the University of Georgia, then quit for Brown, the elite Rhode Island university that counts John D Rockefeller Jr, the New York Times publisher AG Sulzberger and the actor Emma Watson among its alumni. She quit Brown too, deciding unschooling was a lifelong commitment.

The idea of unschooling is “built on a quite romantic notion of human nature”, she says. “That human beings are intrinsically good and curious and ambitious. Very Rousseau.”

She doesn’t think this is a good model for everyone. Some people need more structure, more guidance. “It’s almost rebellious of me that so much of my work as an adult activist is focused on public education, free public education,” she laughs.

But she believes in the ideas at the heart of unschooling – continual learning, encouraging curiosity, taking education outside the classroom and the school year and embracing trust. They are models we need now, she says, as we question a concept that many of us take for granted even as we worry about its future.

“For many, many students now education is anti-democratic,” she says. “It’s just a curriculum geared at essentially encouraging them to accept their lot in life.”

The decline in liberal arts and the rise of “practical” degrees in subjects such as pharmacology, nursing and construction management, she says, suggest a society that is tailoring people to the workplace rather than encouraging them to think about the big issues, while saddling them with major debts.

There is a structural reason for this, says Taylor. “I feel pretty pulled when young people ask me what to study, because I think they should study Plato and Rousseau. But not if it’s going to lead them to a lifetime of debt servitude. You can’t help but think of your education as something that needs a return on investment when it’s costing you $35,000 a year.”

Her book and film are an argument for the case that “of all academic disciplines, the one that demands to be democratised is political philosophy, which is basically the asking of the questions: how do we want to live? How should we live? What kind of people should we be? How should we govern ourselves? This is something that increasingly only the elites get to carve out time to think about. That is really a tragedy.”"
astrataylor  class  socialism  capitalism  democracy  2019  corruption  ows  occupywallstreet  activism  studentdebt  film  filmmaking  documentary  unschooling  publiceducation  education  curiosity  freedom  rousseau  plato  philosophy  debt  debtservitude  politics  policy  learning  howwelearn  donaldtrump  organizing  ancientgreece  athens  cornelwest 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Spaces of encounter: the performative art of reading | Thinkpiece | Architectural Review
"When the ‘counter novel’ Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar was published in 1963 it was celebrated as one of the most innovative experiments in 20th-century literature. The book was written to allow and encourage many different and complementary readings. As the author’s note at the beginning of the novel suggests, it can be read either progressively in the first 56 chapters or by ‘hopscotching’ through the entire set of 155 chapters according to a ‘Table of Instructions’. Cortázar also allows the reader the option of choosing their own unique path through the book. It’s no coincidence that the narrative – from the title of the book to the several overlapping stories that are contained in it – is based on a game often played in small groups in public spaces and playgrounds, in which the player has to hop or jump to retrieve a small object tossed into numbered patterns drawn on the ground. The book’s main structure has strong allusions to the notions of ‘space’ and the way we navigate through it, with its three main sections entitled ‘From the Other Side’, ‘From this Side’, and ‘From Diverse Sides’.

[image: "Since 2010, the ‘book bloc’ has been a visible feature of protests"]

Similarly, but from a different perspective, one of the first things the reader notes when flipping through Fantasies of the Library edited by Anne-Sophie Springer and Etienne Turpin and published in 2016 by MIT Press, is that the book itself can be understood as a kind of public space. In effect, it presents a brilliant dérive through books, book collections and the physical spaces of libraries from a curatorial perspective, going from private collections and the way their shelves are organised, to more ad hoc and temporary infrastructures, such as the People’s Library at Occupy Wall Street in New York, or the Biblioburro, a travelling library in Colombia that distributes books from the backs of two donkeys, Alfa and Beto. Various configurations and layouts have been designed in response to these narratives. They include essays, photos and interviews, setting up different kinds of encounters between authors, editors, readers, photographers and illustrators. Once you have the book in your hands, you gradually start to apprehend that the four conversations are printed only on left-hand pages, interspersed with other essays on right-hand ones. So it is only when you start reading voraciously and are interrupted by the ‘non-sense’ of these jumps, when the understanding of the dynamics imposed by the layout manifests itself, that you become aware you are already ‘hopscotching’ from page to page. The chapter ‘Reading Rooms Reading Machines’ is not only a visual essay about the power of books to create spaces around them and gather a community, it is also a curated, annotated and provocative history of these spaces as a conceptual continuation between the book and the city, ‘two environments in conjunction’, as Springer writes.

In some ways, it resembles the encounters you have in the streets of your neighbourhood. Some people you only glance at, others you smile at, there are a few with whom you talk and if you’re lucky, you might meet a friend. Within the texts, you can hop back and forth, approving, underlining, or absorbing in more detail. From individual object to the container known as the library, the idea of the book as a territory is explored in depth. Different kinds and sizes of spaces and the interactions that happen in and between them emerge. Springer describes the library as ‘a hybrid site for performing the book’ – a place where the book is not a static object but a space in which the reader is an active agent, coming and going from the outside; outside the pages and outside the library. It recalls Ray Bradbury’s assertion that: ‘Books are in themselves already more than mere containers of information; they are also modes of connectivity and interrelation, making the library a meta-book containing illimitable intertextual elements.’

[image: "Improvised book blocs on the street" from source: Interference Archive]

In moving from the ‘hopscotching’ suggested by Cortázar to the idea of the ‘library as map’ as discussed by Springer and Turpin, it is clear that the inextricable relationship between books and space forms the basis of our understanding of books as spaces of encounter, and the importance of heterogeneous books – whether fiction, poetry or critical theory – as spaces of encounter for architectural discourse. In that sense, books can be perceived as new kinds of spaces, where empathy, alterity and otherness are stronger than ideologies. Catalysing dissent and open dialogue, they can be one of the most effective tools of resistance in times of censorship, fake news and post-truth. Social anthropologist Athena Athanasiou explains how books have been used in public space as part of political struggles. ‘People have taken to the streets to fight for critical thinking and public education, turning books into banners and shields against educational cuts and neoliberal regimes of university governance’, she writes. This activism emphasises the strong symbolic power of the relationship between books and architectural spaces, ‘where the books were not only at the barricades, they were the barricades’. Such agency can transgress almost any kind of limit or boundary, and can happen in any sort of space – from your mobile device to the library or the street. But it is in the public sphere where the book’s agency can have the ‘power to affect’, becoming ‘a hybrid site for performing the book’ beyond the confines of the library.

Books can be ‘performed’ in many ways, especially when critical writing and the act of reading create spaces of encounter in the city. In June 2013, after plans were unveiled to develop Istanbul’s Gezi Park, artist Erdem Gunduz initiated his Standing Man protest while he stood motionless in Taksim Square for eight hours. This thoughtful form of resistance inspired a group of ‘silent readers’ who successfully transformed a space of fighting and friction into a meaningful space of encounter by simply standing still and reading books. It became known as the Tak sim Square Book Club, paradoxically one of the most dynamic demonstrations in recent years. The strength and energy contained in the bodies of each reader, but also in every book and the endless stories and narratives between covers, transformed Taksim Square into a highly politicised space. Instead of being compromised by conflict between government and citizens, it became a space of encounter that gave agency to each silent reader and to the wider collectivity they brought into being.

[image: "Readers in Istanbul’s Taksim Square transform the space through peaceful activism"]

The moment when writing, often carried out in solitude, is published, circulated and made accessible to everyone is the moment of generating public space, argues the French philosopher and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman. This was demonstrated in the ‘Parasitic Reading Room’, a nomadic, spontaneous and parasitic set of reading spaces staged during the opening days of the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial. Initially consisting of a series of out-loud readings of texts at selected venues, it then expanded to become an urban dérive across the streets of the city in the company of a mobile radio broadcasting the live readings. In that moment, the ‘walking reading room’ became a space of exchange, knowledge and collaboration. Different points of view coexisted, enriching each other, forming knowledge assemblages. It reminds us that reading together, whether silently or aloud, forces us to interact, to respect the times and rhythms of others, to learn new words and their sounds and to think new thoughts. In doing so, we rediscover new territories of empathy that become visible when visiting these spaces of encounter, where we learn that we can host otherness as part of the self. Where comradeship is a means instead of an end. Books create the spaces in which to play hopscotch together again."
ethelbaraonapohl  césarreyesnájera  books  reading  howweread  howwewrite  rayuela  2019  neilgaiman  fiction  space  performance  etienneturpin  derive  collections  libraries  raybradbury  connectivity  interrelation  hypertext  athenaathanasiou  architecture  protest  biblioburro  nomads  nomadism  nomadic  ows  occupywallstreet  conversation  neighborhoods  urban  urbanism  cities  istanbul  geziprk  erdemgunduz  taksimsquare  georgesdidi-huberman  comradeship  solidarity  empathy  writing  visibility  hopscotch  juliocortázar  anna-sophiespringer  dérive 
january 2019 by robertogreco
David Graeber on a Fair Future Economy - YouTube
"David Graeber is an anthropologist, a leading figure in the Occupy movement, and one of our most original and influential public thinkers.

He comes to the RSA to address our current age of ‘total bureaucratization’, in which public and private power has gradually fused into a single entity, rife with rules and regulations, whose ultimate purpose is the extraction of wealth in the form of profits.

David will consider what it would take, in terms of intellectual clarity, political will and imaginative power – to conceive and build a flourishing and fair future economy, which would maximise the scope for individual and collective creativity, and would be sustainable and just."
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january 2019 by robertogreco
The Optimistic Activists for a Green New Deal: Inside the Youth-Led Singing Sunrise Movement | The New Yorker
"Sunrise, founded a year and a half ago by a dozen or so twentysomethings, began its campaign for the Green New Deal last month, when two hundred activists occupied Nancy Pelosi’s office a week after the midterm elections. The movement has allied with the incoming congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who joined them outside Pelosi’s office (and whose run for Congress was inspired, in part, by her participation in the anti-pipeline protests at Standing Rock), and Justice Democrats, the progressive campaign incubator started by former staffers of Bernie Sanders. As the Republican-led government has forced more established environmental organizations into defensive positions, Sunrise has established itself as the dominant influence on the environmental policy of the Democratic Party’s young, progressive wing.

Just as the March for Our Lives has changed gun-control activism from a movement of grieving parents to one led by students, Sunrise is part of a generational shift in the environmental movement. For years, rhetoric about climate change has invoked the future generations who will have to live with the flooding, storms, droughts, diseases, and food shortages of a warmer world. The young people of Sunrise are telling lawmakers that the future is here: they are the children in question, and the consequences of climate change are affecting them now. And, like other activist movements of their generation, they see their cause as inseparable from the broader issues of economic and social inequality. In a proposal that Ocasio-Cortez has circulated in Congress, she describes the Green New Deal as “a historic opportunity to virtually eliminate poverty in the United States.”

Inside Luther Place Memorial Church, cheers erupted as activists unfurled a yellow and black “green new deal now” banner from the balcony. The crowd hushed as the first speaker, Varshini Prakash, came to the microphone. Prakash, who is five feet tall and has long curly hair, is one of Sunrise’s co-founders. She later told me that a highlight of her activism career was when she participated in a musical disruption of a Trump Administration panel at the United Nations climate conference in Bonn, in 2017, and a story about it trended on Reddit.

“We’re going to kick things off the way we always do,” Prakash said, “raising our voices in unison in song.” Part of what makes the Sunrise Movement’s activists seem so optimistic is that they conduct most of their protests while singing. Their ranks did not conform to the dour stereotype of an environmental movement composed of white-upper-middle-class Appalachian Mountain Club members. I spoke to Sunrise members whose families had roots in India, Iran, Croatia, Mexico, and working-class neighborhoods in American cities. There were some students in Carhartts and beanies, who looked like they might go camping, but one young person standing near me wore a Sisters sweatshirt, the brand started by the YouTube makeup artist James Charles, who is the first male spokesperson for CoverGirl. Sunrise’s principles include: “We are Americans from all walks of life,” “We are nonviolent in word and deed,” and “We shine bright.” The dominant culture is cheerfulness.

After leading the group in a song called “We’re Going to Rise Up,” Prakash introduced herself. She is from a town outside of Boston, but her grandparents are from southern India, and she told the story of a flood that hit their city, Chennai, in late 2015, when the region experienced its highest rainfall in a hundred years. This was typical of Sunrise members, who tend not to talk about starving polar bears, melting ice caps, or ocean acidification. Instead, they talk of family members who have lost their homes to floods or fires, young relatives who have asthma, or beloved landscapes that have been degraded or destroyed in the spans of their short lifetimes. (Another movement principle: “We tell our stories and we honor each other’s stories.”)

“I think no one should have to live in fear of losing the people that they love or the places that they call home due to crises that are preventable,” Prakash told the crowd. “My nightmares are full of starving children and land that is too sick to bear food, of water that poisons that which it should heal, and of seas that are ever more creeping on our shores,” she continued. “But my dreams are also full of a rising tide of people who see the world for what it is, people who see the greed and selfishness of wealthy men, of fossil-fuel billionaires who plunder our earth for profit.” The young people cheered.

Many of Sunrise’s founders met through the fossil-fuel divestment movement, but they tend to cite inspirations from outside environmentalism. Prakash named Occupy Wall Street, the Movement for Black Lives, and youth-led immigration-justice organizations such as United We Dream and Cosecha. Like the March for Our Lives, Sunrise has told a story of a corrupt political process, where oil and gas billionaires like the Koch brothers have helped direct governmental policies. Also like March for Our Lives, Sunrise has focussed on the development of clear, nonpartisan policy goals. Its members are working within existing political structures, pressuring politicians to take more active stances on the issue of climate change and to reject donations from fossil-fuel entities, and getting out the youth vote.

“Our strategy for 2019 is going to be continuing this momentum to build the people power and the political power to make a Green New Deal a political inevitability in America,” Prakash told me. “In 2020, we, along with our partners, are going to be attempting to build the largest youth political force this country has ever seen.” The movement has received support from established environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club and 350.org, but a spokesperson for Sunrise, Stephen O’Hanlon, said the assistance has been primarily non-financial. He added that the organization has raised less than a million dollars since it was started, from a mix of grants from foundations and grassroots donors."



"On Tuesday morning, the day after the protest in Washington, I met with four of the Sunrise Movement’s co-founders at a bakery near Washington’s Union Station. They had ended the previous day with a small party at the office of 350.org. The office of Ayanna Pressley, the newly elected Justice Democrats–endorsed representative from Massachusetts, had sent pizzas.

Over oatmeal and coffee, they told me about their personal awakenings about climate change. Sara Blazevic, who is twenty-five and from New York City, went on a volunteer trip to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when she was sixteen. Victoria Fernandez, who is also twenty-five and from California, talked about how unseasonable rains had affected business at the tennis shop her father owns, in the Bay Area. Evan Weber, who is twenty-seven and grew up in Hawaii, told me that the beaches he had played on as a child in Oahu have since been washed away. Stephen O’Hanlon, twenty-three, who is from outside of Philadelphia, had witnessed the effects of mountaintop removal on a trip to Appalachia organized by a college group.

In late 2015 and early 2016, Prakash and Blazevic, who knew each other from the fossil-fuel divestment campaigns they had led in college, began connecting with other youth climate activists to discuss how they might form a more effective movement. They saw how Bernie Sanders had helped spark a new political energy among their peers, who were suddenly inspired to see their student debt and poor job prospects in more political terms. For Blazevic, the moment of clarity came in December, 2015, when she read remarks from Sanders in which he used the phrase “fossil-fuel billionaires.”

“I remember being, like, ‘That is it, why are we not talking about the fossil-fuel billionaires in the climate movement?” she recalled. “I just remember feeling like this is the story that we should be telling in the climate movement. We should be talking about the people who are most responsible for this crisis, and naming names of the Rex Tillersons of the world instead of doing what the climate movement had been doing for a while, which was, at least, in my corner of it, getting lost in conflicts with college administrators over small pools of money.”

Their first meeting, in July, 2016, was in the Neighborhood Preservation Center in New York City. They agreed that they wanted to propose solutions to the climate crisis that match its magnitude. Since climate change disproportionately affects poor communities of color, they agreed that racial and economic justice had to be considered in any solution to climate change they proposed.

They arranged to meet once a month for the next nine months, renting houses or staying with volunteers in a different location each time. They went to an Amish farm in Pennsylvania, to Delaware, to Virginia. Their numbers grew to a dozen people.

They studied the wins and the losses of the climate movement in its forty-year history. They read books about how other mass movements had grown viral and gone to scale—Fernandez fished out a waterlogged copy of the book “Rules for Revolutionaries” to give me one example. Others: “Reinventing Organizations,” by Frederic Laloux; “Where Do We Go from Here,” by Martin Luther King, Jr.; “This Is an Uprising,” by Mark and Paul Engler. Several of their members had attended a workshop at a social-movement training institute called Momentum, where they had studied how to effectively combine structured organizing with mass protest.

The idea was to build a movement that people would join to feel a part of some larger history. “In the Bernie moment, I was seeing so many young people who were, like, ‘I would drop everything to be a part of the political revolution,’ ” Blazevic said. “After the primary ended in their states, … [more]
emilywitt  optimism  greennewdeal  climatechange  climate  storytelling  alexandriaocasio-cortez  varshiniprakash  diversity  activism  climatejustice  politics  youth  grassroots  immigration  migration  closetohome  ows  occupywallstreet  blacklivesmatter  environment  sustainability  democrats 
december 2018 by robertogreco

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