No More Conspiracies!

Posted on 25 November 2015 | No responses

I am tired of people handing me conspiracy theories. These will often be passed around as memes and I will have people insisting they are supporting the truth. It makes me especially sad when my “make love not war” crew are a part of this, seething in their own version of hatred with no self-reflection that they are doing it.

I have a doctoral degree. Journalists and researchers are expected to have a high degree of integrity when it comes to presenting information (whether or not they always follow through on this). If you want to represent the truth, then you need to check your sources: Are they reliable? Do they have a bias? Were they direct observers of the event? What evidence do they have? Is it verifiable?

The fact of the matter is: if you weren’t there, you don’t know what happened. You are relying on second, even third, fourth, or fifth degree accounts. And these accounts can be coloured by a person who is racist, anti-semitic, classist (upper or lower), sexist, etc. There is plenty of wrong-doing in the world without falsely accusing people of it, and we can very easily see much of it without having to invent stories out of hatred or for the thrill.

Now I am also a long time arts practitioner, and I would be the first to say that emotions are a crucial part of who we are, but they need to be mature emotions tempered by the wisdom of understanding. Otherwise, there is no truth, only a constant rage that feeds itself on lies and half-truths. The easiest way to not fall down that hole is to focus on your experience, doing what you can, and caring about people, rather than finding reason to judge them. If you have the time, then making an effort to genuinely piece together the truth is much appreciated.

In peace, kindness, and friendship,


Are You Feeling Depressed?
Whack Beliefs That May Be Ruining Your Day

Posted on 20 November 2015 | No responses

Depression is a growing issue. I’ve seen increasing numbers of people on Facebook talking about troubles with grief and suicidal ideation. In fact suicide is on the rise not just among teens, where it is at a ten year high, but among the middle-aged as well.

I’ve seen the media ask: what is wrong with these people? I hear people ask: what is wrong with me? A critical question worth considering given the sheer numbers and upswing in suicide is: what’s wrong with our culture such that so many are experiencing mental distress?

In co-dependent families pressure is often put on any family members who start reacting to toxic relationship patterns. They will be isolated and made to feel as if they are the problem. When you have grown up within an abusive environment, it can be difficult to recognise what is amiss because what you are reacting to seems to be the norm. Worse is the terror of ostracisation and defencelessness that might come from questioning.

Here I will list some toxic social myths that may be having you question your sanity.

* All lives have predictable structures with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Many of the myths we are bound to come out of a belief that our lives are like a story, rather than stories are constructs we build from our hopes and dreams. Just because many people in a culture live a life that has a certain shape is no guarantee that it will be true for everyone or even true tomorrow.

* Good people are white, male, straight, “rational”, wealthy, and work regular jobs at large companies.

Those in power have the means to ensure that their lifestyle is portrayed as not only commendable, but the norm. So much of their power has been inherited, and yet people still ask themselves: what’s wrong with me that I can’t attain this? When it comes to the media most of us have never actually seen “normal”.

* Survival of the fittest is interpreted to mean survival of the most brutal, and is seen as natural and inevitable.

This is never what Charles Darwin meant. You can be fit in many different ways, including by forming cohesive and caring social groups.

* You are only of any worth if you are number one (or at least better than someone else).

If you were to receive a haircut from the 150th best hairdresser in the world and you were happy with that cut, what difference does it make whether or not they are number one? Why drive yourself crazy comparing yourself to others in that way. Just care about your work, do your best, and leave it at that.

* You are only as valuable as a person as the size of your bank account.

How does it feel having a price tag hanging over your head all the time? Let it go. People are terrified they will lose out if they do so…nope, you’re staring freedom in the face.

* If you study and work hard, you will have a steady career.

This was mostly true for the Baby Boomers because of the boom-bubble they created, but careers are rarely a straight path. If you are having trouble finding a job, you may need to clean up your style, but there may just not be enough jobs for everyone.

* Your job defines who you are.

Your job reflects what work you were able to land in order to survive. Not having a job or having a job at drive-thru window says nothing of the quality of the person. It says everything about how willing our society is to help its poorest.

* Good things happen to good people, bad things happen to bad people.

This is known as the “Just Universe Fallacy”. It will leave you perpetually wondering what you did wrong. It also gives people an excuse to treat badly those who are less well off.

* Black is black, white is white, and grey is a little less dark than black.

This makes for a very neat world where you can quickly judge people. The problem is, so much of life is circumstantial. We don’t just experience blacks, whites, and greys. We also experience greens and purples. Where do you classify them? Do they become black in order to keep the system neat? This sort of world negates the possibility of compassion or growth.

* Fame, wealth, power, thrills validate a life and bring fulfillment.

Take a look at all the famous and wealthy people who have committed suicide. These things can bring a moment of pleasure, but they don’t validate in and of themselves.

* You can and should have all the things your ego and marketing tells you that you want: wealth, true-love, power, control, success, fame, ease, etc.

This is the entitlement trap. It’s easy to sell “how-to” books on these things. You then make the author wealthy and spend much of your time angry or depressed wondering what you did wrong.

* We are all just biological machines and have no control over our lives.

This is an easy way to justify irresponsibility and apathy. It’s also very old-fashioned thinking brought into popularity by René Descartes. We have partial control over our lives. That’s not the same as total control, but it’s not the same as no control either.

* People are empty vessels into which knowledge and skills are poured: we are all cogs that can be fit into any machine.

Ask any pyramid scheme operator and they will tell you they can teach anyone to sell their products in so many guaranteed steps. All humans share certain similarities. We are also all unique with our own unique aptitudes. Surely we want the people who are best suited to being doctors practising medicine. Surely we want the people who are best suited to piloting flying our airplanes. We need to respect our individuality.

* We are islands.

No one succeeds without the help of others. No one experiences healthy thought and emotion without healthy relations with friends, family, and co-workers. We need interaction, and more than that we need reliable confidantes who are ready to help us when we need it.

* All families are good and loving.

No. Some are pretty messed up. It’s then up to you to create a family of friends.

* The world is messed up and nothing can be done.

The world is messed up and the world has a lot of people ready to fix things. Have you tried contributing in some way? Have you tried it more than once? Have you shopped around? Trying once and giving up is not an option.

* Commitment is old-fashioned: something quaint and unimaginative that our grandparents were into.

We constantly try to find ways to imprison one another in order to feel safe and in control. This is not commitment. Commitment is valuing the greater rewards that come with sticking to something, such as when your parents stuck with raising you, even though you started life smelly and demanding. We need to commit to protecting the environment, we need to commit to a fair society, we need to commit to in depth friendships, we need to commit to healthy communities. These things will help to turn the world around. Yes, it comes at a cost of having to put up with inconvenience, annoyance, and sometimes outright suffering, but the rewards are substantial.

To overcome these beliefs you have to find a willingness to accept that life will never be easy. You have to be willing to learn compassion, forgiveness, kindness. You have to seek out other people and combine with them to help make a better, kinder world. You will never be able to escape suffering, but if you open your heart, you will at least find some love, joy, and peace,

Peace, kindness, and friendship,


How Platform Coops Can Beat Death Stars Like Uber
to Create a Real Sharing Economy
by Neil Gorenflo

Posted on 19 November 2015 | No responses

by Joi Ito from Cambridge, MA, USA

by Joi Ito from Cambridge, MA, USA

We have an epic choice before us between platform coops and Death Star platforms, and the time to decide is now. It might be the most important economic decision we ever make, but most of us don’t even know we have a choice.

And just what is a Death Star platform? Bill Johnson of StructureC3 referred to Uber and Airbnb as Death Star platforms in a recent chat. The label struck me as surprisingly apt: it reflects the raw ambition and focused power of these platforms, particularly Uber.

Uber’s big bet is global monopoly or bust. They’ve raised over $8 billion in venture capital, are on track to do over $10 billion in revenue this year, and have an estimated 200,000 drivers who are destroying the taxi industry in over 300 cities worldwide. They’ve done all this in just over five years. In fact, they reached a $51 billion valuation faster than Facebook, and plan to raise even more money. If they’re successful, they’ll become the most valuable startup in history. Airbnb is nearly as big and ambitious.

Platform coops are the alternative to Death Stars. As Lisa Gansky urged, these platforms share value with the people who make them valuable. Platform coops combine a cooperative business structure with an online platform to deliver a real-world service. What if Uber was owned and governed by its drivers? What if Airbnb was owned and governed by its hosts? That’s what an emerging movement is exploring for the entire sharing economy in an upcoming conference, Platform Cooperativism.

Shareable helped break the platform coop story last year in a Nathan Schneider feature entitled, “Owning is the New Sharing” along with Trebor Scholz of the New School. These two thought leaders, also the conference organizers, identified a wave of platform coops forming, but we’re still in the early days.

What forces are driving the rise of Death Star platforms? And what’s at stake?

Uber signifies a new era in tech entrepreneurship. Its leaders express an explicit ideology of domination and limitless, global ambition. In fact, the global tech sector may be one of the most powerful stateless actors on the world stage today. And Death Star platforms are the tech sector’s avant garde.

Death Star platforms deftly exploit today’s growing economic insecurity and political vacuum. Their business model relies on precarious 1099 contractors. They mix technology, ideology, design, public relations, community organizing, and lobbying in a powerful new formulation that’s conquering cities and users around the world. They wrap themselves in the cloak of technological progress, free market inevitability, and even common good. As a result, cities allow them to break their laws with surprising frequency (Uber and Airbnb are simply illegal in most cities). Weak city governments either drink the Kool-Aid or struggle to contain them.

Millennials, who Pew Research described as detached from institutions and networked with friends, may be Death Star platform’s most ardent users. 50% of millennials are political independents, a huge increase over prior generations. And while Millennials are detached from traditional institutions, they increasingly connect through Death Stars. Most use these services and implicitly accept their ideology as Death Stars mask the complexity of their services—and their politics—behind slickly designed apps. As a result, they along with many others unknowingly join a movement with totalitarian goals, all for the sake of often negligible income, savings and convenience. It’s scary but understandable. US Millennials suffer from the highest debt and lowest employment of any generation since the Great Depression. Not to mention that Death Stars often deliver a better service. I use them occasionally too.

Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal and leading sharing economy venture capitalist (VC), epitomized this ideology in a 2014 Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled, “Competition is for Losers,” in which he encourages entrepreneurs to establish monopolies. Marc Andreessen, another leading sharing economy VC, wrote a similar op-ed in the same publication three years earlier titled, “Why Software is Eating the World,” in which he declared that there was no industry that couldn’t be disrupted by web technologies.

Behind the bombastic rhetoric are powerful real-world drivers. There are sound, if not self-serving, reasons for these VC’s bold calls to action. A technology gold rush dramatically larger than any before has only begun to unfold, and Thiel and his ilk have the most to gain. Jeremiah Owyang’s Collaborative Economy Honeycomb infographic shows a large and growing universe of companies challenging dozens of major industries. Indeed, a recent IBM survey identified corporate executives’ top fear as the Uberization of everything. Zipcar founder Robin Chase believes that everything that can become a platform, will become a platform. If so, then the sharing economy is just the tip of the spear. Silicon Valley could become the power center of the world, with its leaders joining the small-but-growing ranks of stateless, above-the-law plutocrats.

That’s a big claim, but not out of the realm of possibility. There are some compelling leading indicators.

There’s a surface explanation, but much more below that. Technology startups are building platforms to compete in nearly every brick and mortar service sector, and on a global basis. These platforms coordinate economic activity, but do not need to own the key physical assets or employ any of the end-service providers to profit. Uber owns no cars and employs no drivers, but has decimated the taxi business in San Francisco.

With incredibly low costs, global reach, scientifically developed user interfaces, and massive funding, Death Star platforms have a shot at duplicating this kind of success in every major city and service sector around the world. This has VCs salivating. The multitude of incumbents spread across many industries and geographies that play by the rules face steep odds against the lawlessness, network effects, and focused power of Death Stars.

At a deeper level, fundamental changes in the startup world are underway. Tech startups have to venture into the brick and mortar world as the low hanging fruit in information-intensive industries has been picked. Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and more have established their global monopolies. Tech must leave the nest, and its newest startups can because it’s significantly faster, cheaper, and less risky to start companies than before.

Shock and Awe Entrepreneurship

The assembly line creation of technology startups has been largely perfected. Silicon Valley’s VC-driven ecosystem has significantly reduced the considerable cost and risk of starting a venture. Funding is at record levels. There’s large corps of professionals who specialize in building startups. The technology is also cheap, meaning that startups need significantly less funding than before\u2026unless they want to “disrupt” a brick and mortar industry.

These new dynamics explain Uber. Uber didn’t raise record amounts of venture capital to develop a new technology. Their technology is pedestrian. Most of it was developed by taxpayer-funded US government programs decades ago. They have combined old technology in a new way, but that’s relatively cheap to do. The $8 billion they’ve raised is to establish a global monopoly—in the real, physical world—in as short a time as possible. That takes a lot of marketing and lobbying muscle, and that’s really expensive.

What are indicators of the Death Star platform’s rising political power? Uber’s David Plouffe, formerly President Obama’s campaign manager, literally besieged Portland’s mayor, ultimately forcing him to create a favorable policy. Bloomberg’s “This is How Uber Takes Over a City” gives an eye opening account Uber’s strong arm tactics. As of this writing this, Airbnb is running an $8.3 million campaign to defeat a San Francisco voter proposition (Prop F) designed to limit Airbnb’s negative impact on the city’s skyrocketing housing costs. This lobbying activity is just the tip of the iceberg. Uber and Airbnb are using a good bit of their $10 billion+ collective war chest to hire a global army of lobbyists. In their language, they’ve put “boots on the ground” in hundreds of cities.

This is a big departure from the past. Tech investors used to avoid startups with significant regulatory risk because there were plenty of better, less risky opportunities. That’s not the case anymore. Now tech investors must and can take on the physical world.

Moreover, the huge investment raises and regulatory friction add up to much more than the sum of their parts. It’s like 1+1=10. The more money Death Star platforms raise, the more press and customers they get. The more they break the rules, the more press and customers the get, which enables them to raise even more money. Taxi drivers strike? Jackpot! And the cycle repeats. It’s a blitzkrieg. It’s shock and awe entrepreneurship. It’s the sound of a new hegemonic bloc coming to power.

Here’s what’s at stake. As Detroit shaped the world in the image of the car in the 20th century through an alienating and resource intensive system of highways and suburbs, so might Silicon Valley shape the world in the image of Death Star platforms in the 21st.

If you’re outraged by the power of tech giants now, just wait until tech dominates the majority of services you depend on to live. If you’re worried about how tech companies use your personal information now, just wait until they can track you 24/7 online and off. If you’re frustrated by how tech companies wield power over you as user now, just wait until you’re algorithmically fired by a Death Star because of one random bad rating. If you think incumbents like taxi companies suck, just wait until a win-at-all-cost tech titan like Uber’s Travis Kalanick rules the roost. If the diversity of your city’s locally-owned businesses is already suffering, just wait until sterile, centralizing Silicon Valley apps create an even more boring and unresilient monoculture. If you’re worried about housing costs, just wait until every city’s housing market is like San Francisco’s, where one bedroom apartments rent for an average of $3,500 a month, the highest in the US. If you’re pissed by today’s unprecedented inequality, just wait until Death Star platforms destroy millions of jobs (Uber can’t wait for driverless cars, yippee!) while shifting more risk and cost onto providers.

Bottom line, what seems like a bad situation for the 99% today could become much, much worse tomorrow.

Platform Coops, You’re Our Only Hope

If platform coops are our only hope, then we’re in big trouble. The movement is in its infancy. There are several fundamental, interrelated legal, financial, and organizational challenges to the process of forming platform coops. New organizational forms need to be worked out, which will take years. Meanwhile, Death Star platforms will conquer more territory at a new, faster version of Internet time. Their global blitzkrieg will continue apace.

The aforementioned conference, Platform Cooperativism, hopes to address this through what organizers are calling a coming out party for the cooperative internet. Over 1,000 people have registered. Activists, entrepreneurs, lawyers, union officials, financiers, and academics are gathering to conceptualize the movement and begin to work out the key challenges of creating a democratic alternative to Death Star platforms. Its organizers hope to catalyze a movement of provider-owned sharing economy platforms, where the drivers or hosts wield the power, not VCs. The conference is a direct response to rise of Death Stars and their treatment of providers.

The central premise of platform cooperativism is that those who create the most value for the platforms— providers like drivers and hosts—should own and control the platforms. Current arrangements tend toward exploitation of providers as Death Stars shift the cost and risk of providing a service to providers. Unlike most incumbent service providers, such as taxi companies or hotels, Death Stars providers are 1099 contractors who do not enjoy the benefits and protections of employees. Death Stars rely on this arrangement to avoid the costs of managing a workforce and grow quickly. It’s true that Death Stars often provide superior service by leveraging technology, but they probably wouldn’t be viable if they did not exploit this huge labor-related cost advantage.

The Rise of the Rebel Alliance

Examples of platform coops abound. A wave is forming, but most examples are brave experiments at best. Shareable’s “Owning is the New Sharing,” lists many examples. There’s Loconomics, the cooperative version of task marketplace TaskRabbit. One of the most successful experiments is Enspiral Network, a New Zealand-based coworking community plus digital collective that allows hundreds of freelancers and social enterprises to work together for mutual benefit. Lazooz is the blockchain version of Uber where drivers mine digital currency by giving rides, while Swarm is the blockchain version of Kickstarter.

These examples represent three common developmental patterns for platform coops. First, there are legally-defined cooperative versions of sharing economy platforms like Loconomics. Second are hybrids like Enspiral Network, which aren’t legally cooperatives but operate on similar principles leveraging digital technology. Then there’s the most scalable option: blockchain-based platform coops like Lazooz. They leverage the same technology Bitcoin uses —a distributed digital ledger—to coordinate work, govern the platform, and distribute ownership.

All of these paths are worth pursuing. As we do this, we must take care not to duplicate the organizational monoculture of Silicon Valley. However, it’s important to acknowledge that this movement will not produce viable competitors quickly. It took Silicon Valley decades to perfect the assembly line manufacture of startups. It shouldn’t take this movement that long, since Silicon Valley has paved much of the way. The movement can artfully adapt Silicon Valley startup methodology, business models, design, and its innovation ecosystem to launch a wave of platform coops.

How Platform Coops Can Beat Death Stars
While much of the path has been paved, plenty of work remains. Below are five things platform coops must do to beat Death Stars platforms. What else would you add to this list?

1. Incubate the Templates

It will take focused, well-resourced, and consistent effort to work out the interrelated legal, financial, and organizational challenges of forming platform coops. Platform coops aren’t an incremental step up from typical startups, they’re a transformational leap. The path is currently uncertain, expensive, and time consuming. For instance, Loconomics has been working on their structure for going on two years, and aren’t even in beta yet. A better way is needed. Platform coops need to face this challenge together with long-term support of a stable anchor institution, like a university. This high barrier to forming platform coops must be lowered or this new movement will die in its crib.

Part of the magic of tech startups is that there’s a well understood organizational structure, financing method, and developmental path for entrepreneurs to use. In other words, there’s a template. Platform coops need templates too, but ones which support a diversity of organizational patterns. What’s needed is a small number of incubators in different global cities working together to give birth to the first wave of platform coops. The trick is to get the first few platform coops off the ground, and then develop a global ecosystem that encourages replication of working models across industry verticals and geographies.

2. Offer a better service at a competitive price

Let’s not forget business fundamentals. Platform coops must offer a better service at a competitive price to beat Death Stars. A lot hinges on simply executing better day in and day out, but strategy plays a big role too. The key strategic challenge is figuring out how to leverage platform coops’ social mission, democratic structure to help them compete. User ownership and control offers inherent advantages that stem from a more engaging and empowering relationship to other users and the enterprise itself. For instance, platform coops could attract more loyal users at a lower cost than Death Stars by offering user-ownership. All else being equal, user-owners will likely deliver better service than 1099 contractors. Platform coops may be able to create a deeper community experience than Death Stars, which routinely feign community ethos for profit. The social mission of platform coops could help them access less expensive labor and capital like traditional cooperatives. They could also gain a cost advantage by developing a common software infrastructure or using open source platforms by ShareTribe and GNUsocial.

3. Take Cooperation to the Next Level

It goes without saying that platform coops should cooperate, as that is standard operating procedure in the cooperative world. In fact, it’s number six of the sector’s widely embraced Rochdale Principles. However, platform coops should take cooperation to the next level to exploit a potentially decisive competitive advantage over Death Stars. Death Stars’ closed nature which make it nearly impossible for them to engage in the deep collaboration between cooperatives seen in regions like Quebec, Canada, Emilia-Romagna, Italy, and Basque Country, Spain. Clusters of small to medium-sized cooperatives in these regions often compete successfully against large multinationals through networking, formal collaborations, and shared infrastructure such as market research centers, banks, and universities. These cooperatives collaborate in a much deeper way than tech companies. In fact, they act almost as if they’re one organism.

Platform coops must act similarly. For examble, the replacement for Airbnb shouldn’t be another centralizing global platform even if it’s a cooperative. It should be a federation of locally-owned cooperatives that are interconnected technologically (Fairbnb!). GNUsocial’s microblogging platform is an example. Each node is on a different server, but users can interact across nodes. The advantage is a much more resilient, user-controlled, distributed infrastructure. At Somero 2015 last month, GNUsocial took a big leap by unveiling the alpha version of a hospitality module called GNUbnb.

Platform coops can share much more than software including data, digital reputation, knowledge, marketing, public relations, legal, lobbying, and physical space. And share all of this on a global basis—as Michel Bauwens’ open coop proposal advises—and across industries. Cities should get in on the action too. They should cooperate with each other and with platform coops to mold the sharing economy in the public interest as Janelle Orsi of the Sustainable Economies Law Center recently suggested.

4. Create an Ecosystem to Distribute Wealth

Silicon Valley arguably creates and concentrates more wealth than any place on earth. Behind this phenomenon is a powerful ecosystem that includes Stanford University, the biggest venture capital firms in the world, an enterprising culture, top notch professional services, and more. This ecosystem birthed the Death Stars, and they’ve benefited greatly from it. Platform coops need a similarly powerful ecosystem to compete, but one that distributes wealth instead of concentrating it. That’s a tall order, but platform coops may have natural allies in creating such an ecosystem including city governments, unions, nonprofits, universities, the free and open source software movement, and social investors like credit unions, social venture funds, and foundations. It took many decades for the Silicon Valley “miracle” to unfold. Similarly, it’ll take an ecosystem to raise this movement.

5. Build a mass movement

Platform cooperatives have the opportunity to channel the huge amount of negative sentiment around Death Star platforms to power their movement. They can also move into the slipstream of awareness Death Stars are creating about the sharing economy to surge forward. However, the movement must be reframed in at least three ways to take advantage of these powerful forces.

First, platform cooperativism must become a populist, trans-partisan movement. If Platform Cooperativism is the coming out party for the cooperative Internet, then it’s a lopsided one. The guest list reads like the line up for New York City’s liberal all star team. That said, I give them credit for a long list of partners including Shareable. That’s a good start at building a movement; they only need to reach across the aisle more going forward.

Second, it must shift emphasis from moral arguments for platform coops to practical ones which convince ordinary folks that the vision is feasible. Hope is essential! Like traditional cooperatives, platform coops could offer inherent competitive advantages, including superior cost structure, better working conditions, higher pay, better reputations, resilience, and alignment between value creators and rewards. In fact, sharing ownership and control with users may become a necessity, as Brad Burnham of Union Square Ventures has argued, for platforms to compete for customers as other advantages are leveled by the market.

Lastly, the emphasis must shift from platform coops formed by providers to a multi-stakeholder model that could include providers, customers, founders, investors, geographic communities, and nature. Provider-driven platform coops are a good start, but they will eventually run into the same problems that arise in any organization when one stakeholder group calls the shots. Investors are a normal part of the mix in traditional coops, so no reason they shouldn’t be here, especially with their power in check as one of many stakeholders.

So an epic choice is before us. Do we accept Death Star platforms’ boring, unresilient, monocultural domination? A domination that will be difficult to shake off once established. A domination that puts the world at each of our individual fingertips while disempowering us collectively. A domination that could permanently damage the richness, resilience, and capacities of our local communities, as Douglas Rushkoff suggests.

Or do we work together to build, as Charles Eisenstein would put it, the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible? A world where platform coops manifest the values of the commons in every community. Where our capacity to manage our resources together is deeply respected. Where polycentric control is a given. Where local laws, customs and cultures are honored. Where self-interest and common good are aligned. Where we are truly alive.

The odds against this more beautiful world are the same odds Luke Skywalker faced against the Death Star in the original Star Wars. The key to victory is the same too. We must use the force, but the force in this case isn’t some mystical energy, the force is us.

Neal Gorenflo is the co-founder of Shareable, an award-winning news, action, connection hub for the sharing transformation.

In peace, kindness, and friendship,


How Platform Coops Can Beat Death Stars Like Uber to Create a Real Sharing Economy
-via Shareable

If You Are Serious About A Peaceful Future
Quote: Desmond Tutu

Posted on 16 November 2015 | No responses

“He had many wounds.” She spoke with the precision of a coroner. “In the upper abdomen were five wounds. These wounds indicated that different weapons were used to stab him, or a group of people stabbed him.” Mrs Mhlawuli continued her harrowing testimony to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She spoke about the disappearance and murder of her husband, Sicelo. “In the lower part, he also had wounds. In total, there were forty-three. They poured acid on his face. They chopped off his right hand just below the wrist. I don’t know what they did with that hand.” A wave of horror and nausea rose in me.

Now it was nineteen-year-old Babalwa’s turn to speak. She was eight when her father died. Her brother was only three. She described the grief, police harassment, and hardship in the years since her father’s death. And then she said, “I would love to know who killed my father. So would my brother.” Her next words stunned me and left me breathless. “We want to forgive them. We want to forgive, but we don’t know who to forgive.”

There are days when I wish I could erase from my mind all the horrors I have witnessed. It seems there is no end to the creative ways we humans can find to hurt each other, and no end to the reasons we feel justified in doing so. There is also no end to the human capacity for healing. In each of us, there is an innate ability to create joy out of suffering, to find hope in the most hopeless of situations, and to heal any relationship in need of healing.

I would like to share with you two simple truths: there is nothing that cannot be forgiven, and there is no one undeserving of forgiveness. When you can see and understand that we are all bound to one another—whether by birth, by circumstance, or simply by our shared humanity—then you will know this to be true. I have often said that in South Africa there would have been no future without forgiveness. Our rage and our quest for revenge would have been our destruction. This is as true for us individually as it is for us globally.

~Desmond Tutu, The Book of Forgiving

The Power Dynamics of Theatrical Storytelling

Posted on 12 November 2015 | No responses

Theatremakers need to demand more from the institutions that are teaching their art. I keep finding great big gaping holes in people’s knowledge of storytelling and the dynamics of creating story. Today I have decided to fill a couple holes.

In 1955 Oxford University Press published a book by M.H. Abrams called, The Mirror and the Lamp: romantic theory and the critical tradition. The work largely covers the various movements in literary and art criticism in the eighteenth century. What is most memorable/useful about this book is found in the first few pages of its introduction. Here Abrams outlines the relationships among artist, audience, creative work, and the universe as used by critics. Below is a replication of the graphic the author provides.

universe, work, artist, audience

Abrams says, “A critic tends to derive from one of these terms (the) principal categories for defining, clarifying, and analysing a work of art, as well as the major criteria by which (the critic) judges its value.” The primary questions critics ask of a work are these:

  • How well does this work reflect the nature of the universe?
  • Does it truthfully portray human interaction?
  • How well does the work represent the artist’s intentions?
  • How much insight, creativity, and originality does the artist invest in this work?
  • How well does the work communicate to the audience?
  • Are they moved emotionally?
  • Are they made to think more deeply about the universe in some way?
  • Do they find the work memorable?
  • Are any morals put forward such that they enlighten the audience?
  • Does the response of the audience mean anything in this work’s case?
  • Who is doing the responding and why?
  • Does the work stand on its own without reference to the artist?
  • Does the work stand on its own because of or in spite of its relationship to the universe as we know it?

Different critics will give different weights to these questions, depending upon their particular theory of art.

M.H. Abrams is looking at the creation of art as a single person endeavour. These questions are added to the instant a work becomes collaborative. Suddenly, we have to think about who is contributing what and why. In theatre, cinema, and television we have an added structure that could be portrayed in this manner.

playwright, director, actors, play, audience

Collectively writers, directors, and actors cooperate to create a play. This play is then presented to an audience. However, I have portrayed a relatively flattened structure. Despite the innovation of democracy, our culture is still enamored with hierarchies and the creating of theatrical art can look like any one of the below structures.

playwright, director, actor, audience in many permutations

So the question we may want to wrestle with is: what difference does it make shifting who is at the top of the theatrical hierarchy?


The playwright is traditionally considered the most crucial element of staged storytelling. People are interested in whether a play was written by William Shakespeare, Antonin Chekov, or Neil Simon. Books on directing theatre at times start with advice on how to break down a script in order to be true to authorial intent. In The Director’s Craft: A Handbook for the Theatre, Katie Michell talks about, “Organising your early responses to the text and building the world that exists before the actions of the play begins.” She then puts forward six preparatory steps a director needs to take before beginning rehearsals including list-making, research, and collating together the biographies for each character.

Basically she is encouraging people to go through a work with a fine-tooth comb in order to put forth a story with insight, integrity, and professionalism. When this is done out of respect for a work, the results can show a certain maturity of performance. Where things go awry, such that we start hearing the term “tyranny of the author” thrown around, is when a playwright starts making absolute or unreasonable demands of the production.

Neil Simon insists that his plays are staged precisely as indicated in his script. He and others also insist that the words are spoken as written, otherwise you have broken contract for their use. Some plays have an expensive price tag, with companies expected to buy individual copies of the script for each of their players. This pushes out of the market small and community theatre companies.

Basically this hierarchy is one where all vision is invested in the writer, the director’s role is solely interpretation, the actor’s role is to fulfill the vision, and the audience is supposed to absorb the vision.


In cinema the director’s role is often seen as the most crucial. We see films because they were directed by George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, the Coen brothers, etc. Theatre gets a little of this with people like Baz Luhrmann.

In this case the director has the vision, the playwright is commissioned in some sense for scenarios, the actors fulfill the vision, and the audience is expected to absorb the vision.

Shakespeare is frequently reinterpreted in order to convey the vision of a director and make the work more accessible/relevant to audiences today. Baz Luhrmann’s interpretation of Romeo and Juliet, where the Montagues and the Capulets are running around with guns, is one example.

Directors are in a better position to manage spectacle than either writers or actors. Spectacle brings in more money than art. This is one reason why Hollywood focuses more on its directors, in order to cover their bottom-line. They can also potentially be the best go-between for actors and playwright, helping to birth a play.


Charismatic actors and actors who have performed well-loved roles can have popular appeal and thereby a certain amount of power in the production of a play. In law there is an aphorism that goes, “A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.” The same can be true for actors who write for themselves. This is not always the case, the trick is in how well actors can ensure the work is about presenting an engaging story to the audience and not about inflating their public status.

Some actors get around this by either collaborating with or commissioning a writer. This puts the playwright in a more powerful position than the director. Those who have succeeded in wearing both hats have largely done so through one person shows such as Looking Through a Glass Onion by John Waters or Gestation by Deb Margolin.

More than a director really, actors are always co-storytellers with the playwright. Their bodies and their voices are new layers of story which bring truth, reality, even beauty to a play. To do this they must remain focused on the work as a whole, their interactions with others, and take pleasure in the collective success of their troupe.


Having the audience at the top of a hierarchy sounds almost democratic. The problem is: who is the audience for any particular play? Is the production a snake oil pitch, and therefore plays as much if not more to the advertiser than the public. Is the work meant to please those in power, such as a dictator, while spreading propaganda to the masses. Of course if you simply have a theatre focused solely on turning a profit, then what plays are chosen becomes a conservative exercise in what is least offensive, most spectacular, and therefore most broadly appealing to the audience.

Audience control works best in improvised theatre. That structure seems relatively flat. You only have actors, audience, and a play. But that is a seriously over-simplified way of looking at what is happening. The actors spend hundreds of hours practising how to be collaborating playwrights and directors in the moment while acting. Playwrights and directors haven’t been removed: they have been internalised and some of their responsibilities are given to the audience, as below.

actors, play, audience

Improvisational theatre can sometimes struggle or lose its appeal after awhile, because it often relies on cliches and the stories may not achieve intellectual complexity or emotional depth. That’s why skilled and dedicated playwrights are so useful.

In some ways the audience is always the most powerful part of theatre. Works are created to be seen and heard. If they aren’t then playwrights and directors alter their approaches until they finally open a dialogue with the public. The question is how much of the public do you wish to appeal to? To which part of the public do you wish to speak and why?

The real artistry of creating theatre happens when people are focused on presenting a good story well. Everyone needs to respect everyone else’s roles, because only then are they likely to express their skills to the fullest. I love it when cast and crew surprise me with thoughts and ideas of which I could not conceive until they added them to the mix. The show is always the better for it. The main issue is for people to learn the humility of dedication to their art, such that egos are set aside and everyone is willing to listen and to cooperate. That’s when the magic happens.

In peace and friendship,


Abrams, M.H. (1953) The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition.
London: Oxford University Press. p. 6.

Mitchell, Katie (2009) The Director’s Craft: A Handbook for the Theatre.
London: Routledge. p. 11.

Why revolution is no longer possible
by Byung-Chul Han, translated by Erik Butler

Posted on 8 November 2015 | No responses

The tough logic of capitalism prevails even at the heart of the sharing economy. As nice as it may be to share, no one gives away anything for free.

A year ago, I responded to Antonio Negri’s presentation at the Berliner Schaubühne, where two critiques of capitalism collided. Negri had enthused about global resistance to “Empire,” the neoliberal system of domination. He presented himself as a Communist revolutionary and referred to me as a skeptical academic.

Zealously, he invoked the “Multitude” — the networked mass of protest and revolution that he clearly trusted to bring the Empire to a fall. The standpoint of the Communist revolutionary struck me as overly naïve and removed from reality.

Accordingly, I tried to say why revolution is no longer possible today.

Why is the neoliberal system of domination so stable? Why is there so little resistance to it? Why does the resistance that does occur so quickly come to naught? Why, despite the ever-expanding divide between rich and poor, is revolution no longer possible? To explain this state of affairs, we need a precise understanding of how power and domination function today.

Anyone wishing to install a new system of rule must eliminate resistance. The same holds for the neoliberal order. Implementing a new system of dominion requires an instance of power that posits; often, this entails the use of force. However, power that posits a system is not identical to power that stabilizes a system internally. As is well known, Margaret Thatcher, the standard bearer of neoliberalism, treated unions as “internal enemies” and combated them violently. For all that, using force to establish the neoliberal agenda does not amount to system-preserving power.

System-preserving power is not repressive, but seductive

In disciplinary and industrial society, system-preserving power was repressive. Factory workers were brutally exploited by factory owners. Such violent exploitation of others’ labor entailed acts of protest and resistance. There, it was possible for a revolution to topple the standing relations of production. In that system of repression, both the oppressors and the oppressed were visible. There was a concrete opponent — a visible enemy —and one could offer resistance.

The neoliberal system of domination has a wholly different structure. Now, system-preserving power no longer works through repression, but through seduction — that is, it leads us astray. It is no longer visible, as was the case under the regime of discipline. Now, there is no longer a concrete opponent, no enemy suppressing freedom that one might resist.

Neoliberalism turns the oppressed worker into a free contractor, an entrepreneur of the self. Today, everyone is a self-exploiting worker in their own enterprise. Every individual is master and slave in one. This also means that class struggle has become an internal struggle with oneself. Today, anyone who fails to succeed blames themselves and feels ashamed. People see themselves, not society, as the problem.

The subjugated subject is not even aware of its subjugation

Any disciplinary power that expends effort to force human beings into a straitjacket of commandments and prohibitions proves inefficient. It is significantly more efficient to ensure that people subordinate themselves to domination on their own. The efficacy defining the system today stems from the fact that, instead of operating through prohibition and privation, it aims to please and fulfill. Instead of making people compliant, it endeavors to make them dependent. This logic of neoliberal efficiency also holds for surveillance. In the 1980s, to cite one example, there were vehement protests against the German national census. Even schoolchildren took to the streets.

From today’s perspective, the information requested therein— profession, education levels, and distance from the workplace — seem almost laughable. At the time, people believed that they were facing the state as an instance of domination wresting data from citizens against their will. That time is long past. Today, people expose themselves willingly. Precisely this sense of freedom is what makes protest impossible. In contrast to the days of the census, hardly anyone protests against surveillance. Free self-disclosure and self-exposure follow the same logic of efficiency as free self-exploitation. What is there to protest against? Oneself? Conceptual artist Jenny Holzer has formulated the paradox of the present situation: “Protect me from what I want.”

It is important to distinguish between power that posits and power that preserves. Today, power that maintains the system assumes a “smart” and friendly guise. In so doing, it makes itself invisible and unassailable. The subjugated subject does not even recognize that it has been subjugated. The subject thinks she is free. This mode of domination neutralizes resistance quite effectively. Domination that represses and attacks freedom is not stable. The neoliberal regime proves stable by immunizing itself against all resistance, because it makes use of freedom instead of repressing it. Suppressing freedom quickly provokes resistance; exploiting freedom does not.

After the Asian financial crisis, South Korea stood paralyzed and shocked. The IMF intervened and extended credit. In return, the government had to assert its neoliberal agenda by force. This was repressive, positing power — the kind that often proves violent and differs from system-preserving power, which manages to pass itself off as freedom.

According to Naomi Klein, the state of social shock following catastrophes such as the financial crisis in South Korea — or the current crisis in Greece — offers the chance to radically reprogram society by force. Today, there is hardly any resistance in South Korea. Quite the opposite: a vast consensus prevails — as well as depression and burnout. South Korea now has the world’s highest suicide rate. People enact violence on themselves instead of seeking to change society. Aggression directed outward, which would entail revolution, has yielded to aggression directed inward, against oneself.

Today, no collaborative, networked multitude exists that might rise up in a global mass of protest and revolution. Instead, the prevailing mode of production is based on lonesome and isolated self-entrepreneurs, who are also estranged from themselves. Companies used to compete with each other. Within each enterprise, however, solidarity could occur. Today, everyone is competing against everyone else — and within the same enterprise, too. Even though such competition heightens productivity by leaps and bounds, it destroys solidarity and communal spirit. No revolutionary mass can arise from exhausted, depressive, and isolated individuals.

Neoliberalism cannot be explained in Marxist terms. The famous “alienation” of labor does not even occur. Today, we dive eagerly into work — until we burn out. The first stage of burnout syndrome, after all, is euphoria. Burnout and revolution are mutually exclusive. Accordingly, it is mistaken to believe that the Multitude will cast off the parasitic Empire to inaugurate a communist society.

The sharing economy leads to the total commercialization of life

How do matters stand with communism today? “Sharing” and “community” are constantly being invoked. The sharing economy is supposed to replace the economy of property and possession. Sharing is Caring runs the maxim of the “Circlers” in Dave Eggers’s recent novel: to share is to cure, so to speak. The sidewalk leading to the Circle corporate office is emblazoned with slogans such as Community First and Humans Work Here. A more honest motto would be, Caring is Killing.

Digital ridesharing centers, which turn all of us into taxi drivers, advertise with appeals to community, too. But it is mistaken to claim — as Jeremy Rifkin does in his newest book, The Zero Marginal Cost Society — that the sharing economy has sounded the end of capitalism and inaugurated a communally-oriented society in which sharing is valued more highly than owning. The opposite is the case: the sharing economy ultimately leads to the total commercialization of life.

The change that Rifkin celebrates — from owning to “access” — has not freed us from capitalism. People without money still have no access to sharing. Even in the age of access, we still live within what Didier Bigo has dubbed the “Ban-opticon,” and those without means remain excluded. “Airbnb” — the computerized marketplace that turns every home into a hotel — has even made hospitality a commodity.

The ideology of “community” or a “collaborative commons” leads to the total capitalization of existence. It makes it impossible to be friendly without a purpose. In a society of continuous, mutual feedback, friendship, too, becomes commercialized. People are friendly to get better ratings.

The tough logic of capitalism prevails even at the heart of the sharing economy. As nice as it may be to share, no one gives away anything for free. Capitalism reaches fulfillment when it sells communism as a commodity. Communism as a commodity spells the end of revolution.

About the author

Korean-born German philosopher Byung-Chul Han teaches philosophy and cultural studies at Berlin’s University of the Arts (UdK). He is the author of more than 16 books, covering topics as diverse as violence, love, ADHD and religion. In the past few years, his provocative essays have been translated into numerous languages, and he has become one of the most widely read philosophers in Europe and beyond. Two of his books, The Transparency Society and The Burnout Society, were published in English by Stanford Universitiy Press in August 2015.

This piece was originally published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, 2 September 2014.
via Transformation: where love meets social justice

This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. Cc-by-nc

Quote: Viola Spolin—natural goals over chasing success

Posted on 7 November 2015 | No responses

(in acting) “When the goal appears easily and naturally and comes from growth rather than forcing, the end-result, performance or whatever, will be no different from the process that achieved the result. If we are trained only for success, then to gain it we must necessarily use everyone and everything for this end; we may cheat, lie, crawl, betray, or give up all social life to achieve success. How much more certain would knowledge be if it came from and out of the excitement of learning itself? How many human values will be lost and how much will our art forms be deprived if we seek only success?”

~Viola Spolin, Improvisation for the Theater, Third Edition

Cooperation, Collaboration, and Friendship
in Theatre, Games, Higher Education and Beyond

Posted on 6 November 2015 | No responses

The world is facing some far-reaching problems: problems to do with the environment and the rich-poor divide. These are not necessarily insurmountable. However, their resolution requires a high level of both cooperation and collaboration.

Given the sheer volume of people who are affected by climate change, poverty, and injustice, you would think more people would be joining forces to create change. Where is the spirit of the 1960s where thousands of people marched for civil rights, the end of the Vietnam war, environmental causes, and more? Our culture has been doing a good job of divide and conquer when it comes to public action.

The Arts and Collaboration

In the arts we have numerous creative disciplines that require sustained collaborative efforts in order to achieve an aesthetic result: theatre, dance performance, cinema, orchestra, computer game design, etc. A number of universities are still teaching these as hierarchical endeavours.

When I was studying various theatrical disciplines to help with my playwriting, those students in the directorial course were treated like a special breed. I was something of an outsider, since playwriting was taught in the English department. The directing students often annoyed me, because they were frequently not as insightful as the English majors and knew little about working with people. Too many of them simply wanted glory and power. And the department seemed to be playing along with this.

Fast forward to my years teaching storytelling for computer game design and I am carefully instructing my students in collaborative skills. We were in the era of the start-up, where clusters of bright, skilled, young people were establishing their own businesses and had to know how to work together. I was also teaching in the Professional Writing and Editing department.

Programmers are currently powerful enough in our society that they don’t always put up with business hierarchies. Or rather, they don’t put up with being near the bottom of hierarchies. So, if you have a tech based business, you usually have to flatten the hierarchy. However, when their work intersects with creative industries, some programmers are happy shoving the creatives to the bottom of the hierarchy. So teaching my students how to project manage, I felt, was critical to their survival in the real world.

If you are one person planting a tree to save the world, you can easily be disheartened and feel pathetic. A whole lot of people planting their trees individually can still achieve a significant amount of change to the environment, but they will face difficulties sustaining their efforts. We have to learn how to work together. When we are cooperating it is indeed true that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts, if for no other reason than we now have a special focus and energy from our esprit de corps. We need schools and universities teaching these skills not only to their arts students, but to everyone.

Education and Collaboration

Blocking efforts in cooperative and collaborative learning is the competitive structure of education. Students in secondary/high schools are less inclined to help one another when their academic standing is the difference between going to a respected university or a poorly funded TAFE/community college (if anything). The process starts all over when grades at university mean the difference between getting a highly paid job or struggling to get by.

I refused to use “the curve” when grading. Curve grading is when you assume that grades will naturally fall into a distribution that can be graphically represented using a bell-shaped curve…so, you assign grades to fit a bell shaped curve. That means only a few students achieve top grades, lots of people achieve middle grades, and a few will fail. So many things are wrong with this methodology. The easiest flaw to spot is its self-fulfilling nature. What blew my mind about it is how many university lecturers are using this system. Surely given the university entry process, if a bell curve exists then it must be skewed in a university environment. After all, students are culled from schools as the top academically performing young people. Hardly any of them should be failing, and a great many of them should deserve top grades.

The rule in my course was: you do the work, you get the grade. I then made sure to carefully outline what was expected of my students for every assignment, and gave a point value totalling to one hundred of what precisely I was looking for. Anything that might involve a taste call (this was a creative class after all), I did not grade but I did make comments. One of the administrative assistants for the department took my course, for which I am deeply grateful. When the head of the department called into question the number of “A” grades I was giving, the assistant asked him whether he had taken my class. She then explained how hard my students worked and the success they had in the real world afterward. It’s so nice getting a little validation now and again (and keeping my job).

Bell curve grading helps to justify the concept of hierarchy. The message is: “You are a biological machine and your place in the social hierarchy is pre-determined.”

Despite many groups trying to say that competition brings people together, it may bring a select group of embattled individuals together—ultimately it drives people apart. Richmond Tigers football team members and supporters may work together and learn how to cooperate, but ultimately the whole point is to defeat the Collingwood Magpies. The two teams may be cooperating enough to join in a game at a stadium and follow the rules, but the more intense the competition, the more the peoples related to each team are driven apart. This is when you start to see people resorting to fisticuffs on the field and in the stands. To resolve global issues we need everyone cooperating.

Business, Government, and Cooperation

Another block to cooperating and collaborating, and perhaps the most insidious, is the culture of convenience.

Theatre and cinema are prone to a high percentage of people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. People with this disorder are highly manipulative, but also vulnerable to certain sorts of manipulation. Our capitalistic culture likes to nurture this sort of co-dependency in order to sell product. People with this disorder can seem very warm and supportive, they can feel like a loving and supportive parent. The problem is this behaviour is in aid of getting you dependent upon them, so that you will feed their emotional needs and become an extension of their personality. We have plenty of social media that is structured to work in much the same way. The site gives you lots of warm-fuzzies, then makes you dependent upon it for access to your friends. Now they can manipulate you to buy.

Whenever you get into a situation where someone else is trying to take the “burden” of thinking, interacting, and decision making away from you, not only are they removing responsibilities from you, they are also taking away your power.

Whenever an advertisement makes you afraid that you are going to offend your friends through some social faux pas for which they can help, that ad has created a wedge between people that often did not exist before. They have given you a substitute for your personal self assurance, you are dependent upon them to feel good about yourself. You could have asked your friends, “is this a problem?” If they said “not really”, then you could have freed yourself from both the fear and the expense. Of course if they said “yes it is”, you have a number of options: you can decide this person may not be that good of a friend, they are a good friend but I don’t agree with their assessment, they are a good friend and I should probably listen to what they have said, and I do want to deal with this issue but I choose how I will resolve it not the advertising company. All of these entail a certain amount of discomfort, but ultimately you are the one in control. We have to get over being discomfort averse. Some discomfort is useful and inevitable. Avoiding it can lead to overwhelming problems over which you will have little to no control.

Friends Institute

Joining with others to change the world for the better will not cause you to lose your identity or your individuality. This is hard to believe when so much codependency, such as that arising from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, exists in the world. Fewer people know how to even form the bonds of friendship in our current economic climate.

I am in the midst of putting together a university whose main purpose is to help people learn how to cooperate, collaborate, and form friendships. With these skills they can better form democratic theatre groups, computer game design companies, environmental action groups, refugee support organisations, and more. The cooperative business, education, and political model is the way forward. Our capacity to hold a hand out in friendship to other people and all living beings will save the world. If you are interested in Friends Institute, I would love to hear from you. If you are starting your own cooperative, I would very much love to hear from you and how you are doing!

In peace and friendship,


Boycott Ethics

Posted on 2 November 2015 | No responses

When I was living in Seattle I had a friend who worked with a boycott network. He explained to me their methodology, and I was deeply impressed. Their organisation showed real thoughtfulness and ethics. What I learned from them:

Boycotts are a peaceful form of pressure to create change. If they are merely punitive, they lose their power.

If you tell a company (or country or institution…) that you will never use them again because of their behaviour, they have less of a reason to change because they have already lost you.

If you tell a group, “I am boycotting you for this reason, but if you change your behaviour, I will return.” They have more incentive to change.

Boycotts must have the potential to be closed.

The boycott network regularly checked to see if those groups upon whom a boycott was called had modified their behaviour. When they did, the network would notify their members and call the boycott off. This provided those formerly boycotted with the positive reinforcement of return customers or similar.

What is boycotted must be carefully selected.

Will a particular boycott create more harm than good? Will it cause people to suffer? Will it slow progress toward more enlightened action, rather than assisting it? Is this boycott about venting rage or carefully considered to create change?

I’m not keen on cultural boycotts of countries, because I believe the exchange of ideas is the best way to help people to change their minds. I’m also not keen on food boycotts. Starving people doesn’t seem to be an answer…it’s only a few steps away from bombing them. Boycotting access to military and police technology, I believe is acceptable. I’m also okay with putting completely intransigent companies out of business.

Painting the entirety of a group of people as evil and incapable of self-reflection or change is a form of dehumanisation and bigotry. We don’t make of the world a better place this way. It’s also a sure recipe for radicalisation. We need to be flexible, understanding, and patient, while holding steady when it comes to life-affirming and pro-social values.

Each person has to be considered individually. I am not on the side of big business and conservatism simply because I was born in the US. The same is true of other people who were born in other countries. Sometimes people in big companies are there because they are desperate to make a living, but do not support the aims or the means of their employer. These are not the people with whom you should be making enemies.

What we need to do is find ways to make it easier for people to do the right thing, and give them all the support we can when they do.

Peace and kindness,


How We Build A Future Worth Living In

Posted on 27 October 2015 | No responses

At the end of November in Paris, the UN Climate Change Conference will bring together leaders from around the world to come to a universal climate agreement. Before that date many people will be forming climate marches to ensure that their leaders understand the level of support for such an agreement. Key to this agreement are seventeen global sustainability goals.

These goals are beautifully and accessibly set out at The Global Goals website

For your information I have decided to also list them here. Please help support the acceptance of these goals by our leaders and the peoples of our countries.

1) End poverty in all its forms everywhere.

2) End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

3) Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages.

4) Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

5) Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

6) Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

7) Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

8) Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.

9) Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation.

10) Reduce inequality within and among countries.

11) Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

12) Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

13) Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (taking note of agreements made by the UNFCCC forum).

14) Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

15) Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss.

16) Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

17) Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development.

In peace, kindness, and friendship,


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