Notes on chat over chai

August 27, 2012 § 1 Comment

This blogpost is just some hastily-written notes and quotes related to things discussed during a conversation I had with a new friend over chai yesterday. Among other things, we traversed…

…Richard J.F. Day’s book Gramsci is Dead (2005). Scott Neigh wrote the following in his review:

The main purpose of this book is to contrast two different logics of social change, which the author names “hegemony” and “affinity.” Hegemony he links to both the liberal and the Marxist traditions which dominated much political thought and action throughout the twentieth century. In this understanding, a single order, a single centre, a single system, dominates (has hegemony over) a geographical area, often a nation state but increasingly at the global level. When applied to social change, the idea is that in order to effect change you must shift or transform the forces exerting hegemonic control, but keep the hegemonic nature of such control intact.

Affinity, on the other hand, is much more comfortable with change that is transient or incomplete, with struggles that are ongoing, with decentralized networks of nodes of collectives that come together, partially liberate some time and space, that say “this is what we want for us, what do you want for you?”, and perhaps dissipate and reform and resurge in another guise elsehwere, elsehwhen, but do not seek to impose a single model of change on everyone and every thing. He sees this as a logic with a history in anarchist thought that is coming to the forefront in the newest social movements, from the Zapatistas and other indigenous struggles to the Independent Media Centres and the Italian autonomous zones.

…Charles Eisenstein saying something not totally dissimilar, in his text Where next for Occupy?:

Despite the rhetoric of the 99% and the 1%, I find in talking to influential people in the movement a deep understanding that no one is merely a victim of the system I have described. We are also its perpetuators and its enforcers; it is woven into our habits, our psychology, our very being. That is why the movement has striven to embody a different way of relating and being through consensus-based decision-making, open space technologies, gift-based allocation of resources, non-violent communication, and so forth. We want to change the psychic and interpersonal substructure of the system we live in. That is why this movement has united the long-sundered currents of spiritual practice and political activism. And that is also why we say: The revolution is love.

While such a statement might trigger the inner cynic who associates love with a mere emotional state, akin to the spiritual escapism of the last three decades, I think it actually offers an organizing principle around which meaningful social and political action can coalesce. Let me offer some examples of Occupy-themed actions that might flow from a vision of a revolution of love.

…and Marshall Rosenberg and Non-Violent Communication. On this subject Wikipedia (good old Wikipedia) has the following to say:

Nonviolent Communication holds that most conflicts between individuals or groups arise from miscommunication about their human needs, due to coercive or manipulative language that aims to induce fear, guilt, shame, etc. These “violent” modes of communication, when used during a conflict, divert the attention of the participants away from clarifying their needs, their feelings, their perceptions, and their requests, thus perpetuating the conflict. The aim of Nonviolent Communication is then to steer the conversation back towards the needs, feelings, and perceptions, until the discovery of strategies that allow everyone’s needs to be met. The reasoning is that from a position of mutual understanding and empathy, the participants will be able to find ways to meet their needs in a way that works for everybody.

That’s almost all; I suppose a reason the conversation happened in the first place was a thought like this:

Those of us who attempt to act and do things for others or for the world without deepening our own self-understanding, freedom, integrity and capacity to love, will not have anything to give others. We will communicate to them nothing but the contagion of our obsessions, our aggressivity, our ego-centered ambitions and our delusions about ends and means. – Thomas Merton


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