Opening Up Public Dialogue and Debate

“The system is broken in so many ways that it’s dizzying to try to name them all… The problem is everywhere… This isn’t the kind of world we want to live in, and it’s we who have to decide what world we do want.”

Sarah van Gelder, ‘This Changes Everything: How the 99% Woke Up’, Nov 18, 2011

“The Corporate Revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.

“Remember this: we be many and they be few.

“They need us more than we need them.

“Another world is possible.

“She is already on her way.

“On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing”.

– Arundhati Roy

The “neoliberal hegemony” as the controllers of international finance “hold the purse strings” and thereby dominate and misdirect all sectors of the globalized economy – setting the agenda, policies and strategic directions for the research, education, media and industry of the ‘free market’ economy worldwide – while very actively suppressing alternatives and alternative views.

However:

All the propaganda in the world can’t hide the obvious forever. There are, of course, countless many of us in the global family of humanity who already reject the current system of ‘disaster capitalism’, and we have been exceedingly busy about the business of “changing the narrative”, “writing our story”, or, as Indigenous Movements often phrase it, “decolonizing the mind”. It’s a big job.

“The WikiLeaks papers… conclusively reveal the extent to which politicians in the West have been lying to their citizens.”

Javier Moreno, Editor of (the French newspaper) El Pais, 2011

So sweeping is the deception and the cover-up that we, the people, have become, in many cases, the unwitting instruments of our own demise.

Manufacturing Consent

In 2009, the famed political dissident and coiner of the phrase “Manufacturing Consent”, Noam Chomsky, wrote:

“Propagandists labour to disguise the obvious, to conceal the actual workings of power, and to spin a web of mythical goals and purposes…”

The 2010 2011 WikiLeaks Whistle-blower Chelsea Manning – now finally released from US imprisonment- asks:

“Without information,
how are the people to make informed decisions as a public?”

Under neoliberalism, the people have no voice, nor political power:

“.001% of the world’s human population are making the decisions that impact the lives of us all.”

Community-rights-based activist Paul Cienfuegos

(Aug 28, 2014, ‘Local Communities Dismantling Corporate Rule, Part 3’)

“We have to develop a new sort of knowledge, a knowledge starting on the principle of dignity.              A knowledge which lives outside of universities and research institutions.

“We need other sources of information apart from TV and internet; we have to listen to the neighbourhood, the countryside, listen to other voices and other cultures… [And we need to recognize] the importance of not just developing alternatives, but also of developing an alternative rational framework, where the alternatives gain legitimacy, from a different value pattern. “

Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Head of the Department of Sociology at the University of Coimbra, Portugal, Co-founder of the World Social Forum and Collaborator on the progressive platform Transform Europe

In this Conversation, we are concerned with the issues of public awareness-raising, of opening up public dialogue, of bringing greater ‘weight’ and ‘authority’ to views and information not represented within the narrow (iron-grip) constraints of the “corporate paradigm”.

The Earth Holocracy Proposal avers that the answer lies in the grassroots establishment of “Holocratic People’s Assemblies”. It is proposed that within the People’s own self-established and self-empowered “civil organizations”, communities conduct their own exploration and sharing of truthful information as the basis for making well-informed collective decisions regarding matters that directly impact their lives. Please see “The Holocratic Circle” to explore this strategy.

Here we explore the People’s University of Social Movements initiative – and Boaventura de Sousa Santosis’ analysis of “the seven big threats” – which highlight the necessity of expanding public dialogue and debate:

The People’s University of Social Movements

With the ‘People’s University of Social Movements’ initiative, Boaventura de Sousa Santosis (head of department of Sociology at the University of Coimbra, Portugal, co-founder of the World Social Forum and collaborator on the progressive platform Transform Europe) has instigated a an eloquently simple, yet brilliant, tactic for speeding the process of genuine democratization.

With the ‘People’s University of Social Movements’ initiative, Boaventura de Sousa and colleagues have established a fine model for a dynamic opening up of public dialogue and debate.

“The world today is facing a deep crisis. Yet at the same time, the neoliberal growth model is still presented as the only possible option. The Portuguese sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos exposes the myth and made it his life’s mission to build an epistemology of alternatives. It’s time to open the doors and windows of our universities and let the wind of alternative knowledge blow through, says de Sousa.”

Alma De Walsche, introducing her interview with Boaventura de Sousa Santos:

Boaventura de Sousa:

I see seven big threats, which at the same time are challenges to turn this trend around.

The first threat is the disorganisation of the state.

The state is an institute which should provide security and protection. These rights were gained through tough social battles by the people and the working classes. These rights provided access to goods, education, health care and support in unemployment. In the 19th and 20th century, workers couldn’t buy the products they themselves had produced… After WWII the social democracy shaped… but there is no longer a social-democratic collective context.

The collective social context leans much more towards parties on the right side of the political spectrum. Whilst in the past the state has plenty of non-mercantile relations with its citizens, these have been strongly diminished today. Everything gets privatised and needs to adhere to the logic of the markets. This is a very real threat…

The second threat is the destabilisation of democracy.

As long as there was a climate in which financial capital was regulated and the state provided public services, social democracy could flourish… Today, capitalism is unrestrained and showing its true, destructive face: it destroys the rights of people, their future, nature. All this for the sole goal of increasing profits.

The third threat is commoditising knowledge.

Knowledge has to deliver a profit. Universities invest much more in biotechnology than in humanities because the return on investment is much higher. But the impact on society of this evolution is hard to grasp. The European program Horizon 2020 is a perfect example of the dominance of technology.

The fourth threat is the destruction of nature.

Destruction of nature means destruction of the means of living…

The fifth threat is the devaluation of labour.

Today work – as an instrument to civil rights – has been completely eroded. Work becomes precarious and unions are further deconstructed.

The sixth threat is criminalisation of social protest.

Governments are decreeing more and more laws prohibiting people to go out on the streets, even for peaceful protests. In Latin America, governments are using anti-terror laws to block protests of indigenous people against the invasion of their lands by multinationals.

The seventh threat is the colonisation of minds, of everything that is different.

Racism has taken on a new shape today. A cognitive type of racism is growing, not based on the colour of your skin, but based on your beliefs. Islamophobia is such racism. Racism is usually a reaction against someone seen as inferior or as dangerous. Most likely both.

This presents a far-reaching, dark reality. What can we do in such a situation?

Boaventura de Sousa:

The situation we are in today seems indeed so dark that we cannot afford to just sit and take it. We cannot let this happen.

I do not think you can find a solution for this cluster of problems through direct politics. It is not suited to deal with these sort of issues.

Research institutions have become so standardised that the same material is being taught everywhere, while universities were originally designed to develop a unique future for your country. You can’t imagine Mexico without the Autonomous University of Mexico City (UNAM) or Brazil without the University of Sao Paulo. But neoliberalism isn’t interested in such projects.

In Coimbra, we try to establish alliances to build a knowledge centre that includes the epistemology itself, to give people of these movements and organisations a platform. We don’t only need alternatives, we also need an alternative way to think about alternatives. We need to look through a new pair of glasses.

We have to develop a new sort of knowledge, a knowledge starting on the principle of dignity. A knowledge which lives outside of universities and research institutions.

Hence the importance of not just developing alternatives, but also of developing an alternative rational framework, where the alternatives gain legitimacy, from a different value pattern.

We have to create space for alternatives.

Through universities?

Through the people’s university of social movements.

It is an “Occupy” concept of our universities.

We set up workshops outside the university space where we bring together intellectuals and academics with people from social movements. One third academics, two thirds social movements and no one gets more than three minutes talking time. That way we try to create new forms of education and new alliances. We need other sources of information apart from TV and internet; we have to listen to the neighbourhood, the countryside, listen to other voices and other cultures to understand how they perceive reality.

Alma De Walsche, MO, 29 June 2015, Interview with Boaventura de Sousa Santosis – The crisis is a conscious strategy for social demolition

In an effort to present an expansive overview of global socio-politics, the Earth Holocracy Proposal presents contributes various articles and the entirety of its sixth volume: Why Whole System Change is Necessary.

Accurate Information for Informed Public Decision-Making

The “movement of movements” that this site’s Vital Conversations serve to further can hardly proceed without a commonly shared understanding of our world today – our challenges and opportunities, our actual situation, what’s really going on.

Clarifying such is the ultimate goal of this Conversation.

The Earth Holocracy Proposal offers various starting points for this Conversation.

The first four articles of Volume One are “scene setters” : they present a rich case for radical change:

The Urgency of Effective Work for the Common Good
Effectively Addressing the Issue of Climate Change
The Shift to a Life-Sustaining Civilization
The Time for Real Global Democracy is Now

Volume Three presents the voices of numerous social movements championing democratic, ecologically-sound and humanly-rewarding alternatives to neoliberalism.

Issues highlighted for open public debate, dialogue and information-sharing include:

The proposal’s Volume Six is the Proposal’s “open the eyes”, “slam on the breaks”, and “turn around” volume.

Volume Six: Why Whole System Change is Necessary

Proceed – if you like – to “part two” of this Vital Conversation:

Establishing Civil Organizations for Whole Community Engagement