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Bait & Switch Political Nightmare Social Change

Ra-Ra Cheerleading Democracy

Hi MX,

A few words of insider insight from you could really help me decide how much energy I can personally justify putting in to the Stop Climate Chaos activities this year. In addition, it would colour the replies I give to my colleagues […] who are asking about how much we try to get behind and support and promote Stop Climate Chaos.

The [SCC] coalition meeting audience on Wednesday was assured that if we mobilised and made demands that we, by our efforts, could make the Green Deal strong/effective, that we could “win”. But this could seem a ridiculous waste of time, as the Energy Bill is already very clear about what the Government wants in the Green Deal. What is it that we are fighting for in that case ? Nobody introducing the campaigning plan outline had produced a layman’s guide to the components of the Energy Bill for us to try to digest – no points that we were encouraged to contest.

I discussed this situation with a co-worker of mine and his expression was to call Stop Climate Chaos a “Government chihuahua”. From his analysis, Stop Climate Chaos members are not being asked to “fight” a “campaign” – we are being asked to support what the Government is already intending to do. The top political negotiators are trying to sell us the narrative of “effective campaigning”, but just as in all […] campaigns, there’s nothing to struggle for, only things to assent to. This is just the same as back in the days of Gordon Brown when a fix had already been done at the political level for Make Poverty History, and the masses were invited to come out and wave flags for it. It’s so obviously saccharine, what’s the point of being involved ? And how do I get the energy together to sell engagement to other people ?

I and my colleagues are pleased to offer polite support, and we will even come and wave flags, but where’s the chewy centre ?

As for the summer “challenge” to the energy industries, Greenpeace, as usual, will probably soak up a lot of creative and hormonal energy from those who believe they need to be assertive and proactive, and who feel angry, but again as usual, Greenpeace will be pretty much dismissed by the general public (and given a very long leash by the Government). Is it all about keeping potential troublemakers busy (like the NASA Space Program) ? Quite a number of people I come into contact with prefer to take action outside of the recognised organisations for this very reason.

The basic problem of energy has to be approached in terms of systems – holistic strategies for future low carbon energy provision. This is not going to be addressed by going after individual energy technologies as Greenpeace seem to feel they have to. Where is the generic critique of “technofixes” and the analysis of the likely failings of a number of the components of the current UK energy “plan” ? Where, for example, is Carbon Capture just now ? Is it ever likely to succeed (without the EU and national subsidies proposed) ? I don’t know if I can ask my colleagues to support a technology crucifiction without offering a positive alternative.

I guess I’m ready to stop playing the “campaigning” game. I never believed in it, as a matter of fact. It’s completely artificial, and the drawing together of large, broad consensus, such as Stop Climate Chaos, shows up the failings in the “campaign” language and the theories of social engagement in democracy. I don’t believe that people can be “mobilised” around issues, except maybe at the grassroots, local level. Oh yes, I’ve filled in my fair share of campaign postcards, signed petitions, written e-mails, joined marches, but I can no longer sell this model of political interaction since I am discovering how it’s treated with such patronising attitudes by those who actually make decisions. As long as I am considered a “campaigner” or “environmentalist”, I shall continue to be ignored. I am really neither. I am a systems engineer with a background in electronics engineering and IT.

I don’t think my “democratic” representative gives any consideration to things that truly concern me and that I try to communicate. I don’t think any of the “campaigns” have a clue about what is really needed to solve the Climate Change or Energy emergencies, and they are often dismissive about engineering and systems work that can point the way. Those in the campaign groups that have dialogue with the political system don’t have the bandwidth to really listen to those working on the ground on local issues. There’s an awful lot of listening not going on.

Really, is there any point putting any energy into Stop Climate Chaos ?

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Hi Jo

I enjoyed working with you over the weekend – thanks for your useful and enthusiastic contributions. And your observations in your email about the effectiveness or otherwise of campaigning are highly relevant to our next session(s).

I should say that my (heavy) involvement with SCC came to an end c. 2 years ago so I am not that au fait with it now. Let’s discuss this next time we meet in more detail but I would argue that it is worth maintaining membership of SCC (I can’t see that adding your organisation’s name to it can cause any harm […]) whilst carrying out some kind of ‘cost-benefit analysis’ with colleagues (as you have begun to do) so as to decide how much time and money [they want] to devote to supporting its campaigns. I do think the nature of a Coalition Government (with a leader of the opposition who genuinely cares about this stuff) does potentially provide some political leverage which well focussed and run campaigns might capitalise on – and to a large degree the Climate Change Act did come about as a result of a FoE/SCC campaign.

And is it worth [your organisation] considering [signing] up in some way with 38 Degrees and Avaaz?

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Hi MX,

It was a fun weekend, was it not ? Our group is a great crowd, and the members have these amazing social roles and incredible in-depth experience, so there’s a wide variety of skill sets and personalities. We could go far.

I do appreciate the time and energy you devoted to the block conference days, and I hope I showed you that I enjoyed the learning and exercises and and your out-there honesty and clearly genuine passion for this work.

I’ve decided that what I really don’t like in campaigning is the promise of political engagement but the complete absence of any real influence.

The way all campaigns seem to be run is that the leaders try and shake everyone’s trees to “come on down, get involved, you can take part, we can win”, but the net result is mere flag waving. We are the sheeple.

It is a lie at the core of the machine, and people back away from that cognitive dissonance even if they don’t recognise it. If it’s numbers you want, you won’t get that by selling the myth of political engagement. Only the lead political negotiators in a campaign organisation stand a chance of real dialogue with those who make the decisions. Everybody else only has the kind of access that allows flag waving.

So campaigning shouldn’t be sold as a dialogue but a tick-the-box petition, maybe. Maybe it should be made more clear that there are skilled elites, and the rest of us are just nay-sayers or yay-nodders. 38 degrees and Avaaz are great examples of just that. That’s fine as long as there’s no sales pitch that suggests otherwise.

Of course [we] are going to stay signed-up to SCC – it’s a very Japanese politeness that insists that we all publicly support each other in the campaigns movement. Solidarity can be highly important – especially over complex issues – as long as they are well-defined.

The question is : is it worth us trying to use the SCC machine to try to launch our own messaging within the channels that exist there ? Is it possible ? The [SCC] coalition “planning” meetings always feel like we are allowed to speak, but not permitted to influence what SCC come up with. It is this entirely contrived “consultation” process that really gets my mountain-roaming bearded farm animal.

Since the ConDems do have some people who care about these issues, and the Civil Service does have some people that actually care about these issues, then why does SCC need to exist ? Does the Government really need flag-waving for its plans ? I doubt it. No “mandate from the people” required. Why do we need to march and protest and demonstrate ? And more importantly, why do we waste everyone’s time asking them to march, protest and demonstrate ?

It’s so much more efficient for me to sell the simple and quick ePetitions to [our] Members. […] They don’t want to be asked to march/protest etc, although some of us do.

Come on – let’s be honest – exactly how much of the work leading up to the Climate Change Act was guided by public pressure ? The NGO political elites handled most of the conversation, and key individuals were involved in promoting public and media debates, and more importantly, there was a lot of synergy because government types had begun to read the EU briefings and could see the way the land lay.

Is it efficient to ask for public input on strategy ? If a government has good advice from real experts, why does the public need to be consulted ? The public often get things wrong technically – the classic example being the completely irrational fear over mobile phone masts, and the fabled cancer dangers of mobile phones, which Caroline Lucas erroneously attached her name to. So, if the public are wrong, why are they told they need to take part in a token form of ra-ra cheerleading democracy ?

It makes my blood boil, etc

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