.The neocons seem to have identified some new and somewhat unlikely enemies. There is a whole movement to introduce conservative values into the education system, both by forcing teachers to feed creationist religious propaganda to schoolchildren, and by removing and reprimanding ‘biased’ university teachers who don’t give equal grades to ‘conservative answers’ to assignments and exam questions. The Bush regime is stripping qualified scientists of responsibility and authority and replacing them with corporatist apologists and global warming deniers in the mold of the discredited and unqualified Davos poster-child, Bjorn Lomborg. And the proponents of the draconian Patriot Act are facing a fierce resistance from the nation’s librarians.

Teachers, scientists, engineers, technologists and librarians. They may not be the prototype of radicalism, but they do have something in common: They are all more knowledgeable than the mainstream population. This raises an interesting question: Does knowledge and learning make us more radical in our political, economic, social and environmental views?

There is a long history of research indicating that the more we know, the more pessimistic we are. In his book Our Final Hour, England’s Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees cites the authors of the 1950s Einstein-Russell manifesto as follows:

None of the well-informed scientists say that the worst results from the nuclear threat are certain. The views of experts do not depend in any way on their politics or prejudices. They depend only, so far as our researches have revealed, on the extent of the particular expert’s knowledge. We have found that the experts who know most are the most gloomy.

So perhaps knowledge and learning make us pessimistic. Does that necessarily make us more radical? It seems to me it must. If the more we learn, the more negative our view of the future, surely that should make us more disenchanted and dissatisfied with the status quo, and more inclined to favour radical change to improve the outlook.

But don’t we get more conservative with age? I think what really happens is that we get more nostalgic as we get older. With our increasingly selective memories, we long for the ‘good old days’ — which for my generation was an era of momentous change and social revolution. Nostalgia is not conservative, it’s reactionary — in opposition to recent changes we don’t understand and desirous of ‘changing back’. The most truly ‘conservative’ elements of our society (borne out by recent polls) are the middle-aged, and many of the most passionate and articulate advocates of radical change are over 60.

Religious leaders almost everywhere in the world are opposed to a liberal education because it threatens their control over their followers. Knowledge and learning, when it is not rote, when it is not propagandized, opens us up to new ideas and alternatives. There is thus no conspiracy behind the liberal bent of universities, and the fact that campuses are the hotbeds of opposition to the status quo everywhere on the planet is not just coincidence — these are places where knowledge and learning and challenges to established ideas are made most possible and encouraged, and the consequence of that learning is pessimism, dissatisfaction, and a powerful desire for change.

The people I’ve met who work on the front lines of the media — even the mainstream media — are almost all pessimistic about the future and quite radical in their beliefs. What has happened is that they have been forced by conservative managers beholden to profit-obsessed corporatist owners to toe the line, to report what they’re told. Not at all dissimilar to the fate of teachers. No surprise that the burnout rate in both professions is enormous! And to some extent the same process is going on in large corporations everywhere: The most knowledgeable people tend to be the least satisfied with corporatist risk-aversion, innovation-aversion, and indifference to impact on employees, the environment and the community. They’re weeded out in most organizations in favour of sycophants and those who do what they’re told without question.

As a consequence we now have a growing, marginalized, disenfranchized, unemployed or underemployed, disaffected, knowledgeable and angry subculture, of which bloggers are the most obvious manifestation. The dot com bust added millions to our numbers, probably to the great relief of industry czars who were justifiably terrified that these non-conformists, by setting their own dress codes and other conditions for employment, could weaken their control and change the corporate agenda.

So what? We have the knowledge, and the numbers, to take back this world from the neocons before it careens completely out of control, that’s what. They have only wealth and power, and they have wielded it very effectively for thirty years. They have used their wealth to acquire the media, control the global economy, buy political power and influence, and hoard the planet’s overtaxed resources. They have used their power to suppress citizen and consumer rights and liberal ideas, stifle and silence dissent, dumb down the citizen/consumer, and wage wars overt and covert around the globe.

But their wealth depends on our acquiescence to a brutal, monopolistic and anti-democratic economic system that imposes wage slavery on everyone and crushes all alternative economic ideas under the guise of advancing globalization, ‘free’ trade, efficiency and ‘free’ markets. We are so beaten down by this neocon economic machine that most of us now believe we could not make ends meet running our own business. So we perpetuate this horrendous economic system by buying the crappy, overpriced junk made by slave labour that they churn out.

And their power depends on our feelings of learned helplessness, our sense that corruption of political systems and politicians is inevitable, that the political system we have is the best we can hope for. We perpetuate this perverse political system by allowing the corrupt corporatist cabal to tell us what our alternatives are, who we can and should vote for, by letting them sell us political candidates like they sell us sneakers and breakfast cereals, by tolerating the gerrymandering of our constituencies, by allowing the media to ignore third parties, and by shying away from labels like ‘liberal’, ‘radical’ and ‘revolutionary’ with a meekness that would shame the brave and revolutionary founding fathers of any of our nations.

Their wealth and power, and the pessimism that comes with our knowledge and learning have, together, cowed us into passivity and submission.

In 1970, Charles Reich wrote, in The Greening of America:

There is a revolution coming. It will not be like revolutions of the past. It will originate with the individual and with culture, and it will change the political structure only as its final act. It will not require violence to succeed, and it cannot be successfully resisted by violence. It is now spreading with amazing rapidity, and already our laws, institutions and social structure are changing in consequence. It promises a higher reason, a more human community, and a new and liberated individual. Its ultimate creation will be a new and enduring wholeness and beauty — a renewed relationship of man to himself, to other men, to society, to nature, and to the land.

Reich was wrong about the time-frame, but he may yet be right. The revolution he expected to see in the 1970s is overdue, and we could start it, today. He has the ‘brand’ right — the revolution we need is all about greening: Cleansing, renewal, natural balance, and finding a better way to live. And the political party that uses this brand, the Green Party, is appropriately global and yet decentralized in scope, and has a multi-faceted philosophy that is brilliant and collaborative in conception, inclusive in nature, and truly radical. What we need is much more than just a brand and a political party, though. What we need is a Green Movement. Today, the candidates and executives of the Green Party are preoccupied with getting elected, and in countries where that is feasible, that’s fine. In every country, however, we in the Green Movement have more urgent tasks than glad-handing electors. Here’s a first crack at an Agenda, a Manifesto for the Movement:

  1. Communicating, in person-to-person conversations, the fact that the Movement is not a marginal group of tree-huggers with a one-plank environmental platform, but a broad, global coalition of people with shared values that shape our views on all aspects of human behaviour and human endeavor and address all the critical issues of our time (these values are taken from the Global Greens’ Charter):
    • Respect for all life on Earth, and commitment to the renewal of the planet’s biodiversity;
    • Social Justice: an economic system that ensures the equitable distribution of social and natural resources, both locally and globally, to meet basic human needs unconditionally, and the elimination, globally, of poverty and illiteracy;
    • Participatory Democracy: a political system that is democratic, with proportional representation, openness, transparency, and accountability;
    • Nonviolence: a culture that achieves security for all through cooperation, sound economic and social development, environmental safety, and respect for human rights, rather than through military might, and which enforces disarmament, bans on weapon exports and proliferation to achieve peace;
    • Sustainability: the reduction of resource consumption, population and resource inequity, through a shift to renewable resources, quality universally-accessible education and health care, economic security, redefining the purpose of corporations, fully costing non-renewable resources and polluting products, regulating speculation and enabling local self-reliance;
    • Respect for Diversity: the rights of different cultures and minorities to freedom from discrimination, self-determination and sovereignty.
  2. Teaching these values, and related survival skills (environmental philosophy, critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration skills, self-reliance, conflict resolution, new business formation) to all young people, introducing these globally into core curricula.
  3. Recruiting new members for the Movement (starting with those brave teachers, scientists, engineers, technologists and librarians!), and Coordinating ‘common cause’ actions with other environmental, social and progressive organizations, and even religious groups, and generally building the Green Movement ‘brand’.
  4. Taking political, social and economic actions to advance the Movement’s causes, beyond getting elected. For example:
    • Getting economic departments and the media to compute and publicize well-being measures like the Genuine Progress Indicator and the Gini index instead of GNP;
    • Organizing, supporting and publicizing think-tanks and Wisdom of Crowds type surveys to find and qualify answers to the world’s most intractable problems;
    • Advancing the case for proportional representation;
    • Coordinating and sustaining consumer boycotts;
    • Coordinating international demonstrations and other social activism to deal with, and force elected officials to deal with, the most egregious violations of our values (e.g. global warming, the Darfur genocide, women’s and aboriginal rights abuses, corporate atrocities like Union Carbide’s poisoning of Bhopal and the Exxon Valdez eco-catastrophe, gerrymandering, land mines, and Geneva Convention violations).
  5. Sponsoring, supporting, visiting and joining Model Intentional Communities (MICs), exemplifying Radical Simplicity and otherwise setting an example by showing people a better way to live.
  6. Creating new, global media organizations, that will investigate and report abuses, atrocities and important but slowly-developing news that the mainstream media don’t cover, and which will discuss and suggest actions that we can all take in response to the news.
  7. Building, supporting and networking Natural Enterprises, that adhere to the Movement’s values and principles, until the older corporatist enterprises that exploit employees and consumers are starved out.

That’s the start of the Manifesto. It needs some work — collaborative work. This organization won’t have any employees or directors — a Movement doesn’t need leaders or direction, just a compelling and articulate vision, and good timing. Most of all we need some marketing expertise to help us launch this. Another website isn’t going to do it. We need to create some buzz for it, get some major progressive organizations to stop competing with each other and sponsor it. The Movement isn’t a new organization looking for your money and time. It’s an umbrella, that progressive individuals and groups can belong to without giving up their own efforts and programs. It’s bigger than all of us, the glue that holds all of us with progressive values and beliefs together. I’m going to start it off with a ChangeThis Manifesto next week. What else should we do? How did we do it in the 1960s? What should the movement’s tagline be?

We have the knowledge. If you add together all the victims of the neocons — women, visible minorities, the poor, the unemployed, entrepreneurs, teachers, scientists, engineers, technologists, librarians, progressives of every stripe — we have the numbers. We have a host of good causes, common causes. We have a sense of urgency. We have the Internet. That should be more than enough to launch a Movement.

Is it just our pessimism, and the thought of having to fight an elite of unprecedented wealth and power, that is holding us back?

The logo above, a green leaf formed into the letter G, is from the San Diego Green Party. Kudos to Google Desktop, which came to the rescue when nVu Composer somehow deleted this post instead of saving it — Google Desktop had already saved a cache copy. Yet another reason to get this marvelous tool!

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  1. Rayne says:

    Thanks for quoting Reich; I’m still wondering what became of the movement he described, how it was derailed…or was he ahead of his time by more than a generation?

  2. John Maloney says:

    Hi –Excellent essay. The criticism of the establishment is out of balance. The Democratic Party shares many of the characteristics you describe AND they are poorly organized. Jerry Brown, upon leaving the Dems, said, “You don’t need to live next to the fish factory to know where the stink is coming from.” Axe-grinding about the neocon bogeyman, is counterproductive and saps energies from the only-way-out: a legitimate third/independent party. Maybe they are smarter since they sure whipped their opponents, to wit, “The staggering defeat of the Democratic Party, and its ever-acceleratingdeath spiral weren’t obvious from the election results. Today the number ofDemocrats in the House is the lowest it’s been since 1928. Democrats are onthe brink of becoming a permanent minority party.” – Joe Trippi, Dean’s Campaign Manager, Nov 30, 2004. Moore’s F911 guaranteed W’s reelection. ‘Bowling’ made gun sales soar. Al Sharpton is the poster child of a demented body politic.For the Movement, drop the labels and name calling, since it only strengthens the opponents and their constituents. Stick to legitimate issues. You can

  3. Lou says:

    You know those yellow Lance Armstrong bracelets? Now there are purple ones for reproductive rights (distributed by Naral), orange ones for the fight against AIDS, and many more. How about a green bracelet for the Green movement?The great thing about these bracelets is that when you wear one, inevitably people ask you what it stands for, and then you can launch into a discussion about the cause you’re supporting. It’s a great way to spread a message without harassing people (and as an added bonus it may help you avoid small talk).

  4. Lou says:

    Oh, I just thought of another conversation-starter: message t-shirts. There’s a company in Brooklyn, NY that makes t-shirts, sweatshirts, underwear, etc. with your choice of message on them, in the font, color, size etc. that you choose (you can order from their website). Find a witty enough phrase, and you’re sure to get people talking.The site is: there are probably other companies that do the same)

  5. Susan Hales says:

    Dave, as always you’re the antidote I need today. Someone sent me an “essay” by John Hood of the hilariously named John Locke Foundation, entitled “Why they cling to their faith” — the “they” apparently being all those who care about the environment, are concerned about global warming, and otherwise want a better world for everyone, not just the “property owners” — A quick browse of the JLF “columnists” told me it’s all the usual suspects, just in another guise, albeit another powerful one. Keep ’em coming. We need you. Especially here in the ever forsaken Alabama, where according to Out Magazine, 40% of gays are beaten by their own families…none of the gays I know, but hey, maybe Mobile is “progressive” after all. I’m not saying there’s no bigotry here, but there are so many people that don’t fit the stereotype, that it breaks my heart to hear these comments.My point is this: When are we going to stop the labeling and start the conversation? I’m ready.

  6. Toby says:

    The Green revolution won’t come out of America. It will happen *despite* America.

  7. says:

    Good post.

  8. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks for your comments everyone. Rayne: I think he was caught up in the idealism of the day, rather than prophetic — if you’d suggested then that what he was describing would only happen 40 years later, he’d have been incredulous. Lou — this is a great idea. Anyone know who makes them? More convenient and durable than the lapel ribbons, for sure.

  9. Life Tenant says:

    I know this is off topic, but you did mention it, so I’ll ask: is your experience with nVu composer generally OK? I feel like it’s time to jump ship from the Mozilla Suite to Firefox and Thunderbird, but I don’t want to do it till I have a replacement for Mozilla Composer, which iss a wonderfully reliable, simple little program.

  10. Raging Bee says:

    “Teachers, scientists, engineers, technologists and librarians. They may not be the prototype of radicalism, but they do have something in common: They are all more knowledgeable than the mainstream population.”Your whole essay seems to have got off on the wrong foot: the above quoted assertion is not only unproven, but in my own experience, it is simply false. There are teachers who are dumber than rocks, scientists who have no understanding of human beings, engineers and technologists who expect humans to function like machines, and librarians who know how to find a book without having any interest in its contents.These professions TRAFFIC in certain classes of knowledge, which is not the same thing as POSSESSING general knowledge. Merely to assume that ANY of these professions possess more of the knowledge we need than the rest of us shmoes, will get you and your “movement” mired in snobbery and irrelevance very fast. You certainly haven’t given ME any reason to read on, even though I might call myself a “technololgist” and do consider myself smarter than the people who voted for Bush.This really sounds like that old anti-democratic “vanguard” rhetoric of the Bolsheviks – an example I have no intention to follow.

  11. I am the owner of a native forest of 1.400 hectares, 50 miles south of Puerto Montt, in chilean Patagonia. It is a marvelous piece of forest with rivers, lagoon and many kinds of beautiful trees, like alerces, coigues, canelos etc. I wish to preserve it but I have found no support here in my country.Any help will be appreciated.JAVIER BELUZAN

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