Hi all! In another thread, Brian proposed starting a new discussion around the question:
In the long run, what are the most effective strategies for human behavioral change in order to best preserve the ecosystem?
I like this idea, because I think everyone who is dissatisfied with the status quo needs to have this discussion.
I really agree with the importance of what Brian said:
I want to try to take each action and imagine its effect realistically and from a wide perspective, not imagining how it would work in a vacuum, but based on real human behavior.
I also agree with another thing he said, which really hits on the main difference of beliefs people have about this:
I think the main conflict in my thinking (and yours, from what I can tell) is between Jensenian strategies (violent and crash-provoking) and Quinnian strategies (education and civilization abandonment).
From what I have learned about Daniel Quinn’s philosophy, and Derrick Jensen’s, the difference can aptly be summed up as idealism vs. materialism (philisophically, I mean). Idealism represents the belief that ideas shape material reality (that ideas come first), while materialism believes the opposite. We can see this difference between, on the one hand, the belief that in order to change society, people must first be educated and change their mentality, and on the other hand, the belief that people’s mentality directly results from material reality, and that for the most part, changing people’s mentality FIRST requires changing the material reality (changing society).
These differing philosophies also describe the difference between liberalism and radicalism (politically), along with a few other things (individual action vs. collective action, for example). Actually, I think this last point relates to another major difference in strategies. Consuming “green” - discriminating between good and bad companies and products - represents an individual action, as well as the belief that solutions can be found on an individual level - implying that the problems are also caused by individuals. But if one believes that the problems are systemic - rooted in the underlying society itself - then it follows that the solutions will require changing that underlying structure.
Honestly I find it illogical that so many who understand the true roots of the problem, still look toward individual “solutions.” Unfortunately, I think this has resulted from the total lack of any discussion of the real-world consequences and effectiveness of the commonly proposed solutions (why I like this thread!)
Really, all activist work falls in two categories - indirect action and direct action. Indirect meaning actions that only indirectly work to bringing about change, through educating other, raising awareness, and symbolic protests (trying to influence the public and the politicians). Direct action refers to things that have concrete results, directly affecting the thing they aim to affect, in and of themselves (without requiring any outside agency to act on their behalf).
I know that in all my time working as an activist, I always took the work we were doing for granted, as the only way to go - never once seriously examining the effectiveness of our strategies. This often leads to activist burnout, when one wants to achieve real, concrete results but confines oneself to symbolic, indirect actions - because the one does not lead to the other.
If one wants to focus on indirect actions, great! Just don’t operate under any illusions that indirect actions can achieve anything other than raising some people’s awareness & understanding, or you risk getting discouraged and quitting political activity altogether, like myself and so many other activists. In fact, this discussion has played a key role in motivating me to get back INTO political activity - realizing that I CAN fight the system in a way that has a real, concrete impact - I just have to change my tactics!
By the way, for all who didn’t already know, Derrick Jensen wrote a whole book pretty much for the express purpose of discussing the effectiveness of our strategies for change - Endgame, particularly volume 2 (I think volume 1 deals more with why we need to take action, of any kind!) Of course, he represents a certain point of view, which he explains up front in the premises at the beginning of the book. Since every author (and every human being!) expresses a unique POV in everything they communicate, I really appreciate the honesty of stating it up front (in my opinion, anyone who claims to represent an “objective” point of view ends up lying, despite their best intentions).