My Resoc Interview
By Justin Podur at Nov 03, 2009
1. At a public talk someone asks you, "okay, I understand what you reject, but I wonder what you are for? What institutions do you want that you think will be better than what we have, for the economy, polity, gender, race, ecology, or whatever you think is central to have vision for?
In my case it is easy, since I can use the short-hand of this site and project and reference these very essays: for the economy, participatory planning, balanced job complexes, remuneration according to effort and sacrifice (see Parecon); for polity, direct democracy at various scales (see parpolity); for culture, institutions that are representative and respect autonomy and the individual (see polyculturalism); for gender, equality and a de-privatization of a lot of private family functions while respecting privacy and dignity; for ecology, a way of seeing the world that isn't based solely on its use value.
2. Next, someone at the same event asks, "Why do you do what you do? That is, you are speaking to us, and I know you write, and maybe you organize, but why do you do it? What do you think it accomplishes? What is your goal for your coming year, or for your next ten years?
In the coming year or even ten years my goals are, unfortunately, quite modest. I am hoping to reach and find enough people to be part of a social force that can slow down (preferably stop and preferably reverse) some of the most destructive things that are happening. Mostly all the unnecessary deaths. Immediate deaths from poverty and starvation and war and occupation, and the deaths from climate change and environmental destruction. The reason is that life is to be defended. I don't really trust anyone who is sure about what it accomplishes. I want to do whatever will work to do this.
3. You are at home and you get an email that says a new organization is trying to form, internationally, federating national chapters, etc. It asks you to join the effort. Can you imagine plausible conditions under which you would say, yes, I will give my energies to making it happen along with the rest of you who are already involved? If so, what are those conditions? Or - do you think instead that regardless of the content of the agenda and make up of the participants, the idea can't be worthy, now,or perhaps ever. If so, why?
Conditions would be that I'd have to trust the people that were in it, I think. After that, there would have to be agreements on basic politics and processes of operation, and what the organization was actually going to do. Who, what, and how, would have to be a fit.
4. Do you think efforts to organize movements, projects, and our own organizations should embody the seeds of the future in the present? If not, why? If yes, can you say what, very roughly, you think some of the implications would be for an organization you would favor?
I think they should embody the seeds of the future, but I also think they should know where and when they actually are. Too often "seeds of the future" arguments are used to stop work from happening because processes and people formed in this society don't meet the criteria of the future. Collective problems and social failings are used to blame, attack, and bully individuals. In my experience this is one of the major brakes on effective organization and I have not figured out a way to surmount it in North America.
Perhaps this is because some of the seeds of the future, namely compassion, understanding, warmth, and an ethical commitment (as opposed to moralistic or rules-based commitments) are missing from a lot of our organizing. So maybe problems I've been seeing have more to do with missing seeds than with overzealous application of the idea that the present organizations should have seeds.
5. Why did you answer this interview? Why do you think others did not answer it?
I think I answered because, over and above agreeing with the politics (the "what" and "how") I trust and respect the people who are putting the questions ("who"). Perhaps others did not answer it because they don't have that, because they don't know the interviewers as well and haven't worked with them over years. I am a part of this project and want others to be as well.