As a Left organizer, it’s not about making things happen but about appraising conditions in order to be in the right place in the right time, with the right tools, with the right allies, with robust contact lists, a powerful message and a unique presentation. Listening to the changing of the times, one becomes a specialist in currents and waves.

Sitting on the beach, with an eye always on the ocean, you see a wave, run out into the water, position yourself and let it carry you toward your goal. Rarely are waves so big that you can see them from far away. Usually, you need to linger at least waist deep in the surf.

We are in a unique situation, what with the slow-motion toppling of our hierarchical society, to be observing a tidal wave of change approach the beach. The usual activist interventions don’t apply. To catch this wave requires an understanding of the change in societal currents, the shift from patrifocal to matrifocal paradigms and the profound effect that communication technologies are having upon this changing seascape.

It’s as if the moon had not risen for 6,000 years and only now has appeared above the clouds. Currents have shifted, currents making it far easier to catch a wave. Whereas until recently the actions of the Left have had only limited effect on the well organized and highly monetized Right, shifts in currents are providing opportunities for the Left to start riding the big one and to make its vision known.

For the Left to be able to articulate a vision for society that society can embrace, in contrast to the vision articulated by the Right, the Left needs to speak the language of youth. Youth talk tech. For youth, it’s not even tech, it’s just their lives. Text-messaging is life. IMing is life. Social networking and twitter is life. These youth tools are collapsing a 6,000-year-old scaffolding erected to keep power in the hands of the few. A tidal wave of change approaches, characterized by surges in transparency, diversity and horizontal communication carried forward on a current of moon-propelled matrifocal social structure. Our very biology is changing as the macho male and docile female are overwhelmed by the changing seascape that is our time.

Right now, the correct tools are tech tools integrated with messages to take specific actions. The Obama campaign integrated new tech with community organizing to create the hybrid that will be an organizing paradigm for years to come. What will change will be that the organizing impetus will emerge from regular users, using the technologies to accomplish specific goals. Remove the charismatic leader from the equation and you have countless waves of change competing, creating unique actions, forming brief ad hoc social networking alliances, achieving very specific goals.

It’s time the Left started using Obama’s youth tools. In terms of process, the Left has become conservative. The Obama Democrats, by using powerful democratizing youth tools, has become the Left.

In a way similar to how Gorbachev was the transition to the break-up of the Soviet Union, Obama will be the transitional leader making possible the arrival of the new wave, the wave of highly integrated citizen involvement, organized anarchy, horizontal society, a global community of peers.

The Left has got its feet wet. It’s time to swim.


This entry was posted on Thursday, November 27th, 2008 at 7:00 am and is filed under 10-Activism, 10-Most Commented, Activism, Society, Web. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
9 Comments so far

  1. Carl Davidson on November 27, 2008 8:04 am

    Very good. You have your finger on the pulse here. Especially the first two graphs, and the fourth from the end, stating ‘Right now…’

    I’m working on a 4-page memo based on the last point for a grouping of people. I’ll pass it on to you in about a week.

  2. Bill Scheurer on November 27, 2008 10:21 am

    Exactly. We are talking about moving beyond MoveOn. The reason MoveOn grew so large is because they were at the leading edge of viral technologies that allowed them to ride each wave of public events and vacuum up everyone else’s contact lists with this advantage in tools.

    The problem is that MoveOn is a traditional, top-down, one-to-many hierarchy that keeps the central group firmly in control. The next generation of tools will empower everyone equally with many-to-many dynamics for decision making and communications.

    The benchmark for success is when we arrive at the problem of infiltration. When our tools have become so effective at democratically empowering the community, our biggest challenge will be the “crossover voting” phenomenon. Not in itself, a bad thing.

  3. Carl Davidson on November 27, 2008 10:29 am

    I mostly agree, Bill. But first, everyone in many-to-many only gets equality as potential. What they actually get depends both of the quality of their efforts and their alliance-building. And the alliance building part takes at least one level of hierarchy, the meta-net, even though it can be a focused cluster, rather than a single center.

    Still, compared to old methods, the hierarchies are considerably flatter, but not completely so, not should they be.

  4. Andrew on November 27, 2008 12:07 pm

    Hoping not to get too abstract, I think things are moving in a flatter direction you might think, with a twist. Part of the nature of the web is to reproduce naturally occurring biological patterns. Biology violates hierarchy on a regular basis by connecting levels in a variety of ways, including using “lower” levels to inform higher levels on how to behave. Hierarchy as a concept begins to fail as a model of organization when information because transparent, communication instantaneous.

    In other words, we fool ourselves on the Left thinking we operate at a meta level. Thinking in levels is old style thinking.

  5. Carl Davidson on November 27, 2008 12:16 pm

    Let me make it simpler. In order to make something happen, I need to recruit a core and then deploy it across a many-to-many net to launch the effort. That’s one level of hierarchy, and it exists naturally in the behavior of humans. I call it the ‘natural vanguard,’ quite different from how the term is normally used.

    Once launched, many among the many may find it on their own, and pull in even more. Good. That’s what we want to happen. But the ‘meta-group’ is the ‘trim tab,’ if you’re aware of how Bucky Fuller used that term.

  6. Karen P on November 27, 2008 2:12 pm

    Andrew, well, said:

    “As a Left organizer, it’s not about making things happen but about appraising conditions in order to be in the right place in the right time, with the right tools, with the right allies, with robust contact lists, a powerful message and a unique presentation. Listening to the changing of the times, one becomes a specialist in currents and waves.”

    Personal, weblike interactions have always been the paradigm of for organizing, haven’t they? That’s how NAACP did their recruiting in the earlier 20th Century in the deep South. And that’s how the Christian church traditionally operates (it’s a feminine energy and phenomenon for the most part).

    I am learning that successful organized Labor operates at the basic grassroots networking level. And now we are seeing a resurging labor movement after it’s near destruction during the Reagan era. This is an organic, global phenomenon in response to Free Trade Agreements, overwhelming corporate control that chokes the local farmer and worker, a shrinking middle class and growing income disparities between working poor and the superrich. The leaders are there, but savvy ones follow the trends that occur at the metalevel. That does require some listening and watching.

    What ideas do you perceive to be the biggest currents for change among young people? The tools are essential, but what messages actually resonate with them?

  7. Andrew on November 27, 2008 3:18 pm

    Moveon, at all events, notes the number of people that arrived and the number media or TV crews. They also look over the participant evaluations of the event. They concluded, not surprisingly, that the more cameras and more people, the higher the event was ranked by participants.

    Young folks, and most of the rest of us, are worshipers of process. What feels good, we do again. New tools that generate groups will create good feelings and make the next time even easier, propelling newbies into trying the tools for themselves, to create their own events.

    You’re asking what content will plug into the process? I don’t know, but it seems economic inequalities will likely be a big one coming up. Watch for something equivalent to fishes and loaves events, where lots of people gather and something positive and unexpected occurs. As the gatherings grow larger and more frequent, there will be a shift to an assumption of personal political empowerment. As that presupposition grows deeper with time, the collapsing of hierarchy will gather more momentum.

    The days of apathy are coming to an end.

  8. Tony Shafton on November 28, 2008 9:46 am

    Andrew is an idealist, regarding the behavior of systems as well as humans — how the properties of the former and the good intentions of the latter will together generate the right direction of change. Carl is the pragmatist (relatively speaking), and I am more in his camp here: not only is a certain guidance desirable, it’s inevitable. Hierarchy is a property of systems. But so is emergence. And while the emergent is by definition not predictable, the effort to guide it is the task of the free, and also inevitable.

  9. Chico Perez on December 21, 2008 4:47 pm

    You hit in on the mark there. Although I also believe that Obama’s outreach to all was extremely beneficial as well like the gay community and didn’t assume they will just vote the party lines. It also coincided with the complete breakdown of trust in the other side.

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