Thoreau on the Long Cycles of Social Change and the Importance of Not Mistaking Politics for Progress
“One of Thoreau’s most countercultural yet incisive points is that true social reform has little to do with politics, for genuine cultural change operates on cycles far longer and more invisible than the perpetual churning of immediacies with which the political state and the political conscience are occupied. Rather than dueling with petty surface facts, as politics is apt to, the true revolutionary and reformer dwells in humanity’s largest truths, aiming to transfigure the deepest strata of reality.”
A friend of mine said, in a lovely,erudite presentation to some very smart folk:
“a weakness of my current thinking is a lack of explicitly encompassing the group, the social.”
Totally agree, we all lack this.
Re-examine page 49 of ‘Navigating Complexity: the essential guide to complexity theory in business and management’, written by myself.
Then think about that botanical nostrum – Early Years textbooks teach that there are three kinds of play in young humans and many mammals:
Know that this is botany – classifying plants by the shape of their leaves. We observe the spots of a leopard, but what is the mechanism that creates them?
What are the primitives, the atomic irreducible processes that underly the phenomena?
We do not have a language to describe phenomena in groups. I suspect they are incommensurable, like weather prediction after Lorenz.
We do not have a language to describe phenomena in groups.
This has hamstrung playwork, education, professional football, orchestral performance, NASA budgetary oversight inquiries, Air Accident Investigation, Corporate Fraud Investigation, etcetera etcetera.
There are clues in the Miles Davis approach to group play.
There are clues in Taoism, and Zen.
But as Sapir, Whof and Wittgenstein, and probably Gibson (JJ not W) would tell you, language shapes thought and we do not have the language.
Try explaining how to put oil into a car without using any car-related, or engine-related words. Go on, try it. Write it down, now go through it and strike out any car-related and engine-related words that crept in. We don’t have a big enough RAM, our short-term memory, to hold even one sentence of the resulting tedious arm-waving stuttering verbiage.
Why doesn’t the world move when I shake my head?
M’learned friend also said:
“This has many implications, but that main one is that we should judge education by the value created for stakeholders (laudate Tom) – this is fittingly complex and circular.
NO NO NO, NO!
Very pleased that you rate teecha Tom.
Not stakeholders, feck stakeholders. Leave that to the Tory Goovey Gradgrindians.
I think you might mean participants? If so then I‘ll semi-agree.
How would you judge a Beth Chatto garden? Answer that and you’ll know how to judge education .
“Nevertheless he was responsible for implanting in the mind of this listener the useful idea that the music came from West Africa via slave ships, cotton fields and chain gangs, and that there was a direct line from gospel singing and field hollers to whatever was on the cover of the latest issue of Down Beat. “
Jennie Formby The Labour Party Southside 105 Victoria Street London SW1E 6QT
Dear Jennie Formby,
I am writing you in the wake of recent events – the expulsion of Jo Bird and the excellent letter by Natalie Strecker, as I would like to ask you to kindly refer me to the Compliance Unit, for ‘antisemitism’ – for the reasons I detail below.
I would like to tell you about my background, in order to support my request. I am an academic, author and filmmaker, an ex-Israeli Jew who has been active for over five decades as a socialist, anti-Zionist and anti-racist activist. My parents were Polish Jews, survivors of Auschwitz and other camps. They ended forced onto death marches to the Third Reich after the Auschwitz camp was vacated by the SS in Mid-January 1945. My mother was freed by the British forces in Bergen-Belsen, and my father was freed by the US forces in Mauthausen. I was born in a Displaced Persons Camp in Italy, and arrived in Israel as a baby, during June 1948, as no European country would then accept Holocaust survivors.
I served in the Israeli Army (IDF) as a junior infantry officer, and took part in two wars, in 1967 and 1973, after which I turned into a committed pacifist. I came to study in Britain in 1972, and a short while afterwards I have learnt much about Zionism which I did not while in Israel, thus becoming an ardent supporter of Palestinian rights, and an anti-Zionist activist. I was an active supporter of the Anti-Apartheid Movement as a Labour member in the 1970s and acted against racist organisations throughout my life. My films, books and articles reflect the same political views outlined here; these include a popular book on the Holocaust (Introduction to the Holocaust, with Stuart Hood, 1994, 2001 2014), among others, a BBC documentary film (State of Danger, with Jenny Morgan, BBC2, March 1988) about the first Intifada, and a forthcoming volume on the Israeli Army (An Army Like No Other, May 2020) . I have re-joined the Labour Party after decades, when Jeremy Corbyn was elected to the leadership, as I regained hope in promoting a progressive agenda for the party, after years of Blairism.
It is evident that my background qualifies me as an antisemite according to the Labour coda based on the flawed IHRA ‘definition’ of antisemitism, or rather, the weaponised version of Zionist propaganda aimed against supporters of the human and political rights of Palestinians. But I would like to add some more damning evidence, so as to make the case watertight, if I may.
Over the decades, I took part in hundreds of demonstrations against Israeli brutalities and acted against the atrocities committed by of the military occupation, in various countries – Israel, in Europe and the US. I have published articles, made films and contributed to many books and have spoken widely in a number of countries against the Israeli militarised colonisation of Palestine, the denial of any rights to most Palestinians, the severe violations of human and political rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the brutalizing impact of the IDF on Jewish Israeli society. I have also analysed the false nature of the IHRA campaign in a recent article, written from an anti-Zionist, human rights perspective. I am active in a number of political groups affiliated or close to the Labour Party, who support Palestinian rights – Jewish Voice for Labour, and Jewish Network for Palestine, of which I am a founder member.
I am aware that according to the Labour Party rules, all the above constitute what you define as antisemitism.
Personally, it is clear to me that such accusations are false and sickening, but no one asked the members on the adoption of the IHRA definition and its examples. The adopted definition makes Israel the only state in the world which one may not criticise, unless they wish to court accusations of antisemitism. To criticise the British Empire, for example, is not anti-British, and, as we speak, still allowed by Labour Party rules. To criticise the US government for its attacks on Iraq in 1991 and 2003 is not anti-American, and still allowed by US regulations. To criticise Israeli apartheid colonialism is not anti-Israeli, neither is it antisemitic, of course. What is antisemitic and racist are the current regulations of the party, and until they are changed, Jews and others who support Palestine have no reason to support a party which treats them in this way.
The Labour Party regulations are what they are; However, I have no intention of stopping my activities, toning them down, or abandoning my principles in order to satisfy the twisted logic of the Labour Party. I insist on my right, indeed, on my duty as an ex-Israeli, as a Jew, as a citizen, as a socialist and last but not least, as a human being, to openly act against and criticise Israeli Apartheid and injustices, for as long as I am able to. I also believe that as a party member of what I believed to have turned into a progressive political organisation, this should be my right and duty; but I realise that my activities are against Labour Party dogma, regulation and current interests, so am accusing myself openly through this letter, and asking you to refer me to the Compliance Unit, so that justice may be done, and that I would be treated equally to my many friends who found themselves in the same predicament – Prof. Moshe Machover, Jackie Walker, Elleanne Green, Tony Greenstein, Glyn Secker, and many others faced with the Stalinist inquisitorial system developed by the Labour Party. If you are to separate the ‘good Jews’ from the ‘bad ‘ones, please include me in the latter group, as nothing in my academic output, teaching history, publication record, or political activity can support the claim that I am not an antisemite according to your rules. I demand that justice be done.
I trust that my request will be taken seriously and acted upon, with the same combination of dispatch, bigotry and prejudice showed towards other members already accused of this offence. Failure to do so will be tantamount to evidence that the criteria for judging the existence of antisemitism are not uniformly applied.
I am ready to provide all evidence which may be required by the investigators of the Compliance Unit, to prove my guilt. Please do not hesitate to ask for assistance on points which remain unclear.
The material of playwork is relationships, connections. Between humans and between humans and things. It’s not about things. It’s not about Lou Spartz, it’s about our relationship with them. It’s all just junk if you think it is. That’s what that bloke Gibson is on about: affordances are the possibilities that you can see, observe, grasp.
Who are you when you are alone? Less human. That’s not a judgement, it’s an observation. I nearly wrote ‘just an observation’ as if a judgement is a bigger thing then an observation, which it isn’t. We get bigger, wider, deeper, when we are connected. Which is not to say that alone is less. It’s different.
“The I Promise School is an example of what can happen when people are willing to communally take a handful of extra steps and a few shared sacrifices. Roberts has taught in Akron Public Schools for 32 years. “When I came here,” she says, “people would tell me: ‘It’s not going to work over there. When you go over there, you’ve got those bottom kids. There’s no way that you’re going to be able to maintain what you’ve done all these years and still keep it going.’
“Well, guess what? Yes, it does. These kids know how to respect. They know how to be loving. They know how to give love in return. So, don’t tell me that it’s not possible with what we poured into the school. Look at all of this.””
“”But from a high-level perspective, the whole point is that we’re never going to stop,” she continues. “When LeBron started this program, we had this conversation about if we start this, this never ends. … We need to build something that will live beyond all of us.”
And with that, we walk back out onto the sidewalk. The chalk has settled into the pavement. The drawings are all varied—one towering figure holding a basketball, a few animals. I lift my own foot, and there is a drawing of a small person holding hands with two larger people, all smiling. Surrounded by a circle of hearts.”
“Preschoolers are notoriously drawn toward extremes, which is, I reckon, both part of how they make sense of the world as well as how they try to assert some control over it. It’s the simplest way to categorize things: good or bad, yummy or yucky, black or white. As adults working with young children, it’s tempting for us to assert our own more mature vision of the world, to point them toward the gray areas, the “in between” that comprises most of what we know. When I was a younger teacher, for instance, I can’t tell you how many times I found myself futilely trying to get kids to see that “good guys” and “bad guys” are a matter of perspective.
” I no longer try to persuade them any more than I try to persuade adults. I’ve come to understand that they need to explore the world in this way. It’s not an ending point, but rather a natural starting point for coming to grips with a rich, complex, ever-changing world. They are doing what they need to do, what we all needed to do in order to ultimately persuade ourselves as the world of gray begins to reveal itself to us. My job is not to hurry them through, but rather to be with them, role modeling and knowing that the older they get, the more they will come to know that they don’t know.”
Hello Fraser Brown, Bob Hughes, Gordon Sturrock, Mike Wragg, Wendy Russell, Pete King, Adrian Voce, the whole bloody lot of you clever bastards. You failed to do this, and it’s been left to a bunch of bloody Yanks, who don’t even have bloody playwork, ffs, to do it. Doubtless bloody Tim Gill, even as we speak, is busy blogging that it is his success, because he is a mate of David Ball. Whatever. And now, precisely as the last few APGs are being smashed in Bristol, and local councils continue relentlessly to make some of the most monumentally short-termist, cheese-paring and pointless and counter-productive cuts ever conceived of by a bunch of bigoted little Englander dickheads who basically would legislate for children to be put into landfill if they could, and in Solihull, they’re probably planning that right now, while all that’s happening, 60 people are going to spend two days sat on their arses in Ely, wailing about playwork.
Playwork deserves to die with advocates like these.
The first word of Miles Davis’ autobiography is LISTEN. He described jazz as being about “freedom and space to hear things”
I often declare that I will write a book called “Everything I Learnt About Management I Learnt From Playworking.” A bit like a preschool version of Mark McCormack’s “Things they don’t teach you at Springfield Elementary”. (But I digress,and I’m also in danger of revealing my punchline.)
🎶 You can’t improvise if you don’t listen.
🏭 You can’t manage if you don’t listen.
🗽You can’t lead if you don’t listen.
Here are somebody else’s wise words about listening: please listen…
“They are always listening. Not just to the words we say to them, but those we say in their presence to others. That is their real learning environment. When we managers take that seriously, that’s when our people begin to make us better managers, the kind who think about the words they say and the tones we use with the people in our lives. They make us work to become the managers we’ve always wanted to be, if only because that’s the sort of person we want them to be.
“Our staff don’t learn anything from obedience other than how to command and control, a dubious education at best. They learn everything else by listening (and watching, of course). Real learning requires processing, repetition, time, and experience to fully comprehend. It takes place on their schedule, not yours, which is why it can seem as if they are not listening. But they are: know it, and strive to be the manager you want them to be. That’s the real work of management.”