25 Sep

Disrupt more, disconnect less

Elsewhere Keith Farnish has written about the Tools of Disconnection in his book “Underminers” (available online here and worth a read). The Tools of Disconnection as Keith outlined them in his earlier book “Time’s Up” refer to the forces which industrial civilization deploys to keep its subjects from Connecting with themselves, the people they directly depend on and interact with, and the natural ecosystem(s) of which they are a part and which support their existence.

It is the state of disconnection from these essentials which industrial civilization promotes that enables us to sleepwalk into the environmental catastrophe which is now unfolding.

In Underminers Keith talks about the importance of undermining the tools of disconnection in order to liberate ourselves and allow us to take back control over our situation. It is a key step in Enabling Change, the first aspect of creating a viable future.

Image from Underminers Ch2.

Image from Underminers Ch2. 
Click to enlarge

There are many tools that are deployed against us, Keith identifies 14 specific tools which are used to distract us from reality.

The mechanisms through which these effects are delivered vary, but one of the most ubiquitous is through mediated communication. Rather than direct experience and interpersonal communication  we are led to understand the world primarily through one-to-many media.

As McLuhan noted back in the 1960s the medium is (part of) the message. He was merely noting that the form of the medium used embeds itself in the message it is carrying and thus influences how the message is perceived. This is the basis for many tools of disconnection.

Several tools of disconnection make use of mediated communication – especially mass media, but also all forms of communication where a power relationship is being expressed. For example formal teaching and all communication within hierarchical structures are strongly mediated, and the form of the communication directly influences the way the content is read.

One simple way to start reconnecting yourself is to take steps to cut down your  exposure to such communication. It is very simple to get rid of your television and stop paying the licence fee for example – and you will certainly find your life improved. It is very simple to stop reading newspapers and magazines that are not directly relevant to you personally.

Slightly less simple, but becoming easier as you reduce your exposure to the barrage of noise demanding your attention, is to learn to always question. Question why you are being told this thing. Who has decided that this should be laid on you, and why. Why are you being told about events over which you have no influence or experience on the other side of the globe. What is such data doing to you? Why is it being presented as more important than your direct experience of the here and now?

Learn when to trust your feelings and senses over your head and the here and now over the remote and disconnected. These are key enablers for change in the world.

Without fundamental personal change then we will not let this destructive culture go, we will literally die defending it. Such is the power of our disconnected devotion to something other than ourselves and the real world around us. We are devoted to industrial civilization. In the same way citizens of previous civilizations were frequently unable to change their ways once their systems became unsustainable. Arguably the difference this time is that our industrial civilization covers enough of the world for the damage it is doing to render the world uninhabitable for most mammals and entire ecosystems.

Once change is enabled, once we become connected with ourselves again and are prepared to forego our devotion to untrammelled consumption and pollution by pushing the costs onto future generations, then we can start things moving.

from Underminers Ch3.

from Underminers Ch3.
Click to enlarge

Keith identifies two dimensions to the changes that we then need to enact. On the one hand there is personal change. Reducing ones own harmful impact and enabling us to develop closer relationships with the world around us.

This is a well trodden path, not easy, but understandable. You probably already know many of the ways you can make progress in this area. The priorities are different for everyone, but the end result is the same. The (re-)Connected Individual is no longer alone, treads lightly on the world, and uses all senses fully.

That’s all well and good, but the second dimension of change is the one that I feel we have not yet developed a good way of thinking and talking about. This is the need to actively weaken industrial civilization, to use our awakening sensibility to resist the damage that it is doing, to reduce its effectiveness, to make it easier for others to see through the cracks in the façade to the world beyond.

This is where Disruption comes in. There have been precursors to this – Monkey-wrenching, the ELF (Earth Liberation Front), Reclaim the Streets, Plane Stupid and many more have all done valuable work but they have, by and large, been “beyond the pale”. Seen as extremists. Below ground organisations to use the DGR terminology.

As individuals we may not yet be in a position to step fully outside the system, to live a completely honest life (although this must be where we are all headed). What we can do, as well as supporting and normalising the actions of those who are in the vanguard, is disrupt the system.

Every little bit of disruption helps, every little grain of sand that gets in the cogs of the machine helps grind them down. Do it anonymously or do it as a naive. Sprinkle seeds of chaos in your wake.  Start to get clever and think about the targets. Where is the system most fragile, where will a simple innocent action cause most disruption.

Where would be the best place for your car to stall or break down to have maximum effect?
How do air traffic controllers get to work? What happens if they can’t get there?
If you google “mobile phone jammer” where could you most effectively make use of it?
What can you turn off, or turn up, with a universal remote control?
What happens if you use a black permanent marker pen to add extra lines in the bar-code of destructive products on the shelves?
How are newspapers distributed? How are messages sent to those giant motorway signs? What could you do with this knowledge?
What sort of a key do you need to open the advertising panels at bus stops to insert your own messages?

…. and so on. A little bit of disruption helps grind down the cogs of the machinery which is destroying us. Re-connect and Disrupt.



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