Network World

Peeling the onion of authority

Authority: the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.

Authority is build up over many layers of legitimacy laid down through history. The nature of these layers varies. Take for examples monarchies. Which are their layers? Clearly not formally democratic. Some of them are based on tradition. Others on historic coercion (read violence) exercised by the ancestors of the current kings and queens – basically winning battles against their adversaries for power. And others are more subtle. For example, a monarchy can construct layers based on “material democracy”, that is, not the one coming from formal democratic procedures e.g. voting, but by the consent of the people. These layers can come from very diverse sources which connect the monarch with “the people”. One of them may easily be the participation of the monarch in popular events. Don’t be fooled. This is not because he or she enjoys them, it is a rite to connect with you, to get your material consent, to be “near the people”, yet the monarchy remains an unelected institution which head position is inherited by blood.

If we want to build up a more democratic society, I believe we have to learn, together, to peel the onion of authority, otherwise we’ll be kept being fooled. Beneath the “popular king (or queen)” who seems so near “his (her)” people, there is an undemocratic legacy based on nastier things: violence, hierarchy and traditions that leave us out of actual power of decision and action. Peeling the onion of authority is uncovering these crude realities that support illegitimate authorities. And monarchy, all monarchies, is one of these illegitimate authorities.

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. – Albert Einstein

Network World

The Shalit Paradigm

If you have followed the international news lately, you may know that Israel in an agreement with Hamas has accepted to release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for the release of the soldier Gilad Shalit. This morning Hamas, Egypt – the mediator – and Israel have confirmed that Shalit is in Egypt.

So 1,000 prisoners for one soldier? At first, it seems that Hamas has won this one. If we count it in numbers. But actually they have lost it. With this agreement they have reinforced the idea that one Israeli soldier, that is, one Israeli life, is worth at least 1,000 Palestinian lives. It is this kind of statements that are at the base of the conflict between both countries/people. This time Israel has done the right thing and ultimately its government is showing that they care for one life of theirs, much worth it, in their eyes, than 1,000 of the others. In the meantime, besides the joy of the families of the released and that the freedom of one human being is always good news, politically this agreement may be just one step more in no direction.

Network World

From ‘I-want-a-big-house’ to live in community

Free thoughts in a sunny London day. I see all those office skyscrapers (for banks and big corporations?), all those apartment building, I read on Facebook that a friend just bought a family house, and consider the wish of many young people being to have a house, their own private space. I must admit, I’m myself lucky, for I spend my time in quite decent private spaces in Barcelona and London. But I think, is it the best way for us to live? Before the advanced stages of industralization, before the bourgeoisation (?) of life, and the creation of the capitalist welfare state, people used to live in shared, not very comfortable spaces. So indeed there is a material improvement in having our own space, for our families, but there is also a social, environmental and emotional cost in it: we build walls around our extended protected selfs (i.e. I and my family), separating us from other people (the community) and nature (Earth). We have grown to belief in this system as the natural order of things: ‘who doesn’t want to have a place to live? A place to be intimate and keep our own privacy?’ equals to ‘who doesn’t want to have a big house?’. Well I don’t. And I presume many don’t either.

Can we then take another step to find new living-space alternatives that on the one hand let us keep our privacy and intimacy (essential for the development of the individual), keeping a good quality of life, but on the other create connections, facilitate relationships, and develop communities between us, allowing real sharing of goods, values, emotions, ideas, etc. At this moment the model is have ‘the flat’ and develop sharing in the neighbourhood. But can we think of another type of living space different than the flat, one that reflects the values of a sharing society?

Let’s say, for example, that the living room becomes a common room, that books, records or whatever is not stored anymore in our houses but in common spaces, that kitchens become community kitchens, where people can cook together. This will create more community spaces. We can also think of different degrees of ‘communitarisation’ of private spaces e.g. keep a small kitchen, for when we want to cook alone, a small library, etc. But surely, this solution will probably not satisfy everybody. Not everybody wants the same – many would still want to have their private space, that’s it -, thus they probably won’t look for the same. Perhaps diversity is the word. So if diversity is the way, let’s allow diverse models to emerge. Now governments, financial institutions (i.e. banks) and society keep encouraging the ‘private flat model’ (to satisfy the I-want-a-big-house feeling), in detriment of other alternatives in which many people will have greater satisfaction developing aspect of their lives now they can’t even envisage. We should then develop new financial, legal, social structures and technology that allow for this diversity in housing to emerge (just recently a friend of mine (@indy_johar) has launched, making easy house DIY design). Do not impose one solution, allow for the many to emerge.

Emotional Revolution Network World

The awareness of love

One week ago I was saying goodbye to people that just a week before I haven’t even met, though it felt like I was saying farewell to people I knew for years. For a week (18-24 July) I was in what my eyes and my heart saw and felt as paradise. It was the Ängsbacka’s Yoga Festival 2011 in Sweden. If you would have asked me about it before December 2010, I would have looked at you with open eyes in surprise and remain silent trying to guess what you were saying. Thanks to someone who helped me open a big crack more my door of awareness I now can say that this was the best week of my life.

There, together with 300 more people, I practiced yoga from 7 am, discovered new spiritual paths, made friends I can call brothers and sisters, ate amazing food, sung beautiful bhajans, danced like crazy, I had a collective tantric orgasm, and felt the energy we all share and that connects us all, love. Then in the middle of all this, a person in Norway full of hate killed dozens of people, many of them children and teenagers. At the same time I became aware of the power of love, of what we can build together, I felt how destructive hate can be. Then there is cynicism. That feeling that tells you that change is not possible, that thinking of love as a positive force that can make change real is naive, that the real thing is violence and hate, that we need to be prepared for the worse.

I stopped being cynic, for I became aware of things that changed my way of looking. I became aware that together we can make our world better. I became aware that the connection between all human beings, all life on Earth and the Earth itself is so strong and powerful, so beautiful that there is hope for a better future, not a one which we are slaves of a hierarchic machine of domination, addicted to technology that’s distracting from our feelings we don’t want to have because they may be painful. I became aware of love, the energy that connects us, brings us together, bind us as one. I really felt it all around my body. Our world needs a change, but it won’t come with domination, imposition or convincing. It will come from those that change as persons capable of be the change. As my teacher of teachers said, “be the change you want to see in the world”. In my case, the first step was to become aware of love, start loving myself to be able to love others dearly.

I would like to leave you with some wise Og Mandino’s words that I hope will guide my life…

“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness, and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.”

Emotional Revolution Network World

A different world

OK. Tomorrow I am leaving for Sweden for a 10 days “connecting trip” (in all senses!). Let me just share with you a thought, a feeling. I think, I feel we are witnessing a big transformation of our world. We are going from a world dominated by hierarchical institutions, where trust was put on the organisations with “expertise” to manage our affairs to a world governed by networks of individuals and communities where trust is put on those that can offer at every moment the best of themselves (of ourselves!), a world where every one of us can aspire to be and be the change we want to see in the world like the great Ghandi said…Do you aspire to be?

Creative Life Network World

The power of small things

In history we’ve been focusing on the big stuff. Revolutions, wars, leaders, countries, big events…but it’s much more difficult to see how small things make a big difference. Michel Foucault called ‘disciplines’ those “tiny, everyday, physical mechanism […] those systems of micro-power that are essentially non-egalitarian and asymmetrical” (Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison). These are typically present in state institutions like army, school or prison, but they are also in the bureaucratic administration and the capitalist corporation. All institutions that shape our lives in great extent. They have a great power to define how we frame our actions, what we see as ‘possible’ and ‘normal’, in opposition to the ‘impossible’ and ‘abnormal’.

Imagine, for example, the effect that has on society the fact of putting a clock with standardized time in all public schools setting the times of start and end of class, or the obligation of wearing tie and jacket to do business in the capitalist world, accepting with it the identity of a small part of the population who imposed the tie as a necessary garment, limiting de facto the expression of those that do not feel comfortable with it. The power of the small things lies on their ‘invisibility’. They are so ‘tiny’ that we think they are irrelevant details of life, but in fact they have a huge impact on how we live. Next time you are wearing a piece of cloth you don’t feel comfortable with because ‘this is what they want’ or the bank/public administration makes you feel unnecessary paperwork think about these little details, these disciplines, if they annoy you so much it is because there is something powerful behind…you just need to be aware of it to actually reject it. And perhaps make a tiny but powerful change in the world.

Creative Life Emotional Revolution Network World

Awakening: the power of love

“The cultural transformation from the love of power to the power of love is the drama of our time.”

Waking the Global Heart: Humanity’s Rite of Passage from the Love of Power to the Power of Love, Anodea Judith

Network World

Shame on them…

This video shows a group of Catalan policemen infiltrated among the demonstrators protesting against the cuts the political parties were voting in the Catalan parliament yesterday 15/06/2011. According to many sources these people were the source of the first violence against the police, which gave way to the police to act against the demonstrators. These seem to be a premeditated strategy to delegitimize these protest movements.

As a friend of mine was saying yesterday while having dinner, what politicians should do is to listen, and not complaining about “how undemocratic” these demonstations are. Unfortunately, they are not listening, instead they are accomplices of cover actions against their own people. Shame on them…

…and if you read Spanish “Estrategias del poder para desprestigiar movimientos sociales: el caso #parlamentcamp”

Network World

Yes we camp: the #spanishrevolution

On May 15, something extraordinary started in Spain. On that day, a network of Spanish citizens under the banner Democracia real YA! (Real democracy, now!) called for demonstrations all around Spain to protest against a corrupt political system, with its epicenter in Madrid’s Plaza del Sol. This has ignited the powder of indignation accumulated during these last years against political and economic elites that use their positions for their private benefit, being the bailout of the bankers the maximum expression of this alliance of the crooks. As in other places, the Internet has played a key role in the mobilisation of citizen for expressing their rights. On Twitter, people are using hashtags #spanishrevolution #notenemosmiedo #nolesvotes #acampadasol #acampadabcn…to tell, express, protest, coordinate, call for more and more action. On Facebook, the page of the campaign Democracia real YA has already more than 225,000 likes, and a petition to ask the Junta Electoral Central (Board of elections, regulating and supervising good proceedings during elections) to revoke a decision to ban any demonstrations during Saturday, “reflection day”, has at this moment 165,000 petitioners.

In February this year, in one of my posts I said:

In well-established democracies these technological changes may facilitate revolt against the privileges of the political class – from the pettty corruption of letting the taxpayer pay a hotel room in a private trip to the big commissions attached to public procurement contracts -, and the manipulation of state structures for the benefit of the few, those with money and position to influence, sometimes even determine, how we are governed – above all the financiers, who with arrogance move money, take money as they please.

This is the citizens’ revolution. Those who enjoy democratic citizenship use it to stop the crooks, the corrupt, the greedy profiting from the loopholes that an imperfect system – as it always will be – offers them for their private gain.

It is very satisfying to see that this is really happening. Currently I am not in Barcelona, I wish I were there. But confident this protest goes beyond the election period, I am arriving next week, ready to join this revolutionary movement. At this moment, I believe we need to support it unconditionally, being conscious, nonetheless, of the challenges ahead. For me the biggest challenge is to transform these networks of deconstruction and protest, into networks of construction and governance. But, as I wrote just three months ago I also believe that…

given the right structures we can produce knowledge that helps us towards constructing for our common goal, not only destroying. Not only toppling down, but also building up.

Network World

Japan’s synapse

At 7.50 today I flew from Barcelona to London. Before going to the airport I read an article on Huffington Post about the possible economic impact of Japan’s “verge of apocalypse” (words of the EU commissioner) on the world economy.

The full impact of the disaster, and the extent to which it could harm economies globally, cannot yet be assessed, experts say. In economic terms, the tragedy might not have much effect on other countries, as companies compensate for devastated facilities, say economists. But even once the crisis subsides and Japan begins to rebuild, that country’s economy could face major challenges.

The world’s third biggest economy gets a big chunk of its territory wiped out, one of the country’s nuclear plants explodes and starts releasing considerable amounts of very dangerous radiation reaching even Tokio, many of its main manufacturers have stopped production, thousands of people flee the capital and foreigners the country, all in a matter of days. In the meantime, the Arab world (where the biggest reserves of oil are) is exploding in revolution against its authoritarian rulers, food prices soar, and we’re approaching the peak oil is seems to come much sooner than expected.

The question is not anymore whether the Japanese disaster has an impact on the outside, for there is no “outside” anymore. There is no Japan and the rest of the world. We live in a densely connected world.

(1) Japan earthquake-tsunami-nuclear meltdown (only one of these would have been enough…) has slowed down considerably its production and consumption of manufactured goods. This is meant to affect importers and exporters alike (nearly everyone).

The affected companies produce key components for computers, televisions, camcorders, DVD players and iPads. Now, the high-tech industry, which experts have seen as a key source of economic growth, contends with the prospect of a shortage.

“There will be individual companies in the U.S. that are not going to be able to get their supplies for anywhere from weeks to months,” Alexander, the Georgetown economist, said. “There certainly will be suppliers who are either out of business or have lost their capabilities for the moment.”

(2) Japan’s food industry and agriculture, affected by the destruction of the tsunami and its effects on infrastructure, will also reduce production considerably. Japan will, therefore, need to import much more food very soon. Nuclear contamination will also affect the food chain affecting even further food production in the country, making unsuitable for human consumption vegetables, meat and fish coming from the affected area.

A country of 127 million people suddenly increasing their food imports will have a great impact on food prices, pushing them even higher. This will produce further instability in poor countries.

(3) The nuclear disaster doesn’t only concern the Fukushima plant. It’s having an impact on Japan’s reliance on nuclear plants as source of energy. Japan is highly dependent on this source (around 30% of the country’s electricity today, and before March 11 it was increasing rapidly). Japan needs to import some 80 percent of its energy requirements. Now it will need to import even more.

In addition, many countries using nuclear energy are seriously questioning their past policies of encouragement of the nuclear option, chiefly among them Germany.

With no realistic replacement to keep the energy demands of our current economic system, we’ll need to increase our reliance on oil and other fossil fuels. Oil prices will increase even further in a very short period. Political instability and new political regimes, less amiable to cheap oil policies to satisfy Western/capitalist demands, in the region with greater oil reserves will put even further pressure. On top of that, we’re approaching rapidly the infamous peak oil.

These are only a few quick notes on the “impact” of the recent terrible events in Japan. We cannot say that one or another event or phenomena has an effect or the other outside the world’s web of increasingly more dense and intense connections. In a networked world, everything is connected.