Sunday, April 09, 2017

MAKING CHANGE: SARTRE'S THOUGHTS / FLATPACK DEMOCRACY / BLUEPRINT FOR REVOLUTION

There is a whole new literature out there about remaking the world. Its the mood of the moment.


Before introducing two recent titles, I keep returning to some of Jean Paul Sartre's thoughts and words - notes I've taken whilst reading 'At the Existentialist Cafe' by Sarah Bakewell [reviewed in this earlier post].

One of Sartre's biggest things was the notion of freedom. With freedom comes choice. Ultimately you must take the plunge and do something. The whole mixture of things around you is 'the situation' out of which you must act. Sartre writes: 'Starting from where you are now, you choose. And in choosing you also choose who you will be.' This is 'difficult and unnerving' and 'the need to make decisions brings constant anxiety', To make it more stressful, says Bakewell, what you do really matters. 'You must make choices as though you were choosing on behalf of the whole of humanity.' Sartre believed that if you avoid this - claiming to be the victim of circumstance or of someone's bad advice' you will be choosing a fake existence cut off from your own 'authenticity'.

It is possible to be authentic and free as long as you keep up the effort. There is no traced-out path to lead a man to his salvation. He must constantly invent his own path. If he does so, he is free, responsible, without excuse, and every hope lies within him. [Simone de Beauvoir shared his views and spoke out for women's freedoms in 'The Second Sex']

It was 1945. Europe was in ruins, the Death Camps had been discovered and atom bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.A new world had to be built out of the old, Sartre's big question was 'If we are free, how can we use our freedom well in such challenging times'. He believed  we have to decide what kind of world we want and make it happen. In his essay 'The End of War' he wrote that from now on we know we can destroy ourselves. If we want to survive we have to decide to live.

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FLATPACK DEMOCRACY


'Flatpack Democracy' is a DIY Guide to Creating Independent Politics by Peter Macfadyen. [www.eco-logicbooks.com]

We are used in Britain to the idea of Independent candidates. They are usually considered somewhat eccentric. Lone Independents can make a difference and serve a purpose but for Peter Macfadyen this was not enough.

Disgusted by local elections which he considered to be a democratic sham, he decided that the way forward was to take over the whole council in Froome, Somerset. They succeeded in capturing 17 seats and have set out to completely change the culture and purpose of the Council, successfully creating a track record of projects and schemes that have proved to be of real value to the people of the town. His book explains how to go about this.

There is another movement abroad to build a coalition of Greens, Liberals and others to take on the major parties and move the country towards proportional representation. Macfadyen doesn't favour that route.

A few other places in Britain are following the same path, either influenced by FD or arriving at the same place by a different route. They include: Liskeard (Cornwall), Newbuty (Berkshire), Bradford-on-Avon (Wiltshire), Wells, Wedmore and Shepton Mallett (Somerset), Arlesey (Bedfordshire), Buckfastleigh (Devon) and Alderley Edge (Cheshire)

See: www.flatpackdemocracy.co.uk

See: Video Interview with McFadyen on Educating Independence website.

McFadyen writes a 'Flatpack Democracy report: The People Are Revolting' (March 16th 2017) on www.thealterantive.org.uk

How Flatpack Democracy beat the old parties in the People’s Republic of Frome
On 7 May, a small Somerset town voted against traditional party politics and gave a coalition of independents control of all 17 seats on its council. As the crucible of ‘flatpack democracy’, Frome is leading a small-scale political revolution – and it’s one that is spreading
John Harris/22.5.2015

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BLUEPRINT FOR REVOLUTION

This engaging book, first published in 2015, has acquired added relevance in our new world order. Popovic's light touch and fluent story telling make it a pleasure to read. It delivers valuable ideas. Here's some basic info from www.blueprintforrevolution.com

'Srdja Popovic outlines his philosophy for implementing peaceful world change and provides a model for activists everywhere through stories of his own experience toppling dictatorships (peacefully) and of smaller examples of social change (like Occupy Wall Street or fighting for gay rights). Through examples of using laughter and music (e.g., Pussy Riot) to disarm the opposition and gather supporters, to staging a protest of Lego Men in Siberia (when flesh-and-blood people would have been shot), to a boycott of Cottage cheese in Israel to challenge price inflation while organizing around rice pudding to overthrow the dictator of the Maldives, Popovic uses true and sometimes outrageously clever examples of the ways in which non-violent resistance has achieved its means. Popovic argues in favor of non-violent resistance not for ideological reasons (as persuasive as those are) but because non-violence actually works better than violence. This is an inspiring (and useful!) guide for any activist--and a thoroughly entertaining read for any armchair politico. In addition, the stories Popovic tells here are hilarious, accessible, inspiring, and at times outrageous. Aside from his own experiences, he includes little-known stories from the lives of Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Harvey Milk, Martin Luther King Jr., etc.'

Srdja Popovic, the slacker-turned-world revolutionary--named "the secret architect of the Arab Spring" by The Atlantic--who orchestrated the non-violent fall of Milošević in his native Serbia, and went on to influence peaceful uprisings from Georgia to Zimbabwe to Lebanon.

Srdja Popovic was one of the founders of the Serbian nonviolent resistance group Otpor! Otpor!’s campaign against Serbian president Slobodan Milosovic was successful in October 2000 when thousands of protestors took over the Serbian Parliament. After the revolution, Popovic served a term as a member of the Serbian National Assembly.

In 2003, Popovic and other ex-Otpor! activists started the non-profit the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS). CANVAS has worked with activists from 46 different countries, including Zimbabwe, Burma, Iran, and Venezuela, spreading knowledge of the nonviolent strategies and tactics used by Otpor!. Recently, CANVAS worked with the April 6 Movement, a key group in the 2011 Egyptian uprising.
In November 2011, Foreign Policy Magazine listed Srdja Popovic as one of the "Top 100 Global Thinkers" of 2011 for inspiring the Arab Spring protesters. In 2012 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2014 he was listed as a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum in Davos.

See: 'Meet Srdja Popovic, the secret architect of global revolution' Jon Henley Guardian 8 March 2015

Also: POPOVIC TED TALK

Thursday, April 06, 2017

MAKING CHANGE: CAMPFIRE CONVENTIONS and CONVERSATIONS


THE GENERALIST was by last-minute chance one of the 15 participants in what was billed as a 'Campfire Conversation' in the Sheriff's Room of the White Hart Hotel in Lewes. The event was organised and headed by Pete Lawrence - the self-styled conceptualist, brand guardian and firestarter - who will be well-known to many as founder of the record label Cooking Vinyl and co-founder with Katrina Larkin of the now famous Big Chill Festival. The latter began in 1994 with a series of ambient parties at the Union Chapel in Islington and went on to become a big fixture on the annual UK festival scene, held at various locations, principally the grounds of Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire. 

In Lewes, Pete was very low-key in his presentation of his past achievements. He encouraged us to sit in a circle and then we were asked to say who we were in turn and why we were there. We were given printed sheets with information about what Campfire Conversations is all about but I don't think I was alone in not really understanding where all this was coming from. It provided a forum, giving people an opportunity to share thoughts and ideas about what is going on in the world. There were a number of people there who expressed concern at recent world events and were unsure about the future.  I wanted to be positive about what appeared to be a new social networking initiative but came away with mixed feelings.

Post the meeting, turns out Pete was staying in Lewes and he came round to see me for a hour and can now report with a better sense of where he is coming from. He has spent many years developing the idea of a Campfire social network site, which he describes as 'an evolutionary platform for creative thinkers, funded and shaped by its own members.' 

This is linked to a variety of Campfire gatherings. There is an annual Campfire Convention - the first was held in August 2016 'in a beautiful spot in the Golden Valley on the English side of The Black Mountains (just a few miles from the original and inspirational first Big Chill Gala event which created history 21 years ago) and utilises one of the most spectacular pub settings in the UK,[the Bridge Inn in Herefordshire] surrounded by a stream and open fields leading to the Cat's Back and the foothills leading to Offa's Dyke'.  and There were just 500 tickets for the event as a whole. The 2017 Convention is August 4th-6th at Harwarden Estate, North Wales.


The keynote speaker at the first convention was Brian Eno. His quote in the Campfire literature is a good one:

‘Everybody knows we are at a turning point. The old order has become unstable and is breaking down around us. That process is conspicuous but what is not so obvious is that new shoots are starting to emerge too. The future is being born but nobody is paying much attention to it. Disaster sells newspapers but hope generally doesn’t. The end of an old order is the beginning of a new one. How it turns out depends on us and what we dare to hope for.’ 

His speech continued: 

'Nicholas Albery was a man who peddled hope. He founded and ran an organisation called THE INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL INVENTIONS but unfortunately died in a car accident in 2001. Every year he published one or two or even three books in which he collected together any good social ideas he’d picked up…and the books were bursting with them. For me, it was the best read available.

The ideas ranged from the microcosmic - how to prevent slugs eating your strawberries, for example - to the cosmic - how solve global warming by moving the Earth into a slightly different orbit.

Nick’s death left a great hole: ever since then I’ve been wanting to see an organisation that would do the same job - act as a place for the sharing of new social ideas. There isn’t any money in a lot of these ideas, so they don’t get aggressively promoted and are often ignored by the media. I want to see those ideas coming out into the open to be tried and tested and improved. 
Is that something we could do at Campfire?'

You can read more about Nicholas Albery on THE GENERALIST


The event in Lewes was a Campfire Conversation event which Pete is either organising (or encourage others to organise) around the country.

You can find out more information at these websites:
www.petelawrence.net/
http://campfireconvention.com/

Saturday, April 01, 2017

BRAZILIAN MUSIC: MONICA VASCONCELOS / TROPICALIA / LUAKA BOP / SOUND AND COLOURS / BIXIGA 70



São Paulo born, Mônica Vasconcelos has over the last decade become one of the most successful Brazilian artists working in Britain with seven albums to her credit and a long string of headline concert tours, festival appearances and support slots for the likes of Bryan Ferry, Gilberto Gil and Courtney Pine. 


Her latest album, The São Paulo Tapes, features her own versions of protest songs from the 1960s, penned during the dark years [1964-1985] when Brazil was governed by a harsh military regime. Outright protest was banned and these songs use coded metaphors to get their anti-government feelings across. Even  so, many musicians were arrested, tortured or exiled during this period. In the hands of Mônica and her excellent band, these beautiful tunes and heartfelt songs are brought back into the light of day at a time when Brazil is still racked with protest and uproar. The album, produced by Robert Wyatt, is officially released in November but is available for purchase now on Mônica's website. She and the band will be touring the UK and Europe later this year. In a message to THE GENERALIST, Monica writes about her project:

'What do you do with a selection of perfectly formed Brazilian songs written 50 years ago in defiance of a military dictatorship? If you are singer Monica Vasconcelos, you travel to São Paulo and invite a fine guitarist of the Joao Gilberto line (Ife Tolentino) into the studio with you. You record the songs and smuggle the secret files - now The São Paulo Tapes - back to London. Then, you lure the great Robert Wyatt out of retirement to produce the album. He's never produced an album before but you know he will fall for this music because it is right up his street: resistance music. Dangerous, forbidden songs, carrying secret subversive messages in them. A year later, what comes out of this  encounter between Robert Wyatt, Monica Vasconcelos, a bunch of musician dudes and Brazil's finest song poets is an album of powerful music that feels incredibly current. Uncover the secrets hidden in The São Paulo Tapes. Beautiful songs addressing universal themes. Love. Freedom. Justice.' 



The other big musical movement in Brazil in the '60s during the reign of the junta was Tropicalia - a coming together of free souls, experimenting with adding world rock and pop styles to Brazilian genres, cutting things up and making new possibilities. 

This wonderful musical and artistic counter-cultural flowering is documented by Mônica in a fantastic radio documentary for the World Service - 'Tropicalia: A Revolution In Sound'. It is truly inspiring, featuring as it does, many great interviews with the movement's movers and shakers.

[Check out also Mônica's other interesting radio documentary: 'The Secret History of Bossa Nova]

The images come from the excellent and informative 48pp booklet which accompanies a brilliant Tropicalia compilation of music by Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Os Mutantes and Tom Ze, which came out from Soul Jazz Records, based in London's Soho, in 2005. This is totally groovy stuff.


These are two great compilations of Brazilian music put together by David Byrne back in the day (1989) on his label Luaka Bop. 

The first ranges across a wide variety of styles; the second, as the title suggests, is focused on samba. There is a third in the series which I need to get.


To bring things up to date, delighted to discover the brilliant SOUND AND COLOURS site which carries news, interviews, videos and mixtapes from all the major Latin American countries. This is a real exciting site featuring fresh music from the streets. I love this compilation from Brazil, posted in 2016.

: Photo: Loiro Cunha


MUSIC AND DEMOCRACY: 

17 BRAZILIAN ARTISTS AGAINST THE COUP (DJ PEQUI MIXTAPE AND INTERVIEW WITH LUCAS SANTTANA)





BIXIGA 70: If this Sao Paulo band don't knock your socks off nothing will. Great band playing one gig in London at the Jazz Cafe on July 25th.