Another brick in the wall.

6C5A4AB0-09AE-47A9-995D-E9B564628A77.jpegHe’s lost his wife. Well she’s not really lost; she’s gone, Left him, Expired. Not here anymore, deceased

There’s another set of bricks to add to the impenetrable wall.

A guest innocently raised the question that Manjula shouldn’t Have died. Absolutely she shouldn’t. It turned out to be a raging tear-filled day hemmed in by the blasted wall.

There are so many, generally unhelpful bricks in the wall.

The death brick. No longer here brick. Then there’s the ‘what if’ brick, the brick that’s actually a hole, a chasm in my life. Then the feelings — the dirty brick. The what the fuck brick. What next? Remorse brick, guilt brick, I’m an idiot brick, the stress, the anxiety, the depression series of SAD bricks. The loser brick, brick, brick, brick, brick that actually creates a wall of misunderstanding, that blocks out the light, makes life dark, that shows you’re lost, smells like soil, crumbles like mud, brittle like my soul, the walls bricks are higgledly piggly, uniformity has no place here, there are abrasive bricks, sullen bricks, insensitive bricks, flying through the air hitting you on the head bricks, bringing tears to your eyes bricks, squeaky brick, thick as a brick. What about me brick? Lost my way, hitting my head against it brick, lost my love brick, disappears in a puff of smoke brick, unfair brick, didn’t get her to a British Doctor brick, meant to be brick, didn’t do anything right brick, let her go brick. What a brick. Went camping in the rain brick. Relied on the Indian doctor brick. I’m now lost brick. I love and miss you gap.

 

 

Phoenix Coup: Part four

An awakening

Maisie, a journalist in the UK, is trying to find out who is behind the recent introduction of a minimum income and cancellation of debt throughout the world.  

………

“Good evening Naomi and thank you for joining us here at CNN.” announced Jake Tapper.

“Over the past few weeks we’ve seen unprecedented changes, what’s your take on this?“

“We’re going through a man made crisis. I’ve written about exactly this approach in my book Shock Doctrine. The examples I write about show how governments and their agencies create or use a natural crisis to reorder the economy.” 

“Why does this happen?”

“Mostly it’s to create a ‘freer’ market which has become known as neo-liberal. It usually involves a reduction in the role of government and leads to unhindered capitalism. Any crisis or period of unpredictability can be used to have a similar effect. War, change of government, natural disaster, all might be used to lead to these sorts of changes. It does mean more of the power, wealth and income gets concentrated amongst those that already have. It leads to greater inequality.” 

“You think this is the same?”

“Not exactly, the catalyst is present as there is a crisis. It has been created with the deletion of debt but these first announcements demonstrate that the objectives are different, more of a redistribution of money and power. Quite the opposite effect to the examples I write about.”

“But surely it can’t work?”

“Well, who knows? Usually a government and its agencies are behind it but that doesn’t seem to be the case in this situation.”

“So, it’s less likely to work?” 

“Maybe. Its success  will depend upon people taking the initiative and connecting with each other to help create the sort of society they wish to see.  We do need to work together to make things happen but a major question is whether vested interests can be managed and government institutions can adjust to be facilitators rather than just  seeing their role as telling us what to do.“

“Is this feasible?”

“Not if we carry on in the way we always have done. This does however seems different and may provide the opportunity many progressives have been working towards”

“Thank you Naomi, we all watch with bated breath”

I found this part of a recorded interview on CNN. I admired Naomi as someone who had highlighted the decades long right wing shift towards the free market and how governments had created the conditions to make those changes happen. She helped place what was happening now in some sort of context. I hoped she was right.  

…………

A few of my contacts had led to me meeting at a local cafe in my local area: Belvedere in South East London. I was led into the 60s concrete jungle of Thamesmead: a nearby public housing estate.

We entered one of the apartments on the estate and into a room full of computer equipment.

“Hello, I’m Jake and I will be your guide and support on this journey. Try on this helmet. Does it feel comfortable”

“Yes, thanks” 

I put on the most advanced head gear I’d ever seen for the ride of my life. Immediately I was in another world. My avatar, chosen for me by Jake, was a tiny ten year old me.He was now beside me as a small boy. This was realistic. It didn’t feel virtual at all.

I’ve passed through to the other side, crossed over the threshold. I’ve entered a cave and now in a tunnel passing through solid rock. We seem to be going down and down until we reach a place where the tunnel widens and the roof is raised. That was my way into the inner sanctum of the organisation who’s behind the worldwide payments and  cancellation of debt. My introduction into this ‘brave new world’.

It’s as big as a cathedral. 

Thousands of children, avatars of activists from around the world, are sitting in small animated groups. The room is roughly hewn out of rock with daylight throughout but I can’t find the source of the light. The walls are twinkling with what looks like diamonds and rubies glittering in the rock. The nearest I’ve come to this before is Diwali in Varanasi, the ancient city in north India on the river Ganges when they place hundreds of thousands of small pottery oil lamps on the ghats leading down to the river.

It was a special as that. A feast for the eyes. 

Slowly the chattering ceased. It came to some sort of order. Individuals were given space and they spoke up. It felt like an organisation reporting back to its assembled member.

“It was wonderful to see, people were coming out in the streets and celebrating.”

“The first stage of the announcements and the response from the communities has been really positive.” 

“Can we have a report from the ‘caps’?” someone in a leadership role is bringing a little order to the meeting requiring an update from the technologists.

“I’m Jason from the US. The implementation of our technology plan has worked surprisingly well to ensure the personal payments are made and that the debt payments are halted.”

“Our infiltrators, the sleepers, the tempered radicals in all sorts of organisations have been critical to our success.” Jake told me this was a member from Brazil.

“Where were there difficulties?” That same leader spoke again, I later found out it was Erwin from the Philippines.

“The state machinery, in China, has blocked payments in some but not all locations. We’ve used some of the alternative technologies to help inform people what’s happening elsewhere.” 

“What happened in Hong Kong?”

“It’s going like a dream.”

“So as we expected, it’s technologically very challenging with some governments creating barriers but the responses from people has been largely positive.” Jason spoke again.

“There are constant attempts to identify us but our organic decentralised ways of working, our false trails, our ebb and flow, are a great help.”

“As predicted many institutions are close to collapse”

“Your approach as activists have been superb, showing great leadership. We now need to encourage the ‘first followers’ and the ones that pass on messages, the ‘mavens’, the ones who are going to take it forward, to encourage their own groups, families, networks to get involved. They in turn will mobilise other people.” 

“We can now begin to reveal who we are.”

“You’ve all received briefings and videos. Let’s get out there and encourage people to realise this is a golden opportunity.” 

“It’s critical that people learn to appreciate this and begin to take action themselves. Only then will they be in a position to respond when we make our next announcements and we begin to see conflict and the traditional leaders trying to take back control.”

“With effect from today we’re now beginning to share information through our networks and with the media. Press contacts from around the world are watching and listening in on this meeting. It’s partly why we’ve unusually come together in this way.”

Comments were coming fast and furious from all directions but individuals didn’t speak over each other. There were clearly some people who were taking a more prominent role but it was usually difficult to know who they were in reality.

“We’re sending out masses of information about what’s possible. This includes: examples of our world-wide experiments of self management who have started to organise themselves to make electricity, provide health and social services, grow food, all the building blocks of a new people-centred way.” 

“The online exchange systems are up and running so people can supplement their local informal markets with a wider distribution of products, food and services.” Jason again.

“It’s now down to you to meet people and share our stories. We’ve already proven we can successfully make fundamental changes. We must help them realise this is an opportunity to change the world to make it a better place for us, for future generations and to save the planet.”

“Why not paint your own mind picture of what that world will look like. This is mine…

Imagine a patchwork quilt, each patch of the quilt is a different design, which represents a project that helps people grow produce, care for each other, make power, dispose of waste, do things that are necessary for life, the patches are stitched together through our care for each, through our contacts, our understanding, our values, our stories and when we need it, the technology.” Which came from what looked like a six year old girl sitting next to my main contact Jake, who’d got me here. He explained later that she was Millie from somewhere in Europe and was one of the original group of people that started the organisation.”  

“It’s about being old and new, traditional and modern, we’ll use what works. It’s people focused and human scale, we create a narrative that turns things topsy turvy, localised, small scale, connected together based on respect, and compassion that derives from seeing things from the other’s point of view.“ a great contribution from a young girl from South Africa. I noticed she was wearing insignia. As were many others in the room, wearing small badges, patches, pins with the letters PH.

Ok that’s probably a bit too philosophical for some but it’s critical that we win people over and  we take action. Our recent activity and announcements haven’t been able to create a clean slate, it’s not possible to do that, we follow patterns that have been laid down for millennia, we can however stop, think, reflect and above all challenge. We want  to  create new ways to do things.

“Any questions?”

There were Lots…

“So thank you and well done, it’s already been a tremendous success and while this is going to be a difficult step we know we can do it……” again from the six-year old next to Jake.

They all leave the room and the jewels in the walls seem to dim!

I’m led away by Jake down a tunnel also hewn out of stone. We pass various rooms set up for training; one with old computers down to a wonderful opening providing a vista over the deep blue sea where we sit and talk.

“So Jake thanks for bringing me here, why me and why now?”

“Well, with respect, we didn’t want one of the big names in journalism, we wanted someone with a bit more humility, with a good knowledge of the capability of networked technologies and how empowering they can be. In general though we’re now quite happy to share our information. The child avatars who you saw at the meeting are our activists who will now be reaching out to the media and meeting people in public and through their friends and families, community, business and government organisations.”

“What’s your aim?” 

“We want people to realise that they have the power within themselves to take charge of their lives and create organisations that are better suited to them and their needs. We want to engage people in changing society in ways that suits them. We want to create a situation and provide the tools for people to take charge and change things for themselves.”

“That’s a tall order.” 

“Yes it is, but if we don’t think big, or are too fearful to dream then it’ll definitely not happen.”

“The announcements and those direct changes are a catalyst for change, we’ve got information available from around the world of different ways of organising that people could adopt, adapt and change for their own locality, family and community.”

“If we manage to get a few steps in the direction that we want it’ll have been a success because it will snowball.”

“Who’s behind it all?”

“You saw them in today’s meeting. A movement of thousands of people from around the world represented by the avatars in the meeting room or accessing via the twinkles in the wall”

“White Hat hackers?”

“We rely on strong technological expertise and disrupting established systems. This is a major part of our work. There’s white, black, red, grey, hats… hackers of the world have also united but hackers isn’t the term we prefer. They work together to create something positive. A new form of capital that interconnects people. It’s more like what was envisaged in the early days of the net and the web. We jokingly call them the caps — it’s more their sort of headwear, baseball, cricket, flat caps — it takes all sorts, some are independents, others 5th columnists working for our movement as well as the big corporations, government. We’re everywhere.”

“We passed a training room with old computers. Why when you are so technologically advanced?”

“We use different networks to pass on information and keep changing it so that we’re difficult to track down, one is the old Fidonet Bulletin Board Network based on the internet but pre-dates the web.” 

“Who are the leaders and how is it all organised?”

“We’re in self-managed groups that are networked together. It’s exactly the type of future way of organising that we think will work.  It’s a flat structure.

Just Like Bruce Lee’s water, we get everywhere, forming and evolving, if necessary disappearing with no obvious leaders, we try to be fast and flat, fleet of foot, with a strong sense of both individual and collective responsibility. Critically, we’re not centrally managed.”

“So why are all the avatars children?”

”It reflects our open to anything, positive attitude, not jaded or cynical. In real life, when we’re not online, all the people you saw in the meet and those accessing through the sparkles in the wall come from all walks of life, genders, ages, political persuasions. Reflects our boundless enthusiasm, our innovative nature and helps us spot infiltrators.

We’re a many headed, big friendly monster. We’re an open church. It needs to appeal to as many as possible for it to work. Generally we’re difficult to label and often not left or right. Many of our early adopters did come from a left wing background but they’ve managed to move on from their authoritarian tendencies. We have a fair number of tempered radicals.” Those who want to rock the boat and stay in it. 

“I know the concept, I have one at home. In the meeting, many of the children wore badges. What does PH stand for on the badges the children were wearing and and on the logos in the training rooms?”

“We’re PH, originally our shortened version for Phoenix, but as usual with this slightly anarchic set up, many have their own witty alternatives. PH balance, getting under your skin, acid eroding the institutions that enslave us.”

“What next?”

“The whole thing is of course a gamble but this has been an immense underground effort  over many years. It’s evolved through online networks across the world. 

The next stage will be really scary. It’s in two parts. The vested interests will get more active when the landlords stop getting their rent paid  and then shortly afterwards we’ll explain to people that the only way these things will continue is if they take advantage of new ways of organising and actually take control.”

“Is that feasible?”

“We believe it is and it’s our only chance. Campaigns and demonstrations have had limited impact. If we don’t realise that our institutions are enslaving us and that we are destroying our home, leading to a complete collapse, we have no future. So we have taken it upon ourselves to reveal a positive way forward for people to adopt, adapt and take control.” 

…………

I’ve now written a piece for the Guardian, which covers this story. Here’s the gist of it: 

“For many years a global underground movement has planned a series of actions to create instability in the way we organise ourselves and our global institutions by introducing a minimum payment and cancelling debt. Its intended to appeal to people and to lead to a collapse of many of our institutions.  There are more planned interventions. This man-made crisis is intended to reorder our systems, in the process empowering people to take over and manage themselves.

The planned next stage of what the organisers have called a people’s coup, is for activists to approach the public in the street or online to explain where this will lead and what they can do to get involved themselves.” 

……

“Good Morning. Can you spare a few minutes? I’m not selling anything or asking for donations. It’s about cancelling the debt and the new monthly payments. 

What do you think about it?”

“I think it’s wonderful but why is it happening?”

“I’m from PH, the people who have helped organise it. We’re showing that our government and business are doing a poor job and there are better ways to organise things.”

“I’m in support of that.”

“Great, we now need people to get involved to help it all continue. Please take one of our leaflets  explaining why this has happened and how you can get involved.

PH activists were already out in the street. They were drawing people in, to check the factsheets, visit the online videos describing the different experiments, encouraging people to adopt and adapt them to their own needs and situations.

………………

It was a mixed blessing for my family.

“Mum”

“Yes love”

“I’m worried,” Joe was close to tears.

“Why, what’s happened?”

“ The world’s going crazy; is Dad going to lose his job?”

“I agree. It is worrying. Partly because we’re unsure about what’s happening and whether it will be good or bad. I’m certain it will be a bit of both. Dad’s job is already affected but look at him. I don’t think I’ve seen him so happy for a long time.”

“That’s true, he’s got a bunch of new friends and we see more of him.”

“ As a family we’ve always been good at adapting and making the best out of things. As we get older, it happens more and more. Remember when Grandpa died?”

“I was sad.”

“Of course you were, we all were and what did we do, that was good?”

“We found lots of good things to remind us of him, photos, tickets, video, shared stories, made a scrap book and we had a party on his birthday.” 

 

“Exactly, it was sad but it was important to celebrate his life and remind each other of the good memories. Everything is a mix of good and bad. Some things will stay the same, others will change. It would be pretty boring otherwise. Don’t you think?”

“But what will happen? Everyone is talking about it. People say the banks will close, Government will stop working, there might be more crime, who will pay the Police? I want things to stay as they are, we have a good life.”

“You’re very mature, aware and sensitive for your age Joe,. I’m so impressed with you. We don’t know what will happen. Many people are very happy with the new payments and not having to repay their debt. Don’t you think?”

“Yes, that’s good”

“As a family we’ve already begun to see the positive side and do new things. You’re right though it will affect many people’s jobs, it will be difficult to get such a range of things in the shops and we’ll have to adapt. We will always be here for each other. Thanks for coming to tell me. Promise me you’ll continue sharing what you think with your mum. Give me a big hug.I love you” 

“Love you, mum”

By contrast. 

Simon was now working half time, I’m not sure what there was to do when at work but he was busy for the rest of the time: growing food in the garden, and running money advice sessions, with a difference, at the local community centre. He’s a new man. Creating a great network, finding out where we can get the food we need as many of the international stores were having stocking problems. It’s making us think more locally as many things are limited. We were having to cut our cloth and it was already changing our lives.

……

Rowan was creating her own revolution.

“What do you think of this email?” Rowan had gathered together a group of friends and circulated a draft.

‘How can we improve the way the school parliament, Meeting in Room 102 on Tuesday. Bring your packed lunch.

If you’re unable to attend or wish to send questions or suggestions beforehand post them on the intranet.

Our representatives do an important job. But does parliament represent our views? Can it work better in understanding and representing our interests? Are there ways we can all get more involved?’

They all agreed to circulate the invitation. Next day Rowan’s group reconvened. 

Rowan, again was in charge: “I’ve circulated the email and I think its been very popular. We’ve had hundreds of responses, confirming they want to attend, suggesting items for discussion and listing changes they want to see.”

“How cool is that,” said Poppy.

“Will we all fit in the room?”  Fay was, as always, the practical one.

“Good point. Let’s rearrange the meeting to be in the hall.” 

“ We need someone to chair it and a few to make notes.“

“I’ll chair,” says Rowan. “Poppy, James and Jen can you take notes then put them all together?” 

“ Can we video it?”

“Jon?”

“all sorted, see you at the meeting” declares Rowan

“We’re not at all happy about how School Parliament is working, so we have submitted a list of suggestions and asked them to provide a response within seven days after their next meeting. These are: listing what they’ve achieved, making Parliament more participative with open meetings and subjects to be discussed posted beforehand, weekly open meetings and on specific subject areas, action groups to make recommendations from areas of concern delegated by parliament and take action. And finally, all physical meetings to have online discussion groups so that everyone at school had the opportunity to participate. We’ll see what happens next.”

 

The effect of this PH campaign is affecting all of us.

………….

I’m back in Thamesmead at Jake’s apartment with my headgear on. I’m on a virtual magic carpet visiting self managed experiments around the world. 

I first want to visit and experience businesses organising things differently. 

First stop was in Holland. There was a useful narrative: “Many community nurses are organised through self-managed teams. They provide home based nursing to help people live independent lives. The team allocates the caseload, provide professional support, decide whether to expand, bring in advisors as and when necessary but decisions are held within the local team. The result has been a high quality service that actually reduces the nursing care required.”  

I think that self-organisations of professionals seems easier somehow. What about a blue collar more industrial business?  

Next was in France to a small family owned business that’s around seventy years old. “It’s a brass foundry that makes components for car gear boxes. Small self managed teams focus on a specific client, a car manufacturer, and are responsible for  customer relations, production and quality. The reliance on a central management function and specialists is minimal with no human resources advisors or sales team”.

“The teams are left to get on with things themselves and allowed a very significant amount of autonomy. This results in better quality performance and high levels of satisfaction and motivation.”

The prepared script falls into the dark dark pit of management speak but they mean well and I recognise they are trying to reach out to a very diverse range of people.   

The official line from PH is that they are featuring these successful businesses as better ways of organising things, with greater decentralisation meaning people are happier and more fulfilled. The businesses seem to be successful.

PH have distributed examples of community organisations, locally generated electricity, decentralised government, welfare services, you name it, it’s covered. Every type of function whether it’s business, government or charity is available. It’s almost a wiki-action.

I’m still on my magic carpet and even here there’s an interruption… 

All rental payments are to stop.

This was another announcement broadcast via the net on radio and TV, virtual reality..… 

This is going to put the cat amongst the pigeons.

Screenshot 2019-08-26 at 08.00.00

Important Announcement

It has come to the management’s attention that some visitors to our site actually believe that the Phoenix Coup is currently taking place around the world and in Australia all debt has been cancelled. Well it isn’t and it hasn’t.

We cannot absolutely guarantee anything as in India anything can happen and it is without a doubt ‘consistently inconsistent.’ It is however great to hear that our factly fiction is getting a following and it’s believable.

Please do read on

The Phoenix Coup in three parts, with more to follow can be found here.

The PHoenix Coup Part three

a revolution in the making

Maisie is a reporter investigating sudden unexpected changes in society, including a minimum income for everyone around the world and the deletion of all debt. Some see the positives but others feel it’s a prelude to chaos. No one seems to know who’s behind it.

…..

“Hello”

“OK Babe? Sorry I didn’t manage to speak to you this morning before I left. I couldn’t sleep and needed to get into the office.”

“How’s things?”

“It’s all very worrying. It’s chaos and probably no different from any other bank. All payments are suspended. There’s no money coming in. Mortgages and loan payments have stopped. Virtual money is drying up within the formal system. There’s a massive panic in banks and major businesses. The possible implications are mind blowing. I seriously think some will go to the wall. ”

“What about investments?”

“Investors are running around like headless chickens, so there are some good sides to all this. The futures markets are frozen, maybe they can’t see a future.”

“So what happens next?”

“I have no idea. The institutions that are critical to our functioning economy have ground to a halt. The systems are failing”.

“So suits your radical alter ego? I have a telephone call arranged with John from The Guardian. Hopefully, he’ll commission a piece but sounds a challenge just to get paid in this brave new world. See you later, I hope your day gets better.”

I check out news programmes further east. I’ve found a discussion panel on TV, it’s probably in India, as they seem to be shouting and talking over each other. The anchor doesn’t seem to be holding his ship in place.

“Who is responsible for this?” “It will create chaos” “ If they don’t need money, the lazy people will not do the jobs.”

“They’ll just drink themselves unconscious or stay at home”

“Where is our government in all this?”

“How will they pay for the police? The crooks will take over, it will be dog eat dog.”

The anchor intervenes to get a view from a community activist:

“It means people will have to do their own dirty jobs, is that such a bad thing?”

“Yes, but, how will we make or move money? The banks seem to have stopped working”

“How will society grow and improve?”

“There’s only a certain amount of money or resources available to us, so maybe it will halt unnecessary growth, it means we’ll need to share things more, less of the extremes of rich and poor”

“Where will our food come from?”

“What’s to stop people from growing food and selling it to others?”

“Most of our trade is informal and in cash so I think most people will manage OK”

“ Who will pay taxes to the government?”

“Yes, there can be big changes but maybe there’s a lot of positives in this, less globalisation, being more self sufficient, working together to collaborate instead of compete.”

I’m exhausted, just watching it.

I clicked to another channel showing pictures in the street with Indian farmers. Jumping, shouting at the top of their voices, skipping, flapping their green cloths around, laughing, celebrating the cancellation of their debt. I understand this often happened in India so they might not be fazed by these changes.

We’re now getting beyond the initial reactions. People are beginning to realise the potential problems.

I found a BBC World News report that helps.

“What’s the use of these small payments? It’s not enough to live on and if we can’t sell our products around the world, what are we to do?”, was a typical concern of a New Zealand sheep farmer.

A reporter in Australia reported that:

“Mining company executives were ‘over the moon’ that debts are erased but begin to wonder how people will pay for products. It’s predicted to create chaos in the markets.”

I was going stir crazy, I wanted to speak to some local people. I was carrying my digital recorder and an unnecessarily big microphone. I think it sometimes helps to focus people’s attention and treat my questions seriously.

“Good morning. What do you think of the new monthly payments and the cancelling of all debt?”

“Well, I’m not going to say no now, am I? I’ve had no debt for years, so that means nothing to me. I’ve been working the market on my dad’s stall here for over 35 years. I worry about what else might be round the corner. Suppliers are already telling us there may be low stock soon.”

“How about you madam? What do you think of the changes?”

“I don’t know if it’s in addition to my pension, or not. My worry is my rent. I get help from the council to pay it. Will I continue to get that? If not, they’ll throw me out, even though I’m a pensioner who’s paid my taxes all my life”.

“How will the changes affect your young family?”

“I can’t make head nor tail of it. Our mortgage payments have stopped leaving our account and the bank is useless at answering our questions. Will we lose our house? The new payment included extra for the kids. It’s enough to keep us ticking over but it’ll not cover any luxuries or emergencies. Our biggest worry is work. My husband works at the main Ford dealers in town. I wonder how this will affect the business. If people just have the new payments how will they have enough money to buy cars?”

“Thank you, I appreciate your help and hope it all works out for you.”

“Hello Councillor.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m Maisie Judd living locally and reporting for the Guardian, I’ve seen you before at Council events. What’s your take on the recent changes?”

“I can’t believe the Government isn’t behind it. How else would it have happened? Why are they being so secretive?”

“If Labour was in power, how might they have handled it differently?”

“I like some aspects of it and potentially it could lead to massive reform in society which I would support but to be truthful, I can’t believe it’s technically feasible nor politically realistic, there are too many vested interests for this to end well.”

“Thank you for such a helpful insight, may I contact you for further quotes as the story develops?”

“By all means”

I needed to get back to the privacy of home for my call with the Guardian.

……

“Hello John. What’s the latest from the news desk?”

“First, what’s your take on it Maisie?”

“I’m just back from talking with people in our local market, I’ve also checked in with corporate contacts and others via the net including some of the more radical members in the darker corners.”

“Good, and what do you think?”

“People seem to be pulling in three different directions: Firstly, the lost, confused, don’t knows but who seem to be happy to go along with it all yet worry about where it might lead. Secondly, the rich and powerful who are resentful of the changes as it challenges them and they are beginning to realise they have a lot to lose. Thirdly, the more radical, the activists, the ones who see it mostly as positive, and love the idea of a shake-up, a reordering of things.”

“There are, as always, the ones who are looking for an angle to do a deal and make a profit out of any opportunity.

So what’s the view from the Guardian?”

“There seem to be few people, if any, picking up on the potential for real and lasting radical change in how our society functions. The usual suspects are working on that and some of us are seriously excited. In my view, the corporates are working hard on it but seem utterly bewildered. I hope the real action will be amongst the entrepreneurs, the catalysts, the activists. Things are beginning to happen in the streets. I think, it’s just the start of it. , and we haven’t seen anything yet. Our overriding concern, shared by our progressive political friends, is if the system just comes to a grinding halt. Where would we get essentials: food, fuel, medicines? There could be civil unrest. Even a total break-down. The big questions are: how is this happening and who is behind it? I can’t believe we still don’t know.” John provided a good summary.

“Well, I don’t know but someone said it seems that a power has taken hold of the technology that controls our lives. We’ve become dependent on digital banking, online ID, social media, you name it, we’re on it. Think back to the early 90s when we were waxing lyrical about how the web was going to empower communities, be as significant as the printing press and then the corporates took it over and used it for their own ends. It feels to me as if the net has bitten back.”

“I agree. This is really radical and it does seem to be part of a coherent programme, that’s astonishing in its reach, even to the most authoritarian states, although those are the places it doesn’t seem to be working.”

“So, how can I help?” Maisie, is not at all sure.

“We’re going to need a lot of material and just about everyone is working on this.

“Give me a piece 750 words. It’s OK to cover the general narrative but most important is to use your contacts to find out whatever you can about who’s behind it. Get your ear to the ether. It’s your experience and contacts online that is valuable. Follow up those ideas about the net, especially the darker reaches that we generally don’t know about. I’m also interested in where this is taking us. What are the activists doing? Delve into their motivations, what does it all mean and where might it lead.”

“Great thanks”

“You’ve got seven days”

Super,this could be the break I’ve been looking for. But I’ve had enough of the net for now, I‘m off into the centre of London for a sniff around. I wonder if Simon’s mum is available?

“Hello Mags Hiya, how’s things? I need to nip into London this afternoon for some work, can you help out? Do you mind being in the for the kids when they get home and preparing something simple for dinner? Do stay on as I’d love to hear your views on all the stuff that’s happening at the moment. Yes? Wonderful thanks.”

I cycled to the local station and I was in the centre within forty minutes and walked around central shopping areas Leicester Square, Covent Garden and Regent Street, frankly I was sorely disappointed.

Where were these activists that John referred to? It was boringly normal.

I did find some individuals reaching out to pedestrians, and groups talking. But they looked no different from the usual individuals approaching pedestrians who were campaigning or fundraising on the usual subjects: anti-war, pro Europe, ‘Vegans of the world unite,’ Greenpeace, Oxfam. This was a waste of time. I wondered what I was missing?

I manage to draw a few into conversation. It’s not all straightforward. The activists do seem to be very relaxed and well informed about the background to these changes but seem reticent to share anything. I wonder what are they hiding and where they are getting their information from. There seemed to be links between the activists from very different campaigns. Some clearly knew about this beforehand, many attended on-online discussions groups, had training sessions.

I’m lost, it doesn’t seem to lead me anywhere.

“Thanks mum, for helping out today and preparing dinner. It’s a bit hectic for both of us at the moment because of the changes and especially stressful at the bank.” Simon’s visibly relaxed since reaching home.

“Has there been talk at school about the new monthly payments?” I was keen to hear what the kids had been discussing.

“Yes, we discussed it at our School Parliament.” Rowan was first off the starting block.

“It’s supposed to help us understand how the real Houses of Parliament works. We’ve elected our MPs and raise the main topics of the week, just like the real thing. “

“Sounds a great idea”

“I don’t think it works well.”

“Why?” Simon gets into it.

“We’re allowed to attend , providing there’s enough seats, but only as observers. If we want to raise something or have an opinion about what they plan to discuss, we have to raise it with our representative beforehand,” adds Rowan. “That’s rubbish.” Clearly, Rowan is not impressed.

“Spot on. I’m with you there. But it does sound to me like a very fair representation of the real thing and how it doesn’t work effectively.“ Simon showing his more radical side.

“So the changes were discussed , admittedly by your representatives but I bet it’s also been discussed in lessons, breaks, lunch?” I wanted to know more.

“Yes we’ve discussed it,” Joe piped in. “Everyone thinks it’s a great idea, same with cancelling the loans. We seem to be set up to always be owing something to someone else. Why does it need to be like that?”

“Thanks guys, that’s very refreshing and seriously grown up.”

“I’m impressed that you’re challenging the way its run and sharing your opinions.” adds Simon.

“What about you, Mags?”

“ I worry about where it’s all going, which we don’t know. It could end in trouble.”

“Maybe good will come out of it but it’s not going to be easy. Thanks Mum for looking after the kids and dinner was lovely thanks.”

Simon walked Mags home. Unusually, for me, I made up a Bed-time story for my ‘adult’ teenagers. I miss the innocence of their early years and feel they’re becoming more distant as they grow older. I love them so much.

In the lounge afterwards we shared a nightcap. We needed it.

“How’s it all working out for you at work?” I wanted to know more about Simon’s situation.

“As I mentioned on the phone this morning it’s chaos and it’s impossible to predict. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there are redundancies. The bank could completely implode. It may be a new opportunity I could see myself getting involved with a local business. I’m excited by the opportunities this might provide.”

“I love the radical side coming out in you but it’s likely to be a rough ride Simon.”

Later in bed, Simon was asleep.

It came to me, I had completely missed the point. I realised what was happening in Central London, like Oxford Street. All the groups were focusing on engaging people and seeking their commitment. I had a sense the purpose was to connect and activate. The subject matter was important but secondary. They were beginning to show, through their actions, something of the hidden purpose behind these changes. These were role models.

I think back to the amazing campaign of the Extinction Rebellion. Ostensibly this campaign’s focus was action for the climate but in fact I’d always thought, it was a means to another end, to help people take back control. This feels the same. But where will it all lead?

Screenshot 2019-08-26 at 08.00.00

The PHoenix Coup: Part Two

Maisie a journalist living near London but originally from the US has already begun to investigate an astonishing announcement and payments unexpectedly being made into people’s bank accounts. It’s part of a universal basic income for everybody in the UK and increasingly it seems, for people around the world.

 Part Two : Groundhog Day

As I thought, Simon would have quite a different perspective:

“I can’t quite understand. How can it be organised without Government. I can’t see how this coordination on  a global scale works.   It’s bound to unravel as quickly as it appeared. It’s an interesting idea; I can seriously see the benefits but it’s just not going to happen. It’ll be a ‘flash in the pan’.”

We met as students at a university in northern England or the north of in what, the dark and distant past, was jokingly called the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire. Mine was a very general degree. A bit of this, a bit of that. It was called social studies and included a mix of sociology, politics, social policy, even a dip in the waters of social psychology. It was a lot about people and understanding them. It suited me down to the ground. I went on to do a postgraduate degree in journalism after a few years on the journalistic coalface, on a local paper, the Star and Morning Telegraph, still in the steel city of Sheffield.

I was originally from the US and moved to London as a child  as my father had work there and we never left. We lived and around London and holidayed in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. I wasn’t to discover the north of England, quite a different place, until I went to University. I think my view of the world from both a US and UK perspective was invaluable in helping me see how the power games of dominant societies and the increasing power of the corporates played out across the world.

Simon, my husband, who I met in Sheffield, was studying law. A world apart from my easy going mish mash of a course. He had to show real commitment. He knew where the library was. But rather like the student doctors (did they ever grow out of it?) both worked and played hard. He often has a different take on things to me. Now he is a banker.

We married after my masters degree in our late twenties and had our kids by the early 30s. I’d managed to squeeze in some reporting for newspapers and a little TV in crises around the world: Eastern Europe, Africa, South America and Asia but having the kids meant a refocus on more investigative journalism than on the spot reporting. A recent project was finding out about how international corporations and the very rich avoided taxation. Often I’ll work at home on the computer but the kids and Simon, and Simon’s mother are incredibly helpful and supportive, enabling me to shoot off, following a lead, sometimes at a moment’s notice. 

Admittedly I fly too much. Our footprint of consumption is too great for the world to cope.

If I’m truthful. It’s not nearly enough. Maybe, trying our hardest isn’t good enough.

It’s now day two.

I checked with Simon, who was back at work at the bank. Yes the payments had been coming in to everyone and the source was really difficult to identify as it was from some crypto currency or at least a source that was untraceable. Was this real? legitimate money? Was it legal?

I spoke to friends, family, neighbours, here and back in the US.

Whoever was behind this had very sophisticated technical knowledge and systems. so obviously not the Government. I jest but it’s actually true. Neither the British Government, nor for that matter any government or european or global organisation had accepted responsibility. 

That made me wonder… if it wasn’t a government, who could it be? We know that many global corporations mine our data. It’s their business model and they use this knowledge to sell to others, to influence our actions. We’re bombarded daily with ads tailored to our interests, gleaned from our online activity. This also became even more sinister when it helped the campaigners win the Brexit vote and Donald Trump get elected twice.

I wonder if what we’re experiencing now is connected in some way.

First things first. The kids, their friends and I cycled to school and I was returning home.

“Good morning” shouted Jacqueline from down the road.

“How are you guys?” She’s a bundle of energy and one of our best neighbours.

“All good. How are you and John?” I sometimes feel that I’m a bit too distant but Jacqueline is bound to have an opinion on what happened. I ask, “Did you hear the announcement yesterday?” 

“I did. It’s about time that the government did something like this. There’s been too many cuts, services are nothing like they used to be and people hung out to dry. I do worry though, where will the money come from?”

That pretty much sums up what most of my neighbours would think but I think many others will feel something quite different. We’re on the edge of London but it is a rich mix of the original villagers, the poorer working classes that had been shifted out to council house estates through slum clearances and then the professional classes that commuted into work in the city. 

Back home I felt like pinching myself. I was beginning to imagine all sorts of things. It was too good to be true.

How was this possible? It went against everything we had experienced for years.

There was likely to be a lot of negative response. I checked some of the US channels. Fox came up trumps. As I expected, there was a news anchor with strong opinions. He was ranting about something for nothing and felt people need an incentive to find work and make a contribution. It’s working against our values of rewarding those who work hard. We rely on merit, on inventiveness, innovation. The push comes from needing to support your family. This will demotivate people, it’s a catastrophe…… blah blah blah.

Yes you heard that right. They are reporting that absolutely everyone is affected. From the European aristocracy, to the village dwellers in the remotest African savannah, up the Himalayas to the isolated communities, to the cut off tribes in almost deserted islands left behind by the modern age. One way or another, as of today, every man, woman and child would benefit from this change.

But that couldn’t be true. How had they managed to plan and implement this on such a scale, to reach out to every nook and cranny of our complex diverse world? and who are they?

You might think of reporters as cynical. I think you might be right. For my part, I prefer questioning. I’m not easily impressed. I’ve seen a lot and generally I’m angered by people’s attitudes to one another, which is often selfish, violent, aggressive, intolerant, prejudiced.

We seem to follow a predetermined path. To be superficially nice (sometimes) but ultimately fighting for me and mine. Be selfish. Focused on our needs. That might manifest itself in competition in the economy, arguments in the street, online trolling, or more extremely violence, aggression and war.

I’ve always felt that it needn’t be this way.

Was this generosity? Was this amazing action of a benefactor a new chapter in our history? A break away from the predetermined patterns of our previous generations.Wouldn’t that be cool? But, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. I am a journalist What’s the catch? How is this possible?

I  switched on the TV and tuned into Prime Minister’s Question Time. The leader of the opposition was challenging the Government to explain how they had done this without the approval of Parliament. The PM is waffling. It’s obvious that they don’t know, they have absolutely no idea how or why this has happened. 

 I needed to look at this as an investigative project and start to work on an in-depth piece. My usual approach is to just cascade ideas on even the most improbable hypothesis.

Maybe we’re all on an acid trip; the powers-that-be having seen the light; maybe it’s a manifestation of the Buffet/Gates super-rich who’ve decided to pay every living human being a basic weekly income. There are, however, no statements from the usual suspects. Even the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook are denying any involvement or even knowledge. But they did deny involvement in previous scandals, so we can’t take things at face value.

So it felt as if we had been squashed and pummelled through the wringer of change but there ultimately seemed to be no downside. This is astonishing. It has had the most positive effect. I’m embarrassed to say, that with all my experience as a journalist I was still no closer to understanding how this had happened and who was behind it.  

There was a further announcement.

All debts are removed. What? So what does that actually mean? 

There’s information coming up on the BBC World News programme. They’re reporting from Australia and South East Asia, where it’s already later in the day, on celebrations in the street. News cameras and journalists are out interviewing people.

There’s information about activists meeting people in the street handing out leaflets; little clusters are gathering on street corners;  public meetings were being convened.

I felt like I needed a drink.

 

The Phoenix Coup: Part One

‘Same shit, different day’ I saw written on a badge attached to another passenger’s bag.  I was joining a SriLankan Airlines flight from Colombo to Chennai.

 Just five days later I was back home in London.

Little was I to know how life would become so incredibly different, not at all the ‘same shit.’

I’m Maisie, a freelance reporter covering just about anything and everything. I’d just been in South India and Sri Lanka for the U.K. Guardian newspaper, researching for travel articles.

My antennae were twitching, something was happening, I could feel it in the air.

It was an astonishing day that no one could have predicted. It would take some time to sink in but it would set us all reeling.

As a reporter my approach is to search things out, get under the skin,  help give people a voice I love to challenge the established order, so here’s my take on it.

Over the last few years we’ve become more familiar with the idea of constant change and unpredictability with one crisis after another. Today’s change was a different order of magnitude and was, in my view, positive. Not what we’d come to expect at all. It all began with something that seemed quite simple. The impact would be profound.

 It was an ordinary workday morning. The kids were up, rushing around as usual, then off to cycle to school on an organised cycle ‘train’. Simon, my husband, had already left for work at the bank.

I was due to do desk work, search the net and cover a slowly evolving story about corrupt politicians. Nothing out of the ordinary there.

That afternoon there was an announcement via the net, on the radio and on TV. For some time now politicians in Finland and other countries have been toying with the idea of providing every citizen with a minimum weekly payment regardless of their personal situation or work. It’s called all sorts of things but usually Universal Basic Income / UBI or Guaranteed Basic Income. Many countries had experimented, but not implemented it on any scale.

The announcement pointed out that we in the UK, in the fourth biggest economy in the world, was to introduce this very idea with immediate effect.

Fascinating. We’d had no prior knowledge that this was actually planned. No discussions or  announcements from the Government, nothing. 

I checked with my contacts. They didn’t believe this was coming from the UK Government. How was this possible? Maybe it was a hoax. 

The online communities, the cyber street corners, the dialogue of the ether, woke up. It was startling. It was almost as if all the lights in a major metropolis had been switched on. But it also, instantly, reached out to the suburbs, the villages, the farms.

Pretty quickly it was apparent that it had spread throughout the net. We often could see and track videos, memes, chat going viral with the latest news but this was different. It seemed to permeate every cyber street corner and the scale was enormous. 

It wasn’t just in the UK.

The very same policy of a flat income regardless of need, employment, whatever, was available to everyone throughout Europe and north America. It was incredibly consistent.

Hang on a minute, there’s more coming in via the net.

It was also the hot topic throughout South East Asia, Japan, and South Korea. This was astonishing.

I just might be going out on a limb here but I reckon politicians are renowned the world over for their selfishness and short term thinking. They represent acute levels of disorganisation and seem to be completely unable to create effective sustainable partnerships. They just can’t keep secrets.

So what is this and how could it happen? Coordinated action, at the same instant, through half the economies in the world. This is incredible, I’d never experienced anything like it.

I wanted to know more. I was on the hunt. 

I checked with my most trusted colleagues from around the world. I delved deeper into my own very informal, alternative online community networks that I built, slowly and carefully over the years to help me put stories together and to ensure they stood up. 

Exactly the same announcement was made in Russia, China, and North Korea. The same everywhere. A direct payment in the local currency.

Astounding. How? Who? What would this mean? Could it be true. I checked my bank account.There was a payment into my account exactly as announced.

I hadn’t noticed the time passing in all the excitement. The kids were back after a day at school. Simon would be early tonight and would be back home an hour later.

We’re quite a liberal family. We work from home whenever we can. We get great support from Simon’s mother whenever I had to go away on an investigation. We were trying to achieve a decent work life balance.  

So it might be earth shattering news but boundaries are boundaries. It was time for me to leave the work alone, put away the computer and switch on quality time for the kids.

“Hi, guys, how was today?”

“The usual stuff, but science was the best, really cool looking at our bodies. Did you know that we have more than one brain?” Rowan had a clear leaning to the technical side of things.

“Really?”

“Three in fact, obviously not exactly the same but they help us control our body in completely different ways. We spent ages on the gut, it affects absolutely everything and some scientists say it’s just as important as the brain in our head. How cool is that?” Rowan was clearly enthusiastic.

“Does that affect  what we should eat?” I was concerned, this might lead to more lectures at meal times.

“More than that, what we eat, how we live, the stress we feel.”

“Thanks Rowan…”

“We’re putting together a show of dance, music and skits.” Joe was altogether different and very artistic.

“When will the show be? we’d love to the there. What are you doing?” 

“I’ll know next week”

“Cool”

That is so good. Too many schools have let that sort of activity go and focussed too much on academic subjects. I’m so pleased that we’ve found a school that keeps it up and of course manages to keep both of you very interested. and enthusiastic.

“Do you have much homework this evening? OK to fit it in after dinner? I’ve prepared that cheesy rice, cauliflower thing.”

“Yep”, suspiciously in unison.

“Great, lets grab a snack and take Sally for a walk.” 

We live in the suburbs. Way back it was a village but it had now been taken over by the big smoke of London. We have a great park nearby and the canal and its wonderful tow path. Sally expects a walk after school, in fact she’ll peacefully growl and stare if we don’t, at exactly 4.00.

As we walk there is something in the air. I must be imagining it, but people do seem to have a skip in their step, a smile on their face, Oh my God they’re even greeting each other.

Surely it’s not down to that announcement?

It would have a dramatic impact for millions of people, not least those families experiencing real poverty.

Later, after dinner, the kids had said goodnight and retreated to their rooms. Simon and I got a little time together to discuss the strange events of the day. He’s a banker and so will have solid insights into what’s happened today.

“So what’s your take on all this?” 

 

Note: revised on 28th August 2019