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”
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.
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.”
“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.
“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”
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?”
“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.