[P2P-F] Fwd: Crazy Time; Stay Sane

Michel Bauwens michel at p2pfoundation.net
Thu Apr 13 23:28:04 CEST 2017

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: <douglas at rushkoff.com>
Date: Fri, Apr 14, 2017 at 2:49 AM
Subject: Crazy Time; Stay Sane
To: rushkoff at simplelists.com

Lots of craziness out there. I used to use TV as an escape from the various
forms of disregulation I experience in real life. The smooth stream of
brain-numbing content settled me. Now, simply picking up the remote control
moistens my palm with anticipatory anxiety. Will Trump drop a bomb? Will
someone get beaten up in an airplane aisle? And why do those stories even
feel equivalent?

My monologue on last weeks’ TeamHuman show
<http://teamhuman.fm/episodes/ep-31-r-u-sirius/> anticipated events of the
past few days. I asked what Donald Trump might do if he were truly backed
into a corner. This week, we may be seeing that. Or maybe we’re seeing
something else. Nobody’s facts line up with anybody else’s - and none stay
the same for more than a few hours at a time.

In this week’s monologue
<http://teamhuman.fm/episodes/ep-32-laszlo-karafiath-phd-meme-wars/> (after
I run through a few possible Trump-Russia-Syria alternative theories) I try
to explain how I have gotten to the place where I no longer know what to
believe. But I’m learning to be okay with that. True or not, both these
stories and these actions serve as distractions from the work at hand.

I’m not telling you to ignore the news, but I am saying we can’t use the
news as an excuse to ignore one another. Have a listen.

Meanwhile, for my text-based friends, here are a couple of favorites from
the past week or so. If you want the most human stuff, though, consider the
audio above.

1. *Here’s an interview with a great new UK-based magazine called Stir to

OSB: You’ve mentioned that “the model of the ever expanding economy is
bankrupt” and highlighted the “corporate charters” and “central currency”
as the core components of the present “bankrupt” system. How can we hope to
challenge the corporate charters?

DR: Well, you sound like you believe the way to change corporate structure
is for citizens to take action against the corporations. That’s certainly
one possible approach, and useful in a situation where there are no human
beings within the corporation who are willing or able to change the
corporations from the inside. What might be surprising to you is that most
of the people in corporations actually do not want to kill people, do not
want to be enslaving children in resource-rich nations, and do not want to
make the planet uninhabitable. They are the ones in the best position to
change corporate actions, since they are inside the companies themselves.

They simply need to be educated about what is possible. I tried to do some
of that in my book. CEOs and Boards of Directors need to understand that
they do have legal authority to act in the best long term interests of the
company. So-called “activist” shareholders really cannot sue Boards for
hurting the short-term value of shares – especially when the Boards are
acting in the long-term interests of the shareholders. Not destroying the
planet is in the best long-term interests of shareholders. Likewise,
companies can restructure and reorient from within to favor dividends and
public reinvestment over capital gains and extraction.

So, as I argue in my book, the key is to convince CEOs and others who are
running corporations that they can exercise human agency in their
decisions. They do not have to behave automatically. They can use their
decision-making authority. They need to communicate with shareholders, and
explain the advantages of getting lots of dividends instead of a one-time
“pop” of share price, followed by an inevitable decline. Companies can
actually make more money with ongoing revenues than blindly pursuing growth.

They can stop selling off their most productive assets, and instead remain
powerfully competent companies. Steady state economics is about maximizing
circulation rather than extraction. To anyone who understands how business
works, they should see how this is a healthier choice for those within the
business, as well as the distant shareholders who only want money at any

OSB: You have described how “digital giants are running charter monopoly
software…” and that their “technology enforces the monopoly”. At Open we
are keen to see NGOs, co-ops, non-profits and even Local Authorities start
to utilise open source software and, in return, to fund the development of
a suite of open source apps which facilitate collective ownership and
collaboration. What steps do you think are required to disrupt the digital
giants’ monopolies?

DR: Of course, I was using the word “software” a bit metaphorically. The
corporate charter is itself a program that can be changed. Instead, it is
being further amplified by technology. What I mean by that is that the
corporation works in a particular way, as dictated by the charters and
contracts making up their business plan. So a company’s core code – long
forgotten – may assume that the way to make money is to prevent people in
the regions where the company operates from making any money. And while
that may have been a good strategy for maintaining a slave state in the 1400’s,
it doesn’t work so well in places where people are supposed to be free or

But the company’s directors may have forgotten all of this by the 21st
century, and simply implemented new plans based on the same strategy of
exploitation and extraction. So now they are writing software and building
platforms that embed these same assumptions about their users. And they end
up extracting value and time from people without helping them create or
retain any for themselves.

Or a business plan might be to make money by extracting metal ore from the
ground. Then, the company builds technology to do that, which makes the
extraction happen a lot faster. They don’t realize that extracting so
quickly and totally may deplete things in new ways. And because they don’t
realize that the core “code” of the company is actually changeable, they
don’t see any way out of the problem.

Now, you’re talking about software solutions themselves, and how people
from the outside can give up entirely on the corporate solutions, and build
alternative software that works in greater consonance with the needs of
real people and places. That’s pretty easy to do. We can write an
alternative Uber that lets the drivers participate in the profits. Or an
alternative Facebook that doesn’t manipulate people’s news feeds to try to
program people’s future choices. The trick is getting people to use the
alternatives when they’re not so pretty or universally accepted.

OSB: It has been suggested that the open-source / platform co-op
alternatives to corporate software solutions will need to do two things at

– Be easier to use / provide a better experience

– Cost the user the same or less (i.e. provide better value for
(conventional) money.

What do you think about the possibility of an “open app ecosystem” (a
library of interoperable apps, covering all aspects of communication,
organisation and even trading needs) sweeping into dominance over the
corporate alternatives once it provides the same level of utility, at the
same price, as the present corporate systems?

DR: The easiest tactic is to help people experience the impact of various
pieces of software on their own existence. Does Facebook make them happier?
How is it helping them take command of their lives? People sometimes have
to become more aware of the surveillance state, the extractive quality of
these tools, and the nauseous, empty, angry feeling they have after using
this stuff in order to feel motivated to make a change.

OSB: Your chapter in Ours to Hack and Own entitled ‘Renaissance now’
explains how we are on the verge of a modern-day renaissance. There is no
doubt that revitalising and retrieving lessons, techniques and habits from
the past could help bring about change but the last renaissance was also
driven by a shift in intellectual thinking. Do you have any thoughts on
how, and where, an intellectual shift might come from?

DR: I think changes in experience can change people’s world view. If they
have terrific experiences working in co-ops or using local currency or
simply sharing stuff, then their world view will change.

OSB: You explained how “banks were invented to extract value from our
transactions not to authenticate transactions”. Do you have any thought on
why LETS and time banks haven’t made a more effective transition to the web?

DR: I think part of the reason LETS and alternative, trust-enabling systems
have not developed is that most people are not actually proud of the value
they create. Too many people feel that they don’t have enough to offer, and
need to hide behind anonymous cryptocurrencies and traditional anonymizing
monetary systems in order to mask things. Meanwhile, if a person is sitting
in a cubicle working for a mortgage broker or collecting debt from student
loans, how are they supposed to participate in a local LETS system? What
real value are they creating for others? Such people find it easier to take
some of the cash they’ve made and “invest” it in Ethereum
<https://www.ethereum.org/> than… become part of some local favour bank. To
create and exchange value, you have to be able to create some value for
other humans – not just help some corporation extract value from people.

OSB: I am excited about the idea that platform co-ops and the collective
ownership of our local facilities and businesses could potentially
completely disrupt capitalist democracy as we know it. Where do you stand
on ‘working with and within the present system’ vs ‘building a new system
which makes the present system obsolete’?

DR: Well, I don’t think it’s one or the other. People can vote on public
and municipal activities through traditional democratic participation, and
people can vote on private and business activities through their
participation in cooperatives. I do believe that the more influence real
people have on the private sector, the more freedom our public activities
will be from corporate control. A platform cooperative is not going to
lobby the government for destruction of the environment where its workers
are living. So government ends up able to deal with reconciling the
different views of its people, rather than that of its people with that of
its non-human corporate actors.

OSB: Do you think there is a direct correlation between the amount of
external investment an organisation accepts (and hence ownership /
governing authority it relinquishes) and the real value an organisation has
for society?

DR: Well, it has more to do with how much a business actually needs to
operate and satisfy its market. If a business is really inexpensive to
operate, then it doesn’t make sense for that business to take billions of
dollars in investment. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. If you take
billions of dollars of investment, then the people who gave you that money
expect to get that money back. This means you need to make billions of
dollars in revenue. That’s really hard – especially if you’re a small
business that can actually function with just a few thousand dollars. If
you take less money, then you are not obligated to grow the business so
fast. You are still *allowed* to grow your business fast, but you don’t
have to become a multi-billion-dollar business right away.

The more money you take, and the less proportioned to the real size of your
business, the more power you have to surrender to the people giving you the

OSB: We are often exposed to the vision of a world full of hate and
extremism and scarcity but rarely hear about a positive alternative. If
platform co-ops, the solidarity / generative economy take hold it strikes
me we could be living in a very different world in the future. Can you
describe what you think this world might look like?

DR: I’m not a utopian, so I don’t envision a world or economy entirely
transformed into a new state where all the value people create is properly
registered, the commons is reinstated and appropriately governed, and
selfishness is exchanged for true compassion.

“The generative, solidarity-inspired economy I envision is one where
humanity stands a good chance of making through the next century without
going extinct.”

The generative, solidarity-inspired economy I envision is one where
humanity stands a good chance of making through the next century without
going extinct. I am trying to envision a world where global warfare won’t
be the only way to prevent impoverished populations from enacting violent
revolutions on their own governments. I’m imagining a world where the
wealthy don’t simply try to earn even more money in order to insulate
themselves from the problems they’ve created by “externalizing” the real
costs of their business practices.

So the radical alternative I’m envisioning is simply a world where the most
extractive and destructive practices don’t absolutely dominate us. Where
people have the ability to work for one another if there are no corporate
jobs available.

I can imagine a near future without people starving in the streets, without
China cashing in its chips by purchasing America’s greatest companies and
properties, and without a continuation of the shift of wealth from the poor
to the rich. I can imagine it not getting significantly worse than it is
now, but that will take a huge shift in power and attitude.

OSB: What do you see as the main stepping stones for this vision to become
a reality?

DR: Well, from a policy standpoint, I think a shift in tax policy would do
a lot: punish capital gains and reward dividends and revenue. Right now, we
punish companies and people who earn money, and reward those who simply
extract capital out of the economy. That has to be reversed.

People and companies have to look toward earning money with the thing they
do, rather than by selling the company itself. You can earn money, or you
can “flip” your business (sell it to short-term investors). The latter
leads to really bad practices.

We also have to accept that growth is an artefact of a currency system, not
necessarily a symptom of a healthy economy. There are some economies that
may be full grown.

OSB: Thanks Douglas, you have given us plenty of food for thought. The
proposal that the users might buy back Twitter seems to demonstrate the
growing appetite for platforms which are owned and controlled by their
members. Here’s hoping more people start to realise the benefits of member
ownership and governance, and how this creates a virtuous cycle of value
creation. As you say, it seems essential if we’re going to survive the
great challenges of our time.

*2. Here’s a brand new review of my graphic novel. Aleister & Adolf, which
is again available (yes, get it!)*

Comic ReviewsAleister and Adolf
By Mikee Riggs
[image: Aleister and Adolf]

*Aleister and Adolf*
By Douglas Roushkoff, Illustrated by Michael Avon Oeming
Dark Horse Originals
88 pages

In varying degrees, evil can be viewed as subjective. What someone may
perceive as a monster, another person could see as tame. Aleister and
to show you just that. While the book is by no means saying Adolf Hitler
wasn't evil, it does paint Aleister Crowley in a better light. To some,
Crowley is a man of pure evil. Perhaps the most famous occultist, Crowley's
views are often seen as controversial. In Aleister and Adolf Crowley is
painted as a deep thinker who at times is very self-centered, but is
certainly not evil; in this way, the work is a breath of fresh air.

Aleister and Adolf is a work of historical fiction by Douglas Rushkoff and
Michael Avon Oeming. At the very beginning of the book, Rushkoff notes
"Most of the stuff in this story really happened. The rest may as well
have,” implying that the overall story being used to share the facts is an
interpretation, but only to a certain degree. The story begins in 1995 with
Roberts, a young web developer, attempting to transfer a logo for a company
online. The logo is thought to be corrupted, so he goes looking for answers
from its original designer. Instead of an easy answer, he finds a story
that takes place during World War II involving Aleister Crowley, who is
attempting to manipulate and in turn defeat the Nazis. The logo's designer
is working for the army and has been tasked with coercing Crowley into
helping America seize an item dubbed the Spear of Destiny from Hitler.
Roberts soon finds himself sliding deep into a rabbit hole of sexual ritual
and occult beliefs.

The story itself revolves around the power and deeper meaning of symbols.
Crowley is convinced the swastika is feeding Hitler's power and in turn,
tries to come up with a strong symbol that can counteract it. The book
spends a lot of time digging into the power of symbolism and uses it as a
means to show Roberts' descent into occultism.

Rushkoff's writing in this graphic novel is astounding. He creates
well-crafted characters and uses them expertly to move the story along. The
story itself is rich, complex and well researched. Rushkoff has taken the
time to learn the subject matter and does it justice without making it seem
at all hokey. He manages to tackle Crowley, occultism, the Holocaust and
iconography without once making the story feel muddy or bogged down.

Backing up this strong plot and taking it to the next level is the art of
Michael Avon Oeming. Oeming has been developing his talent for decades now.
His work on Powers solidified him as a business mainstay as well as one of
the contemporary greats. In Aleister and Adolf, Oeming does some of his
best work to date. His style is sharp and concise, making the story even
more engaging. His panel work is something to be marveled at. Throughout
the book, Oeming creates amazing two- and single-page layouts that jump off
the paper. His style is stark but compelling, creating a whole that is
nothing short of brilliant. Aleister and Adolf's art alone could be viewed
as a master class in graphic storytelling.

Overall, this is a strong story about what's on the surface and what
meanings are hidden. It asks you to look past its source material and ask
questions about the world around you. In a time where questioning what you
see is as important as ever, Aleister and Adolf is a must-read book.

This is RushkoffList, a monthlyish update and advance look at work in
progress. Feel free to
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