Stephen Kahn

Archive for April, 2012|Monthly archive page

Transition Whidbey — Anarchism in action

In Humor on April 19, 2012 at 5:17 pm

An old joke. Two parents want to send their child, Star, to Singularity School, an exclusive private academy (one much like the one my grandchild attends). Racked by anxiety, they fill out the application form, trying to spin their child’s personality and accomplishments into the most impressive impression. Finally, they come to the question: “Is your child a leader or a follower?” The parents look at each other. Finally, one says to the other, “We have to tell the truth here. There is no fudging on this one.”

They submit, “As intelligent and industrious and clever and creative as Star is, we have to admit that our child is definitely a follower and not a leader.” Racked with despair, they send in the application.

To their amazement, a couple of weeks later they receive a phone call from the Headmaster of  the school. The Headmaster says, “I wanted to let you know right away before you might decide to send your amazing offspring to one of our competitors. We are delighted to accept Star, on a full scholarship.” The parents gasp. The Headmaster continues, “ As we review the applications and the students we have accepted, we realize we have 199 leaders. We felt we absolutely needed at least one follower so all these future leaders of society have someone to practice their leadership skills on.”

As long as human beings have been around, we have sought to make improvements in our environment. If the woods around us are on fire, we run away and jump in the river.

After a while, we began to reason and draw conclusions. “Hmm…” We say, “The woods are very dry. We are a long way from the river. Last time the woods were dry,  they caught fire and we had to run a long way to get to the river. Uncle Mel burned to a crisp. Let’s move closer to the river.”

We come to many conclusions about how to improve our environment. Joe says, “Let’s move into the desert. There are no forest there.” Joe misses the small point that there is no water there. Joe dies of thirst.

Ralph says, “Let’s move to the tundra. Fires seldom start in the cold.” Ralph freezes to death.

Lars says, “Let’s move into the Siberian tundra. Something incredible will happen there involving forests, fires,  and explosions in 1980. If nothing else, we can keep ourselves warm coming up with cockeyed theories for decades. 

At the Transition Whidbey meetings, there are many suggestions of how to improve the world. Most of the people are not entirely cockeyed optimists. Most think civilization will collapse. Most think the collapse will occur because we are running out of oil. (“We have reached peak oil” is the mantra.) Most think we need to get back to basic skills such as raising our own food. (“Re-skilling ourselves” is another mantra.) Most think the collapse can be navigated peacefully by thinking good thoughts and learning basic skills.

As I attended the Transition Whidbey meetings, wary (because of my previous experience with Cerro Gordo of gurus and gullible followers) I missed a step in the ever-evolving new age ideology. As I attended meetings, people were very polite to each other. Many people had suggestions. Take transportation. If we are going to run out of fossil fuels, suggestions included: “walk more, ride bicycles, convert your vehicle to run on batteries, ride public transportation, and so on.” As I listened to many people politely waiting their turn to talk and to demonstrate their “solution” (and not very many interested in anyone else’s solution) I realized, Everyone has become a guru. Not very many want to be followers any more.

Anarchism in action.

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If women ran the world …

In Uncategorized on April 9, 2012 at 9:23 pm

I have often been told that if women ran the world, it would be a more peaceful and better-run place. There certainly seem to be differences between women and men. Besides the obvious physical differences, there are differences in style. Women often seem to have a politer and more self-effacing way of conducting matters when they are in charge.

On the other hand, history seems to show examples of rather blustery and blood-thirsty females, such as Catharine the Great of Russia and Elizabeth I of England. In Africa, there were for a while a fairly fierce tribe of female warriors, the “Dahomey Amazons.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dahomey_Amazons .

 

More recently one can find examples of dominating female leaders such as Margaret Thatcher and Sarah Palin, and violent women such as Belle Guinness and Aileen Carol Wuornos. Gunness was a female serial killer who lived in La Porte, Indiana. (My mother grew up in that area and told me about Belle when I was a child.) Wuornos was a prostitute who was eventually executed for killing seven men.

While not exhaustive, the following web site provides a good taste of women gone bad over the centuries. http://listverse.com/2007/09/09/top-10-most-evil-women/

However, as a generalization, in my experience female leaders more typically have a quieter and less blatant way of exercising power than men. I have had some good female supervisors and some bad ones; in general the less obviously domineering style applied to the full range. In my last job I was severely harassed by two female supervisors; the methods they used were quiet, polite, and sly.

Transition Whidbey is certainly not a violent or domineering organization. (In fact, it tends to go too far in the other direction.) It’s hard to say who “started” the transition towns movement, but women became important initiators and instigators from an early stage. At Transition Whidbey, women pretty much “run” the organization (or dis-organization as it may more properly be described). Which leads us to the next aspect of Transition Whidbey I will examine.

 

If women ran the world …

In Hard to tell on April 9, 2012 at 9:23 pm

I have often been told that if women ran the world, it would be a more peaceful and better-run place. There certainly seem to be differences between women and men. Besides the obvious physical differences, there are differences in style. Women often seem to have a politer and more self-effacing way of conducting matters when they are in charge.

On the other hand, history seems to show examples of rather blustery and blood-thirsty females, such as Catharine the Great of Russia and Elizabeth I of England. In Africa, there were for a while a fairly fierce tribe of female warriors, the “Dahomey Amazons.”  .

More recently one can find examples of dominating female leaders such as Margaret Thatcher and Sarah Palin, and violent women such as Belle Guinness and Aileen Carol Wuornos. Gunness was a female serial killer who lived in La Porte, Indiana. (My mother grew up in that area and told me about Belle when I was a child.) Wuornos was a prostitute who was eventually executed for killing seven men.

While not exhaustive, the following web site provides a good taste of women gone bad over the centuries.

However, as a generalization, in my experience female leaders more typically have a quieter and less blatant way of exercising power than men. I have had some good female supervisors and some bad ones; in general the less obviously domineering style applied to the full range. In my last job I was severely harassed by two female supervisors; the methods they used were quiet, polite, and sly.

Transition Whidbey is certainly not a violent or domineering organization. (In fact, it tends to go too far in the other direction.) It’s hard to say who “started” the transition towns movement, but women became important initiators and instigators from an early stage. At Transition Whidbey, women pretty much “run” the organization (or dis-organization as it may more properly be described). Which leads us to the next aspect of Transition Whidbey I will examine.