Adonis Diaries

Archive for August 3rd, 2015

Occupy Wall Street Calls for New Mental Shift: “Protest Is Broken”


Attracting millions of people to the streets no longer guarantees the success of a protest, says Micah White, 33, the co-creator of Occupy Wall Street.

“Occupy was a perfect example of a social movement that should have worked according to the dominant theories of protest and activism. And yet, it failed,” says Micah in an interview with Folha de São Paulo, the largest daily newspaper in Brazil.

Giuliana Vallone posted

Micah White argues that the use of violence in protests is effective, but only in the short term.

And he argues that learning to use social networks to benefit social movements is one of the greatest challenges of activism. “The biggest risk is becoming spectators of our own protests,” he says.

Living in a rural community on the Oregon coast, with about 300 inhabitants, Micah, and his wife Chiara Ricciardone, now run Boutique Activist Consultancy, an activism think tank specializing in impossible campaigns.

Micah was in São Paulo, Brazil on May 26 to participate in the launch event of GUME (“Knife Edge”), an engagement agency founded by Regina Augusto.

Folha de São Paulo: How would you analyze Occupy Wall Street today? What went wrong?

Micah White: This is the big question and of course I’ve been thinking about it since the end of Occupy. For me, the Occupy movement was a “constructive failure,” which basically means it was a failure that taught us something about activism.

The real benefit of Occupy Wall Street is that it taught us the contemporary ideas and assumptions we have about protests are false.

Occupy was a perfect example of how social movements should work. It accorded with the dominant theories of protest and activism: it was a historical event, joined millions of people across demographics from around the world around a series of demands, there was little violence.

And yet, the movement failed. So my main conclusion is that activism has been based on a series of false assumptions about what kind of collective behavior creates social change.

F: What are these assumptions?

MW: First, the central idea of contemporary activism: urban protests, with large numbers of people in the streets, primarily secular, and that revolve around a unified demand.

The idea is basically, “Look, if we get a million or ten million or a hundred million people in the streets, finally our demands will be met.”

However, if you look at the last ten, fifteen years, we have had the biggest demonstrations in history. And the protests continue to grow in size and frequency, and yet they have not resulted in political change.

F: Now what?

MW: What we learned from Occupy, and also with the Arab Spring, is that revolutions happen when people lose their fear.

So I think the main trigger for the next revolutionary movement will be a contagious mood that spreads throughout the world and the human community.

For me, the main thing we need to see is activists abandoning a materialistic explanation of revolution – the idea that we need to put people in the streets – and starting to think about how to spread that kind of mood, how to make people see the world in fundamentally different way. That’s about it.

The future of activism is not about pressing our politicians through synchronized public spectacles.

F: It’s not about pressuring politicians?

MW: No. I think the standard forms of protest have become part of the standard pattern. It’s like they are expected.

And the key is to constantly innovate the way we protest because otherwise it is as if protest is part of the script.

It is now expected to have people in the streets, and these crowds will behave in a certain way, and then the police will come and some of the people will be beaten up and arrested.

Then the rest will go home. Our participation in this script is based on the false story that the more people you have in the streets the higher your chances of getting social change.

F: Can you explain better what you’re proposing?

MW: What I am proposing is a type of activism that focuses on creating a mental shift in people. Basically an epiphany.

In concrete terms, I think there is much potential in the creation of hybrid social movement-political parties that require more complex behaviors of people like running for political office, seeking votes, participating in the city administration.

F: The use of social networks is quite controversial among contemporary activists. Some say it is a key tool to increase the reach of the protests, others say it exposes the movement to monitoring by the authorities. What’s your opinion?

MW: This is one of the key challenges. Social media is one of the tools that activists have, and we need to use it in some way.

But in fact, social media has a negative side, which goes beyond police monitoring.

During Occupy, we experienced it: things started to look better on social networks than in real life.

Then people started to focus on social media and to feel more comfortable posting on Twitter and Facebook than going to an Occupy event.

This to me is the biggest risk: to become spectators of our own protests.

F: What do you think of the Black Lives Matter protests that are happening in the United States since last year, the result of racial tension in the country?

MW: Of course I fully support this movement. I am black, I have experienced the discrimination that they are protesting.

But thinking strategically, I believe it is very important never to protest directly against the police. Because the police are actually made to absorb protest – the objective of the police is to dissipate your energy in protesting them so you’ll let alone the most sensitive parts of the repressive regime in which we live: politicians and big corporations. We must protest more deeply.

F: What do you think of the use of violence in protests?

MW: Studies suggest that protesters who use violence are more effective than those that do not.

I think violence is effective, but only in the short term, because you end up developing a kind of organized structure that is easy for police to infiltrate.

In the long run, it is much better to develop nonviolent tactics that allow you to create a stable and lasting social movement.

F: But doesn’t violence exclude the public from the movement?

MW: People become alienated and become frightened when they see the black bloc tactic because they do not understand and can not imagine doing it.

And movements work when they inspire people, when they are positive, affirmative and make people lose their fear.

It’s a difficult balance, because you also do not want to be on the other side and only support forms of activism that are tepid and tedious – you have to find a middle ground that excites people and also leaves them with a little fear. No one really has a remedy to resolve the issue.

F: Your book, The End of Protest, decrees the end of the protest as we know it. Can we reinvent protest?

MW: Protest is reinvented all the time. Every generation experiences its own moments of revolution.

The main thing is that we are now living through a time when tactical innovations are happening much more often because people can see what others are doing around the world and innovate in real time.

I think the future of revolution starts with people promising themselves that they will never protest the same way twice.

This is very difficult for activists because they like to follow patterns. But when we are committed to innovation, we will invent totally new forms of protest.

People did not expect to see something like Occupy when it emerged. And now we do not expect the next big movement…but it will come.

Originally published by Folha de São Paulo

– See more at:

Andrew Bossone shared this link July 18, 2015

His argument: Protests are limited; mental shifts and participation in politics and public administration is needed.

The co-creator of Occupy Wall Street has advice for the next generation of social movements: “Never protest the same way twice.”


John Peter shared this link of Nassim Nicholas Taleb
July 22 , 2015

+ Have you ever wondered why people are upset by CEO compensation, sometimes >200x that of the average employee, but not if an entrepreneur makes the same amount of money; nor are they upset with singers, authors, or performers?
+ The economist Thomas Sowell found this an aberration.

His argument is that a CEO is not harming you; he is not sponsored by the taxpayer (or let us grant him that for this argument). But Sowell and the others apologists of CEO pay are missing the fact that our naturalistic fraud detector may be picking up something quite severe.

A CEO has inverse skin in the game; his losses are transferred to the shareholder (as he keeps the upside with stock options and stick others with the downside).

As I said in Antifragile, he is no entrepreneur (or artist where thousands are sacrificing their lives, so entering the profession cannot be done rationally on economic grounds).

+ We also detect that a CEO is largely an actor. Just look at one on TV for a split second.
+ So our ecological instinct is effective there in smelling something unfair; it is more powerful than that of regular economists who need a more sophisticated understanding of contract theory/asymmetry to get the point.

+ Note that in some countries where wealth has a bad name, it is often because it is associated with rent seeking. In the US, perception is different because wealth is traditionally associated with risk taking. (From your own pocket?)
+ Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that societies give respect to people who have skin in the game (but not exclusively), and have a moral repulsion towards those who have inverse skin in the game.

Big USA recycling myths tossed out: Plastic industries behind these delays

America’s recycling system is in crisis.

That’s the picture the Washington Post recently painted in a damning story on the state of recycling in the United States.

First, the mixed-material “blue bins,” designed to decrease the hassle of sorting, are contaminating the recycling coming into facilities—meaning recyclable materials end up getting chucked into landfills along with trash. Second, thanks to lighter packaging, dwindling demand for newsprint, and low oil prices, the commodity prices for recyclables have decreased—

So China, which used to buy most of our recycled materials, no longer has incentive to do so.

According to the Post, this means that recycling is no longer profitable for waste management companies, and municipalities are stretching to pick up the cost.

So is the end of recycling drawing nigh? Not necessarily.

The experts that I spoke to agreed that our system is broken—but for a slightly different set of reasons than those that the Post listed. And guess what?

They think there’s a way to fix it. Let’s take a closer look at some of the common myths about recycling:

  • Myth #1: Recycling was invented to reduce waste.
  • Back in the 1970s, says Samantha MacBride, a sociologist at CUNY’s Baruch School of Public Affairs and author of the book Recycling Reconsidered, cities and towns became overwhelmed by the amount of plastic packaging entering the waste stream and started demanding something be done about it.
  • In order to avoid regulation and the banning of plastic products they used, the beverage and packaging industry pushed municipal recycling programs.
  • Decades later, the plastics used for packaging have barely been regulated—so cities and towns have to deal with more waste than ever before.The problem is so overwhelming that many contract with private trash companies, the largest of which is publicly-traded Waste Management, which brought in nearly $14 billion last year.
  • Recycling only generates a fraction of the revenue of these companies (much more comes from landfill, which requires less labor), but they are able to make some profit from selling bales of recycled materials to countries like China as raw material.
  • When commodity prices are low, they shut down recycling plants and put recyclable materials in landfills, or renegotiate contracts with cities to charge more for their services.
  • In short, these corporations have no incentive to reduce waste.
  • Myth #2: Blue bins are what’s mucking up the recycling stream.
  • In single stream recycling—the “blue bin” model—consumers put all their recyclables in one bin, while in dual stream, the consumer sorts the materials at the curb into different bins.
  • According to Container Recycling Institute president Susan Collins, data does suggest that single stream recycling leads to more contamination than dual stream—garbage gets thrown into blue bins at a higher rate, spoiling what’s actually recyclable.But MacBride says that contamination rates in single-stream recycling are not actually that much higher than that in dual stream recycling—and that people who complain about blue bins are missing a much larger problem: Because the packaging and beverage industry has opposed banning even the most troublesome plastics, like polystyrene, there are now “thousands of different kinds of plastics,” says MacBride.
  • In 2013, the US generated 14 million tons of container and packaging plastic. It takes so much work to sort through that mess that it’s nearly impossible to make a profit doing it—so companies like Waste Management send it to China. Plus, all of the different kinds of plastics used for packaging confuse consumers. (Can the soda cap be recycled or just the bottle? What about the bag inside the cereal box?)
  • Myth #3: Falling commodity prices mean the end of recycling.
  • Big, profit-driven trash companies like Waste Management argue that factors like low oil prices, less demand for newsprint, lighter-weight packaging, and contamination from single stream recycling have slashed commodity prices and made recycling untenable.
  • It isn’t profitable for us, and we have to react by shutting down plants,” Waste Management CEO David Steiner told the Wall Street Journal. But Collins says this is “not a surprise to anyone.” She and other recycling advocates point out that recycling markets fluctuate like any commodity; oil prices and the market will eventually adapt and rebound.
  • Myth #4: The solution is to quit recycling—it’s just not worth it.
  • That’s the story Big Waste has been peddling. But some smaller recycling outfits aren’t buying it. Take the city of St. Paul, Minnesota: Fifteen years ago, city officials balked when Waste Management raised its rates for the city’s curbside pickup program by 40 percent. So St. Paul ditched Waste Management and contracted with a new partner: a nonprofit called Eureka Recycling.
  • Since 2001, Eureka reports, its recycling program has generated $3.5 million in revenue and 100 new jobs. It also diverts 50 percent of its trash away from the landfill, with a goal of 75 percent in the next 5 years*—an accomplishment it has achieved largely through a program that gives consumers clear instructions about what they can recycle. (That is why Lebanon should ditch Sukleen for ever)Employee-owned Recology in San Francisco also educates residents about recycling and employs hundreds of people to sort the materials coming into their recycling facility. As a result, while Recology, which saves 92 percent of San Francisco’s trash from the landfill, isn’t seeing Wall-Street-level profits, it isn’t experiencing a crisis either.
  • As Collins points out, when commodity prices are down, the the highest quality bales are sold first, rewarding operations doing the best job recycling.One way to improve the bales: Ditch the plastics that are hardest to recycle.
  • Indeed, a growing number of cities—including San Francisco—have banned plastic bags and polystyrene. The result is less sorting required at the facility—and better bales. As Recology manager Robert Reed told me, “We are confident that we can move our materials because of the high quality of the bales that we make and the quality of our recycling process.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the percentage of trash that Eureka Recycling diverts away from landfill.

Note: Lebanon has been experiencing an enduring trash problem with extremely high cost of over $150 per ton. 50% of the expenses go into the pocket of the leading political leaders. Germany and Sweden are ready to pick our trash, but our government refuses to sort out the trash according to protocol.

Andrew Bossone shared this link on July 24, 2015

US recycling issues more from no regulation pushed by plastics industry than high costs argued by big waste companies

No, “blue bins” are not what’s causing America’s trash problem.




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