Political catastrophes
The 1st article in the series "Political Catastrophes".

Some people want a green world, other people want to get more at the cost of other living beings.
Some people want to retain their privileged position, other people want the social power more evenly divided.
Some people want to modify the genes of crops, other people do not want to manipulate what is formed during billions of years of earthly life.

Opinions are sometimes diametrically opposed.
A compromise is often not possible and the most powerful group decides what will be done.

What kind of action is needed to change this unequal situation, how can masspeople unsettle the hierarchical power pyramid? Because this is a huge task, it is not strange to think of a catastrophe to destroy the old situation and to open the way for new possibilities.

Natural catastrophes were crucial in the development of life on earth. A disastrous comet killed the mighty dinosaurs and mammals could rise to power. Without a catastrophe mammals should still play second fiddle. Living beings did not have any influence on these developments. Only now humans can change the world fundamentally by using their brainpower, their creativity and their individuality.

Humans did consciously cause catastrophes. Revolutions and wars had a profound influence on human society. But these catastrophes were caused by elitepeople, masspeople were only used as cannon fodder, as tools in the struggle between different parts of the elite for more power and money. The French, the Russian and the many colonial revolutions saw the emerging of new elites.

How can the masses use catastrophes to get a fundamental change in the social structure, how can a catastrophe caused by masspeople destroy the hierarchical pyramid of power?

For some mathematical background of catastrophes see chapter D of the Mathematical Chip in the appendix of "The Scarists"(but you can do without this theory)

A huge comet caused the catastrophe that killed the dinosaurs. Humans cannot bring about such a sudden upheaval. They have to build up the pressure just as a volcano erupts catastrophically after a pressure is slowly built up inside the mountain. Humans can likewise increase the social pressure till the moment arrives that suddenly an eruption takes place. You can compare this with the gradual stretching of a rubber band till suddenly the band snaps.

Let's consider some actions, which have seen some successes but which can never reach the point of a fundamental change. You may be happy with some partial results but you must always take into account that the powerful can reverse any previous success of the masses. 

The intifada is a long-lasting action in which Palestinians increase the pressure on Israeli. There are some signs that Israelis will crack under this pressure and that a catastrophe will take place. The world will change but it is not probable that the Palestinian masses will rise to the top of society. The intifada is one of the last colonial wars after which an elite that consists of own people will replace the foreign elite. The masses will not win very much.

The anti-globalisation actions are not so huge that a catastrophe will occur that can destroy the political dinosaurs that now rule the world. Big demonstrations - and it does not matter if these actions are violent or peaceful - do not increase the pressure upon leaders. Because there is too much time between two actions the opponents can restore their position. I do not see any possibility for a catastrophe and predict that the actions will wither away because many activists will realize that their activity has been in vain.

The Animal Liberation Front carried out an impressive number of actions over a long time but have too wide a range of goals. They are not directed at the weak points where the power bubble can burst. There is some pressure on responsible and powerful persons but not enough to cause a catastrophe, a fundamental change in the ideas about the use of animals for human pleasure.

In most actions against Genetic Manipulated food GM crops are destroyed but the insurance will pay the damage. Leading persons are not disturbed in their private life. Moreover the continuity of the actions is not very great and actions happen then in this and then in that country. In this way you cannot stop Genetic Manipulation.

I can be short about boycotts. We have seen in Iraq that boycotts (see the third article of Cyberactions) hurt in the first place the masses. A boycott of Shell petrol stations caused more damage to the owners of these stations than to the leaders of Shell. A boycott can be a factor in the process towards a catastrophe but it does not result in a large enough result to justify the cost.

Most actions attack dead objects, buildings, a fence, the crops in the field, the petrol in the pump, the cages of the animals. These objects can be destroyed but soon the objects are renewed and life goes on in the same old way.
Only sometimes living objects are attacked. And living beings can certainly crash, they can experience a catastrophe, a jump in their social position from which they cannot return to the old situation. After a catastrophe the individual will be changed and his behaviour will become different. Only in this way a new beginning can be made that leads to another kind of society.
Most people in high posts are reasonably capable and they should not be removed from their posts but have to change their behaviour.
Actions must not be restricted to demands for an improvement of their policies, that they close the sweatshops, stop using children as cheap labour, use more recycled products or produce more certified organic and greener stuff. In this way the power differences continue to exist and the top still obeys the laws of the power game: give most to them who have most (power and wealth).

No, leading people have to change, they must not act better but differently by taking into account the wishes of everybody instead of the wishes of the chosen few and their money. Activists should learn to think about the deeper reasons why we have such a wretched world. To make a better world we need a catastrophe. I am looking for possibilities to cause a social catastrophe. Without such a profound change everything will remain about the same.

Catastrophes are needed to destroy the pyramid of power. Scientifically catastrophes have fundamentally changed the way we live. Maybe politics can learn from what happened in science so we will reach a more satisfactory situation. And by the way, an important condition for a catastrophe is the fact that activists must enjoy tackling leaders and that leaders must more and more detest the merry activists.

Joost van Steenis (September 3 2001)

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2. Lessons from the WTC-catastrophes
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