Thursday, May 28, 2015

On Thinking

I'm not even talking about critical thinking here, just plain ol' thinking.  It's funny how many seem unable or unwilling to do it.

While I was in a discussion group talking about Chris Hedges last week, one of the older gentlemen in the group complained that Hedges explained a lot about his own activism, but he didn't tell us what to do, so we're left rudderless.

Hedges talked about the many different ways he subverted authority and changed things for the better with hugely entertaining examples.  And he suggested specifically that we be in connection with marginalized groups.  But, no, he didn't tell us precisely what to do next, each of us, individually.

So figure it out!

This is a key difference between a leader and a manager, and we're all too complacently used to being managed rather than led.  Too many of us actually want (or need) to be told precisely what to do.

The conversation reminded me of some classes in which I give a broad assignment to challenge the kids to discover the key aspects of the concepts for themselves.  There are some that are so excited to have limitless choices, and they dive in and end up producing amazing stuff.  But there are always many more who keep asking for more information until I eventually suggest I just do the assignment for them.  They prefer fill-in-the-blank handouts.  It's too hard to make decisions and come up with ideas.  They're convinced I'm asking far too much of them.

Thinking is hard work.  Figuring out what to do and how to do it is a struggle.  But it's necessary to get people to actually think for themselves.  And I'm amazed how few relish the challenge.  They like games where they make somewhat educated guesses at the best moves and are immediately rewarded or punished for their efforts, but they don't so much like puzzles.

And that doesn't bode well for my little scheme to create an army of activists in my classroom (or at least a few kids who care about life outside themselves) because this whole mess is one giant puzzle that has to be dismantled and put back together in a way that works but still fits without any pieces missing.  (Well, there might be a few pieces I'd toss.)  It's a challenge our generation is unlikely to finish, but it's our duty to take up the torch anyway - even though we might not live to see the rewards our effort reap.  And it involves a lot of thinking and deciding:  We have to figure out which issues are important to us, and then figure out all the players involved and how it all works - which also means deciding which sources are most accurate and why (which brings in some critical thinking skills), and then figure out what we bring to the table - what skills or connections we have that might help, and then actually get off the couch to do something with all that figuring.  That's insane!

But it's not impossible.  And if we can get the thinking started, who knows where it will lead!

In other news, I'm freakin' 50 today!  How the hell did that happen?


Unknown said...

Happy Birthday! Thinking is the key to knowing you're alive. Non thinkers do not know they are alive, which is why they have a stong need to belong, protected by the herd. Thinkers are not afraid to stand alone on their own two intellectual feet.

The Mound of Sound said...

Happy birthday, Marie. What you're describing goes right to the top. Perhaps it's integral to neoliberalism - the triumph of technocrats and the demise of statesmen. Managers, administrators are all that's required for a regime founded on market fundamentalists. Statesmen, practitioners of diplomacy and vision, are anathema. We've become conditioned to this paltry standard for almost four decades now, ever since the Reagan/Thatcher/Mulroney era. Social safety nets are shredded, political and economic inequality prevail unchecked and actually facilitated by the political caste. The public, of necessity, becomes complacent, submissive in part the consequence of leaders who use fear and appeals to basest instincts against their own supporters.

I doubt that our democracy can long survive the corrosive effects of this new order with its government by secrecy and manipulation, the modern surveillance state. Is it possible there's a computer out there that has logged your repeated reference to "Chris Hedges"? Have you advanced to some electronic watch list?

Before I stopped monitoring my blog last year I was quite regularly visited by US Army intelligence, US Naval intelligence, Lockheed Martin and occasionally even the CIA. I finally realized there was nothing I could do except ignore it. I even had two Go-Daddy domains ( until both were stolen and shut down. Go-Daddy said some guy named Ruiz from Kansas City, Missouri, notified them he'd purchased the domains from me. He even had the account identifiers and code that could only have been gotten by hacking into my computer. The company put the onus on me to prove that I hadn't sold these domains to Ruiz. There was nothing I could do. Having stolen my web sites, they were never used again under my domain names or any other. The sites were merely taken down and I had to retreat to BlogSpot. Kind of chilling.

That, however, is the world in which we live and it demands a certain submissiveness of us. When Kinder Morgan can dispatch RCMP officers to interrogate (intimidate) anyone they don't like without any suggestion of wrongdoing much less criminal conduct we need to ask what we've become. The state is waging a campaign against law-abiding citizens and I don't hear Trudeau or Mulcair coming to our aid.

Marie Snyder said...

Thanks, Anon!

Marie Snyder said...

The gains take a while for people to realize, so they're not sought often enough, I fear.

Marie Snyder said...

Wow, Mound, that's shocking that your websites were taken! I still feel like I'm way too small to be noticed by anyone tracking insurgents. These are truly frightening times. But I feel like we're near the beginning of it all, and now is the time to rebel before too many have lost too many freedoms to act. But you're right that Trudeau and Mulcair have no solutions to this. We'll see if October just brings more of the same, or if we should gather our pitchforks and torches.

Mulcair is holding a rally a block from my house in about 20 minutes. I'm staying home regardless. My kids are out getting me a six-pack right now, and my garden is far lovelier, and my children far better company than what I might find at the rally.

The Mound of Sound said...

Marie, we're talking about computers, not humans. The modern surveillance state is light years beyond the human-intelligence systems of the 40s, 50s and 60s. Their biggest choke point is the computer-human interface. The comps intercept and store far more data that, even with the best software, they can only scratch the surface for their masters.

I long ago concluded that saving democracy will demand nothing less than numbers. We simply need to overwhelm them with numbers beyond their coping limit. They're already falling victim to their own prowess. Our cheapest, easiest and most promising route to defeating them isn't from running away but in running headlong toward.

Take, for example, the Kinder Morgan security/intel crews prowling Burnaby Mountain for 'suspicious types' that may be opposed to the expansion of their pipeline. They don't have to distinguish between dissent and those who might actually seek to damage them. That line is irrelevant. It's enough to follow the person, get a licence plate number and, from that, a name and address. Hand that over to Harper's mutated RCMP and they'll pay a 'courtesy call' on the suspect, intimidate them with questions, let them know they're known and being watched. What democracy does that?

The answer, however, is to have a hundred fresh students and dissenters go, each day, to the same location. Take cameras and plenty of photos. Simply overwhelm the Kinder Morgan/RCMP intimidation apparatus by sheer weight of numbers.

We're going to need that very same approach on more problems than just bitumen pipelines. What I appreciated in Hedges is his lament that, while revolution of some sort is inevitable and imminent, the cure could be worse than the disease.

We need change that doesn't leave chaos in its wake. Social licence is key to this. I should expand on this in a post but...

Marie Snyder said...

Yes, we need to run a D-Day strategy for every issue. Some will get followed and intimidated, but if the waves continue relentlessly, it could work. But there's something stopping people. Something other than fear. I think it has to do with that managerial model that we've grown use to.

I run a gender equity club, and yesterday they were outraged that a girl got sent home for short shorts that everyone wears (because it's what's sold these days). I suggested everyone wear short shorts tomorrow - like what happened in Toronto recently. They were convinced it would take a few weeks to organize something like that. I countered, just get on facebook and twitter and walk the halls talking it up and it could happen tomorrow! They looked at each other and shook their heads: no, they need more time. Time for what?? The time is now; just make it happen!! They say I don't understand, and I don't. At all.