I have plugged along with trying to get my message out for many years now. I created this blog over three years ago so my deathless prose wouldn’t just vanish into the aether, and have slowly built a modest following for it, getting occasional pieces published in more public places along the way.
This past week I have had an episode of doubt, including feeling depressed for a day and a longer surge of bodily stress indicators. This was triggered by a confluence of events that I’ll get to. The result is I’m not sure it is worth the effort and aggravation – the effort to provide an alternative to failed mainstream economics, to raise awareness about global warming, and to maintain a voice of informed decency amid the growing cacophony of brutish, ignorant ranting. The aggravation of feeling ground is being lost. Perhaps I should reduce my aggravation level by stepping back and letting things flow for a time.
I am writing this because I don’t mind connecting with you at a personal level, but also to suggest that if you think you see worthwhile things here then perhaps you could help to spread the word, or make serious suggestions to that end. More about that below.
Recently I found an article on Fairfax’s National Times online. It was as amateurish a piece of global warming denialism as you would find, repeating a string of old and debunked claims. I can’t even find it now. (Note to overseas readers: Fairfax is the other major newspaper owner in Australia, after Rupert Murdoch. Gina Rinehart, richest woman in the world thanks to our resources, which she has had dug up and shipped away, wants to use it as her personal megaphone, Fox News – style.)
Three times I sat to write a response. Three times my motivation collapsed. I would not respond by addressing the points raised, that is to fall into the trap of endless spurious debate. No, I would point out the difference between the scientific debate and the policy question, talk about science’s system to filter out nonsense, the lack of such a system in the general media, and note that denialists are down to only one resort – conspiracy theories.
But I’ve said it all before. Not only is sense and nonsense indiscriminately sprayed around the media, but this was just the kind of nonsense one would expect to result from Gina Rinehart’s increasing influence in Fairfax. Nothing I say can stop that. My putative response sits unfinished.
At about the same time I finally got a piece onto the ABC’s The Drum – The PC of the radical right. Mainstream commentary overlooks so many obvious things, things I could finally inject into a larger forum. My piece was on their main page for a couple of days and then scrolled off the bottom. Never mind, I thought, it got lots of comments and will probably make it into their “Hot topics” box for a couple more days. No, it didn’t.
Instead they highlighted a less-commented, predictable piece on media “freedom” by radical right weekly commentator Chris Berg. It was still there over a week later. Then they put up a new Berg piece, so his nonsense was doubly highlighted. It was hard to escape the feeling an antidote was being administered, to counter the corruption introduced by my piece. Oh, I mean, to ensure “balance”.
Because, of course, the ABC has had radical rightists on its Board, and the Managing Director is right, and a climate sceptic to boot. The effect is steadily permeating “our” ABC. Have you noticed some increasingly puerile evening “entertainment” lately?
It feels to me that nearly all mainstream opportunities for some real freedom of debate are closing down. I used to get things into the Canberra Times until its ownership changed in 2002. I’ve been getting odd things in The Drum over the past year. But the trend is all the other way. Rinehart’s push to own more of Fairfax has concentrated some minds on the possibility of losing all pretence of “quality” media in this country. I use quotation marks advisedly. But the debate on “freedom” of speech is still astonishingly limited – the only alternative to domination by fat cats is domination by The Government, in most commentators’ tiny minds.
Oh yes, and then a publisher came back unenthusiastic about The Nature of the Beast, just as my agent had, earlier in the year. “There are other titles along the same lines”. Well no, but if you don’t get that …
As the crisis of our civilisation intensifies, the old forces will fight more viciously to maintain their power. I expect to have to retreat to a smaller space, to keep some kind of flame burning. On the other hand in the odd optimistic moment I wonder if we might be getting close to some political tipping points, when enough people finally get fed up and stop supporting the bastards. That’s all it takes really. Don’t vote for them. Don’t even give them a preference.
But it’s painful to watch good things being destroyed, like the local School of Music, part of a world-leading university, where international-level musicians are being cast off in favour of more “policy studies”, and “quality assurance” procedures. And many other abominations that continue, or increase. Of course many of them are worse than a loss of culture and the arts. Many people die because of the present insanity.
For nearly fifteen years I have waded in the cesspools of the world’s affairs because you have to confront what you are trying to move beyond, and it has been a continuous exercise in avoiding the slide into cynicism, in maintaining a life, and a faith in the ultimate power of love. Sometimes, including this past week, it has seemed too hard.
If you have suggestions they will be welcome, especially concrete suggestions on how to get a bigger audience. For example, web sites around the world that might be receptive to running some of my pieces. Or people who are good at promoting things like this blog, and my book. Or (you have to ask for what you want) someone who would organise an independent news and commentary site, supported by many small share owners. This has to be a model that’s coming, as the old media organisations yield to the internet. Or whatever.
In the meantime I’m not sure how I’ll proceed. I may post less often, though I still have a couple of itches to scratch. I may take a break at some point. Or perhaps I’ll glimpse the light again and carry on.
I am completely in your boat. As someone involved for many years in social action, developing ideas, projects and enterprises, I am exactly in your boat.
But I think part of the problem is that we are stuck on technology. I am in groups that never meet! It drives me crazy, especially when it is obvious that the Powers spend huge amounts of time and resources in meeting face to face.
I have lost faith in blogging and the internet. (Although I do read blogs and surf and all that, and enjoy it). But I think it’s pointless unless people come together. It’s like organising a telephone tree, and then not getting together. Many people I know never read a book, and are incredulous when I tell them that books and ideas were always at the centre of human groups and activity, although the writing process is a solitary one. Now we send out our ideas and sometimes people find them. But then they sit by themselves and have a bit of scan through.
I think we should see blogging as just a step towards publishing in the physical world, and developing a community of people with ideas who really get together in the physical world.
I am about to start my own book club, and don’t think I will be inundated with eager souls. But I do think that the group I will have will be more powerful than my blog, and will actually take up more space. The internet isn’t really real.
It’s hard to know what to say exactly, or how to respond in a meaningful way, except to say that you are not alone and you are not the first to feel the way you do at present. I have personally promoted “economia”, your commentaries ,and your latest essay piece to a number of friends, family as well as one or two high profile politicians. Your works and opinions are so “in touch” and truthful that it is sometimes difficult for any reader to add to or to argue negativelly except for the odd occasion by a few “odd people”. Silence is sometimes taken as rejection or disinterest, but in your case it is is certainly not the case.
Your understandable frustration immediately reminded me of the jounalist Margo Kingston, who after writing “Not Happy John” seemingly recoiled into a safer place for her minds sake as her anger and frustration of witnessing her Australia, “Our Australia”, be taken down a path of evil and horror that she, and many thousands of fair-minded Australians found themselves in. You have written yourself of that “place” where we believed we had no option except to wait patiently until we entered a newer and seemingly more hopeful political era.
Everything, including good and bad comes in cycles, even raw-nature.
You possibly do not know this but I, and hopefully “others” have been using your quotes, your references, your ideas and your strength to submit many letters to politicians, local newspapers and friends who may benefit in many ways, at least to “put out there” that there are finer minds and directions to aim for. I recently had a victory over a radical right wing local paper. To have it published attracted congratulations from some important sources. Your examples have taught me to write “smarter” and not “rants” Your commentaries should never be considered to be in vain, they are what you and many-many thousands are standing up for in what we are experiencing now, as a Nation, chaos, corruption and pursuits of power regardless of the many rights and ideals that are being trampled on along the way.
Geoff, I for one have become one of your students from the University of life. You are a good and honorable man. Be proud of what you are and what you have done for so many.. Take that break if you feel it will help. Nobody who has been fortunate enough to have read your works and followed your commentaries would mind you taking a little “sebatical”…But please don’t give up on us for too long….You know the adage. “It only takes a few good men to do nothing…for evil to prosper”. Right now we are copping it in “spades”.
I agree with Eleanor that the world of the internet, the ideas contained within it and the thoughts put forward by sites like your own Geoff, need to be brought back into the real world in some way in order to have maximum impact.
As a tool for disemination the internet works amazingly well, but primarily for a self selecting audience. So many of the people I talk to have similar concerns to our own but don’t have the inclination, nor the time, nor resources, to research and make sense of the welter or information available online, even though they care deeply.
I feel those of us who for whatever reason are driven to make the time to dig through the words and thoughts available to allow us to come to conclusions and make up our own minds about such crucial issues, must take or even make, whatever opportunities to talk about them we can when the moment is right, even if it is just one on one in the pub. Getting one of my long suffering friends to even consider a thread of thinking that has been inspired by yourself, Steve Keen or Michael Hudson as a feint possibility, over a pint, is totally gratifying. I think it is as much about finding a smaller audience as it is a bigger audience.
I’m in the process of writing a talk on how money really works with the intention of going out there and offering it to community and/or other groups, spreading it as far as I possibly can, maybe even turning it into a book, but the talk came first. However it goes though, the initial idea was to take my thinking (and your thinking) back out into the world, off the screen, off the internet and see what happens.
A community talk can have as few as ten people but might have as many as seventy or eighty people who all care deeply about what is happening, who really want to know what deficit, gdp, markets, quantitative easing and in the UK ‘we must all share the pain’ – really mean. People who are sick of listening to radio and television words they know to be wrong, words they know to be misguided and often false, people who have an hour to listen and people who can make a difference in their locality – and the evangelist in me hopes they may want to be inspired and that possibly I’m one of the guys to do it! Whatever happens, I’m learning a huge amount from trying to clarify my thinking into a size and shape that might be consumable and understandable by other people.
I too am one of those others of course, like Ron, who have been using your ideas and your strength Geoff to empower myself enough to speak out. And I totally agree that learning to write smart rather than write-rant, is crucial, and I have learnt this from you.
Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world is another fine pithy aphorism to stand by in times of need. Keep up the good work, we’re listening. Thank you.
Please don’t stop writing Geoff! Your blog and your book Economia are so clever – you make complicated things interesting (even entertaining) and so often I find that you have already perfectly expressed ideas that were only just budding in my mind.
I’m not sure how The Drum chooses which articles to promote, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they count the number of “hits” to help them decide. So you’d be competing with headings that suck readers in (readers who are probably having a “rest” and a cup of tea when they browse the site) or that sound nice and light (I know I sometimes avoid topics that look too depressing when I haven’t got much energy).
I feel a tipping point not too far away though.
I know where you’re coming from, Geoff. After years of banging my head against a brick wall with a regular comic strip I have pretty much abandoned the rigour/self-imposed duty of regular posting. Currently working on collaborative projects focused on solutions/learning etc. This takes some of the pressure off as each piece requested is a small brick in a larger enterprise that is being constructed by a distributed network of activists. It also keeps me away from the infuriating distraction of the denialists, who anger of depress me into inactivity. Solutions focus works much better for me. That’s the theory, anyway.
This might amuse
Thanks very much to each of you for your words of empathy, encouragement and appreciation. It does help me to know, or be reminded again, that you and others out there appreciate my efforts to clarify and to define a better way. I am feeling better about the blog and the world, though I do need to change my approach a bit so as not to burn out.
One suggestion that resonates with me is to connect more with people. As it happens I am scheduled to give a talk next month, and looking forward to it. I will try to solicit more opportunities.
Whether something might lead to a more active group of people remains to be seen. I will also pursue more of the general social opportunities in the small town I moved into a year or so ago, something I have neglected a bit lately.
My partner, the lovely Julia, urges me to keep up my thinking and writing, but with less attachment to having the big audience. That may come in its own way and its own time. Easier to do than to say, but still very good advice that I will be heeding.
I do know that in doing the writing I progress my thinking, and some day these thoughts may turn into (yet another) manuscript, and some day something I say might catch on. Indeed the “Eight Elementary Errors” got a big response, and the “Rise and Failure” also seemed to get through more.
So I expect I’ll keep going along, but perhaps with less feeling of obligation and more times when I’m off doing other things – in the bush or with “real” people. 🙂
Glad to see your last post – as individuals working to explain our own beliefs and maybe persuade one or two to think about what really matters, it is hard and the blogosphere (supposed to make everything so easy) is a hard terrain on which to get traction.
There are organisations that have already gained that traction and may be worth aligning to.
In the area of natural resources, I worked for nearly 5 years for Global Witness. They have traditionally focused on how natural resource revenues fund corruption and conflict. I was a DIrector there and we added to it a focus on natural resources for their own sake – working with other organisations, real changes have been made in key natural resource areas.
Now Global Witness is not a membership organisation, not that you would want that, I assume.
As far as Australia is concerned, my connections are more with organisations such as Publish What You Pay and Vern Hughes at The Centre for Civil Society rather than natural resources / climate areas.
I guess the whole issue is always marketing your ideas – which is tough.
I think you have something strong to say and many original ideas and ways to say say them. Glad you’re going to stay the course – we all get stronger for knowing that the status quo is being rattled. It’s the only way.
Thanks Jeff, interesting thoughts. I also note your post about Gardens of Democracy, very in synch with my thoughts.
To start with please continue to spread your thoughts, be it through writing or public talks. I have found them to be very engaging and clear. As for places to publish books. The American author and bloggist, John Michael Greer would be very interested in your work I think and he has many connections to many publishers. Perhaps, visit his blog and contact him with a request or proposal and he may point you in a good direction as well as sympathise with your current situation.
I myself sometimes just don’t know what to make of it all either. One thing I think you’ve got to do, is something else. Something that is personally satisfying and not necessarily intended for changing the public. A hobby essentially, but a physical one. It should be within the limits of your own ethical boundaries of course and no doubt it would feed into your ideas about where the world is going, but there is enormous satisfaction to be gained from making something for your self. Music, furniture, a sharper knife, whatever.
Good luck with it all, and keep up the writing. Small after all is beautiful.
Thanks xhmko, yes I do other things besides this.
Hi Geoff, i purchased Economia from a discounter ($5!), presumably they had trouble selling it, or the ABC, with it’s centre-right bias decided to drop it (i don’t mean that sarcastically). I finished it a while ago and it was an incredible resource. My children are 3 and 2. When they are old enough i pray they will sit with me and watch documentaries, rather than watch the news. Regarding your dismay, i share it. I’m not clinically depressed, but i’m pretty sure i am actually depressed much of the time. I have, and continue to ‘debate’ (discuss) in forums online as it is about the only place left. There are a few, scarcely viewed (by comparison to the ‘mainstream’) channels i think you should pursue: Inside.org.au, Quora, Mother Jones, Democracy Now, The Real News, The Global Mail to name a few. The problem with the internet is the “Filter Bubble” (Google it (ironically)), the peoples whose minds you need to change (or at least enlighten) simply won’t see these websites.
I did the same as you. I back off now, only returning to the forums for occasional discourse.
I wish i had your knowledge and the ability to present it. Maybe you could start with local organisations. Churches are often very interested to encourage members to attend seminars about a variety of social justice issues. I guarantee you’ll reach some people there. If i had your brain, i would surely ‘hit the circuit”. You’ll need to brush up on PowerPoint first 🙂
Mate, please don’t give up. If you didn’t write what you did, i wouldn’t know what i now know – it just gives me more ammo to throw at the neocons 🙂 ps. do you have any book or documentary recommendations? 🙂
pps. You should add a Google+ button, Facebook ain’t the only social network you know 😛
Thanks Derek. ABC Books removed Economia from its list some time ago, and returned the copyright to me. I think it was just because sales were slow. Most of ABC Books was flogged off to HarperCollins a while back, so they are much more commercial now. Part of the taming of the ABC. Thanks for your suggestions and encouragement, and I’m all-too familiar with PowerPoint, but prefer Keynote. WordPress doesn’t seem to provide a Google button.
Despondancy is real.
I have battled it and tried alcohol to cope.
Worked for a while but the problems remain.
The Fairfax link doesn’t work and I know about edited and censored pieces or comments that just ‘disappear’. I read alot and always have time for you.
I haven’t read everything here, don’t have the bloody time, but I want too.
Feeling the Pain means you’re trying.
I appreciate that.
My love to you.
I have been floundering in the economic mire for about 5 years, trying to find anything even remotely solid on which to build some common-sense understanding about what has gone wrong with the economic system. It is only recently that I have discovered the work of Steve Keen, and through your post on his site, your self.
‘The Nature of the Beast’ has been instrumental in helping me construct a cohesive framework in which to proceed, and has inspired me to continue my attempts to better inform those around me about the nature of the current situation, and what may possibly be done. The clarity and attention in your work will eventually find its mark, despite the many who may already be unable to hear.
I am currently formulating a few questions, and will email you directly if I may. Thanks for your inspiring work.
Geoff, don’t despair.
As my old man used to say: “Remember, half the population s below average”. Which means that potentially half the population will agree with you. But which half? 🙂
Just a suggestion though. Your article assumes that you and your opinions are fundamentally correct, and those who disagree (eg far right-wingers like Chris Berg) are wrong. Can I suggest that with such an intolerant view of other people’s opinions you might struggle for a wider audience. You might try to incorporate opposing opinions by considering that others may have a different background, experience and set of world values which are not ignorant, wrong or evil, but just different from yours.
And though I disagree almost entirely with your views, I would not wish them censored. [Voltaire] “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. “