One of the interesting posts over in that thar LiveJournal I’ve been reading was one from 2002 in which Gordon ranted engagingly about the pleasure of good honest sarcasm and pointed comments when compared with the "passive aggressive, new age, pseudo-therapeutic, bullshit masquerading as ‘communication’" found in some hippie groups.
My frustration with this zine [Communities Journal of Cooperative Living] is that I agree with the importance of
communication and process (I work and live collectively myself), but
this issue mostly presents issues of power and language in a way that
would make any sane person run for their lives. Words and phrases like
"having a clearing", "checking out a fantasy" (not as titillating as it
sounds), "non-violent communication" and "pushing my own buttons" do
damage to the language and, in my humble opinion, hide the power of
skilled manipulators by creating a new set of rules in the name of
clarity and process. Unintentionally funny at times, but mostly useful
as a flashing neon sign saying "DANGER! If you’re not a hippie,
new-ager, or needy process queen STAY AWAY!"
Go read the subsequent example if this kind of stuff entertains you as much as it does me.
In fact, the answers to most of the problems posed in these pages are
all about looking within for answers. Introspection and
self-examination have their place of course, but inward looking thought
combined with a paranoid obsession with process and "non-violent
communication" always leaves me looking for who’s really in control.
Tools for "democracy" can become tools of manipulation rather easily,
especially as language is rarefied into more and more esoteric
constructions. In these situations, it’s usually the most skilled at
word games who can keep deflecting issues away from their own actions
and towards their feelings.
"When you got mad at me for partying
and waking you up, it made me feel that you don’t appreciate all the
work I do to make Commune X a wonderful place. It makes me feel like
you think I’m a bad person. Do you think I’m a bad person?"
As for process, read "The Tyranny of Structurelessness" and move on. Even if the author is some reform Democrat these days, It’s the best thing ever written about collective process.
So I did go off and read that fascinating 1970 contemplation of the influence of group structure (or lack of it) on the women’s movement. I thought this was a particularly interesting insight and a suggestion as to how the internet may enable the kind of individual communication which promotes philosophical change, but not necessarily political change:
The more unstructured a movement is, the less control it has over
the directions in which it develops and the political actions in
which it engages. This does not mean that its ideas do not spread.
Given a certain amount of interest by the media and the
appropriateness of social conditions, the ideas will still be
diffused widely. But diffusion of ideas does not mean they are
implemented; it only means they are talked about. Insofar as they can
be applied individually they may be acted upon; insofar as they
require co-ordinated political power to be implemented, they will not
This ability to apply ideas individually is certainly a big part of the success of projects like MoveOn.org and its counterparts elsewhere in the political spectrum, but I don’t think the internet solves all problems and allows informally structured groups to apply tremendous and sustainable power.
As long as the women’s liberation movement stays dedicated to a
form of organisation which stresses small, inactive discussion groups
among friends, the worst problems of unstructuredness will not be
felt. But this style of organisation has its limits; it is
politically inefficacious, exclusive and discriminatory against those
women who are not or cannot be tied into the friendship networks.
Those who do not fit into what already exists because of class, race,
occupation, parental or marital status, or personality will
inevitably be discouraged from trying to participate. Those who do
not fit in will develop vested interests in maintaining things as
Is that like or unlike what we find on the Web?