How I become an anarchist, and you too

I can say that I become an anarchist much earlier than I realize it :) Just like David Graeber wrote: anarchists„At their very simplest, anarchist beliefs turn on to two elementary assumptions. The first is that human beings are, under ordinary circumstances, about as reasonable and decent as they are allowed to be, and can organize themselves and their communities without needing to be told how. The second is that power corrupts. Most of all, anarchism is just a matter of having the courage to take the simple principles of common decency that we all live by, and to follow them through to their logical conclusions. Odd though this may seem, in most important ways you are probably already an anarchist — you just don’t realize it.”

The first assumption that we are „reasonable and decent as we are allowed to be” is shared with all left ideologies. You can not be a socialist or communist if you consider people as „inherently evil”.  Left  believe that this is culture, not nature, that cause bed social practices or crimes, that’s why an education is so important for them.  But there is one difference between left and anarchist. Anarchist believe that autonomously people can act effective for the common good. Left people see the need of strong leadership, so they accept this kind of  violence that comes from hierarchical structure. It can be state power but also any type of organization where there is a group of people whose leadership does not come from a really democratic procedure and whose are not evaluated by those who are at the lower levels of the structure.

Probably most of organization that we are in are exactly this non-democratic type. And we can recognize a lot of (our own or our colleagues) practices that are aimed in changing this unfavorable power relations – directly or indirectly. Those are resistance actions. So we are trying to convince others to our point of view, we are trying to change the structure, we ignore commands, we do what we consider as a proper without regarding bans, we stop care, we cease to be involved in what we do, we start to play the solitaire instead to work. What and how long we are doing it depends on our temperament, upbringing, values, involvement in other matters, willingness to take a risk, assertiveness, the need to persevere in that organization for any reason (for example financial). I’m in this moment of my life that I’m willing to accept permanently „limitations and exceptions” of my autonomy done by others only if it is serious danger that my decisions would seriously hurt someone’s interest.

I believe that if someone proved that is trustworthy should have broad autonomy. As Graeber wrote: „Anarchists are simply people who believe human beings are capable of behaving in a reasonable fashion without having to be forced to”. But a lot of people are sure that  they can make people to do what they want from them only by using some kind of force. This is a problem „which came first, chicken or the egg” type. It seems that there is no answer but if you think outside the box, you realize that the egg was first, because reptiles laid eggs long before chickens appeared ;) This is how Graeber explain this seeming paradox: „If people are used to being treated like their opinions do not matter, they are likely to become angry and cynical, even violent — which of course makes it easy for those in power to say that their opinions do not matter. Once they understand that their opinions really do matter just as much as anyone else’s, they tend to become remarkably understanding. To cut a long story short: anarchists believe that for the most part it is power itself, and the effects of power, that make people stupid and irresponsible.” I would rather not call people stupid, but generally he made a point.

My own way to anarchism was by reflection over  corrupting nature of any power and the risk that arising from the acceptance of strong hierarchical structures. I saw it in my family story about decent people who at some point of their career accepted  structural violence as a necessary measure to the noble purpose. Post-Shoa reflection is also about it („I just do my orders”said Adolf Eichmann). The last element was my parenting experience which I from the beginning  contextualize in power subject. As a parent one have huge power over own kid, emotional as well as a physical, and it’s very tempted to ab-use it. For me this was a moment that I deeply understood what an anarchism is all about, but other people had their own way of course. Please, take your test and find out, maybe you  are an anarchist too. If so, let me know :)

Searching freedom in the Internet – copyright and privacy issues

Meeting on the occasion of the 2nd anniversary of the protests against ACTA, which took place yesterday in Cracow (Poland). Together with progressive copyright legal thinker Konrad Gliscinski (PhD candidate from Jagiellonian University) we talked about international trade agreements „type ACTA”, European consultation about copyright and how right to culture is connected to the right to privacy. As it turns out it is the copyright that is an obstacle to the legalization of safe (because ensuring anonymity) P2P file sharing network. As I pointed out copyright law leads to enforce payment or registration as a condition of lawful access to cultural works on the Web, depriving us of our privacy by just taking away our personal data or information about our activity on the Internet.

Copyright is such a fun!

Future of copyright law. European consultation – let’s do it together!

i_have_a_right_to_culture

Today we’ve launched website dedicated to European consultation about copyright issues in cyberspace. We chose 12 most important questions and added some hints to make more clear what was on EC mind. I’m very proud of our team work, hope we manage to make this boring stuff as attractive as possible. Hope you find it helpful, and even if no that you do your job :)

http://konsultacje.prawokultury.pl/pl/

///It’s in Polish but as a part of broader initiative we’re  working on English too, I’ll let know asap.///

//And photo, what can I say, we work very hard for several days on this document, our brains are a little devastated.//

Prometemos resistir!

Today is my birthday &  my friend gave me that beautiful encouraging song:

Today is also first anniversary of suicide death of Aaron Swartz, young activist who deeply believed in free access to the knowledge. „Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits” as article 27th of Universal Declaration of Human Rights says. But somehow copyright is protected stronger then human rights in our culture.

You should read his Guerilla Open Access Manifesto (translated into Polish by my friend Pawel Stankiewicz: openaccessmanifesto.org).

EFF and other US org made him a patron of  The day of protest against mass surveillance that will take place this February 11th.

Prometemos resistir!

Managers of 21st century: break the stick, eat the carrot, let people act autonomously

During last decades automatic simple work done  by western white collars was outsourced either to computer (it works faster) or to workers from other countries (it’s cheaper). Now they have to do more creative tasks. How it works with old-school incentive system known as stick and carrot? Not so good. As a lot of economics studies proved this kind of motivation not only doesn’t help but also makes things worse. People motivated by easy correlation „if you do this – you will get those” are too focused and narrow thinking to innovate. To innovate people had to have autonomy, mastery and purpose – those are conditions that enable them to work more efficient. For the management of organization autonomy means for example less (or even lack) of employer’s control. Workers should be allowed to do what they consider as important for them, what gives them opportunity to self-development and what they believe in. ///This is just short summary, watch full presentation by Daniel Pink, get inspired :)

Please notice that this refutes all this „financial incentive theories” which are supposed to justified copyright law. Once again it is shown that creativity is not correlated with simple reward/punishment system.

Public domain 2014, what’s in, what’s wrong, what to do

This January authors who died in 1943 re-joined common cultural heritage, in legal wording they entered public domain. From that moment (70 years after death) we can legally publish, remix, translate their works without asking for permission and paying money (of course we still should attribute them as authors). Here are some of them:

Peter_Rabbit_first_edition_1902aBeatrix Potter
Stephen Vincent Benet
Simone Weil

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophie_Taeuber-Arp
Sophie Taeuber-Arp
Camille Claudel
Chaim Soutine
Oskar_Schlemmer

Happy re-birthday! And now let’s see what we are missing because of absurd long term of copyright monopoly EU launched:

Can you imagine that we have to wait 20 years more for liberate their works? Even though Berne Convention (international agreement about copyright) allow 50 years term? It works this way in Canada for example, and used to in Poland before we joined EU. But few active fellows convince European politicians in 1993 to prolong it to 70 years. I’m sure that most of citizens has the same feeling as me that it doesn’t work for our good. Fortunately just now we have an unique opportunity to say it laud by writing few nice sentences to European Commission as a part of the consultations that EC announced month ago. You can do it in your own language but have to use their document and then send to: markt-copyright-consultation@ec.europa.eu

Here you can find model responses by Amelia Andersdotter but you can just write what you think, like, dislike and want regarding to your right to use culture in cyberspace as an answer to q. no 80. The deadline is 5th of February this year. It is possible to stop that absurd, let’s DIWO!

Image and catalog source: en.wikipedia.org

Piracy as an act of resistance

Cultural piracy is often recognized as a behavior resulting from the lack of money. For example this was the main form of explaining why Poles were protesting against ACTA in 2012. The mainstream media built rationalization based on economical discourse – people are fighting for free access to culture because they don’t have money for tickets, dvd’s, books etc. So – as one can understand from that reasoning – if they had more money they would buy cultural works or access to it.I’m sure that partially it can be truth but there are other ways to explain why people do piracy. My suggestion is that piracy is i.a. an act of resistance.

I’m trying to be sensitize for pitfall of limiting agency of researched people. This  results from subaltern studies’ reflection that western researchers easily create vision of individuals dominated by social structures and passively following cultural rules. This idea of people deprived of self-consciousnesses and enable to recognize their situation one can also find in Marxists or post-structuralist works.  But I’m sure that that this review of the limited agency of sub-dominated one must be debated. One of the reason of this common mistake is reckoning to resistance practices only confrontational methods. Especially valuable to me are the insights of James C. Scott. This American anthropologist conducting research in rural cultures in Asia pointed out number of behaviors which he described as „a weapon of the weak”. In his research Scott identified „silent” tactics of resistance such as tardiness, laziness or alleged ignorance. They are, in his opinion, forms of resistance. He pointed out that such behavior does not indicate acceptance of self- subordination and even less the internalization of the position of „dominated”. There are very rational behaviors in confrontation with the overwhelming power of the state. In my opinion therefore are strictly political behavior which are aimed at changing the power status quo – although not articulated in this way. People precisely recognize their situation (no internalization), see the injustice and try to confront the power int the way they consider as an effective and safe.
Such tactics of resistance can be observed today in Poland. For example people do not pay bills and loan repayments, not only because they can not afford but also because they do not accept the dominant position of banks or unjust economic system. They do not pay obligatory tv tax because they do not feel represented by the media, they are also aware of the mismanagement of the issuance of money flowing out of their payments. They don’t go to the cinema because ticket prices are too high as the wages of Hollywood actors. They don’t want to support a system that as they feel is not working in their favor.
From that perspective so-called piracy is also a tactic of resistance. People willingly use the Internet as a source of free (gratis) culture not only because it is free but because this is an action directed at a system that they don’t want to support. In commoditized world money are the weapon and as consumer boycotts shown before it is powerful weapon when people are united in using it.

#WaitingForEd /and how I explained to kids what is all about/

Today I was taking part in  an action #WaitingForEd initialized by Edward Snowden’s supporters. People all over the world went to airports with a printed sign with Edward’s name on it and waited for his arrival.

witingfored_poland

I decided to took my kids with me because of several reasons: it’s important for me and I like to share such issues with them, it’s important for their future to save Snowden and encourage hundreds of other young people to civil disobedience and I treat is a part of their civil education. Myself I was raised by people who believed that one should always stand up for one’s believes and against injustice. I want to teach my kids same attitude. It is not very practical* one but world need it :)

Few days ago I looked over some old family pictures with my daughters and made them deeply confused while explaining that on one of the pictures their great grandpa is in a prison. It was disturbing specially to the younger one because she thought that only bad guys go to prisons. Believe me it is not easy to explain to 5 yo kid why good guys go there but I did my best. My story goes like that…

… once upon a time, two hundred years ago, here in Poland most of the people lived in the villages, they were growing cereals and vegetables, harvesting, breeding cows and sheep, working all they long very hard. But nothing that they produced belonged to them, bad rich people took that all from them each day. So they were very poor, didn’t have food, good clothes, money, time to learn how to read. But they couldn’t go to seek another job because they were slaves and belonged to their masters…

/// because the easiest way to explain smthing new to the kid is to link it with smthing similar or analogical that it already knew I asked her if she knows what ‚slave’ is, remembering that she watched a film “Moses, prince of Egypt” and we discussed this subject before; she said that, yes, she knows that slave is a man with brown skin who don’t have money for clothes and other people beat him with a whip. Basically right answer, isn’t it? ///

All this people were very unhappy, trying change their situation but couldn’t succeed because bad people sent soldiers if they protest and hungry people without guns had to go back to work. But they try and try and finally was free, so a lot of them went to towns looking for a job and money and better life for their families. So did my great grandpa, he abandoned the village and went to biggest town in this area, and this is how our family came to Cracow. He wasn’t interesting guy so we focused on his son, my grandpa, the man from the prison’s picture. When he was a teenager he realized that a lot of people who was quite recently liberated live in a very bad condition. They work in factories…

/// and here was pause for explaining that it was completely different factory that Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory :D So the easiest way smtimes is not very helpful and one have to unlink previous meaning with a new one///

… people were working really hard but once again bad rich people were taking all what they produced away. Even small kids had to work, they didn’t have time to spend with mommies and daddies, they work all day and night, didn’t go to pre-schools. Very sad life they had.

So some people, like my grandparents {all forth of them were communists} was talking with working people to convince that they should go to the owners and demand shorter working day and more money. They helped them to protest, they were also printing books and posters. But rich people didn’t want workers to have easiest life so they convince policemen that they had to catch this people and sent to jail. That is why my grandpa spend few years in prison (grandma also was about but managed to dodge it)…

…and then were some family details, not very important from Snowden’s perspective ;)

When today I was explaining to my kids** what for we are going to airport it was quite easy to say that we are going to show to other people that there is a guy who’s name is Edward (same like my grandpa, fortuitously for the story) who also wanted to do smthing good for a people, and bad guys want to send him for that to the prison for a very long time. He discovered that those guys are doing bad things and decided to tell other people about it even if he knew that it is risky. He just didn’t want to stay quiet when other people need some help. And so do we. We care for a future of freedom so we are #WaitingForEd on Chopin Airport, Warsaw, Poland.

– – –

* I even found accidentally in some memories a story of my grandfather who was so dedicated to the idea of social justice that his co-prisoners from “strojbat” was a little bit angry for him that he share with other people goods that they obtained so hardly and didn’t appreciated his ‚integrity’ facing death from cold (it was in USSR before Stalin let Poles to establish their own army)

** Actually only younger one needed this explanation, the older one said: yeah, mom, I know who is Edward Snowden, you talk about him a lot

The author of that beautiful picture above is Jaroslaw Lipszyc who released it under free art license.

And here is the link to the fb event