Technology and (dis)empowerment: A call to technologists

Could technology become an unambiguous force for social good, and help usher in a more equitable and fairer ecosystem capable of handling challenges of inequality, exploitation, poverty and climate change? Aaditeshwar Seth answers this important question in his recently published book, “Technology and (Dis)empowerment: A Call to Technologists”. In this article, Seth discusses the many ways in which technology could aim to overturn hegemonic and unjust social and economic structures to create an equal and just society, a strikingly bold thread running through his book.

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“Where the mind is without fear”

Earlier this August, India marked the 81st death anniversary of the iconic Bengali poet, writer, educationist and philosopher Rabindranath Thakur. His acclaimed poem, “Where the mind is without fear” has inspired generations of Indians to work for wisdom and wellbeing in the country. Ashish Kothari honors Rabindranath Thakur’s memory inspired by that celebrated poem, introducing an “alternatives” twist to the great poet’s sentiments in a poem of his own.

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Localization: Bringing about Buen Vivir to address climate fluctuations and globalization

In the last fifty years or so of rampant globalization, the decision making processes related to all aspects of people’s lives – food, water, shelter, learning, health, governance – have become restricted to a self-serving collaboration between corporations and international finance, enabled by their nexus with governments all over the world, whether they are openly autocratic or continue to operate under the pretense of democracy. The results now stare us in our faces – runaway economic inequality and increasingly frequent environmental crises. Is there a way out of this quagmire? Christian Stalberg advocates for local control over the means of production and trade, and self-reliance in meeting basic needs from within a human-scale local region. Based on a presentation he made at a session at the World Social Forum earlier this year in Mexico City, Stalberg advances the Andean idea of “Buen Vivir” centered on “localization”, where our choices can be informed by their impact on the earth’s ecology as well as human wellbeing, not just the chimera of convenience and price tag.

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Five axes of transition: Imagining “alternatives” for the post-pandemic future

At some point in the next year or so, we, as a society, may enter the endgame of the Covid-19 pandemic. But, are we, in any way, prepared to deal with the political and economic stresses that will continue to hound us long after? And, how do we even begin to purge ourselves of the pandemic induced detritus that clogs the arteries of our socio-psychological existence? Arturo Escobar, a prominent political-ecologist and an old ally of the Radical Ecological Democracy website, lays out a strategy – what he calls the five axes of transition – needed to come out on the other side of this societal collapse with hope, and to “give impetus to our deepest yearnings for other worlds and worlds otherwise.”

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Carbon commodification in the Peruvian Amazon: The Kichwa People’s Struggle Against Territorial and Climate Destruction

The contemporary model of “fortress conservation” continues to dispossess Indigenous Peoples around the world of their territories to justify the implementation of dubious projects pushing climate change mitigation mechanisms and biodiversity conservation actions. It ignores the ancient rights of communities over their territories, and actively impairs their own local governance systems perfected over time. The resistance to this fraudulent attempt at conservation, however, is gaining ground all over the world. In this article on the emerging issues in Peru, Matias Pérez Ojeda del Arco discusses the ongoing struggle of the Kichwa people to ensure the enjoyment of their traditional livelihoods and the continuation of their territorialities and relationalities with their forests. While the situation is far from perfect, this contestation has allowed for the creation of an “alternative” paradigm where the communities are recognized as key actors for any conservation action undertaken by the Peruvian State to meet its climate commitments.

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A Sisyphean Politics of Desire – Camus’ Philosophy in the Anthropocene

Albert Camus’ outstanding scrutiny of the human condition using the lens of the “absurd” has afforded post-war western society a keen insight into its intensifying socio-psychological ennui and fatigue. Yet, is that somewhat edifying self-reflection enough to discern and intervene in the current unceasing tumble into an environmental and economic dystopia? Adam Cogan examines Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus” to weigh the suitability of its message to effect societal mediations, and concludes that a world beyond Camus’ faltering exhortations needs to be fervidly reimagined to contest the “despondency of capitalist realism, and the destruction it condones.”

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“Beautiful Resistance” in Palestine: Challenging occupation by forging inner peace

Resistance is a multifaceted undertaking – it demands clarity of purpose, steady action, regular strategic and tactical innovations, and access to resources. But, most importantly, it needs committed people at peace with their purpose. In Palestine, where the ugliness of occupation, violation of human rights and dehumanizing oppression are a lived reality, how do people respond without succumbing to frenzied violence, particularly its youth who grow up witnessing the unceasing shattering of their future, everyday? Alrowwad, a Palestinian cultural and arts organization uses the philosophy of “Beautiful Resistance” to work with the country’s youth and children to establish a sense of creative peace in their hearts and minds, with the ultimate aim of transmitting that ideal to the rest of the Palestinian society, and to lay the “alternative” pathway to freedom and self-rule. In this article, Abdelfattah Abusrour, the founder of “Alrowwad” discusses the philosophy and the practice of “Beautiful Resistance”.

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Development as Service

Is nature an entity in its own right with intrinsic value to which one owes gratitude and respect, or is it a mere slave of human possession and exploitation? Dorine van Norren answers this question with deep reflection on traditional paradigms which have existed in indigenous cultures for thousands of years, and after having survived the centuries long onslaught of free market fundamentalism, are now providing viable alternatives to the fast crumbling ideas and practices of modern “development”. Delving into the tenets of African Ubuntu, Andean Buen Vivir and the Bhutanese precept of “Gross National Happiness”, van Norren asserts that these paradigms are paving the way toward establishing a society rooted in solidarity with one another and one’s living environment, with an enduring commitment to “development”, which is centered on service or reciprocity.

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Ingredients for a decolonial politics – cooking up a future to delight in

Creating “alternatives” to the political and economic structures that bolster the existing neoliberal order is as much a function of resisting their impact on society as it is to understand and challenge our own co-option into the colonial mindset that perpetuates that oppression. In this article, Eva Schonvled and Justin Kenrick present an inspiring framework for activists, academics, civil society campaigners and radical reformers to create “alternatives to our internalized and cultural habits of domination.”

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Marketing the planet: The financialization of nature

As pressure increases on corporations to transform their business models to address climate change, their response has been a stealth move in the shape of a project, which aims to financialize nature. The power elite recognize that as ecological services regulating climate, and providing food, water, soil stabilization and cultural values become scarce and gradually degrade, they become more attractive to financial markets as economic assets for speculation and trade. Helena Paul discusses why this attempt at deflecting attention from the real need to change our current economic system based on perpetual growth would prove disastrous, and how “alternative” ideas and practices are contesting this nefarious design to perpetuate the neoliberal order.

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Caught in a rut?: How to stop resisting change and establish systemic “alternatives”?

It has always been hard for societies to effect change. Even when it does occur, change is painfully slow, and often late. Clem McCartney explores the socio-psychological reasons behind this resistance, and advances a strategy for intervening in the moribund societal discourse on meaningful transformation.

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ANARCHY, SOCIALITY, AND THE WAY

As we continue to interrogate the ideas of “alternatives” and “transitions”, John Clark offers a response to Ted Trainer’s comparative analysis of “ecoanarchism”and “ecosocialism”, featured earlier on the website. While stressing the common ground between the two ideas, Clark points out that the effort towards creating “communities of liberation, solidarity, awakening and care” has been “a mere object of ideological faith, detached from practical reality” for ecoanarchism, a failing, which needs to be redressed for it to contribute effectively to social change.

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Ending systems of domination: Reclaiming our bodies and politics from global trauma

COP26 is just around the corner, and the world is preparing for another bout of smoke and mirrors from the international ruling class – looking sincere while doing nothing with sincerity. People understand the need to create solutions to the climate and economic crises independent of the elite, and many initiatives are underway all over the world. Eva Schonveld and Justin Kenrick of the “Grassroots to Global” platform describe the thinking, and the preparations afoot to hold “Sunset” and “Sunrise” assemblies to advance solidarity and action on crucial socio-political and ecological issues.

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We Thought It Was Fiction

The recent revelations concerning Pegasus, the malicious hacking software developed by the Israeli tech firm, NSO, confirm the paralyzingly intrusive capabilities being developed by the State-Corporate nexus to surveil and dominate the increasingly connected world we live in. Alfredo Lopez, Melanie Bush, Hamid Khan and Ken Montenegro, our colleagues from ” May First Movement Technology” discuss how the progressive and “alternatives” communities should organize to push back against this steady erosion of people’s rights, and work to end tech dominance and intrusion into our lives.

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Dismantling “Power” by building “Democratic Autonomy”

All across the world, the quest for socio-economic and political equality continues with varying degrees of success. Often, political transformation has occurred without any compelling changes in the structures of state and power. But, a decidedly meaningful effort at instituting a new framework of grassroots democracy is underway in the Kurdish region of Rojava (West Kurdistan). In this first part of our new series on “Power”, Şervîn Nûdem discusses how the concept of “Democratic Autonomy” is helping shape a novel societal framework consisting of local and regional people’s councils, cooperatives, academies and self-defense forces with the participation, and substantial leadership of the women of Rojava.

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The rising green tide: Fighting for reproductive justice in Argentina

The recent victory for reproductive rights in Argentina was breathtaking for its spirited resolve as well as its organizational rigor. In this article, Ana Cecilia Dinerstein explains the genesis and the evolution of this struggle. She also speaks with Maria Alicia Gutierrez, a prominent leader of the women’s Campaign to explore what lessons could be drawn from its success by movements engaged in alternative politics in other parts of the world.

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More powerful together – Integrating Resistance with Alternatives

Societal discontent manifests itself in the shape of resistance to the existing structures and is channeled through people’s movements. Hope, on the other hand, propels the society to look for alternatives to the existing paradigm. In this first article in a two part series, Jen Gobby provides an insight into how “resistance” and the search for “alternatives” are coming together to shape the movement towards an ecologically sensible and economically egalitarian future in Canada.

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The crisis of Capitalism, role of technology and our imaginations

As the systemic crises confronting the world become ever more alarming and daunting, is there a role for technology in helping find a solution to them? Can technology strengthen the struggle for socio-economic and environmental justice? In this analytical piece Samantha Camacho, Jerome Scott, Alfredo Lopez and Melanie Bush help us understand the urgent need for a proactive societal role in harnessing the energy and potential of the Internet in creating a sustainable future for the planet.

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“Shared Societies” in the times of Covid-19

As vicious viruses, climate calamities and sapping economic inequalities become the hard realities of contemporary human existence, how should the world prepare itself to deal with them? Clem McCartney analyses the societal response to Covid-19 from the lens of a “Shared Society” to outline a possible way out of the present predicament.

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Decolonial feminism and Buen Vivir

The idea and practice of Buen Vivir have gained popularity all over South America because of its far-reaching socio-political acuity and penetration. Thinkers and practitioners of “alternatives” have analyzed Buen Vivir’s efficacy in dealing with various societal challenges – gender relations being a significant subject for that interrogation. Dennis Avilés Irahola provides an insight into how decolonial feminists are assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the process of implementation of the principles of Buen Vivir taking the Constituent Assemblies of Bolivia and Ecuador as examples, and how it could be sharpened to create an “alternative” paradigm in the continent without delaying action on women’s demands.

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