Political Experience Prepared The Generation Ship

Political reality in a space village.

A tube of air, dirt, and water, of flora, fauna, and people, Ship Of Destiny’s habitat would spew very organic paste if squeezed hard enough.

Jacksonville, representing a political village.Destiny’s Hand is a story based in a spaceship that will take fifty generations to arrive at its destination.

I’ve imagined that with a target population of only a thousand to maintain, life on the ship is something like life in a village or a very insular group within a city.

Varied experience with small political landscapes makes me comfortable writing fiction with related themes, especially passive aggressive power struggles.

“I have political experience” is like saying “I’m an American” abroad.

Japan has fun cars.I’ve spent a few days slumming in Germany, about five weeks studying in Russia, and about fourteen months teaching in Japan.  Other than a few brief return trips to Japan, that’s the extend of my foreign travel.

I’ve never been shy about saying I’m a citizen of the US of A, even in the face of a drunk angry Russia who was trying to blame me for Perestoika. Nor have I been shy about the political volunteering I’ve done.

I volunteered for several years as Executive Director of the Portland Green Party.  I founded the Oregon Pirate Party, and I heavily participated in Occupy Portland.

An angry mob made a reasoned decision.

It was the wrong one, but we still made one.

Consensus Flow Chart from wikicommons, practical politicalThe Green Party introduced me to facilitating small groups already familiar with the consensus meeting style. I found the group could be smarter than any individual, and decisions made after acknowledging and trying to work through all concerns avoided divisiveness. We could be very productive if the process was well understood.

Then I experienced Occupy. Several hundred people held a meeting for several hours about staying in the middle of a street. I co-facilitated that meeting.  It felt like four hundred people and four hours, but it probably was closer to three and three.

To warm the crowd up I had a woman lead us in a forced laugh. It was awkward, but tension was high and it served to defuse before beginning one the largest and longest General Assembly (GA) meetings of Occupy Portland (OP).

Hour after hour I facilitated a conversation about whether to stay in the street, or stay in the street but allow some kind of traffic. Personally, I wanted us to clear out for logistic reasons and to build good will, but I was trapped by the need to be as objective as possible.

The slog slimmed the crowd.

Those few hundred that remained when it was time to twinkle were willing to commit a full night to something I didn’t consider important. Consensus according to our rules was reached and the GA representing OP decided to stay in the street and allow no traffic through.  Then, the crowd exhausted, most people left.  Early the next morning, the police cleared out the handful of people still there, and the street opened for traffic.

I felt it was worth it. I lost a night. OP lost good will. Those few that stayed and got arrested felt betrayed and angry. And, some unknown number of participants never participated again. But, it was a civilized failure.

Consensus decision making during a zombie apocalypse.

Political Zombies, public domainThat November for NaNoWriMo I felt inspired to write a book wherein a group of desperate survivors decided to follow strict consensus for all decisions and were ultimately killed and eaten by zombies before they could decide to run or fight.

Here’s an excerpt from Antifreeze Consensus:

“So I understand that my facilitation is being challenged, and I am going to speak to this challenge,” says the thin man. “Specifically remember how well that went, looking for food and water as we did. How many of us were taken, and how we had to listen to them scream. That is why we are here. Because we asked for help and the only help they could give us was consensus.”

Screaming, then footsteps running. More screaming. A soft whisper under the torrent of talk, “We are all going to die trying to decide how.”

All my NaNoWriMo books were therapeutic to write, but this one was especially so. I’d like to rewrite it; if I can stir interest in the idea.

Political power struggles, no matter how small a pond.

Political rant rage, Occupy Portland co-opted by Green PartyI’ve been accused multiple times of political coups and even co-opting Occupy Portland.

Organizing a candidate forum that I connected to Occupy caused some fervor on Facebook.

I was even honored with a hate page, though it was quickly removed as the participants were mostly comparing my profile pic to Tatto.

My refusal to back down was later used aggressively by someone interested in replacing me as Executive Director.

Ironically, throughout my “co-opting” of OP for the Green Party, I was accused of co-opting the Greens for the Pirate Party. In reality, I just wanted everyone to work together. I started with the Pirates, continued with the Greens, and then Occupy, but I didn’t leave anything behind. My interests remained, and I promoted them openly and honestly.

In Destiny’s Hand I talk about coups.  Here’s an excerpt:

“She would help if I asked. But how dark can our counter coup get? How far will reprisals stretch, with failure or success? With failure, or even as we still fight, superman can find a reason to censor and lesson her. They could find enough rule violation to take away Aloah, to take away Nowko’s freedom, and make sure she’s fast tracked for retirement with the rest of us, to follow the military originals and Ortomen discontents into the dark.”

I draw on more than my political experience to imagine the power struggles on the generation ship, but I highlight it now because it’s an interesting cocktail of high stakes volunteerism that I’m still working through emotionally these few years later.

In the end, I think all the best writing is free therapy for the writer.

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