DRMacIver's Notebook

Initial Notes Towards a Manifesto

Initial Notes Towards a Manifesto

Mechanical Monk invited his mutuals to write a manifesto. This is my response to that, though given that this is a notebook it's a more modest attempt to gesture in the direction of what a manifesto would look like when I'm a bit more ready for it.

So what do I want? How do I want to change the world?

Well I'd like to be able to claim some high minded ideal like universal love and cosmic oneness but that's not what I'm about. What I'm about is this: Dear humanity, we are fucking this up, and it's annoying me and I'm embarrassed to be a part of it. I really shouldn't be the one to have to tell people how to sort their shit out because I'm terrible at this but apparently nobody else is going to do it right, so fine.

What do I mean by this?

I mean that we are universally lacking in the basic systems, skills, and ethics, of being functioning, healthy, happy, human beings, and we need to fix that, and instead we are making it worse. We do not have a society that supports the development of those, and in many ways we actively punish their acquisition.

An incomplete list of things we are bad at include thinking, feeling, moving, communicating, decision making, organisation, and helping each other out more broadly. Some of us are good enough at some of these things, but essentially nobody is at what I would like to consider the bare minimum standard for all of them (I sure as hell am not!).

Currently I think we have roughly the following models for acquiring these skills:

  1. Dumb luck and/or privilege in having the right role models (unreliable).
  2. School (monstrously bad at this, not really designed to do it)
  3. Therapy and coaching (limited scope, expensive)
  4. Weird borderline cults (tend to overfocus on an aspect of the problem and convince you it solves everything. Also, are cults)
  5. Self-help books (similar problems to cults, also mostly very bad)

All of these are grossly inadequate to the task.

So I'm trying to push back on it. I cannot, at present, fix society and reshape it into a more pleasing image (though if you want me to do that and can hand me the keys I uh have one or two ideas), but I can provide people with tools that may help them under the current circumstances.

I'm acquiring the parts of these skills that I can figure out for myself, or with help, and I'm trying to be a model of how I think this should work. I'm helping other people around me take steps towards the same same, by writing about it, and by building relationships that support each other's growth.

And this isn't going to work. You cannot rely on me to teach you all the skills you need for several reasons:

  1. The notebook is pretty good, and I hope to do better writing about this in future, but the really high value work is in personal relationships, and there's only one of me.
  2. My work is intrinsically built around my particular strengths and weaknesses - I'm a weird, queer, hyperverbal, nerd and so the problems I'm solving and the tools I'm using are designed with that in mind.
  3. I am, as alluded to, not very good at this, and I'm going to miss things, get things wrong, or communicate them in unhelpful ways, and we need many different voices doing the same sorts of things if we are to have any chance of climbing out of the crab bucket.

(2) doesn't mean that you can't benefit from my writing if you're not like me, but it does mean that my tools are built in a very particular way for a very particular set of problems. They might or might not work for you (possibly with modification), but even if they work for you they might not solve all your problems because they're designed to solve my problems (and, to a lesser extent, the problems of people I know well enough to help). You need to build your own tools too! And then, once you have, I want you to share them with other people.

And I want you to share them with other people while understanding that their tools might not work for others. When I wrote yesterday's post I very clearly spelled out why this was a good solution for me, and that these might not be the same for you. All tools will be like this, but right now people tend to get very evangelical about how their tool is the one size fits all to all problems, and this is extremely wrong, both factually and morally.

I'm losing steam on writing more of this right now, so I'm going to just end with a list of things I want people to do:

  1. Cut people some slack. Create safety for those around you. Sign non-aggression pacts in the goddamn legibility war.
  2. Treat the problems in your life as interesting and worth solving.
  3. Join and learn from nerd communities who can help you solve them.
  4. Build growth relationships, where everyone involved helps everyone else be better versions of themselves. I'm particularly a fan of the support group model, but this is one of those tools that might not work for everyone.
  5. Explain these things to others. Obviously I'm a fan of the notebook blog format, but again that might not be what works for you.

I understand that what I am asking of you is difficult, and I understand that for some of you it may not yet be possible, but I'm trying my best to make it possible, and easy, for as many people as I can, and I hope that some of you will do the same.