social change

Thoughts on violent revolution, anarchism and social change…

I haven’t posted in a while, so I thought it was time for a good old fashioned rant… 🙂

Though I have a lot of friends who consider themselves anarchists, it’s a philosophy that I’ve never fully been able to agree with in any real sense. I often find myself in great debates over the practicality or some underlying, glaring contradictions that I can’t seem to wrap my head around. It’s not that I don’t see the problems with the way the world is currently being run, nor that I am brainwashed or don’t appreciate (and hope) for the idea of erasing the hierarchical subtext of our world and creating a more just society in its place. It’s the method of getting there that most worries me. The particular rise I see in the “F#*$ the police”, let’s-start-a-violent-revolution-to-overthrow-the-government-type of anarchism is quite troubling to me. Having experienced what happens in the absence of a functioning state first-hand, I fear the shape that would arise from such a drastic situation and see alternatives that are not so abrupt that I feel could be just as, if not more, effective.

Most of the anarchists I know believe in creating consensus-run societies. Herein lies one of my greatest problems with the whole philosophy of the violent revolution type of anarchism. Consensus right now does not favour a violent overthrow. Society does not consent to this. How can one expect to build a consensus society on the back of silencing another’s objections entirely? How does this inevitably not lead to more hierarchy—as those who have had their objections bulldozed over now become the ones who feel oppressed and ignored? I am not talking about the objections of those top elites in power, but rather, those of Joe Average; the vast majority of everyday persons who object. Those who will likely have a drastic change of life in the transition that they may well feel resent towards. Consensus doesn’t mean we all have to fully think everything is the best decision, but we do have to consent.

History has demonstrated repeatedly what can happen when a small group of people feel they know what is “best” for society and violently take matters into their own hands to try and change the situation via revolution.

Thinking practically for a minute; if all governments were tomorrow overthrown, what would happen in the world? What shape would the new, new world order take? How would society transition? Would essential services still run? Who would ensure that they do? Would it become a free-for-all in the streets in some places during the transition?

Obviously, if one believes in the ideal of consensus—then each community would be left to decide what shape this would take amongst them-selves. This leads to a seemingly never ending list of questions within my mind. Does the power vacuum created in the fall of the state lead to a crisis situation wherein a new power struggle takes place? Do those who led the overthrow get power-hungry once they have toppled the government? Do those freed from the previous system, those who were imprisoned by its rules rejoin society and how do they do that? How does society respond to those who refuse to live by consensus choices or laws, the psychopaths and the killers and such? If the world becomes decentralized, and communities become responsible for themselves, what happens to those communities without access to essential resources? Do we form some kind of global consensus on issues that affect us all? How does that take shape? Would we have to send representatives from our communities to share our objections and consent on the global stage, thus replicating government forms all over again? What happens to all the people who are currently reliant on capitalist global trade? Would their positions (and livelihood) just cease to exist in the breakdown, and what would their role in society now become? Would they be resentful of the change, having a complete upheaval in their way of life? What IS working in society right now? Do we have to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”, as they say. Is there anything worth keeping in the current system? Each question leads to a new series of questions with endless possibilities, many of the likely ones far worse in my mind than our current reality.

The status quo is violence. We, as humans, have invented so many forms of degrading, hurting, killing and maiming each other and our violence comes in so many forms; it is engrained in us that violence is the only “real” response. That oppression cannot be overcome by any other means. That the only way to respond to violence is with more violence. That perhaps, in reality, everything is violent. We cannot imagine a world without it. Perhaps there is no way to even be completely non-violent. Can we at least strive to reduce the harm as much as possible?

People are becoming more aware of the world around them. For the first time in history, the world is truly connected. It is possible to see live events from someone’s cell phone on the opposite side of the globe, to share ideas instantaneously. The technological advancements over the past hundred years are astounding. We began creating and creating and not immediately realizing the side effects and in the search for the almighty dollar, cheaper became more important than quality or overall consequences, especially when someone distant bore the brunt. We are growing consciousness and if you look around you—things are s-l-o-w-l-y changing right now. The corporate world is desperately trying to keep us placated, while others have been growing test communities with alternative economies and ways of life.

People are creating and innovating and trying to make great changes in the systems all over the world. And they are making things better. Instead of bullying our way through to change, why don’t we do our best to build consensus among those around us that change is desirable by demonstrating what’s possible. What is working. What can work. And educating on what doesn’t and why it doesn’t work for everyone.

We as humans are capable of great change. Numerous times throughout history we have seen a radical change in morality and norms. Slavery was not so long ago thought to be a natural state of humanity. Though it still exists, it is no longer a morally acceptable practice in the vast majority of the world and there are numerous laws outlawing its practice. So why can we not change the hierarchy and inequality too?

How can we drastically change the system, without necessarily breaking the system?

Government and society’s systems are intricate and complex—there is no one answer that will work universally. Practice out what works and what doesn’t in test communities all over the place. When something works, share it widely among other communities. There are already test communities popping up all over the place. They need more funding, more awareness and more ideas to be successful.

Some key things I think are necessary for drastic change and necessitate further investment, development and testing:

• Teaching peace and investing in peace on a global scale. Teach it from early childhood in every classroom, techniques such alternative dispute resolution and other conflict management strategies. Reinforce conflict resolution skills all through school and workplaces where possible. If we can spend trillions of dollars annually on militarization, we can surely spend billions on peace. Peacebuilding projects around the world are currently sparse and severely underfunded.
• Gradual reduction/retraining of the current armed forces into national guard/emergency services roles. Army functions retrained into civilian-based defense facilitators and other non-militarized functions.
• Reform the judicial and penal systems to focus on actual rehabilitation and positive reintegration into society for current offenders. Try alternative dispute resolution and alternate forms of justice in future grievances, particularly in “non-violent” crimes. Review current societies’ laws via some form of consensus. This includes local, regional, and global laws.
• A complete overhaul/creation of corporate law that favours the living world over profit.
• Restructuring local and regional governments so that they become more direct forms of democracy.
• Massive investment into the research and development of sustainable communities.
• Investment in basic needs over luxuries.
• A complete overhaul or creation of new international structures.
• Re-thinking spaces. Let cities feed cities. Rethink how spaces are connected, how they are accessible, how they blend into the environment around them, how they use energy, how they use water, how they interact with humans and other living species and let’s invest our time and our energy in that direction in the future.

Those in Toronto– Another Theatre of the Oppressed workshop!

Readers in the Toronto area, here’s a chance to learn how to make social changes using the Theatre of the Oppressed method. Please check it out:

Branch Out Theatre Workshops Presents:

An Introductory Workshop Series in

Augusto Boal’s

Theatre of the Oppressed

With facilitator: Naomi Tessler, M.A. Educational Theatre, N.Y.U.

Learn to use theatre as a tool for social change!

Fall Series Dates:

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Wednesday, November  17th, 2010

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

*Drop in option available*

Time: 7pm-9:30pm

Location: Christie Studio, Artscape Wychwood Barns,

601 Christie st.

To Register and for more info, contact Naomi at: 416-910-4972

Cost: Individual Workshop: $40, $110 for fall series

Student Rate: Individual Workshop: $30, $80 for fall series

*sliding scale option available*

Looking To Create Change in Your Life?

Gain Clarity.  Feel Empowered.

Actively Create Space for Change.

in Branch Out Theatre Workshops’

Rainbow of Desire Theatre Lab

An interactive workshop series in creative self-discovery and personal growth

Facilitated by: Naomi Tessler, M.A Educational Theatre N.Y.U.

Join us for the Fall Series!

Fall Series Dates:

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Time: 7pm-9:30pm

Location: Christie Studio, Artscape Wychwood Barns, 601 Christie st.

NO theatre experience necessary!

To register and for more info, contact Naomi at: 416-910-4972

Cost: Individual Workshop: $40, $75 for fall series,

Student Rate: Individual Workshop: $30, $55 for fall series

*Sliding scale options available*

Theatre for the Oppressed Workshop in Toronto

Branch Out Theatre Workshops Presents:

Spring Forum Training

~Second Bloom~ A Workhop Series for Peacemakers, Community Organizers, Activists, Educators, Social Justice Advocates, Artists, Social Workers Everyone is INVITED!

With facilitator:  Naomi Tessler, M.A. Educational Theatre, N.Y.U.

Come and build your skills in Augusto Boal’s Forum Theatre techniques and learn to use theatre as a tool for social change!

Dates: Wednesday, June 16th, 2010,

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010,  Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

*Drop in option available if unable to attend all three training dates*

Time: 6:30pm-9pm

Location: 854 Bloor St. West Toronto

(Christie Ossington Neighbourhood Centre)

To Register and for more info, contact Naomi at: 416-910-4972

Join us in training for change!

Cost: $125 for adults, $100 for students

*$100 for adults, $75 for students if registered by June 11th, 2010*

*sliding scale option available*

Those in Toronto-Check it out. Theatre of the Oppressed

Was asked to pass this along. A great idea at sparking change. Please check it out:
To an introductory training in Theatre of the Oppressed:

A process of theatre-based exercises, games and techniques developed by Agusto Boal which invites participants to use theatre as a tool to explore social issues and spark the dialogue and rehearsal needed to create positive social change.


The training will be led by Naomi Tessler, a theatre educator/workshop facilitator, director, actor, playwright, poet, and Reiki Practitioner. She is a graduate of the M.A. program in Educational Theatre for Colleges and Communities at New York University.  She is a Theatre of the Oppressed practitioner and has learned directly from founder Augusto Boal.  She is passionate about using theatre as a tool for social change; encouraging self expression, community/team building, personal and professional development, environmental awareness and social justice.  She has facilitated theatre-based workshops globally and believes in making theatre an accessible tool towards positive change.

When and Where?
Saturday, February 20th
10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Steelworkers Hall
25 Cecil Street
corner of Spadina and College, one block south and two blocks east
Sponsored by Christian Peacemaker Teams
Contact Jim Loney at 416-516-2326 for more information.
Please confirm your particapation by emailing Jim at before February 10th. If there are more people interested that we can accommodate, we’ll organize a second training.
Cost: an hour’s wage, where applicable. Everything we collect will be given to Naomi in appreciation for her work.
Participants are asked to bring their own lunch. There are lots of Chinatown restuarants nearby for those wanting an affordable lunch. Kensington Market too. Beverages and a light snack will be provided.
Free parking is available behind the Steelworkers hall.
Want More Information? Check out….
Theatre of the Oppressed, Augusto Boal
Games for Actors and Non-Actors, Augusto Boal
Legislative Theatre: Using Performance to Make Politics, Augusto Boal
The Rainbow of Desire, Augusto Boal
Hamlet and the Baker’s Son: My Life in Theatre and Politics, Augusto Boal
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire
Playing Boal, Thetare Therapy, Activism, eds: Mady Schutzman and Jan Cohen-Cruz
Augusto Boal, Routledge Performance Practitioners, Frances Babbage

*this link will lead to other websites as well*