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(en) US, Our Lives Ahead: anti-capitalist and anti-statist conference (May 26-28, 2006)

Date Thu, 23 Feb 2006 18:17:09 +0200


Our Lives Ahead -- Because capitalism is worthless
a focused conference exploring the theories and practices of confronting
and dismantling capitalism from anti-authoritarian, anti-statist perspectives.
Introduction
Capitalism isn’t the only system that restricts, demeans and sacrifices
our personal desires while striving for a liberatory life, but here and
now, it is the most identifiable, pervasive, consuming, and destructive.
It creates and perpetuates unfulfilling and exploitative relationships
through hierarchical frameworks. It swallows the time and space needed
to construct our lives on our own terms.

To put it succinctly, it is a monster that strives for totality.

If we desire to eliminate the exploitation and disparity of hierarchy,
to save all life from an increasingly desolate and mon0-cultured environment,
to reclaim what is necessary for the realization of our desires, then we
must act to confront and ultimately dismantle the institutions,
relationships, and controls constructed and perpetuated by the
capitalist system.

From this basis, the Our Lives Ahead organizing group seeks to gather a
community of anti-capitalists and anti-authoritarians, or anyone curious
regarding such approaches, to discuss the theories and practices of
confronting and dismantling capitalism. The Our Lives Ahead conference
will be strongly focused on invigorating an anti-capitalist approach to
our theories, activism, and lifestyles while showing working examples of
the many ways we can reclaim our lives from the strongholds of a
capitalist framework.

So yea yea, the same ‘ol anti-capitalist jargon we’ve all been repeating
for some time now. What makes this conference any different from the rest
and why should I make yet another trip across the country?

Trust us, we too are tired of spending all our resources traveling to
conferences, sitting in the same old workshops year after year, feeling
our time is better spent socializing then developing our perspectives,
and frankly, being bored.

So instead of offering up the default conference structure of the past,
we are making an attempt to invigorate our culture with something more
exciting, more engaged, more effective at understanding what it’s going
to take to create our own lives right now and on into the future.

We’ve thought a lot about what turned us off at radical gatherings, and
most importantly, what inspired us. Taking these dynamics into
consideration we’ve set up a framework for the Our Lives Ahead conference
that puts our values into practice by instantly engaging everyone in the
conference creation and leaving behind as many of the soul-sucking
elements of capitalism we could think of.

We hope you are inspired by our efforts and want to come to Indy for Our
Lives Ahead. See you in May!

The Our Lives Ahead organizing group

www.ourlivesahead.org

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Alternative Framework

Radical conference structures often fall into a trap of duality, of
desiring alternatives while residing within a system of capitalist
controls. The OLA organizing group understands this dilemma and
sympathizes with the compromises some have to make, however, in order to
leave behind the ineffective theorizing of our ideals (instead of putting
them into practice at every possibly opportunity) we are making an attempt
to organize this conference around alternatives of structure and exchange.
The ways in which we plan to practice such alternatives are listed
below.

Entrance "Fee"

Monetary exchange at an anti-capitalist conference? No Thanks! As an
alternative to the dominant economic structure, we have decided to rely
on a system of bartering and/or gift giving in exchange for the facilitation
of the Our Lives Ahead conference. So leave those symbolic pieces of green
paper at home! Not only will a barter/gift-giving system act as a very
real and working alternative to capitalism, it will also help us complete
some logistical aspects of the conference. Those needs are as follows:

• Food

In order to offer meals on Saturday and Sunday we are asking that
participants bring food items that can be prepared for everyone to
enjoy.
We will make sure to have some basics on hand in case of inadequate
supplies, but we do ask for foods that can be prepared in bulk, such as
canned foods (vegetables, meat substitutes, etc.) and dry goods (pasta,
beans, breads, etc.). If you'd like to chow down on some dumpster juice
soaked desserts and pastries we ask that you do that on your own. Also,
so as to minimize an institution of exploitation, pain, and suffering for
other sentient beings, we ask that you only contribute vegan foods. Some
specific food items we are requesting follow:

Pizza ingredients

Spaghetti
Spaghetti sauce
Vegan cheese
Chili beans
Tomatoes
Onions
Cornmeal
Kale
Potatoes
Bread
Gravy
Flour
Margarine

• Entertainment

We will be leaving a block of time open for performers of all kinds to
share their passion and talent, whether you are a poet, performance
artist, singer/songwriter, juggler, firewalker, full on band, or
whatever!
If you have any special needs or if your performance requires extensive
resources (amplification, instruments, and audience, etc.) please let us
know in advance.

• Art

If your passion is a visual art (painting, printmaking, writing, etc.)
that can be exchanged as a gift, we would be honored to accept it. All
art that is gifted to us will be compiled and shown at the conference as
well as included in a future art show in Indianapolis that will serve as a
benefit for our local radical projects.

• Agitprop

Do you create incendiary literature or art in mass quantities? Bring us
any quantity of propaganda as an exchange item and we will compile all
contributions to offer to conference goers as something of a memento and
practical souvenir of the weekend.

These initial suggestions for barter/gift exchange or service are only
primary needs for the Our Lives Ahead conference. If you have any other
suggestions to offer us as items/services of exchange, we will be more
than receptive to them.

Further, as a show of solidarity among non-local anti-capitalist projects,
we are asking that you contact us with any specific items you might need
for a project in your area. We will be posting these requests on our
website, gathering all donations at the conference, and dispersing the
items to the respective groups. As an example, a local non-profit is
asking for door locks to use for domestic violence survivors who need
added security from returning abusers.

"Experts" vs. Figures of Experience

One of Capitalism's subtle (or not so subtle, actually) forms of
establishing a hierarchy in relationships is the creation of "experts" and
"specialists." We do recognize an inherent level of difference regarding
experience in a system of divided labor, but we reject the idea that such
a difference makes "experts" out of people. The notion of an "expert"
tends to foster information exchange that leaves out the receiver as a
creator of theory/practice and invalidates her or his own ideas. To
address that notion of intellectual separatism, while still calling on the
valued contribution of experienced individuals, we will be seeking out
those who may be high-profile thinkers/activists, but including them in
the process of theory/practice just the same as those of us who hold a
less visible profile. We value the experience of the high-profile
thinkers/activists and will be asking them to generate and facilitate
workshops rather than fill their usual role as lecturers, so don't be
surprised if the workshop you are interested in is being facilitated by
an author (or someone posing as your favorite author), thinker, writer, or
activist you hold in high regard.

Space Politics

Colleges and institutions of academia are logical choices in deciding
where to facilitate large conferences due to their sheer size and the
ability to secure them for free through a student or faculty member.
Despite these benefits, a critique still stands that the institutions of
academia foster a sense of removed learning and experience. Colleges are
more spaces for theory than they are for practice, which certainly is not
the manner in which we hope to shape our lives. The mentioned critique
was a matter of discussion within the Our Lives Ahead organizing group, but
in the end, due to a lack of sufficient space alternatives, we chose to
rely on a free academic institution. We hope the framework and active
examples of our ideals serve to overshadow any feelings of passivity and removed
experience during the conference. Just please note that this was a topic
of debate during the organizing process.

Tabling

We encourage any interested group to bring information with which to
table. Although we are instituting alternatives to capitalism within our
own organizing and structuring, we will not be placing any guidelines upon
groups interested in tabling, though we certainly encourage tablers to
engage in their own ideas for alternative exchange.

Workshops

It is not uncommon for a conference participant's experience to be marred
by a sense of disconnectedness and outright boredom from uninspiring
workshops. In hopes of minimizing such sentiments we are making attempts
to encourage workshop facilitators to structure their presentations in a
handful of ways, which are suggested below. In our selection process we
will be giving favor to those proposals that are not structured as
lectures, but rather as dialogue and focused workshops pertaining
directly to anti-capitalism. We are offering these suggestions of workshop
structure not to foster a sense of elitism but rather just the opposite:
to minimize the notion of "expert" and "specialist" and a removed learning
experience where workshop participants are merely receivers of
theory/information instead of actively engaged in theory/practice
creation. We want to strongly reiterate, these are not offered as
guidelines to follow, but rather suggestions and ideas for you to work
from or discard.

TIPS FOR ENGAGING OTHERS IN A WORKSHOP ENVIRONMENT:

• In a typical group, 46% of individual learners are visual learners,
35% are kinesthetic learners (physical movements), 19% are auditory
learners.
If you are presenting information, try to accommodate for these different
modalities.

• Have participants act as significant individuals or fictitious people
with first hand experience with your topic (a survivor, a sweat-shop
worker, etc.) via scripts or prompts, then engage responses.

• Start a story, anecdote, historical truth, or fact of any kind and have
the group finish the idea. They can either write their predicted ending of
this story, anecdote, etc. or discuss it verbally. Examine how close to
reality these predictions are by then presenting the truth.

• Pass out puzzle pieces or index cards with words or phrases relevant
to your topic and invite people to share them and discus which words or
phrases can be connected. (i.e. "I have the 'income tax' card.", "I have
the 'inequity in school systems' card and they are connected
because...",
"Well, I have the 'disparity in income card' and that is connected to
both of those because...")

• Explain a concept or significant event. Invite the participants to
write a journal entry from the perspective of a person, animal, or entity
affected by that concept. Allow participants to share and discus. Or have
some journal entries made, read them aloud, and have a group discuss how
they are connected to a concept.

• Create a simulation and have people act out various individuals, ideas,
etc., as a way of exploring those concepts in a more head-on manner.

• Have participants write letters to an idea (gender issues, capitalism,
corporate domination, etc.) and invite them to offer personal
information.
Have some share with the group. See what happens.

• Offer definitive statements ("Smashing windows is violence.") and
have the participants stand on opposite sides of the room as a visual
representation of how they feel about the statement (agree, disagree,
unsure) then ask for justifications.

• Begin with a KWL chart. What do participants KNOW about the topic?
WANT to know about it? Then end with a quick review of what they have
LEARNED.
This can easily and quickly help guide the discussion and make it
worthwhile for all involved. It is useful on chart paper, so that all
can view it.

• Have prepared discussion questions and allow people to divide into
smaller groups to discuss, answer questions, present information. The
more active participants are, they more they are absorbing of the dialog.

• Have people write questions on cards that they would like to see
answered by the workshop. Try to answer as many as possible during the
workshop, then discuss others at the end.

• Have the group categorize ideas, items, words, and generate
discussion
based on these divisions, connections, etc. made by the group.

• Draw a map on a large piece of paper or on the board onto which
participants can continually add to (i.e. a map of the different aspects
of ______ affected by capitalism).

As workshops are the bulk of conferences (this one being no different)
we hope you are inspired to send us a proposal for a workshop on
anti-capitalist theory or practice. Please send us a proposal that
details the topic you will be addressing, its' title, how you will be
facilitating the workshop (structure, activities, etc.), any resources you might
need, and any other information you feel is pertinent for our selection
process.
We will do our best to include all proposals that fit our basic criteria
of addressing the ways to confront and dismantle capitalism.

Childcare

This conference will bring us together to explore anti-capitalist
perspectives and we strongly believe that children should also have a
place to foster their own ideas. There will be childcare provided and
any specific needs you or your child/children might have is something we
need to hear. Please feel free to tell us of any food or physical
requirements for your child/children so we can accommodate them ahead of time. If
housing is a concern for you, let us know and we will do our best to
assign you to a supportive environment that is both safe and fun. If you
would like to volunteer to help with providing childcare or activities
(talent show, kid anti-capitalist protest, whatever!) during the
conference, please let us know. Childcare contact is supplied at the end
of this booklet.

Housing

Our housing group will be doing its best to secure sleeping arrangements
for all conference participants, but unfortunately Indianapolis is not
always a haven of excess when it comes to human resources. We will be
seeking out supportive groups and individuals with housing space as well
as looking for areas sufficient for camping (campgrounds, backyards,
etc.), so keep the camping option open if at all possible.

Registration

Please visit WWW.OURLIVESAHEAD.ORG to register. If you can’t register
online, please mail us the registration information at:

Our Lives Ahead
1112 W. 36th St.
Indianapolis, IN
46208

Or email us at registration@ourlivesahead.org or
info@ourlivesahead.org
======================================
* ...this is the initial call-out, via list-serves, to encourage as many
anarchist collectives as possible to join a pan-anti-capitalist and
anti-statist conference. we have contacted many different autonomous
collectives to join us.

the organizers for this event is the our lives ahead orgnanizing group.
many of the people who are organizing this event are part of the
Solidarity and Paper Matches anarchist collectives in the Indy area.
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