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Interview: Connect 2012 - long form v1.0
Interviewer: Elspeth Murray
Interviewee: Robert Eric Swanepoel
Location: Midlothian United Kingdom

Question Answer
1 Describe your interest in being a change agent, i.e. working to create positive change for the greater good. How would you characterize your current activity level? (Choose one) 100% engaged

2 Describe how this compares to the activity level as a change agent that you might desire for yourself. (Choose one) Actively looking for ways to do more

3 List any movements or organizations you are involved with that might be synergistic with other initiatives to create positive change. Move Your Money - http://moveyourmoneyproject.org/

4 We are creating a database of projects and initiatives to support the emergence of collaborative work via Connect 2012. Is there something you are engaged with now, or might imagine launching or being a part of, that you would like to share? If so, please briefly describe the nature of this work, including its purpose and intended results. Awareness raising around the toxic role of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Direct action with posters at ATMs. http://biowrite.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/rbs/

Blogging at http://biowrite.wordpress.com/

Sharing information about books that have shaped my thinking. Providing summaries that people can use in discussions around what needs to be done.

5 Are there needs you have or requests you want to make regarding the work described in #4 above? Follow the blog and help with online interactivity! http://biowrite.wordpress.com/

6 List websites you'd like to share that relate specifically to your projects (including Twitter & Facebook if you wish):
(List each website on a separate line)

7 Q1(a): As you reflect on a time when people came together in a powerful way for positive change, choose one that stands out for you. Tell me your story about that time and any part you, your family and/or friends might have played in it [if relevant].

The thing I’m most proud of - the result of a lot of research - is a writing project I undertook to convey to people in a digestible way the important big picture. It became a novel, “Saving the World (and Being Happy)” which has been well reviewed, including by a writer I admire. http://biowrite.wordpress.com/2009/09/14/reviews-of-the-book-of-which-i-am-most-proud/

8 Q1(b): Why this is an important story? How has it influenced you? What lessons does it offer going forward?

It’s super-relevant. I gave a presentation “The Elephant in Saint Andrew Square” to Occupy Edinburgh based on what I learnt in writing that book. The analysis of the problems and the suggested strategy in the book are very relevant to Occupy Edinburgh. I suggest a systematic campaign targeting multinationals one at a time and making specific demands of them.

It’s hard to research and write books as well as promote them. There’s a different set of skills – the writing and the promotion.

9 Q2: At this time in history, what challenges do you see in the way we choose to organize ourselves politically, economically and socially? What opportunities do you see in the ways that things might be shifting, awakening and/or emerging in response to these challenges?

There’s a growing dissatisfaction but it’s not clear that most people know what to attribute it to. Richard Layard’s findings on happiness are relevant, and the Inequality Trust ('Spirit Level') statistics on inequality and a feeling of connectedness show that there’s a paradox/challenge whereby a more fragmented society is less capable of a clear conception of the problem. We end up with conspiracy theories, especially around climate change.

One really positive thing is what I heard from senior drugs policy workers in Scotland - that they agree with Bruce K. Alexander's thesis (as explained in his book, 'The Globalisation of Addiction, A Study in Poverty of the Spirit') that the biggest cause of harmful addiction (of all sorts) is psycho-social dislocation and that the main cause of this is the current economic system, which he calls 'hyper-capitalism'. The book is summarised on my blog: http://biowrite.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/tgoa/ .

There’s also a growing awareness of need for effective communication. I’m involved in the Circle Group of Occupy Edinburgh who are raising awareness and providing training in compassionate communication. Although again this is something that might not seem necessary to people who need it most.

There’s more awareness of the dangers of having a settled Occupy site and the paradox of how that attracts people with acute personal issues – themselves a product of a system that’s gone wrong. And the PR and image of a movement that’s very inclusive is really difficult.

10 Q3 Context: Imagine we’re a few years down the line and people like you have been hugely successful in moving us towards lasting and far-reaching changes that benefit all people and the planet as a whole. Wherever you look, there are dramatic improvements in how leaders behave and how communities interact. As you walk through your city, town or village and talk with others across your country and around the world, you see evidence of positive change spreading everywhere.

Q3(a): Describe the differences you, hear, feel, and experience in your everyday life.

Now: I hear that people in work feel insecure and work long hours and are bullied, sometimes fighting like rats in a sack for their jobs, others are out of work or under-employed, and government officials are lauding 'hard-working' families who are trapped in a consumerist cycle, working hard to buy disposable consumer goods, and spending little time in meaningful social activity.

Then: everyone will have worthwhile work, with leisure time, creative pursuits, dance, gardening, making clothes.... They will know more of the people who live near them, they will travel less, spend less on travel, they won’t support large supermarkets, there will be more friendly neighbourhoods.

11 Q3(b): Describe the differences you see, hear, feel and experience in the way we choose to organize ourselves politically, economically and socially.

I’m angry about this nonsense of “choice”. People won’t need to waste time and energy thinking about choice. Things will be simple and good. Throughout society pay differentials will be less than 5 to 1. Teachers at schools will be trusted professionals given plenty of latitude, and will be relatively well paid. There will be smaller classes. In schools people will learn about how the brain works and how to avoid addictions (see, for example, http://yourbrainonporn.com & http://www.reuniting.info). Money will no longer be created by private banks in the form of debt (see http://www.positivemoney.org.uk). In health terms, the services will be excellent and free, and choice won’t come into it.

Land distribution: people won’t own huge tracts of land. No royal family. A man’s a man for a’ that – will be true. Music and dance and art will be fundamental from an early age. Working hours: presenteeism will be a thing of the past. 5 hrs a day will be plenty. Less online screen time. Language: there will be more diversity in dialect, pride in local language – and rich foreign language skills.

12 Q3(c): What did people do early on that helped to generate such positive outcomes?

Getting there, there are 2 ways: redistributive taxation or lower pay differentials. The case for more equality will have been made. Schools will teach what is currently on the Equality Trust website.

13 Q3(d): What role did you play in making this happen?

Writing and reviewing books – promoting good thinking. (In status-conscious, celebrity-culture world, the conundrum is that getting complex ideas across is difficult.) I am learning languages. I shifted my bank account from the RBS to the Cooperative Bank and Triodos - it’s really easy. I decided to have one flight a year to see my immediate family in South Africa and not to take any UK or European flights.

14 Q4(a): What skills, talents and/or resources might you have to offer in service to collaborative work that emerges via the connect 2012 initiative?

Feel free to use the reviews and essays on my blog: http://biowrite.wordpress.com

15 Q4(b) What is the nature of this potential offer (as a paid service, barter, gift, a combination, etc.)?


16 Are you interested in developing the infrastructure of Occupy Cafe in support of this initiative or in other respects?


17 Are you interested in collaborating on the production of a short video or a blog post based on your stories and vision?