Bill Moyers interviews Carne Ross, the author of The Leaderless Revolution, on being an agent of change. An eight-minute except is here, I would recommend listening to this, rather than just reading the transcript, but the transcript is reproduced below, for reference and for the hearing impaired. The nine principles:
BILL MOYERS: In “The Leaderless Revolution,” you list nine principles for action. What’s your purpose there?
CARNE ROSS: The book is all about political method. It’s not about a blueprint for where we’re going to go. It’s about doing politics differently. And I suggest nine things that you should bear in mind, nine principles that should govern that action. It doesn’t say what the action should be addressing. But it says “These are the ways that you should go about it.”
BILL MOYERS: Number one, “Excavate your convictions.“
CARNE ROSS: Without really knowing what you care about, it’s very difficult to find the energy to do anything. And I think actually in contemporary politics, it’s very difficult to know what you really care about. You’re bombarded all the time with politicians telling you what to care about. But what is the thing you really, really care about? And once you’ve identified that, that will give you the strength and the fuel to– for the long journey to try to address that thing.
BILL MOYERS: Number two, “Who’s got the money? Who’s got the gun?“
CARNE ROSS: This is where you need to step back and analyze the situation. Who has the real power over the problem that concerns you? Who’s got the money and who’s got the gun is a pretty good start for your analytical technique.
BILL MOYERS: Number three, “Act as if the means are the end.“
CARNE ROSS: This is purely quoted from Gandhi. I didn’t come up with this myself. He was convinced that actually the form of politics that you choose is actually the end. You know, if you just vote for somebody, you’ve not actually done anything. If you use violence to create a particular political end, all you’re doing is promoting violence.
So actually you need to embody the principles that you wish in the goal that you seek, whether it’s equality, transparency, democracy, in the form of change that you are pursuing, in the very method. And this is what the book is about. It’s about a method.
BILL MOYERS: You were quite impressed with Gandhi’s salt march.
CARNE ROSS: Yeah.
BILL MOYERS: Why?
CARNE ROSS: Well, he in protest of British colonialism, he organized a 200-mile march, of lots of people, to go to a coastal city in India to make salt. And the reason he did that was because the British charged poor people, ordinary Indians a tax on salt, as a way of keeping them down. And Gandhi felt the salt belongs to all of us, and ordinary people were forbidden from making salt.
So he went and made salt. And this was the perfect political protest, because not only did it draw attention to this great injustice, but it actually physically embodied the change that needed to happen, which was ordinary people making salt. And it was immensely powerful.
BILL MOYERS: Number four, “Refer to the cosmopolitan criterion.“
CARNE ROSS: That is the idea that instead of, you know, assuming that we know what others want, like the golden rule does, you know? Which says we should, “Do unto others as we would like them to do unto us.” That to me is a very solipsistic moral maxim. Instead you just ask them. I mean, these days, you’re connected on the internet. You can find out what people over there think. And they will tell you very clearly and persuasively. And often very different from what you assume they’re going to say.
BILL MOYERS: Number five, “Address those suffering the most.“
CARNE ROSS: This again is not from me. It’s from Karl Popper, the Austrian philosopher who gave us the open society. He believed that no government, no authority can decide what, can know what makes people happy. In fact, we don’t even know ourselves often. But the one thing you can measure – happiness is not measurable. You know, it’s not something that’s empirically testable, but suffering is.
Actually, the indices of suffering, starvation, absence of water, mortality. These things are very measurable. And actually addressing suffering is much easier than trying to make ourselves happier. You can do far more. You can actually– to lift a very large number of people from poverty takes very little. And therefore, you would have actually much more effect with your politics. It– there’s also kind of behind a moral imperative. I mean, you know, personally, I think those suffering the most should be our primary concern.
BILL MOYERS: Six, “Consult and negotiate.“
CARNE ROSS: Don’t just roll over people. If you take them for granted and try to do your thing without taking account of what they want, you won’t succeed. And I’ve seen this in international negotiations, which exclude people. The agreements that follow from that won’t work. This is what we’re trying to do in Independent Diplomat is get ordinary people’s voices into that process. But that consultation will produce an outcome that might work, because you have included people in its construction.
BILL MOYERS: Seven, “Big picture, little deeds.“
CARNE ROSS: Big change, change in the world – saving the global environment, you know, stopping economic volatility– overwhelming goals, overwhelming problems. You know? How the hell can little me do something about that? This idea is simply that you bear that overall strategic goal in mind, but you do something small every day to reach it. And that is a plausible and effective form of political change and will actually solve the problem, if we all do it.
BILL MOYERS: Eight, “Use nonviolence.“
CARNE ROSS: In researching the book, I read a lot about nonviolence, which is not doing nothing. It’s not pacifism. It’s actually a series of techniques, which are very powerful and persuasive, and can achieve, you know, extraordinary ends but without relinquishing the moral high ground by using violence.
And you know, all kinds of – the most fundamental and extraordinary political change has come about nonviolently. I think in this country about, you know, the struggle for female emancipation, for civil rights. These were nonviolent movements. If you want to change society, you can’t do it violently.
BILL MOYERS: And yet number nine, “Kill the king.“
CARNE ROSS: Yes. You know, a slightly colorful way of saying, “It is really hard to change things.” It is really, really hard. And I think this is one of the, you know, the fundamental ideas of the book. You know, somebody promises you that clicking on a petition will change a problem, they are lying. That is simply not true. So to take on any problem, you’ve really got to focus. And in chess, the objective is — there’s one objective, which is, “Take the other guy’s king.” And that’s what you’ve got to keep in mind, all the time.
BILL MOYERS: “The Leaderless Revolution” you call it. But can any movement be leaderless, seriously?
CARNE ROSS: I passionately believe that it should be. Not only that it can be, but it should be. Occupy is leaderless and successfully so. It is many things. It is not one thing. It is a lot of people spontaneously acting upon their own convictions. And that is what makes it powerful.