Another workshop is possible

If you’ve ever seen six degrees of separation you may remember the scene where Stockard Channing keeps repeating chaos, control, chaos, control, you like, you like? as she flips a two-sided painting back and forth (I think it’s a Kandinsky). I can think of no better way to illustrate the World Social Forum. It’s both and neither.

I facilitated a very strange workshop yesterday. We tried to engage the audience to tell their stories as a way of learning about each other’s work, but also on a more practical level as a tool to draw people to what you do. Everyone loves stories and given the choice between hearing a story and hearing a statistic… The choice is pretty clear. For most at least.

Some of the people in the room become quite agitated when told that we would not be sitting in the front talking at them. Trying to explain that there wasn’t much value in bringing all these people together to recite our website didn’t help. To be fair, the workshop was not described accurately in the program, but, I thought at the WSF of all places there would be an openness and a flexibility. Most people in the room were, but some weren’t. These people left. In the end, I don’t know if we told each other our stories but there were some lively conversations and most seemed quite pleased. I’m still thinking about it. Maybe another workshop isn’t possible. No, it is. It has to be.

The Hilton in Caracas is one of the main venues, and being there is sort of like being in an airport. People are going every which way, most look a little confused and tired (but happy), there are a myirad of languages being spoken, and every once in a while you hear screams of joy when old friends are reunited. Those are the best moments.

This morning I attended a session on building the left in the world we live in; utopia or reality. Canadian academic Leo Panitch said he was worried that we were living in bad utopia – one where we are dreaming of a world that cannot be and even worse we don’t know how to get there. Ouch.