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Ecosystem Mapping: Conversation 4, with Alnoor Ladha

Recently, we met with Alnoor Ladha, Board Member at Culture Hack Labs, as part of our ongoing effort to map the space that organisations such as ours operate within. Alnoor gave a starkly honest depiction of the polycrisis facing humanity currently. Read a summary of his story, and the perspectives he shared, below:

Alnoor’s Personal Journey 

Alnoor comes from an East African diaspora family; his mother is from Tanzania, and eventually moved to Canada where she met his father. His father was exiled from Uganda in 1972, and ended up in a refugee camp near Vienna for a couple of years. It was from there that he moved to Vancouver. He and his family are the products of the fate and fortune of globalisation, imperialism, colonialism, enslavement, patriarchy and all the other logical outcomes of the Western way of living including late stage capitalism.

Alnoor’s background has brought him into a deeper, interconnected understanding of how desires of the people ‘over there’ (the global north) create severe consequences for the people ‘over here’ (the global south). He got involved in the climate movement which helped to deepen the connecting of the dots for him. He studied economics, and realised how ridiculous the house of cards that is globalized capitalism is and the fragility of the illusion of a solid epistemology that the West pride itself on. He studied philosophy and public policy in the UK, where he came to a deeper understanding of the bankruptcy of the Western analytical tradition and enlightenment logic. 

Culture Hack Labs and Community Action

Culture Hack Labs was born out of The Rules, which was an experiment, a temporary organisational zone, that ran for 8 years. They wanted it to be temporary as they did not know what the world would look like in 8 years’ time; they also didn’t want to be enmeshed in the NGO industrial complex; they didn’t want to be beholden to foundations; and they felt that if the perpetuity of an organisation is its objective then it is has already failed. When they started The Rules they were totally open as to what form and function it might take, but they created three pillars that informed their work throughout the eight years:

  1. Everything would ladder up to the root cause of our current polycrisis – the neoliberal capitalist operating system – regardless of what specific issues they would work on.
  2. Working directly with social movements to form an organised resistance. The Rules only worked with groups who had their own organising infrastructure, largely in the global South.
  3. Using new tools of organising, The Rules drew on cognitive linguistics, neuroscience and memetics, to really understand the biography of ideas so that they could influence the cultural context in which these ideas were spreading.

From these 8 years of R&D, of trial and error, they came up with a method called the Culture Hack method. When The Rules closed, 6 of the core team of the collective decided to set up the Culture Hack Labs. Alnoor himself is not working for Culture Hack Labs but he does sit on its Council (a democratic equivalent of a board of directors), supporting their international work to connect the dots between various struggles. 

The rest of Alnoor’s time is spent working on other projects. In the first few years of The Rules, internal conversations were had about the need for resistance and renewal. So the aim was to set up a community that would practice the values of post-capitalism they were working on. He worked with a group of allies to set up a community called Tierra Valiente in Costa Rica, after receiving a property in 2016.  He has since been living in the community there, in which they try to practice the values that they have developed. The community has bought land and put it into a trust (which is run as a cooperative), undertakes regenerative agriculture, and has a healing arts centre at its core. The profits go into the co-op, but also into a mutual aid network for the bioregion called Fuerza De Amor. 

The last third goes towards a new project called the Transition Resource Circle, which also came out of The Rules. This helps to radicalise and conscientise funders to have a deeper structural analysis and more holistic analysis of the polycrisis. 

The objective

Alnoor’s work stems from a meta-perspective, from which the objective is to speed up the transition towards post-capitalist realities, and doing so with the least suffering possible. Alnoor and his allies aim to build new narrative and cultural contexts in which more radical social change can happen, expanding the Overton window of possibility. He supports work that is focused onto decolonising the heart, mind, body and soul complex, in order to be more contextually sensitive to what’s actually happening on the planet right now – to the experience of the majority world, and the experience of the more-than-human world that is suffering and dying due to human hubris, arrogance, greed, separation and perceived supremacy. 

If we do not understand what is happening at the level of the superstructure then we come up with bad ideas, believing that selling one pair of shoes and giving another way is going to solve the problems of the world somehow, or creating more green investment funds, as if capital is going to be able to solve the problem of the deep, multiple, entrenched crises we’ve created from our desire for a return on capital. So this contextualising work, is the high level work, at a superstructure level.

At a community level, the objective is to create strong, local, resilient bioregions and communities based on similar values of altruism, solidarity, cooperation, interbeing and a deep understanding of the limitations and impoverishment of Western culture, and the dominant culture more broadly.

At an individual level, the objective is understanding that all of these things that are ‘out there’ are in fact living ‘in here’. We are fractal manifestations of a broader operating system that has colonised and programmed our minds, souls and our cognitive capacities to think beyond the structure. These entrained programs also take up physical real estate in our bodies. The objective is to undertake somatic de-programming for himself and those in his proximity, to bring a more holistic lens and interconnection between spirituality and politics, and re-attune the body for the inevitable transition. 

General trends over the past ten years

Alnoor reflects that when they started The Rules, people thought the things they were saying were crazy. They spoke about ecological collapse, species extinction and zoonotic viruses being logical outcomes of the capitalist system that needs to extract and destroy the living world in order to perpetuate itself. Inequality and poverty are also logical outcomes of this system. That was seen as a radical idea, but now it is much more accepted, with mainstream works such as Thomas Pickety’s Capital and Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything. So the culture has changed in general, bringing these things to attention, which helped to conscientise people. Pop culture has too started to mimic these trends as well. People are understanding that the fight is not about disconnected issues in disparate parts of the world; rather it is about the logic of a life-destroying machine that is the very core of our polycrisis. 

Nonetheless, despite the shifts in culture occurring, the commensurate response is still pitiful, with people setting up meaningless social enterprises and meaningless NGOs, just trying to fundraise to perpetuate their own existences. There does, however, seem to be a point that’s coming with more people willing to put their bodies and souls on the line, and trying to engage in ways that are really meaningful. While groups like XR, Fridays for Future, and the Fees Must Fall movement (in South Africa) are far from perfect, they all play an important role in shifting the discourse. They are naming the crisis for what it is, and are pointing at the right target, which is finance capital and colonised thinking, enacting symbolic resistances. 

We have to support, amplify and energise these movements with our will and willingness. We have to become conscientious objectors of late-stage capitalism, opting out of the life destroying system that is growth-based capital.

Check out our Ecosystem Mapping page for more info on this project, and please get in touch if you would like to speak with us about it, or if you know of any people it might be useful for us to get in touch with.

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