Social Action Alien Invasion Training Tool

About a month ago I did a training which was basically an introduction to social action.  As part of this training I wrote up a scenario about alien invasion which I gave out to prompt discussion about social action strategy, tactics, and the process of organizing.  I was very happy with how this worked, and want to share the scenario.

Here it is:

After a long protracted struggle, aliens from outer space have conquered the Earth.  In ___ (insert country where this training is happening) they have not changed the basic governmental structure.  However, they have established a society where the majority of people are paid less than what is necessary to survive; although most do survive through activity in the informal economy and/or through debt (which is largely owned by aliens; who now control the financial industry).  Many humans are also imprisoned, and the legal system (both the courts and the police) tend to primarily protect alien interests.   The highest offices of authority are held almost exclusively by aliens while a lower strata of authority is maintained by humans, most of whom have come to emphatically endorse alien rule.  Elections and voting still exist, although people must always choose between very pro-alien candidates.  The aliens also do not need this planet and are willing to push the Earth’s resources to their capacity in order to produce valuable goods in the overall alien empire.  As a result, climate change and energy scarcity have intensified.  Schools and the media largely portray alien rule as normal and natural, and the majority of humans accept this perspective.  While there are pockets of rebellion, most feel powerless to change things.  Many people say “that’s just the way it is,” when discussing perceived unfairness in their world.  However many people do wish for change, and they occasionally gather for this purpose.  You are a group of people gathering for change [Note, for this sentence I actually named the group I was working with in my original write-up, but you can insert whatever group you want here].  How might you direct your energy towards a better world?

The overt purpose of this scenario was to spark a discussion on strategy, tactics, and organizing.  The scenario also had a covert purpose of sparking social analysis.  It fulfilled both purposes better than I expected; with participants enthusiastically throwing out their ideas and very quickly realizing that the scenario actually described the world we already live in.

Feel free to use the scenario if you like.  If you do, realize that people will probably ask questions about things that are not stated in the scenario.  My answers reflected my understanding of the world we currently live in (with aliens basically replacing the world’s wealthiest and most powerful people).  Also, I treated the aliens as though they had both good and bad traits and were not all of one mind, even though they all did benefit (in some way) from the exploitation of humanity as a whole.  One of the pitfalls I see in this scenario is that it can dehumanize, which I would try to avoid.  But I think overall this is a very nice tool for sparking our social action imagination while deepening our analysis.

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5 thoughts on “Social Action Alien Invasion Training Tool

  1. Michael Beer says:

    very very clever idea. reminds me a bit of the Village game that originated in Thailand and is promulgated by Karen Ridd among others in N. America. I would change one line which is the US part. This perpetuates US exceptionalism and US ethnocentrism.

    • abatcher says:

      Good point. I should have also mentioned that I gave this workshop in the United States and wanted to orient it towards the US setting. So I was asking workshop participants what they would do in this situation in the United States. If I did this in another country I would switch from naming the US to naming whatever country I was in, and I would say that the legal/government system of that particular country remained the same under alien rule. Partially I wrote the scenario this way because I was working with a group that tends to have faith in the legal/government systems and I wanted them to question whether their faith would be changed if, instead of primarily serving the human .001%, it was the same system but primarily serving aliens. Does the face of the ruler actually make a difference? And the tool did well with facilitating that sort of thinking. But I definitely don’t intend to make this tool only applicable in the United States, or to say that the US has to be our focus, and I’ll make a little edit in the script.

      • abatcher says:

        Depending on the context there might also be some other changes to the script. The basic idea is that the “alien invasion” actually reflects the conditions people currently live with.

  2. Why is this tagged “nonviolence?” The alien invasion wasn’t nonviolent, was it? I wonder how important the worship of nonviolence and its icons are to the continuation of the violent domination of this violent ruling class in this country (and every other country in the world?)

    • abatcher says:

      My response to this is complicated and will have to do with a bunch of posts that I’m planning on writing. I’ve been involved in a lot of debates over violence versus nonviolence that I think tend to be very unsatisfactory in moving forward real possibilities for change… For my own position I’ve actually moved away from calling it “nonviolence” to calling it “anti-violence” but I don’t use that tag because I haven’t introduced that term. The basic distinction is that, while nonviolence focuses on action without violence, anti-violence focuses on action designed to reduce the violence of the system (anti-violence basically means there can be multiple paths to reach the same destination, and anti-violence seeks the least violent method in order to achieve the least violent results). In effect I think this is a slight distinction.

      I have heard the line that the ruling class promotes nonviolence. I think there is a kernel of truth to this but that the powerholders actually promote violence far more than they promote nonviolence. The rulers write the history which paints them as “the good guys” who conquer “the bad guys” through the use of superior violent force, and they promote the logic that the only way to be the good guy is to continue seeking violent domination over the forces of ____ (insert enemy here). In truth I think the rhetoric of revolutionary violence that I usually hear is actually based in the logic of our rulers. It is trying to burn down the master’s house by using the master’s tools (and lets not forget that the master has superior firepower, and perhaps tactically the best way to resist is through facing the master where he is weak instead of where he is strong). That being said, I do not agree with every idea I see put under the heading of “nonviolence,” and that’s why I make the distinction between nonviolence and anti-violence.

      But the real reason I tag this as nonviolence is because I used it as part of a training that focused on nonviolent action and organizing.

      One last point that I think believers in violence and some believers in nonviolence often get confused about: nonviolence is not passivity. Many people equate nonviolence with non-action. I think this is really the result of us internalizing the ruler’s logic that equates political victory with violent domination. But there are many paths to change, and even violent movements use mostly nonviolent tactics.

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