Contributing despite your obstacles

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Lucky Black Cat's picture
Lucky Black Cat
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Jun 15 2018 08:12
Contributing despite your obstacles

So… I have lots of anxiety, to the point that I almost never go anywhere. I do have a few friends, but we keep in touch by phone. I see them maybe once or twice a year. The only person I hangout with IRL is my boyfriend because we live together.

But anxiety getting in the way of having a social life is not what bothers me. What bothers me is that anxiety gets in the way of being involved in organizing, class struggle, and being part of the collective effort to push us further towards libertarian-communism.

I know I’m only one person, so my ability to make a difference is limited. But I want to do my part, however small.

This desire is like a craving, an ache… it excites me, scares me, and keeps me up at night. The suffering in the world is so extreme, so horrible. And then there’s the contrast of knowing how beautiful the world could be if based on mutual aid, equality, and freedom.

I want to do my part, however small. But what if I can’t even do that? This terrifies me.

So, does anyone here relate?

Maybe for you it’s not anxiety but some other obstacle. Could be depression, alcoholism/addiction, burn-out, pessimism, lack of free time……………..

How do you cope with this? Are you able to find ways to contribute, despite your obstacles? Do you manage to push yourself enough to get out there in the world? Or do you have some other way of contributing (maybe writing, or a podcast, or making blood sacrifices to the gods of anarchy in hopes they will turn the revolutionary tides for us)?

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Jun 15 2018 10:54

I know exactly what you’re talking about. I had a couple of years where I was too ill to do anything and at that time I didn’t feel it too much coz I was concentrating on staying alive, the rest of the last five or six year though the feelings you describe have been very strong.
I’m now suffering from some mental health problems and this seems to intensify the feelings of frustration whilst simultaneously making it less likely that I’ll actually do anything.
Organiseing is not feasible in my line of work, I live in the middle of nowhere and hardly ever see any comrades. In fact, the only way I’m even a little bit active is in contributing to a book and video project about capitalism, revolution and anarchism. It’s a fucking shame that I can’t do more LBC.
On the upside, I’m going to hook up with my best friend and comrade in Canada in September if I can get my mental health stable enough, and that is helping to keep me going.

Edit: One more thing I’ll mention that I’m sure some may scorn is that it’s important to me to try to live by the principles that I hold dear. When I was a teenager I had an album by the punk band Flux of Pink Indians. It was called Strive to Survive Causing the Least Suffering Possible. It’s a maxim that I try to live by. These days that includes trying not to be an antagonist wanker on the Libcom forums!!!

There is something that you could help us progress towards revolution Lucky - answer my fucking question on the direct democracy thread!!! Otherwise I’ll start to think you don’t actually have an answer!

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Jun 15 2018 12:41

For the most part, I would broadly repeat the advice I gave on Noah's "what do we need to know" thread (are you alright with making phone calls? Emails?)
I also guess it'd be worth thinking about what you can specifically contribute - like, I think We Are All Very Anxious is a great text (sorry for no links, but am on my phone) but it's very academic in tone, so even something just repeating broadly the same argument but in more simple English would be worthwhile, and similarly I think that some of the best stuff Mark Fisher ever wrote was about capitalism and mental health, even if it's sadly not what he's best known for... Anyway, yeah, current social conditions leave us all messed up in the head one way or another, and I really think that more writings (or podcasts or videos or whatever medium works for you) on the connection between capitalism and mental health could be really worthwhile.

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Jun 15 2018 13:49

You may be interested in this RT and LBC?

https://libcom.org/library/class-struggle-mental-health-live-fight-another-day

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Jun 19 2018 20:20

Noah Fence: I'm so damn sorry that you're struggling right now. On the other hand, I'm very glad your health has improved and that you're here with us!

It's great that you found some way to contribute, even if you feel it's small. You can count the seeds in an apple, but you can't count the apples in a seed.

Thanks for the "Live to Fight Another Day" link. Seems good. Have you read it?

Noah Fence wrote:
Strive to Survive Causing the Least Suffering Possible. It’s a maxim that I try to live by.

I like this very much. Tho sometimes causing suffering is a byproduct of decreasing suffering, but that should only be done if you decrease enough suffering to justify the suffering you cause! Revolution would be an example. Traveling back in time to strangle the inventor of auto-tune at birth would be another.

Noah Fence wrote:
There is something that you could help us progress towards revolution Lucky - answer my fucking question on the direct democracy thread!!! Otherwise I’ll start to think you don’t actually have an answer!

Edit: I reread the question and realize I misremembered what it said. I will go answer soon.

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Jun 16 2018 19:28
R Totale wrote:
For the most part, I would broadly repeat the advice I gave on Noah's "what do we need to know" thread (are you alright with making phone calls? Emails?)
I also guess it'd be worth thinking about what you can specifically contribute - like, I think We Are All Very Anxious is a great text (sorry for no links, but am on my phone) but it's very academic in tone, so even something just repeating broadly the same argument but in more simple English would be worthwhile, and similarly I think that some of the best stuff Mark Fisher ever wrote was about capitalism and mental health, even if it's sadly not what he's best known for... Anyway, yeah, current social conditions leave us all messed up in the head one way or another, and I really think that more writings (or podcasts or videos or whatever medium works for you) on the connection between capitalism and mental health could be really worthwhile.

Hi R Totale, I just reread your post on that other thread and I like all your suggestions. Phone calls and emails are usually fine for me. I do participate in phone zaps and email blasts when I hear about them. I want to do more than that, but it's better than nothing!

I did write something on capitalism and mental health, and ironically, at this point I'm too anxious to put it out there! grin

sawa
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Jun 18 2018 14:44

As well as mental health problems for myself being Autistic also means I find it harder to organise. As sensory processing, face blindness and needing all the information are accessability needs that are rarely adressed. Im particuarly anxious atm as don't know if industrial action is going ahead or not.
And personally planning ahead definately helps me.
Personally I find it easier to be involved in things if they are more intergrated in my life. Like what things have most impact on you that you could potentially organise around. That could be improving mental health services/care/benefits even. But agraphobic tendancies and anxiety certainly makes tgings more difficult. And it is more than okay not to be able to do things or not able to do any organising at all. You have to look after yourself first.

Scallywag
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Jun 18 2018 15:29

I've been an anarchist for about 5 or 6 years now but I've never really been to any protests or been involved in activism, direct action or organising. The most I've managed is being at two small local scale protests about benefit sanctions with a few anarchists when I was at university, but that's all. sad

I suffer from anxiety as well and the thought of being part of protests and direct action I find to be anxiety provoking, especially since I've never liked to draw any attention to myself, but that is kind of the point of protesting to bring attention to something society isn't doing anything about by marching, chanting, shouting, holding banners or whatever. I also don't have any friends for support that I can do this with.

Also I am not really sure what constitutes good anarchist working class organising, what is worthwhile doing and what may not be. For example I think a lot of young anarchists or leftists in general make a big deal about going to protests, but I don't think protests are that effective or the main thing that anarchists do or should do, but then I am not really sure what direct action is exactly either because I've never really been involved in it myself.

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Jun 18 2018 18:34

Scallywag - as a young man I frequented many a protest and soon came to the same conclusion as you, namely, that they are not effective. I mean look at a million people marching against the second Gulf war and how successful that was.
I still went to them though and the honest truth is that I went in the hope things would kick off and I could have a ruck with the cops and do a bit of the good old smashy smashy. I gotta tell ya, being involved in the two riots that I had the good fortune to be there for was amongst the most enjoyable experiences of my life but were they really political action? Well maybe, but for me in the moment the truth is that they were more of a leisure activity.

Scallywag
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Jun 18 2018 22:35

For sure I am not against protests and I think they are still important if not very effective. They are a sign of resistance and some people may be introduced to anarchism through them. If you imagine that no one ever did protest then that wouldn't be good.

I am not against the smashy smashy either and it probably also has its place. It gives people a momentary taste of freedom, fearlessness, and it breaks from doing what we are told we can and can't do. It also sounds somewhat liberating and I won't fault people letting off steam under an oppressive system.

Me personally though I'd probably be way too scared to smashy smashy.

Going back to the op though, its not really right for me to give advice, but the advice I'd give myself is to try not to feel down about how much you feel you contribute to the class struggle. I mean just being an anarchist, learning about anarchism, learning about oppression, social injustice and doing your best to liberate your own mind from all this, teach others about it and be the most decent person you can be so you minimise oppression is got to be worth something.

Scallywag
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Jun 19 2018 00:11

Lucky Black Cat, have you seen Elisee Reclus's 'advice to my anarchist comrades' I think its quite fitting to the discussion here Anarchopac made a reading of it on their youtube channel, but I'll quote a little here:

"Study with discression and perseverance, great enthusiasm and dedication to the point of risking ones life are not the only way of serving a cause. It is easier to sacrifice ones life than to make one's whole life an education for others"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGsj87HaQo8

Anarchopac also made a video on 'mental illness, success and underachievement' which I think has quite important advice about not comparing yourself to others and defining your own measures of success rather than accepting societies views expectations of success. I know its easier said than done though.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l87FqyjLxVw

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Jun 19 2018 00:18

My post #9 was woefully inadequate in conveying what I meant to say. In many ways my attendance at protests etc and particularly the acts of violence that I sometimes committed, whether in a group situation and far more frequently as an individual(criminal damage to churches, institutional buildings and even individual businesses) were absolutely political. They were a way of venting my frustration and feelings of powerlessness and more importantly were an act of the absolute rejection of capitalist economics and culture.
I guess what I meant by ‘leisure activity’ was that I never believed that the protests themselves or any of my acts of violence were going to have any effect in changing or preventing whatever the target did or represented. In that regard, my involvement and my actions mostly sought personal gratification rather than having a practical purpose.

birdtiem
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Jun 19 2018 07:14

I was involved in trying to start a couple, very loose, projects for a while, and maybe six or seven years ago was involved in a ‘radical’ discussion group that only met consistently for a very short while. That has been the extent of my activity. I’ve had very serious depression since early, early childhood. For a lot of my life it was certainly “clinical”. At this point, I’m more inclined to see it as something social (not because of a shift in my perspective on it, but because I think the nature of the depression itself has changed).

I live a half-hour’s drive from a very “progressive” city with an extremely “gay-friendly” culture/reputation (that is, incidentally, gentrified as hell and impossibly unaffordable), yet I live in a pretty conservative, “blue collar” town where it is almost a different universe entirely. It is sort of “Trump country” here. I had my previous job for around eight years. The majority of that time (beginning a couple years in, and continuing through the time I was fired), I was in a committed same-sex relationship. There were only three coworkers who I confided in about it (although of course, more soon found out as a result), and that wasn’t until probably the last year or year and a half that I worked there. They all took it well, but I think it was very much “in spite of” their social outlook and because I had built a bit of human credibility with them in our time together. I think if I had been open about it from the start, I would have almost certainly been ostracized (although it's perhaps worth saying that I 'came out' pretty late, and I wasn't even "out" to myself when I first got the job). Maybe if I had a different sort of personality, I could have pulled it off, but I’m very introverted, and – as much as I hate this word to describe an adult woman – I’m shy. In a virtually all-female workplace, this personality trait always causes problems – it is read as being stuck up, or standoffish, or needing an attitude adjustment, etc.

Honestly, at this point, I just find the political climate really unbearably depressing, and I don’t see a lot of room for individuals or tiny groups of politico’s to will something new into existence. If I felt that it would be helpful, I would certainly be more motivated to try to build something despite my psychological hang-ups. But it seems like some deeper social rift has to happen for anything to really matter, and that in itself is very depressing, because things just seem to be getting worse in that respect all the time.

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Jun 19 2018 08:29

That thing of shy or anxious people being thought of as snooty or superior is so common and so fucked - the last thing somebody with those difficulties needs is judgement. My partner has pretty crippling social anxiety and is aware that by being quiet in a social situation often leads to such judgments and it only increases her anxiety. These days we only go out two or three times a year and she always takes MDMA in order to ease the feelings. Fortunately when we do go out it’s to dance music events so it’s kind of appropriate. I normally the only person in the place who isn’t bombed!
Anyways birdtiem, you have my sympathy.

We don’t have to organise specifically around politics to put anarchist principles and strategies to use. I’m involved in a group that helps people with addiction problems. It is strictly non hierarchical with absolute equality of all members. We also print and give away literature for free in direct opposition to the corporation that has hijacked our name and claims copyright on our literature. We can print 15.8 books for the same cost as they sell one for. Needless to say they spread lies and discredit us but we are functioning well and spreading the idea of self printing and disassociation from the money grabbing corporation and it’s authoritarian practices. In fact we’ve distributed nearly 3,000 books so far this year.
Anarchist principles can certainly be utilised in all spheres of life.

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Jun 19 2018 08:52

Omg, Sawa, I also have a bit of "face blindness" or prosopagnosia. It's mild but bad enough. For my last semester of high school I was in a very small school with about 100 students and for most of that time thought three girls were all the same girl. When I finally realized they were different people, it's like I all of a sudden noticed how different they looked: two tall and one short, two with brown eyes one with blue eyes, and very distinct facial features. Like, wtf? It's very embarrassing but hilarious, too.

Cheers to you getting involved once in a while despite the barriers you face.

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Jun 19 2018 08:53

Hi Scallywag. Well, I thank you and Elisée Reclus for the inspiring words. But I pity the fool who looks at my life for education! (☉_☉) They generally give some good advice, tho.

As for the Anarchopac video, I don't really relate to it. The issue for me isn't that my lack of action induces self-loathing. It's more so the pain of seeing a loved one suffering and not being able to stop it. (In this case the loved one is all the suckers we share this miserable planet with.) I don't blame myself for my short comings so much as feel incredibly frustrated by them, and sad that I can't help as much as I want to.

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Jun 19 2018 08:57

There have been lots of threads on depression, but a few stand out, this one lead to this idea which lead to this final result..

You can do a lot of things without leaving the house. I would advise putting your health first, but achieving something might help anyway.

You can post articles to the library,search for archive and you will find threads giving ideas for archives that can be duplicated on libcom (formatting guide), you can correct OCR'd texts as well. If you can speak another language you can translate news and articles.

If there is a local group then you can just help them leaflet for an hour. That's how I started out. It's not easy to get people to do leafleting.

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Jun 19 2018 08:58
birdtiem wrote:
I’m very introverted, and – as much as I hate this word to describe an adult woman – I’m shy. In a virtually all-female workplace, this personality trait always causes problems – it is read as being stuck up, or standoffish, or needing an attitude adjustment, etc.

I relate to this. I try to compensate by forcing myself to be talkative, for fear of being perceived as unfriendly, but then I usually come across as an idiot because I just talk a lot of shit.

Quote:
Honestly, at this point, I just find the political climate really unbearably depressing,

Yeah, me too... sad

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Jun 19 2018 08:59

Those are some good ideas, Jef.

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Jun 19 2018 12:17
birdtiem wrote:
I live a half-hour’s drive from a very “progressive” city with an extremely “gay-friendly” culture/reputation (that is, incidentally, gentrified as hell and impossibly unaffordable), yet I live in a pretty conservative, “blue collar” town where it is almost a different universe entirely. It is sort of “Trump country” here.

Just to say that I think the big city/small town divide is really important and something that's probably under-discussed - not that I really have anything insightful to say on the subject, just respect to everyone plugging away doing stuff in small towns without the benefit of the support system that big "progressive" cities can provide.

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Jun 19 2018 20:20
R Totale wrote:
Just to say that I think the big city/small town divide is really important and something that's probably under-discussed - not that I really have anything insightful to say on the subject, just respect to everyone plugging away doing stuff in small towns without the benefit of the support system that big "progressive" cities can provide.

100%

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Jun 25 2018 00:09

Hiya, I have very big issues with anxiety, I have managed to take part in things over the years but I'm always very nervous and I hate starting things alone. I get the wanting to help being something like a drive and the feelings of uselessness that can develop from not being able to do so.

About six or seven years ago I was unemployed, living in a small village and estranged from my friends and family. I soon developed depression. A large part of this was my feelings of hopelessness and inability to contribute. Around the same time I had been given a e-reader pad as a gift. And since I didn't want to stay inside all day and had to go job hunting I learnt how to turn online text into PDFs which I could transfer to my pad and read, so I started doing that on sites like Libcom.

I figure since I had made them why not share them since presumably other people might be in similar situations, so I did. And the response I got was very positive, so I kept at it, I was reading more, learning and helping out in a small way. I also did some other things like uploading podcasts about activist groups and strikes to my youtube channel and other public domain documentaries and films.

I also got back into writing via a blog and the little feedback I got was very positive, so I started feeling a little better, and bit by bit I could back on track.

About a month a go I discovered this video on Osugi Sakae and little acts of resistance https://youtu.be/6PCRDgamZSw and I think that's how I see things. Since then I've managed to use what I've learned and have even been able to do some things in the real world in a limited capacity, such as workplace grievances, help some friends organise a massive foodbank drive last winter, and get our hours of work reduced from 72 hours to 48.

I would also add that while online activity isn't a replacement for physical work, I do know of several projects that are looking for volunteers that you can join and go at your own pace if you have regular access to a computer and the internet.

Like Audible Anarchist, and the Legible Leftist groups.

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Jun 25 2018 02:48

Hey Reddebrek, that’s a really lovely story. Thanks for posting it.

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Jun 25 2018 19:47

Thanks Reddebrek. It's great to have some more ideas for ways to contribute. smile I hope others who may be lurking on this thread, who for whatever reason aren't currently able to get involved in organizing, will find these ideas useful as well.

It lifts my spirits to hear about people pushing past their obstacles and getting things done, and "small acts of resistance" is a good way to look at it.

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Jun 25 2018 21:07
Reddebrek wrote:
I also got back into writing via a blog and the little feedback I got was very positive, so I started feeling a little better, and bit by bit I could back on track.

Is your blog on libcom?

I've been doing writing for years, and spend a lot of time on it... but haven't shared it. I keep thinking it's not good enough yet. I do intend to share it one day, but honestly, am pretty fucking scared about putting my stuff out there.

(◎ロ◎;)

( ⁰д⁰)

I tell myself that this can be a contribution of some sort, but of course I have to put it out there first! LOL. Also, there's no substitute for in person organizing. I hope to take part in that one day.

Tom Henry
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Jun 26 2018 06:25

I think that people should always take a leap (see also the Vlad the Inhaler thread on joining groups). Live a little. Get physically amongst it, both at work and 'on the streets' - and in meeting rooms. You don't have to be 'active' (or young!) forever but perhaps you need these experiences in order to help develop your thoughts and what you finally decide is important. Generally, it is after experience that people are able to write insightfully about the world - but like the travellers who never manage to have their minds broadened by travel, this is not always the case. So, one should have experiences. Life should be about developing ones ideas and recognising this development. To have the same ideas and approach to life over the course of, say, thirty years, is probably a sign that one has not reflected on oneself, and what is around one, nearly enough.

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Jun 26 2018 19:41

Hi Tom Henry. Well that all sounds like things I'd like to do! smile
Anxiety can be a big obstacle, though. I know everyone experiences anxiety, but for some in can be extreme and really get in the way of things. Just like there is a difference between normal sadness and depression.

I do have past experience being involved in things. I used to be quite active -- I frequently went to protests and leftist events. That stopped as I developed anxiety.

Since then, I became a libertarian-communist and my ideas about what activity is most useful has shifted, too.

I still see the value in protests and things like that, but more important is to have sustained organizing activity in workplaces and communities. I believe this is the most effective way to fight class-struggle today, and to build what has the potential to eventually grow into a revolution.

There are days when my anxiety is at a lower ebb. And so I do, on rare occasion, still go out to do strike support, or to a protest, etc. But hardly ever. And to really organize, you need sustained and consistent involvement. This is what I want to do, but at this point in my life I'm not able.

For now, I will do other things.

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Jun 26 2018 19:40

Found your blog, Reddebrek (link for others https://libcom.org/blog/reddebrek )

...and read your article "Words can cut deep: speech and violence." It's exactly what I've been looking for! I've been in an email debate about this with a friend and have been trying to make the point you make in this article, but I've been clumsy at it. Now I can just send this link along, where you do a much more convincing job.

┈┈┈┈┈┈▕▔╲
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┈┈┈┈┈┈┈▏▕▂▂▂
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▉▉▉▉▉┈┈┈▕▂▂▂▏
▔▔▔▔▔▔╲▂▕▂▂▂I

(That's a thumbs up, btw, not the top of a guitar! tongue )

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Jun 28 2018 00:23

Thank you cat (great avatar, I may have to steal it). I also use Blogger http://reddebreksbowl.blogspot.com/ I guess nowadays most people use wordpress and Medium but its largely the same.

Quote:
I've been doing writing for years, and spend a lot of time on it... but haven't shared it. I keep thinking it's not good enough yet. I do intend to share it one day, but honestly, am pretty fucking scared about putting my stuff out there.
(◎ロ◎;)
( ⁰д⁰)

I use blogger as a sounding board mostly, its public but my audience is pretty small. On the plus side its practise for getting stuff out there and learning to deal with feedback. I also use as a dry run for anything I want to put on sites like Libcom because the audience there is much bigger. That way if there's some serious issues I can correct them before to many people see it,

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Jul 2 2018 16:54

Been meaning to contribute to this thread for a while but haven't been able to because I'm generally so busy, which, unsurprisingly, is also one of the major problems we have with running the site!

To that end, I thought I'd suggest a few ways that people who find it difficult to be active locally (for whatever reason) could help with libcom (if you're into that sort of thing):

  • Post articles to our Facebook page: seriously, we're struggling so much right now to maintain a consistent presence on Facebook that it would be great if anyone could volunteer to post new articles there. It's such an important aspect of our promotion but we're failing spectacularly at it! Volunteers welcome!
  • Write news! We put a call-out a while back for this and got quite a lot of feedback but some has tapered off a little recently. So again, any help on this would be great. If you need help writing stuff then we've got an internal discussion set up especially to support people writing stuff before it goes public.
  • Write something else! People have suggested wanting to write things and they mostly sound great and interesting. If you've got an interest in something (sport, music, computer games, history, whatever) but are a bit daunted by the writing process then, as with news, we can help out
  • Add things to the library: there’s already the (frankly never-ending) library archive to-do list for things we’d like to add to the library. If you’re not sure where to start though then just ask and we can give you some pointers
  • Turning articles into ebooks: Reddebrek for a while was turning loads of stuff into PDFs, which was really cool. But as ebook readers are getting increasingly common, I think it would be great if someone could have a go at making mobi and epub files of texts they/we think are important. I don’t know exactly how to go about this but people tell me it should be pretty straightforward (it’s something I’d love to take on myself if I had more time); if anyone fancied giving it a go but wasn’t sure how to do it we could always start a thread

So, there’s my (probably incomplete) list of how people could contribute here. It would obviously be massively appreciated if people could give it a go as we’re stretched so thin it’s ridiculous; by way of an example, I started writing this post almost a week ago but have only gotten around to finishing/posting now! smile

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Jul 3 2018 00:27

Thanks so much for that list, Ed.

Quote:
Post articles to our Facebook page: seriously, we're struggling so much right now to maintain a consistent presence on Facebook that it would be great if anyone could volunteer to post new articles there. It's such an important aspect of our promotion but we're failing spectacularly at it! Volunteers welcome!

Questions:
1. Does any member have permission to post articles, or do they have to be a mod?
2. Does it have to be an article from libcom, or can it be from another website?
3. Is memeing ok or you trying to keep a more serious vibe?