February 20, 2009

Yes, dear ones, whither activism? My snide remarks for the night

Each day I travel around Toronto.

I speak to people about corrupt police, the invasion of the surveillance society taking place throughout the city, the feeling of doom - and then watch as yuppies go about their myriad rounds of exercise and beer festivities.

Each day I wonder: what IS it going to "take" to get people motivated to fight back against what is increasing apparent; the fiscal crisis is about to hit HARD right here in Canucksville. The government/media DISSinfo continues. We read about the crash in Buffalo (the backyard) and forget about detainees, torture and WAR CRIMES. Many look away as the homeless sit out and beg on street corners in subzero temperatures, never stopping to ask WHY these people ended up on the street.

Yet something needs to be done, obviously.

"The "old model" of social activism hasn't proved effective,... Changing a light bulb is not an appropriate response" to the climate crisis."

People don't really know how to be effective.

Roger Fisher's: "Making Threats is Not Enough," (ch. 3 in Int'l Conflict 4 Beginners, http://www dot pon.harvard.edu/hnp/writing/books/internationalconflict.shtml) might be a place to begin.

Is an uprising necessary? Is online petitioning, phoning and the usual enough.

A definition of "uprising" would help, Fisher's good on that too. He tells how there were negotiations for arms control inspections but no definition of an inspection. Naturally they didn't get far, though each side had a quite different demand for number of inspections. They argued, but didn't know what over.

There are differences between movements of people who are actually the losers (low wage workers, oppressed groups), and movements of well meaning people who don't really have much to lose. In organizing we're taught to look for the former. They'll stick with you. So, given this, are there any such precedents for what these particular leaders are advocating?

Proactively: I hear nothing here of the key items of good organizing. The picture is of police, but they're irrelevanat to the decision making that makes any real difference. I hear of general attempts to influence, but no focus on the person who decides. I hear nothing of good preparation on that decider.

Tne definite problem is that those severely affected by what is happening are the already disenfranchised: children - who neither vote, pay taxes nor go to war. Or the "mentally ill", who are, afterall PEOPLE.

How do we "mobilize" without alienating those who we need to stand WITH US.

Get a copy of International Mediation (65 action for adjusting as you go). Write your own set of proposals as in the book Dear Israelis, Dear Arabs. All this from Roger Fisher, also much online. Get training in real organizing at NTIC, WORC, etc. and read Shel Trapp, online.

Here's my checklist, from my ZSpace blog (more there).

1. Are we targeting someone who actually makes the decision? Who is the person with the power to decide? (not public, not police)
2. Are we prepared to force them to communicate with us? (Often necessary. Civil disobedience for a purpose?)
3. Are we actually asking the person to do something specific?
4. Is it a winnable step? It doesn’t have to have a greater than 50% chance of being won, just a reasonable chance, suggests Roger Fisher in his books. (This changes if you really work those two chapters (2 & 3) in Beyond Machiavelli, and worksheets in Coping with International Conflict.)
5. Have we thoroughly prepared for this? Fisher’s book, Getting Ready to Negotiate: The Getting To Yes Workbook has a full packet of additional worksheets, including one right up front for assessing where you should start. ... (See worksheets listed at my blog.)
6. Do we know what to do after they “say no?” I find that the approach of wanting to be heard is sometimes followed by quitting after they say no. ...
7. Are we monitoring and documenting their responses and using them as teaching tools? ...
8. Are we running our own meetings with them? ...
9. Are we giving our members the chance to “be there” during negotiations? ...
10. Are we using methods that have been proven, that can win victory steps? ...

Do we need fear arrest? Do we need to back down and "chill" as is the Canadian way? Do we work alone as I do with grave risks attached?

Is it a matter of a quick blitz and then disperse?

Do we stay nonviolent, ala (sellout) Ghandi?

Do we advocate (as one voice) a TENT CITY approach, and that only or focus on only one activity such as calling for the prosecution of George W. BuZh?

Do we focus on ALL actitivites together: "climate change"; the need for a green economy; focus on the fiscal crisis; disgust at the last eight years of militarism, greed, superimperialism; poverty, homelessness, and social breakdown OR do we keep working away at each issue seperate as if stringing together the syllables of the language of dispair would make a coherant sentence in the end?

Will there be disperate groups emerging with anarchists on the extreme fringes, Nationalistic groups, feminists, peace activists and others - each doing there own thing? The SPP was a painful thing to watch - I DESPISED allying with active racists and there were many among that Ron Paul crowd "thang" - yet it produced many fine activities that caught the public eye.

Are we going for attentiong-getting activities, educating people, trying to stop the tyranny or getting together to propose solutions rather than just jawing about The Problem? How do we cut down The Weeds without destroying The Garden? Do we just go along and create more institutionalized protest?

What is happening if far, far worse than even the Vietnam War side effects, which were of course horrific. This is a Global Meltdown but I dont' see much international activism conferences occuring - YET.

All I personally know is that I miss the passion I saw in Andover desperately and that I would like to make some local change in my lifetime by seriously running for City Council to add a voice of dissent in my own locality and I am completely surprised how often I am told it's a Great Idea.

But I would like to see something more than to be undertaken than resort to the same old, same old - go to the ballot box solutions as they just don't seem to cut it, although changing things at the local level is where to start, obviously since it's harder to move things up on the Provincial, Federal or international levels. Been years since the WTO activism and it's going to prove difficult to bring back that fervor as the fear is that much heavier due to the increase in HARDENED cops and police technology.

Whither activism?

Who knows?

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