FLOTSAM & JETSAM: What the hell do we do now?

Monday, January 14, 2013

What the hell do we do now?

Think of Obama as a mirror. He is not an independent being; he is a reflection. Right now he reflects Wall Street, big lobbies and police staters. When the forces of democracy and decency become strong enough, this reflection will change and so will Obama.

Change Washington from the outside. Washington is more incompetent, corrupt and dysfunctional than it has ever been and you can't rely on Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to fix it. The way to get Washington to pay attention is to do things it can't ignore. Nearly all important change comes from the bottom up, which is why gay marriage and marijuana made progress last year while practically nothing else did. Remember also that we wouldn't have an environmental or civil rights movement if people had waited for Washington to act.

Work on single issues. Again, the gay marriage and pot campaigns provide a model. Single issues are easier to organize around, raise money for, and they appeal to a more varied constituency. Don't worry about what your allies think about other matters. Even gun owners and abortion haters smoke pot. Furthermore, working together on one issue can bring people together who might otherwise never talk.

If you're under 30, do something. History strongly suggests that change is dependent upon the young. Sure, older activists can help, but the energy, enthusiasm, imagination and noise has to come from the young. If you give up in your 20s you've given up for life.

Get a symbol. We haven't had a good activist marker since the peace symbol. You'll know change is on its way when we start sharing a visible sign of it.

Write and sing songs - Few things bring people together easier than a song they can all sing.

Go after the big guys; be nice to the little folk This is understood by the big guys which is why they have so much fun setting one group of little folk against another. It's in part what southern segregation was about: big white guys teaching poor white folk to hate poor black folk. It's happening now as liberals are encouraged to hate church goers and gun owners. Go after the Pat Robertsons and the NRA but stop dissin' their supporters. Convert them, don't condemn them.

Decentralize Don't rely on Washington based action groups lacking a decentralized operation. From the civil rights movement to the ACLU, the best national action groups are the ones with the strongest local chapters.

Use boycotts. They're perhaps the most neglected tool of activism and especially handy in a time when folks are so busy. They may not have time for your rally, but they can stop buying Koch Brothers toilet paper. Emphasize boycotts where the alternative is easily available. If you boycott Coke or Pepsi, for example, the other choice is on the same shelf.

Local lettuces, local democracy, local action - Those at the top of the system are stuck there. The local remains remarkable free. This was true in Orwell's 1984 and it's true in our time as well. Seize the local and define your own state or town as America while Washington and Wall Street are occupied territories.

Declare and define a counterculture. The first step in creating an alternative is to create it. Right now there is little sense of what an alternative to the establishment would look and feel like.

List your goals: No one really knows what the left wants. If the left doesn't make it clear, the media and the public will come up with their own wrong answers.

Bring back the cool preachers: Back in the 1960s the church was a key part of the social and political movement. Today, religion is largely thought of as a rightwing activity. It doesn't have to be. It's time to seize it back.

Come together: Whatever your cause, spare some time to gather with those of other causes, share stories, and find out what you have in common and can do together. As you do, everybody's cause will grow.