I spent some time this evening interacting with Catherine Valenzuela, an activist in Portland, Oregon. We connected about a week or so ago after she read my diary "An Open Letter to The Occupy Wall Street Movement: You Were Right All Along." In that diary I made the argument that an important element for the fast-spreading movement against the corporate state is sustainability, and to illustrate the point I suggested a 100 week plan based on these concepts/principles:
To achieve the goal of winning over and involving the citizenry, social movements need to reframe by exposing and proving to the public that the powerholder's actual policies and programs violate the social myths. The best way to inspire the public to be actively involved in creating social change is to show continuously, over time, the gap between the powerholder's actual policies and programs and the culture's values and beliefs. Highlighting this gap is the most critical consciousness raising work and lies at the center of social movement strategy.And on the findings by university professor and researcher Dr. Erica Chenoweth:
Social movements involve a long-term struggle between the movement and the powerholders for the hearts, minds, and support of the majority of the population. Before social movements begin, most people are either unaware that a problem exists or don't believe that they can do anything about it. They believe the powerholder's societal myths and support the high-sounding official policies and practices, all of which seem to be consistent with the culture's deeply held held values and beliefs...
The strategy of social movements, therefore, is to alert, educate, and win over an ever increasing majority of the public. First the public needs to be convinced that a critical social problem exists. Then it must be convinced that policies need to be changed. And then a majority of people must be mobilized into a force that eventually brings about an acceptable solution.
-- "Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements" by the late Bill Moyer
[The emphasis is mine]
She finds (through her research) that when an average 3.5 percent of any given population engages in non-violent (civil) resistance on a sustained basis, "no single campaign failed." She also finds that "every single campaign that surpassed that 3.5 percent was a non-violent one." She goes on to say that "In fact, the non-violent campaigns were on average four times larger than the average violent campaign, and they were often much more inclusive and representative in terms of gender, age, race, political party, class, and the urban role distinction. Civil resistance allows people of all different levels of physical ability to participate. This could include the elderly, people with disabilities, women, children, and anyone else who wants to. If you think about it, everyone is born with a natural physical ability to resist non-violently..."
Anyways, during our interaction (mainly on Facebook), she mentioned that when she talks to people about the 100 week campaign, many activist-minded folks like the idea but they also have many follow up questions. She told me about a 70 year-old small business owner in Portland who said, "Okay, I like the idea; I'll get involved once you get it going." Talk about The Rebel's Dilemma! And speaking of, here's more:
Indeed, Mark Lichbach, a professor of government and politics, has written in The Rebel’s Dilemma, that when more than 5 percent of the population engages in sustained, coordinated civil disobedience, few governments can remain in power whether they are a dictatorship or a democracy. The path to reaching this 5 percent begins when people who are already active in resistance build solidarity and draw more people to the movement. As more people see the movement growing and that there is a strategy to win, they will have the confidence to join it. Achieving the 5 percent tipping point with a diverse cross-section of society then becomes well within reach.Anyways, all the questions Catherine is getting from people interested in participating in the campaign are of course good questions. I promised her I'll work on doing my very best to come up with very detailed answers... But perhaps you can help me as well.
The problem? The levers of governmental power have been captured by business cartels (by and large). This situation has had a very negative effect on what is left of our democracy, which if left unchallenged it will lead to fascism (the marriage between corporations and state).
So I look at the situation from a project point of view. What is it that we need to do in order to remedy this situation? What are the challenges we face? What type of mechanisms or organs of control does the corporate state has, which makes it capable to manipulate, subjugate and exploit the population and the environment? And finally, when it comes to the social justice movement, what are the strengths and weaknesses? How can it garner the strength it will need to defeat the corporate state in favor of democracy?
What I'm proposing is for groups of activists and organizations to meet on a weekly basis for the next 100 weeks (starting on January 27th, 2014) in order to share ideas, compare notes, and engender unity and solidarity with the goal of removing the illegitimate power of corporate cartels over our democracy.
I'll be reaching out to non-profits and activists in the San Francisco Bay Area and will invite them to meet every Monday in the Financial District. Ideally, different affinity groups will establish contacts with each other and find common ground for direct action. It could be people focusing on the homeless issue, on housing affordability, on workers' rights, on LGBTQ rights, and others.
Catherine will be doing the same in Portland. We actually set up two events already: 100 Weeks of Revolt - San Francisco; 100 Weeks of Revolt - Portland. I'm also going to be reaching out to people in my email list and see if I can find other volunteers. So far I have 425 people who have signed up from all over the country (check out this map).
Here's a question for you: Before you would consider getting involved in a campaign like this (inclusive, non-violent, sustained), what questions would you like answered?
Also, if anybody has suggestions they would like to share, I would greatly appreciate it.
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Sockpuppets & Trolls Watch: Their aim is to disrupt, to annoy, to introduce "noise" in order to prevent meaningful discussions of issues. Their tactics include casting aspersions (attack on the reputation or integrity), and ad hominems, where instead of addressing issues, they attack the character of people. They also engage in mockery, and logical fallacies. A good source of information about the tactics used by sockpuppets, trolls and hacks is "The 15 Rules of Web Disruption." Once you familiarize yourself with those tactics, it is pretty easy to spot the potential troll. Once spotted, the best thing is to ignore them. [Image credit: Jacob Bøtter from Copenhagen, Denmark]