If we start with the proposition that because of the current challenges we face as a nation, when it comes to the symptoms of an unresponsive government due to widespread influence-peddling corruption, there is a need for more and more people to engage in social justice and anti-corruption activism (which is at the heart of progressivism), how would you define what it is to "take action" when it comes to "activism?"
In today's San Francisco Chronicle there is an article about a decision by the Oakland City Council to move forward with the establishment of a surveillance center.
Oakland's City Council voted to move ahead with controversial city surveillance center during a raucous council meeting Tuesday morning that only ended when the police cleared out the chambers.The reason I bring this up is because it perfectly exemplifies a situation I've been observing and commenting on for years now. First of all, by the time this type of legislation reaches this stage, it is almost certain that it is too late for any type of pressure from activists to make any difference. Secondly, the reason this is so is because powerful moneyed interests have basically taken over the levers of governmental power one City Council and one State House at a time. Thirdly, given those two conditions, you (the concerned citizen which will be further affected and/or subjugated by the legislation) have no real voice in the process, in the final analysis.
The council voted 6-1 to approve an incremental resolution allowing the city to hire a new contractor to assemble the Domain Awareness Center, a surveillance hub that would allow police and city officials to continuously monitor video cameras, gunshot detectors and license-plate readers across the city.
I'm extremely familiar with how this works; I've had first-hand experience with it, and heard the relationship-building conversations up close and personal for years. The powerful, moneyed interest in the community have regular access to law makers throughout the year. They meet a business mixers, local chamber of commerce events, holiday parties, and multiple other occasions.
Everything seems very mundane, friendly, normal. People chat casually while holding on to a little plate of appetizers and a glass a wine, or a beer, or coffee; they do a little gossip, check on each other's families and associates, talk about community and business-related issues. A lot of business is also conducted in these meetings; you make contacts, expand your network (at business networking meetings), and it all leads to deal-making.
In this environment is where the seeds of a lot of legislation which ends up chipping away at our rights are planted. Local politicians who always need to keep an eye out for potential donors to support their campaigns are constantly interacting with money people, who are obviously too glad to oblige.
Also I'll be the first one to tell you that for each piece of legislation that chips away at our rights, there is always, always, a perfectly plausible and innocent-enough reason. It's to protect you, to keep the community safe, to give people "choices" when it comes to public education, to create jobs, etc.
Any potential downside that doesn't fit that narrative is quickly dismissed as a concern of the fringe. You know why? Because as the saying goes, "It is easy for a man not to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it."
And this is why if you put your plate of shrimps aside for a second, and pull one of the participants at these events and ask them if they knew they were participating in the spreading of fascism in this country they would probably think you are mentally unstable and would ask the host of the event to keep an eye on you. They just don't see the bigger picture on the aggregate. My take (and again, after years of interaction and observation) is that they are either not smart enough to understand the full implications of what they are doing, or don't have the incentive nor the interest to do so.
And that is why by the time "Oakland moves forward with surveillance center," the decision has been fait accompli way before the meeting. It is and it has been a done deal. A deal that was pretty much closed over shrimp cocktails, chicken wings, wine, and beer (and multiple other more formal events) throughout the year.
"Nobody in Oakland wants to be monitored 24/7," said Oakland permaculture designer Ryan Rising, 25. "I see it as a pilot program for other cities to build their own surveillance centers."The emphasis is mine
But the effort didn't seem to change many minds, even as members of the council struggled to discuss the issue over the deafening chants of protesters demanding the council delay a decision: "Table it! Table it! Table it!"
Again, the effort (to point out the dangers of the surveillance state in this case) are not going to change anybody's minds because by the time the issue goes in front of the City Council for a vote, it is pretty much a done deal. The bribes have been paid already.
And that is why I argue that many times when activists attend these charades (City Council votes) and engage in shouting and other disruptive behavior, the optics usually end up working against the cause.
Don't get me wrong; I think that when it comes to the almost unlimited arsenal of peaceful resistance tactics, shouting and disruption of business as usual play an important role, but so does strategic planning.
By now, after countless of conversations with boots-on-the-ground activists, and after having attended god-knows how many protest rallies, I'm fully aware that what I'm about to propose is not something most activists are willing to embrace (yet). But I argue that it is precisely the one last steps we need to take in order to be effective and start getting (more and better) results.
The mindset I advocate for is one of being proactive instead of reactive. As you read this, those informal meetings I mentioned above are taking place (especially now, during the holidays); ALEC and ALEC-like organizations are both, working on model legislation (designed to transfer wealth and power to the ruling elite, and to chip away at our rights) are doing their thing, nationwide in a very programmatic a systemic manner.
People who have been paying attention pretty much know what the deal is... Secretive negotiation between governments and 600+ supranational corporations on a TPP trade deal which will further erode our rights and economic security. The tearing down of the public commons via the implementation of an international Neoliberal agenda that focuses on the undermining of the public sector (i.e., democracy) in favor of private gain (i.e., profiteering), in education, housing, public works, national security, and every other sector/domain.
This is why I advocate for a type of militant social justice activism. And again, as I mentioned many times before, by militant I don't mean violent in any way. I mean focused, strategic, disciplined, adaptive, relentless, long-term.
And I mean militant in the approach when it comes to first, understanding that we (the people) are indeed under relentless attack, and thus labeling those attacking us as the enemy, and secondly, having a desire to defend ourselves and to defeat (crush) the enemy. And that's why I argue that to do so you have to be able to know yourself as well as the enemy...
If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles... if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.If we build on the narrative of the Occupy Wall Street movement, then we have to recognize that in the context of the class warfare that's being waged against the 99%, the 1% (or elements within) are the enemy.
-- Sun Tzu: The Art of War
And if so, what is it that we need to do to "know the enemy" to the fullest extent? Why are they the enemy? What are they doing against us? How are they managing to act against us? What are their strengths and their weaknesses? How do we plan our actions against the enemy once we fully understand the power dynamics, their weaknesses? And finally, once we build on that knowledge, how do we crush them (metaphorically-speaking)... By crushing them I mean "achieving democracy" by forcing the tyrannical ruling class to unclench their deadly grip on the body politic, on society, on us.
I think that is the biggest challenge when it comes to the fledgling resistance movement against the corporate state... Many within the movement have not come to terms with the fact that the system, as it is, is not legitimate; that it has been captured, and therefore that it will not only remain unresponsive to our pleads for justice and the respect for the Constitution and the rule of law, but that it will become more repressive and exploitative with each passing day.
And so, what is the role of the activist? Here's how Bill Moyers sees it:
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 emphasis is mine
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.
By now it should be clear that the oppressive conditions will continue to accelerate, necessitating a resistance movement against it. Because of it, we need the participation of as many people as possible, from as wide a range of society as possible.
But above all, I argue that we need to change the approach from reacting to events, to taking the offensive, to being proactive, to anticipating, and planning and acting accordingly.
And we can all take part. All we need to do is have an awareness of the true nature of the system (a process that requires each person to reach that understanding on their own), identify certain actions we can take against the enemy, and act accordingly.
Here are some suggestions (understanding that each person could come up with their own)... I happen to think that the most important and fundamental step we can take in order to start the journey of discovery (of the true nature of the system) is to first realize that the corporate mainstream media is basically a mind-numbing and extremely harmful propaganda apparatus of the one percent, and then act accordingly.
Here's a suggested (easy) exercise... Stop watching all corporate network news for a week, and instead watch Democracy Now! or Moyers & Company. I argue that after a while you will notice how truly harmful being exposed to corporate media propaganda really is.
You can also take small steps. For example, in my own journey, after having stopped watching corporate media outlets (including MSNBC, which I find insidiously toxic), I am now moving towards boycotting corporations in favor of small businesses (when possible). And so I decided to try to avoid patronizing Starbucks. At the beginning, when you try to change habits, it seems hard, but if you stick to it, it becomes easier and easier... Now I can say that in the last 60 days I've visited Starbucks only one time. If I can avoid it, I don't buy Coke, or patronize Target, or Walmart, or McDonalds, Burger King, or any number of corporate chains.
This is very important... I'm not suggesting that people should put themselves in further economic peril if the only place they can afford to buy thing for their families is Walmart. What I'm suggesting is that within our own situation, we try to see what steps we can take to act against the corporate state. That could mean something different for each person (please share your ideas in the comment section).
And finally, I argue that there is a need for hard-core activists to be in the front-lines in the battle against the enemy. At this level, sometimes a few hundred or a few thousand people can be extremely effective against the tyranny of the corporate state.
I see these folks as having a life-long commitment to the struggle for social justice, and having understanding and appreciation of the need to plan ahead, to strategize, to anticipate, to engage in the type of "action" that is well thought-out, strategic, and sustained (days, weeks, months, years, decades). Please see this Moyers & Company segment: Fighting the Good Fight.
What does activism means to you? I herein shared what it means to me, but the important thing is for all of us to acknowledge that because of the predations of the corporate state, we need to find our own way to stand up against it and resist, with the ultimate goal of defeating the enemy--those who are hellbent on exploiting us and subjugating us.
Media Photos: March Against Mainstream Media Facebook Page
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