So I got peeved this afternoon when after I posted to a social list I'm on a last-minute announcement about an event concerning Prisoner Support and Solidarity, at Dry River tonight, this person wrote back:
On Apr 5, 2008, at 12:32 PM, email@example.com wrote:
Wait a muinute...don't forget that tonight is the special showing of the
film "Taxi to the Dark Side" at the Loft. 7:00.
Please come and have your potluck and films another time.
The nerve of some people. How ridiculously lame! So I replied:
Night life, or activism for that matter, in Tucson isn't, or shouldn't be, IMHO, a competition, and my announcement didnt say to skip your screening at the Loft, so I quite resent that you seem to think that your event is more important than anything else and that you seem to think that it's okay to actively discourage people from doing something else. The event at Dry River has been planned for months and is at least as worthy of people's attention and attendance. A tunnel-vision, zero-sum, cuthroat jockeying for the time and interest of your fellow community members is not the way to treat other community groups that are or should be allies.
That pretty much says it all.
I've been asked for suggestions about fundraising for Denver IMC's coverage of the DNC this summer. They need twelve thousand dollars, apparently.
Not that I know anything special about fundraising. However, I actually think covering the DNC and RNC protests should be deemphasized, as should be the protests itself - the more media coverage of these things there are, the more sexy they seem and the more protesters will come to them and future iterations - But these mass mobilizations are a dead and tired and wasteful tactic, IMHO, and especially the party conventions, because, for one reason, for the last several elections the nominees are already chosen beforehand, and the conventions are just theater...
As far as funding goes, if possible the people that are still committed to the tactic should pay for it, but here's an idea: maybe there are some folks who could be persuaded to NOT come to Denver, and could send money instead that they would have spent on travel, that could fund local activist organizing and local indymedia coverage. If 24 people who would have spent $500 flying to denver just stayed home (or 50 that would have spent 250, or whatever, you get the idea), they'd not only have enough to cover the $12K, but they'd save literally tons of greenhouse gases...
Yesterday I was biking home after videotaping a yoga class for a client (and friend), and I noticed a couple dozen people, many who I knew from my neighborhood, digging holes in a vacant lot a couple blocks from my house. There was a huge hand-painted sign ready to be installed that said "Ramona-Magon Memorial Garden and Autonomous Community Park". Wow, I thought, that is so cool. You see, this vacant lot was city property, and it was about to be in the path of a huge new road project that has been a hot battle for years.
Greta and I came back a little later and grabbed some shovels to help out. I took some photos. People were putting in benches, planting native plants, digging water basins. The idea was to put something else valuable to the community there, obstructing the construction project.
My arms are still tired from chopping up caliche (the hardened desert earth that is so common around here) and shovelling dirt, but it felt good to be part of the project. This was a perfect example direct action that I would wholeheartedly embrace. Even if it gets destroyed and doesn't stop the highway, I feel like it is still effective, because planting plants and generating the kind of constructive, barnraising kind of positive feeling is a great thing for the community, even if it is only temporary.
(Note: When I first wrote the following, I was unsure if I should post it as-is; at first I thought it was too extreme and blunt. But a friend said "No, I think you should, it's how most grown-ups think." So, here it is.)
Last week there was a big protest in Florida against a natural gas facility being built that was conveniently located near the site of a big Earth First! semiannual meeting. After each of these meetings, which move around the country every time, organizers pick an environmentally-bad thing to go do a protest against when the meeting concludes - a coal mine, a factory, whatever is handy.
This time it was Palm Beach County's under-construction West County Energy Center. Ten or twelve activists locked down in a circle to prevent trucks carrying rock from getting out. Police came, riot gear, yada yada, hundreds moved aside but 27 were arrested. What did it accomplish? The construction was halted for 6 hours, traffic was blocked, and a couple local papers ran short articles.
Now we, the general, caring activist public around the world, are being asked to finance the bail bond for these brave folks.
Maybe I sound a little curmudgeonly, but frankly I think the whole action was ineffective, ill-advised, and wasteful of time and energy. It didn't have any real effect, it pissed off motorists and workers in the area, and it didn't even have much of a symbolic effect since national media didn't pick up on it. It's also just boring and old and tired, except to the couple dozen young traveller-kid adrenaline junkies that sat out there and got high from the excitement of "sticking it to the man".
And now I'm being asked to waste my money on its aftermath? On an action I never approved or even knew would happen (well, actually, of course I did, in general, because like i said, it happens every 6 months like clockwork).
Think of what else the money could have gone for.
The bond, to bail out 27 white gringos (at least from the photos they all looked pretty gabacho) from jail, was $13,500. That could feed about 22 Bolivian families for a year. Just as one example. Or another example closer to home - that's almost exactly the entire (minus in-kind donations) budget of the documentary about war tax resistance that I'm working on.
Agreed, we could debate about what is more or most effective. But that's not my point. I'm just asking you to think about it. Tactics and strategy matter, and the reasons, and aftereffects, and costs, behind their execution matter.
Another example of this kind of vain and foolish "action" is the upcoming "un-welcoming" of the RNC and DNC in Minneapolis and Denver. More useless mobilising, activists flying or bussing or driving or hoppin' freights in from all over the nation for a week, running around in the streets taunting cops, tipping over dumpsters and shouting at limos that might have delegates (and let's not even address for now that the candidates are already decided by then - the Conventions are just elaborate theater put on for show) in them, all so the kids can later retire to the convergence center each night and sing songs and smoke weed with their cool hipster activist friends and maybe get laid (direct action really gets the hormones pumping, y'know). What does it really accomplish outside of those exciting, social, "coming of age" goals for these youths?
What's effective and what's not? Should one engage in a tactic just because that's what's been done every year for years? Should one support something and bear the consequences just because someone else made a foolish decision? Should one be involved with foolish decisions just to satisfy some desperate and frustrated youthful need for adventure and catharsis?
This does seem harsh, but at this point I think it's extremely important to start honestly critiqueing tactics and strategies. Social change isn't just an empty gesture for bored suburbans youngsters to inject excitement back into their middleclass lives for a few years. A lot of people are in it for the long haul, and they're in it to win. So let's honestly and carefully figure out what works, what doesn't, and why and why not.
Some friends of mine have created a great site called Toonlet, where you can make your own cartoons really easily. here's one i just made:
Did I wake up in an alternative Universe? I see this morning in my inbox a message to 20-some indymedia lists from one Elijah Gatewood, supposedly a "contributing journalist at IMC affiliates for five years." This Mr. Gatewood is proposing that the Independent Media Center endorse Michael Bloomberg for president.
What?! How could Elijah Gatewood have any familiarity with Indymedia and somehow think it would be conceivable that we would want to endorse Bloomberg, or for that matter ANYONE for the office of President? This guy is a clueless moron, or else I have rolled over in bed through a rift in space-time and woken up in Bizarro World.
It never ceases to amaze me how many crazy wingnuts are out there....