Monday, October 10, 2011
For What It's Worth
A lot of revolutions begin with assemblies of protest or support:
Opposition to the policies or acts of an opponent, or support for certain policies, may be expressed by public assembly of a group of people at appropriate points, which are usually in some way related to the issue. These may be, for example, government offices, courts, or prisons. Or people may gather at some other place, such as around the statue of a hero or villain. Depending on the particular laws and regulations and on the general degree of political conformity, such an assemblage may be either legal or illegal (if the latter, this method becomes combined with civil disobedience).
In Berlin in 1943...about six thousand non-Jewish wives of arrested Jews assembled outside the gate of the improvised detention center near the Gestapo headquarters demanding release of their husbands. And in the entry for March 6, 1943, Goebbels wrote in his diary: "Unfortunately there have been a number of regrettable scenes at a Jewish home for the aged, where a large number of people gathered and in part even took sides with the Jews."
From there as the movement gathers steam, you can start escalating with a variety of other tactics including boycotts, withdrawing bank funds, and general strikes. We've had a combination of these nonviolent methods brought to bear against repression just over the last year or so, and despite naysayers on the Left and Right, they've made a difference. I wrote this past summer:
It seems that much of the change happens so stealthily and with little notice in spite, or because, of the "in your face" agitation that some folks complain "sets the movement back". Activists push the bounds of what's acceptable and next thing you know, attitudes have changed and the unthinkable becomes political reality. Activism is the gravity that bends the arc of history toward justice.
Similarly, as we don't generally think about gravitational forces' impact on our daily routines over the course of our lives, many people often aren't consciously aware of the benefits and successes of forces for change. For example, it's easy to take for granted the 40 hour work week and other things labor won for us all, whether we belong to a union or not.
Thus one could say the Wisconsin protests failed, as state GOP passed their anti-working class laws. But they did change the dynamic: what would've been an easy, silent stripping of rights was thrust into the sunshine, showing the entire nation what extremists are doing; a safe race for an incumbent GOP justice turned into a nailbiter against an obscure Democrat; Governor Walker's approval has tanked; the whole situation has fueled a major recall effort that could tip the balance of power in the state and could even change the national 2012 environment. None of that would be true without people bringing their passion to Madison.
I think #OccupyWallStreet is a direct evolution from what we've seen in Wisconsin and elsewhere. A truly organic, grassroots and distributed exercise of power that is growing as folks start to realize what's at stake and to see others get engaged. And I still admit to a certain level of satisfaction that the stuff I've been doing and talking about is really coming to a head.
I was hoping something like this might happen to push for universal healthcare:
- Weekly vigils in front of local Congressional and insurance offices.
- Coordinated national marches in state capitals and/or major cities.
- Weekend march in DC in conjunction with mass lobbying on the Hill.
- Boycotts (at least secondary targets like cable companies if not riskier focus on primary targets like ins cos).
- "Sick-in" strikes.
- Weekday marches in DC and around the nation, mass lobbying, and civil disobedience.
Sounds like the People have figured it out all on their own. The way it should be. Let's keep it up...
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