School, work, and extra curricular activities have prevented me from writing a blog for the past month or so, but I’m back now and I have some shit to say. The Democratic National Convention will be held in Denver this year, and I have been lucky enough to be a part of the protest planning. The group that I am a part of – Students for Peace and Justice – along with a dozen other local and national groups have been meeting once a week to discuss the best way to work together. Unfortunately, this has led to argument after argument and hardly anything has actually gotten accomplished. What started out as one big group has now been divided into at least three splinter groups; that, plus the infighting occurring within each individual group, makes accomplishing anything seem like a pipe dream. I am assuming that every member of every group has the same basic goal- they realize that what has happened in this country (and because of this country) is completely fucked up, what is going on now is in need of change, and unless something is done quickly the world is fucked. We all sit in that room, around a table because we know that it is up to us to make a change. The world will be watching Denver in three months and something big could happen, something leading us in a new direction, something akin to the world’s largest alarm clock jolting the world awake.
I went into my first meeting feeling like we all have to agree on tactics; nonviolence is the way to go for me, and even if it used just as a tactic for the DNC, I think that is fine. It is my belief that the only way things will change – the only way anything will come out of the DNC – will be if we use nonviolent tactics. Almost everyone representing each group agreed with that; the protests would be nonviolent. However, when it came time to define nonviolence we ran into a wall. First, there were people who considered nonviolence to mean the same thing as passivity; in other words, in order to be nonviolent one has to sit on one’s couch and do nothing. These people said that certain individuals consider crossing a police line to be violent; they even went as far as saying that some people consider cursing violent. When members of my and another group tried to explain nonviolence as the tactics used by King and Gandhi among others, we were told that trying to define nonviolence was “getting too academic.” After a few hours of arguing, it was agreed upon that the large coalition would take a nonviolent – defined as not being passive – stance. Then came argument number two; after agreeing that crossing police lines, locking ourselves to things, and most cursing was by no means violence, self-defense was brought up. If we were to cross a police line and get struck by a police officer, what would be the proper way to respond? Surprisingly, ninety percent of the people at the table felt that unless we hit back, we would be considered “cowards who would cower and run at the first sign of trouble.” This led to a heated debate about whether or not the black lunch counter protesters looked weak when they were being beat by the white patrons for not realizing they were a weaker species. A suggestion was made that we all adhere to complete nonviolence while working together, but have the freedom to act however we wish when acting with our group alone. While I can fill ten more pages about self-defense and nonviolence, I’ll leave that for another blog. The problem with this was the association; for example, Students for Peace and Justice is a nonviolent organization, and (pretty much) the only option for young people in Boulder. If group A goes out and fights the cops, they will be linked to the coalition with SfPJ and will therefore make SfPJ seem violent. Next semester, when trying to recruit more members, we will attract a different brand of people; a brand of people that would take SfPJ in what most of the current members feel is the wrong direction. In the end (after almost 10 hours worth of meetings, AKA arguments) no agreement was reached, and the members were more divided than ever. I’ll get back to why I brought this whole thing up momentarily.
Reading the news the past few weeks and also reading about all the oppression of the past century in my Nonviolence class, I have noticed a bit of a pattern. In almost every situation where there are a few people in charge and a few million being oppressed and/or struggling for change, there is an amazing amount of division among the masses. This either prevents them from overcoming the oppressors or it causes more repression once the oppressors are finally overcome; as the new rulers disagree on almost everything. Right now in Iraq, the people should be united over the fact that a foreign government is occupying their country; instead they are blowing each other up in absurd numbers. In South Africa, poor villagers – instead of joining together to make sure they make living wages and can survive in their own land or refusing to work for the white owners of most local businesses – are acting out violently against foreigners who they are blaming for stealing jobs. In Palestine, Hamas is having more of an effect against Fatah and regular citizens than they ever imagined having against the foreign occupying Israel. The Democrats in our country, instead of uniting to end a horrible eight years, are fighting about whether or not Hillary should drop out of the race. The Black Panthers of the 60’s and 70’s were a strong party who (although using sometimes violent means) were poised to make a change; what happened to them? Many of the leaders were arrested or assassinated, while the rest were introduced to drugs and big money; the Bloods and the Crypts are the result. The list goes on and on; the faces change, the names change, the land changes, but the tactics of the oppressor stay the same.
We are brainwashed to think that life is about getting a higher paying job, having a bigger car and house, or finding a more beautiful spouse than our friends and family. We think the only important people are our immediate family and ourselves and the most important thing to do is to create a good (good=full of stuff) life for them, even if it is at the expense of others. We see people who voluntarily give up all their possessions, work a job that only affords them a studio and a bicycle, or help strangers for seemingly no reason, and we label them crazy. If we remain stuck in this mentality, we are doomed. If we can break out and realize some kind of truth, realize that we are here as a part of something bigger (and I am by no means speaking of any god (with the possible exception of ourselves)) then everything changes. If we can realize that we have more of a responsibility to our fellow human beings (especially the one’s who are being effected negatively by our need to have more) than to our bank accounts, things will change quicker than we can bat an eye. I would like to say more on this as soon as I have my thoughts better formulated.
This brings me back to the first couple paragraphs; trying to build a coalition of like-minded people to make our voices be heard during this year’s Democratic National Convention. I understand that this is what the regime wants; a bunch of small opposition groups fighting it out against each other. I understand that if we all realized this (which I am quite sure we do) it should be easy for us to put aside our differences and work together for the common good. I also understand that this is not as easy as it sounds. When it was suggested that we put aside our petty differences and work together, a different member said “signing something now and then trying to work it out would be like getting married to someone with faults that we know we can’t live with and hoping that she or he changes at some point.” If we all managed to somehow put aside our seemingly petty differences and work together it would be great. We might even eventually stand a chance at winning. But what happens when we win? What happens when a coalition of 50 groups with different ideologies wins? I would like to think that maybe we all agree that we should all be free; in that case, once we won we would go our separate ways and not bother each other. I would also like to think that getting high and eating a half-gallon of chocolate chip mint ice cream will have no effect on my ever-protruding belly. More later.