Yesterday I wrote (and thought a bunch) about what the proper way is to go about bringing change. I still have not come to a conclusion as to which is more productive- working within the system to change it for the better, tearing down the structure we have in place with more controversial (yet still nonviolent) means, or building something new, thereby collapsing what we have in place now. I don’t think I’ll ever come to a conclusion; in fact, I don’t think there is an answer- all of these strategies are valid and people acting in either way are contributing to the betterment of humanity. I guess what my question has become is ‘where is my place’ or ‘how does one find their place?’ I have not been involved in activism for too long – five or six years total and only in the past couple have I been at it full time – but most of the actions I have taken have been working within the system. I have participated in marches, rallies, fund raisers, I have handed out fliers, held signs, and written letters to my representatives. There are times – when a law that I was trying to change actually gets changed or when I have a conversation with someone and leave them with new seeds in their brain – where I have felt that this is the way to bring about the revolution, but lately I have been having my doubts. As I said earlier, there definitely need to be people with a presence at large gatherings; handing out fliers and getting into conversations with the public, but more needs to be done. Our so-called leaders have lobbyists with billions of dollars telling them what they should be doing, why would a couple hundred phone calls telling them the opposite have much of an effect? Also, like I said yesterday, this is keeping the same corrupt system in place.
I read a number of different blogs every morning and it’s usually – usually (with one of the only exceptions being Arthur Silber) – the same thing: there are some bloggers who praised Bush while he was president and now criticize everything Obama does simply because he is Obama; there are some who used to spent all their energy ripping on Bush, but now defend Obama from some of the same accusations; and there are those who criticize anyone in power, but still think that our voices can make a difference. None of these blogs offer any real solutions- the conservatives think we need to oust Obama, the liberals think we should get an even higher majority in Congress and convince Obama to stop compromising, and the more ‘radical’ bloggers think we should keep putting pressure on whomever is president or in the majority in congress. Will any of this really end the military-industrial complex? Will they open the jails and end this sick form of modern day slavery? I really don’t think so. I wish I could offer a real solution (instead of just writing a couple paragraphs of complaints every few days), but I’m still trying to figure out what it is and how to implement it.
If I had ever done any sort of illegal direct action, I would not write about it in here, but I imagine it would be fun. However, is it really reaching more people? If low-income people were getting kicked out of their homes, in order for them to be demolished and replaced with tract housing, what would make things better? Working within the system to stop this from happening could work (and has worked), but doesn’t do much about the bigger picture. By getting petitions signed, knocking on doors, showing up at city council meetings, and passing out fliers, these hundred or so people’s houses can be saved and that’s great, but did it really accomplish anything in the long run? Are these people going to not be struggling anymore? Are they going to be able to quit the job that they probably hate (and get grossly underpaid for)? Are they going to be able to stop worrying about the bills each and every month? Or, are their lives going to continue more or less the same, while whatever developer planned on building the tract housing will simply move onto a less defended community and build there? What about direction action? The above situation is actually happening down the street from me: the owner of a trailer park is trying to force the residents (some of whom have lived there for up to 40 years) out, so he can sell to a developer, who will then build affordable housing that not one person currently in the park can afford. DA does not seem to be an action, as desperate as these people are: some are too old, some are undocumented, some just don’t care enough. So, what do I do? Do I grab a couple of friends and occupy the place for them? Do I confront the owner in their names? What if they one day did decide to occupy their park, would it actually accomplish anything? Or, would they just all get arrested, making the job of the landlord that much easier? Lately, I have been gravitating toward building my own community: something that resists/ignores the crazy system we have in place. The goal being to have more and more people resisting the system, until eventually what we have no collapses. While this is sort of an option for someone like me – a young, straight, white, (formerly) middle-class, man – can the people in the situation described above really afford to do this? I don’t know any more… if I ever did.