As an agitator and activist, I love what I do, but I know when it is simply not working.
I came up with the term, cosmetic activism, over a year ago regarding a complaint I have with contemporary political culture. In Los Angeles, the best you can do is have roving performance art with a permit and call it a protest. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania the best you can you do is show up to a scheduled Town Hall meeting and be allowed 3 minutes of public input. This is all I have ever had allowable in my adult life for political mass protest.
Naomi Wolf on critial mass protest & why it's not working
In the meantime, police personnel show up in full riot gear, hyper-vigilant for violence and are often guilty of provoking it themselves to bring dissolution to any legitimate mass protest.
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I do not want to be jailed or beaten. Often during my militarized upbringing, I was not spared roughness by military police and arbitrary threat of force by U.S. soldiers stationed for duty. I learned early that the only divine hand strong enough to stop the U.S. military must be your own.
Rosa Parks & You
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The problem with movement for social justice today is that Rosa Parks does not have permission to do today what she did for civil disobedience in American history. Non-violent civil disobedience today is met withtaseringand blows by armed forces - forget that they are police. What's happening right now is that police forces are now being trained as civilian military and given license to enforce federal law over State affairs. This is why you see America breaking out in hives by the titles: Tenth Amendment Center, Campaign for Liberty, American Freedom and the Courage Campaign. There are many many others who are out of practice, maybe new to the game of public protest, but understand acutely that something is wrong. They are afraid to do nothing and to stand by while Bush continues as Obama.
I don't really have privacy anymore. Those paid to oversee also know I don't care. It's not really stopping me from creating a bridge to those who deliver on progress.
Mohandas Ghandi said of the British occupiers, challenged by India's resolve for national independence, "they are desperate when they resort to martial law." Martial paranoia includes citizen surveillance to preclude public prisoners of the state, watching for non existent wrongdoing. This practice spawns boredom, from boredom wickedness and from wickedness, violence.
Ghandi did infinitely more than he said as an example to remedy blow-for-blow retaliation. Labor protests and marches are among the most effective and least utilized forms of protest in national histories. During one of Ghandi's more famous labor rights protests in South Africa, the offending corporate tycoon sent in police wielding batons as threat of force. All the marchers followed Ghandi's instruction to simply lie down. No one was within a baton's reach. No one was hurt, except the corporation who lost productivity.
America & Real Protest
American patriots are known for hawking blood soaked, revolutionary tactics with slogans like, "It's time to water the tree of liberty." However, it is such a different story when it's no longer Hollywood props, cardboard, and makeup. After dealing with activists suffering from critical head injuries and a few who took longer to get out of jail than intended, you try to qualify protest efforts as "calculated risks" as much as possible. Responsible activists with children should, of course, do more to plan ahead if they get hurt or arrested when police send in artful provacateurs. Along the protest trail you may meet and speak to people targeted as examples for their resistance to the Federal government as gun owners; then you have to appreciate the dichotomy which accompanies our culture. Our culture honors and respects brutality and bloodlust. However, when it is returned on the heads of those doing the dealing ... Intuitively, we know the ugly and thoughtless results of this double standard.
Activists manage to sidestep violence by being wise, using common sense and avoiding situations that can escalate instantly into a violent place.
"Smart people don't need guns," softer urbane civilians say; those with degrees, living decent lives. However, American life is getting less decent by the day as the unemployment and the bills climb paired. Smart, strapped people get desperate and angry too. That is why the Obama administration and the stagnant water in Washington, which won't change itself, are fearful. It's too little, too late and for far too long to not fear the American blowback for our luckless inheritance.
The real question is, what happens when smart, desperate, angry Americans with nothing to lose aim their lives at changing the way government happens?
Real protest. Not drive-time dinner theater. Convention defying, legal bending, technologically mutating protest that is both organized and effective. It won't be your grandma's protest. My only hope is that it will be peaceful.
It's out there and it's habit forming for people with less to lose everyday.
Sheila Dean is the blog editor for BeatTheChip.org and speaks for the 5-11 Campaign, an anti-national ID advocacy campaign.
Sheila promotes American Bill of Rights retention and deliverance from the federal banking system. She also produces (more...)