The 23rd of October 2017 is a big day for movements of resistance and resilience!
Today the indigenous-led coalition Mazaska Talks kicks off their “Divest the Globe” campaign, with world-wide mass actions against the banks that fund pipeline developments and tar sands extraction. These 3 days of action are so important, not only because indigenous communities are standing up for themselves and all the inhabitants of the earth with bigger and bolder actions to protect land and water, but also because divestment really works.
Let me tell you why:
Today, when environmental disasters are commonplace (did you hear about the latest 670,000 gallon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? or the study that shows that insect populations are crashing?) and those who defend the earth and water are being attacked and killed, when actual Nazis are plotting to take over the United States and the last semblances of democracy are being dismantled by the Republican Party’s class war extremists (truly, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are more dangerous than the Chump), there is no sense in asking nicely for change, or even in asking at all. We will have a livable future only if we make it with our actions, and only if we begin right now.
Maybe you do not like the so-called “Antifa” (a label mostly constructed by the media; people who do not want Nazis in their city are usually just called “ordinary people”) – in some ways, I get it, because it is certainly not desirable to have open fighting in the streets. But when white supremacists advocating genocide are staging pubic displays of force, and when the police will not stop them because their ranks are filled with white supremacist infiltrators, immediate and decisive action to stop an impending disaster is a necessity.
And in this age of increasing monopoly and concentration of power – the Age of the 1% – our voices and our opinions and our ideas are simply not heard by elites who have maintained power since this country’s beginning by encouraging the citizenry to tear and howl at each other (“divide and conquer” is the oldest trick in the book), and who are the perpetrators of the large-scale violence and pollution that causes so much suffering to the rest of the planet. Gone are the days when rallies and marches and symbolic civil disobediences could effect change.
If those days ever existed… as we near the 50-year anniversary of May ’68 and so many other landmarks of the hippy counter-culture, it is important to recall that insurgency among the troops did more to convince the government to end the Vietnam War than flower-power protest movements.
Some elders say that these days remind them of the 60’s, but the new generation gains nothing from nostalgic glossings of the past superimposed on their lived present. Yeah, the 60’s were cool; in fact they were an illuminating, electrically-charged lightning bolt of a historic moment, and they deserve to be recalled with pride. But most of the positive changes that began during that period have been rolled back during my lifetime. Today’s world feels more like the 60’s in reverse, with a century’s gains in human rights and democracy eroding as rapidly as a hurricane-pounded coastline. What was accomplished during the 60’s that we can celebrate today?
And that begs the question: Why are we still just marching and chanting and all that tired old crap?
In case you misunderstand my point, let me state explicitly: I am not advocating violence, I am advocating the prevention of violence, the halting of violence, the saving of lives. I am advocating the self-defense of communities and land and water. I am advocating the self-defense of our collective future, which is in grave danger right now.
Let us not forget the other important anniversaries – 2018 also marks 80 years since Hitler began invading and annexing neighboring countries. And 2017 is the 40-year anniversary of the punk’s cry, “No Future.” Today the millennial generation, so often unfairly maligned by self-righteous elders, actually are faced with the existentially crippling prospect of no future. But many are rising with a fierceness, eager to face and solve the challenges presented. This is especially true of youth in the Native, Black, Brown, Queer, and Feminist movements for justice. Every day I am impressed by those who bravely refuse to accept the system that they have inherited, to resist the backsliding all around them.
This newest generation of resisters do not just march around! Shouting “NO!” in the street is never enough – the 1% have no need to listen to us, and no clever sign or eloquent speech can change that. Instead, we must act strategically to force them to listen. The only thing they care about is their profits, and with massive coordinated disruptions, we can block their sources of income and create mounting costs, compelling them to change their destructive behaviors.
This is why divestment campaigns have been effective at slowing dirty development and at escalating public awareness and engagement too, in fact one of the most effective tactics of grassroots power in the Age of the 1%. Because divestment is not asking for change, it is making change by dismantling the economic system that profits from violence and destruction. It is not complaining about the problem, it is becoming the solution.
Now is a time of crisis – a time of great danger but also a time of opportunity, of possibility. It is the right time to try to grow our movements as big and as fast as we can, and divestment campaigns are an excellent first step for many. I urge you to join a Divest the Globe action nearby, or at least to divest yourself from the offending financiers. Especially if you are new to this kind of thing, this is the perfect place to start. Our new movements are gaining momentum, fighting for deep and lasting change, and creating solutions for the future. In 50 years I hope that we can look back on this historic moment with pride.
Becoming the solution means saying “YES!” to visions that inspire us to build a new world together. On this day I am kicking off a crowd-funding campaign to get our Mutual Aid Disaster Relief Training Tour on the road. After you have checked out Mazaska Talks, help our team to do the essential base-building work that will connect grassroots direct action networks and increase skills for community resilience, collaborative power, and inspirational vision in diverse communities all over the US and beyond.
Mutual Aid Disaster Relief is in action every day, saving lives in the aftermath of disasters and also organizing, educating, and mobilizing our networks to prevent future disasters. Because in today’s world, disaster response is not only about hurricanes and earthquakes – our compassionate emergency hearts need to respond to the all-too-frequent unnatural disasters like hate rallies, for-profit prisons and criminalization of the poor, endless genocidal wars, mine waste spills and pipeline developments. Neoliberal Capitalism is a daily disaster. The history of Colonization has been a 500-year disaster. Enough already! It is time for a new model.
We are proving the power of mutual aid and inspiring hope and resiliency through our actions; we are going beyond words and signs and symbols to proactively construct collective power from the bottom up, the kind of power that is ready to respond to community needs when the government does not show up. We are building bridges between the most vulnerable and disempowered communities, working as hard and as smart as we can to facilitate countless nodes of people power, infinite overlapping communities of resistance and resilience, and strategy that maximizes the effectiveness of all of our collective actions.
Because we are learning from our elders, but caring for our youth. Looking forward & creating solutions, always.
Our Training Tour is just the beginning. We intend to spark a new kind of movement – a Movement for Mutual Aid.
To action, on the move, with compassion, in solidarity, toward the future.
P.S. If you like, you can read my other essays about the need for Mutual Aid here:
And please check out the fund-raising campaign, and please share widely! Thanks!