Tag Archives: Passivism

Sorry, I am not your white person

Self dispatched race relations ambassadors who want to guilt their privileged allies to de-escalate activism efforts to make space for passive centrist wankery so long as it’s led by spokepeople of color can stick their identity politics up their cap and gowns. Really. These academic arguments are socially engineered to divide the proletariat and deflect energies from converging on the racists with real power. It’s like the schoolyard bully saying, you got a problem with my violence and enforced inequity? Take it up with your friend who has the lunch money to pay me off. Systemic racism is not remedied by redistributing oppression equally. We’re already seeing cries of “white privilege” when non-black criminals are insufficiently brutalized. Targeting your fellow peons perpetuates the American misconception that progressive ideals eventually win over the power structure. If you must, scold the public at large, not your already activated comrades. Just because I have a sense of social responsibility doesn’t mean I’m going to be shamed into boosting attendance at your liberal reformist symposiums.

350.ORG disowns Paris sans-culottes, opts for boot-counting passivist shtick, figures to storm the Bastille shoeless.


HOLY CRAP, Bill McKibben sells out the activists again, agreeing not only to cancel planned protests at the Paris Climate Conference, but distancing 350.ORG and its collaborator NGOs from real demonstrators upset at the protest ban. After leading hundreds of thousands in New York City on the World’s Largest Climate March TO NOWHERE, Bill McKibben flushes the Paris demonstrations and the climate they hoped to save with them. Nothing says silence like a streetful of shoes. Antiwar activists resorted to staging shoe die-ins at every surge of the Iraq War. The result? Crickets. We used army boots to represent mounting American war casualties. As pacifism lost popular traction, the disparing passivists cobbled larger and larger “demonstrations”. Activists came to call them exercises in BOOT-COUNTING. It’s a well-trod path, and as you might expect of shoes without wearers, they march nowhere.

WORSE BUT AS USUAL, the permit-carrying protest groups at the Paris summit immediately disowned demonstrators who threw bottles or in any manner protested the government’s edict to ban public protest in the wake of the November terrorist attacks. Activists who habitually support 350.ORG leadership were thrown under the bus as “not part of our movement”. Specifically they had violated a supposed pact which self-respecting nonprofits had signed to reject anything but impotent rule-following. While the media will continue to hand Bill McKibben a microphone, it’s time for street activists to raise their pitchforks against false grassroots leadership. There wouldn’t have been an Earth First if environmental nonprofits had put resistance before staged activism. The climate message doesn’t require their nuanced strategists. The struggle certainly doesn’t benefit from participants who think they can conscript shoes to take the streets for them.

AS TO A NONVIOLENCE PACT. Organizers of the Paris protests apparently swore an oath not to let protests escalate to resistance to police repression. It’s the same malarky nonviolence advocates demand of their adherants. AS IF Gandhi and MLK won their laurels without resorting to active resistance. Demonstrations against US national conventions have been hamstrung by simlar nonviolence pacts.

HOW ABOUT activists get a jump on the upcoming election year and propose an alternate oath for wannabe protesters, an elaboration on the St Paul Principles so to speak. At the DNC and RNC we swear to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to shut it down. Whoever can’t commit to WHATEVER IT TAKES can’t call themselves comrades. They have no business filling streets only to capitulate. They are the words of Malcolm X: “whatever it takes”. Whatever does not exclude nonviolent methods but it excludes expulsions, or you’re disowned.

Get a job you dirty hippie! Unhelpful advice which activists take personally.

Occupy Wall Street composed a chant to rebut the ageless heckle hurled at protesters: GET A JOB YOU DIRTY HIPPIE! After Zuccotti Park was razed and Occupiers regrouped, they offerd this rejoinder. Remember it?
    “Got a JOB. Took a SHOWER.
    We’re still occupying, speaking truth to power!”

Of course it wasn’t true, or at least whether we did or not was as irrelevant as the original misconception. But street activists come up against misguided advice much more pernicious than the crudely insulting. Consider the constructive advice from journeymen activists who’ve been at this for a long time and know how it’s done. You know the ones, who preach nonviolence or you’ll never get anywhere, as if they have a record of success or fount of experience more illustrative than the old grindstone. False history has even robbed them of the authentic lessons to glean from Gandhi and MLK. Yet even the best-intentioned of our peers caution that movements will never take hold without blablabla. This sacred cow, for instance: community outreach.

A colleague of mine recently asked about my ideas to better reach out to the African American community vis-a-vis the protests which Occupy Denver has been spearheading to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter uprisings in Baltimore and Ferguson. At face value it’s a reasonable question as Occupy franchizes across the country have been predominantly white. At base however, the distinction is academic and the implication insulting.

In Denver, as probably in many multicultural urban centers since Ferguson, authorities have succeeded in working with community leaders to redirect street protest into the usual back channels. In Denver the spiritual leaders have kept their flocks locked in their churches. When Denver high schoolers began to stage walk-outs, school administrators put the schools on lockdown. Traditional social justice groups fell victim to academics and their identity politics diatribes. White priviledge must “make space”, in effect, step back, whether or not alternative leaders were knocking. In Denver the most significant protest entity impervious to scholatisc impotence or the wiles of religious submission was Occupy Denver. Since 2011 this ad hoc collection of protest-hardened activists could mobilize at the flick of a switch, usually through social media. By definition, Occupy refused to bind themselves to everybody else’s longstanding arrangements of detente.

Of course this persistence is not static and there are ceaseless internal pressures to conform and play for crumbs. Table scraps are sustenance after all, and all mature decisions are compromises. Adults choose lesser evils, safety nets, the bird in the hand, wisdom over altruism. Can dreamers even be sure the burning stove isn’t an adage meant to waylay us from our childish intuition about freedom? From the frying pan into the fire is more probably the forbidden roadmap to revolution.

You want to know the sage advice that burns me up the most? Comrades telling me the struggle will be a long haul. A marathon. Are you kidding me? Revolution is a sprint! We’ve got to light a fire under your ass!

In any case. Community outreach. What’s the problem? My first thought was of the criticism protesters still face everyday: “GET A JOB!” Everyone seems to have their own idea about what other activists are supposed to be doing.

On the subject of Occupy and “outreach” I offer six points:

1. Did Occupy Wall Street reach out to the community of brokers and bankers on Wall Street? It did not. Occupy was about disruption, gathering on the street and uniting activists. Community organizing was another sort of activism. Occupy was not voting, or going around trying to get out the vote, or lobbying legislators, or gathering petition signatures, or fundraising, or taking in cats, or walking in people’s shoes. All of these are perfectly constructive things, but they’re fundamental to what Occupy was not. I know it sounds mature to talk about building community and helping out and being less disruptive but those are tasks that keep conventional social justice groups too busy to occupy.

2. I am reminded of a lesson learned as occupiers coordinated their efforts. If you feel there is a task going undone, you probably should step up to do it. Others have their hands full with what they are doing. If you feel there is a deficiency and it’s important to you, fill it.

3. That said, there is an imperative not to dillute the fundamental mission. If tangential efforts drain the human resources needed for the goal that brought everyone together, then somebody is winning and it’s not Occupy.

4. Denver’s African American community already has their leaders, most of them undisposed to street activism. Occupy Denver’s community is with activists of all colors. We reach them through the message, our actions, and our unending persistance. None of these are based on color lines.

5. Occupy has many black activist allies. On the street we support them EVERY TIME regardless of whether they support us. Even if it’s “their” issue. If they are not able to rally as frequently as we can, it’s not their fault. (That is White middle class privilege.)

6. If you think the African American community is central to addressing the probem of racism, that’s a problem. It should be up to the WHITE AMERICAN COMMUNITY to shout “BLACK LIVES MATTER” the loudest of all.