A new starting point for direct action organizing?

I recently started getting involved in the Food Not Bombs chapter here in {undisclosed city}, and I had an interesting conversation with someone in their early thirties who was there helping collect food from the farmer’s market.

He said that there has recently been an infusion of fresh energy into direct action organizing, after going dormant for roughly ten years.

The 10th anniversary of N30 was in 2009, and as the inherited lore from those days goes, the “anti-globalization movement” reached its apex in that moment.

I was barely a decade old. My only knowledge of those events comes from Rage Against The Machine videos from the election campaign in 2000 , and all the nostalgia I’ve received second and third hand since then.

For a long time, I blamed those people for giving us George Bush via Ralph Nader. I still think there’s some truth to that, but with the perspective of time I at least understand where they were coming from.

Next year will be the 10th anniversary of September 11th, 2001, which, as the story goes, was the point at which the entire North American direct action organizing/anarchist/anti-globalization scene collapsed. I believe this was at least part of the aim of the people behind the laws that went into effect right afterwards. They were sure as hell used that way- see the Green Scare for more information.

Now that we don’t have complete lunatics in charge of our country, the pressure has let up a bit, but not much. Just recently the FBI perpetrated unfounded raids against anti-war activists in which no arrests were made, or even expected. But I digress.

The psychic shock to the system we all received as Americans after September 11th was immense, and extremely difficult to recover from. I was out there with the rest of them, waving a flag like an idiot, not knowing my ass from a hole in the ground. It would be 5 years before resorting to ceremonially burning them.

My generation famously came together to elect Barack Obama and a wave of Democrats in 2008. Speaking only for myself, I was motivated by the idea that I could actually do something to affect change in a big way. For that reason, knocking on doors and making phone calls felt hugely important. And who knows, it may have been.

Since then, I have been fully disabused of the idea that outside of helping to elect the least worst option, anything of substance was accomplished.

I’ve had a lot of conversations over the last year with people about the idea that in our lifetimes, we will see large-scale social, political, and environmental upheaval, the kind of global catastrophe that a vanishingly small group of people are old enough to remember. The various responses are interesting. Some are looking forward to it, and to the idea that we can get down to brass tacks, to a true “survival of the fittest” kind of situation.

Some are hoarding land and guns in preparation. Still others are spending most of their time getting drunk and high, seeing no real future and thus no reason to exercise their mental faculties in any meaningful way, resorting to a permanent adolescence  (c.f. the North American Hipster).

Still others are tired of the representational proxy method of politics, but not of personal involvement. They’re occupying universities, starting riots in response to police brutality, getting elected to parliament in Iceland(!), and apparently, showing up for Food Not Bombs meetings in greater frequency. At least if what I hear is true.

As for myself? We’ll see.


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