Wednesday, September 12, 2007

How to get started

There is a theme developing from comments and email I'm receiving -- many people feel powerless, failed in their earlier efforts, and unsure what, if anything, can be done, or done differently, so that real change will result. Of course the answer to that is a resounding LOTS, or I wouldn't have started this project. I announced this as a working tool, rather than a news commentary or discussion group, and that's how I'd like it to be used. It will take a few days for me to get this all together, but in the meantime, while you (I hope) circulate this blog's URL to your friends, we can all get started at the universal Square One of organizing. I will give you tip #1 right now.

Organizing First Amendment events (free assembly/free speech) does not constitute a movement. For the time being, there actually is no movement, and that's according to the literal definition of the word, as well as the organizational one. Nobody is moving, and nothing is moving. Everything is staying the same. Vigils have been on the same corner every week for five years. Once in awhile we hold a rally, or attend a forum where some well-known writer is appearing on his or her book tour. We are static, which is the opposite of movement. There are plenty of people coming up with all kinds of ideas of new things to try out, but since there is no actual Movement, only a few hundred or so people across the entire country ever respond to test out the mostly Internet-disseminated suggestions. But there could be a lot of power behind any or all of these suggestions if only anti-war people resolved to actually become a Movement. It's quite easy, and quite simple. Here's how to start.

Form a local group of like-minded people (not an online group, a real flesh-and-blood group) and meet once a week. You don't have to plan anything yet. Just decide you're going to meet once a week. You can talk about politics, but you don't always have to -- you could just go to a movie together, or a museum, or play softball. But you have to meet, once a week, same time, like the way people go to church, or a 12-step meeting, or a poker game, or the Kiwanis Club, or to a particular bar for Monday Night Football, etc., so that the process of being together as a communal unit, in a regularly scheduled manner, becomes an integral part of your lifestyle. Sort of like the John Doe Societies in the movie "Meet John Doe." You can start doing that right now. In fact, getting 20 people together to watch "Meet John Doe" ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033891/) would be a great way to get started. It's a real inspiration, and a tale as much for our time as the one in which it was made.

Then make sure you meet again the following week, same day, same time. At the second meeting you might discuss the pros and cons of, and your local ability to participate with, ideas for actions other than rallies and forums that you may have read about, and before closing the meeting, each of you agree to bring at least two new people to the next meeting, which of course will be on the same day, at the same time. By the end of the third meeting, at least three of you will have agreed to find a group of people in the town adjacent to yours who want to start their own weekly peace club, and you'll attend their introductory meeting, as well as bringing two more people to your own meeting on its regular night. Every time you're together, pass the hat and keep the money in a jar for when you need to buy a new toner cartridge, open a PO Box, or put a reservation down on a hall for an event.

In less than a year, in plenty of time to be present for the party conventions and to influence the federal campaigns, we'll have a real, powerful movement under way. Start tonight. Make a few calls, and pick a place and time. Make it happen. Send me an e-mail and tell me how it's going.

This site will be developing over the next few days. I'm just getting off the ground with this. You can communicate with me directly at commonplans@gmail.com.

Thanks,

Steve

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Affinity groups, cells, committees, whatever you call it, we do need small independent, autonomous "units" that can (eventually) form part of a larger grassroots movement.
I like your idea that this group of friends doesn't have to have an agenda.
I admit to being tired of the wrangling that takes place in progressive-left committees. The endless discussions about who we will work with for this or that event, trying to get the broadest possible coalition to agree on a laundry list of issues and then the names listed (in tiny print) on the poster.
Now, having people over for a beer and a movie sounds like a lot more fun.

RevokeCorporatePersonhood said...

Getting together, building real community, is a valid and real first step. The cyber community is limited in its usefulness and sincerity because true understanding and commitment is not totally possible. Now, the real hurdle: getting like-minds from similar geographical areas located and, ultimately, together and engaged.

Beer and a movie would be a good way to kick this thing off.

kim said...

I read your post on CD. I'm working (slowly, as befits the poor) with my brother to create a web page that can be used as an organizing point for a bottom-up 3rd party movement. The idea, inspired by what the printing press accomplished in 15th century Europe (the 1st successful revolt against the Church), is to allow communication among people all over the country so that local, possibly low-level actions, say, running for the local school board, could be seen as part of a concerted national campaign, that is, not a valiant but impotent symbolic gesture but, rather a small but vital part of a larger, effective challenge to the corporate elite. Once the web site is up, people can contact all of the disparate, already-organized groups (labor unions, environmental groups, women's groups, poverty organizations, agricultural reformers, etc) whose share common goals but work in isolation.( A fist is stronger than its individual fingers.) Once the population saw a sea of ordinary people out leafletting, knocking on doors, demonstrating at banks/gov't buildings, recruiting centers, saw banners held by volunteers on freeway overpasses everyday, saw what people CAN do, I'm confident a good number would be swept up and join in. Instead of supplicating power for incremental reforms we could seize power. People would, I think, be more motivated if they knew their efforts were being replicated all over America. Given current anemic voter turn out it would be a snap to get State senators/assemblypersons elected all over California (my state) and pass IRV, start a State bank, end the drug war... simple things really. Their benefits would be immediately obvious to the citizenry... Anyway, if you've anything to offer (web site savvy particularly) drop a line. Rudyspeaks@gmail.com