Creative Activism

BLOG Creative Activism

broken egg shell
Today I joined the Applied Improv Network, in part to signal my move from passive writer and idea-ist and story-teller to activist. One of the things I like about Improv is that it is focused completely on the Now. It’s active and attentive. In an earlier article on Improv I defined it as “minimally structured play”:

It includes conversation, group stand-up, jazz improv, dancing, cooperative games (frisbee etc.), flirtation, play (with those who have not forgotten how), and perhaps even sex…

The competencies to do it well include: active listening, paying full attention, inventing, self-expression, reacting quickly, remembering, teaching/helping quickly, learning quickly, letting go and letting come. There is a zen-like state that you can get into if you have, and practice using, these competencies: It’s a combination of extreme alertness and extreme relaxation. That’s only a paradox to the incompetent. Arguably, it is our natural state.

In my most recent article on the subject I argued that what we must do, as individuals, and as members of communities and organizations, is to become more adaptive and improvisational, because the important challenges we will face in this century do not lend themselves to political or economic or planned solutions, and they will introduce permanent shifts, not the temporary and cyclical ones we’ve been accustomed to. We are long past the stage of controlling our own destiny — nature has come to bat, and we are about to see our ephemeral ‘victory’ over her disappear quickly and utterly. But she has never been our opponent. She is just here to clean up the mess we couldn’t clean up ourselves. We’re on her team, and it’s time we helped her get the job done.

So what do we do? How do we, as activists, creatively and humanely obstruct, disrupt, sabotage and stop these and other organizations that are killing us and ruining our world, now?:

  • the big carbon polluters: mining, mountain-top removal and burning coal, the tar sands, offshore shale, the auto and road-building industry, the oil exploration companies (especially in the arctic), the aircraft and airline industry, the military, the cement industry, the air conditioning industry
  • the nuclear industry
  • the toxic industrial agriculture industry (especially factory farm operators and other huge users of water and oil-based chemicals)
  • the building industry (making cheap crappy houses and energy-wasting shopping malls)
  • the politicians who wage unwinnable and devastating wars (including fucking Obama in Afghanistan)
  • the forest industry, especially clear-cutters, tropical and old-growth forest destroyers
  • the industrial fishing industry
  • the multinational corporations, arms dealers and other gangsters in affluent nations who mindlessly exploit and desolate struggling nations for the profit of a tiny elite
  • the politicians and other corrupt corporatists who systematically exploit and brutalize the weak, the poor, the sick, the disenfranchised and the vulnerable (manifested by our prison system, our treatment of the mentally ill and the uninsured, and a ‘justice’ system that punishes victims and rewards perpetrators)
  • the financial industry that funds all of the above, and which plays brinksmanship with our economy by incurring grotesque and unrepayable debts that will be left, along with the other toxic products of our industrial growth economy, to be dealt with my future generations
  • the mainstream media whose propaganda machine absurdly oversimplifies what it reports, and fails to report what is really important
  • the education industry which dumbs us down, beats individuality, creativity and autonomy out of us and pounds us into believing that the way we live is the only way we can live
  • the pharma and insurance industries which exploit illness and ignorance and fear and obstruct the delivery of needed health products and services to those who really need them because they aren’t profitable

We have tried the demonstrations and the petitions and the blockades and the gentle forms of sabotage, and all they accomplish is to get us killed, jailed, tasered, blacklisted, brutalized and labeled as terrorists, using their political cronies, thuggish police and security agencies, and compliant media to paint us as the criminals.

We need to organize and get more creative. We need to use technology to organize in virtual ways, networked and collaborative not orchestrated, so we cannot easily be infiltrated and rounded up. We need to use imagination and ingenuity to disrupt and dismantle the operations of the corporatist criminals in ways that don’t get caught until they’re too late, and in ways that don’t get us caught. We need to hit them from a million points at once, coordinated but independent, so they are so busy trying to deflect us and deal with our successes that they simply never get operational again. Understand, they’re massively centralized, and hence enormously vulnerable. It’s a hugely fragile system they’re maintaining at enormous cost, one which is falling apart by dint of its sheer massive and unwieldy size. If we’re smart, we can stop them. We need to find and exploit their points of weakness — they are utterly dependent on cheap reliable power, oil, water and telecommunications for example. We make make them so frustrated that they give up, take their enormous nest-eggs of money and just quit.

We have to stop fighting them on their terms, and stop grandstanding for the media, which gets us nowhere. The measures of our success will be a consistent drop in GDP and a commensurate rise in more relevant indexes of genuine well-being, and in equitable distribution of wealth. And, of course, a dramatic drop in greenhouse gas emissions.

To get this all started, we need to talk. One-on-one, in small groups, in unofficial meetups and conferences. We will need a name that says what we’re for, not what we’re against. Our product will be practical ideas and actions on how to stop the worst aspects and abuses of the industrial growth economy, relentlessly.

We must put the corporatist criminals out of business. Just as the people of some neighbourhoods have taken their neighbourhoods back from street gangs by collective action, by standing up to them, it is time for us to develop collective strategies that will take our beleaguered planet back from the corporatist criminals who are brutalizing and terrorizing us and our world.

This will be a raw movement, an improvisational one, one where we say and act on what we care about, what we feel. We’ll get terrible PR, because the corporatists run the media and have all the money, but we’ll have to put up with that, and keep working to get the job done. We have to keep asking: What kind of a world do we want, and want to leave as a legacy for future generations, and what do we have to do to achieve it? That will guide us, tell us, without need for central direction, exactly what we need to do.

This is just a seed I’m planting. It feels right. It feels like it’s time for it.

I feel I am finally ready to break free of what has been holding me back, what has had me sitting on the ledge for two years, urging myself to act but not acting. I think the breakthrough was when I realized that in order to really change, to really move, you have to let your heart be broken. You have to stop living in your head, inside those stories, thinking yourself to death, and ask yourself: What do you feel? What do you really care about? And then you let those feelings pour out: The anger. The rage. The loathing of those who keep fucking up this world. The self-loathing of realizing we’re doing nothing to stop them, that we’re actually part of the problem. The grief over the sixth great extinction, Gaia’s suffering.

I’m ready to let the world see my broken heart.

When people break, it happens by surprise.

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7 Responses to Creative Activism

  1. Dave Pollard says:

    oops, forgot the photo credit: Graphic is from the website of Synergy Communications, a UK company.

  2. Oh Dave, you are so right! The activism we see in the media is not activism at all, it is almost entirely symbolic and just reinforces the notion that there is a just a predefined set of things we are *allowed* to do (by both the authorities and the environmental mainstream) in order to create change.This is quite clearly bollocks. Change will only happen when two things come together: (1) The conditions are created, through the kinds of activities you mention, and more (see http://www.farnish.plus.com/amatterofscale/chapter16.htm#sabotaging ), to allow people to free themselves from the culture that keeps us disconnected from the real world; (2) once freed, people reconnect with the real world which, once reconnected to, they could no more continue to destroy than they could cut off their own limbs.I’m be sure to repost your article.Keith

  3. Paul says:

    Keith, the chapter you referenced is so relevant to what Dave is proposing. (By the way, very good writing.)The biggest concern I have with your ideas, and with Dave’s recent proposals, is that they are heavily weighted toward tearing down. The people I am around are more tempted by holding on, or building. What needs to become clear is: what are we building? I think if it’s just a promise of less catastrophe in the future, or even a sustainable life in the future, it will be too distant to be tempting. We have to offer something positive now.Maybe building connections to nature will work. (For example, I’m enjoying trying very small scale farming in my suburban home.) Or maybe building modes of survival that don’t require normal jobs. Or building connections among people that allow them to rely on each other–more than just the typical connections of family.

  4. Paris says:

    ^^nice point on the need for positive!Dave, tearing down industrial civilisation without eliminating at least 90% of the human population will never create conditions to live a NICE sustainable life. Sharing worlds ressources between 7 billion equally wold make people really richer, but only the “rich” would then also be poor, just as anyone else.I know that’s the most difficult part for humanist: acknowledging human population has already passed a point of no return with regard to quantity. But the elites use human beings as cattle, that’s why we are so numerous.Allowing women to have a child each (chinese policy) is TOO MANY. Real activism for future generations would equate no more than 1 child for 5 (or even 10 or 20) couples (in a whole lifetime). And education would be pooled between all these adults, and this child would get enough inherited land from his adults coparents to thrive, not merely survive.That would be a revolution : without human cattle to proived cheap, slave labor corporation would surely collapse.

  5. Paris says:

    Quick math: world population: 6,780,705,243 according to http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html world GDP: 69,490,000 ($M)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28PPP%29So if wealth was equally distributed anyone would have 10248$ to live on in a year, and that’s obviously including camping, food and clothes costs, but no car,neither house, because that’s too low for such luxuries.

  6. Roxanne says:

    Thank you, Dave, so much for saying all. of. this. I’ve read your blog before, but not in awhile, and I am so happy to see this development here. I’ll gladly repost, and thanks to Keith for directing me here!

  7. Hi Paul, thanks for the nice words. Sabotage if directed at the brainwashing, destructive machine can only be a positive thing, but you make a good point about positives and for most people (the disconnected ones) simple freedom to choose a future is not very tempting when you have a million channels and 100 different types of toilet paper to choose from. I can’t really help most people at the moment; maybe their friends can, though.We all want a solution on a plate, one that is neatly packaged and bulletproof, but there isn’t one; Industrial Civilization offers us a forward gear along a road full of wonders that ends in a clifftop with no “STOP” signs. Simply having the means to choose a different future is really all we need; my ideal is not your ideal, nor that of the person living next door to you – we’ll all have to learn to make our own choices, but at least they will be our own ones.

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