The Grassroots Have the Real Power: Tips on How to Go Forward from Here
By David DeHart (January 25, 2017)
It’s hard to say for sure what to do in times like these… but here are some thoughts on what I hope to do going forward. I hope these tidbits will help inspire ideas of your own!
Take every opportunity you can to contribute to resistance against the oppression and destruction that we are seeing, and encourage others to do the same! This can mean a multitude of things…
- Hit the streets and protest against deportations, police killings, defunding of social and health services, etc. Marches are usually just symbolic, but they can have an important role in changing a narrative. What if every time somebody was deported the streets were flooded with protestors? That by itself probably wouldn’t change the policies but imagine how the political landscape would shift, what the new possibilities could be, and what other actions would be inspired by so many people standing together for what they believe in.
- Or hold fundraisers for organizations that are resisting these things (resources drive for Standing Rock?) or providing important services.
- If you’re really ready to dig in…direct action gets the goods! So basically anything that takes the power into your own hands and doesn’t rely on somebody else (politicians, lawyers) to make change on your behalf. This could mean anything from locking down to pipeline equipment to going on strike to organizing people to take their money out of banks tied to DAPL to providing free food to those who need it (Food Not Bombs, woo! I can pretty much guarantee they have a group in your area).
- Also, don’t forget the importance of simply spreading the message! This could mean just speaking out to your friends and family about what is going on in the world and ask them to consider how they are situated within those happenings. Or do this on a collective scale! Organizing a group to paint a mural in a public place that humanizes people’s struggles or imagines a more egalitarian and cooperative society communicates on another level entirely! Art is powerful. Or just make some informative flyers and put them around town.
- Organize!!! Build community! You don’t want to do these things by yourself. Find like-minded people. Start or join a group, start or join a political community center. Build a community that will accompany you in resisting intolerable actions by those in power while building and imagining a better world in the process.
- On a related note, build alternative institutions. We are all very intertwined with and dependent on a global economic system and a national political system. There is something very powerful in changing the ways we go about our lives in our community so that they are not mediated by the powerful. Local food webs could be an example of this! Eating food grown by local farmers, or even better, joining a community garden and helping it to expand. What better way to build equality and cooperation in your community than helping to feed the community together, from seeds to the table? Another alternative institution people form in their communities is community alternatives to police. Rather than relying on an institution that gets its power from its ability to physically harm people or send them to a legal system that will take money and years of life from people, organizations like Cure Violence set up patrols to de-escalate violent situations in a nonviolent way. We can create embryonic institutions today to build and envision a new world while also divesting our lives from institutions tied up in violence, deprivation, and destruction.
- Solidarity is the name of the game! Educate yourself about things that involve not only yourself, but others too. Seek to understand the lives and points of view of people who aren’t like you, and let your broadening understandings guide your words and actions. “An injury to one is an injury to all”
- And another thing to do that is occasionally lost in these discussions, build yourself up! If you want to take part in change, you need to take care of yourself and grow as an individual along with your community. Take care of your own health, physical, mental, and emotional. You can’t do the work well if you aren’t well yourself. And if you are imagining and building a new world, part of that is breaking away from the parts of yourself that tie you to the constraints of society as it is. Get to know people who are different from you. Take time to do things that aren’t focused on money whenever you can. Invest time in fostering your own creativity. Or experiencing the world around you in ways you hadn’t before. Go on a new hike or something! And don’t be afraid to be different. Be more open and honest with yourself, and with others. Be who you want to be, do what you want to do. Don’t be afraid to have fun and be unique, those are some of the most beautiful parts of the human experience. Avoid patterns that restrict you from flourishing as a full individual, and work on becoming a more full person every day. When you are more genuinely yourself and more open to the world around you, not only will you be happier, you will have even more to share with those around you. Possibly the best thing for oppressors and exploiters is a populace full of people that are afraid of standing out and being unabashedly themselves. Never stop learning, experiencing, and growing
So in short, what I hope for is to be part of a politicized community of people who are committed to resisting the oppression and destruction that exists in our world while simultaneously imagining, embodying, and building a new world from the ground up, starting wherever we happen to be. /react-text
And as difficult as this is in times like these (for me included, of course), try not to despair. Too much energy into despair is paralyzing. Understand what is happening in the world and allow the feelings that accompany those things, but let these feelings fuel determination to build something better.
And don’t let the powerful (or apathetic peers either, for that matter) get you down! Businesses, politicians, etc. will keep doing what they tend to do, and they will say that they are doing the best they can and anything else is impossible. But this isn’t true. Don’t let your imagination be stamped out. The people are the ones with the true power. Collective action can shift the political landscape in ways that politicians never could. Grassroots movements are the ones capable of changing the possibilities for our world. They have before and they will again. A world beyond slavery was unimaginable for most before the abolitionist movement. FDR’s new deal could never have happened if it weren’t for a widespread labor movement organizing for better working conditions (and in many cases an end to capitalism). Don’t be fooled, the people at the grassroots have the real power, there just needs to be a collective effort. So don’t lose hope, and keep on fighting for what’s right! These are just some thoughts that have been kind of bouncing around in my head for a while. I hope they help inspire you to imagine new possibilities for our communities and our world