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The Joys of Art

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Well written article

I Felt More and More that I was Living in a Time of Great Potential Change
Excerpts of a letter from a youth in Texas after hearing Sunsara Taylor speak.


Please write your comments and views on this thought provoking letter by clicking here. If you are not on Myspace-please send comments to youth_students@worldcantwait.org

I felt more and more that I was living in a time of great potential change. Seeing the immigration protests, and hearing about youth victories in France, inspired me in particular, I do believe that, despite the general defeated atmosphere this country is mired in, and despite all the impoverished and despairing developments in the world, that there is also such raw potential at this time for something absolutely unprecedented to occur. And I want to be a part of it.

I think that one of the greatest challenges facing this movement, and something that is so crucial to its development and maturation into a force that can really have an impact, is whether or not we can inspire and motivate individuals and communities for whom politics is an abstraction, something that is witnessed, on the television and in the newspapers, but never actually experienced or lived out in our day to day lives.

We have grown used to being the spectators. I'd say we are taught to be spectators in almost every aspect of our lives. And it is easy to be a spectator for a lot of these people, because the majority of them are relatively privileged, and therefore not readily equipped to associate the events occurring in their world with their everyday lives, or they are people whose energies have been focused, as pointed out by a man in our discussion, on just day to day survival, on getting by in a world that is increasingly competitive, and in a way that inherently alienates the individual from themselves, the choices they make and the consequences that follow, and from each other and an overall reaching sense of community.

Somehow it has to be brought home to them that this is their world we're talking about, and that no amount of silence or patience will keep away the future that is steadily approaching them. Somehow an atmosphere has to be created that brings home the immediacy and the urgency of the situation, an atmosphere in which the old diffusing safety valves no longer can keep them from taking charge of the situation and empowering themselves and each other to act.

But there's another side to it.

Everywhere I go, I hear the issues being brought up and discussed. I'm often surrounded by young people, and I'm shocked at how often the conversation turns to the Bush administration. There's a common language developing among the youth in this country. And even with the more conservative of youth, I hear a common tone between them and their more progressive-minded peers when it comes to the government in general, and to authority in general, actually. Whether they're bitching about the police cracking down on pot or the economy or corporate control or the army committing atrocities overseas, there's a common tone, and it's one of disgust and defiance.

But here's the thing: even when there does seem to be an atmosphere of outrage, there is always a reluctance on their part to actually do something. And I think that, while consumerism and a culture of passive spectacle-watching are a big part of it, a great part of it has to do with the nature of political movements in general over the years.

I think there has developed a strong lack of spontaneity, of immediacy, of even joyful activity in political movements over the past few decades. I know what a lot of people think of when they hear the word "protest." They think of a bunch of people gathering signs and marching from point A to point B, with the permission and under the careful guidance of some authority, usually the local police force, at which point they are all subjected to speech after speech, filled with the same fiery rhetoric they've heard a thousand times over, before being told to disperse peacefully once more. Are they any more empowered, after these rallies, to take that collective energy and spirit and apply it to their day to day lives?

I certainly am for mass demonstrations. Any movement with the stated intention of World Can't Wait is going to need, obviously, the participation of millions of individuals from all walks of life, and often in nationally co-ordinated actions that will really lend to the atmosphere we need. But I think that the old forms of demonstrations have grown meaningless for a lot of people, and the general activist spirit has stagnated significantly.

But I think that if we round up a bunch of people and ask them all to be spectators once more, this time watching a bunch of organizers and endorsing intellectuals speak at their rallies, then they will never be evoked or empowered or equipped to bring about substantial societal change. And the taking on of not just a president and his administration, but of their entire program, is a huge shift. You're asking people to do something that is truly terrifying, and something the majority of them have probably never imagined themselves capable of doing.

I really think that new possibilities for what a movement of people could look like have to be considered. I think that if all the energy of the organization is focused on intermittent mass demonstrations then it just won't draw as many people out of their doorsteps as is needed. Or, worse, it may draw people out in mass numbers we could never have imagined, only to have those people find themselves participating in the same politics they've seen before.

If we're really talking about creating this intended environment, I really think that we have to push ourselves to continually exploring new tactics, new ways in which people can contribute, both collectively and as individuals. How many artists and musicians are out there, for example, with amazing resources and local connections who could really give something of value? Are there, alongside solemn or defiant demonstrations, street parties that could be had? Not just acts against this administration, but acts for our communities, acts that create community in a deep and long-lasting yet immediately felt way? What could we do that called for, not just the creativity and organizing skills of a few individuals, but for what everyone has to contribute? Librarians, grandmothers, prisoners, nurses, students, businessmen and women, the homeless?
It's a borrowed phrase, but what could we do to make resistance irresistible?

The actions and demonstrations that so impacted this country during the 60s and 70s were varied and diverse. Some were legal, others were not. Some were planned and organized. Others were more spontaneous and unregulated. There seemed to be room for rage and joy, solemnity and laughter. The whole breadth of human experience and expression

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