2011-10-16

Wonderful news, hopeful news (but would a story help?)

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by Neil Godfrey

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It’s growing. It’s on the way to becoming what I wished it would become. I had thought that the tail-ending catch-up game in New York was a symptom of the accelerating irrelevance of the U.S. But it’s catapulted into the 15th October movement or the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Not just a demonstration but the beginnings of a movement? Hoping still.

The first sign of hope with the new century was in 2001 with the World Social Forum. That spawned many regional social forums and I was involved in the Brisbane one for a few years. The momentum diminished but networks were being formed and organizational and educative ideas were being shared.

About the same time, only months apart, the International Solidarity Movement was born with the specific agenda of direct action support for the Palestinians and this had a remarkable history since — attracting two Nobel Peace Prize nominations.

2003 saw one of the most remarkable events in the history of democracy as grass-roots movements around the world coordinated to bring out millions in an effort to prevent a war from starting. It was clear to millions that leaders were lying and mainstream media was misinforming them about the threat posed by Iraq. The leaders and their communications channels were no longer able to “manufacture consent” for war as they had been so used to doing before. The powerless masses were capable of organizing globally and showing their strength by the millions. People who had never dreamt they would ever be a part of a street protest came out to be counted, seen and heard.

They failed to stop the war. But this was something totally new in history. Millions around the world coming out to attempt to stop a war before it started. It was a turning point. What the people were capable of doing and willing to do was now clear. What was needed was a catalyst, a cause to inspire with hope, a target or program that will sustain an ongoing will to change something significant.

What often sparks movements is a change in circumstances for the worse. Enter the GFC, the Global Financial Crisis. Add a little dose of being shown up by the more active and courageous peoples in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen fighting for liberties the west took for granted . . . then Greece, Spain, France. . . . — realizing they had to fight to avoid losing sight forever of realities and hopes they once had.

This is the legacy of networks and activist sharing of organizational and communication tactics and methods initiated with the World Social Forum then demonstrated and revitalized with the anti-war protests of 2003. Being an activist for social justice causes often feels like one is part of a lost cause, trying to keep a candle burning with only a few other like-minds in a world of suffocating hopelessness. But that’s what it’s always been like for the last two hundred years. It’s mostly a matter of preparing, never giving up, continuing to keep the flickering alive, until the next “right moment” comes that will fan it into an expanding flame.

If the Wall Street demonstrations really do grow into a movement it will be because clear, simple and concrete, very specific, communicable programs will rise to the top. The World Social Forum brought together dozens of grass-roots agendas. That was its strength and weakness. The 2003 event was so huge in part because of the singularity of its goal.

But another vital factor seems to be crystallizing out of the current movements. What is also needed is a new story, a new myth, to capture imaginations. A story is needed to explain the current situations or crises facing the world. (It’s not just a financial crisis. We also need to have a habitable planet. And other little issues like space-control and multiple means of mass destruction are not healthy assets, either.) The stories that served the late eighteenth, nineteenth centuries and early twentieth centuries are obsolete. They don’t work anymore. But some think they only need revitalizing and adapting. Something clear, sensible and dramatic needs to be found that can unite us in a common understanding of where we are, where we have been and the simple options before us.

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Neil Godfrey

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0 thoughts on “Wonderful news, hopeful news (but would a story help?)”

  1. Yep, it’s promising.
    And, of course, largely unreported. We were in the US a few weeks ago and there was nil coverage in their media but we saw the protests going on in San Francisco.
    I’m not too sure that I agree with the idea that we need a new story and that the old are dead.
    I think the key to this global movement is expressed by the simple idea that has become the rallying slogn in the US -“We are the 99%’.
    Its a simple and obvious declaration of a need for democracy and a cry against exploitation by the tiny selfish minority and that is a very potent driving force that could, maybe, resonate with enough people to cause change and give the 99% what they want and need.
    Cos I think what most people want and need has been overlooked, shouted down, silenced, ignored for too long.
    Anyway, fingers crossed.

      1. Pessimism? I dunno. I read that Hurricane Katrina was sent to punish the Republican president for making a few noises by way of suggesting Israel (at their earliest convenience of course) might like to withdraw from Gaza. Such extremist pro-Arab and rabidly anti-Israeli sentiments have never crossed the thoughts of the Democrat (and reportedly “first Jewish”) president. I am by no means anti-semitic, but I do kinda think that Republicans have a more humane reputation when it comes to U.S. foreign policy. Bush only tortured people before releasing them, Obama snuffs them outright.

        1. I have been deservedly chastised offline for the sickness of my little joke. It was entirely self-interested from a non-American’s perspective and without any consideration for the fate of the American 99%. We foreigners sometimes get carried away like that. :-/

          1. I’m not saying a whole lot got better under Obama, at least with respect to foreign policy. Unfortunately, things could get a whole lot worse under an administration whose members may tend to think the Book of Revelation is a blueprint for the future and who have been looking for an excuse to start a hot war with Iran for at least a decade.

            On the domestic side, if the 2010 Tea-Bagger Congress is any indication, a Republican landslide will bring lower taxes to the 1%, the end of universal healthcare (smothered in the nest) and cuts in Social Security and Medicare for the beleaguered 99%. When lower taxes and domestic spending cuts don’t bring prosperity, like any good medieval barber they’ll say it’s because the patient hasn’t been bled enough. And the cycle will continue.

            The only thing austerity policies can guarantee is the need for future austerity.

  2. Here it comes, global islamic communism. Islamist communist rebels take over Egypt, Libya, etc. and Obama funded it all. Now “occupy wallstreet” another front funded by the lunatic who wanted a civilian military force, will topple the capitalism and religious freedom in the US in the same way. Soon Obama will be hailed as the Mahdi and worshipped as a god by world of islamic communist idiots, and atheists will begin to be put to death or convert.

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