Revolution: What Was Discussed At The U.S. Social Forum
Bear in mind that there were over 1,200 workshops of which I only attended about 5. (Many of the workshops were 4 hours long.) Even so, I picked up on certain themes that were common to many of the groups and individuals that I encountered -- in the workshops, in the halls and at other venues like nearby restaurants. The most common theme was that of revolution. Some people spoke with great anticipation about the revolution that promises to arise (objectively) out of the increased social awareness that people across the country are developing. Some spoke of wanting a more subjective and deliberate effort to force our national government to care for its poorest, most vulnerable constituents, as opposed to kowtowing to Wall Street. It seemed as though Gerald Celente's scientific prediction of food riots, tax rebellions and revolution in this country by 2012 were becoming a reality right before my eyes. The process was germinating in Detroit, the city hardest-hit by the economic downturn.
In several workshops that I attended, people raised concerns about possibly losing their public benefits such as food stamps and SSI if they were to get involved in non-violent direct actions and go to jail -- even for a day. Coincidentally (or by some measure of divine intervention) my June article in the People's Tribune entitled "Risky Business" spoke to that very issue. It described a direct action that others and myself are planning in DC and how that the fear of going to jail and losing public benefits has made us like Pavlov's dog. Furthermore, representatives of the People's Tribune were present at the forum with thousands of free copies of the June 2010 issue. So, I kept reloading my backpack with dozens of issues and handing them out to anyone who I heard mention this concern as well as many others whom I entered into dialogue with.
I reminded people that their fear of losing public benefits puts them at the mercy of an oppressive, ineffective government and that their "hope" of receiving these crumbs from government is what the government uses to keep them at bay. I was remiss in my failure to mention the ever-increasing cuts to social services and how that, by making these cuts, the governments of this nation are removing the last reason that people have to avoid revolution.
However, I DID remind those at the forum of how they spoke extensively of doing vacant property takeovers in which they would occupy vacant properties -- in effect taking that property. I went on to say that it is counter-intuitive to, on the one hand, take vacant property while, on the other hand, they look for a hand-out from the government. If people are going to take over vacant property, why would they not take whatever else they need too? That's counter-intuitive.
I told people that, in addition to their fear of losing public benefits as a result of going to jail, their fear of going to jail in and of itself was holding them down. As has been said for quite some time in various circles that I've been in, no positive change has ever been brought about without there being those who were willing to take risks. Being a DC resident, I see all too often how people assemble to speak truth to power, how they protest according to the rules of the government whom they oppose and how they disperse when the authorities tell them to. This does nothing to challenge the status quo. I, therefore, advised people to change their thinking -- to go from avoiding jail to making an all-out effort to over-crowd the jails. That, if literal thousands of people were going to jail during a single demonstration, that would over-crowd the jail. It would also over-work the police and send a strong message to the powers that be that we will not conduct business as usual while we are disgruntled and dissatisfied. The point was made by a friend of mine that the whole point of doing civil disobedience is to make a statement by going to jail and that, if you aren't prepared to go to jail, then you aren't prepared to do civil disobedience.
This talk of revolution and people's unwillingness to involve themselves in direct action for fear of losing public benefits, when taken together show that people are ready for change at almost any cost. However, they are not willing to give up their sustenance. After all, it is the government's failure to adequately ensure that they receive their most basic needs which is at the core of their dissatisfaction with government. It therefore stands to reason that people will continue to obey the laws -- even the unjust laws -- so long as they have enough of what they need. But when their sustenance decreases too drastically and they don't even have the bare minimum of what they need to survive, they will have lost all reason to obey the government. In essence, the government has placed itself in a most precarious predicament insomuch as it must literally purchase respect and obedience from its constituents in the form of social services. The dog of capitalism has turned on its owner.
And, speaking of money, I had an awesome experience of perfect budgeting while attending the U.S. Social Forum. With me having been sponsored for the transportation and the room, I brought $300.00 with me for food and miscellaneous items. I spent at least $50.00 helping others, bought a couple of shirts for myself, purchased drinks for myself and a couple of ladies during the party on our last night there and still had enough money to buy food for myself and a couple of ladies during the trip home. As a matter of fact, after spending $16.99 at Roy Rogers during our second and last stop at a rest area on the way home, I had only $.51 left over. My money lasted through the final meal of the trip, whereas others ran out of funds sooner. Taken together with how I received my checks at the last minute, how that my June article directly addressed people's concerns and how that there were thousands of copies of the People's Tribune on hand so that folk could read my article, I'd have to chalk this one up to divine intervention. Is God behind this revolution?????
Labels: change, Communism, direct action, hope, Kristy Greenwalt, neoliberalism, revolution, riots, social forum, socialism, social justice, social services, U.S. Social Forum, vacant property, vacant property takeover