This is to be the first part of a series on living in New Orleans LA, while living in the world at the same time. So many people are asking themselves how the national political picture and the never ending international crisis tableau can be understood--and more importantly--acted on as citizens of the world while somehow living joyfully at the bend of the river.
The first thing to know-I decided in 2005 to fully embrace the anarchistic (defined here as mutual aid, voluntary association, and self-organization) tradition of Proudhon, Thoreau, Murray Bookchin, Wendell Berry, Gary Snyder, Peter Berg and the Diggers by changing my viewpoint on representative democracy. After watching a destruction of another city, this time my own, and seeing the disregard from the Army Corps of Engineers and various levee boards that I had no way to influence or to hold accountable, I decided to make my full stand in direct action work only. Only. Meaning I have to take the incredulous looks from political friends (when they start talking about an election and how important it is) and I say, "I do not vote in representative elections. I do not believe this system works."
Or even from friends who kind of get it, but still think its an "idealistic" view point.
I actually think its the opposite; To abstain from supporting broken systems is a more realistic (and often difficult) first step to work for change than to support that system. And that is the key I think: it's a first step in my process (not voting) rather than the only step (voting maybe once a year) that many others see as their civic duty. To be an anarchist is to stand firmly in the arena that believes in the goodness of individual thought, the power of creative dreams that come from successful partnerships and to expect that you will daily, even hourly start to measure each person you come in contact with to see if there is a shared mutual benefit in knowing each other. My anarchism is not a "negative freedom" as in freedom from, but "freedom to..." as described by Bookchin.
To go directly at a problem, or to learn and later forward that information to others, or to take the time to create an action group that disbands once the work is done (instead of amassing power for power's sake) is heroic to me.
I know there are real issues at stake in Congress or in my own state House. I pay attention. I know that withholding my vote means someone who is contrary to my ideals is more likely to get into office, but I do not believe that my participation should be limited to the beginning of the process. And I also do not believe that a two party system or even a three party system is going to meet my needs as a political activist. Therefore, I choose to work outside of any party or large-scale organization for any length of time.
I also believe that voting is a ball of confusion. The system has been warped beyond all meaning and content. There is no up or down or left or right, just a permanent class of overseers.
I would rather focus my energies on directly influencing individuals in any and all formal offices where decisions are to be made. That influence can range from letter-writing (which I do a great deal of), joining forces with other like-minded citizens on specific issues, working to educate the professional staff of the different levels of government, and of course peaceful protests of many kinds.
Rather than rely on corrupt systems- corrupt as defined as lacking integrity I choose to fashion my own as needed.
What does that mean? Well in this series I am going to try to show some of the successes of direct action, from the ridiculous to the sublime. Systems that allow creative, free people to look at their neighborhood, city or region differently and see possibilities rather than expecting others to know how to solve these issues.
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.
As you will see, I think one of the finest ways to be inspired is to find literary connections: The Transcendentalists are certainly one way, the Beats another, 19th century Marxist thought among, others, Pre-WW 1 activists like Goldman, writers like like Bookchin and Solnit...
I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me (Emerson)
And another way is to know your history. Here's an example of one of my favorite Yippie activities that shows the ridiculous:
Detroit Yippies went to city hall and applied for a permit to blow up the General Motors building in 1970. After the permit was denied, the Yippies said that it just goes to show you can't work within the system to change the system. "This destroys my last hope for legal channels," said Detroit Yippie Jumpin' Jack Flash.
One last thought from Emerson:
Build, therefore, your own world. As fast as you conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its great proportions.
Successful direct actions from different movements...