Organizing In Dark Times
Amidst the global rise of fascism, impending urgency of climate change, and a severe housing crisis in California, we are living in dark times. We’re confronted with important organizing on all fronts: immigrants being tear-gassed at the border, fires devastating our state, a rising homeless population, increased racial violence from police and white supremacist groups, all while vital services like healthcare are taking huge cuts meaning folks with disabilities and other vulnerable populations are even more marginalized. It is overwhelming.
These times call for us to not just use our usual arsenal of tactics and strategies, but to expand what we see as possible, and try new things. Here are some principles we might consider when organizing and taking action:
Our movement needs to be a joyful, culturally vibrant space. Being in the struggle should be a place where people can feel at home, feel at ease, and feel alive. Our tactics should consider art, music, dance, food, and other cultural practices that allow us to be one another authentically, from a variety of cultural backgrounds, and enjoy being together while we are organizing.
Our movement needs to be a place of healing. We all are carrying with us traumas, including the traumas of how we have lived various kinds of oppression. Rather than focus on behaviors that are problematic, we should invest in our movement spaces and time together as spaces where we can support each other in healing and growing, including through somatic and sharing our own spiritual practices.
Our movement needs to present strategies and tactics that meet the need. The rallies and marches we have relied on for generations do not promise much more than calling your congressperson. Nor does a blockade. We need to be in thoughtful practice to try new strategies and tactics that meet the need of the moment, with a clear acknowledgement we do not yet know the answer. We need to act in ways that open us to transformation of possibility, not close us off thinking that any one particular way is right.
Our actions can allow everyone to participate and everyone to take the greatest risk that they can given their station in life. Not everyone can risk arrest right now. Not everyone has the same physical capacities or demands on their time/family responsibilities. Not everyone has experience. We should design our actions so it is easy for people to show up and participate with no experience, so they are scalable to be able to include more people, and so that we can allow people to step into the greatest risk they can take at that moment, but with lots of different levels of risk accessible to people.
Our actions can be in alignment with the world we want to create. We want a world without violence, free of oppression, and full of liberation and love. Our actions should fully reflect these values and we should constantly be challenging ourselves to live them out. This doesn’t mean there is not a space for rage – sometimes people need to express rage and that should be respected. And, we also need to create spaces that are not spaces of expressing rage and are instead the kind of bold action that lives into the values of the post-revolution world. This also means continual reflection on white supremacist and patriarchal (and other oppressive) cultural norms in our movements and actions.
Our actions need to be rooted – and we need to be agents of transformation at individual, communal, and societal levels. There have been a number of revolutionary moments that have succeeded in the moment that the soldiers/police refused to fire, put down their weapons, or even turned around. There are many people who have bought into the lies of white supremacy – but could betray their whiteness. There are many people who have given up on their community because it feels impossible – but they can see possibility and move into action. We need to be deeply connected, grounded, centered in our spiritual practices, rooted in our humanity, and act as agents of transformation for everyone. The people who already are completely woke don’t make up enough people for us to win. We have to participate in the transformations needed, and our movements should support this important work.
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Claire Haas is the sister of a man with down syndrome, a musician, coach, and community organizer.