this is a problem
I’m back to traveling again, this time in NYC, sleeping on VentriloquismNYC’s couch for a month. Ive been continuing my break from being connected to any specific activist or organizing project to do some low profile agitating, networking, and surveying. From this I have culled several mullings, meditations, and observances.
1. I am sick of going to info sessions about the war.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a book tour by several authors published by Haymarket Books. Each had written about some aspect of the Iraq War, Jeremy Scahill’s Blackwater expose being the most notorious. I had a couple of minor frustrations with the event which culminate in a reformulation of the way these things run.
The whole thing was a fundraiser for Haymarket Books aimed at getting sustainers that would front the capital for the next round of publishing. Actually a fairly legit way of doing things, raising money from the grassroots. Unfortunately this led to the first statement that put a bad taste in my mouth. The Emcee of the event told us in typical fashion that the way we could help the anti-war movement most was by donating to Haymarket Books. This was evident in another element in the structure of the evening, question and answer was cut short to get to a book signing, hawked from the very beginning of the evening (“get your books now for the signing later!”).
Because of this, the existing Q+A session was lumped into getting 4 or 5 questions from the audience and letting each author address them in a two minute closing statement, precluding any real give and take between spectators and lecturers let alone between audience members.
There was the prototypical laundry list of organizational plugs and backslapping throughout the event. Not something that I object outright to but this is important to the reconceptualization I wish to propose.
Through the event I could feel myself becoming more frustrated and angry (feelings more prevalent these days) and ended up stirring the pot a little bit by asking a question about the efficacy of PMR style civil disobedience.
I want to avoid an education vs action dichotomy, the action faction v praxis axis shit that pops up time and again. Education and the production of knowledge is important in any movement. Keeping this in mind, I believe it is of the utmost importance for writers and event organizers to radically rethink how they are using the space they create. I should not be going to a room full of real people to get information I can find on the internet.
A lecture or series of short lectures by authors or activists has the potential to bring people of many different political stripes (well, Democrat to anarchist) in a way that presents a much more diverse group of people than most of the political projects I have been privy to. If activists can harness this power by actually creating space for “audience” members to engage with one another to devise a plan of action for the space that they are all geographically tied to in one way or another (evidenced by somehow finding their way into the same room).
A proposal: Use touring events to attempt to bind local people to one another while using the utility of travel to create regional, national, or international networks. Ask local members to work with one another “across the aisle” as it were to improvise local creative solutions to local concerns. In the case of the wars, it means financiers, manufacturers, public infrastructure, politicians and other things.