What if we had a Global Work Party, with well over 7000 events, in an astonishing 188 countries, in which solar panels were put up, trees were planted, and many other practical things were done in an effort to show the powers-that-be that there is a demand for action on global climate change?
And what if nobody cared?
Obviously, people do care about climate change and the immense and disastrous consequences to come of it. Perhaps even the majority of the world's population cares. But... who cares what the majority of the world's population thinks as long is as it powerless?
Did 350.org's Global Work Party on 10/10/10 add up to more than a drop of water in a teacup, never mind a tempest? I doubt the powers that be -- the authoritarian capitalists of China, the state security oligarchs of Russia, the plutocrats of the United States, etc. -- even noticed it. Here in the U.S., the carbon industries and their employees in Congress aren't going to be shaking in their Guccis for a second because of it. But this isn't surprising, is it?
The realities of the world tell us good works are far from enough. Positive, photogenic events are a sort of wish-fulfillment and self-help for the already concerned/convinced. But what we need is fight. We need to enter the arena, which is where politics is actually waged.
Politics, after all, is about power. The stakes are huge: the massive redistribution of wealth we've seen in this country in the last quarter century, and the consequent devaluing of democracy, came about because the elites fought back furiously against FDR's New Deal and LBJ's Great Society and the Warren Court. Politics is a nasty, vicious business, in case you haven't noticed, and keystrokes don't stand a chance against what we used to call, and still should call, "the money power."
Compared to politics, meanwhile, social media is about popularity contests and marketing fantasies. Yes, connectivity is good for affinity groups, fundraising, petitioning, and meet-ups, but it doesn't inspire or drive people power, which is the only antidote to money power. Malcolm Gladwell, in his magisterial ability to state the obvious, broke this old news to the American culturati in a recent issue of the New Yorker. Gladwell used as an example of actual organized resistance the Civil Rights movement, but he might also have noted the abolition, suffragist, union, anti-war, feminist, and ACT UP examples of what makes change in a conservative, corporate ruled state like this one: civil disobedience, strikes, boycotts, occupations, demonstrations, teach-ins, all of them organized and committed, and, this is the hard part, willing to face the brute force of reaction that they all were hit with.
Our form of republican democracy, founded by lawyers, businessmen, and slave-owners, is very much about tamping down the pressure from below. But FDR, JFK, and LBJ all felt the pressure and moved their asses, however compromised. Even that old werewolf Nixon had many policies that were astonishingly liberal, compared to all of his successors, because of the pressure. Obama hasn't felt the pressure at all; the phantasm of hope was quickly replaced by the realities of the Democrat Party's fealty to mainstream corporate power, and triangulating Clinton-era hacks filled the White House, while all those energized voters went back to their screens. Instead, this year the energy is on the right, which is brilliantly exploiting fundamentalists and others in the old lunatic fringe -- the modern avatars of Nativists, Klansmen, Birthers, etc., in the Tea Party -- to maximize their power and crush all the feel-good out of you.
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