Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Socialize New Recruits

...An antiwar movement is an activist and oppositional movement. Its motive force is reformist: to stop the war. While its tactics may include civil disobedience and, occasionally, direct action, antiwar coalitions are seldom directed at fundamental social changes. Large coalitions are often good at creating spectacles, rallies and demonstrations, and other transient forms of protest. They tend to be poor at recruiting since they have no organizational base.

...Antiwar coalitions have no theory of society or social change. ...The “mission statements” of coalitions are righteous, calling for an end to the war, aid to its victims, opposing political repression and ethnoviolence, and endorsing a vaguely articulated demand for social justice. Typically their demands are not only beyond their own power, but are often beyond the intellectual grasp or imagination of those in power.

...The overarching problem of the peace movement —if not American politics—is the failure to move beyond what is to what could be. It is most of all a failure of imagination. But it is also indicative of an underlying fear of change, a fear that has now been exacerbated by the truly unexpected and complex events since 9-11. ... It has led to a closed-mindedness and level of political ignorance which makes organizing extraordinarily difficult and which weakens the fabric of democracy.

...The productivity of a demonstration is in the day after. And any demonstration that hasn’t planned for follow-up activity risks being nothing more than a spectacle. Building a movement means having an organization or network of groups that can accommodate, educate, nurture, and socialize new recruits. ...

The majority of Americans can not answer basic questions about the political economic system of the US. Moreover, they have been socialized not to ask political questions and, when they do, to ask the wrong questions. Extraordinary numbers believe in the existence of supernatural beings from gods to ghosts, and in the power of the stars to determine their lives. They have little awareness of world geography or of the oppressive consequences of the major transnational capitalist institutions such as the World Bank. The identity of the IMF, NAFTA, or the G-7 are an alphabetic jumble.

At a personal level, most fail to recognize the cumulative privileges accorded those who are white, male, and Christian. It is on a solid base of ignorance and false information that the political elites can broadcast “disinformation.”

...We need to counter disinformation in two ways. One is to educate ourselves. A peace movement has to have a program of internal education. Of course its major function is to help its membership in learning such things as the history of nonviolence, theories of revolution, or the pitfalls of workers’ control. But it has another significant function. It can counter any elitist tendencies that might develop as consequence of the difference in knowledge and experience that might prevail in the group.

Educational outreach has to encompass all forms and media. Movement educators have to be aware that the social context of teaching and learning is critical, that not everyone knows how to be a student, and that there are class and cultural differences in learning styles. ...

Building a movement requires, particularly, that there be attainable goals. The peace movement needs to have a sketch of a peaceable society. Without it, it is just an oppositional movement with no necessary life beyond its points of opposition.

.... Without a conscious effort at building a movement, exposing the toxicity of authoritarianism, capitalism, and violence, and generating the patterns of a good society, we will simply recapitulate the past having learned nothing from history.

--from Peace is a Process http://www.prejudiceinstitute.org/thewaytopeace.html


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