I was doing some digging and I found a short essay I posted on facebook in early August of 2011. I thought Vermont Commons might find it relevant. I was responding to an article that suggested that the youth of America have been successfully pacified. I disagreed. I don't mean to brag, or suggest prophecy, but "occupy" started three weeks later.
Here's the article I was responding to:
Here is my essay as it was then:
"This article does point out a lot of social ills that need to be confronted, but it's a little more hopeless than it needs to be. There's still a lot of resistant energy among young people, it's just not being flaunted to the public with organized protests like it used to be. The way I see it, there are essentially four ways to resist:
1. Working within the system.
2. Overt direct action.
3. Covert direct action.
4. Separation, abandonment and/or cutting off support.
Each of these methods of resistance comes with it's own risks and benefits. This article seems to be lamenting the lack of overt resistance in contemporary youth culture, particularly as compared to the Vietnam war. However, overt direct action (IE protests, sit-ins etc) seems to be the least effective method of action by itself. Covert direct actions appear to be slightly more frequent than ever, though of course it's difficult to track because it's covert, usually illegal, and often the subject of media black out. Young people I know shoplifting from corporate chains, disabling cameras, spraying graffiti and so on seem to be going strong.
I've met many, many people my age who are intent on "working within the system." Usually these are the people who had the mental energy to educate themselves, despite also succeeding in public school (an increasing difficult feat, as the article points out). Unfortunately, they often have only the most vague concept of exactly how they're going to work AGAINST the system while they are with in it. This is where a quote by revolutionary-rapper Immortal Technique comes to mind: "When you try to change the system from within, it's not you who will change the system, it's the system that will eventually change you."
That said, a decent number of these kids actually do have a clear goal in mind, or, more importantly, they understand the need to coordinate with other types of resistance in order to be effective. The best thing about my generation, in revolutionary terms, is the increasingly widespread understanding that the 4th type of resistance is by far the most effective. Separating from corporate monoculture by localizing the economy as far as possible, growing our own food, using alternate currencies, and even staying below the official poverty line in US dollars as though not to pay taxes are more effective than any protest, lobbying or graffiti. People of all ages, but particularly among the youth, are beginning to realize that. Once the "corpratocracy" to use the parlance, is cut off from tax-dollars and direct consumers it's dead in 15 minutes.
In order to allow that essential cut-off to happen, there does also need to be a somewhat coordinated upswing in the three other types of resistance. If the other three types of resistance can increase the costs of doing business, we can tip the balance in favor of local economies so even totally disinterested people will buy local because it will make more immediate economic sense. Working within the system, if done with a great deal of care and control, also provides opportunities for a some degree of a soft, gradual shift into economics on a human scale."
Obviously, since August, 2011, the youth of our generation have shown ourselves to be capable of rallying and has put on some excellent displays of overt direct action. Not just protests associated with "occupy" but 350.org's mobilizations to delay the Trans-Canada pipeline, the blackouts and protests against congresses consideration of Draconian internet censorship and the anti-Lowell Wind movement closer to home.
My generation can't claim to be behind all of this by it's self, but we also can no longer be chided as not caring at all. Protests for civil rights and against the Viet Nam war were very multigenerational. A movement must draw on multiple age groups to be effective. I find great solace and great hope in the rekindling of the protest movement sense I wrote this defense of my generation. However, there are some blind spots that some of these movements seem to have. In the essay, I talk about the four methods of resistance. It seems like, for the most part, these movements have only been using overt direct action. I describe this as the least effective method in most cases. I'm not saying it's not worth doing, just that it can't achieve all that much by itself. I think overt direct action is excellent for identifying and networking with allies, with whom people The campaigns of calling the local legislator during the anti-SOPA protests could be described as simple form of working within the system, and they were probably the most effective part of the whole movement.
However, the most effective of those four strategies will always be separation and isolation. I'm always wishing that boycotts, strikes, divestments and tax-resistance could become the primary strategies of of anti-censorship movements, of environmental groups and of "occupy." Once those four strategies come into play, things will change rapidly.