After We Stop the Machine, How Do We Create a New World?
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A simplified explanation of the strategy to transform our society from a greedy plutocracy to a cooperative democracy, from our destructive path to a sustainable future, is that there are two simultaneous tracks: protest what we do not like and build what we want. We call this “Stop the Machine, Create a New World.”
This weekly report usually focuses on the protest part of the resistance movement, but this week we will focus more on the people who are working to create the world we want to see. It is not that there are no protest actions to report on. There continues to be a lot going on. Some examples from the last week among many that you will find at PopularResistance.org, include:
- Updates on Edward Snowden including his attempt to leave the Moscow airport, which may have been blocked by Secretary of State John Kerry. Also, how Snowden is driving the US security state insane and was recognized as an “American who tells the truth.” Related, we highlighted a propagandistic attack on Glenn Greenwald on a progressive website.
- NSA spying updates including how Obama and Democrats teamed with Republicans to block efforts to stop NSA dragnet searches of Americans, as well as citywide surveillance in Oakland which may become a national model. Also a victory in New Jersey where the Supreme Court now requires warrants to track people using their cell phones.
- A successful challenge to TSA searches at airports by a young man who stripped down to his underwear and wrote the Fourth Amendment on his chest.
- Updates on Bradley Manning, who won a peace prize this week, as closing arguments began on Thursday after an unusual re-opening of the prosecutor’s case. International protests are planned for the 27th and a protest in DC on the 26th. On Thursday, a full-page ad ran in the New York Times saying “We are all Bradley Manning.”
- Trayvon Martin updates which include nationwide rallies and a “walk for dignity”, a long-term occupation of Gov. Rick Scott’s office where protesters met with the governor about the Stand Your Ground law and Cornel West’s response to Barack Obama as well as related protests against police and urban violence.
- The escalation of environmental protests include Earth First!’s call to block supply lines for radical energy sources from tar sands, hydrofracking and mountaintop removal, and reports on plans to party along the entire KXL pipeline route, FBI surveillance of enviro-activists in Seattle, and a hydrofracking victory in Pennsylvania.
- Ongoing efforts to close Guantanamo include protests at the first hearing in four years in which the Obama administration refused to participate; solidarity hunger strikers calling for people to come to DC on July 30th; and a potential victory with parole-like hearings finally beginning at Guantanamo.
It was a busy week. The under-reported revolts against the corrupt economy and dysfunctional government continue and grow.
Building the World We Want
An important component of resistance is building systems based upon our desired values and principles to replace the current dysfunctional systems. This is a powerful and positive way for communities to work together to solve local problems and meet their basic needs. People around the world are engaged in this constructive resistance. We will share some of the most recent efforts to build the world we want.
We are inspired by the human potential to create, even in dire economic circumstances, illustrated by this story of children from a slum dwelling in Paraguay. Out of the trash in the landfill their community is built upon, they created the “Landfill Harmonic Orchestra.” This amazing video tells their story. There is no question that part of building the world we want to see includes music, arts and culture.
Of course, at the root of many problems in the United States is the economy. We are experiencing in the US what our government has forced onto poorer nations for decades, the accelerated selling off of our resources and privatization of government services. This, combined with de-funding of public institutions, is creating greater wealth for a few while the rest of us struggle to make ends meet.
The looting class believes that there is no threat of democracy breaking out when people are poor and focused on meeting their basic needs. But economic democracy is quietly expanding throughout the United States. We are two of the organizers of the Economic Democracy Conference which is part of the Democracy Convention being held in Madison, WI beginning this August 7.
Two years ago when we organized a similar conference, economic democracy was beginning to take root in the U.S. Since then, the movement has grown rapidly, under the radar of the corporate media. One-third of the US public is now a member of some type of cooperative, including credit unions.
This year the Economic Democracy Conference will include 15 sessions. Some will focus on big picture topics such as what the new economy looks like and discussions of money and debt, while others will focus on the building blocks of the new economy, cooperatives, complementary currencies, public banks, affordable housing, local investment networks and other ways to finance local businesses and transitioning to municipal renewable energy. (You can register here.)
This week, there were a number of economic democracy projects in the news. In Seattle a group, Community Sourced Capital, formed to help people invest in their local community. We know the value of shopping locally, now people are figuring out ways to invest locally to build their communities and avoid Wall Street.
Also, some members of the Occupy movement are launching the Occupy Money Cooperative. Their first product will be the Occupy Money Card, a pre-paid debit card without the costs of a regular bank account which they describe as a “bank on a card.” Forbes took notice of the Money Cooperative, finding it ironic that Occupy would set up a bank. We see it as just the opposite. More alternatives to Wall Street banks are needed and this is one of many models being developed.
Another alternative was announced in England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is telling the leading payday loan service, which charges 1% a day for loans, that the Church of England is going to put them out of business by starting its own credit union and working with non-profit loan agencies to provide less expensive loan services.
In Minneapolis, people have solved one of the big problems caused by the Wall Street banks: the housing crisis. They created an “eviction free zone,” as the world they want to see does not include throwing families onto the street. Their tactics include pressuring banks, blocking evictions (as with this example), occupying foreclosed homes and refurbishing homes. This kind of mutual support and local solidarity also builds community. The city of Richmond, CA became the first to use its power of eminent domain to seize underwater homes facing foreclosure and return them to the homeowners with reduced mortgage payments.
And, an innovative approach to transit that began in Rochester, NY has now moved to Detroit. The approach seeks to expand public transit without increasing fares or taxes by improving the "transit experience," rewarding drivers for performance and partnering with schools, hospitals and housing developments to supplement funding.
Strike Debt Bay Area is working to reverse the privatization of public services – in this case, the US Postal Service. Their approach is education, including a teach-in on privatization tactics used by the 1%, the dangers of privatization to individuals and public institutions, and the threats to civil liberties posed by the privatization of the United States Postal Service. Others are focused on ways the Postal Service can expand and provide new services.
A lot of excellent work is being done to preserve water and healthy food. People are taking effective steps to stop corporations like Monsanto. This November there will be a vote in Washington State requiring labeling of GMO foods. If it succeeds, and it is leading right now, it could spur a national change that will allow people to finally know whether a product contains GMOs or not. On a related front, people are fighting for their right to buy directly from farmers, despite regulators’ efforts to curtail the practice. And many individuals and municipalities are using a variety of techniques to preserve water and use it more efficiently.
Progress is being made in the transition to a green energy economy. There are now 46 countries that are getting 60 percent of their electricity from renewable, clean energy sources. Research shows the US could achieve a renewable energy economy by 2050 at the latest. Last year, despite the hype around hydrofracking for methane gas, the fastest growing source of new energy was wind, making up 42% of new electricity. A study this week pointed to the benefits of targeting renewable energy in areas dependent on coal or where it could produce the most environmental and health benefits.
As more Americans are joining efforts to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its Atlantic trade cousin through groups like Flush The TPP, a new creative approach to trade came up this week that others may want to emulate. The Fair Deal Coalition concerned with our digital future, has launched an open source “negotiation” of trade designed to give people what they want. They seek to openly involve people and businesses in developing the future, rather than the secret approach of the Obama administration.
The media is a major battleground for our future. The corporate media which dominates the traditional mass media, is losing viewers, readers and money while an independent and citizen’s media is growing. One reason we launched Popular Reisistance was to report on something the corporate media avoids – the movement for transformation of the country through resistance. We worked with AlterNet to bring this weekly news summary to a wider audience. And, each Wednesday, we go in-depth on issues in Truthout that we first discuss on our radio/video show Clearing the FOG. Now, we are teaming up with video maker Dennis Trainor, Jr. to assist his production of a weekly half hour television program showing the actions of the movement. (You can help by assisting in crowd-funding this project.)
This is just a brief review of what is occurring to build the new world we want. Much more is happening. In How to Design the World for Happiness, many more examples are described. Jay Walljasper writes in the introduction:
“We recognized it was up to us to make the neighborhood safer, cleaner, more inclusive, interesting, and enjoyable.… Experiencing firsthand the collaborative capacity of everyday people to shape their own community has influenced me deeply as a writer, speaker, and consultant…. The articles gathered here explore the wide horizons of what’s possible in communities everywhere.”
While there is a lot we can do as individuals, there is even more we can do when we build community and when we build on the experiences of others. The world we want to see is literally being built every day by uncounted numbers of us. There is no need to wait, the future is ours if we make it.