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New Rules for Radicals: 10 Ways To Spark Change in a Post-Occupy World

The world is changing quickly, and we need to help steer it according to our shared values -- our vision of what might be.

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This one builds on #1, the “No despair” rule. 

I’ve made a career writing about the conservative movement’s uncanny skill at thwarting our dreams. This is red meat to progressives (and a perennially effective traffic booster at lefty Web sites). No blogger ever goes wrong by describing, explaining, or expressing spittle-flecked outrage over the overwhelming will, reach and resources arrayed against us. It’s easy, and not entirely wrong, to tell ourselves that we’re being stalled by the unfathomable cunning and treachery of our enemies. 

But we’ve got a lot to do, and are strapped for time, energy and resources to do it with. Every moment we spend focusing on How Evil They Are is a moment we are not focusing on creating the next America where we (and they) will all be spending the future. Yes, absolutely: we need to name our villains, clearly call out the threat they pose, and put names to the tools they’re using to stop us. But vanquishing them is not the ultimate goal. We’ve got bigger, better, more rewarding work to do. All they are to us is in the way. And all the energy they deserve is however much it will take to get them out of the way. 

6. Expect resistance. 

It’s the political corollary to Newton’s Third Law of Motion: Every action creates an equal and opposite reaction. Whatever you do, you are going to piss somebody off. (In fact, I’ve always thought that this is an important life metric: if you’re not pissing somebody off, you’re not doing enough to change the world. Call it Robinson’s First Law of Politics.) It is a waste of energy to be surprised by this. It’s also political malpractice not to think ahead to figure out where it’s likely to come from, what form it will probably take, and what you’re going to do about it. 

Also: there are people (and not all of them are on the other side, sadly) who have made a lifelong commitment to resisting change. For them, obstructionism is a spiritual path. And they’re masterful at it. It’s a waste of energy to be surprised by them, too. Obstructionists are a force of nature all their own; you cannot be angry at them, any more than you can be angry at a rattlesnake for wanting to bite you. It’s who they are. It’s what they do. It’s part of the Zen of change-making. 

Anticipate resistance as much as you can, and do whatever it takes to steer clear of known sources. If surprised, find the flow and go with it. As an Aikidoka friend once put it: If someone attacks you, lean into them. Become part of their attack. And then: become the part that goes horribly, catastrophically wrong. 

7. Find and nurture innovators. 

We’re building a lot of new stuff very fast right now. New politics, new media, new cities, a new economic paradigms, a new relationship with the planet — it’s daunting. We need new answers much faster than we’re able to generate them. 

There are people in our midst who are really good at this stuff, and times like this tend to be good ones for them. In more stable times, these folks are often pushed to the side: they often look and talk goofy, they have weird ideas, they don’t fit in, and nobody really gets what they’re talking about a lot of the time. Also: trailing in their wake you’ll find quite a few successes, along with a few stunning failures — the sure sign of somebody who’s comfortable taking a lot of risks, and not afraid of bombing out. 

 
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