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November 6, 2004 at 12:18 am | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

I was googling for information on Gwynne Dyer, who I heard on CBC today, and came across an altbuzz essay, posted last July, Remodeling Protest by Jerry George. The article makes several intriguing observations:

We have to remodel protest to reflect the grim reality of the present. Corruption is massive and global, as well as pervasive. For over a century the working model has been one of defense against attack (e.g. the elite are making an assault on the rights of the poor). The new model has to be one of pervasive, parasitic infection. A kind of cancer. We have to figure out how to kill it without killing ourselves. Putting extreme pressure on one point will become a waste of our slim resources.

“Resistance” is another concept that can no longer counter what is actually happening. Resistance assumes we have something worth clinging to, like a right or entitlement that is being eroded. All of the “Take back America” activities presume the resistance model —step one is to resist further loss, step two is to regain what was lost. MoveOn.org is a powerful, high-profile user of this model. The fatal flaw in the model is that there is no longer an America to take back. American the beautiful is gone. The Democratic party is gone. Get used to it.

I am not saying that MoveOn.org should stop what it is doing. I am saying that the (implicit) model of resistance is outdated and must be cast aside. It is futile to try to win back America when America is no longer with us. A more appropriate model would refocus MoveOn.org, and other admirable groups, so they work toward a future possibility rather than a Twentieth Century fantasy. Choosing the precise details of the way in which America crumbles, for example, should not be as important to us as cultivating the seeds of freedom growing now in India and Venezuela. We should experience the voice of Arundhati Roy and Vandana Shiva being closer to the pulse of current events than the voice of Al Gore. [More…]

It’s all sort of vague (i.e., the “how-to” part), and I’m not sure that the “resistance” model should be tossed out if what we’re resisting is the elimination of human rights. (But since George talks about cultivating “seeds of freedom” I suspect that’s not what he means.) I did find the suggestion to remodel protest into a parasitic, pervasive infection oddly appealing. Imagine, if you will, that through a parasitic infection, the progressives manage to “d

2 Comments

  1. Yule, you do find the best, the “edgiest”, the most “honed” resources out there. I am going to have to follow your links, think about this for some time to come … because as a poet, I hear the call! And yet, I have to tread carefully … after all, I have seen words used as instruments in the chiseling of a series of consciousness … from post-Stalinist to tthe current versions of pre-Apocalytpic.

    If I understand you, what you are proposing is to retake our words. Indeed!

    Comment by maria — November 6, 2004 #

  2. Attribute it to the CBC, Maria 😉 ! George mentioned Dyer in this essay, that’s how I found him, and Dyer was on CBC. You wouldn’t believe the vitriol I found directed at him (Dyer) on some right-wing sites — really nasty, personal stuff. (Of course, moi, I’m fair & balanced, koff koff….)

    And yes, the art intervention thing is tricky and could easily be coopted, but I think George is on to something when he suggests that traditional protest isn’t fully enough anymore. Too polarising, the message gets shut out.

    Comment by Yule Heibel — November 7, 2004 #

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