Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Favorite Movement – Part 1

At his Do the Math tour, Bill McKibben talks about how people need to engage in “the hard work” of organizing and that it will be "kind of a slog…the most important slog ever”.

Who wants to sign up for a slog?

Besides, we need to push governments to act on climate change as soon as possible, WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR A SLOG!

You want to build a real movement?  Look to Otpor, the Serbian movement that started with 8 students in a coffee shop and ended less than two years later with the ousting of a dictator.

They were “the only movement in Serbia that tried to make political activity light, hip and fun,,” writes Tina Rosenberg in her excellent book Join the Club.  Said Otpor activist Slobodan Homen “For us it was a great party all the time.”

Here’s a passage from Join the Club: 

“Otpor’s leaders realized that to keep volunteers happy, they needed to feel responsible and important, that their work and achievement really mattered.  They also needed to be constantly busy, not sitting around and waiting for instructions from above.  So while the central organization set overall strategy, each cluster decided how to carry it out and how to best use local talent.  Volunteers were trained in Otpor methods and the principles of nonviolent struggle and then set loose to be the movement in their towns or neighborhoods.  It was…an animal with no central brain; each finger contains the whole idea….

“Activists had to only follow two rules.  Every Otpor action had to be aimed at Milosevic.  And it had to be nonviolent….  Follow the two rules and anything was permissible….

“You could write your own script for street theater, create whatever props you needed, and stage any action, no matter how goofy.  You could design your own leaflet and propose designs for more expensive-to-print stickers and posters, which would receive serious consideration from the marketing team.  You could put up stickers and posters wherever you wanted.  You could recruit anyone you wanted and organize your high school the way you wanted.  ‘If you were anti-Milosevic and nonviolent, you could go naked with “Otpor’ painted on your chest and we wouldn’t denounce you, we wouldn’t say you weren’t Otpor.’ Said (co-leader) Milja Jovanovic.  ‘Our job was to say yes,’ said Stanko Lazendic, one of Otpor’s leaders in Novi Sad.

“If you wanted to, you could become a hero.  You could be an Otpor spokesperson and appear in all the opposition media, or you could…wallpaper your neighborhood and run from the police, heart pounding.  If you didn’t run fast enough, then you would be arrested – but when you finally got out of the police station late at night, a crowd of supporters would be cheering you and you could get your picture in the paper for all your friends to see the next day.

“You were never a part of anything, and you feel all of a sudden that you’re part of something.”

Slog schmog!  Let's make the Climate Movement a PARTY!


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