Monday, December 26, 2011

Resolutions for Radicals

2012: the last year on earth, or at least the last year before a major paradigm change, if you believe the New-Agey whackos, like some of my friends in California. Quackery aside, it's a good opportunity to look at all your cookie-cutter, consumerist New Year's resolutions and think, what can I try something new?

You'd better make some damn good resolutions this year.

Let's face it: we can be really reactionary creatures. A lot of what we do and think is really just a response to our environment and we don't question many of the underlying reasons for what we do. A radical is just a person who digs a little deeper, examines a little closer, looks for innovative ways to approach a rather mundane life.

Many people take on the small potatoes for New Years. They want to lose weight, exercise, quit smoking, read more, take a nice vacation, spend more time with the kids, get a promotion. The problem is, these resolutions are largely the vows of consumers, people's whose mindsets are bogged down in the work-eat-sleep routine of goddamn farm animals.

When the fuck are you going to stop just reacting?

When are you going to stop bleating like a sheep about your little resolutions?

When the fuck are you going to make New Years revolutions?


Well, the problem for most folks, I imagine, and yes even for most wanna-be radicals who are usually too caught up in "activism" to actually ever be effective, is they don't know where to start. A lot of people don't consider themselves "political" - and the people who do are almost entirely all assholes. In America being "political" just means being a dishonest opportunist. We want to get away from that.

So I'm making a list we can start looking at and, shockingly, working with right away. We can, believe it or not, start using existing alternatives to undermine the global power structures and their oppressive narratives. We don't have to waste time "building a movement" from scratch or waiting for social conditions to be "right." Social conditions aren't wrong; our narratives are wrong.

These resolutions will require a lot of unpacking, so to speak, and as you can probably tell I haven't had much internet access lately. So there isn't a lot of reasoning or defense. Fuck it. Endless agonizing and arguing is what brings us to impasses anyway. Take a look and decide for yourself.

Join a credit union. On November 4th, somewhere between 200,000 and 700,000 people in the US switched from a bank to a credit union as part of OWS and Bank Transfer Day. Credit unions keep consumer profits out of irresponsible financial conglomerates and help the local economy. Plus they're more accountable to their members (as opposed to customers!) and we aren't at their mercy when it comes to sneaky fees and outrageous tolls. This site should help you find one near you.

Shop at a co-op. For newby radicals, try finding a grocery co-operative near you and checking out the yummy, locally and sustainably grown foods. Most grocery co-operatives (at least here in the Twin Cities) aren't necessarily worker's co-ops but consumer co-ops (transforming shoppers from consumers to members), which is a good model for holding the institution responsible. There are other kinds of co-ops, too, if you look around; bicycle co-ops are especially valuable to cyclists and will liberate you from a dependency on cookie-cutter sports stores. The knowledge and service found in a bicycle co-op will make you better engaged with your two-wheeled tool.

Join a co-op. The real benefits come to members: profit sharing, voting rights, sharing passions with other enthusiasts. Instead of mindlessly wandering the big-box stores like a zombie, buying all your "needs" off a list like you've been programmed, roll up your sleeves and get involved in how your community institutions run. This is a great introduction to local economics - the kind that actually matter to communities and individuals.

"Co-Op City" in New York. Housing cooperatives could be really helpful in this economy....

Start a co-op.
For the truly radical. Identify a need in your community, even (or especially) one provided by big corporations. Get some friends and neighbors interested. Provide that good or service for one another and the community. All you'll need is a charter and some by-laws, maybe some start-up funds, and a lot of grit, determination, and willingness to learn. Find some resources here and here. It may seem ambitious, but co-operatives will need to form the backbone of future sustainable and democratic societies.

Start a garden. Go all-out. As a species, we've been digging in the dirt our entire history. Urban living has wrecked that for a lot of folks. Don't let it. Even if you live in the city, in an apartment or other shared living space, get your hands on some green. Herbs and other expensive meal components can be grown on a window-sill and the savings can add up. Even better, if you're really radical you can take up window-farming and make the most out whatever space you've got. Try container gardening, too. Sneak some potted plants into the common areas of your buildings - more green, living plants are proven to make more enjoyable living spaces, decreasing stress and making even the dumpiest shithole a more pleasing habitat. If you've got an actual yard, cultivate it. Share your bounty with neighbors and take the excesses to farmer's markets. Nothing undermines the greed of capitalism like sharing. Just ask Napster.

Compost. Goes hand-in-hand with gardening, and lessens your carbon footprint too. Don't rely on industrial fertilizers that wreck the global soil system. Read up on the best ways to recycle nature's materials. You might surprise yourself with how much of your waste is actually compostable and keep useful waste out of those god-awful landfills where they benefit no one and nothing.
Support a local political party. One important lesson of the Occupy movement that doesn't seem to get much discussion is how local politicians have tipped their hand. They're as in the pocket of global capital as much as our federal "representatives." Don't think third-parties and local elections are without consequence; in fact, it might just be the only way we can make some real fucking change around here. Take the local, and then state, offices in cities and important districts out of the hands of the mass parties and see how that changes the dialogue. It'll be important to have allies in office when OWS takes to the streets again next year. Plus the most influential economic policies actually happen on the state and local levels. Find someone sympathetic to your political beliefs locally, or there's always the Green Party, which could certainly use some energy and a swift kick in the pants.

This post inspired by some of the most radical thinkers in American history.

Yeah, localism. Yeah, individualism. Maybe middle-class aspirations. Or maybe working class aspirations, with the platform of historical inclusion in the middle-class. But it's movement and it's direction and that's what we need in 2012, not rebuilding the wheel or waiting for a Leninist Superman. Only dirty hands are worthy of the black and red!


comrade x said...

Right on, comrade!
The tired Far Left paradigms of trying to fit the Russian Revolution, The Spanish Revolution, 1968, ad naseum into modern day life don't fit the new technological age. All of the past hates between socialist, anarchist, communist are the preserve of college campus pissants.

Dresden Scott said...

They have no ideas. They try to pluck incidences out of their historical context and jam them, haphazardly, into current events. Proving they know nothing about the incidents and even less about what's going on around them. Without adapting and evolving, there's no hope for the splinter Far Left groups.