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Commentary :: Organizing
The First Principle of Political Activism is Awareness.
26 Jan 2006
Becoming a political “activist” does not primarily mean protesting against something. Rather, at least one primary aspect of becoming an activist, is becoming “aware” of what is going on in the world—but also becoming aware of what is going on within oneself (in respect to what is perceived to be going on everywhere else).
Becoming a political “activist” does not primarily mean protesting against something. Rather, at least one primary aspect of becoming an activist, is becoming “aware” of what is going on in the world—but also becoming aware of what is going on within oneself (in respect to what is perceived to be going on everywhere else).

Yet building awareness is an ongoing and never-ending educational reality. You could probably study human behavior five life times and still not have it all figured out—besides the world dynamic keeps changing. Yet only with adequate (as in equal) awareness can one operate with the best of intentions. Blind allegiance, blind passion, or blind prejudice is exactly that—nothing more.

No mortal (with a limited life span) can possibly know all or most of what may be deemed politically or socially relevant regarding current events on a worldly scale. We finite humans are all, by nature, naive. This to say that naiveté is one essence of our mortal lives. Yet it goes without saying that some people are a more naive than are others—with “most” (by far the majority) people being more naive than what they typically presume about themselves.

And curiously it is precisely our own naiveté that we are each blind to—that is that we do not know what it is we do not know (or have not realized). Yet we are “all” blind—at least to some extent. But do many of us have a notion of how naive in fact we may be—it is hard to tell.

This is not to argue that people can not learn a great deal of relevant material within one life span. Knowledge like everything else is relative and you do not need to be an Einstein to understand this. Determination and perspicacity can go far into becoming savvy to the given moment (even within one’s naiveté).

The “action” aspect of the word “activism” without adequate realization or forethought is not necessarily a noble enterprise. Self-education as self-directed awareness-building is “activity” of the foremost import. Nevertheless, too many people (irrespective of where they happen to be in the political spectrum) want you, I, and everyone else to jump on “their” bandwagon—that is to feel the way “they” feel, and to agree with what “they” agree, and to perfectly presume what it is they presume. They also want you to protest against what they protest against—in the manner “they” prefer to do so. Supposedly they, who presume others should follow their lead, have ego belief systems under control and their foregone conclusions or infallibly correct.

For example, many young people who have graduated from various colleges, and who have taken classes, or majored, in social science specialties, such as political science or ethnic studies, presume to think they are “adequately” educated about reality. These same educated people seem not to realize that some of the classes they attended (in their impressionable years) were in fact more like indoctrination camps—with their own forms of bias and distortion (and I’m not just discussing leftist leaning opinions—this is true for all camps of opinion).

Nevertheless the soft social sciences tend to be based on a “lot” of descriptive theory and subjective opinion. And any wordsmith worth his or her salt has a clue to how easily prejudices can be manipulated. Even supposed objective fact can be highly distorted in a world of political propaganda. Yet few people (especially in the 20’s and 30’s) have it all figured out—no matter how idealistic and informed they feel themselves to be.

Take for example recent protests over the years leveled against World Trade (TWO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Many activists are aware that these entities are bad news and diligent research will bear this out to be true—at least for the enormous classes of people who are not wealthy investors exploiting people with less power and awareness. Yet people on both sides of neo-liberalism (pro and con) have selected and somewhat sophisticated arguments as to why they are politically correct on these issues—and the other side is dead wrong and close-minded.

Yet despite the plethora of literature and debate an open heart and mind can get a good sense of the sociopathic nature of that sort of business enterprise that operates as if it has one value—the bottom line profit for the shareholder—discarding any honored values for environmental concern, slave wages in third world countries, dangerous working conditions, child labor, the greater divide between the rich and poor, the corruption of governments, etc.

Yet is antagonizing police officers at WTO events and blocking access to buildings to disrupt WTO meetings the answer to dealings with creating greater awareness? Apparently there are a number of young people who think the answer to positive change is to allow themselves to be labeled “anarchists” or “angry” young people by the main stream media.

This is to recognize that obviously the main stream corporate media is going to distort the leftist arguments against globalization but why are IndyMedia types and other youths allowing themselves participation in what can easily be perceived as anarchic mentality of disregard and hypocrisy by the masses in the public relations war—that is giving ammo to the enemy? These demonstrators who deliberately pick their confrontations with police are effectively marginalizing the legitimacy of their supposed progressive arguments—in the eyes of the naiveté of others.

Any mass demonstration can be infiltrated by ‘subversives’ who behave in ways (as example vandalism) to give the impression that the demonstrators are illegitimate and disrespectful of the law. Any political organization can be infiltrated by stupid people who allow their prejudices and propensities to defame the greater goal of the group. People who flock together are not always of the same feather.

Furthermore protestors today are “not” getting the news attention they would like to get from the main stream news—for the most part they are simply ignored. And when they do get main stream news attention it is of the sort that generally gets biased so as to de-legitimate the protestors’ motives, knowledge, and character because they let the morons destabilize their legitimacy.

This is not to argue people should not protest. This is not to argue that people should not be angry. This is to argue that you need to pick your battles (PR battles) very carefully—and naiveté is no excuse—people today can not afford to be making mistakes and stepping in the traps set up for them by the rightwing. Apparently the left is not as creative and flexible as it seems to think it is—rather the left seems pretty predictable and hackneyed.

Therefore we need to educate the masses in other ways that get around the main stream corporate media’s iron grip, rather than allowing MSM presses and TV stations paint distortive scenarios and build on biased and prejudiced labels.

For example, it does not matter what supposedly sophisticated philosophy one might conceit about the idea of anarchism? What matters regarding getting more people to think about issues intelligently—is what do main stream people think the word “anarchy” means or what they can be manipulated to think it means (and today’s youth did not invent the word). Furthermore in case you haven’t figured it out—the majority of voters (remember if you actually believe in the ideal of democracy you somehow have to get more to vote your way) “do not” and “will not” see the term “anarchy” in a positive way any time soon. The word in its quintessential form means [ a- ‘not’ + archy ‘leader’] or against any and all kind of leadership or governance—irrespective of what you want the word to mean.

Most normal people think society has to have some form of governance and law. Therefore people who spend excess energy being confrontational with authority such as police (who equally do not know the finer nuances of political theory and who too do not realize how manipulated are their prejudices), and who call themselves anarchists are definitely marginalizing leftist legitimacy or supposed progressiveness. This form of self-inflicted or other-inflicted subversion is probably one reason why protest movements are not as large as they could be.

Whether some people are doing this deliberately or just being proletarian in the small ‘p’ sense (like harboring some nebulous dream of a dictatorship of another sort) is beyond guessing. Nevertheless it is sabotage—if the goal is to get more people from the passive middle or to move left from right wing. One wonders if these organizing units are not in fact infiltrated. Or is it that youthful rebellion is more into being addicted to emotional or biochemical stress rushes rather than thinking about other more viable options of activism?

For example, isn’t there something just a bit ethnocentric is constantly citing the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq singularly or primarily with a mere side note of he number of probably Iraqi civilians killed? If you really want to be human about it you might consider emphasizing the number of innocent women and children killed. If the main stream media has censored eyesore photos from the war zone what is stopping you from enlarging such photos in big color print to place on you protest placards? That is if you really want to piss off the main stream.

If leftists are accused of being merely rebellious, naive, or angry, then why not spent more effort in creating literature and citing websites that give ample argumentation of what causes one supports? Why not engage in door to door distribution of one’s political believes. It may not be as exciting as confronting the evil doers while dressed in black clothes and bandanas so as to look “non” main stream but you may actually recruit a few converts winning hearts and minds. Advertisers only expect a 2 to 3 percent return on their mail marketing efforts.

The saying, “Some knowledge is a dangerous thing” is not just blowing smoke. Still one might suppose that people in general—even if they were good students or are actively engaged in seeking out truth—would presume that there is still a lot yet to learn—not as simplistic humility to counter arrogance but also as realpolitik. And why do not more schools require classes on identifying various dogmas via critical thinking skills? Where are the seminars on what exactly political propaganda is (as disinformation), how to identify it, how to counter it, etc.?

Nevertheless, humans, being humans (naturally being so), tend to develop political prejudices early-on and carry them and their political resentments forward—to the point that they act at times blind to their own forms of prejudice. This tendency of political prejudice shows itself across the political spectrum—all the way from the far left to the far right (or what ever paradigm you use to understand the variance of opinion).

Almost all people are prone to prejudices (and I’m not addressing the more sophisticated forms of discrimination) and surprisingly some who vocalize the strongest against prejudice of others, such as racism, sexism, or class-ism are the ones projecting their guilt feelings onto other people. For example there are plenty of minority people who are willing to scream about racism against their own but seldom do they seem to discover their own racism against the groups they supposedly protest. It just never or seldom seems to come up as an issue. Somehow invariably white people are more prone to prejudice than are others (or more singularly presumed to be in power yet their are a lot of minority people and women who hold investments in corporate securities).

And since I’m currently on a soapbox I should add that some people seldom examine their own deeper motives but rather they march and scream about “them” (those bad people). That way they never have time, being so preoccupied, to see any motes in their own eyes. Therefore never presume that just because someone is an activist for grand sounding abstractions like justice, peace, love, equality, democracy etc., that in fact he or she is some angelic soul who has really dealt with his or her own spiritual issues. Because in fact some activists are in fact angry, antisocial, and are looking for ways to act out their antisocial anti-authority tendencies and blame others. And some of these people are “not” as educated (in a balanced sense) as they would like themselves to believe or others to presuppose.

Activism then for some becomes a form of escape. It becomes a way of acting out one’s covert hatred and reverse prejudices at certain groups thought to be acceptable (white people especially white Anglo Saxon men are always fair game). Or example, if you secretly hate men—there are always new examples of violation on which to refocus your indignation so that you never have to confront your own prejudices or discover your own distorted delusions. Because even though many men are decent there still is always some news report of a crime or atrocity on which to refocus so you can live your whole life in a buffer of self-righteous indignation.

All this argumentation is not to argue that there are no legitimate reasons for angry indignation in terms of political protests. There certainly are many reasons. In fact it appears as if the almighty U.S. of A. is about to enter into another illegal war with Iran and other countries (NATO and even some Arab countries) are just going to passively or actively go along with this International Relations. And the thing is that they are supposedly planning on using mini-nuclears! You know 1/3 the force of Nagasaki etc. that supposedly will not have collateral kill? Yet what is the American left doing to address this enormous issue of sinking the U.S. economy—as the currency is dead one way or another? Here we have the dual bullies of Israel and the U.S. (both holders of weapons of mass destruction) pre-empting another war when we are overstretched on a current drain gone more than bad. Are these right wing Likudite threats just hot air? Think about it people—your gas bill is about to go up to 10 dollars a gallon—not to mention World War 3 may be closer than you think.

What we tend to see is protestors copping red flags and handing out socialists literature using the crisis of American politics to promote green grass on the other side of the fence. In the black and white thinking of too many is the idea that if capitalism is a failure then centralized socialism must be the answer. Our government now is too centralized and getting worse. Activists seem to wait until socialist organizations promote peace marches otherwise too bogged down to do it alone. Even if socialism were the best form of government—the idea will not likely attract many to join the ranks of peace demonstrators—again marginalizing the left to small and insignificant numbers. One wonders if in fact these groups are not fronts for the right wing pretending to be otherwise.

The tedious work of awareness building requires patience and time. It takes many hours of study to really get a clue as to how corrupt the system is. There is a need of perusing many opinions and writings so as to form an educated opinions. And many times these opinions need remain tentative. Despite an intolerance toward skepticism such an attitude is clearly in order when it comes to thinking about various political debates. The rush toward black and white judgments is not the same as wisdom. Awareness building means listening more than talking and reading more than fuming, etc.

Nevertheless because of the reality of “personality” (personality does play its part in politics) and the various ways various peoples’ minds are hard ands soft wired—some people are more easily manipulated by overly zealous dogma (that always sees the evil as out “there” within the other scapegoat camps).

A perfect example of this is how people like to blame politicians for this and that and everything else that is wrong with this country. Yet a lot of Americans want their lifestyle—that is they want their cheap oil, gas, and energy but they don’t want to suffer the time and energy to become very educated on the politics and economics of energy, etc., and they don’t want to rethink their materialist presumptions. Rather, like spoiled children, they want politicians to do whatever they need to do to keep them spoiled and living comfortably while negligently going way into personal debt. Yet when these same politicians become corrupt—as opposed to the “character” of the American people who want to continue to indulge in the luxury of their ignorance—then it is the politicians who singularly the bad guys—there then is hate for the president as a single soul to address one’s hatred.

Granted Bush is condemnable. But he is a manipulated pawn. He is a human with naivete like all people. This is not to deflect blame but to realize the character of the American people have a hell of a lot to do with today’s situations and problems. Just like these elderly people who are the most spoiled generation to have ever existed (meanwhile calling themselves the greatest generation). No generation will have it as nice. This is a generation that has been lied and manipulated for years. Many of them still in knee jerk fashion salute to any blind allegiance they can assuming their country the greatest. Many of the elderly generation (no matter how hard they worked to get to suburbia) in their self-absorbed intellectual mediocrity are an embarrassment to the word humanity. Now they even have tax payers paying for their excessive medications while they get senior discounts on practically everything—property owners that they are. Yet by the time they die the young will have nothing but hell and a hand basket.

All thought about politics is “activity” and is therefore a form of activism. One is either rethinking and re-feeling what one has already thought and rethought, or is attempting to learn new ideas that either ends up reinforcing what one currently thinks or suspects or changes one’s attitudes in new ways. Yet no camp of political attitude on this planet has exhausted its potential to learn and think in new or more exacting ways versus being complacent in what one already presumes to know. Everyone can improve their wisdom and perspective.

To summarize what we have covered so far regarding awareness building and some obstacles regarding awareness they include: 1. Naiveté (endless naiveté). 2. Propaganda portraying itself as objective opinion and the need to be able to distinguish good information and bad. 3. Personality and brain wiring as subjectively involved in one’s political personality (and upbringing). 4. Subversive forces of deliberate deceit and self-deceit. 5. The main stream corporate news operating in the best interests of the ruling classes—not the common people. 6. The values of human character have been degraded to self-absorption and naive vulnerability and ignorance. 7. Some people are angry but they do not always know why and or how to act them out in their own and other’s best interest.

Yet there are “many” legitimate reasons to feel hostility towards certain ideas, causes, political parties or factions, or groups. Politics is a dirty business—seemingly a very dirty business. The fact readily seems that there are people who regularly engage in evil and psychopathic practices and who willing to hurt many other people in the process. People today ought to be outraged at the system. It would seem that more would be up and arms with blood on the street—especially in today’s world—and especially in America. Yet we do not have that—most people have not been alienated enough out of their slumber.

And the right is not stupid—which is why they have currently done everything to avoid a draft: increase the age eligibility, increase bonuses for enlistment and re-enlistment, rotate too many reserves and national guard to wars overseas, and rotate the same people too often, changed work assignment within the services, drafted up plans to use special operations, recruited thousands and thousands of mercenaries, etc. They do not want to wake the youth in civil disobedience. (Americans generally only get political when their own ass or property rights are on the line.) Otherwise they pretty much stay ignorant and misinformed so that international corruption can have its status quo.

So now we have people who have become aware of the corruption but then some volunteer themselves to be beat up by police officers, booked and arrested. How wise is that in a world in which we now have North Command (ready to install Marshall law), a National Intelligence Director and Homeland Security apparatus that can easily oppress and spy on locals and activists (with their ever increasing electronic surveillance power and communication), with the tearing down of civil liberties, with the awareness of torture and disappearances, etc.

Going out of your way to get arrested and labeled in computers is not the brightest idea on the books these days. Apparently Americans are spoiled in another way—they never presume to think that it could ever get so bad here that even their Caucasian butts could be placed in concentration camps like what is done in other countries. They must presume that they are the exceptions to the rule. Perhaps a little paranoia is healthy? Perhaps one ought be a tad thoughtful on how one protests? This is not a threat – it is something to think about for those of intrepid natures that realize only a minority of people who seemed a bit rash ever changed anything worthy of the name of rebellion. Rebels by nature have blind sides despite their impulses may be good and healthy. Presume nothing. Nothing is sacred anymore—not even your rights.

This is why activism is primarily about self-education—a life time of self-directed education. It is a commitment of gaining a set of attitudes worth fighting for because one has in fact bothered to learn what is going on in the world, and cared enough to demonstrate, argue and make a difference.

Activism can be a noble enterprise but it is not inevitable. Having passion about what one believes does not make one right or more right than others. We have to learn to see things from other people’s point of view—not just those we tend to sympathize with—but others as well.

Hence an important question is whether people have really explored a “variety” of information channels and opinions, and whether they have also really questioned their own motives about what they choose to believe. Marketing gurus will tell you that if people hear a statement enough times many will eventually come to believe it is true. Being briefed on an issue from one side of the debate is not the same thing as being informed. It is being biased.

Many of us underestimate our own capacity to be deceived because we underestimate our own naiveté. Meanwhile many of us over estimate our own thinking patterns as rational. Yet because we are naive we are all vulnerable to deception and manipulation.

Truth (even as a relative concept) is not gained to any degree by hearing one side of a story over and over again or even hearing two dominate sides—one must “seek out” other opinions that do not necessarily find much print space due to sophisticated forms of censorship, reticence, or inability to articulate (which does not necessarily mean minority or female person).

It is not surprising that the word “aware” is related to the word “wary.” These two words are intimately connected. One must be wary while one is becoming aware—because one is vulnerable. And even though there is an immense amount of news and opinion on current and historical events the question remains who and what to believe after seeing the chaos of disagreement amongst various advocates. This then is also a question about where does one look to be informed (what sources and who to trust as informed and sincere).

Sadly many people do not read around—that is they really do not read for “variety” of opinion. Rather many people tend to “clique” with people who hold many of the same views or values they themselves do. They cling to people and read those writers who reinforce their preconceptions. This is then not growth—this is stagnation.

Therefore many people do not look often and deeply enough to have their cherished views challenged or appreciate it when their views are challenged. Equally people do not much like it when other people do not agree with them or conform to their own way of thinking. They especially do not like it when they feel caught off guard.

Yet what makes politics so complicated is not just the natural tendency for people to vary based on individuality and upbringing; and not just the fact that many people delude themselves to various degrees about their own motives; and not just that many people do not take adequate time to learn more about issues in their various shades of complexity, which allows them to presume things; but! that there is deliberate deceptions involved in the game of politics as well—and these various forms of deceptions are not always well realized.

Many people seem to under-estimate the amount of deception that goes on in politics—even people who claim to be activists. Granted that activists are more informed them most—this I will concede. As I concede that most activists are in the right place emotionally and mentally—they are informed and have reason to protest. Still these are dangerous times.

In today’s world it can be presumed that various national intelligence agencies engage is spreading disinformation throughout various societies to mislead people. Plus we here in the U.S. have the dubious reality of dealing with deceit from our own government as well as that of other governments, as well as deceit from corporations and various non-profit organizations operating as fronts, as well as various news organizations. So within all this potential deceit or disinformation how does one know to recognize what is true or seems so.

Obviously there is no simple answer. But one reasonable answer is constant research, questions, and to utilize a variety of information sources.

Furthermore, as already mentioned, an attitude is “skepticism” may be the only realistic attitude when it comes to information about politics. One does not have to act out like one knows what is truth—there is sometimes certain dogmatism to political protests. One has both a right and a responsibility to get well informed on critical issues and this is a process that takes time—and because politics is so complicated it may take a lot of time.

As a political activist you have a right not to be pressured to jump on the latest bandwagon or fad. You have a right to examine as many conflicting points of view as you care to explore without hindrance. You do not have to agree with people because of peer pressure or political correctness. You have a right to take your time before you decide what you believe or state what you think. And you have a right to individualist thoughts and beliefs that do not necessarily jibe with most people. You have a right to “stand” alone.

The problem with belonging to political parties and groups in general is that people get “herded’ together into group thinking modes. Politicians like to get everyone on the same page when it comes time to vote; but the only page that matters when it comes time to pass laws is who has the most influence like corporate lobbyists.

The world of politics is devious and it invites cynicism and apathy. Yet is a citizen’s duty to self to become informed as much as one can reasonably tolerate. Nevertheless it is best to get the horse before the cart—get informed before jumping to conclusions. It may be in your best interest. Finally—you can choose not to be activist—which is in itself a form of choice and behavior. Doing nothing is doing something as all things have consequence—still you have the right to choose.

This work is in the public domain
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Re: The First Principle of Political Activism is Awareness.
27 Jan 2006
I have long observed that during my lifetime the level of what I call political class-consciousness has declined enormously. This screed which borders on pyscho-babble bears witness to my observation. Do not babble, organize the resistance.