5%

I am reading A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. I am really liking it. I’ve got a whole list of other books that I want to read that are listed in the book.

I’ve had a running theory in my head for a while that really only about 5% of people in a population will actively participate in politics and activism. Much of what I am reading backs this up (I’d love to find a study on this, though). But right now I am reading about the labor movement in the late 19th century, and it paints a different picture. Hundreds of thousands of workers nationwide regularly went on strike. So maybe a more complete picture will say that a much greater percentage of people will fight for things that clearly and directly affect them. Labor conditions one of these things, foreign wars are not. If true, this greatly affects strategy. For foreign wars, you’ll have to rely on great amounts of action by a small amount of people. So for the Iraq war a good strategy might be things like blocking war shipments or civil disobedience in the streets.

For issues that affect a great amount of people, you may be able to rely on much larger participation. A current issue that comes to mind that might benefit from this great participation is global warming. Maybe 10-20 years from now we will see general strikes and huge rallies.

This is several posts that I wanted to make all put into one. I realized that they all centered around a central theme: Talk is cheap.

First, we have Norman Solomon on Democracy Now on October 3, 2007:

The opposition is registered in opinion polls, but largely quiescent, and if we look at the progression of the Vietnam War, year after year, from the late ’60s through the first years of the ’70s, opinion polls show that most Americans were opposed to the war, even felt it was immoral. You fast-forward to this decade, for years now most polls have shown most people are opposed. But what does that mean? Our political culture encourages us to be passive, not to get out in the streets, not to blockade the government war-making offices, not to go into the congressional offices and not leave, not to raise our voices in impolite or disruptive ways. We have to become enemies of the warfare state, not in a rhetorical way, but in a way that speaks to the American people in terms of where our humane values are and should be.

So he is essentially saying here, if you see something as morally wrong, don’t just oppose it in thought, oppose it in action. Stop being polite.

And now lets turn to Yoko Ono on today’s Democracy Now. She is introduced on the show as a peace activist. But what has she done to deserve this title? From what I can gather, close to nothing. Sure, she has spoken as an advocate for peace, but what really needs to be done to accomplish peace is civil disobedience. It seems that she has done what has been convenient for her to do. Since her whole life has been one of wealth and privilege, she doesn’t need to worry about her next paycheck, doesn’t need to sacrifice anything. And here are quotes from their “bed-in” protest:

YOKO ONO: Be sure that instead of making war, it’s better to just stay in bed. Let’s just stay in bed for the spring.

JOHN LENNON: And grow your hair for peace. Let it grow ’til peace comes.

Like everything else in life worth having, peace takes work. Peace does not come by laying in bed. Will it come by laying in the street? Maybe. But you have to pay for the privilege of having that bed to lay in. You have to have money to get it. You have to have money to buy the food to sustain you while you lay there. It must be nice that they can afford those things and at the same time feel really good about themselves for “working” towards peace. Give me a break.

I know this post is somewhat disorganized and rambling, but I had to get it out. I am sick of the situation we are in. The people that rule this world, the big corporate executives, the people in the governments that call the shots, all of them – do you think they accomplish the things that they do by laying in bed and saying “I’m laying in bed to give US hegemony a chance.” No, they don’t. They have very exacting strategies, and they work hard at what they do.

We can learn something very valuable from those in power. That is the value of hard work. Let’s not just imagine peace and think that is enough to get it done. Let’s not sit around in a room of like-minded individuals and argue over which strategy is most effective, never coming to an agreement and not leaving enough time to implement any of them. Let’s get down to the real work. Don’t be scared to get your hands dirty. Here are some real suggestions.

Wave signs for Ron Paul. Send out postcards to libertarians. Answer his emails. Of course, this goes for any peace candidate. Show up at your favorite candidate’s campaign headquarters and say “How can I help?”

If you don’t believe in the political system, pick a date and location, print up some flyers, and tape those things to wherever people congregate. Contact groups and organizations who support your message and get them to join you. Organize people that will be in attendance to participate in civil disobedience. If there is a group in your area that is already doing this, again, simply show up. They may be starved for volunteers.

Show up. Don’t just lay in bed. Don’t just let your hair grow and think that is going to make a difference. Put your thinking cap on and if you are going to imagine anything, don’t just imagine peace, but imagine how you can help bring peace. You can’t just imagine the end result, but you also have to imagine how to get there.

It’s a Saturday morning. What better thing is there to do than to participate in some anti-war action? Go ANSWER.

Update: I had a great time doing this. We put up posters on 24th Street and under the BART tracks along MLK in Oakland. The posters were mainly for the October 27 anti-war protest in San Francisco.

I am really looking forward to the week of September 15. Why, because it’s my birthday? Well, yeah, but that isn’t the main reason.

The main reason is that September 15 is the start of a week of action in Washington D.C. aimed at stopping the war in Iraq. If it weren’t 3000 miles away, I would really try to make it.

I am probably dreaming, but I really hope to see things getting shut down. As in, so many people on the streets that the government can’t function effectively. Of course, October 27 is the day for local action and you’d better believe I will be there.

Here are the things that the current leaders of various activist movements suggest that you do:

For Impeachment of Bush/Cheney: wear orange
For Global Warming: Change your lightbulbs. Give us money.
For the Iraq War: Protest for two hours every two months.

I’m really getting sick of this. The message needs to change.

I’ve recently been hooking up with the San Francisco A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition. I went to a general meeting two weeks ago where I listened to some really bright people talk about recent developments in national and world affairs, ranging from Iraq to Iran to Jena, Louisiana. And then there was discussion about what is currently being done to remedy the problems they were talking about.

This really sounded great to me and I wanted to get more involved. I went to the next meeting this past Tuesday where I was able to do some actual work. Some frustration lately has been that all the other groups seem to be all talk and no action.

Myself and two other people got out on the streets and put up fliers for an anti-war rally in San Francisco and a movie that was showing tonight. We had a great time just chatting it up and stopping at every light post to put up a flier. They were actually my age, which was a nice change from the other groups that I have tried to get involved in. We also spoke with a few people on the street, including a drunk Spanish-speaking man who was saying something about having been a guerrilla in Guatemala.

One area of disappointment was that one person I was out there with I think was only out there because his mom was involved with the group. He actually said that he likes John McCain. John McCain? Mr. Escalation? And he’s out there putting up anti-war posters? Strange, but I guess actions speak louder than words.

I am looking forward to doing more things with these folks.

I wrote a short article on the Live Earth concerts yesterday. You can find it on the new blog for the group I am trying to organize, The San Francisco Global Warming Group.

I was extremely pissed off when I heard that Scooter Libby’s sentence has been commuted. Why should this asshole be able to get off scot free for revealing the identity of an undercover CIA agent as part of the plot to quiet critics of the impending Iraq War, a war which has cost Iraqi approximately 1 million lives, cost the United States a few thousand lives, and resulted in millions of Iraqi refugees?

As I have said to a few other people, if there were an immediate call for a demonstration at City Hall involving sleeping overnight in sleeping bags…I’d be there. Maybe if I don’t hear anything in the next day or so I’ll organize some sort of demonstration.

The abuse of power that has taken place today is ridiculous. If it isn’t technically criminal, it should be.

A copy/paste from an email I just sent out. For background, the content of the letter was urging the cab companies to use more fuel-efficient vehicles.

On Monday night after my failed meeting with two people in my neighborhood to discuss global warming and what we can do about it (they didn’t show up), I decided to take action anyway. Over a couple of hours, I sent letters to Newsom, Supervisor Peskin, and Green Cab. I also started sending letters to all of the cab companies in the city (there are a total of 30-some). I got to eight of them before I ran out of envelopes.

I included my phone number on these letters, and I actually got a phone call today from one of the cab companies, Bay Cab. The guy seemed a little bit confused but we had a several minute phone conversation about global warming, what is being done about it, and why he should feel a moral responsibility to do something about it.

There definitely wasn’t much progress made in the conversation — I think we would need a couple hours of conversation to make progress — but it was something. He was under the impression that George Bush was doing something about global warming, and hopefully I at least placed some doubt in his mind.

Being new at this activism thing…I learned today that the smallest bit of success can be very motivating.

I am organizing a Russian Hill global warming group through some postings on Craigslist. Our first meeting is tonight.

I am sitting in Starbucks trying to do my homework to answer some questions and get some ideas ahead of the meeting. Some questions are:
– What are the man-made causes of global warming?
We know the general list. Cars, trucks, airplanes, most power plants, deforestation. But in order to do something about the problem, we need numbers. We need to know where our efforts will have the most effect. A quick Google search turned up one promising link. Unfortunately it was several years old and the percentages added up to over 100%

– Where does my electricity come from?
This turned up even less results (0) than the first question. I have no idea where my electricty comes from. A Google search implies that very few people in the country will be able to answer this question easily. PG&E does have some information. It says that 58% of their energy comes from non or low-emitting sources. This implies that 42% comes from heavy emitting sources, but it doesn’t say explicitly.
Update: Obviously, I was researching this while I was writing. Thanks to Wikipedia, I have a pretty good breakdown.

– Where does my food come from?
This one will take a bit more research, and I couldn’t expect it to be answered by a simple Google search.

– What can I do to combat global warming?
Most or all websites that you go to talk only of individual action. For real change in habits to take place, we need political action as well.

Hopefully the group can put our minds together and come up with some answers and solutions.