Long as and less coherent than I wanted it to be - Tactical Ninja
Sep. 23rd, 2011
10:09 am - Long as and less coherent than I wanted it to be
OK so apparently the Dow dropped a bunch of points yesterday/today/whateverthefuck the time is over there. Apparently so did everything else (everything that counts, that is - you'll not the NZSE50* isn't on there. I tried to find out what was happening here but could not make head nor tail of the charts).
To be honest, I have no idea what this means. It seems to be happening on a regular basis and I've kind of lost track of what I'm supposed to be afraid of. I'm guessing it can't be good. ;-/ I know it meant our dollar dropped four cents against the US overnight, just at the moment a US company decided to charge my debit card on an order I've had in for over a week, and thus my card was declined. I hate that - it's been a very long time since I got declined for anything - but if that's the worst of the immediate effects I guess I'm thankful? Fucked if I know. I really don't get how the US doing badly makes our dollar drop against theirs. Any Forex experts on here care to explain?
As some of you know, I started thinking about withdrawal of consent seriously about the same time I was studying crimes of globalisation. Actually I had thought about it before, but never in terms of withdrawing consent. I spent years of my life living in the boonies, growing my own vegies and raising my own livestock in an attempt to withdraw consent - but I didn't call it that, and the experience of doing that made me understand how hard it is to withdraw that consent. Because unless you own the land you're living on, you are simply giving money to someone else who hasn't withdrawn consent for the right to live there, and the fact of having to do this keeps you in poverty. $9000 a year for 10 hour days of hard manual labour kind of poverty. That's how I ended up ten years later living in the centre of our capital city, working a top-tax-bracket job and being a wanky middle-class latte drinker, because I realised that in order to truly withdraw my consent, I had to play the game until I was in a position to do otherwise.
I know not everyone has this privilege - but I'm not those people, I'm me, and this is what I did. This is how I have chosen to withdraw my consent.
I'm an idealist. I would like to see mass uprising, even in our own country never mind worldwide, against the oligarchies that focus the majority of the wealth in a very small part of the population, then work to keep it there regardless of the impact on the less fortunate. Hell, I'd be happy if a rally in New Zealand could attract more than a few hundred people. There are lots of reasons why this doesn't happen, and after my post yesterday and the responses to it, it's becoming more and more obvious to me that in Western countries at least, this is an unrealistic dream. The practice of shooting down anyone that tries to raise awareness through public displays of solidarity ensures that that avenue is seen as undesirable.
And yet, nearly everyone I talk to agrees that the system is broken and that it's getting worse not better. The majority of people seem to want change, but are seemingly unwilling or unable to see how to create that change. Many people aren't prepared to take the risk with their livelihood/life, or don't have the time, or are too lazy, or are not in the financial position, or don't understand the true issues, or feel that because they don't have a plan to fix it shouldn't be complaining, or think that it's all too big, or any one of a myriad of reasons why people don't get involved in large scale activism.
Now we could write people off for not dedicating their lives to improving the world, or we could think about ways of being active despite those myriad of reasons.
This is where the concept of microactivism is becoming increasingly interesting to me. I'm calling it that as a bastardisation of 'microprotest', because protesting and activism aren't the same thing. The idea is, what kind of activism can your average person** participate in that is low risk, low effort, low time, low commitment. As hep pointed out yesterday, there are many forms of activism that people could be participating in - lobbying, letter writing, withdrawal of funds from banks one disapproves of. Money talks, right? So if you have it, place it according to your ethics, and withdraw it from organisations/people who do not align with your ethics.
Those petitions that go round from Avaaz and Change.org? Do you sign them? Because they seem to be having a modicum of success in creating change in specific areas. Those organisations are run by people more dedicated than you, who are willing to do the donkey work of collating and presenting the petitions, of writing legible and logical letters on behalf of the cause. And adding your signature to them, you are actually lending some weight to what they're asking. When I first started doing it I wasn't sure whether it was worth it - and I'm sure sometimes it doesn't work, but sometimes it does.
I'm all for pinging off emails to organisations and politicians about issues as well. Sometimes they are successful (see: public outcry about Paul Henry's racism), sometimes they are not (see: me gettting patted on the head by my MP and assured that our legislative process will ensure the TPPA is fair to us all). But if people don't do this 5 minute thing, there's no registered objection at all to the things we don't like.
It becomes more difficult when deciding what to do with your money. It's almost impossible to live without a bank account, and which bank do you choose? They are all pretty much the same deal (at least in this country). Likewise hey hey, I just got a mortgage! This means I'll be paying compound interest and supporting the endeavours of some investment bank that may or may not be one of the evil ones - I don't actually know. What I do know is that the mortgage I got was ethical. My means were tested, I had to demonstrate ability to service, and I had to come up with a deposit that ensures that if I do get foreclosed, it's likely I'd come out of it debt free and with some money left. I am not being placed in a tenuous position and it's unlikely anyone's going to be betting against me honouring my debt. And, looping back to up there, eventually I will own something, at which point I'm much better placed to withdraw my consent more fully.
Other money-related things that spring to mind - avoid debt where possible. Credit is how those with money make more money, and it's one of the ways that those with little money stay poor. Step one, that I harp on about a lot, is to get rid of the credit card and replace it with a debit card. Avoid HP (installment plans) where possible, unless they are interest free ones. And when making large purchases (oh god I sound like my Mum), if it looks like you'll need to get credit for it, consider whether a) you actually need it and b) you need it right now.
Being able to choose ethical purchases is a privilege - just go have a look in the supermarket at the egg section. You pay at least $2 a dozen more for free range eggs, $1 a dozen more for barn eggs, and the cheapest ones are cage eggs. Partly this is because it's cheaper to produce cage eggs, but there's a factor in there that supermarkets know those who can afford it will pay more to feel ok about their egg purchase. If I'm spending more on eggs to be ethical, I want to know that money's going to the ethical chicken farmer, not to some supermarket executive.
(here there's a voice in my head going "But Tats, if we reduce the profits of the supermarkets, won't they charge more to those who don't have the choice in order to shore themselves up? Or worse, close down and stop bringing a variety of staple foods to places where those who don't have a choice actually live?" I don't know if this voice is accurate or just my policy brain in action).
Anyway, that kind of moves me on to the other ways of withdrawing consent that were suggested by thesecondcircle in another post:
* Organizing a grassroots campaign to generate support for third-party candidates in local elections.
* Creating and distributing alternative currencies that support local economy (see BerkShares).
* Withdrawing tax consent by creating underground barter networks.
* Rebuilding the apprentice model for hands on jobs through alternate paths for some high-school students.
* Starting a group to facilitate food sovereignty through:
- gardening classes / guerrilla gardening
- harvest networks (see http://portlandfruit.org/)
- free cooking classes base on 'real' foods
- coordinating healthy food delivery to 'food desert' neighborhoods (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_desert)
Did you know Wellington has community gardens?
And finally, from Happy - think about ways to take control of the means of production. Not in a revolution kind of way, but in the way of thinking about who made the thing you're buying and whether you could have more control of that process by going about getting it in different ways. Like making your own clothes or growing some spinach on your balcony.
Meanwhile, I am looking forward to doing more of my shopping at farmers' markets. I can't honestly say whether the farmers markets are full of local produce - I somehow doubt it because out-of-season vegetables are available there. But I'm liking the idea of giving my money more directly to the people who produce my food. I would prefer to produce my own food, but again with the system having enough of a stranglehold on me that I can't yet afford to produce my own food in a significant way.
Anyway, I could go on and on (no really Tats? You?) - but what I'm getting at is that there are loads and loads of things people can do to withdraw consent in small ways. My thing is that I dislike the system in which corporations and governments are able to act unethically in ways that increase inequality and damage the environment. So when I'm thinking about microactivism, I'm thinking about what small things I can incorporate into my life to withdraw consent from being part of that.
I really hope other people are also thinking about this. I got very disheartened yesterday hearing people talk about how the #OccupyWallStreet protestors are Doin It Rong because of
a) how they aren't protesting everything ever
b) how they don't have a comprehensive plan to fix capitalism
c) how their cause is too narrow
d) how their cause is too broad
e) how they are white and middle class so nobody will listen
f) how they aren't wearing suits and important so nobody will listen
And I'm going "Well OK then, if we're all going to sit here and criticise them for what they're doing while agreeing with their point, maybe we can come up with ways in which we can battle their point in individual, small ways that don't require us to stick our neck out like they have."
But there's still part of me that thinks a big bunch of people yelling and screaming is an important part of making people realise they aren't alone. I just wish us Westerners didn't have this ingrained neoliberal aversion to solidarity.
Apparently something happened on Facebook that people aren't happy about. I'm kind of glad I'm not involved in any of that stuff. Same goes for Google+ - I actually think my life is better for using neither of these networks. I feel less angsty and have less online arguments, and once I got over the "I might be missing something" feeling, I haven't missed them. Hmm..
* When did it become 50? All my life it's been NZSE40. Is this some method of making us think we have growth?
** Yes, I know there's no such thing. I also know that some of the things listed won't be accessible to some people. If you know of things that are accessible to those people, please add them rather than tearing down my list as some kind of privilege-fest.