I had an idea tonight while talking with a friend, and I want to write it down before I forget it.
I have had a sinking suspicion for a few years that activism is becoming the flavour of the week, and that the majority of those people out on the streets are there because demonstrating is the popular thing to do right now. I have also, due to where I live, felt an increasing apathetic attitude in the people around me.
Now I feel that I may be wrong. It isn't that people are apathetic, it's that they think that they ARE actively participating in society. My friend was arguing that activism has become part of the mainstream culture, the problem is that mainstream culture is telling us how to protest and we are no longer thinking of clever ways to educate and inform.
By going into the streets of Seattle or Prague or Windsor people believe that the message of anti-corporate globalization is being transmitted to the general public simply because the attentions of the media have been caught. This is not the case.
Unfortunately, the media are the last things we, as activists, should want at a protest. The result of media coverage of recent protests has been to portray the demonstrators as anarchists, left-wing radicals, and nut-cases. The media will, probably due to corporate interests, portray the protesters and the protest however they feel appropriate, regardless of what the actual events were. It does not matter if the majority of citizens agree with the sentiments of the protesters, their opinion of the whole event will be manipulated by the media.
Also, it is not enough to merely shut down the Summit of the Americas, because the discussions will just be pushed back to next summer or next year, and the agreement will eventually be signed. What must happen is a total reversal of policy on the part of those doing the negotiating, this requires a change in our voting practices, and more involvement in democracy.
The old saying "Think globally, act locally" should once again be repeated for the new generation of activists. We need to educate our communities about the dangers of corporate globalization, or whatever our cause may be. We must create local solutions to our problems, and use local strength to change public policy.
When the Zapatistas began their struggle in México, they were asked 'how can we help your struggle?', and blankets and food were given, and there were solidarity marches. The Subcomandantes said 'that is the easy way to support us what is much more difficult is to begin local resistance to the oppression.' When the students at UNAM began their strike the Zapatistas said 'perfect! that is exactly what you must do to help our fight'.
When governments see that there is a growing movement that questions the legitamacy of the state, and there are citizens all across North America telling their representatives that change is necessary, then change will happen. Change will not happen when the minority is protesting while the majority sits quietly, isolated from the fight.