Watching the BLM protests in the US this summer made me feel many things and none of them were good. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of the protests, of standing up to authority, rebelling, breaking the system, etc. It sounds great and it looks great on TV.
But the revolution will not be televised.
The media covered the BLM protests just long enough to sell some advertising, and appear woke. The protests are still going on around the country but there’s no coverage unless someone gets shot in the street.
No laws changed. No legislation is even being discussed. A few cities made symbolic cuts to their police budgets, but no one defunded the police, or did anything demonstrably different than before.
Far from a move away from an authoritative police state, the Democratic ticket is a sleepy old white man and a hardline cop.
On the other hand, a whole lot of people got hurt during the protests. Lots of people were inconvenienced, spent time in jail, have arrest records now, had their phones copied and searched, etc. But some of the victims of police brutality, and hate crimes, were fatalities.
When we’re legitimately dealing with life and death situations, we have to consider if the results we’re getting are worth the pricing we’re paying. I do not believe that the ends justify the means. Protesting simply isn’t working.
And here’s why…
To protest something is to give it the ultimate power over the situation because you’re at the mercy of the very people who are being unjust to you to see the error of their ways and adjust their behavior. Protesting is merely communicating in a group voice –it does not accomplish anything transformative in of itself.
Protests raise awareness. They get people calling their political representatives and making donations. But if the powers that be don’t want to recognize the issue, nothing will change.
Worse, by engaging with militarized police forces regularly -on their terms- protesters are justifying the very brutality they sought to eliminate in the eyes of much of the rest of the country.
The problem isn’t conceptual; meaning that the protesters’ hearts are largely in the right place (until they’re screaming at random people at restaurants for solidarity). Those not setting fires, or egging on the police, intentionally, are just trying to make a difference.
The problem is strategic. Our enemies aren’t in the opposing political party. Our enemies are the global system of classism, its devotees among the super rich, and their sycophants in positions of supposed political “power”. The real problem here is “trickle down economics”. But we’re meeting in the streets fighting nazis (or whatever) and Bezos isn’t in the streets. Trump and Pelosi aren’t in the streets…
Militarized CBP are in the streets, alongside the Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois, and a police force fully infiltrated by white supremacist gangs. No good can come of squaring off physically with the enemy…because this is literally what they want.
The authorities have literally been given license to terrorize you without repercussion, to infringe your rights, arrest you illegally, detain you without miranda or due process, collect information about you, and most likely copy every contact in your phonebook, Facebook, etc. in the process.
When the police have been given direct orders to suppress your American and human rights -what is the point of protesting? Protesting only works if our political masters fear us, and they don’t.
We need a new paradigm for activism…
Effective tactics are always tied to a time and place; they do not remain effective indefinitely. The non-violent protests of Ghandi and Martin Luther King are an interesting history lesson but they are out of sync with our current relationship with power in the modern age.
Likewise, violent revolutions are a limited prospect in nations with omnipotent military capabilities. You and your molotov cocktail aren’t taking on the establishment. Definitely not a good plan.
In our modern age these scenarios are fantasies. At best, they’re pointless. At their worst, they can be very counterproductive.
Remember Occupy Wall Street -that feckless, ineffective, celebration of entitlement? Thousands of employed white kids drinking Starbucks lattes while protesting institutions they barely comprehend; an adolescent fad that quickly faded away.
Occupy Wall Street was reality TV, not a protest.
Fast-forward a few years and Kylie Jenner is handing a can of Pepsi to a riot cop in an attempt to save the world. Do you see the theme? This isn’t activism, it’s idiocracy. We’re playing the fools they want us to be in a story of their making.
When all your best efforts only serve the ends of your enemies, it’s time to reconsider the goals, methods, and guiding principles of your movement (or whatever you’d call it). Rather than continuing to reinforce the narratives of our collective enemies, we must find a way to push back on the tyranny that doesn’t increase its power.
Engage in radical non-participation…
The answer is to stop playing rigged games. You can’t keep stuffing quarters in a rigged slot machine waiting to get lucky. And you can’t just rob the casino either, the house wins in either case.
The only way to win is not to play.
In the spirit of Ghandi’s and King’s non-violence, more value can be achieved through non-action than drama. More progress can be gained by not-doing, than doing. But unlike the non-violent protests of 20th century politics, we must abandon the hope that our quiet rebellion will change our society. Mere social change is insufficient, we must have a spiritual rebirth.
Framing the issue this way presents a new paradigm for operating in the world. As vulnerable individuals we have to protect ourselves and our interests. Operating as “wholes-within-wholes” we can view individuality as a nested hierarchy and more easily take on the burdens of our fellow humans as our own.
Understanding this universal “same-ness” and our responsibility to lift our fellow humans (and non-humans) up out of misery and near certain extinction is the role of the humans here on Earth today.
We may not all recognize it yet but the future hinges on the small, non-heroic actions of all life-loving people who embrace this responsibility for one another and the world we inhabit.
This realization is coming as surely as the rock-bottom that we’re plummeting towards now. The story of humanity doesn’t end in despair in the next 50 years but what does happen will be tragic and leave those of us that survive it with generations of trauma to heal.
There’s not a bright side to this story. There’s just “The Trouble” and “staying with it”. We’ve made the mess and we have to sit in it until we get it cleaned up.
Which means that we don’t have time to argue with the “powers that be” or to care what they think. They’re trying to auction off the world’s resources to multinational megacorps that answer to no one and have annual revenues larger than some national GDPs. They’re busy being evil, let them be.
There’s unfortunately little we can do about them at present. They have ALL the guns. Good Lord…so many guns (and well-trained psychopaths). But their power does come from our complacency…
And that’s something we can work with. You may have to pay your taxes and fill out the census but you don’t ever have to call the police, report a neighbor (for anything, ever, seriously wtf…), or give your hard-earned dollars to politicians.
You, most especially, do not need to help a fundamentally corrupt and classist government justify further militarizing police forces by LARP’ing revolutionaries in your free time.
First of all, that’s just pointless and dumb. Secondly, it’s demonstrably counterproductive and extremely likely to come back to haunt you in the near future. Radical non-participation is a better way.
5 points of the non-participation strategy:
- You do not have to watch the news. It is not your social obligation to be as miserable and afraid as everyone else.
- You do not have to be a narc. Just don’t do it. Innocent are regularly killed by the police, so don’t give them an opportunity.
- You do not have to become financially wealthy. You probably won’t. You must fill your life with Joy instead.
- You do not have to live according to anyone’s standards or even the law when it can be avoided. Follow your own moral code and keep a low profile. It works out the same.
- You do not have to give up your data. Not all of it anyway.
Let’s look at each of these points in detail to examine how they might affect our ability to cope with the situations we find ourselves in these days.
You do not have to watch the news (or social media).
You owe no one misery. However you do owe yourself, and the universal force that gave you life, to find what brings you Joy and to experience it fully; to find purpose through facilitating life.
Could anyone honestly say that watching the news brings them Joy?
Engaging with friends on social media, especially during various phases of quarantine, can boost your spirits in a pinch -and that’s close enough to the same thing. Doomscrolling, on the other hand, is a Joy-less, soul-depleting activity.
Just look away.
You do not have to be a narc.
There’s no trophy for being a good citizen. It’s not a thing. Mind your own business.
Case(s) in point:
Making matters worse, police in the US carry out nearly 20,000 no-knock raids each year, overwhelmingly against people of color, and drug searches account for the majority of those actions. While national statistics on no-knock-related deaths do not exist, a New York Times investigation found no-knock raids to be the cause of 39 deaths between 2010 and 2016. It’s easy to imagine the real number to be much higher.
Since this type of action requires the approval of a judge, one has to wonder if less people spoke to the police about their neighbors if less flimsy cases could be put together resulting in fatal incidents.
You do not have to be financially wealthy
Wealth, in the traditional sense of the word, is a fool’s errand in a world without fiat currency or controls on the central banking system. Every time the bad guys get caught with their hand in the cookie jar we just bankrupt the nation, print a bunch of new money, and start blowing economic bubbles again.
Real wealth is arguably a state of being rather than an amount of money in your account. To feel safe, have provisions, conveniences, and the opportunity to pursue your Joy -this is real wealth. Wealth is the potential to create the life you want rather than some materialistic intangible.
You need to provide for yourself now and into the future. You are not a failure if you die without a Scrooge McDuck pile of money. You’re a failure if you chase an unachievable, and questionably enjoyable, existence predicated on hoarding resources and compromising values.
You do not have to live according to anyone’s standards or even the law
Don’t worry about the law unless there’s some way for you to get caught and punished. Worry about your morality and make good, regenerative choices.
Violate whatever laws you you may in accordance with your beliefs in the privacy of your home or remote location. But where the law is unavoidable, don’t draw attention. The point of rebellion in this case is to preserve agency, so don’t go losing your freedom.
Anarchy isn’t the end goal, it’s just a method to make space for your Joy to exist without feeling guilt.
You do not have to give up your data (nor should you)
It can be tricky to avoid giving your data away with every app secretly syphoning your information and the government unmotivated to intervene since they’re buying our data in record-sized heaps and making deals with big tech to implement total surveillance.
However, we do not have to volunteer to be counted as dissenters (and then fed to machine learning algorithms that will analyze and predict our future behaviors). We certainly should avoid being arrested, or detained, and having our phones confiscated, copied, and uploaded into the largest domestic intelligence network in the world.
You don’t need that dumb new app. You don’t need to know which Game of Thrones character you are. You definitely don’t need your mobile location data being reported inside of a police kettling maneuver just so you can “have your voice heard”.
The stakes are high and visibility is low.
The problem is that the line in the sand of what’s possible is receding so quickly into the distance of inconceivable new horizons that we simply can’t predict what terrifying possibilities might be in store for us if we don’t start saying “No” more often to preserve our agency (and liberty).
The stakes are high because with crisis comes opportunity for fascists and fascist-imperialists (which is how I view our laughably-two-party political system). There is no shortage of crisis in the world today, thus no shortage of opportunity to leverage our fear to open the doors wide for totalitarianism.
Visibility is low because the world is increasingly run by algorithms, AI and otherwise. The algorithms have considerably more influence over your life than you have over how they function, what they know about you, or who benefits from their use.
Now is not the time to go fighting in the streets. We simply don’t know what we’re dealing with, or how all the data that’s being recorded will be used in the future. Given the rapid slide towards the impossible that 2020 has been so far, it would be extremely shortsighted to assume that we have any understanding of what’s to come.
Long before we will be able to take action against the military-intel-tech-pharma-agri-media-industrial-megacomplex that is trying to control every aspect of our lives, we have to stop playing by their rules long enough to establish some self-sovereignty. Otherwise we’ll be sipping Starbucks lattes and staring at our phones as the “Great Reset” re-makes life on earth into a technocratic dystopia.
The way to win is to play a completely different game.