Report on "Question: How Activists Operate"

Following are responses to the question that I circulated earlier this month: “How should political activists improve how they operate?”

Shariff Adbullah
The question is meaningless, without a prior question/identification:  "What is the Vision/Goal of your political activism?"

Without this question, asking how one can improve political activity is like asking how one can improve the way you put on your pants in the morning.  SO WHAT?  And: putting on your running shorts may be the easiest activity, but is pretty useless during a blizzard.

Recently, I was talking to a couple of people who think of themselves as political activists.  They were telling me that their goal was to "Get rid of Trump".  I asked, "Why?"  They looked dumbfounded.  I then reflined my question: "Assume I can wave my pen and "get rid of Trump".  What do you think would happen then?"

They launched into the usual litany of anti-Trump statements, disguised as benefits.  "Protect immigrant rights", "Protect the environment", "Bring us together".

My response: "And then what?"  And again the dumbfounded look.  I said, "Suicide is at an alarming rate.  The use of dangerous drugs, especially heroin, is at an all-time high.  Depression and despair are epidemic.  We have tens of thousands of people existing in tents on the streets of all of our cities.  WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?"

So, the short answer to your short question.  Until the "political activists" are ready to answer the real questions of our society, they should stay home and meditate.  And, when they have answers that will benefit ALL BEINGS (not just their own political clique or their pet issues), they will know the actions that are most effective.

BIG HINT:  They can start their meditations by focusing on the statement: "What would it take to create a world that works for all beings?"

Jeff Aitken
A couple things that might help:

The Fourfold Practice, which scales from self care, and hosting important conversations, into growing affinity groups and networks around a campaign.

The Four Roles of Change, which helps us identify four key roles in a movement and how to play them well.

Yahya Abdal-Aziz
Listen as much as they speak.

Deetje Boler

The strong effect on activists of singing together of relevant songs is too often forgotten by organizers. There is really no stronger bonding than the sensation of singing together with others. It can make a lasting and profound impact on an individual's feeling of connection and optimism regarding shared goals that contributes to continuing motivation to work to achieve a shared goal. (And I don't mean just listening to people's songs -- labor, folk, work, spiritual, anthems, etc; I mean singing them together with others.) The experience simply does something unique to the heart and soul! --a feeling of belonging to something larger than oneself? shifts the power away from the 'other' into the social group singing, with a sense of being part of a larger 'being' than just oneself.

Ronnie Dugger
I suggest; by enforcing their ethical actions and lessons with nonviolent civil disobedience. I may write along this line but do name me as the source as if a mere sentence deserves to be credited

Steve Gerritson
It seems to me that most political activists operate within an organization - either a campaign or an NGO dedicated to some good purpose. (Full disclosure: I went through the Sierra Club's activist training.) in pursuit of their objective, often the first thing they do is demonize the opposition. This makes it virtually impossible to compromise, and often precludes an objective discussion of the issue. My main suggestion would be to stop doing that.

Patricia Gray
I think we have to urge people NOT TO VOTE BY POLITICAL PARTIES-----They should demand that their 'represetatives' truly REPRESENT THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE, and not vote as directed by their 'major donors' --- we all know these 'donations' are just bribes.  Candidates should promise to vote as directed by the registered voters who live in the district.  They can promise that if elected they will put up information on all the bills coming up for a vote.  On their web site they can have the whole bill, a condensed version of the bill, arguments both for and against the bill and then as for the advice of the constituent as to how they should vote IN THEIR NAME.

Carolyn Reuben Green
Have long range plans! Last night Rachel Maddow showed the disgusting charts of multiple states where gerrymandering by Republican legislatures retains Republican control of the statehouse even though Democrats won dramatically higher numbers of popular votes in every case. Republican strategists planned years ahead for this, district by district. 

Wade Hudson
Cultivate more humility and engage in more honest self-evaluation to nurture more self-improvement.

Mike Miller
I'm only about 50 pages into Hegemony How-To:  a Roadmap for Radicals by Jonathan Matthew Smucker.  In these pages, he asks activists to critically evaluate what they have been doing.  He raises the question based on his own experience as an OCCUPY WALL STREET activist.  His questions deserve serious consideration.  I don't yet know how he answers them because I haven't read that far.  

Michael Nagler
They could be more in touch with others doing complementary work.  They should have an awareness of the Big Picture (to even recognize who's doing comp. work -- which is almost all of us).  They should be familiar with the basic dynamics of nonviolence.  They should be ware of being 'ideological' and looking to call other people out -- even our opponents!

Bob Planthold
|Look at where are the values and concerns of the people around them.  
From that, look where there are inconsistencies.

STOP working from abstract  & remote political values & history.
Too often the wording is high-falutin and, figuratively, foreign to 
the people & groups that polit. activists are trying to work WITH.

Justice St. Rain
I have no idea. 
All I know is that peaceful ends require peaceful means.
When they go low, we go high.

Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Scholars have to get their noses out of their books and put theory, indispensable but useless until put  into action, by which I mean,
 putting their bodies as well as their minds, on the line - in the streets and highways and  byways of our divided America…

Thomas Schegel
Back in the 1970s someone on KPFA quoted Lenin as below. I can’t give a cite. I have never found the quote in writing so it may have been made up, or from someone else, but it has suited me. “The first duty of a revolutionary is to share the life of the workers, the second is, patiently, to explain.” Sounds like early Lenin, who’s father was a school teacher/administrator after all. The revolution came along and things got urgent. But until I find myself involved in revolutionary government I will stick with that statement of doctrine.