New Rules for Radicals: 10 Ways To Spark Change in a Post-Occupy World
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Of course, there are boundaries: don't try anything that violates our principles, or replicates the things we hate the most about the other side. There will be no cheating, no lying, and no crazies with guns taking out people we disagree with. We have to be better than that: if we betray our values, we lose everything.
But apart from that: Go. The sooner we get going, the sooner we’ll figure this thing out.
4. Trust the vision.
Those of a progressive bent — and by “progressive,” I mean anybody who believes that business-as-usual is no longer acceptable and that real progress is not only possible, but necessary for our very survival — have a strong, vivid vision of what this nation can and should become. In our minds’ eyes, we can see that future as clearly as we can conjure the familiar rooms of our old childhood homes. And for most of the past few decades, it seems like it’s been just about as far away.
Still, we can close our eyes and linger over every shimmering detail. The optimistic comfort of a middle-class life in which most Americans have dignified work, happy families, and enough wealth plus some to share. The relief of knowing that our basic needs for adequate shelter, healthy food and water, safe work, inspired education, useable transportation, essential healthcare, world-class recreation, and a good retirement are met through strong, trustworthy community commitments we can count on. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that we’re providing all of this in ways that won’t deprive our grandchildren of options crucial to their own survival. We want justice, equity, opportunity, and a government and an economy that are finely tuned to the spritely and practical rhythms of the common good. We want to be rich in the things that genuinely matter, rather than slaves to predatory institutions that produce things that don’t.
That’s our vision, and we’re sticking to it. The problem is: until very recently, a lot of us have felt isolated, like this alternate reality existed nowhere else except inside our own skulls. Few corporations paid it anything more than lip service. Their pet media declared our ideas dangerously crazy and unworthy of “serious” coverage. Our federal government, even in Democratic hands, has been almost totally non-responsive (unless somebody screws up). The cultural authorities who used to defend and uphold our values without restraint or apology — the academy, the scientific community and non-fundamentalist religious congregations — were systematically discredited and silenced. Progressivism is literally being written out of history, its heroes co-opted, its astonishing victories erased. The very words we once used to describe these very American ideals have been redefined to the point where it’s sometimes impossible to even talk about it.
It’s hard to trust a vision that nobody else recognizes, let alone validates. After a while, even you might even start to agree that this is all just a weird personal delusion that’s best kept under wraps.
The new rule is: Trust the dream. Trust it enough to not only talk about it, but defend it proudly to any and all bullies. Trust the deep wisdom and sanity of it. Trust your own craziness in believing in it. Trust the other people who share it. Trust the change that you create while you pursue it. Trust that much of that imagined world has existed before; and trust also that it will — in a new and better form — rise again.
5. Focus on our goals, not on our enemies.
This one builds on #1, the “No despair” rule.
I’ve made a career writing about the conservative movement’s uncanny skill at thwarting our dreams. This is red meat to progressives (and a perennially effective traffic booster at lefty Web sites). No blogger ever goes wrong by describing, explaining, or expressing spittle-flecked outrage over the overwhelming will, reach and resources arrayed against us. It’s easy, and not entirely wrong, to tell ourselves that we’re being stalled by the unfathomable cunning and treachery of our enemies.