To live in a democracy means we are all activists by default. If we believe otherwise we cease to be part of the democratic process.
Should helping people understand this not underpin any work that is done in “expanding” the movement for positive change? We know only to well the intentions of the powerful. We can’t work on our own to fight such powerful interests – but shouldn’t we need some collective aims?
We don’t have all the answers, no one has, but some of the problems in trying to finding them are very apparent. For instance. We will need to communicate with the masses to create a mass movement. We will need to step outside of the comfort zone of preaching to the converted into the reality and complexities of listening as well as speaking to ordinary people. It would make sense to begin communicating our ideas to each other maybe to arrive at some kind of collective goals or vision that we can “all” work towards. Housing, health, employment, education and such like?
“Community” activism – Lost traditions.
Lost along with the destruction of the social base (and our manufacturing industry) is the almost traditional learning of activism. The tradition of the young learning from the history of struggle is something else that has all but disappeared. Much of the older generation of activists lacks any physical presence, (places where we meet) in which to communicate experiences.
What where once learned topics of the workplace or the pub are now treated as specialised subject mater. The strength of local activism used to be something that was learned orally and was connected to community experience and passed on through generations. Many of today’s young folk, new to activism are repeatedly learning the same process over and over. When one group drops out, the next starts at the very beginning again with little continuity or collective purpose, nor local connection.
Continuity and purpose
The important work of the activist in a community is that they should be doing things that affords their welcome. Much of the work can be destructive through lack of understanding and ignoring what needs done and doing what we think needs done. Maintaining continuity needs a vision of where we are going. Vision needs organising – organising creates continuity and purposeful work.
These are the things our new institutions should be informed by. In the past what gave working class communities organisational strength was what they were doing was relevant to them – it was part of their working day, their job their family, their social life their neighbours.
That cohesion to a great extent is lost – And maybe communities need outside help to redress the balance. If outsiders are to be helpful in communities this needs to be understood. We need to work for the community, not ourselves and any work started needs to be finished or left, in as much as possible in such a way that it can be continued by someone else, otherwise we are in danger of adding to the problems and building cynicism rather than helping.
“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” Margaret Wheatley