When last we communicated via ROPnet a year ago, Occupy was not yet a named, dynamic moment. And yet ‘it’ (the ripening phase*) was there, lurking. Possibility is always there if we can stop seeking the idealized moments of social justice work. According to Bill Moyer’s Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements, a book that ROP has promoted over the years, there are predictable stages in social justice work*. Few of them, very few, are the exciting times that we know from history and thus expect our organizing to lead to – fast. We often gripe as we repeat the same phone lists, door knock another set of doors, and wonder, where are the masses.
In recent years we have gotten to see masses. With these masses we have seen some victories (short-term?) and many, many losses. And throughout we have been asked, and asked others, to phone another list and door knock some more houses. This is not the door knocking that tells people how to think or what to do, but the door knocking and phone calling that actually seeks to start a relationship – that combines information sharing with listening. (As I write this my sweetie just arrived home from work early so that he could door knock a list of neighborhood houses in foreclosure with information on how to stay in their homes with the support of organized resistance.)
The times we live in demand persistence because we have a tough corporate state to unravel. No quick series of victories will change that. Persistence might, especially if we constantly expand the base that identifies and participates with us. We need an organizing culture that values our own tenacity.
The times change, the stage of the movement varies and the story lines introduce new concerns. What tends not to change is the basic work. Quality organizing always depends on building new relationships, that we then excite and inform to create the most effective resistance we can for the times. Tactics that are strategic to the moment are not always clear. Who are we trying to communicate to? And for what outcome? Those answers should drive the tactics. And what better place then some form of general assembly/living room conversation/town hall to work through the options. We need consensus. We need buy-in. We need the humility that comes from listening well to others’ ideas. Facilitating such process is an art we need to train ourselves in.
In this past year, I suspect (and hope) that every one of us found a way to participate. I was re-entering active treatment for my ovarian cancer when the Occupy camps started. The unprecedented shortage of intravenous drugs was something I was already organizing around since I knew that not only was it wrong, it also meant that the top pick drug for me would not be available when my cancer returned. And so I showed up at the local Occupy protests with a sign that stated that I was “wait-listed for chemo” and “big pharma + wall street = no chemo for me.” (In fact, the drug shortage meant I endured 5 months of second choice chemo which ravaged my body while my cancer grew.)
Everyone benefits when we can find our stories of the moment. We share them not to switch the focus to us but, in fact, to give permission to the 99% to find their own stories and to find the courage to insert themselves in our demands. I am committed to immigrant justice work because it is right but as I moved into that work back in the mid nineties I started figuring out my own story in regards to immigration issues. Of course I had one – we always have one but we don’t always have a process to figure it out. Claiming our stories and then moving them into the organizing of the day is part of the work we all do with ROP – it’s why we need an organization and movement relationships. Who can figure it out on their own?
Last year I missed my first ever Rural Caucus and Strategy Session. This year I won’t. I am tucking the myriad of obligations we all face around the reserved date – Saturday, May 12th. My first dose on this new chemotherapy starts today, I had surgery last week. My brain struggles after 20 doses of chemo and hugs are no longer safe with my weary immune system but none of these realities impacts my ability to be in this movement, tithing my time and resources in whatever ways I can. We always still can. And that, my dear friends, is why grassroots organizers go door to door, person to person to show that each of us can always share something for justice. The what is for skilled organizers like you to work out with new recruits. And that is a truly exciting process!
See you soon and until then I share the 8 stages of movements below for your local cadre to ponder.
much love, marcy
Bill Moyer’s Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements
*The Eight Stages of Social Movement Success:
1. Normal times
2. Prove the failure of official institutions
3. Ripening conditions
5. Perception of failure
6. Majority public opinion
8. Continuing the struggle