Start Small II

4 Jun

One of the fundamental problems with activism – and protests and riots – is that effecting real change, positive change, takes time and effort.  The would-be activist needs to convince a majority of the population that the changes they propose, and want, will be either beneficial or neutral to them.  This requires a degree of hard work, ranging from organising an activist organisation that is capable of working towards change without being corrupted by violent hardliners or subverted by the establishment to actually listening to the people the activist needs on their side.  This can be immensely frustrating work and the urge to take shortcuts is overwhelmingly powerful, but it cannot be avoided.  Reformers who fail to do the ground work rarely accomplish anything positive.  The results are almost always negative.

I’m writing from the other side of a giant ocean, so I may be completely wrong about this, but I don’t believe the protests and riots currently sweeping over America will achieve anything positive, either for the protestors themselves or anyone else.  This is because of three factors:

First, the riots will do a great deal of damage to areas that were already badly hit by the virus and lockdown.  Destroyed businesses may not be reopened.  Those that do will face higher insurance costs, forcing them to raise prices, cut wages and slash their workforces; investment will be cut back to the bone because the district will look like a poor risk.  Unemployment will rise sharply, putting ever-greater strains on the social network; anyone with any money or sense will head for the nearest exit as quickly as possible.  In short, things will get a great deal worse for the inhabitants.

Second, the riots will confirm every negative stereotype about people who live in such districts.  Sympathy from outsiders will vanish.  People who try to leave the area will find themselves very unwelcome, as they’ll be seen – unfairly – as having very bad habits.  There will be strong opposition to federal funding for relief programs, etc, etc.

Third, the political establishment has no incentive to change.   Why should it?

Now, obviously, I don’t live in those areas, but if I did – and I wanted things to change – I’d start looking at ways to do it.  The trick, it seems to me, is to bring pressure to bear on the political establishment, the sort of pressure – the risk of being voted out of office – that politicians take very seriously.  A lone voter is statistically insignificant.  A voters movement that has a clear idea of what it wants – and is ready to vote for candidates or even nominate its own politicians – is a serious player. 

The key to running a campaign is to bear in mind that you can group people into three categories.  You have people who will support you as long as you work to give them what they want (Supporters).  You have people who will be largely indifferent to you, as long as you don’t interfere with them (Neutrals).  And you have people who will oppose you because they feel you’re either wrong or likely to interfere with them (Opponents).  DO NOT fall into the trap of dismissing your Opponents as bigots (or whatever).  This will both impinge upon your ability to reach out to them and make you look bad to the Neutrals. 

I’d actually start by recommending you read Take Back Your Government, by Heinlein.  It’s somewhat outdated now – tech and politics have moved on – but it’s still a pretty good primer for the aspiring politician.  However, if you haven’t read it or don’t have time to read it, here’s a rough outline of what you can do.

First, know what the rules of the game are before you start to play.  Sit down and do some basic research.  Who runs your state?  Who runs your county?  Who runs your city?  Who’s in charge?  How do they get elected?  You can find most of these details online, if you look; put together a rough outline of how power ebbs and flows around the state.  Find out the local political offices, see who works there and what they do.  If you’re not registered to vote, get registered; encourage others to register.

Second, work out what you actually want.  Make a list of things your community wants and needs.   Speak to your neighbours, ask them what they want; don’t – don’t – belittle them if they don’t want what you want.  Listen to them!  Half of good politics is listening to what people want.  Learn to compromise, learn to work towards something you can live with instead of trying to take the whole pie. 

Once you have your list, start working out how you want them done.  Stick to plain English.  Ill-defined buzzwords weaken your case (at best, they’ll be vague; at worst, they’ll turn people against you.)  Again, listen to people.  If there are reasons things cannot be done, take them seriously and work out how to compensate for them.  And stay local.  You do not want to start taking on impossible challenges (like fixing the entire world). Keep outside politics – particularly international politics – out.

Third, start organising a group of voters.  Register voters to vote (if you haven’t already).  Put together a list of voters who’re pledged to vote for your list.   You want solid numbers.  If you experience pushback, if you discover there are items on your list the majority doesn’t like, modify or drop them.

Fourth, you can start visiting local politicians.  Give them the list.  Inform them that they can either push for the measures you demand or your voters will vote against them.  (When?  Find out.)  Make it clear you expect effective movement quickly or else. If they drag their feet – remember, a lot of national-politicians don’t like grassroots movements, right or left – remind them you’ll be booting them out in the next election.  That should get them moving.  If it doesn’t, vote them out.

You’ll probably start drawing national attention at this point.  Expect attempts to subvert or co-opt your movement, to make you care about greater issues or pressure you into falling in line.  Stay small.  Greater issues aren’t unimportant, but you’re working for your community.  Make it clear you won’t be dislodged, even when you start getting some very negative media attention.  Put together more lists, work out simple ways to fix problems – and, if your ideas fail, learn from your failures.  It’s hard.  But it can be done.

The point is that you have to master two separate skills to get anywhere.  First, you have to learn to work the system before you try to reform it. You have to understand why things are the way they are, before they can be changed.  Second, you have to learn the fine art of compromise, of balancing dreams with practical reality.  You have to reach out to people, to convince them that supporting you will help them – or, at the very least, won’t hurt them.

There’s little hope of fixing things on a national, let alone a global scale.  Trying to do too much too quickly is asking for failure and/or irrelevance.  Losing your focus on local problems means you’ll probably do more damage than harm.  Tacking ill-defined problems makes it impossible to set any kind of victory conditions – how will you even know if you’ve won?  That’s the sort of problem that leads to a movement failing or being co-opted by people who don’t care about anything, but power … people who cannot be removed easily because it’s hard to gauge their performance. 

But on a small scale?  Things can change.  And change can spread.  And the more things get better, the better they will get.  Seriously – you tackle the root causes of a problem, the problem will go away. 

I know it’s not easy.  But it has to be done.

I’ll let Mike Williamson have the last word:

“Not every problem has to be solved right this moment, nor even within a given book or series, or in forty-two minutes plus commercials on the idiot box. Some issues are too large for an individual, and it really isn’t kind to whip up that kind of hope in a fragile youth, only to toss them into the depths or jadedness or despair too soon, when they realize it’s just not that easy in the real world. The first thing any juvenile has to do is grow up. That of itself is a massive undertaking in any society. One can’t conquer the world until one has conquered oneself. Nuclear wars and oil crises and ice ages and global warming and pollution and overfishing and creeping socialism and growing oligarchic capitalism and fluoridated water can wait. First, just become the type of person you should be. That’s what the world needs most of all.

That message is timeless. It’s also important. And most of all, it’s a message that young people of every age really want, and need, to hear.”

19 Responses to “Start Small II”

  1. Billy June 4, 2020 at 5:07 pm #

    When those protest happened many ears ago when I was a kid in the 1960’s and they burned buildings down many are still vacant lot’s.

    If any do decide to rebuild they will wait decades before they do.

    So for the next twenty to thirty years at least those cities will look like a war zone.

    They had one lady on TV crying and saying her pharmacy and supermarket and other places that she needs to go to to survive are all burned down.
    (And will not be rebuilt for 50 years)

    And when the protesters, looters , media and activist all get in thier cars and leave.

    What is going to happen to that older lady left behind in the empty wasteland now that her neighborhood is,

    Besides the fact that now the police will not go to her neighborhood no matter what when criminals roam the streets attacking people.

    Big Cities are on everyone’s do not go there list for any reason. And close your business and move out of those war zones.

    That movie * Escape from New York comes to mind.

    • Doc Sithicus June 4, 2020 at 5:35 pm #

      I was thinking the same thing.

      Who will want to risk investing their money in the place where other businesses were burned down, with low or no police presence, with potential customers living on or below the poverty line. I wouldn’t myself.

      I am really really surprised that the body count is so low – so far. A few guys with couple semi-auto AR-15 clones with decent optics and a few high capacity mags could put the end to looting the hard way.
      A friend living over there explained this to me that as long the burning & looting is happening in “diverse” neighborhoods and democratic controlled states/cities – they don’t care.

      The only results these protests will achieve is the mass destruction of the businesses, increased poverty and even greater racial divide. Try to explain to somebody that has his livelihood destroyed that he should care about minorities. KKK and similar organizations do not have to convince people that segregation is necessary – BLM and Antifa are doing it for them.

      • Robert Kaliski June 5, 2020 at 7:45 am #

        Please tell me you are not pro-segration? A lot of average people have had their livelihood destroyed by white people. They are called capitalists, bankers and CEOs

      • Doc Sithicus June 5, 2020 at 9:26 pm #

        I really didn’t have to wait very long.

        Chicago Mayor Begs Walmart, Target Not to Abandon City After Looters Destroyed Stores
        https://sandrarose.com/2020/06/chicago-mayor-begs-walmart-target-not-to-abandon-city-after-looters-destroyed-stores/

        So yeah, big retailers will just leave, small businesses will go bust. And the local population will first blame the white man and then ask the white man for help.

      • Brian June 6, 2020 at 12:27 am #

        There will be very few companies that will be willing underwrite insurance in these areas in the near future at any price. Small businesses will not be able to afford it, even if available. And there is no way to have a retail business without liability insurance.

        People may be willing to open, but not be able to in that area. And some of these areas are/were the premium areas in major cities.

  2. Robert Kaliski June 4, 2020 at 5:25 pm #

    The fundamental problem is that Americans traded freedom and rights for “safety”. In the states a cop can shoot and kill you and get away with a bad call simply by convincing his superiors he was in fear of his life. Soldiers in warzones have stricter rules of engagement.
    Since I was a kid cops took on a more militaristic attitude. They come in looking like regular army troops in AFVs that the government gave them. You have to ask how the cop who started all this remain on the street with that many complaints? Between the wall of silence and unholy partnership of DA , politicians and police ends nothing will be done about cops who kill innocent people. Yeah they put their life on the line but like a soldier they know this going in. Coal miners, nurses, doctors the cashiers at Walmart also risk their lives.

    You want the violence to end? Get rid of the cops ability to shoot first then ask questions later. Its not just big cities. Small towns in the U.S. have trigger happy police. It’s not us vs them. We are all citizens with rights and responsibilities. Cops should not be immune from bad decisions.

    • Brian June 4, 2020 at 6:16 pm #

      There were only 10 total deaths by UNARMED black people in 2019. (More unarmed whites killed by police.)
      But even if 100% were murder, that is not Genocide. Homicide yes. 8 of the 10 were proven to be attacking the police. The final 2 officers were charged with the deaths.

      In a country of 330 million, no one should be murdered, but 10 isn’t genocide.
      The true genocide is the 70% black pregnancies that end in abortion in NYC.

      Finally, we should never consider all protesters to looters and rioters just as we should never consider all whites as racist or all police as murderers.

      • Robert Kaliski June 5, 2020 at 7:42 am #

        Where did you get the statistic about the number of black men kulled? If you believe the cops about the suspect being armed then you are very naive. It doesn’t even matter legally if you are armed or not. The cop only has to fear for his or her life.

        I grew up in bad neighborhoods. You learned early that the cops did what they pleased and to cross them would be bad for you.

      • Brian June 5, 2020 at 5:37 pm #

        Wall Street Journal from FBI
        https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-myth-of-systemic-police-racism-11591119883

        Sorry to ruin your myth.
        And I was wrong, it was 9.

      • ThePoorGirl June 5, 2020 at 7:13 pm #

        Brian, “Sorry to ruin your myth.” No worries, you haven’t ruined anything. You have confirmed my my opinion of your research skills, but here you go. I found some databases that track police killings….

        https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/unarmed
        https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02601-9
        https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/a3jjpa/nonfatal-police-shootings-data

        Also, “Until recently, the only nationwide data on FOIS was compiled
        yearly in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Uniform
        Crime Report. On a voluntary basis, departments report the
        number of justifiable homicides by on-duty law-enforcement officers. Not only are these shootings underreported (by ∼50%;
        ref. 2), such reports do not provide information about the
        officers or circumstances surrounding these shootings. Beginning in 2015, news companies such as The Washington Post
        and The Guardian began to collect information about FOIS
        to address the issues with the FBI data.” https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/116/32/15877.full.pdf

        Your Welcome!

  3. Brian June 4, 2020 at 6:06 pm #

    Chris – I was recently made aware of an interesting statistic. Hillary Clinton received the most votes nationally and won counties that represent 319 square miles out of the 4 million square miles of the US.

    This 319 square miles had 90% of the Covid19 deaths. This 319 square miles are where all of the riots and protests are. The same for the greatest deaths per 100k to violence including gun violence.

    Draw your own conclusions, but there really is 2 America’s.

    • Doc Sithicus June 4, 2020 at 6:20 pm #

      I remember a post here that had TrumpLand and Clinton Archipelago maps. I don’t think it’s possible to show them in the comments but you can just google the phrase. Brian – does those two match?

      • Brian June 4, 2020 at 8:47 pm #

        Pretty close.
        Here is a link to one article.
        https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2016/11/15/donald-trump-won-7-5-million-popular-vote-landslide-mainstream-america/
        Here is another State map.
        https://www.politico.com/2016-election/results/map/president/
        America doesn’t choose a President by individual vote, by County vote or by miles. We select representation by level. Each State is to be sovereign, like the EU, hence United States. We select Representatives to the House by local vote. Only the House can start a vote to spend money. The Senate is today selected by popular vote, 2 per State. The President and Vice President are voted into office by popular vote of each State sending electors at the same count as Representatives.

        The original plan was the people’s interests were represented by their local Representative.
        The State’s rights were represented by Senator’s. No State being more important than another Sovereign State. (State bodies used to appoint Senators instead of the people voting.)
        And the people, again selected Electors from each State to vote on a President, winner take all. Meaning if the vote for one candidate was one vote higher in that State, then that candidate got all the Electors. So the President was selected by popular vote by State. Again, the purpose was to prevent States with large populations totally ruling the country.
        As an example, Los Angeles County has 9 million residents. Only 10 States have a larger population.
        What is reasonable policy for LA County, makes no sense for a county of 10k in Wyoming that only has 2 police officers.

        Sorry for the civics lesson.
        But just think the difference of need for a firearm where in one case you have 10k people in the mile and where you have more bears, cougars and wolves than neighbors in 10 miles.

    • ThePoorGirl June 5, 2020 at 5:16 pm #

      Well it really helps that your first assertion is incorrect. Per Snopes: Trump won about 75% of the landmass.

      https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/trump-clinton-counties-won/

      Also, I would be interested in the analysis you’re using to get the Covid-19 deaths. There is only one United States of America. The mission and goal is to form a more perfect union. Let the tribalism partisanship go.

  4. PhilippeO June 5, 2020 at 1:47 pm #

    The Riots would not change things (indeed its likely spread coronavirus among vulnerable black people), but the purpose is not policy change.

    It is to re-affirm human dignity (and retain self-esteem of the rioters). To show that you shouldn’t stay silent in front of injustice and persecution.

    The goal is more long run, to change society itself. And its not without value.

    Labor unrest is crushed for decades (from Peterloo to today) but it did push things to change. Stonewall riots eventually led to acceptances of LGBT people.

    Even today riots push police violence, racial injustice, and fascism politics to public minds and discourse. Millions see police crushing nonviolent protest while stand aside upon nearby riots. Millions see another black man executed by police with thout reason. Millions see how Republican Party embrace racism and racial Violence.

    It might not change any government policy. But for African-American self esteem, for Democrats support and affirmations of human dignity, for showing injustices and racial violence into people eyes. Its not without value.

  5. ThePoorGirl June 5, 2020 at 3:16 pm #

    I normally come here to find updates on books etc, and I skip the social commentary – kind of wish I had this time as well.

    Most major events that spark nationwide riots are not monocausal. The murder of George Floyd was a cause of protest marches. But let’s put that in context:

    1. Love or hate Trump he has been a polarizing figure, and appears to be incapable of actually attempting to calm any situation.

    2. Most of the country has been locked down, socially isolated and living in a state of high anxiety. Most of the rioting/looting was carried out by younger people (and given anecdotal accounts mostly young white males), and generally after peaceful protesters had dispersed in compliance with curfews.

    3. Unemployment. Shutting down the economy put a strain on service employees, mostly younger people. Financial pressure and stress are not ideal for outrage tolerance and let’s be honest its not like the rioters had to go to work the next day.

    4. Outrage all the time. The media, and I include the mainstream, conservative, liberal etc., funneled through dopamine maximized apps (social media) or 24 hour “breaking news” chyrons is 24/7 outrage machine, because it makes money. People live in customized information bubbles where they are fed “news” and opinions that matches their bias – an echo chamber as it were.

    5. Uncertainty. Civil society is based on consistent safety and certainty in the future. Given COVID-19, the November election, the break from normalcy due to Items 1-3, and you pack a lot of uncertainty in the lived of overly comfortable mammals then a certain amount of anarchy.. ironically should be expected.

    6. A lack of resolution to the many racial injustices that have occurred in the past decade. Also, remember Ahmaud Arbery was killed on Feb 23 in Georgia. (not a police officer, but there were some issues with actually getting justice here. His alleged killers were not arrest until May).

    I would submit that very few of the actual riots were in the name of justice. They were more in a nihilistic spike caused by the items 1-5 above.

    Mr. Nuttall, I think your advice misses the mark, not because you’re wrong, but because your advice is for a non-existent entity. Your conflating protest and activist with rioters/looters. Many people are activist against police brutality and policies like qualified immunity or asset forfeiture. Many jurisdictions are working on transparency and training. Many other jurisdictions have announced policy changes and initiatives to counter the root cause of overzealous policing. Body cameras and policies are being adopted. Congressional representatives have put forward police reform bills and bills to strip out qualified immunity. The activist are being very effective at this moment.

    Your, advice while a solid argument for a non-profit or reform movement, is at best misplaced and a bit condescending given the lack of awareness and general monocausal root of your analysis.

  6. ThePoorGirl June 5, 2020 at 3:22 pm #

    I normally come here to find updates on books etc, and I skip the social commentary – kind of wish I had this time as well.

    Most major events that spark nationwide riots are not monocausal. The murder of George Floyd was a cause of protest marches. But let’s put that in context:

    1. Love or hate Trump he has been a polarizing figure, and appears to be incapable of actually attempting to calm any situation.

    2. Most of the country has been locked down, socially isolated and living in a state of high anxiety. Most of the rioting/looting was carried out by younger people (and given anecdotal accounts mostly young white males), and generally after peaceful protesters had dispersed in compliance with curfews.

    3. Unemployment. Shutting down the economy put a strain on service employees, mostly younger people. Financial pressure and stress are not ideal for outrage tolerance and let’s be honest its not like the rioters had to go to work the next day.

    4. Outrage all the time. The media, and I include the mainstream, conservative, liberal etc., funneled through dopamine maximized apps (social media) or 24 hour “breaking news” chyrons is 24/7 outrage machine, because it makes money. People live in customized information bubbles where they are fed “news” and opinions that matches their bias – an echo chamber as it were.

    5. Uncertainty. Civil society is based on consistent safety and certainty in the future. Given COVID-19, the November election, the break from normalcy due to Items 1-3, and you pack a lot of uncertainty in the lived of overly comfortable mammals then a certain amount of anarchy.. ironically should be expected.

    6. A lack of resolution to the many racial injustices that have occurred in the past decade. Also, remember Ahmaud Arbery was killed on Feb 23 in Georgia. (not a police officer, but there were some issues with actually getting justice here. His alleged killers were not arrest until May).

    I would submit that very few of the actual riots were in the name of justice. They were more in a nihilistic spike caused by the items 1-5 above.

    Mr. Nuttall, I think your advice misses the mark, not because you’re wrong, but because your advice is for a non-existent entity. Your conflating protest and activist with rioters/looters. Many people are activist against police brutality and policies like qualified immunity or asset forfeiture. Many jurisdictions are working on transparency and training. Many other jurisdictions have announced policy changes and initiatives to counter the root cause of overzealous policing. Body cameras and policies are being adopted. Congressional representatives have put forward police reform bills and bills to strip out qualified immunity. The activist are being very effective at this moment.

    Your, advice while a solid argument for a non-profit or reform movement, is at best misplaced and a bit condescending given the lack of awareness and general monocausal root of your analysis.

  7. Christopher Reed June 7, 2020 at 1:49 am #

    Chris, people don’t wake up one morning and decide to riot, even after a tragedy. Rioting requires a long term unaddressed grievance. In the U.S. we have a unwritten three tier justice system. The top tier is law enforcement they have a get out of jail free card. All they have to say is “I feared for my life.” and almost any sin is forgiven. It doesn’t matter what the evidence shows, they say those words and unless they literally wrote a confession beforehand the justice system will turn itself in pretzels in order to not charge them.

    The second tier is the wealthy and those of Caucasian background. With the wealthy having an advantage over those with the “right” phenotype. They won’t bounce a murder charge like a cop would, but their sentencing will definitely be lighter (sometimes much lighter look up affluenza teen) than someone with a “darker” complexion let’s say.

    Then there’s the bottom tier which is to say everyone else. If you’re a black kid in the inner city, it doesn’t matter if you have the highest grades in class with a full ride scholarship to (insert Ivy League collage here) and have a real chance at getting out of poverty. You get caught with an ounce of weed and they will throw the the book, the judges seat, and all the sinks in the courtroom bathrooms at you. Don’t expect arguments like he has a bright future ahead of him or liberal “drivel” like that to save you. You will have to sit there and watch your future die as the judge hands down the harshest possible sentence.

    This is just one issue, out of dozens I could name, things like Redlining, or whose murders those cops are bouncing on to name a few. This eruption did not come out of nowhere, People have been advocating for changes to this for decades, and nothing has been done. So kindly take your ending quote on how problems don’t have to (or can be) be fixed immediately and shove it up your backside, because no not all problems have an immediate solution, but a few decades is more than enough time to find and implement one. If you cared to try.

  8. Big Ben June 9, 2020 at 4:30 pm #

    White thugs storm a state capital in the “United” States of America wearing body armor and armed with (presumably) loaded assault rifles and pistols, whining and sniveling about how “unconstitutional” critically needed public health ordinances are keeping them from going to their gun clubs and all-you-can-eat buffets.
    Police do nothing.
    Black man is stopped on SUSPICION of passing a counterfeit $20 bill. No innocent until proven guilty, no rights at all … police murder him in cold blood, not even bothered at all that they’re being filmed while nonchalantly spending nearly nine minutes choking him to death in broad daylight in front of an audience in a major US city.
    Lynchings in America have evidently never stopped. Only it’s not irrational white mobs doing it any more, it’s unaccountable white police officers. Eric Gardner in New York, Freddie Gray in Maryland, Javier Ambler in Texas, George Floyd in Minnesota – truly a national problem. Unarmed black citizens are FIVE TIMES more likely to be killed by police than unarmed white citizens in the good ol’ US of A.
    This is far from the first murder of a black person by law enforcement or white vigilantes this year. Many of those killed were innocent of any crime at all, and many of the slayings, such as Mr. Floyd’s, seem premeditated … kneeling on someone’s neck for nine minutes certainly isn’t spur of the moment panic.
    All you have to do is imagine law enforcements response if black men and women began arming themselves like the Caucasian 2nd Amendment thugs and walking the streets with assault rifles 24/7. Under the law, they have the exact same right to do so. And they’d be mowed down by every gun, tank and gunship Trump could throw at them.

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