Democracy as the Grounding Value of Radical Grassroots Politics

(Featured image: “File:Murmure d’étourneaux.jpg” by Anne Jea. is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

The US isn’t a democracy, but it plays one on TV. When election year comes around, a lot of video cameras point at politicians making speeches about how they’re gonna fight for you and your grandma. A paradise is promised and all you have to do is vote for them as a show of your belief in democracy and freedom. Then after the election is over, politicians go back to playing golf with CEOs.

In a world like ours, one with so many horrors and so much duplicity, it’s not hard to see why some people tire of hearing about democracy. But is there any other way to dream of a better world and move toward it than to get with others and decide collectively what is needed and how to get it?

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Manipulation and Trust in Organizing

[This post is part of a series on 1-on-1 organizing conversations.]

Introduction

For people new to organizing it can feel like it’s about tricking people or manipulating them or guiding them to the correct place. People who shy away from organizing because of this have a healthy response to perceived manipulation. However, I think organizing that is sincere and empowering isn’t about manipulation at all and is just the opposite. Learning this distinction between empowerment and manipulation is of essential importance in organizing, both to be able to detect it in others and in your own efforts.

The reason people often say that organizing feels manipulative is that you have a goal in your interactions with other people. This is a key tension, and how you navigate this tension determines whether you respect someone’s agency and explore it with them or whether you try to use them as a pawn in your own desire to advance your activism. In short, empowerment vs. manipulation.

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Educate and the 1-on-1

[This post is part of a series on 1-on-1 organizing conversations. If not familiar, please read the intro post as it describes the basic definition of “educate” and how it fits into AEIOU (agitate-educate-inoculate-organize-uplift), which the writing below builds on.]

Intro

If you want to solve a problem in your workplace that you’ve discussed in the agitate step of AEIOU, you need a plan. The educate step of AEIOU is about how to make to a plan in talking with a coworker.

Sometimes my writings on this blog are meant to be succinct and hit home a point in a punchy way. Sometimes my writings, as in this post, are messier and more tedious as I wrestle with problems that I haven’t mastered yet, and I want to get my hands dirty.

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Organizing Is Not about Getting People to Agree with Radical Ideas

[This post is part of a series on 1-on-1 organizing conversations.]

Intro

There is one misconception in organizing, especially workplace organizing, that is responsible for more confusion and dead ends than any other. It manifests itself in many ways, but it boils down to this: “The way I was radicalized and got involved in organizing is the way everyone is radicalized and gets involved in organizing.”

Most commonly, people new to organizing and radical politics try to show others their own new ideas, when really those same ideas will refract very differently depending on others’ very different experiences. Most often, people don’t immediately cling to the ideas you cling to. This often leads new organizers to become exasperated and confused, “Why does no one else get radicalized when I show them the things that radicalized me?”

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Agitation and the 1-on-1

[This post is part of a series on 1-on-1 organizing conversations. Check out the intro post here to see how agitation is defined. The below post is an exploration of ideas based on that definition and framework.]

Intro

Agitation in organizing is the spark that creates the wildfire. Like in all parts of life, our emotions lead, our thoughts agree, and then our behavior follows. In part AEIOU is about channeling this natural progression of human action.

Maybe at a later date I’ll be able to structure these thoughts more logically, but for now the thoughts below are an ad hoc collection of small analyses, reflections, and observations.

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