Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Activist wonders if he’s made a difference. What he discovers will break your heart | Mickey Z.

Photo credit: Mickey Z.Photo credit: Mickey Z.

Mickey Z. -- World News Trust

Nov. 18, 2015
“Reading the news and it sure looks bad. They won't give peace a chance. That was just a dream some of us had.” (Joni Mitchell)

I’ve written 13 books. My work appears in at least 25 anthologies (I’ve lost count), and has been translated into maybe eight or 10 languages. From print to web to chapbooks and far beyond, I’ve authored tens of thousands of articles, essays, poems, blogs, social media posts, etc. and I’ve helped produce a wide array of publications -- from photocopied zines to newsstand glossies.

I’ve done talks and lectures and workshops and panels and teach-ins from coast to coast in eclectic venues from tiny community centers to major universities -- with audiences ranging in size from single digits to several thousand. I’ve also appeared on TV, radio, web-based media, and have been live-streamed more times than even the NSA knows.

People have written plays about me, poems about me, term papers about me, scathing critiques about me, and some have traveled hundreds of miles just to witness me give a 40-minute talk.

From 2011 to 2014, I attended (and photographed) more NYC-area protests, demos, rallies, marches, sit-ins, teach-ins, die-ins, parades, outreach events, occupations, etc. than any other activist. Hands down. No contest. And it would be frighteningly fruitless to attempt listing the full range of social justice issues and concerns those events covered. 

On a personal level, I’ve followed a plant-based diet for more than two decades and haven’t owned a car for nearly as long. I rarely (if ever) fly, don’t have children, try to shop “responsibly” (and often rely on used goods), and generally do my best (in vain) to line up my behavior with my values.

I could go on. Trust me. The incomplete list I just typed out is the proverbial tip of a privileged iceberg, but this is not a bragging session. Not even close. Rather, I offer the above catalogue solely to help drive home my primary point: All my activist work has made no sustainable difference at all.

Before any of you go into reassuring mode, let me say thanks in advance and also add this: All your activist work has made no sustainable difference at all.

Of course, I’m not saying that absolutely nothing has been accomplished. Many of us, on a micro level, have made a difference but if that’s what you wish to focus on and debate, please count me out. Start your five-hour flame war someplace else.

What I am saying is that all the signs, songs, petitions, costumes, puppets, performances, chants, holding hands in the shape of a peace sign, memes, videos, conventions, banners, meetings, articles, books, forums, photographs, candlelight vigils, conferences, symbolic arrests, being the change we wish to see, and so on have not created the spark needed to ignite a successful, viable movement for social change. 

As a result, we (read: all life on earth) are losing. We are getting wiped out, figuratively and literally. We are fast running out of time.

If you’ve read any of my work, you already know I could go all hyperlink on you right now -- offering endless documentation to back up my downbeat diagnosis. But if my relentless self-education hasn’t helped create change yet, why choose that tactic now?

Nope, all I’ve got this time is a question: When will we collectively admit we’ve been tragically ineffective in our efforts and transparently self-sabotaging in our unwillingness to confront our failures? 

The moment we consider finally trying something new -- for starters, critical introspection -- I believe we’ll finally stand a chance of seeing the situation for what it is: an emergency, a crisis, a time for bold new ideas and immediate action. And that tactic has the potential to make all the difference in the world.


Mickey Z. is the author of 13 books, most recently Occupy these Photos: NYC Activism Through a Radical Lens. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, you can “like” his Facebook page here and follow his blog here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.
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"Activist Wonders If He’s Made A Difference" by Mickey Z. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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