Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Insurgent American’s 35-Point Practical Guide for Action

(1) Make food. Even if its a windowsill or roof garden with a couple of tomato plants. Make a yard garden. Grow your own food, just a bit. You can expand on this later. Check out Food Not Lawns for inspiration. Start small, and don’t over stretch yourself. Succeeding early is important.

(2) Take “one more step” to oppose militarism. If you are not sporting a button or bumper sticker against the war, then start doing that. if you’re doing that, but not writing — Congress, letters to the editor, op-eds, email lists — then start writing. If you’re doing that, then give money to an antiwar effort. If you’re doing that, then start to attend local meetings. You get the idea. Take just one more step. Stopping this war will have unimaginably good ripple effects and empower all people’s movements everywhere. More ideas and up-to-date info at Bring Them Home Now!

(3) Create a blog. Blogs can be a lot more than vanity sites. They are a form of democratic communication that allow us all to be simultaneous teachers and learners, and they increase the density and survival redundancy of our communications networks. They are communications infrastructure. More blogs, more links, more sharing, more community, better coordination. Basic Blogging for Women is very helpful, for everyone, and we can also open a discussion thread here at the IA forums.

(4) Commit to study. One of the most common — and in our opinion, flawed — complaints we hear among activists and frustrated, impatient political junkies, is that there is too much writing and discussion and not enough action. Here’s what we have to say about that. Nonsense! Human agency is not simply in outwardly messing around with one’s environment. It is being a conscious agent of change. If we are walking around blindfolded, we are taking action; but if we want that action to be efficacious, then we need to see, figuratively speaking. Studying is a critical form of action. Commit to study something new, and expand your understanding of a topic or issue every chance you get. The criticality of this is the reason we include our Analysis-Synthesis section here at IA. New situations require new actions, which require new forms of understanding.

(5) Surf the Web Anonymously Its a good idea to put a layer of protection between you and the world online. One way to-do this is by creating a free email account and not associating your own name with it. Create a online handle and use that instead of your real name. Another way is by using a Proxy Server to anonymise your web surfing. Torpark is a free Windows application that can help you do this. For more information about surfing the web anonymously check out Tor from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Remember Nothing on the web is completly anonymous. If someone has the resources they can find out anthing they want. We can make it a lot harder for them though.

(6) Learn to fix something new. Divesting of our dependency means becoming better McGivers. We have to learn how stuff works, and how to tinker with it. Our dependency rest in large part on the idea that every tiny task is subdivided our to an expert, who we pay to do it for us. That means we have to have money, and we know where that goes. Our own experience is that learning to tinker with one thing gives us insights on how to tinker with a lot of things. Learn something new on a schedule. Commit to learn how to fix something new every month, every six months, no matter. Whatever works for you. How to change the rings in a leaky faucet. How to change a tire. How to caulk a bathtub. How to built a live trap for rabbits or a bird house. Anything. The Bob Vila site has all sorts of good advice on this.

(7) Start an email list. This can be a simple one-way list to which you send out things; or it can be a listserv, that functions as a discussion group. FIRST LAW… make your first message one that asks everyone if it’s okay, and says how often you will post. People hate spam. Get their permission, and if they ask to be removed, do so without hesitation of complaint. Use blind courtesy copy (BCC) to put people’s email addresses in, so their addresses aren’t shared with the world. Once established, lists are a very important way to develop corporate media bypasses. Caution: Avoid sharing whole articles on lists… just teasers that suggest what the piece is about, followed with a link. Library Support Staff has a good site on this.

(8) Join a local organizing effort. Working with people from your same geographic area is the absolute most effective and sustainable way to do social change action. Not only does the geographic proximity make meeting more do-able, people build actual friendships that way, and organizations that are bound by real friendship are both durable and cohesive. If you live in a metro area, look in the “community calendar” sections of your free entertainment weekly. One can also use the internet to find groups working nearby. Don’t use the term “progressive” in your search parameters, however. It’s in a lot of corporate names, and the meaning of that term is very loose. Name the issue that keeps you engaged. A good handbook for local organizing is Organizing for Social Change, with lots of basic how-to advice and useful copy-able forms.

(9) Plan your way out of debt. This might seem selfish as a “thing to do,” but people who are deeply in debt are enslaved. They cannot do anything except seek money to keep up with debts. Before we can assist the liberation of others, we first need to liberate ourselves. Beware. There are many debt consolidation schemes and self-serving self-help gurus out there who just want to own your debt. When the economic swan dive happens, it comes as inflation followed by deflation and joblessness. Priority of effort in debt liquidation is to pay off living space. But to get there, the first thing that has to go is credit cards… which are part of a vast criminal enterprise. A very useful guide to getting out of debt — even if it is self-help (some are put off by that) — is Carolyn White’s Debt No More.

(10) Contribute to the nearest Environmental Justice effort. Environmental Justice is a term referring to people-of-color-led fights against the targeting of poor communities as a dumping ground for the toxic effluvia of industrialism. It is the most vital and strategic anti-imperial struggle going on inside the United States. Just as the world system is comprised of an imperial core with exploitable peripheries, some of those peripheral colonies exist inside the US. Because of the structural inequalities of this core-periphery dynamic, people-of-color-led organizations like this will never have access to the same resources as white-led, or predominantly white-membership organizations. If you can’t give them volunteer time and support, send them money. A National Directory of EJ outfits is online.

(11) Conduct a banner drop. A banner drop is a tactic whereby a big cloth banner is made, then publicly opened “dropped” without prior warning, often in violation of some kind of law. If you are kind of attracted to risk, if you are an effective planner, and if you have a small, reliable crew, banner drops are a good way to learn basic, small-unit, tactical planning. If you have a crew that has done it more than once, others will rely on you as the specialists to employ this tactic as part of larger campaigns. Banners can be very simple to very fancy. Just remember that it will not stay up forever. Hostile civilians or cops will take it down by-and-by. Code Pink has actually developed a pretty good primer. Cell phones or walkie-talkies (cheap nowadays) should always be used to post lookouts at all avenues of approach into the drop site. Banners should be constructed (especially if dropping over a freeway overpass) to ensure they can’t fall and cause an accident. At rush hour, in the right place, with a website url for follow-up, this is a very effective (and kind of fun) tactic. A good crew can organize and conduct one every two weeks if they make this their raison d’etre.

(12) Make a cable access program. If local activists haven’t made use of cable access programming (television we can use!), then call the local cable access office and find out how to get on. Usually there is a small membership fee, and a moderately priced program of instruction to ensure you don’t break the stuff in the studio. If you already have cable access activists (or local independent radio), then consider developing programming for it. Ten-minute spots, 15, and for the standard a 28-minute spot. Those with good technical skills for video and audio are strongly encouraged to use those skills to get the voices of local activists and local initiatives some publicity. (You can put the audio and video you make for cable on the web too.)

(13) Get a bicycle and use it. Self explanatory. Check you local Craigslist for used bikes. It saves gas, is non-polluting, encourages others to do the same, and makes you healthy. Invest in a rear-view mirror, padded gloves, a decent helmet, and a big, international orange hunter’s vest to alert zombie drivers of your presence.

(14) Try a 100-mile diet. From the 100-mile diet site: When the average North American sits down to eat, each ingredient has typically traveled at least 1,500 miles from farm to plate. That’s a total disconnection from where our food is coming from. What would it be like to eat locally for one year? Link to the site. Doing this puts you into touch with your local resources, and is a great educational tool for effective food praxis.

(15) Learn to orienteer. Orienteering can be competitive (as a sport) or recreational (more often simply called land navigation). It means learning to read topographical maps and using them in conjunction with a compass and protractor to actually navigate, on foot, over land. It is not only an invaluable skill that is quite enjoyable (if you’re the physical type), it is very important as a way-of-knowing, an epistemological framework, for anyone who might one day consider actual underground activity as part of a politics of resistance. Understanding terrain is the very basis of any science of underground/military resistance (for purely theoretical reasons, of course). There s a fine online instruction manual, but the key is to actually do it. If there are course, orienteering clubs, or someone you know who spent a good deal of time in the infantry, then find a way to get out on the ground and navigate using compass and map. As a sport, orienteering is considered a high-endurance activity that combines non-linear brain-power with great physical conditioning.

(16) Visit a Congressperson. This may sound generic; and it is. Many people have never done this, so they have this vague imagination of governance and who performs it…. which intimidates people (as it is probably meant to). Keep track of local organizing efforts on issues (now, the war), and join the next group of people who are going to visit this elected official in her/his office. They do this all the time. Going with them will be a real education, we assure you. You will not only see the actual office (generally unimpressive) and the actual person (often just as unimpressive), you will see how other interact with this rep as well as lose the feeling of being intimidated. Little known fact: Actual visits by groups of five or more people create real concern for elected officials. The American Mathematical Society (?) has a good guide for these visits. Do not use these visits to show how revolutionary you are. Others in your group may not be down for that, it doesn’t serve any purpose except to stroke one’s own ego, and it’s disrespectful of other members of your own group. If you want to be sharp with the Rep, then do so in letters or during pickets at the office (another great tactic, that we’ll fold in here).

(17) Visit a State Representative. Same as above. These folks are people you should know, write to, and visit with some frequency, or they’ll give away your figurative farm. And they can be held to higher levels of accountability because they are dependent on votes from relatively a small geographic area nearby.

(18) Learn to shoot. Don’t be afraid of firearms. Don’t be cavalier with them either. One can own, learn, and practice with firearms without joining the Male Death Cult of Amerika (MDCA). Women should know how to use firearms. Having the knowledge is putting something in the bank, so to speak, in case one is ever forced in the future to defend oneself or one’s community. Once the need arises, it is too late to acquire firearms and learn them. Movies and TV make it look easy. It is not. Unfortunately, everything that seems to be written on the subject is drenched in testosterone; so whatever one reads…. take what you need, and leave the rest. This applies to getting instruction, too. Do not purchase a firearm without studying; and to not use a firearm without training. Insurgent American will gladly respond to questions on this subject (we have a firearms person in residence, so to speak). Many colleges and universities have competitive shooting programs. This is a very good way (especially for young women) to learn with a small caliber (usually .22) weapon. Pellet rifles and pistols can be used in urban environments to maintain proficiency without shooting/scaring the neighbors.

(19) Use Social Network websites to organize. Even though many social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, Cyworld, etc. are run by corporations they can still be used for positive communication and affinity group creation. Use free services in ways they are not intended. These sites can help you find others with your passion for change. Though lots of them center around hooking up and sharing embarrassing pictures you’d be amazed at how easy it is to find other serious adult radicals. Have some sort of contact with like minded people is very important. These sites can also give you another way to share your message. Don’t use just one.

(20) Back up your computer files then encrypt them. If you use a computer you create data. That data can tell others a lot about you. Even the data that sits on your personal computer and is never shared online. If you create important files about your mission protect them by making backup copies. You can burn them to CD-R, copy them to flash drives, put them on file servers, and more. Try to take copes of your data to another location besides your home. If anything were ever to happen, like a fire, you’d still have copies. Be sure you can restore your files and use them as you would the originals. If you have sensitive data you don’t want others to see, encrypt it. There’s lots of free software that will help you do this for the Mac and PC.

(21) Start a worm farm. The key to rebuilding the soil required to feed urban, suburban, and ex-urban populations in the future will be vermiculture. It is absolutely the fastest and cleanest way to rehabilitate soil that can sustainable grow food. By “farm,” we really mean a bin that can fit under your kitchen sink. It does not smell bad, is non-toxic, and it lives on kitchen scraps. Bigger bins are also do-able. If there is to be a future for modern cities after the oil crash, then that future will be predicated on Lumbricidae. Kids love these things, and they are great educational tools. They also can provide a small second income (at the right scale) to get others started, or to sell fishing bait.

(22) Become a paramedic or licensed practical nurse. One founder of this site was a Special Forces medic in the Army. He was authorized, when deployed, to do pretty much everything a doctor might do (including trauma protocols), and his training was — while very intensive — only about a year long. Anyone with a basic knowledge of anatomy and physiology, a basic familiarity with pharmacology, a broad knowledge with available references of the most common ailments, and some advanced first aid techniques can provide the vast majority of medical care required by most people most of the time. Combined with a good preventive medicine program, communities will eventually depend on these people more than a rarified supply of physicians. Learning these skills as a paramedic or practical nurse is making an investment in future communities, as well as providing an essential skill-set for future underground work (theoretically, of course).

(23) Become a gunsmith. Having and understanding firearms to defend ourselves and our communities can create another line of dependency — for the construction, maintenance, and repair of firearms. Most gunsmiths are already articulated into the social networks that include (1) law enforcement and (2) the Male Death Cult of Amerika (MDCA). It is a valuable skill in other respects, because it familiarizes the gunsmith with machine-shops that can locally manufacture lots of little thingies that autonomous communities will need. Gunsmithing is also a very well-paid craft in the general economy. There are quite a few online course, but the best training comes with resident instructors. Most community college systems have gunsmithing courses. This is strongly recommended by IA as a non-traditional craft for women as a power paradigm reversal.

(24) Design a single-residence water conservation system. A roof is a huge water collection device that is waiting ot be activated by a few modifications. Leaky things in and around the house cost hundreds of dollars a year. Non-sensored water-use appliances (like washing machines) can waste immense sums of water. Urinating outside saves a five-gallon flush. There are myriad ways to conserve water (and to more efficiently water gardens). Design your own system, and continue to build out on it. Most importantly, talk about what you are doing with others and help them get started.

(25) Host a monthly movie night. There are tons of good, thought-provoking documentary and art films that are available. There is nothing like a regular potluck get-together (dinner and a movie) to consolidate relationships and stimulate both taste buds and gray matter. Groups like the Media Education Foundation have plenty of material to get started. Even Netflix can provide plenty of films at very reasonable rental rates.

(26) Organize a community garden. Community gardens grow food and community. Get it? From the American Community Garden Association: “Community gardens exist in many urban areas, providing bits of green space amid the concrete and allowing city dwellers to reap the benefits of their labor. For a small fee, you can rent a plot for the season, and can grow whatever vegetables and annual flowers you’d like. Community gardens usually provide everything you need: garden tools, water, even expert advice! Many gardens also participate in community programs, such as Plant a Row for the Hungry. ”

(27) Join a politically acceptable church, temple, or mosque - and offer to develop a community garden. Before the secular humanists choke; let me explain, as a heathen who is about to join a church. Political acceptability is the operative term. If their program fits your values, who cares how exactly they approach the mysteries of the universe? The practice is the important thing, and it determines the ideas far more than ideas determine practice. On the issue of churches and other faith communities, let us whisper one magic word in your ear… infrastructure. Think about it. The Progressive Faith Con Blog has a very good blog roll to do some background reading.

(28) Develop and implement an energy conservation plan for your home. “To read the latest news on energy-efficient, durable, comfortable, green homes, sign up for a full membership to Home Energy Magazine online.”

(29) Conduct or attend a women’s self defense course. Unfortunately, gender as a system of social power still faces women with the ubiquitous threat of misogynistic violence. Reliance on men for “protection” is part of the whole protection-for-obedience structure of gender relations. Women need to be able to defend themselves physically, and by any means necessary. This is integral to women’s self-determination. AWARE has a very good list of links on this topic.

(30) Organize or join an effort to “opt out” of military recruitment in local schools. The No Child Left Behind Act has ordered public schools — under threat of losing federal funds — to give students’ contact information to military recruiters. There are many efforts to actively exercise the “opt out” clause on this act. Read more at the Resource Center for Nonviolence.

(31) Organize or join an effort to get public schools to dump junk food and buy/feed local, organic. “Concern about the quality and nutritional value of school foods seems to be at all-time high, and for good reason. Too many American children are obese, undernourished, suffering from diet-related diseases such as diabetes, or hungry. With diets that provide too few critical nutrients and, often, too much fat, salt and sugar, children suffer in their daily lives and in their ability to reach their full potential for health and accomplishment as adults.” Read more.

(32) Organize or join an effort to stop high-stakes testing in schools. Only for the stout-hearted who are ready for a long fight. But the stakes are indeed very high. Read this. Children in public schools are not being given the capacity to think, but to conform. And they are being “sorted” in the process.

(33) Use the closest farmers market. Self explanatory. Look it up on the web. This supports local growers and keeps monetary resources closer to your community instead of drifting up into the coffers of the multinationals. It is the first step toward developing a community supported agricultural (CSA) system.

(34) Organize a regular intercultural cook-on-site potluck. Intentionally sharing traditional skills for cooking meals and sharing food across cultural lines is a very good community builder. If there is more than one language involved, ensure there is translation available. Music and dance can be served up the same way, as a teaching-learning dialectic, often with the food.

(35) Contribute volunteer time to a local rape and domestic abuse hotline or shelter. Self explanatory. The left has been AWOL on this issue, and no movement worthy of the name can ever again ignore that women, more than half the population, face widespread, violent, and systemic abuse most frequently in their homes and with their “intimates.” The oppression of women is paradigmatic — seen as “conquest” — for the “conquest” of colonies (imperialism) and the “conquest” of nature (ecocide). Gender as a system of social power must be confronted at its roots, and broken. These facilities and services are the front lines.