The Resistance, Part One

Work and home life have me running, not sure I can moderate this conversation once I start it. But I think it’s time. Rpjohnston in the comments at Pharyngula mentioned the “Seven Mountains” of Dominionism that helped bring our country to its current horrid state, suggested we could use something like that of our own – an agenda for world domination, basically. So. Here goes:

Ask yourself why the right wing so consistently wields power beyond what they should in a truly democratic society? Why are they able to put forth a unified front the likes of which the left seems unable to muster? There are a lot of reasons that we can’t do shit about. They have the money, they have us so overworked and ragged that we don’t have the energy to fight at the end of the day.

The money especially is at issue. The right exists to serve the wealthy and has since the term was coined. Since politicians are usually wealthy, even the most progressive of them have a vested interest in supporting that agenda. Democrats might want to help the poor in some vague abstract way, but since it serves their families to let Republicans have their way, they just can’t get up the will to fight that hard.

If we want to win, we’re fighting against odds that are completely unfair. We have more bodies to sacrifice if it comes to attrition, but who the hell wants it to come to that? And money has ensured that people power will never be enough to tilt that scale.

There has been some progress made in the social sphere, against sexism and homophobia and racism. The shrieks and bellows and ostentatious evil of those in power are evidence of that progress. We need every approach, all hands on deck. It won’t be enough in itself, but we can look at where progressives have succeeded and try to amplify what has already worked.

This is where I may run afoul of some good people. I think we wouldn’t have the few advances of today without call-out culture, without naming and shaming the perpetrators of evil. What is #MeToo, if not the ultimate ongoing call-out? Call-outs can be too extreme, can cause bad problems when they get out of hand. But let’s not toss this baby out with the bathwater. This is an important baby.

I’m running out of juice for tonight, but let me put it to the crowd – What has worked? Where has human progress been achieved, even in this terrible moment in history?


  1. says

    I got greased once for squeaking. It was alright.

    Heh, maybe it isn’t time for the progressive secular 7 mountains world domination meetup. This post ain’t poppin’. If it does start crackin’ in here, I have some followups semi-planned.

  2. Jan Stinson says

    I think the call-out action can work, *with* verified documentation publicly available. This, of course, is different from #MeToo (whose folk I believe 100%) because it’ll deal primarily with political shenanigans and shadow deals against the people (so to speak), where there will more likely be paper trails and witnesses.

    Another tactic that I think can work is physical presence. Massive public protest looks really good on camera, but what about something like flashmob protests? Coordinated, sudden protests of 100-200+ protesters in multiple cities at specific sites at specific dates/times for specific reasons. Purpose: disruption. Each one should have a designated videographer for later posting on YouTube. One cannot rely on news media for this, sadly.

    It’s a tactic used in the 70’s by the SDS to varying effect, but I think it could be more effective if fine-tuned a bit. Imagine: On a certain day, in 20 state capitals across the US (being moderate in numbers here), 150 or so protesters suddenly form up outside each of the local state congressional chambers. What are they protesting? Pick something. They’ll all be protesting the same thing. The next day, those states-people are gonna talk to each other. Then they’re gonna talk to their pals in other states, and realize it wasn’t just an event in their state.

    Not too long after, another flashmob demo happens, different cities, state caps again, same topic. Maybe more cities, maybe more people per demo. It’s recurring actions, recurring theme, waves of protest, not a one-time or annual event that can be endured and swept under the rug. A similar model is the Arab Spring.

    The advantage to this form of resistance is that while it requires large numbers of people, it doesn’t require them all at once. Protesters can participate at a local level, and protest at more than one event if organizers choose to do more than one, which cuts down on travel and lost-work-time costs.

    No central organization is needed for this method. Keeping it local is its strength. Localization means more investment of time and commitment by participants. There’s no “core” group for government to take down.


  3. says

    Thanks for the input, Jan. If we don’t have a lot of comments, we can have long ones. Flashmob activism is hot. I like it. Definitely something to keep in the arsenal.

    I’m not coming up with any hot ideas myself, because I’m looking at how history keeps repeating and I stick on wondering if there’s a way to disrupt that. As poor and beat as I am, as a white dude-like person, I have the privilege to feel an out-sized sense of my individual importance. Like thousands of years of people dealing with the same problems and I’m gonna be the guy to randomly pop out a solution.

    I read a book once that convinced me 90% of the world’s problems are the result of the powerful appealing to the worst in human nature to achieve more power & / or money. Usually that involves a scapegoat. No more clear illustration than the fascist orange.

    Could someone figure out a way to disrupt that? Some kind of cheap trick? An appeal to our animal natures that’s more appealing than hatred of the other? Things I’m on.

  4. says

    Great American Satan@#4:
    Early 20th century anarchists hit upon the rather obvious answer, which is to kill them. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough anarchists and the powerful have constructed massive defensive infrastructure because they learned from the experience. Now, they are basically impossible to reach and capitalism has got such a grip on society (civilization, really) it appears they are prepared to pull the house down on themselves rather than let anyone else get a say. In fact it appears to me as though the current political order is willing to deliberately allow the planet to become a living hell, rather than relax their control in the slightest.

    Given global warming and the threat of nuclear war, I’d say violence is self-defense. I still don’t recommend it, because I think it wouldn’t work.

  5. says

    Yeah, terrorism is the only tool left to the weaker side of a war. And what the rich do to people like me is class war, so…

    No good. Not here to get into that one. And I agree with your hopeless demeanor about other avenues, but there’s no harm in trying something. It’s time to be absurdist heroes, right?

    Ultimately, what I’d like to see come of this series is a seed for growing a left culture that is less prone to division, without coming at the expense of stifling the least privileged among us. A way to keep the radical advances people are pushing but be less susceptible to harming people who don’t deserve the full blast.

  6. says

    Cool! Thanks.

    I guess there’s more thoughts I could share. I could probably talk all day 😛

    What has worked?

    That’s what I started asking myself. I’m a problem solver at heart.

    I think one fairly settled (partial) answer is “social capital” really can work. And without it, not much can be done. It gets people to take action together (one paper here, looks at even the importance of weak ties), to vote more. And when people form trusting bonds, that has all kinds of other effects like better spread of ideas (careful this doesn’t lead to group-think) and of course increased mutual aid. I’d even add “economies of scale” in there to an extent.

    I think the evidence shows that unions do work as well.

    I think there’s enough info out there to guess at what might be the best and most advanced ways to accomplish social organizing and such, too (some in my links). And even some in the meta sense: how to figure that out when we don’t know.

    And I’m sure if I or others researched even more, we could find more. I’m certain I’ve only scratched the surface, I haven’t spent that much time researching.

    I read a book once that convinced me 90% of the world’s problems are the result of the powerful appealing to the worst in human nature to achieve more power & / or money. Usually that involves a scapegoat. No more clear illustration than the fascist orange.

    Could someone figure out a way to disrupt that? Some kind of cheap trick?

    Was that book The Authoritarians? Sounds like it.

    I think the answer here comes in at least two parts. One, how to solve it within your “in-group”. Two, how to deal with outsiders.

    The Humanist group should, of course, have or learn the values, skills, and practices to reduce these problems within their ranks. Fact checking, thinking skills, humanist values.

    For “outsiders”, perhaps something like the techniques advocated for in the “Manual for Creating Atheists”. Which is kind of a way to get people to learn to think well about things. That might be the closest thing to a relatively easy “brain hack” that there is for this kind of thing. Yes, the author doesn’t seem to practice what he preaches, and needs the technique used against him. But supposedly the book is still mostly good.

    There’s plenty of other science on the subject of changing minds, here’s a good summary from Rebecca Watson about some meta analysis on the subject (which I found via Siggy here on FTB).

    I think changing minds becomes a lot like programming a computer (not sure if you’ve ever done that). It has to be built from the ground up, otherwise it doesn’t even compute, or you get something like a deep-learning neural-net disaster. But so often, discourse is on the opposite end of the spectrum: the most abstract, advanced, speculative conclusions. And it just doesn’t compute without all that solid foundation.

    And, of course, changing minds is also easier if people do already trust you, if you do already have a relationship, etc. (religion thrives because of this social groupthink effect. Because of community.)

  7. says

    I may have lost all faith in reason’s power as a tool for human improvement by now. You and I can clearly see where regressive atheism’s logic and critical thinking has utterly failed, how Sam Harris has become so blind to his own flaws that he’ll flaunt interviews where he’s straight-up vivisected. But Sam can’t see it, Chunderf00l can’t see it, DickDawk can’t see it. At least two out of three people I’ve mentioned are pretty damn smart, but reason is utterly short-circuited by human instincts.

    The people on this side of Rifts 2.0 are here because we care more about other people than our egos, than our tribal feelings. The people on the other side? Reverso. But both sides? We’re operating on values that flow from our feelings. I imagine the book you mention gets into that some and I’m not telling you anything you haven’t thought of or read before. But I’m less optimistic of the possibility that fact-checking and thinking skills are going to be much help.

    I haven’t read The Authoritarians, but I’ve heard of it. I’m very poorly read. Like ten years ago I was working a pretty chill security gig which gave a little time to read and an npr-liberal friend brought in a book about conflicts around the world, why we can’t get along. Forget what it was called, but the story got really repetitive, because humans are gullible as hell.

    Whatever I’ve just said, I’m still certain there’s a lot of useful information in the writing you’ve linked to. I did a skim and it looks smart, goal-oriented too. I should definitely give it all a more thorough look before moving onto the next Resistance post.

    My idea is that each post will be a conversation starter and that the good stuff will come out of the discussion in the comments. Thanks especially to you, it’s looking like a good start here.

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