If you’re feeling anything like us at SRN right now, you’re asking yourself what is fucking point of trying to do anything when the world seems determined to go down in flaming shit in every direction at once, and nothing you do seems to make a damn bit of difference. (Obviously, if you’re like us, you’re doing a lot a lot of swearing, and possibly a lot of drinking, too.) Along with swearing and drinking, we’ve been chewing on this question, alongside a shit ton of chocolate and some seaweed snacks. (We’ve got some weird vegans in the group.)
First, it’s important to state, out loud, that you’re not imagining your lack of power to do anything good in the political realm. Nearly ten years ago, Princeton researchers published a powerful study showing that what regular voters want has basically no effect on the decisions made by our elected officials as they create the laws and policies that condition our lives. It’s not just that candidates promise things that they don’t, or can’t, subsequently deliver once they are in office. Even if strong majorities of Americans want something to happen, if it goes against the interests or desires of the rich, it ain’t gonna happen. Nor is anyone going to waste time on what you want if it’s not on the top of the agenda of the economic elites as well. So if you’re feeling powerless and frustrated about elections and legislators, congratulations! You are correctly perceiving the reality of the situation and responding like a rational human being.
(And if you’re a politician and you’re reading this, it’s clear your #1 task is getting money out of politics and earning back some trust by actually attending to the kinds of things the majority of Americans want. If you’re wondering if you’ve figured out what that is, consider whether it will likely make most of your big donors angry or annoyed that you’re ignoring their needs. If the answer is yes, you’re on the right track. If you only have lots of small donors, you’re already half way back to our good graces and you might have a chance to lead the charge for real change.)
Back to the powerless masses. Once you’ve come to grips with the fact that electoral politics are not offering us much of anything right now, as an enlightened member of the lumpenproletariat, you’ve got some choices to make. After debating the matter, we’ve come up with what we think are three sane options:
1. Despair and self-destruction. Really not the best option, but it is a rational response for those who really really care and who see clearly that all their caring is not having any positive effect. But you know, rationality is kinda overrated– if you’re attracted to this option, we encourage you to give it up and instead embrace an irrational, semi-crazed existence filled with creative lunacy rather than sink into a rational pit of despair. This might help you eventually to find you way to option 2.
2. Small anarchist communities that care for each other and create beauty. Make a bubble and create inside it the world you wished we could all live in, alongside a few dozen kindred spirits. Protect each other as best you can against the brutalities of the world we’re living in right now. Include some artists and gardeners and others who know how to make amazing things out of the stuff we have around us. Mutual aid societies don’t rely on the state, or politicians, or courts to make a better world. There are a few good ones already around in Lincoln and Omaha. Check out local groups like Everett Free Grocery Program, Common Root, Omaha Autonomous, Feed the People Omaha and others. Connect with the people on your block or in your apartment building and see how you can combine resources and support each other.
3. If you’re too much of a fighter to sink into the pit of despair or withdraw from the battlefield just yet, consider organizing a union ayour workplace. If you’re one of the lucky few who already have one, give it a shot in the arm with some militant organizing. Labor is the one place where the average Jane and Joe actually have some serious leverage if they organize and act together as a collective body. When workers refuse to work, they hold their little bit of the economy hostage until their demands are met. The solidarity on which they are built– people standing together and fighting for a decent living for themselves and their families, people having each others’ backs during that fight– creates the kind of community most of us want. Basically, it’s the opposite of the broken, divided society we’re all finding so alienating, infuriating, and depressing. And note, it doesn’t actually matter what political party the others in your union belong to because in this case, you all want the same thing: a seat at the table to bargain for the things YOU want like better wages, decent health care that won’t bankrupt you if you get sick or have a baby, child care that doesn’t suck up an entire full time salary, a safe working environment, flexibility in hours that helps you rather than only your employer, and so on. You know, the things that the polls say we all want politicians to be working on for us, but never get. If you’re a fighter, go get them yourself! All it takes is standing strong alongside at least 51% of your closest coworkers!
None of these options are going to solve the world’s problems. The climate is still on track to make the earth uninhabitable, people will still be shooting each other and so many, too many, dear-god-please-make-it-stop many innocent children. The rich will still be running the world to their benefit alone. But if you are feeling like you’re going crazy from watching the world go down in flames and feeling your powerlessness to stop it, consider leaving the agony behind and embracing creative lunacy, mutual aid and beauty, and/or picking a fight you can win to improve your own lives and those of the people around you. A better life is possible.