Some media reports have forecasted hundreds of thousands will March against Monsanto corporation on May 23rd in over 400 cities around the world. We went into Richmond to join the fun.
The march started with the background information as to how it got started 3 years ago. The inspiration was the US congress passing the despicable Monsanto Protection Act, which was basically written by Monsanto to make things better for them.
The most horrific parts of the 2013 Monsanto Protection Act are that even if it is found that GMOs have adverse health effects on consumers, companies using them 1) can not be sued, 2) can not be stopped from harvesting them and 3) cannot be blocked from planting more and selling more of them.
Little could be more revealing of how sold out our elected leaders are.
The perhaps 100 marchers went through the fashionable Carytown portion of Richmond with a substantial police escort. The response from the many people who saw us was pretty warm, especially the staff at the many restaurants on that trendy street.
As for the tactics of the MAM i have strong split feelings (the technically correct definition of ambivalent). I love the decentralized approach to the organization of these events. People come, bring signs, and a megaphone. There is a fairly informal rotation of speakers at most of these, anyone who is inspired can grab a megaphone and address the crowd. While I did not speak this year, but i did in 2013 in Washington DC
This type of decentralize approach is important, because it is at its very base populist. Also it proves that the internet can be a highly effective organizing tool (not requiring strong (read authoritarian) leaders) with global reach and the capacity to facilitate multi-city/multi-country mass actions.
The problem with the lovely grass rootsie approach is that these decentralized groups do a third rate job with media. There was some media at the Richmond event, and there might even be a bit of press coverage. But overall, this movement is pretending that it is possible reach millions without a media budget, without media handlers and without carefully crafted messages sending.
While i appreciated the considerable decentralized effort, i remember working with the experienced media folks at Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and Greenpeace US. They speak at a high level about when a story has to be out by, what images make sense to broadcast, what are the talking points, what is the group demanding.
With hundreds of protests around the world, there are but dozens of articles up (mostly in small papers or on local tv stations). I can’t help but think if one of the better big green groups were to take on this cause, we would have much larger media echo.
I spend more time driving these days than i would like to. While one of the major advantages of living in income sharing communities like Twin Oaks and Acorn is that you need not drive to work or to where you reside, i appear to have designed my life to miss out on this benefit.
No one is to blame for this other than me. I love to travel. I often take on tasks that are at great distances away and i am interested in projects which are not happening in central Virginia, where i nominally live. While i would certainly prefer to travel in the high functioning rail systems like Germany or the Netherlands have, in absence of these i am not willing to give up my mobility to be orthodox.
Because i am driving more, i observe the behavior of GPS systems more, especially when i make mistakes. When i miss a turn, the GPS starts rerouting the trip, and while it is figuring this out it leaves the old estimated time of arrival up until it has a new one. i watch to see how much time i have lost because i missed my turn and surprisingly often it is just a couple of minutes different in arrival time estimates. It turns out quite often mistakes are cheap.
So i am attempting to train my brain to do what the GPS does, and effortlessly forgive the mistake, figure out the new path and not stress over it. Instead just pay attention to the new directions and you will get there at basically the original time.
Imagine a world where we have learned this type of emotionally nimble behavior which is effortlessly displayed by the GPS. What if we let go of this (often optional) guilt and shame? What if (after having learned what might be useful from our mistakes) we moved on without harping on errors or beating ourselves up wishing we had done something different?
I am guessing all kinds of good would come from it.
NYC has changed me.
Two years ago, if i had walked out of the Richmond train station and seen three “traveler kids”, i would have headed the other way. But having spent time doing support work for travelers in Tompkins Square Park has shifted my perception of this fringe group that i had not been connected to before.
I walked out of the train from Baltimore and saw these three, i had a bit of time to wait and decided that this could be fun. I got a cheap pizza and approached my new friends. They were welcoming. I sat with them where they had found an open wall socket to charge their phones with.
They introduced themselves to me as: Barefoot – who claimed she did not own a pair of shoes. One Eye – who had a fine line tattoo pattern on the check of side of his face where he had lost an eye to a fight or an accident. Tex – who said he was from Texas. After i had been there for half an hour and they decided that i was at least interesting and perhaps okay, Tex told me “You should call me ‘Too Dim‘. My friends call me Too Dim, not Tex.”
The conversation rambled. They offered me beer and cigarettes. They played an animated guitar and sang in a raspy voices. They were generous, friendly and welcoming. All the traveler kids i have run across have been.
They train hopped from Jacksonville FL to Washington DC and discovered what many of us had experienced there. Washington is tough for outsiders with no friends in the town. They tried to talk to people, but no one had time for them. They played guitar and sang, but no one was generous. They tried lots of different types of places and nothing improved things. So they left.
They were hoping Richmond is better. I don’t know, but something makes me think it will be.
At one point Barefoot complimented my shirt. I asked her if she would wear it. She said she certainly would, then i offered to give it to her, but she would not take it as a straight gift, she wanted to trade – which is how i got the stylish skull tank top i am donning in the picture below.
After an hour or so of hanging out, i decided i need to be moving on. They were lovely folks, dressed in tattered clothes. I am thankful my previous prejudices are subsiding and i can connect with a greater array of people.
When i left, with no request on their part, i left a few bucks behind. One Eye called out after me, “You have restored my faith in humanity”. And strangely, i felt the same way.
Part of the reason is that they erode constitutional protections – everything from killing US citizens, to unreasonable searches, to declarations of war without congressional authority. Part of the reason is they represent a horrifying new lethal technology which can be deployed without the risk of loss of life on the part of the aggressor, thus encouraging their use in all manner of situations, often where no lethal force was needed. Part of the reason is that progressive or just reasonable political forces in the US have been unable to stop almost any aspect of their use by the government and military, including armed drones being deployed in the US to kill citizens.
There is a new wrinkle in the expanding, but largely ignored drone discussion: drone graffiti. Wired Magazine reports with some glee the dawn of the age of drone vandalism. [Why “glee” you ask? Perhaps because the article title refers to this first know drone tag as “epic”].
It was completely forecastable that this would happen, but no one happened to. On one level this might be because it makes absolutely no real difference in the world, despite Wired’s hype. There was graffiti before, it does not matter much how it gets there.
Before there were zines, there were fingerbooks. An 8.5” by 11” sheet of paper cut in half and then folded into half small booklets, with high graphic content and relatively few words. I made a lot of these on different topics while I was working in Europe. There was one on consensus, one on reactors and the most popular one on open relationships which got translated into several languages.
I’ve sat at a whole bunch of tables in my day handing out propaganda. I watch people and what they reach for and pick up. From a collection of full size flat pieces of paper, a tri-fold and a fingerbook, a surprising fraction of the time, a typical curious passer by will pick up the fingerbook first. Often people will only take one thing and if you are in the propaganda business, you want to be first.
There was a Point A pamphlet, I did not have much to do with it, I really did not like it. The font was tiny, there were hardly any graphics, it was folded into an 1/8th of a page with some strange cut pattern which was confusing. As someone who had made a lot of fairly popular fingerbooks, it offended my sensibilities.
Recklessly, Trip left her email open. I fired off message to GPaul pretending to be her, complaining about the Point A pamphlet and asking if he and Lily would fix it. Not noticing that I had spelled incompetently wrong (a dead give away since Trip would never do such a thing), GPaul was both fooled and took the request seriously. A beautiful thing resulted from this spoof.
In the type of last minute scramble indicative of so many things in the Point A project, Drew [link blog], GPaul [link something] and Lily [link MatchMaker bio] pulled together a Point A “foldie” which is a kissing cousin of a fingerbook (no cutting thank you) in time for the DC Point A introductory event. Which was conveniently a few days before the PANYC Community MatchMaking event this weekend.
The world is a better place.