Katrina and activism

Escapable Logic and Doc Searls are blogging thoughtfully about why hasn’t there been more grass roots activism in the wake of Katrina.

I was on the phone with Doc Searls on September 1st as he wrote:

This event won’t have ripple effects. The consequences will be tidal: on transportation, on agriculture, on lumber and other supplies, on retailing, on churches and on citizens across the country who will need to take on the burden of caring for refugees and helping others start new lives.

Katrina also forces us to face a subject even Democrats have stopped talking about, although it lurks beneath everything: class. When the dead are counted, most of them will have been poor. Count on it.

This thing is a huge reset button on politics as usual. Along with everything else.

Few of us imagined that there wouldn’t be a lasting emphasis on fixing the problem: on September 1, we couldn’t conceive that the Katrina calamity could fade so quickly from our national consciousness. 

They tried to convene net-based groups to focus on and help in the aftermath of Katrina and found people quickly lost interest and now wonder how any meaningful grassroots activism will be able to happen.

I say – wait. I expect enormous grassroots activism to be coming out of the areas hit by the hurricanes. But it’ll take time. It’ll probably be more along the lines of a populist revolt (coming from an area quite used to populism.) The aftermath of the 1927 floods in Louisiana led to the rise of Huey Long, and some say, to the revitalization of the Democratic Party itself. History may well repeat itself (if the Dems allow a rabble-rouser like Huey Long in the door, that is.)

Groups outside the hurricane areas can help most by finding groups in the areas and helping them grow. Also, if you want to build and grow as a group, you need a steady stream of events and activities to keep members interested and active. Keep your own group active and form coalitions with other groups. That’s how activist groups grow.

Doc is right, Katrina will be a big reset button. But it’ll take time. 

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