The final discussion in the This Brave Nation series is up — between Tom Hayden and Naomi Klein — and like all the others, it is fascinating. And inspiring. But, in this case, there is also a moment where Tom and Naomi are talking about how much activity and organization there is online…and how little there is in the streets.
It’s not enough to upload the movement to the net, something which happened instantly and with dramatic effect during the Battle of Seattle anti-globalization protests. Indeed, it was precisely because they were in the streets that they had something to upload! In the video Hayden says writing is fine but when you take action, you start to change what you are writing about and no longer are just an observer.
They both agree it is crucial to get out of one’s reality tunnel and talk to people outside of it. Hayden learned this talking to black sharecroppers in Mississippi during the civil rights struggles in the early 60’s and found they knew things about how the system worked that he, being a middle class white, had no clue about. Klein spoke with people working in Third World sweatshops. Same thing. We need multiple perspectives in the movement – including working class whites who too often and unfairly now get categorized as lumpen racists. Most aren’t. But do resent being approached in a patronizing manner.
Does the net itself deflect energy that could be going into the streets? Yes. The presidential elections are doing the same. So the movement is at a low ebb now. There’s a sense that old tactics are no longer effective. An Obama presidency will indeed raise expectations for change very high, and that presents a real opportunity for change. The net is a useful tool. But we need to be in the streets, organizing person to person too.