Back to Basics

Today is the 8-year anniversary of the UC Davis pepper-spray incident.

Historically what I’ve done on this day — it’s become a tradition — is I’ve looked back on all the essays I’ve written in the year, and I’ve summarize the biggest “organizing epiphany” I had that year.

And this year, looking back at this year’s essays, I’ve definitely run the gamut: I wrote about how Buddhist spiritual concepts could interact with organizing, how existential concepts could interact with organizing, how self-help concepts could interact with organizing, etc.

And while I stand by almost everything I’ve written this year, I’m really coming to and internalizing the conclusion that a lot of what I’ve written this year hasn’t been very useful — even to me. At least not *practically* as an organizer. In truth it has been a lot of philosophical mental masturbation.

I find myself returning to and revisiting the most basic organizing concepts that started me off in the beginning of my organizing career. These basic organizing concepts seemed true to me then, but I feel them deeper now more than ever.

Here are some of my deepest truths, for what it’s worth:
1. Real political structural change requires building a mass movement of people to build their own power to confront the current power structure. No other form of social-political change other than Organizing is as transformative. This is because people make the world; we make the world. When you talk with the people directly, you change the world directly.

2. To build mass movements, there is no way around it: you have to talk with a lot of people. You have to organize. What is organizing? Organizing is building relationships with people who feel oppression, getting those people to recognize and truly feel their oppression, painting for them a vision for how things could be different, and inspiring urgency to action.

3. Organizing is hard. It is intimidating to talk with a bunch of people you don’t know and have deep conversations about life, oppression, and politics. That’s why many Leftists avoid organizing as a practice. But if you just stick at it, the practice of organizing does get easier. Many years into my organizing practice there are moments now that talking with workers, honestly, feels like meditation: I feel joyous and it requires less effort. So again: do know that if you stick with it, one day the practice of organizing will not be intimidating. You will get better. And the more you do it, the better you will get at it.

4. When you really think about what organizing is, what organizing is, is learning how to communicate better and connect with others better. That should always be the primary focus of an organizer. How do I communicate with and connect with people better?

5. Thus, organizing requires knowing yourself. You can’t communicate and connect with others if you do not know yourself first. You have to build yourself up in order to build others up.

Like I said, I usually have some profound thing to say on this anniversary date — but this is what you get this year.

It’s not exactly original, but in its banality: it is Deep True. At least to me.

Since I’ve been alive, the world has been in the darkest place it has ever been socio-politically.

We have to take action. We have to organize.

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