Thursday, September 03, 2009

the revolution will not be quanitified

Quick update, 'cause I don't remember if I mentioned this on this blog or not...
I'm in grad school now...I started a week ago.

Now, on to what I actually wanted to say...

In one of my classes yesterday, my professor told us about how, after presenting testimony she had collected in Indian-occupied Kashmir, one audience member asked if she had any solutions to the problem. She didn’t, at least, not in the sense that he was asking. She talked about how the work we do isn’t always about solutions or quantifiable results (I’m definitely paraphrasing here). Sometimes, we find liberation in the process of struggle itself. Especially in terms of testimony, sometimes it’s the memory, the stories, & the way we honor them, that is important.

As much as I try to “be here, now” in the classroom, I cannot walk anywhere without carrying my dedication to certain struggles & to social justice in general right in with me. So, I started thinking about movements. I started thinking about how we’re taught to organize – how we’re taught to organize our organizing in linear processes that – supposedly- achieve concrete, quantifiable results. Often, however, we don’t strive for this because the specific concrete, quantifiable results are the ones we want most – we do it because we look for a “winnable” goal. Supposedly, “winning” keeps people motivated & inspired to stay involved. But, does it? Really? I don’t think that’s true. Sure, everyone loves to win...but losing a supposedly “winnable” struggle ALSO happens and that can be really de-mobilizing. Even if we do win, then what? It’s true that in the BDS movement, we list our victories over and over, so we maintain hope that there will be more in the future. But we can also find victories that are less quantifiable. This is certainly true for Break the Siege – conversations, when tabling, often feel victorious, when someone agrees to sign the pledge card when they weren’t initially sure, etc. And what about the other victories that we can’t quantify...the victory inherent in the creation of an organization that genuinely strives to combat oppressive dynamics within itself, in addition to fighting for justice outside? The victory in the idea that we can apply a community organizing model (a.k.a. base building) to Palestine Solidarity organizing? We talk a lot about recruiting new members, and of course this is important...but what about honoring the fact that there are people involved that have been involved for SO many years?
So, then I started thinking about how this model – the “quantifiable organizing results” model- seems to me to be directly related to the non-profit industrial complex & the power of the foundations & funders. They’re the ones who’ve been asking us to quantify our results, aren’t they? The NPIC is trying to force our movements into a corporate mold, whether that’s the overt intention of the funders & foundations or not. It makes me wonder, how much does the NPIC influence us, even when we’re not receiving foundation money, just because this is how we’ve been taught to structure our movements and our lives? What would it look like if we were to redefine victory? What would it look like if we were to redefine change? Redefine hope? I mean really, is victory all that gives us hope? Can the struggle itself, and the relationships we build within the struggle give us hope? Can the fact that we’re still trying to achieve these BIG goals (like “Free Palestine!” “Abolish prisons!”) give us hope? What about art, poetry, and the sharing of stories (the painful ones, but also the entertaining ones)? And clearly the idea that what “people” (whatever that means) need to maintain hope is NOT actual change, because look at Obama- he said “hope” over and over and it mobilized people and brought them out to the polls. He hasn’t changed much, if he’s changed anything at all. But that didn’t matter when it came to inspiring “hope” in people. He just had to say the word over and over again, remind us that it was important.
...Anyway, I could go on and on about all the other ideas that school has thus far inspired me to de-construct, but if I do that, I will not be able to finish my reading and go about the rest of my day. Which I should really do, because life is not just school, and the rest of life is important too. It’s also not just school & activism/organizing. I have to remember that.
My book of Hafiz is still near my bed...actually, it’s not my book, it’s Z’s book that I borrowed. I think I will keep it there for a week or so, before I give it back, and make sure to read a poem every night. Even if it’s one I already read. I want to remember that “academia” isn’t the only place where this kind of thinking happens, and theory isn’t the only place where intense, important ideas are expressed.

Oh! And so, as I was typing this, I got the following article in an email...ironic, isn't it?
Read: Did Leviev's Empire Succumb to Boycott?