Category Archives: Community Organizing

President Trump, Protest Organizer and Civil Disobedience Advocate

New Orleans  Here during our collective field test for the “end times,” we are all learning new and different ways to relate, individually and collectively.  In the absence of mass protest actions, ACORN and other groups around the world are of course using on-line petitions, as better than nothing, but recognizing its weakness. Organizations are creatively using car caravans where members are mobile, including tying up traffic by repeatedly circling a bank in Minneapolis.  One of our new branches in Lancaster, England, organized a 600-person rent strike to stop university housing payments.

And, then of course, there’s still “old school.”  Food riots have broken out in Cortez, Honduras, the port city along the Gulf of Mexico, and of course throughout India where food rations have been slow to move to starving people.  Joining the parade of protests from the top down rather than the bottom up is a new protest organizer from the very, very tippety-top, Donald Trump, taking a break from pretending to be president of the United States, formerly one of the most powerful positions in the world.   In breaking into this new role, he is also becoming an advocate of civil disobedience as many governors and mayors have noted since he is encouraging people to demonstrate against legally binding stay-at-home orders in these locations and to do so without practicing social distancing.

You might wonder how he’s doing in this new role as a protest organizer?  Not so well it seems.  The anti-shutdown actions in Michigan, Ohio, Colorado and a few other places have featured paltry crowds for the most part, rarely reaching even three figures.  One was larger because it was a rightwing and wingnuts unity rally of sorts including German swastikas, Confederate flags, and some US flags thrown in for good measure.  Some of his own political advisors were clear that it was not a good look.  Reportedly, this failing tactic has only won the support of only 26% of the public according to polls.  Only 36% in other polls support the full reopening of the economy in the states until the virus has significantly decreased and testing has correspondingly increased.

Trump’s hopes of stirring Tea Party like protests against mayors and governors faces some huge obstacles.  One is that some of his older base isn’t ready to put their lives on the line and take a chance of dying by crowding around and yelling at some governor.  The other is that the protestors are not facing some weeny politicians who cave at the first sign of conflict, but essential staff and responders.  Pictures from Colorado and other states of nurses in masks and protective gear standing in front of their hospitals and confronting the protestors yelling from their open windows have gone viral.

Trump is having trouble name calling a virus as a target.  He’s having even more trouble going up against nurses, doctors, hospitals, public health authorities, and local officials and rabblerousing his base with his demagoguery to go wave their flags to support business and the rich.  In his new role he needs to learn that putting together a protest is hard work and involves listening to people and understanding their needs and issues.  That’s hard for Mr. All About Me, who just wants to stand on his soapbox and shout.  Old school or new school, that never really works that well, as Trump will eventually realize when he goes back to trying to pretend to be presidential, rather than posing as a protestor against his own government.

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Please enjoy Fake Friends by L7 Featuring Joan Jett.

Thanks to WAMF.

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Defanging Community Organizing

Pearl River     There’s something happening to community organizing, and it’s not a good thing.  The job is being expropriated and defanged of its critical content and its bottom-up push for peoples’ power by corporate and political interests.  This isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon, but it’s getting out of control and subverting the very practice and philosophy of both community organizing and community organization.

I started noticing this more over the last year.  I have a Google Alert for community organizers.  I don’t look at it every day, but check it semi-regularly.  Perhaps I had overlooked it, but it was harder to ignore.  A bank in Massachusetts was headlined as hiring a community organizer to expand its reach.  A politician in the Caribbean Islands announced that she was hiring a community organizer.  A borough official in New York City sent out an announcement naming the two new community organizers in the office.  What’s up with all of this?

I looked at Glassdoor under jobs for community organizers and Google flashed over one billion hits.  Planned Parenthood was looking for one at the state level.  The Sierra Club wanted to hire one.  The Service Employees had a couple of campaigns that were seeking community organizers.  A charter school network wanted to hire a one.  Indeed.com has jobs for community organizers for public school parent organizations, student groups, environmental groups and of course housing and community development corporations.  Political campaigns want them to work the phones and the field.  On Indeed every once in a while, a real, grassroots or base-building organization wanted to hire community organizers as well.  It was easy to sort them out because they were the ones paying $13 to $18 per hour while some of the others were paying $40,000, $60,000, and in one case $90,000 per year!

I shouldn’t be surprised.  Barack Obama called himself a community organizer and for sure did give it a shot for a bit.  David Cameron, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, set up a so-called community organizing program over there to pretend to be a temporary balm to heartless, bone crushing austerity victimizing lower income and working families.  At least Cameron was honest about it.  The program was designed to go talk to some people, not many, but a few, and administer Band-Aids, not social change.

Community organizer has become a catchall for outreach workers.  Where social work schools reprogrammed community organizers towards clinical and mental health issues, corporations, politicians, and others are trying to develop people who can be the buffer between the unwashed masses in the “community,” usually a codeword for minority or ethnic “markets” or constituencies.  We’re being rebranded right and left!

Maybe it’ll be OK?  Those of us still working as community organizers to support people building power and winning social changes will be the new wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Rather than hearing a community organization is coming for them and looking for us to be in their face, maybe they will fool themselves, underestimate us, and we will have snuck up on them before they realize there are still community organizers and organizations doing the real work, not just fronting for this and that and looking to borrow a base for a bit.  We’ll be the few, the proud, and the dangerous, where profits and posturing is not our job, but change and people power is still our game.

We’ll see.

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