Howard Zinn quotationstrikemag.bigcartel.com

I like this poster from Strike Magazine:

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“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.

What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” —Howard Zinn

The language of activism and nature

Yesterday Ellie posted about some of her recent projects, including one we’ve been collaborating on called Flight Lines. She mentioned a thing that I’ve said out loud a few times (mostly when speaking at panels), but that I’ve never fully articulated:

Ruminating on these topics with my husband Dan Phiffer on our morning run, we came to the conclusion that in addition to dropping our reliance on the outmoded concept of “nature” as Morton suggests, perhaps we also need to dispense with the term “activist”. This might help people like me further embrace the idea that we all have a role to play in facing the challenges ahead. (emphasis added)

Timothy Morton argues that the term “nature” ignores the fact that humans are increasingly a central part of ecological systems, and it doesn’t make sense to draw some boundary between “nature” and “non-nature.” Maintaining a false romantic ideal holds us back from taking responsibility for the habitat us human creatures rely on. And also from seeing how natural systems (no scare quotes!) permeate our urban spaces. This is an ongoing theme in Ellie’s art practice.

Rejecting the term “activist” just takes the shape of Morton’s argument and applies it to something I’ve observed in Occupy Wall Street, and more recently in protest movements like Stop Watching Us. I’ve been seeing a lot of people out protesting for the first time. Which makes me really hopeful! Activism is really just one aspect of civic life, it doesn’t need to be restricted to specialists. Just as one need not self-identify as an “artist” to make a good drawing, calling oneself an “activist” also doesn’t imply a life dedicated to fighting injustice.

But much as there are those who make their livelihood from art, the practice of activism often depends on full-time organizers whose work is sorely needed in the world (which is also the case with artists, I say). I want to avoid emptying the idea of activism of meaning, and instead just flip a small linguistic switch. Striking “activist” from one’s vocabulary just insinuates it within the standard set of Things That Are Done, rejecting the implication that practicing activism deserves a special label. One of the small victories of OWS is that “non-activists” are totally welcome to the rally. Of course we always were, but now we’re growing in numbers. We are ideological creatures, we might as well think like it!

Occupy.here on de Correspondentdecorrespondent.nl

I was interviewed about Occupy.here for a recently-launched Dutch news site called de Correspondent. It was produced by Kel O’Neill and Eline Jongsma, who are wonderful people and doing very interesting things in addition to de Correspondent.

Link

(And yes, I am posting here again!)

Neil Freeman interviewed about his Electoral College Reform map

You may have seen Neil’s map before, where each of the US’s 50 states are redrawn to balance for population. It’s nice to see his project’s motivating ideas laid out like they are in this Paris Review interview:

I think that the biggest cultural change would be with the profusion of city-states. Many states overrepresent rural areas when it comes to divvying up funding for infrastructure projects and other spending. The alignment of metro areas and states would mean that decision-making power in land use and transportation would shift away from rural areas, which would probably mean less sprawl and more livable cities.

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See also: Neil’s 50 states and 50 metros

The fifty largest metro areas, disaggregated from their states. Each has been scaled and sorted according to population.

Occupy.here at SXSW 2013

Here’s my presentation slide deck (PDF) from my panel at SXSW this year, “And What of Liberty? Networks & Freedom”. I also made an audio recording of my talk, which is sync’d up to slides in the Slideshare embed below.

Photo taken by occupy.here user “Jase”

Photo taken by occupy.here user “Jase”