Written By: - Date published: 3:21 pm, January 11th, 2018 - 94 comments
Categories: activism, community democracy, Left, Politics, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, useless - Tags: abeyance, direct action
I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume I wasn’t the only one gobsmacked on reading about, in the words of The New York Times:
A Louisiana teacher who stood up at a school board meeting and asked why the superintendent was getting a raise while educators and support staff were not was ejected from the room by a marshal, handcuffed on the floor and put into a patrol car.
There are various reports across several papers you can refer to, and the entire debacle has been up-loaded and is available for viewing. The first six minutes is more or less the routine tedium of a board meeting. At 6min and 40sec, the wee guy with the gavel tries to shut down uncomfortable questions and pull the meeting to order, and then…
It was while watching the recorded footage that my blood began to boil. See, not one person stepped up to kill the situation. People simply bleated ineffectually and recorded what was happening. It struck me as being not a million miles away from a Black Mirror episode called “White Bear” where people simply record the distress of the main protagonist…except in that instance the people doing the recording are part of an elaborate set-up and they have been instructed to be passive.
Then I remembered this other and very similar situation from early last year when United Airlines removed a passenger from an over-booked flight. Yet again, people bleated and people hit “record”.
Compare and contrast with the following footage from a KLM flight out of Amsterdam that the authorities sought to use for the purpose of deportation. That shit wasn’t happening. And it wasn’t happening because people spoke up, stepped up and didn’t back down.
I don’t know what it is when people won’t have one another’s backs. It’s fcking beyond me. And I don’t know what it is when people will just meekly allow authority to do as it will. Thankfully, that attitude isn’t ubiquitous. I came across the following story from March of last year while searching out the links for this post, and it gave me some heart, though, I’ll just quietly note that, unsurprisingly, instances of direct action don’t seem to attract much mainstream media coverage. From Vice: –
On Tuesday night 17 activists made their way airside at Stansted Airport and blockaded a Home Office privately chartered deportation flight. Live-streaming their action to the Facebook page Stop Charter Flights, the protesters locked themselves to the wheel of a plane set to remove around 50 people to Nigeria and Ghana.
End Deportations, a coalition of campaigns fighting against immigration detention and deportation, took responsibility for organising the protest alongside supporters from groups like Plane Stupid and Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants.
“I think, for me [Lily May from End Deportations], it needs to be a collective resistance alongside those who are most affected. That’s how change happens,” she said. “People who aren’t in detention and aren’t facing deportation can risk their safety for the empowerment and ultimate liberation of people who aren’t able to. For sure there are many different ways, like targeting the companies involved, but this is the only time we have shut down a charter flight, so direct action does seem to be effective and necessary.”
To end, let me bring the whole notion of direct action back to a broader context. Some people deplore the thought of civil disobedience (the bleat and record crew) or have been cowed to the extent they only feel able to bleat and record. Well, here’s Voltairine De Cleyre, who I’ve only recently discovered, from her essay Direct Action (pdf pp 271)
Every person who ever had a plan to do anything, and went and did it, or who laid his plan before others, and won their co-operation to do it with him, without going to external authorities to please do the thing for them, was a direct actionist. All co-operative experiments are essentially direct action.
So I ask again. Are you cowed? Because there’s enough stuff going in the world right now that would suggest we need to be having one another’s backs. And cowed doesn’t cut it.