Five Minutes in Detroit

July 6, 2010 at 10:56 am (Events, Places) (, , , , , , , )

The USSF opening march in Detroit as it arrived at Cobo Hall

At the end of June, I traveled, with thousands of others, to Detroit, Michigan for the second U.S. Social Forum. When I talk to people who weren’t involved about what the goal of the forum was, I say that in the US, so many community organizers and social justice activists are focused on specific issues (immigration, the environment, labor, etc) that the USSF is like an opportunity for everyone to look at the bigger picture, to see where those issues intersect and interact and to focus on opportunities. While the organizers haven’t posted any summary yet (or at least I couldn’t find one on the site), I’ve heard estimates that there were between 18 and 25,000 people registered throughout the week. That’s a lot of opportunities for cross-pollination.

Back in January, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to or could afford to attend the Forum. I wrote in my journal that two things which I thought could possibly come out of the Forum would be (1) a critique of capitalism – in the current economic crisis, this is a moment when more and more people are questioning the status quo – how can we take advantage of that? and (2) a critique of Obama.

Now, after attending the forum, I think that US movements are a long way off from developing those kind of unified messages, but that providing the space for US movements to co-mingle is a necessary step in the direction of building a more unified voice. I’ve had a couple of conversations over the last few days about how the left generally and anarchists specifically have failed to focus on where we agree with each other, choosing instead to focus on where we disagree. Maybe the US Social Forum is one step in the long road to correcting that? And this is not a new criticism. I clearly remember this same criticism, for example, from the beginning of George Lakoff’s “Don’t Think of An Elephant.”

At the very least, an event like the USSF is movement-strengthening because for those who attend, it’s a visual reminder that we are not alone, that there is strength in numbers. When you think about all the hundreds of thousands of people who are doing similar work but couldn’t or didn’t want to attend the USSF, that number is even larger. I’d like to see and hear people talking about what is next after Detroit – is there momentum now? How can it be harnessed and or built on? Because the cynical part of me says that if there are all of these amazing people doing amazing things, why aren’t more amazing and liberating things happening in the US right now aside from on a super small scale?

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I’ve Always Loved Dogs

May 10, 2010 at 4:09 pm (Places) (, , , , , )

Last week, The Guardian ran a slide show called, “Kanellos the Greek Protest Dog.” One of 14 photos, the one featured here was taken by Aris Messinis. The story caption says, “A dog that has been seen at nearly every demonstration in Athens over the last two years has turned up again during the recent protests against new austerity measures.”

This is probably the most talked about story among my friends in the last week, and yeah, I’ve always loved dogs. The Guardian also featured an amazing photo essay of the “10 Worst Ecocides.” Along with the NY Times Photo Blog, the Guardian is really moving up on the list of photo sites I frequent (which includes many of the independent sites listed to the right in my blog roll).

My next post? It will be about Facebook. Really.

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