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December 2014

9 Notes On The Future of Revolution—Esquire Interviews Micah White

Esquire names Micah White one of the most influential under 35 year olds alive today.

Here’s an excerpt from Micah’s interview with Esquire:

I’m not satisfied anymore with just the standard repertoire of activism. We have to really rethink the foundation of activism. And that’s what I’m trying to do.

The protest tactics that we’ve developed—the repertoire of tactics that we’ve developed—like, marching and these kinds of things, are designed to influence liberal democracy. They were designed to influence people—like, elected representatives—who had to listen to their constituents. But the breakdown of that paradigm happened on February 15, 2003, when the whole world had an anti-war march and President George Bush said, “I don’t listen to focus groups.” He said that, basically, by saying that, he basically said, “It doesn’t matter if you mass a million, billion, six billion people or whatever. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.”

My thinking is moving away from protest. Instead, I’m more interested now with the power of social mobilization. The power of, basically, getting large numbers of people to change their behaviors, to depattern themselves, to actually get the facts collectively in order to tackle global challenges.

I think where it’s going now, it’s much more towards the Five Star in Italy, where they do things like getting people elected or, like, running very complicated organizations that are able to manage global problems. One of the things that’s happening is that we’re seeing these global problems that everyone faces, like Ebola, and that social movements might be the answer to those kind of problems, too. Right? Because they mobilize large numbers of people. They get large number of people to do highly synchronized actions together.

I was a sophomore in college at Swarthmore on 9/11. And that was, like, the inflection point. And that was the point, too, that I kind of, like, really changed my approach to activism and tried to directly influence, like a lot of people, the war. I started to see the power of the Internet to allow for global action at the same time. Like, on February 15, 2003, we had, like, a global synchronized action on every continent on earth. Which I think would’ve been impossible prior to the Internet and stuff like that.

Arab Spring is absolutely crucial. And it was absolutely crucial for my own development because I have lived in Egypt for nine months in, like, you know, 2005 or 2006. My wife’s father is a former ambassador to Egypt. I remember staying at the embassy and seeing, like, how many police officers Mubarak would employ to, like, keep order in his society. I mean, I remember seeing that and I remember thinking, at the time, like, “Wow. A revolution would be impossible here with all these police officers.” Like, they would have dozens and dozens and dozens of police officers everywhere. Then, lo and behold, a revolution happened in Tahir Square. That opened my eyes.

I’m at the library and I’m reading all these books about revolution. Is there a pattern that always happens? And there is. De Tocqueville is who observed that that revolution often just functions to strengthen state power. I think that that’s why the movement towards kind of, you know, horizontalist, Internet-enabled, populist movements is a way to not repeat that pattern.

The total cost of Occupy was probably under, like, $500. It’s ridiculous. It’s like a force multiplier. That is allowing history to be changed very rapidly.

If there’s gonna be a revolution, it’ll happen non-violently. I think it’ll be a very peaceful kind of. It’ll be more like an awakening, you know?

Micah White PhD, 32, is an activist and former Adbusters editor who saw the protests of Tahrir Square and launched the Occupy Wall Street movement—and the wealth-gap debate that’s raged ever since—with a letter that began “All right you 90,000 redeemers, rebels, and radicals out there . . .” He’s since opened Boutique Activist Consultancy. (Motto: “We Win Lost Causes.”)


The paradigms of activism are in crisis. “You can’t solve climate change by organizing a global climate march,” says Micah in the latest issue of Esquire.

12 Days of Christmas Apologies

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We Need Solidarity When We Are On The Offensive

I am typically one who calls for unity. I preach a gospel that seeks to remind y’all that solidarity is internal- it is something within movements or struggles, not between people. That is what solidarity forever means. It means we are in the same figh…

JVP Artists and Cultural Workers Council

For More Information Contact: Stefanie Fox, stefanie@jvp.org

The Jewish Voice for Peace Artists and Cultural Workers Council is a leadership body of 40 acclaimed poets, rock singers, cartoonists, painters, actors, playwrights, novelists, filmmakers, computer programmers, musicians, dancers, performance artists, and other cultural workers.

Inspired by Jewish activist and artistic traditions, the Council is made up of Jews and allies who represent a broader network of hundreds of influential and talented artists and makers.

Our work for a just peace in Israel/Palestine needs artists and cultural workers to help us envision more just and possible futures, not simply what is politically “practical” in this moment.

In a political discourse that feels polarized and poisonous, artists are a powerful antidote. Art compels us to question, invites us to memory, provokes us to act.

Read our open letter, On the Necessity of Insubordination, concerning the firing of Ari Roth from Theater J and other incidents of arts censorship.

Council Members
Amanda Lundquist
Aurora Levins Morales
Daniel Rosza Lang-Levitsky
Danny Bryk
Dave Lippman
Debra Stuckgold
Dori Midnight
Eitan Isaacson
Elaina Ellis
Elijah Oberman
Ellen O’Grady
Ethan Heitner
Ezra Nepon
Hadar Ahuvia
Hillary Sametz
Irene Siegel
Irit Reinheimer
Jenny Levison
Josh Perlstein
Louisa Solomon
Madeleine Avirov
Micah Bazant
Michi Osato
MJ Kaufman
Morgan Bassichis
Nicole Bindler
Noa Fort
Noa Grayevsky
Rebekah Tarin
Sandra Ceas
Sarah Sills
Shachaf Polakow
Shelby Handler
Stormy Staats
Susan Eisenberg
Tamar Sharabi
Una Osato
Wendy Somerson
Yonah Adelman

 

On The Necessity of Insubordination –An Open Letter

On The Necessity of Insubordination — An Open Letter to the American Jewish and Arts Communities

 

As members of the Jewish Voice for Peace Artist and Cultural Workers Council, we were outraged to learn that the DC Jewish Community Center decided to fire Ari Roth, Artistic Director of Theater J, for one reason: his commitment to explore the ongoing crisis in Palestine and Israel through theater.  

This follows a deeply disturbing, and increasingly common, trend toward censorship in the American Jewish community. When arts organizations cave to political pressure from funders, it is bad for the Jewish community, bad for the arts, and bad for everyone.

Earlier this year, the DC JCC cancelled a performance of The Shondes, citing the band’s support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement as the reason for the revocation. A few years ago, the Oakland Children’s Museum of Art decided to cancel an exhibit of Palestinian children’s art. This October, a small but vocal group tried (unsuccessfully) to force the Metropolitan Opera to cancel the performance The Death of Klinghoffer.

In light of this troubling trend, and in the spirit of socially conscious Jewish artists throughout the world and throughout history, we call on arts institutions to recommit to plurality. We implore Jewish Americans to resist the muzzling of cultural and artistic expression.

The Board of the DC Jewish Community Center described Roth as “insubordinate” for his commitment to his curatorial choices and his refusal to stay quiet about the censorship of a play that deals with the Palestinian Nakba. Should our theater, our rock music, our visual art, and our opera strip itself of defiance, of vision, of provocation? Should our art obey orders? Whose orders?

The American Jewish community’s narrative on Israel and Palestine is an evolving tapestry, hewn through struggle & dissent – a constant, dynamic questioning of the ways that we express our core values. Funders who shut down open artistic expression are terrified of the truth that might break through, the resistance that might break out, should we be allowed to witness art made by Palestinian children, to hear histories that counter the Israeli nationalist version, and to engage with cultural work that challenges our understandings.

Artists must not be censored. The arts have a critical role to play in helping us grapple with the crucial moral and political issues facing our communities. We call on the American Jewish community to recognize and celebrate artistic expressions of the multiplicity of Jewish opinion and experiences. Let us lift up the insubordinate among us: it’s these voices we desperately need.

Sincerely,

The Jewish Voice for Peace Artist Council