This morning I woke up at 6:00 am after having gone to sleep well after 2:00. I was feeling anxious, thinking about how this week in Madison will shape up given the extreme measures Republican legislators and the Department of Administration are taking to make sure the 2011-2013 biennial budget gets passed into law.
I remembered the piece I wrote on March 4, the day after the last protesters occupying the Capitol were ordered out and complied with the order. It was a Facebook Note called “Normalizing Control” that analyzed the demobilization of the Capitol occupation. One of the main lessons learned was the understanding that the Department of Administration’s expressed policy for controlling people is through gaining their voluntary cooperation and depending on their deferential attitude toward law enforcement.
Over three months later these thoughts bear repeating. As we move into a week that will likely be filled with protests involving thousands of people from across the state, it would behoove us to keep in mind the nature of the forces we’re up against and how dire the consequences of their policies and budget will be. We would also be wise to consider the true meaning of solidarity, which means that we understand we are in the same struggle, and we stand up with people who are different from us and who might express their discontent in ways that we might not feel comfortable doing ourselves.
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These thoughts raise many difficult and personally challenging questions, the foremost among them being the nature and definition of "the movement." It is clear the Democratic Party and national and international Union reps have very particular ideas about this, and have worked hard to direct the extremely diffuse, intense and disorganized energy of the grassroots uprising of February and March into their electoral and re-certification programs. The largest of these is the mobilization to recall 6 Republican Senators and to defend 3 sitting Democrats. If successful, the Democrats could hold a majority in the Senate which would serve as a check on Scott Walker's lust for power, but it wouldn't be enough to alter the basic direction of state policy vis-à-vis funding of public sector institutions or material support for vulnerable and needy people.
Another question is our individual relationship to formal power, our need to be perceived in a particular way, and how those two things inform our actions. Scott Walker's use of intimidation tactics and displays of force are consciously targeted at the Wisconsin public's deferential attitude toward law enforcement and our desire to be perceived as nice, reasonable, civil, law abiding citizens. We need to study the deeper meanings of civil disobedience and non-violent action against injustice, get over our desire to be liked and approved of by authority figures, and find ways that we can demonstrate our outrage at the Walker/Fitzgerald/Koch regime that don't involve having to prove we're patriotic by glorifying militarism singing the Star Spangled Banner, or continually thanking police officers for enforcing unconstitutional orders.
More then ever, we must step up our efforts to learn about and understand the forces propelling our state, country and planet toward a future in which the vast majority of people work and suffer to support and enrich a few in whose hands material resources and decision-making power is concentrated. Coming from an informed place, we need to decide how to resist these forces and create more humane conditions in which to live and work. Now is also the time to begin figuring out how we are going to take care of our friends, relatives and neighbors whose lives will be turned upside-down in the event that this budget comes to pass as the law of the land.Wisconsin WaveWisconsin WaveWisconsin Wave