This workshop is all about attracting young people, your peers, to the occupy movement. This task is vitally important. Without youth involvement any popular uprising is bound to fail; older generations often fail to understand this as they are too mired in the system. Yet for those in the trenches, building a strong youth movement is paramount precisely because with youth comes new dimensions of understanding.
All of you here today probably know this, or are beginning to understand this. Your participation here is no small event; contrary to what less supportive individuals may have said, you being here mean you have a spark which surpasses those who are “politically challenged.” I cannot say I have all the answers to your struggle but I can help you build awareness among your friends.
As I am sure all of you know no one thing can attract a person to any sort of event; there is no pan-political cause which will unite a divided mass. This is why you need to employ a wide range of techniques when you are out propagating. What responds to one person will not necessarily respond to another.
This was certainly true in my case. Some people were complaining about the need to destroy “big government” while others were arguing for more reformist approaches to solving the economic crisis. Appealing to a person’s political, and even idealistic convictions, is one manner an activist can go about attracting others to join the movement but is hardly useful among a crowd of mostly apolitical young people.
To seem even moderately in touch with such individuals you are going to have to employ tactful strategies. Ones which serve your immediate ends without alienating people; especially those who are scared stiff of any kind of activist work (however mild). This becomes even harder when dealing with alienated youth who are chained to parental and guardian figures. Yet, there are some methods that should help you in breaking the ice.
Be A Walking Billboard
Proudly and vibrantly show off what you believe in. Wearing T-Shirts, and other clothes which displays your goals front and center will go a long way in attracting attention. Attracting attention is good since that means you are making an impact. Though you might seem a bit eccentric this air of uniqueness will give you opportunities to make contact. Making contact can be done quickly; just a passerby in the school hallways, or on the street is all it takes for the onlooker to ask a question about your choice of political clothing.
This has worked well for me on numerous occasions. First, at occupy Augusta, when I wore my Che Guevara shirt and then a second time when I was walking to the capital.
The first time, at occupy, was the typical reactions: someone sees something that gives them an emotional reaction, in this case the visage of the legendary communist guerrilla fighter, and they wish to uptake that person in political discussion. During such time you will have invaluable moments to argue decisively for your cause. Because of this you might want to think beforehand what you line of discussion will be in regards to what image you are associating yourself with.
The second time, when I was walking to the capital, I was wearing a Code: Pink “Bring Our War Dollars Home” T-shirt. While out near the walking trail I was pleasantly surprised when someone shouted at me “Asshole!” Obviously a moment like this isn’t ideal but it does illustrate the power of symbolic images.
So as long as you wear something-anything-political and keep it on sight within others, chances are sooner or later a person will stop and comment. During this space, when you are engaging them in conversation, you will have your opening. During this opening you will have your opportunity to debate, but more importantly, you will have your chance to recruit your peers to the occupy movement.
Effectively engaging others in political conversation is a delicate matter. While anyone can simply speak, and speaking is still better than silence, to be ‘above average’ will get you more places than the typical talk. Because of this there are some basic guidelines which you should be aware of.
First is speaking with confidence. When speaking about a controversial subject it never pays off to appear uncertain or hesitant. An old fashioned public speaking trick which I remember is that even if you are unsure of the exact details, even if you are advocating for a unpopular stance, always use clear, decisive language.
This means getting rid of all the “Umms, eh, ah, and moderate ‘well, it wasn’t perfect but it was still good.’ Any pauses which indicate you have to think of a rebuttal or what to say next means a crack has appeared in your confidence wall. Maintaining a high level of confidence is important because it means that those you are trying to sway will be more likely to listen, in full, to your argument. It won’t guarantee people will take up your cause but it does give you legitimacy to who you are as a social activist; it differentiates you from the ego-mass that is American culture and gives you just a shed of power many other activists do not possess
The occasional smile and joke helps as well, though never sacrifice quality for content. The objective here is to seem versed enough in your area of proficiency, which you already should be, to not only answer every question the others have, with an air of confidence, but also while relating it to current events without a second thought as to how and make it appealing to those who have no deep understanding of your cause.
The goal of all this verbal intercourse is to convince someone, or some group, of the need to endorse an issue. More specifically, however, it is to bring them into the Occupy Movement. Bringing people into a movement takes more than simply being a smooth talker though: you do have to have an idea that rallies them to your banner (Occupy).
Dealing with your alienated peers brings in a host of new problems since many of them probably have never dealt with anything political before in their lives (satire from popular shows not withstanding). So, in order to reach said youth you have to speak with confidence, yes, but before you can speak you must have an idea: an idea that relates to them on a fundamental level; such an issue needs to be personal and striking for otherwise they will not be moved enough to participate.
You have to have, in other words, a tailor made cause to each group you are targeting: in this case youth. An effective strategy is appeal to minors’ inability to live alone, to vote, and to drink. Also be sure to include the bias against teen drivers (as many insurance companies discriminate against adults who have a teen driver by raising their premiums).
These issues apply to the whole spectrum of young people regardless of political affiliation, identity or religious beliefs. Yet, this alone will not bring in young people when many are not immediately interested in such causes. Many youth need a more direct reason to attend Occupy. A reason which relates to them on a fundamental level.
To illustrate I will go into detail.
As in any capitalist society (The United States, China, Uganda, Colombia, etc), the ruling class, usually being composes of conservatives, impose White, Christian, heteronormality on the populace through their propaganda outlets (Newspapers, Movies, Television, video games, books and so forth). They do this to divide the working population and redirect energy, which would normally be directed at them, into minorities which pose them no danger.
This is important to remember not only because it is a fact of life but because the bigotry directed towards these repressed social groups manifest themselves as overt discrimination.
Queer Youth (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender):
If you are a Queer person in the United States, Queer meaning non-straight, or heterosexual, than you may find life to be more hazardous than it is for your non-Queer counterparts. Because homosexuals are, in many states, not allowed to Marry, are not afforded protection from discrimination at the workplace or while at school, and are still commonly disowned and killed by their community, it is vital to recognize that the status of the Queer Liberation movement is still In flux.
Queer youth know how society treats them. As you might have guessed, they hate it. They are looking for a path to freedom. If you know your stuff than this provides an excellent opportunity for you to go into the Gay-Straight Alliances at your local schools and colleges to present your thesis for participation in the Occupy Movement.
Relate the Queer liberation movement to the occupy movement. Find connections among the actions which back up your points and push home the point that Queer liberation can be achieved if enough Queer activists join the local occupy movement. Progressive ideas, such as Queer Liberation, can only be started if there are people willing to talk and debate. Inform them that there are plenty of people to debate with and spread ideas with if they attend occupy.
Oppressed Nationalities (Black, Latino, Asian and Arab):
Part of living in America means grappling with our extensive history of White Supremacy. While it is fortunate that we no longer live in a time where the Ku Klux Klan has a membership of 40million we still, nonetheless, live in an age of unparalled inequalities. In a recent report, the ACLU reported that Hate groups in America have risen by over 60% in the last few years; that is an annual clime of several points every year since 2001.
Adding to this climate of extreme hate is the rabid Islamophobia gripping society. The wake of the 9/11 attacks brought not only years of interminable warfare in the Middle East, and a breath taking expansion of the military industrial complex, but also heightened bigotries and paranoia.
In a moment very reminiscent of the anti-communist Cold War hysteria a great deal of modern American society earnestly believes that Muslims have a concentrated effort to “Take over” America. While such is, of course, the delusions of mad men it has a great impact on innocent citizens who try their best to etch out a living for their family.
Due to this climate, activists of all strips should actively be engaging the Muslim/ Arab community. It is not an exaggeration to say that a great percentage of Muslims do not believe they have allies. Under such circumstances it is not only practical, but humane, to petition this section of society to join the Occupy movement. Much like the Queer population, the Muslim/ Arab minority is also seeking freedom.
A skilled activist should be able to quickly link the overseas wars to Arab/Muslim liberation (AML). As members of the ethnic group currently being persecuted by U.S imperialism Arabs and Muslims have a vested interest in stopping assaults on their countrymen. Appeal to their desire to live as equals’ unpersecuted and to the fact that an end to the wars would mean a reprieve to local persecution.
Such is said of Black, Latino, and Asian individuals. African-Americans have never been truly free in this country; so great as been their oppression that even the much lauded civil rights movement only challenged the visibility of racism, not the actual entrenchment of it. Asians have, ever since the opening of the Cold War, been associated with Marxist principals and, as such, treated as traitors. Latinos, though also contributing much to the fabric of American society, have been forsworn as a “lesser race” by many neo-conservatives.
With such a monumental amount of racial hate it is remarkable to organize proper equality demonstrations. Yet, with the emergence of Occupy, a platform of pre-made equality has been already organized. All you, the activist, have to do is connect progressive race politics with the very real racist superstructure and you will have a great source of recruits ready to attend with you and hand out materials and debate people.
In dealing with young oppressed nationalities it is vital to hit home the fact that without activism, and the need for elimination of Neo-Fascism, they will not be able to live safely. Extremist currents run deep in American society and can seize power at any moment. Linking employment discrimination to the current recession will be a relatable step that can attract minority youth to a great movement.
Now, chances are if you have friends who are politicized and uphold a certain set of ideals they are already going to be at Occupy but sometimes, for whatever reasons, they are not. So your job becomes getting them to occupy.
American media has a way of alienating people from activism. With an overwhelming emphasis on the two conventional parties (democrat and republican) many individuals who hold onto a third party position feel apathetic to become active. This is because the media only ever reports on those groups which empower their interests while many other smaller ideologies become obscured. While this happens the only glimpse the general public has to third parties is when they mess up and something happens. This leads to alienation and restrains people from becoming active as alienation is, by definition, the lack of consciousness.
One manner of forcing these people out into the open of activity is to appeal to their romanticized nature of the world. Being young they are more than likely prone to falling for excited and overblown language. Because of this it never hurts to make your event-Occupy-far more extravagant than it may actually be. Though Occupy is a movement and not a revolution, the alienated youth of America will not be able to discern the difference. Since such kids are going to be attracted to the idea of revolution, of changing the world, label occupy as such and fill your words with enthusiasm. They will need such youthful idealism in order to have the resolve to spend days at a time in constant debate mode with individuals whom they have never before met.
Organize, Educate, and Agitate
…should be your battle cry. When heading out into the universities, high schools, and other institutions of learning you might be shocked at the general levels of apathy (though if you yourself attend the institution you will probably be used to it). Because the Ruling Class has used all their efforts and resources to ensure that only their voice is heard you will find that organizing will be challenging, especially when it is organizing for a countercultural occurrence such as Occupy. For this you may have to adopt some preliminary tactics before hordes of your peers count themselves as occupiers.
Once you have set foot within your chosen place of struggle, the location in which you will recruit for the movement, initiate your education campaign immediately. Create and copy some fliers. These fliers do not have to be professionally made; just whatever you can make by your own hand. If you have sympathetic artistic friends that can create a well-rounded flier, than all the better (if you lack artistic friends consider asking around the art clubs first). The point is that your flier should convey a message centered on an eye catching design. Once you have your flier designed go to the nearest library, print store or office and copy an additional 25, 50, or 100 or however much you need for your campaign. When copying, and pending on your flier, consider splurging for color if you have the resources black and white means you are serious, but color means you are dedicated. You will need an amount enough to cover your place in its high traffic areas.
Take your fliers and plaster them around your location’s high traffic areas (gymnasium, cafeteria, restrooms, hallways, etc). Talk to your classmates about the movement and educate at every turn. When people see your flier you might have many individuals come up to your and ask what this event is about. You can talk to them there but you can also invite them to another popular tactic: the study session.
Since you are in a place of learning, and since many youths are turned off by the word “study” consider changing the name to Occupy 101. Anyways, the “study session” is a short gathering in which you lecture the attendees on the basics of the Occupy movement; history, tactics, goals and so forth will all be points to cover. Undertaking such an effort is something you would do with the hope that your brief question and answer session will be enough to convince your attendees on the importance of occupy.
To host such a meeting try and finding a sympathetic teacher for a room or if all else fails host it at your own house. While a school room is most preferable any location will do. Try and spurge for basic snacks so as to have a snack table: the purpose here, the snack table, isn’t to feed people but to have an innocent looking area to place an information sheet; or, a place to place a sheet where those who choose can leave their name, email address and cell phone number. The more contacts you have, the better.
Organizing your gathered support can either be a sloppy mess of contacts, names, and phone numbers, or you can centralize everything by having a facebook event. With a Facebook event you will have the cyber space covered and have a convenient place to socialize with your contacts.
When making a Facebook page for your event, whether it is the date when you and your gathered group are going to head down to occupy or just an everyday activist action, it is important to remember that you can only do so much: create the event, fill the page with as much information and pictures as you think will attract people, and then go onto plastering your event all over your most frequented local pages. After that, you need to realize that what will happen, will happen.
If you have a low attendance for your event, do not worry. Many people who might attend will not bother in updating their status to you event. On top of this those people who attend might bring families, friends and relatives, so even if you have only a handful of people saying they will attend so as long as those people bring several others your event will be a success.
Ultimately, however, even if a few people came you still must be unperturbed and maintain a high level of energy. Grassroots activism, especially when you are first beginning organizing, isn’t about drawing hundreds of people every time you have an action; it is, however, about making connections ,one at a time, and building communities of struggle.
Anyone who says that Agitating isn’t fun doesn’t have the soul of a troublemaker. For that is exactly what agitating is: troublemaking which benefits your cause. Agitating is not talking and debating, it is both hardcore, shameless really, advertising, as well as solo actions which stir up people’s emotions and incentive to get politically active.
Agitating is when you spread a message to assembled groups in a professional manner. Sometimes this message may not be appropriate for the event; hence the troublemaker label, but such trivialities will not concern a dedicated revolutionary/political activist. Every turn and opportunity you have to lecture masses on your program is a victory in the long run. Use any such exposure to advertise your event and connected affiliates- I.E your Facebook page and any other such online homes.
Solo actions are not large or even organized events, rather, they are individual excursions you take at your own risk to heighten the public awareness of your event. That being said there is no base guideline for what constitutes an agitation, as the term means different things to different people. This is something you will have to decide for yourself. Leafleting, public preaching ( standing on a corner and mindlessly speaking), and speaking at rallies are all examples of agitation yet by far the most effective forms are when you go in to areas where your peers congregate.
Back in East Germany, within the German Democratic Republic, professional agitators within the Socialist Unity Party, would routinely walk into factories, farms, and other places of production and preach revolutionary doctrine. While you, as a young person unconnected with the Working class, I would not recommend brazenly walking into a factory and begin to preach about your cause. Yet such isn’t what is being advocated. You must find your youth equivalent of factories; skateboard parks, schools, libraries, game and hobby shops, boys and Girls clubs, video arcades, where such still exist; are all potential places of recruitment.
Agitating in such areas you will have to be cleaver and use language, tactics, and ploys that resonate with your audience. In other words, it would be a poor choice to go into any of these areas and immediately start talking about Occupy. Your mission as an agitator isn’t to be a preacher: it is to connect with others and stir up some energy. Ease your way into conversations and gradually work towards the goal of political works; align your message during a segment of talk which connects with something close to them. A skilled agitator will be able to steer the conversation into such realms without it being obvious.
Well, such is the inside trade on attracting your friends and other young people to the Occupy movement. Use what you have learned here well