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Old 08-27-2013, 08:02 PM   #1
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Default feeling politically powerless - what do you do?

thinking about the situation in syria (and elsewhere) has got me pondering political participation more generally.

okay. here's the thing. i don't feel powerless in my local community - i know i can do things to create change. i would say on some level, having spent the last several years doing disability justice organizing on a national level, i can see even beyond my own community. i have a job now that's a soulless government cubicle job, but i love it more than any job i've ever had (where i was working for someone else instead of myself, anyway) because i get to directly assist people who are dealing with terrible situations and i can help make their lives better. there are some places where i feel that i do have the power to make things better.

but when it comes to some things - man. i feel really fucking powerless. we're told that voting for the president matters, and on some level i know it does - i know the world would look a lot different right now if mccain had won instead of obama, for example. but i still don't feel my vote for obama was exercising any power or control to change something important - his support of drone strikes and his relationship with israel has directly impacted the lives and safety of my friends in the middle east and there is literally nothing i can do to control any of that. my one vote won't change that. i can know all of the history and the current politics and know what is going on and still - i feel powerless to create change or to affect things on an international level.

no amount of checking in with my friends who are living in war zones or posting articles on facebook or signing petitions has ever actually created meaningful change in what's going on on an international level. and i cannot participate directly/physically in international politics on the same level i do in politics and social justice in my local community - or at least i don't feel like i can. i don't feel like i have the ability to affect anything. in the last few years it's gotten to the point where i just don't even want to read the news because it makes me feel so powerless.

i know a lot of us are watching this situation with syria as we have watched so many tense political situations before. i remember watching the news when we went into iraq - i was, i think, 15 at the time. do you guys feel powerless? what do you do to cope with that? how do we affect meaningful change?
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Old 08-27-2013, 08:54 PM   #2
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I hear you. One of the striking differences to me, anyway, between now and the Vietnam years is the lack of protests. I was pretty young during the late '60's and early '70's, so my memory might be dim, but I recall a lot more protests on colleges (and attended Kent State much later) over Vietnam. I just haven't seen the same about Iraq, Afghanistan, or wherever we get involved. Protests may not affect policy, of course, but I think to the protesters it was a way to be heard and feel like they were doing "something". We just seem more apathetic today.

I like to write to the newspaper or online, whether or not it gets published. I follow more interactive sites like Huffpost. I don't know if the Red Crescent or Cross has been allowed in Syria but donating to that organization in the name of someplace they have gone might be an idea. I write my representatives, whether they act on it or not. But I hear you, and sometimes feel very powerless to affect anything.

I am sorry that you are personally affected by events in the Middle East-I mean much more than a broad issue like oil prices. I will keep the country and your friends in my thoughts.
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Old 08-27-2013, 09:02 PM   #3
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I'm so sorry this is affecting you personally. It must be horrible!

I think war is wrong, and I wish my government agreed!

This is, however different than Vietnam and social media is powerful and does make a difference.
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Old 08-27-2013, 09:35 PM   #4
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I have a few disjointed thoughts on this.

Occupy Wallstreet was, at least initially, a solid protest effort. It devolved into something else eventually though, at least in Seattle. But I think perhaps it suffered from having too big a target and too broad a message. People had trouble absorbing it all and tuned it out after awhile.

Social media kind of fills the "feel like your doing something" void for people. Retweeting or reposting something has come to feel like involvement and action. And I think it certainly can be, if you are disseminating information, or sharing a targeted call to action (e.g. school X won't allow their lesbian valedictorian to give the commencement address, write to the principal to protest). But often it is just a generic "awareness" message that doesn't accomplish much beyond making the people who share it feel like they have done something.

I wonder, do we feel more powerless than we felt 20 or 30 or 40 years ago? Or do people always feel like this, just form different reasons. 30 years ago it was the chewy nougat of nuclear annihilation at the center of the Cold War that made people feel powerless. Now, I think it's a combination of technology shrinking the world so that all of the bad stuff that happens everywhere feels close at hand, and so much wealth, and so much power, is being concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. And the fact remains that a strong federal government is the only bulwark an average citizen has against power like that. So here we are caught between a government we don't trust and huge multinational corporations we shouldn't trust.
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Old 08-27-2013, 09:36 PM   #5
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I think it is important to bring stuff out into the light as much as possible. People don’t seem to really know or care that much about what is going on. Mainstream news sources won’t really report anything not sanctioned by the corporate owned media. Well they may report it when they have to but the spin they put on it will make it all but unrecognizable. How we learn to understand our world is dictated by the corporate sectors’ media. We are fed their propaganda at every meal. It’s the fabric of our social narrative.

When the corporate owned media is finished, most people will believe it is necessary to attack Syria. Corporate owned politicians weigh in to sweeten the pot.

The US has in essence one political party with 2 factions, the moderate members of the Republican Party now called the Democratic Party and the Republican Party better know as Those Crazy Republicans Party who are now owned and operated by the very rich and the corporate sector. The Democratic Party, which is really the Republican Party, is also controlled by the very rich and the corporate sector so the difference between the factions is illusionary. There really is no longer any point in trying to believe average citizens have any power to effect change through the system. 1% of the population makes policy. The very rich get what they want. The rest of us have no say about it.

Corporations are people according to our government and they have more rights and more protection than 98% of US citizens. They buy lobbyists, hell they bought most of Congress. They own the majority vote in the Supreme Court. I have no idea what can be done to make any difference. To me the only way to effect any change is working on a local level. That won’t protect the rest of the world from the monsters running the show, but we can’t even protect ourselves so there isn’t much help going to come from us. But maybe I’m missing something. I know there have been pockets of resistance here and around the globe over the past year and half or so, but it’s sporadic, bloody, not far reaching enough or globally organized and it’s something the controlling elite have made provisions for. Scary provisions.

And to add to the fun, austerity genocide is coming to town near you.

What can we do? To quote Leonard Cohen “love's the only engine of survival”. We can open our eyes, become informed about the issues, don’t get all our information from mainstream media, read alternative newspapers, help our neighbors, love each other as much as possible and be ready when the revolution comes.
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Old 08-27-2013, 09:46 PM   #6
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Default

i truly, honestly believe that octavia butler's parable of the sower is what things are going to look like not too long from now, for the reasons you guys stated (and more).

i wonder about "being ready when the revolution comes" - i do think that the best we can do is do as much as we can in the spheres that we can influence - i.e. local - and real love in the world today is worth a lot when it comes to creating change because it is so scarce. i guess i am always in a tension between wanting to create the revolution and being in a holding pattern of waiting. because really the empire can't keep going too much longer.

(and thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for the replies because it's really helpful and comforting to hear other perspectives on this.)
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Old 04-13-2015, 07:52 AM   #7
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Miss Tick: I would actually take issue with two of the points you raised in particular.

One, I don't agree that Democrats and Republicans are equally bad. Republicans are an apocalyptic cult and Democrats are the coalition of those not in the apocalyptic cult. This is the reason why Democrats aren't the left wing we really want or need: it's not even a left-right distinction anymore as much as it is a sane-insane distinction.

Yeah I heard your argument about corporations owning both of them, but the problem with that is that the corporations and anarcho-capitalists really fucking want the Republicans in office. Of course the corporations donate heavily to both parties; they're hedging their bets, but they donate more to the Republicans, and it's the Republicans they want to actually end up in office. If both parties were really the same, they wouldn't care at all.

Yeah, I know the Democrats have their problems. This is, again, because they're a coalition of everyone not in the fucking apocalypse cult. It's kind of like you can vote for a party of pickpockets or a party of rapists and murderers. I don't even care about the arguments that the lesser of two evils is still an evil; they don't even fucking compare. Third-party solutions don't help in our current voting system, either, because they just take votes away from the pickpockets and directly contribute to installing the rapists and murderers. All my base are belong to the pickpockets.

You think it doesn't matter, but in 2016, four of the nine Supreme Court justices will be over 78 years old. Do you really not care whether quite possibly almost half the Supreme Court will be installed by the apocalypse cult or the coalition of the sane?

Granted, my views on the matter might be "tainted" by the fact that I'm a fairly garden-variety social democrat and would be comfortable with a mixed economy with meaningful checks on corporate power, obscene greed, the American Taliban, and the American landed gentry.

Two, I'm going to disagree with the idea that the common people have no power. I'd agree that the common people have no "legitimate" power, but I'm also not a pacifist. Occupy Wall Street might actually have worked if there was an actual potentially violent revolutionary movement active at the same time. A two-pronged approach with peaceful reform movements as the anvil and violent revolutionary movements as the hammer is absolutely necessary. Without the former, you get actual revolutions that go all the way and result more or less in local apocalypse. Without the latter, you get exactly what's happening now. Those in power have nothing to fear because the American Left (referring to the actual left, not just anyone in the coalition of the sane that is the Democrats) virtually presumes pacifism as a matter of course, and pacifism in the absence of another movement that shares similar goals but is willing to use violence is really just a pretty word for "toothless."

I would much sooner that a violent movement develops while we still have peaceful reform movements, because the credible threat of force driving the oligarchs to the negotiating table is vastly preferable to actually having to go all the way on force because there's no longer an alternative.
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Old 04-13-2015, 06:11 PM   #8
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I vote and am active in my local government however when it comes to international politics or even some national politics I feel like there is absolutely nothing I can do to make a change so I just tune out. More often than not it is just too bone crushingly miserable and hopeless and I can't do anything about it. I just can't watch it or listen to it because it is too depressing. I focus on what I can do, what I can change and let the rest go.
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