Last time we talked about a Food Pyramid of different protest activities. I said that that some tactics yield more bang for the buck than others. I said that you need to have a game plan that is intentional so you use the little time you have most effectively. And I said that the most effective tactics involved a) getting a group of people to work together and b) in raising some money.
So we’ve already said that you need two things from fellow protesters: time and money. But then you also need a strategy. And again, above all you need to be intentional. So let’s talk about what that actually means before we (finally) get into some specific activities you can do to turn this bitch on its head.
The people who are protesting need to be organized. And by that I mean you need to think of this like an army, or a football team (if you like your metaphors non-violent) where you have specific objectives and then have different people assigned to different tasks to move the ball forward. You can’t have each player just doing whatever they feel like on every play.
For example, you could have a goal of getting thirty people to show up to a Port Of Seattle Commission Meeting. If you did this, you’d also want to decide ahead of time what each person is going to say to have maximum impact. Again, we’re organizing down to the level of having a consistent message.
IMPORTANT: We have an overall strategy and goals, but we also have a specific strategy and goals for each specific task along the way.
COMPLAINING IS NOT PROTEST
I well understand that everyone has feelings they want/need to get off their chest. But as I keep saying, COMPLAINING IS NOT PROTEST. In fact, the opposition wants you to waste your time and energy venting your spleen. You go to a Port meeting and you have three minutes. And you start crying or screaming something about, “Do you know what you’re doing to my community!?!?” Congratulations: you just wasted your three minutes.
Of course they know what they’re doing to your community. Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuh. We’ve already discussed why they aren’t doing anything about it in previous articles. No need to re-hash. Suffice it to say, they are aware and you have to leave behind the whole notion of, “If only they felt my pain, they’d see the light!” There’s no light there, friend. Moving on.
Now… if it’s part of the plan to cry or scream at an event? GROOVY! Sometimes crying and screaming are just the thing you want to do, perhaps to get others motivated or to get some media coverage. But when you do it, do it intentionally. YOU have to be the one to maintain control. Because when they lose it? YOU WIN.
But of course, sometimes you just can’t help it. The situation is so frustrating that you lose it. Happens to everyone at some point. So don’t beat yourself up about it. Just don’t make a habit of being the one who collapses in a puddle. Ultimately, your job in every interaction is to make them uncomfortable. Your job is to do everything you meant to do and then let the other make mistakes. Even if you’re a nobody and think you have no power you can be the one in control. Even if your only tools are patience and persistence, then your job is to be more patient and more persistent than they are. Your job is to act. Their job is to react. Not the other way round.
IMPORTANT: Your job is to make the other guy lose control.
GET SOME THERAPY. If you can’t keep it together? Get some therapy. I am not being facetious or snippy when I say this. If you care about this situation as much as I do, you’re probably getting physically upset. So talk to a counselor. Your Priest. Rabbi. Whoever. I am not kidding. But do not mistake protest for therapy. It’s not. In fact, it will often make you feel worse. You can’t do nothing. So get some therapy.
DEVELOP A PLAN
I keep talking about ‘goals’ because you can’t develop a strategy if you don’t know what it is you are trying to achieve. Phrases like “Less noise and pollution” are fine, but by themselves they are just aspirations. How do those fine words translate into reality. What does the finish line look like? Everyone has to agree on those goals. Screaming about ‘the unfair Port and the evil FAA’ is more complaining. At some point everyone (including your supporters) will start to wonder what ‘winning’ looks like. And that’s usually not enough to win.
IMPORTANT: If you can’t agree on a specific plan to achieve some specific goals, then you’re only complaining.
The problem as I keep saying, is that there is a tremendous pull towards not being specific. And the reason it’s so alluring is that once you lay out your plan and your goals, you risk alienating people left and right. Tough. People will tell you, “that’s impossible!” Look, everything is “impossible” until you do it. In the case of changing Sea-Tac Airport, if it were ‘possible’, it would have been done already.
THE TONE POLICE
Another issue you will run into are people telling you to ‘be more civil’. These are the ‘tone police’. Their job is to get you to play by their rules. But you must understand that being ‘civil’ is their way to prevent change. Your job is to be decidedly -uncivil-! When someone says to you, “You’d get a lot further if you were more civil”? Tell them to fuck off. No one ever got anywhere in protest by being “civil”. Even as calm a guy as Martin Luther King was decidedly UN-civil in his protests, constantly engaging in civil disobedience (ie. not following the rules.) If Dr. King had been as “civil” as the establishment wanted him to be, black people might still be using separate lunch counters.
Your job is to attract attention. Good press. Bad press. Whatever. You have to get noticed, even if people think you’re 100% stonkin’ NUTS at first. If you’re not annoying people? You’re not doing your job.
IMPORTANT: Every successful protester is annoying as hell.
Next time, we have to make one more (oh, not again) side trip to make in to the history books. Then we’ll get back to some tactics. Promise. Pinky swear.