Political movements of 2011 and Activism in the instant media age
By Holly Seeliger
The year 2011 saw the beginning of a global activist movement to challenge the current corporatization of political, economic, and financial power by moneyed elites. From the indigenous battles and student protests in South America, the indignados in Spain, the Tar Sands and student protestors in Canada, the young anti-Putin movement and “Pussy Riot” in Russia, the masses at Tahrir square and the “Arab spring”, and the “Occupy” movements in the U.S. and around the world, the struggle of these social movements is the same. It is a battle for autonomous control and collective ownership of production and labor, distribution of goods and services, and the communication of information and ideas. The movements of today are fundamentally changing democratic participation and civic norms to creative a future which is shaped by the people.
All around the world we are witness to the shattering of our social compacts, our rights, and our aspirations for the future under crippling cuts to services, and an increase in violence and pollution. Austerity measures have sought to decrease education, healthcare, and opportunities for a skilled workforce at the expense of ever-increasing military spending and the surveillance of our own people. Since 2007, recession deficits pose the biggest threat to economic recovery and global stability, yet the established consensus revolves around reduced investment in infrastructure and social services, under the guise of shared sacrifice for “living beyond our means”.
The failures of corporate industrialism upon our ecosystems, our health, economy and equality are too encompassing and too dangerous to ignore. No amount of energy spent on the defense of the “freedom” or the “American Way”, or excuses and adjustment to regulate or moralize capitalism can shield its failure. Compounded with the squeeze of austerity, the tenants of industrialism- the replacement of people as labor by transitioning to technology, and the concentration of wealth and resources into the elite minorities- seem closer to our world realities. How can these movements which began in 2011 stand up to such overwhelming and encompassing challenges? The answer is and always has been through non-violence and non-compliance to oppression, and holistic and egalitarian direct civic engagement and participation.
Protestors acknowledge the grave shape of our institutions, which have remained self-serving and have neglected the needs of the people. The relentless perusal of maximum profits by the privileged one percent has taken the form of corporatism, which must, by legal definition, place profit for shareholders over any other consideration. It is the duty of the people to create a new social ethos, which will value small group challenges, local issues and citizen control of political, social, and economic arenas.
More and more, activists realize that the global battle is against multi-national corporations and the antidote is a fight that says “not in my backyard”, and more importantly, “not on my planet”. From the XL pipelines and fracking, to the stripping of the Appalachians, the melting of our ice caps, the damming of the Amazon River, the Gulf Coast and Kalamazoo oil spills, and the Fukashima Nuclear disaster, it has become a global responsibility for all to stand up to the destruction of our people, animals, and planet.
These movements are lead by students who are over-burdened with debt, majority populations without affordable healthcare or a livable wage, and citizens and soldiers who are rejecting the decade-long wars on foreign and domestic terror. Whether on the serving or receiving end of the “Global war on terror”, the “War on Drugs”, or the “War on Illegal Immigration”, all of the youth who have grown up in this shadow are victims. My generation will battle puppet regimes, destructive capitalism and our real environmental threats to our water, soil and air, which have been purchased by corporations and polluted and exploited. The youth of today are brave enough and open-minded enough to challenge previous economic and social structures and restrictions.
In an age of vast wealth inequality and blatant corruption of institutions a la “corporate personhood”, the activists of today do not only challenge capitalist institutions, but demand direct responsibility and decision-making. Because of globalization, the corporate model can reach vast economic, social, institutional, and political power, yet it is through this same advancement that activists can also connect around the world. These new movements utilize hand-held media technology to instantaneously stream video, post pictures, or share articles online with fellow activists.
Within the course of just one year, these movements have gained worldwide momentum and have protested against bailed-out banks, foreclosed homes, occupied workplaces and college campuses, defended rivers and waterways, demanded the closure of nuclear power plants, joined in the preservation of public spaces, and the called for an end to strip-mining, poaching, fracking, and clear-cutting. Online sharing of news and events around the world have taught activists that direct action and democratic participation creates tangible and often global results.
What connects all of these movements is the targeted use of new media sources and pragmatism in political involvement through the exchange of tactics, updates and ideas with other activists around the world. Because of the accessibility to real-time communication and the spread of news, new actions can spring up around the world and build a global movement. Today’s tech-savvy youth are aware of deliberate manipulation of facts by the corporate media, and the bias against activism by the media worldwide. Citizen and alternative journalism have empowered people around the world through sharing of stories. The Tahrir Square activists used Twitter, the indignados created newspapers, radio and television programs, and the Occupy Movements have connected though the “livestreaming” of events.
The movements which began in 2011 will change the status quo as students and others seek participation in civic life and “Occupy the ballot” through grassroots campaigns and elections into local political offices. Support for alternative politics and political parties have grown, as in the case of Ron Paul’s Libertarian and Jill Stein’s Green Party Presidential Campaigns.
I graduated from the University of Southern Maine in Portland, Maine with my B.A. in Political Science in 2010. In the fall of 2011, I became joined the Occupy Maine Movement and wrote and reported for several episodes of “Occupy Maine TV News”, which appeared online and on Portland’s cable access network CTN-5. Many Occupy members have also joined the Green Party to seek election in local politics, and I have decided to run for the Portland School Board as a Green Party member in the November 2012 elections.
There is now a global demand against the corporate elite’s control of the planet towards the pursuit of non-violence, transparency, health and equality. The powerful minorities are no longer needed as our overlord, our politician, our economic stimulator, or our “job creator”. Today’s political movements are holistic in tactic, seeing the potential for grass-roots change in every institution. It is my belief that the new status quo is non-violent direct participation and the utilization of new media to spread information and ideas, and structures that are subject to corporatism and elite minorities are in the process of falling apart. This is achieved through non-compliance with governments who no longer serve the people, and through the demand for collective ownership of production, communication, and distribution. As self-reliant individuals who seek collective ownership and responsibility towards our planet, today’s political movements use new media technology to create active stewardship of our destiny.