Considerations for American activists on the yellow vest (Gilets Jaunes) protests occuring across the EU.

The current protests on-going in Europe arises during a time of great uncertainty and change. The left in the US has been slow to respond for several reasons. I would be remiss to assume I know the importance of these reasons or how they rank against each other, but I know that they exist. This list will undoubtedly be incomplete. So I will only note a few that seem the most contentious in no particular order.

First there is 1 looming issue as to the populists within of the yellow vests , some of them are only protesting high gas prices, without being particularly concerned with the climate change impacts. While this would seem like a great point of unity initially, and this issue may be exclusive the US, but as it gets to addressing the other points on the list of demands, may be entice by law enforcement to disrupt those groups from within. This was seen often during occupy. I am very happy that there is a clear list of demands at the beginning. I also agree with almost all of the demands.

Gilets_jaunes_Manifesto.jpgAnother issue is the very loose leash law enforcement in the US is under currently. Without such outrageous recent activities, not just the actions of the alt-right, would serve primarily to extend even more draconian procedures not to mention all the newly minted anti-protest laws, not that those should prevent protest. What I mean is that more than rioting, most of these requests require high levels of coordination, indivisible is a good example of what has been accomplished by engaging with the system through democratic means such as phone banking, trending topics to the top of social media, which is vastly better at breaking through media blackouts and demanding responses from those in positions of influence. Marching is great for connecting with those whom have either opted out of social media, or simply are in different bubbles.

So there are very valuable reasons to march, but given the terms in which these demands were broached, which are mostly political reforms, means that they are issues to organize around which required responses more persistent than marching. There certainly is the absolute need to continue putting climate change at the top of the agenda. This is an umbrella issue which will require many smaller initiatives. And many of these need to work towards creating more integrated communication system than social media, such as lists of trusted media outlets and non-social media sources to get in the habit of checking on at least a weekly basis. As you will notice a lot of these things fall under “digital activism” but they are the first steps to creating support networks. Through this process, it may become possible to mobilize resources across states to provide the boots on the ground to prevent atrocities such as the recently passed in Ohio
to use fracking fluid to de-ice roads. Because it wasn’t probable enough for this hazardous waste to leak into the drinking water via the mines, now they just want to spray it on top. Is there some race to create the first 3 eyed frog via “natural processes” ? The real reason there has been such luke-warm response in solidarity to the European protests is that Americans have been dealing with 2 years of trump and it’s much colder this year than last, and elections just ended and this type of action would be far more effective prior to, not after, political elections. This is where we get to the large difference between parliamentary governments and presidential ones. They can get new leadership outside of regular voting cycles, without criminal proceedings. While I am certain there will be marches in solidarity with our European brethren, the likelyhood of them being prolonged is limited. It should seen as a signal to work on developing capacities not to focus on singular issues. But to be able to adapt to a changing political landscape through advances and standardization of communication practices. To maximize the decentralized nature of ability to rapidly incorporate as well as preventing co-opting by affinity groups by utilizing a little too much automation, such as long chains of automated RSS feeds for disseminating news. The goal here is a bit difficult, but to create organizations that will function to concentrate resources such as social and political capital, which are not constrained to singular issues or special interests, which can then project capabilities rapidly across multiple geographic areas simultaneously when combined with a difficult to disrupt via viral competition information sharing system should enable an ability to focus on issues for a short period of time as they become relevant though democratic political processes. This should maximize the impact while shrinking the costs which are typically taken upon by the individual protesters themselves, which is a relic of guilt around concepts related to “paid protesting” which as we are all aware, the more that conservatives complain about some things, the more they themselves are participating in them. These issues require building trust, which can be poor security culture to do that for the simple reason is that someone is geographically close. This brings us to the largest hurdle of this entire process, which is ensuring the security of the people who utilize these systems. It is in my opinion that the primary reason for what can often times feel like in-effectiveness of traditional methods of activist, revolve around a distrust of technology and not without reason. There is good news on this aspect though, and that is the laziness of the forces that would try to interfere, is that they embrace the cloud, so it’s a huge hassle to go beyond that and cellphone info. So the wide ranging adoption of non-cellular devices, such as laptops/tablets/low end laptops/notebooks and even for others, hand-me down desktops and using organizational specific services for synchronizing information, is enough to defeat most forms of surveillance. Linux is a lot more user friendly than it was even as recently as 10yrs ago, and if you have an HDMI TV, you can get a full computer in the form of a raspberry pi for $35, to cross the digital divide these organizations can just work on handing out raspberry pi’s.

All of these activities require organizing resources and maybe take a page out of the alt-right playbook on fundraising to do it. So the marches would work mostly as educational vehicles to introduce people to these organizing principals. How sustained that would look is a different question which can only be answered by the marchers themselves.


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