Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

My Photo
Location: Bath, Maine, United States

With a new administration in Washington it will be a challenge to get the 'liberals' to hold Biden-Harris to the few 'progressive promises' they made during their campaign. Biden is bringing back many of Bush's neo-cons to head his foreign policy. I'll be on this case without hesitation.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I am getting an incredible response to my request in the last blog entry for your suggestions about what we can do. So many in fact that I can see I will be posting them for days - which is fine. Some have sent in whole papers and books they have written so obviously I won't be able to post everything. But here is the first batch:

  • You asked for people to share what we can do. I am currently working with a group of election reformers to try to bring honesty and integrity to the vote counting process in my county – Pima County, Arizona. We are finding this small task to be quite large and quite complicated. There are so many ways to subvert an election that plugging the holes is like repairing a dam made of chicken wire. But we have some hope that we will succeed in our county. As long as elections are not honest, I think that taking back our democracy will be difficult, so this is something we can do – locally. If a dozen people in each county worked hard on making sure that their county’s vote is counted properly and that people are not excluded from the process, I think we would have a start on taking back the country.
    And the people I have met and am meeting are, as you said, fun people to be with, so there is an immediate reward.

    Mickey Duniho, Arizona

  • Thank you for your thoughtful 10-point plan. My response below are thoughts that immediately come to mind based on 81 years of experience in this struggle. All ten of your ideas ring true; demand immediate action in my view part of a persons life. Some of the thoughts below dovetail with your own recommendations.

    More considered points will follow.

    1. As an independent thinker associate yourself with a first class University, but beware too of being caught up in that bureaucracy.
    2. We here in Maine are at the end of the food chain, so consider growing as much of your own food as circumstances make possible.
    3. Avoid as much as possible buying processed food.
    4. Work toward financial independence; become your own boss/manager and depend on your own resources as much as possible.
    5. Don't be afraid to confront power and oligarchies. Many will back down when the power of independent thought confronts the irrational.
    6. Many issues in today's world have long histories that include many missteps. Become well informed on a few which you see as most important to future generations, not to just Americans but to all people.
    7. Become a public advocate for your own thoughts.

    Arthur Whitman, Auburn ME

  • Have you heard of the work that Thomas Linzey is doing in Pa? Barnstead, NH, where I live, is one of the towns in America that has passed an ordinance that strips corporations of their claims to person hood through the misuse of those constitutional amendments intended to give denied people equal protection under the law. Check out: to see the approach which gives nature rights. There is a dialogue going on about inalienable rights, democracy and freedom everywhere.

Gail Darrell, N.H.

  • I'm sure there is much more that you could add to this list, but one that is near to my own heart is cutting down on travel, using public transportation, or better yet learning to ride a bike, perhaps the most beautiful human transportation machine ever invented.
    It seems to me that nearly every able bodied human being can ride a bike for at least 10 to 15 miles, at a minimum, at a speed of 10 to 15 miles per hour, at a minimum. Though perhaps seeming monumental to the uninitiated, after a few weeks of practice, this is no more than a walk in the park. And without breaking a sweat. Up to an age of say 75.

    Geoff Bickford

  • Trust in young people. They are eager to learn the truth from us. They shouldn’t be blamed for their uneducated perspectives nor their acquiescence to the corporations that control their lives. It is our responsibility to help them become informed, to give them back their independence.

Doug Rawlings, Farmington, ME

  • Excellent e-mail bruce. i really like how you lined things out. makes me feel better cuz i work on all these things but sometimes get so myopic, and isolated in my own world i think that i'm doing nothing and can't effect any real change. even if it's just my colleagues and students seeing me ride a bike or carpool to work everyday, or being the only one at my work willing to openly discuss our war machine government and it's policies. GN helps me keep connected and grounded and feel part of a movement, that's just as important out here on the edge of colonialism, in northwest alaska, as it is anywhere.thank you.i probably need to renew my GN membership, i kinda forget about these things. i'll get to that this week.

Lynn DeFilippo, Alaska

  • I would like to add a suggestion. Due to the vastness of the military industrial complex--far more vast than Eisenhower could have imagined--that we don't, as individuals, take it all on and carry it as a Promethean burden, but rather, that we understand the analysis, or diagnosis, then act and listen with heightened awareness, put one foot in front of another, and keep it simple. Yes, just like "the program" teaches! Recognize that which contributes to the machine and stop doing it or supporting it; recognize what contributes to the vision of sustainable community and do it or support it. Lao Tsu said, "The Way is so simple that complicated minds cannot see it."

    Ellen Murphy, Bellingham, WA

  • Thank you for that inspiring piece to start my day – a good antidote to reading about the latest bomb in Beirut – where my daughter is working. It is indeed very hard to take time away from earning money. Once the whole of life is defined in economic terms, it begins to seem more and more crazy to do ‘unproductive’ work but I guess we just have to find the occasions and remember that life does not go in a straight line of obvious cause and effect. The contacts you make through this kind of work often turn out to lead you or someone amongst your family and friends onto different paths in your work life as well.
    I thought you made a really good point about drug addicts needing the strength of a group. I think that everything we do consciously in groups is working for the common sum of good.
    Here in Goathland we are working to try to save our post office now that the Government has privatised so many of the services it used to offer and I am working with others to try to set up a bail circle to help asylum seekers when they have no one to stand surety for them.
    Another way in which groups are important is that it stops you from feeling you are the only one doing anything. Once you know others are doing what they feel inspired by, it is easier to feel that all the little bits can add up – meaning in theory that you don’t get burned out!
    I hope we might be seeing you here in September. Am trying to organise something. Good wishes.

Jackie Fearnley, Gaothland, England

  • Do not know if there is anything we can do to bring down the U.S. Empire. Of course, it will collapse eventually, but that will be the doing of the elite in their madcap scramble to accumulate more wealth.
    Nevertheless, I advocate protesting against the empire. It is fun, can be exciting and it is an opportunity to tilt at windmills. It is also healthy and a cure-all for a boring lifestyle. Protesting is a community event and a way of interacting with average citizens. I cannot imagine a life without protest, as our society is filled with ills demanding our attention.


    Max Obuszewski, Baltimore, MD

  • I love your writings, your mind, your spirit, your work. Have just read your So What do we Do Now? You asked for ideas. I want to talk with you about tax policy sometime soon. And I recently wrote a paper on Economics of War and Peace. Much to share with you.

    Alanna Hartzok, Pennsylvannia

  • Thank you for taking the time to articulate so profoundly your great wisdom and commons sense. I think I’ll print this off and put it on my wall at home and at the office.
    As much as Bush has helped to make radicals out of many previously indifferent citizens, he also has provided an invaluable service, now and for decades to come, to politicians of both parties who want to be judged in comparison to him while they pursue pro-corporate, anti-labor, empire-building policies. And, of course, Bush has changed the meaning of the term radical in a rightward ideological direction. The concept that the President is not above the law, and that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, is increasingly a radical concept.

John Branson, Portland, ME

  • My favorite US historian is William Appleman Williams (1921-1990). He actually was a US Naval Academy graduate and briefly served as a Naval officer at the end of WWII when he was injured. His writings and scholarship have helped me more than any other, along with Charles Beard (1874-1948), the latter who wrote, among many books, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (1913), and Economic Origins of Jeffersonian Democracy, (1915). But Williams, who was writing and teaching at the university (Wisconsin, Oregon) during the so-called Cold War (the "Third World War" as John Stockwell describes) and Viet Nam War periods, was very astute in grasping the foundations of the US American civilization. If you haven't already looked at his material I would at least suggest their value in developing or deepening a broader perspective (and I am not implying that you don't already have one now. We have been phenomenal believers. We have a tough time accepting the incredible destruction our system and way of life has wreaked on us and the world. Our social and personal ill health has been ignored as we have become drunk on materialism. Our love for death machines destined to kill us all, have even distracted our focus from examining our very way of life which is killing everything. This is why there has been no storming of the Bastille, no revolutionary process of significance since the 1960s, after which we have been witnessing the successful efforts of the system, so far, to repress any possible outbreak of real people power from below. The Zapatistas could teach us much, about withdrawal of our support from the nation-state and its political economy, while building anew decentralized communities in federation with each other from below. They call it changing their world without taking power. In the process they have empowered themselves to seek autonomy, or radical democracy. Really this was Gandhi's prescription for India, as it was in Tolstoy's treatise, The Kingdom Of God Is Within You.

Brian Willson, California

  • I would suggest you start locally. I have created a petition to bring the National Guard home. People were very willing to sign. They are disgusted at the direction the country is headed. Frankly, I'm through. After the sell out in Congress I said enough is enough. I did my petition and have sent it to the appropriate parties. Let's not forget, I'm 67 years old - where are the young kids? It seem like the only people paying attention are seniors. I've done everything I can. (You have to take the issue to the street - the Internet is a waste of time).

Rosalind Ellis Heid, Baltimore, MD

  • I have a suggestion, if you'd like one. How about sending out a "reading list" of your favorite - say, top 5 or something - books? Or, even in different categories. Ones you consider essential for which issues. And maybe put one in for "fun"? At first, I really thought I could make a big difference, (I haven't been able to figure out really what's the most effective action to do. Some things haven't worked at all. You must know how this is) as it looks to me like we're headed for (the upshot)- a major economic downturn on the world scale. This is not going to be good. I've been following the oil news pretty closely, and the statistics seem to support that the world actually peaked in Dec 2005, but we haven't quite yet seen the effects in the US, anyway. This means everyone will be strapped more. Anyway, if you hadn't seen much on this issue, I wanted to both bring it to your attention, and let you know what I think good sources are. There are definitely connections (of course) between the oil issue and the nuclear weapons issue. What many people, including Greg Palast, seem not to understand, is that it's not a matter of "big oil" - it's a matter of geology, and, as you point out - all of our consumption.

Phyllis Sladek, Santa Barbara, CA

  • Thank you for your relentless work in the peace movement. My idea is to find a few well known individuals (celebrities/musicians - a widespread coalition of groups and activists) who are willing to donate funds to advertise in a clever and compelling manner the issues of our day. A series of commercials with educational messages about what our country is doing to the environment using powerful visuals. A message about endless war, etc. But most important, advertise solutions that are readily avail. if the will of the people is there. I liked what John Lennon did in the 70's with his War is over if you want it! billboards in New York. Create a campaign on a large scale in every major city of the U.S. The national presence is critical so that people begin to realize that this is a movement and that they are not alone.This is not about Republicans or Democrats. This is about the people rising up and demanding change. The problem with Move on and One is that they are tied to the two-party system. This has to be an independent effort. I realize that the corporations are the problem and are running the system. Thanks again for your major contributions in the good fight!

Lynda Hernandez, Huntington Beach, CA

  • Thank you for a very inspiring and thought provoking piece--So What Do We Do Now?. For sure we cannot continue the way we are and expect that things will change.
    I am retired and near 70. I have time, but not so much energy. But what I have I want to put to good use, and you are helping me think it through.

    Rosemary Yaecker, Bradford, Vermont


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home