We stood together in Berkeley, arms linked at the barricades while 40 passionate activists locked themselves inside Wheeler Hall. I watched hundreds of you find your power in chant and dance. And under the shared umbrellas and communal tarps that sheltered us from the sudden rain, I witnessed the revolutionary potential of your struggle. We stood on one side – a tribe of misfits and dreamers protecting each other from the downpour, flush with energy for reshaping the world – and the police stood on the other. Called by those in power to put a lid on your uprising, they stood alone in the rain: shivering, afraid and demoralized. Nature’s unexpected gift washed away the illusion of their strength and revealed the righteousness of your actions. Against the violent individualism of the police, who did not protect each other from the rain, you demonstrated another way: revolution through solidarity and community.
Students, I write this letter in celebration of your passion. The campus occupation movement is now a global phenomenon: from the recent actions in California to last year’s events in New York and the occupations in the UK to the almost 70 universities currently locked down in protest in Austria and Germany. Youth across the “first world” are waking up to find their inheritance amounts to a desecrated world complete with mass extinctions, catastrophic climate change and imminent economic collapse. In protesting against your “absent future,” the student movement has the potential to spark a cultural insurrection against consumer capitalism.
That is if you have the courage to resist a nostalgic longing for a return to “normalcy.” At the Berkeley protests, I fear I detected a naïve and dangerous belief that the solution is to rollback the present economic crisis by doing away with the drastic 32% fee hike. It is time to acknowledge that there is no going back – neither to the days before climate change nor to the times when state governments were flush with money. Instead, we are in the beginnings of a long struggle to define how we will live in the future. Will it be under authoritarian-capitalist regimes that enforce consumption despite growing incidences of Katrina-like climate disasters? Or will you launch a revolutionary movement that accomplishes an immediate and drastic reduction in “first world” standards of living … a reduction not in the name of balancing budgets but of saving humanity.
I call on you, students of the “first world,” to shift your struggle and link arms with us as we build a mental environment movement capable of smashing corporations, downsizing consumer spending and building egalitarian communities. We need your passion, your knowledge and your skills. Together, the future is ours.
Micah White is a contributing editor at Adbusters and an independent activist. He lives in Berkeley, CA and is currently writing a book about the future of activism. www.micahmwhite.com or micah (at) adbusters.org