Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Need for the Midwest Rising Convergence

So many of us in the Saint Louis community spend so much of our lives working towards a more just and sustainable city. Whether this is through fighting against the tide of what exists already that must be changed or stopped, or through creation of infrastructure and new spaces coming from a vision of the world in which you'd like to live.

The seemingly disparate issues we work across more often than not have a common thread that links us together: the sapping away of influence and means into the hands of a very privileged and powerful few. Among those elected to national office, concern for the public good either doesn't seem to exist, or is constricted to the point of being negligible. The interests of elected officials at every step of the ladder all the way up to the highest office in the land are more reflective of their corporate sponsors then their public constituencies.

Corporate influence is seen in the stripping away of union bargaining power, opening huge swaths of land for coal and natural gas extraction, picking a superstar monoculture of the year at the expense of actually growing real food, or bailing out the most concentrated and powerful financial institutions ever (while in the same breath blaming the victims of their practices for getting kicked out of their homes). This list can go on, but it's exasperating enough as it is.

All the while we’re told that this is in our best interests because it's just the way the world has to work and you’re either naive or just plain stupid if you think otherwise. And often it does feel inevitable, that this truly is the way things have to be. This is in fact how the world works and how could it be otherwise?

How do you expect to power everything? How do you expect to feed everyone? Who’s going to give you a loan when you need it? Who's going to arm your soldiers or build your drones to blow up enough terrorists so that you aren't constantly terrified? How are you going to bring light and hope to the impoverished of the world? How will you ever retain your freedoms?

Valid questions, for the most part, and all that have fabulously perfected answers right on the tip of many a CEO’s tongue. Such answers range from plausible at first glance to obviously catastrophic to anyone without a corporate jet to fly one away to safety. The answers from these corporations all boil down to basically one premise: get out of our way, you’re blocking the path to progress that we are bulldozing through this earth. Give us more of what we need and we’ll set things right, the way God intended. Nearly half the nationally elected officials in this, the most powerful country that has ever existed, absolutely agree. That’s the way things have to be so best to get used to it ...

... OR! You say to "hell with that!" Because you see how the world is functioning right now is crazy and it absolutely must stop. Because you realize that while the world may function in idiotic ways, it does not, in fact, have to. Because it hasn’t always worked this way, and the sooner it gets in line with some semblance of reality the better. Thankfully there are plenty of people like yourself who are either willing or are already working on either pushing back against the onslaught of corporate influence or creating things and spaces in such a way as to diminish the capacity for corporate influence altogether. Whether you're out there creating barter circles, starting bike co-ops, taking the fight to your capital building, taking the fight to the streets, growing your own food, creating community gardens and other community spaces ... these are all key pieces in developing a more just and sustainable world.

Of the many lessons to be learned from the recent Wisconsin protests, a really textbook example of the influence of corporate power and thought, is this: it was not enough. More people and more ideas are needed. This can come from working across our different issues to find the common causes within them. This can come from having a shared vision. We can't work in isolation in the sometimes narrow scope of our own work, important thought it may be. We can’t solar cell and wind-turbine our way into paradise and we most certainly won't be led there by any President whose first priority is to a system that places profit at the very heart of human existence and the grotesque financial system that keeps it afloat at whatever cost.

The Convergence is meant to bring all sorts of people together who see the value in uniting and better understanding how our struggles are not as disparate as they might seem. To understand what does a sustainable and just world look like and not just through one set of eyes. Environmental and social justice activists, low-income and workers rights advocates, immigrant and indigenous rights advocates ... all will be present because all have their experiences and visions for what we're working towards to share.

We will be looking at the intersections between oppression, economic and environmental justice, and the need for direct action and organizing to address these concerns. The Convergence will be 4 days of workshops, trainings, discussion, and direct action targeted at understanding and changing the institutions that threaten the future of the planet we live on. We hope to see you there!

For more information and ways to get involved see

Climate Action Saint Louis

Instead of War Coalition

Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment

Rising Tide North America

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