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Mediocre Ado About Quite Something (CA Proposition 37 – Mandatory GMO labeling)

This diary is just a slightly edited copy of a comment I just made. Disasters, and disasters-in-the-making, also represent opportunities for long term organizing and relationship building, that we shouldn’t be wasting. And yet, once again, that’s exactly my impression of what’s happening with CA Prop. 37.


Proposition 37 goes unmentioned – AGAIN!

Proposition 37 is about requiring labeling on GMO foods. Although labeling is very common in Europe, domestic producers hate the idea, so much, that they’re spending about a million dollars a day, blitzing CA. No surprise about that – a large majority of consumers will choose non-GMO over GMO, when given a choice.

The advertising bliz has been very effective, dropping support for Prop 37 from 2-1 to, last I read, about 48%-40%.

If ever there was an issue tailor made for citizens striking a blow against the corporatocracy, Prop 37 is it. Just as significant – and perhaps more significantly, depending on just how dangerous you view the threat of GMO’s – not using this inherently alarm-producing issue to galvanize longer-lasting organizing and even informal alliance-building represents an opportunity cost that I just can’t fathom. Why, oh why, would activists waste this opportunity? I’ve called upon the Jill Stein campaign to “go nuclear”, using GMO’s, but you’d think that anti-GMO activists would be going nuclear, with or without the Green Party’s help.

There are many things about activists wasting opportunities that I can’t fathom. Members of the Occupy Wall Street movement could have anticipated getting evicted from illegal camps, and made contingency plans for lodging in nearby homes, so as to keep public gatherings during day and evening hours going, post-eviction, but didn’t. Progressives and populists could hire a political game theorist to advise on voting strategies, but don’t. American leftists could be constantly writing about the processes that led to the stunning ascension of leftists to the highest positions of power in Latin America, but don’t. Remnants of Occupy Wall Street groups could be avoiding tactics bound to fail, as well as lead to loss of support by the community at large (as opposed to building support by the community at large), but at least some of them choose the path of ‘not-even-mediocrity’. Activists could be urging the public to become more familiar with their neighbors (partly by utilizing the stellar tool,; the #1 type of group in is stay-at-home-moms. Gee whiz, might there not be a few of such Mom who want to have the info, readily available, to decide if they’re risking permanent damage to their children by feeding them Franken-Foods???), spending time with them, getting a feel for who might be interested in cooperative activist activities down the road, but don’t. *

Oh, yeah – activists could be aggressively teaching the public (as opposed to whining to the choir) about co-optation amongst activists groups, such as Veal Pen groups, but don’t.

I live on the opposite side of the country, and can’t see, with my own eyes, what activists are doing on a local level to push Prop. 37. However, seeing diaries like this one, which somehow fail to even mention Prop. 37, is not a good sign. Gary Null, the founder of the Progressive Radio Network, has been in CA, fighting for Prop. 37, full time. And yet, while his website has ever more articles on GMO’s, there’s no recommended flyer which was (hopefully) field tested, there’s no paypal button asking for people outside CA to donate to on-the-ground CA activists or their ad campaigns, there’s no specific invitation for readers who live outside CA to contact friends and famility about the issue, especially if those friends and family live in CA (this is probably best done, in part, with a facebook app makes explicit, dedicated solitications to people’s social networks), there’s no help offered wrt local group formation (which, minimally, could a template for a printable flyer that people could easily edit, then post on supermarket bulletin boards; plus idiot instructions for using craigslist, facebook, etc.), etc.

As I put it in a communication to somebody who describes herself as a friend of Gary Null, and who apparently thought I was out of line for making suggestions for Null be be more strategic and effective:

You could easily say that it is up to people to get a flyer from anywhere else, or make one up themselves. The point of organizing, though, is to avoid wasted effort, and to allow for useful division of labor. You don’t think Monsanto just says to it’s stockholders, “We’re going to put up hundreds of articles about how wonderful GMO’s are. It’s up to you, though, to go through them, separately figure out which is most effective, make your own if you don’t like what you’re seeing, don’t worry about dividing up a given geographical region, if you get lonely and want the reinforcement of working with a small group, too bad, you should take your dog with you, etc. We’re not going to bother field testing various flyers, to see which is more efficient, because we’re busy creating hundreds of more articles that can be turned into flyers. That’s your job, anyway.” Monsanto would never go about it’s business, this way, because they want to be EFFICIENT.
I think the basic problem is that Gary thinks like a communicator, but not like an organizer. But most people are followers, not leaders. If these people aren’t led into organized efforts, guess what? They’re not going to self-organize. And even leaders need to cooperate if they’re going to be efficient. The US, French and British armies cooperated during WW1 and WW2. Even guerrilla leaders cooperate, which implies a form of organization. During WW2, both left and right wing guerrilla groups in Greece cooperated to blow up a bridge that the Germans were using. (They didn’t fight each other until later 🙂 )
There’s research to show that just talking about problems at work with an employer surrogate makes people less likely to try and fix those problems. In terms of activism, there has to be a balance between consuming information, and using what you already know. I don’t think most people in the US who are politically aware do much with the information they do know, or believe to be true. And part of the reason for them not doing more, is that they’re endlessly consuming information, for themselves.

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