When the Kids are United…

Been in one of those zones where I get really preoccupied watching the news come in, but finding it difficult to summarize or work up anything particularly exciting to blog about. Luckily a lot of others are keeping it going in various places (thus, I spend too much time reading other people’s blogs!… but that’s ok too)…

The Greek Uprising, or insurrection, is really inspiring. Here’s a link to a very intelligent summary/account of it from Pavlos Stavropolous who has been on the ground in the midst of it. It’s a fascinating listen, in no small part because as he describes it, it’s still at the earliest stages where thousands of people are just joining, trying to figure out what ELSE they can do than keep reproducing an unsatisfactory life day after day. For the youth of Greece, the sour joke is that they’re all stuck in a $1000-a-month job for life, the window to upward mobility having been shut after the preceding generations crawled through it. But as Stavropolous describes, the reasons for the protests, occupations, riots are as numerous as the people carrying them out. It’s very much a revolutionary situation, though as yet uncertain about where it will all go… maybe a bit like Argentina in 2001, where a huge population suddenly discovers its own power and only wants to throw out all the existing politicians and business leaders… “que se vayan todos!”…

I was very struck by the reports of 11-, 12-, and 13-year olds besieging police stations in various cities in Greece. Amazing! A week ago I joined a SF Art Institute class to evaluate final projects and the prof, Tammy Ko Robinson, started the class by putting a website up that shows images of a mass movement in South Korea this past summer (which I hadn’t known anything about). I forget the details of the demands of the half million protesters occupying Seoul, but it was an anti-privatization mobilization, and the most remarkable part of it, according to Tammy, was that it started with some 13-year-old girls sending text messages to each other and on to their wider circles, and from there it just took off.

Last week my daughter participated in an occupation of the New School for Social Research, an inspiring intervention that has caught the imagination of many people all over the place. They were mentioned yesterday during some public comments made in front of the now-defunct New College here in San Francisco as a small crowd of marchers in solidarity with the Greek Uprising paused there:

Demonstrators in solidarity with the Greek Uprising pause at New College on Valencia Street in San Francisco, Dec. 20, 2008.

Demonstrators in solidarity with the Greek Uprising pause at New College on Valencia Street in San Francisco, Dec. 20, 2008.

Out of our kitchens and into the streets... a rare public march--in solidarity with the Greek Uprising.

Out of our kitchens and into the streets… a rare public march–in solidarity with the Greek Uprising.

I am not super involved in any of this myself, but mighty glad to see it happening. Feels like something pretty big is starting up, maybe another 1968, but different! Just so much energy in so many places. My very trivial contribution lately was to use my Facebook page to launch a one-liner group as an organizing meme, to see if it would have any traction, take on anything of a life of its own… “Cancel All Student Debt Now!” (I’d probably be more enthused myself about a general jubilee, a full debt cancellation across the board, globally, but this was a deliberate Facebook experiment). After a week it has over 400 members and is still growing every day… for what it’s worth! (probably not much) But I think it’s good to spread the idea of debt cancellation, whether student, housing, credit cards, what have you, as a wedge against the blatant looting that’s been going on. In Greece yesterday, the Revolt Against Debt got serious when

masked men broke into the building housing the offices of Tiresias SA, a company that keeps records of delinquent debtors and cardholders, and firebombed the company’s offices. The fire was extinguished but the company’s offices were destroyed, witnesses said.

Here’s the last picture from yesterday’s demo, with a kindred sentiment:

Anarchist Enthusiasm, Dec. 20, 2008, San Francisco.

Anarchist Enthusiasm, Dec. 20, 2008, San Francisco.

Weird thing about Facebook is that it’s a place where an awful lot of people are spending an awful lot of time. And it does work at linking people up around various projects and ideas, so that’s been interesting to me. More to the point, the tool itself has enough ease of use and enough users to make it very attractive to use (even though the owners of it could pull the rug out from under it whenever they want to). This ease-of-use has become an issue as we’re moving into the home stretch towards our Jan. 21 release of the Shaping SF wiki, esp. with respect to video and audio embedding. The video tools we’ve been using from the Internet Archive are noticeably lagging behind the ease-of-use of commercial Youtube and its competitors. I’m frustrated because I am very committed to avoiding commercialization as much as possible, but given the difficulty of getting people to write, upload content, etc., to our upcoming public release, I feel we have to provide the easiest tools out there… unfortunately, as Mayo Fuster and I were discussing before she returned to Italy last week, the current crop of commercial web tools are just better than the software created for “movement” purposes several years ago…She organized this conference I attended consisting of people from the World Social Forum and other political groups and a bunch of software developers. I didn’t love the conference, but a lot of useful connections were made.

I would love to hear from folks who have other ideas about this.