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(en) US, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)* News Bulletin #5 - Am I a Peace Activist? by Brit Brennan, Philly SDS

Date Tue, 30 Sep 2008 10:19:30 +0300

Believers' in violent and nonviolent organizing have butted heads since the dawn
of resistance. A question well worth examining, I find myself continually unsure
of how to approach it. Being involved in a movement challenging the most violent
systems in existence, I sometimes wonder if we could succeed with less blood
shed. Not only is the question of tactics for combating these systems constantly
in the air, but educating ourselves and others about what violence means remains
an enormous task. In my experience organizing with other SDSers, I have noticed
a distancing from any sort of stereotype about being a hippie or about being
connected to the movements of the nineteen-sixties or seventies. And just as
many have learned through their experiences organizing, I understand that
holding a peace sign at a mass anti-war protest does nothing and that the
mindset that our attempts to affect change must be peaceful to be productive is
a myth.

The problem remains that we are scared. Even worse,
who and what we are scared of are only illusions of
power, greed, excess, wealth, and repression. I'm tired
of being stereotyped as a peace activist. Even though I
do want a peaceful world, I understand that it takes a
lot more than problem-solving conversations and civil
disobedience to build an entirely new society free from
oppression from the ground up.
However, I am unwilling to fight violence with vio-
lence. Does this make my support of comrades such as
the Zapatistas and Anti-Fascist/Anti-Racist activists all
around the world contradictory or invalid? Fear holds
me back. Fear of being hurt, being penalized, being out-
numbered, ineffective, and fear of being wrong.
Recently, I've realized that our fears scare us because
there reality is taught to us for our entire lives. Growing
up in a wealthy white neighborhood with conservative
parents I was always told to respect and fear the law,
the state, the politicians and cops, and everything such
elements encompass. If we all let go of these seemingly
irrational fears, how much further along would our
movement be?
I'm still a kid, 19 years old, and already afraid of being
shit broke, getting arrested, staying in school, having a
place to call home. These fears and pressures, which we
are taught to know like the backs of our hands, are what
keep us in the safe little box of hesitant, nonviolent or-
ganizing, even when we see other methods working and
when many of us know that peaceful methods can only
do so much. None of this means that I do not some day
hope for a world free from all forms of violence. Rather
it means that I do not understand the real impact of vio-
lence, especially while living in a country at war, having
never felts its effects but knowing that millions are dy-
ing elsewhere.
So, when people ask me, `Are you a peace activist?' all I
can say is, I am acting and I want peace, but how far are
we willing to reach to achieve that?

* An antiauthoritarian anticapitalist initiative network
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