Friday, February 12, 2010

Lierre Keith, Acting Beyond Personal Change



"Understand this: the task of an activist is not to negotiate systems of power with as much personal integrity as possible--it's to dismantle those systems. Neither of these approaches--personal psychological change or personal lifestyle choices--is going to disrupt the global arrangements of power. They're both ultimately liberal approaches to injustice, rerouting the goal from political change to personal change. This is easier, much easier, because it makes no demands on us. It requires no courage or sacrifice, no persistence or honor, which is what direct confrontations with power must require. But personal purity only asks for shopping and smugness. The mainstream version involves hybrid cars, soy milk, soy burgers, and soy babies, and checking off the 'green power' option on your electric bill. On the very fringe, there is a more extreme version which offers a semi-nomadic life of essentially mooching off the employed. To point out the obvious: power doesn't care. Power doesn't notice the existence of anarchist freegans and it certainly doesn't care if they eat out of dumpsters. Power will only care when you build a strategic movement against it. Individual action will never be effective. Rosa Parks on her own ended up in jail. Rosa Parks plus the courage, sacrifice, and political will of the whole Black community of Montgomery, Alabama ended segregation on the public transportation system."

- Lierre Keith, The Vegetarian Myth

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