Today was a long but good day. At the moment most of it is a bit of a blur as I am still processing what I heard and learned. None of it was completely new to me. What I did not know was many of the details both of the Jubilee campaign and the positive effects debt cancellation has had in countries where the debts have been canceled. It is interesting being around so many activists. It is also interesting being addressed as an activist and as a progressive, I heard several times in presentations both "We activists" and "we progressives". I am not an activist not going to become one. And while I am sympathetic to "progressive" causes I realized I don't identify as progressive. Thought I think I may actually be more radical in my thinking than the progressives, in part because I place little hope in any system of governance.
Thus far the voices that I think should be listened to more carefully are those of the Political cartoonist Godo and Mhizha Chifamba, of the Washington Office on Africa. Both have a deep historical perspective and vision and a sense the governments and the powerful come and go but the people remain. They both seem to have a healthy skepticism about political and civil power and what it can achieve. While having a great hope in the "powerless" to work together to bring about change in the powerful.
Jubilee USA and the American activists I am meeting have a similar hope but it includes a fairly deep attachment to the mythology of American and its power structures. I am finding that most of the people I am meeting are accustomed to the realm of political power. Even if they feel excluded from certain circles of political power that exclusion is itself a form of political power and value. Perhaps more to the point there seems to be an almost unquestioned belief in the good of the state and its apparatus, This does not deny that there is also a belief in the Grass-roots, but the point of the grass-roots organization is as much for the state and is it is for the people. I get a distinct impression of a firm belief in the state. I find it difficult, no impossible to hold such a belief.
I would like to believe one could work for this sort of change without placing ones hope in the state and in governments, that one could work for change within and cultivate resistance too the state and governments simultaneously. This is part of the message I hear from Godo and Mhizha, that in fact this is possible and the emphasis should always be on the local and not the larger governing structures. Perhaps activists need to pay a little more attention to the demystification work of Godo.
I have been fairly critical, I suppose thus far, but its because I really do believe in the goals of Jubilee USA, but I wonder about attitudes, and it seems to me there is in fact a more radical message that lies behind this and so many other struggles. A message to not trust any state or system of governance and ordering of society. A healthy skepticism of power and its uses perhaps especially when that power remains contained among the few even as it helps the many.