The previous month I've been busy with the local section of the "Occupy..." movement. Things seem to be starting to branch into definite groups with select progressive goals, at least by my lights. We'll see how these goals carry on. Hopefully well.
In either case, though, the movement has provided some excellent practical lessons on the art of organizing people. I've also gotten in contact with several local activists that I hadn't known before, which is nice.
Some take-away lessons:
1. Anarchy isn't all bad. While I agreed with the overall message, the anarchic approach had me nervous. But benefits to the anarchic approach kept on cropping up, especially with respect to either a) convincing people to come out, or b) responding to those who weren't going to come out anyways. While order has progressively been built up, and fractions have resulted from that order, I found the anarchic approach more refreshing than I had initially anticipated.
2. The consistent application of principles is more important than overtly emotional appeals, or passionate justifications. There's nothing wrong with these, of course, but the problem with the latter is that they make it difficult to organize if these are your sole motivations, justifications, or arguments. These things in conjunction I think are best, but one needs to be able to consistently make appeals to the means and ends they're going to use in order to bring about order.
3. Protest is a perfectly good reason to organize! You don't need a super-involved project, such as a newspaper, political party, platform, or other event. You can organize people around something as simple as handing out flyers, holding signs, or simply talking to people on the streets. The thing missing isn't that there isn't something to do, but that people are largely socially uncertain in unfamiliar settings. This asociality is a larger barrier to organizing than the need for a project. (I had always thought that the project was important, but really now I think having similar-ish goals and someone with a little social gusto and willingness to listen is probably enough to get people out)
4. Though anarchy isn't all bad, I have recieved confirmation on my hypothesis that in order to get things done, you need some kind of social rules at play. Anarchy can provide these, understood in the right way. But a stricter order, IMV, would still be nice. I don't mind hierarchy. It seems a necessary feature of society. I only mind it when the leaders are ignoble.
5. There are a lot more left-leaning people in Kansas than I had presumed.
6. If you schedule a protest, make sure you have some musicians. People get bored, and this is usually a good source of morale.
7. Literature is important. The importance of street literature isn't a thesis-level writing, but simple bullet points which get your message across. Having presence is the important aspect.
Other than that, I've tried to organize a union at work but to no avail. People think it sounds good-ish, but not good enough to actually do anything about it. So I've taken the liberty of mentioning unionization every time someone complains about work. I'm probably hated by everyone. ;)
Lastly, I'm considering looking at different graduate programs from chemistry. In particular, I'm considering going to some softer sciences because they're more interesting and complex. Either that, or philosophy. If I have the guts to bite the bullet and try to do philosophy of science as an occupation. (And I don't know what the heck people mean by the golden rays of industry in science. Industry is boring as fuck. And, they fuck you over like any other industry -- academic or otherwise -- would. Seems to me that it's pretty much just another job: you hate it, but heck, it pays the bills, and you have time off to do things you like)