Can Purple and Coffee save the world?
Social Networking has already produced a huge number of political movement happenings, but two ambitious moves are taking place, one in Italy and one in America, attempting to push back stifling Right Wing politics. The Purple People movement in Italy is seeking to dethrone Prime Minister Berlusconi. In America, the Coffee Movement is emerging to challenge the monologue of the Tea Party Movement that has monopolised dissent over the direction their country is taking. But these movements could have one major problem in making a real difference: how will they actually make a change?
Neither movement is a Direct Action movement at the moment. The Purples’ rallies draw thousands, but are peaceful and the confrontation remains within the rhetoric. The Coffee Movement has only gotten so far as having discussions in local coffee shops. They both carry huge movement potential: a very identifiable and popular analysis of the situation their country is in. They are both bold and ambitious, two things that are necessary to attract people to a movement. But they are both lacking in forms of action that can actually change things. Numbers alone don’t make change; Stop the War should have taught us that.
But this could also be their strength if they are prepared to take on the difficult task of developing new methods of action. The “repertoire of actions” that political and social movements around the world have developed is invaluable, but it is also a limiting factor, as the same old methods are temptingly simple to organise, and innovation takes time to develop in enough detail to make a real plan.
These movements are worth watching because they could set the tone for future Social Media-led movements in Britain and around the world, especially in terms of their open-format – no big NGO is holding the reigns on the branding and logos and no celebrities are cashing in just yet, and indeed, no spin doctors making things sound better than they really are. The flexibility that this gives, and the room for grass roots creativity does make me wonder if they could yet find ways of really undermining the legitimacy of these elected officials. But in Italy in particular, who else can they vote for? Or can they create change away from parliament? Would there be any point in doing so whilst a near-fascist stands on the stage and declares it illegal even to pull asylum seekers from the sea to stop them drowning?
With the net, there’s not doubt that any developments will spread and be further utilised, but for now we must simply hope the dynamism provides the backdrop to new ideas and real changes. It all depends on preparedness to be a thinking movement, as well as an active one. We’ve seen far too much naval gazing in the climate movement just lately, so maybe something will emerge that can be adapted. Its certainly very exciting to live in times of such political innovation, even though its frustrating to see movements come and go because they never quite manage to find a means by which to gain traction and start creating lasting change.