Yeah, flashmobs, pranks, swiftly organized warroom tweetups, late-night dance parties of 15,000. Remember that rebellious side of us, that “we won’t take the past for an answer” side of us? Remember that “join us because this is awesome and you’re invited” side of us?
Politics is personal identity built into popular movements. The Tea Party is powerful because it ready-makes an identity for those who feel left behind by the 21st Century. It’s a safe space in a post-9/11, post financial collapse, peak-global-hegemony America. And the Tea Party’s done well wiping up a messy identity crisis by defining what they’re afraid of.
We’re also proud to define ourselves as what we’re not: we are cooler than the fossil forces of the past. They rail on chalkboards; we rally with giant puppets in the streets. They are talking heads for septuagenarians; we are sneaking into shareholder meetings and embarrassing giant fossil fuel companies. They are snarking about crosshairs on Facebook from defensive compounds in Wasilla. We are 10,000 lithe young people fighting for our future while a crotchety old pitbull like Tom Donohue screams to get off of his front yard at the US Chamber of Commerce. We are in the West Wing interrupting the President of the United States of America to remind him that energy shouldn’t kill.
But the past is where we leave the comparison. Those fearful forces haven’t got much vision for the future, and we sure do: we are identity awesome. We are the people not afraid to build something better than the assumptions handed to us.
Other American generations have staked their identities on propositions equally grand – rebelling from tyranny, beating back fascism, defending the world from communism. Our generation is staking its identity as the people responsible enough to face climate science for what it means, and political corruption for what it is. To build a cleaner, leaner, more durable and more prosperous way of life on our full tide of vibrant energy. The people smart enough to put our moral muscle to work.
But we need to remember how to have a blast doing it. Where’s the rebelliousness, the youthful energy pulling more pranks to call out our opposition? Remember when the Yes Men and the Avaaz Action Factory staged a mock press conference on the US Chamber’s “sudden” climate action? Remember when Tim DeChristopher tied on his bandanna and marched into the fray of a corrupt shareholder process? Remember when young people lay down on the train tracks against tremendous new coal facilities? (That hasn’t happened yet, but it should.)
We mustn’t abandon tried-and-true organizing tactics, nor our hard-earned insider game. And if we do rebel our way into a better world, we do so on the shoulders of giants: after all, we’re now defending the Clean Air Act that our foremothers first passed, celebrating Earth Day last week because our forefathers founded the first four decades ago. And we need the scientific white papers still, because after all, we’re fighting for a political reality that keeps pace with the chemical reality of the atmosphere. This is a movement of the young and young at heart – if you are awesome, you are in.