May 25, 2007

Organizing - School/IRL.

I really enjoyed the tail-end of my student days in college, feeling like I'd finally found a community amongst the student government and Asian American junkies. Looking back at those days, the student government stuff was probably the most "political" of the work, with identity-based conversations that would quickly be realized as basic taking up the bulk of my time in the Asian American spaces at school. More than 10 years later, and I'm again involved in student organizing, but this time I definitely feel more like I'm realizing the dream I had to be at the forefront of some kind of movement in undergrad. Here, I feel like with the wave of work that we're doing should be deeply related to the work that I want to do when I graduate, and also embraces some of the spirit of work that I'd learned and thought about while an undergrad in a state school. About documentation and development of a strategy. About accountability and building a student movement that will go beyond the semester, or even the year for its organizing schedule, calendar, and strategy. That we can break the cycle of stall tactics that the administration knows will eventually weather any student activation around issues, based on attrition because of short attention spans, graduation, and competing interests. But when you integrate alumni organizing in the mix, suddenly you're in a place where the graduations don't help the administration anymore, because now you have angry alum with money to donate, time to commit to a committee, and a stronger sense of purpose because of denied/thwarted efforts as a student. If the right elements are combined, the nature of movements take over.

But I do miss being around very active, radical Asian Americans. The legal profession leads people to take more "rational" or tempered paths. A friend once said that I would be entering a profession that is natively more conservative. I didn't know what to make of the comment when he made it, but I definitely feel it a lot more now, even at my law school, which is anything but conservative. it's just the way that you start to think about things - using a "rational" approach towards problem-solving, and even problem identification. "Choosing what battles to fight" seems like a theme that runs through a lot of this work. And I feel like the restrictions of the bar upon your ability to do what is in your conscience (as I've learned in my last couple of classes of ethics) is also a harsh reality that you have to face. Sanctions charges and possible disbarment seem like incredible disincentives for people thinking to engage in more direct action or anti-establishment work. Can you be "out" as an anarchist and a lawyer? Can you be anti-establishment and still practice law?

After all, the revolution will not be realized by some kind of Supreme Court epiphany. The nature of stare decisis, of precedent, of basing so much of our legal practice on English Common Law are all inherently conservative characteristics of our system. That doesn't mean that it isn't a good thing some of the time - consistency and fairness are important goals if the system is to build any faith in the people its meant to govern/reside over. But that doesn't mean that we should just accept it and the conservative/anti-revolutionary standards that it imposes upon us. Shouldn't we have some kind of choice of the system we live in and the definitions of justice that govern our everyday existence?

So as my thinking slowly evolves and breaks free from the middle class conservatism that comes naturally (no matter how often we call ourselves "liberals" or "progressives"), the question becomes, how much of this is about self-image and hype, and how much of this is about movement-building? Do we have to put ourselves and everything on the line all the time to be "real"? I don't know - as time goes on, you accumulate stuff - not material things, but obligations and hesitation, I guess. It's when you're young that you feel you have little to lose - and honestly, more of us should feel that way later on in life. Otherwise, none of this shit is going to change. But it's a leap to take.

WTF. This post started okay and turned into some kind of stupid therapy session. Over and out.

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