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The Pivot We All Need Before 2024
Power Over Outrage
Yesterday, the Teamsters reached a tentative agreement with UPS to avert a strike. In the words of Teamsters President Sean O’Brien, “We’ve changed the game, battling it out day and night to make sure our members won an agreement that pays strong wages, rewards their labor, and doesn’t require a single concession.”
UPS handled an average of 20.8 million packages a day last year. Teamsters has 340,000 members who work at UPS. The strike would have impacted every single American in one way or another, and it would have been justified.
As I lay awake last night thinking about the vibrant and growing new labor movement in America, something struck me about this moment (pun intended), and it is this: there is a difference between outrage and action, between outrage and movement, between outrage and collective power.
We all need more of the latter on all counts, right now.
One of the things that has fascinated me about the recent implosion of Twitter and the movement of all of us to other platforms– most recently Threads– is that those who traffic in outrage are far more noticeable in environments where outrage isn’t amplified.
I’ve noticed it particularly on our side of the political fence.
Those accounts that scream about the latest horrible, fascist thing that right wing figures are doing, and scream for clout rather than offering solutions, are far more grating that they were on Twitter when read in environments where others are trying to movement build, offer solutions and generally be nice.
It is, of course, clear that rising fascism in this country is outrageous, vile, deplorable, and increasing. It is a given that the far right, and Trump, are going to do outrageous things every day. In fact, you should count on it, and assume that it will happen. Why? Because outrage is their bread and butter, it is their traffic (online and in fundraising dollars), and it juices their leader with narcissistic supply.
We, on the other hand, need to be playing a different game.
One of the things that we all can learn from the new labor movement is that unified, collective people power can defeat even those who claim to be the most powerful, those who tolerate or insist on horrible things (deliveries in unairconditioned trucks in 115 degree heat, for instance, or replacing creative talent with ChatBots), those who pay themselves $100 million bonuses while insisting that $17.50 an hour for workers is too much for them to afford.
Collective power can change minds, industries and nations, and its time we started focusing on that.
So the next time you read a Democratic or left-leaning account that draws your attention with outrage, ask yourself: what is this person doing to solve the problem? Are they advocating for deep canvassing, community and movement building, collective power and change?
Or are they just profiting in attention and dollars off your attention, to no avail? In other words, do they walk their talk, or are they just talking?
My recommendation to all of us as we approach 2024 is that we start to believe in our collective power to a degree that we never have before– across identities, movements, and states. That we embody collective power by working together, moving through organizing and pushing back in community with everyone who believes in democracy, freedom, civil and human rights, with the knowledge that we are far more powerful than them due to our sheer numbers and our collective will.
Outrage does not change the world. Collective power does.
Consider today how you are going to tune out the noise, tune into movement building, and walk your talk today and for the next fifteen months and beyond. We all need more of that, right now.