Activism In The Time Of Social Distancing

I don’t know how other people respond to problems, but over the years, one thing I have learned about myself is the huge difference I experience between problems I can do something about and those I am powerless to remedy.

No matter how dire XYZ may be, if there are steps I can take to ameliorate it, I may be sad or frustrated or temporarily overwhelmed, but I don’t feel defeated. When there is no readily apparent action I can take that will solve whatever problem XYZ presents– or when the only actions I can take are highly unlikely to make a dent in the problem– my ulcer flares. My head hurts. I do feel defeated.

The current broken-ness of American governance is a prime example.

I doubt that I’m alone in that response, and it’s why so many of us get annoyed with comments that pooh-pooh the efficacy of get-out-the-vote campaigns and declare that those efforts aren’t nearly enough–without ever suggesting concrete alternative, effective actions in which individuals can engage.

Because everything we know about the Trump Administration is so awful–and because so many of us feel helpless and angry–I was really happy to come across an article in The Guardian focusing on what appears to be an explosion of new forms of activism in the time of the pandemic.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the world was experiencing unprecedented levels of mass mobilization. The decade from 2010 to 2019 saw more mass movements demanding radical change around the world than in any period since the second world war. Since the pandemic struck, however, street mobilization – mass demonstrations, rallies, protests, and sit-ins – has largely ground to an abrupt halt in places as diverse as India, Lebanon, Chile, Hong Kong, Iraq, Algeria and the United States.

The near cessation of street protests does not mean that people power has dissipated. We have been collecting data on the various methods that people have used to express solidarity or adapted to press for change in the midst of this crisis. In just several weeks’ time, we’ve identified nearly 100 distinct methods of non-violent action that include physical, virtual and hybrid actions – and we’re still counting. Far from condemning social movements to obsolescence, the pandemic – and governments’ responses to it – are spawning new tools, new strategies and new motivation to push for change.

The article lists a number of those “new tools”–car caravans, walkouts from workplaces, community mutual aid pods, crowdsourcing–and technical efforts like adaptation of drones to deliver supplies, disinfect common areas and monitor high-risk areas.

The article also notes that many “movements”–political and philanthropic alike– are moving their activities online, with digital rallies, teach-ins and information-sharing.

Although many of these methods may seem to have little visible impact, these activities are likely to strengthen civil society and highlight political and economic issues in urgent need of change. In Chile, women have launched a feminist emergency plan that includes coordinating caring duties and mutual support against gender-based violence. In Spain, more than 15,000 people have joined a rent strike this April demanding the suspension of rents during the lockdown. Many have engaged in dissent without leaving their homes. As the Washington Post recently highlighted, many youth activists are moving their weekly global climate strikes online, conducting tweetstorms, developing toolkits for civic action, organizing teach-ins and developing accessible websites about climate change. Organizers in the UK have developed a series of seminars on movement building and mutual aid. Groups engaged in these activities now will improve their capacity for impact and transformation once the global lockdown is behind us.

If, as the article suggests, movements around the world are adapting to remote organizing, “building their bases, sharpening their messaging, and planning strategies for what comes next,” perhaps the end result will be the creation of concrete, useful mechanisms available to citizens who want to make a difference.

In the interim, there is one thing we can definitely do that will make a difference: we desperately need to get out the vote.


  1. “The current broken-ness of American governance is a prime example.”

    Recognizing that there is no immediate fix for the current broken-ness is in some ways like recognizing sudden limitations due to disability or sudden realization, which is different than recognizing, that age has crept in and limited us in what we can and can no longer do. Two quotes from Stephen King; “All we can do is all we can do.” and “If it isn’t enough, it will have to be enough.” We are further limited at this time due to the “social distancing” of Covid-19 Pandemic and the ongoing lies from Trump which are now matters of life-and-death; he has created American “killing fields” and the wait for questionable Primary Elections and the November election seems endless.

    “In the interim, there is one thing we can definitely do that will make a difference: we desperately need to get out the vote.” We are past the time of picking and choosing candidates of either party; to me, the choice is obvious. Like it or not those who don’t like the choice need to recognize the only possible outcome on November 3, 2020. Keep your aspirin, Tylenol and Tums or Gasex handy and Vote Blue.

  2. As was noted the other day in the comments section, if these movements have moved online, they are also being tracked by the NSA and other agencies. The Oligarchy wants to know what to expect, especially as they are literally starving Americans back to work.

    These global movements are inspiring, and the speed with which they transformed into digital platforms is very encouraging.

    As I’ve mentioned numerous times, get yourself a Twitter account so you can monitor or at least get a feel for what’s happening by boots on the ground versus the Oligarchic-controlled 24/7 cable networks.

    I also find it interesting that the World Socialist Web Site has experienced record growth in online subscriptions. Maybe people are waking up…except for the 40% of Trumpian cult members.

    An online rally with speakers from throughout the world, sponsored by the World Socialist Web Site and the International Committee of the Fourth International.

  3. We are at a moment where a visible, “loud” social activist could, perhaps, inspire the beginning of “structural” changes toward more equality of opportunity and stronger handcuffs on unchecked power of corporations, the wealthy and the evil. Hmmm, how about Stacey Abrams next to Joe?

  4. We are at a moment where a visible, “loud” social activist could, perhaps, inspire the beginning of “structural” changes toward more equality of opportunity and stronger handcuffs on unchecked power of corporations, the wealthy and the evil. What about Stacey Abrams next to Joe?

  5. Yes. Social media in THIS country is filling the role for demonstrations…to the point that it can.

    An acquaintance once told me that throwing money at public education wouldn’t solve anything. He was a Republican, of course. My rejoinder was: “When did we ever do that? Why don’t we try ‘throwing money’ at public education and see what happens? That was our last conversation. But it also makes me think that electing a massively large Democratic majority to all levels of government might be the equivalent action. Let’s see what happens. My point is supported by the history of when we DID have a strong Democratic majority in government. Guess what? WE PROGRESSED. EMPLOYMENT SOARED. OUR ALLIES RESPECTED US. WE WERE FISCALLY SOUND.

    Yeah. So let’s try it again. God knows that we are in the deepest political and social pit we’ve been in since the Great Depression…and we’re headed toward exceeding that economic/social/governmental catastrophe again. So, I’d like to send a social media message to everyone. It’s a modification of Rick Wilson’s terrific book title:


  6. The power of the purse, your purse!

    What states are refusing to follow guidelines? Target corporations in those States. Target products that are being made there! Because the beach is open doesn’t mean everyone has to go to the beach! People are dying from infected meat packing plants, figure out how to quit buying meat! ( Maybe start with pork) Find out which companies are taking money from the paycheck protection program that don’t need it and boycott their products whatever they may be.

    Caravans sound like a great idea, gas is cheap right now! A few thousand vehicles heading towards the White House would be impressive.

    Don’t underestimate the power of your purse, Martin Luther King recognized it and it worked perfectly for him! It changed the way the buses operated concerning African Americans, it brought them to their knees!

    And when the authorities put forth Draconian measures to stamp out civil disobedience and such, it’s really a bad visual! That usually brings more people to the cause!

  7. John, I try to do exactly what you suggest. I buy products I am reasonably sure do not add to profits of people or companies with regressive policies. I have resolved that when this is over, my spending habits will change even more. Money does talk and one person may not make a huge difference, but I can do what I can.

  8. The one thing that seems to be learned from this pandemic is that despite the fact many of us are spoiled by out “good lives” and often get too comfortable to reach out, make noise about things that need to be changed and to VOTE, it does seem for many of us it has become a wake up call as air clears, groceries are not as easy to come by, middle class folks are in lines for food and our leadership on both sides seem to have clay feet as they try to deal with our ego maniac president and his supporters and allies. Let’s make it a challenge to use this wake up and the many terrible losses to get off our duffs and do something. But most of all let’s VOTE and begin to develop a future for our kids and grandkids that has hope and prosperity for all, not dread, disease, despondency and last all get too comfortable again.!

  9. Remember that a single day of citizen striking is worth a year of actual striking.


    Because citizens proved they could do it, and because the tyrants don’t know when it will happen again. Tyrants will fear the unknown, the difficulty of explaining their losses to shareholders, and the expense of being prepared for it every day, and as soon as their nightmares begin to fade, remind them by striking again.

    Once the ability to conduct a citizen strike is demonstrated, insofar as the tyrant’s fear and expense are concerned…

    Organized citizens have the power to play with a tyrant like cats with a crippled mouse. So, it’s not difficult to imagine bringing the tyrant to reasonable behavior.

  10. I got my 1200 dollar check. So far I’ve given to Amy McGrath, Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood. I plan to give away more of that money to organizations that the current occupant of the white house does not support. My insurance company gave each of their policy holders 50 dollars due to the pandemic. I will spend that money on food for a food bank.

    It will be interesting to see what happens with street protests as the economy reopens and social distancing is no longer needed.

    I’m sorry Shiela that you develop ulcers when you are trying to cope with disasters beyond your control. I’m lucky. I live by the 12 steps and slogans of Al-Anon. So, I turn things over to my Higher Power when I am powerless to help me detach from them and I take a break from this obsessive 24/7 news cycle.

    I was born in 1951. So, my memories of my parents and grandparents and how they coped with world wars and the Great Depression helps to sustain me in this pandemic and our government’s failure to proact and to create a strong public health infrastructure. My grandparents taught me how to see the wonder in the simple beauty and pleasures in small town Indiana. I learned that I don’t need that much stuff to be happy.

    I will be voting blue, blue, blue.

    I want to be the change I want to see. After all, we are the ones we have been waiting for.

  11. Citizen strikes, as I mentioned above, depend on one critical thing–the ability to communicate the date, place and time, so that all participate in the citizen strike together. Which in turn depends on leadership that determines date, place, and time.

    The means of communication–cellphones and Internet–are already in hand. All that’s lacking is leadership.

  12. Do not fear that less than 100% participation in citizen strikes would cause them to fail. The object is not to cut the tyrants income to zero for the day, but to cut his or her income a little.
    A ten percent cut would be a victory. The tyrant would think it could be 20% next time.

    A 50% cut would be absolutely tyrannical?.

  13. Several commenters have mentioned the importance of getting out the vote. Prompted by a Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette editorial, I recently emailed the governor, my state representative, state senator, congressman, and senators, asking all of them to promote legislation that would make mail-in ballots a reality for every eligible voter for the November election and future elections. I received a standard form reply from Senator Todd Young, and nothing from the others EXCEPT David Abbot, State Representative from my district. He CALLED me this morning. I’m still in shock, but it was an enlightening conversation. He explained that the legislature won’t likely meet again till winter, but importantly, that the Indiana Secretary of State, Connie Lawson, has the authority to decide that all ballots for the November election will be submitted by mail. I urge Indiana residents to contact her at 317-232-6531 or

  14. America continues amid the the Corona Virus to be as someone wrote in another blog, “A Bizzare Cult of Death”. He wrote:

    >> Isn’t it curious that we celebrate our life-saving medical workers with flyovers by warplanes that are designed to take life? And, regarding the B-2 stealth bomber, a life-taker on a truly massive scale, since it’s designed for nuclear warfare.<<

    The recent flyovers by military aircraft to honor and celebrate our medical workers and associated staff should be looked at as a gigantic waste of money. A salute to those who save lives by warplanes that are designed to take lives.

    Somewhere someone in the Pentagon and Defense Department and probably with a permission slip from The Trumpet could come with an idea to use an instrument of death – Warplanes- to flyover the facilities that save lives and it would be approved as an appropriate message.

    Our Corporate McMega Media did not or did not want to see the grand scale of this hypocrisy. Oh look boys and girls were #1 – Yahoo.

    Oh one other it quote from the Blog I referred to:
    "Estimated gun sales also soared to 2.58m in March, Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting reported, an 85.3% jump from the same time last year.

    An explosion in gun sales during a pandemic suggests something about the American psyche that is truly scary. So too do combat jets screaming in the skies as a celebration of heroic lifesavers."

    Large scale testing for Corona, sorry Proles. Ohh, look to sky, you Proles – Were #1.

  15. Robin – thanks for giving to Amy – a very important race.

    Now for today’s humor news (hat tip to the Washington Post):

    Pence didn’t know of Mayo Clinic mask policy, his wife says

    Vice President Pence, who was roundly criticized this week for not wearing a mask during a tour of the Mayo Clinic, did not know hospital policy required it until after he left the facility, his wife said Thursday.

    The comment from Karen Pence, made during an appearance on “Fox & Friends,” appears to contradict statements from the clinic that the vice president’s office had been informed of the rule before his Tuesday visit to the Minnesota hospital.

    “It was actually after he left Mayo Clinic that he found out that they had a policy of asking everyone to wear a mask,” Karen Pence said.

    On Tuesday, when photos and videos of a maskless Pence spread across social media, the Mayo Clinic tweeted that it had “told @VP of the masking procedure prior to his arrival today.”
    The clinic appeared to have deleted the tweet soon after, but a spokesman told media outlets that Pence’s office was made aware of the rule.

    Karen Pence on Thursday reiterated the explanation that her husband gave shortly after completing the tour: that masks are thought to help prevent an infected patient from spreading the virus and so, “knowing he doesn’t have covid-19, he didn’t wear one.”
    She added that she was grateful for the chance to address the issue.

    “Someone who’s worked on this — this whole task force for over two months is not someone who would have done anything to offend anyone or hurt anyone or scare anyone,” she said. “So I’m glad you gave me the opportunity to talk about that.”

  16. With social distancing the rule of the land. remote organizing seems to be our only alternative to individual efforts to foster change. Sheila suggests that for her it is not productive to, socially speaking, beat one’s head against the wall in trying to effect change where not possible, though it worked with Gandhi, King and others (see Greta Thunberg in the making for a current example). The eternal optimist who thinks nothing is impossible does have certain constraints in the scientific Newtonian/Einstein world (e.g., water will not run uphill, gravity is a universal constant etc.), but such constraints have no application in the world of the social sciences. I note in passing that it helps to have built-in backers for one’s individual effort to effect change, such as Indian independence (Gandhi) and global environmentalists (Thunberg) ready to go to the mat for the cause.

    Perhaps a better argument for not wasting one’s time in a hopeless enterprise is that it reduces the time one could have otherwise spent in influencing change where change is possible. Also judging what is and what is not subject to change is a matter of individual perception. My personal view coincides with that of Sheila, though I make occasional forays into attempting to change the seeming unchangeable, an arena in which my current batting average is 0.

  17. Amazon employees are attempting to build a union. Support those efforts. Since the Reagan administration we’ve seen a decrease in union membership. Any business that has to employ workers in a specific location is vulnerable to unions. Retail, grocery and fast food workers should be attempting to unionize now

  18. Lester @ 11:49 am.

    What a truly stupid explanation by Mother Pence for Pastor Pence. I think we can be sure all The Trumpet’s that watch Fox and Friends saw no contradictions, that one the so-called leaders of the Corona Task Force could be so phenomenally, willfully ignorant of best practices.

  19. I have no hope of fixing the current government and this administration. The combination of incompetence and corruption among TrumPence and McConnell and the entire cabinet is too great to overcome. Our only success will lie in taking this time to mobilize and plan for next year. Deploying an effective replacement for all of the parts that are broken of course will culminate on Election Day and any hope depends on our success on that day. Assuming such success, our work can begin.

    I see some signs that this time out we are stuck in has largely led to a more functional culture, one with widening circles of caring among many. Perhaps one of the causes of that is that the incompetence of incumbents cannot be denied anymore by anyone. It went from just costing us money and despair among many to threatening many lives and taking some of them. It’s a civilian war. Our side has no generals. The only federally powerful leadership we have is Nancy Pelosi.

    So restoring functional America is stuck in the same time out as commercial America but oddly we have made more progress doing nothing than all of the other efforts over the last 3 years did. We rediscovered caring about each other rather than only ourselves.

  20. Vote! Robin Riebsomer, thanks for supporting Amy Mc Grath in KY. In my small IN town in the south-central part of the State, we get Louisville TV and from what I’ve seen, she’s a great choice for replacing McConnell. (P.S. You seem familiar to me. Do we know one another from the earliest of days with the IWC in Indianapolis?)

  21. Robin,
    i give to Amy also, mcconnels got to go.

    as far as pense in Mayo, yea im sure his SS agents dont have masks for the VP. its a rather piece of crap to promote his aganda on such a sacred place as Mayo.. this is a not for profit org,and a world leader where, world leaders come for the cutting edge medical services. my wife and i cant afford insur for us both, we do, however,drive to Mayo for its beyond typical staff. we pay in cash,and donate whats left to its institution. pense,in Mayo, sounds like sewage in the swimmin pool.
    as far as meat! i buy from local ranchers. smithfield was bought by the chinesse to ship to china,and open a door to import something,in trade deals. maybe like chicken shit fed farmed tilapia.. cook the meat above 150 F. to kill the virus.there is no way, that handling meat by the cutters wont cross contaminate,, as far as handling the raw meat,, wear gloves,and mask, and throw it onto a hot pan,and cover for a few minutes..kinda like cooking road kill.. now that ive disgust everyone here, write the FDA and tell em to,F,,,,,,! the fact is, the restaurants are closed,and so are other bistros, the balance of production to whats consumed nationally,is probably still over production for the U.S….the export markets,i.e. china, are in a bitch factor, as is wall street.. dont buy the back to work issue.
    also. i havent heard or seen much in mainstream news about how the little people are reacting to being told to go die for our economy..i dont face or twit, so i rely on independant news,journalists and some online sources. seems like theres a news blackout on the little peoples concerns..i guess the states who had all the giveaways are seeing their meger stash being sucked up by the little people,and they never gave a second tought about them,when the shit hits the fan.. now is a time to mention in any passing,the give aways that our gov sent to investors,are why we are in a lost ship. management in the white,house, has taken us for a spin and we get the, well, when trump shits in his penthouse, we get to brush our teeth in the run off..
    best wishes,washdapaws…

    if your wondering why i say wash da paws, its found the felines can pick up this covid to..and walking on infected ground,track it in,etc..well, you do the math…

  22. Pete,
    nice kickback, theres also barr and pompeo… and who gets the green jacket when the
    elections fail? or?

  23. Gerold.
    The batting average is only related to not try, and your average is high. maybe its not of a direct kickback to your voice,ideas,ideals,we are listening here,, but its better to try and fail,than not try at all. my face to face interactions,i havent a clue if i make change,as i leave,and usually dont come back. but, i do and will, in my life, will contest any voice that deems our democracy and our freedom,essential to being an American.. ,,those who do not agree,i mention theres plenty of third world nations where you can crap in abucket and walk a dirt path to market..

  24. Soozerbug: Nice, well written, and filled with your actions in a positive direction. Good examples for all of us. Let us hear more from you!

  25. Snooze bug, Thanks for the email address!
    Lester, I think ironic thing here, is Pence is one of the few Americans that can be sure he does not have the virus because is one of the few people that is getting tested.

    It is getting better, but for the average person to get tested, you had almost had to present at the emergency room dying AND have a know proven contact with some that was sick.

    We need to get better at testing, and Pence just showed us he was part of the haves in an elite group of the higher ups in this kakistocracy.

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