Thursday, July 23, 2009

Summer: What they didn't teach me in first aid merit badges, polity without a polis, etc.

I've been planning to post for something like six weeks. So, here's something:

I went to street medic training this past weekend. It was pretty awesome. It was only a twenty hour course, but it was a good first-aid review, and I learned some stuff that they didn't cover in first aid merit badge. Street Medic training is designed for folks who want to be medical resource people at large-scale and small-scale non-violent political actions: protests, demonstrations, etc. Turns out that the major difference between first aid merit badge and this particular training is that it covers a lot more herbal medicine, and a lot more about how to respond to injuries from police violence: flushing pepper spray out of folks' eyes, etc.

There were ten or twelve of us, and we sat in a circle on the ground in Humboldt Park, and listened to the trainers. One of them worked for an ambulance company, and the other was an herbalist. It was a pretty good mix. I think this training will be really good for the next time I attend a large-scale protest, particularly if I'm, say, bringing along a church youth group. If you ever have the chance to do such a training, I'd certainly recommend it.

In other, perhaps related news, I'd been planning to write here about some of the stuff I'm reading this summer. The one that comes to mind right now is Here Comes Everybody, which is allegedly about "organizing without organizations." It's primarily focused on crowd-sourcing, and websites like flickr and wikipedia that enlist volunteers on a massive scale, without worrying too much about bureaucracy, hierarchy, or structure. It offers a pretty starry-eyed view of the situation, without much attention to the way such power can be mis-used (eg, the opening chapter includes the story of a wealthy woman losing her blackberry, and then using crowdsourcing to harass the young, lower-class woman of color who found it in a cab into giving it back.) However, there's definitely some interesting stuff going on. As new media, new communications, new networks develop and mature, it will be interesting to see how things go. It comes to mind in relation to the street medic training because of how little infrastructure there seems to be in this particular movement. Apparently, if I want to help out with medical stuff at, say, the big G20 meeting in Pittsburgh in September (Sept. 20-25, for those playing along at home), I just show up, find the clinic, and find somebody else who will help me out. There's no certification, there's no single organization; there's just a listhost and a bunch of people who kind of know each other. It's inefficient, sure, but that kind of cellular organizing might make it really hard to disrupt.

So: what does a church without organizations look like? And what does this movement ('here comes everybody') mean for, say, the American Baptist Churches, which recently voted against a big structural overhaul on the denominational level?

Vamos a ver, right?

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