This reminded me of a group I ran into at the National Conference on Organized Resistance back in 2003, called SmartMeme. In their workshop they outlined the key points in the development of an activist campaign where, traditionally, mainstream media and other institutions take control of the situation by framing the issue and controling the language and issues. We looked at strategies for counter-acting that pattern.
"SmartMeme is about doing social change in a holistic way : shifting from issues to values, supplementing organization building with movement building, focusing on the intersections of story telling, relational organizing, communications, alliance building and creative new forms of civic engagement and action.
SmartMeme amplifies the impact of local and national non-profit and grassroots organizations with capacity-building partnerships, collaborations, and new strategy tools to change the stories that shape the dominant culture. We integrate the art of framing, the science of strategy, and the approach of grassroots organizing through our framework of story-based strategy." (from the smartMeme website)
I'm writing this as something of a follow up to my previous post. Somehow I'm finally starting to put the pieces together of this new culture that's emerging. To some extent it's a resistance culture. But it's primarily that in that in order to have the space to create the culture we want to live in we have to push on the boundaries of the dominant culture, because they're not leaving much room to work in. And this conflict is more about values, lifestyles, economics than it is about physical, or even formally political confrontation.
According to Wikipedia this idea is actually nothing new. "The phrase "culture war" is a translation of the German Kulturkampf, the name given to the struggle between the government of the German Empire under Otto von Bismarck against the power of the Catholic Church from 1871-1878.
Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci in the 1920s argued that the reason the proletarian revolution had not advanced in Europe as fast as many Marxists had expected it would was due to cultural hegemony. The theory of cultural hegemony states that a diverse culture can be dominated by one class because of that class's monopoly over the mass media and popular culture. Gramsci therefore argued for a culture war in which anti-capitalist elements seek to gain a dominant voice in mass media, education, and other mass organizations." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_war
In my opinion, another reason that different political and social movements operating from a base of counter-culture creation have had limited impact is because there has been too much focus on ideology and rhetoric, as well as organizational structure and, as a movement develops, bureaucracy, and too little on the real point of the matter, which is to better the lives of those who are oppressed.
In my work, I hope to turn this around. I hope to work for the betterment of life circumstances for all, and to organize people and resources in a way that clearly makes their lives better. If it's not obvious, something's wrong. If there is energy wasted on bureaucracy and institution, something's wrong. If I can simply point to what's happening and say, "look we're helping people meet their own needs while meeting the needs of others through their own hard work and mutual support" it will be hard to argue with that.