Suzanne Pharr February 21st, 2008
For several decades, I have traveled the country giving speeches and workshops. Much of what I know has come from contributions from people in those settings. Early in the 1990s as we began facing increasing rightwing attacks, I began to hear a repeated theme from social change groups: “When can we stop reacting just to attacks and begin building what we want?” At the same time, it seemed that the Right was growing in strength, and the number of progressive people and our ideas were diminishing.
A few years ago, after I finished being the director of the Highlander Center, I began talking in my speeches about the politics of longing and desire. What would it mean if we began our base-building and organizing from a place of people’s longing and desire ? It is a place where many of us share common dreams: to have self-determination for our lives and bodies; to have integration of mind, body, and spirit; to be recognized for our whole selves and identities; to be respected and considered persons of worth.
Though how we begin is not always an either/or choice, we know that organizing flows in one direction when it begins with fear and anger, and in another direction when it originates with longing and desire. The former requires immediacy and sometimes expediency and is often connected to survival. The latter takes a longer time: bringing people together, asking questions, making connections, developing vision. Both call for change and require action. The question I keep mulling over is what is the place—fear or desire—that is likely to produce the most sustained heat for bringing people together over time.
- Movement building