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What is a general strike and why should I participate?

Some of you may have noticed that there are calls for a general strike in the United States. I’ve seen a few dates floating around but the most popular one appears to be February 17.

So, what is a general strike?

Put simply, it’s a day where you don’t go to work and you don’t buy shit. Bonus points if you go out in public and exercise your Constitution-enshrined rights to free speech. But more than just a few of us, a general strike means a LOT of us don’t work and don’t buy. The world’s economy depends by far and large on the American consumer, spending money. If we’re not participating in that system, the world takes notice.

The idea is borne out of a time when industrial action (often lead by a robust union movement) was necessary to shut down the systems that the people, that’s you and I, help to create when they’re no longer serving us.

What is the goal?

If you’re striking on February 17, the list of goals on the organizers website are:

  1. No Ban, No Wall. The Muslim ban is immoral, the wall is expensive and ineffectual. We will build bridges, not walls.
  2. Healthcare For All. Healthcare is a human right. Do not repeal the ACA. Improve it or enact Medicare for All.
  3. No Pipelines. Rescind approval for DAPL and Keystone XL and adopt meaningful policies to protect our environment. It’s the only one we’ve got.
  4. End the Global Gag Rule. We cannot put the medical care of millions of women around the globe at risk.
  5. Disclose and Divest. Show us your taxes. Sell your company. Ethics rules exist for a reason and presidents should focus on the country, not their company.

Who is behind this?

This idea took off after an opinion piece written by Francine Prose in favor of a general strike. Local actions are autonomously organizing.

What does this have to do with Paganism?

That depends how you define your spirituality, I’m not here to tell you how you should hold things sacred.

I can tell you that from my lived experience, my spirituality is tied intrinsically to nature, specifically to the spirits of the land, air and water, to my ancestors and to the gods, as I observe them.

My spirituality is tightly bound into working with, and defending when necessary, those beings, whether or not they are enfleshed. Out of concern and solidarity with the natural world and its denizens I feel called to action.

Also, a lot of my friends are women, people of color, LGBTQI, and/or Muslim. In other words, groups squarely in the crosshairs of the current regime.

My gods and ancestors have called me to aid those in need, in any way that I am capable.

If you are a Pagan leader, read this post, especially the section about halfway down with the heading, “What Can We Do?”

I will be putting myself/my family at very real risk if I participate. What else can I do?

Everyone has to assess their own risk/safety. Sometimes doing something outside of your comfort zone is exactly what you need, and what others need from you in order to win against oppressors. Sometimes you can participate in one thing, but not another, for various reasons.

However, if your life or livelihood of you or your family is at real risk, keep your safety paramount.

An idea, resurrected from the 1970’s, has been gaining traction in recent months: affinity networks. Affinity networks are essentially a new-fangled way of saying community. Prior to our communities completely falling apart, people worked with one another for their mutual benefit. Affinity networks are often activist-based and have varying degrees of security culture, so they may be difficult to find or tap into, however. If you can’t find one to support, reach out to local protest organizers. Offering support in the form of rides, materials for making signs, food, weather-appropriate clothing or sharing accurate information on social media can be extremely helpful.

You can also donate to organizations who are supporting the action. If you have other ideas, post them in the comments below.

What if police or elected officials say that the action isn’t allowed?

Gee, imagine that, the people who benefit the most from us remaining docile try to undermine the people who write their paychecks.

Actions are not successful that work solely within the existing power structure. Apartheid didn’t fall because people simply obeyed and asked permission not to be oppressed anymore. They pushed boundaries and some were arrested, beaten or even died for their convictions… so that you and I could have a better life. We owe it to our ancestors to push the boundaries of our era.

All of this being said, refer back to my statements about safety above and participate in the way that makes the most sense for you. Not everyone can stand on the front lines, it is vitally important that we build webs of support, though.

What happens if not a lot of people participate?

Don’t worry, resistance to tyranny is a long process. This is likely the first of a series of general strikes. The point now is to get out, talk to your neighbors, make new allies and rebuild our broken communities.

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