Leap Day Action Night – February 29, 2012

Leap Day — February 29, 2012 — is the perfect opportunity for decentralized, spontaneous, uprisings and unrest against the dreary business as usual of global industrial capitalism and for a new world organized around human happiness, beauty, justice and ecological sustainability. Can you and your friends organize an event in your town to create a large and geographically diverse Leap Day revolt?

Leap Day is an extra day — a blank slate waiting to be transformed. Leaping is an uplifting, explosive, hopeful action. Put down this paper and try it right now –you’ll feel different and maybe better. Leaping can move you from an isolated, inconvenient spot surrounded by mud or snakes or a chasm to the next solid ground. When you leap, you leave the ground and fly free into the unknown.

The stability of the corporate / technological system is more fragile than it has been for decades. The stagnant recession and the increasingly wide gap between the super rich and the declining middle class have been undermining the legitimacy of the system for billions of people in new emotionally powerful ways.

The economic crisis is unfolding just as 200 years of industrialization and rapid population growth have pushed the ecological costs of our unsustainable lifestyle to the breaking-point. Normally during a recession, prices tend to fall as demand decreases. This time, prices for food, fossil fuels and other resources are still going up as a result of climate change-related crop failures and the depletion of easily produced oil and minerals. Clean air, clean water and topsoil are all endangered while toxic chemicals concentrate in our body tissues.

All around the world, people are responding through beautiful, creative, powerful revolts. Each situation is unique but generally what unites the Arab spring, the London riots, unrest in Greece, the M15 movement in Spain, student revolts in Chile and mass occupations in Israel are oppressive political and economic relations coupled with an utter failure of the system to offer any sanctioned alternative.

That same dynamic perfectly describes the US as we move to 2012. Obama, the Tea Party, the non-profit-industrial complex, religion, the media, consumer society — none of them offer a way out of the economic injustice, meaninglessness and environmental devastation of day-to-day normality. To the contrary, they all seek to maintain and enlarge the very systems that are not working.

The most striking thing about the current moment is the relative lack of unrest in the US in the streets, schools, workplaces and throughout society. There aren’t significant, broad-based US movements organizing resistance nor is there a lot of unorganized, spontaneous disorder.

But just like a tiny spark can ignite an inferno on a hot windy afternoon in a dry forest, it is easy to imagine a popular uprising spreading through the US — it’s just hard to say what might touch it off.

Which is why it’s so important to poke and prod the system by creating new, visible and destabilizing situations — throwing snowballs at banks, organizing unsanctioned parties at rush hour, unruly bike rides with illegal sculptures on the interstate, and rowdy, exciting, engaging protests.

It’s time to stop letting our rulers define the limits of what is possible by always protesting against the latest austerity measure, police crackdown or oil spill. Revolts are successful because they create their own energy and inspiration — a precious sense of creativity and possibility that comes through collective action.

We have to check-in with what we’re struggling for and appreciate the humbling beauty of the world and other people around us. Our gratitude and love make life meaningful and give us strength and courage to take on the inhuman forces of blind obedience, unjust order and the computerized death machine. In the chaotic, terrifying confrontations to come, remember to tell those around you how you love and appreciate them.

Revolting on Leap Day is arbitrary — high time and yet it could be any other time just as well. In 2000, in the wake of the huge protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle, some of us in Berkeley created what we think was the first Leap Day Action Night. The size, radicalism and rebellious success of Seattle was a welcome surprise to many its participants — the energy we shared there is a great model for what we need now.

For 2000 Leap Day, one tiny meeting led to a night of mobile disruptive tactics with music blaring from a bike mounted sound system in front of banks and chainstores throughout downtown Berkeley — long on action and inspiration, short on tired protest rituals. We deployed finger puppets, not the huge puppets you sometimes see at tamer protests, because you can run while wearing one. Confused businesses just shut down and the police didn’t know how to react.

Leap Day 2004 saw decentralized protests in Berkeley, Houston, New York, and Manchester, England. In Berkeley, black clad marchers carrying a “closing” sign threw glitter, foam “bricks” and popcorn at dozens of chainstores and banks while using a pretty red bow to tie doors shut. The action was festive yet determined, with no arrests.

The call for decentralized revolt on Leap Day 2012 is open-ended in terms of tactics, goals and strategy. The broader the critique of social institutions and the farther from single-issue-activism-as-usual, the better. It is up to you and each other local community to figure out how to use this extra day for something exciting and new. Decentralization and openness are a key strength and necessary if unrest is to expand and engage the larger community.

Leap day can be a kind of laboratory to see what actions feel relevant and engaging in view of local conditions. It’s useful to take time to let your imagination run free from time-to-time and go beyond single issues and well-worn patterns of radical activity. Why does every action have to take the same form with similar signs, chants, etc.? How can we articulate our vision for the future now in dynamic, emotionally resonant, new ways? While unrest can be militant, its also important to maintain a sense of humor and avoid grim self-seriousness. How can we reach beyond the same folks we typically see at radical events? Leap Day at its best can help break down the artificial separation between “activism” and living our lives full of enjoyment and freedom. Living full joyful lives must ultimately be the same as building a new world.

You don’t need permission to celebrate Leap Day, and there is no organization, no structure and no email list. There is no success or failure. This is about taking matters into your own two hands and seeing what might happen.

Check out leapdayaction.org to post ideas, resources, local action callouts, and report-backs. Leap for it!