By Jesse D. Palmer
Leap Day — February 29, 2016 — is an extra day that gives us a chance to look at how we spend most of our days and wonder if we can’t do a little better? If the answer is “yes”, Leap Day can be an arbitrary but overdue moment to create decentralized, militant and yet creative and hilarious uprisings against the various oppressive systems that vex us.
The odds of evolving a brain like ours that can comprehend its own existence, play, create and love while spinning on a tiny rock in an infinite universe — those are very long odds. And yet people spend most of their lives just scraping by — facing constant pressure at jobs we hate, looking at computers when we would prefer to be at the beach. The world is full of instability, fear and loneliness as we constantly compete for virtual friends, overpriced housing and products that are killing the planet.
Leap Day is a gimmick. Systems of inequality, racism, police violence and environmental destruction are vulnerable, but they won’t collapse on their own. They need our help. Everyone is standing around waiting for something to happen or just focused on the latest outrage. We need to take the initiative and throw the first punch every once in a while.
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 mobil 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 a finger puppet. 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.
In 2012, right in the wake of the Occupy Movement, we had a funeral for capitalism in Oakland, complete with a real coffin and a brass band leading a procession through the streets to a dance party. The police had taken our camps, but they couldn’t make us love our bosses or the 1%.
The call for decentralized revolt on Leap Day 2016 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 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 laboratory to see what actions feel relevant and engaging in view of local conditions. It’s useful to let your imagination run free and go beyond the well worn patterns of radical activity. 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 in the streets? Leap day at its best can help break down the artificial separation between “activism” and living our lives full of enjoyment and freedom. Living 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, no email list. There is no success or failure. This is about taking matters into your own two hands and seeing what might happen.
There may be to ideas, resources, local action callouts and report-back at leapdayaction.org. Slingshot also has big posters we can mail you for free if you email us. Leap for it!
The 6 regrets of the dying
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
6. I wish I had used Leap Day every 4 years to get out in the street and be brilliant, creative and zany to smash capitalism, patriarchy and the state!