The Official History of the World gets written by those in power. It functions to support the current power structure by making the way things are seem inevitable and natural — the result of the inexorable flow of time. If you only read Official History, you’ll feel isolated and powerless because you’re just a regular person working a shitty job and living in an anonymous neighborhood, not a great leader like the people in the history books. If you’re invisible — not really a part of history — a different kind of future may seem impossible.
We’ve created this organizer and filled it full of historical dates that aren’t part of the Official History. The dates in our calendar commemorate the generations of regular people just like you who got together with their neighbors and tried to build a different kind of world. People who resisted those in power. We see history not as a static, academic subject, but as an active process that we all participate in every day. At the end of each year, we look back and see what events we can add to our list of historical dates for the next year. We know its been a good year when we can add a whole lot of dates at the end.
Learning the history of resistance helps empower us to struggle today — to participate in the present and to create a different kind of future. It is easy to feel isolated and powerless until you realize that your actions now are connected with millions of people over the eons who all struggled against the same forces and for the same kinds of liberation. The diggers were creating community gardens in England 350 years ago and we’re still talking about them. The luddites were attacking technology 200 years ago, and modern luddites still are. There are countless other examples in this calendar.
History can help us understand our connections with the past and the complex relationships that add up to social change. History gives us perspective about how change happens. It can take a long time. Sometimes people can struggle their whole lives and never see change or liberation. Other times, people happen to live at precisely the right time to see massive shifts in power right before their eyes.
Those in history who struggled for freedom weren’t the end of the process and those of us alive now aren’t the first. We won’t be the last either. Change sometimes happens unexpectedly just when things look hopeless. If you’re feeling hopeless about the greenscare, the war on terror and George Bush, imagine how people felt during the redscare, the cold war or watching the rise of Stalin and Hitler.
Change happens because of a combination of tactics, movements, individuals and communities chipping away over generations, and change can happen all of a sudden because of a single brilliant action or individual. You never know when you go out to a demonstration whether it will be Seattle in 1999 or Tiennamen square in 1989.
The people listed in the organizer who made history were just like us. They got up, ate breakfast, took a shit and then walked out the door and did something that we still remember today long after they are dead. That’s the kind of opportunity each one of us is presented with every day when we wake up. Not everybody can wake up every morning and have the energy to go out and fight the system, but some days all of us can.
It’s sometimes easy to think that history is boring because we’re usually first exposed to history in school and the Official History of great, slave owning, white men is boring. When we think of history, we see our part of it right now — the way today’s present is tomorrow’s history, and the way today’s struggle becomes tomorrow’s future. Being an active, radical and vibrant part of the past, present and future is exciting.