Ways to Promote Alliance Politics
You'll get the irony of this fuzzy bit of culinary activism (vegan vanilla cake with strawberry filling and vegan cream cheese frosting) taken in my suburban home with the reminder of ahimsa in the background if you choose to read the remarkably tame and informative "13 Ways to Promote Alliance Politics and Total Liberation" by Steve Best. No ad-hominem attacks, just useful action steps, some of which you've probably been taking anyway.
I've been engaging in some of the steps (for lack of a better word) for about a year, beginning with reading the books and blogs of people I have come to deeply respect and for the most part agree with. I also disagree with them. And I can. I can figure out where I stand without the risk of being shunned, Amish style.
Though reading's the easiest thing to do it isn't to be minimized as it's necessary to provide context and connections (to some of us insulated, elite, white people. At least I don't hang out at "trendy cafes, upscale malls and uptown and suburban comfort zones"). The books and blogs mentioned in the post aren't for everyone in style or substance, and for me style can be an enormous hurdle. Meanwhile, I'm sure that writers whose style I have a problem with will say, "I don't have the time or the inclination to write the sort of dispassionate, tepid prose you prefer while tens of billions of sentient nonhumans are being enslaved and slaughtered for no good reason." And I understand that point.
So if you don't like someone's style, see if you can look beyond or beneath that for the meaning (though sometimes it is admittedly difficult to separate the presentation from the substance).
And though reading is the easiest thing to do, not everyone has access to books. Chris from Beijing works to get books translated for the groups he works with, and I can say for certain that you'd never take your access to books for granted again if you heard what he has to go through to get books to China.
And they have limited Internet access, so that's another obstacle.
And speaking of obstacles, some of the people I work with who live mere miles away but it seems like galaxies when it comes to services don't have a reading level beyond sixth grade, if that. And it's not because they didn't go to school; they were moved through the system and allowed to get much of the way if not all the way through high school despite their relative inability to read. They would be interested in the content of the books, for sure, but they have learned how to talk around the notion of books and don't easily ask for help. Leaflets and books aren't the ways to get to this particular population, at least not unless you begin with adult literacy (which is an area I think I'm about to get into so I'll let you know how that goes).
Furthermore, when you read, I recommend not using your disagreement with someone about, say, the definition of violence, stop you from going out into your community and building alliances. I have been building friendships with anarchists and other activists for about a year and I have yet to have a discussion about violence. Though I have expanded my contacts, most of my conversations are still in their infancy. Most people were like me in that they had "their" issue and saw addressing "my" issue as taking time away from theirs. Getting through that initial resistance takes a bit of time and energy and it can't be skipped or rushed because it's the foundation. I also find that to be the case within the community of nonvegan, pro-animal activists, such as greyhound advocates. They don't see veganism as related to their fight against dog racing, at first (or second . . . ).
If you get to #12 of Best's list, which includes: "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time" and respond "I won't be doing any crime, thanks, and I don't support anyone who does" that doesn't negate the legitimacy of the other action steps, except maybe #11, which is to support political prisoners.
Finally, I appreciate this (the penultimate paragraph):
The alliances needed for a politics of the 21st century – the most crucial century in the history of humanity — will not be easy to form. It is difficult to build a single-issue movement, to organize a local group, and even to have a relationship with another person, let alone to build the complex alliances necessary to avert social and ecological catastrophe.
Don't let this become a discussion about what violence is or isn't (because it's not). It's about a broader and deeper vision of how we are going to succeed–if we are going to succeed.