Join Transition US for the first event in our R4 (Resist, Reimagine, Repair, ReGenerate) series on March 21! Learn more & register here.
Transition has been criticized for “magical thinking,” or lacking a theory of change that critically accounts for the way existing power structures may oppose and obstruct our goals. The diagrams below represent theories of change from 4 different organizations with similar aims to that of Transition. Notice that each of these theories of change incorporate the role of resistance alongside strategies of building new systems, reskilling, raising awareness and shifting consciousness that are more central to the work of Transition.
“Theory without action is mere contemplation. But action without theory is just ‘doing stuff.’ At Cooperation Humboldt, we try to be intentional about developing a shared theory of how the world currently operates, and to develop concrete actions to create a new world.”~Cooperation Humboldt website
Understanding that resistance is a necessary strategy in realizing the vision of Transition doesn’t mean that Transition groups always need to lead or catalyze acts of resistance. However, we do need to understand how existing power structures impact our work so we can support the resistance efforts of our allies and catalyze resistance when needed. That’s why going through processes of power analysis and community asset-mapping are so important in developing a project with a strong likelihood of success (the R4 workshop series will help you get started).
We must grapple with and address power structures that engender and perpetuate exploitation and extraction so we don’t perpetuate them, but rather create something different. Is it part of privilege not to look at or perceive power relations – or is it part of being in a world immersed in trauma that makes it difficult to perceive where power lies?~Aleisa Myles, Transition Town Media. From the Transition US National Network Strategy Conversation “Deepening Our Analysis: Developing a Power Analysis” on March 23, 2021.
“More like a party than a protest march” was a description of the Transition Movement in its early days. The palpable joy that permeates many a Transition potluck or repair café is an asset to our movement, attracting people through the spirit of community and connection lacking in mainstream culture. And Transition’s positive, solutions-oriented approach is refreshing and empowering to folks who are burned out on protesting. Transition and similar solution-oriented groups fill a niche a in the growing social movement ecosystem of our time.
Some folks who have embraced the Transition model seem to have interpreted “more like a party than a protest march” as encouragement to shy away from engaging in or even talking about resistance as it relates to our work growing just, regenerative and resilient communities. And this holds us back from living up to the promise and potential of Transition. We can’t just sit back and allow corporations to capture, enclose, and profiteer from public resources like land, water, forests, schools and gathering places. We cannot build resilient communities if our water is privatized and poisoned, if our public spaces and farmland are consolidated by the wealthy elite.
But we can make a protest feel more like a party.
Resistance is Beautiful
Resistance is Beautiful. Black Lives Matter is beautiful. Standing Rock was beautiful. The Civil Rights Movement was beautiful. Despite acts of violence by oppressors and provocateurs, these iconic struggles represent the beauty of the human spirit, the ability of love (and organizing) to overcome serious adversity.
Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.~Cornell West
Even protesting can be done in the spirit of Transition. Like Transition, nonviolent resistance is rooted in love and respect for human dignity (nonviolence even respects the dignity of oppressors as a reflection of shared humanity). And nonviolent resistance is more effective than violence in creating social change. We know that art moves culture, and resistance is fertile ground for art and creativity to blossom and flourish. This story about grassroots organizers in Philly using the “Cha Cha slide” as a strategy for resisting voter suppression and intimidation during the 2020 election brought tears to my eyes.
Both Urban Tilth in Richmond, CA and Atmos Totnes—a community-led multi-purpose development project organized in party by Transition Movement co-founder Rob Hopkins—are utilizing art, play, and community-building to resist corporate consolidation of critical community sites. Urban Tilth launched their grassroots campaign with a community gathering that included mural painting and music, while Atmos Totnes projected guerilla art onto the historic building at the center of the proposed community hub site. These are just two current examples of the many creative resistance strategies taking root in the larger regenerative communities social movement ecosystem. The Dandelion Insurrection trilogy by one of my favorite authors, Rivera Sun, provides dozens–if not hundreds–of examples of beautiful, nonviolent, strategic resistance tactics, most of which are drawn from real life events (also check out Nonviolence News, edited by Rivera).
When done strategically, rather than externalizing our power, resistance inspires us to feel our power, to own our power, and to reclaim our institutions and our democracy. Like participating in Transition, engaging in acts of resistance can provide a visceral knowledge that a more beautiful world is not only possible, but is actively being built, one action at a time.
Join fellow organizers, visionaries, and community leaders across the country in building toward a national coordinated Week of Action this fall as part of the ReGeneration Nation campaign! Learn more by registering for the R4 (Resist, Repair, Reimagine, ReGenerate) workshop series beginning March 21.