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How do you measure success?

suc·cess  (sək-sĕs′)

1. The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted. (

In order to measure success first you have to recognize what success would look like. This is an important question for anyone who has a goal or objective they wish to achieve. This is a question we should all be asking ourselves whenever we plan an action. How will we know if we are successful, just showing up is usually not enough.

Success is taken for granted as something we all strive for but rarely if ever define. If we want to stop war or if we want to change a culture that embraces war as a solution to our problems, how do we do it? How effective are our actions at achieving the eventual goal of changing our war culture into a peace culture?

If our goal is changing the culture of war how can we possibly measure the success of the incremental steps required to achieve this goal? There are ways to measure the effectiveness of our actions once we clearly understand and define what the desired outcomes of those actions are. But on a higher scale there are also external indicators of success.

We in the activist community, are fortunate to have markers we can look at to determine if the actions we are taking are being effective. These markers have been passed down through the years and are always reliable. Success will not be achieved without the presence of these markers, it never has in the past and it never will be in the future. You might say these are the requirements for success when the battle is with the empire.

On August 3, 1857, Frederick Douglass delivered a “West India Emancipation” speech at Canandaigua, New York. In that speech he stated a truism which was applicable then and remains so to this day, an undeniable truth.

“If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

Years later another man who has come to be recognized a great visionary and leader for nonviolent change laid out a very simple paradigm to help determine the success of your actions:

“First they ignore you,

then they ridicule you,

then they fight you,

and then you win!”

Gandhi made this prophetic statement years after Fredrick Douglass’ proclaimed requirement that there must be a struggle. What they both realized then, and what Martin Luther King and other great leaders have understood since, is that, if there is no struggle, there will be no progress. The establishment is only too happy to let us continue on with our actions and protests and whatever else will keep us happy and pacified, content in the belief that we are making a difference.

This saying from Gandhi was frequently displayed at the Occupy sites around the country and many of us thought the possibility of real change was at hand. To quote a line from Bob Dylan, “…there was music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air.And it scared the hell out of the keepers of the empire. They quickly advanced through all the required phases. They ignored it at first, hoping we would get bored and go away; then the ridicule began, spearheaded by their toadies in the corporate media, and when none of these tactics worked they fought it, breaking up occupy sites across the country not realizing that by their actions they were fulfilling the last requirement for success. And then we won!

The occupy movement didn’t create the 1% vs the 99% concept, Howard Zinn had spoken of this inequity long before occupy. But the occupy movement launched it into the everyday vernacular of every politician and talking head from then on. And even though they try to spin it to suit their needs, something changed across this country an innocence that previously existed was gone. The king’s clothing, or lack thereof, was exposed. We won and we will continue to win every time we engage the struggle.

So in conclusion, if you have been participating in an action for some period of time and you are still in the “being ignored stage,” you should seriously consider what you could do differently to move up the ladder towards success.

There must be a struggle or there will be no success!