Over the years, we Yes Men have done two kinds of projects.
In the other, we've presented positive versions of what our targets could do, if only they… well, did it. Some of these stunts (like our most famous one) are simple "reality tweaks" — stories of "bad apples" randomly turning good. For no apparent reason, a profit machine starts to care about people; police rebel against masters; a corporate lobbying group bucks its main funders; etc.
These are heartening stories, but they have no analysis. No large corporation on earth will ever do something against its bottom line simply because it's the right thing to do (to paraphrase one "Jude Finisterra," minute 02:50), and while cops may indeed rebel, a whole force doing so is unthinkable now, and probably well into the future.
A few of our "positive" stunts, however, have embedded how they could happen. In these, a government or other body, bowing to public pressure, decides that they — we! — will make things change. These sorts of visions are entirely possible — even likely in some form or other, if democracy is to survive.
In chronological order:
- The organization tasked with policing global trade, pressured by world opinion, decides to ensure that trade benefits people instead of companies.
- A US government agency fulfills its obligations to citizens by refurbishing public housing and forcing an oil company to fix what they've broken.
- A university, pressured by faculty, provides refuge for scholars uprooted by its government's actions — modeling how US higher education could provide a moral compass, instead of just moral verbiage.
- In the wake of Obama's 2008 election, Americans who've elected him apply the pressure that's needed for real change.
- The oil-rich Canadian government, facing massive international pressure, finally stands up against oil.
- An Amsterdam city council, pressured by a neighborhood, defends it against a speculative real-estate company.
- A bank, realizing they're about to need bailing out by US taxpayers, asks Americans to imagine how their funds should be used.
- The US Department Energy, impelled by public pressure, decides to take clear steps to reach zero emissions by 2030 — because, you know, survival.
- In the wake of the 2016 election, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) decides to start winning by standing for what people want.
- The city of Belfast decide to provide what constituents need rather than what real-estate moguls want.