Pedestrians in downtown San Francisco have been were probably surprised to see a pie fight at the Powell Street cable turntable recently. This wasn’t the first time a flash mob had pulled a stunt to enliven the urban streetscape. The League’s mayoral forum in October was the location of another surprising scene when the audience left the library auditorium to encounter a mob of zombies clustered outside the door. The zombies were harmless, as were the pie throwers, and generally did nothing more than make people smile. This “urban playground” movement has only a vague rationale. According to Kevin Bracken, one of the organizers of early flash mob events, they are designed to counter the passive consumerist culture of today. Whether of not they succeed is open to question, but one thing they demonstrate is the amount of energy and imagination available among young people. Those of us who hope to get more citizens involved in community and civic action might consider whether we can’t take advantage of this energy to change society in more permanent ways. After all, those zombies knew about the mayoral forums, perhaps we can entice them to attend future forums and join the struggle for better, more responsive government.
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