On February 17, way back in 2003, Patrick E. Tyler wrote in the New York Times “…there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.” This was, of course, the now famous statement made in reference to what was likely the largest, if not the FIRST, world-wide protest in our planet’s history. In that case protests were held on every continent in the world in opposition to the U.S. Government’s planned invasion of Iraq.
So, what of it, one might ask? What difference does public opinion really make when it comes to super-power policy? For example…
Largest anti-war demonstration EVER… and the U.S. still goes to war.
People the world over protesting global climate change, countries meeting over and over again to come up with some kind of world standard on climate emissions that make sense, and the U.S. one of the planet’s two most egregious climate change enablers, (along now with China) largely ignores it and goes on with business as usual.
People being arrested in growing numbers at Obama’s front door – not just “ordinary people” – but a growing number of celebs and local leaders. Yet Obama looks likely to give the Keystone Excel pipeline, now the most threatening development to boost global climate-change emissions past the point of no return, a go ahead anyway. (At press time this is still an open question… MAYBE we ARE having an impact eh?)
Innocent children, gunned down in a Connecticut suburb, a place synonymous with the American dream, a concept that evokes, ironically ultimate security, the entire nation mourns, and yet the Senate and the House of REPRESENTATIVES still fails to enact a solution to gun violence in the United States of America.
Is it any surprise at all then why many lament, “Is this the change I voted for?” and “What good is resistance in the first place?” Why sacrifice when all one gets in the end is… the end of what there is to know as we now know it? At least… or worse … the end of the human species and all the other species we are dragging down with us.
Why resist? In the words of “The Borg”, the imaginary human/machine synthesis as portrayed on Star Trek TNG (and maybe a most apropos icon of 21st century Homo sapiens after all…) “Resistance is futile!”… It is, right? Is it?
Well, maybe, but….
Doesn’t the notion of “progress” leave a lot to be desired when time for the human species is actually running out? Doesn’t it? It begs the question. Does protest work? And if it does not, what SHOULD we do? Is it time to just accept the inevitable? Should we just let world history run it’s course and get as much out of things as we can before the end times are really upon us? That is if they aren’t already.
Well, I think we need to look at some examples of real victories achieved by organized grass-roots people like you and I. There are many, many examples of successful acts of social change throughout history.OK. Now, before I continue, I would like to settle one thing.
Some argue that was then this is now and that the corporate take-over of our government has gone too far for anything like these victories for peace and justice to ever happen again… Well, maybe,,, maybe not.. THAT is what we are here to discuss. But first I want to give a few more examples of more recent success. Smaller and less far-reaching … but that may be how it get’s done in the big picture. THAT is how it has been done for most of time. Small, local victories, building one upon the other making change over time till enough momentum is built, and conditions are ripe, then the “BIG MOVEMENT PUSH” takes place. THAT may be what we need to work on now. Let’s get back to that later. First a couple of more recent examples of successful campaigns.
So first. let’s look at a recent campaign for health care rights in Vermont. This is a direct quote from the abstract of a report on the web site Health and Human Rights, An International Journal.
“In 2008, the Vermont Workers’ Center launched the “Healthcare Is a Human Right Campaign,” a grassroots campaign to secure the creation of a universal health care system in Vermont. Campaign organizers used a human rights framework to mobilize thousands of voters in support of universal health care. In response to this extraordinary grassroots effort, the state legislature passed health care legislation that incorporates human rights principles into Vermont law and provides a framework for universal health care.”
OK… Here’s another:
“As of May 21, 2013, gay marriage has been legalized in 12 US states (CT, DE, IA, MA, MD, ME, MN, NH, NY, RI, VT, and WA) and the District of Columbia. Thirty-six states have gay marriage bans through either laws or constitutional amendments or both.”
Thirty six to go… OK .. a big lift, but just two years ago I think there was something like ZERO states with Gay marriage rights. So ha!
I think by now you get the drift…
But Wait you cry… those are local victories. How do we win against the monolithic state/corporate duopoly when it has soooo much power and the stakes are sooo much higher?
Big Oil and Natural Gas and coal interests will not simply give up without a fight, to nod to Frederick Douglas. Stopping the defense industry is the sacred cow. NO empire will give up its guns till the day it is over and by that time there may be nothing left for us to struggle for….
One of my political heroes was Allard Lowenstein who organized the Student Dump Johnson Movement in the 60’s. He was successful in getting President Johnson, arguably the most powerful person on the planet at that time, to refuse to run for a second term. No small potatoes that one. They said it couldn’t be done. Allard did it. True, there were other influences that helped Johnson to take his exit, The announcement of Bobby Kennedy that he would run, to name just one. But it was the Campaign that helped create the conditions that made a Kennedy run desirable and, I might argue, even possible.
Well…. another thing Allard Lowenstein inspires me for, is his is take on this issue… the issue of “should we could we”… His philosophy was pretty simple. He used to say, “Nothing is for certain. The only thing that is for certain is that you either win or you lose, so work as hard as you can to win.” Hard to argue with that. What other choice do we have? Oh yeah, we can just bide our time and go out in a delirium of hedonistic distraction… not for me thanks… that would make a mockery of our existence on this planet and in this world so whatever your world view, if… IF we are all connected, and I believe we are, and a close examination of science AND religion would attest to this, then we are here for a reason… simply to live. As Schopenhauer said, if nothing else., He wrote, “If life IS an accident then you have to say ‘Yea’ to it.”
If you are still with me then… what is to be done? Unite and fight like hell for the living. After all,,, what would Jesus do? (I just couldn’t resist.)
Let the dead bury the dead. Let’s choose to live. And if we choose to live, then we must fight back. But of course how we fight matters because if we go about winning any kind of power the same way as our oppressor does then our oppressor has already won because we become just like them.
The ends do NOT justify the means anymore than the chicken came before the egg.. The ends and the means are the same thing, just as the variation always appears in the offspring first.
That does not mean we do not struggle. Life IS a struggle, though not without its joy and wonder. The joy and wonder are what we struggle for and if all this be true then we dare not do this alone. Working together, as everyone know, works better. There IS strength in numbers.
This then is my case. And I will reinforce this on these pages whenever challenged. And I invite your challenges, because if I cannot defend my positions then they are in need of revision.
Here is the purpose, or mission of this blog. It is to initiate a POSITIVE discussion of social change with an eye toward survival of our species, and others and our culture, world-wide, and to head off the environmental and potential destructive war-making policies that threaten … almost …. everything.
It is to encourage discussion on how progressive forces, those whose intent it is to see progressive social change, from a non-violent basis, succeed for everyone.
Here I am not interested in power over others, whoever they are. I am interested in empowerment of everyone, which by definition means shared power. A balance of power, or, even better, redistributed power. You know the old saying. Power is like mustard. It’s best when spread around.
I am not interested in revenge or violent solutions, for when we take up the standard of violence our oppressor has already won. You cannot make change by being as corrupt as those who hold us down and expect to be pure when you have gained power. You will still be cleaning the same house.
And always remember that the slogan “Power comes out of the barrel of a gun” is meaningless when they have all the guns.
Let’s amend that to say most of the guns and the ones that count.Besides, violence is an end in itself. We cannot resist violence to bring about a peaceful, fair world by using violence. Not on the streets, or on the battlefields or behind the closed doors of our homes or anywhere else. This is an untenable position whichever way one looks at it.
That does not mean we do not defend ourselves and if we use violent means in the pursuit of our own defense or the defense of others, that is one thing. But defense is the basis for this. I study Aikido whose foundation is to hurt no one. It has been called “The Way of Peace”. In Aikido we “blend” with our attacker, the goal being to stop and re-direct the attack and protect both ourselves and the attacker to bring about a resolution and defuse the violence. Not unlike Gandhi’s Satyagraha, or Truth-force” one cannot obtain the truth by subduing the truth of your oppressor, one obtains truth by being open to your oppressor and one obtains peace and resolution by using the truth to help your oppressor change. A tall order and, in the real world, one that we may not be able to achieve every time, especially if we find ourselves fighting for our very lives, but we should attempt to, whenever possible, as a matter of… “policy”, if we wish to live up, even a little bit, to the ideals we strive for.
Thomas Merton said that there is no way to peace. PEACE IS THE WAY. And PEACE is more than the absence of conflict it IS the presence of justice. It is the ability for families to stay together and for hurt people to mend and for children to be safe and for women, (and men) to walk the streets safely.
But we will not win if we do not unite, for separate, we are weaker than we are together.
In the 60’s we used to say that if each person next to us took part we would sooner or later have everyone taking part. Remember, if soldiers will not fight armies are powerless.
What will this all mean? It will mean true alliances. What is one movements fight is every movements fight. What is one movement’s problem is every movements problem.
We must take up each others causes. we must truly share resources or we are bound to fail. And we must work locally and globally. It is true that if everyone grew their own food we would radically alter the entire structure of society. But if we do not maintain influence in the current system they will simple make growing our own food illegal and seize our right to grow it.
This struggle will proceed on many fronts and for many people simple survival is in question so we must, whenever possible, do what we can to support the struggles of those weakest and most at risk among us or we will be without mutual support when it is our turn. We ARE all in this together and we must begin to act that way if we expect anyone else to support the struggle that we deem our own main focus. And there will be something for everybody to do. We all bring our own unique skills and experience to the table.
Different strategies and tactics will have their place in the larger picture.An example: Voting…
Some contend that voting merely recognizes and legitimizes a corrupt system. I can see that point of view. But voting is one way to influence those already in power and to organize others and build relationships that will be important for other, more pertinent struggles. I vote strategically, even choosing not to vote and telling our constituents to stay home en-mass to make a statement in one city election. The statement was essential in this case as the campaign was about demonstrating the corruption of this very election. That coalition went on to replace the people in power the following election with allies that supported our cause in the first election.
That is not to say that we all put down our current campaigns and start from scratch. If does behoove us to look at ways that we can support others in their struggles and combine, where possible, our campaigns to include others whose struggles are peripherally effected or whose success may embolden our own. The advance of conditions for teachers IS an advance for students IS an advance for parents IS an advance for families etc. add-infinitum.
Besides, fighting the fight is the right thing to do because it is. Another thing Allard used to say. “The question should be, is it worth doing, not can it be done.” So true.
After all… isn’t it about time?