Lenin famously asked, “What can be done?” Without following the path of Lenin (!) we must recognize our moments and take our chances as people to speak out, act out, against the tyrannies of entrenched injustice.
We attended a recent “rally” on the square in Bloomington that was organized by Jobs with Justice in order to make citizens and our Congressional Rep. Todd Young of particular things that a “just” government should offer its people.
The rally, about 30 or so folks, was not much of an event though its presence did encourage a passing motorist to shout “Shut up, you liberal douchebags!” Well played, sir! Also, some black clad youth on a bicycle rode through our midst and told an old man to “get the fuck out of the way”. Citizens united in common cause! If only Debs had been there to stir us into…what actions?
Anyway, I can’t speak about rallies generally as I’ve attended none besides this one unless you want to count pep rallies in high school. Arguably my experience of nearly 30 years ago (dear me) was far more instructive in instigating and running a successful community rally. That is to say, this was not one.
Why? Well, it lacked nearly everything that one should encounter in rallies: enthusiasm, determination, focus, and a crowd. And you know what kind of rallies really kick ass, right? Rallies for the resentful. Hate and anger are far more powerful than indignation when it comes to fuel the fire necessary for healthy dose of “common” politics.
So, good intentions, poor planning (maybe) and little positive content leave us with a failure. Again, though, we might call it instructive at least.
What is to be done? You and I are powerless to influence politicians. But you must come to realize that this is to a purpose; our blessed and saintly founders wanted it that way (just read The Federalist Papers for a truer understanding of the motivations of the elite classes). The best we can do is vote them out of office; however that is quite difficult due to systematic gerrymandering and, anyway, what alternative will be offered to the person that was voted out?
One thing that has been done in the past but has been crushed and dessicated over the last century has been to organize trade unions. If you don’t know what these are, if you don’t know what they REALLY are and what they have really achieved please get thee to the library and find some books. I’ve mentioned a few in past posts–a good one is The Fall of the House of Labor by David Montgomery.
Unions, in essence, attempt to speak with the power of a united voice of membership and to stand as a protection against abusive work environments. If you don’t believe that Corporate owners create abusive work environments you need to, again, read some history books: 18 hour shifts; child labor (8-year-olds working 18 hour shifts); dangerous factory floors, and on and on.
Possibly, this is all a democracy attempts to be or encourage; people organizing for community interest and benefit are able to speak together to encourage those interests (and discourage other interests, of course).
We can all be considered a kind of union in this description.
We all have common interests as biological organisms and there are those who would say we have an interest in developing our uniquely human capacities. Of these we might list creativity that we might simply label human arts and perhaps describe these attempts at expressing our unique being as a species and as individual members of this species.
At present I would have to say that we are failing at providing for our common interests both as a species and as individuals. It is my perspective that we are “governed” by the venal interests of capital producers. These interests are wealth accumulation. As a favorite linguist and philosopher says, all other consequences be they beneficial to the species or detrimental are purely coincidental (unintended). That is to say, these “collateral” benefits are inconsequential to the actions of capital.
I don’t think it’s possible to change this without a clear understanding of this as well as a clear understanding of other ways to be and live. But, I also feel this is only possible to grasp via direct experience. You and I must attempt to see this system as a whole, but also find ways to experience its ill-effects directly, and personally. Systemic poverty is not the fault of the impoverished, though this is what we are led to believe. This is the myth of merit. The wealthy deserve wealth; it is merited and the wealth itself, though a fallacy of circular logic, is proof. Poverty is merited in this same way. Neither are true.
Systems like capitalism are self-aggrandizing, but so are other economic systems. I am not offering an alternative economics as this is always doomed to failure and manipulation by power.
The only way that I can imagine we can begin to deal with the truth of capital inequality is to constantly talk about it, show it, confront it, teach it.
We cannot teach human history, the context of our very existence here now and in the past, without actually exploring it in complete a manner as possible. Mostly we will find the mass of humanity controlled and abused by those assured of power by military might. This does not make their systems good or right or moral. It is the mark of true, dare I say it, freedom to be able to stand up and say that justice requires drastic and even radical changes in citizens more than governments. The machinery of manipulation, degradation for the sake of profit has to be dismantled. Will those who benefit choose to do this out of human fell0w-feeling, out of a sense of fairness, out of a sense of justice. Do unto others…this rule no longer applies at the top of our economically privileged classes…does it apply to you?
The truth though is that the Golden Rule is easily twisted like anything else that springs from the mind. We are taught that it is a kind of manifest destiny of individuals to be wealthy. It is the only way the US truly defines SUCCESS. We must climb the ladder, get to the top, fight our way, sleep our way, cheat our way…but really, we are only born into it for the most part (exceptions don’t disprove the fact that our class hierarchy is nearly fixed from generation to generation). With this in mind we can warp the Golden Rule to be, “If I want to be rich, I must do unto others as they have done unto me.” Could this be the Golden Corollary? In this way, the ladder to success consists of the backs of your fellow men and women and now, with the aggressive takeover of the schools by the avaricious proponents of “open to plundering” markets, our children.
And we’ve come to expect or at least accept this kind of sinister dishonesty as if we know no better, never knew any better. Orwell detailed the way this works in his essay “Politics and the English Language,” “political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.” He applies this stratagem most memorably to the way governments and PR departments manage their informational “outputs”: “People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements.” Chomsky, as always the most reliable of commenters on this in the modern age, has consistently defined the terms of “state” language. For example, a region becomes unstable only if it is recalcitrant to US economic interests. A country determined to set its own course, primarily regarding its natural resources, destabilizes US interests. So what is stable and a sovereign right of self-rule is deemed “dangerous” for US business interests and therefore must be opposed, brutally if necessary, either by military aggression or by starving a population’s children through economic sanctions. Thus is democracy imported to the savages.
If there is hope to mitigate and alter the course of this leviathan there will need to be a grass-roots insurgency into institutions. The Politicians of Business Interests got it right when they began seeding their ideology into think tanks and then universities and then city councils and school boards. They did it right; they planted it, watered it, gave it ammonium nitrate and chanted and danced and prayed to it to grow. And it has. The only way to combat this is to do the same.
Schools first: if you believe like me that there are more humane, caring, empathetic ways to treat each other then we will need to find ourselves on school boards and in the classrooms and in administrations. We need to be able to push back “up” the ladder with defiance at the bottom–institutional defiance along with popular defiance. A superintendent must be willing to to suffer sanctions and even go to jail for the principles of people over profit, community over corporation. Locally, we must not fear the threats of the state–we have to stand strong against the same tactics and tools of coercion that the nation uses in its war on the stability of other countries–economic sanctions.
It can and should be a fight. What are we waiting for? This is what can be done.