Glassing The Country

Cormac McCarthy, the Pulitzer Prize winning writer (recent guest on Oprah, and author of the book on which the latest major Coen Brothers release is based), is fond of having characters glass areas:

“When it was light enough to use the binoculars he glassed the valley below.”

That line from his The Road, “the most important environmental book ever written,”1 leads the reader into a realm which is “paling away into the murk.”

In a recent Counterpunch piece by Paul Craig Roberts, “Good-bye to All That,” it is noted that both Pat Buchanan and Naomi Wolf, “two writers of different political persuasions,” determine — from opposite angles of vision — that our country’s “demise” has arrived.

But neither Buchanan’s Day of Reckoning nor Wolf’s End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot touch upon our “demise” from the perspective of the citizenry. All pretty much laid at the feet of the powers-that-be, treating the most powerful player of all, The People, as a peripheral factor in our decline…by sin of omission.

I have personally been involved in trying to recruit citizens in the name of solidarity for quite some time,2 and whatever the official records may show (or not) respecting fissiparous unions, the proliferation (and simultaneous inefficacy) of anti-administration groups, decreasing numbers on the streets, etc., I can tell you definitively that our “demise” is, in great part, a function of something having turned the corner within our common ranks.

Of course, there has been plenty of commentary to date with regard to apathy, the burden of mundane tasks, concern overload, etc. I could certainly go through the alphabet delineating various categories…which all culminate in citizen impassiveness and non-involvement.

However, my focus here is the malaise, nay…virulent infection which now plagues our activist groups. Which is, arguably, the main reason for our ongoing “downfall” — no end in sight — at this juncture.

Below is a list of 10 “symptoms” which I’ve noted among activists, our supposed mobilizers, as an ongoing problem. Actions and inactions which have been putting the final nails in our collective coffin:

1. As a rule, no one returns calls.
2. Generic emails are employed to respond to specific inquiries, generally.
3. When there are exceptions to the rule above, there is virtually no follow-up.
4. The feeling of too much correspondence is focused on fundraising.
5. There’s almost a total absence of “bonding” in recruiting, numbers sufficing.
6. A deadly combo of lack of communication skills/incivility (in the form of impatience)/lack of knowledge is pervasive.
7. Obliviousness to, or little sense of, the urgency attached to many issues.
8. Busyness predominates, and there is little imagination for or interest in truly new paradigms for protest/change. Redundancy rules.
9. Being out of touch, generally, with the ‘cross the board apathy, etc. among citizens.
10. “Territorial trauma” runs rampant among left-of-center groups, unhealthy worry setting in whenever one segment “threatens” to steal the spotlight, cut into a given financial base, or some such priority takes precedence over solidarity.

In one review of The Road a critic notes the following:

“It seems to me that we are already pushing other people ahead of us down The Road. As the biosphere shrinks, McCarthy describes the collapse of the protagonist’s core beliefs. I sense that this might be happening already: that a hardening of interests, a shutting down of concern, is taking place among the people of the rich world. If this is true, we do not need to wait for the forests to burn or food supplies to shrivel before we decide that civilization is in trouble.”3

For one and all, I recommend a new pair of binoculars.

  1. For two reasons, I’d like the reader to contact me to get the source of this quotation. I’ll explain upon contact. This approach certainly opens the door for solidarity beyond the written word, yes? []
  2. At least for forty years, intensely within the last ten years, and 24×8 during the last four. Across the country, worldwide. My focus has always been hands-on action. []
  3. See footnote #1 above. Forgive the inconvenience, please. []

Marcelle Cendrars, freelancing daughter of Blaise Cendrars, can be reached at: bcendra@yahoo.com. She is the "Provost" of San Jose, California's Free Underground College to Kindergarten Educational Retreat, a home school network of dissenting citizens who encourage parents to have their children drop out of mainstream institutions, and make use of alternative educational options. Read other articles by Marcelle, or visit Marcelle's website.

5 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Deadbeat said on November 29th, 2007 at 7:33am #

    7. Obliviousness to, or little sense of, the urgency attached to many issues.

    I think that is the problem with many “left of center” group is that they’ve they’ve have atomized and decouple “issues” from the main issues of challenging capitalism and racism.

    When you boil down the issues into these two issues then you’ve got a lot less explaining to do. Liberals continue to subdivide these issues and the so-called left ignore or divert people from these issues.

    For example the “left” doesn’t even mention capitalism they say “globalization”. What’s wrong with “globalization? In fact we need more globalization in order to achieve international solidarity.

    Another problem with the “left” has been the neo-Zionists having split the left on this contentious issue. They have done an excellent job of distorting any discussion on racism in the U.S.

    Identity politics has causes splits the debate is which group is more victimized.

    Environmentalists seem unconcern about the poor and downtrodden when they proclaim that the earth is “overpopulated” and speak of a false scarcity.

    What is needed is an ideology that can encompass and speak to resolving all of these issues. What is needed is a resurgence of socialism as an idea that is integral of working class consciousness.

    This has been driven out by Liberals and replaced with the very limiting ideas of Liberalism which has been easily attacked and disrupted with racism and reactionaryism. Which has bled into “left of center” consciousness.

    The real challenge is recouping the socialist traditions and ideology into the working class. Therefore looking outside the U.S. for inspiration may be the most important first step. Let’s hope the Venezuelan people can lead the way on 12/2/2007.

  2. satyagrahi said on December 2nd, 2007 at 10:22am #

    Anyone working with sustainability and social change organizations is stretched out in both time and money. Try and get 3 folks together for lunch. From a fundraising perspective and a results perspective, everyone is focused on delivering some narrow scope and it does not matter if it is a dead end, they will spend double-time and leave no time to make connections and both offer help and ask for it.

  3. Marcelle Cendrars said on December 2nd, 2007 at 5:43pm #

    The satyagrahi comment is particularly important to digest. There is a way around that all-pervasive syndrome, however, and I trust that readers will stay tuned in these quarters to receive my contribution with regard to…a major suggestion for overcoming that huge obstacle to solidarity. In the form of an upcoming article. Thanks — Marcelle P.S. We cannot create solidarity using the “old language” of dissent. Everyone should deeply question their words, their angles of attack; that too should be addressed in the article.

  4. SJ Raging Granny Shirley said on December 27th, 2007 at 9:07am #

    Marcelle

    Your assessment is correct as far a #1 of 10 symptoms re: malaise among activists.

    Yesterday, you sent me a request to read your znet articles w/o giving me links to them. When I asked for them, you never replied.

    To reiterate your quote: “As a rule, no one returns calls.”

    Passion for peace & social justice most be part of one’s individual psyche and passion. So even if others don’t respond, one still continues to work for these goals, preferable w/ like-minded colleagues.

    I’m proud of what Raging Granny gaggles have been able to accomplish w/o funds, or power, or entrenched traditional allies, to work for peace & social justice. We have been able to gain many allies among leaders in the community using tactics tactics of street theater and song. We’re already the “dream” party” you seem to want to create. You’re welcome to join us in our actions!

    God’s eternal peace and blessings,
    Granny Shirley
    http://www.sanjoseraginggrannies.org

  5. Marcelle Cendrars said on December 27th, 2007 at 11:24am #

    I appreciate all comments lodged here, however I do not think it is at all accurate or fair to state/suggest that on our end…we do not return calls, respond ASAP. If you did not receive the “exact” information requested that is always possible with any group or individual, regardless of how vigilant one is…. There’s a world of difference between what is happening generally among leftists re “dropping the ball”, however, and what you cite here. AND, more importantly, there’s a world of difference between the agenda and possible accomplishments that can be looked forward to with the Grannies platform/vision and what this article only touched upon briefly. Again, anyone interested in finding out what is really desired on our end, what is planned…can contact me to set up personal contact…so as to not give our ideas short shrift…as has apparently happened here. What the Grannies are doing –however admirable– is fairly traditional..and as with all traditional attempts at protest/change does not have a “sufficient” potential to make serious dent in our present momentum…does not represent a serious challenge to the powers that be. That, btw, is clearly stated in all the lastest information published by Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky; they both call for something NEW. What we have put together –if given a hearing, a chance to be specific– DOES attempt something singular, something unprecedented. Blessings in solidarity, Marcelle