Simple Steps Towards Change

Whenever I write an article or give a talk about the state of global affairs, the first question asked is this: “So, what can/should we do?” My inevitably stammering reply involves a combination of three factors:

* What we’ve been doing all along is obviously not working

* We need new ideas, new tactics, and a far greater commitment from everyone

* I can’t say more because it could be (purposely) misconstrued and that just don’t fly in the land of the free (sic).

Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly frisky, I might quote Walt Whitman: “This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men—go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers or families—re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem.”

In an attempt to finally segue from the nebulous to the somewhat tangible, I offer these eight simple Whitmanesque ways everyday Americans can begin to challenge the dominant culture without getting themselves fitted for an orange jumpsuit.

Embrace not the corporate sanctioned standard American diet; go vegan, organic, and local. Be warned: what you own ends up owning you; say no to conspicuous consumption. Opt for two wheels, not four; bid a fond farewell to your internal combustion engine. Under no circumstances should you cast a vote for either a Democrat or a Republican; these are but two wings on one corporate party. Never, ever, ever trust a liberal (on anything). Reject both war and its warriors; offer not your support to those who volunteer to wage war. Reach out for your television remote and boldly press “off” (toss the cell phone, too). 6.6 billion miracles are more than enough; cease breeding immediately.

(If even 25% of America made these basic, entirely doable cultural adjustments, it would essentially qualify as a revolution… by today’s diluted standards.)

Feel free to commence the predictable malice, ridicule, indignation, and mockery; but remember: if you’re waiting for Barack Obama to provide the “change we can believe in,” the joke’s on you.

Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook. Read other articles by Mickey.

27 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. Rich Griffin said on April 28th, 2008 at 5:16am #

    I’m a vegan with no car who votes for progressive third party candidates with no car and no cell phone who is a pacifist who lives simply. But I ain’t never gonna give up my t.v.!! (;

    I’ve been thinking alot about old-fashioned pamphleteering lately. Since the mainstream media is a complete failure at informing people, and people will not seek out alternative media, taking it to streets on every progressive issue with pamphlets as a teaching tool seems like a worthy way of doing something! Now if only i had the financial means to do it! (:

  2. Lloyd Rowsey said on April 28th, 2008 at 6:30am #

    Say you need a relatively independent sponsor who could contribute to your “taking it to (the) streets,” Rich. How the hell would you two set up a partnership, ie, contact one another and learn each other’s personal identities and locations, so consulations (somewhere, face to face) could occur about which “progressive issue” YOU are going to hit the streets about, and which HE/SHE is going to contribute to your hitting the streets for? There’d have to be mutual protections against scam — eyeball verification, as it were.

    You require monetary support, and in return you do “a lot of old-fashioned pamphleteeing.” Right, Rich? In these very untrust-deserving times.

    For an excercise, why not try to find out where in Santa Rosa Dissident Vocie is located, and post it here, Rich.

    -Not Rich, But Getting By

  3. evie said on April 28th, 2008 at 7:26am #

    When and if America’s “left” ends the war on Iraq/Afghanistan and initiates “humanitarian programs”, the American public will do all of Mr. Z’s steps above. However, the change for Joe Blow will be too many days late and several dollars short, and not by choice but by economic forces.

    As usual, it’s always easier to proclaim the solution is, drum roll, ta-da – one’s own lifestyle. Few people put their money where their mouth is, or their cell phone, or ribeye, or car, or TV.

    As for rejecting those warriors – Americans will be begging them for protection from their next door neighbors when reality hits the fan. The biggest loudmouths today will be the first to beg Big Daddy guv for protection.

    For anyone who thinks Nader/Paul/Mckinney, Gravel, etc. etc. is “change you can believe in” forget it. The mouthpiece and party identifier will make no difference. BTW, progressives are not really progressive – they just funnel the money to the other cheek on the corporate ass.

  4. joed said on April 28th, 2008 at 8:36am #

    RE; * I can’t say more because it could be (purposely) misconstrued and that just don’t fly in the land of the free (sic).

    mr. Z, one of the major atributes of a true dissident is that he or she says what he or she wants to say, says it loud and clear, and suffers the consequences. if you let the pigs turn you into a criminal then
    you deserve to live in fear. and that goes for the rest of the psudo-dissidents.

  5. Random said on April 28th, 2008 at 9:52am #

    JoEd: What exactly qualifies you as a true dissident? Spare no detail.
    Evie: A pro-military anti-corporate … what? If you oppose a war, should you volunteer to fight it? If you oppose the war on terroris, should the government refuse to protect you against a terrorist attack? As long as you’re on the right side, they’ve got your back, right?
    Lloyd: Dissident Voice does not exist and neither does Santa Rosa.
    Rich: If I see you on the street, I’ll buy a pamphlet for a buck. Right on!
    Mickey: We do it for ourselves. I admire those of you who can live the life with grace and still manage not to wear the badge of self righteousness. It’s the micro versus macro debate. Either way, it’s a long haul so we best enjoy the ride.

  6. Rich Griffin said on April 28th, 2008 at 12:55pm #

    I still think my idea is a good one. It just needs to be worked on with a large number of progressive organizations participating. Pamphlets would be on many different issues, with short, concise brochures or be like “Why Vegan?” – nicely designed. People have much shorter attention spans nowadays, which is fine, it’s how things are. We have to reach them where they can be reached, and bypass mainstream media.

  7. Arch Stanton said on April 28th, 2008 at 2:08pm #

    “I’m often asked to give talks on what we should do and I always refuse because there’s a one sentence answer to that and it’s not complicated or fancy. The only way things will ever change–and this is true of any country; it’s true in a totalitarian state; it’s true in a very free country like ours–is clearing your head, helping other people clear their head, doing it in common because it’s a lot better to do it in groups than singly, educating, organizing, creating new structures and acting. That’s the way social change takes place; that’s the way revolutions take place. And it happens to a degree because some people really commit themselves to it. If more people committed themselves to it, it would happen to a greater degree.”

    –Noam Chomsky

  8. Max Shields said on April 28th, 2008 at 2:51pm #

    I would say it a bit differently than Chomsky, though I appreciate his suggestion.

    Change happens when the narrative, the stories we tell ourselves and others, change. The dominant narrative holds the two party system and all that corparatism is about, uneconomic growth and shallow “democracy” (if you can even call it that) in place.

    Change the narrative and you change the world.

    Changing that narrative can and does happen. It happens here, locally. Short of some major cataclysm, it is only be spreading the viril alternative narrative. It makes the status quo passe, if not entirely unspeakable.

    Solidarity around a narrative is the revolution.

  9. Rich Griffin said on April 28th, 2008 at 3:11pm #

    But what narrative? That’s the problem, isn’t it? I find progressive big on talk and short on action. Unwilling to try things out and see if they work or not. We who are freethinkers tend to disagree alot. They tend to think in lock-step. that’s why they win… concrete ideas would be helpful!

  10. Lloyd Rowsey said on April 28th, 2008 at 3:29pm #

    Random. You wanna bet about Santa Rosa?

    Rich, how about the concrete idea: The Cuban people and Fidel Castro are not Evil Incarnate?

  11. Max Shields said on April 28th, 2008 at 3:48pm #

    Rich Griffin,

    There is something amuzing about your embrace of all things progressive in one instant and then bashing progressives the next.

    What gives?

    As far as what the narrative should be it, that’s fairly simple. Start it by replaying how we wondered off the path of community and the reality that the earth is not ours to plunder, while it provides everything we need.

    To transform our systems of dominance and control to one of adapability and solidarity with our community and the globe.

    You can develop that narrative. It has many manifestations. Mostly it has to do with a reconnection of relationships between our children and our community, between those we marginalize as old, or disabled or homeless or of color. To acknowledge the importance of all, and to not waste one living soul. We cannot afford to waste. An economic system that creates a reciprocal relationship between all of us. We give and take in kind. We build our communities from an understanding of our strengths, our assets rather than from needs which keep us addicted to the system that disempowers us.

    You get the gist. The narrative is not one persons to create. Right now some of the painful cynicism on this site illustrates the deep damage of the current dominant narrative. The one that says, “there will always be war”, “there will always be poverty and hunger” (with a hint of the word, but never uttered, fool).

    Rich, you can take it from there…

  12. joed said on April 28th, 2008 at 3:51pm #

    Random;
    what gave you the idea i am a dissident. i would give you all the details if i knew what you want. one detail that may interest you is; often i write “do not kill the president” in the subject line of email i send. i do this because i don’t want to see bush or cheney killed because i would rather see them in prison for a very very long time with big bubba for a cell mate.

  13. Rich Griffin said on April 28th, 2008 at 3:55pm #

    But you’ve illustrated the dilemma – first, I don’t get the Fidel Castro thing? Is that the pamphlet you would want to be involved in? This is my point: we are incredibly fragmented on the progressive end of the spectrum. Bashing progressives by pointing out something that is true? We can never get our act together?? We treat each other like shit and people don’t want to get involved when others are repeatedly disrespectful. All my attempts at volunteering have been rebuffed & it’s been made clear what groups really want is MONEY for themselves.

    I liked the last post; how to put that in clear language that joe q. public can digest – remember, we’ve all been brainwashed, some of us have escaped most of it, but it takes alot to dislodge disinformation from brainwashed people.

  14. Lloyd Rowsey said on April 28th, 2008 at 4:08pm #

    I don’t know how old you are, Rich. I remember “Let two… three… many revolutions bloom.” I’m NOT living then, either, my friend, I’m living right now.

    If the left in this country is afraid of the “Cuba-Castro” issue, I say…. fuck them. They don’t have a ghost, and that’s the proof of it.

  15. evie said on April 28th, 2008 at 4:16pm #

    Random – what? Unfortunately, until a few billion of us can strum guitar around the campfire we will need a military. I’m not anti-corporate, but anti big corporate control of government. I’m incorporated as a small business owner.

    People stupid enough to passively watch their government (90% support by some polls) wage war in 2002 under the guise of catching a dead man who could direct hijackings from a cave in Afghanistan – probably deserve the government they get.

    Chomsky is puffed up with decades of his own tired bullshit about revolution while his portfolio burgeons and his assets are trust fund protected, like a good capitalist should.

    “Progressives” lose b/c once they reach a certain income level – they preach one thing and practice another. As the po’ folk say here in the Heartland – “talk never could do nothin’.”

  16. Annie said on April 28th, 2008 at 4:29pm #

    The revolution will be televised.

  17. Lloyd Rowsey said on April 28th, 2008 at 5:13pm #

    “Probably” evie? And the Chommer’s an academic, you know, in principle opposed to activism or his “influence” may be reduced. (Like a law professor I talked to in 2003, who told me getting radical law students to form an internet organization explaining how the Iraq War was against the law would have reduced radical lawyers’ “already miniscule” influence in Washington. ) Yeah. I guess like the Berrigans ‘ and Ellsberg’s activisms reduced their influence.

    But of course. Right. Times have changed.

    It’s the enormous self-centerdedness in a temporal sense, not in the ego-mania sense, with all the discussion focused on post-9/11, that appalls me.

    Actually, I enjoy ego-maniacs. They’re so good for a laugh-at.

  18. Lloyd Rowsey said on April 28th, 2008 at 7:06pm #

    Ooops. Before B and before E, put H. Zinn.

  19. Lloyd Rowsey said on April 28th, 2008 at 7:10pm #

    And the po’ folk say true.

  20. hp said on April 28th, 2008 at 8:03pm #

    evie, that’s not the only thing Chomsky is protecting..

  21. Lloyd Rowsey said on April 28th, 2008 at 8:50pm #

    Ima processing you Chomsky-is-an-Israelite-in-Sheep’s-Clothing arguments, hp, slowly but surely.

    Meanwhile, if you’d like me to email you copies of two long correspondences I had with Professor Chomsky, the first in 1972 regarding the non-influence of the left in this country on the course of the Vietnam War, the second three years later, I will. The correspondence was by letters of course, and the Professor was most patient, and responsive to my voice from the void.

    You could email me your email, at moc.liamgnull@yesworlg.

  22. hp said on April 28th, 2008 at 9:28pm #

    Thanks, but no thanks, Lloyd.
    I’m more interested in what Chomsky doesn’t say then in what he does say.

  23. Rich Griffin said on April 29th, 2008 at 4:47am #

    I’ll just watch television. Forget it! I’m sick of elitist “progressives” who would rather show their intellect and don’t care one bit about other human beings. And yes, I mean YOU!! Every comment is always negative, defeatist, we can’t do anything, we are so superior and intelligent – b.s.u.r.!

    Pampleteering is a GREAT idea! There are other great ideas, but they involve getting up off your butts and doing – people giving up their cars, their cell phones, animal products, etc. are all worthwhile and should be applauded! I give up!

  24. joed said on April 29th, 2008 at 4:19pm #

    what happened to Mr. Random? he asks fer details then goes away without sayin’ anything? mr random, if ya got something to say then better say it. blah blah blah

  25. Random said on April 30th, 2008 at 3:12pm #

    joed: I get it. You are not a dissident. No details necessary.
    lloyd: I’ve been to Santa Rosa. It does not exist.
    mick: Nice piece.

  26. bozhidar balkas said on August 4th, 2008 at 2:24pm #

    as i have been saying for 2 decades, it’s 1 goose w. 2 wings. when it comes to cosmetic changes 1 wing may flip anothe flop but when it comes to controling domestic and foreig pops, the 2 wings beat in unison.
    but even Mickey Z and walt whittman omit to say what is most important:
    as long one doesn’t own work; i.e., works for s’mone else, that one is a ser; that one is not interdependent or free. thank u

  27. bozhidar balkas said on August 4th, 2008 at 2:47pm #

    some mispelling in the above post: anothe=another, foreig=foreign, ser =serf.
    i think my insert key didn’t work that time.
    in early ’03 we have been passing leaflets to passerbys and antiwar banners.
    it is probably the most important thing one can do. of course, getting to children before ruling class does wld even be much better but they had been stolen from us for obvious reasons.
    basic schooling is mandatory; higher education is available only to children of the rich.
    oh, what a democracy?!
    thank u