But is it all just a surface phenomena? Is there substance to the movement that Mr. Bush has re-energized? Does it have stamina? Will we stay connected and united?
Can the Movement survive either Mr. Bush’s election or his demise?
We can speculate about the first apocalyptic scenario. We can prepare for the second. To prepare ourselves, we need to address some questions about ourselves. We need to study and to learn.
First, let us recognize that we truly were somnambulant. We sleepwalked for decades. We have sleepwalked since the end of the Vietnam War.
In essence, we were too easily co-opted. We in the West and North were seduced because we were easily seducible. You in the East and South were rendered invisible, most often by your own “leaders” who, too, were co-opted and seduced.
In the West and the North, the Middle Class stopped caring when their sons stopped dying. As the living appeared to get better, our Middle Class vision became more myopic. We really had not learned anything from Vietnam. We simply felt pain and we wanted to stop the pain. But we learned nothing. We became dopey. We became better trained and less thoughtful. We became domesticated animals. The yoke and collar was slowly put around our necks, and we licked the hands that put it on us. They trained us to be good, passive beasts of burden. They put the bit in our mouths. We took it gratefully.
So now let us resolve to learn something, for the good of the United States, for the good of the World, for the good of posterity. Let us live unyoked and unleashed.
Suppose that Mr. Bush is not elected. We will undoubtedly rejoice; but will we then return to our slumber? Does the world’s richest, most powerful, most wasteful, most aggressive and most dangerous country act benevolently when the Democrats are in power, rather than the Republicans? We cannot answer that question intelligently unless we have studied and learned a lot from history. The more we know, the more troubled is our answer. Is it all just a difference of degree, window dressing; a question of style? Does the one cause as much pain as the other, the Democrat who feels your pain while he inflicts it, and the Republican who enjoys inflicting pain? They both think it is good for you; they both know your pain is good for them.
Is it the same question and a similar history and a similar answer if you ask about entities other than the United States, like imperial Rome, expansionist Germany, colonial France, colonial England, the Ottoman empire, Xerxes’ Persia, Czarist Russia, the 15th Century Nahuatl-Aztec empire, imperial Japan, conquistador Spain? Would the question and the history and the answers be the same if it were today’s lesser powers who, in a different world, had had the opportunity to be the aggressors and the imperialists? Would a united, industrialized medieval Africa have lorded it over a less sophisticated pre-industrial Europe that was mired in feudalism? Would a nuclear, computerized Islamic world have pillaged the resources of a primitive western hemisphere locked into fundamentalist, atavist Tenth Century Christianity?
Let us ask ourselves: What precisely are we trying to achieve? Regime change? If it is only regime change, then how do we deal with the fact that this regime came to be in the first place? Will you replace The Regime but not remedy the conditions that allowed it to arise in the first place? Who put the yoke and collar around your neck? Who fastened the leash? Did you willingly let yourself be harnessed? Do we, throughout history, volunteer ourselves to become beasts of burden in return for comfort, stability and security. Is this just the way people are?
Let us ask ourselves: Is it really Mr. Bush who irks you? His smirk irritates, his shallowness offends, but is that all there is to it? Were he poised, intelligent and good looking, would we forgive him his transgressions? Are his policies categorically bad, or are they merely bad because they are simply more monumentally bad than the lesser bad policies of his predecessors?
So we must ask ourselves again: What precisely are we trying to achieve?
As we set ourselves apart, we need to recognize what we do not want to be a part of. Make a list. Talk with your friends. It is important to know what you do not want for yourself or your country as you endeavor to remove Mr. Bush from office. It is equally important to know what you do want for yourself and your future, lest you risk falling into deep sleep again.
For if Mr. Bush is not elected next November, and you have not truly understood how he came to be in the first place, and you do not truly understand what you want, and you party and celebrate the Bush demise and then, hung over, you go back to your deep, deep slumber, this next time, do you think you might never ever wake up again?
So we ask ourselves again. And again. What precisely are we trying to achieve?
It is helpful to answer this question by looking carefully at them you would oppose.
It is okay to ridicule them. Making fun of someone diminishes his authority. Making fun of someone gives you some sense of power over him. When you laugh at someone, you make yourself braver and you psychologically shrink them who oppose you. So ridicule them. But do not ever take them lightly. We must take the measure of our adversary. The emperor may be a fool, but the powers behind the throne are not. They know you well. We had better know them well, too.
The power behind Mr. Bush’s regime is not stupid. It has its dogma. It has a theory that underlies its agenda. It, they, are idealists, in their quirky way. Their ideals, however, are very harsh. They believe in the economic and political theories they advocate. They truly think, they have persuaded themselves, that the world is better off if they are better off.
The power behind Mr. Bush’s regime is starkly realistic. They blow us off and our brand of idealism. They regard us as naive. They think realistically, materialistically. They scoff at our appeals to the potential and the goodness in humankind. They think realistically, practically, materialistically. They lie and deceive because, dogmatically, they believe it is necessary for the Leaders to lie to Us and to deceive Us, for otherwise we would not do what, in their opinion, is in Our Best Interests. You may not lie or deceive, however, for those are prerogatives reserved to the elite.
Let us not be deceived by their association with religious fundamentalism. Religion, for the power brokers, is a tool. It serves them well so long as it serves them well. It is certainly not, however, their goal to live a fundamentally religious life themselves. So long as your religion preaches docility and submission and subordinates the here-and-now to the hereafter, then they encourage you in the practice of your religion. But their ‘religion’ is not docile nor submissive and its sole focus is the here-and-now.
Know also that the power behind the Bush Administration knows us from the inside out. In every society, in every nation, in every tribe and culture, they can find the Quisling class that they can co-opt to do their work for them. It was the same in Vichy France as it is in Occupied Iraq as it was in Indonesia as in Colombia as in the United States.
Avarice and temptation can and does cause people to eat their own children. They will say it is for their own good.
The powers behind Mr. Bush know this and exploit this. They think realistically, practically, materialistically. They are very goal-oriented. They are very purposeful.
Their goals have not gone awry because things seem to be deteriorating. Their objective is precisely that our lives and values should deteriorate.
If we feel that our lives have become less secure, that is what they intend. If we feel that our lives are more precarious, that is what they intend. If we have begun to feel hemmed in and limited, that is what they intend. They truly believe that, in the long run, our lack of security, our increased sense of fear and precariousness will make us less likely to rebel, less likely to resist, more malleable, more dog-like, more trainable. They want us to be edgy because they truly believe that if we live life on the edge we will be more innovative, more competitive, more productive. They believe this is good for us and for them.
They truly believe that they know what is best for themselves and everyone else, and they intend to accomplish it whether we want it or not. It is, after all, in our best interests, they believe. They are somewhat like fascists, somewhat like Bolsheviks – elitist, secretive, distrustful of starry-eyed idealism, intent on seizing and holding power, intent on creating an informed directorate of the elite, ostensibly for the well-being of the many.
Know, too, that the power behind Mr. Bush wields an immense power and it will absolutely not shrink from using that power to retain that power. We must expect and steel ourselves for the inevitable. We must anticipate that those who have power now will exert themselves mightily to retain it. Anticipate the mail glove across the face. Expect continued misrepresentation and distortion of the truth. Prepare for the dirty tricks that they certainly will employ before November. Anticipate the damage that can be wrought with computerized, instantaneous, traceless voting. Expect further immiseration because that leads to social divisions. A divided society serves their purposes, as does an uneasy, fearful society. Divided, fearful, uneasy peoples crave order and stability. That is when we begin to think the yoke and collar are good things.
We must think outside ourselves. We are basically honest, polite and powerless, and so we employ tactics of honesty, politeness and powerlessness. We think peaceful demonstrations and petitions and admonitions will carry the day. They think you are naive. We must think outside ourselves. They are basically not honest, not polite and not peaceful. They sneer at Ghandi and they heed Machiavelli. Unlike us, they have Power and mean to retain it. Their tactics in opposing us will not be, and historically have not been honest, polite or peaceful. They know what they are fighting for. They are fighting for their lives and their wealth and their progenies’ well-being. They are fighting to preserve their lordship over us.
So prepare now for the inevitable. The corporate media will never, ever accurately report our numbers or our message. Osama bin Laden may be rolled out and defrosted from the morgue where he may have lain on ice for many months waiting for the last pages in 1984 when, at the end of Hate Week, the teleprompters whip us all into a frenzied lynch mob. Prepare for it like the possibility of another patriotism-boosting 9-11. Prepare for the pre-election ‘confessions’ of Saddam Hussein to everything we know is not true but which we know the public will accept as ladled. Prepare for the complicity of the United Nations which will happily bail out Mr. Bush with blue-helmeted Gurka-smurfs from poor, third-world countries, just in time for The Mission To Be Accomplished. Let us steel ourselves for an avalanche of Good News and Robust Statistics about the Economy and The Stock Market that will reach a crescendo in October even as our local economy becomes more precarious. Prepare for an avalanche of ‘confessions’ and uncovered documents and manipulated images and ‘evidence’. Be cynical and prepare for it.
But how to prepare?
We prepare ourselves by learning history and economics. Deep history. Ancient and pre-modern and modern history. History reported by non-traditional sources. History from sources abroad. We prepare ourselves by figuring out precisely what we are trying to achieve. Mr. Bush and his handlers know what they are trying to achieve. It is their strength. To be equally strong and prepared we must know, what are we trying to achieve?
Assume, for the moment, that what we want to achieve is fundamental change. Then we must make the effort to identify what it is that we fundamentally want to change, and why. We must distill those fundamental changes to their most basic components. We must seek to identify those fundamental changes that will have the most attraction to others we associate with. We seek a theoretical skeleton that we can flesh out. Our ideas will gain strength if there is sound thinking behind it. We must read, study, test our ideas for fundamental soundness.
There is no ready answer, no messiah, no simple solution. It is tough work.
There are those who advocate that the present system is good enough, that it only needs a “tweak” or two, a pruned bush, a little cleaning up. Chances are that you think more is needed. Chances are there are many of us who think there are fundamental changes needed for the good of humanity and the good of the world.
We do not necessarily need to identify the fixes at this precise moment in time. There are competing ideas and philosophies. They will evolve and others will appear. It is crucial, however, that we understand that fundamental changes need to take hold. For if we believe that only tweaks, a simple regime change, is all we need, then we will, indeed, go back to sleepwalking, perhaps forever.
If we accept the fact that we must fundamentally change what has gotten us into this mess, then we must also accept the diminishment of many national myths, the evaporation of many cultural self-delusions, the tumbling of many fragile social pillars.
We must accept, those of us who believe in fundamental change, that the process of that change will be damn scary, because when you take down a ramshackle structure before you build a new one, there is a period of time when you live without shelter, without a roof over your head. If you build the new structure better than the old one, however, then you will eventually live better. Maybe in generations to come. Maybe only in many, many generations to come.
For now, we need our theoretical foundations. We have to develop them and plan them. Later, we can build on those foundations.
What should we do while we try to develop our theoretical foundation?
We should not demand investigations or blue-ribbon panels to look into any scandal. As Lord Hutton and Tony Blair have proved in Great Britain, he who appoints the Investigator will inevitably be whitewashed by him. No investigations initiated by the Republicans or the Democrats can ever ferret out the truth.
Blue ribbon investigations are not designed to find truth; they are designed to obscure it. Such investigations serve only to pacify. They do not serve to answer questions.
Few are the official investigations that have ever gotten to the bottom of anything, except by accident. We must not even ask for them. It is typically those who seek to cleanse themselves of guilt who most readily accede to the official blue-ribbon investigation. And beware the complicity of those who advocate that an official inquiry is the best way to get to the truth.
We can march and protest. We can write letters.
Letters are good for they demonstrate that we are still conscious. But our letters will be ignored. Marching and protesting feels good. It creates solidarity. It builds unity. It exercises our rights like we exercise at the gym. But it is an internally strengthening exercise only.
We cannot expect that our march or protest will be given more than the shortest shrift in the corporate media that our neighbors all watch. We cannot march and then race home to watch the protest on television. We are guaranteed to be disappointed every time. They will never cover the story correctly. And if there is violence fomented by Them, know that the story will be that WE instigated the violence. We will not ever win the coverage game and we should never expect to win it. Moreover, however good it feels and however strong it makes us as a group, marching and shouting and protesting and letter-writing, unless they entail enough participants to literally shut down the local economy, or threaten to inflict economic pain, rarely advance the cause in and of themselves. It is not, therefore, the act of letter-writing or demonstrating that has an effect; rather, it is the economic implications of our letter-writing and demonstrating if we are not heeded.
We should realize that the greatest tool of the powerless majority is economic. We have no inherent economic power. Rather, our power is the potential, and ultimately the act of withholding services and economic participation. We can choose for whom we work, if we work, and what we do for whom we work. We can choose whether, and when, and where to spend the small change we have. As many, the small change and the small acts add up and agglomerate. Martin Luther King preached economic withdrawal in his last speech before he was murdered. It is a powerful tool of the economically weak Many. We can march and protest and write letters, but we must also be prepared to withhold services and our nickels and dimes from participating in the bigger economy. The economic sting, and the potential for it, together with our remonstrances, can level the playing field for the powerless. The trick is learning how to wield that economic power.
One more lesson we must learn. We of the opposition, we the visionaries and the proponents of something Better, must never give in to depression or despair. The world may be a grim place, but we cannot ever be grim ourselves. Grim and bear it. Grinningly.
We have to have fun and enjoy ourselves as we do battle. It is the Doing itself which is satisfying. It is the Doing itself which gives us back our sense of identity and our humanity. We want others to see us and emulate us. No one wants to emulate someone who is always depressed. We cannot be Puritans nor Zealots, nor Mullahs nor Saints. Take the battle seriously, but fight it in a spirit of joy and pleasure.
There is also great satisfaction in reconnecting once fractured communities. Remember that those you oppose want you to live in fractured neighborhoods. They want you to be isolated t.v. viewers whose intersection with others is the discussion of what you watched others do on the television last night. Be not viewers, be doers.
Doing things, especially doing things together, is exhilarating. Exhilaration makes the work easier. It also makes it more enjoyable, and that which is enjoyable will attract others to it, thus making the work even more enjoyable.
This, at a minimum, is what we are trying to achieve. Now, let us set out to do it.
Zbignew Zingh can be reached at Zbig@ersarts.com. This Article is CopyLeft, and free to distribute, reprint, repost, sing at a recital, spray paint, scribble in a toilet stall, etc. to your heart’s content, with proper author citation. Find out more about Copyleft and read other great articles at www.ersarts.com.
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