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Thursday, June 15, 2006

We Need a Revolution on the Way to the Revolution 

As a nonviolent revolutionary, I am forever heartened by visions of profound social change. Fortunately, I see many such visions in the world today -- examples (hopefully) need no citation here.

Sadly, however, there remains a mindset among some activists that says: "Once we achieve our great objective, we can address the other, lesser, concerns." This paradigm is emblematic in the USA, to some degree -- ours is a nation founded by white male slaveowners who claimed equal rights for all under the law. But even in the struggle for abolition, for instance, there was rampant male supremacy at work. And racism reared its head in the women's suffrage movement.

Hours and Ours

Today, many of those waging war on tyranny, discrimination, and injustice continue to operate in the way of "our revolution first, all others second." Ralph Nader once busted a union at his publication Multinational Monitor, and said of the dispute:
I don't think there is a role for unions in small nonprofit 'cause' organizations any more than ... within a monastery or within a union [itself]. People shouldn't be in public-interest groups unless they believe in it and are ready to work for it. [Early in my career] I worked weekend after weekend after weekend... Now people come here and say they want to fight polluters and unresponsive agencies, but not after 5 o'clock and not on weekends.
First of all, I daresay most of the people involved in such an organization probably do devote their evenings and weekends to progressive causes -- but they may want to diversify where their time goes. (I teach during the day and work for ETAN at night and on the weekends, for example.)

But the real point is this: Our goal, if I may be so bold and succinct, is a world where no one has to work more than a fair and just 40-hour workweek. Right? So why can't we make that happen now? We can! We should.

Surely there's no organization doing more important work in the USA than Acorn; and yet I've heard it said that they require a standard 60-hour week from their employees, with many weekends tacked on as well.

The last thing I want to see is a fleet of burned-out, overworked, overwhelmed ex-revolutionaries who feel that the life of social change is just too exhausting. Besides, what sort of conception of a progressive life does this present to the next generation? Sacrifice everything or be a sellout. Some choice!

The thing is this: Of course we have to sacrifice some things. You can't drive a Hummer and drink mimosas every day if you want to call yourself a revolutionary. But we can -- we should -- be entitled to a decent life! We deserve time to relax and have fun! Article 24 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
Our world is wealthy enough -- those of us fighting for truth, justice, and democracy are resourceful enough -- to wage a conscious struggle in a conscious way.

Of course there is an algebra which must be calculated such that the maximum effort must be put forth to defeat the forces of darkness and suffering. But ultimately the level of sacrifice and dedication are personal decisions that must be made by each individual -- any excessive attempt to enforce such at an organizational or institutional level threatens to make us into the very darkness we despise.

Not Just Economic

This problem takes other forms, too -- in the labor movements of US history, many women have complained that their struggle for equality has taken a back seat to what they're told is the "more important" fight for fair contracts. The burgeoning (and vital) media reform movement is perilously leaving out the perspectives and contributions of activists of color. And of course lesbians and gays still can't find the kind of widespread inclusion they deserve.

At New College I was lucky enough to work with Paul Buchannan, who taught a class on Modern Revolutions (and had fought in the trenches of Argentina). He said -- I'll never forget this -- that the true purpose of a revolution was not merely a seizure of power, but rather the elevation of every person's level of consciousness. If the only result is a shift of power, then the same traps of repression and corruption continue -- the only difference is which small elite stands to benefit. But if everyone comes out with a higher level of consciousness, then the structures of power themselves can be altered.

This is what we must strive for. The point, therefore, is that we are all -- every one of us -- students in the class of consciousness. We must all be aware of our privileges and oppressions, and take conscious action to overcome them and/or keep them in check. More to the point, it means that while a more diffuse revolution may take longer and be infinitely more complex, it will also be more lasting, residual, and effective in the long run.

[For those who don't know, the pic up top is of The Coup, whose new album Pick a Bigger Weapon, is very good. Not their best work ever (coughcough Genocide & Juice ahem), but it contains some solid tracks.]


Is there any way to draw comparisons between global politics and the World Cup? Yes!
Millions of people around the planet love talking about the World Cup. In Paraguay fans will pick over that own goal; in Japan they will analyse last night's contest with Australia. Everywhere people are dissecting the games, revealing an intimate knowledge of their own teams and many others. Tongue-tied teenagers suddenly become eloquent and dazzlingly analytical. I wish we had more of that sort of conversation in the world at large: citizens consumed by the topic of how their country could do better on the Human Development Index, or exercised about how to reduce carbon emissions or HIV infections.
You go, Mr. Annan.

Check out these incredible balloon sculptures! (Warning: Lots of pictures, takes a while to load.)

How about this nifty optical illusion?

Greg Palast wrote a good piece about Ken Lay's conviction.
Lay and Skilling have to pay up their ill-gotten gains to Enron's stockholders, but what about the $9-plus billion owe electricity consumers? The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Bush's electricity cops, have slapped Enron and its gang of power pirates on the wrist. Could that have something to do with the fact that Ken Lay, in secret chats with Dick Cheney, selected the Commission's chairmen?
You know what'll bring peace to Israel? Shelling a beach in Gaza, killing seven civilians, including three children! You know what'll help the USA's standing among muslims in the Middle East? Refusing to condemn the attack, stating that "Israel has the right to act in self-defense"! Take that, anyone who believes that a nation waging a self-proclaimed "War on Terror" has some sort of moral obligation to condemn state-sponsored terror as well!

Okay, enough of this. I'm on vacation. And for those of you complaining about losing your precious SynCast*, go listen to my dramatic reading of two selections from The Liberator. More are on the way!

* I do appreciate the fancomments. I apologize for any pain and suffering you are experiencing as a result of my slackiness.


Check out Animator v. Animation. Xiao Xiao meets Harold & The Purple Crayon. Plus a little Fred's Escape, imho.

Today I'm listening to: Black Elephant! (Any disc which starts off with a sample from Malcolm X is making it into my collection. Conscious hip-hop from Milwaukee -- solid.)