“If you tremble with indignation at every injustice then you are a comrade of mine.”
Are you or are you not part of the 99%?
As long as trees are clear-cut, animals are tortured in labs, child labor is commonplace, women are abused and mutilated, and the Third World is viewed as nothing more than a repository for cheap labor and resources, the concept of justice does not exist. If we here in America are part of the “better off” 99%, we must speak out until other voices can finally be heard loud and clear.
I use the phrase “better off 99%” because you’ve probably all seen the graphic that juxtaposes the image of a starving African child with the image of a white male OWS protestor. Yeah, it’s yet another counterproductive attempt from the Left to disparage Occupy Wall Street.
It’s difficult to comprehend the purpose of such an effort (beyond ego perhaps). Of course, in a country under siege, activism isn’t a choice. It’s a survival tactic. Meanwhile, here in America, most of us have long had enough creature comforts to keep us from revolting (until now).
Since none of this means a whole lot in relation to the significance of the current Occupy movement, let’s not expend our limited resources and energy in the direction of separation when the larger issue, as I see it, is how we each choose to evaluate our freedom. Is freedom just a matter of bigger cages and longer chains? Is it nothing more than a state that exists relative to the least fortunate/most oppressed?
Having more freedom than, say, a woman living under Taliban repression or a calf locked into a veal crate is not the same as being free. But it is the same as settling for less subjugation instead of demanding more liberty. The “it could always be worse” excuse is no way to judge the quality or quantity of anything…but it has often been enough to keep us from rising up.
Barsamian: “The rewards for playing ball with the system in this society and this culture are very clear. The financial rewards are obvious. What about the other side of the coin? What about the punishments?”
Chomsky: “Societies differ. It can happen [in the US], but it’s not on the scale of a state that really terrorizes its own citizens. If you come from the more privileged classes, if you’re a white middle-class person, then the chances that you are going to be subjected to literal state terror are very slight. It could happen, but it’s slight. What will happen is that you’ll be marginalized, excluded. Instead of becoming part of the privileged elite, you’ll be driving a taxi cab. It’s not torture, but very few people are going to select that option, if they have a choice. And the ones who do select it will never be heard from again. Therefore, they are not part of the indoctrination system. They don’t make it. It could be worse, but it’s enough to discipline people.”
Fortunately, it seems Chomsky was too pessimistic in his “never be heard from again” assessment. Take a look around you and see what happens when the ranks of the “marginalized” reach a majority. The key now, as I see it, is to sustain this momentum and to increase our ranks by reaching out to those who still remain on the sidelines.
Those of us who have already embraced our 99% status must remind others of Alice Walker’s words: “Activism is my rent for living on this planet.”
Become a voice for the (currently) voiceless: On a planet dominated by a profit-driven culture, almost everything perceived as “lesser”—e.g. trees, animals, children, etc.—is typically assigned lower importance than the next fiscal quarter. The same could be said for many (if not most) adults (especially women) dwelling in what we call the Third World. This is where better-situated activists must step in and temporarily fill the void.
Start with crucial personal choices: For example, most Americans consume animal products but a plant-based diet is best for the environment. Most Americans also rely on cars but the eco-system is begging for more bicycles. #OccupyPersonalChangeNow.
Then move towards a darker shade of green: Remember, even if every person in the US did everything An Inconvenient Truth suggested, carbon emissions would fall by only 22% vs. the 75% scientific consensus believes that emissions must be reduced. We need much more than CFL bulbs, recycled paper, and shorter showers. We need a dark green revolution.
Re-examine how we make our money: Our society demands and commands its citizens to earn, earn, earn and spend, spend, spend. But what if we all decided to not allow our gifts and skills to work in support of this soulless machine? In an obscenely privileged and heavily conditioned nation like the US, this is frequently the toughest step of all (read the Chomsky quote again).
Use traditional methods when needed: Protests, marches, petitions, strikes, candlelight vigils, and so on can all play a role in raising awareness, creating solidarity, and connecting kindred spirits. But all evidence shows that such efforts are only a means to a much, much larger end.
Engage in direct action when needed: There are billboards to be liberated, seed bombs to be detonated, whale killers to be stopped, monkey wrenches to be utilized, and other forms of direct action waiting to be created. Like what, you ask? You already know. No one has to tell you how to react when faced with an emergency situation so all that’s left is for us to recognize that the state of global affairs is a state of emergency.
Paying your rent is a full-time job: Doing the activist thing means doing the right thing—as often as possible. We need the kind of commitment displayed by Bob Marley back in 1973. Just two days after a politically motivated assassination attempt on his life, the legendary musician was up on stage at a giant outdoor concert. When asked how he could do so soon after nearly being killed, Marley answered: “The bad people trying to make the world worse never take a day off, so why should I?”
So, are you or are you not part of the 99%?
To assist with this appraisal, I suggest you ask yourself if you’re content with your relatively high quality of life being possible thanks to the poor quality of life of others elsewhere.
Ask yourself if you’re content with your relative freedom being possible thanks to the oppression of others elsewhere.
Ask yourself: If our way of life is so sacred, so ideal, so worthy of being defended by any means necessary, why do we need so many homeless shelters, alcohol and drug rehab centers, rape crisis hotlines, battered women’s shelters, and suicide hotlines?
If America is the world’s shining light, why are its citizens left with no choice but to organize in a desperate attempt to protect human, environmental, civil, and animal rights?
Why can’t we drink the water or breathe the air without the risk of becoming ill from corporate-produced toxins?
If America is the zenith of human social order, why does our vaunted way of life provoke terror as a tactic and an emotion?
We Americans—the most privileged of the 99%—must be willing to accept that there is something terribly wrong with our country and our culture. We must also accept that it’s now or never when it comes to us helping to turn things around. Will you answer the call?