Saturday, October 11, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Sunday, June 29, 2008
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
- George Elliot
This morning I found myself thinking about a case going to trial in mid-July. The women, Joy Kohler and Jamie “Bork” Loughner, are being tried on charges of terrorism for locking themselves to a public housing unit in New Orleans. Their actions were a last ditch effort to prevent the demolition of one of the last public housing spaces left in the city. The arrests made by New Orleans police, were defended by an officer’s claim that the lock down devices the women used to prevent the removal of their chains, looked as if they could be bombs.
This story left two major imprints on my brain, that eventually came full circle:
1)The rhetoric of the law being such that a person may be jailed, and tried, because an officer of the law thinks something or someone looks like something threatening.
2)The conditions facing the poor and homeless in New Orleans, as well as the rest of the nation’s large cities.
The former will make more sense for me to address after addressing the issue of homelessness.
I suppose a good place to start when it comes to topics liek this, is with facts.
*1 in 25 people in the city of New Orleans is homeless. That measures out to be about 4% of the population. Easily the highest homeless population in the country. (To put it into perspective, the next highest percentages of homeless are in Atlanta with 1.4% and Washington, with .95%)
*40% of the homeless staying in public shelters in New Orleans have full time jobs.
*Since 2005, attacks on homeless have increased by 65%. The vast majority of these attacks are by civilians, and of those, and overwhelming amount of the attacks are by teens.
*16.5% of people in New Mexico go without food every day. Of those people, less than half qualify for welfare.
*A recent study concluded the number one cause of homelessness was (big surprise) unaffordable rising housing costs. The second largest factor was unaffordable health care. Nearly a third of all homeless are without healthcare.
*Only 26% of all homeless are reported as having a “substance abuse” problem.
*46% of homeless report having a chronic health condition. Nearly a third have high risk ailments.
*That percentage doesn’t account for the 22% of homeless described as having a serious mental illness.
*40% of homeless men are veterans
It is difficult to decide where to begin addressing these facts. I am tempted to begin with the issue of veterans, but it seems to make most sense to start at the top. A common response heard, when i have relayed these facts, is justification. “Of course there are high amounts of homeless in New Orleans. They just suffered a natural disaster”. “ Of course there are poor conditions for homeless in New Mexico. They are probably immigrants.” I have a response to each of these. Aside from the fact that a continued growth in the homeless population of a city after a natural disaster has occurred is completely unprecedented, the fact that federal aid funding continues to be cut is an atrocity. A recent article in USA Today said it best, “being in a natural disaster is no longer a guarantee that that the government is coming to rescue you.” This is partially why the demolition of public housing in the city is so controversial. The city argues that the decrease in the city’s population has decreased the need for public housing. But this is faulty logic because it is those people on the brink of homelessness who most benefit from it. To the second response, about New Mexico... I can offer no statistic about what percentage of homeless and hungry are immigrants. I can say with confidence that 100% of them are humans. I think of woody guthrie’s song “deportees”:
The crops are all in and the peaches are rott'ning,
The oranges piled in their creosote dumps;
They're flying 'em back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money to wade back again
Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won't have your names when you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be "deportees"
My father's own father, he waded that river,
They took all the money he made in his life;
My brothers and sisters come working the fruit trees,
And they rode the truck till they took down and died.
Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted,
Our work contract's out and we have to move on;
Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.
We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,
We died in your valleys and died on your plains.
We died 'neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
Both sides of the river, we died just the same.
The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon,
A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills,
Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says, "They are just deportees"
Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except "deportees"?
It is here that my mind splits into two directions: 1) The treatment of veterans, and 2) the treatment and mindset towards the homeless.
To me, this song does not just pertain to deportees. You could easily substitute the word “veterans” for deportee. Our government uses them as a means to an end. If they don’t die there by the gun, they die here by our own hands. Of homeless veterans, a large portion of them are unable to obtain jobs due to injury or illness. The “benefits” provided to veterans are feeble at best. They are duped into “defending” the laws of our country (i use defended in quotes because at present the vast majority of homeless veterans are from the Vietnam War...and i do not think anyone is willing to argue that that war was a necessary act of defense.) In this way they are treated as a means to an end... they serve to advance an agenda and then are discarded to the streets. ( I could argue that this is a somewhat modern phenomenon...the percentage of homeless veterans prior to the Vietnam War was less than half what it currently is. I would argue that there is far more implication in that than people are willing to look into.... they are not treated liek heros, because everyone knows their “service” is a joke (perhaps another reason we are seeing rising rates of homeless Iraq War vets). There is a term for this that comes to mind: “standing reserve”. It is a term expressed by Heidegger in “The Question Concerning Technology”. In it, he argues that with technological increases, humans exponentially increase the conversion of universal materials, into consumable goods. The example he uses, is trees into mulch for particle board, chairs, etc. It takes little imagination to draw the impending parallel between the treatment of trees (and animals for that matter) to the treatment of men (through the example of the treatment of veterans). “Is this the best way we can grow our orchards? Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit? to fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil, and be called by no name except deportees?”
It is hard to follow the heavy implications behind the treatment of veterans, with the weighty discussion of the treatment of the homeless. The 3rd fact i noted is perhaps the most troubling. Since 2005, attacks on the homeless have increased by 65%... with the vast majority of these being carried out by civilians. This has directly followed an increase in laws around the country that seem to be taking direct action against the homeless. In Nevada, laws were imposed making it against the law “to provide food or meals to the indigent for free or for a nominal fee.” Labeling an indigent person as “a person whom a reasonable ordinary person would believe to be entitled to apply for or receive” public assistance (please see my first point about the inherent flaws in the rhetoric of the law). A similar law was enacted in Orlando. In Austin, and Atlanta, new laws increase possibility of jail time for loitering. In New Orleans, lawmakers are threatening to make it against the law to sleep in public spaces, and in Denver, it was proposed that it be made illegal to sleep under an overpass. Similar laws have been a trend all across the United States. The implication here, would seem that the law creates the stigma. By criminalizing the homeless, we are in essence telling society that it is OK to attack, that is is OK to mistreat the homeless, because they are criminals, they are scum unworthy of an existence commensurable to ours.
This is a disturbing thought. Things occur in progressive stages. It all begins with the dehumanization of a group... we have gotten into the habit of dehumanizing immigrants, and dehumanizing the homeless. This is evident in our laws, and evident in our actions (one example, is Warren Messer, a 15 yr old boy serving life for beating a homeless man to death “just because”). We cannot let our government shape our mindset. That is scary territory. We have got to step back and think about out actions....think about our laws. Awareness is a good first step towards change. I am not sure what the best solutions to this problem are. A changing of the laws certainly seems in order. To criminalize a human for being without the means to eat and live, is sickening. But we have to do more. We have to change the way we see the homeless before we can begin to provide solutions for helping them cope with their situation. I am not implying society is entirely responsible for the condition of all homeless peoples. But I cannot idly sit by and watch these people be beaten, or be commodified. I think, appropriately, of Marx: “history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”. I cannot allow the complete dehumanization of a group of people to occur...because that could allow for a farce far too tragic for me to appreciate.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Wednesday, July 2nd - Call Minister Diane Finley
Next Wednesday, July 2nd Americans are invited to join the pan-Canadian “call in” to Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Diane Finley (phone 613.996.4974). Ask her to STOP deportation proceedings against Corey Glass and all U.S. Iraq war resisters; and IMPLEMENT the motion adopted by Canada’s Parliament to allow U.S. Iraq war resisters to apply for permanent resident status.
Monday, June 23, 2008
I have been devoting much thought recently to the idea of protest; of violence and non-violence and resistance and resignation. These have been difficult terms for me to grapple with, and it has taken some time for me to flesh out thought from feeling. I suppose a good place to begin, is with a poem by Hayden Carruth:
"On Being Asked To Write a Poem Against the War in Vietnam"
Well I have and in fact
more than one and I'll
tell you this too
I wrote one against
Algeria that nightmare
and another against
Korea and another
against the one
I was in
and I don't remember
how many against
when I was a boy
Abyssinia Spain and
and not one
breath was restored
mans womans or childs
not one not
but death went on and on
never looking aside
except now and then
with a furtive half-smile
to make sure I was noticing.
This poem has been described as a "troublesome" one. This is because it seems to state, "what is the point of protest, if the violence will still carry on?" and yet, the poem itself is an act of protest in a way. it is still breathing (a breath of despair, yes)- but also a breath of resistance. So the point still seems amorphous...until one digs deeper. Perhaps, the point is that his goal, and the point of this small resistance, is not about stopping violence or war, but about something else entirely....
Accompanying this contemplation on resistance, has come the topic and rhetoric surrounding 1968. Kevin has invited me to attend a"Recreate '68" protest at the DNC. The stated goal of the protest is to voice the resistance towards the two party system, resistance towards the war, and make visible the disenfranchised masses wishing to shout together "enough!"
This all sounds good and well, but i cannot help but recall the many negatives associated with the year: the violent deaths of great visionaries (RFK, MLK), the Vietnam War, gender and race riots.... in short, great violence. But then, I am reminded of the positives. In a way it was a year marking the rebirth of our nation...our eyes were opened to an ugliness and violence (brought right into our living rooms for the first time via television) that we were not used to seeing. In a sense, it was our exit from the cave. Therefore, it makes sense that this period would be a painful one marked by mixed emotions. Nonetheless, it would seem we had come closer to the light.
Fifty years later, we are seeing strong parallels. A recent article I read in the "New Statesman" was written by Noam Chomsky, and titled "On 1968". In it, he weighs both the good and the bad aspects of the year, to conclude that it had an overall positive effect on our nation and its history. He encourages us, pointing out that unlike Vietnam, there has been a strong opposition to this war from its onset. He points out that this opposition has even been within the margins of main stream media, and main stream politics.
These points aside... the verbiage at least seems dubious. I think of the protest last week in response to a House approval of a bill allotting $162 billion towards continued funding of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Red stained dollar bills were showered upon lawmakers as they entered the visitor's gallery.
While that protest is not directly related to R-68, it coincides in my mind because is raises the question "what is the point?" "Does this create any positive change?" These types of protests seem naive. I think of Wendell Berry: "Much protest is naive. It expects quick, visible improvement, and despairs and gives up when such improvement doesn't come." It seems flashy, and reactive to splash around red dollar bills, and strut around the halls of congress in suits and pig masks. But this value judgment aside....does it work? To determine this, I suppose we should first ask "what are the goals of these acts?" before we are able to determine if they succeed.
I asked a friend what he thought the point of protest is. He responded by saying that he thinks it is to make your voice heard when you think no one else is listening. That seems accurate. It also seems naive; liek a shouting match. Yet this is the continuous rhetoric: "Let your voice be heard!" "Fight the oppressive silence!"...... I was having trouble Figuring out just why this bothered me so much. Why did this not seem right?
The answer dawned on me while reading at my mother's home. She had a copy of Josephus on a shelf, and liek I have done so many times before, browsed through it for something of interest. One of the first things I stumbled upon was the resistance of the Jews in Caesarea against Pilate and the orders of Roman law. They refused to allow a statue of the ruler to be erected, saying they would rather face death than see the laws of the Torah desecrated. This gave me chills. I then thought of the photograph of the man in front of tanks in Tiananmen Square. What gave these protests the authenticity that others seem to lack?
Again, Wendell Berry provided clarity. "If protest depends upon success, it has no durability. Protest that endures, is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one's own heart and spirt, that would be destroyed by acquiescence." I think it is in this statement, that Berry is able to elucidate the poem Carruth wrote. It becomes clear that the poet's intention was simply one of survival. He had to write. He was left with no choice... action or atrophy.
I then think of Thoreau: "There will never be a really free and enlightened state until the state comes to recognize the individual as a higher, and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly." The people are a power higher then the state. This is a fact that, for me, becomes lost and crippled by concerns with political parties, elections, laws and lawmakers. We are kept well sated with "facts" and conflicts; filled to the brim with diversions. But the restless current cannot remain forever dammed. The footage of the floods sweeping over the midwest at present, provide powerful imagery. It would seem it is time for our rivers to swell and levees to break. The time seems nearer at least, when people will heave breathes of resistance in as necessary a fashion as heaving breaths of air. There is not a need for violence, or elaborate show. There is only a need to refuse to quell, and a need to rise and climb...no matter how high the sandbags scale. I find I have hope in this...and hope is far more powerful than protest, because it is what gives one the strength to even heave those breaths.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
I have a steep wooded hillside that i wanted to be able to pasture occasionally, but it had no water supply.
About halfway to the top of the slop there is a narrow bench, on which i thought i could make a small pond. I hired a man with a bulldozer to dig one. He cleared away trees and then formed the pond, cutting into the hill on the upper side, piling the loosened dirt into a curving earthwork on the lower.
The pond appeared to be a success. Before the bulldozer quit work, water had already begun to seep in. Soon there was enough to support a few head of stock. To heal the exposed ground, i fertilized it and sowed it with grass and clover.
We had an extremely wet fall and winter, with the usual freezing and thawing. The ground grew heavy with water, and soft. The earthwork slumped; a large slice of the woods floor on the upper side slipped down into the pond.
The trouble was a familiar one: too much power, too little knowledge. The fault was mine.
I was careful to get expert advice. But this only exemplifies what i already knew. No expert ever knows anything about every place, not even everything about any place. If one's knowledge of one's whereabouts is insufficient, if one's judgment is unsound, then expert advice is of little use.
In general, I have used my farm carefully. It could be said, I think, that I have improved it more than I have damaged it.
My aim has been to go against its history and to repair the damage of other people. But now a part of its damage is my own.
The pond was a modest piece of work, and so the damage is not extensive. In the course of time and nature it will heal.
And yet there is damage--to my place, and to me. I have carried out, before my own eyes and against my intention, a part of the modern tragedy: I have made a lasting flaw on the face of the earth, for no lasting good.
Until that wound in the hillside, my place, is healed, there will be something impaired in my mind. My peace is damaged. I will not be able to forget it.
It used to be that i could think of art as a refuge from such troubles. From the imperfections of life, one could take refuge in the perfections of art. One could read a good poem--or better, write one.
Art was what was truly permanent, therefore what truly mattered. The rest was "but a spume that plays/ Upon a ghostly paradigm of things."
I am no longer able to think that way. That is because I now live in my subject. My subject is my place in the world, and I live in my place.
There is a sense in which I no longer "go to work." If I live in my place, which is my subject, then i am "at" my work even when I am not working. It is "my" work because i cannot escape it.
If I live in my subject, then writing about it cannot "free" me of it or "get it out of my system." When I am finished writing, I can only return to what i have been writing about.
While I have been writing about it, time will have changed it. Over long stretches of time, I will change it. Ultimately, it will be changed by what i write, inasmuch as I, who change my subject, am changed by what I write about it.
If I have done damage to my subject, then i have damaged my art. What aspired to be whole has met damage face to face, and has come away wounded. And so it loses interest both in the anesthetic and purely aesthetic.
It accepts the clarification of pain, and concerns itself with healing. It cultivates the scar that is the course of time and nature over damage: the landmark and mindmark that is the notation of a limit.
To lose the scar of knowledge is to renew the wound.
An art that heals and protects its subject is a geography of scars.
"You never know what is enough, unless you know what is more than enough."
I used to think of Blake's sentence as a justification of youthful excess. By now I know that it describes the peculiar condemnation of our species. When the road of excess has reached the palace of wisdom it is a healed wound, a long scar.
Culture preserves the map and records of past journeys so that no generation will permanently destroy the route.
The more local and settled the culture, the better it stays put, the less the damage. It is the foreigner whose road of excess leads to the desert.
Blake gives the just proportion or control in another proverb: "No bird soars too high, if he soars on his own wings." Only when our acts are empowered with more than bodily strength do we need to think of limits.
It was no thought or word that called culture into being, but a tool or weapon. After the stone axe we needed song and story to remember the innocence, to record effect-- and so to describe the limits, to say what can be done without damage.
The use only of our bodies for work or love or pleasure, or even combat, sets us free again in the wilderness, and we exult.
But a man with a machine and inadequate culture-- such as I was when I made my pond-- is a pestilence. He shakes more than he can hold.
Should nature keep me alive,
If I should find the world so bitter
When I am but twenty-five?" --Tennyson
A coupling of events over the past few days have culminated in my feeling the need to write this post.
1) I went to the doctor yesterday (begrudgingly) because i have been unable to beat whatever sickness has taken me over. After 2 hours, they sent me away with 6 prescriptions. I went to the pharmacy, where i opted fill the least number of meds that i needed (3), and opted for all generics when available, and i have decent health insurance. My bill was still $146. Tack on the $20 co pay at the Dr.'s office, and i am looking at over a $150 dollars to be told "we aren't really sure what is wrong, take these and if they don't work by Saturday, come back". Ok....not surprised....i have never had good luck at the doctor's office. what really rubbed me, was considering how put out i felt, and then considering how those without health insurance must feel. much less, a single mother without health insurance. (this thought was spawned by the fact that while waiting at Wal-greens for my prescriptions, a mother came up holding a small child and asked them to look up how much the prescription in her hand would be, and after being told that without health insurance it was over $200, she walked off .)
When you are a member of society living on the edge of poverty, it often means you don't qualify for medicaid, and cant afford the kind of private health insurance that i have. some states offer public funding for health care, but of those, most stipulate that you be at the 90% poverty level. nearly a quarter of all uninsured children don't qualify for public health care. Of children that qualify for medicaid, a quarter of those are not enrolled, mainly due to the fact that the parents are unaware they qualify for coverage. Those are just national statics....
in 2006, 700,000 Oklahomans were without health care. That is up .6% from the previous year. 1 in 3 children in Oklahoma are uninsured. that is staggering! perhaps that is why we have one of the nations highest infant mortality rates- 6.9%. Why are so many Oklahomans uninsured? obviously income has something to do with it....while we have a relatively low cost of living, over 4% of Oklahomans are unemployed. doesn't sound like much, but 30% of Oklahomans say that have recently gone through prolonged periods of unemployment or describe their work situation as "unsteady".
these facts lead me to event number two....
2) Dan Boren, Oklahoma Democratic representative, said Tuesday that he would not endorse Obama because he is "too liberal" and "endorsing him would not be in the best interest" of his constituents. My mind skips to a passage i recently read in "to seek a newer world" by Robert f. Kennedy. When discussing his plans for the ideal community, he states that elected officials should simply be there to ensure that "everything that is done is in direct response to the needs and wishes of the people themselves." Sounds straight forward enough. But what about when a community's needs, and wishes, are two different things? I would find Boren's refusal to endorse Obama distasteful, yes, but hardly criminal had he not stated that it was not in the best interests of his constituents to be encouraged to vote for Obama. We are a state in desperate need of repair. Oklahoma used to be one of the most liberal states in the union, a hub for socialist and liberal activity. The vast majority of this was due to farmers. Small scale farmers used to be one of the most liberal constituencies in the nation, due to a number of issues, few of which were primarily agrarian. Now, with commercialized farming and corporate land ownership, that m.o. has been abandoned. And, the influences of the religious right, while being seriously weakened else where, still cling tightly to the ballots of many Oklahomans. factors such as gun control and libertarian (read: white male) ideals factor in somewhere, but regardless of the reasons, Oklahomans have lost sight of what is in their best interest. I am not suggesting we turn the united states into a socialist government. i dont think socialism as we know it works. what i am saying is that health care and unemployment are issues the democratic candidates were willing to tackle. Therefor, it is in the best interest of Oklahomans, who are so in need of assistance in both areas, to look at the bigger picture.
This is a crucial issue. I was a Hillary supporter in large part due to her plan to tackle the issues of health care and unemployment. Now, i am throwing my support behind Obama, and while i am not implying that he holds all the answers to solving these issues, i am at least aware enough to see that he has made it a goal to try. Privatized health care is a joke. Individual Americans spend more on health care each year than any other nation. ANY other nation. Yet of industrialized countries, we also have the highest number of uninsured. We have got to stop looking at the diversion issues created by partisan politics and look at the facts...look at what really matters. Survival matters. When a mother has to choose between buying groceries or buying medicine, it matters.
if our own elected officials wont tell us that, the people who are supposed to safeguard our interests, there is a problem with the system. they are safeguarding their own interests (re-election), which both shameful and detrimental in the long run.
i end with a quote:
"The poor man's conscience is clear; and yet he is ashamed...He feels himself out of the sight of others, groping in the dark. Mankind takes no notice of him. He rambles and wanders unheeded. In the midst of a crowd, at church, in the market... he is in as much obscurity as he would be in a garret or cellar. He is not disapproved, censured, or reproached; he is only not seen....." -- John Adams
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Now we follow the path to our true heart, to ask it what we must do. We will return to our mountains to speak in our own tongue, and in our own time.
Thank you to the brothers and sisters who looked after us all these days. May your foot-steps follow our path. Good bye.
Democracy!" ---from a letter to the peoples of Mexico, from Marcos, while hiding in the mountains.
This letter makes me want to address several points.
1) The idea that peace, liberty, and justice, are not just idealistic concepts, unable to be attained in unity. The idea that these concepts come from the voices of the people, not from dollars and cents, not from paper and pen. These are ideals to be lived...breathed! I am often chastised for my idealism in this area...."youthful ignorance" and the like. I find it absurd to shun or mock a person who believes that all men are truly created equal and should be afforded the right to live as such. To simply write off these goals, because there is no one visible answer, because there are too many mountains of opposition, is to roll over and die. To give up on the possibility of a life freely lived. My mind skips to Thoreau: "Law will never make a man free, it is men who must make the law free". If we keep overlooking injustice, in the name of the constitution, or in the name of convenience, or in the name of fear, or even cynicism, we overlook our greatest gift. The freedom of will, bestowed upon man, by either divinity or evolution, is what is at stake. To enslave a man to his economic position, to his race or religion, to his beliefs or his lack thereof....this is to enslave peace, liberty, and justice to these things. So what is the answer? Surely there cannot be one single solution....save beginning to live your life as a servant to these ideals.
2)The idea that our leaders should rule by obeying. My mind skips to Socrates. He believed, so greatly, that the laws of Athens were just, that he was willing to be imprisoned and die in obeying them. He refused to talk his way out of his sentence, knowing that to believe himself above the laws that sentenced him, would be to undermine his social contract to the state, going against the belief that the laws are just; that they nurture and educate its citizens. How novel a concept that our government should behave the same. We claim the Hellenic heritage, but fundamentally are against it. Our rulers believe to uphold the laws, they must be above them (as is seen time and time again in political scandal after political scandal....in the litany of amendments and exceptions placed upon the freedoms of the presidency and its adjacent offices...). How can a people have respect for the laws that its makers refuse to uphold? How can we have equality, if our rulers do not see themselves as our equals? There will continue to be injustice in the laws as long as freedom from the law is seen as a privilege and not a crime.
3)The idea that our history may be healed. We are a country shadowed by a dark past....and the shadow only continues to creep further under our doors. We have tried to shut out the memory of our actions towards the native americans during the colonization of our country, to cover up from our consciousness the treatment of our colored, our women, our children (something like one in four children in the united states are born into poverty, more than that are without health care). Our history seems to only grow darker. Testimonies by soldiers from iraq reveal the deception our government places on the reality of the war. Women, children, civilians, and mosques are bombed without cause or care. Few are even phased by these facts anymore, and it still continues. I have to believe there is hope. There can be healing. We cannot right the wrongs of the past....but we can stop those in the future. There is nothing more powerful than your voice. With it, you can pull the tide of change closer to the shore....washing away the dark shadows and hopefully bringing with it a better life for those who will come after us. A better life for those not yet marred by conflict and agenda.
I cannot allow myself to believe these are youthful ideals, or ignorant blisses. I am often discouraged by the state our government is in....particularly during the bleak time of these primaries. But I have come to realize small changes can make a significant difference. Taking action towards the changes you believe in does not require a certain candidate. It only requires daily devotion to the cause, kindness yet firmness, and the shedding of fear that your voice wont matter or be heard.
change must come from within. a quote: "god forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion...what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time that this people preserve the spirit of resistance?" -- thomas jefferson. this then ties into mark twain..."when one finds that they are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform."
"zapatismo is not an ideology,
it is not a bought and paid for doctrine.
It is....an intuition.
Something so open and flexible that
it really occurs in all places.
Zapatismo poses the question:
'What is it that has excluded me?'
'What is it that has isolated me?'
...In each place the response is different.
Zapatismo simply states the question
and stipulates that the response is plural,
that the response is inclusive..."
It was once said to me that what happens, economically, to the U.S., hits twice as hard in mexico. this seems to be the reverse of the incitement of political reform/rebellion. surely one cannot deny the correlation between the indigenously driven zapatista movement, and the new "grassroots/netroots" political movement in the united states. (spearheaded by trippi during the presidential campaign of howard dean). dean repeatedly told us "the future lies in your hands, not mine." the unvanquished hunger of the unrepresented began to speak out. more than 640,000 individual donors and supporters rose to the call...more than any democrat before. dean said it himself, that he wanted to "forge a new American century from the bottom up." this is exactly the process by which marcos executed the ezln. describing the revolution as a snail, spiraling outward, enlisting civilian after civilian. (i could easily go on a tangent about the similarities in simple execution of ideas: taking on the advantages of the internet, grassroots campaigning, small budgets, local involvement before national focus, decentralized campaign stratagies, street art and youth involvement, etc etc etc). ( it should also be noted that howard is not the only one to have employed these strategies stateside....ron paul, mike huckabee, and bidden have all made similar attempts.)
"she. has no military rank, no uniform, no weapon. Only she knows she is a Zapatista. Much liek the zapatistas, she has no face or name. she struggles for democracy, liberty, and justice, just like the zapatistas. she is part of what the EZLN calls "civil society"-- a people without a political party, who do not belong to "political society," made up of leaders of political parties. Rather, she is part of that amorphous yet solid part of society that says, day after day, 'enough is enough!'"
this brings me to another comparison: the rise of the female voice. so much of the zapatista movement if focused on women's liberation....on women having a voice and holding rank. it is not surprising, then, that the united states would now have a woman running for presidential office, and a number of women as front runners within the selection of vice presidential nominations. and it is about damn time. but that is another tangent....for my own benefit, i am just connecting threads at this point....
and so how does heinlein tie in?
specifically in "the moon is a harsh mistress" (incidentally written before either of these movements ever began, and a fine example of how sci-fi is one of the best predictors of the future (not just due to the socio-political ideas i am about to discuss, but also technologically....see the recent washington post article on the space shuttle business in new mexico)).
the book begins with the meeting of a revolutionary group composed of citizens of luna. they are making an attempt to overthrow a government that is exploiting not only their labor, but their resources. (sound a bit liek mesoamerica to anyone else?) eventually, the revolution is reorganized by a woman, wyoming, prof. bernado de la paz (translated as bear of peace...or bearer of peace), mike, a super computer (note the correlation between the influence and use of the internet and technology as a presence in reform movements) and mannie, an unsuspecting computer repairman. mannie (i wont read in too much to the verbal closeness to the name marco) lays out a structure which communication among members of the revolution should take place. a "self-healing crystal lattice" which "begins at a single fixture" (mike) and spirals outward. Marcos himself describes the zapatista movement as ...slowly moving forward; ever spiraling outward in a fully participatory democracy. there are more than just verbal parallels. from its onset, one of the main goals of the lunar rebellion is to restore the planets natural resources to the people, while reinstating traditional subsistence methods to counteract the depletion the planet has undergone under the reign of "lunar authority". this same sort of exploitation is what prompted the zapatista movement! the export of resources (more than 100,000 tons of coffee), with little to no return to the farmer, the abolishment of article 27, and government subsidized farming are what lead to the public emancipation from the mexican government. centralized around marcos, and elisa, the zapatista movement was one comprised not of people seeking political ideologies, but people seeking CHANGE. one zapatista stated " i watched m father die because there was no money in our village to buy him medicine for his stomache. That is why i went with the zapatistas....i decided to fight because if we're all going to die, it might as well be for something."
i refer now back to the earlier marcos quote...."zapatismo is not an ideology...." these words remind me of prof. bernado de la paz. wyoming is trying to make him agree to a few basic political tenets. he states "tell me the rule, dear woman, and i will tell you whether or not today i will obey it." this is the mentality of the zapatista. there are not rules...save the belief that change can happen....that there is a better way.
and so i cannot help but allow my mind to wrap back to the united states: the voices of the dissatisfied are growing louder. everyone i talk to is fed up with this political folly. our constitution has become a joke, a thing to find loop holes in. our political system is a corporate monopoly, and we are all painfully aware of our lack of connection to natural resources. the looming threat of economic depression has many thinking in "survival mode" and others wanting to flee liek rats from a ship. while some turn a blind eye to our own exploitation, it seems the majority are painfully aware. this excites me...for i can only hope that at some point, the spiral will form. radiating and powerful, perhaps we truly can make a real difference. sans laws and documents. sheer action. without fear of failure, because there can be none...there is only action and the lack of it.
i end with pablo neruda:
was born in the blood,
grew in the dark body, beating,
and took flight through the lips and mouth.
farther away and nearer
still, still it came
from dead fathers and from wandering races,
from lands which had turned to stone,
lands weary of their poor tribes,
for when grief took the roads
the people set out and arrived
and married new land and water
to grow their words again.
and so this is the inheritance;
this is the wavelength which connects us
with dead men and the dawning
of new beings not yet come to light."