Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Where We Stand

I've gotten into this sort of argument with a poster called (shorthand) Thunder, who makes many excellent remarks in comments sections at several blogs I read daily. The argument circles around a question of perception, which might be phrased as a question: do we really live in a democracy? Yesterday he cited Glenn Greenwald's piece in Salon, which documents the fact (documented in zillions of ways and places, of course) that the Democratic Party is very seriously compromised by money and the monied, creating a situation in which there actually is in far too many instances no one at all to vote for, if you think the answer to Occupy's question is just "trow de bums out."

So to Mr. Thunder (if he ever drops by)--I sure do definitely get your point, my man, I see the same problem you do, and it tempts me daily to just walk away from political solutions entirely. Indeed--been there. I think my generation mostly already did that, in fact. That's the politics of "turn on, tune in, drop out." And of course it's also the politics of finding some sort of direct action answer to the problem of voicelessness. But what can a poor boy do, 'cept to sing in a rock and roll band, cause you see there's just no doubt there's just no place for a street fightin' man.

We're all watching the reaction to powerlessness welling up in the form of the Occupy Movement. None of us know what long term effects will eventually ensue. I'm thinking (as is Thunder) that there are going to be some good consequences.
It's possible that some of the gross brutalities being committed by police in conflict with the Occupiers are going to generate a backlash. Pepper spray dude is going to maybe get fired. Whether Wall Street (or the military-industrial complex if you prefer) is going to get "smashed", well that's another story.

Go watch Harlan County, USA again, it's been a month or two. It takes a striker getting his brains literally blown out to generate a solution to the impasse. We get to see the brains on the pavement, literally. This most profound documentary is the blueprint for the building we keep building, over and over again. Ordinary citizens--gram-mas--will need to start stashing pistols in their bras, and brandishing them now and then. But it's the grandma who gets martyred, which then causes just enough remorse to generate a brief moment of togetherness, where a few things get fixed, somewhat.

How do you keep the circle from just being re-squared is my question? It's clear that, for one historical example, JFK's assassination engendered enough spirit of compromise to get some basic Civil Rights laws passed in the years immediately following his death. But the same years that gave birth to those laws also gave birth to the GOP "Southern Strategy." Which is the same story we already saw a century earlier, when the utter carnage of the American Civil War led to a few relatively brief changes in our culture, but then segregation was imposed--and let us face it--segregation was an act of democracy, at least with a small "d," albeit laced with terrorism and denial.

The principle I have come back to, again and again, when I tire of looking into this abyss, is just good old Robert Creeley's: "drive, he said, fr christs sake, look out where yr going." I find that a workable solution. Perhaps it's just my fundamental psychology. Camus might go shoot some random pedestrian in existential exasperation. The Berrigans might offer you a communion wafer. Drive he said ends up meaning a lot of things, including "write a song," "learn a new tune," or just "play the hell outa the ones you know," or "get up there and fix the roof."

I suggested the other day that some of the Occupy momentum might be successfully applied to specifics--such as kicking Scott Walker, that odious toad--out of office. Mr Thunder responds that such an idea risks co-opting the Movement to the smaller ends of the already corrupted Democratic Party. Maybe it does. The final scenes of Harlan County, USA, are instructive. In the end, after the blood is hosed away, small things have improved, somewhat.

At the same time, Southern Strategies keep being reformulated. In the face of good will, the Right creates a Think Tank and a new Pundit Line for the Xmas Season. And Mr. Obama keeps Gitmo open, and Pvt. Bradley Manning in the slammer. Because Tasers don't kill as much as .38 Specials, they are employed more frequently, and become a comedy prop on ESPN.

Billie Holiday wrote "Strange Fruit" in the early '40s. Michelle Obama may have said she wasn't proud of America till they elected her husband. For that NASCAR fans booed her last Sunday, as she stood with an Iraq War vet and his wife and children to say "start your engines."

Update: I'm delighted to read (via Doghouse) that the police chief at UC-Davis has resigned. One hopes that political pressure will be maintained--that this isn't just a matter of tossing one tasty bit to the wolves in the hopes that nothing at all about the current method of "crowd control" in the US will be seriously changed. This would surely be a "win" for the Occupy. Of course it's not exactly what they are objecting to, but rather a tertiary symptom. Still, have to start somewhere.

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