Return of the Black Bloc

by MATTHEW PROVONSHA

A few weeks ago many thousands of people marched on Washington D.C. to protest the American escalation in Iraq and the looming attack on Iran. It makes little difference whether it was one-hundred thousand people or five-hundred thousand, in any case we were but a small sampling of the vast and growing number of Americans concerned with social justice and appalled by American aggression. Unfortunately I have seen very little written about the group with whom I marched, which seemed far more significant and inspiring than the star-studded rally and slow-going stroll put on by more mainstream demonstrators. I am referring to the Radical Youth Contingent, a varied bunch of young men and women who got together on January 27th and took to the streets.

We were largely organized by the Students for a Democratic Society, and we assembled under their flags as well as the red-and-black flags others brought. It would be impossible to say how many of us there were because at every stage some were joining in and others opting out, but as before less turns on this than would seem. The most important thing was not that we broke through police lines, smashed the windows of a Fox ‘News’ van and a recruitment center, or left graffiti on the steps of the Capitol building. The most important thing was that we ran free, and got away with it. We succeeded in leaving messages where they are hardest to wash away, in the memories of everyone involved. Of course everyone who participated will remember the day with great fondness. For young students and wage-earners accustomed to meaningless rote labor, actively participating in anything makes for an event not soon forgot.

Many were excited to see us and stared or snapped pictures along with other interested spectators, as we chanted, "Off the sidewalks_Into the streets!," among other things. No protestors, that I saw, seemed put off by us, even as we broke away from the main march onto roads not permitted for it. A great many, however, seemed perplexed. The source of this confusion is hardly obscure. In the news coverage these bourgeois liberals read, watch, and hear, police brutality is played down or ignored completely, while property destruction is presented as the horrific violence of crazed ideologues. Likewise state violence overseas is generally defended or ignored, and often truths are omitted and lies repeated. So I am not shocked if, when they see a black bloc, some wonder, "Why are these kids so angry?"

Well, take this as one answer to that question. When I turn on the news, it turns my stomach. What disgusts me most is not the transparent jingoism of Fox, nor even the celebrity gossip so prevalent on CNN and elsewhere, but the docility and uniformity of America’s media in general. Then, of course, there is the news itself. I was only in ninth grade the day planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but like many young people it is how my government responded that would have the greater effect on me. I witnessed the society I grew up in descend into madness. Now more than half-a-decade later it hardly surprises us to hear that America is secretly torturing uncharged suspects, or gearing up for another war. In every recent conversation I have had about these things everyone I have talked to has expressed a deeply-rooted feeling of futility, as though they profoundly wished that something could be done to change course but are sure, unhappily, that nothing can be done. If hysteria prevailed in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks it is a crushing cynicism that has replaced it. It should go without saying that both responses are completely irrational, we certainly weren’t all in harm’s way then and we certainly aren’t all powerless now.

The results of the news business are apparent. My favorite example is that polls show that Americans think that too much of their tax-money goes to humanitarian-aid, but when asked how much would be appropriate the figure they give tends to be higher than the actual one! UNICEF has reported that over 30,000 children die every day from easily preventable causes, but Americans are conditioned to be concerned about Britney Spears or other stars through whom they are to live vicariously. Even at protests, we are presented with "stars of consumption" and "stars of decision-making" (in Guy Debord’s words), such as Jane Fonda and Dennis Kucinich. But we want no stars. I for one don’t want to live in a country in which one person, like Jane Fonda, can spend millions of dollars on whatever she wants, while thousands of others cannot even afford rent, and millions more cannot afford healthcare. That these conditions exist in the richest country in the world should shame us all. That we allow much worse to go on overseas is just unspeakable.

In short, thousands of people are dying needlessly every day, and, as the situationists poetically put it, "most won’t die because they’re already dead." So why am I angry? Why aren’t you angry?

MATTHEW PROVONSHA can be reached at: maprovonsha@hotmail.com



 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Geoffrey McDonald
Obama’s Overtime Tweak: What is the Fair Price of a Missed Life?
Brian Cloughley
Hypocrisy, Obama-Style
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
A Day of Tears: Report from the “sHell No!” Action in Portland
Tom Clifford
Guns of August: the Gulf War Revisited
Renee Lovelace
I Dream of Ghana
Colin Todhunter
GMOs: Where Does Science Begin and Lobbying End?
Ben Debney
Modern Newspeak Dictionary, pt. II
Christopher Brauchli
Guns Don’t Kill People, Immigrants Do and Other Congressional Words of Wisdom
S. Mubashir Noor
India’s UNSC Endgame
Ellen Taylor
The Voyage of the Golden Rule
Norman Ball
Ten Questions for Lee Drutman: Author of “The Business of America is Lobbying”
Franklin Lamb
Return to Ma’loula, Syria
Masturah Alatas
Six Critics in Search of an Author
Mark Hand
Cinéma Engagé: Filmmaker Chronicles Texas Fracking Wars
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Patrick Hiller
The Icebreaker and #ShellNo: How Activists Determine the Course
Charles Larson
Tango Bends Its Gender: Carolina De Robertis’s “The Gods of Tango”