“so rah-rah-rah democracy
let’s all be as thankful as hell
and bury the statue of liberty
(because it begins to smell)
— E.E. Cummings’ last four lines of Thanksgiving (1956)
“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”
–Charles Dudley Warner (or, possibly, Mark Twain)
American and Brazilian officials can’t agree on whether or not the weather experienced in southern Brazil on March 28th should be classified as an extra-tropical storm or…a hurricane. Brazilians –with much PR put forth by tourist industry leaders there– have taken great pride in the fact that their country has always been free of hurricanes. Regardless, the system they came face to face with on Sunday was “totally different from anything” they’d ever gone through, according to Laura Rodrigues, a meterologist at the Santa Catarina State Weather Bureau. (1) It undoubtedly “drenched the steeples, drowned the cocks,” as Lear would have observed.
Santa Catarina Civil defense official Marcio Luis Alves said “at least 1,990 people lost their homes and 9,590 were forced to flee. More than 30,000 houses across the state were damaged, and 280 were destroyed.” (2) Just the tip of the iceberg…that’s melting?
Is there a Jaws shark in the water syndrome going on here? Certainly reports from Brazil’s National Space Research Institute about this 94mph monster (3) have to be greeted with great skepticism.
These are ominous meterological times with baleful portents on the horizon. If that was truly the first full-fledged Category I hurricane in Brazil’s history, we all had better sit up and take notice. We’re not talking about snow in the Balearic Islands here, which is a bad enough turn itself.
The rejection of the Kyoto Treaty, the delays in addressing imminent environmental catastrophe, on the part of both Bush and Kerry –that alone– warrants a thumbs down for both candidates. As per Mickey Z’s heartfelt article, “Don’t Turn Off, Turn ON“, I urge everyone to vote for Ralph Nader in the upcoming election. If you don’t act to make certain that neither Bush nor Kerry gets in, you’re signing the planet’s death warrant. If you have any doubts, look at Kerry the Lesser’s statement below:
“When John Kerry is president, the U.S. will reengage in the development of an international climate change strategy to address global warming, and identify workable responses that provide opportunities for American technology and know-how.”
These words, pulled from his website, are not the sentiments of a man who acknowledges the present storm of concern respecting planetary degradation. If you think there’s something to latch onto there that’s an improvement on Bush’s much denigrated positions/actions vis-a-vis the environment, you probably have too much faith in American technology, are reading too much into “reengage,” believe we have more time than we actually have to address our imminent collapse and/or think that it’s not obligatory that Kerry say something to distinguish himself from Dubya on this issue. Keep in mind, the words above are the Democratic candidate’s best shot.
Almost everyone involved in the interminable Great Electoral Debate is behaving like the business community in Amity, Peter Benchley’s fictional eastern seaboard town, acting as if The Great White Sharkies aren’t about to drag us down to the depths of Neptunian nether regions. Lots of time, they say, if they’re for Kerry; we can all work on him –iron out the rough spots– once he’s deposed our Sitting Lifeguard. If they’re for Bush they simply gurgle that we’re overreacting about Brazil and the Balearics.
I ask you, nay, I beg you to look in the eyes of those who would vote for Kerry, those who are claiming that they’re going to call up Click and Clack, NPR’s sexist car show, to find out how to fix The Old Massachusetts Model. Get close to them. Listen to the tremor in their voice as they assure you that they know how bad an option he is. Smell them. They’ve got nothing to offer you. They’re part of the whole electoral distraction. What could be done with electoral politics, they’re not about to take advantage of; they’re simply stepping on “this side” of the politically correct line, compunding ignorance with ignorance mouthing the hackneyed headlines, and putting their faith in a rapacious remora (incapable of remorse). At best, they’re stupid, shortsighted and sure to secure our death by drowning in the oceans’ dead zones.
Don’t forget (recent Green Party gubernatorial candidate) Peter Camejo’s words, “Kerry will be able to do what Bush wants to do better.”
Progressive voters are putting their faith in reports that are coming down the pike from (Microsoft’s and WalMart’s) NPR, (Archer Daniels Midland’s) PBS and (Blair’s) BBC. Half-horrors like www.commondreams.org and The New York Times are also the basis for much genuflecting, and marching off half-cocked. Getting one’s news –forming one’s opinions– from such sources (with a touch of Mother Jones, The Progressive and the like thrown in for good measure) is tantamount to getting the March 28th weather report from Brazil’s NSRI. Sure, they might be right on regarding the wind velocity, but the meaning of it all is sure to be missing. Put another way, if you’re relying on The Nation to give you an accurate take on what’s blowin’ in the wind –Alexander Cockburn’s column “Beat the Devil” being the exception in that quarter– it’s like going to the Santa Catarina Chamber of Commerce for advice on whether or not to invest in a Bed and Breakfast chain (of straw huts) there. My comments aren’t to suggest that the discriminate progressive stay away from the sources completely, but, rather, to underscore that the requisite caution is not being exercised in gleaning “facts” from them, and that the average citizen –with very limited time/energy– should probably be steered elsewhere.
The drawbacks attached to the above sources can be digested quickly by clicking on http://220.127.116.11/. There Democracy Now! is lambasted for legitimate reasons, and the darling of so-called dissenters, Amy Can Only Do Good, is put into perspective; there’s more on her as a liability below.
If you can vomit up all of the unnecessary premises that infuse/proscribe your political discourse, your thinking, you have a chance to rise above the storm. To wit, as Mickey Z pointed out there are about 85 million eligible voters who didn’t cast their line in the waters in 2000. At your peril you assume that we can’t mobilize them between now and November to vote for Nader, representing a truly significant difference between “Coke and Pepsi.” True, this ain’t Seneca Falls of 1848 or the first National Convention of women’s rights in 1850 Worcester, Massachusetts. We have an entirely different societal mindset, of course. But there is much common ground, and it IS the opportunity of a lifetime for us all. Truly, a watershed moment in the history of the world. It’s up to you…and the people you have one-on-one contact with between now and Halloween.
The politicians follow the spooky polls. Don’t you.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton started out with five “activist” women in the face of extreme chauvanism, a long tradition of institutionalized kowtowing (in great part religion-based), and the threat of very real economic “sanctions” if anything was even attempted. You stand –man or woman– poised at the head of a long line…that suffered horribly on our behalf. They are, to me, Category I Weatherwomen.
There IS Light. You are the catalyst, the White Rose of a dissenter that the Powers never counted on. Stop putting up posters. Stop trying to finesse the electorate vis-a-vis the internet. Stop holding small meetings which honor “process” at the expense of getting something done. Whether or not your current progressive actions are your exclusive activist activity, most people should stop working in their “little corners” for now because they really don’t have quality activist energy left over once they’re finished with them. For what I’m proposing. What to do? Avoid putting your head on the chopping block. Contact each and every person you know and bond with them as an individual. First of all, guard against counterproductive rationales of various stripes; everyone has a responsibility to join hands here. Don’t organize a club of any kind. Don’t deal in dues. Get them to agree on supporting Nader, for all of his very serious faults (4), and be a part of this national mobilization that can actually pull an “Ali” on Bush and Kerry’s “Liston.” This is what is meant by Hope and Vision.
I’d be honored to provide technical support, additional practical advice upon request. Perhaps you’re open to there being untried techniques for recruitment, even if you have decades of doing under your belt.
If Ralph doesn’t get in on the Upset of the Century (and the Century Before), you can be sure that his garnering even as little as twice as many votes as he got last time around (when the Greens were supporting him in full force) would shake the world. At the very least, it would give earthcrackling optimism in quarters that count, creating constructive ripples you can’t possibly forsee. I believe that the impact would rise far above anything that shocked The Powers when Perot put in his bid; remember, that was a precedent that was supposed to have been put to bed. And the rattled reigning rogues might very well be so shaken as to overreact in unpredictable, but desirable ways.
Nothing of the sort can be expected from any of our other options. Kucinich –as a Democrat– has too many fingers tied behind his back, and Peltier’s profile is much too low for us to get off the ground with it in the time remaining. Leonard is a lost cause for the moment, and Dennis has already been answered by the people he’s trying to attract, has been put in place by those he’s chosen to associate with on a partisan basis. His campaign is doing virtually nothing to attract the 85 million we’re talking about here, and if you try to work on his behalf in that realm, I’m afraid you’ll be greeted by legitimate complaints respecting his Democratic links. It’s as if DK simply wants to keep progressive talk on the table for the Dems. Cobb? David’s facing a Goliath with a weakened, divided Green Party for his feet, a too-traditional approach to party politics in his sights (ruining his aim), and a overly heavy stone in his hand, which can be characterized as his Late Appearance (in terms of both a possible June nomination and national non-entityness).
Did I leave out anyone derserving of honorable mention?
With all due respect to Ted Glick (see footnote #4 below), whose twenty-nine years of invovlement in organizing alternatives to the two main parties has convinced him that “there are three mutually reinforcing, overall tasks which we must be about if we are to ever get to the point of having a progressive party which can actually challenge for power,” THERE IS NO TIME FOR SUCH A TRADITIONAL PARADIGM TO BE PUT INTO PLACE. Besides, until progressives take stock of where such models of action have brought us to to date –the very edge of planetary extinction (5)– I wouldn’t recommend following such ideal scenarios regardless.
People like Glick are not acknowledging what the public is likely to do once the little-known events –such as what happened in Bolivia on the 30th (6)– visit our shores. That’s partly a function of the people in this Ostrich Land not making it very easy to do so. For a taste, however, the concerned reader can digest Michael Burns’ prescient piece “Put Up Or Shut Up: 3 11’s Meaning Pre-next 9 11“.
Don’t let your mind wander to where they’re undoing Ralph’s seatbelt or deflating his airbag, which is what would happen, of course, if things really got out of hand. That’s one reason why, by the way, Glick and his Cobb coterie are wrong about Ralph being on an ego trip. An interesting sidenote of difference, by the way, between Ralph and, say, Dennis Kucinich, is that whereas they both support the indefensible plan to “hand over” Iraqis to the UN (if they’ll take them under the present slaughterhouse conditions), DK –as a Dem– could not possibly change that stance, but RN could. Such acts, even such potential, would spell the literal end of him, and there’s no stronger argument regarding the need for all of us to mobilize in the way that I’m suggesting. Votes for Nader are not sufficient. It must go hand-in-hand with brainstorming about what we’re going to do when the fascism, already unacceptable, becomes increasingly overt.
Everything points toward it being a “queer and sultry summer,” to invoke the poet suicide, and I fear that the “electrocution of the Rosenbergs” may be witnessed many times over before the fall. Our liberties cannot stand with the present, arrogant momentum. The bombs concealed in bags or luggage will honor their appointments with the nation’s transit systems. Who believes that “ratcheting up” security measures has a life? Who will be killing us with false promises? Who cannot see that we MUST concede something?
On a more positive note, each and every person in this nation wanting Universal Health Care –as per Mickey’s article– should be picking up the pitch put forth here. In short, if you ever want individuals who don’t pay their fair share of taxes to shoulder the lion’s share of that burden, Ralph’s your only ticket. Ever. If inroads aren’t made by this November, it’ll never happen. That’s what’s behind the panic attacks of Chomsky and Parenti, moving them both to untenable positions. To pull America’s Rhea Head completely out of the Waste Land Sand, however, one must force others to glare at, absorb the horrific fact that the Powers are simply preparing to up the ante, now that they’ve proven to themselves that the public will accept stolen elections. They may let a little of the foul air out of the room, momentarily, by letting Kerry lead the goosestep with sinewy slippers, but they’re poised to pull the plug on our “airs of democracy.”
And aside from the potentially unifying issue of Universal Health Care, all progressives, and probably ALL unregistered voters and ALL non-voting registered voters, can acknowledge that Ralph’s proposals for cutting corporate welfare alone warrant your support. C’mon…even if you hate Nader, here’s your chance to set things up so that you can put him in Malcom’s fateful ballroom, on Martin’s blood-stained balcony.
Amy Goodman is coming to Santa Cruz, California –where I presently sit and write to you– on April 28th. I don’t know who’s bringing her here, but it’s a huge mistake, an enormous waste of energy respecting the issues addressed above. Not because Amy hasn’t done wonderful things, but because we don’t have time to devote to supporting her new book…which I assume is what she’s touting on this latest tour. The Rio Theatre here, which will be the local venue for this monumental distraction, previously hosted Dennis K. twice. We don’t need to hear from Amy regarding the dangers of neo-cons or media manipulation in this so-called progressive community. We can easily do without Dennis launching into the “evils of Iraq,” either in person or from the mouth of The Goodman Woman. And we can do without her subliminal ABB subversiveness. Besides, the question is begged as to why anyone needs The Exceptions to the Rulers; such a question is verboten in capitalist quarters of The Movement where felled trees are easily forgotten. What we need from everyone in the Santa Cruz community –which put in horribly poor electoral showings for both Kucinich and Camejo (only 5%!)– is an effort that will follow a new paradigm. And that must be multiplied throughout the nation.
To do so, one must first acknowledge that –for reform– large political parties, to paraphrase Foucault, do more to stabalize power relations than to change them. Ditto for large organizations. Specifically, in America, resistance rises only just barely above the level of obedience, merely sufficient to force change minimally. In short, almost every paradigm for action from the past is obsolete, archaic in terms of potential effect. It’s not that we should abandon boycotts or voting or physical confrontation, etc. But if you’re going to vote, say, you had better do so in a singular way, getting highly creative, detouring from derivative patterns. Overtly political play, for instance, challenges society’s rules on a fundamentally deep level, is highly unpredictable, and opens up the greatest possible possibilities of change. That’s where outrageous plans for Ralph Nader derive their legitimacy.
Forget about recruiting people in tradtional ways. They are either too bent or too filled with bravado. Either overly ambitious or resigned to the pits. Enamored of talk and evasive of responsibility. Dispense with the notion that there is a Movement to build. The potential elements are too fragmented, irreparably separated by egoism, territorial claims and/or the overwhelming demands of simply keeping up with communications in highly specialized little corners. Some are simply too stuck in the past.
Americans use up resources like there’s no tomorrow, and their politicians and dissenters both move at a pace to suggest that there are endless tomorrows.
People have asked me for quite some time for specific forms of activism that will make a difference. Well, here you have it. I recommend that each reader not only vote for Nader, but work incessantly (and pretty much exclusively) on getting others to do the same; just one of Plath’s figs will do nicely. Get people to register, and get registered voters to commit to Ralph. Whatever your little preferential corner dictates, drop it for now, as much as possible. Try your damndest to make this your top priority from now till Touchdown Time. It doesn’t require money and it doesn’t need a website. It does call for less “progressive talk” about the latest “shocking revelations,” and much more hands-on contact. You can do the math without me, but this revolutionary flight of fancy cannot take wing without you.
If you want to be a part of changing the status quo without violence and without waiting, some unprecedented decisions are going to be required. If you’re involved with feeding and sheltering people, you had better continue, and do the Nader-related work part-time. Ditto regarding caring for abused spouses and the physically sick. However, if you’re primarily engaged in activities like gathering signatures to stop this or build that…perhaps you can reprioritize. Space does not permit further elaboration here, but it’s clear that people need to be pushed to jump out of their routines, as dedicated as they may be for a particular progressive cause. Perhaps it’s time to place a moratorium on the energy/hours spent on protesting our presence in Iraq, the latest gender-related legislation and/or work vis-a-vis gun control. I’m not the god to decide. You are. But the bottom-line is that there is no solidarity at present, and no prospect for any that’ll make an impact, the progressive pages of praise for this or that effort/promise notwithstanding.
That’s what I’m proposing here, a basis for solidarity. A solidarity that will force the kind of defeat of U.S. troops that’s necessary for world sanity and survial. (7) A solidarity that will lead to the overthrow the government as it’s unpleasantly/presently practiced.
In the late 60s, the Weather Underground began to advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government . Well, Arianna Huffington –over three decades later— put out a work titled, How to Overthrow the Government, but it was an entirely different animal than the agenda of the beloved “Days of Rage” rascals. Bernadine Dohrn, Mark Rudd et. al. addressed the government’s suppression of dissent for what it was, part of the warp and woof of U.S. capitalism. Today, “dissenters” delicately distinguish between Skull and Boners; they conveniently forget their own ranting and raving about the (Coke and Pepsi) lack of difference between Gore and Bush prior to the electoral theft of 2000. AH can somehow urge us to “Push for character education in our schools, to help teach our children right from wrong” (as a step toward the “overthrow”) without addressing America’s theft of Native American lands or its genocidal history, so tactfully handled in the textbooks. I guess that I shouldn’t be so surprised by a book that applauds Joe Lieberman as a modern American hero.
And I shouldn’t be so disappointed with leftists who argue that their agonizing years of experience have taught them that the only way to influence an election is to energize a party base. Becket was right, “Habit is the great deadener.” It’s understandable that people without vision would grope for the walls they know are there in the dark. If understandable, it’s not acceptable that the blind fail to acknowledge that al-Queda is not our enemy, that what al-Queda represents will follow wherever Kerry or Bush plan to take us (as per Kurt Nimmo’s penetrating piece of April 2nd).
The Left is tamely playing the role of Dissenting American Segment. It’s got about as much potential bite as the No Hate Zones festooned around the country. It’s not that there aren’t significant confrontations building nationwide. It’s just that there’s no building of anything going on that’s going to make a difference. MoveOn is not going to be moving on the Powers…ever. ON (the funny little “Only Nader” thing), however, resonates, has a radical ring.
A prohibition on government giveaways, including R&D giveaways, competition in allocating government resources, no liability caps, no discount loans, payback for bailouts, elimination of all corporate tax expenditures, an end to government market promotion, reasonable pricing provisions, a surtax on local and state corporate welfare, prohibition of government subsidies to criminal corporations, limits on executive compensation in government-supported corporations, an SEC requirement for corporate welfare disclosure, sunsetting of corporate welfare, funding for town meetings, reforms regarding all forms of export assistance and overseas marketing promotion programs, elimination of the Price-Anderson Act (which enables the Nuclear Industry to prosper), regulation of corporate welfare beneficiaries’ political influence, reining in the IMF and ESF and so much more that Ralph Nader would change…if enough people got behind him…would cause a “revolution” in this country that could lead to even more radical alterations of the status quo.
Nader’s severe “weaknesses” could be addressed in the process, and people who haven’t even been voting for years could be truly inspired, eventually joining hands with citizens who have been wasting their votes for quite some time. You see, no Democrat can deliver anything remotely like an elimination of offshore tax shelters, and that is only one of many revolutionary turns that must be taken if we’re going to truly transform this society of ours.
A friend of mine traveling with Ralph to North Carolina State University recently provided a telling quote the other day (analyzing the letters from old friends urging him not to run): “And the more I got of these, the more I realized that we are confronting a virus, a liberal virus…. And the characteristic of a virus is when it takes hold of the individual, it’s the same virus, individual letters all written in uncannily the same sequence…. Not one…ever said ‘What are your arguments for running?'”
We must kill the virus.
Wake up and sing, America! It is your last chance. To paraphrase Camus, in The Myth of Sisphyus, the single most important dilemma that Americans face is the issue of whether or not to commit electoral suicide this fall. The current cynicism and sanctioned form of traditional party-politics-resignation only feed the “sour air” of our bell jar, to use Sylvia P’s imagery again. To be “realistic” you’ve got to believe in the impossible. We don’t want to get to the point where we’re wishing, like Twain, that Noah missed the boat.
I was living in Hawaii in August, 1992 when Hurricane Iniki slammed into Kuaui. Words cannot describe the experience. Steven Speilberg was filming one of his dinosaur movies at the time, and had to hole up till calm descended on the island. Someone in his crew had just joined him, having barely escaped the devastation of Florida’s Hurricane Andrew a few days earlier. He was never the same again. In fact, none of us were.
As a hurricane approaches, the skies will begin to darken and winds will grow in strength. Then, something takes over which is beyond the sounds, much more ominous than the unearthly, unprecedented vibrations.
As Bush and Kerry march in lockstep toward November’s likely Category VI tragedy, I urge you to adopt the mask of the post-modern Weatherwoman/Weatherman, and let everyone know which way the apocalyptic wind is blowing. But keep in mind, if you will, that Bob Dylan is now appearing in television ads for Victoria’s Secret.
The old models are death warmed over.
(1) Telephone interview with Jack Beven of the U.S. Hurricane Center.
(2) Michael Astor of the Associated Press 3/30/04.
(3) As per a private U.S. forecasting company, AccuWeather.
(4) Although I have some serious reservations about his take, one can see Ted Glick’s latest piece, “2004 and the Left”, for a delineation of Nader’s drawbacks. Please note that what he says about Nader’s neglect of racism and sexism, to name only two issues, can be “addressed” in short order; the same cannot be said of Kerry’s deficiencies.
(5) See http://www.commondreams.org/
(6) See http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/
(7) See http://www.zmag.org/
RICHARD OXMAN, in the Weather (Underground) vein, has taught college students from Nippon to New York (where he protected youngsters from the Vietnam draft for many years). He can be reached at email@example.com.