Sunday, August 27, 2006

'This Revolution Won't Be Televised' Because It's Not Even Happening

So, I see they're having a discussion over at My Left Wing about taking it to the streets or, more correctly, the fact that the gripes of the majority of Americans are not being taken to the streets on any considerable scale. Yes, there's a mention of the immigration protests by one person, eugene, who concludes this:

But, obviously, clearly, it isn't having an effect. Or more accurately, it's not having the effect we hope, of ending the war, or ending immigrant-bashing, or bringing down Bush. Then again, I'm not convinced the antiwar protests in the 1960s succeeded in their aims either.

Obviously, that last observation is clearly wrong, but the first part of his comment reflects the views of a large number of people and that is one of instant gratification. It goes like this: 'if I do something and don't see results right away, why bother doing it at all?' and, not only that, the change must be one of immense measure such as "ending immigrant-bashing" - which was not what those protests were about in the first place.

Western society is plagued with people looking for quick fixes. Whether it's expressed in the form of chasing a high with alcohol or other drugs, believing that this week you'll win the lottery and life will then be wonderful forever, thinking that all you need to do to change a government is to show up on election day or living vicariously through others and letting them do the dirty work for you because you don't want to get your hands slapped. You want to stay safe, of course.

I think Americans sometimes forget that they're supposed to be involved in the pursuit of happiness which is far different than having it handed to you on a silver serving dish. And, of course, some believe that happiness is a goal that, once reached, is yours ad infinitum - unwilling to believe that the reaching of it ebbs and flows throughout life and that happiness is not some place you arrive at - only to stay in forever.

But, while there is a chorus of 'baby steps, baby steps' expressed in that diary's comments as well, there is a tone of obvious resignation and acquiescence to the power of corporations and the status quo of the political infrastructure. Once again, if it can't be fixed on a grand scale, then we'll just struggle for decades hoping our little actions might cause some change somewhere down the road.

There is no sense of revolution in America anymore. And, if America ever needed a revolution again, that time is now.

Our Damnit Janet is doing her best over there to explain that to MLWers, but the atmosphere of fear and 'I do what I can, what more do you want me to do?' is overwhelming. She's not the only shining star, of course. Witness Lilian Friedman who says she knowingly broke the rules at BT by posting 6 diaries in one day asking why people weren't out on the streets and was summarily banned for being such an undisciplined shit-disturber. Did anyone over there actually realize she was trying to make a point? I don't know. I wasn't there at the time. But, she broke the rules and obviously had to be punished. If that type of reaction happens among so-called progressives, no wonder so many people don't want to risk what might happen if they actually do get out there and protest amongst those who oppose their opinions. (Janet can tell you stories about exactly what goes on in the face of dissent. Luckily no one can ban her from the streets. They've tried, but they haven't succeeded. We love Janet.)

What's with this culture of ennuie? This culture where staying safe is revered among all else? This culture of keyboard revolutionaries who often don't get beyond their own front door? This culture of endless hoping that someone, somewhere will change everything for everybody else? This culture that believes the only way to change the system is to work within it? This culture of defeatism? This culture of 'oh well, maybe next time'? This culture of only doing things that are comfortable? This culture that is so stunned it needs laugh tracks to tell people when to laugh and sad music to tell people when to cry? This culture that is so lazy it has lost the will of aggressive inquiry? This culture that obssesses over the murder of a child beauty queen 10 years ago while little Iraqi, Palestinian, Sudanese and [fill in the blank] girls are being murdered every single day?

You cannot change political institutions and corporations quickly, but you can change a culture. First of all though, you must have the willingness to do so. Unfortunately, the fear that holds too many back - fear that we on the so-called left often believe is the exclusive domain of those on the right who've bought into Bushco propaganda without even realizing that the Rove machine had beaten us as well - is the prime obstacle.

We say we're free. We think we're fearless. We believe we do all we can.

We are wrong.

('This Revolution Won't be Televised' is the name of a book by Joe Trippi)

See also: Call Me Old School: Protests Matter by me and Quit Your Bellyachin' About Antiwar Demonstrations by Meteor Blades.


catnip said...

Whoops. I posted this at my blog first by mistake, but I'll leave it up there as well.

catnip said...

Meteor Blades also had a great diary a while back at Daily Kos about protesting. I'll see if I can find a link.

catnip said...

If all you come up with are more complaints about how the antiwar leadership is doing everything wrong: then I guess the most important thing on your mind is not ending this illegal, immoral war that is killing Americans and Iraqis every day, draining our Treasury, weakening our national defense and making us look like fools and monsters throughout the world. The most important thing is spending energy talking about how much better things would be if the people who are actually organizing and building the coalitions that make protests happen would go away.
- Meteor Blades

We love Meteor Blades too.

scribe said...

Being a nurse for way too long has left me plagued with a tendency toward medical analogies, one of which I will inflict on you now.

Soon after white Americans are born, a small guage IV needle is inserted in a hidden place, and we are inflused with a mix of patrotism, exceptationlism, anti-otherism, racism and whatever other "isms" are in vogue in the minds of out original keepers.

Who, of course were unaware that there was anything at all wrong with doing this to little kids, having been hooked up themselves before they could walk, and infused with this mix for whole lifetimes.

If one is "drugged" from before his/her earliest memories of being alive, and everyone else around them has been similarly drugged, and they never leave this home group of drugged people, how would they know they were drugged at all?

Not much of a stretch to see why they then would see "others", (who either were not drugged, or who received a different kind of infusion,) as too different to be trusted, and as threats and enemies.

Life itself ripped out my IV a long time ago, but it still took a hell of a long time for the effects of all those drugs to wear off.

But take well infused white americans born to a certain level of privilege and comfort, who have not known anything but this, and who have never associated with anyone but those just like themselves,and it's not real likely they will feel any suspicion they were ever "drugged" at all.

Which is why I can't communicate with so many people out there anymore. We no longer seem to share the same reality.

James said...

Mickey Z sez:

" As a result, dissent in America is pretty much limited to marches, protests, boycotts, petitions, Michael Moore documentaries, the occasional vote for a third party candidate, and articles like this one. All of these methods (at least in their safe-for-mass-consumption versions) are deemed "legal" by those with the guns and, in their own way, legitimize the power held by those with the guns. Thus, all such tactics are ultimately impotent in terms of provoking systemic, long-term change. If you don't believe me, ask yourself why you haven't taken your rebellion beyond the methods listed above. Your answer is likely the same as mine: "We've got the numbers, but they've got the guns."

Maybe author Derrick Jensen had it right when he said:

"We still think we have something to lose. That's what's stopping us. As soon as we realize we have nothing left to lose we'll be dangerous."

After all, as Jim Morrison sang: "No one here gets out alive.""


James said...

Forgot the link:

MICKEY Z.: The Numbers Just Don't Add Up (And "They" Still Have The Guns)

James said...

The other thing I'd note is that we Americans are hung up on this need for immediate gratification. If something doesn't immediately produce a desired outcome, we dismiss it as a failure. Most coordinated actions seem to take years or longer in order to eventually produce a desired effect.

Gandhi didn't just do his thing one day and the next day the Brits ceased their occupation of India.

NLinStPaul said...

Check out John Mayer's new song and video, "Waiting on the World to Change." (Its on VH1's website and also You Tube. I don't know how to do the links here.) I think he might be summing up the feelings of a lot of young people in the US.

Nanette said...

Just for accuracy, I'd like to point out that there was a little more to Lilian's bootrib banning than that... I am anti banning and I quite like Lil, but I don't think BooMan was too out of bounds with this according to the rules of his site, although I think things could have been handled differently and more effectively.

But anyway... I go back and forth on the efficacy of street protests. I'm not anti them at all, and I think they help bring awareness to certain issues - many people in the US had never even heard of the WTO until the Seattle protests; the sight of black people being set upon by police dogs and water cannons during the Selma(?) march caused a number of people to question themselves and "how things are"; the Vietnam war protests, if they didn't actually end the war, definitely brought attention to people dying daily on the TVs and to the mounting disaster it was... so I think protests are sometimes effective, to a point.

I guess, though, that I think that they are (or would be) much more effective if there were long term plans and strategies in place for working on when the streets are clear.

The recent immigration protests being a case in point ... from what I understand, they were mostly organized on the fly thru myspace, text messaging, radio and other methods... and they were, for the most part, for a specific purpose, protesting that proposed draconian "immigrant as felon" law. Hundreds of thousands of people in the streets, filling avenues, waving flags, showing up (which is half the battle) and becoming a presence. Very exciting and heartening to see.

But, then what? And I understand that some groups are now registering more Lationo people to vote, and once the Unions got a glimpse of the way things were going, they have come up with some strategies and so on as well, but I think some of the gains were lost as soon as everyone disappeared from the TV screen.

I'd like to see street protests as part of a planned, broad, t's crossed and i's dotted many pronged strategy involving legislation, PR, planned community action and involvement and clearly defined end goals, and ways for continued involvement by all involved (this is probably already happening in some places, on some level and I am just unaware).

I think also one (more) reason that I am wary of coalescing around anti-war... especially anti *this* war is because I grew up in the midst of protests, in Hollywood in the 60's, mostly anti war stuff... and when the war was over so were a lot of dreams and half formed plans and ideas of BIG change. Some people went on to become Meteor Blades, but others went on to become John Kerry. Or Paul Wolfowitz. They got their tweak.

So, I'm more interested in coalescing around the idea of BIG change, with some of those changes being ending wars, ending imperialism and support for dictators and all that, but most of all effecting the change internally (personally and nationally) that allows for the growth of progressive thought and values and beliefs.

Or something like that.

Janet said...

The hard thing about forming planned big events is the permits, the licensing the... cooperation needed. Plus it's super hard to get a bunch of democrats or liberals to AGREE on one damn thing LOL

I think that's how the Republicans can bus in their counter protestors or hold their boycotts, vigils is because they have ONE MESSAGE. "HATE & FEAR: IF you ain't with us, you're against us" Whereas democrats/liberals don't have a collective voice, they have many voices.

It would be nice if we could come together on one major issue... like stop the killing.. but there's so many important issues out there.

Environment, Women's/Gay's/Minority rights, Immigration and anti-racism, the war, anti-Bush...

So I'll just continue marching with who ever will march regardless what their voice or sign says. Because "we ARE the people" they have taken that from us. We need to get it back. We need to stand out together in all our glorious individuality and uniqueness.

We need to combat the fear that some have that they'll be "silly" or "their boss might see them"...

If you can't get out to march... support the ones who are. Call the local media and ask them to cover the event, call the politicians and ask them why they aren't standing out there with them. Write letters, watch a single mom's kids so she can go out and march. Set up a sign making party at your house. :)

Janet said...

Ohhhh I love Meteor Blades diary on that :) Thanks for that link Catnip!

Protests, for me, are effective. Yes they take longer time and all that... but I get stir crazy if I'm not out there. I cry more. I gnash my teeth, I get insomnia. I lose hope.

My cure,

Take two vigills and call me in the morning :)

catnip said...

Just for accuracy, I'd like to point out that there was a little more to Lilian's bootrib banning than that...

That should be cleared up then. I wasn't there, so I'm just going by what she wrote.

catnip said...

Also, I'm taking at least a 2 week siesta from writing entries here because there are so many other voices to be heard (ahem cough cough). I'll still comment though.

DuctapeFatwa said...

I find the "baby steps" devotees especially irritating. For the most part, I ignored those, but I do remember once asking one, on one of the imperialist blogs, how it was working out for him. He wisely chose not to reply.

And I whole-heartedly agree that it is a cultural problem. The catastrophes and disasters caused by the US are not solely due to the politicians, the warlords, or even the profiteers. Without the help and support of the populace whose lives they spend like Paris Hilton spends money, they would be powerless.

Their only power IS the American culture, and while culture can change, cultural change is one of the slowest kinds, and when one is dealing with bombs and pain rays and chemical weapons, time is not among the available counter-measures, hence The Situation.

catnip said...

Are you familiar with this group? Apparently Calgary has a local chapter. I couldn't stand reading much of their manifesto because it's the same ole Rovian propaganda but I wonder how far these guys will go to get their point across.

catnip said...

O/T: I thought thereisnospoon was banned from BT?

Nanette said...

I don't think so. He left the front page (on his own accord, after his rightwingerishness not being well received in comments), but he's not banned or anything, unless I missed something.

He just posts diaries now, I think.

catnip said...

Ah, okay. Thanks.

boran2 said...

Is it fear or is it actually laziness?

James said...

spoon left the frontpage partially cuz he wasn't well received at the frogpond and partially cuz he got caught in the act of dissing the frogpond at Big Orange while he was still a frogpond frontpager.

Janet said...

Catnip, no I had not seen or heard of protestwarrior.

catnip said...

Sounds like they're definitely shit-disturbers.

James said...

Something I saw over in the comments to Mickey Z's latest post:

I received a good e-mail today from a vet that suggested that everytime someone says that the troops are fighting for us or for freedom or for the Iraqi people, we correct them and remind them that they are fighting for corporations.

I'm sure to some that will seem harsh, but I don't see any way around harshness at this particular historical juncture.

catnip said...

New NYT editorial about the lack of protests:

There Is Silence in the Streets; Where Have All the Protesters Gone?

supersoling said...

Harshness isn't exactly taken well on the left?.....

James said...

As I said at the frogpond, if "tone" counts for everything howzabout I say:

Pretty please, with sugar on top...stop killing the mothafuckin' civilians.

I wonder if that would be sufficiently "non-harsh" to please these folks.

owlbear1 said...

There is the missing "OR ELSE!!"

This is what I see as the primary differences betwixt then and now.

A protest march without the "OR ELSE!!" as in 'We are here peacefully protesting this policy we don't like! Change it OR ELSE we will stop protesting peacefully.

Without that "OR ELSE!!" factor a protest is pretty much just an exercise in exercise.(That certainly something we all need more of but,...)

Why is that?

Peaceful protest marches get very poor to no coverage. If no one but the participants hear about well thats not really doing anyone any good but the participants.

Sadly, its really only the ones with violence; that "OR ELSE",that get helicopters and spot lights.
Sure the message gets out that people are angry about the war but the only violence people see is what is happening on a street in their town.

See the difference?
The violence of Iraq is completely hidden. Abstract numbers, not sights and sounds.
See the dilemma?
Protesters are the only sights and sounds of violence to the general public.

Protest with your wallets, protest with your speech, protest with your music, and movies but it doesn't need to be done on the the streets.

anon said...

> ('This Revolution Won't be Televised' is the name of a book by Joe Trippi)

Uhhh, sure... Well before that, though, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised was a spoken word piece by Gil Scott-Heron.