Friday, May 8, 2015

Revolution Road...well, Maybe.

So, When?

Been doing a little reading of late, as opposed to being further numbed by the relentless oratory and visually myopic slime vomited from the world's greatest propaganda machine: network television, in all its insidious, mindless and vulgar manifestations.  From author Chis Hedges:

"Get back into your cages, they are telling us. Return to watching the lies, absurdities, trivia, celebrity gossip and political theater we feed you in twenty-four-hour cycles on television. Invest your emotional energy in the vast system of popular entertainment. Run up your credit card debt. Pay your loans. Be thankful for the scraps we toss. Chant back to us our platitudes about democracy, greatness and freedom. Vote in our rigged corporate elections. Send your young men and women to fight and die in useless, unwinnable wars that provide huge profits for corporations. Stand by mutely as our legislators plunge us into a society without basic social services while Wall Street speculators loot and pillage."

1929?  Might be, if not for the reference to television.  And of course, this time around, the middle-class are doing a metaphorical roof jump instead of the stockbrokers.  Or, being gunned down in the streets as the newest version of some 'Final Solution.'  Too severe?   

Maybe, but then again, maybe not.  I tend to seek recall from my early post-radical days. My sister had introduced me to Frank Zappa and his Mothers of Invention.  Oh, and something new called LSD.  I did a lot of reading and far too much acid.  On one rather extended LSD and amphetamine binge, I read:  "War and Peace," Steinbeck's, "The Grapes of Wrath," "Animal Farm" and Kenneth Patchen's allegorical tale, "The Journal of Albion Moonlight" -- while drinking bottle after bottle of Coca-Cola.  After a short hospital stay to restart my kidneys, I ended up at the Selective Service's version of a send-off party to Vietnam, where I pissed a cupful of blood and something that looked like rancid egg-whites. The guy in the next urinal was wearing a nice black bra and matching panties. Never did get his name...probably for a good reason.

Next day, I decided to become a radical...and that amphetamines were probably not a good way to extend my literary awareness. The rest is a long, rambling story that could probably fill a novel -- oh wait, it did.  But eventually I became old and rather lame.  You know how it goes, uh...played with one too many horses, animals that I always appreciated far more than humans, even if they were a little hard on me at times.

The 'Farmer's Almanac...for Lunatics.'
So here we are, a half century later, and I'm having a new twinge of a very old of deja vu kind of moment.  Only difference being that LSD is probably not going to offer me much clarity this time. Instead of one nasty war, we have two or six or how ever many you like. Voting is suppressed, or more accurately, a waste of a nice afternoon. Instead of just rumors of concentration camps (big deal in the 1960's), we actually have one at Guantanamo, along with sundry-dozens of private prisons, inner city-sacrifice zones -- such as Cleveland, Detroit, Camden and Baltimore ad nauseum.  Oh...and agricultural labor camps where we casually accept slave-labor in exchange for cheap, chemically-infested tomatoes.  And instead of spraying Agent Orange on Godless communists in some distant land, we just engineer it into the food we eat.

However, the Stock Market is making record gains, which is supposed to make everybody feel good, especially while we're endlessly scouting the neighborhood for the nearest food bank.  And for the first time in our recent history, poverty has been eliminated from the ranks of the Fortune 5oo.  I could go on, but...I'd need a kind of medication that I can't afford right now.

Do I have some point here?  Hmm.  Not sure, other than I keep wondering why it takes white people so long to get pissed off in this country?  Maybe it's because we've been told so often that we're "exceptional," and as such, we feel obliged to be on our best behavior. And of course, if we burned down the nearest Wal-Mart, where in the hell could we get cheap toilet paper? 

Mostly, I was wondering what happened to this budding weed known as the Occupy Movement?  At first, I was rather pleased to see people openly urinating in the streets again, and somewhat enthused about their non-violent approach; an idea we tried to emulate in another era of unrest, until the clubs, tear gas and occasional murder caused us to re-evaluate the idea of passive resistance.  Of course in those days we still had a free and antagonistic press -- not the corporate pimps and clowns that dominate the airwaves today. Or the hired thugs in the Blogosphere that shit lies and never seem to change their underwear. Even so, I tried to extrapolate our movement over time and consider its relevancy in this, the age of social media.  

First, I took a look at What Kevin Zeese had to say.  He was one of the founders of the Occupy Movement. "We do have a grand strategy," he said. "Non-violent movements shift power by attacking the columns that hold the power structure in place.  Those columns are the military, police, media, business, workers, youth...Every time we deal with the police, we have that in mind.  The goal is not to hit them...and weaken them. The goal is to pull people from those columns to our side.  We want the police to know that we understand they're not the 1 percent."

However, seems to me that the police work for whoever the other 99% might be; this large body that is simultaneously both inclusive and exclusive, but equally addicted to avoiding those questions that demand attention in real time. The 1% don't bother with questions, mostly because they haven't as yet noticed any problems with their private and sequestered lives or the narrative they espouse -- no, control.  So I'm going to adjust the arithmetic:  1% at the top is horn-locked with the 1% at the bottom. The rest of the country is waiting to see what Dr. Oz has to say about it. This might work in Occupy's favor, little like that old adage: "The rich get richer and the poor more numerous."  Ha...democracy in inaction!

The 'Occupy Movement' as depicted by
 American mainstream media
Zeese goes on to explain that what they wanted to create in this movement was a 'horizontal hierarchy' -- not a vertical one in the corporate sense. But of course what they got was the street dregs, dope fiends and other homeless folks that had already fallen hard from America's fleet of social dump trucks. And the press (if you can still call it that!), was more than willing to exploit that angle. You could say it was a PR disaster where for once, the truth didn't free you...just complicated things immensely, mostly because today's media uses crayons, and only colors inside the designated lines.

So I looked a little further. It seemed that the Movement was borrowing from the ideology of Czechoslovakia's Vaclav Havel, who advocated "living within the truth."  Hedges paraphrased the concept:  "This attempt to 'live within the truth brings with it ostracism and retribution.  But punishment is imposed in bankrupt systems because of the necessity for compliance, not out of any real conviction. And the real crime committed is not the crime of speaking out or defying the rules, but the crime of exposing the charade."

Hmm. Brings me back to this insatiable need for 'law and order' and the fact that the free press is having lunch in the boardroom -- while the masses eat off the $1 menu. It seems to me, having a little media experience myself, that in order to appreciate a free and open press, you just might need a free and unencumbered mind.  So, I delved back into history and fiction. First, I re-read George Orwell's "1984."

"Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating?  It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself."

Ah, so fear does garner votes; for all the unnatural reasons.  Seems that's how Stalin enjoyed such a long run in Moscow. Nobody voted in the conventional sense, just as nobody seems to vote here -- either conventionally or otherwise.  Too busy watching serial alligator killers or "House of Cards"  -- a fine example of the truth masquerading as satire...or is it the other way around?  Too bad Shakespeare's long dead. she might have been able to shed some light on it.  Yeah, I said, 'she.'  Another theory for another day.  

Also rattled the bones of Karl Marx and noted anarchist, Mikhail Bakunin.

Marx said, concerning proletariat revolutions are: 

"...[They] constantly criticize themselves, constantly interrupt themselves in their own course, return to the apparently accomplished, in order to begin anew; they deride with cruel thoroughness the half-measures, weaknesses, and paltriness of their first attempts, seem to throw down their opponents only so the latter may draw new strength from the earth and rise before them again more gigantic than ever, recoil constantly from the indefinite colossalness of their own goals -- until a situation is created which makes all turning back impossible, and the conditions themselves call out:"

"Hier ist die Rose, hier tanze."
[Here is the Rose; dance here.]

Mikhail Bukunin

Karl Marx

But...and a big but.  While Marx easily "recognized the self-destructive machine that was unfettered capitalism, he viewed the poor as a conservative force...made irrelevant by the growth of capitalistic forces and caustically referred to them as "a sack of potatoes."" [Hedges.]  Here, I somehow visualized Wal-Mart, where the amorphous masses pick up their bribes from the 'company store;'  or in the case of a decaying and corrupt Rome, where you were given "bread and games" as an exchange for supporting the corruption of the state. How else do you explain why the abused do their shopping at the abusers store?   Fear, or something else?

Mikhail Bukunin figured it differently. He saw "in the uncivilized, disinherited, and illiterate, a pool of revolutionists who would join the working class and turn on the elites who profited from their misery and enslavement."  [Hedges] 

Tend to like the anarchist's approach better, but do imagine it might take a little longer to start the fire.  Of course, these revolutionists occupied a different era -- a time when voices, eyes and body language transmitted much more than the written word could.  In this age of 14-word logic, the mass assimilation and distribution of disinformation, and passive-aggressive pandering traveling at the speed of light, any semblance of truth or fact might be difficult or impossible to find -- Ah, but you see, that's the whole idea: confusion and misdirection. In the old days, the revolutionist's first task was to take over the radio stations; to silence the self-anointed propaganda machine of the state and deliver their alternative message.  Today, we have the sanitizers and thought police at the NSA, as well as a half-dozen other agencies and  news corporations who control access to virtually all forms of communication here -- from the news, to what constitutes entertainment, those lines fuzzier than ever. This, along with virtually every electronic device on the planet.  Privacy?  Ha. Orwell had it right all along.             

Then again, there's Bob Dylan, whose mystery and lyrics painted a different landscape that perhaps many of us felt, but could never completely articulate:

"Something is happening here,
But you don't know what it is;
Do you, Mister Jones?"
                                                                                       "Ballad of the Thin Man."

Here's a primer on how revolutions get started:  

* discontent that affects nearly all social classes;
* widespread feelings of entrapment and despair;
* unfilled expectations;
* a united solidarity in opposition to a tiny power elite;
* a refusal by scholars and thinkers to continue to defend the actions of the ruling class;
*an inability of government to respond to the basic needs of citizens;
* a steady loss of will within the power elite itself together with defections from the inner circle -- a crippling isolation that leaves the power elite without any allies or outside support;
* a financial crisis.

Crane Brinton, "Anatomy of a Revolution."

Well, we have elements of 7 out of 8 as it is, but of course, there are always other issues: the propaganda machine in this country, the love of law and order...or as the addict explains: 'the bad known is always more comfortable than  the unknown.'  So we accept the little crumbs, keep staring at the horizon and assume tomorrow will be better, when yesterday was just another repeat of many other yesterdays.  

Funny. When I was back east last year in a vain attempt to get my long-overdue hip repaired, I killed a lot of time with my 12-year old protege of sorts, Vincent. A very serious Star Trek fan and future Starship commander, I do believe I watched every episode ever made.  Even learned a few words of Vulcan.

In the end, I concluded that America had become this planet's Borg -- all-consuming, infinitely powerful...insatiable really, until virtually every resource on this planet is stripped away and stored in some unseen vault. The rest, sadly cast to the cosmic winds.

As Bernie Sanders has often said, 'we need a revolution of thought in this land,' It is either that, or we're likely going to experience the other version, which just might be the closing chapter on this experiment called America.  It is the inevitable outcome when the ambitions and dreams of ordinary people are sacrificed for the gains of the few.  Same lesson, new century, a lot at stake. 

We went off to battle this monster called the Borg -- 
Only to discover that the Borg was really us.