During the Viet Nam war there were basically 3 things that pretty much all left leaning progressives and ultimately a broader swath of the population could agree on as key issues. They were: ending the war, civil rights, and to stop the use of nuclear (mostly) as weapons & (secondarily) as a source of power.
Today, we are bombarded by information about countless issues that require action. Many that potentially puts our very world at risk.
Climate change, declared and undeclared wars, America’s shameful and immoral behavior all around the globe, food, seed and bio-diversity, genetically modified crops, the corporate take-over of democracy, U.S. citizens falling into poverty at an alarming rate, the assault on our civil liberties, whistleblowers being treated as criminals, the assault on unions, suppressing voter rights, an administration that won’t prosecute the last administration for war crimes or the bankers that caused our financial woes, a president that isn’t doing what he promised (when we had such high hopes) while acquiescing to the conservative agenda without a fight, not to mention a field of Republican candidates that makes our collective skin crawl.
Everyday my inbox is filled with emails about situations and causes that scream about some terrible injustice or how things will all fall apart if we don’t take action. Petitions and information regarding everything from dire environmental warnings, holding the bankers accountable, investigating Clarence Thomas, Internet neutrality, Bradley Manning being tortured, to applying pressure on Congress to pass a half-assed jobs bill. So much, if I read all of them I literally wouldn’t have time to do anything else. Back in the 1960’s and early 1970’s when people took to the streets, most of the problems we face today actually were happening or starting to happen, we just didn’t know about them. What we did suspect, was vague and hard to believe our government could be involved. Collective denial? Maybe.
For some of us, our eyes opened slowly as successive scandals came to light. Watergate, the Gulf of Tonkin, corporations deciding that the cost of litigation for consumer deaths was better for their bottom line when compared to the cost of making a product safe. Then we heard about the U.S. government in the crack cocaine business to support an illegal war in Nicaragua. The list goes on.
The TV news at the time had a semblance of independence and played a big role in awakening people about Viet Nam with a steady stream of reports about the war, complete with images of flag draped coffins. While the number of participants were down-played the protests at least made the evening news. However, much of our population chooses to deny, or at least to avoid thinking about the mounting crises through various avenues of diversion (“Reality” and celebrity TV, e.g.). Seriously, are Brittany’s troubles or so and so’s marital problems really on a par with the climate crisis, the wars? It’d be hard to tell based on how the mainstream media spends its limited time.
We are overwhelmed. Every place we look, there’s something threatening. A sort of mass paralysis from sensory overload has resulted. Instead of 3 things to focus on, there are hundreds. We may not know where to start. Add to this, either by accident or by design, it has gotten tough for most folks to even keep their own lives afloat. Personally, I don’t think it’s an accident, at least not in a general sense.
In Wisconsin, there was a single issue to focus on that was so immediate, so important to so many that more than 100,000 people showed up in Madison. It was a thing of beauty. Each of the uprisings of the Arab Spring has that type of focus but on steroids. A single goal that everyone could get behind and were willing to risk their lives for: forcing their current government out of power. If the changes can be sustained is to be seen. In Egypt, the military is still convicting civilians in military courts and using harsh tactics to break up further protests.
Since 9/11, the American government has built the infrastructure for a surveillance state. They can and do read our email and listen to our phone calls. Computers are used to scan millions of communications searching for certain key words. The Patriot Act has given law enforcement new powers to do warrant-less searches of U.S. citizens. These new powers, we are told were designed specifically to fight terrorism but have been used extensively in drug related crimes and information gathering on peaceful activist groups.
New technology allows law enforcement agencies to spy on people from helicopters from farther away than can be seen or heard. They can see through walls. This equipment has been deployed in New York City. In an interview I watched, members of the para-military counter terrorism branch of the NYPD, promised that it has never and will never be used to violate the privacy of our homes or offices. You’ll excuse me if I’m not reassured.
I am currently about a quarter of the way through Naomi Klein’s latest book, The Shock Doctrine, The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. It’s pretty disturbing but in my opinion is a must read to understand current events. And to understand what we’re up against, why our elected officials and the International Monetary Fund are pushing austerity measures and cuts rather than what many economists prescribe: spending to boost the economy and create jobs. Why a democratic president is fine with cuts in Social Security and Medicare and social programs. Why some of the GOP would be happy for the financial crisis that would come if we defaulted on our debts. Why there hasn’t been prosecutions of the major players in the financial sector. And ultimately, what’s in store for us if they get their way.
They have a head start. The media reports on a Tea Party gathering that draws 30 people while overlooking a progressive event that gets hundreds or thousands. The mainstream media is not conservative or liberal as some would have you believe. With few exceptions, it speaks for the multinational corporation that owns it. If you want to learn the truth about what’s happening, you have to seek it out. The days of passively watching your TV or listening to the radio doesn’t cut it anymore.
The network for repression is in place. We need to raise our voices in protest and non-violently let them know that it matters enough to us to take a stand. They pretend that they don’t pay attention to us, that we don’t matter to them. But I have to believe that we can still effect a change but we have to act quickly… the window of opportunity is closing.
The good news is that there are a bunch of groups that are working to push back this assault. Find a group to protest with. Go to New York and join the group that is Occupying Wall Street. Go to Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. Support progressive movements like Think Progress, Demand Progress and Move On. Join Rebuild The Dream. Arm yourself with the truth at sites like FireDogLake. There is a group working for change that you will be able to find common ground with. Don’t believe the picture that the mainstream media paints of the Occupy movement. Occupations and demonstrations are happening in around 1000 cities and towns across North America. If there isn’t one close to you, start an occupation. Most of the occupations have a website at occupy(name of city).org, many have live stream feeds.
Don’t seek a hero, it’s not the answer. We need to all take responsibility and be our own hero… waiting for someone else to make things right just won’t cut it anymore. The whole system seems broken, but it’s not. It’s been hijacked by greedy corporations and wealthy individuals who see themselves as above the law, the elite. It is working perfectly for them. We have to stand up, push back and make our voices heard, before it’s too late.