The Party’s Over Party
by Richard Oxman
November 4, 2003
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed something to the door of the Wittenberg Palace All Saints' Church.
Had cappuccino with columnist Barbara Sumner Burstyn from the New Zealand Herald this morning, but there was nothing frothy about the conversation. She had read a recent article of mine, and was prepared to get past the foam in short order. I launched right into Bill Fletcher's speech to the Labor Assembly for Peace (on behalf of TransAfrica Forum and United for Peace and Justice) wherein he says, "Silence and ignorance are no longer acceptable, if they ever were. For it is now, in growing murmurs turning into cries that we hear from the world's people these questions: Are you, the people of the United States, stupid, OR have you made a decision to tolerate, if not support, atrocities committed in your name?".
There's a difference between ignorance and stupidity, of course. The latter involves not wanting to know, not just being out of touch with the facts. It's very clear at this juncture that the vast majority of American people are, for whatever reason, stupid. Don't just take my word for it. In trying to gather support for the action-oriented/very progressive international event we're organizing (OneDance: The People's Summit), a number of influential/respectable figures in the Progressive Community have underscored how unready the general public is for any radical action. Invariably, the reason given is that the masses just don't wanna know what's really flying, or why.
What exactly is the Left ready for? The writing of articles? (Who 'ya for? Hitchens or Chomsky? Or is that one old already?) Reading? (Wasn't Said great? Let me tell you....) Working for a candidate in spite of "other parties" not being allowed in the national debates, and irrespective of the fact that the voting machines, in important cases, provide no accountability? Telephoning reps in Congress (who aside from five) vote for sanctions on Syria, signing on to Bush's moronic hegemonic agenda (no lessons learned to date)? Taking sides vis-ŕ-vis the McCain/Lieberman Act distraction or some other inconsequential effort? Anyone for a World Social Forum in an exotic place? (Yep, that's me and Muhammad in front of....) Tennis?
The Progressive Community is ready to switch from Ipana to Colgate, courageous warriors that they are. But they're not close, for the most part, to switching from not brushing to brushing. Actually, what's called for at present is a switch from brushing to not brushing. That would be radical action.
The late Philip Berrigan said "If you dissent without breaking the law then you are legitimizing the system that allows this kind of latitude." Yes, we're going to have to go illegal to some degree to touch the state. As Tom Englehardt said just the other day, Bush/Cheney will be compelled to end the occupation of Iraq "only under the pressure of impending catastrophe, literal or electoral." With the suspect voting machines provided by Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia and others I don't think the Administration has to fret about the latter.
Europeans, our former allies, according to William Pfaff of the International Herald Tribune, "have stopped believing the American story." But Americans haven't. In fact, Americans have made the story worse of late. Now they're supporting the additional abominable notion that "Chechens, Moros, Taliban, Columbian insurgents, Palestinian bombers and Iraqi enemies" are "a single global phenomenon that the world must mobilize to defeat." We still corner the market on "responsibility and high-mindedness" in their narrow-minded view. Actually, most of the world never did believe the American story, according to Pfaff, but since 9/11 they've enthusiastically embraced, unfettered, an image of the U.S. that's the polar opposite of what Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg (and their ancestors) have been trying to prop up...forever.
While Michael Moore jokes about and around Wesley Clark's war criminality, and Democracy Now! looks the other way so as not to detract from the sales of fundraising (with Moore's NASCAR caps)...or for whatever reason, the dark forces we've set in motion continue unabated. They act as if we have all the time in the world. Well, Americans may still be able to ignore the mowing down of soldiers and civilians (already almost dead from the depleted uranium they've ingested), but they're not going to be able to turn away from the sight of San Francisco being made uninhabitable...forever. It's a lock; Poindexter knew it when he proposed that failed terrorist-oriented OTB scheme.
Americans can convince themselves that there's a significant enough difference between this or that candidate to not have to worry about whether or not their neighbor drives an SUV, the Aaron Pattersons of the world fry, or Israelis and Palestinians rot in Hell on Earth. BUT...a new paradigm for action is not just called for, it's being begged for by the Universe. This is not hyperbole. And it doesn't have to be a bootless cry. Put aside the Patriot Act (for the moment), forget about the abomination that is the Death Penalty (if you can), and disregard the new tax laws temporarily (if you can afford it). The environmental issues alone --any ONE of a number of them-- are enough to warrant the use of the word war. Progressives must declare WAR! It's a war that can be won...without shedding blood.
"They say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one." Listen to Lennon. Shake off the shackles.
As Arundhati Roy and many others have said, "The American way of life is simply no longer sustainable." That means a major confrontation is in order. And with all the respect in the world for what UFPJ and International Answer have accomplished with their massive demonstrations, I'm not talking about that kind of confrontation, the kind that "legitimizes the system that allows this kind of latitude" (Berrigan). In that we are talking about the survival of the planet, it means we must declare "war" on the 'publicans, pods, Stepford Wives, and the politically (but insufficiently active) correct among us. Nonviolent conflagration, but war nonetheless. It is NOT war when you march to a designated spot and return home to plan the next gathering. Certainly, it's not war when one returns home to turn on the mainstream news or eat some GMO gumbo.
It's war practiced when -- all excuses and rationales dispensed with -- we find time to educate, self-educate, proselytize...and more...much more...tactfully, repeatedly, and with verve...as if our lives depended on the effort. Unrelentingly. It's war when we stop "brushing our teeth." When we stop our habits, habits which are, if we listen to Beckett, "the great deadener." When we help others to stop their routines, their life by rote. When we call a spade a spade, and a Body Snatcher nothing but...that. Beyond that, war is wisely waged when we stop investing so much trust in leaflets and representatives, in mothers (without thinking) and madmen. Smart war when we don't beat a dead horse, and move on to the next possibility, stranger or colleague. Incessantly...forever. For if any battle were slated to go beyond our lifetimes, this is it. The "much more" alluded to above cannot be shared in a public column. But it's very important stuff. And the key for that and everything, the key to mobilizing masses of people who won't melt at the first confrontation or tire too soon, is bonding one-on-one immediately...and forever. But starting yesterday.
You don't have to have lots of facts and figures under your belt. Spread the word on that. You don't have to feel comfy speaking in public. Oh no. All you need to get started is to know that the house is on fire. People got too much on their plate? They're never too busy to knock over the dining room table when there's a serious gas leak about to blow. People been there done that? Don't let them fool you; they haven't ever burned to death. They callin' you Chicken Little? Send 'em our way if they're ignorant and want documentation. If they're stupid, move on...quickly. Moving expeditiously is of paramount importance. It won't take more than a few million across the nation to halt the Administration's current suicidal momentum (as per the outline below). I'm betting that we can get 15% of the voting public first time around. Following that...we'll see. Oh! You know what's gonna happen? No one's gonna show in solidarity? Step aside. We have a new paradigm.
People smell the smoke, and they'll be looking for the exit signs once you look them in the eyes with concern...and whisper "Fire!".
Here's a shot at beginning to solve the world's problems. Obviously, it has to begin where the shots are being called...in bad 'ol U.S. of A. Any issue you're primarily concerned with you can address by tackling the issue we're confronting...first. That includes everything from toxic groundwater to bringing the troops home.
You begin by offering the entire nation Universal (Free) Health Care for everyone; that's basic coverage for all citizens and all documented and (as things presently stand) undocumented immigrants. How to pay for it? Get this.... We can provide for the plan while simultaneously reducing taxes by 25% on 95% of the population, and increasing taxes by 100% on the top 1% of the population. Corporations which have not paid taxes within memory will pay at least twice as much as they paid the last time they paid taxes. What exactly does the plan cover? Those specifics can be worked out at OneDance: The People's Summit (see below). A very good friend of mine --a top notch, brilliant activist/writer -- suggested that I might want to use a footnote here illustrating the inequity of the tax system. Hmmm. Nah. Those who can't budge without documentation first can consult Michael Parenti's "The Super Rich are Out of Sight", but the scorecard's definitely in; it's a no-brainer to convince the uninitiated...if they're motivated to see the light. Just takes a few minutes, but it's better done one-on-one (as per the principle noted above), bonding simultaneously. Those in The Movement have known about the gross (and growing) inequities for years. That's part of the problem: Too much documentation, too little action based on what's already clear as a fire bell. Wake up, America! We have the winning jockey. Her/his name is "95% of the population." That includes a lot of law officers, by the way. That's the central strategy of The Party's Over (for the top 1%) Party (TPOP).
Doubting Thomas Corner: Anyone who needs convincing that there's plenty of money to fund what we're proposing should check out Joel Brinkley's "Auditors Say U.S. Agencies Lose Track of Billions" which appeared in the New York Times of October 14, 2002. Apparently, federal accounting practices would never be tolerated in the private sector. Federal departments' records are so disorganized, even chaotic, that agencies are unable to account for tens of billions of dollars routinely. Needless to say, no investigations, no corrections to speak of take place. Like with the voting machines...no accountability. One of the reasons that they get away with so much is that there's almost a conspiracy within the public school system to keep children ignorant regarding exactly what a billion means. Those children grow up...stupid.
At OneDance: The People's Summit scheduled for the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz, California, January 12-14, 2004, activists, educators, filmmakers, librarians and the general public worldwide will be gathering to discuss many issues. The most important among them, arguably, will involve our laying the groundwork for a massive nationwide "Hunger for Peace Strike" (slated for April 15-17, 2004). That's a "Hunger for PEACE" focus, not a hunger strike of any kind. Should be more effective than the more common model for action as the authorities --especially these days-- are apt to let protestors starve to death...as an indifferent public walks by...busy with their "full plates." At the risk of sounding extremely presumptuous, I don't see any reason why the HPS shouldn't be of historic proportions, one of the most influential demonstrations in U.S. history.
On April 15 (Tax Day) we will begin to tax the government. The idea is for millions of people to gather at their local post offices (Remember April, 1916?) at High Noon (Remember Gary Cooper?). None of the 95% of the population that has a vested interest in joining hands with us will have to spend a penny to travel to Washington D.C. or San Francisco or any faraway locale. Even if someone's on vacation...they can go to the local p.o. The 17th is a Saturday option for working blokes. No excuses, no rationales for inaction. They go...prepared to stay. They go...with the main idea of providing a head count for the nation and the world. You see, it's our contention that the American public will have to vote TWICE in 2004. November, of course, is de rigueur. But, as per the Diebold/ES&S sham, an alternative opportunity has been created. To wit, the op on April 15-17. People will show up, if they do, primarily because they want to show that they're serious about not wanting Bush/Cheney or any other war criminal in office. That they are willing to put their bodies on the line. Other demands that we will come up with at the summit in Santa Cruz can be supported or not, but the main reason for moving in solidarity will be clear. An added benefit will be the demonstration that people with little experience and less of a budget can organize something significant. Michael Albert's delineation in today's brilliant article on ZNet ("Guns and Alternative Media?) focuses on how important it is for people in The Movement to believe that their "contributions will yield much", that, in effect, they can make a difference. This is right up that dark alley. Another benefit will be derived from our simply spotlighting action along the lines of a new paradigm, underscoring the importance of coming up with new models for action.
"You just can't declare that there's going to be a massive demonstration nationwide!" Well, we aren't just declaring, but, rather, we've been working on this from all angles for the better part of a year. Preparing for it, in fact, for a lifetime. Besides, we dropped out of Defeatist Perspective 101 quite a while ago. It's the little things we've noticed that convince us it'll click. For instance, we encourage everyone to become constructively creative by first dispensing with unwarranted faith (see above re: reps, mothers and madmen). Next, we warn people, as already touched upon, to be wary of putting up flyers or emailing huge numbers in lieu of bonding one-on-one (Is there any other way to do so?) to truly motivate, etc. We've found scores of principles to share (if you contact us), but one more is worth outlining here. From now until Tax Day, you can get busy (no matter how busy you are) with copying down the names of people (voicing compatible opinions) who write to your local newspapers. Then, tactfully try to reach them by phone. Some will be open, I promise you, to preparing for the "Hunger for Peace Strike." Some will volunteer to educate/contact others. Do the math, and you're unlikely to think "...reflexively, immediately, morosely about the myriad reasons why victory can never be ours." Again, Michael Albert.
Millions of people nationwide gathering at their local post offices, in many cases indistinguishable for the better part of the day from patrons going and coming. At the post offices --one of the few local spots across the country where citizens can easily come across one another and leisurely converse-- which the Federal Government is currently trying to do away with in their present form, we will send a message to the powers-that-be. When the demands are presented under the glare of national/international coverage, it will be an opportunity to educate the public in a grand way. And when the inevitable refusal to honor the demands descends, for the first time in U.S. history millions of people will be arrested virtually simultaneously. That's a statement that will not be swept under the Media Carpet. That arrest record will be an official part of the historical record, figures that cannot be fudged, stats that can't be spun. A date in history?
Don't be late. At the moment, there is no time for the niceties of committee meetings, the obsession with process, or the never-ending debate that intellectuals may want to engage in lieu of action. In war the element of surprise will work wonders, and too much anticipatory talk will water down our potential for dismantling cages. The democratic process can be alive and well at OneDance, but, for the moment, let's move expeditiously. There's no other proposal on the table that I know about. If there is, please let us know about it. I'm not attached to what we have on the boards. I'll enthusiastically embrace any idea that stops the abominations at home and abroad yesterday.
When people come up to Chomsky following a lecture, as they invariably do, and ask what they can do, he often says "Anything. There's any number of things you can do." Apparently, when he's not in the U.S. people come up to him and explain what they're already doing. What are YOU doing? Working for someone who won't be allowed in the national debates or working for someone who won't push for "other parties" to be in those debates?
Michael Parenti, ex-Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, Devinder Sharma, William Blum, Mickey Z, William Grieder, Norman Solomon, Dima Tareq Tahboub and many other glorious souls may not endorse the "Hunger for Peace Strike" (that remains to be seen), but they're all committed to contributing to our summit in January, and we invite all readers of this article to join hands with us. No one with an inability to pay will be turned away. This is a nonprofit event designed not just to move mountains, but to preserve them. And for that, we want and need everyone.
The party's over. Not just for the top 1%, but for all of the drunken sailors who --in their stupor-- support The Machine, and settle for misplaced peanuts in the Pecan Pie. People who love Howard Zinn can somehow finesse around his repeated mantra that "If voting could change anything, it would be illegal." Progressives who work exclusively within the electoral framework need to ask themselves who's stupid. Howard? Me? The billions alluded to by Bill Fletcher? Ask that and maybe we'll get past the political frothy talk...and get down with the espresso, the jolt.
"Free at last, free at last, great God Almighty...." --Martin Luther King
Richard Oxman is co-organizer of OneDance: The People's Summit and the "Hunger for Peace Strike," both of which, hopefully, will make it unlikely for the likes of Bush/Cheney to rule in 2004, and where radical action strategies will be proposed/implemented. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at (831) 427-5353 (after mid-November)
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