the Vietnam War protest song "Five to One," Jim Morrison of The
The old get old/And the young get stronger
May take a week/And it may take longer
They got the guns/But we got the numbers
Gonna win, yeah/We're takin' over
In my youth, I took solace in the whole "we got the numbers" thing. The
very idea filled with me hope . . . but little did I know, the ones with
the guns have had it all figured out for a very, very long time.
Philosopher David Hume, in 1758, explained it this way: "As force is
always on side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them
but opinion. It is, therefore, on opinion only that government is founded
and this maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments
as well as to the most free and most popular."
"The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders
of the Western world," adds Gore Vidal. "No First World country has ever
managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity, much
This potent combination of muscle and misinformation manifested itself
in the events leading up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. On February 15
of that year, tens of millions of earthlings marched and carried signs to
declare their unambiguous disapproval of America's plan to drastically
ratchet up what had essentially been a 12-plus year war against the people
The massive global protests were barely noticed.
The shock-and-awe invasion went on as planned.
The repulsive occupation continues to this day.
Doesn't say a whole lot for "having the numbers," huh?
"We" also had the numbers last summer when it came to who did and
didn't support Israel's assault on the Lebanese populace. Outside of a
select few in Israel, Great Britain, and the United States, the vast
majority of our planet's human population were vociferously against the
actions of the Israeli government and its U.S.-funded armed forces. But
once again, the numbers just didn't add up. As long as America's ruling
elite avoided any mention of a ceasefire, Lebanon remained doomed to its
fate... no matter how many of us didn't like it.
In these and countless other cases, "we" have had the numbers. "We" still
have the numbers. Morrison's "they," however, give no indication they'll
be surrendering their guns any time soon. As a result, dissent in America
is pretty much limited to marches, protests, boycotts, petitions,
candlelight vigils, 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."