Thursday, October 14, 2010

Answers to Questions Pt. 1

(Like the hate mails I received last week, I want to start archiving the discussions I have with people trying to start more genuine dialogues. Visitors, feel free to join in.)

The questions:

I was curious of your opinion on a few things.

First off I have read a lot about the 60's. The whole counter culture is still a big interest to me. One of the groups I found quite intriguing was Jerry Rubin and the Yippys. I read the Manifesto, and I think Rubin went nuts after a while. He became really dark. Abby Hoffman really remained peaceful all through his hiding and the FBI setup and plea deal. Rubin didn't endure nearly that and started calling for a violent takeover of government. He began aligning himself with the Weather Underground. I was wondering what you think of Jerry Rubin and the yippy movement, and what he later became in the form of a business man.

I also wanted to ask why you think activism is not as prevalent in the US as it used to be. I think much of it has to do with the fact that as the income gap increases, it is harder for families to survive. This leads to frustration in peoples own lives and survival becomes a distraction or deterrent from protest. People are becoming less involved in politics and less informed which leads to a simple complacency. Is that a part of the design though? I am very politically active, as you can see, which is why it drives me crazy to see people so unconcerned about politics and what the country is doing. It almost seems that distraction is the tool used to avoid an uprising, and it is working.

As you can see, I am very politically active. I now work to get those that I think will make the changes desperately needed elected. I know that I will disagree with you on some things as I am a liberal leaning moderate. That said, I love learning knew things from those I may not entirely agree with. This is the same reason I listen to right wing talk radio. I look forward to engaging in some enlightened conversation with you.

The Answers:

1) Jerry Rubin and the Yippies were a particular reaction to the growing spectacle of corporate media. They recognized that the spectacle (the illusions, the hypnotic factor, the commanding effect, the dominance of mainstream discourse) of mainstream media culture required that activists rethink their traditional methods of movement organizing and direct action. Pranks, irreverence, dropping-out, were seen as the acceptable attitudes needed to challenge the hegemonic structure. Unfortunately they underestimated A) the ability of corporate culture to appropriate and exploit these subversive tactics and B) the passivity of the burgeoning consumer culture. Rubin was equivalent to a sideshow barker, in another time he might have been P.T. Barnum and/or a businessman… oh, wait, in another time he did become that. That in itself doesn’t discount his ideas. Of course he was pissed off, the radical counter culture (including very peaceful people) found themselves being hunted and persecuted by the American government (FBI, COINTELPRO, etc). Are you familiar with Situationism in Europe that took a more serious and unbending position in the struggle with what they termed the “spectacle?”

2) The Weather Underground were at least partially motivated by the FBI’s infiltration, persecution, surveillance and execution of major groups/figures that were resisting the military-industrial-media-university complex in the 60s/70s. Remember The Weather Underground never killed anyone (other than two members killed in their own bomb mishap) in their long series of organizational bombings of buildings of institutions/businesses they viewed as complicit and/or active with the war-mongering for profits activities of the M-I-M-U complex. Ironically, when the major figures finally turned themselves in (like Ayers and Dohrn) and went to trial, they were exonerated because of the illegality of the government’s tactics against them. Imagine that, an illegal organization that bombed govt/bank buildings for over a decade, were exonerated because the law enforcement tactics were so seriously illegal/wrong. Most of the members were re-assimilated into mainstream society without giving up the same values they have always championed and to this day fight injustice. I can provide you with some writings/documentaries that could help expand your understandings of governance and resistance, national as well as global, during the 60s/70s.

3) I honestly believe that activism is at least as prevalent today, if not more so, than it was in the 60s. The problem is that the media has been allowed (encouraged) to consolidate to the point where 6 major corporations control 85+% of the world’s media. These corporations act in their own interest, in true hegemonic fashion, and they thus turn away from the actions of those that protest the systems that enable and protect their dominance (and of their allies). So, the questions we need to ask, keeping in mind the 10 million people worldwide who protested in the streets at the start of the current, ongoing Iraq War (despite two U.S. Presidents now having declared it over)-- why didn’t we get a detailed picture of these protests? If ten million trees fall in a forest and no one hears about it—did it happen? I can count off the top of my head in the U.S. ten major protest actions this year on ten different issues… I could probably double that if I did a day’s research (and double again when we turn to global protests…). Only one has been covered, some would say promoted, in the mainstream media—why is that? Are you familiar with Project Censored’s work… ?

4) Having said that, what about the rest of the people who are distracted or overworked? From childhood, we, in our society, are trained to shut up and be quiet. We are trained to unquestioningly acquiesce to authority. We are trained to think “America, the land I love, right or wrong” or if you have a problem with this country you should go somewhere else. We, like Sunday Christians, begin to believe as long as we prostrate ourselves before the symbols of our secular religion, then we are saved regardless if we act out our essential beliefs. We are trained to fragment/compartmentalize our lives (work has no connection to our homelife, America’s global actions are removed from American's everyday lives, our investments/purchases don’t need to reflect our supposed values—the documentary The Corporation portrays this ethical disconnect effectively)? Most people have no training in media literacy, how to find alternative/independent/community news sources, and/or even why they should question the official propaganda that flows through the mainstream media.

5) Beginning in the 70s two major assaults on the gains of previous generations began A) conservative corporate-funded think tanks and their government flunkys began a concerted attack on unions/labor and worked to roll back basic worker rights/securities in order to further enrich the wealthy B) American education was defunded almost across the board and a new emphasis was placed on purely factual knowledge absent of more abstract critical reasoning abilities (except in the schools of the wealthy who supported supplemental higher standards through higher property values and expected their kids to dominate). I encourage everyone to begin to educate themselves about the root causes of current economic, political and social conditions. Develop archives of valued sources/resources that you can easily share with others. Always seek to lend a helping hand to people.

6) The increasing income gap is a serious threat that will explode on the national, and global scene, as larger sections of previously entitled people lose their supposed privileges. Unfortunately because we don’t deal with this through our legitimate channels of communication and governance, it will be brutally bloody and devastating. Who knows what ugly monster will arise from the destruction (and by monster, I don’t refer to the people, but those with power that will attempt to use the chaos to their advantage). Our only hope is to begin to seriously and honestly confront the actions of our corporate dominated government/military/media and begin honest and direct discussion of these issues in the public, in the media, and amongst ourselves (do I even dare to dream it could be done in education?).

Thanks for asking,

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