WHAT the hell can we do?
Many, many people in this country are fed up and very worried about where we’re headed. There are many calls for an “Arab Spring/Tahrir Square” type movement or a Spanish “Indignados” movement. People want the politicians to create jobs instead of bailing out banks and waging wars. People want improvement in wages and working conditions and housing and medical care. People understand the rich keep getting richer while everyone else keeps going down and down. Standard requests from the serfs for ages, 21st century style.
Protests and even what you might call people’s revolutions are being waged from the Middle East to Europe with many more planned throughout this year.
A major protest being planned in the U.S. for October has been organized by a group calling itself October2011.org, Stop the Machine! Create a New World. I read about this effort over a month ago and immediately signed up to pledge my support. Since that time I’ve read about their goals and issues, looked at their organization, and read many of their thoughts and comments (website discussion boards) on what it is they want and how they hope to achieve it. The protest is being billed as “open ended”, meaning they plan to stay there (Freedom Square, Washington D.C.) until they get concessions from our government or satisfactorily create a resistance culture that can carry on.
I have planned on traveling from Washington State with my tent and pocket sized bong to join in and show those politicians who is really boss. Now I’m having second thoughts. This would be a big deal for me and I wouldn't want to go without being fully committed.
What originally caught my eye was their mission statement:
“October 2011 is the 10th anniversary of the invasion of the Afghanistan war and the beginning of the 2012 federal austerity budget. It is time to light the spark that sets off a true democratic, nonviolent transition to a world in which people are freed to create just and sustainable solutions.
We call on people of conscience and courage—all who seek peace, economic justice, human rights and a healthy environment—to join together in Washington, D.C., beginning on Oct. 6, 2011, in nonviolent resistance similar to the Arab Spring and the Midwest awakening.
A concert, rally and protest will kick off a powerful and sustained nonviolent resistance to the corporate criminals that dominate our government."
And the Pledge:
"I pledge that if any U.S. troops, contractors, or mercenaries remain in Afghanistan on Thursday, October 6, 2011, as that criminal occupation goes into its 11th year, I will commit to being in Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., with others on that day with the intention of making it our Tahrir Square, Cairo, our Madison, Wisconsin, where we will NONVIOLENTLY resist the corporate machine to demand that our resources are invested in human needs and environmental protection instead of war and exploitation. We can do this together. We will be the beginning ."
As a self proclaimed anti-imperialist/antiwar activist, I naively interpreted that to mean an effort to stop the wars and U.S. militarism. Stop the wars and U.S. imperialism and we can use the money to pay for better things. Kind of a cause and effect thing. The country spends about $1.2 trillion per year on defense, security, and intelligence programs, cut that in at least half by ending U.S. imperialism and we have $600 billion per year or more to use on the domestic issues the organization itself wants improved. Seemed simple, then I read further, their list of issues and demands (for brevity I won’t include the short explanations).
Wars and Militarism
Finance and the economy
Food and water
I have to say this almost seems like a condensed version of the democratic party platform, or a third party trying to do what the Democratic Party is supposed to do. Word is Al Gore wants to attend, along with his security detail. The groups and individuals involved are all Democrats, independents, Greens, progressives and liberals far as I can tell.
Key individuals expected to attend include:
Bill Moyer, Bob Fitrakis, Chris Hedges, Coleen Rowley, Cornel West, Cynthia McKinney, David Lindorff, David Swanson, Harvey Wasserman, Jane Hamsher, Larisa Alexandrovna, Medea Benjamin, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Ray McGovern, Russell Mokhiber, Sibel Edmonds, and Ted Rall.
Many groups and organizations are listed on the October2001.org website ranging from ANSWER and Code Pink to Black Agenda Report and Veterans for Peace.
The seven demands developed by the steering committee, certainly shorter and sweeter than the issues list, are as follows:
Tax the rich and corporations
End the wars, bring the troops home, cut military spending
Protect the social safety net, strengthen Social Security and improved Medicare for all
End corporate welfare for oil companies and other big business interests
Transition to a clean energy economy, reverse environmental degradation
Protect worker rights including collective bargaining, create jobs and raise wages
Get money out of politics
What is giving me pause:
-while the organization does admit this is just a start of trying to develop a culture of resistance, are the issues and demands too broad to develop a critical mass of people behind them?
-Is the issue and demand list so large and complicated that even if the politicians listen and react, can they enact those demands under the current electoral and political processes?
-Does bringing in Al Gore for the climate change and environmental issues really help, or might it hurt? And what about other parts of the same old establishment coming out and spouting their shticks, like Michael Moore?
-Can this issue and demand list coupled with the people leading this effort really achieve a critical mass of people in this country?
Seems too Hollywood to me. It's not the same as Abbie Hoffman and long haired hippies burning their draft cards. Many on the left and right are already turned off by some who are participating. Can a peoples movement be built this way?
Granted, movements can beget movements. Leaders emerge and momentum comes. But it's a difficult thing. Even with all the activity in the late sixties against primarily a single issue, the Vietnam war, the war wasn't ended until 1975.
How many years can we wait for progress?
This country, as with the European countries, is controlled by an oligarchy. An oligarchy is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people. These people could be distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, religion, corporate, or military control. We've got it all but the thing that really causes the damage, here and globally, is our imperialist full spectrum dominance military machine and the elite's agenda for world supremacy. That's my opinion of course and the only thing that comes close and is obviously interrelated is the international financial oligarchy.
Housing, social security, more jobs, improvement of the environment, etc., could all be addressed with the money spent on imperialism and global military supremacy. That seems to me the best "cause and effect" approach.
"Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes … known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."
— James Madison, Political Observations, 1795
We can't get our freedom in the midst of continual warfare.
We need to cut the oligarchy at the knees. That's control of the money and the massive military they use for global corporatism and financial rule. I'm not sure going to D.C. with these lists of demands coming from the same old people is going to do it. It is a start, I can't criticize this effort, the motivation of the people involved or the fact that they're doing SOMETHING instead of complaining behind a computer screen. And they are readily admitting they don't have all the answers and are trying to start a "culture". That definitely sounds like a good thing.
But again, how many years can we wait for progress?
At this point I'm not seeing it. I'm seeing a conglomeration of issues and demands that may be impossible to meet. I'm seeing Al Gore. And I see an opportunity with the ten year anniversary of the Afghanistan war and the most probable extension of the Iraq occupation, to get people riled up about that alone, particularly if we can link the $1.2 trillion per year spent to the reason they don't have jobs and the Super Congress is going to cut their Social Security and Food Stamps. It's more complicated than that or course, but we need critical mass, we need something that can be done and people can understand.
I'm probably wrong, I will support this effort whether I go or not. Based on what I've read on the October2011.org website, the organizers and those involved are far from certain how this is all going to work out. I want to help man, I really do. It's time, the timing is right and I truly believe the citizens have to come together soon to challenge the oligarchy. These are my thoughts now, I'll keep working on them.