June 29, 2007

If we agree that “government IS the problem” then why do we bother even talking to them? Why debate them, why respond to them, why acknowledge them? Isn’t it long past time we withdrew our taxes, our vote, our consent? Before we can have a meeting of the minds between social justice activists and elites, we must first have a meeting of the minds among the oppressed. Let’s hear what the US Social Forum reports. 

must be experiencing “cognitive dissonance” with our peaceful revolutionary leaders.  If we agree that “government IS the problem” then why do we bother even talking to them?  Why debate them, why respond to them, why acknowledge them?  They cannot prove they were elected, and we can prove they do not vote in accordance with the majority of the populace (92% Zogby poll on transparent vote counting; 19% approval rating of Congress, etc.) 

Since the government so clearly and consistently ignores us, why not ignore them?  Isn’t it premature to meet with them now, before the bulk of the people have decided how to proceed? If we agree that secret vote counts (as conducted on machines) are anathema to democracy, and we believe in democracy, then why do we vote?  Doesn’t that legitimize secret vote counting? 

If we agree that hand-counted paper ballots, without media reform, without an informed electorate, without viable choices on the ballot who represent the interests and concerns of the people, are irrelevant, then why do we continue to vote?  Doesn’t that legitimize illegitimate elections?

Are we not long past time to withdraw our consent? Isn’t it long past time to withhold our taxes? To withhold our vote? To withhold our attention from elites?

I’ve been reading Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed; Pedagogy of Hope; Pedagogy of Freedom), George Monbiot’s Age of Consent: Manifesto for a New World Order; and both volumes of Derrick Jensen’s Endgame.  I am desperate to find winnable strategies to implement democracy and take back our world from the rich (whose social and environmental practices look insane, to me). 

Freire thinks we should start at the bottom – not the top.  Engage in dialogue with the oppressed, and move forward at THEIR level of awareness.  Here’s how he puts it: “Leaders cannot treat the oppressed as mere activists to be denied the opportunity of reflection and allowed merely the illusion of acting, whereas in fact they would continue to be manipulated – and in this case by the presumed foes of manipulation.” 

Isaiah Berlin agrees: “But to manipulate (people), to propel them toward goals which you — the social reformers — see, but they may not, is to deny their human essence, to treat them as objects without wills of their own, and therefore to degrade them.” Source: Two Concepts of Liberty, 1958 (thanks to Tom Feeley for the quote.)

Freire characterizers our would-be revolutionary leaders who would develop the platform of change without our input and consent as merely asking us to exchange one set of oppressive rulers for another.  He believes that when we use the tools of oppression – in this case manipulation thru “sloganizing” – we are oppressors.  We are what we do. 

And while I agree with Derrick Jensen’s 20 Premises, his solution to dismantle civilization’s infrastructures will only aid the rich in sweeping the poor off the planet.  His “endgame” strategy will only heighten the suffering of the vast majority of oppressed peoples, at least in the industrialized nations.  Still, his tome is well worth the read.

Monbiot, interestingly, does not believe that localization will lead to a successful revolution. Instead, he argues that a global world parliament (similar to the World Social Forum, and to the US Social Forum in Atlanta this weekend) will be what leads us to victory.  He makes a strong case.  The basic premise of his argument is world government by elites is a given – whether we like it or not. Our only hope, then, is to develop a people’s forum that holds global government to account. 

But all agree that the oppressed (including nature) must be given voice.  While our revolutionary leaders are off in the halls of power debating, cajoling, discussing with elites, the oppressed continue to be ignored.   

My question goes to this.  How do we engage the populace?  Isn’t that where our strength really lies?  What would get those teens at the public library to read our blogs, to post their own, to posit their own solutions, instead of playing video games on library computers?   

What would make 20-somethings more interested in social justice?  In fair elections?  In peace and a living wage, or universal health care? 

I agree with Digby that bloggers are part of a revolutionary participatory democracy. I see journalists as recording history according to elites, and bloggers as recording history according to the people. But obviously, we cannot limit ourselves to the internet – where only a small fraction participates.  

Do we follow Che Guevara’s (and Paulo Freire’s) example and travel from town to town in dialogue with the oppressed?  My experience with this is that without offering an alternative that seems reasonable to the people, they don’t even want to talk about the sorry state of affairs.   

Where we do agree is that before we can have a meeting of the minds between social justice activists and elites, we must first have a meeting of the minds among ourselves.

If I could travel to Atlanta this weekend, I would; and I would be speaking for a living wage, hand-counted paper ballots, civil unions for the LGBT community, and peace (for starters). 

I sincerely look forward to reading the reports from the US Social Forum, and hope that some of my questions are addressed.