August 16, 2004
"Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual."
(Swans - August 16, 2004) Slavery in America is implemented by atomizing consciousness, which is done by arousing hostility and competitiveness, and this is accomplished by instilling greed and an attachment to impermanent materiality so that fear of loss becomes a permanent state of mind. The American public is a mob in psychic solitary confinement. American politics is a trance -- like spider venom -- anesthetizing the public so it offers the least resistance to the masters of its fate. How is this trance to be broken, the public mind released, and American society transformed? Consider the following outline for revolution.
From The Couch To The Streets
In "The Imprisoned American Mind," I discussed social control by mass psychosis and its use by America's elite to enrich itself at the expense of the rest of the population. Given this psychoanalysis of American politics, what kind of political movement could we create to overturn bipartisan imperialist, corporate-owned politics, and establish a Green Socialized economy? (1)
The ability of the movement to accommodate the self-realization of the widest variety of people, each in his and her uniqueness, and yet to productively combine their efforts into organized political force must be its most essential feature.
Such a movement would recognize that its political success depends on its being a vehicle for the fulfillment of the most basic motivation of individuals -- to find meaning and purpose to their lives.
The development of each "self" can be described as having four aspects: motivation, operation, navigation, and socialization. Individuals who are socialized in the movement, because they find it consistent with what gives meaning to their lives, can be recruited to carry out the key political tactics of the movement: organization, mobilization, and infiltration.
Let us consider the four aspects of the self, and the three tactics of the socialized self -- or movement -- each in its turn.
Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychologist and psychiatrist, survived five years in Nazi concentration camps and distilled from his experiences fundamentals of human survival, behavior and motivation. His 1946 book, Man's Search For Meaning, is a classic always in print. (2) Frankl "considers man as a being whose main concern consists in fulfilling a meaning and in actualizing values, rather than in the mere gratification and satisfaction of drives and instincts." That
uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love. When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the "why" for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any "how."Our movement must recognize this aspect of the self and allow for its freest development. That is to say, the "purpose" of the movement is ultimately not a uniformity of political expression and attitude among its members, but a liberation of their awareness. It is an act of faith on the part of the movement that such awakened individuals will do organized political work.
This is where the movement begins to interact with the individual, a code of ethics. The movement would have a Standard Operating Procedure for personal behavior, and this procedure would have to be seen as effective in making individual life more meaningful -- otherwise, why join the movement? The SOP itself is quite simple, it's Buddhism. We are not concerned here with the philosophical depth or cultural complexity of Buddhism, but simply with the great simplicity and practical value of the SOP outlined by the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. (3)
Let us outline it as follows:
1. People suffer because they are attached to illusions and impermanent materiality -- their minds are filled with fears of loss.
2. Mass media is in the business of supplying illusions and feeding fears for the profit of the owners and sponsors of that media.
3. We have it in our power to question our indoctrination, to seek independent sources of information, to educate ourselves about political reality, and to stop consuming degrading, insulting and purely exploitative programming -- we can make up our own minds.
4. There is a way of disciplined thought and ethical action that allows us to realize a personally meaningful life. The key is to be aware of what is manipulative propaganda, and what is factual. It is essential to develop critical thinking, and character -- both of these require a continuing personal effort. This is possible if one is motivated. The reward is a life without fear, and with a bulletproof self-respect.
The movement must be a vehicle that allows each individual to organize a life that supports his or her particular path of purpose, all within a larger political vision. The movement must be an opportunity, an enabling social structure providing for the practical implementation of the general principles of the individual's chosen theology -- meaning realized.
The movement must provide explanations of the external political world that stand up to critical scrutiny and give insight. It must educate its members and help increase their awareness of the realities of the world. It must provide opportunities for individual expression, for being of service to those in need, for professional growth and the display of skill -- at all levels of ability and types of activity. In addition, the movement must show each individual how their particular effort is a positive contribution blending into a great and worthy social purpose -- a participation in history.
The direction offered the individual by the movement, and the character and behavior exhibited by its members, must be sufficiently compelling that those accepting and adopting them as a personal code would wish to associate: brotherhood, sisterhood, a chosen affiliation based on commonalties of purpose. The members of this community would understand the most basic of socialist principles, which Buddha taught to the first community of Buddhists, "Look after each other."
At this point, the socialized self in the movement would have: a fundamental insight into their prime motivation, a code of ethics, an enabling structure to their daily lives, and a community of like-minded friends. These are the refuges that would sustain the political warriors of the movement.
Organizing is the essence of popular movements for social change. It is the personal one-on-one work carried on by many people over a long period that creates progress. The great model is probably the history of unionism and socialism between 1850 and 1950. So much has been written about the techniques of organizing that nothing further needs to be said here. What can be inspiring is to read the histories of the great movements of the past: unionism (4), anti-slavery, women's votes, civil rights, anti-war and environmental protection.
The ideal is to organize by issues and regions across classes, and link in coalitions for national and global priorities. A criticism of popular movements on the left today is that too many are single-issue groups, which compete for funds, duplicate organizational structures, and do not cooperate effectively as coalitions that push larger political goals of common interest.
The movement would be a philosophy, an outlook that would bind many local and independent initiatives into a larger unity -- something like a coral reef.
Movements exert political power by mobilizing masses of people: letter-writing campaigns, public demonstrations, political campaigns, armed struggle. The larger the mobilized mass, the greater the likelihood of success. Thus, it is imperative that the many local and regional advocacy groups and political party chapters join together in enduring national coalitions and political fronts. Coalitions as proto-political parties would devise an alternative economics within themselves -- a different "how" and "for what" resources are allocated and people employed -- and this alternative economics would be an embryonic model of what might be done nationally.
The movement would be a network of individuals working in the dominant corporate and bipartisan government system, and throughout commerce and society. The growth of the movement would occur like the Christian infiltration of the Imperial Roman bureaucracy. Eventually, the empire would fall by the simple fact that the majority of its able administrators would be part of the movement, there would simply be too many of them to persecute, which in any case would immobilize the functioning of government, and they in turn would be able to mobilize great popular and political power.
An overt revolution (nonviolent and democratic is preferred) might appear to be sudden, but it would simply be the final act of a long, largely imperceptible process of infiltration. People in all walks of life choosing to become part of the movement and doing what they can to promote it, until a time is reached when they can openly complete the revolution. Rome was never challenged by superior physical power, it was corroded by the failure of its prevalent attitudes to nourish the spiritual and psychic needs of its people, and it was infiltrated by a movement that did meet those needs -- Christianity. (5)
Duties Of A Citizen
Let us imagine that we are reading from the personal journal of a citizen committed to the movement. Under the title "Duties Of A Citizen," we find this individual's formulation of his commitment. It might read as follows.
1. Build up your political awareness, and in general continue to educate yourself, and to build your character. You are more than a mere work and consumption machine that "relaxes" with mindless sports and junk-media entertainment between bouts of "being on the job." Use your mind, exercise it, expand it, and seek to improve you political effectiveness as one aspect of your overall growth as a citizen.
2. Keep culture alive. Engage in music and singing, writing, speech and poetry, movement and dance, art, graphics and photography; appreciate the heritage passed down to you from previous generations, and keep it alive for the young. Be gloriously alive! Your politics is an aspect of a vibrant human expressiveness that nourishes society. Experiencing and producing culture is also a personal refuge, a way to refresh yourself after the social and psychic bruises you may sustain in the rough and tumble of trying to transform a society's political orientation.
3. Support your intellectuals. Buy and read the works of the thinkers and writers of the movement. Discuss and criticize them. This helps to exercise your mind and helps you keep abreast of the key political and social issues of the day. Educated and informed citizens are the most politically effective. Also, citizen review and critique of intellectuals will help weed out the lazy and unimaginative among them, and expose those owing their positions solely to social promotion (ensconced insiders), and help to bring attention to worthy unknown voices.
4. Build movement. Union, environmental, civil rights.
5. Link movements. This is how the larger society will be defined.
6. Focus on human-heartedness. Never allow politics to reduce the other person to an abstraction, an object, a conquest, a tool. Remember: "The word was made for man, not man for the word." If your religion, or philosophy, does not lead you to a principle of compassion for all sentient beings, then it is false, it is an exploitative cult, or a denial psychosis, or a political or tax-dodge conspiracy, and unworthy of you. Remember, a true religion brings joy and comfort to you and all its believers, and never anguish and suffering to anyone. As Christ said of true Christians, so it is of all religions: "By their works shall ye know them." All believers of true religions find joy in each other's company regardless of their creeds. There are far fewer authentically religious people than self-identify as such.
7. Support yourself. It's a rotten dirty world, and supporting yourself is always a compromise (moral, ethical, and intellectual), but never ask for support from your politics; support your politics as you are able from your means. On this, the only criticism you need listen to is your own -- are you able to maintain your self-respect? If yes, then what you can offer the movement is a positive contribution, a gain for the social whole.
The Rose Revolution
In November 2003, Mikheil Saakashvili led a peaceful democratic "Rose Revolution," which toppled the regime of Eduard Shevardnadze in Georgia (on the eastern shore of the Black Sea). The key ingredients of this revolution were: infiltration, growth by coalition-building, financial support from George Soros for a professional movement organization, personal fearlessness and a commitment to nonviolence, human-heartedness and luck. (6)
The ability to mobilize mass support was the result of coalition-building and a history of human-heartedness towards "the enemy." On this latter point, David Ignatius writes
Cultivate your enemies. The smartest thing Saakashvili did was to woo the Georgian army and police. His followers showered the troops with roses, paid visits to their families, invited them to share food in the chilly streets outside parliament. When the soldiers were ordered to attack the protesters, they refused - and the revolution triumphed.(Echoes of Paris 1871). The personal fearlessness and commitment to nonviolence was a product of following a path of personal meaning, and of sharing the revolutionary purpose and personal code of ethics (the SOP) with a community of like-minded individuals.
A November Regime Change In America?
As the election of November 2004 nears, there are more articles appearing with lists of recommended actions for citizens to take in order to "dump Bush." Don Hazen published a program for regaining political control of American electoral politics from the extreme right wing, which is to say from the Republican Party as Hazen's perspective is that of an ABB Democrat. (7)
The essential point -- and a good one -- in Hazen's article is that coalitions are essential for single-issue constituencies to safeguard their respective concerns collectively. Hazen urges that broad political coalitions form from the full range of left constituencies: anti-imperialist and anti-war, environmentalist, unionist, civil libertarian, senior (Social Security), feminist and women's rights, and ethnic minority.
The other essential features of Hazen's program, in the language of this article, are: tap into motivation (as Frankl defines it), form a movement that is a vehicle for individual purpose, learn how to recognize political reality and corporate media propaganda, overcome fear (Franklian motivation with Buddhistic operation), form community across economic class boundaries and ethnic divides ("Look after each other"), organize a professional political movement, and make a personal commitment to take on "the duties of a citizen."
The Three Jewels
The three main ingredients to this outline for revolution are purpose, path and community: purpose -- the individual's sense of purpose and fulfillment in life; path -- the manner in which this life is expressed, its code of ethics; and the community of others who share vision and values.
In the Buddhist formulation, purpose, path and community are given as Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Thich Nhat Hanh writes that "Taking refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha is a fundamental practice in Buddhism. These are universal values that transcend sectarian and cultural boundaries."
That is what we want, to transcend sectarian and cultural boundaries. The ancient Buddhists summed this up in a recitation called "The Three Jewels."
I take refuge in the Buddha, the one who shows me the way in this life.
· · · · · ·
1. Manuel García, Jr., "The Imprisoned American Mind," Swans, 2 August 2004, http://www.swans.com/library/art10/mgarci19.html. (back)
2. Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search For Meaning, 1946. (back)
3. Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart Of The Buddha's Teaching, Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1998/New York: Broadway Books, 1999, ISBN 0-7679-0369-2. (back)
4. Richard O. Boyer and Herbert M. Morais, Labor's Untold Story, (1955), Pittsburgh: United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America, 1994, ISBN 0-916180-01-8. (back)
5. Michael Grant, The Fall Of The Roman Empire, New York: Collier Books, 1990, ISBN 0-02-028560-4. (back)
6. David Ignatius, "Primer For A Revolution," The Washington Post, 06 July 2004, http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/070704L.shtml (active 8 August 2004). (back)
7. Don Hazen, "A 12-Step Program For Regime Change," AlterNet, 02 June 2003, http://www.truthout.org/docs_03/061603F.shtml (active 8 August 2004).
ABB is "Anybody But Bush" (perhaps a superfluous note, but included as a formal courtesy) (back)
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America the 'beautiful' on Swans
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Manuel García, Jr. is a graduate aerospace engineer, working as a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He did underground nuclear testing between 1978 and 1992. He is concerned with employee rights and unionization at the nuclear weapons labs, and the larger issue of their social costs. Otherwise, he is an amateur poet who is fascinated by the physics of fluids, zen sensibility, and the impact of truth.
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