by Martin Murie
(Swans - April 20, 2009) Requirement Number One for activists of all sorts, writers, honest journalists: Walking the talk and other forms of protest against the outrageous conduct of our leaders, our abysmal elites. Government power, corporate power, military power, so interconnected, a ten-thousand-pound gorilla crouched over us, "unconquerable" force. Yes, force. When you go to Wal*Mart or Krogers for groceries you meet formidable food prices, in spite of the apparent collapse of the economy. Use of prime agricultural land for biofuel is one cause, but monopoly is the leading force.
These thoughts are always with activists, who have only one advantage against that gorilla: direct contact with ordinary people, hostile or friendly. Talking and walking -- a terrific combination. One of the Wobbly sayings that has stuck with me all these years:
"I'm with you brother." And then he walks away.
You meet words just like that in modern times. (Actually the Industrial Workers of the World still exists). Handing out antiwar leaflets that dissect the reasons behind the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, we have to rush to vehicles waiting for a red light, tap on the window, and hand the driver or passenger a leaflet. A common response: "I'm with you. I don't need that" (the leaflet). The light changes and off goes this pompous driver who thinks he knows all he needs to know and is comfortable as a couch potato to stay the course of his own life.
I'd rather engage in hostile conversation with someone who calls me a socialist, as though that is the worst tag a person can endure on this dark earth. In this automobilized world, you have precious few seconds to contact people. Why the optimism, then? Simple: without it, you can't go on. You succumb to the current president's populist rhetoric, suffer the consequences, get gloomier and gloomier. Remember that New Yorker cartoon, the little guy hiding in a box: "People Are No Damn Good."
Okay, back to optimism. Call us foolish, but we thrive on V-signs from passing vehicles, honks, raised fists. Why? They aren't about to join us . . . or are they? . . . one never knows. On the street with our posters, home-made and getting ragged, tossed by wind, soaked by rain or snow, and our arms uncomfortable from the constant waving, and our smiles getting stiffer and stiffer, we appreciate those little reminders that not everyone is happy with that gorilla always in sight. (Lately good weather, more pleasure gossiping with each other). Once in a blue moon a cop gives us a wave. Motorcyclists are a hard lot, but we keep waving and I often point at them and sometimes they nod or lift a hand. Big trucks sometimes respond with a deep blaaare.
So, that's the food we thrive on. Why? We are there to give people a chance to say "Boo" to that gorilla. (Actually real gorilla are a rather peaceful species, endangered vegetarians).
It's a miserable occupation, too. Weather can be, and often is, a real downer. But even as we freeze our butts off there is the occasional pedestrian who actually stops to talk. Sometimes hostile, more often curious, cautious, and there is always the hope that s/he might actually go away and think about things and maybe show up later. This happens.
Okay, we might be thinking "Pie in the Sky By and By," another Wobbly saying, but we are convinced that we are building a movement, one that will grow and grow and come in from the cold fringes and make an impact. A huge impact. In spite of the diversity of personality and opinions -- and, believe me, protesters are the very model of diversity -- we stand united, against particular wars, against outright murder on the fields of battle.
I am convinced that all forms of war are now outmoded and immoral and we simply have to outlaw them, because they are, in fact, outlaws, defiers of law, of the world's peoples' ethical, and dignified conduct.
The use of drones -- predators and reapers -- is an unforgivable extension of bombing from the air. Obama is now going along with the invasion of Pakistan by drones that not only send pictures back to headquarters in Nevada, of all places, but drop high explosives on built structures. Sure, drones cut our casualties down for a while, but anger seethes in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The very names of the drones in action -- predators and reapers -- makes me very angry. Those creatures prey on people, reap high the body count. Technology gone amok, that's what we will have to confront, in hindsight.
No, we need foresight: Stop it NOW. Hindsight is too little, too late.
By the way, the gorilla is scared, willing to keep on murdering to delay the righteous wrath of our people, our citizens. Let's walk together, not to spite that guy hiding in the box, we know his kind. No, let's build a movement.
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