Regarding Magic, by Michael Stowell:
In this article you stated: "It's up to us to turn the lights on; it really is, up to us."
I have lately stated the same and asked a question to a number of writers, but I have never received a response. How do we "turn on the lights?" Just so that you know, I am 47 years old and I have been here before!
Do keep up the great web site and excellent articles.
Frank W. Napier
Michael Stowell answers:Greetings Mr. Napier,
Thank you for your attention to Swans.com and for taking the time to write, we always enjoy corresponding with those who read our columns. You pose an interesting and vital question; indeed, how do we 'turn on the lights'?
You state that you are "47 years old and have been here before" so I'm sure you have spent time deliberating about the most effective means available to you. Since you live in a large metropolitan area, Toronto, options for political activism are probably numerous albeit somewhat obscure. In rural areas and smaller cities, like the one in which I live, opportunities are usually more limited. Arcata has significant historical experience with 'activism' and a relatively large number of choices for expressing one's concerns but we also have our own unique problems with neo-liberalism and fragmentation of human energy.
You may be asking this question because you have not yet found sufficient opportunities for your own expression and therefore feel unfulfilled and overwhelmed by the task at hand. Take care.
I believe it is essential to stay informed about a wide variety of concerns; Swans.com offers many fine sources for information through the 'Links' page and in most of the columns. I have witnessed many instances of 'activists' becoming narrow because of limited focus; the 'peace and justice' crowd may slight the importance of the 'environmental' cause..and vice versa. It is important to recognize that all are not called by conscience to the same concerns; we are all-unique in our experiences and bring unique contributions to the collective whole.
Nor can I overstate the importance of living true to conscience; it will be impossible to find your opportunities for creating positive change if you do not. Personally, I cannot handle the stress involved with my 'activist' activities unless I am mostly removed from the systemic causes of injustice that I struggle against. I have not paid taxes in many years; I work within a barter/cash system and employ myself with community service projects from time to time in exchange for my use of common utilities. Over the years, I've watched many people 'burn-out' or stray from the course because they were simply unwilling to be true to the conscience that called them from the injustice and inequities of the status quo.
Call it what you will (I like the word 'Nature'), we are all members of the whole of life and have an awareness called 'conscience' that draws our intent to the collective good of all life. Many choose to ignore conscience; most are conditioned by human culture to misunderstand it and misinterpret its direction. Get in touch with it and you will answer your own question. Then, stick with it..stick-to-it-tiveness and endurance are two of the most important character qualities you can develop. No matter how bleak the horizon looks; refuse to be discouraged from following the collective conscience. When you do, even when you feel you are alone, you are greater than all the injustice in the world.
Thanks again for posing this important question, it is one that I ask myself each day. If you are a regular reader of my columns you have noted that I do offer suggestions for actions that will in some degree 'turn on the lights' for those who have not yet awakened to the current dilemma. You may review more of my thoughts in:
A Hot Rain's A Gonna Fall;
Proactivism At The Hague;
Nuclear Weapons Free Zone;
Make A Sign;
Where's The Fiddle?;
Liberty and justice for all,
This missive is for Michael W. Stowell, after reading his article of July 15, 2002, Magic:
What perception you had at age eight seeing "that guy is a crook." [Nixon] You see your father and I had much in common since I had performed over 20 years in the active army starting with the engineers as a "pioneer" (the lowest position) in Italy in 1944.
For one reason or another I stayed on and came to regret it. In 1964, at age 41, a wife and three grown children, high school graduate, the top enlisted grade, NO PAY RAISE IN OVER FIVE YEARS, no civilian skill, I had to call it quits and "get a life."
Simultaneously with my retirement congress and the U.S. Government changed a 170-year old law which did away with "computation or recomputation" of monthly retired pay. They instituted the new CPI now known as COLA.
This system affected your dad, me, and 430,000 retirees of that period, forcing us to endure a substantial "pay discrimination" thanks to tricky Dick who literally tricked these retirees to vote for him in 1968 by promising to rectify this change in the law. (He actually sent a telegram promising to undo the wrongs.) He got elected with those votes and, of course, never fulfilled his promise. But he got elected elected with those votes; that is, he stole those votes...and stole the election.
By the way I did not vote for tricky Dick.
But I thought you would be interested in the fact that another citizen had seen the deceipt of others in action.
Willard D. Gray
[This was a much longer e-mail; it was shortened for space and edited for comprehension. Willard D. Gray is the author of End of Silence: Full Moon over Fox Prairie; a work of "fiction based on fact; a vivid retelling of some events on the Illinois prairie that would scar settlers of the area for generations." The book is available at 1st Books Library. ed.]
Michael Stowell answers:Greetings Mr. Gray,
Thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts and experiences. I'm reminded of the many who have been mistreated by the U.S. government during and after military service. You probably know more stories than I do. We know of the testing of radioactive materials, of the effects of exposure to nuclear detonations; testing of chemical weapons on military personnel; testing by the 'mind scientists' who were brought here from Nazi Germany after the war, use of hallucinogens and methamphetamine on military personnel; of Agent Orange and depleted uranium..
I am intensely frustrated every Memorial Day and Veterans Day when I think about the millions of misinformed and mistreated people who have braved incredible dangers and given their lives for empty promises and deceit. Knowing there are people like you who have lived to discover the horrible truth and who do what they can to warn others of it makes the days more bearable.
I am not a veteran but I help out at the "Veterans For Peace" booth on the 4th and whenever I can. They are a great encouragement.