I have been planning to write a post on the antiwar movement (or lack thereof) for some time now. My friend, and frequent Books and Bait contributor, Enrico Salvatore (Ratso) Rizzo even sent me several recently published articles on the topic (here and here). And on this past Saturday, as you probably all know, there was huge antiwar march in Washington D.C.
As I reflected further on this topic, however, broader questions and themes kept creeping into my mind. For the most part, the past few decades have been discouraging for our side. The left has gained little and our constituents have not done well either. My thoughts began to focus on questions of what we should be doing things differently. And of more importance, what is our mission (the left) and what can we hope to achieve in this skewed political system of ours?
Forget the immediate issues for just a moment. American society is and has always been dominated by an entrenched elite. Generally speaking, that elite is wealthy, white, and male (the patriarchy); heterosexual and Christian. And these folks want to hold onto their power--don't forget this for one minute. Then there are those of us who wish to dramatically change and/or alter this corrupt American system. From Daniel Shays, to the abolitionists, to the women's suffrage movement, to the Black Panthers....."leftists" have been trying to challenge the elites for hundreds of years. But have we made any progress?
Fighting these powerful interests is a 24/7, lifetime job. Yet, as difficult as it seems, the elites must always know we are out there. If we weren't, what would happen? Take a Jimmy Stewart/It's a Wonderful Life view at what the country would look like without us. There would be wars being waged constantly (which is actually pretty close to reality). Would there be money for social programs, I really doubt those greedy elitist bastards would fork over anything for pregnant teens or the homeless if they didn't have to. Would they pay a decent wage or would they just go where the cheapest labor was located (isn't that Globalization)? A national religion? Wiretaps, free speech, police-state......? You get the point.
These people are extremely ruthless. And every time we seem to make some progress, they make adjustments--adapting to our small gains. They are also experts at using their minions in the media to spread their propaganda: patriotism, nationalism, god, religion, and all that classless society crap.
So where are we--and where did this rant begin? It's easy to get discouraged about the Iraq War, it's still going on and more troops are being dispatched. The antiwar movement has not been as strong as we might have hoped, The rich are getting richer, and the poor are gaining little. And the fundamentalist wackos in South Dakota are proposing yet another anti-choice law. But we have to keep at 'em, every single, solitary day. We have to stand toe-to-toe with the system and demonstrate that we aren't going to quit, because that's exactly what the elites want. They think they can wear us down--keep us holed up at our desks with new consumer goods to make us happy. And every time we let our guard down, they solidify their power just a little bit more.
Read, write, blog, bitch, scream, think revolutionary thoughts, protest, question authority, boycott products, volunteer at a homeless shelter, talk to friends, yell, attend meeting, join organizations, take to the streets, give money, listen, speak, ask questions, reflect on the powerless, and get damned angry about those who have held the power in this country for much too long. And when one of their mindless foot soldiers laughs and suggests that your protest, boycott, or letter to the editor doesn't matter--think otherwise. It does matter--it matters to them.
I don't expect the system to change too much in the next 40-50 years (that would be my lifetime I hope). But I plan to keep trying while also being a general pain-in-the-ass to the power structure and all of its supporters. Howard Zinn (pictured below) was once asked how he maintains his positive attitude when things seem to be so bad in this country for progressives. Zinn said, you lose, you lose, you lose, and then you win! And you keep doing that over and over. Their side holds the power, we don't. We have to work that much harder to get what we want.
Some Reading Material on "Fighting the System"
C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite
Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals
Michael T. Klare, War Without End
Emma Goldman, Living My Life
Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival
anything by Howard Zinn or Jonathan Kozol