Inspiration For This Chain-Losing Time. Or, A Quick Antidote To Fascism. Long Live Henry Miller, Caitlin and Occupy!
Just sitting here with not a lot of time on my hands as usual. But inspired by Caitlin Johnstone's latest essay-made-into-video to put something together from bits over the course of today. Just a much-needed lift. For myself, and I hope you too.
Henry Miller, who is one of my all-time favorite authors, had philosophies that have really resonated with me. But for purposes right now I only wish to recount his rebuke to not consciously follow the day in-and -day out "news" stories. It's one that I'm finding useful, especially in this time of relentless lies, obfuscation and partisanship fraudulence. Some may see such views as his as the ultimate in anarchist or libertarian life. Of course his had nothing to do with the phony, reconstituted versions of today, the latter being bandied about by self-centered greedheads who hide behind such semantics to try to obscure their justifications for selfishness.
But Miller was also a great admirer of some political folks, namely Dostoyevsky, Kropotkin and Emma Goldman. In some ways by shunning money, living hand to mouth and not above begging when desperate, he lived his life perhaps the truest, with nary a commentary on current events or news (though he savaged crass American consumerism and worship of "progress"). However, lest he be misunderstood by people who may not be familiar with his work and thus take him to be a disconnected and selfish person, his correspondence with perhaps the greatest writer of the 20th century George Orwell (i.e. his review of Tropic of Cancer called "Inside the Whale") proved he and his views were worthy of consideration to be among some of the sagest and most original ever written about the individual man's plight in this world and living by anarchist example.
Anyway, the reason I'm compelled to share this Johnstone video is because I like when she burrows in and shakes at the underpinnings of what is really driving this madhouse of bread & circuses. It's the Narrative, she's been saying a lot lately, that has been dividing and conquering us. The MSM and social media demand we don a team jersey; and if we don't they will for you, based on select comments.
So I'm not surprised, in fact am very pleased, that some conscientious 99%er with video editing skills took the time to put her essay to video images that correspond quite nicely to her latest.
We've all seen our share of these video montages over the years. But the really good ones do provide some kind of warm and invigorating boost that we're never far from needing, especially in these dark, bizarre times of Propaganda Overload. Any random scan over the "news" sanctioned by the MSM puts one headlong into a desert of despondency. Being hopeless gets burdensome and tiring. I look at these short videos as little re-chargers for overburdened souls.
The End Of Kings
"There's so much love for humanity shining through it's made me cry like three times, and I wrote the thing. Please watch and share far and wide!"https://t.co/AkOXaIFVSo
— Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz) September 5, 2018
Along with hers is my favorite one of these sorts, made during or just before the Occupy movement sprung up. It's the one using the great Socialist Charlie Chaplin's speech in "The Great Dictator," of which he wrote, performed and produced (and even writing the music).
(Note: this video had gotten millions of views, for obvious reasons. But in what seems like another incident of the PTB shutting down high-profile messages of dissent, I now had to look deeper for this one. The one with 5mil+ views is now the one from the film itself. This one says it was made in 2012 and has nowhere near as many views.)
Lastly, these are two of the most provocative and powerful essay written during Occupy that still move me. As Joni wrote in "Woodstock," "we've got get ourselves back to the garden." Whether the garden is cooperatives, non-compliance, general strikes, boycotts, non-participation, stopping corporate shopping, or even, as folks like EL have said, growing some of your own food as a radical act, or scrawling something provocative on a street wall or bathroom or over an advertisement, I believe Occupy-like gestures have been gestating in many of us for a long time now. What can we do individually, and together?
First is from activist/feminist/playwright Eve Ensler, called "Ambiguous UpSparkles From the Heart of the Park," written a few weeks after it started.
I have been watching and listening to all kinds of views and takes on Occupy Wall Street. Some say it’s backed by the Democratic Party. Some say it’s the emergence of a third party. Some say the protesters have no goals, no demands, no stated call. Some say it’s too broad, taking on too much. Some say it is the Left’s version of the Tea Party. Some say its Communist, some say it’s class warfare. Some say it will burn out and add up to nothing. Some say it’s just a bunch of crazy hippies who may get violent.
I have been spending time down at Zucotti Park and I am here to offer a much more terrifying view. What is happening cannot be defined. It is happening. It is a happening. It is a response to injustice and inequity and poverty and Wall Street corruption and soaring college debt and unemployment and homelessness, institutionalized racism and violence against women, the murdering of the earth, fracking and the keystone pipeline and the wars that the U.S. has waged on other countries that have destroyed them and bankrupted us here.
It is a cry against what appears to be scarcity and what Naomi Klein calls a distribution problem and, I would add, a priority problem. It is a spontaneous uprising that has been building for years in our collective unconscious. It is a gorgeous, mischievous moment that has arrived and is spreading. It is a speaking out, coming out, dancing out. It is an experiment and a disruption.
We all know things are terribly wrong in this country. From the death of our rivers, to the bankruptcy of our schools to our failed health care system, something at the center does not hold.
A diverse group of teachers, thinkers, students, techies, workers, nurses, have stopped their daily lives. They have come to gather and reflect and march and lay their bodies down. They have come from all over the country and the world. Some have flown in just to be here. I met students last night from a college in Kentucky who had just arrived committed to sleeping out for two nights in solidarity. (Note: read some of the participants' reactions here, and the We Are The 99Percent tumblr page here).
Occupy Wall Street is a work of art, exploding onto a canvas in search of form, in search of an image, a vision.
In a culture obsessed with product, the process of creation is almost unbearable. Nothing is more threatening than the moment, the living breathing ambiguity of now. We have been trained to name things, own things, brand things and in doing so control and consume them. Well, the genius of Occupy Wall Street is that so far it is not brandable and that’s what makes its potential so daunting, so far reaching, so inclusive, and so dangerous. It cannot be defined and so it cannot be sold, as a sound bite or a political party or even a thing. It can’t be summed up and dismissed.
What is also most unusual about Occupy Wall Street is that the evolving self-governing practices at the twice-daily General Assembly and the organic way the park is being organized, are literally modeling a vision of the desired new world. A rotating group of facilitators, a constant check to make sure all voices are heard, timekeepers, free medicine and medical help, composting, learning groups, a free library, learning circles, workshops on human rights, arts and culture, history, extraordinary speakers at open forums.
And, Taibbi in Rolling Stone just before the brutal, middle of the night invasion by the thugs in the NYPD, coordinated by a cabal of DHS, Homeland Security, city mayors, Fortune 500 companies and some nefarious-sounding thing called the Domestic Security Alliance.
Much more than a movement against big banks, they’re a rejection of what our society has become."
That’s what I was thinking during the first few weeks of the protests. But I’m beginning to see another angle. Occupy Wall Street was always about something much bigger than a movement against big banks and modern finance. It’s about providing a forum for people to show how tired they are not just of Wall Street, but everything. This is a visceral, impassioned, deep-seated rejection of the entire direction of our society, a refusal to take even one more step forward into the shallow commercial abyss of phoniness, short-term calculation, withered idealism and intellectual bankruptcy that American mass society has become. If there is such a thing as going on strike from one’s own culture, this is it. And by being so broad in scope and so elemental in its motivation, it’s flown over the heads of many on both the right and the left.
The right-wing media wasted no time in cannon-blasting the movement with its usual idiotic clichés, casting Occupy Wall Street as a bunch of dirty hippies who should get a job and stop chewing up Mike Bloomberg’s police overtime budget with their urban sleepovers. Just like they did a half-century ago, when the debate over the Vietnam War somehow stopped being about why we were brutally murdering millions of innocent Indochinese civilians and instead became a referendum on bralessness and long hair and flower-child rhetoric, the depraved flacks of the right-wing media have breezily blown off a generation of fraud and corruption and market-perverting bailouts, making the whole debate about the protesters themselves – their hygiene, their “envy” of the rich, their “hypocrisy.”
The protesters, chirped Supreme Reichskank Ann Coulter, needed three things: “showers, jobs and a point.” Her colleague Charles Krauthammer went so far as to label the protesters hypocrites for having iPhones. OWS, he said, is “Starbucks-sipping, Levi’s-clad, iPhone-clutching protesters [denouncing] corporate America even as they weep for Steve Jobs, corporate titan, billionaire eight times over.” Apparently, because Goldman and Citibank are corporations, no protester can ever consume a corporate product – not jeans, not cellphones and definitely not coffee – if he also wants to complain about tax money going to pay off some billionaire banker’s bets against his own crappy mortgages.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the political spectrum, there were scads of progressive pundits like me who wrung our hands with worry that OWS was playing right into the hands of assholes like Krauthammer. Don’t give them any ammunition! we counseled. Stay on message! Be specific! We were all playing the Rorschach-test game with OWS, trying to squint at it and see what we wanted to see in the movement. Viewed through the prism of our desire to make near-term, within-the-system changes, it was hard to see how skirmishing with cops in New York would help foreclosed-upon middle-class families in Jacksonville and San Diego.
What both sides missed is that OWS is tired of all of this. They don’t care what we think they’re about, or should be about. They just want something different.
We’re all born wanting the freedom to imagine a better and more beautiful future. But modern America has become a place so drearily confining and predictable that it chokes the life out of that built-in desire. Everything from our pop culture to our economy to our politics feels oppressive and unresponsive. We see 10 million commercials a day, and every day is the same life-killing chase for money, money and more money; the only thing that changes from minute to minute is that every tick of the clock brings with it another space-age vendor dreaming up some new way to try to sell you something or reach into your pocket. The relentless sameness of the two-party political system is beginning to feel like a Jacob’s Ladder nightmare with no end; we’re entering another turn on the four-year merry-go-round, and the thought of having to try to get excited about yet another minor quadrennial shift in the direction of one or the other pole of alienating corporate full-of-shitness is enough to make anyone want to smash his own hand flat with a hammer.
If you think of it this way, Occupy Wall Street takes on another meaning. There’s no better symbol of the gloom and psychological repression of modern America than the banking system, a huge heartless machine that attaches itself to you at an early age, and from which there is no escape. You fail to receive a few past-due notices about a $19 payment you missed on that TV you bought at Circuit City, and next thing you know a collector has filed a judgment against you for $3,000 in fees and interest. Or maybe you wake up one morning and your car is gone, legally repossessed by Vulture Inc., the debt-buying firm that bought your loan on the Internet from Chase for two cents on the dollar. This is why people hate Wall Street. They hate it because the banks have made life for ordinary people a vicious tightrope act; you slip anywhere along the way, it’s 10,000 feet down into a vat of razor blades that you can never climb out of.
That, to me, is what Occupy Wall Street is addressing. People don’t know exactly what they want, but as one friend of mine put it, they know one thing: FUCK THIS SHIT! We want something different: a different life, with different values, or at least a chance at different values.
There was a lot of snickering in media circles, even by me, when I heard the protesters talking about how Liberty Square was offering a model for a new society, with free food and health care and so on. Obviously, a bunch of kids taking donations and giving away free food is not a long-term model for a new economic system.
But now, I get it. People want to go someplace for at least five minutes where no one is trying to bleed you or sell you something. It may not be a real model for anything, but it’s at least a place where people are free to dream of some other way for human beings to get along, beyond auctioned “democracy,” tyrannical commerce and the bottom line.
We’re a nation that was built on a thousand different utopian ideas, from the Shakers to the Mormons to New Harmony, Indiana. It was possible, once, for communities to experiment with everything from free love to an end to private property. But nowadays even the palest federalism is swiftly crushed. If your state tries to place tariffs on companies doing business with some notorious human-rights-violator state – like Massachusetts did, when it sought to bar state contracts to firms doing business with Myanmar – the decision will be overturned by some distant global bureaucracy like the WTO. Even if 40 million Californians vote tomorrow to allow themselves to smoke a joint, the federal government will never permit it. And the economy is run almost entirely by an unaccountable oligarchy in Lower Manhattan that absolutely will not sanction any innovations in banking or debt forgiveness or anything else that might lessen its predatory influence.
If you have favorite videos of these sorts please share.
Selah, as Hunter Thompson might say.