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.

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.

"How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the OWS Protests

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.

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Comments

Mark from Queens's picture

The end appears to be in sight, with what I'm hoping is the last of this endless, miserable heatwave of the summer of 2018.

Tomorrow morning having coffee (or tea, as it were for me - off the java for almost a year now) with one of the main DSA of NYC organizers for the Ocasio campaign. Look forward to an interesting conversation, with two babies tugging at me.

On a larger scale hope to be organizing very soon some meetups for local progressive/radicals just to get to know one another. Been wanting to do this for a long time. Getting together some local folks I met through Occupy, along with some fathers I've been meeting in the playground and around town who have been receptive to my rants and philosophies. Time to get into gear.

Greetings brothers and sisters of the C99...

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"If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED
FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
WAS MUSIC"

- Kurt Vonnegut

Pricknick's picture

on many things, I love Caitlin.
The eternal optimist. We need them. In your face. Need them.
My disagreements with her involve the timeline of extinction for the human race.
Things in the mirror............
Even an ender as myself appreciates those those who hold out for optimism.

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Regardless of the path in life I chose, I realize it's always forward, never straight.

Mark from Queens's picture

@Pricknick
She's got it, as well as a righteous anger driving it.

As Hedges has often reminded us of the words of St. Augustine of Hippo:

“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

It's such a surreal time. To be in the midst of family and friends and hear what they choose to discourse on about the matters of the day. Staggering, the depth and weight of the propaganda.

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15 users have voted.

"If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED
FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
WAS MUSIC"

- Kurt Vonnegut

Pricknick's picture

@Mark from Queens
someone made hope a false dream.
It amazes me how many put faith in a past leader, who sold out, yet they continue to worship.

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9 users have voted.

Regardless of the path in life I chose, I realize it's always forward, never straight.

JekyllnHyde's picture

Those protests definitely had an effect in changing the political dialogue, more than many people realize.

Thanks for the enlightening essay, Mark.

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A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma

JekyllnHyde's picture

@JekyllnHyde

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18 users have voted.

A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma

Mark from Queens's picture

@JekyllnHyde
Great to see you more and more around these parts. Tough for me to get out and come over here, to use a turn of phrase. But I read all the time, and check in multiple times a day.

Occupy effected so many millions when it went global. The message resonated worldwide, because it's not an American movement only. How many Occupy encampments sprung up in response to OWS's global call to start your own, over a thousand? Each one was visited potentially by thousands, then more thousands read about it or interacted with those who participated. That message of the 99% is still gestating.

It's still the most real and focused message. Not the canard of partisan politics. It quite clearly proclaimed that it's the moneyed interests, which now resides in the hands of an unaccountable multi-national banks and corporations, who flout and exploit sovereignty laws to plunder and pillage unmolested all across the globe. Thing in our favor is the villains now are the same the world over.

Hedges again, from his latest book "America: The Farewell Tour":

“The discontent in Ferguson, Athens, Cairo, Madrid, and Ayotzinapa is a single discontent. And the emerging revolt, although it will come in many colors, speak many languages, and have different beliefs and values, will be united around a common enemy. Bonds of solidarity and consciousness will unite the wretched of the earth against our global corporate masters.

The leadership for this revolt will not come from institutions of privilege or elite universities, but from the squalid internal colonies that house the poor and usually people of color. The next great revolutionary in America won’t look like Thomas Jefferson. He or she will look like the rapper Lupe Fiasco”

The masses are waiting to be united. But just as I write that I'm recalling the vivacity of the words of the Socialist movements at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, and realize they too believed they were on the verge of coalescing an international workers movement. What makes us think it'll happen this time? Nationalism is one of the biggest impediments again. And when things worsen the fascist elements again will prey upon the downtrodden to exploit their anxieties.

My hope is that we'll finally begin to use the internet and social media to manifest face-to-face meetings, ala Occupy, to facilitate a true movement of the 99%. That will only be possible when we get hip to recognizing the massive amounts of propaganda that are keeping us divided and conquered. And that would mean, for instance about cable tv, that the person who perceives him/herself to be Liberal/Dem/Blue team player will swear off MSNBC, while the Con/Repub/Red jersey-wearer will do the same with Fox - while both can agree that CNN is a joke, etc. It's gonna take really taking a long hard look at how one's preconceptions have been formed.

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12 users have voted.

"If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED
FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
WAS MUSIC"

- Kurt Vonnegut

JekyllnHyde's picture

@Mark from Queens

they too believed they were on the verge of coalescing an international workers movement. What makes us think it'll happen this time? Nationalism is one of the biggest impediments again.

Yes, nationalism is a huge problem.

I remember reading a long essay on this issue over twenty years ago in a grad school political economy class. Sorry, but I can't remember the publication or author's name. The context was the late 1920s struggle in the Soviet Union after Lenin's death between Stalin's "Socialism in One Country" (a bogus idea, if ever there was one) and Trotsky's desire to internationalize the working classes. Why didn't Trotsky's worthwhile idea come to fruition? Was he too optimistic? I'm aware that his expulsion from the USSR also depended on other factors.

The author then compared the ease with which Big Business could form multinationals to extract even more profits, particularly in a technologically-driven environment. With a technocratic class of people - best described as "international economic mercenaries" - willing to relocate in the pursuit of commercial gain along with technology and money changing hands/crossing national borders in nanoseconds, the task becomes easier. Morality does not factor in such shameless pursuits; greater profits, understood rather easily by all concerned, is the motivating factor.

On the other hand, while their desired end might be the same, the struggle of organized labor differs a great deal from country to country depending upon the political culture and economic system of the country. Language is a huge barrier to effective communication and cause for concern. Outsourcing of jobs from richer to poorer countries is a constant source of friction between countries. Ultimately, national concerns supersede whatever benefits an international order might theoretically promise. The long and short of the article's argument was it was is far more difficult, if not virtually impossible, for labor to join hands in solidarity on an international level; capital doesn't have the same problem and organizes quickly and efficiently. As the above 1911 editorial cartoon from the International Socialist Review clearly shows, the end result is a huge disparity between the political power wielded by labor vs capital.

So, was Trotsky wrong in predicting that the common interests of the working classes would transcend national borders and give rise to international brotherhood? I'm not sure what the correct answer is.

Moreover, with friends like these...

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10 users have voted.

A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma

ggersh's picture

your essay gives one hope, maybe the people
can win, maybe not, but not trying isn't an
option.

Like your two children will first learn to roll
over, then crawl then talk take baby steps, then
get bigger and faster, it has started can the momentum
continue?

https://www.1971film.com/about/the-film

DISC: I haven't seen it yet.

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9 users have voted.

trump will be amerika's last president

ameriKa's been crapified and yes that
has trickled down

Deja's picture

@ggersh
I really wanted to watch 1971. I'll dig around this weekend and see if I can find it elsewhere. Sounds like a good film.

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4 users have voted.

Thank you so much.

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snoopydawg's picture

Obama killed the anti war movement and OWS and then lots of the people who were at OWS events "Went with Her" and forgave the issues that they protested against during OWS. How the Hell did that happen?

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.

I'm agree with pricknick.

It amazes me how many put faith in a past leader, who sold out, yet they continue to worship.

$30 trillion has been transferred to the one percent in less than a decade while the middle class has been hollowed out and yet there has been no repeat of OWS. Why? See above.

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11 users have voted.

America is a pathetic nation; a fascist state fueled by the greed, malice, and stupidity of her own people.
- strife delivery

Raggedy Ann's picture

I loved both videos. Caitlin is spot on, as far as I'm concerned.

It seems we are reaching a tipping point. Which way will it go? Such interesting times.

Have a beautiful day and hug those babies for me! Pleasantry

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“It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.”

-- Voltaire

mhagle's picture

And I really loved the Caitlin video. Those folks have made many wonderful videos.

Thank you!

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Marilyn

"Make dirt, not war." eyo