Last week I read a statement by a BLM protester. “They know we will get tired of protesting and go home.”
Well, yes. You will get tired as you got tired of Occupy because so far nothing exists beyond the acting out of protest, and protest bows to inconvenience. In the U.S. there is no historyof revolution, no memory, no ideology, no tradition of political and philosophical thought, no leaders (they have been assassinated) and no tradition of education through generations to expose our structural dilemmas.
I started out as a theater-maker. In my own lifetime, I have encountered one, and only one American institution that has demonstrated the kind of legs that has kept it going for over 60 years now: The San Francisco Mime Troupe. Why is that? Because from the beginning like no other theater, the Mime Troupe has had as its spine a clear sense of the political ideology that motivates it. It has skirted the anti-intellectualism of the mainstream culture; reading political theory is part of its practice. It has refused to bow to the U.S. propaganda bugaboos of anti-socialism, anti-communism, and anti-thought. It has refused the notion that art must somehow be “pure” and never tied to political ideology.
At present the U.S. suffers from an ongoing and exacerbating pandemic, a laughably incompetent head of state, a collapse of its financial system, and the servility of both the media (the fourth estate) and the judiciary (the Supreme and lower courts.) The popular response? Rebellion, but not revolution. For revolution, as the Russian model has shown us, time, history, philosophical and ideological background are necessary, plus long-term education of a populace and recognition of deep divisions of class, economics, and race (race being a quintessentially deeply unscientific American construct).
Some understanding of other models is part of that kind of awareness. A life of Plekhanov, for example, the father of Russian Marxism can be read in The Jewish Bund in Russia by Henry Tobias. The death of apartheid in South Africa, provides some valuable lessons. There the birth of African National Congress could be grafted onto an already existent Communist Party, clear in its history, ideology and methods. A useful book to read is Slovo: The unfinished autobiography of ANC leader Joe Slovo. Joe Slovo, married to Ruth First, was one of the apartheid resistance’s chief exponents.
|The struggle to end apartheid|
Slovo came to activism through a working class background. His autobiography outlines the thrilling adventures, life-threatening risks, and sacrifices required in overthrowing the apartheid regime. Another case worthy of study is the take over of political institutions by Israelis when the British left Palestine in 1946. The British allowed the Jews (but not the Palestinians) to establish self-governing institutions such as the Jewish Agency in anticipation of their withdrawal. When that day came in 1948, the State of Israel came into being because the groundwork had been laid well ahead of time.
It is essential that we hit the streets now to voice our displeasure with a system that has stressed violent militarism at home and abroad (where it consumes over 60% of the national budget and where it destroys life on Earth by consuming more fossil fuel than many countries) at the expense of services which other industrialized states take for granted, such as universal health care and universal education based on thinking and not the mindless testing that prepares our youth for nothing other than functioning as cogs in the corporate machinery, in prison, or out.
But what of the larger questions: What might a new constitution free of the founding father’s racism, look like? What form of government might be more responsive to human needs, and less malleable by corporate interests? What governing bodies might be preferable? How would a Parliamentary system function for a truer Democracy? Should the bicameral system and an electoral college be things of the past? How might a judicial system and a public health system be set up independent of political hackery? How might the media remain independent bodies, not blathering to the news du jour or slathering to the lure of the Golden Calf? How could our political landscape undergo significant change starting with voting by paper ballot? What ministries might represent a new style of government: A Ministry for the Rights of the Earth, for example, a Ministry for Peace, a Women’s Ministry, a Ministry for the Rights of Children? A Ministry Addressing Racial, Ethnic and Sexual difference? How might we confront the need for reparations to Native Americans, and to Black people who still wait for their 40 acres and a mule? A Ministry of Labor that would represent the rights of the working class, a class which this pandemic has revealed to be the real backbone of this country?
Yesterday I received this message from a friend who, because of her employment, lives half the year in Berlin.
[On arrival I got] a cheap handout from the health ministry saying we should enter a 14-day home quarantine. So I did. My GP… across the street… gave me a virus test [after 5 days]… The test would have been free if I had had any symptoms. Without symptoms, it cost 65 euros ($73) so I was "free" the following day when the negative result arrived.
I had forgotten what a reasonably functioning government/ administration looks like. On receiving the negative result the first thing I did was go cycling through the city. Everybody is out and about, no one wears a mask outside, almost all stores are open and no lines are evident, people pull a mask out of their pocket upon entering shops and put it back in their pocket upon exiting, restaurants are open (no masks) and tables are supposed to be distanced but this rule doesn't look terribly strict. The city-state of Berlin has about 750 active cases (recorded) which is not bad for a population of around 3.5 million (the equivalent would be 75,000 total U.S. cases). Cinemas opened yesterday… with restricted entry. But there are no restrictions on inter-household contact. No one does the evasion dance on sidewalks, and I've seen a lot of people shaking hands. This relaxed atmosphere will almost certainly make the population more willing to accept stricter measures if needed in the winter.
The other great difference is that the news consists of descriptions and analyses of events instead of ad hominem screeds. No one is calling people racists or supremacists or snowflakes or deplorables or whatever, I don't have to steel myself to turn on the radio. Actual problems are discussed, stridently at times, yes, but not in a blizzard of invective.
It's not even civility, just a functioning society. I had also forgotten what that is like.
To understand fully the background behind the fairly normal atmosphere in Berlin, it’s necessary to understand that epidemiology is not politics. That politics has no business dictating how people are to manage their health, their bodies, or their abortion rights. Epidemiology is both a science and an art. To get a perspective of what has gone terribly wrong in America, I suggest reading “The Pandemic Protocol” by Charles Duhigg in the May 4, 2020 New Yorker which contrasts West Coast Seattle and Governor Inslee of Washington State, who got it right, with very few cases, with Gov. Cuomo of New York and Mayor de Blasio, who got it terribly wrong at the expense of the lives of many New Yorkers, because rather than allowing scientists who had trained for years in the realities of epidemiology to speak, they micromanaged the issue from a political perspective, playing amateur to professionally trained people whom they silenced or sidetracked at every turn.
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