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We Can't Give in to the Culture of Fear and Apathy — Channel Your Discontent into Positive Action

The very forces that protect the status quo have been effective in misleading and distracting the public, often misdirecting their energies into futile activities.

Retired CIA Officer, now a peace and justice activist, Ray McGovern recently wrote in an article called The Moral Imperative of Activism that “This is our summer of discontent. The question we need to ask ourselves is whether that discontent will move us to action. Never in my lifetime have there been such serious challenges….”

These serious challenges exist in the form of the multiple crises and the obstacles we face in overcoming them. Powerful forces are aligned to maintain the status quo, even though that means increasing poverty, injustice, war and environmental destruction; and are adept at preventing disruption of it. Corporations control the political process, the courts, think tanks, the media, education and many non-profits. The vast national security apparatus monitors us and does what it can to prevent effective resistance actions through infiltration of activist groups, as was recently discovered in Washington, DC and Oklahoma.

These challenges are not insurmountable if we educate ourselves and are willing to join the many who have already stepped out of the culture of fear that is being propagated and are taking courageous action. Some activists have a solid understanding of the political situation and are able to act intuitively as long-time environmental activist Diane Wilson has done repeatedly. But this is not true for most people. The very forces that protect the status quo, which make up the corporate-security state, have been effective in misleading and distracting the public, often misdirecting their energies into futile activities.

A case in point is the confusion being caused by the upcoming March on Washington to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March for Jobs and Freedom. Though it is being organized as a celebration of an historic event, the grievances that existed during the original march continue in some forms today. Poverty and unemployment rates are high. Racial disparities exist for education, jobs and health, and for treatment by the police and judicial system. And hard won rights to vote are disappearing.

How odd to be celebrating a march that came out of real struggle when those struggles remain. The march is an opportunity to air grievances, and some groups, such as the Labor Fightback are urging groups which attend to call for a national jobs program, Medicare for all, funding for domestic programs instead of war and more. Will they have a platform for their calls to be heard?

The answer is no. This is not that kind of march. Though the celebration is being organized by the same groups that planned the original march, this is where the similarities end. At the time of the original march, the organizing groups were heavily involved in the civil rights movement. They had differences in strategy, but they were able to unite around a set of ten common demands for economic and racial justice.  

Speakers at the original march came from the movement, from the front lines of struggle. There were no politicians, because the marchers were there with the purpose of confronting power. Dr. King, who delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, represented the Southern Christian Leadership Conference which believed that the march was an opportunity to raise issues which Kennedy was not addressing. King believed in remaining independent of the two parties of his era, both of which were dominated by segregationists.  His view was summarized in his quote, “I feel someone must remain in the position of non-alignment, so that he can look objectively at both parties and be the conscience of both—not the servant or master of either." Today, we face two parties dominated by money and corporate power and must remain independent to be effective.

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