Are Progressives Depressed or Too Privileged to Produce Social Change? Or Are We Just Failing to Organize Effectively?
Continued from previous page
While Les, thankfully, sees some value in small victories, he feels we have more important needs. He says, “We need more information, more truth, and I intend to do all I can to share what I can with you."
I get energized by small victories. I would be energized, for example, if the Nez Perce grabbed back, via cash or lawsuits, a few thousand acres of their stolen land. Could Les be even a little encouraged and energized -- and a little bit encouraging -- to a group of teenagers who successfully “collectively bargained" with their McDonald’s supervisor for 15 more minutes each day for a break?
Like Les, I too love truth. One of a writer's great motivations is discovering and telling the truth. Besides the egotistical motive of being perceived as insightful, the altruistic motive is that something good will surely come out of people knowing it. I wish my declaring the truth of people's personal abusive relationships or systemic corporate-governmental oppression was enough to set them free. However, the deeper truth is that these kinds of truths are often impotent and sometimes even shaming -- not exactly a great recruiting tactic. My point -- which many of the afflicted seemed to get and many who are comfortable did not -- is that many activists have become lazy, pursuing only easy truths.
What if the fact that we are getting screwed by the various governmental-industrial complexes is not a revelatory truth but one that, as singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen says, "Everybody knows”? What if the more important question is one that focuses on the forces in our society that are demoralizing us and what we can do about this so as to regain morale and energy?
Maybe it’s not only the job of my clergy buddy but the job of all of us to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Hopefully, each year we gain greater wisdom in making that afflicted-comfortable distinction.
— Bruce E. Levine
LES LEOPOLD: 'Bruce Levine Says Americans Are Broken: Is He Right?'
Bruce Levine’s thoughtful piece about why we’re not fighting back has hit a responsive cord among readers. I thank him for initiating this critical discourse about activism. In the spirit of open dialogue, I feel compelled to respectfully disagree with his basic analysis.
Political Action Doesn’t Fall From the Sky; It Requires Deliberate Political Infrastructure
Levine reminds us of how passive we seem to have been in the face of obvious injustices hurled our way. As he points out there was little to protest against the theft of the 2000 election by the Bush forces. He further points out that we are again missing the moment concerning health care -- that "despite the current sellout by their elected officials to the insurance industry, there is no outpouring of millions of U.S. citizens on the streets of Washington, D.C., protesting this betrayal." (I recently asked similar questions about the lack of protest against the current Wall Street rip-offs. See, "Have We Forgotten How to March?")
Why aren’t we in motion? His deeply disturbing analysis deserves a closer look:
U.S. citizens do not actively protest obvious injustices for the same reasons that people cannot leave their abusive spouses: They feel helpless to effect change. The more we don't act, the weaker we get. And ultimately to deal with the painful humiliation over inaction in the face of an oppressor, we move to shut-down mode and use escape strategies such as depression, substance abuse, and other diversions, which further keep us from acting. This is the vicious cycle of all abuse syndromes.