Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

OPENING SHOT

http://www.space4peace.org

People often ask me if I get depressed seeing all that is going on in the world. Bush's endless war to control the resources of the world and the war at home against social progress.

Well the anser is yes. Of course I do. Who wouldn't? But how long can one wallow in our collective misery before you have to get moving again?

There is just so much that needs to be done. We need to get folks out of their misery and depression into some kind of action. Can we get them to write a letter to the editor? How about help organize a small delegation of friends and neighbors to our senator's office to speak out against the war in Iraq? Can we get them to contemplate doing civil disobedience and form an affinity group to begin discussing what they might do together?

And how about our economy? The U.S. is in such debt and Bush has now intentionally created the conditions where we have to cut the budget. Of course we can't cut military spending he says. Instead we have to go after things like home heating assitance for poor people in the north, social security, low income housing assistance...you all know the list.

I heard recently that the public libraries in Salinas, California had closed because the local community has no money. Outside one of the previously functioning libraries is a statue of the great author John Steinbeck, who often wrote about farmworkers, the same kind of people who live in Salinas today. These are the forgotten people. They are no longer needed in a society where computerization, mechanization, and robotics have taken over. They are superfluous populations. Defund their public education....defund their health care.....what happens to them next?

America is addicted to war and violence. America is addicted to mythology too. The mythology that at any moment you might strike it rich. So don't raise taxes on the rich, because it might come back to haunt you when you win the lottery next week! Yeah, right.

We have to pull the veil off America's mythology. We have to begin to share with our friends and neighbors the reality of what America is, and what America is not. We are not a sharing and caring society. Of course they are many Americans who do care and do share. But as an organized society we are a greedy, power hungry culture. There is a battle for America's soul underway now.

In fact that is the title of my current video, Battle for America's Soul. There I talk about how we've been like this from day one when the Native Americans were slaughtered so the new empire could be built in north America. From the first days of the American "revolution" at Valley Forge, the military contractors stole from the peasant army as they froze in the cold night. The food, blankets, weapons that were paid for by the Continental Congress were not delivered. During the Civil war in the U.S. the contractors delivered guns that did not work. And now in Iraq, the big boys like Haliburton and Bechtel steal from the taxpayers, steal from the troops, and fatten their already overstuffed pockets with profits. And now we have to close the libraries in Salinas.

What are we going to do about it? Let me hear from you. Thanks for reading.



11 Comments:

Blogger Stephen said...

Thanks for all your work. Good luck with the blog.

2/15/05, 4:41 PM  
Blogger Chris and Helen Hooley said...

Bruce,

The blog is a great idea. I deeply appreciate your new emphasis on the battle for the soul of America.

This is much closer, in my opinion, to an effective center for our actions. Once I realized that the American culture has been violent, racist, classist, etc from its inception, I began separating the culture from the human beings that live here.

We need, in my opinion, to focus entirely on our fellow human beings. We have to, I think, allow the culture to die.

Thanks for all your good work.

Chris (and Helen) at the FCPJ Peace Farm

2/15/05, 5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bruce,
I appreciate your tireless work. I think often of a talk I heard you give. Two things I took from that talk were;
1. Never give up on anybody
2. Knoledge is not depressing, it is liberating.
Thank you for all you do.

Jason

2/15/05, 5:55 PM  
Anonymous David Gontar said...

February 15, 2005

Dear Bruce, Many of us are inspired by your insight and efforts to reform our nation. Whether that is possible at this point is for me an open question. Certainly, the Bush Administration is symptomatic of the corrupt heart of American social and political life. As Shakespeare observed, "Th' abuse of greatness is, when it disjoins remorse from power." The difficulty is that the dementia which afflicts America now reflects the more pervasive crisis of Western civilization, and that, in turn, raises the prospect of fallen human nature generally. Though some might find my doubts merely metaphysical and an excuse for passivism, it is not clear to me what action can be taken -- if the spiritual disease runs as deep as I suspect it does. It is disappointing to observe the silence and acquiesence of those of my generation who actively opposed the war in Vietnam. These people, myself included, have grown up and acquired inextricable bonds with persons, institutions and interests in this country which are inimical to change, and these entangling alliances seem to lead to Hamlet-like paralysis. We see Claudius as evil, but cannot kill him. What Yeats said of his own time is true of ours: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." If America was born in an atmosphere of Puritanical desperation, and if from the very outset we slaughtered indigenous populations and built a nation of wealth on the backs of slaves and exploited serfs from abroad, if fortunes and empire have been erected by fascists masquerading as democrats, if the shadow of racism hangs over Hiroshima and our misbegotten policies in the middle east, is there not implied more than a lack of wisdom and prudence in our leadership? For Shakespeare, perpetual war was symptomatic of a tragic condition that cannot be swept away by any action, no matter how heroically intended. I tend to agree. To overturn and redirect our course today would require a fundamental re-education of our benighted citizenry, which has been totally brainwashed by an insidious propaganda juggernaut. Nevertheless, I continue to study the articles posted here and derive much benefit from them. As Bradley said, "When all is bad, it must be good to know the worst."

Thank you for your work and your ideas.

2/15/05, 8:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just read your blog, and would like to say congratulations on being in a growing number of Americans who see through the lies and the deceit.

I am from New Zealand and have known of your countries long murderous foreign policies for so long, only thing, many kept consigning them to the conspiracy theory scrap heap of denial. Now however they have all become fact, and my mini collins dictonary tells me that one of the meanings of fact, is undeniable often unpleasant truth.

congratulations once again on waking up so that those of you inside can effect some real change

I also agree, all the insitutions that have ever shaped and informed us will have to fall and crumble, we need to let them and not be tempted to rebuild them or even change them, for their foundations are built on values that are no longer our values.

may the force be with all of us in our awakening to other possiblities.

jenese
Aotearoa
(New Zealand)

2/15/05, 8:52 PM  
Anonymous Mary Beth said...

What are we gonna do about it? Great question.

#1 Pay attention. I have a plant in my study. It was a special gift from some wonderful friends. I've never been able to keep a plant alive in my life. I repotted this plant thinking it was outgrowing it's home. It didn't seem very happy. Then I forgot to bring it indoors in the fall, and it experienced a freeze. I knew then, for sure, it was dead. But I had this sentimental connection to it... so I put it in front of the window in my study. And, to be honest, I kind of forgot about it. Every now and then I would water it, but never knew why because it looked so damned dead. Low and behold... here we are in the dregs of winter, and what do I see? Big, beautiful, brilliant new green leaves on this plant I left for dead. It's alive and well and living! The sun, a little water, and total determination on it's part, brought it back to life.

What are we to do?
Bloom where we are planted.

Find the light. Take what little nourishment there is out there in the world to feed us, let it feed our souls, and refuse to go away...

To that end, may I share a story from today? I work in the field of early childhood education. The commissioner of education in the great state of maine proposes to cut our agency's budget by a third in 2007. A joint committe of state legislators (26 in total) met today to review the proposed education budget and hear public comment. I waited more than four hours to get my opportunity... and when it was finally time for my three minutes, I talked about the "elephant in America's living room" -- federal budget priorities! I told the room full of citizens and legislators the truth: that we live in the wealthiest nation the world has ever known. That there is plenty of money in this country. That the military sucks away more than half of the discretionary budget. That we spend more on our military each year than all the other major military powers in the world.

I told those gathered what they already know: We are spending more than a billion dollars a week on the war in Iraq. That the news this week is all about the fraud waste and abuse of those funds. I told them that on the way to the hearing I listened to a radio conversation about the 9 billion dollars that was "lost" in Baghdad -- funds unaccounted for. Isn't it infuriating that the military can lose $9 billion in chump change, while the state of main fights over $6 million to serve the needs of disabled babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers?

I BEGGED the legislators to join me in sending a strong and clear message to Washinton that says the people in Maine are more important than the next cluster bomb the Pentagon will build. That we would rather support early intervention services than build the next generation of nuclear weapons. That the Star Wars program is an expensive boondoggle that is taking money directly from the pockets of our people and programs that support the most vulnerable in our state...

I reminded the good people of Maine that we have plenty of money in this country, and I ureged them to organize themselves and the Governor to approach our federal elected officials to tell them and the White House that the peole of Maine reject the budget priorities that are coming out of Washington. Our children's future depends on it.

When I was finished, seated, still shaking from the anxiety of speaking so forcefully in public, state Senator Elizabeth Schneider from Penobscott County came over to me, sat beside me, and thanked me for speaking the truth.

What are we to do Bruce? Whatever the challenge of today is. Take action. Speak out -- even if our voices shake.

Thanks for the opportunity to share my story.

Mary Beth

2/15/05, 10:10 PM  
Blogger William O said...

Q: How many neo-cons does it take to tell the truth?
A: How many pigs does it take to fly?

Q: How many neo-cons does it take to be compassionate?
A: How many crocodiles does it take to cry?


Notice to the people of the world: This war is a "War On Terror". We will therefore bomb you until you are no longer afraid of being bombed.
You can thank us later.

Hugs and Kisses, BushCheneyHalliburton

2/16/05, 10:44 AM  
Anonymous Christie Toth said...

I think one important way to combat trench depression here on the progressive front is to do exactly what Bruce is doing here: to write. Fuming in the company of friends is therapeutic, but creating larger forums for collective fuming among new friends is what generates action.

If any of you have a chance, you should listen to the series currently running on NPR at lunchtime. They're broadcasting the great speeches given by African Americans during and since the Civil Rights Movement, and there is so much hope and determination in those words.

It works. Society can be changed. The Internet is the great chink in the Humvee of corporate media conglomeration. Three cheers for Bruce for joining the blogger revolution.

2/16/05, 1:11 PM  
Anonymous karlmarxwasright@hotmail.com said...

Perhaps, the American so-called "peace movement" can get it thru their thick heads that the issue is MONEY, OWNERSHIP, RESOURCES, CLASS POLITICS. If you say No to Privatization both here and abroad, you've covered the entire issue and the ties that bind, globally. No to privatization HERE AND ABROAD. Not only defend Social Security, but, expand it. Health care, transit, schools, energy, etc. No to working class tax subsidization of private, multinational corporations for which we have, in return, absolutely nothing. On the contrary, we subsidize our own economic decay. We neither own nor control our own industries, resources, trade agreements, wages, labor policies. Americans have been brainwashed since the end of WWII to believe class politics doesn't exist in this country. They're in total denial, the Horatio Algier myth, the "American dream" machine, reiterated, ad nauseum by the Democrats. That's the primary factor that distinguishes Americans from the rest of the entire globe. The American peace movement is divorced from economics. It's divorced from Labor politics. The so-called "middle class" does NOT identify itself, here, as "working class." These people feel themselves a "part of the system." They identify with it because they have one or two cars, a ticky-tacky house, a condo, lots of consumer garbage, a pension (when it isn't bankrupted), "possessions," and, thus, they feel they "own something." It's the equivalent of the petit-bourgeoisie. From their point of view, the system works for them. "Being determines consciousness." The fact that half or more of the population, here, and billions abroad don't even have the rudimentary necessities of life as a consequence of the "system" is too much an abstraction for these folks. It's ONLY when the coffins return from an adventure abroad, or, their own taxes, incomes, get affected that they notice their class status. Otherwise, they like to believe in the "American dream," the beneficence of the "democratic system," and all the attend slogans that go with it. It's time to get our own house in order. The Iraqis are busy defending themselves very well, I might add. They nationalized their own industry a long time ago, relatively speaking. If you want to help the Iraqis, then, demand, organize and fight for your own economic class interests. If you win that, you'll help the Iraqis, by definition. And, everywhere else on the globa as well.

2/17/05, 2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I read the comments of people with whom I generally agree, I'd like to introduce an issue that is an important part of our problem, but it is never seen or considered a threat.

We do live in a system that is feudalistic; power does not reside with "the people" however often we are told it does. Our contract, the Constitution, no longer limits centralized power as intended. If democracy really existed, we, as individuals would vote on every issue without the benefit of a legislature—referendum; this never happens at the federal level.

My concern is the now universal monetary scheme. All money is borrowed into existence and has no intrinsic value in itself. The fractional reserve theory allows the bankers to create money from fiction. Simply, this allows banks to loan, at interest, money that does not exist. Example--you deposit a dollar, which allows the bank in turn to loan ten; this ratio is set by the Federal Reserve in the USA. As the creation of debt exceeds the GNP, the value of the dollar is reduced proportionally. In my lifetime, the dollar has lost 90% of its purchasing power, which represents a continually increasing rate of spending what we don’t have.

The fractional reserve process virtually allows unlimited creation of credit, which allows and requires an economy to maintain steady growth. When growth, the element that makes the system appear sound, stops, the economy falters. We at ground level cannot exercise this option, as it is criminal to do so—e.g. writing a check when the account is empty. This growth promotes an increasing population, greater consumption, whose ultimate extrapolation is the consumption of all the earth’s resources. This is capitalism as we practice it and, in the final analysis, why soldiers die. Our presidents who died at the hands of assassins came into conflict with those who sought to perpetuate this fraud.

If our monetary system was based on quid pro quo, then no money could be loaned that didn't exist. This would slow growth to no more than what we could produce in excess of our continuing needs. If we paid all our debts, public and private, there would be no money. I’m not advocating commodifying coin, e.g. gold, etc., but rather to equating the value of money to some constant fraction of production. It is probably impossible to expect money’s value in this case to be absolutely constant, but its variations would be small bracketing a constant value rather than steadily losing its purchasing power.

As one is horrified by the deterioration of a potentially good system, we focus on the symptoms, which are important issues to be sure, rather than the root causes, greed and power. We must stop spending the future of our children on the transient comforts of the present. We learned as students that neither matter nor energy can be created, but only converted one for the other. This fact of nature can’t be ignored indefinitely as our leaders encourage us to constantly do.

Thus spake Zarathustra

2/18/05, 3:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bruce:

We can change the world by making our actions part of the solutions. We also can change the discussion. I think ethics, and the morality involved with empire, colonialization, and technology would help bring some light to those in the dark. Many of those in the dark just so happen to be the ones in power. A shame that our founding forefathers would be embarrassed to call "democracy".

Keep up the education and the passion!

2/18/05, 3:22 PM  

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