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

Thursday, November 10, 2005

MOM HAS IT RIGHT


I am visiting my mom in Titusville, Florida and when I arrived last night one of the first things she did after I walked in the door was comment on the oil corporation executives being called before Congress yesterday. Mom, not one who follows politics closely but has always had to struggle to stretch a dollar, was clearly showing joy about the fact that big oil was having to explain themselves to the public. She said, "They even interrupted regular shows on the TV to tell the story." As I was driving up to Titusville from south Florida I heard on the radio that the oil execs were given $3-$4 million bonuses in recent times to reward them for the massive profits they have brought in. I heard one oil boss say on the car radio that they "have to be responsible to their investors." Yeah, right.

Then this morning, after looking at the front page of the local newspaper, mom freaked about the headline announcing a 19% increase in electricty approved by the state for the Florida Power & Light Corporation who wants to pass on their increased fuel costs. When we walked down the street so she could pay her monthly $174 electric bill she complained the whole way and when she took me across the street to visit with neighbors she brought up the increase to them as well. "How am I going to afford this?," she asked. Her husband died recently and she struggles to make it on a meager $11,000 a year social security income.

This is the reality for a growing number of people these days. Prices of virtually everything going up and people are wondering how they are going to make it. What are the politicians doing now to help them? More tax cuts for the super rich? Won't help mom.....more give-a-ways to the multi-national corporations who are moving jobs out of the country? Won't help mom..... Price of health care and medicine going up? Won't help mom who is a heart patient and reliant on expensive drugs.

My mom, the lifelong Republican, is against the Iraq war. She literally hates Bush....she is fed up with the politicians....she believes both parties are corrupt. Who is she to turn to for relief? Who supports her and other working class and poor people?

Mom has it right....the Repubs and Dems are selling her out to the big corporations.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

DOWN IN HURRICANE ALLEY


I am in South Florida on a short speaking tour and witnessing the aftermath of a harsh hurricane. I spoke today in Delray Beach at the county civic center and it was not certain until just a couple days ago that the building would be open and available to the public. The air conditioner was not working so the place was cooled by huge, and very loud, industrial fans. I spoke to the Citizens for Social Responsibility, the one group in the entire world that I have spoken to more times than anyone else. During my 15 years working with the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice they had me speak to them nearly every year and since I left there in 1998 they still have me back quite often. Today I learned that my dear friend Nap Kaplan, one of the founders of the group, had recently died, not long after his beloved wife Grace had passed on.

I flew down last night from Pease, N.H. into Sanford, Florida on a $135 round-trip flight on Alliant airlines. I can see why it was so cheap as the toilet would not flush on the plane, the seats were jammed together closer than most airlines, and they even were charging $2 for a bottle of water - which I skipped. I then rented a car and drove as far south as I could before I got too tired to keep going. I made it to Vero Beach and got to bed at 1:00 am.

From the Delray Beach talk I speak on Wednesday in West Palm Beach and then head up to visit my mom in Titusville before speaking at Daytona Beach Community College on Friday and in Deland on Saturday.

At each stop I will be sure to mention NASA's planned launch of plutonium from the space center next January. The New Horizons mission to Pluto will once again be using the controversial and dangerous nuclear generators on-board.

On Sunday, just before flying back to Maine I will have the great pleasure of meeting Will Park for BBQ in the Orlando area. Will is the artist who illustrated my book and has done political art for my work for the past 20 years or more. Can't remember when we started working together but it seems like we've been collaborating forever. Before leaving Maine yesterday I dropped the Global Network's latest Space Alert! newsletter off at the mailing house and the front page cartoon is one done by Will. Our tradition, when I used to live in Orlando, was to meet for a BBQ lunch fairly often where we'd discuss the state of political affairs in the U.S. Will told me today he'd discovered a new BBQ joint with a buffet that he wants me to check out - fried okra, collard greens, the works he said. Can't wait.

People here say that folks are still stunned from the never ending cycle of hurricanes that have hit Florida hard the past couple of years. Those who recognize the impact of global warming are preparing for more of them in the years to come. Trees are down all over the place and piles of trash are set up by the road in front of many homes. Furniture, stoves, and other such things are included in the trash piles so it is clear that there was severe interior damage to many places.

It is now estimated that more than 27,000 housing units are uninhabitable in South Florda. Particularly hard hit are migrant farmworkers who have lost as much as $50 million in wages due to hurricane Wilma. The storm has affected up to 100,000 farmworkers. Hundreds of farmworkers homes, destroyed in last year's four-storm season, were never rebuilt. They are surviving by cramming 20 people into one trailer.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

WHAT'S A TV WORTH?


We are told that the people own the airwaves. We are told that the vehicle of TV, used by the corporations as an instrument of social control and a fantastic merchandising mechanism, must fairly and honestly be used to the benefit of all the people.

Sadly though, like so much else in our land, TV has been used and abused to sell not only products to the public, but in more recent times we've seen how TV can be used to sell wars and the expensive weapons that go with them.

Then after the lies are told to create a war, the TV must be used to cover up the lies. So more lies are heaped on top of the original sins and on we go. The people, knowing that they are being lied to begin to trust no one and give up hope that their government can ever be changed. People, whose very own lives are increasingly controlled on some level by multi-national corporations, begin to fear the powers that be as much as the feudal peasant feared the noblemen inside their castles, protected by moats and well-equipped armies.

As my mother often says, "You can't beat city hall." This was learned by years of witnessing the smashing of idealism in the body politic to the point where people now see expressions of democracy and justice as quaint and meaningless.

The lies are so frequent and so blatant that people's ability to feel outrage at those who decieve us are almost gone. The hardened heart becomes protection - don't expect justice, don't expect truth, don't expect real democracy and you won't have your heart broken again. Don't bother with politics, it's a dirty game and a waste of time we tell each other.

In the old Soviet Union the joke was that if you wanted to move up the ladder you had to join the party. Party membership increased the chances for better apartments, more food, a better job. Go along to get along.

In the United States of America the fact is that people have learned a similar lesson. If you want success, if you want to climb the corporate ladder, you have to learn to look away. You have to learn to kill the feelings of outrage. Keep your mouth shut when your president lies and drags your country into a war. Turn the other way when your government drains the federal treasury to enrich the big corporations, enriches the weapons makers, puts people in jail without trail, tortures the innocent in hidden detention centers around the world. Learn to look away (mumble angry things if you must, go vote for tweedle-dum every election day)but do look away. If you want to be liked by your neighbors then you must learn to kill the rage inside.

The worst lie of all is that the American people are the best people in the world. That America is an exceptional nation. This lie, stacked on top of all the horrid other lies, gives the people the internal justification they need to continue on each day with business as usual. "Well, there is no place better than this. This is the best country in the world, so my notions about democracy and justice are just naive and foolish. This is the way the world is and I'd just better make the best of it." Oh well, we say to ourselves.....life goes on.

This is the power of the TV. This is what you will find on the TV if you look behind the layers...look behind the illusions....

What is a TV worth? It is worth an entire empire.