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

Sunday, November 23, 2008

SYMBOLS AND MESSAGES

I just read a profound piece by Chris Hedges about the more than 42 million Americans, 20% whom are high school graduates, who cannot read.....50 million read at a 4th or 5th grade level. He lays out a frightening but real case about how this "post-literate society" can be easily manipulated by politicians and political campaigns that rely on images, slogans, entertainment, and distortions of the truth in order to keep people in a state of illusion and amnesia. Hedges says, "We prefer happy illusions....We confuse how we feel with knowledge."

Maybe the most radical thing someone can do is become a volunteer for the local literacy society.

Last night I went to hear Jim Scott sing at the Unitarian Church in Brunswick. I worked with Jim back in the late 80's and early 90's when we came to Florida to participate in our peace pilgrimage that walked from the Florida-Georgia border south to Cape Canaveral. Over the years Jim would sing at various protests we held at the space center calling for an end to the militarization of space. Jim, former guitarist for the Paul Winter Consort, has traveled the nation for years playing and writing songs about peace, the environment, and the spiritual side of life. It was a real pleasure to see him again after so many years. He had been living in the northwest but has moved back east to Massachusetts and comes up to Maine now and then.

This morning I heard from another old friend from Florida, Tom Levine, who I knew when I lived in Orlando 15 years ago. Tom, a real character, ran for city council while I was there and had the best homemade campaign signs ever. I remember one that really got the public's attention - "Save Water, Shower with a Friend." I used to put his signs in my front yard but a city worker who lived in the neighborhood kept taking them down....that was life back then in conservative Central Florida. Tom has a new book about the unrestrained development that has ruined Florida. He is calling it Paradise Interrupted.

One way the progressive community can do a better job in communicating our message with an increasingly illiterate public is through music and the use of public art. We all need to think about that and talk with local artists about how we can involve them in finding creative ways to "talk with folks."

1 Comments:

Anonymous Jack Dunn said...

Bruce,

The use of Art and Music to get our message across does not depend on there being a high percentage of illiterates. For one thing, the less educated are generally much more schooled in how the media lies than are the elites (see Noam Chomsky). We should be using Art and Music because they are great ways to get our ideas across!

Changing the subject, I think there is a need for and growing receptiveness to a nationwide Peace Conversion movement. It might involve calling out local elected officials (even city and county) on how their decisions are delaying and undermining the use of resources for human beings, campus Teach-Ins, Public Forums, Public Service announcements in the media, Regional and National Conferences, etc.

What you and global network are doing are a good start but just as the war profiteers carefully put war contracts in every congressional district, that same universality opens the door for a universal outcry to change our priorities.

I guess I'm looking for someone else to lead this. Tag, you're it.

Thanks for all you do,

11/24/08, 3:27 PM  

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