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: Brunswick, Maine, United States

I'll be taking an 'unpaid leave of absence' from my job at the Global Network from December 15-March 15, 2020 in order to help my friend Lisa Savage on her campaign for the US Senate in Maine. She's running as a Maine Green Independent Party member and needs to gather 2,000 petition signatures of registered Greens during that period. I'll be back to GN after March 15.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

WHAT IS THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF RIOTS?




During these kinds of "youth rebellions" my mind always returns to the book Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut. Published in 1952 (the year I was born) it is a book about mechanization and human alienation as a result of people becoming expendable to technology.

Today we have a corporate global economy that is doing everything possible to make people superfluous as profits come before people. We no longer have many telephone operators, we rarely use travel agents (I still do) who are being replaced by airline web sites, and even in the grocery stores they've introduced self checkout (which I refuse to do). It's all about cutting jobs. There are zillions of other examples like auto manufacturing where robots and computers increasingly replace people.

In Player Piano we see conflict result as the younger generation gets a message that the existing society does not need them. The machines become more important than people. The displaced people begin to see the machines as their enemy - obstacles to their own future. In the end they revolt and try to destroy the enemy - the machines.

Vonnegut said this about his story, "Player Piano was my response to the implications of having everything run by little boxes. The idea of doing that, you know, made sense, perfect sense. To have a little clicking box make all the decisions wasn't a vicious thing to do. But it was too bad for the human beings who got their dignity from their jobs."

The social unrest in England, and around the world in recent months, has much to do with how the increasingly dominant corporate economy is structured. It is set up so the wealthy few get richer when they don't have to pay human beings, or they at least only have to pay them slave wages.

So is it really any surprise that the youth in England are tearing up their communities? What stake do they have in their own neighborhoods? Do they have jobs? Do they feel like they have a real future? Do they feel like bloviating politicians who threaten them with more police crackdowns have their interests at heart? No one listens to them now as they while away their useless lives playing video games or doing designer drugs which are most often supplied by the very elite that then puts them in jail for using. When these disaffected youth gather together and burn and pillage they not only feel a sense of power but the whole word "listens" to them and is forced, even for a moment, to consider them.

It's rather easy for people like me to say these youth need to develop some political demands. The bloviators will say they need to restrain themselves and bring their grievances to the "proper" political processes. But the political machine has no real intention, nor at this point any real capability, to deal with the fundamental problem at hand - and that is that global corporate society has written the masses of poor and working class people off the map. They have been expunged.....they don't exist.....and their numbers are growing everyday. The corporate elite have no intention of changing that fact. Here in the U.S. we see the whole program in motion as they attack with a vengeance programs of social uplift.

All the marginalized are left to do is to rattle their chains the best way they can. It's all very sad indeed.

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