Sunday, November 05, 2017

Reflections on Our Subscription Drives

Some thoughts on the subscription drives for Rally Comrades, the People's Tribune and Tribuno del Pueblo--

 Anger’s all around us today. On social media, we don’t just disagree; we often attack. And while some attack the larger forces that are making our lives increasingly miserable, most of us lash out at whoever's handy—the people who have elsewhere loved us, supported us, nurtured us, helped us solve problems from time to time and often helped us simply get through our problems. On Facebook, which some shrewdly avoid, we tend to lash out at our “friends,” sometimes directly but more often in some passive aggressive flailing declaration. I’ve certainly been guilty of this. When I realize I’ve done this, I take those comments down.

 But that doesn’t make the anger go away. It’s simply not smart or strategic or, when I get right down to it, kind. In these tender times, that consideration of others and their vulnerability certainly matters (at least to me) in new ways every day.

 Of course, it’s not just social media. Virtually every form of media is filled with hostility, and anger’s close to the surface almost anywhere. People cut in line and rail at people who cut in line. I feel it in my car driving to and from work. People begin frantically honking when someone drives too slowly. Others dart back and forth through traffic like they’re shooting The Fast and the Furious. I brake for them and swerve so they won’t hit me so that they can race ahead only to be sitting next to me at the next red light.

 At that light, the anger still exists, as a contagion, in both of us. But, usually, we don’t look at each other. As angry as we know the world to be today, we don’t want things to escalate. We both simply want to get to work on time.

In the end, the anger isn’t the real problem. Anger is a natural response, albeit not always the healthiest one but sometimes absolutely involuntary, to the frustration of our hopes and dreams and desires, even the simplest ones. You take away a child’s ice cream cone, and it’s liable to come out in screams and tears. You take away an adult’s ice cream cone, and, if you get a more mature response, the difference comes from some learned way to distance oneself from the impulse.

 I am thankful for the work I get to do in this world because it all helps me find a distance on my most childish impulses and tackle the underlying causes of the problems in front of me. This is how I get through my days in the classroom, which fortunately offer all kinds of unforeseen rewards. (People working face to face with each other tend to find a way to resolve their differences.) But it’s also how I’ve manage to gain a practical perspective outside of the classroom.

In my college years, my anger at the KKK on my campus, the reasons Central Americans sought refuge in my neighborhoods because of wars my country funded, the loss of thousands of jobs in my hometown and the vanishing certainty of anything like stability in even my own future led me to work with a series of organizations—on campus, the African-American Student Organization, Amnesty International and various organizations fighting for peace and justice. After school, I started a music and politics newsletter in Oklahoma called The Red Dirt Runner, which would become A Sign of the Times in Kansas City, both based on the national music and politics networking newsletter Rock & Rap Confidential. I worked with In Defense of Music, the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, the Greater Kansas City Coalition Against Censorship, the Music Alliance, the KCMO Union of the Homeless, the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, my teacher’s union and many other organizations, increasingly focused on the reasons we all have to be justifiably angry at the way the world works.

 At least since 1993, the through-line (my lifeline?) for all of this activity has been my membership in the League of Revolutionaries for a New America (LRNA). While the world seems filled with people both at each others’ throats and avoiding one another, the League focuses on building a practical unity that can carry us forward. We do this by examining what we really know about root causes for the conditions we live in and how that can help us reach across ideological divisions. People who have not engaged with our ideas sometimes react to our assessments as if they are utopian, but I don't see it that way. A group of people active in today’s struggles on every front you can imagine, League members come together and gain our conclusions methodically. We collectively study our personal experiences as well as scientific and written history. We study technology and today’s headlines, particularly those buried on page 6. It’s the best liberal arts education I’ve ever been engaged with, and it never stops because conditions never stop changing. Perhaps most importantly, this education brings hope.

 The League focuses on common denominators. There are baseline reasons the world has become so unstable and will continue to grow more unstable until it transforms into something more humane. These changes are rooted in changing technologies that are currently being used against us. We famously repeat the notion that the world is going through objective revolutionary change because, without that recognition, we can’t begin to think in new ways to deal with a new world.

 Mainstream thinkers have been talking about our post-industrial future for about four decades, and mainstream art and literature is filled with dystopian nightmares of various kinds of dictatorship that will destroy quality of life for the great masses of the people. The LRNA recognizes the profound technological revolution that is transforming our society, and we work in agreement that it can be steered to serve the people. We can live in a better world, but the great masses of people will have to find ways to come together as one in order to midwife that world into existence.

 The sins of our fathers loom large. Ten thousand years ago, our hunter-gatherer society transformed into more sedentary structures that allowed for the accumulation of wealth. The ancient divisions of labor within the social structure (which took many forms by age and gender and varied abilities) were, in terms of human history, replaced fairly quickly by male dominance in the politics of commerce, which relegated women to positions of less power. National racial identities formed which, after thousands of years, were supplanted by imperialist power and the slave trade which based identities on skin color. The political maneuverings of the capitalist era gave birth to most of the ideological divisions we still suffer today. None of those division are going away any time soon, and we still have to fight on those ideological battlegrounds, but the underlying structure of society has changed in ways that give us advantages.

Even as it was exploited against us, technology has always offered ways to liberate individual human existence. The birth of the printing press in the 1400s led to the European renaissance and scientific and political propaganda that would increase our life spans and help us understand the world around us and how we fit into this world. Since the 1950s and the invention of the transistor, technology has allowed us to eliminate the objective need for much of our human labor. It is much more than coincidence that, in 2017, the world rests in the palms of our hands, and we are perhaps angrier than ever before.

Deep down, we know a better world is possible, and we each have pieces of the puzzle, but the power structure tends to turn us against each other so that we cannot come together constructively. We live in a world of mass incarceration with neverending wars where people who do try to do a little good are often attacked for those efforts. When I was a child, I could not have imagined, in my 50s I’d live in a world where people could be arrested for feeding the homeless or housing others who are running for their lives.

 We will not gain a more humane future without struggle, but we will not gain that future by attacking everyone else struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table. I believe we have more than a good chance if we come together and share what we know and strategize a way forward. As a member of the LRNA, I collectivize what I know with others for just that reason, and our paper, Rally Comrades, is the place where League members share that information and strategy for further study. We also support and distribute The People’s Tribune and Tribuno del Pueblo, to publish the stories of people fighting for their human rights in their own words, often from varied ideological perspectives. It is the practical need for unity that concerns me, and it’s that call that concerns the LRNA, which is why I am calling for my friends and loved ones to do what they can to help support our presses. You can support the League paper here-- The People’s Tribune here-- and Tribuno del Pueblo here-- You can donate as little or as much as you want to in order to help us achieve these goals.

After a quarter century doing this work, I know we’re approaching the day with a focus that’s needed now more than ever before. I hope some of you will hear my appeal for the sincere summation of my experience that it is and consider helping out. It’s been a great gift in my life, and I ask because we need it, certainly, but also because I want to share this gift with others.

As my friend Ron Casanova used to sign off, “Through Peace, Love and Understanding,”