“Look at yourselves. Some of you teenagers, students. How do you think I feel and I belong to a generation ahead of you – how do you think I feel to have to tell you, ‘We, my generation, sat around like a knot on a wall while the whole world was fighting for its human rights – and you’ve got to be born into a society where you still have that same fight.’ What did we do, who preceded you ? I’ll tell you what we did. Nothing. And don’t you make the same mistake we made….”
– Malcolm X
The question isn’t what we want – the question is what are willing to do to get it. Capitalism must go and in an effort to be clear let’s define exactly what capitalism is. Capitalism is the exploitation of people and planet at any cost for financial profit. Slavery, genocide, poverty, disease, war… if it brings in a financial profit then it’s all good for capitalism. The only rule in capitalism is financial profit. That needs to end. We won’t accurately be able to chart a course for a world without it, until it’s gone. It’s difficult to imagine what a world without capitalism because our whole lives are completely polluted by it. We won’t really know how to proceed until we’re rid of it. And that’s ok… We have what it takes to improvise a new world into being… The faith in our imagination is growing and spreading like anti-bodies fighting a virus.
The process we saw in the popular uprisings in the streets during the African Spring that spread into the Arab Spring and into resistance movements across Europe in the summer, that finally jumped across the Atlantic into the American Fall weren’t concerned with what political apparatus was going to replace the current systems of oppression, as they were concerned with just doing away with the systems of oppression altogether. This is a matter of renewed faith in imagination and a collective rebirth of humanity. The old arguments between Marxism or Leninism or Libertarianism or Anarchism didn’t go away they were just set aside while we went about the business of getting rid of the common enemy. No matter what the differences of direction to take in the future, the common enemy had to be dealt with in the present.
The first question that needs to be asked is what we are we fighting for? Reform or revolution? If it’s reform then let’s not bother. Reform for a system as twisted as this would be like that line from Apocalypse Now – “We cut ’em in half with a machine gun and give ’em a Band-Aid.” If we’re in it for the long haul, if we’re in it for revolution, if we’re fighting to turn an upside down world right side up then let’s answer the difficult questions that naturally would come from deciding that. For those of us struggling in the US the next question is what measures are we willing to take to achieve that revolution?
The powers of the state here in the US have perverted the notions of non-violent protest so that they are so narrowly reduced and defined that they become ineffectual. The problem isn’t that the state is defining and sanctioning certain forms of resistance to be ineffectual, but that most progressive resistance movements in the US have accepted those terms. And in the same breath that the state is defining what protest is and isn’t, it’s using brutal force at will and without rhyme or reason, as a shock and awe tactic, to be a constant reminder to those who protest that they better stick to the state sanctioned program of ineffectual protest or else suffer the consequences…
A decades long conversation has been taking place between the state and US progressive resistance movements. That conversation goes something like this… When US protest movements come before the state in an effort to negotiate the change they want to see, they essentially come saying we will do whatever it takes within the parameters the state sets. This is essentially allowing those who are doing the oppression to dictate how you can alleviate that oppression – which has become the greatest form of oppression. After decades of such negotiations the US protest movements refuse to see that the only way to achieve their goals is to step outside of these state sanctioned parameters of protest. Instead of defiantly stepping outside those state sanctioned forms the US protest movements have acquiesced to the degree of strengthening the state to even further narrow protest in the US.
After decades of the state defining resistance to create ineffectual protest, US protest movements have succumbed to a kind of Stockholm syndrome where the needs of the oppressor are placed above the desires of the oppressed. It’s a form of self-induced censorship. What we need to do is to step outside of these state sanctioned rules of engagement that bankrupt current protest movement tactics, while giving the state a blank check to run rough shod over any resistance it finds. US resistance movements need to redefine what it means to effective and need to redefine the tactics it’ll use to achieve those goals in a way that works for them, instead of letting the enemy completely dictate the terms of battle.
If the terms of protest can be opened up and redefined by those to whom that protest serves, then we’ll be free to decide how we will deal with the oppression we face. That freedom will begin a process that will invariably lead to the question of sacrifice. Do we really want to fail at making the impossible a reality for the next generation? Do we want the inheritance of the next generation to be the continuation of this struggle? Or do we want to be the generation that ushers in a new era of equality that will be unrivaled by any other era before it?
Can we decide right here, right now that this battle ends with us? Can we say to the corporations and the politicians that we’re willing and ready and able to do whatever it takes this time, to bring into being what was once considered impossible? Can we say to the system of oppression that the tear gas and the batons and the riot shields and the rubber bullets and the beatings and the arrests and the court dates and the prison terms will not stop us from giving birth to the impossible? Can we say with some certainty that we’ll die to make the world a better place if we have to? Can we say that nothing will keep us from finally having a hand in remaking the world in our own image? Can we sacrifice our time, our education, our career, our family, our friends, our future to see something better? Can we risk everything NOW so that the next generation can be without the burden we were forced to inherit? Can we become the generation of sacrifice? Can we be the ones to say it ends with us?
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