I am getting frightened for the world. I have just been watching “The Company you keep” (imdb) – no download sorry. Wonderful people who stood up against the tyranny that was the Vietnam genocide were being called terrorists. Where do you draw the line for the Weathermen and colleagues in struggle?
To my lifelong shame my youth was spent with alcohol so when good people were struggling against the genocide in Vietnam I was learning life at the bottom of a university glass. Mind you, it was probably lucky, being so immature I would have done something stupid. By the time I was on marches in my 30s I was sensible enough to listen to the ropes from friends.
The movie draws on a very important theme – idealism. No matter how important the idealism might appear to be, it is just that – a set of ideas. And if we hold to ideas then it is not compassion that is the source. Compassion is the only constant. In the 70s and 80s before Thatcher finally drowned the movement, politically I saw this so clearly. Passionate, not necessarily compassionate, idealists stood up with their demands. I can’t remember which march it was but I was walking through Kennington, South London. There were some black people conscious of the march but most ignored it. It was this that began to turn me from the Trotsky Left – even though there were some black people on this part of the Left. I was young enough to be asking why all black people weren’t marching with the comrades in a racist society, but the Trot ranters had turned them off. And of course black people might have the colour of their skin in common, but why does skin colour make mentality the same? Lucky for me when I was politically active it was not ideals but the mass movement that guided me, I believe politically that is the nearest way that compassion can show its face, compassion for all people.
What about the dialogue of the movie and Occupy – OWS? When I looked at Occupy (Click OCCUPY in the tag cloud – scroll down on the left) there was a maturity amongst these young, lessons learned that were far beyond the naivete of the 60s and 70s. Our older movement (it shaped me even if I didn’t do anything at the time) opened the door but they didn’t understand that the establishment would be so severe in closing it. Almost genetically the young of Occupy are more sophisticated and have the survival tools to deal with the increasingly repressive 1%. But the 1% have too much power now, and are willing to use anything to keep it. Defenders of liberty in the movie were called terrorists, that was Redford’s licence but it was not a rant.
This movie was wrinkly and nostalgic, tremendous for me. But it discussed things I was never aware of at the time – the weathermen. I’m going to look into them, should people demanding freedom not know about them? Or is just me in my beerglass that didn’t know?
As I mentioned above I am getting frightened by a seachange. The last half century the black civil rights movement were heroes. The Black Panthers were generally considered to have gone a bit too far, the black 200m runners, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, were considered to have had bad taste exploiting sport for political reasons, but I don’t recall their being slated for what they stood up for. [It is worth reading wikipedia on “1968_Olympics_Black_Power_salute”]. They were black people standing up for their rights in a racist society, this was generally considered acceptable, this is the barometer of social opinion as I saw it, and at the time I wasn’t politically active – being drunk in the bottom of the university glass.
And for Vietnam the feeling was much the same. Students were rioting because they didn’t want to be in Vietnam. This wasn’t just a moral question so many of the young people were being drafted to go fight an unacceptable war. Retrospectively it is generally accepted that these people were fighting a wrong that their society should not have been perpetrating. Young people do these things. They haven’t learnt the discipline needed to have a family, they haven’t grown up enough to understand the way society is. This is the way the older generation perceived them especially in the UK where the older generation had been decimated by “World War 2”.
In “The Company You Keep” there was an underlying feeling that the Weather Underground were seen as terrorists by a significant group of people. To me this is a rewriting of history, but I intend investigating this to clarify. But there seems to be a social engineering approach that I picked up from the Terrence Howard FBI guy, and in this I was mindful of the horrendous young Tekkies in the movie “Enemy of the State”. The 1% don’t invest any more in trying to indoctrinate all the people, just sufficient investment to provide their enforcers. The horrific US right wing can stand up on their bought TV platforms, and spout all kinds of incoherent rubbish. These crazy puppets can demand all kinds of inhumane stuff, and their extremism makes Obama and his ilk, the mainstream government puppets appear normal. This is the balance, the balance that appeals to intellect. There is a right and a left so let’s find a “harmony” in the middle. So the crazies are dragged out, spout their tea party filth, and Obama and his drones appear OK because his sweet mouth is so plausible.
Significant in this process is the US hero, the young people who sign up for the “Land of the Brave”, either as soldiers or tekkies. You only need a few for the CIA and the FBI. Once their enthusiasm has sucked them in they beome pawns of indoctrination, and we have the heroes of the Civil Rights movement and anti-war movement painted as terrorists.
This is why Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning are getting hammered. These young people get sucked in, and then get indoctrinated. What they also have to know is that if they are ever tempted to blow the whistle on the indoctrination, on what is being done in their country, then they should know that life is not going to be worth living. A couple of days after writing this Bradley Manning was given 35 years for exposing the truth. Whilst part of me is outraged, another part of me just accepts that this sentence was inevitable, as is the persecution of Edward Snowden and any future whistleblower. There is genuine social outrage at these injustices but there is nothing that anyone can do.
Soldiers are being used less and less, because trained Blackwater thugs are much more malleable. Not only are those deluded people conned into believing they are fighting for their country but their country can disown them. So-called rules of war don’t apply to them because they are paid for by a private company. Mercenaries used to be a dirty word, now a mercenary is the soldier of choice for the US government. Mercenaries and arms dealers were shadowy people travelling the hellholes of the world making their dishonest living, now these people have been elevated by the right to heroic status.
Some TV I watch portrays life today as an improvement of 40-50 years ago. As an old man there are certain good old days stuff of my youth that I might like to harken upon. I would say we made more of our own enjoyment, and yet my parents’ generation were critical of our own lack of independence. Now Grumpy Old People moan about the proliferation of swiping pointless phone toys. Whilst such matters of social change might be peccadilloes, the power of the US state (and its allies) and the depths to which they have sunk “in defence of the realm” is to me staggering. And it is fear of this that racks me. On a selfish level I can only hope that the continuing extremism of their policies does not spread to my little retired haven. But that selfishness pales into insignificance for the fear I have for humanity if these people are not harnessed. And there is no sign of that harness. Family friends continue to live compromised lives ignoring the steps on this path of extremism their compromise is forcing them to take. Everyone else is doing it so it’s OK, I’ve got to make a living. Fear, I look at the little children in my school for whom a bump on the head whilst playing is a major setback and see that the slavery they are growing up into is far worse than the slavery I grew up for. When scifi presents visions of future enslaved societies we admire the imagination, we don’t see a future that follows from accepting today’s compromises. Were Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning our last chances for humanity?
Most people who know me would laugh at this. They know me as being extreme, my retired idyll has gone to my head. But it is only stepping back that gives discernment of what is truly happening. It is 20 years since I have properly lived in the UK, my probate year 10 years ago was very much on the periphery. At that time what people had come to accept from the financial corporatocracy was staggering. They had accepted Iraq with far less furore than the people of my generation accepted Vietnam – although there was no need for draft to do their evil deeds. Since the crash austerity
This brings me back to the movie “The Company you keep” and “The Weather Underground”. Here is the torrent for a documentary on “The Weather Underground”. It embarrasses me now to know that I was a young adult at the time, and I know nothing of these people of conscience. The 1% Vietnam War forced them into criminal action because legitimate democratic protest had been stifled and ignored. What is there to do now? There was no doubt a great deal of naivete amongst these people, and it highlights the level of maturity amongst Occupy. The documentary shows the strength of repression that existed then, so conversely it shows how strong the movement for change was; this is a major crit of Occupy they don’t appear to appreciate just how powerful the movement for change in the 60s and 70s was – maybe that is just their age?
But talking of discernment in some ways all of this is not important. I am just recovering from flu, and post-flu depression let this fear get to me. It’s all true but is it the priority? When I start meditating properly again after flu depression what will matter is no-self. In no-self there is peace. The present world of suffering can be attributed to the 1%, in all future worlds will the suffering be the same? What will be the same is that peace can be attained through detachment from the prevailing suffering? In our current world peace is not difficult to find. Walk off the beaten track, and you can find a heavenly niche where society’s desires don’t matter. It is important not to avoid responsibility, we are all ONE, but if people don’t listen it is not your fault. But still observing the way some people are so complicit in this world of exploitation cannot make anyone happy.
As a corollary here is a Democracy Now programme about Kathy Boudin, a member of the Weather Underground. As part of naivete maybe she went beyond their actions, becoming criminally involved with the Black Liberation Army ending up in prison for her part in the deaths that followed from a robbery. There is a wonderful interplay of humanity in this story brought out in the discussion that lasts from 10.42 until 51.30:-