Which Side Are You On?

So here we sit on the eve of May Day 2012, and there is an eerie calm-before-the-storm kind of feeling.

The mainstream media is still doing its best to pretend that nothing out of the ordinary is going on.

The only May-Day related event reported in the NY Times today was that a lawsuit was filed in federal court to keep police from using “pen” barricades to hold demonstrators against their will.

Apparently news of the remarkable energy, creativity and defiant spirit showed by the Occupy movement in the countdown to May Day is not fit to print, ie, not important to the intended audience of The Times.

But if you move over to Twitter and search #Occupy, #OccupyWallSt, or #MayDay, you get a whole different picture of what’s going on.

Instead of the nose-in-the-air ho-hum of the fat-cat NY Times, suddenly you’re plunged into a hum of activity, down on the ground with a million twittering mice running around energetically, purposefully and thoughtfully.

There is @OccupyColleges calling for a student strike to protest the debt-bondage of student loans.

#OWS is trumpeting the latest total of 135 U.S. cities where general strikes have been organized for tomorrow.

The Nation, Democracy Now, and Truthout are publishing advance stories preparing for what’s coming.

The media landscape itself bears evidence of the huge and widening gap between the 1%-dominated old guard, napping on its laurels, and the feisty up-and-at-‘em new media webizens, who are vigilant and unafraid to welcome in something new and different.

For make no mistake, the General Strike planned for tomorrow is something new.

International Workers Day has not been celebrated in the U.S. for a long time.  In fact, during most of my lifetime it was demonized as a Communist holiday, which you’d be unpatriotic–unAmerican!–to take seriously.

We’ve come a long way in a very short time.

Thanks to the Occupy movement, being a worker, rather than a boss, is no longer a sign of personal shortcomings, as in: what’s wrong with you, that you’re still only earning minimum wage, bub?  You dumb or something?

Likewise, the Occupy Foreclosures movement has taught us that it’s not that we were stupid to apply for that tempting mortgage, it’s that the banks were predatory and sleazy to talk us into it.

Thanks to the Occupy movement, the onus has shifted to the 1% to prove that what they’re doing is responsible and for the good of all, rather than motivated by naked greed and self-interest.

The rapacious vulture Capitalism that has dominated the U.S., and hence the world, since the end of World War II has been exposed, and there is no going back.

It may be true that many of the strikers are motivated by self-interest rather than pure altruism.  They want jobs, along with affordable housing, education and health care.

But it’s also true that the Capitalist masters of the universe have lost control of the ship and can no longer pull levers to make jobs and other social benefits magically appear.

Unless, that is, the ultra-rich 1% can be persuaded to part with a fair portion of their loot.

History shows that when the gap between the haves and have-nots widens too far, something snaps and the mob takes over to reset the balance.  Think the American, French and Haitian Revolutions.  Think the Communist takeovers of Russia and China.

When it happens, it isn’t pretty.  Haven’t those in power learned their lesson?  Don’t they realize that they can only push the 99% so far before all the police barricades in the world won’t be able to hold us back?

I don’t think we’ve hit that snapping point yet.  But May Day 2012 is going to be something to watch, and something to participate in, too, if the spirit moves you.

Me, I’ll be teaching my classes this May Day, but with a tip of my hat to what’s going on down at the barricades in New York and all across the country.

And you?  Where will you be on this historic International Worker’s Day?

“Which side are you on, boys, which side are you on?”

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

9/11–Let’s Get Real!

All right, I have to say it.  I find the coverage of the 9/11 10-year anniversary nauseating.

The way we are collectively wallowing in our victimhood, while at the same time celebrating our oh-so-macho response to being attacked.

The way so few voices are talking about the reasons for the anger that launched those pilots at the US; the money that funded them; the horrendous aftermath of the attack, in which we rattled our sabers, swore vengeance against the “axis of evil,” and started a war in Iraq that cost hundreds of thousands of people their lives.

The way we aren’t talking about the corporate capitalist policies of exploitation and greed that led to widespread misery in the places where Al Qaeda operatives like to hide, places where starving parents opt to send their sons to the madrassa so they can eat, not knowing or caring what kind of indoctrination may be occurring between bites.

The way we aren’t talking about the indoctrination our children are getting here in our schools, through the sanitized version of the 9/11 story, in which the U.S. is always the good cop, policing the rest of the world in a superior and politically correct manner.

No one ever mentions anything about our status as the largest military operation in the world and the largest exporter of guns and military hardware—the biggest fomenter, therefore of violence on the planet.  How could we naively expect that this violence would not come home to roost?

And now those same policies of profit-seeking callousness have reached their limit in the natural world, and the violence we have wreaked on our environment can and will return to bite us—in fact, it is already visible in the erratic weather patterns of global warming, leading to natural disasters and food instability even here in the heart of Empire.

Instead of the obsessive repetition of schizophrenic patriotic self-congratulation alongside whining victimhood, we aren’t we talking about what really matters: moving forward in a way that radically changes the culture, both national and international, that produced 9/11?

Until we begin to have this forward-looking conversation, in which all the cards are put on the table and no credible way out of the morass of violence, greed and destructive exploitation is ignored, we will be stuck in a sick Groundhog Day of our own making, with no way to stop the repetitive madness.

I don’t know about you, but I want to wake up to a new day.

The Kids Are Not All Right

Corporate Interests Threaten Children’s Welfare – NYTimes.com.

I agree with much of what this author says about the damaging effect of corporate media and social media on not only the kids themselves, but on family dynamics.

He makes a kind of modified plea for “family values,” which he identifies with the 20th century’s focus on prioritizing the well-being of children (at least, in middle-class white North American families).

I’d like to suggest that we don’t need to look backward to find our way out of the morass of childhood media addiction…we need to look forward.  The digital media is here to stay, at least as long as civilization as we know it holds up.

How can we learn to navigate through it, for ourselves and our children, in a way that feels healthy, balanced and nourishing?

If we can’t figure this out, I fear the computers–and the corporations that are behind them–will suck our souls dry.

Kids and Media…at wits’ end

So what’s wrong with this picture?  Here we are, perched on rocky cliffs above the ocean, it’s a beautiful sunny day, full of possibilities…and all four kids, ages 7 – 19, are sitting on the couches, each plugged in to their own little screen.  DSI (what does that stand for?) i-pad, i-touch and laptop….each fixated on the screens, ignoring each other and the incredibly beautiful outdoor scene that beckons right in front of them.

This scene was repeated scores of times in the week that I spent with my two sons and their two cousins at the seaside in Nova Scotia.  Repeatedly, it took the focused attention of the adults present to divert the kids from their virtual reality, forcing them to engage with each other and the outside world.

I find it frightening.

Two of these kids spent their formative early childhood years in a Waldorf environment (my older son went to a Steiner school through 8th grade, the younger one through 5th grade).  The other two are going to a private school that values reading, art and performance.  Yet nothing is more compelling to any of them than the games offered by their devices.  They howl in protest if detached from their digital umbilical cord.

Once re-engaged with the real world, they are happy to climb the rocks, make sand castles on the beach, play chess, or read.  But it takes real work on the part of us adults to make this happen.  The only way to ease that burden would be to cut the wireless completely.  But then we adults couldn’t check our email or read the New York Times or consult Google.  Can’t have it both ways.

Seriously, folks, what is going to happen to the next few generations, if the current trajectory of digitization remains unchanged?

 If the children of today don’t understand the importance of connecting with the real world, will we all become like the humans of Wall-E, couch dwellers totally fixated on our screens?

The problem with media technology today is that it’s totally seductive, and kids don’t get “moderation.”

What’s a parent to do?  If you have any good ideas, please share them….

signed,

At wits’ end

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