Imagine a world where racists and white supremacists are beaten with clubs, barked at by dogs, and hosed down by fire hydrants. Where the Joint Chiefs of Staff are sprayed with gas and bullets. Where extreme religious clerics are tortured and thrown in solitary confinement for preaching violence. Where business executives are robbed and raped. Where bankers and brokers are pepper sprayed. Where polluters of the environment are tagged as “ecoterrorists” and conservationists hailed as heroes. Where the complacency of casual bystanders blamed the perpetrators, not the victims, and questioned authority, instead of despising those with that bumper sticker on their car or blaming them — Blacks, gays, Jews, feminists, pacifists, communists, environmentalists, Native Americans, Latinos, Muslims, unions, liberals, artists, colleges, freedom fighters — for everything wrong in society. This would be, or could be, our opposite world, a world not of shadows but of light. A world where progress is not repressed, gagged, water-boarded, dehumanized, treasoned, trialed and tribulated, before the slow-witted yokels of everyday are finally told that this kind of hate is no longer OK.
As W.E.B. DuBois famously stated, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress … Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will.”But is progress ever elusive? Do we ever arrive? Is it just a journey with no attainable destination? Is that journey but our destiny? Are we progressives simply modern day actors in a Sisyphus reenactment, condemned to shoulder a boulder up a mountain whose peak we never see, only to take up the task over and over, again and again? Is progress inherently masochistic? Are activists attracted to inconvenience — time, money, physical comfort, psychological anguish? Is this the best way to live out our short lives? Like Keynes joked, “In the long run, we are all dead.” How much comfort is there knowing that history, eventually, will come around to see that those who protest are almost always right. But how long must it take? And God help us, what new struggles no different from the old struggles have taken root like evil weeds in the meantime?
How different are the occupy protests from the WTC ones, the Arab Spring or Wisconsin Uprising, the Romanian Revolution or the Velvet Revolution or the Orange Revolution, or Tiananmen Square, or Kent State, or Birmingham, or Johannesburg, or El Salvador, or Myanmar, or since the meek shall inherit the earth?
When will that ever happen? When those who profess to be religious stop hiding behind a black flag of power-hoarding hypocrisy? It ain’t easy, being pissed off all the time yet complaisantly patient. Any more than being holed up in hell but still having a sense of humor. Which brings up the veritable rogues gallery of so-called meme images of Officer John Pike, the fascist asshole macho slob robocop of the UC-Davis campus. All jokes are jabs, attempts at settling scores. As such, humor is inherently revolutionary; it protests; and by retribution it seeks justice. The mere act of laughter is a release, but essentially a forcible one, something plosive, a little detonation. Or if not seeking to right wrongs, as in the case of self-deprecatory humor, the implicit meaning is self-inoculation: I’ll get myself so that no one else can. It’s not for nothing that so many of the funniest people are Jewish. Or Irish. Said Samuel Beckett when asked why so many famous writers are from that tiny island of Ireland, “When you are in the last bloody ditch, there is nothing left but to sing.” And that’s one of the reasons why jokes told by victors and from the perspective of victors are often in bad taste and not even funny at that. Sexist or racist or homophobic jokes come to mind. You can’t slap someone’s face and then try to tell a joke about how they cried.
Or take for example Steven J. Baum P.C., a large New York law firm specializing in home foreclosures. For the office Halloween party last month, staff dressed up like foreclosed victims. Here is a common enough photo from it:
A right laugh-riot, that. Nothing funnier than privileged wealth pretending to be on the Skid Row that their own jobs caused. In something approximating karma, the office is closing.
Shit like this goes a long way explaining the animus that sparks the Occupy movement. But how is fighting on the right side of history against the benign evil of avarice treated in the present day? Same way as always:
According to the reactionary-conservative world of Hammurabi horseshit, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, the students should have become violent. Instead, they were vigilant. In an almost disturbingly peaceful, prophetically profound display of calm after the storm, here is the power of nonviolence:
Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf of justice? Ain’t no power like the power of the people, ’cause the power of the people don’t stop.
And will never stop. So assholes in control of everything: just fucking give up and stop making life so unnecessarily difficult already! Is this stupid cat and mouse game the best we as a species can do?
P.S. For more on all this and an excellent consideration of contemporary trends of police brutality and militarization, check out this article.