By Sue Ann Martinson Rise Up Times January 2, 2019
In November I attended the First International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases in Dublin. I have posted information about the conference on Rise Up Times, but this is a more personalized meditation on that conference and trip and the relationship to other readings and activities around the issues of global struggle the conference so epitomized in its diversity and call for unity.
Just a reminder that Carol Walker, Sarah Martin, and I have two reports on the conference scheduled. One at WAMM on Weds. January 16, 2019 at 6 pm (pizza, beer/wine and soft drinks provided) at 4200 Cedar Ave. So., Minneapolis. We will also report on the First International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases on Tuesday, January 22, 2019 at the Conversational Pax Salon, 6:30-8:30 pm at the Mississippi Market, 1500 West 7th Street, St. Paul.
PART I: Moral Revival, Moral Resistance and Capitalism
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
ABOUT THE POOR PEOPLE’S CAMPAIGN
“The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is uniting tens of thousands of people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality.”
What does Moral Revival mean? It can be confusing if misinterpreted. But my interpretation is that that moral degradation, manifested and led by Trump and his cartel of billionaires in the USA, is the ascendancy of hate and fear to the point where people are being murdered and so much else. That is what is most evil about Trump, his double agenda of hate and fear. While neofascism has been present and growing in Europe for some time and in the USA under the guise of white supremacy, Trump and his administration have become the epitome of a growing doctrine worldwide of hate, and fear, enforced by militarism.
The Poor People’s Campaign based their issues on Martin Luther King’s issues. Here are the Poor People’s Campaign issues:
Poverty and Inequality
Militarization and the War Economy
Ecological Devastation was not on King’s original platform, but the Poor People’s Campaign has added it, and rightly so.
At the Veterans for Peace international Conference in St. Paul, here is what the program co-sponsored with the Poor People’s Campaign said:
This powerful 40-day campaign has united tens of thousands of people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty and inequality, ecological devastation, militarism and the war economy and the nation’s degraded morality. Based on the concepts of Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign in the 1960s, the organizers created a moral agenda based on fundamental rights.
The moral degradation of common human decency is what I am talking about. It is not about gays, or trans, or being anti-religion, or any of those things moral degradation might be misinterpreted to be. It’s about the young woman’s death in Charlottesville, about the knifing of men defending a Muslim woman in Seattle, about the many outright murders of people by the police, especially blacks. It’s about the children in cages, the ban, the wall, the caravan and the border and troops sent to stop the flow of refugees the US has had a hand in creating in the first place (whatever happened to “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free”), and in general about white supremacy and the attacks on Muslims and people of color. And that hate and fear is being normalized and accepted. Where is the moral outrage? The children in cages and the troops to the border to stop the caravan created some action, but that is only the tip of the iceberg, and most Americans do not see the dangerous submerged actions by the Trump administration around finance and the environment and more.
This moral degradation plays out daily as some environmental protection is removed, some financial law that allows greedy corporations to make even more money at the expense of the consumer and the worker is either passed or protections removed. Laws that promote climate change and use of fossil fuels rather than steps to protect the planet against mass devastation are enacted. And related and just as pernicious is the military build-up in terms cost in dollars and in human life as the US pursues endless war over resources and maintains (unnecessarily) 1000 military bases worldwide. And even what I have named does not cover all that is submerged.
It also plays out nationally and worldwide with the rise of neofascism, backed by neoliberalism in the economy, the militarization of everything and the elevation of militarism to a religion (listen to Jack Nelson Pallmeyer’s talk about this phenomenon at Peacestock), the proliferation of US bases worldwide, the destruction of the planet caused by climate change and the resulting chaos of hurricanes, floods, fires and earthquakes, and the poisoning of the air with fossil fuels and the water with fracking, all driven by capitalism on steroids.
Chris Hedges, in his essay American Anomie, says:
Capitalism, [Emile] Durkheim wrote, is antithetical to creating and sustaining the relationships that are vital to social bonds. Capitalism rewards those for whom relationships are transactional and temporary. Relationships under capitalism are mercenary. They are part of the scheme for personal self-advancement and require the oily manipulation of others. To advance in a capitalist system it is necessary to build and then discard a series of ultimately hollow relationships. These empty relationships—and you can see them on display at any business gathering—contribute to the collective anomie and disintegration of social bonds.
Hedges explains further in his video on the subject:
In a talk based on his Truthdig piece American Anomie, Hedges delves into the “deep psychological distress” Americans were plunged into as meaningful communal bonds were shattered by corporate elites. Calling on Emile Durkheim’s sociological concept of “anomie” or “ruleless-ness,” the Pulitzer Prize-winner explains:
Societies are held together by a web of social bonds that give individuals a sense of being part of a collective and engaged in a project larger than the self. This collective expresses itself through rituals, such as elections and democratic participation or an appeal to patriotism, and shared national beliefs. The bonds provide meaning, a sense of purpose, status and dignity. They offer psychological protection from impending mortality and the meaninglessness that comes with being isolated and alone. The shattering of these bonds plunges individuals into deep psychological distress that leads ultimately to acts of self-annihilation. Durkheim called this state of hopelessness and despair anomie, which he defined as “ruleless-ness.”
Ruleless-ness means the norms that govern a society and create a sense of organic solidarity no longer function. The belief, for example, that if we work hard, obey the law and get a good education we can achieve stable employment, social status and mobility along with financial security becomes a lie. The old rules, imperfect and often untrue for poor people of color, nevertheless were not a complete fiction in the United States. They offered some Americans—especially those from the white working and middle class—modest social and economic advancement.
But the capture of political and economic power by the corporate elites, along with the redirecting of all institutions toward the further consolidation of their power and wealth, has broken the social bonds that held the American society together. This rupture has unleashed a widespread malaise Durkheim would have recognized. …
The reconfiguring of American society into an oligarchy and the collapse of our democratic institutions have left most of the population disempowered. The elites, predatory by nature, have discarded all restraint. “The state of disorganization, or anomie, is thus reinforced by the fact that passions are less disciplined at the very time when they need stronger discipline,” Durkheim noted of the avarice of the rich.
Rebellion, Revolution, Collective Identity and Social Change
The Irish Rebellion of 1916 (also known as the Easter Rising)
Recently I attended the First International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases. (More information about the conference is posted here.) The opening of the conference was a demonstration at the GPO or General Post Office in the heart of Dublin. Since 1852, the GPO is the traditional place of protest in Dublin. Taken over by the rebels, it was also the headquarters of the Easter Rebellion of 1916.
I spent quite a bit of time in the excellent multimedia museum about the 1916 uprising at the GPO in Dublin. They had some videos with talking heads, and one of the main points made was about the cultural being the seedbed of social, political and economic change. The first display case is a playbill from the early 1900s at the Abbey Theater in Dublin featuring plays by W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, his mentor, who established the theater together.
These types of cultural events that were about Ireland were a cultural seedbed, along with a revival of Gaelic. On the political side, at the time a recent land reform, lightening the yolk of British domination and land ownership, played a part as well.
Patrick Pearce, one of the main leaders of the1916 uprising, wrote a novel in Gaelic and published a newspaper. (An Irish teacher, barrister, poet, writer, nationalist, republican political activist and revolutionary. And commander in chief of the 1916 Rebellion —Wikipedia.)
Cultural movements create the seedbed for revolution and transformation by creating a collective identity. The political takes ideas from the cultural—poets, writers, playwrights, and artists, as they did in Ireland. And even though the 1916 Rebellion failed it set the stage in Ireland for independence from Great Britain.
To create a global collective identity is no small task. Steps were taken at the NoUSNATOBases conference. Clearly the conference called for global unity in its statement of that name. And the statement on the front of the original call, “Global peace forces must come together, mobilizing the millions in our countries, and around the world, for peace,” reinforces the idea of collective global consciousness.
Chris Hedges, in his essay “American Anomie” referred to above, describes collective identity this way:
Societies are held together by a web of social bonds that give individuals a sense of being part of a collective and engaged in a project larger than the self.
Trump has also succeeded in creating a collective identity of sorts, at least within the USA. And its main agenda is, as I said, to create hate and fear, although that agenda is not declared and is covered by lies. The collective identity is what pulls people in to support Trump. To overcome that collective identity that creates hate and fear nationally and globally with one of peace, justice, and common human decency is a moral goal of the Resistance in its many forms.
Unity and Diversity
I recently received an email from Campaign Nonviolence about John Dear’s latest article on the theme of “We Are All One.” While Campaign Nonviolence has a religious base, which some will embrace and others who have chosen a different path to nonviolence may not, the work they are doing is important in the steps toward that global unity, and especially unity around peace in the USA. The title of the article is “Unity and Diversity in the Land of Nonviolence,” and references Gandhi. Unity in Diversity is the global challenge, and more complex than Trump’s challenge of attracting racists, neofascists, and disgruntled white males. Here is just part of Campaign Nonviolence’s work:
[Campaign Nonviolence] organized the fifth national week of action this September 15-23, 2018, “CampaignNonviolence.org,” with over 2000 marches and events against war, poverty, racism, and environmental destruction and for the coming of a new culture of peace and nonviolence. This grassroots organizing is our way of upholding our unity and diversity. Around the world, billions of people are engaged in the power of grassroots movements of nonviolence. The recent Parkland students’ “March for our Lives” shows how this methodology of active nonviolence can awaken new widespread awareness of our common unity, with powerful social, economic and political implications.
In Minneapolis and St. Paul “Twin Cities Nonviolent” sponsored or cosponsored many cultural and educational events, including art shows, conferences, music, meditation, workshops, poetry, and more, all in regard to violence and promoting nonviolence at all levels of life. (September 21-30, 2018)
The Dublin conference on US Military military bases worldwide reflected a major diversity of participants. While the attendees were primarily white, the panel members represented a range of countries, languages, and colors. Thirty-five countries were represented and 300 people attended, with a goal of engaging millions of people worldwide for peace. Conference themes were unity, networking, and education around militarism and related issues.
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Sue Ann Martinson is the editor of Rise Up Times.