Today, I actually found myself in the rare position of being thankful for riding the NYC subway at 6:00 a.m. A terror attack would be more likely during rush hour, I posited. When I got to work at the gym that employs me, “Driven to Tears” by The Police was playing on the stereo. The above line, on this day after the March 11, 2004 Madrid bombings, struck a chord. I’m no big fan of Sting or his safe, trendy political stances…but he did write some provocative lyrics back in the day.
“What does it have to do with me? What is my reaction, what should it be…confronted by this latest atrocity?” -“Driven to Tears”
Noam Chomsky said, “You are responsible for the predictable consequences of your actions,” but how many of us ever consider the “predictable consequences” of how we eat, what we say, where we shop, how we spend, whom we trust for information, what stances we’re willing to take and/or support?
Terror attacks have become increasingly common. More often than not, these atrocities can be traced back to something the U.S. government or the corporations that own it or the nations aligned with it have done while we averted our eyes. As Americans, it is our tax dollars that fund the U.S. war machine…and the retribution that war machine provokes cannot be shrugged off by any of us. When we lack curiosity and skepticism, this enables the corporate media. If we display a willingness to trust and believe our leaders, this empowers them far more than our votes.
“Seems that when some innocent die, all we can offer them is a page in some magazine. Too many cameras and not enough food…this is what we’ve seen.” -“Driven to Tears”
Billions of our fellow humans live in abject poverty. Most of the planet is hungry as Americans thumb through photo essays about Africa while sitting in the waiting room before their liposuction procedure. Billions are starved, the environment is degraded, the terrorists never stop plotting revenge…but most citizens of this so-called democracy will be too busy patting themselves on the back for splitting hairs between Bush and Kerry for the next eight months to take notice.
Yes, Sting…there are too many cameras (not to mention all the other diversions disguised as consumer electronics) but there IS enough food (at least for now). So, why are so many starving in places overflowing with resources and what does that have to do with me, you, and all of us?
“Protest is futile…nothing seems to get through. What’s to become of our world? Who knows what to do?” -“Driven to Tears”
Millions will protest on March 20, 2004, and, contrary to Sting’s sentiment, most of them do not see such protest as futile. It can be convincingly argued, for example, that the protests of February 15, 2003 influenced the US to use a little less shock and awe. Not exactly solace to the citizens of Iraq, perhaps, but something to build on…which leads to the rest of the lyrics above: “What’s to become of our world? Who knows what to do?”
We can readily see what will become of our world if we remain steady on the current path…if a select few continue to rape the planet, hoard the resources, and spend billions to keep our eyes averted and our focus distracted. Look around…it’s already happening.
Who knows what to do? Just about every single one of us knows what to do…but most have yet to find the impetus to start doing it. That requires seeing with new eyes, making changes in way we live, and perhaps exposing ourselves to a fair amount of risk. Then again, maybe not as much risk as we’re being led to believe. A colleague of mine recently said this: “I read about Emma Goldman’s lecture tours and what she went through and it is pretty obvious that contemporary radicals have it pretty easy, despite all of the alarm about the Patriot Act. We need to be more outspoken and more loyal to our radical ideas. Because none of us are being thrown in jail simply on the charge of ‘being Emma Goldman.'”
Every single day, I meet someone who tells me they’d “rather not know what’s going on.” But the sides are being drawn and, without the support of proxy armies and the tacit approval of distracted Westerners, the world’s 587 billionaires cannot stare down the hungry, angry eyes of one billion living on a dollar a day or less.
“Hide my face in my hands, shame wells in my throat. My comfortable existence is reduced to a shallow meaningless folly” -“Driven to Tears”