“The world can only be turned right-side-up by the conscious collective activity of those who construct a theory of why it is upside-down. Spontaneous rebellion and insurrectionary subjectivity alone are not sufficient. An authentic revolution can only occur in a practical movement in which all the mystifications of the past are being consciously swept away.” –From Spectacular Times (1985)
“I would never have written it if I had honored the injunction ‘Thou Shalt Knott Watt.'”–Samuel Beckett on the writing of the “novel” 40’s novel Watt 1
Following WWI, real life — grotesque and full of disillusionment — demanded something of its theatrical fare that was very different from what had been on the boards forever, from Shakespeare and Moliere through Ibsen. However, George Bernard Shaw –immediately after the war — did not go so far as to disintegrate long-standing theatrical traditions, his art’s inherited techniques, in order to make the necessary adjustments. Rather, resisting the notion in vogue among playwrights at the time, which asserted that the meaningless fragmentation of democratic society was the destined end for one and all (greatly affecting dramatic form), he clung to hope and belief, retaining a very strong dramatic structure in the process.2
I’m afraid the world’s not a very sweet stage these days, and some of “the mystifications of the past” must be done away with, even if it means structure weakening as hope or faith wavers.
As per “Multiple Corporate Personality Disorder: The Ten Worst Corporations of 2003” by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman (Multinational Monitor, December, 2003, pp. 9-20), with deferred prosecution and pretrial diversion being applied to major corporate crimes today, one has to be truly stuck in the past to believe it’s possible to call on the old paradigms for action in order to turn things “right-side-up.” Harry Glasbeek’s “Wealth by Stealth: Corporate Crime, Corporate Law, and Perversion of Democracy” — also focusing also on “fungibility of responsibility” in the corporate world — seconds the motion I’m about to make. To wit, we’re going to have to consider breaking one of the Ten Commandments ourselves in order to deal with corporate abominations. Only people who have zero “street smarts” can put a hopeful spin on the corporate world having been given institutionalized sanction to adopt what was previously reserved for minor street crimes.
To be more specific, after visiting http://www.globalboycottforpeace.org where activists are encouraged to pressure the U.S. Government through its corporate sponsors, it struck me that something more must be — and can be — done to unsettle and undermine the corporations which rule us.
And speaking of “striking,” David Bacon’s “The Los Angeles Grocery Workers Strike” (ZNet, March 11, 2004) pushed me over the edge. In that piece, while addressing the accomplishments of the workers who made heart-wrenching sacrifices for almost five months, he notes: “In the new agreement, the returning strikers will eventually pay some money for insurance, although not the drastic payments the stores originally demanded. But for those hired from now on, health care will be just a dream. Safeway, Albertsons and Krogers will contribute just $1.10/hour for their health benefits, compared to $3.80 for the existing workforce.In just a few years, those lower-tier workers will be the majority. Most will be unable to qualify for benefits — who will make up the difference between $1.10 and the actual cost of insurance, which is rising at 15% a year. They’ll join the 48 million Americans who have no healthcare because they can’t afford it. But these new additions will be union workers, in jobs that for generations supported a middle-class standard of living.”
You don’t have to have “street smarts” to know that this is NOT a victory. Understatement, yes? It’s absolutely ominous.
What to do? Well, those who are serious about turning things “right-side-up” to some degree during their lifetimes can consider boycotting Safeway (which is listed as one of the top ten offenders in the Multinational Monitor article) AND stealing from them! After all, if products are taken off the shelves they can’t be bought by customers who refuse to honor the call for a strike, yes?
Oh, that’s against the law? One might get caught to boot? In violation of the Ten Commandments? Ah, hah…and you’ve got seven other objections which bring your protestations to a total of ten points of your own in support of The Inviolable Injunction? I understand. But I pity what it means for us.
Whereas I can see what the problem is when it comes to drawing parameters this side of human sacrifice, I’m having difficulty kowtowing to all “the mystifications of the past” at present. And it’s starting to dawn on me that the same American public that can’t locate Afghanistan on a map, or –in some cases– Washington, D.C., doesn’t really know what $2.7 billion in fraud (as per HealthSouth) means. When a corporation is caught fixing its books –whether or not our national security is affected (i.e., Boeing)– they must not be granted immunity from prosecution. But that’s the status quo, and your well-paid elected officials make sure that while you honor the Lord’s Will on the Playing Field of Life they and their paymasters do not have to adhere to the same standards. I guess that’s what they mean by Separation of Church and State; their personal state and stake distanced from your religious rules and rectitude.
Okay, you win. And will continue to lose, unless you get something new on the table. Or…first step is to be willing to lose the Shavian-like hope and belief alluded to above, even if some of our precious structured existence gets threatened. That means refusing to have faith in some of the old modes of direct and indirect action and a few of our sanctified, inoperative institutions. For those of you who would characterize me as no better than Barrabas, I only ask you to show what’s on your List of Anachronisms. People are always asking me what they can do that will make a difference. Well, it wasn’t very pleasant to take this route, but I can assure you — as you cavalierly reject my sinful suggestion — that something equally extreme will have to be adopted, if you are going to think and act “outside the box” and get something significant done.
“Nothing is ever done in this world until men are prepared to kill one another if it is not done.” One doesn’t have to act on that dictum by Shaw’s Undershaft 3, the man with the arms. But, then, one is obliged to consider Gandhi’s insistence that nonviolent activists must be prepared to willingly die to get something done. On another level, those who plaster SUVs with protest stickers might consider having their message read “Obese Vehicle,” touching upon the fact that overweight Americans have found a mode of transport that fits their shape/attitude, and attempting to embarrass them on a personal level for their communal sins. Going over the line there, are we? Never mind that the owner’s waistline is over the top on several social counts, or that the vehicle itself is unable to honor many lines on the road and in lots. No, let the Injunction to be Polite rule the day. Fine. Still the question remains: What exactly are you going to do today in protest that you wouldn’t have done in the past?
Something new is clearly called for, and (to quote Undershaft once again) “The history of the world is the history of those who had the courage enough to embrace this truth.”4 GBS’s character is speaking of explosives, but I am underscoring the simple need to use a tactic that will be explosive, something that will have an immediate effect. You always have the option of not just loosening your chains, but taking them completely off, and smashing the heavy links across the face of Safeway’s vending machines a la Jesus of The Temple. But you can’t get creative as long as you’re corralled by Corporate Consciousness and Unchristian Christian Insanity.
In talking about how Near Eastern religions arose in a milieu in which control of populations was of paramount importance, Vine Deloria Jr. points out, “Stabilizing societies so that…societal exploitation cannot exist is the first step in determining a new idea of history for humankind. The planet was not given to the pope, and his subsequent division of it to his favorite European sovereigns may have ultimately been illegal in the most fundamental sense of the term. Present unhampered exploitation of the lands and peoples of the world by post-Christian supranational corporations may have been the logical result of Western history, but that does not have to be its final result.” 5
Don’t believe in me, but, believe me, I don’t expect Him to strike me with lightning. I’m not trying to steal His thunder, only Safeway’s plunder. And all the profits from past pillaging that I may be permitted, God willing.