Reflections on the New Year

I was going to write one of those more personal blog entries about my year, and what I was looking forward to next year. But this morning, I have some different things on my mind.

I fully realized sometime early in 2014 that I didn’t identify as an activist anymore. It was sort of a rude awakening, as I have thought of myself as an activist since 1972, when I was 12. I’ve been involved in anti-war, reproductive justice, anti-apartheid, anti-death penalty, and environmental causes since I was young. There is a shaping of my life that activism made, a way of thinking about the world, and how the world can be changed.

But in the last few years, perhaps part of it is getting older, part just simply accepting what is, I’ve stopped all but the most trivial activist activities (I still sign a petition now and again, and I like/share/retweet things – those don’t really count.) What has struck me so forcefully lately is the juxtaposition of changes that have happened, steps that have been made forward, along with an incredible slide backwards. MLK did say the arc of history is long, and perhaps it does bend toward justice, but it can also be forceably shaped.

police-state-1We are, frankly, running headlong into two inexorable, and in my opinion, virtually unstoppable trends: 1) Police state oligarchy/fascism. 2) Environmental and economic collapse.

I was reading an article recently (worth watching the video – militarized police in action) where this random gamer dude (white) got “swatted” (which means some person maliciously called the police to suggest something horrible, like a hostage situation, was happening.) There are other instances when this has turned fatal. Then there’s the dude who got horribly harassed for simply dancing in the street.  And then there is what’s happening with the NYPD. I have fully realized that no one is safe. Black men are, by far, the least safe.  That said, I have no real assurance for myself, or for anyone I know, that any situation with the police will necessarily end well. And don’t get me started on the issue of asset seizures. And worse, police increasingly seem to act as if they are above the law, and the law has seemed to agree.  This is not to say that all police are bad – I know there are people who have chosen this profession with good intentions, and behave well, and in the real interest of the people. But the institution is the problem.

It’s already been proven that we are no longer a democracy. And for the most part, the mainstream press does the oligarchy’s bidding (because they are part of it.)  And one of the things the mainstream press does a terrible job of covering is what’s coming with climate change.

There are a lot of differing opinions about how fast changes will happen, and how bad the effects of climate change will be. But it is true that have been on track for the worst-case scenarios that more mainstream climate scientists have predicted. And renewable energy is not likely to be our savior.

The California drought, which I am witnessing first hand, is still dire, and there is no forecasts that suggest that it’s going to not stay that way. California produces an insane amount of food for US consumption. If things keep going the way they do, food is going to get more expensive. Getting good, healthy food is already a struggle for so many people. This will only make it worse.

So what does one do given all of this? The only answer to both of these trends is to radically change how we live our lives. But that is impossible to do alone, or even as couples or families. We are embedded in a system which requires our participation, and not participating is extremely difficult.

What am I doing in the face of it? I don’t have a good answer for myself. I do my best to remember that love is the most important thing, and that I need to keep treating everyone I meet with compassion and respect. I’m thinking about community a lot, and thinking about what it might be like to live in community again, somehow, somewhere. A community that is interested in grappling with how we live in the face of all of this.

For your nostalgia – “For What it’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield, written in 1966. That’s right, 1966, when I was six years old. It’s just as salient now as it was then.

There’s something happening here
But what it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop
Children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking’ their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

It’s time we stop
Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

What a field day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, “hooray for our side”

It’s time we stop
Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
Step out of line, the men come and take you away

We better stop
Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

We better stop
Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

We better stop
Now, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

We better stop
Children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

Share