Saturday, February 3, 2007

Changing the Balance of Forces

"The present winter is worth an age, if rightly employed; but, if lost or neglected, the whole continent will partake of the evil; and there is no punishment that man does not deserve, be he who, or what, or where he will, that may be the means of sacrificing a season so precious and useful." -- Tom Paine, The First Crisis Papers.

If you dig deeply into the situation that we are in, and you are willing to think outside the box of politics as usual (i.e., the notion that the role of the citizenry is to support the candidates offered up by the major parties and to vote and that's it), then a whole new perspective opens up. What you see when you clear the smoke and mirrors away is a picture at once both terrible and wonderful. It is terrible because you realize how extremist and how horrible the world is that this country's opinion-leaders and policy-makers are taking us into. And it is wonderful when you understand that there is an alternative path possible.

What is that alternative path? A different future than that which globalization and free-market fundamentalism is creating in which global environmental devastation, ever-widening and ever more extreme disparities, and horrible conflicts among the people are the rule. A future in which people's needs and that of the planet are the goal instead of profit.

How can this be achieved? The only possibility for us to start down that path is if we dramatically alter the balance of forces politically. The basis to do this is there - the majority of the people here and worldwide want this, but getting it will be very challenging and filled with difficulties to overcome. It means nothing less than that a very significant portion of the population throw their weight into the field consciously. They need to recognize that electoral politics is not where decisive political decisions are made.

We don't need, no social movement especially in its early stages needs, the majority of people in the field in active roles. What we need is a much smaller number who are williing to step forward and lead to create an alternative political pole in society. And we need still others to join them in active ways and we need still larger numbers of others to be in sympathy and support.

Henry Kissinger in his memoirs writes that there was a period in the 1960s when anti-war movement leaders exerted a tremendous amount of influence in the US far, far beyond their immediate numbers because there was a vacuum of leadership (dubbed at the time the "credibility gap"). We are in a similar situation in terms of possibilities if we recognize it and act boldly and decisively. The existing political leadership of this country (and I'm speaking beyond just the current White House's criminal occupants) is vulnerable to being exposed to the people as completely bankrupt.

To expose them as they deserve requires that we be relentless and unsparing in our exposes of them. There is no shortage of material that they generate every single day for this. We need to expose them concretely and by using particulars to unfold what they are doing more generally. We need to give people a sense of the whole, an entirely different vision, while using the parts of the whole to construct that picture.

The moral terms of the fight are as clear as they will ever be. On the one side are those who use torture and countenance torture. On the other side are those who condemn torture as morally abhorrent. On one side are those who are utter opportunists who will lie, deceive, steal and/or kill in order to advance their interests and to protect those who now rule. On the other side are those for whom truth and justice are like rain to a parched earth.

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