“Gonna raise me an army, some tough sons of bitches
I’ll recruit my army from the orphanages” — from Bob Dylan’s Thunder on the Mountain
“All trustworthy souls are orphans.” — Herman Melville
“The whole purpose of life is to learn, teach and love,” Douglas Schifter wrote in his final Facebook post. In addition to driving for four decades, he was a prolific columnist for the limo driver magazine Black Car News. “I don’t know how else to try to make a difference other than a public display of a most private affair,” he continued. “I hope with the public sacrifice I make now that some attention to the plight of the drivers and the people will be done to save them and it will have not have been in vain.” — from Democracy Now!
The pressures which are overwhelming many drivers in many American big cities these days are driving them to do away with themselves. All of it is reminiscent of the infamous farmer suicides of India. And with the suicide dynamic reaching record levels for several demographics along the spectrum, including that of teens and veterans, I’d say that it’s way past the time for more than mere discussion and debate, our no longer being able to simply divert ourselves with documentation on the subject. Even demonstrations in the street don’t seem to cut the muster.
But what is THE issue here?
There are so many crucial considerations embedded in the news headlines that it’s hard to know where to start for most. Well, one could do worse than to begin by focusing on exactly how sick our society is in almost every nook and cranny of its configuration. And to truly take in the depth of that depravity and deterioration it’s necessary to step back from one’s pet peeves and take a long hard look at the Big Picture. Meaning, if your primary concern is either racism or climate change, you’re going to have to change your angle of vision. Whether or not your exclusive interest is cruelty to animals or our wars abroad, you’ll need to adjust your attention in a new way.
Our schools are preparing youngsters to acclimate to a world which no longer exists. And, as a worldwide educator since the 60s, I naturally gravitate to academic circles for advocating a Big Picture approach to our collective crises. Kids can tap into great enthusiasm — easily — over clearly delineated societal ills which impact on them daily, and they are perfect candidates for getting their loved ones involved in civic engagement. Why not get the ball rolling in our educational institutions?
Because the horrors in India and the major abominations throughout the Americas (North, South and Central) have so much in common, tackling this can be — understandably — overwhelming to many teachers, administrators and counselors. In fact, since everyone’s so busy these days simply trying to get through their heavy load work day and survive individually, one is hard put to find folks in academia or elsewhere who even have a handle on the facts that must be considered.
But in California, a state which holds the potential for worldwide influence overnight*, there’s an opportunity for a core group of informed and proactive concerned citizens to make a difference post haste. That would be by means of securing the gubernatorial office in Sacramento… which I often refer to as the Sacred Seat of Sacramento.
*Very few deeply educated souls in the Golden State know the depth of de facto influence wielded by the state’s top executive as Head of the Regents of the 26-campus University of California system. Such a person — if they are not welded to career advancement or popularity concerns — can help the public to self-educate properly — daily — and walk ordinary folks through the necessary steps to retrieve political power… to honor the Collective Good. To honor morality over money.
Most activists laugh at me when I propose such a thing… for a number of reasons. The most common one, though, is that they don’t believe anyone can organize the various demographics along the spectrum sufficiently to be effective in a statewide third party effort, their having given up on the two mainstream parties long ago. In fact, there are huge numbers of activists who no longer hold out any hope for the electoral arena whatsoever. Underlying all that is the false notion that there are no trustworthy souls left on earth; the only people they can imagine in power are career politicians.
Yes, the odds are daunting. But what’s happened is that the apocalyptic thinking in vogue and the increasing self-centered seeking in society have combined to preclude involvement in the only nonviolent movement in solidarity which can provide a decent approach for making a difference. Too many well-meaning, decent citizens have simply let all that undermine their potential for getting creative in the electoral arena. Too many have given up prematurely on the viable options that do exist for dealing with those aforementioned daunting odds.
I am, arguably, the most nonviolent person on earth when it comes to bringing about institutional change. That said, I would like the reader to glance at the first few paragraphs in a new article by Wilfred Burchett, where he notes that revolutions can be built on the backs of an amazingly small number of committed core people. There IS a nonviolent counterpart to all that which could operate on a zero budget in the realm of California, sending positive ripples worldwide overnight.
The hesitancy of concerned citizens, the apathy of the general public and the ‘cross the board recoiling from any talk about (let alone belief in) authentic revolution these days has much less to do with people’s aversion to violence than it does with fear. Fear of what real change might mean to their personal lives, and — more importantly, for this piece — fear of the “daunting odds” I underscored above. There are other significant variables in play, of course, but I’m giving you something new to chew on which I believe is worth the candle. That is, the notion that it’s not too late to take the bull by the horns with as small a group as what gathered one hot summer day in 19th century upstate New York, when a handful of women got the ball rolling on behalf of what’s come to be known as the Women’s Movement. Same difference here, if we’re talking about numbers.
But I’d rather close with a focus on one of my literary heroes than to leave you lingering on images of dated revolutionary vanguards. I’m thinking of Herman Melville. A writer who’s had about just as much impact on the world as any other writer… short of a very select few. I ask you to consider that his best known effort and greatest influence — “Moby Dick” — was initially criticized up the kazoo and laughed at repeatedly over many decades. Whereas a survey of 100 authors in 54 countries recently named that novel one of the 100 best books of all time, alongside Homer’s “Odyssey” and Dante’s “The Divine Comedy”… 167 years ago reviewers trashed it, and many highly educated souls argued that it was far from being even one of Melville’s best books.
Well, my favorite Melville work happens to be “Confidence-Man: His Masquerade”, the author’s last novel, virtually totally neglected today. But, no matter, my bottom line point is that activists must ignore the bottom feeders who rule the roost at a given moment, with their outlooks, opinions and the outrageous parameters they set in stone for one and all… always.
Moby Dick, the white whale, is seen as a mask of sorts by many literary scholars. Behind it, in their view, lies a great power whose dominance Ahab refuses to accept. Its inscrutable power is, they say, evil. Well, the psychopaths in power are Evil (with a capital “E”, yes!), and we must remove them regardless of the personal cost to us as individuals. As we swim in the ocean of life they are fouling beyond recognition, where neither whales nor fishermen will survive soon, I ask you to swim against the tide as Melville did. He didn’t drown in the daunting odds a single day as he lived through the obscurity imposed upon him by an insensitive public and the personal pain on several levels he endured (including the aftermath of his son’s suicide)… for the better part of thirty-five years… following the publication of his last novel. He continued to write write write — fighting the five-hundred–foot wave of neglect and disrespect which constantly threatened to wash him away — holding only his thimble of mighty righteous vision..
The seed you plant does not have to be as brilliant as any of Melville’s works. It only need be loving and compassionate. And you only have to be willing to be unappreciated and unsuccessful during your time on earth. If you can fill that bill… hell, I’d consider you a potential trustworthy candidate for that political office I spotlighted above. Plenty there to hoist sails over.
For new horizons.
Rachel Olivia O’Connor, a member of the Oxman Collective, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.