Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Hedges' non-violent streak

I am still working on how I feel about property destruction, as someone who aspires to acquire and possess property... but I know that I love and support those who are trying to make a better world for everyone, not just hold onto the privileges they have with gnarled and twisted fingers.

Since I haven't been hanging out in radical politics for any amount of time at all, I only learned of Chris Hedges when he got interviewed talking (and tearing up) about Occupy Wall Street in late September. I totally understood those tears-- here were people sacrificing their comfort and resisting (for my babies!) when no one else was. Hell yes!

I was surprised (and a little confused) then, by his piece here, where he wrote:

There are no excuses left. Either you join the revolt taking place on Wall Street and in the financial districts of other cities across the country or you stand on the wrong side of history. Either you obstruct...the plundering by the criminal class on Wall Street and accelerated destruction of the ecosystem that sustains the human species, or become the passive enabler of a monstrous evil. Either you taste, feel and smell the intoxication of freedom and revolt or sink into the miasma of despair and apathy. Either you are a rebel or a slave.

That is very... black and white thinking, frankly, and my therapist wouldn't approve. Very with us or against us. Very now or never. Generally, in most of my interactions with people occupying parks and streets and houses and minds, they are encouraging of the rest of us to join them, but I haven't heard much judgment against those who haven't yet (er, outside of a general frustration with police and their brutality). 

(Not to mention my hackles rise when anyone uses the word "slave" in that way. Much like "sheeple" it is only used by people who think that they have progressed past everyone else in special snowflake understanding. I want to bitch slap them with the metaphorical copy of Atlas Shrugged they keep in their back pockets. Er. In a non-violent, peaceful way. *cough*. #lapsedQuaker)

So anyway, very us vs. them and very NOW NOW NOW...

One of the best people I spoke to, the morning of the failed "clean up" of Liberty Square by Brookfield, was a poet. My fear and frustration and mild panic tumbled out of me and he smiled and told me to be patient. 

How sweet, how perfect, how unusual in my fast food world, squeeze in homework, dash around making tiny tents and maybe get some sleep life. How wonderful to be told that we had time to get it right from someone who was not selling me anything.

So Hedges has won the Pulitzer Prize, so fucking what. We are both sharing the same planet and he has no right to judge where I am on the road to radical action, y'know? I'm just here, doing the best, most loving thing I can do in the moments that I have to do them. Gr.

...I think I maybe got a little flack for not loving Hedges unconditionally (I save that love for my kids, my husband, my siblings, and for OWS), but I mostly liked what else I heard about him...

...and then he wrote this piece attacking Oakland and the "diversity of tactics" that the OWS marches I've participated in have announced and I don't feel so alone in my discomfort with the words that fall from his keyboard anymore.

I've been thinking a lot about pacifism and violence on a personal level (I'm not ready yet to meditate upon state violence because, you know, playdates and diapers and shit) as any loyal reader will see from my angstier poems and posts here...  but I think this response to Hedges' piece best illuminates my gut feeling of wrongness best:

It is typical flaccid liberal double-think; the fault lies not with the ruling class for establishing and directing a police state, nor with the police themselves for acting like thugs and fascists—no, the fault lies solely with protesters who defied authority and therefore brought down the violence of the state. “Look what you made them do.” This is the thinking of the beaten wife, the mindset of the victim. We are not victims of brutality on behalf of the State, but survivors of it.

Sure, there's a little sense of betrayal; sure, Hedges pushes the "naughty children you should be ashamed of yourselves" button with pitch-perfect accuracy. He's an excellent writer, all power to the rhetorical.

But I am really not interested in blaming the victim.

Oakland didn't ask for it. Neither did Occupy Wall Street. Neither did my children who are inheriting a complex world with ever-growing income disparity and ever-shrinking time to deal with the next environmental crisis.

Hedges, please stop blaming the victim(s). And please stop encouraging us to be victims.

Instead, ask how you can support us as we empower ourselves. (And maybe tone down the pontificating a little. We're doing the best we can in an intense situation. Here, have some pumpkin bread and chill the hell out.)

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