Mickey Z. -- World News Trust
Nov. 6, 2012
“Free speech? Try it and the police will be there with their horses, their clubs, their guns, to stop you.”
I was standing with two of my fellow Occupiers at an anti-police brutality event this past September, when an elderly man approached us. “You know,” he said with a smirk, “if you did this in another country, you’d get bopped on the head by the police.”
After politely informing him that plenty of us get “bopped” right here in the land of the free, we engaged this man in a brief but civil conversation. While I can’t be sure we inspired him to rethink his perspective, the basic premise of his opening line has been a familiar refrain for all of my writing/activist life.
Someone will read an article of mine, attend one of my talks, or see my photos from an action and respond with a question like: “You can complain all you want, but how many other countries give you the right to do this?”
Firstly, of course, the question has an obvious answer -- plenty of other countries would give me the right to do “this” -- but the larger issue, as I see it, is how we each choose to evaluate our freedom. Hey, I’m not living in Myanmar. I know. But what exactly are we talking about here?
Is freedom just a matter of bigger cages and longer chains? Is it merely a commodity sold to the highest bidder? Must the majority of us sit by and drool while freedom fries on the grill of capitalist avarice?
To merely have more freedom than, say, a woman living under Taliban repression is not the same as being free. But it is the same as settling for less subjugation instead of demanding more liberty.
Do activists in some other countries face far worse repression than we do here in the United States? Sure. But since when is the “it could always be worse” excuse any way to judge the quality or quantity of anything?
The “it could always be worse” excuse is nothing more than a path to less freedom.
“To build community requires vigilant awareness of the work we must continually do to undermine all the socialization that leads us to behave in ways that perpetuate domination.”
There’s a related -- slightly more nuanced -- reaction I sometimes face: “If the powers-that-be are as pervasive and authoritarian as you say they are, why are you still allowed to write what you write? Why aren’t you and people like you in prison or even dead?”
Again, the obvious answer, first: Plenty of people “like me” are in prison or dead.
But my best guess/answer, in a bigger picture sense is that the 1% hasn’t fully commenced with the head-bopping because they haven’t yet grasped how rapidly they’re losing control.
But if, for example, the corporate media is reporting on OWS leading the post-Sandy relief charge, you can be damn sure the elites are starting to notice, too. Once the powers-that-be can no longer maintain their delusion of dominion -- once they feel like we have a genuine chance of winning -- they will ramp up repression far beyond its current odious state... and we must be ready.
Mic Check: Work in tight cohesion within your trusted community and don’t discuss actions with those who don't need to know such details. Support your comrades. Always ensure that no one in your circle feels marginalized and that all within your group understand the profound obligations of solidarity.
As the 1% slowly perceives that its control is on the wane, we’ll need all the solidarity we can muster to help serve as a bulwark against the inevitable acceleration of extralegal law enforcement devices. Once we have cultivated such unity among ever-growing numbers, we can view freedom not as a relative concept or abstract ideal, but rather as an attainable aspiration.
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