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Re: <nettime> christmas/chomsky/baghdad digest
Dan Wang on Tue, 30 Dec 2003 11:01:40 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> christmas/chomsky/baghdad digest


> I may have posted this here before, but is relevant again - the point being
> that, at this point in tme, we need more than a storyteller, but an
> activist and a cultural worker - not only in Asia or the Arab world, but in
> the US. For the Americans to liberate themselves, they may act upon three
> world issues (as Walden Bello pointed out below) within which they have
> played a leading role:
> 1. Drive the US out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
> 2. Stop Israel from destroying the Palestinian people.
> 3. Impose the rule of law on outlaw, rogue states like the US, Britain, and
> Israel.

Americans are soft. We are the children, grandchildren, great grandchildren,
and great-great grandchildren of immigrants, settlers, runaway outlaws. We
don't know what it means to struggle, because our immigrant ancestors did
all the struggling for us. So we could have a better life. So we could be

In the US, activists and non-activists alike of my generation, with few
individual exceptions, are soft. Not like the earlier generations, the ones
who really changed the course of capitalist-imperialist history. Not like
the blood and guts strikers, student radicals, and anarchists of 35, 70, and
110 years ago. Not like the civil rights marchers of John Lewis's youth. Not
even of the same species as the underground railroad workers, to say nothing
of the resistant amerindians. And, it must be said, not like those who
fought in wwII, many of whom were, let us not forget, of a fairly salty and
untamed character.

Which is all to say the prospects for a "liberation" originating from within
the US are slim, at least one reason being this general American condition
of the citizenry living as spoiled adults (spoiled children are much easier
to deal with). Because struggling for anything, including our own
liberation, is really not a pleasant thing all the time, and in fact may
require taking risks that may result in the loss of comfort, privilege,
physical freedom, and your drivers license (the real American certificate of
freedom). Physical harm may even be a possibility to those who fight the
power--a kind comparable to the risk of violence many Americans endure
everyday, but only because we have to.

I'm talking about myself, too. I'm an activist. I help organize activist
stuff, go to demonstrations, give money. Do and say things in public, and
directly to strangers. Work on the three world issues listed above, and
more. But I don't put myself (and my household) at real risk. I don't Break
the Rules. The problem? There are too many people like me. Even the rule
breakers have rules. Nowadays in the US, civil disobedience is unbelievably
obedient. How can we free ourselves if even our bravest vanguards cannot
block a door for more than thirty seconds?

Some on this list may say, Well that's the old activism, what we need is the
new activism, the diffuse power of the always present, always absent
network. Sure we do; it's all complementary, I'm down with that. But there
are very few risks taken even then. Because we are scared, and with good
reason. The punishments are harsh; cutting off one's income can ruin what
was a really good life. I'm sure it sounds completely ridiculous and
offensive to people who don't have the American way of life, but this is
what I see going on. And, remember, I said we are spoiled.

How then, for the concerned American, to best stop this machine from within,
when we are fundamentally unwilling to free ourselves of it? When many of us
are now assimilated into the machine at an ever earlier age? Like my
(another activist!) friend's two-year-old, for whom his grandmother set up a
*retirement* account before he was even born? I really don't know.

But this country's addiction to convenience and comfort may prove the saving
grace. I saw a telling photo the other day of an American soldier hit by
shrapnel being carried through the coalition encampment's game room. How
many C-130s worth of foosball tables have been airlifted to Iraq, I
wondered? The game rooms already are a form of admission, of the simple fact
that our reservists are so accustomed to the video game lifestyle that such
gear is considered a necessity in a war zone. In the end it may be that our
warring will be reduced considerably by our sheer intolerance for
discomfort, disruption, and inconvenience, more than for any other reason.

Dan w.

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