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"In These Times," Resistance, etc.
TO SUM UP: This is a publication to support workers and advocate for them in the traditional manner: vote registration, coalition-building, union membership, etc. The current issue (June '20) does a solid job of outlining the plight of the laborer/"essential" worker during the pandemic. It kind of just left me depressed and frustrated.
Cover Story: "Essenitial Workers Fight For Their Lives." With the exception of electoral politics, this article's dimensions were echoed by pretty much everything else in the issue. Pressured to make a buck, corporate owners across a host of industries put their workers back to work (healthcare, warehousing, logistics, hauling/transport, food service) while frequently ignoring health guidelines and restrictions. Workers have had to act in solidarity in order to make gains for hazard pay or PPE on the job.
Workers would walk from these shitty jobs if that were possible... Since there's inadequate Federal aid - particularly in contrast to most European and industrialized nations - workers in these industries feel forced to go to work in these high-risk occupations, putting themselves, their families, their coworkers, and their customers at risk of exposure to the virus. The general thrust is that workers don't feel "essential," they feel like they're being sacrificed, with little support from their corporate masters (who are outsourcing the risk).
Even before I started my current job at a non-profit workforce agency (I help people find jobs and build skills so they can keep a job and earn promotions), I've sided with the worker. I was exposed to the fickle nature of the corporate world in my mid-20s, when the tech support team I supervised was fired while I was away on vacation, their jobs being outsourced to an overseas firm headed by a friend of the then-CEO. I resolved at that time that, were I not going to be my own boss, I would work for a non-profit organization and be a wise steward of other peoples' money.
I've more or less had that same job since 2007, with a short, 2-year detour down South in Nashville (I don't recommend it, particularly if you're not Christian. I gave it the ol' college try, but found it impossible). My boss is great, and likes the work I do. It's because my boss is such an agile leader that I can say I am still employed, with a steady paycheck, with health insurance, with PTO, and apart from working from home since mid-March (which some would consider a luxury, while I think full-time employment itself is the luxury), I've had no interruption to my livelihood at all this year. I suspect that, if push comes to shove, I will be one of the last employees to be let go if layoffs are on the table.
But I still wonder about activism and politics. I wonder if organizing, coalition-building, and unions are the way to go anymore. I attended an online panel discussion this past week and there was a lot of talk about organizing and taking action because the government is either unwilling or inadequate with the execution of such (the virus response being a prime, timely example - again, particularly in comparison with the rest of the world's comparable, industrialized nations). If a need is required, the argument follows, then people don't need to seek permission to help themselves in solving their problems. They work together by having conversations, sharing the resources they do have, and making ends meet without government intervention.
One panelist discussed the idea that it's time to abandon the idea that interest groups and coalitions formed in time of crisis need to be dissolved as soon as the crisis ends and "government takes over." Coalitions and interest groups make the case that, in many matters, government intervention is the death knell of the movement, particularly when that coalition uplifts those who are punched-down upon by the status quo.
For instance, what would have happened if the armed protesters who converged on the Michigan state capitol earlier this month were black folks instead of whites? Instead of "protesters defending their rights as Americans," you can bet your ass that it would have been something to the tune of, "Michigan state capitol under attack" in a grand demonstration of dog-whistling and white supremacy alarmism. Ever since the Civil War in the US, whenever there's been a black-led demonstration that made any bit of difference, it was seen as a "threat to the American way" and was snuffed out. Often, quite literally. MLK, Malcolm X, were assassinated. Paul Robeson (one of the greatest 20th century Renaissance Men, who happened to be a black guy) was undone by white agitators. The Black Panther Party was infiltrated through Cointelpro and it disintegrated. Black Wall Street was burned to the ground, literally, by white folks who were afraid of their momentum.
Why was Bill Cosby condemned, but Roman Polanski and Woody Allen still get jobs and make movies?
When you hear of armed militias and militant cells, the immediate picture that comes to mind is a bunch of white guys with mustaches, ball caps, and camouflage.
It's tough for me to not tread into anti-white territory here while I rant against the State (and yeah, I'm a white guy), but the truth is that it's white folks who have been steadily climbing to the top, punching down (again, at times literally) on black folks, brown folks, and women to maintain control. Personally, it gives me little to be proud of on Memorial Day Weekend here in the US. At a moment in history when the United States could have answered the call, could have led the world in response to the pandemic, instead it's identity as a failed state was cemented when it's President threw up his hands and said, "this is not a Federal problem." He went golfing this weekend, did you know that? So why the hell shouldn't I criticize the white establishment? Call a spade a spade.
During that panel discussion, there was one mention of "Lone Wolf Actions," and that's when my heart leaped into my throat. "Do people actually do that?" I asked myself, in disbelief. I was shocked, in a way, because if publications like "In These Times" or even liberal blogs are to be believed, the Left doesn't do violence. The Left doesn't destroy property or capital. That was all done in the 60's and the 70's...
At the same time, I see no progress for the Left without this targeted, deliberate destruction. The Right has no problem with guns (and mostly guns... I have seen more mass shootings but few targeted bombings in recent years). But what about scenarios such as those detailed in Fight Club, where on the one hand there was mischief set up as a diversion, while the big master plan was to erase the wealth of the upper class.
When will the Left hit the wealthy class where it hurts? When will there be another direct action against the wealthy?
I can imagine it... Two private armies clashing on the steps of the capitol building in Nashville.
On one side, the hillbilly, gun-toting whites. They descended on the capitol when they heard that there was a massive Worker's Protest descending on Nashville over the long weekend. But these weren't your typical non-violent protesters. The other side: they were the BLACKS. And they had guns! They were going to "storm the capitol" unprovoked, waving their guns around and leaving the Tennessee Patriots (or whatever they would call themselves, instead of laying it bare and calling themselves white supremacists) with no choice but to defend their liberties and stop these armed, brown extremists from committing atrocities.
...No, if these black folks want to change things, they have their elected officials they can discuss things with. They can have their marches (as long as they stay away from the football stadium and Vanderbilt U). But gawd help them if they think they can march all over the capitol steps with their shotguns and Glocks. The White Guard has no choice but to defend Life, Liberty, and the American Way from these uppity you-know-what's.
It's like black folks, brown folks... They aren't allowed to defend themselves. If they do act, it's within a specified, codified, regulated box. Deviation from that format? Stepping outside that box? It's forbidden. Otherwise, they'll ALWAYS be acting in the wrong.
If you're not black: ask a black friend of yours what it was like to wear a mask in public -before- the pandemic.