Knowledge is the path to regaining powergreenspun.com : LUSENET : Exposing Rightwing Corruption : One Thread
Knowledge is the path to regaining power
By Isaac Peterson
With special thanks to Stephanie
August 6, 2001—The right wing claims there is no such thing as a "vast right wing conspiracy" but that the "liberal media" is alive and well, and standing in the way of freedom, democracy, Mom and apple pie.
But more evidence is uncovered every day that the right wing conspiracy does exist, especially if one believes the allegations of David Brock, one of the hired "assassins," whose assignments included tarring and feathering Anita Hill, and Bill and Hillary Clinton.
The liberal media doesn't exist any more than "compassionate conservatism" or a "new tone of civility in Washington, DC."
The conspiracy exists, though. In fact, the conspiracy exists in more forms than most of us previously realized, and is more pervasive than could have been imagined. In order to succeed, it needs in fact, a conservative media bias, and it depends on feeding misinformation and propaganda disguised as "truth." Fox News Network is not "fair and balanced," Rush Limbaugh does not have "talent on loan from God," Matt Drudge is not a "journalist" and George W. Bush has not restored "honor and dignity" to the White House. But none of that matters for a significant number of us who believe what they're told uncritically and have the advantage of being able to understand only one side of any given issue. I suspect that many of us want to believe what we're told is true, partly because it's easier than doing our own thinking.
It is hard to blame these people, in a way. Most of them got trained to be that way from their earliest days, and it began in school, most specifically in classes about history and government. We've all had the experience of realizing that the real way the government works and this country is run has nothing to do with what we're taught in civics and history texts. Textbooks are an important medium for indoctrinating the masses of us into one amorphous lump of unquestioning obedience of authority, and so I'm including them as part of the "media." The antidote to being taken in by the broadcast and print media's distortions and omissions is to do independent research and study non mainstream sources, and the same is true of how to correctly look at and interpret history.
But first, we need to know history, and what we're taught in school is only part of the story, or a slanted and limited view of what actually happened. The same is true of the lessons we are told we can draw from history. History is taught in a way that discourages students from realizing the power that individuals and groups out side of government or power can exercise, and it works on a very subtle, low-key level.
One part of the process is to downplay the contribution individuals and outside groups have made to this country. History is taught so that people have a subconscious conditioning that makes them feel that when a problem or crisis arises, some great figure (almost always a white male) rose to the occasion and led this country out of the darkness. It is usually taught in a way that downplays any link that the present has to the past. A good example is Abraham Lincoln and his place in the history books ending slavery. He becomes the focal point, ignoring the efforts of countless thousands of individuals risking their lives; many of them free white men. Slavery is cast as a one-dimensional situation, ignoring the socioeconomic, foreign policy and other aspects of slavery. And so we come up with a literal impression that Lincoln ended slavery, African Americans were free to enjoy full citizenship, with all its rights and privileges and all was well with the world. But since slavery doesn't get looked at in depth, the history books we learn from are free to cast the Civil Rights struggles as something completely separate from the previous century. Now we have that boiled down pretty much to Martin Luther King, Jr., keeping the troops focused on the goal, and another great American, Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Acts. Once again, crisis averted, problem solved, everything's in the past.
My favorite example, though, of how hero creation works is Helen Keller. We all know who she was, struck blind and deaf at a young age, taught by Anne Sullivan to read and speak, and went on to become an orator and writer. Her story is meant to be an inspiration to us all, because if someone who started out with so many strikes against her can make it, why can't all of us? After all, this is America, and the American Dream is in reaching distance of anyone who's not too lazy to work hard. Right?
Question: What did she speak and write about? Was that covered in any class most of us went through? How could it be that we could be presented with a role model without us studying her work? Can anyone reading this say what her subject matter was? Besides being an advocate for the blind, what was her life about?
For one thing, she was a Socialist, and a radical one. She marched in protests, and she used her visibility to be a real pain in the ass to the status quo. She marched, wrote, and advocated for safe work conditions and was a cofounder of the American Civil Liberties Union. She was a prolific writer, and she used her pen to agitate. Here's an excerpt left out of the history books-this is from Keller to the editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, a former supporter who withdrew his praise when she became a Socialist:
"Oh, and ridiculous Brooklyn Eagle! What an ungallant bird it is! Socially blind and deaf, it defends an intolerable system, a system that is the cause of much of the physical blindness and deafness that we are trying to prevent. The Eagle and I are at war. I hate the system which it represents . . . When it fights back, let it fight fair . . . It is not fair fighting or good argument to remind me and others that I cannot see or hear. I can read. I can read all the socialist books I have time for in English, German and French. If the editor of the Brooklyn Eagle should read some of them, he might be a wiser man, and make a better newspaper. If I ever contribute to the Socialist movement the book that I sometimes dream of, I know what I shall name it: Industrial Blindness and Social Deafness."
Our history texts also leave out the accomplishments of groups of individuals, ordinary citizens who have helped change the landscape of this country. In the 20th century, there were widespread civilian uprisings, protests, demonstrations, sit-ins . . . in the decades before the '60's. We aren't taught what organized groups and labor unions accomplished by banding together and making their voices heard. We have a 40 hour work week, minimum wage, child labor laws, and a long list of other things, not because our good and kind leaders gave them to us, but because ordinary people spoke up, organized, and made their voices heard.
Did you read about this in school? In 1932, during the Depression, more than 20,000 WW1 vets marched on Washington, DC demanding that the government pay off government bonus certificates early. The vets were camped across the Potomac River from the Capitol, and forced Congress to consider emergency bills to pay off the certificates. The bill passed the House, but was defeated in the Senate. President Hoover ordered the army to remove the protesters.
Thousands of veterans and their families were tear-gassed, and their huts were set on fire. Thousands of veterans were injured by gas; several vets were killed, as well as an 11-week-old baby.
Three of the commanding officers in charge of ending the protest are mentioned in history books, but for other things: Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton and Douglas MacArthur, who was in charge of the operation.
This is one of the events that led to the New Deal. The New Deal may not have happened if the government hadn't been forced to acknowledge that people were hurting and it was up to them to do something about it.
We are trained that our chance to influence our direction and policies come along solely whenever there is an election. Otherwise, we must wait it out and trust out leaders in the meantime. But the truth is that there are times where it becomes necessary for change to happen apart from the election process. Large masses of citizens have felt this way and mobilized countless times in the history of the United States, though mention of those times is mostly ignored in our history books.
Ironically, we are force fed how noble the cause was of the men and women whose protesting and resistance to then existing policies and relations led to the founding of the greatest civilization to ever exist on this planet, the United States. At the same time, the implication is that the rest of us only need to sit back and trust our leaders, we are helpless to do anything, and besides, we are nowhere near as smart as the Founders, and what do we have to complain about besides?
None of what was accomplished would have ever been given freely if citizens had just sat and waited to be noticed. It was true in colonial times, and it is true now.
Sometimes the situation in this country reaches a point where enough people are unhappy, disenfranchised, persecuted, or negatively affected in many other ways by this country's policies and it becomes necessary to band together, to stand up to power. It is true that the little guy almost never wins. The system we have is stacked too much in favor of the big guys, but every once in a while it is possible that the big guys do have to retreat a bit when ordinary people organize and demand to be heard.
We learn about the New Deal in school, but we don't learn that what was largely behind it was widespread unrest and the probability of increasingly widespread violence. It was a concession to the masses. Other changes brought about by grassroots mobilizing end up being neutralized after the existing power structure adjusts to the new reality and finds ways to circumvent changes to the system. The minimum wage and Civil Rights are two battles that were originally won that need to be constantly refought.
Does this mean we shouldn't ever try? No, it means we need to never let up. Nothing is ever going to be freely given, and nothing is ever going to continue to be available after we relax our guard and stop paying attention. It's been proven over and over.
Now we are in a station where we have a Federal government that represents the opposite of what more than half of the people who voted in the last election wanted. It took less than 48 hours for the new administration to officially begin to show us how little it thought of us or cared that we even exist. It unofficially showed us several months previously when it started the process of shoving down our throats the Great Impostor, George W. Bush, the most illiterate, intellectually void, mean-spirited and unqualified pant load that ever ran for the office as someone whose inevitability to be president couldn't be challenged. We were told that he was a compassionate uniter who would restore honor and dignity to the White House, and he was installed in that office by illegal, shady means. Our Constitution, which has been under continuous assault for many years by these same parties, was subverted in a way that showed that it might as well not exist.
Over 50 million people found out that we can't trust the lies we're told in history class, when our votes were erased as if they had never been cast. Our right to vote in the future is in serious question. We're finding out now after the fact how extensively the fix was in, and how much trouble was gone through to install the Monkey King in the toughest job in the world, all for the purpose of tilting the table in favor of those who need help the least.
We haven't had a democracy in this country for quite some time, and it looks like things will probably get worse before they get better. It's getting time again for grassroots voices to be heard.
We have to be loud, we have to be consistent, we have to be persistent. What we have going on now affects many different sections of the population equally now, some of which didn't have much in common with each other before. Black people didn't just get screwed in the election's theft, we all did. Women, the elderly, children, every person of color, the lower economic classes, gays, lesbians, you name it. We have to exercise our power together, and we have to do it with one consistent, unanimous voice.
Get involved if you're not already. If you're like me, the Supreme Court decision left you with a feeling in your stomach like you had swallowed a bowling ball.
Copyright (c) 2001 Isaac Peterson
Isaac Peterson may be reached at email@example.com
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