They say sing while you slave and I just get bored
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
- Bob Dylan
In the northern hemisphere Spring is in the air, though the time of that first deliciously warm combination scent of loam and moisture rising has yet to pierce the nostrils of northeasterners. But there’s a stronger scent at hand-- part stench of the bourgeois elites with their deodorized rank and file long arms of the law, part intoxication of the healthy sweat of the honest worker. Which fragrance wins out may well determine the fate of the planet as a whole.
Decades before John Perkins' Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, Eduardo Galeano's Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent (1973) depicted the savage and rigged System. As example:
|"Its (International Monetary Fund's) stabilization and development formulas have not only failed to stabilize or develop; they have tightened the external stranglehold on these countries, deepened the poverty of the dispossessed masses—bringing social tensions to the boiling point—and hastened economic and financial denationalization in the name of the sacred principles of free trade, free competition, and freedom of movement for capital. The United States, which itself operates an enormous protectionist system—tariffs, quotas, internal subsidies—has never earned a glance from the IMF."
As far as the rounding up of usual suspects, that's just the tip of the Titanic economy iceberg but it gives the flavor of the stage upon which Hugo Chávez and others took back some reins and guided their countries to a good measure of economic and other forms of independence.
On the cover of the 1997 paperback translation edition of Galeano's book is a quote from Chávez, "This book is a monument in our Latin American history." That the former President of Venezuela gifted the book to President Obama in 2009 and subsequently nothing significant has changed from that end of the world power modus operandi spectrum proves to me that: either the potus has the same limited reading capacity as his predecessor, or his heart and mind are not truly open to the struggles of the Indigenous masses — for Galeano's book, while exquisitely written, is a serious and necessary reportage of atrocity after atrocity on the backs of slave-labor used to pillage the continent which in turn fed the banquet lifestyle of much of Europe, especially Britain, and the United States.
Those "five centuries" help provide the backdrop for the unfolding changes on the current global stage. In this new era of the Pachamama — whose principles of respect, egalitarianism and connection with Mother Earth have been eloquently put forth by Evo Morales, the indigenous president of Bolivia — the tide is changing.
At a certain point, whether in one's personal life or with society at large, when the pain is too deep or the repression too long-standing, the human spirit either bails out or cries out "enough is enough!" and begins to chart its return to normalcy. That time has arrived. Witness these recent examples:
"'We fought too hard. We marched too long. Too much blood (has) been shed for us to turn around,' the Reverend said." This statement was in response to the undemocratic appointment of an "emergency financial manager."1
Headline: "Chicago Teachers: We Will 'Put Our Bodies on the Line' to Fight School Closures:
Parents, students and community members 'outraged' by Mayor Emanuel's plan to shutter more than 50 city schools."2
According to the AP (quoted in the article), "Chicago is among several major U.S. cities, including Philadelphia, Washington and Detroit, to use mass school closures to reduce costs and offset declining enrollment." Especially affected by these cuts are minorities and the poor.
New York City:
Speaking of minorities and the poor, testimony already presented in Floyd v. City of New York3 reveals a decided NYPD bias against minorities via arrest quotas, revolving around a pseudo war- on-drugs policy known as stop-and-frisk. While the NYPD may be getting some guns off the streets, which, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly is the policy's stated main purpose,4 couldn't there be more direct strategies for said purpose?
"This is the Third World War in an economic form and we will stand up to it with all of our strength," protester Marina Charalambous told AFP. They held a banner saying: "We will not become slaves of the 21st century."5 These statements were in response to the European Union's attempted bailout plan. Cyprus may well become a blueprint for global Davids vs. banker-state Goliaths and what's happening in Detroit, cited above, could be the first sign of such.
And linking back to around the time of the publication of Galeano's book, another remark from Cyprus:
"A female protester who declined to give her name compared the crisis to 1974, the year that Turkish troops occupied the island's northern third in response to an Athens-engineered coup in Nicosia aimed at union with Greece. 'Everything is pre-planned because the government wants to follow the troika. Everything is sold and betrayed as back in 1974!' she said angrily."6
Northern B.C. and Vancouver:
"Phil Lane Jr. of the American Yankton Sioux, said native groups south of the border will stand with their Canadian cousins.
"We're going to stop these pipelines one way or another."
Chief Martin Louie of the Nadleh Whut'en First Nation in northern B.C., said the pipeline opponents will never back down.
"If we have to keep going to court, we'll keep doing that."
He said the stakes are high and go beyond native issues.
"We're the ones that's going to save whatever we have left of this Earth."
Chief Reuben George of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation north of Vancouver said it's time to act against the federal government's resource development agenda.
"We, as a nation, have to wake up," he said. "We have to wake up to the crazy decisions that this government's making to change the world in a negative way."7
These statements were in response to the Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines.
South Dakota section of Turtle Island:
According to the website's mission statement:
|"Wagunpi Woashake Ikickupi (Lakota Elders Take Back Their Strength) is a grassroots movement to end the genocide of the Lakota people and support the full renewal of matriarchal leadership by Lakota Grandmothers on Pine Ridge and across the Lakota Nation. The movement also works to educate non-Natives about the situation of the Lakota, mobilize long-term solidarity networks to benefit Lakota Elders, and build solidarity with other indigenous resistance movements worldwide." And, "On April 9th, we are asking the world to join us in a Day of Solidarity Action in support of Indigenous Lakota Elders as they visit the United Nations in New York City to demand an end to genocide."8
For years, other active groups have been gathering under the banner of the Raging Grannies. One website shows that this is no mere 'tea party' activism, but a tradition steeped deep with the Mother Earth:
|"From the most ancient times, the strong, wise, older women were the ones who advised, mediated and fought for what was right. Belief in the Disir or Divine Grandmothers, the Mothers of Time, is ancient and runs through all societies. The Celts listened to their older spokeswomen since they believe that Kali-The-Crone had the power to create their mountain ranges. The Malay thought there were three grandmothers, the Kari-Under-The-Earth who would cause floods if not listened to respectfully. There were the Druids who believed that the souls of old wise women lived on in the trees that surrounded them. The Norse Nanna or Anna doubled as Earth Mother. And on this Turtle Island where we live (North America), the Iroquois teach that the Woman who fell down from the sky was the Mother of All. So their older women are the clan mothers who guide all decisions."9
No longer will it suffice to simply shrug the shoulders and exclaim: Oh, it's been like that for years, centuries. Neither will it suffice to look at the world and see only Dr. Jekyll profit because the zeitgeist conscience knows too well the side-effects of extractive capitalism and its economic system partner–in-crime, a dastardly Mr. Hyde duo.
In Berkeley, 1955, in his poem "Sunflower Sutra" Allen Ginsberg looked into the funk and found a natural gem. To help transform the centuries-old abuses into a pattern of sustainability we will be nourished by the compost sustenance of such visions:
I walked on the banks of the tincan banana dock and
sat down under the huge shade of a Southern
Pacific locomotive to look at the sunset over the
box house hills and cry . . .
and Hells of the Eastern rivers, bridges clanking Joes
Greasy Sandwiches, dead baby carriages, black
treadless tires forgotten and unretreaded, the
poem of the riverbank, condoms & pots, steel
knives, nothing stainless, only the dank muck
and the razor-sharp artifacts passing into the
and the gray Sunflower poised against the sunset,
crackly bleak and dusty with the smut and smog
and smoke of olden locomotives in its eye-- . . .
when did you forget you were a
flower? when did you look at your skin and
decide you were an impotent dirty old locomotive?
the ghost of a locomotive? . . .
You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a
1. "Pro-Democracy Movement Rises Against 'Disaster Capitalism' in Detroit"
2. "Chicago Teachers"
3. "NYPD Racist Quotas Revealed in 'Stop and Frisk' Trial"
4. "Map: NYPD Finds Most Guns Outside Stop-and-Frisk Hotspots"
5. "Cypriots protest against 'economic WWIII'"
7. "Native leaders from US in Canada, Join Forces in Tarsands Fight"
8. Lakota Grandmothers
9. Raging Grannies International
& San Francisco Bay Raging Grannies
READ MORE OF MANKH'S POEMS AND ESSAYS ON AXIS OF LOGIC
Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) is an essayist and resident poet on Axis of Logic. In addition to his work as a writer, he is a small press publisher and Turtle Islander. He edited and published the book, The (Un)Occupy Movement: Autonomy of Consciousness, Practical Solutions, Human Equality, and hosts an audio show "Between the Lines: listening to literature online." You can contact him via his literary website.