work

Here

I am here on the precipice
looking out on work to be done
diving finding ground on which to walk
my voice is not my own is owned
is owned and it is I who do the owning
of my voice now

I am here on my own
holding your hand
discarding my clothes
together we turn to see the land
see it and taste it and walk on
on the ground we are finding

I am here with you
with your skin close to mine
I am afraid of all we must see
but the bare grass on my feet
and the music we speak
reminds me of youth

I am here on my own
owning a maturity a fruit
hard earned I am here
with you with your skin
close to mine I am sorry
for loss for the loss of life

I am here I own sorrow
but that is not all you say
and I affirm that we will be
more after all you have endured
and I say I cannot fathom
how you thrive

I am here and I cannot
choose to ignore any longer
the losses they have inflicted
and I am not complicit
in the blind rush to the precipice
but I watch the future fall

I am there with my sons
the extension of my flesh my thought
my love I am there with my sons
who are there coming to terms
with what has been done
and the work to be done

I am here which is nowhere
and I search for a place to stand
I see that the ground must be made
must be made of words of love
that will nurture the future
to blossom over the fire of the past

I am here I am not burning
am I burning who am I here
the television is telling us it is not us
it is telling us so much by
what it refuses to say
by its inability to hear

I am here demanding with you
that the present be accountable to the past
that our language be precise and authentic
that our technology serve us
that we serve the earth
I demand respect each other

I am here overstanding history
I have come to terms
I have come to shape the future
with words of love that nurture
skin and flesh and ground that blossoms
and demands that we be more basic

we are here and we must thrive
or we will die as we have died
and kill as we have killed we must stop
we must learn to bear fruit
we must learn to tend roots
we must learn we are here

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The Miseducation of We the People and the Transformation of Human Society

We live in a society that would be absurd if it wasn’t tragic. Yet a majority of the society embraces the myths of its miseducation and, doing so, refuses to accept reality. To be fair, all of the systems and institutions of the society–not only the miseducation system–encourage people to deny reality in favor of dreams. The American Dream of individual and familial meritocratic success isolated from the larger context of society is the driving myth that permeates all the institutions of what has become a corporate-dominated plutocracy masquerading as the world’s leading example of democracy, freedom, and equality. This Dream is exactly what it advertizes itself as: a dream, a somnolent fantasy that we must forget as we move into wakefulness and the realities of the American, and international, day.

America is a product and America is a fantasy, but America is also a reality. Relatively few people are willing to see the reality of America. We live in a banal version of the Matrix. Once you wake up, you’re still where you were. There’s no Morpheus to guide you, no organization with answers. No violent struggle against tyrants in corporate suits will free us. No superpowers will be gained. No pills will point the way out. What you find when you wake up alone today in America, aside from a moral wasteland and a devastated environment, is a loose collection of individuals and organizations stretching out hands and wifi signals in an effort to reclaim a sense of humanity. Our task is to ignite consciousness and conscience so that the people will wake up–if not all the people, enough to claim the ideal of We the People for the 21st century and beyond; enough to actualize the American dream of freedom, justice, and equality for all.


Education Emma Goldman copy

Miseducation put me to sleep. That’s what it’s designed to do. It put you to sleep, too. Maybe you woke up. I see a lot of people here that woke up before me. I’ve been half-awake. Groggy. Disturbed by the cold out there, the lateness of the day. Lulled back to sleep by comforts, rising half-asleep to consume lies. Willingly consuming lies, not because I believed them, but because I could see no other option.

Sure, I fasted in protest. I abstained from the most horrific lies, refused to partake in fake religion and consumer patriotism. I read some Chomsky, a third of A People’s History of the United States, Inga Muscio, Anne Moody, Derrick Jensen, The Conquest of Paradise. I was full-on awake for a while there. Publicly freaking, speaking out.

I got complacent. The reasons for my complacency are complex and irrelevant. What matters now is that I am awake again. Black Lives Matter woke me up. I intend to stay woke.

Miseducation shapes us. It stamps us with answers, stifles our questions. Generally, white people get ahead and get by by embracing our privilege and engaging in the parade of consumption-driven miseducation. The tests are multiple choice, memorization, or regurgitation of the white-washed historical party line–easy shit if you’re white and middle class. Go to college. Pass go, collect a job.

I stalled out. I’m ashamed to say that, despite stalling out, I repaired my jalopy ass–in the way that capitalist, white supremacist society recommended–and tried to get back on the road. But the road was a highway, people drive crazy, I’m overwhelmed by traffic, the damn radio is stuck on some white preacher delivering the news about the War on Terror and how Jesus approves, cut to commercial, and I got distracted, overwhelmed, stalled out again.

I’m built for back roads. I’m a jalopy. It’s good to be a jalopy. Sometimes I’m a bike. It’s good to be a bike. My favorite way to move is to walk, slowly and with awareness.

But the society is built for driving machines, real privileged BMWs and SWMs and SWFs. Career people with cars. Cars with career people. I’m an intentional, pensive guy driving a jalopy; rather be walking.

Miseducation directs us to a false life: the career embedded in capitalism. The goal of education in a capitalist society is not to draw out and nurture the human being, but to produce a worker-consumer for use in the economy. The goal of work in capitalist society is not to engage in meaningful and productive activity that nurtures the human being and human society, but to make money–ostensibly for yourself and family, but also for the perpetuation of the capitalist system. Engagement in meaningful work, a passion for your field, is incidental and a privilege. Capitalism doesn’t care about your passion. Capitalism doesn’t care. Capitalism is being driven to perpetuate itself and concentrate wealth. To work in this capitalist society is to channel wealth upward, no matter what your values, color, or creed.

And look at how that wealth is spent:

military spending

War. We work for war. No matter what we do, our tax dollars go to kill and maim, to destroy and drive to despair, to subjugate people to an economic system that is perpetuated by our miseducation, our labor, our passions. And increasingly, as we’ve seen in communities of the most disadvantaged and disenfranchised Americans this past year, that war is coming home.


How does one respond to this situation? By reaching forward, by pushing boundaries and defining the new. And by reaching back, embracing the work of those who have come before to push boundaries and define the new during their historic time. We are alive in history. History is a living thing, not a static page. We are alive within it, the vanguard, the representatives of not only ourselves at this moment in time, but also our ancestors in vital struggle and our children and grandchildren, the young, the just born, and the unborn.

Perhaps the miseducation system can be transformed from within into an education system. Valuable work is being done and will continue to be done from within the system–not only from within the miseducation system, but from within all the systems that are designed to perpetuate white supremacy and capitalism. Valuable work can also be done outside the system. The marginalized, the poor, the incarcerated, the disenfranchised and disadvantaged are increasingly forced to the margins or outside of the system and locked out of the economy. Against immense prejudice and odds, they rise and work. I discover organizations doing powerful, grassroots work–revolutionary work–in communities across America daily.

These organizations and the people that make them up move and inspire me. They call me forward to embrace a more authentic reality and a more authentic identity. Those of us who are overly privileged can work outside the system as well, if so inclined–or impelled. American capitalist society, white supremacist society, is not the inclusive entity it advertizes itself to be. That illusion is crumbling into transparent wreckage day by day, even as the willfully ignorant cling to it and claim it as reality.

No one knows what the future looks like. The image of the past that we have been miseducated to see and revere is an illusion, a socially-constructed lie that serves inhuman interests. Now is the time–the only time we have–to affirm or reaffirm our humanity and commit to serving human interests. When enough of us do, the inhuman will be deconstructed and transformed. With the scraps and wreckage of inhuman tyranny, we will recycle, renew, and rebuild reality. We will build a human society based not on dreams, but on the immense and beautiful potential of millions of human beings working together.

This is a vision. Far-flung, for sure. So far-flung that it seems like a dream. Yes. See it with me. Affirm it. And work toward it.

Forward

The presidential campaign is over. I spent a while on Tuesday night clicking refresh on various electoral maps before going to bed and was relieved when I woke up at 1 AM. My wife was glowing under her Kindle.

“Anything?” I asked.

“Do you want me to tell you or do you want to see?”

“I want to see.” I put on my glasses.

The race had been called. Romney had conceded and Obama had won by a significant electoral margin and a small popular one.

You may have seen this quote kicking around Facebook, but it’s worth repeating:

We’ve bought into the idea that education is about training and ‘success’, defined monetarily, rather than to think critically and to challenge. We should not forget that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers. A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, which fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death.

The quote is attributed to Chris Hedges.

Although it’s not something I focus on much these days, part of my issue with American culture is that everything is economic. Economy trumps everything, except defense and military adventures (see the presidency of George W. Bush for a salient example).

I write. I draw. I dabble in music. I enjoy the creative process in and of itself and have found it difficult to monetize artistic practice. At the same time, I’m concerned about institutional racism, poverty, corporate power, gender, and violence in its many forms. I’ve sought work that stimulates my creativity, but have not been overly interested in commercializing my creativity. I’ve also found meaningful employment in the social work field. I don’t primarily see work as a means of financial gain, but this definition of work is what our society indoctrinates into us. We monetize everything. We are ruled by financial markets. And this is such an ingrained assumption of our civilization that pointing it out is perceived as an act of naivety. I realize this.

When I define myself politically based on my ideals, I describe myself as a cooperative anarchist. I envision a society where people respect each other and practice mutual support. This is not reality. I compromise and define myself as a Democrat based on the viable options.

I feel good when I look at what President Obama has done with his first four years — and here I will suggest that everyone read The New New Deal by Michael Grunwald — and I look forward to what we will accomplish as a country in his second term. I feel hopeful about my prospects as a practitioner of the creative arts. This is not something that I’ve chosen to do as much as it’s who I am, and it’s taken me long enough to sort that out. I’m looking forward to working slowly towards my personal goals. This is a long-term project.

And that is one of the things that I’ve found frustrating about American political culture and American culture in general. We don’t acknowledge that change takes time, that things worth doing don’t usually produce instant results. As I watched Romney criticize Obama for his “failure” to deliver on the promise of Hope and Change in his first term, I saw a vivid illustration of the impatience and short-sightedness of America.

Sometimes I feel that Americans present an attitude of obliviousness regarding how good we’ve got it. Rather than be thankful for our first-world amenities and the security that we do have, we point to our lack. We compare the present to some idealized past or to a good era that we may have experienced in our personal lives. When I listened to Romney speak, when I saw the ads supporting him, I saw an illustration of entitlement. I saw people — and I’ll say it, white people — wanting more. Whining about their lot, ignorant that compared to so many throughout the world, they live opulent lifestyles.

But we are a nation of 300 million diverse individuals, and those of us who recognize our privileges or lack of privileges understand that not everyone is white and middle- or upper-class. We understand that our history is complex. It’s a story of struggle and triumph, of imperialism coupled with democracy, of slavery and freedom. It’s paradoxical. It ain’t easy. Why, then, should we expect our politics to be easy? To move smoothly?

Perhaps it’s because we were taught to remain ignorant of the complexities of our own history. Perhaps its because we’re required, in order to survive the market economy, to specialize, leaving little time for civics. Perhaps it’s both and more.

As a nation, we need to figure these things out. Electing Obama for a second term moves us in the right direction. I celebrate that. Today feels good.

But there’s still a hell of a lot of work to do.