Im currently in Oaxaca, site of an ongoing people´s struggle against big business, big money, and big government. The downtown Zocolo is filled with revolutionary banners and graffiti. Meanwhile, armed stormtroopers with machine guns circle around the downtown area.. 6-8 sitting in the back of pickup trucks.
Last Friday, two demonstrators were killed by police. More are in jail, being tortured. The people are dedicated to non-violence... but its not the whimpy kind you see at US demonstrations where protesters obediently apply for their permits and stay in their confined protest zones.
Being here shows me just how dead democracy in America is. Latin America is for real (witness Venezuela, Bolivia,.. and to a lesser extent Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador). Poor Mexico has always been under the imposing gun of the US, but even here democracy stirs and people fight for their freedom.
I stopped going to demonstrations in the US because they felt more like farcical parades than anything else. The general attitude was a subservient one-- yuppies arriving in their mini-vans, carrying little signs, chanting moronic ditties,... and basically begging "oh please listen to us". When they are ignored by the corporate media and the government, they whine.
If you read Gandhi´s autobiography, you discover that the sort of demonstration you find in America now is NOT what he had in mind. As he quips in the movie, "I have never advocated passive anything". Gandhi, and King, were extremely confrontational. Their forefather, Thoreau, was likewise a disobedient, cantankerous, no-nonsense guy. When Gandhi said "non-violence", he meant non-violent DEFIANCE of the law. Gandhi constantly, publicly, and extravagently broke the law. Same with King.
Which brings us around the honest truth of it-- none of the demonstrators (sadly, me included) in the US really cares much about the Iraq War. We liked to march a little to feel good about ourselves, but none of us wanted to go up against billy clubs or tear gas. Lets face it, the Iraq War, for us, is an abstraction. An idea. It doesnt effect most of us in the gut, heart, pocketbook, or home much at all.
As much as I hate the IDEA of the war, I must agree with Hakim Bey in the end-- freedom, anarchy, etc. must always be focused first on your own life-- here and now. Its easy to bemoan the faraway war... much more difficult to confront the economic and mental chains that hold YOU.. RIGHT NOW. For most of us, our job is the single most oppressive reality we face... day after day. Behind that, the mental-media environment keeps us enslaved to that reality.
Which brings me back to Oaxaca. Democracy has a pulse here because the people are fighting for THEIR own lives and the lives of their neighbors. They are confronting the daily realities of their moment.
Those of us north of the border have different realities. We´re bloated with material excess... but we too have our chains.
Democracy and freedom will only awaken when we turn our attention to breaking those. Thats where it must start... because its pointless to whine about the oppression of strangers half a world away while doing nothing about your own shackles.