What Will It Take To No Longer Tolerate the Intolerable?

Published on Zmagazine, by Lydia Sargent, January 2012.

… Speaking of tolerating: on October 12, 2011, the Boston Globe reported that: “police arrested 141 Occupy Boston protesters. City officials defended the crackdown as necessary to preserve public order against a restive grassroots movement. Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who has expressed sympathy for the movement’s goals of highlighting economic struggles of the middle-class, flatly stated yesterday that civil disobedience will not be tolerated.”  

Really? This is what the mayor of Boston can’t tolerate? To be fair, he soon changed his tune and let the Occupiers stay until a court order forced them to vacate in mid-December. Perhaps someone pointed out to Menino that Boston (and Massachusetts) was no stranger to civil disobedience, not to mention revolution. Boston does a booming tourist business with its Freedom Trail where people can learn about the Boston Tea Party, the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride.

Menino’s advisors might also have mentioned (although I doubt it) Concord, Massachusetts native Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” (1849), which in the 1940s was read by the Danish resistance, in the 1950s was cherished by those who opposed McCarthyism, in the 1960s was influential in the struggle against South African apartheid, and in the 1970s was discovered by a new generation of anti-war activists.

Perhaps Menino was told about the civil disobedience in the Boston area during the Vietnam War, a war that hundreds of thousands decided they could no longer tolerate. I was one of them. I remember sitting on the floor of a room somewhere and watching a video documenting the U.S. use of weapons in Vietnam with the express purpose of maiming the population. This was only part of the information revealed by the Pentagon Papers and other sources that exposed the venal and imperialist mission of that war.

I wonder if Menino knowa about the 1970 civil disobedience at Boston’s federal building when 5,000 people blocked the doors from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM (I was a co-organizer).

What Will It Take? … //

… Last week our local newscasters reported on how the winner of the “X-Factor” was going to win millions of dollars but, they said with great excitement, better still was that the winner would get to sing the Pepsi commercial at the Super Bowl halftime show. Seriously?

Until Now:

There were so many years where it seemed there would be no end to this mass shutting up. Until now. The global uprisings and the subsequent Occupy Wall Street movement have given many people new hope and created a mindset in which people seem to feel free to no longer tolerate the intolerable.

Hopefully, the actions going on all around us will grow and diversify with activists taking over more and more spaces and democratically trying to function as a more humane version/vision of society, as they did at Zuc- cotti Park—with general assemblies, committees, a library, food production, sanitation, and so on.

A current email from a not particularly radical sight highlights the fact that versions of the Occupy slogan are catching on, even in the mainstream: “We Are the 99.99 percent”: “The one percent of the one percent would only fill up two-thirds of the seats at the Nationals Park, but they contributed 24.3 percent of the total campaign donations from individuals to politicians, parties, PACs, and independent expenditure groups in the 2010 election cycle. According to a new study by the Sunlight Foundation, these 26,783 individuals—71 percent of which are executives, lawyers, or lobbyists—contributed $774 million to federal political campaigns in 2010. That’s $28,913 each—more than the median individual income in America by $2,549. This data makes the arguments raised by the Occupy movement all the more compelling. The one percent not only hold the reins on our economy, a small fraction of them have immense power over the political process.”

I hope the Occupy movement continues stirring things up, raising the social cost for elites, keeping it militant, but also good natured, with lots of respect and affection among those involved.

We put the quote from Chomsky on the cover, lest you waiver. When needed, it has kept me fired up. Perhaps it will inspire you. Here it is again:

“Any good capitalist democracy needs to keep the rabble in line. To make sure that they are atoms of consumption, obedient tools of production, isolated from one another, lacking any concept of a decent human life. They are to be spectators in a political system run by elites, blaming each other and themselves for what’s wrong.”

We are not rabble, we won’t be kept in line, let’s Occupy the new year, whatever that means, and move on from there. (full long text).

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