Sunday, June 14, 2009

For What It's Worth: "The Uprising" by David Sirota

"There's something happening here,
What it is, ain't exactly clear ...
Stop, children, what's that sound?
Everybody look what's going down..."

---Stephen Stills, "For What It's Worth"
For a fast ride through the world of today's American populism, you can't beat David Sirota's
"The Uprising: An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street and Washington".

Some have faulted this book for not being a well-organized technical manual for political action, nor an encyclopedic and boring analysis of a political movement. That misses the point; this book is not a Grand Theory of Everything, but a bunch of observations making a point based on facts, not theory:
The vast majority of ordinary Americans are mad as hell at the collapse of our freedom and economy, and doesn't wanna take it anymore, and does not have a single realistic hope of making a difference.
So, as Sirota documents, we too often turn to unrealistic hopes, usually consisting of finding a Leader to identify for us an Enemy at which to make ineffectual gestures. This keeps everybody happy: rightwingers and leftwingers can attack each other, and those who profit from the collapse of our American freedoms and economy go on their merry way.

Sirota's fact-based analysis suggests a solution, but it's painful. We need some sort of Multi-Step program starting with accepting that we've screwed up in the implementation of our deepest, most sincerely-held political beliefs. Our fun and angry finger-waving has NEVER worked; there is no substitute for the sober work of organizing and pushing through reforms such as Fusion Voting.

The people on which Sirota reports may be stuck in stage of Denial and Anger; they his lack of reverence for their hobbyhorses must be maddening. On Amazon, a leader of Minuteman group he visited wrote a hugely angry review, but I wouldd think the people who should really be p.o.'d are the members of the Permanent Protest Party (the stilt-walkers, puppeteers, tie-dyed T-shirt vendors and whatnot that clutter every protest and have had no success since the Civil Rights Movement ... in whose parades, Sirota is too polite to observe, there were no puppets or stilt-walkers.) This book may have been run through the shredder at as well.

But, just as a true friend tells you the truth you don't want to hear, Sirota tells his friends (and others) stuff we really need to know. His succinct deconstruction of the futility of mass demonstrations in TV-dominated America rings very true; the largest antiwar demonstrations in history didn't even slow down the 2003 invasion of Iraq, whereas the relentless organizing and personal networking of some recent political campaigns have succeeded. (It is striking that this book came out *before* the Obama campaign won by reaching out to every community; not winning every community but making a sincere try. Take the lesson!)

The task before us is large; the road is not clear but the first steps are obvious: Enjoy this book, then go talk to a wingnut. We have something in common!

For What It's Worth:
"There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side

It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

We better stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down."
---Stephen Stills

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