Saturday, April 16, 2011

These Books Could Spring You Into Activism

Polls show that the majority of Americans oppose recent US wars and Wall Street bailouts, yet most remain passive and appear resigned to powerlessness. In Get Up, Stand Up, Bruce Levine offers an original and convincing explanation for this passivity. Many Americans are deeply demoralized by decades of oppressive elitism, and they have lost confidence that genuine democracy is possible. Drawing on phenomena such as learned helplessness, the abuse syndrome, and other psychological principles and techniques for pacifying a population, Levine explains how major US institutions have created fatalism. When such fatalism and defeatism set in, truths about social and economic injustices are not enough to set people free.

However, the situation is not truly hopeless. History tells us that for democratic movements to get off the ground, individuals must recover self-respect, and a people must regain collective confidence that they can succeed at eliminating top-down controls. Get Up, Stand Up describes how we can recover dignity, confidence, and the energy to do battle. That achievement fills in the missing piece that, until now, has undermined so many efforts to energize genuine democracy.

Get Up, Stand Up
details those strategies and tactics that oppressed peoples have successfully employed to gain power. We the People can unite, gain strength, wisely do battle, and wrest power away from the ruling corporate-government partnership (the "corporatocracy"). Get Up, Stand Up explains how.

Diane Wilson is an activist, shrimper, and all around hell-raiser whose first book, An Unreasonable Woman, told of her battle to save her bay in Seadrift, Texas. Back then, she was an accidental activist who worked with whistleblowers, organized protests, and eventually sunk her own boat to stop the plastic-manufacturing giant Formosa from releasing dangerous chemicals into water she shrimped in, grew up on, and loved.

But, it turns out, the fight against Formosa was just the beginning. In Diary of an Eco-Outlaw, Diane writes about what happened as she began to fight injustice not just in Seadrift, but around the world—taking on Union Carbide for its failure to compensate those injured in the Bhopal disaster, cofounding the women’s antiwar group Code Pink to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, attempting a citizens arrest of Dick Cheney, famously covering herself with fake oil and demanding the arrest of then BP CEO Tony Hayward as he testified before Congress, and otherwise becoming a world-class activist against corporate injustice, war, and environmental crimes.

As George Bernard Shaw once said, “all progress depends on unreasonable women.” And in the Diary of an Eco-Outlaw, the eminently unreasonable Wilson delivers a no-holds-barred account of how she—a fourth-generation shrimper, former boat captain, and mother of five—took a turn at midlife, unable to stand by quietly as she witnessed abuses of people and the environment. Since then, she has launched legislative campaigns, demonstrations, and hunger strikes—and generally gotten herself in all manner of trouble.

All worth it, says Wilson. Jailed more than 50 times for civil disobedience, Wilson has stood up for environmental justice, and peace, around the world—a fact that has earned her many kudos from environmentalists and peace activists alike, and that has forced progress where progress was hard to come by.

It's been almost a century and a half since a critical mass of Americans believed that secession was an American birthright. But breakaway movements large and small are rising up across the nation. From Vermont to Alaska, activists driven by all manner of motives want to form new states-and even new nations.So, just what's happening out there? The American Empire is dying, says Bill Kauffman in this incisive, eye-opening investigation into modern-day secession-the next radical idea poised to enter mainstream discourse. And those rising up to topple that empire are a surprising mix of conservatives, liberals, regionalists, and independents who-from movement to movement-may share few political beliefs but who have one thing in common: a sense that our nation has grown too large, and too powerfully centralized, to stay true to its founding principles. Bye Bye, Miss American Empire traces the historical roots of the secessionist spirit, and introduces us to the often radical, sometimes quixotic, and highly charged movements that want to decentralize and re-localize power.During the George W. Bush administration, frustrated liberals talked secession back to within hailing distance of the margins of national debate, a place it had not occupied since 1861. Now, secessionist voices on the left and right and everywhere in between are amplifying. Writes Kauffman, "The noise is the sweet hum of revolution, of subjects learning how to be citizens, of people shaking off . . . their Wall Street and Pentagon overlords and taking charge of their lives once more."Engaging, illuminating, even sometimes troubling, Bye Bye, Miss American Empire is a must-read for those taking the pulse of the nation."

No comments: