Saturday, February 20, 2010

How Not to Be a Terrorist

Glenn Greenwald describes Joe Stack's manifesto as 'perfectly cogent.'  Except for his conclusion that 'violence is the only answer,' I tend to agree.  Partisan ideologues are running in circles, each trying to blame his act of terrorism on the Other Side, but if you bother to read what he wrote, it's clear that it's not that simple.

Contrary to the various labels that the pundits are flinging around, Joe Stack was not a populist.  Neither was he a Communist, a Tea Bagger, or a liberal.  He was a smart, creative guy who empirically discovered that Big Systems in this country are designed to drain him dry--specifically, the smart, the creative, the independent and the non-conformist.  They drain everyone else too, but they work much faster and more viciously on people like Joe.
Item: The Labor Department estimates that up to 30 percent of companies misclassify employees as 'independent contractors' in order to avoid paying Social Security, unemployment, health insurance or worker's compensation.  Among the most often misclassified workers are truck drivers, construction workers, home health aides and high-tech engineers.

Item: The United States has the highest documented incarcaration rate in the world.  Over half are imprisoned for non-violent offenses.  

Item: A homeless man get a 15-year sentence for stealing $100 and returning it, while corporate officers who steal billions from taxpayers, investors and their own employees keep the money and write the laws.

Item: The average debt of a medical student who graduated in 2009 is $156,456.  
Item: The Catholic Church.  

I could go on, but as Joe Stack has clearly demonstrated, that way lies madness.

So how do we cope with the fact that institutions which supposedly exist to sustain and connect us--schools, corporations, churches, and government--have turned into parasitic monsters which extract ever more and give ever less, using our finest characteristics--honesty, intelligence, compassion, creativity, discipline--as levers to enslave us?

The reason terrorism does not work, as an instrument of change, is that fear paralyzes the mind.  The best weapon against institutional thuggery is not violence; it is the freedom of thought and action which emanates from a mind at peace with itself.  This is why institutional thugs bring out their most vicious tricks when confronted with a decent person who thinks for herself. 

This is also why we cannot look to institutional leaders to get us out of this mess.  They created it; they have a vested interest in sustaining it.

So I have a few suggestions.
Learn to care for yourself--really.  Learn to eat well, exercise well, meditate well.  Learn to live on less, even if you still have a job.  Revel in joys that are free. 

Quit looking upward.  Quit looking for someone to hire you, fire you, take charge, change the rules, enforce the rules.  Quit waiting for the grant, the donor, the collector, the award, the promotion.  Stop buying lottery tickets.  Consider long and hard before you pay for another degree.

Connect laterally.  The person you see as your competitor is potentially your ally.  That guy who might take your job, could be your business partner.  Collaborate, encourage, experiment and assist. 

Nurture love and meaning wherever you find it.
 I suspect that before much longer, systems and ways of living we took for granted will vanish, or undergo a radical transformation.  We can either give way to panic, violence, rage and despair, or we can take the opportunity to heal ourselves, our society and our planet.  It's up to every one of us to decide.




1 comment:

EAGEAGEAG said...

"I suspect that before much longer, systems and ways of living we took for granted will vanish, or undergo a radical transformation."

So true. Thanks for the thought provoking post.