Since the Occupy Wall Street events this fall I have immersed myself in information that questions existing paradigms and searches for solutions to current problems. I’ve always done this, and as a green builder I do it on a daily basis, but the recent Occupy Wall Street events has given my ongoing education a focus and timely reference point.
This evening I watched a poignant documentary “The Weather Underground“, which chronicles the efforts of a small group of white students in the late ’60’s and early 70’s who planted bombs around the US to raise awareness of the atrocities of the Vietnam war.
The movie is powerful because these people are smart, conscientious individuals who did not take their acts of violence lightly. The movie explores their insights into the successes and failures of using violence to combat violence.
The conclusion? Well, there is no easy response to the Vietnam genocide and how we should have stopped it. Are some acts so horrible that violence to stop it is justified? Most police and military forces would say yes. And yes. And yes many times over until the threat has been obliterated.
Whether that threat is a black man in the ghetto or an Arab half way across the globe we, “we” being those who are not in the police or military view finder, find it acceptable that the “threat” be killed regardless of whether they deserve it.
Or maybe it isn’t acceptable but we let it happen every day without so much as a pause in our lives. We accept the party line that the military is looking out for our interests even if we know it is a lie. Such a convenient lie it is.
And maybe these people are threats, if our interests happen to be cheap oil, cheap sneakers and large amounts of easy to digest entertainment.
But when it is a civilian who does something violent to try to stop violence such actions of counter brutality are not allowed nor socially acceptable. Civilians are expected to meet violence with non-violence. A civilian who meets oppression and violence with counter violence is called a terrorist time and time again.
Why is this? Is it just the people in power trying to keep it so?
This strikes a chord with my life. My father was not part of the Weather Underground but he did belong to a similar group during that time. He was accused by the government of setting off pipe bombs, one in front of the Berkeley court house that was sending draft resisters to high security prison and another in front of the Bank of America that was the main financier of Napalm.
Idealistic hippie or dangerous terrorist? Interpol and the FBI felt the later and I spent my first 17 years traveling the world under my parents’ wing as political refugees.
Did my father make a difference? He made a difference to me. I wouldn’t be a passionate green builder dead set on making the world a more ecological place if it weren’t for him.
The hippies dropped out and opened their minds to new ways of being, some good, some not. Either way they learned a lot, if anything how to learn itself, and passed that learning on to their children, most of whom dropped back into society with that knowledge.
So what do we do now. We don’t have a Vietnam to rage against. We have the less visible but more dangerous ongoing destruction of the planet. Us humans are destroying the planet with such violence and heartlessness that any informed green builder knows they are almost symbolic in their effectiveness against the machine of destruction.
Yet like the Weather Underground, an isolated small group that did little to stop Vietnam’s war machine on the surface, green builders must see that symbolism is powerful. Green builders are archetypes where success is not measured in trees saved but in torches carried.
And as long as the torch is being carried, no matter by how small a group and no matter how large the darkness, we will have hope. It is in carrying the environmental torch that we stay alive, regardless of how much ecological destruction is around us.
I don’t see much use in meeting violence with violence. Trying to kill the corporate machine is like trying to kill a monster with endless heads. The success and downfall of capitalism is that it has no moral judgement. You can’t kill something if it is heartless.
But meeting violence with passion, now that is a winning strategy.
I have looked deeply into the soul of our society and have concluded that we are fucked. We are on a crash course with ecological destruction for the sake of greed, power and the blind genetic imperative to spread the human seed as far as humanly possible.
And so I have thrown up my hands and decided I have two options. One, build a pipe bomb and, like the Monkey Wrench Gang, try to wreak as much havoc as possible against the machine of ecological doom. Or two, create a reality where my existence is not part of that machine.
Not a reality like the mind numbing lala land of mass media and material consumption, which is the current solution to numbing the pain we feel as we destroy our own global body.
But a reality that looks at reality with brutal honesty and takes one step, no mater how difficult and painful, yet so amazingly liberating, to a greener personal life. That existence may be lonely. It may be difficult. In fact it may not work at all.
But you just get back up. And before you know it a day has gone by where you didn’t take part in anything too destructive. You may have even helped grow something green, as simple and small as that may seem.
But then a strange thing happens. I have seen it happen in my life and I have seen it happen in every successful revolution in the history or humanity:
You meet somebody else who is holding the same torch as you.
A friend. A person who speaks your language in the babel of destructive insanity. Even if it is a passing in the darkness it is enough to keep the flame alive and even brighten it.
And all of a sudden you aren’t as freaky and alone as you thought you were, not that it matters because by then you are pretty used to your way of life. It takes balls and stubbornness and a deep passion to stick to what you know is right. And sometimes what you thought was right is wrong and you have to continue seeking.
But you learn it is the seeking that is important so you aren’t too worried when you fuck up. Well, worried maybe a little, but you get used to making mistakes and learning from them.
Then you meet somebody else. Over time you have a little group of people who experience life like you. You may be in the belly of the beast but together you have your own parallel universe. This is not a universe in reaction to something bad. This is a universe in creation of something good. You aren’t there in opposition anything but rather in search of the very best way you can be.
And in the end, who cares if what you discover is right or wrong. Or right again. Because over time you live what is true to you and what you do today becomes yesterdays history, your history, like a stick to lean on as you walk into the future.
So yea the Weather Underground may have been stupid kids in a stupid society or visionaries in a stupid society…..but at what point does that torch become society and back again?
We are society and society is us. We are the machine that kills nature to grow and we are the nature that is killed. It ain’t easy sorting it all out but god knows we try. And so did the Weather Underground. And for that I salute them with pride and honor to be part of their tribe, no matter how confused we are.