outside the system

I’ve started writing titles for blogs that I hope to write and saving them for future use, so when I wrote this title a few days back, it had a little different feeling than it does now — many of the same ideas, just a little fuller. Based on the talks I’ve had with my socialist comrade, I began thinking about the ways in which change needs to happen in the U.S. In our conversations, we spoke of what must happen for change to occur — the true change that might overthrow our current system and create a socialist society. We spoke how that change really won’t play out through voting and the same old politicians in new positions. Will Barack or Hilary do much to change the rule of corporations, even if they are librals and better than what we have now? Probably not. I’m not saying don’t vote — I think in our current state of affairs it’s a necessary action (a “necessary evil” one might say), but it won’t do a whole lot.

So how do we make that change happen? We must work to destroy the system in place to create a new one not dependent the forces now in control, namely those with the $$, but a system that truly fulfills the will of the people. My comrade spoke often of the need for a general workers’ strike, both nationally and internationally, in which all of us in the working class — the class being ruled, not making the rules to live by — say, “Enough is enough,” and really take a stand.

But what happens when a group really binds together and takes a stand? If you’ve been following the events in Burma (or Myanmar, as the government chooses to call itself), you’ll see that the answer is repression. In Burma, the repression of assembling and free speech is very overt, with many dying or being beaten in the process in much the same way, as someone recently pointed out to me, things went down in the U.S. during the Civil Rights movement. We’ve all seen the pictures of fire hoses turned on crowds, and now it’s canisters of tear gas, if not worse. As the world sees these events, they react to the horror with outrage and call for an end to such violent repression. And it may get the world’s attention, but what will the future look like? Will the government win again?  (And current reports regarding Internet and phone crackdowns show things to be getting even worse for those working for change.)

Here in the U.S., though, violence isn’t used very often to repress movements because the police and government know that it creates outrage at the situation. Instead, our government (again, I can’t take credit for this realization either) chooses other ways to deal with those who are working together to deal with political, economic, and other forms of oppression. An anti-war group was fined for putting up posters in DC they claimed conformed to city code. Wiretapping without a warrant is now accepted to fight terrorism or whatever other lame excuse they can come up with (though an Oregon judge, among others, ruled against these acts as being unconstitutional). And apparently if someone wanted, they could get a list of the books I’m checking out from the library. This is far from everything being done to suppress people’s movements for change right her in the U.S., but it’s a start to realize how my we’re being repressed without even knowing it.

I read an article this week calling the Buddhist monks in Burma something like the “moral compass” of that country. And even with the monks getting people to rally around a fight against the Burmese oppression, will it be enough to create change? Whether or not it is in Burma, we should ask, here in the U.S., who will be our moral compass? Who will stand up and start the rallying cry for change, a change that can only come by working outside the system of our “democratic” society to create a country, and hopefully a world, where all people are valued as humans and not simply economic capital? Who will lead? Will it be you, or me, or someone else? I don’t quite know, but I do know that when the call comes, we must be willing to risk a little bit of security for the hope of a better tomorrow. It’s called solidarity, and in this country of individualism, it’s a quality that seems to be lacking. Let’s all step up to the challenge before us to, as Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

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