November 04, 2007

We Don't Need A Hero

Ralph Nader with Leah of Current TV and a release contract at PowerShift07 - Natasha Chart, Nov 3, 2007Ralph Nader addressed the PowerShift 07 conference, the largest global warming event ever held, at the University of Maryland yesterday and he had a lot of interesting things to say. Things that would be worth writing an entire blog post unpacking.

Like that "this is supposed to be a joyful movement," or that if "you replace the White House press corps with 10 year olds, Bush is in deep trouble." He reminded the audience of a Cicero quote, "freedom is participation in power." He scoffed at the conventional wisdom about how impossible it would be to shift our industries, pointing out that during WWII, General Motors' production lines "went from cars to tanks faster than you can spell General Motors." He brought out a favorite question of his that his dad sometimes asked him when he got home, "What did you learn in school today? Did you learn how to believe or did you learn how to think?"

Nader also told the assembled students that when they attend the lobby day event to talk to their congresspeople, "When you walk on Capitol Hill, do not be awed. They work for you." He said that the most important thing for young people, and presumably any people, who want to improve environmental policy to tell their representatives was that they'd be back, that they'd be at their district offices, and that they'd bring more people.

Then at the press availability, he did something that shouldn't have been remarkable, but was. When Leah of Current TV asked him to sign the release contract for the video clips she took of him, he read the contract, balked at several clauses and crossed them out. He crossed out over 3/4 of a very short document, particularly objecting to a clause saying that, no matter what, he was entirely liable for any legal action brought because of their posting of his statements. "It doesn't have to be written this way," he said, and "this is a very one-sided lawyer."

So, more than the picture of him signing books, or the picture of the very long line of people waiting for him to sign their copy of his book, everything about what he said is summed up for me in that picture. Is summed up by a short, insignificant contract, that I'd signed a copy of with barely a thought not an hour beforehand, with the majority of its substance crossedhatched into oblivion.

Everybody in the room was pretty amused at first. Then the cameras started really going off, because it seemed to hit us in a wave that this was worthy of notice.

Nader had pointed out earlier that it was Nixon, a Republican, who signed OSHA into law. He formed the EPA. Signed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act. He said it was because "Nixon was the last Republican president who was afraid of liberals."

Damn. We don't even have many Democrats who are afraid of liberals these days.

So now that the New Hampshire filing deadline is passed, and we all know with finality that Gore isn't coming to save us, now what? For me, I look at John Edwards and remember that he couldn't stand up to that snivelling bigot Bill Donohue any more than he stood up to Dick Cheney in the 2004 vice presidential debate. He's going to fight for me? Barack Obama, who tours with people who spread homophobia, believes in the chimera of 'clean' coal and skipped the vote about censuring MoveOn, is going to represent my views in government? Hillary Clinton, a militarist with an unknowable position on the Iraq war, is going to be my champion?

Yeah, that's a lot of not so much.

Watching Democrats these days is enough to sap a progressive's will to live. They say good things, and that's usually the end of the story. They know how to talk to us by now, but their actions make their words barely worth paying attention to anymore. Do you need the laundry list? No. You've been watching in horror just like I have. We haven't had a Democratic Congress for a year yet, and I almost miss the Republicans, because at least I didn't feel conflicted about being disgusted by their actions.

It's a great conflict, though. Because I shouldn't have put nearly as much faith in them as I had done. Why did I ever do that?

We have, right now, a terrible system of government. The shadow corporate government with their fleets of lobbyists has rigged everything against the voices of citizens being heard by their representatives. The media are riddled with liars and con artists and fools. We get to vote, but everyone knows that money is worth more than votes when the decisions get made. Our politicians spend most of their time begging, for a wide variety of reasons, and it's inherently corrupting to always have your hat out for the next sale.

And we just put up with it. We just sign the contracts. We just pull the lever and go home.

What we really need to do is something that's long been considered impossible: we need to elect a new people.

We need to elect a people that will keep up the sort of steady, low grade quibbling with the status quo that really changes minds. We need to elect a people who make their names and opinions known to their representatives, and their representatives' staff, and their local media outlets. People who complain, joyously, because their vision of a better world isn't clouded by a haze of resignation to the status quo.

Don't misunderstand, though. I don't mean to say that the Republicans are right and it's all just a matter of personal responsibility. It's not an either/or proposition. The changes that need to be made to save our world are bigger than we can make on our own, and I disagreed when Nader's suggestions about how to change minds came down to turning people on to all the money they could save by adopting energy efficient lifestyles. We need systemic changes, but they'll never happen unless a lot of people insist on it.

As Bill McKibben says, what people should do if they want to prevent climate change is, "1: Organize. 2. Organize. 3. Organize. ... After that, if they have some energy left, by all means change the light-bulbs."

So it's a question of what we need to take personal responsibility for. When the public finally accepts that it's their job, our job, to be leaders, we'll get better government. Let's face it, you've seen our elected representatives. Most of them are good speechmakers, but when it comes to it, they're really just followers. They won't sign on to legislation that they know is right unless they have the cover of friends. They won't challenge statements that they know are lies because they fear David Broder. They won't vote the way they know their districts want because they fear Republican attack ads and a few big donors more than they fear to make life worse for their constituents. They aren't leaders.

I'll say it again: They aren't leaders.

And power abhors a vacuum. I think you know who isn't filling it, starting with anyone who genuinely represents the public interest. So hey, why don't you do it? And bring a friend. And tell them you'll be back. Tell them you're watching and talking and agitating. That you're making sure your fellow citizens know exactly why they should be mad as hell and what they can do about it.

Conservatives have spent a lot of time since the 1960s demonizing liberals and taking over the Democratic Party. They've done their best to make liberals out to be very, very scary indeed. They're still terrified of the people who made Nixon create the Environmental Protection Agency, liberals who were real leaders, even if we don't know their names. Just think how much fun it would be to give them a real reason to be afraid that their cushy, corporate welfare state might vanish like so much Arctic sea ice.

Posted by natasha at November 4, 2007 04:02 AM | Activism | Technorati links |

Fantastic post. Really great.

I can't say much more than, yes, yes yes yes, and I agree completely.


Posted by: Bpaul at November 4, 2007 05:33 AM

All I could add is that I dumped liberalism when I figured out it had been cheating on me since at least 1916. Probably even longer.

Liberation is what people presumably want (or fear, take your pick), 'liberalism' is its simulacrum. It's intellectual flypaper.

Perhaps its purpose is precisely to stick people on the want/fear nexus so that the more things change, the more things can stay the same.

I can see this puzzle, but I have no fast solution for it.

Posted by: Huskarl at November 4, 2007 09:05 AM

Dodd expressed pretty well that Bush put the focus on the war of choice in Iraq and didnt care for Afghanistan and Pakistan.Bush had Oussama escape in Tora Bora and had him escape at least two other times.

Furthermore the Afghan resistance structures pointed and point against Russians as to say communists. Its obvious that seed is there for some second state conversion a la Persia to Iran.
Pakistan is the next takeover target for the moolahs. Bush didnt care cause hes a fascist. He attacked pretty left leaning Iraq because hes a right wing sociopath.

The pretty much dysfunctional multi-state occupation in Afghanistan is another breeding ground for right wing extremists. Cocaine and heroine plantation is higher than ever before and - yeah well - the Taliban arent reluctunt to add some money to their own money.

But this only amplifies the need for some truthful leader - wait ah - how was this guy called? ah yeah right Oussama... ah Oussama Bin Laden. Exactly.

Musharraf saw Bhutto blow up. Well one can insinuate its been him. But? What happened since the attack? What did Bush do to ease Musharrafs troubles? A shit.

Rice blurbed, democracy must be strengthened and now shes blurbing sth about sanctions. Wheres the exit code for this man? Bush doesnt send troops, Bush doesnt send money. Bush is only proving that the situation is getting even more exitless DUE TO THE WEST. Musharraf must have a big trigger on his head and Bush is painting it bigger everyday. Bushs sold out foreign policy is topped by another total disaster. Hes in danger to have another nuclear warehouse in the middle east, after Iran now Pakistan. The geopolitical situation is deterioting fast and is becoming more multipolar each minute. The total bankruptcy of Fords interdependence and Poppy Bushs NWO is at hand. Bush doesnt care. You get the feeling its been a lie from the first minute. Were facing private warlords like Blackwater framed by revolutionary Islamofascists. The utter chaos and confusion Bush is DESIGNING only serves the purpose to spoil money into the pockets of Blackwater and Halliburton.

So what if? If Bush really knows hes never been elected president of the United States and acts upon it? If hes just filling up the bank accounts of his crownies? So when do the Russians come? When will the United States loose its postion as world leader? Wheres the impeachments, Mrs Pelosi? banana. fungho. niente. nill. Nobody seems to have the will or intention to claim from Bush his unwillingness. Due to 911. What was 911? Some Saudi scheichs in America. So they will suffer deeply from some Islamofascists in Pakistan. Sure Mekka is in Saudi-Arabia.

Posted by: ccoaler at November 4, 2007 10:01 AM

I had a couple of Pintos. Not bad little cars, got thirty miles to the gallon. Of course stupid people could get killed in them, stupid people get killed in cars all the time.

Nader is as much of The Party: The Corporation, as Hillary and Bush.

Posted by: Thomas Ware at November 4, 2007 04:09 PM

Right on, sister! That was one hell of a post. I love it when people have the guts to say nice things about Nader, especially when he's right on the money. You summed up my feelings about these Democrats to a t. The only one you left out is Kucinich, who is right on every issue and yet still runs a sh***y campaign. How hard is it to do what Nader did in 2000, that is go to the PEOPLE and tell them what they want to hear, namely, that they have the power to change EVERYTHING, as long as they get of their butts and join this movement.

You've got what it takes to make a difference. And I'm so glad to have been able to read what you have to say. Keep it up!

Posted by: Tahoma Activist at November 4, 2007 06:15 PM

I don't even know what to say to some of all that commentary, but just be in awe of the very strangeness. And thanks for the kudos.

Tahoma Activist, I'm right there with you on Kucinich. Being the 'perfect progressive' is a schtick for him, imo, and his ineffectual defense of many progressive interests has done a lot to help along the media narrative that they're radioactive ideas only crazy people have. I wish Feingold would have run, he's one of the few politicians that wouldn't have left me holding out a little hope for so long.

Posted by: natasha at November 5, 2007 12:58 AM