What Will You Do About This Today?

Note: Written the last day in March, 2012. This is unedited. All pieces here are posted for particular purposes with specific audiences in mind. Not knowing context can be puzzling and off-putting. Perhaps you should only read what is recommended. For the people from Paradigm Press, please note that a) I plagiarize for good reason here and b) I was in attendance at Riverside Church in 1967. Elaboration, upon request. [Pause.] For those who only want to entertain themselves to death whilst the world wilts… see the LIST OF FILMS BELOW, aesthetic gems; Philip Larkin’s First Sight follows the list, providing something very beautiful and positive.]

What Will You Do About This Today?
Richard King Oxman aptosnews@gmail.com
Founder, The Zinn Institute

I’m not asking anyone to do anything that would take more than an hour of their heartbeats spread out over a period of three years. I’m simply requesting that readers reach me at The Zinn Institute (zinninstituteATGEEyouknowwhatkindofmail.com), and let me know that from now through 2014 I am welcome to contact them with a recommendation for action which follows a fresh paradigm, something that will truly make a difference.

At a recent significant black-led demonstration for Trayvon and against racial profiling Paul Street attended in predominantly white and liberal Iowa City, Iowa, 4 nights ago, a parade of black and anti-racist white speakers did not mention Obama once. They did quote the great black democratic socialist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and referred repeatedly to the continuing problem of racism understood as an institutional and cultural system of oppression and inequality. Their presence and language was (like those of the Occupy Movement that arose in Iowa City and more than 1000 other locations across the country last fall) a testament to the wisdom of the late radical American historian Howard Zinn (onetime advisor to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) on the limits of the nation’s candidate-centered major party politics as an avenue for progressive change. “The really critical thing,” Zinn once wrote, “isn’t who’s sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in – in the streets, in the cafeterias, in the halls of government, in the factories. Who is protesting, who is occupying offices and demonstrating – those are the things that determine what happens.”

When Martin Luther King spoke at Riverside Church in New York City — a year to the day before he was assassinated in Memphis — he described the U.S.A. as “the greatest purveyor of violence on earth.” [Pause.] It’s much worse now, what he was addressing. And if you don’t know that you’re sleeping; I can document what I’m saying definitively, effortlessly upon request. [Pause.] If you are sleeping, perhaps I can wake you up a bit by noting that the U.S. military is, arguably, the greatest single polluter on earth now, and has been for quite some time.

The question is What Will You Do About This Today?.

Directly below are select possible responses:

a. I’m too busy surviving day to day.
b. I’m not an activist.
c. My schedule does not allow for anything new.
d. I’m fighting the good fight in another realm.
e. I’m not feeling well enough to do anything about anything.
f. I don’t want to hear more bad news; I’m overwhelmed.
g. Nothing can be done about that.
h. The U.S. needs to inflict violence on others at times, whatever the consequences.
i. I’m too old for that sort of thing.
j. I’m into moderation, nothing radical.
k. I am doing something, I am making a film.
l. I am doing something, I’m writing lyrics.
m. I am doing something, I go to demonstrations carrying placards.
n. I am doing something, I write letters-to-the-editor of various publications.
o. I am doing something, I am finishing up my next book on that very subject.
p. I am doing something, I am preparing my next lecture on that topic tonight.
q. In fact, I am doing something; you caught me going out the door to a seminar about violence.
r. I intend to bring up your article next year when I attend the conference in Rio.
s. I contact my representatives in Congress regularly.
t. I talk about that stuff all the time with friends, and speak at Occupy GAs.
u. I love reading about that, and sharing articles with others.
v. What are you suggesting, a White Rose action?
w. I am a citizen of another country.
x. I have my children to consider.
y. There are more important things to address, but I do sign petitions upon occasion.
z. No response.

Well, that about does it. Sleeping pills, all.

The thing is, we’re talking about holocausts here which dwarf anything done in the 20th century. Argue about that with me, if you like, BUT the apathy, resignation, self-serving cynicism, ignorance and atomization which contributes to turning the other way won’t do.

Again, I have a proposal for action which follows a new model for doing something. I am not attached to my particular recommendation for movement in solidarity, but it is obligatory that every citizen of the world deal with the above in a different way than they are doing at present. That if they are doing something (following obsolete paradigms) that they supplement their activity, their well-intentioned efforts.

One does not have to agree with those associated with http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hx-G1uhRqA to be motivated into dialogue with me. You don’t necessarily have to commit to ending civilization as we know it, to take a tiny step with me toward addressing something that dwarfs Dachau and all of its satellite camps, surpasses the abominations of Stalin and Mao, and makes a mockery of our so-called democracy.

There IS a deadline attached to this respectful request.

Or did you dream that the dates given for MLK above were a… coincidence?

LIST OF FILMS (in no special order, with full acknowledgement that there are serious omissions vis-a-vis gender, genre and geography, etc. at the moment because I am rushing….):

1. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, Romania)
2. Hunger (Steve McQueen, UK)
3. The Color of Paradise (Majid Majidi, Iran)
4. The Hairdresser’s Husband (Patrice Leconte, France)
5. Down by Law (Jim Jarmusch, U.S.A.)
6. Run Lola Run (Tom Tykwer, Germany)
7. Sense and Sensibility (Ang Lee, UK)
8. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel, U.S.)
9. The Bridge (Bernhard Wicki, West Germany/Austria)
10. Waking Ned Devine (Kirk Jones, U.K./France)
11. The Talented Mr. Ripley (Anthony Minghella, U.S.)
12. The Vanishing (George Sluizer, Netherlands/France)
13. The Tree of Wooden Clogs (Ermanno Olmi, Italy)
14. Winged Migrations (Jacques Perrin/Jacques Cluzaud/Michel Debats, France/Italy/Germany/Spain/Switzerland.
15. Miller’s Crossing (Joel Coen, U.S.)
16. Microcosmos (Claude Barratier/Marie Perennou, France, Switzerland, Italy)
17. Darwin’s Nightmare (Hubert Sauper, France/Belgium/Austria)
18. The Son (Jean-Pierre Dardenne/Luc Dardenne, France/Belgium)
19. Le Trou (Jacques Becker, France)
20. L.A. Confidential (Curtis Hanson, U.S.)
21. Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, U.S.)
22. Rivers and Tides (Thomas Riedelsheimer, Germany/Finland/UK)
23. Korkoro (Tony Gatlif, France) [And/or Latcho Drom?]
24. Enchanted April (Mike Newell, UK)
25. Vera Drake (Mike Leigh, UK) [Or something by Mike.]
26. Ju Dou (Yimou Zhang, China) [Or another masterpiece by Zhang.]

First Sight by Philip Larkin

Lambs that learn to walk in snow
When their bleating clouds the air
Meet a vast unwelcome, know
Nothing but a sunless glare.
Newly stumbling to and fro
All they find, outside the fold,
Is a wretched width of cold.

As they wait beside the ewe,
Her fleeces wetly caked, there lies
Hidden round them, waiting too,
Earth’s immeasureable surprise.
They could not grasp it if they knew,
What so soon will wake and grow
Utterly unlike the snow.