On Big Little Corners and Turning Corners

Note: This is an archived site. Each piece, each section was written for a particular purpose, a specific audience… for a given moment in time. Without proper context, an article, etc. can be puzzling, off-putting. Perhaps… only read what’s recommended directly to you. WHAT’S BELOW IS UNEDITED. Anyone reading this might want to glance at the previous posting first… as so much here was inspired by my concern with Oscar Grant’s legacy… and I wouldn’t want readers to be misled by the country music, etc. herein.

On Big Little Corners and Turning Corners
Legal and non-violent, yes, but singular and unprecedented
by Chief Little Black Ox

“If little corners remain the primary priority of activists institutional change is unlikely. If they are the exclusive focus of activists our collective situation is that much worse.” — Howard Zinn

“I just play in my little corner all day, no harm in that.” — Hunter Hayes

It is not an insult or disrespectful in any way to say that citizens who are doing fine activist work in little corners are not doing enough.

Little corners are areas which may be necessary, deserving of applause and support, but which do not move in ongoing solidarity on a macroscopic level… and, thereby, hold us back precluding the possibility of our meeting our larger world deadlines*. For we do have deadlines. And activists — when not engaged in fund raising — are involved in hell raising or creating headlines or making headway in a way that’s not sustainable. Unable to uproot the sources of our horrid momentum. Doomed, as things stand, to simply fight the good fight. We can do more. We must.

*If I feed a starving soul in East Palo Alto or West Oakland — whether it be with nourishment for the body or spiritual sustenance or providing a lead for a gig — it won’t be long before that it all goes for naught if the carcinogens in the air there double, doubling everyone over. [Pause.] This is one example only.

We need movement focused on a single large scale concern. And we need that to follow a new paradigm for protest/change. To channel at least some of our energy together. All of us. [Vigorously, repeatedly, creatively.]

Whilst everyone continues to work in their little corners, there must be acknowledgment that such activity — atomized — can never accomplish what we want in the Big Picture. Even if advances are being made in each of our little corners, a highly unlikely scenario (considering the degree to which each little corner’s success is contingent upon significant advances on the macroscopic level).


1. “ongoing solidarity on a macroscopic level” = Large groups from little corners getting together on a given day to march in circles, placards in hands, is NOT what I’m talking about here. Registering masses of people to vote, encouraging huge numbers to contact their representatives, etc.* also… do not fit the criteria. What AM I talking about? The fact that our obsolete models for pushing change have not worked sufficently must be acknowledged. And from that we must embrace a new paradigm for protest. Upon request, I can delineate an example. I am not attached to it, but it is the only proposal I know of which attempts to move in solidarity along fresh, huge meaningful lines. Email me at tosca.2010@yahoo.com, if you like.

*The way in which students, faculty and workers confronted the Regents of the University of California recently provides an excellent example of a “missed opportunity”…which I’d be happy to discuss with readers upon request. The approach they used is repeated constantly in one form or another… and is destined to dominate our dissent… unless addressed.

2. “considering the degree to which each little corner’s success is contingent upon significant advances on the macroscopic level” = Let’s take one example. Justice for Oscar Grant’s family cannot be achieved sufficiently through the sentencing of Mehserle in isolation. Obviously. If “We All Are Oscar Grant” — which we certainly are — then it is equally true that we all are ALL the victims of injustice. And ongoing success in little corners is contingent upon honoring our symbiotic connection. One can no more save the innocent Afghani or a loved species without being concerned with Oscar’s justice than one can deal with plastic at my local beach without being involved in acid rain or plastic from China. [Pause.] Yes, I can pick up a piece of garbage for recycling exclusively and feel good about it. Just like I can take satisfaction in applying a band aid to a cut (or tourniquet for a severed limb) without taking in what caused it… around the corner.

What institutionalized sickness contributed to the Ultimate Injustice for Oscar and his loved ones… culminating in the agonizing horror of that L.A. courtroom… far, far from the scene of unnecessary murder*? Such will continue to play out and plague us, regardless of the verdict or sentence in any particular case as things stand. In short, there will be no justice for ANYONE as long as there are no institutional changes. As long as we remain tinkering with mild or intermittent reform in little corners.

*Do ask me to delineate the positive (horridly negative) correlation between “distance” with regard predator drones and operators AND the miles involved in L.A. trials for Oakland crimes.

To turn the corner on all issues, we must not permit things to stand as they are. We must upset the toxic game board, so to speak, not just change the positions of our chess pieces, or replace red knights with blue knights. [The toxicity of what I'm calling the "game board" demands that we upset it, not play on it.]

The details concerning HOW to go about creating such a watershed in history are not germane to this discussion unless the reader acknowledges first that the above is true. That unless we do do something in solidarity which follows a new paradigm on a macroscopic level… we are doomed.

I have very deep respect for many well-intentioned, well-educated, experienced activists who are presently working in very BIG (important) little corners, making BIG contributions. Again, they should be applauded and supported. [Pause.] But, though what I’m proposing need not drain them away from their present priorities, that is not enough. [It's noteworthy that very few "little corners" -- clearly and deeply -- acknowledge anything that resembles deadlines. I'm not talking about "deadlines" with regard to such things as gathering signatures.]

We owe it to our collective desire for institutional changes to have a dialogue about WHAT new paradigm can be embraced in solidarity. So that those feeding the poor can deal with the root causes of hunger. So that those treating cancer patients can address presently unacknowledged causes. We must jam together, on an ongoing basis, from fresh angles. [Without dependence on the mainstream media or politicians.]

Working 24×8 (as much as possible*).

*So instructive how so many organizations focused on life and death issues are accessible to souls like me… only 9 to 3, Monday through Friday, weekends being… somehow… not necessary. This is a monumentally important and very neglected point.

At this juncture, I’d say that you’ll probably be turning a huge corner if you act with me without worrying about what others might or might not do down the road.

Contact Richard Around the Bend or at 831-688-8038 in Santa Cruz County, California (at any hour).

June Tabor’s exquisitely lovely Turn of the Road is accessible by clicking on http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2004/12/20/june-tabors-tu r/, and then scrolling down until the see the wedding picture. Across from that photo there’s hot link for the recording which begins with

“Will you walk with me
Beyond the road’s turning,
Where Day takes the valley
That leads into Night?”