O Bailan Todos O No Baile Nadie: Intro to TOSCA

NOTE: Please see note which heads the previous posting before reading this blah blah. This too is unedited; hopefully I will tweak it later. Hunger by the Brit Steve McQueen — an absolutely brilliant film — focuses on a famous hunger strike which sent ripples roaring worldwide. I submit that if the hunger strikers insist upon persisting with their means of the moment, a larger agenda be seriously considered. For the passion and laudable courage they are exhibiting is highly inspiring, and optimal use should be made of such beautiful heartbeats. That said, I have an option to offer… which will not require their current form of protest. And that is what this article is about. UPDATE: The most recent entries under ‘Updates’ below are obligatory reading. It’s all very negative, but necessary to digest at this juncture, March 14th. Very sad, very sad, indeed. March 16th, about 8am: Still no follow-up from Kayla or anyone. No chance to discuss the thrust of what’s in http://www.zcommunications.org/todays-lesson-student-strikes-keep-educ ation-affordable-by-scott-weinstein, let alone do something about it in California. That said, contact from YOU could make all the difference. I am at aptosnews@gmail.com.

O Bailan Todos O No Baile Nadie: Intro to TOSCA
by The Ox

A member of the Tupamaros of Uruguay spoke those words to me… decades ago. It’s time. [Pause.] For everyone to start dancing.

I’m going to encourage those young women off of their hunger strike. For good reason. Encourage/support them otherwise. And I’m going to try my best to get other activists to start coming up with THEIR singular ways of combating the horror which faces them… which rises way way way way above the unacceptable budget cuts in education. [Pause.] No, you can’t just look after your immediate personal needs, desires. No, you are obligated to consider the plight of others. And not just for them. For enlightened self-interest. For once you save your teachers and the programs which directly impact on your daily life right here and now, the ongoing collective threats from all quarters will either force rollbacks, color your appreciation of your gains negatively, or simply overwhelm the inroads made, making them too toxic to enjoy. O bailan todos o no baile nadie.

And the means one employs as an activist are equally important.

My main mentor in the 60s once had me recite William Ernest Henley’s famous Invictus. Then he asked me thought. “Right on,” I replied, immediately. He shook his head. Then he underscored that there was one thing that I should never forget. “If he was the master of what he suggests he is master of he wouldn’t have (necessarily, he meant) written the poem in English,” he said. Meaning, that Henley was influenced by his environment, including the time and place of one’s birth. Meaning, that anyone tends to act differently, speak differently and so on, contingent upon whether or not they live along a river, by the sea or in a valley, or on a mountaintop. By a toxic river vs. a pristine one makes a diff too, of course, as do the — let’s say – infinite number of variables that go into our declaring we’re masters of our fate in any language (from a particular angle), or declaring that we’re going to… change things. And how.

You’re going to push the powers-that-be this way and that? How’s that? [Pause.] And how exactly did you come up with that particular paradigm for action? Did you get whilst walking along the river? In Upsaala, Sweden or… in Uruguay? And when was that? [Pause.] I won’t insult your intelligence any further. But I will INSIST that you get with me ASAP. And in person, not via the high tech gadgetry… that’s so so so so so so so fashionable these days, here and about.

Let us have a bout of deep dialogue. In confidence… without megaphones… not in any General Assembly festooned with God knows who! [Pause.] A relaxed rendezvous with no frenetic sound bites substituting for analysis.

[Pause.]

I’m not into Opera, but it does have revolutionary roots, its elitist anchor these days notwithstanding. Its radical roots might have had something to do — subliminally — with my choosing TOSCA as an acronym for Taking Over the State of California, also known in some milder circles as Transforming Our State of California.

Here’s a germane little rap about a 19th-century production of the Puccini’s classic piece:

In Buenos Aires, during a performance conducted by Erich Kleiber, the first two acts had gone very well. But during the brief intermission the stage director discovered, to his horror, he had no guards to chase Tosca to the battlements. In a panic, he rushed out to a cafe around the corner where he asked for five volunteers: five lads stepped forward and the director rushed them to the dressing rooms, where they were rapidly readied to step onto the stage, fully prepared in shining costumes. The final act was almost over and they gathered in the wings just as Tosca discovered her lover Mario lying dead at her feet. With no time to spare he pointed to the sobbing heroine — the stage director — and issued the command “Follow that woman!”. As they rushed out to chase her, Tosca threw herself off the battlements — promptly followed, lemming-like, by the five volunteers.

[Pause.]

I want to discuss the details of TOSCA, which will help the students to secure significant reins of power over their collective fates in short order… legally and nonviolently. Following a fresh paradigm. A model for action which has not been cookie-cutter created by the cursed failures of the past that keep getting propped up — as in a sad stage production plagued by decrepit scenery and a very sick scenario — in the name of fighting the good fight is sufficient. Which is not dependent on leaders and “backup” who do not really know the circumstances they’re in, or the roles they’re playing, players who are only wearing the designed (activist) costume of the moment.

I want to help one and all to view the silliness and bad habits from the mountaintop. I want to guide some core activists along the seashore of possibilities. I want a river to run through us which has as its source… heart, head and soul in a healthy place. Without this particular time and place which plagues us dictating the means, the parameters.

It’s time to dance.

But I can’t take a buoyant step while I know some people are without food, and some are without much more than that. That our societal momentum is rumbling over our natural rhythm.

Contact the author at aptosnews@gmail.com

UPDATES: 3:18pm = No contact from anyone yet.

About 7pm: Zip.

After 11pm: Still no dancing. Word around the house is that someone did call earlier, but left no message, and did not call again. Not receiving a courtesy email either as a follow-up makes me think that it probably wasn’t connected to my appeal to the San Leandro community.

7:45AM, MARCH 11TH: No word yet from anyone. This morning I am thinking about Christian Gomez and his recent hunger strike and his ‘impact’… or lack of it… in terms that he and others striking with him had hoped for. [Pause.] I am looking forward to talking with the parents of the young women striking at San Leandro.

After 8AM
: I am thinking back to my recent contact with KBBF Radio, California Youth Outreach and the SAY people of Santa Rosa, who I made a great effort with for the purpose of working in solidarity. THAT dynamic, what unfolded, should be one of the topics I discuss with the San Leandro community, for it should be highly instructive… with regard to the optimal way we should proceed. Lingering question: Why aren’t any of those people/organizations ‘involved’ in the hunger strike, or addressing the issues associated with it… in solidarity?

8:50AM: I keep getting emails sent to faculty at San Leandro returned to me as undeliverable. Thinking of hunger in general in addressing the hunger strike, and I’m struck by the latest figures on the subject. Also… thinking about how high finance starves people. And how it’s like pulling teeth trying to get a simple conversation going on the subject, let alone meaningful action in solidarity.

10:05am: What exactly is going on? Thank you, but no thanks would be somewhat acceptable (certainly the minimal courtesy), but… nothing? Are the students no longer on a hunger strike? That shouldn’t be a reason to not respond, or am I wrong? Are the faculty members simply busy this morning, not even having had a chance to look at their emails yet? Did none of the educators look at their missives on the weekend? What about the journalists contacted? Are the adults who envelop the striking students and their families serving as a conscious obstacle between me and those citizens? Are they of the same mind somehow as the adults who officially represent Social Activists for Youth and California Youth Outreach, organizations which — with their lack of interest in my offers to volunteer — puzzle me to this day? And what about that bilingual newspaper which I contacted regarding Latino issues, the one which clearly didn’t want to have anything to do with rocking the boat? Are the San Leandro adults of the same attitudinal set? Whatever the answers are, they won’t explain how I was able to meet for a couple of hours with President Alicia Sanchez of KBBF-FM radio recently, secure her wildly enthusiastic support in person for TOSCA, and who promised to connect me with the station’s Program Director. What happened? [Pause.] Nothing. This is not sleeping at the wheel. And it’s worse, it seems, than not even being in the car. Rather, this is more like not remembering where one parked the car. Or not being able to recall if one even has a vehicle. That said, I do still believe that if I can make direct contact with the striking students and/or their loved ones some excellent energy can be channeled.

5:20pm as per the new time - About an hour ago I noticed that at noon or 1pmish something came in from a friend of the strikers, responding to my desperation post on Patch. I replied immediately, of course, answering her questions about me and my agenda, and requested that she spread the word that the families and loved ones of the strikers be informed that I’m trying to reach them. [Pause.] Let’s see if a connection is created and how long that takes. I also asked the question of why the mainstream media wasn’t covering the strike repeatedly and vigorously. There are a number of alternative media outlets that should be jumping on this story morning, noon and night. Why isn’t that happening? That may be the very first thing I ask once contacted is established.

8:10AM, Wednesday, March 14th
: Well, well, well… the hunger strikers were fooled… as per the temporary halt to the strike, the agreement delineated in http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_20168444/san-leandro-high-school-st udents-end-hunger-strike. The temporary settlement is disingenuous, and everyone protesting the educational cuts is now going to get screwed royally. What is wrong with citizens not being able to see that such an “agreement” — not binding in any significant way — was on the opposition’s agenda? I’m not so blind as to not see that some of members of the Board are being honest in expressing compassion, etc. That’s not an issue here. What IS the issue is the fact that the momentum in the state’s budgetary crisis and the national momentum on the same clearly condemns quality education for the foreseeable future with or without that initiative being passed in November, in which basket all eggs are being placed. I could definitively establish that for those concerned if they’d only contact me as per my repeated requests. But I haven’t heard a word from anyone except some intermediary — some stranger who emailed me promising to pass on my missives to one of the strikers — yesterday. Not a soul from the so-called Social Justice Academy at San Leandro High School, or anyone else at the institution, has seen fit to do me the courtesy of even saying Thanks, but no thanks to my pleas for a discussion of the issues, interaction. Nothing. Zip. Zero. Why doesn’t that speak volumes to anyone? Why is that not highly instructive to those who think EDUCATION will be served sufficiently by simply securing additional funds for what’s now in place? The face of education is very ugly at present, in part, because educators are unwilling to engage citizens in deep dialogue. They are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, too busy (like everyone else) propping up an atomized society’s horrific values and momentum. Too chicken, as they say, to confront the daunting challenges staring them in the face? [Pause.] Oh, I really don’t think that going without eating chicken for a week says anything positive in this context, especially when everything pretty much gets back to normal on the basis of the chicken feed offered up in the link above.

A sample of my communication with the intermediary mentioned above in the March 14th, 8:10AM entry:

Hi, ______. I appreciate everything. Truly. That said, your opinion, your feedback — along with that of every other citizen — is germane here. Kayla — bless her — is really no more important in the scheme of things than anyone else, and I have a feeling that she would agree. I am trying to form some new kind of movement in solidarity, and the issues which concern Kayla in the academic world are part of my concerns. As a hunger striker, her passion and the passion of those others striking struck me as indicating that she was serious about her concerns, and willing to go the extra mile, as they say, to change things. Whether or not she’ll be open to discussing how necessary it is to address other issues simultaneously in order to achieve her immediate goals is an open question. As is the question of whether or not she’s stuck in the rutt of only considering one tactic, one strategy for achieving her goals. I firmly believe that she and the others need to consider options, or at least supplementary moves. The meeting tonight that she’s going to is going to be a big PR op for the opposition, and I pray that she won’t go away from it harboring any hope based on what the powers that be say, or promise. Please pass the word to more than just Kayla, okay? I’d like to interact with you on this, but I don’t want to be presumptuous.
Best, Richard

Almost 7pm, Thursday, March 15th: Kayla wrote to me yesterday, but since then has not followed through, has not responded to my subsequent messages. No one on her end has. This sort of thing — which I encounter quite often — is deeply troubling.