Thursday, November 04, 2010

Still I Look to Find A Reason to Believe

"Even with most Americans on our side, the odds are long. We learned long ago that power and privilege never give up anything without a struggle. Money fights hard, and it fights dirty. Think Rove. The Chamber. The Kochs. We may lose. It all may be impossible. But it's OK if it's impossible. Hear the former farmworker and labor organizer Baldemar Velasquez on this. The members of his Farm Labor Organizing Committee are a long way from the world of K Street lobbyists. But they took on the Campbell Soup Company - and won. They took on North Carolina growers - and won, using transnational organizing tactics that helped win Velasquez a "genius" award from the MacArthur Foundation. And now they're taking on no less than R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and one of its principal financial sponsors, JPMorgan-Chase. Some people question the wisdom of taking on such powerful interests, but here's what Velasquez says: 'It's OK if it's impossible; it's OK!' Now I'm going to speak to you as organizers. Listen carefully. The object is not to win. That's not the objective. The object is to do the right and good thing. If you decide not to do anything, because it's too hard or too impossible, then nothing will be done, and when you're on your death bed, you're gonna say, 'I wish I had done something. But if you go and do the right thing NOW, and you do it long enough "good things will happen-something's gonna happen.'

Shades of Howard Zinn!"

---Bill Moyers, speaking at Boston University on October 29, 2010 as part of the Howard Zinn Lecture Series. You can watch the entire lecture here.

"Although we have always benefited from the activities of public-spirited individuals, even men and women of great wealth who recognize that greed as a principle of public conduct often leads to perverse outcomes, the United States Constitution was emphatically not founded on the assumption that either citizens or magistrates could be trusted to act selflessly. If my argument can be taken as a call to republican virtue, it is only so within the modern realist framework devised by Madison and his colleagues in 1787, according to whom government is a response to humanity’s inherent wickedness. Men are not angels, Obama notwithstanding. A properly American call to republican virtue is not a utopian exhortation that our citizens cast aside their private and selfish interests and embark on a course of austere political action, with their eyes fixed on some transcendent public good apart from their own. No, what is required is that Americans take a stand on behalf of their selfish material interests and against those of the monopolies and transnational corporations that have captured our institutions of government. The paradoxical character of our popular corruption is that the people have become slothfully selfless, too absorbed by their ephemeral entertainments and petty cultural disputes to assert their self-interest against the plunderers who rule them.

Surely, however, the American people have not become so servile that they will forever submit to the rule of 1 percent. Surely we are capable of recognizing that the perverse corporate regime that has arisen in our country is a usurpation of popular government. Our Constitution unquestionably recognizes the right of a people to alter its mode of government; we have done so twenty-seven times. We may do so again. We may throw off these bonds and provide new guards for our future security."

---Roger Hodge, from Speak, Money, Harper's Magazine, October 2010, from his book The Mendacity of Hope.