Dr. King challenges “The world today demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands we admit that we have been wrong.” Wrong, as he says in 1965, in Vietnam, wrong in Iraq, wrong in Afghanistan, wrong in Lybia and, we might presume, wrong in our motions toward war in Syria and Iran. It demands we admit we have been detrimental to the lives of the peoples of these nations on which we inflict our wars for the wealthy. It demands we admit we have been wrong in spending over a trillion dollars on these wars, at the expense of programs to alleviate poverty and unemployment, to educate and provide good health at home.
Dr. King teaches, “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” Not only to the world community, but to our own intuitive sense of morality and justice. We can only apply apathy to our intuition, mute our morality and distract our sense of values with entertainment and television so long before these senses, like any loved ones whom we continually reject, will begin to repel themselves from us.
Democracy education should raise consciousness among young and old not only of our nation’s wars at home and abroad, but also of our own moral and ethical compass. It should challenge us to involve ourselves in organized efforts of community groups, faith based groups, political and civic groups, to do something daily to keep our conscience alive. Democracy Education should teach Dr. King’s calling, “America’s soul can never be saved, so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men and women the world over.” “Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.”
Three issues surrounding Occupy stand out.
1. The vast majority of the 99% agree we are the 99%.
2. Currently, the Occupy groups are having difficulty speaking for the 99%.
3. Political/economic occupations are tactics to gain specific objectives
The discussions this week among the educators and community leaders with whom we intersect tend to focus on the positive impact of the Occupy effort to clarify the fact that we, the majority, the 99%, suffer at the hands of extreme wealth. This is a great step forward.
The same discussions lead to disappointment that the Occupy effort seems rigid and arrogant, and that some in the effort try to take organizing for a better nation into their own hands to the detriment of others. This lament focuses on Occupy’s apparent stiff arm of unions, community organizations, faith based organizations and others.
Our direct involvement in several occupations over the years seems to affirm that occupations are not just political statements; they are, first and foremost, a political tactic designed to force the adversary to give up sovereignty over the occupied territory. In the State of Washington we participated in four occupations. Continue reading
The leaders of the United States refuse to help stop global climate change. At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban last weekend, the United States led an effort to replace the Kyoto Protocol with a less binding treaty. By far the world’s largest polluter, the United States is the only nation to refuse to ratify the 1997 Protocol, an internationally binding agreement which required developed nations to invest more to stop global warming and greenhouse gas emissions. The new treaty is a U.S. maneuver to slow down the critical efforts to confront the catastrophic crisis of climate change. Under the false argument that all countries should invest the same amount, the U.S. and its EU allies demand more investment from poor and developing countries. They insist the developing nations stop industrializing so that the rich countries can continue industrial contamination at the same or higher rates. In Democracy Education, a comparative study of various countries’ emissions control efforts would help students and others learn why climate change protocols are necessary. Democracy Education helps us know what we can do to get our governments to represent the common good, to stop global climate change. Let us not suffocate the only earth we have.
For any movement to be relevant it must move people in a common direction. Movements can arise among all ideologies: progressive, liberal, conservative or reactionary. The Occupy movement initially moved individuals and groups toward a stance of resisting the dictatorship of extreme wealth. The tactic was the physical occupation of a park near Wall Street. Many other Occupy efforts in other cities also occupied primarily public places. The energy and clarity of passion aroused individuals and groups from many different ideological viewpoints. While some of the Occupy encampments expanded to include artists, intellectuals, unions and other sectors, many encampments hunkered down to hold onto the real estate they occupied.
Then the government (we understand the Department of Justice) and most municipalities where encampments existed commanded their respective police forces to physically remove the occupiers. This led to brutal violations of civil rights, illegal acts of assault by law enforcement, and the development of a significant gap of trust and accountability between law enforcement and elected officials and public administrators. Within the Occupy movement the repression led to a disorientation that was confounded by disunity and those character traits associated with hyper-individualism and the free market mentality. Among some occupiers wild and dangerous proposals began to surface. One of these is the call to close down the ports on the West Coast. This call has come out with the alleged authority of those who handle the official communications for Occupy Oakland and other Occupy locations. According to the official union of the workers who work the ports (the International Longshore and Warehouse Union) they have not sanctioned the port blockade. Various bloggers point out that some individual union members might think the blockade a good idea, but even they have not publicly endorsed the action. It is reckless and divisive to assume you can make the work place safer with better benefits for workers by attacking the very union that works at the port. Such arrogance smells more like the odor of a Wall Street Finance Corporation’s board room than it does any scent coming from a movement that wants to represent the interest of the 99%. Unity of action, mutual respect and dialogue represent progressive strategic moves at this time. Ultimatums and unilateral decisions that go against the interests of an ally spell the demise of those who have driven Occupy into the swamp.
The Occupy Movement represents the most diverse and tenacious effort in decades to address America’s racism, economic injustices and militarism. The thrust of the movement calls upon all sectors to activate themselves for the benefit of all. Indeed, for the benefit of the nation. Occupiers, marchers, those who are sitting-in, standing up, teaching-in and showing up have opened the possibilities for the vast majority of Americans to serve the best interests of all the people.
Over the past decades the American people have mobilized on behalf of specific sectors and particular struggles for justice. The African-American community, Latinos and Native Nations have fought for civil and economic rights. Unions, women’s groups, and students have organized to stop the attacks against their organizations and to expand inclusion in civil society. Many organizations have struggled for specific causes such as opposing the military-industrial complex’s control over our nation’s government and its financial and technological sectors. Others have worked hard on issues of climate change, environmental justice, the prison-industrial complex and the reactionary assault on public education. All these efforts are extremely significant and will continue to be so. Now, however, the opportunity and responsibility of each sector and organization is to rush to get to know each other and to study and develop broad organizations, coalitions and alliances that are dedicated to what Dr. King calls “the study of the levers of power” and the demand to develop political, economic and cultural power. This responsibility will add to the efforts to further the interests of each sector. It will not detract from our own specific struggles. A national-wide struggle for justice, peace and democracy benefits and enriches each effort for inclusion and justice.
Democracy education is taking place in neighborhoods, mass organizations, in schools and on college campuses, in churches, synagogues and temples, and at the kitchen tables across the land. Not since the Great Depression has so many Americans understood so clearly the unjust and greedy role of the opulent 1%, and not since that time has the 99% seen clearly our possibilities and responsibilities to serve the interest of the vast majority. In doing so we not only advance the cause of justice, peace and democracy, we also add to the world-wide struggle to save and serve humanity.
Democracy Education Editors
Democracy education, like all organized education, is relevant in so far as it stems from reality. Human reality includes nature, from the universe to the smallest particle, from the natural as well as social habitat. Reality includes objects, events and experiences that occur in the context of time and space. School is a negative experience for many because it is an imposed series of social and economic experiences that conflict with the real needs and aspirations of significant numbers of individuals and communities. Continue reading
Public education serves as a negative force in many communities. This has not always been the case. For generations, public education held the promise of a life and a nation better than the previous generation. Never perfect, public education functioned as a tool of social uplift in part because the people saw it as such. In recent years, as the needs of our society have shifted, the role and function of public education has shifted as well. Continue reading
test for community organizing category