Monday, June 06, 2005

Decolonize your mind

A powerful essay by environmental activist Andrew Christie appeared in ("You are Spartacus," 6/4/05) on how the power structure of capitalism created a culture that has succeeded in crushing a sense of individual citizens linked to a common purpose - to a collective goal for their own improvement. Through its pervasive influence on everything, even thought, we are taught "to think about the way things are," in ways that benefit the power structure, not we the citizens.

Even the classic populist messages of our times have been appropriated and enslaved to work for commercialism. Dalton Trumbo fought fascism throughout his career, and is perhaps best loved for what might be "the greatest statement of collective action ever managed by a mass medium," wrote Christie, when he wrote the "I am Spartacus" scene in the slave rebellion film which starred Kirk Douglas. That famous image has now been colonized by Pepsi for a new television ad. Sure, it's funny at first, said Christie, but it leaves such gestures of conscience somehow diminished in our minds.

Christie calls on us citizens to decolonize our minds, to think independently, to question everything, to defy the message that we have been defeated:

The lies we are told are not the truth we feel. By being alone and resigned and helpless, ...spending the rest of your life trying to calibrate and get along, sedating your rage or letting it blast forth at the wrong targets -- certain interests are served.

They are the interests of The Way Things Are. There is a reason why we are taught to be alone, resigned and helpless. But we're not. Somewhere, we still know that.

Indeed, that's why many of us blog. The blogosphere is populated with individual citizens expressing themselves as acts of rebellion against a government that no longer represents them, against news media that no longer serve them, and against a greedy class that is waging war against them. It's a revolution, if we choose it to be. If we choose to not allow it to fall prey to commercial appropriation. If we choose to act in conscience.

That brings me to the another of the statements that number among the greatest acts of conscience in our collective memory. You wouldn't have seen it on any of the commercial broadcast networks or cable. PBS aired again last night the documentary on Martin Luther, who used Gutenberg's press to rebel against the Roman Catholic Church. In Luther's time, the Catholic Church was, arguably, the most powerful force in society. At a time when thought was strictly controlled by church authorities, one of the most revolutionary acts in human history was Luther's act of individual conscience, facing down his inquisitors with the proclamation:

"Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen."

To which I might add:

Here we stand, we can do no other. God help us. Amen.


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