No Time for Fake Activism
Some people find my words on activism abrasive. My words are not welcome to all audiences. However, present realities compel me to say them. And I hope that for those who are shocked, that they feel some internal conflict, that my words stir their too comfortable minds to stretch and think.
My words are based on my direct visualization of the realities in a nation that is now a plutocracy, an empire ruled by corporate power. This is not the time to go through the motions of activism. The ruling class no longer hides its excess, but acts boldly and dares us to challenge it. Every day we see increasing abuses against our land and people but are fooled by the kool-aid of hope and change, hope and change. Isn’t that what we voted for and won?
Hope and change require more than voting. We must reflect honestly on the factors that brought us to this point in time and commit to effective change. Corporate power controls the media and our government. What we must do to shift power back to the people is based on the principles of clarity and uncompromising independence.
We must be clear about exactly what we require as a people. We can no longer be lulled by fantastical words like hope and change. We must know what we mean in concrete terms and have the courage to demand it. For too long in this nation, we have been accepting crumbs. We’ve been grateful for tiny increments of change because we are told that it is all we can have.
We must be uncompromising in our demands. We are talking about our livelihoods, our families, our future, our lives. Every inch that we concede means more for the ruling class and less for the people who are struggling to make ends meet and who are demoralized by the lack of respect for their wellbeing.
And we must be independent. We are the movement for social and economic justice. We are not a political party. We can no longer accept compromise in order to help our favorite candidate win an election. We can no longer accept compromise based on fear of a particular political party coming into power. As long as we vote based on fear, we will continue to be sold out to the corporate interests that pull the strings on our puppet government. We are the movement. Fear us!
Recently I spoke to an audience of activists from an affluent county in an affluent state. They are dedicated activists who spend hours phone-banking, planning educational events and organizing rallies. While these are undoubtedly well-intentioned people, it is important to question whether these actions are effective if they are ultimately willing, as has happened repeatedly, to concede their ends to the agenda of a particular political party. Too many activist groups from both sides of the political spectrum make the mistake of neglecting the above principles. It is easy to do when the consequences don’t have effects on one’s immediate personal situation.
However, those who are uncomfortable daily, who are suffering the abuses of a corporate state, have no difficulty understanding these principles. In fact, they are already putting them into action. A few weeks ago, I attended a single payer health care teach-in with a group of activists in New York City. An unexpected and powerful moment occurred during the afternoon panel. A state legislator was invited to participate. He is a friend to the organizers of the teach-in, somebody who has supported their issue for decades. Following his presentation, a group of activists from the disability community who were in the audience confronted him. While they held signs reading “No more forced poverty” and “We need long-term care,” a gentleman in a wheelchair read a statement into the microphone slowly and passionately. Then they chanted and the rest of the audience joined their protest. The legislator was forced to respond to them.
This was a poignant demonstration of what we must do. How uncomfortable will we have to become before we rise up against the plutocracy? I urge all of us to leave our comfort zones immediately and become active. For me, this has meant committing myself to work for a national single payer/improved Medicare for All health system even when it means confrontation and being arrested. I urge you to think about your actions before you take them. How effective will they be? What would have greater results? You may want to join any of the growing mobilization efforts. Here are two that I know of: www.mobilizeforhealthcare.org and www.forOUReconomy.org.
Margaret Flowers, M.D. is a pediatrician from Maryland who serves as congressional fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program.