Friday, February 19, 2010

The Medium Is The Message

“The Communist Creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The Capitalist Creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.”

Those are the closing lines in Joe Stack's suicide letter, the full version of which can be viewed on the Smoking Gun website, at least for now. If you don’t already know, Joe Stack was the man who intentionally crashed his airplane into the IRS building earlier this week in Austin, TX, killing not only himself but at least one other person and injuring several more. Aside from the too obvious comparisons to the 9/11 attacks, there was the grim realization that this was an American citizen who felt he had literally been pushed over the edge. This was a man who truly, completely lost it – much like the character of Howard Beale in the film Network. Only Joe Stack decided to lash out against those whom he saw as his tormentors - the IRS. His widely discussed online suicide note left me with several thought provoking questions and ideas; front and center would be how crashing a plane into a building advances the cause of freedom.

"It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom." I disagree with Stack on this point because we have people who believe they're doing just that in Afghanistan and elsewhere. He goes on to write that by adding his body to the count he is choosing to no longer ignore the hypocrisy of American government, but did he ever stop to think of the other innocent bodies he might be adding to the count? A while back, I wrote a blog entry about whether violence is necessary to bring about real change. I really struggled with the issue because I'd like to be able to answer “no” to that question and yet we see time and time again how newsworthy violence is. "If it bleeds, it leads," is just as true today as it ever was.

Would I be reading Joe Stack’s ideas if he had blogged quietly about his frustrations and then hanged himself in his closet, instead of piloting his plane into the side of a federal building? So does a message need to be wrapped in violence to be heard? Are we the apathetic "American zombies" Joe accuses us of being?

Joe and I have some common foes: he criticizes the government bailouts, the abuses of big business and the Republican legacy to name a few. I rant and rave about some of the same issues he voices in his letter on my own website. Sometimes, by virtue of being a musician, I get to do interviews and rant and rave in other public venues. People who don't have a public side but want to make a difference can vote or work for political or social causes, but are we really heard? Is anyone really even listening?

I'd like to think so, I'd like to think we can make small, consistent changes by plugging away, each of us moving a little grain of sand at a time until we've built a new shoreline. I believe we can change the world from the inside out. Corny, I know. I am corny, but I've seen my share of violence and I know how it taints and can destroy what it touches. I know that it would eat me alive if I let violence back in my life.

So, does it serve the cause of freedom to crash a plane and sacrifice oneself in the hope of being the spark that ignites a revolution? I don't know.