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.


KW HQ said...

When thinking about this kind of thing, whether we're actually making a difference or not, I've been comforted by how positive and strong activists throughout history have been. This is a quote from Howard Zinn that's helped me justify "plugging away":

"And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."

Jughead said...

Hi Alice,
Fisrt off: Loved and miss the "graphic-novel-esque blog.
I too, wonder, ponder, and other wise struggle to reside in some sort of separate peace. By separate peace I speak of the idea (that most often seems like a blind-trust, hope, faith...) that one (you), is not solely one, if enough individuals are independent agents working towards positive change. I do not condone the actions of the dude that crashed, it accomplished nothing. His action only gave 'us' a newsroom gaff at best; and reminded me of how the principles, concepts, and values, of the settlers of this country were wrong (as if we needed anything else added to that list) about rebelling every few years or so being the thing to do. It's just so sad that the story is such a farce to most; and ironic that the reason we laugh, was at least part of the reason the guy did what he thought would get someone to listen. If we have little to no legs to walk on for change, let alone peace or violence, the glib reality is more of this type of thing happening in all our future(s). We try to learn from our countries meager history as a basis for comparison-I think we should look at what has happened in so-called third-world countries to really see what to expect (see: lateral violence). Sad indeed.

fauxtografer said...

speaking of "Capitalist Greed"

Have you seen this?