NSDJ63 Father Richard Mapplebeckpalmer Conversation
Father Richard Mapplebeckpalmer Interviewed by Jay Sordean. In this freeranging and yet structured interview and discussion, old friends –Father Richard Mapplebeckpalmer (aka Father Richard) and Dr. Jay –have a chance to muse and ponder on many topics that may or may not have anything to do with health. Certainly the topics cover the gamut from physics to philosophy. As Father Richard Mapplebeckpalmer is well versed in conversation on all of these topics and more.
NOTE: The podcast (audio) of the video is a clearer audio track than the one on the video. http://www.richardmapplebeckpalmer.com “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” Fr.RM
NSDJ63 Father Richard Mapplebeckpalmer Conversation
Preface to this part of the blog: Father Richard Mapplebeckpalmer sent me this email as a guidance ralated to the conversation we had and a deeper purpose:
Our Dear Jay:
When we enjoy our filmed Conversations over the coming months, our concern should be with Strategic aims. The Tactics must be entrusted to those in Government, both local, City, County and up to Federal and the UN.
So let us compose our filmed Conversations with this to guide us, bearing in mind the opening sound byte of the 4th Gospel:
In the beginning is Conversation and Conversation is with Godde and Conversation is Godde. All things come to be in Conversation and without Conversation nothing comes to be that comes to be.
The Long Term Vision for our filmed Concerns is for our Species as a Global Whole. We began some 500,000 years ago in Local Clusters of hominids. Finally, 60,000 Years Ago we began to cluster into Jungle Communities as Homo Sapiens sapiens “came out of Australia”*
[* The current generation of young archeologists are reviewing the actual evidence for the old Out of Africa Theory. They are reporting their conclusions that all the evidence now coming in from South East Asia is, like Homo Floriensis (the Hobbits of Java) and others, pointing to our original exodus as Homo Sapiens sapiens coming out of Australia. Hence my devotion to the old Australian native concept of The Dreamtime].
After the last Ice Age, (that began to recede only 13,000 Years Ago), some of us commenced, very gradually, to leave our ancient Jungelized Igloo and Wigwam dwellings to cluster together in local fishing, farming and hunting communities.
And then, as our technology became more sophisticated in the late Neolithic), we slowly gathered into Cities. So after Localization and Jungelization came Civilization (our 3rd Phase of Evolution).
The next (4th Phase) is Globalization. But this will only evolve in a healthy way for our Species if it remains rooted in Localization. Localization and Globalization being the current rhythmic beat of Human Evolution that any Human Strategy must aim at synchronizing.
This 4th phase in the evolution of Humanity is paving the way for Humanization — the 5th and ever renewing phase — (looking ahead a further 60,000 years. A mere blink of an eye from an evolutionary perspective!
At the moment National Governments imagine them-selves as the Master Strategists. This is the illusion governing the bitter political non-conversatons between our ideological “enemy parties” — a mind-set that is steering our Species toward shipwreck.
As Nathan Heller’s article in one of last month’s New Yorkers (Aug,21) argues, the STRATEGY for articulating the Aims of Globalization must be firmly in LOCAL HANDS!. At Government levels the rest is TACTICS. Those we must entrust our elected representatives to enact under politically neutral Governors as George Washington envisioned.
It is our responsibility as a Species, to Imagine the world that we will feel most comfortable in and publicize the goals that will ensure this happens.
I imagine that this is the calling of all local Interfaith Councils throughout the word. One that our own Contra Costa County’s Interfaith Council is vigorously pursuing, under the moderation of Will McGarvey.
Father Richard Mapplebeckpalmer
Now read Nathan’s observations below:
That winter of 2003—you remember it, and so do I—the world assembled, arms linked, to protest the prospect of war in Iraq. What times those were, and how the passions swelled. The fervor of the public reached a peak on February 15th, when millions of people in more than 60 countries claimed the streets, voicing their opposition.
“listen to us,” a sign in London read. In New York, demonstrators stormed the avenues with a huge inflatable globe. Young and old turned out, and citizens and foreigners. A few weeks later, the United States was at war.
Whatever. Less than a decade later, in New York, Occupy Wall Street arose to attack the misdeeds of the finance industry, the stranglehold of corporate power, and the predations of inequality. For 2 months, in the Autumn of 2011, demonstrators camped, collaborated, and convened in Zuccotti Park, in lower Manhattan. By the time they were evicted, Occupy had spread to more than 900 cities worldwide. No U.S. policies had changed.
Soon enough, it was 2014. A movement known as Black Lives Matter marshalled demonstrations in Missouri and across the nation, using not just signs but hashtags to help spread the word. The highest-profile B.L.M. protests received front-page coverage in every major paper in the country.
Demonstrators protested, by name, the killings of more than 40 unarmed black people by law-enforcement officers. A majority of these officers were not indicted, however; of those that were, 3 were found guilty. To date, only one of the convicted has received a prison sentence.
Oh, but do you recall that Saturday this past January? Throughout the nation and in nearly 700 cities all across the world, millions of people assembled for the Women’s March, chanting both for female empowerment and against the just inaugurated President. The hats were great. The signswere better. The boulevards in cities including New York, Washington, London—even L.A., where humans rarely walk—were riverine with marchers. It was said to be the largest single-day demonstration in the history of the United States. Then Monday came, and the new Administration went about its work as planned.
For centuries, on the right and the left alike, it has been an article of faith that, in moments of sharp civic discontent, you and I and everyone we know can take to the streets, demanding change. The First Amendment enshrines such efforts, protecting “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” From the Stamp Act boycotts of the seventeen-sixties to the 1913 suffrage parade and the March on Washington, in 1963, protesters have pushed proudly through our history. Along the way, they have given us great—well, playable—songs. (Tom Lehrer: “The reason most folk songs are so atrocious is that they were written by the People.”)
Abroad, activism drove the Arab Spring and labor movements in Macau, while outrages shared across continents triggered such events as the feminism-and-rationalism-flaunting event known as Boobquake. So strident was Boobquake that it elicited a counter-campaign, called Brainquake. All this expressiveness, we think, is good.
Still, what has protest done for us lately? Smartphones and social media are supposed to have made organizing easier, and activists today speak more about numbers and reach than about lasting results. Is protest a productive use of our political attention? Or is it just a bit of social theatre we perform to make ourselves feel virtuous, useful, and in the right?
In “Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work” (Verso), a book published in 2015, then updated and reissued this past year for reasons likely to be clear to anyone who has opened a newspaper, Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams question the power of marches, protests, and other acts of what they call “folk politics.” These methods, they say, are more habit than solution. Protest is too fleeting. It ignores the structural nature of problems in a modern world.
“The folk-political injunction is to reduce complexity down to a human scale,” they write. This impulse promotes authenticity-mongering, reasoning through individual stories (also a journalistic tic), and a general inability to think systemically about change. In the immediate sense, a movement such as Occupy wilted because police in riot gear chased protesters out of their spaces. But, really, the authors insist, its methods sank it from the start by channelling the righteous sentiments of those involved over the mechanisms of real progress.
“This is politics transmitted into pastime—politics-as-drug-experience, perhaps—rather than anything capable of transforming society,” Srnicek and Williams write. “If we look at the protests today as an exercise in public awareness, they appear to have had mixed success at best. Their messages are mangled by an unsympathetic media smitten by images of property destruction—assuming that the media even acknowledges a form of contention that has become increasingly repetitive and boring.”
Boring? Ouch. The criticism stings because Srnicek and Williams aren’t wing nuts of the right, or stodgy suits, or even quailing centrists. They are Marx-infused leftists who aspire to a “post-work,” open-bordered world. They believe that society can change—must change—in order to phase out capitalism as a system. Their objection to protest and direct action defies generations of radical zeal. “The people, united, will never be defeated!” the old street chant goes. These lefties say that, actually, they will.
The difficulty, in their eyes, is that the left, despite its pride in being progressive, is mired in nostalgia. “Petitions, occupations, strikes, vanguard parties, affinity groups, trade unions: all arose out of particular historical conditions,” they say. They think that modernizing these things for an internationalized, digitized world will free us from what they vividly call our “endless treadmill of misery.” Protest is fine for digging in your heels. But work for change needs to be pragmatic and up-to-date. “Inventing the Future” may be the shrewdest, sanest pipe dream of a book published since the recession.
In their smokier moments, Srnicek and Williams encourage “postcapitalist” change across society, often through drastic means. They aspire to shorten the workweek, introduce a generous and global basic income, and release people from the mind-set that makes such things seem lazy and weird. They look forward to the ever-nearing day when robots take our jobs. (The more work we toss to C-3PO, they explain, the easier it will be to escape the capitalist churn of laboring for our keep.) Mostly, they’re self-aware enough to concede that these ideas border on the utopian. Yet their portrait of a mindless, knee-jerk activist left “predicated upon critiques of bureaucracy, verticality, exclusion and institutionalisation” seems grounded and real. Can protest be made great again? Or are the people simply raising their fists to the skies?
An odd and revealing feature of American culture over the past half century is that its protest trends and its workplace ideals mirror each other. Just as businesses have sought to escape the old corporate strictures by encouraging flexible and off-site work and by flattening hierarchies (sometimes even eliminating managers), protesters have tried to move past the groaning actions of the past by coördinating instantly across distance and embracing leaderless or “horizontal” movements. This is usually easier said than done; the hardest aspect of working without leaders tends to be working at all. A nagging question is how to get the people going when there’s no Gandhi to lead the charge.
NSDJ63 Father Richard Mapplebeckpalmer Interview
This challenge lies at the core of “Assembly” (Oxford), by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, two political philosophers who try to figure out how movements can be led well without leaders. “Gone are the days, on the one hand, when a political vanguard could successfully take power in the name of the masses,” they write. “On the other, it is a terrible mistake to translate valid critiques of leadership into a refusal of sustained political organization and institution.” Hardt and Negri also work in the Marxist tradition, and their book is light on details from society and extremely heavy on abstract forces. Sometimes, they seem to be describing less the art of the possible than the fluid mechanics of a gas.
(“As capitalists, under the rule of finance, lose their innovative capacities and are gradually excluded from the knowledge of productive socialization, the multitude increasingly generates its own forms of cooperation and gains capacities for innovation . . .”)
Their scheme is apt to be of greater interest to a fellow with a lot of whiteboard markers than to somebody with a handmade poster in the street.
That’s a shame, because empowering those they call “the multitude” is what their program is supposedly about. According to the classical model of protest, strategy (the big idea, the master plan) falls to a movement’s leaders, while tactics (the moves you make, the signs you wave, the action in the street) fall to the people on the ground.
One of Hardt and Negri’s cornerstone ideas is that the formula should be flipped: strategy goes to the movement masses, tactics to the leadership. In theory, this allows movements to stay both nimble (an emergency on the ground is when you call in the brass) and on guard against autocracy (no group can decide for the many). “People do not need to be given the party line to inform and guide their practice,” they write. “They have the potential to recognize their oppression and know what they want.” Possibly Hardt and Negri have much clearer-minded friends than you or I do.
And yet their inquiry highlights an important feature of contemporary activism. In “Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism” (Verso), L. A. Kauffman assesses movements of the past half century not as scattered uprisings but as phases of an overarching project. It’s often assumed that today’s style of protest flowed naturally out of the nineteen-sixties. But Kauffman sees the end of that decade as a kind of meteor strike that left radicalism atomized, chaotic, and fractured. Our current radical-action culture, she thinks, really started in the early seventies, when a new generation of green shoots rose up from the ash.
She places its start at the moment of a famous failure: the Mayday Vietnam protest of 1971, when 25,000 people blockaded bridges and intersections around Washington, D.C. A manual describing the demonstration’s tactics allowed Nixon’s Attorney General to summon the police, the military, and the National Guard preëmptively. More than 7,000 protesters were arrested. Mary McGrory, a journalist who was sympathetic to the cause, described it as “the worst planned, worst executed, most slovenly, strident and obnoxious peace action ever committed.”
Kauffman disagrees. The spectre of the protest rattled the Administration, she points out. What’s more, it marked the shift toward the tactics-driven approach that we still follow today. “The last major national protest against the Vietnam War, Mayday was also a crucial first experiment with a new kind of radicalism,” she writes. It was less about moral leadership than about the fact of obstruction. It embraced whatever—and whoever—forced the hand of power. “You do the organizing,” the Mayday manual read. “This means no ‘movement generals’ making tactical decisions you have to carry out.”
It is hard to overstate what a fresh idea this seemed—or how deeply it’s now seated in our notions of activist assembly, down to “soft” protests like flash mobs and Critical Mass. Authority, in the new tactical model, arose from the number of people who showed up.
It swept away the need for common principles or precisely coördinated strategies; the choices behind public protest could be personal and private.
As Srnicek and Williams observe, “Folk politics prefers that actions be taken by participants themselves—in its emphasis on direct action, for example—and sees decision-making as something to be carried out by each individual rather than by any representative.” After the labyrinthine doctrine of late-sixties movements, this freedom was new.
Kauffman tells us that in the seventies, under this model, “alt” organizing movements started to emerge in the corners of society, usually with modest and local ambitions—the Park Slope Food Coop, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, and other Birkenstocky citadels.
To the extent that such projects made political arguments, they were expressed through what is often called “prefigurative” politics: you behave according to the rules of the society you hope to create.
Queer and punk activism, well-practiced in work at the periphery, took a lead, and paved a road into the eighties, with theatrical protests at the 1984 Democratic National Convention; the audacious, enormously successful efforts by act up to change aids policy; and the pushy, calculating Earth First! movement, which sought to “make it more costly for those in power to resist than to give in.”
Kauffman follows this lineage of tactical activism up to and beyond the era of Iraq War demonstrations. She focusses on New York’s Iraq protest of February 15, 2003—purportedly the largest action in decades, organized quickly. But she shrugs off its lack of effect. “Sometimes you protest just to register a public objection to policies you have no hope of changing,” she explains. Movements might have lost their leaders, gained force, and offered personal autonomy. Yet they hadn’t acquired the crucial thing—a good crack at success.
History provides an especially sharp rejoinder to those who doubt the sustained power of protest: the civil-rights movement. From the mid-fifties to the mid-sixties, activists successfully worked to roll back school segregation, public-transit segregation, interstate-bus segregation, restaurant segregation, poll taxes, employment discrimination, and more.
It happened, piece by piece, under politically entrenched and physically threatening conditions. Its efficacy was virtually unmatched in our national past. The civil-rights movement preceded the protest meteor of the late sixties, but, for a new generation eager for change, it showed what was possible by taking to the streets.
Why did civil-rights protest work where recent activism struggles?
The question looms behind Zeynep Tufekci’s “Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest” (Yale).
Tufekci is, by training, a sociologist, and her research centers on the place where protest and digital media meet. She was in Chiapas, Mexico, among the Zapatistas, in the nineties; in Tahrir Square for Egypt’s revolution; in lower Manhattan for Occupy Wall Street; and at Istanbul’s Gezi Park for protests of the Erdoğan government. She spent a heroic amount of time in these protests’ digital antechambers, too, attending a Tunisian meet-up of Arab bloggers and visiting the café offices of self-made social-media reporters. Yet she has a mixed review of their successes.
“Modern networked movements can scale up quickly and take care of all sorts of logistical tasks without building any substantial organization cavity before the first protest or march,” she writes. “However, with this speed comes weakness.”
Tufekci believes that digital-age protests are not simply faster, more responsive versions of their mid-century parents. They are fundamentally distinct. At Gezi Park, she finds that nearly everything is accomplished by spontaneous tactical assemblies of random activists—the Kauffman model carried further through the ease of social media. “Preexisting organizations whether formal or informal played little role in the coordination,” she writes. “Instead, to take care of tasks, people hailed down volunteers in the park or called for them via hashtags on Twitter or WhatsApp messages.” She calls this style of off-the-cuff organizing “adhocracy.” Once, just getting people to show up required top-down coördination, but today anyone can gather crowds through tweets, and update, in seconds, thousands of strangers on the move.
At the same time, she finds, shifts in tactics are harder to arrange. Digital-age movements tend to be organizationally toothless, good at barking at power but bad at forcing ultimatums or chewing through complex negotiations. When the Gezi Park occupation intensified and the Turkish government expressed an interest in talking, it was unclear who, in the assembly of millions, could represent the protesters, and so the government selected its own negotiating partners. The protest diffused into disordered discussion groups, at which point riot police swarmed through to clear the park. The protests were over, they declared—and, by that time, they largely were.
The missing ingredients, Tufekci believes, are the structures and communication patterns that appear when a fixed group works together over time.
That practice puts the oil in the well-oiled machine. It is what contemporary adhocracy appears to lack, and what projects such as the postwar civil-rights movement had in abundance. And it is why, she thinks, despite their limits in communication, these earlier protests often achieved more.
Tufekci describes weeks of careful planning behind the yearlong Montgomery bus boycott, in 1955. That spring, a black fifteen-year-old named Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat on a bus and was arrested. Today, though, relatively few people have heard of Claudette Colvin. Why? Drawing on an account by Jo Ann Robinson, Tufekci tells of the Montgomery N.A.A.C.P.’s shrewd process of auditioning icons. “Each time after an arrest on the bus system, organizations in Montgomery discussed whether this was the case around which to launch a campaign,” she writes.
“They decided to keep waiting until the right moment with the right person.” Eventually, they found their star: an upstanding, middle-aged movement stalwart who could withstand a barrage of media scrutiny. This was Rosa Parks.
On Thursday, December 1st, eight months after Colvin’s refusal to give up her seat, Parks was arrested. That night, Robinson, a professor at Alabama State College, typed a boycott announcement three times on a single sheet of paper and began running it through the school’s mimeograph machine, for distribution through a local network of black social organizations. The boycott, set to begin on Monday morning, was meant to last a single day. But so many joined that the organizers decided to extend it—which necessitated a325-vehicle carpool network to get busless protesters to work.
Through such scrupulous engineering, the boycott continued for 381 days. Parks became a focal point for national media coverage, while Colvin and four other women were made plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, the case that, rising to the Supreme Court, got bus segregation declared unconstitutional.
What is striking about the bus boycott is not so much its passion, which is easy to relate to, as its restraint, which—at this moment, especially—is not.
No outraged Facebook posts spread the news when Colvin was arrested. Local organizers bided their time, slowly planning, structuring, and casting what amounted to a work of public theatre, and then built new structures as their plans changed. The protest was expressive in the most confected sense, a masterpiece of control and logistics. It was strategic, with the tactics following. And that made all the difference in the world.
Tufekci suggests that, among that era’s successes, deliberateness of this kind was a rule. She points out how, in preparation for the March on Washington, in 1963, a master plan extended even to the condiments on the sandwiches distributed to marchers. (They had no mayonnaise; organizers worried that the spread might spoil in the August heat.)
And she focusses on the role of the activist leader Bayard Rustin, who was fixated on the audio equipment that would be used to amplify the day’s speeches. Rustin insisted on paying lavishly for an unusually high-quality setup. Making every word audible to all of the quarter-million marchers on the Mall, he was convinced, would elevate the event from mere protest to national drama. He was right.
Before the march, Martin Luther King, Jr., had delivered variations on his “I Have a Dream” speech twice in public. He had given a longer version to a group of 2,000 people in North Carolina. And he had presented a second variation, earlier in the summer, before a vast crowd of a 100,000 at a march in Detroit. The reason we remember only the Washington, D.C., version, Tufekci argues, has to do with the strategic vision and attentive detail work of people like Rustin.
Framed by the Lincoln Memorial, amplified by a fancy sound system, delivered before a thousand-person press bay with good camera sight lines, King’s performance came across as something more than what it had been in Detroit—it was the announcement of a shift in national mood, the fulcrum of a movement’s story line and power. It became, in other words, the rarest of protest performances: the kind through which American history can change.
Tufekci’s conclusions about the civil-rights movement are unsettling because of what they imply. People such as Kauffman portray direct democracy as a scrappy, passionate enterprise: the underrepresented, the oppressed, and the dissatisfied get together and, strengthened by numbers, force change.
Tufekci suggests that the movements that succeed are actually proto-institutional: highly organized; strategically flexible, due to sinewy management structures; and chummy with the sorts of people we now call élite’s.
The Montgomery N.A.A.C.P. worked with Clifford Durr, a patrician lawyer whom Franklin Roosevelt had appointed to the F.C.C., and whose brother-in-law Hugo Black was a Supreme Court Justice when Browder v. Gayle was heard. The organizers of the March on Washington turned to Bobby Kennedy—the U.S. Attorney General and the brother of the sitting President—when Rustin’s prized sound system was sabotaged the day before the protest. Kennedy enlisted the Army Signal Corps to fix it. You can’t get much cozier with the Man than that. Far from speaking truth to power, successful protests seem to speak truth through power.
(The principle holds for such successful post-sixties movements as act up, with its structure of caucuses and expert working groups. And it forces one to reassess the rise of well-funded “Astroturf” movements such as the Tea Party: successful grassroots lawns, it turns out, have a bit of plastic in them, too.) Democratizing technology may now give the voiceless a means to cry in the streets, but real results come to those with the same old privileges—time, money, infrastructure, an ability to call in favors—that shape mainline politics.
Unsurprisingly, this realization irks the Jacobins. Hardt and Negri, as well as Srnicek and Williams, rail at length against “neoliberalism”: a fashionable bugaboo on the left, and thus, unfortunately, a term more often flaunted than defined. (Neoliberalism can broadly refer to any program that involves market-liberal policies—privatization, deregulation, etc.—and so includes everything from Thatcher’s social-expenditure reductions to Obama’s global-trade policies.
A moratorium on its use would help solidify a lot of gaseous debate.)
According to them, neoliberalism lurks everywhere that power resides, beckoning friendly passersby into its drippy gingerbread house. Hardt and Negri dismiss “participating in government, respecting capitalist discipline, and creating structures for labor and business to collaborate,” because, they say, “reformism in this form has proven to be impossible and the social benefits it promises are an illusion.”
They favor antagonistic pressure, leading to a revolution with no central authority (a plan perhaps more promising in theory than in practice). Srnicek and Williams don’t reject working with politicians, though they think that real transformation comes from shifts in social expectation, in school curricula, and in the sorts of things that reasonable people discuss on TV (the so-called Overton window). It’s an ambitious approach but not an outlandish one: Bernie Sanders ran a popular campaign, and suddenly socialist projects were on the prime-time docket. Change does arrive through mainstream power, but this just means that your movement should be threaded through the culture’s institutional eye.
The question, then, is what protest is for. Srnicek and Williams, even after all their criticism, aren’t ready to let it go—they describe it as “necessary but insufficient.” Yet they strain to say just how it fits with the idea of class struggle in a postindustrial, smartphone-linked world. “If there is no workplace to disrupt, what can be done?” they wonder. Possibly their telescope is pointing the wrong way round. Much of their book attempts to match the challenges of current life—a shrinking manufacturing sphere, a global labor surplus, a mire of race-inflected socioeconomic traps—with Marx’s quite specific precepts about the nineteenth-century European economy.
They define the proletariat as “that group of people who must sell their labor powers to live.” It must be noted that this group—now comprising Olive Garden waiters, coders based in Bangalore, janitors, YouTube stars, twenty-two-year-olds at Goldman Sachs—is really very broad.
A truly modern left, one cannot help but think, would be at liberty to shed a manufacturing-era, deterministic framework like Marxism, allegorized and hyperextended far beyond its time. Still, to date no better paradigm for labor economics and uprising has emerged.
What comes undone here is the dream of protest as an expression of personal politics. Those of us whose days are filled with chores and meetings may be deluding ourselves to think that we can rise as “revolutionaries-for-a-weekend”—Norman Mailer’s phrase for his own bizarre foray, in 1967, as described in “The Armies of the Night.” Yet that’s not to say the twenty-four-year-old who quits his job and sleeps in a tent to affirm his commitment does more. The recent studies make it clear that protest results don’t follow the laws of life: eighty per cent isn’t just showing up. Instead, logistics reign and then constrain. Outcomes rely on how you coördinate your efforts, and on the skill with which you use existing influence as help.
If that seems a deflating idea, it only goes to show how entrenched self-expressive protest has become in political identity. In one survey, half of Occupy Wall Street allies turned out to be fully employed: even that putatively radical economic movement was largely middle class. (Also, as many noted, it was largely white.)
That may be because even the privileged echelons of working America are mad as hell and won’t take it anymore. But it may also be because the social threshold for protest-joining is low. A running joke in “The Armies of the Night” is that many of the people who went off to demonstrate were affluent egghead types—unsure, self-obsessed, squeamish, and, in many ways, pretty conservative. “There was an air of Ivy League intimacy to the quiet conversations on this walk—it could not really be called a March,” Mailer says. Writing of himself: “He found a friendly face. It was Gordon Rogoff, an old friend from Actors Studio, now teaching at the Yale Drama School; they talked idly about theatrical matters for a while.” This has been the cultural expectation since the late sixties, even as tactical protest has left mainstream power behind. As citizens, we get two chips—one for the ballot box, the other for the soapbox. Many of us feel compelled to make use of them both.
Would casual activists be better off deploying their best skills toward change (teachers teaching, coders coding, celebrities celebritizing) and leaving direct action in the hands of organizational pros? That seems sad, and a good recipe for lax, unchecked, uncoördinated effort. Should they work indirectly—writing letters, calling senators, and politely nagging congresspeople on Twitter? That involves no cool attire or clever signs, and no friends who’ll cheer at every turn.
But there’s reason to believe that it works, because even bad legislators pander to their electorates. In a new book, “The Once and Future Liberal” (Harper), Mark Lilla urges a turn back toward governmental process. “The role of social movements in American history, while important, has been seriously inflated by left-leaning activists and historians,” he writes.
“The age of movement politics is over, at least for now. We need no more marchers. We need more mayors.”
Folk politics, tracing a 50-year anti-establishmentarian trend, flatters a certain idea of heroism: the system, we think, must be fought by authentic people. Yet that outlook is so widely held now that it occupies the highest offices of government. Maybe, in the end, the system is the powerless person’s best bet.
Or maybe direct action is something to value independent of its results. No specific demands were made at the Women’s March, in January. The protest produced no concrete outcomes, and it held no legislators to account. And yet the march, which encompassed millions of people on every continent, including Antarctica, cannot be called a failure. At a time when identity is presumed to be clannish and insular, it offered solidarity on a vast scale.
What was the Women’s March about? Empowerment, human rights, discontent—you know. Why did it matter? Because we were there. Self-government remains a messy, fussy, slow, frustrating business. We do well to remind those working its gears and levers that the public—not just the appalled me but the conjoined us whom the elected serve—is watching and aware.
More than 2 centuries after our country took its shaky first steps, the union is miles from perfection. But it is still on its feet, sometimes striding, frequently stumbling. The march goes on, and someday, not just in our dreams, we’ll make it home. ♦
This article appears in other versions of the August 21, 2017, issue, with the headline “Out of Action.”
Nathan Heller began contributing to The New Yorker in 2011, and joined the magazine as a staff writer in 2013.
Your Heart and Brain are Interconnected
We sometimes forget how connected our hearts and brain are both spiritually, emotionally, AND physically. There are shortcuts to the meditative and mindfulness state that help is remain healthy and decrease the ravages of stress on our body.
The use of HEARTMATH technology is one of those.
Click on the links and banners below to access this tool.
Interview by Dr. Jay Sordean with Deborah Rozman, PhD on HeartMath and the science behind the connection of your heart rate and your brain health. Dr. Jay first heard about, and started using, the HeartMath technologies at an Alex Mandosian Teleseminar Secrets Summit where he received an “emwave(tm) Model 1-01”. See picture of his first device below.
HeartMath and InnerBalance
As a functional medicine clinician and long time advocate for the use of meditation, hypnotherapy, and other deep brain influencing technologies, Dr. Jay started using his emwave(tm) and sharing it with family members. Later Dr. Jay got the Inner Balance hook ups that can be used on an iPad and iPhone that have even more sophisticated software applications. Those hook ups can be obtained by clicking here. Inner Balance™ + HeartMath® Sensor = More Ease
You can also take advantage of this technology by purchasing any and all of the other products and training by going to the following:
How to Access the suite of HeartMath Technologies