Preaching Revolution.

When I walk my dog, I go down the main drag (Old Glenn Hwy) where the fast food places are, down Business Blvd where the park, theater and bowling alley are located, and then down to the Eagle River, where the kids party sometimes. On this route, I get to meet and talk to a lot of the working poor–people I refer to as disposable citizens.

I talk to these people, trying to educate them about the myth of the American Dream, the loss of representative government, and how the wealthy and their government servants enrich themselves and fight wars for empire on the backs of disposable citizens. I recently bought a sack of the little 256MB USB drives, and I always carry a few with me when I do my talk walks. They’re loaded with wmv files of labor songs, civil rights songs by the Dropkick Murphys, Pete Seger, and others, interviews with Naomi Klein, Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, a couple of skits by George Carlin, assorted essays, and a pdf file with a list of websites appropriate for those questioning the status quo.

I like to think, in a tiny way, I’m contributing to change I hope is coming. That change can’t come through a ballot box rigged to maintain the status quo. It’s going to be won with massive boycotts and general strikes; with people simply refusing to play the game anymore.

From a popular lefty internet forum.

It is curious how people take it for granted that they have a right to preach at you and pray over you as soon as your income falls below a certain level.

George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London.

There is no difference between the behavior of the pseudonymous poster in the first quote and the “slumming-party” Orwell is ruminating on in the second. Both see the poor as objects to be acted upon. The soteriology is slightly different, but the message and goals are the same – save the poor wretches’ souls. Make them see how wrong they have been about their lives, and guide them into a better future.

I have, really, some sympathy for the slumming-party and the dog-walker. If you truly believe that the unsaved have an unimaginably terrible fate in store, or that the politically disengaged have truly nothing to look forward to in their lives, then the pressure on one’s psyche to do something – anything – must be incredible. So, you “freely [venture] into the lowest dens,” and attempt to enlighten the denizens, and feel the pressure bleed off for a day, or an hour,  knowing that you’ve done something.

It doesn’t change the essential nature of the act, though. The classism, the treatment of the poor as something other than fully human – these are at the core of that kind of “missionary work.”

    • Steve
    • June 28th, 2010

    I like that you ended by calling what they’re doing “missionary work” because as I read the post I was left with the idea of proselytizing Christians and how these evangelists are the center of bane and hatred for atheists who wish them to get off their high horse, as it were. What the dog-walker fella is doing is exactly that- missionary work, and it’s pretty demeaning. But like you also said, it’s understandable. Maybe there’s a better way?

    • mattstrong
    • June 28th, 2010

    I think the best way, honestly, would be to understand that, if there is a true proletarian revolution, it will not be because of middle-class white dudes walking around handing out thumbdrives of Pete Seeger songs. It will happen because the working classes feel that only a radical change in social structures is in their best interest. This, interestingly, is why anarchists have a problem with most other strains of socialism – they feel it is too infected by the class privilege of its proponents.

    A better way, though? Treat your fellow citizens, even the “disposable” ones with respect, and treat them as ends, not means. That’s the basic ethical responsibility. Keep that in mind going forward, instead of treating the poor as potential footsoldiers in the revolution.

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