January counts as the New Year, right? I mean all of January… I got Christmas stuffed into a tub for somewhere in the shed and everybody with a birthday got a card and something, so things are about where they should be there. Now for question of a lifetime (and each January) What is to be Done?
A great sense of direction came yesterday with Michael Krasny’s interview w. Deepak Choprak on KQED’s FORUM (listen to the archive) talking about his multiple bodywear techie gadgets that tell him how much he sleeps, walks, eats, so he can use every ounce of his great Deepak energy for his own Chopra purposes as long as he lives (which will likely break 100, due to his doing everything right). Like Yosarian in Catch 22, he’ll live forever or die trying. Many of us aspire to this.
So taking care of ourselves is very good – is how we can be a great friend to our family and friends, but what IS Right beyond that?
Loved singing Alfie at Open Mic at the Methodist Church 2nd Sundays (6-9om – check it it out!) “What’s it ALL about when you sort it out, Alfie? ARE we meant to take more than we give, or ARE we meant to be kind?” Stellar! Dianne Warwick on YouTube shakes herself out from the sweep of emotion singing this – her fav song.
To sort it all out, I add the word paradox as a focus this year – that the bad always co-exists with the good and no need to get riled up. Be sad, even feel tragic in the face of evil, but don’t let it enrage you (because you can’t do your best work infuriated and why let EVIL WIN?)
So for all these years since my 20’s (and there are lots of them), I’ve had this question rolling around and showing up again at least every New Years. What is to be Done, exactly!
Here’s from Wikipedia:
What Is to Be Done? Burning Questions of Our Movement (Russian: Что делать?, tr. Shto delat’?), is a political pamphlet written by the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin in 1901 and published in 1902. Its title is inspired by the novel of the same name by the nineteenth-century Russian revolutionary Nikolai Chernyshevsky…Lenin argues that the working class will not spontaneously become political simply by fighting economic battles with employers over wages, working hours and the like. To convert the working class to Marxism, Lenin argues that Marxists should form a political party, or “vanguard”, of dedicated revolutionaries to spread Marxist political ideas among the workers.
Well, that sounds complex and it is. All about human rights and wage slavery; great ideas that some say never actually happened. Stuff we THINK we got past long ago – but climate crisis is a whole new and rotten ball game.
OK; so we’ve got tough work ahead dealing with a polluted planet – who’s our vanguard and what all are we fighting for? Or working very hard without rancor for? According to me, now, it’s these:
– A relatively clean planet (and its all about your relatives!)
– Some jobs or at least income to go around (am thinking our framework of minimum WAGE should be morphed into minimum INCOME, but that’s the Earned Income Credit you get with taxes if your wages are low – a sort of teeter totter where Big Gov. think things will get evened out a bit. Well, just a tad. We’re still one of the nastiest countries to our poor with huge proportions of wealth in the hands of the tiniest minority of the 1% ers – but you know that.
– Peace of Mind: Peace in the World or the World in Pieces, I used to say as did others. Includes whimsy if it’s to make any sense. Loved the goofy hats in Jungle Vibes “Whirled Peas”.
Jerry Brown will try and even out education money (and do a bit more than a tad) and Obama argues for new gun laws and enforcement of those on the books (good luck, Pres.) but we know we, here, are way better off than millions, dare I say billions? Generally, we have clean drinking water; generally there’s a bowl of soup free somewhere within a few miles at a shelter in your town (though even Sonoma County has just one such full-on shelter, Committee on the Shelterless/The Mary Isaak Center and please give them a hand from time to time!) Won’t be there if we don’t help.
Don’t most of us think we know What is to be Done? I consider the wisdom of Upton Sinclair in his Lanny Budd series of 11 novels, written just before I was born; Dragon’s Teeth in particular. From Wikipedia again:
The novel Dragon’s Teeth, written in 1942 by Upton Sinclair, won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1943. Set in the period 1929 to 1934, it covers the Nazi takeover of Germany during the 1930s.
The Pulitzer prize-winning novel by a great American writer portrays the men and women caught in an onslaught of terror, a holocaust from which few escape. (Hey! Sounds like Climate Crisis!)
Lanny Budd became involved in what the Nazis termed “politics.” He saw it as a question of human decency–that was how he found himself the prey in a manhunt as horrifying as it was deadly. Lanny Budd was one of those millions engulfed in the century’s tragedy, trapped by the rising monster of Nazi Germany. TIME said “Sinclair’s finest.”
Human decency – translates now into we don’t let millions or billions of people die without even trying to help.
Seems like the story line in progress with 350.org and Bill McKibben; I’d call him a radical journalist, though of course, he’s starting from a happier framework than Nazi Germany. I used the work radical here after hearing Martin Luther King, Jr. this week on KQED defining Hippies and Radicals, those who opt out of society to form their own communes (hippies) and those who confront society to make it better (radical – to the roots). I was always the latter during the Vietnam War, though also engaged in communal life. Climate crisis, looked in the eye, appears to be a way bigger threat to us than the Vietnam War – or any war – ever was. Most look firmly away.
How now to confront those vested interests who keep cooking the planet? (Big Oil is the most obvious Bad Guy). Without being enraged? To bolster the huge changes our culture here and all over needs to adopt to survive and even, still, possibly, just barely possibly, without a billion or more deaths before we get learn to heal Mother Eaarth (Bill McKibben’s word for what we have become). McKibben and friends call for divestment of money from the oil industry; showing up at Exxon and Chevron demanding they pay, somehow, harm done to us all. Change has a got to come.
So in conclusion, I would say (and I will say, OK, here I go saying)
– Consider joining people of 350.org in Washington D.C. for Presidents’ Day, this February 17th to demonstrate against the XL Pipeline which NASA scientist, James Hansen, says will mean “game over for the planet” due to release of huge amounts of carbon into our already overburdened atmosphere. Over 10,000 people have already confirmed they’ll be there! Read up on it; this is serious!
– Read, listen to, watch and participate in any spiritual practice that brings you peace and encourages kindness toward yourself and all others.
– Engage with friends, share laughter and good, healthy, local food. We’re gonna need each other.
My Mom used to say during WWII, the British survived by sharing cups of tea. Not a bad thought every afternoon. Calm down, people of our planet, but don’t give up the Mother Ship.
And then there’s Where Would We Be Without These Bodies of Ours? Lying in bed, mulling the ideas surrounding What is to be Done, I recall a personal maxim: Where Would We Be Without These Bodies of Ours? Perhaps visiting with telepathic Venusians? Floating above the Sea? Traveling to the Center of the World? Where is that when we are round? And so I say to you merrily, Who Are You And What Are You Doing Here?
And a Happy New Year to one and all, if you can manage that.