At the Little House on the Planet Development Party last week we worked on using comedy to tell the truth. Lord knows, there’s plenty of difficult truths these days. Some ways the truth has been told are deeply beloved. People return to them again and again as a kind of talisman, an article of a certain kind of faith. And my goodness, there’s been an awful lot of lying and lying and lying on the national political stage these days.
If I didn’t include one of your favorites, please include it in the comments.
|Some of my Favorites
Greatest County in the World?
|It’s been called “the most honest three and a half minutes of television, EVER” Jeff Daniels on The Newsroom
They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking.
|It’s a big club and you ain’t in it. George Carlin spills the beans on the oligarchy.
It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy
|I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore! Network
He’ll see everything! He’ll see the big board!
|General Buck Turgidson, George C Scott, Frying chickens in the barnyard. Dr. Strangelove brilliantly told so many different kinds of difficult truths
Here is the fucking news …
|Reporter gets angry and tells us the REAL news. This has been viral for a while now. It’s not hard to believe it’s a real reporter who’s had more than enough — but it’s satire from British actor and comedian Tom Walker
War always encourages a patriotism that means not love of country but unquestioning obedience to power.
|Robert Shetterly’s Americans Who Tell the Truth portraits and narratives highlight citizens who courageously address issues of social, environmental, and economic fairness.
What a labor of love! There’s more than 200 of them. I’ve been using his Wendell Berry portrait for years when I was tweeting one quotation a day from “Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community: Eight Essays.”
Here’s a bunch of Americans who tell the truth that are particular heroes of mine, as they are for many other people. These are some of my favorites from A through H, plus Z of course
Noam Chomsky “…jingoism, racism, fear, religious fundamentalism: these are the ways of appealing to people if you’re trying to organize a mass base of support for policies that are really intended to crush them.”
Wendell Berry “The most alarming sign of the state of our society now is that our leaders have the courage to sacrifice the lives of young people in war but have not the courage to tell us that we must be less greedy and wasteful.”
Grace Lee Boggs “People are aware that they cannot continue in the same old way but are immobilized because they cannot imagine an alternative. We need a vision that recognizes that we are at one of the great turning points in human history when the survival of our planet and the restoration of our humanity require a great sea change in our ecological, economic, political, and spiritual values.”
Major General Smedley Butler “I served in all commissioned ranks from second lieutenant to Major General. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. I suspected I was just part of the racket all the time. Now I am sure of it.”
Received 16 military medals, 5 for valor. Is one of 19 men to receive the Medal of Honor twice.
Wrote the 1935 exposé that linked business and the military titled “War Is A Racket.”
Frederick Douglass “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe. ”
Eve Ensler “I am proposing that we reconceive the dream. That we consider what would happen if security were not the point of our existence. That we find freedom, aliveness, and power not from what contains, locates, and protects us, but from what dissolves, reveals and expands us.”
Emma Goldman“…The greatest bulwark of capitalism is militarism.”
Amy Goodman “I really do think that if for one week in the United States we saw the true face of war, we saw people’s limbs sheared off, we saw kids blown apart, for one week, war would be eradicated. Instead, what we see in the U.S. media is the video war game. Our mission is to make dissent commonplace in America.”
James Hansen “Coal is the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet…the dirtiest trick that governments play on their citizens is that they are working for ‘clean coal’. The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death. ”
Howard Zinn “The rule of law does not do away with the unequal distribution of wealth and power, but reinforces that inequality with the authority of law. It allocates wealth and poverty in such calculated and indirect ways as to leave the victim bewildered.”
I had a transcendent experience Friday night. I’ve been working on a podcast called “Little House on the Planet.” It tells intertwined stories of engaged citizens in a place just like Northern Westchester. Some extraordinary people are working on it, and some of us met on Friday to develop characters and stories, and actually record some audio. It was a milestone reached after six years of work, and it felt great.
For years, I’ve known, written about, worked with, many people who know another world is possible, and make efforts to hasten the day. These transformation workers focus on different issues and use different methodologies, but what they have in common is a hunger for change and hope and meaning. And since the last election, many more people are finding themselves possessed of these same hungers.
|A live bilingual radio show celebrating the beauty and intelligence of Spanish-speaking culture interrupted by a phone call from a friend with immigration agents pounding on her door.
|A comedy team struggling to choose how much truth tell and what to tell the truth about on their first big break into TV.
Lenny Bruce told the truth
|Activists vividly imagining the experience and effect of chaining themselves to equipment while wearing no clothes.
Naked protesters protesting nakedly
|An artist partnering with recently-unemployed circus professionals using a zip line to say what needs to be said.
The daring young artists on the flying trapezes
Three Martin Luther King, Jr. Day’s ago I had an inspiration while attending the special MLK Day service at the Antioch Baptist Church in Bedford Hills. The preacher made the point that Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn’t a solitary hero, toiling away by himself. There were thousands of people:
leaders and allies and followers, nearly all of whom have been forgotten by history. But every single person made their own contribution.
I felt the loss of that, that so much suffering and determination and love shouldn’t part of the story we tell ourselves about our country’s relationship to justice.
I decided to create a project called This Day in Civil Rights. Because I don’t want the stories to be forgotten, and I want the next generation to know the fights which have been waged, and they can fight too. I’ve been developing it these last years, and it’s now ready to go out into the world and find its community and destiny.
You can find out about the TDICR project here (PaulStark.name/projects/this-day-in-civil-rights/)
You can find out about Our Better Future, the organization I’m running to facilitate this project and a bunch of other projects here (PaulStark.name/projects/our-better-future/)
You can learn an amazing story about a contribution that hasn’t been forgotten, about how a whole lot of baked goods supported the Bus Boycott, here (KitchenSisters.org/girlstories/a-secret-civil-rights-kitchen/)
This is an announcement and a meditation.
Announcement: Our Better Future now exists. It’s an umbrella organization that supports real community, a clear-eyed relationship to our current realities, and the faith that working together from stubborn hope and creative intelligence will make the world a better place than it would have been without us. More and more people are feeling impulses toward doing something, anything, given everything. Our Better Future will entice and empower those impulses.
I’m going to raise money and pay myself (modestly) after six years of working for free, and pay a few other people, also modestly.
This is the first subjective yawp of my new endeavors. Details, websites, social media, all sorts of stuff, is TK.
Meditation: Happy New Year. It’s a particular moment. The new year is under way. Our country’s lurch toward fascism has taken only its first few official steps. And I am right this present moment crossing the line from preparation to execution.
There’s been shock, and grief. I’ve been taking refuge in positive statements from some people whose work I deeply admire. In summary:
- It’s time for sensible citizens of good will to be engaged as never before;
- We’re going to need to take good care of each other;
- The forces of darkness are strong now, and the stakes are vertiginously enormous;
- It will take the best of ourselves, from a whole lot of us, to avoid catastrophe.
I believe in us. I believe in the activated citizens of Northern Westchester (which, when I say it, means everything from Mt. Kisco to Hudson, NY). I’m not going to stop acting on those beliefs.
Joanna Macy, who has been a lifeline of hope amidst clarity for years, makes the point that “it is good that we … find our strength and our sanity in each other.”
Brian Eno, whose inspiring creativity offered to the world has always struck me as deeply mature and deeply playful, says, “People are thinking hard, and, most importantly, thinking out loud, together.” A strategy that’s not all that oblique after all.
Rebecca Solnit, whose confidence in the strength and humanity latent in all of us justifies hope in the dark, introduces her New Year’s message like this, “Oh I wrote something hopeful again. Fiercely so, I hope. To launch us all on the new year, an occasion that’ll need plenty of rising to.”
Van Jones, uncompromisingly optimistic in the face of all of it, asserts that “We have to build a massive Love Army” to take back our country and government from the “little hate army of very cynical, nasty people who took over our government”
Here’s fuller quotes and links to the whole pieces:
|Now, a triumphant Trump brings into the spotlight at stage center those who have been waiting in the wings: the lords of coal and oil, the masters of surveillance, the white supremacists, the war-ready generals, those eager to rule the bodies of women.
So it is good that we reach for each other, find our strength and our sanity in each other.
|2016 was indeed a pretty rough year, but I wonder if it’s the end – not the beginning – of a long decline. Or at least the beginning of the end….for I think we’ve been in decline for about 40 years, enduring a slow process of de-civilisation, but not really quite noticing it until now.
There’s been a quieter but equally powerful stirring: people are rethinking what democracy means, what society means and what we need to do to make them work again. People are thinking hard, and, most importantly, thinking out loud, together.
This is the start of something big. It will involve engagement: not just tweets and likes and swipes, but thoughtful and creative social and political action too.
|Oh I wrote something hopeful again. Fiercely so, I hope. To launch us all on the new year, an occasion that’ll need plenty of rising to. It goes like this:
The time when you don’t need hope is when your hopes have been fulfilled. Hope is for when you don’t have what you need and for when things are not OK. It is the belief that liberation might be possible that motivates you to make it more possible, and pursuing hope even when it doesn’t lead to the ultimate goal can generate changes that matter along the way, including in yourself.
Many people are still trying to figure out what to do; others are doing it. They give me hope, in some portion of humanity, the portion that will resist Trump and defend our ideals. It will be hard. It will be ugly. Our job will be to be embody and protect all of those things most antithetical to authoritarianism, racism, misogyny, kleptocracy, an atmosphere of lies and indifference to science, fact and truth.
|Tight around Trump is a little hate army – not every Trump voter – but tight around him is a little hate army of very cynical, nasty people who took over our government. We have to build a massive Love Army that can take the country and the government back in a better direction. That is completely doable. Because there’s now many more people wanting to get involved
the fundamental nastiness and cynicism that is Trump’s calling card can be overcome by a beautiful, loving, determined opposition. There’s got to be a center of gravity that we hold that continues to insist that the America that we believe in is the real America.
|I want you to ask 5 to 10 friends, family members, co-workers, classmates or neighbors to be part of your Rapid Response Team. Pick a name for it — the “Oak Street Rapid Response Team”, the “Gilmore Girls Fan Club Rapid Response Team”, etc. Set a plan to contact each other online as soon as word goes out on any given day to oppose what Trump and Congress are up to. Your Rapid Response Team will agree with each other to email elected reps, make calls, post on social media, go to protests and/or organize others at work, school or in the neighborhood.
Can you find the feeling you’re having?
I think I had a delayed reaction
to the election last week. I often have emotional reactions a week or two after a traumatic event, as if I’m repressing my own responses until I make sure everyone else is okay. If you know what I’m talking when I call the election traumatic, I don’t have to tell you. If you don’t know what I’m talking when I call the election traumatic, I’m surprised we know each other, but, tell me.
Regarding the trauma of the election, here’s one recurring thought, as I articulated to Mattathias Schwartz yesterday:
I think the increasingly bitter lesson we’re all going to learn from here until eternity, is that we have to find a way to make lemonades out of these very sour lemons. Try to find the silver linings of kleptocracy and a biosphere unable to support 10% of the life it used to. You know, etc.
Our country’s lurch toward fascism is going to lead a lot of people to drop some measure of nonsense, reaffirm their core values, and come together in small groups for protection, mutual support, resistance, and survival. It’s definitely leading me.
Can We Talk?
There’s a creative people salon
in Peekskill every first Monday. I didn’t know but now I do. I went this week and I’m glad I did. It was two hours of good people doing good work. The recent election has focused a lot of good people’s attention on what can be called anti-fascism. For: Civil rights, human rights, equality, justice. Against: Trumpism, misogyny, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, plutocracy, kleptocracy, Anti-etc., etc., etc.
The recent election has focused a lot of creative people’s attention. Creative people are in a unique position: what they love most and do best is also one of the strongest forces to entice ordinary people to ground themselves in their own best natures.
Since, in times like these, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” the fight is not exactly against Trump, but for the conversion of good people from people who do nothing to people who do something. It’s gonna be a whole lot of different somethings. That fight is a cultural, emotional, political, personal fight. Exactly the arenas in which creative people shine the brightest. Creative people will take a leading role in this good fight. At first we won’t quite know what to do or how to do it. But we’ll learn and we’re already working. It’s a process. And it’s good to know the process, right here in Peekskill, has already begun.
Creative people got all kinds of reasons …
This Friday’s installment of Idea Bin is going to be big, huge.
It will include ideas from Monday night, from me and others. And a bunch of items from my own personal big, huge Idea Bin.
First Monday Salons are organized by Carla Rae Johnson. I was going to list participants, but I haven’t asked them. If you were there, either physically or in spirit, and you’re okay with being publicly acknowledged, let me know. I met Maureen Winzig, President of the Peekskill Arts Alliance on the streets of downtown right after I finished this! She was absolutely there Monday night.
It takes a second.
To realize what you’re seeing is the bone of her left forearm, showing, exposed to the air.
What goes through the mind and heart of a man who holds an explosive device with a seven second fuse for five seconds then throws it at a 21-year-old woman? It’s difficult to imagine.
I know people who know her, Sophia. I know people who know her dad, Wayne.
There’s a story here. The dad, Wayne. Wilansky. The daughter, Sophia. Wilansky. Photogenic. Passionate. Articulate. They want something good to come from this nearly impossible suffering.
This story has the Army Corps of Engineers in it.
They say corporate officers, like executives at Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics, have a fiduciary duty to maximize shareholder value. (They don’t.)
How Many Law Enforcement Agencies Does It Take to Subdue a Peaceful Protest? So far, 76 from 10 different states. Says the ACLU. And they definitely don’t have a duty to maximize shareholder value. But they’ve been acting like it.
Words like “rapaciousness” fall from the sky as North Dakota’s winter begins to settle in.
The heroism of everyone at the camp, the hardships they’re enduring, are historic, inspiring. A 3.8 billion pound gorilla is convinced he can sleep wherever he wants. That irresistible force has met an immovable object. I don’t know how this story ends. My hope is that steadfast perseverance, non-violence, prayer, and love will prevail in the end.
If you have an impulse to get involved, in a big way or a little way, follow it.
Nothing more than …
I’m happy the Dakota Access Pipeline has been stopped, at least for now. Every victory achieved by people standing up and standing together fills me with hope
that we will beat the odds. I know January 20th will change everything, and it will be interesting to see what happens if they continue laying pipe without the easement. But something happened, enough political force was generated to be noticed and responded to. That’s cause for hope. And it’s not over.
I’m frightened by our government’s impending lurch toward fascism. I’m dreading there will be catastrophe in our futures. I’m grief-stricken at all the devastation that’s happened, is happening, will continue to happen.
Sometimes I’m overwhelmed with frustration, hopelessness, despair. But it’s the mood of a moment, sometimes half a day.
It doesn’t last long because, against all reason or not, I maintain a stubborn faith that it’s possible to make a positive difference, and I’m one of the people who will. I’ve been considering the questions of What to do, How to be one of those people, for more than forty years. It’s a moral imperative, but it’s also an engineering problem, with considerations like leverage, inspiring people, force multipliers, emotional and psychological insight, timing. When I remember that’s what I’m doing, I’m reminded that I am, among other things, a calm, confident, loving, and capable man.
I believe in Northern Westchester.
I do. There aren’t many places on the planet where the qualities needed for transformation are found in such abundance: material security, education, health, skills, experience, connections, emotional intelligence.
There’s a lot of people whose hearts are in the right place. People are feeling the right things. People have generous spirits. People have sufficient compassion and sufficient understanding.
We’ve arrived at a very particular time in our nation’s history, and humanity’s history, the history of planetary life. I believe we in Northern Westchester can come into our own. I believe we can marshal ourselves to make a significant difference, to be an incubator and testbed of initiatives for civic engagement, progressive values, transformation, and experiments in community resilience.
At last count, there’s 294,606 people in Northern Westchester. I believe that 1/400th of a population can have a significant effect in setting the group’s emotional tone and political awareness. That’s 736 people. Between the people I know and the people they know, I’d say we’re already in touch with 500 people who are ready, willing, and able to work for a better tomorrow.
A bad and scary night. A bad and scary morning. And the more you think about it, the worse it gets. The Republicans have tremendous new power, and they were doing pretty well already. What might happen? Kristallnacht references aren’t too out of line. There are going to be manifestations of Brownshirts and intolerance and violence, and we must stand against them.
Here’s some of what I say.
This election was not accomplished by “the country”, the voters, or a plurality. Very intentional and specific gerrymandering successes and voter techniques, especially in North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida gave Republicans more than enough of an edge to swing the election. More people voted for Clinton than Trump. If she’d won the electoral college people like us wouldn’t have such an urge to say, “I don’t recognize this country any more.”
Love trumps hate. We have to come together, love and protect each other, and learn, and create our own brand of Anti-Fascist League. A deeply compassionate one.
The Anti-Fascist League needs to be an enormous coalition, like there’s never been. If we’re serious about Never Again, then now is the time to work. And that not only includes the obvious coalitions, but also the energy healers, the vibration-perceivers, the gratitude believers, those who manifest hidden energies. We are working at an enormous political disadvantage, because they have captured all the levers of government, all the checks and balances. It’s going to have to be a project we all sign on for, or we’ll leave all that power and destructive potential unchallenged in the hands of dangerous lunatics.