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Energy to do Battle - An Excerpt from Get Up, Stand Up

Energy to do Battle - An Excerpt from Get Up, Stand Up

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Polls show that the majority of Americans oppose recent US wars and Wall Street bailouts, yet most remain passive and appear resigned to powerlessness. In "Get Up, Stand Up", Bruce Levine offers an original and convincing explanation for this passivity. Many Americans are deeply demoralized by decades of oppressive elitism, and they have lost confidence that genuine democracy is possible. Drawing on phenomena such as learned helplessness, the abuse syndrome, and other psychological principles and techniques for pacifying a population, Levine explains how major US institutions have created fatalism. When such fatalism and defeatism set in, truths about social and economic injustices are not enough to set people free.
Polls show that the majority of Americans oppose recent US wars and Wall Street bailouts, yet most remain passive and appear resigned to powerlessness. In "Get Up, Stand Up", Bruce Levine offers an original and convincing explanation for this passivity. Many Americans are deeply demoralized by decades of oppressive elitism, and they have lost confidence that genuine democracy is possible. Drawing on phenomena such as learned helplessness, the abuse syndrome, and other psychological principles and techniques for pacifying a population, Levine explains how major US institutions have created fatalism. When such fatalism and defeatism set in, truths about social and economic injustices are not enough to set people free.

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Published by: Chelsea Green Publishing on Jul 16, 2012
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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07/19/2012

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• 4 •
Energy to Do Battle
Liberation Psychology, Individual Self-Respect,and Collective Self-Condence
Genuine democracy can happen only i enough people believe in it, arecapable o ghting or it, and are willing to ght or it. These people mustbelieve that they are worthy o power. The belie in their worthinesscomes when, at an individual level, there is genuine sel-respect.There are many battleelds on which individual sel-respect can beeither be won or lost, and it is in the interest o the elite to make surethat their opponents lose sight o these multiple battleelds. The amily,the classroom, and many o the ordinary events o our day are battleeldso sel-respect. I we don’t know that we’re on a battleeld, there is littlechance o winning the battle, and we can lose multiple opportunities tobe activists or democracy.People seeking democracy, in addition to having individual sel-respect, must also have collective sel-condence—the belie that theycan succeed as a group—i their goal is to be achieved and sustained.They must have aith that, though imperect in their decision making,they are capable o creating a reer and more just society than one orga-nized and controlled by the elite.Thus, in this war, human relationships are vitally important. It is inthe interest o the elite to keep people divided and to keep them distrust-ing one another. It is in the interest o people working toward democracyto build respectul and cooperative human relationships across all levelso society.When one understands that the battle or democracy begins with thebattle to restore individual sel-respect and collective sel-condence, onethen sees the entire society and culture replete with battleelds in whichsuch sel-respect and collective condence can be won or lost.Some people, including many progressives, are uncomortable with theterm
battleeld
,
 
as they are much more comortable with the language o 
 
GET UP, STAND UP122
cooperation and harmony than with that o competition and riction.However, i there is an adversary aimed at subduing us, we are de-skillingand disempowering ourselves i we do not become more comortable withthis other language. Some o us have gotten this:Change means movement. Movement means riction. Onlyin the rictionless vacuum o a nonexistent abstract world canmovement or change occur without that abrasive riction o confict.
 —Saul Alinsky
Those who proess to reedom and yet deprecate agitation aremen who want crops without plowing. They want rain with-out thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without theawul roar o its many waters. This struggle may be a moralone, or it may be physical, but it must be a struggle. Powerconcedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it neverwill.
 —Frederick Douglass
 Nobody can give you reedom. Nobody can give you equality orjustice or anything. I you’re a man, you take it.
 —Malcolm X
Take it easy, but take it.
 —Woody Guthrie (and Studs Terkelsign-off)
Critical Thinking and Morale
Strategies, tactics, and an understanding o your enemy, your allies, andthe terrain are important, but without morale it is dicult to win any war.With morale, people can take actions that restore individual sel-respect,and they can start the road back to regain collective sel-condence.What exactly is morale? General George C. Marshall stated, “Morale isthe state o mind. It is steadastness and courage and hope. It is condenceand zeal and loyalty. It is élan, esprit de corps and determination.” How
 
Energy to Do Battle
123
important is morale? General (and then President) Dwight D. Eisenhowerbelieved, “Morale is the greatest single actor in successul wars.”In war, morale is a huge issue, but o course it’s not the only one. Theelite’s money—and the infuence that it buys—is an extremely powerulweapon. So it’s understandable that so many people who are deeated anddemoralized ocus on their lack o money rather than on their lack o morale. However, we must keep in mind that in war,
especially
when one’sside lacks nancial resources, morale becomes even more crucial.In athletics, most coaches and their players know that morale cantrump superior skills. They know that while overcondence can costa team humility, discipline, and victory, undercondence can lead todemoralization and avoidable deeat. Coaches and players are constantlyocusing on morale, telling themselves and one another everything possi-ble to maintain and regain energizing condence.Similar to people in the military and athletics, there are many business-people who value morale. I have known many business managers whoobsess on how to maintain their own morale and that o their employees.These managers know that to maintain morale, employees must believethat their contributions, their ideas, and they themselves are valued. Formorale, employees must perceive that they have a certain status within anorganization, and that their organization has a certain status in society.And so high-level managers try to create these perceptions—whether ornot they are actually true.Some people cringe when I bring up the issue o morale. They equatethe term
morale
with being Pollyannaish and the absence o criticalthinking. Ater he read an article o mine, Gerald Iversen e-mailed mewith some advice:As one involved in progressive social change or 35 years, Ind your solution o “morale” too smiley-aced . . . I urge youto read
Bright-Sided
by Barbara Ehrenreich.I am a an o Barbara Ehrenreich, and I agree with what she says in
Bright-Sided
. Blaming
all
misery on a lack o a positive attitude is wrong

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