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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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01/28/2015

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Energy to Do Battle
Liberation Psychology, Individual Self-Respect, and Collective Self-Condence
Genuine democracy can happen only if enough people believe in it, are capable of fighting for it, and are willing to fight for it. These people must believe that they are worthy of power. The belief in their worthiness comes when, at an individual level, there is genuine self-respect.There are many battlefields on which individual self-respect can be either be won or lost, and it is in the interest of the elite to make sure that their opponents lose sight of these multiple battlefields. The family, the classroom, and many of the ordinary events of our day are battlefields of self-respect. If we don’t know that we’re on a battlefield, there is little chance of winning the battle, and we can lose multiple opportunities to be activists for democracy.People seeking democracy, in addition to having individual self-respect, must also have collective self-confidence—the belief that they can succeed as a group—if their goal is to be achieved and sustained. They must have faith that, though imperfect in their decision making, they are capable of creating a freer and more just society than one orga-nized and controlled by the elite.Thus, in this war, human relationships are vitally important. It is in the interest of the elite to keep people divided and to keep them distrust-ing one another. It is in the interest of people working toward democracy to build respectful and cooperative human relationships across all levels of society.When one understands that the battle for democracy begins with the battle to restore individual self-respect and collective self-confidence, one then sees the entire society and culture replete with battlefields in which such self-respect and collective confidence can be won or lost.Some people, including many progressives, are uncomfortable with the term
battleeld
,
 
as they are much more comfortable with the language of
 
GET UP, STAND UP122
cooperation and harmony than with that of competition and friction. However, if there is an adversary aimed at subduing us, we are de-skilling and disempowering ourselves if we do not become more comfortable with this other language. Some of us have gotten this:Change means movement. Movement means friction. Only in the frictionless vacuum of a nonexistent abstract world can movement or change occur without that abrasive friction of conflict.
 —Saul Alinsky
Those who profess to freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing. They want rain with-out thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
 —Frederick Douglass
 Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.
 —Malcolm X
Take it easy, but take it.
 —Woody Guthrie (and Studs Terkel sign-off)
Critical Thinking and Morale
Strategies, tactics, and an understanding of your enemy, your allies, and the terrain are important, but without morale it is difficult to win any war. With morale, people can take actions that restore individual self-respect, and they can start the road back to regain collective self-confidence.What exactly is morale? General George C. Marshall stated, “Morale is the state of mind. It is steadfastness and courage and hope. It is confidence and 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. Eisenhower believed, “Morale is the greatest single factor in successful wars.”In war, morale is a huge issue, but of course it’s not the only one. The elite’s money—and the influence that it buys—is an extremely powerful weapon. So it’s understandable that so many people who are defeated and demoralized focus on their lack of money rather than on their lack of morale. However, we must keep in mind that in war,
especially
 when one’s side lacks financial resources, morale becomes even more crucial.In athletics, most coaches and their players know that morale can trump superior skills. They know that while overconfidence can cost a team humility, discipline, and victory, underconfidence can lead to demoralization and avoidable defeat. Coaches and players are constantly focusing on morale, telling themselves and one another everything possi-ble to maintain and regain energizing confidence.Similar to people in the military and athletics, there are many business-people who value morale. I have known many business managers who obsess on how to maintain their own morale and that of their employees. These managers know that to maintain morale, employees must believe that their contributions, their ideas, and they themselves are valued. For morale, employees must perceive that they have a certain status within an organization, and that their organization has a certain status in society. And so high-level managers try to create these perceptions—whether or not they are actually true.Some people cringe when I bring up the issue of morale. They equate the term
morale
 with being Pollyannaish and the absence of critical thinking. After he read an article of mine, Gerald Iversen e-mailed me with some advice:As one involved in progressive social change for 35 years, I find your solution of “morale” too smiley-faced . . . I urge you to read
Bright-Sided
 by Barbara Ehrenreich.I am a fan of Barbara Ehrenreich, and I agree with what she says in
Bright-Sided
. Blaming
all
 misery on a lack of a positive attitude is wrong

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