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The Tenfold Path to Guts, Solidarity and the Defeat of the Corporate Elite_Bruce Levine_May 2011_Truthout

The Tenfold Path to Guts, Solidarity and the Defeat of the Corporate Elite_Bruce Levine_May 2011_Truthout

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Published by gonzodave
Bruce E. Levine

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Bruce E. Levine

Creative Commons, Non-Commercial Use


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Published by: gonzodave on May 21, 2011
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The Tenfold Path toGuts, Solidarity andthe Defeat of theCorporate Elite
Many Americans know that the United States is not ademocracy but a "corporatocracy," in which we areruled by a partnership of giant corporations, theextremely wealthy elite and corporate-collaboratorgovernment officials. However, the truth of suchtyranny is not enough to set most of us free to takeaction. Too many of us have become pacified bycorporatocracy-created institutions and culture.Some activists insist that this political passivityproblem is caused by Americans' ignorance due tocorporate media propaganda, and others claim thatpolitical passivity is caused by the inability toorganize due to a lack of money. However, polls showthat on the important issues of our day - fromsenseless wars, to Wall Street bailouts, to corporatetax-dodging, to health insurance rip-offs - the majorityof Americans are not ignorant to the reality that theyare being screwed. And American history is repletewith organizational examples - from the UndergroundRailroad, to the Great Populist Revolt, to the Flint sit-down strike, to large wildcat strikes a generation ago -of successful rebels who had little money but lots of guts and solidarity.The elite spend their lives stockpiling money and havethe financial clout to bribe, divide and conquer the restof us. The only way to overcome the power of moneyis with the power of courage and solidarity. When weregain our guts and solidarity, we can then morewisely select from - and implement - time-honoredstrategies and tactics that oppressed peoples have longused to defeat the elite. So, how do we regain our gutsand solidarity?
1. Create the Cultural and Psychological "BuildingBlocks" for Democratic Movements
Historian Lawrence Goodwyn has studied democraticmovements such as Solidarity in Poland, and he haswritten extensively about the populist movement inthe United States that occurred during the end of the19th century (what he calls "the largest democraticmass movement in American history"). Goodwynconcludes that democratic movements are initiated bypeople who are neither resigned to the status quo norintimidated by established powers. For Goodwyn, thecultural and psychological building blocks of democratic movements are
individual self-respect 
collective self-confidence.
Without individual self-respect, we do not believe that we are worthy of power or capable of utilizing power wisely, and weaccept as our role being a subject of power. Withoutcollective self-confidence, we do not believe that wecan succeed in wresting away power from our rulers.Thus, it is the job of all of us - from parents, tostudents, to teachers, to journalists, to clergy, topsychologists, to artists and EVERYBODY who givesa damn about genuine democracy - to createindividual self-respect and collective self-confidence.
2. Confront and Transform ALL Institutions thatHave Destroyed Individual Self-Respect andCollective Self-Confidence
 In "Get Up, Stand Up, " I detail 12 major institutionaland cultural areas that have broken people's sprit of resistance, and all are "battlefields for democracy" inwhich we can fight to regain our individual self-respect and collective self confidence:
Isolation and bureaucratization
"Fundamentalist consumerism" andadvertising/propaganda
Student loan debt and indentured servitude
The decline of unions/solidarity amongworking people
Greed and a "money-centric" culture
Fear-based schools that teach obedience
Psychopathologizing noncompliance
Elitism via professional training
The corporate media
The US electoral system
As Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, "All our thingsare right and wrong together. The wave of evil washesall our institutions alike."
3. Side Each Day in Every Way With Anti-Authoritarians
 We can recover our self-respect and strength byregaining our integrity. This process requires apersonal transformation to overcome our sense of powerlessness and fight for what we believe in.Integrity includes acts of courage resisting allillegitimate authorities. We must recognize that invirtually every aspect of our life in every day, we caneither be on the side of authoritarianism and thecorporatocracy or on the side of anti-authoritarianismand democracy. Specifically, we can question thelegitimacy of government, media, religious,educational and other authorities in our lives, and if we establish that an authority is not legitimate, we canresist it. And we can support others who are resistingillegitimate authorities. A huge part of solidaritycomes from supporting others who are resisting theillegitimate authorities in their lives. Walt Whitmanhad it right: "Resist much, obey little. Onceunquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved."
4. Regain Morale by Thinking More CriticallyAbout Our Critical Thinking
 While we need critical thinking to effectively questionand challenge illegitimate authority - and to wiselyselect the best strategies and tactics to defeat the elite -critical thinking can reveal some ugly truths aboutreality, which can result in defeatism. Thus, criticalthinkers must also think critically about theirdefeatism, and realize that it can cripple the will anddestroy motivation, thus perpetuating the status quo.William James (1842
1910), the psychologist,philosopher, and occasional political activist (memberof the Anti-Imperialist League who, during theSpanish-American War, said, "God damn the US forits vile conduct in the Philippine Isles!") had a historyof pessimism and severe depression, which helpedfuel some of his greatest wisdom on how to overcomeimmobilization. James, a critical thinker, had littlestomach for what we now call "positive thinking," buthe also came to understand how losing belief in apossible outcome can guarantee its defeat. AntonioGramsci (1891
1937), an Italian political theorist andMarxist activist who was imprisoned by Mussolini,came to the same conclusions. Gramsci's phrase
"pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will"
hasinspired many critical thinkers, including NoamChomsky, to maintain their efforts in the face of difficult challenges.
5. Restore Courage in Young People
The corporatocracy has not only decimated America'slabor union movement, it has almost totally broken thespirit of resistance among young Americans - an evenmore frightening achievement. Historically, youngpeople without family responsibilities have felt mostfreed up to challenge illegitimate authority. ButAmerica's education system creates fear, shame anddebt - all killers of the spirit of resistance. No ChildLeft Behind, Race to the Top and standardized testingtyranny results in the kind of fear that crushescuriosity, critical thinking and the capacity toconstructively resist illegitimate authority. Rebelteachers, parents, and students - in a variety of overtand covert ways - have already stopped complyingwith corporatocracy schooling. We must also stopshaming intelligent young people who reject college,and we must instead recreate an economy that respectsall kinds of intelligence and education. While thecorporatocracy exploits student loan debt to both rakein easy money and break young people's spirit of resistance, the rest of us need to rebel against studentloan debt and indentured servitude. And parents andmental health professionals need to stop behavior-modifying and medicating young people who areresisting illegitimate authority.
6. Focus on Democracy Battlefields Where theCorporate Elite Don't Have Such a LargeFinancial Advantage
The emphasis of many activists is on electoral politics,but the elite have a huge advantage in this battlefield,where money controls the US electoral process. Byfocusing exclusively on electoral politics at theexpense of everything else, we: (1) give away powerwhen we focus only on getting leaders elected andbecome dependent on them; (2) buy into the elitenotion that democracy is all about elections; (3) losesight of the fact that democracy means havinginfluence over all aspects of our lives; and (4) forgetthat if we have no power in our workplace, in oureducation and in all our institutions, then there willnever be democracy worthy of the name. Thus, weshould focus our fight more on the daily institutionswe experience. As Wendell Berry said, "If you cancontrol a people's economy, you don't need to worryabout its politics; its politics have become irrelevant."
7. Heal from "Corporatocracy Abuse" and"Battered People's Syndrome" to Gain Strength
Activists routinely become frustrated when truthsabout lies, victimization and oppression don't setpeople free to take action. But when we human beings
eat crap for too long, we gradually lose our self-respect to the point that we become psychologicallytoo weak to take action. Many Americans areembarrassed to accept that, after years of corporatocracy subjugation, we have developed"battered people's syndrome" and what Bob Marleycalled "mental slavery." To emancipate ourselves andothers, we must:
Move out of denial and accept that we are asubjugated people.
Admit that we have bought into many lies.There is a dignity, humility, and strength infacing the fact that, while we may have oncebought into some lies, we no longer do so.
Forgive ourselves and others for accepting theabuser's lies. Remember the liars we face areoften quite good at lying.
Maintain a sense of humor. Victims of horrific abuse, including thosein concentration camps and slave plantations,have discovered that pain caneither immobilize us or be transformed byhumor into energy.
Stop beating ourselves up for having been inan abusive relationship. The energy we haveis better spent on healing and then working tochange the abusive system; this providesmore energy, and when we use this energy toprovide respect and confidence for others,everybody gets energized.
8. Unite Populists by Rejecting Corporate Media'sPolitical Divisions
The corporate media routinely divides Americans as"liberals," "conservatives" and "moderates," a usefuldivision for the corporatocracy, because no matterwhich of these groups is the current electoral winner,the corporatocracy retains power. In order to defeatthe corporatocracy, it's more useful to divide people interms of authoritarians versus anti-authoritarians,elitists versus populists and corporatists versusanticorporatists. Both left anti-authoritarians andlibertarian anti-authoritarians passionately opposecurrent US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the WallStreet bailout, the PATRIOT Act, the North AmericanFree Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the so-called "waron drugs" and several other corporatocracy policies.There are differences between anti-authoritarians but,as Ralph Nader and Ron Paul have together recentlypublicly discussed, we can form coalitions andalliances on these important power-money issues. Oneexample of an anti-authoritarian democraticmovement (which I am involved in) is the mentalhealth treatment reform movement, comprised of leftanti-authoritarians and libertarians. We all sharedistrust of Big Pharma and contempt forpseudoscience, and we believe that people deservetruly informed choice regarding treatment. We respectErich Fromm, the democratic-socialist psychoanalyst,along with Thomas Szasz, the libertarian psychiatrist,both passionate anti-authoritarians who haveconfronted mental health professionals for usingdogma to coerce people.
9. Unite "Comfortable Anti-Authoritarians" and"Afflicted Anti-Authoritarians
This "comfortable-afflicted" continuum is based onthe magnitude of pain that one has simply gettingthrough the day. The term
comfortable anti-authoritarian
is not a pejorative one, but refers tothose anti-authoritarians lucky enough to have decentpaying and maybe even meaningful jobs, or platformsthrough which their voices are heard or socialsupports in their lives. Many of these comfortableanti-authoritarians may know that there are millions of Americans working mindless jobs in order to hold onto their health insurance, or hustling two low-wage jobs to pay college loans, rent and a car payment, orwho may be unable to find even a poorly paying,mindless job and are instead helplessly watchingeviction or foreclosure and bankruptcy close in onthem. However, unless these comfortable anti-authoritarians have once been part of that afflictedclass - and remember what it feels like - they may notbe able to fully respect the afflicted's emotional state.The afflicted need to recognize that human beingsoften become passive because they are overwhelmedby pain (not because they are ignorant, stupid, orlazy), and in order to function at all, they often shutdown or distract themselves from this pain. Somecomfortable anti-authoritarians assume that people'sinactions are caused by ignorance. This not onlysounds and smells like elitism, it creates resentmentfor many in the afflicted class who lack the energy tobe engaged in any activism. Respect, resources andanything that concretely reduces their level of pain islikely to be far more energizing than a scoldinglecture. That's the lesson of many democraticmovements, including the Great Populist Revolt.
10. Do Not Let Debate Divide Anti-Authoritarians
Spirited debate is what democracy is all about, butwhen debate turns to mutual antipathy and dividesanti-authoritarians, it plays into the hands of the elite.One such divide among anti-elitists is over themagnitude of change that should be worked for andcelebrated. On one extreme are people who think thatanything is better than nothing at all. At the other

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