As I consider the arrival of a new year I find myself feeling that cautious hopefulness that always befalls me around this time. Cautious hopefulness; that feeling of hoping to do better than last year, hoping to be a better person than last year, hoping to do something that is good in the year to come. All that hope but with a bit of caution thrown in to remind myself not to expect too much and not to get those hopes up so high that I simply fail by default. In many ways, I find that managing expectations and seeking balance is perhaps the single greatest task assigned to us in this life.
Afterall; we only have so much time, so much strength, so much knowledge and so many resources; and we all must go through life with what we have.
I take it as a given that most of us never get to accomplish everything we may want to; or live to see the lives of millions improve through positive, lasting changes. When Dr. King was killed, he had not yet seen the fruits of the labor and toil of the civil rights movement come truly into being. He stood on the precipice of tremendous and positive change, he knew it was just around the corner; but in this life at least, he never got the chance to see it come to pass. Millions in the U.S. however, did get to see it come to pass and reap the benefits of all who sacrificed and took action in the civil rights movement. After many years of plowing the fields and sowing the seeds of change; the people did see a victory.
But for every victorious day, there were innumerable days of hard work, anxiety, worry, fear, failure, and down right despair. It must have felt to those on the front lines of the civil rights movement, that everyday that passed in which people were beaten, murdered, spat on, ripped off, and treated as less than human because of the color of their skin, was a day of failure. And it must have been in those times that the phrase: “existence is resistance” came about. It must have been in those times that people realised that sometimes simply being, simply treading water and not moving forward or backward is enough.
For anyone with a mind and a conscience it is extremely difficult not to feel that everyday that goes by in the richest nation in the world; in which over 25% of our children live in poverty is a failure. Some where, somehow, we have failed ourselves when millions of Americans are homeless and yet houses and apartment buildings sit vacant across the country. When we consider our nation in which; wealth makes one immune from prosecution but poverty predisposes you to incarceration; we must come to the realisation of failure on a national scale.
And for many of us, simply the acknowledgement of so much being wrong, of so much work to do, overwhelms us. It is not by coincidence that overwhelmed, dejected, tired and beaten down is just how the folks that have rigged the system to box us off and rob us blind would like us all to feel.
Writing a letter to the city council or to your Representative counts. Writing a column in your local newspaper counts. Holding a work shop in a community center counts. Writing a very small check to an organisation doing good work counts. Volunteering to man a phone bank counts. Passing on a book filled with knowledge counts. No matter how big or small; what is most important is to exist, to resist, and persist.
Story Time (cable from the class war)
I’ll share a quick story with you about holiday shopping. Through a particular course of events, I found myself in the mall and in some department stores during holiday shopping time. It had been many years since I had witnessed the spectacle of holiday shopping in real time, U.S. style. Walking through the shops and stores, looking at other people shopping, staring jaw-dropped at price tags of luxury items etc. throughout my little shopping experience I perceived everything from joy, happiness, frivolousness, to down right obscenity.
In one store; there was a woman’s handbag (on sale) for 250$, as an experiment, I went to an associate and asked if the store had a lay away policy…..the answer was no. I was both angered, sickened, and horrified. I thought of a young working person trying to purchase this bag or even some more modestly priced item for a loved one. Maybe I just really need to get out more! ha! I know that 250 bucks is nothing to some of us, and that people pay way more for hand bags, shoes, hunting rifles etc. But you know it wasn’t the price so much that took my breath away: it was the fact that there was not even an attempt to accommodate someone who may not have several hundred dollars to drop on a hand bag, by having a lay away policy. The store did; however have a store credit plan (which I am sure was oh so consumer friendly!). I may be reading too much into this one store’s policy, but to me it just exudes a degree of disregard and hostility toward people without several hundred discretionary dollars lying around that I see it as a distinctive slap in the face to the working class. I will say again to be clear, this one only one store. Still, I see a lesson in it.
At the end of the day when I had finished my little excursion into American capitalist/christian/consumerism, I walked away with these thoughts: There was a time in this country when a working mom would want to buy a nice suit, or a quality winter coat for her children, or something special for herself or a loved one. Oftentimes she wouldn’t have the money to buy those things right away, so she would go and put them on lay away. The store would put the items to the side and the mother would pay on those items a little bit at a time, maybe for a few weeks, maybe a few months. But at the end of the day her children would have the suit or the heavy winter coat.
Today, the trend is going to this: if you don’t have the cash right now you’re out of luck. There is no such thing as layway…..but we do have in-store credit cards. Either agree to pay high interest for this item; or get the hell out of the store.
I perceive a growing trend to forget about, gloss over, and push the working class of America to the side, and under a rug. I don’t think the power financiers and mega retail barons have very much use for men and women making poverty wages anymore. In other words; there are growing number of wealthy people and transnational corporations who just don’t want or need common folk around anymore.
And that is why I say that Existence is Resistance. That is why I encourage any and everyone on the front lines of the class war in the U.S. to think of Existence as Resistance. Sometimes just hanging around is enough. Because eventually the tide will turn, us common folk will need each other to turn the tide and to put things back into their proper order once the tide has been turned.
Exist to resist.