Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A Peek Inside My Mind's Processes

Bear with me.

I was working on the computer today, doing some reading and making some blog posts. All the while I've been listening to various podcasts, instead of the usual talk radio fare. Talk radio is getting dull for me because it's too much the hosts babbling on and less and less people calling in getting to speak. I like hearing from the people, challenging the host and forcing a debate from which I can learn. I guess I prefer a discusson over a lecture.

Anyway, I'm listening to the podcast for the season two finale of Battlestar Galactica. I haven't seen this episode yet (I will on Wednesday over at Mark's.) nonetheless I'm listening to the podcast, which is also spoiling the whole thing for me.

Like I said, bear with me.

So the producers are talking about a scene where a character is giving a speech and how that speech and the actor's movements are taken from a member of the Sixties Free Speech Movement in Berkeley, California, a man named Mario Savio. Even though the speech was forty years ago, and pretty obscure today, that producer had kept a copy of it.

Not having heard the speech yet, nor knowing the particulars of this scene yet, I went ahead and tried Googling around. I did find the Free Speech Movement Archives, though, and that finally brought me to this famous speech (slightly edited here). I'm not sure if it's the one from Battlestar or not, but it struck me like a clapper strikes a bell:
We have an autocracy which runs this university. It's managed....

Now, I ask you to consider: if this is a firm, and if the Board of Regents are the board of directors, and if President Kerr in fact is the manager, then I'll tell you something: the faculty are a bunch of employees, and we're the raw material! But we're a bunch of raw material[s] that don't mean to have any process upon us, don't mean to be made into any product, don't mean to end up being bought by some clients of the University, be they the government, be they industry, be they organized labor, be they anyone! We're human beings!

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

Now, no more talking. We're going to march in singing "We Shall Overcome." Slowly; there are a lot of us.
And somehow that put me immediately in mind of Operation Fed Up, the movement to recall the Memphis mayor, Dr. Willie Herenton.

We have a city that is managed for us, for which we are the raw materials. The city isn't being run for our benefit and improvement, rather we are being used as raw material to improve the lives of a few at the top. Those who are the Mayor and the City Council, who are their friends, who are their political cronies, who are their financial backers and benefactors and beneficiaries.

Why are we trying to recall the Mayor? To jam the levers and gears of "business as usual." To pry open the machinery (or should I capitalise that, Machinery?) in order to see the rot and deterioration inside. To stop the ruination of Memphis.

Is the Mayor being made a scapegoat? A symbol? Not entirely. He is a source of much that is wrong, and his behavior to the voters and their proxies in the press only reinforces our belief in how wrong this all is. But he is the exposed gear, the place at which the spanner can be thrown that will stop the Machine.

Why? Read Memphis Watchdog and Thaddeus' blog if you really don't know. If your eyes aren't opened, if your heart isn't made sick, if your intestines don't grow cold and then begin to burn, go back to your televisual stupor, your mindless pursuits. You are already lost to us. You are already clay being shaped by someone else.

But, if you are still a man or a woman who can act, then we're calling you. Sometimes, only once in a great while, you have to throw a wrench into the whirring machine. You have to destroy it so that something new can be built after the wreckage is cleared. The factory will not close itself down, it must be closed by force.

That's why there's so much exhiliration and fright surrounding the recall. The idea of completely blowing up the political machine stirs the soul as any enormous act of destruction will. And then comes the contemplation of what's next, the view across the gaping crater into the mists of an unseen land.

As Shakespeare so perfectly put it:
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
We must not be cowards. We cannot live as we are. We wither as others around us prosper. We must not be afraid of what we might become, because we know what greatness is in us, and it is waiting to be set free. We must throw off the past, violently if need be, to make a future.

Thomas Jefferson put it more succinctly: "The tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of Tyrants and Patriots." We are calling for political blood.

Recall Mayor Herenton. Reclaim our city.

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