“When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it — always.”
— Mahatma Gandhi
By Dennis Brault
The Commoner Call (2/6/17)
The Electoral College and Congress have spoken. The oath’s been given. Our Constitution is a harsh mistress and a very undemocratic one too boot. In fact, our system of government was designed to be rather anti-democratic right from the get go. James Madison wrote that the Constitution was “so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” This undemocratic design was purposeful, because as Madison explains “on a candid examination of history, we shall find that turbulence, violence, and abuse of power, by the majority trampling on the rights of the minority, have produced factions and commotions, which, in republics, have, more frequently than any other cause, produced despotism.”
Over the Christmas holidays my family watched a DVR recording of Roger Waters, performing his of pink Floyd album The Wall. At one point in the performance, dressed in full authoritarian military garb, Water’s sings out “Mother should I trust the government?” The stadium crowd shouts back a resounding NOOOOO!
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Governments need to fear the people, and earn back their trust.
The Wall is a personal story about Waters life and how Roger built a wall to hide his empathetic and progressive caring self. The wall allowed him to publically reveal only his authoritarian, conservative strict-father side. Waters, like most people, has both authoritarian and empathetic personalities and values. Which one of these personalities bubbles to the surface and influences our feelings is the battle ground we Democrats need to do a better job of winning?
The performance begins with Roger playing a trumpet solo over his father’s grave. His father was killed during a WWII battle along with many others and a memorial cemetery was built there. Suddenly a large B52 bomber appears over the horizon flying low its bomb bays open. The sound is deafening as the bomber flies low overhead. Then WOOSH, you’re in the stadium at the concert. The bomber has delivered its payload. The stage explodes with fireworks and the power chord opening to “In the Felsch.” The smoke clears and Roger and the band are revealed, dressed in authoritarian military uniforms. It is now that Roger tells us his whole image is a charade:
“So ya. Thought ya. Might like to go to the show. To feel the warm thrill of confusion. That space cadet glow. Tell me is something eluding you, sunshine? Is this not what you expected to see? If you wanna find out what’s behind these cold eyes You’ll just have to claw your way through this disguise.”
It is this personal struggle between Roger’s empathic and authoritarian self, that dominates the story. We discover that Roger has hidden away his caring self behind a wall. Eventually Roger is put on trial, accused of having “feelings of an almost human nature.” Reflecting on his situation Roger’s progressive self realizes there’s a path to the other side of the wall, “There must have been a door there in the wall When I came in.” There is as Leonard Cohen sings “a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
The Judge, feeling the “urge to defecate,” declares, “The evidence before the court is Incontrovertible,” and orders Rogers Wall torn down:
Since, my friend, you have revealed your Deepest fear,
I sentence you to be exposed before Your peers.
Tear down the wall!
Freed at last progressive Roger sings on Outside The Wall, that once outside we find our lives are spent empathetically “banging your heart against some mad bugger’s wall.” But what choice do we have, but to keep shining a light, looking for the keyhole, to unlock the door they walked through to hide behind. We must have faith that empathy will somehow win the day. But most importantly we must have faith in ourselves.
“If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world.” — Noam Chomsky
Which is where we find ourselves today, trying to help make a better world. We’re banging our heads on people’s walls, trying to find and unlock that door behind which their inner progressive is hidden. A key 20% of the electorate can be reached by opening this door. A key can be made by empathetically framing ourselves and our issues.
I recently finished reading Carmen Simon’s, Impossible to Ignore and she has several useful tips we might use to help unlock some doors:
- To influence others we must start with this question: What exactly do we want them to remember and act on.
- People may not remember what you said; but they will remember how you made them feel.
- Link your message to human needs and you will earn attention.
- Link your message to peoples most important goals.
Don’t let your silence be your consent. Let your compassion shine till you find the crack where the light gets in. Be silent no more.
“Let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on good humor
Shine on good will
Shine on lousy leadership
Licensed to kill
Shine on dying soldiers
In patriotic pain
Shine on mass destruction
In some God’s name!
Shine on the pioneers
Those seekers of mental health
They traveled inward
May all their little lights shine”
— Joni Mitchell, Shine
• Watch the powerful opening number Roger Waters – In the Flesh? 4:18 Video
There Is No Political Center: For more information about how most of us are afflicted with these dueling conservative and progressive political personalities, I recommend reading just about anything by George Lakoff, i.e. There Is No Political Center—There Are No Centrists. Excerpt below.
“There is no left to right linear spectrum in the American political life. There are two systems of values and modes of thought — call them progressive and conservative (or nurturant and strict, as I have). There are total progressives, who use a progressive mode of thought on all issues. And total conservatives. And there are lots of folks who are what I’ve called “biconceptuals“: progressive on certain issue areas and conservative on others. But they don’t form a linear scale. They are all over the place: progressive on domestic policy, conservative on foreign policy; conservative on economic policy, progressive on foreign policy and social issues; conservative on religion, but progressive on social issues and foreign policy; and on and on. No linear scale. No single set of values defining a “center.” Indeed many of such folks are not moderate in their views; they can be quite passionate about both their progressive and conservative views…
The very idea that there is a “center” marginalizes progressives, and sees them as extremists, when they simply share fundamental American values. The term “center” suggests there is a “mainstream” where most people are and that there is a single set of views held by that mainstream. That is false.”
(Commoner Call & Lines of Resistance cartoons by Mark L. Taylor, 2016/17. Open source and free to use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )