How to Deal with the Money Changers

Submitted by Charles Sackrey; Dedicated to Karl Patten

We all know now that the money changers have ruined a good part of the world economy, brought millions to our knees and many more to the streets.   Yet, on the bright side these blue suited, repeat offenders have forced us to ask a crucial question:  Is our worship of capitalism simply another fantastic dream about a pie in the sky that was never there?

And, if so, two other questions:  “What is to be done?  And, just whose advice should we follow?”   We will all have our favorite words of wisdom in these matters, ranging from the soft and resolute murmurs of the advocates of non-violence to the shouts of those demanding that we raid Goldman Sachs amd the home office of the Koch Brothers’ empire, and capture the felons as they try to slither their way to safety.

About these questions, I have found myself lately thinking about two of my own mentors who most usefully to me now about how to unseat these corporate criminals.  Well, first off, there’s Jesus, who led my family to raise me as a Southern Baptist and made me come to believe that you had to worry about the fellow down the road who was in trouble.  I’ll say more about Jesus in a minute.

Second, when I went to college in Texas, I was inspired and radicalized by left wing professors and I became in a predictable order first a communist, then an anarchist, then the democratic socialist that I am now.  That path meant that along the way I would gather wisdom and inspiration from Joe Hill, the most famous member of the Industrial Workers of the World, the Wobblies.  The Wobblies were anti-capitalist unionists who, began in the early 1900s to wage a mighty class war with the bosses.  This is one war you should read about if you haven’t already.  The Wobblies were crushed in 1917 by the federal government for their opposition to capitalism and to World War I, only to rise again to organize farm workers in the 1920s and 30s.  And, they still exist on a much smaller scale.

Joe Hill, an immigrant from Sweden, was an active organizer, speaker, and troubadour for the Wobblies from 1910 to 1915.  Then in 1915 he was executed on trumped up murder charges by the state of Utah. He was enormously popular within the union, and famous for many of his songs and great courage in organizing.  He is especially famous for a comment to a friend just before he was executed.  He said, “I will die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize.”  He also added, “Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.”

The Wobblies believed in resisting the bosses in every way possible, but the weapon they considered the most powerful was the general strike.  In such a strike, the workers – knowing that they are the ones who produce the output — simply would lay down their tools.  The Wobblies knew that without their wage slaves, the capitalist bosses could not produce anything, and the system would stall and become vulnerable to being overthrown.  In my anarchist days, I, too, used to dream about the general strike, and once again it seems to me a promising weapon in the war with the corporate bosses.

Given these views, I see the Occupy Wall Street movement as at least in part, a fabulous reincarnation of the spirit of Joe Hill and the Wobblies. And, I know that many of the older ones are being urged forward by remembering Joan Baez, or someone else, singing “ I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night. Alive as You and Me.”   My hat is off to those in this movement, in my town and in all the others around the world, because they switched from being complainers to being organizers.  Now, I dream happily that they and I will become worthy ancestors of the Wobblies.  And, as they talk among themselves about short and long strategies, surely the idea of a general strike somewhere down the road will find its way into their discussions.

So, what about my second mentor, Jesus, himself, And, here, I’m not talking about the one who claimed his to be the son of God, and whose followers claimed he healed the sick, and could turn water into wine, among other miracles.  The Jesus that most influenced me after I grew up was the rabble rouser who loved the poor and loathed their oppressors. Like many radicals, my favorite story about Jesus is the one, told by his disciple, John, and confirmed by many other witnesses. According to John, this is how Jesus answered the question, “What is to be done?” Just before Passover, Jesus went to the Jerusalem Temple and found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove the men and animals from the temple area.  He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.

Jesus apparently was particularly perturbed about the burden of Temple commerce on widows and their children.  Given this story,  and whether we are faithful followers of Christ’s sacred word, or just an admirer of the parts of Jesus that were like Joe Hill, we might see this story as a mandate to do something like this:  we organize a caravan and go to the offices of Goldman Sachs and of the Koch Brothers where, armed with whips made from cords, we demand that they follow us to the jailhouse where they can begin to pay for their crimes against humanity and democracy.    

It is also interesting that, according to his disciples and other witness, the fracas as the temple was the only time they ever saw Jesus really angry.  In fact, if you didn’t’ know this story, you might think Jesus spent most of time talking about love, grace, forgiveness and how awful things would get for us if we didn’t behave. I think we can all understand at this point why it was the bankers of his time who helped to push Jesus over the line into violence.

If I were a money changer, or a political hack in their pay, I would be worried about the collective rage now building about their actions. What they have done and are doing is likely to cause many of us to cross all sorts of lines in our struggle to regain the power they have seized.

A final note here is about a wonderful irony.  While Jesus was the founder of Christianity, and Joe Hill was an atheist with a deep contempt for the church, they were as one in their unfettered anger for the money changers. And, as the Baptists in my family would put it, they were also both great witnesses for the good.

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An Open Letter to Supporters of Occupy Lewisburg

Let me start by saying I get how difficult things are, and how busy we have all become.  I get how overwhelming it can be to just keep up.

Part of what we are fighting, what we’ve all agreed is the problem, is the way that we are being disabled by the 1%.  After all, if these folks had not conspired to rig the financial system in their favor, we would all have approximately 50% more income to use to help us meet our needs, and at least 20% more time.  That’s one extra workday a week, and, for many families, one extra income.

So our efforts to restore sanity and justice to a system gone mad are hobbled by the insanity and injustice of the system we are up against.  I get that.

I want you to know, too, I appreciate the efforts you are already making.  I know we are all, daily engaged in unseen and unrewarded efforts to help those near and dear to us, and, for some, just to meet our own needs.

Several of us have managed to go beyond our immediate friends and family and it is important to acknowledge the work these folks are doing.

  • Sam Pearson is working tirelessly on a number of fronts, the Local Action Network and the Sierra Club, among other things addressing the environmental threat from natural gas fracking,.
  • Charles Sackrey is working with OUE on opposing the proposed tire burning plant upwind of Lewisburg.
  • Jove Graham and Steva Stowell-Hardcastle and John Peeler and others are working to prevent the worst-case electoral scenario.
  • Barb Sundin, Charles Facka and Lexie Orr are working on electoral reform so we can vote with ballots not dollars.
  • Kathy Kristjanson-Gural is working to shore up community ties to help families in our community.
  • Cindy Peltier is working with CARE on racism.
  • Judy Peeler and others supporting the work of the Heiter Center to provide support for working families and their kids.
  • Pat Rock and others are working on a Clean Water Initiative.
  • Joe Manzi is promoting non-violence through the CNL;
  • Joe and Jackie Detelj, Johnny and Leah Tewks, Jen and Harvey Partica are helping to restore sanity to our food system.

Each of these people are working with many others, and many other organizations and individuals deserve mention.  Most are doing this work on top of paid jobs that also serve the community.

So, yes, I am going to ask us all to do more, but please know that I get how much we are already doing, privately and publicly.  And I get that what I am asking is completely unreasonable.

It’s a bit hard to wrap our minds around what is happening to us.  I think about Virginia Zimmerman’s comparison to the Elizabethan era explorers who first gazed out across the unbelievable expanse of the Grand Canyon.  They saw evidence of the true dimension of time, the incomprehensible scope of our past, and they simply had no conceptual framework to understand it.  They literally couldn’t see what was before them.  That was a moment like the one we are in now.

It makes perfect sense to be thrown off balance.  Our hearts are telling us something is true that our minds simply can’t comprehend.  Our minds are encountering truths that our hearts are just not willing to take in.  I get that too.

Here is the rub.  Our inaction is the only guarantee of our defeat.

This week, in Durban, South Africa, the representatives of the global poor are dashing themselves on the rocks of those who represent us, the nations of privilege, desperately hoping to get our representatives to see reason.  I listened to Apisai Ielemia, Foreign Minister of Tuvalu, whose nation will be entirely underwater in my lifetime, asking, in vain, only that we set and enforce a limit on what we are entitled to spew out into the air, the ocean of air on which we all depend.

The planet is warming and the polar ice caps are melting faster than even the most pessimistic scientists predicted.  That’s not just bad news for Tuvalu.  It means the storms we’ve seen this fall, storms that our neighbors in Bloomsburg are still recovering from, will become commonplace.  It means that we can no longer depend upon the weather patterns we require to grow our food.  We’ve seen the effects already on the bee populations, these unpaid, unsung heroes of the food system without which we would be hamstrung in our efforts to feed ourselves.

How many of us are already feeling the effects of this emergency?  How many have more friends sick or dead from cancers and other chronic ailments than they believed possible?  How many have seen their households striven by divorce or their children founder on the way to independence?  How many have already lost their jobs, our homes to this scandalous betrayal by our corporate elite?

So there is the problem.  We are all too busy, and feel too powerless, to undertake the collective actions we need to change our deadly course, but unless we change course, we will only become more embattled.

The only answer I can see is this:  We have to act together.   And we have to do it now.

We have to act on two fronts.  One is to interrupt business as usual in order to change the course we are on. This means challenging the priorities of the institutions we are part of and the institutions on which we depend. The longer we wait, the more serious the disruption to the planet and its people.  The other is to continue to maintain and extend a safety net for each other, to mitigate the harsh effects of this increasingly heartless system on our community.

So I know it seems that coming together on a monthly basis to hold signs and listen to each other seems futile.  But despair is the very glue that holds this immoral system together.  And the only thing that dissolves that glue is our unrelenting determination to show up – to show up against the odds, against the dictates of our unmanageable schedules, against the ongoing demands of our children, our jobs and our marriages.

And, I know it is counter-intuitive, we need to celebrate.  Yes, celebrate.  Because unless we find some joy in this most perilous moment that we inhabit, we will surely be pulled under by the tides of resignation.   We need to call on the better angels of our most resilient selves to laugh at the absurdity of the army arrayed before us, to weaken their hold on us through our ability to sing, to speak poetry, to enact on stage our refusal to be swallowed up.

We need to activate our most creative, most resilient selves in order to be able to imagine what we can do in the face of this deepening crisis.  We need to draw encouragement from what we see in each other, our faces that reflect back to us the knowledge that we can do this impossible thing.

That is the reason I am asking you to continue to lend your support to the Occupy Lewisburg gatherings.  That’s why I am asking you to come to Cherry Alley on Friday night.  Just show up once a month, on top of everything else you are doing, to lend your encouragement and support to others and, in turn, to gather strength of purpose and resolve to continue to insist that we can learn to live with each other with respect, in solidarity, and in mutual recognition of the enormity of what we are facing.

If you can’t make dinner, come after dinner.  Read the attached articles and think about what you would like us to all to take up. If you can’t come Friday, join us at the Post Office from noon to one on Saturday, bring your homemade sign, and share your abiding presence.

If you can’t make either, I get that, but please, somehow seek to make visible your continuing support for our courageous collective effort, the effort to create a world that makes sense for us, for the people of Tuvalu and for all those who come next.

In solidarity,

David Kristjanson-Gural

Occupy Wall St.: Getting to know you

Occupy Wall St. befuddles the corporate media but that’s only because the message is so simple, so reasonable, and so unwelcome to corporate interests.  We want our democracy back; we want economic justice.  By occupying public space in approximately 350 cities and towns across the country, Occupy Wall St. is creating a dialogue about what has happened to our economy and democracy, how we can act to restore integrity to our democratic institutions and how we can restore fairness to our economic lives.

 

The occupations are making it possible for this debate to occur but they are doing more.  The occupiers themselves are also demonstrating, by their internal organization, what real democracy looks like.  The occupiers are taking their responsibilities as citizens seriously.  They are informing themselves, discussing issues, formulating tactics and engaging in non-violent civil disobedience in an effort, as Mahatma Gandhi recommended, to “be the change they want to see in the world.”

 

If we believe their two key messages – that our democracy is not working and that we need to restore economic justice – then we have a civic responsibility to take heed of the example of these, our fellow citizens.  We have a responsibility to inform ourselves of the arguments and evidence concerning our economic and political institutions, to decide what we believe to be true, and to then take what actions we deem to be appropriate.

 

We cannot rely on corporate media sources to uncover the message and meaning of Occupy Wall St.  To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, the corporate media is not the solution to the problem; the corporate media is the problem.  By all means, examine what these folks are saying about this movement, but then check this version of the facts with other sources, sources not beholden to shareholders or corporate money.

 

Here is a short list of a few sources that will provide you with a powerful antidote to what the corporate media has been selling, sources that will help you to determine, for yourself what is true, and what is to be done.

 

For an overview of the causes and consequences of the financial crisis that began in 2008, see the documentary Inside Job, produced and directed by Charles Ferguson.  You can purchase this film inexpensively on-line and it is well worth the small investment, or you can borrow the film from Netflix or a local library.

 

http://www.sonyclassics.com/insidejob/

 

For ideas concerning how ordinary citizens can act to restore control of government regulation and insist that elected representative represent the will of the people:

 

1. Learn about how Iceland is responding to the crisis by using referenda to wrest control of the economic lives from the corporate financial elites.

 

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/11/15-3

 

2. Learn about how Maine has passed electoral reform to support public financing of elections.

 

http://www.newrules.org/governance/rules/campaign-finance-reform/campaign-finance-reform-maine

 

For news and editorial coverage that is supportive of the aims of the Occupy Wall St. movement :

 

http://www.commondreams.org

http://www.truth-out.org/

http://www.democracynow.org/

 

For economic facts, figures, humor and analysis:

 

http://anticap.wordpress.com/

 

For local information on Occupy Wall St. actions.

 

http://www.facebook.com/groups/132952800139539/

 

http://spillingink.net

 

If you support the value of democratic participation, inform yourself by confronting information in both corporate and non-corporate forms of media.  You find some surprising information and points of view.  And you will come to hold your beliefs with the secure foundation of having grappled with others who think differently.

 

 

 

Occupy Lewisburg?

This Saturday, October 15th from 1 – 2 pm, citizens of Lewisburg are gathering at the Post Office to support Occupy Wall St.

Occupy Wall St. represents a response to a serious question: What ought we to do, we the citizens of a democratic republic, when our elected representatives from the only two major parties are no longer responsive to the will of the people? Occupy Wall St. is an effort to gather the energy of those who believe that we need to restore integrity to our democracy, of those who believe we need to harness that energy in an ongoing grassroots effort to create real and lasting change.

Unlike the Tea Party, Occupy Wall St. doesn’t identify big government as the problem. Rather, the problem is that government has been hijacked by the wealthy and is being run, not in the interests of the people, but to preserve the wealth and power of the few. One of the most telling outcomes of this take-over of political power is the burgeoning inequality in our country. When 1% of the population owns and controls over half the country’s business wealth, when CEO’s are paid three hundred times as much as average workers, when wealth investors like Warren Buffet pay lower tax rates that their administrative assistants, when tax breaks for billionaire are routinely extended but funding for real social needs goes wanting, we undermine the basis for a vibrant democracy and a viable economy.

It would be one thing if the inequality resulted in prosperity for all, but the opposite is true. Splendor at Saks on 5th Avenue has been achieved at the expense of punishing destitution for much of working American. In spite of the fact that the American workforce is almost twice as productive we are taking home no more than we did in 1985. Corporations continue to offshore jobs; banks are foreclosing on record numbers of mortgages; the government stands idly by. The 1% continue to cop out of paying their fair share of taxes, and we are being asked to close schools, lay off city workers, cut badly needed services. And, of course, we are asked to put in longer hours on the job when millions are without work.

This economic crisis did not drop from the sky – it is the direct result of allowing corporations to seek the maximum profit with limited oversight from regulators and little scrutiny by the corporate press. The solution to the crisis in not to restore conditions for further economic growth, if economic growth means a continued exploitation of American and foreign workers, continued plundering of our common resources and continued release of carbon emissions that threaten the integrity of the planet’s ecosystems. What we need instead is a thorough and fearless rethinking of how we organize our economy, what behavior we reward, and who controls our common wealth.

It’s easy to write off this type of movement. But before doing so, ask yourself this question: what do you recommend we, as concerned citizens committed to democracy, do instead? Is it really possible to effect real change from within a political system when the ballot box is stuffed with money? Is it really viable to sit back and just hope things change for the better? If we are going to resuscitate our democracy, we need to begin by gathering, in public spaces and listening to each other, we need to make proposals, discuss, debate, compromise and then move forward. That is what we will do Saturday, in Lewisburg.

We will not be alone. Right now, all over the world, more than 1600 communities large and small, are organizing Occupy Wall St. actions to begin to take back our democracy. On this Saturday, October 15th, over 650 cities and towns are holding actions. Come see what this is all about and find out for yourself whether real change is possible and how it feels to be part of the solution.

This Article will appear in the Daily Item (Sunbury, PA) on October 15th, 2011

The Heart in Action

for Duduzile

You come from the darkness of injustice, Soweto,

That flat, artificial city you showed us photos

Of, that camp without walls, an imposed rigor,

And you approach our guilt with warming light.

 

You are the one who comforts, Duduzile, and we

Need you, shamed that in our name wrongs are done

Daily to you and your people, need your courage,

The heart in action, saying the hard No to tyranny.

 

Your light penetrates our mind of darkness,

And that hurts, for we know we avoid the light,

Except for false flickerings on a screen.  Truth

From Soweto appalls us.  But your words confirmed

 

And comforted me as you stood so bravely speaking,

Refusing to weep as you described humiliation

And fear, the Soweto story, and your heart in action,

Peace and love to you. Remember me, your friend.

Karl Patten

The Impossible Reaches

Comment:  I met Duduzile (her African name, her English one being Joyce) at Pendle Hill, a Quaker retreat where I had gone for a quiet place where I could write.  She and her friend, Ellison, were travelling around the U.S. speaking of apartheid and its evils (this was 1987).

Surprising myself, I took to going to early morning Meeting, and one time Duduzile stood and described, compellingly, her experiences (and her children’s) as a black person in severely segregated South Africa – fear, humiliation, and a desire to fight back.  It was the most moving personal account I have ever heard.

Some times things combine.  I had given a poetry reading at Pendle Hill; Duduzile and Ellison were to go to Washington, DC, following their stay there.  They had no way to get to the railroad station, and, hearing this, I offered to take them.  As we stood on the platform, she asked me if I would write a poem for her, a request a writer never wants to hear and invariably dodges, but in her case I had to say “Yes,” and “The Heart in Action” is the poem I wrote.  To my astonishment I wrote another poem for her, this one for Joyce, and I sent them to Soweto, of course.  That is the only time I have ever acceded to the question, and I now am glad that she made it – compellingly.

A Learning

for Joyce

We think we make the pot,

Eager hands at the wheel.

Ignorant, we forget

How things become whole

 

And whirl the wheel faster

As thumbs and fingers grope.

The matter is the master,

The clay knows its shape,

 

The dark mind within it

Will make what it can make.

I and me and mine sought

To conquer – a mistake.

 

The vessel won’t hold water.

We learn about the clay,

That form follows matter.

You taught me that today.

10/13/87

Karl Patten

Spaces and Lines

Comment: In my comment on “The Heart in Action” I said that Duduzile, the brave and eloquent woman from Soweto, had an English name, Joyce, too.  That tells you something about South Africa in 1987 under apartheid.

I knew her at Pendle Hill, the Quaker retreat, where she was Joyce.  Among her many talents, she was a gifted potter, and one day she demonstrated her pottery work for the residents.  I admired how she worked and how she showed the difficulties of the wheel.  As I said before, she wanted a poem from me, and to my surprise I wrote her two, “A Learning” being the second.   “The matter is the matter,” and a poem about making a pot wanted to be tight and rhymed, but, for me, the poem is also dealing with human ignorance and the will to conquer – until we learn we can’t. Then we make something worthwhile. 13084

Winter

 

The landscape of bread

Sleeps, sodden, rainbitten.

 

Under the waterfield

Memories of a leaf of flame.

 

Across the plain

A hard shadow on the dreaming wind.

 

Begin again at zero,

Crawl through the stone-hole,

 

Belly-down, and grovel

Into the earth’s dark eye.

 

Chew the bread of winter.

 

Karl Patten

from Touch: Poems

 

Commentary:  I would hope that this small poem speaks to our condition.  I mean, of course, the weather this winter, harsh and long, but also to the fact that we must face up to adverse situations and act, not merely accept them.  If one agrees, then I guess that this becomes an existential poem; we see what’s there and then do something about it, hard as that may be.

 

In the Park, V-J Night

“Fuck me, honey, fuck me, please,” Shirley

Asked, more than squirming underneath me

In the park, drunk, as I was drunk, both

Celebrating, if getting drunk fast

Is what you do when a war ends, not aware

At all of what two atomic bombs had done

To Hiroshima, Nagasaki, strange names only

Headlines, bold.

I wanted to, but didn’t dare.

The whole town was dancing in that park, all

Drunk, too, but they still had eyes, and I

Still had my own eyes, so couldn’t, didn’t.

Shirley dropped me a week later, wouldn’t

Come to the phone.  I guessed it was because

Her boy-friend was coming home from the Navy.

But some of her lovely honey still sticks on me

Drips, saying I made a mistake in the park

That night, in the welcoming exulting August

Grass, green, furry, warm, as Shirley was,

Not yet know “we won the war” by dumping

Fast sizzling, printable death (with echoes

Sounding still) on places packed with people,

And so easily, almost casually,

as the loud folks

In the park would have glazed on Shirley

And me, a couple of kids, doing what we didn’t.

Nothing to see.

Shirley and I were as torrid

And young as those bombs, but their flash was aimed.

(8/15/45 – 2/1/94)

from Touch: Poems

Commentary: As with many of my poems, this one came from sleep.  I awoke one morning hearing the voice of the first line loud and clear, a voice I had not heard for nearly fifty years, but authentic, it was Shirley’s voice, indeed.  And it cast me back to what had happened (or didn’t) on August 15th, 1945.

And that made me need to recapture the whole meaning of what “we won the war” meant in its whole.  Kids like Shirley and me – and I think everyone else in the park regardless of age – did not know what those two atomic bombs had done, we couldn’t have.  Yet in time we realized what monstrous attacks had done in our name.  Guiltless, in one sense, we are all guilty, and that black hand on our shoulders insists that nothing like that should happen again.