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Friday, April 11, 2014

THE BOYCOTT OF ONE

vladimir tatlin

In the Sixties I became politically engaged, not as an activist, rather a hoarder of opinions with a few friends who objected to the perpetual war our government was creating. I was fired up with opinions I thought had foundation and meaning. Went to the 1968 march on the Pentagon over the Vietnam war. It was a big crowd, a couple hundred thousand, spirited speakers like Norman Mailer, Dr Spock among others. Peter, Paul and Mary sang Blowin In The Wind. It was a time of much anti-war pop songs by Bob Dylan and everybody else. Dylan, of course, was not there. The Fugs were there playing on a portable stage in the Pentagon parking lot their anti-war anthem, Kill For Peace. I loved hearing them do that song. I felt like I had arrived at an important place. The energy of the event felt important. I returned home believing I had done something worth while. Next day I looked at the Washington Post, New York Times, AP, and all reported the same story, none of which happened. Everything written was false. It puzzled me that the press got it so wrong when they were all there in the privileged area in front of the stage. How could they miss it? Time, Newsweek and US World all told the same story as the newspapers reported, none of which happened. It was frustrating because I had been there, had seen what it was and could see not one word in the national news was true. I felt quite strange. Here were six "legitimate" witnesses, witnesses that would stand in court. I knew they were all lying, but what could I say? I felt without recourse. I saw very clearly the different organs of corporate press were in league with each other. A few days later the Village Voice came in the mail, which I'm glad I subscribed to then. Nat Hentoff wrote the article in the Voice as one who had been there. He reported that LBJ held a press conference before the event where he told the reporters what to report. Obedient corporate yes-men they reported as told, except Hentoff who reported the press conference as well.
 
vladimir tatlin
 
That day I wrote off the corporate press as a source for information. I'm recalling Gore Vidal's reasoning for why he said we have no history. History is written from diaries, letters, journals and memoirs, all of which are self serving, and newspaper articles, which we all know are not true. Hence, we have no history. Reading the corporate press accounts I was thinking school kids doing research papers in the future will cite these articles and draw their conclusions based on a presidential lie that became fact in the press. The part that ate at me the most was that all but one reported the lie under their own names as witnesses who had been there. Norman Mailer happened to be at the press conference too, and he reported the press conference in his book, The Armies Of The Night. Mailer's account accorded with Hentoff's. That same day I lost my virginity to the corporate press, I gained a respect for Nat Hentoff that is with me to this day. One reporter told it as it happened. I see that Rupert Murdoch now owns Village Voice, so it has no more credibility. In its time the Voice was one of the rare credible papers in the country. It was also the day I looked my own absence of any kind of power as citizen in the eye and dropped political engagement from my mind, from my life. Not many years ago some people here were getting together to demonstrate about the proposed location of a prison in the next county. I was asked to join. I said the only things I have ever seen come of demonstrations was people getting beat up by cops and the hassle of arrest. Like the Rolling Stones song, "I think I'll go down to the demonstration and get my fair share of abuse." I made it clear I have no confidence in demonstrations and could not participate. They were successful. I congratulated them, feeling they deserved it, and apologized for my vote of no confidence. I had resolved myself to zero political involvement and held to it.
 
vladimir tatlin
 
I had learned that I have no voice as a citizen. I learned, too, I have no recourse. I don't see any point in going up against the Death Star for any reason. People with power hold it jealously. I don't want their power. They are going to do what they do and I am going to take it. However, I do have a key in my pocket. I learned seven or eight years ago that Coca Cola Corp was hiring death squads in Columbia to kill union activists and their families. What can I do about it? I quit buying Coke. I can't stop them from doing what they do, but I don't have to do my part to support it. Even if they only get a dollar a year from me, that's more than I'm willing to give. They can't force me to drink Coca-Cola. When I have a soft drink, it's DrPepper. It's probably owned by Coca-Cola Corp. I don't like what Walmart does to communities, to American economy, Asian sweatshops, especially how it treats its employees. I don't go to Walmart except in emergency that so seldom happens I've not been inside one in awhile. My money is my energy and I don't like giving my energy to a corporation that I don't like all the way around. The boycott of one. I like the maxim, never buy anything advertised on tv. I grew up in a church culture where the attitude was if you don't approve of something you have responsibility to browbeat people who are doing whatever it is. It was an unspoken belief that when the preacher's wife disapproves, you better cut it out. It ripples out from churches into the society that we're automatically expected to yield to disapproval. I bought it, of course, at the time, and later learned my way out of that mind. Political correctness is a new form of ruling by disapproval. Adhere to this list of rules and you're cool. If you don't you're not cool. I don't talk back to that thinking, because the people doing it are only disappointing me with their own limitations. But my attitude toward it is I am not cool, have never been cool and cool is not an ambition. Huffing disapproval is not cool either.
 
vladimir tatlin
 
The boycott of one is my own personal form of civil disobedience. I learned before high school that I would never work for a corporation. I have only worked for individuals with small businesses. In the ten years I painted houses, I worked for the house owner who hired me. My attitude with every one was that if we are not friends when job is done, I've failed. I never dripped paint on screens, no drips on decks or rocks or ferns or anything. And cleaned up after myself. I got paid satisfactorily well and had good associations with the people I worked for. I worked alone, because I did not want anybody else doing the work in my name. I never used a roller or spray. Brush only. Walls, everything, except ceiling, though I have painted ceilings by brush. I hated a roller. They splattered and left an ugly texture in the paint. I preferred the texture of a brush, the flow. It was a time in the life when I liked using tools with the least number of parts. An axe was great. Handle and blade. After a few years on the farm fixing broken machinery, the only tools I carried into the field with the tractor was an adjustable wrench and a big screwdriver. Whatever went wrong, I could either fix it with these tools or get it back to the barn where I kept the tools. It was a sign of how much I'd learned in a few years, a kind of report card the first time I went out without the toolbox, just two tools. I never took to power tools. I liked learning to put fence posts in the ground so they'll never wiggle, and stretch the barbed wire so it would stay tight for several years. There are tricks to these skills that need to be learned. I wanted to learn the old ways of farming, liking that my learning was not to make a living at, but to understand by experience. I learned to make a split-rail fence from cutting down the tree, splitting it into rails with an axe, a sledgehammer and two wedges, to putting up the fence. I loved learning something that was totally of the past. It was my link to old-time mountain culture I had the good fortune to see the tail end of and learn farming skills directly from someone of that time. I love it that my knowledge is useless. The interest was not motivated by wanting to be in the past, but for my own historical, cultural curiosity toward appreciating more fully the mountain people.
 
vladimir tatlin himself
 
 
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4 comments:

  1. "I love that my knowledge is useless." What a wonderful outlook on life as a whole. I was a young mother and wife in the 60's so the war just went by without me even knowing it. I did not actively take part in any protest or demonstrations and the same with the civil rights movement. I never grew up with prejudices so again it went right over my head what was happening...Not sure I am unhappy about that part of my life. I guess I am not "cool" as I am about the most politically uncorrect person in the family as my kiddies are quick to point out to me but like I said in my blog...I never follow the rules...never have... Enjoyed having coffee and reading your blog this morning Tj...Live is getting back to normal again....

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    1. Thanks Darlene, my guess is you're better off being preoccupied in that time with kids. My friend Carole was too. She doesn't miss it. For me it was a time of learning that what I'd been taught in school about our government had nothing to do with anything. Funny about you and your daughters. I have to muzzle myself when I walk in the door at the coffee shop. Not because I care, I just don't want to hear it. One day at Jr's when I was there, his niece drove up. I started to put the liquor bottle out of sight. He said, I don't care if she sees it. I said, I don't care either, I just don't want to hear it. He put the bottle out of sight himself. So I watch my language in the coffee shop. I want to take this moment to tell you again your writing is flowing beautifully.

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  2. TJ, I have a lot of work ahead of me in learning to let go of the things I cannot change. Accept them as the serenity prayer extolls. Every fiber of my being from early adulthood on is rooted in the notion that civic activism can work, that the little guys can beat the corporate power brokers and their government pawns. I've seen it. I've done it. But not in a long, long time. And I seriously do not believe I could achieve the same results today because the relationship between the money brokers and their government parasites is so interwoven that it is practically, if not actually, incestuous. That angers and depresses me. I am at the age (nearly 53) when anger and depression should be dissipating from my psyche. Yet, injustice still galls and stirs me. And the worst part is that individuals todays have such deeply held opinions that it is nearly impossible to get enough of them to coalesce around an issue to matter. The elected elite have raised the art of divide-and-conquer to an art form and we stand beneath their easel without even a brush with which to paint a dissenting stroke.

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    1. Rob, I felt pretty much the same as you. There came a time I realized I only control myself. Out There is out of my control, even influence. Though I still am galled that we have no voice, because of it I've withdrawn my attention a little bit at a time. I was doing fine til the Supremes declared women void as citizens, AFTER showing us voting amounts to nothing and giving our government to the international corporations, the highest bidder. And the corporations making our decisions are "off-shore" not paying taxes. If I don't pay taxes, US govt will set out to destroy my life and accomplish it. The big corps use their tax money for bribes. We lose. We only lose. I live in a world of the working poor. The people think it's their fault they're poor while working full time and overtime. They watch tv and believe the lies. I tell my friends who pay no attention to the news to stay that way. Yesterday in the coffee shop, Becca, whose shop it is, asked me what was up with a little old man who came in. She said he is the only person who has come through the door who unsettled her. I looked at him and said, He's an angry old white man who watches Fox and listens to Limbaugh. That's all. He's just seething with rage all the time---therefore, none to bright. He's no problem, just an angry old white man.

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