Social Activism is Out of Date
An interesting world we live in.
During the recent elections in Nicaragua, early 1990, a big deal was made in the U.S. mass media about the fact that Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, now president-elect of Nicaragua, “is the publisher of Nicaragua’s only opposition news-paper, La Prensa.”(AP 2-22-90)
“Wow! The only one?” I thought to myself. “We’re lucky to have so many ...” As my thoughts trailed off, it suddenly struck me that we have no opposition press in the United States.
In the 60s and 70s there was the LA Free Press, the Berkeley Barb, the SB News & Review – all fairly available and ready to ask some hard questions. But now, I just really couldn’t think of any opposition newspapers. Being fairly isolationist, I thought that maybe I was missing something.
“No,” my sister-in-law assured me, quite matter-of-factly, “Social activism is definitely out. If you get into politics at my birthday party, I’ll never forgive you. You can talk about the water shortage. That’s very in right now. Of course real estate is always acceptable, and making money. Those are great yuppie topics.”
Most people don’t consider themselves yuppies. My sister-in-law, however, aspires to being a full-blown yuppie, but can’t afford to be one.
“It sounds great – all those material possessions. But we just can’t afford to live in Santa Barbara, because of the high cost of housing.”
In my normal cynical way, “You realize that the banks in competing for the lucrative real estate business, unwittingly created the boom they were trying to cash in on. By loaning money on over-valued, under-financed property they have driven the value of property out of the reach of the average wage earner. The statistics say it takes an $80,000 annual income to afford a home in Santa Barbara. So now these same banks, after creating fabulous profits for wealthy, multiple property owners, these same banks, because of these risky loans on overpriced real estate, are now going out of business. Of course your tax money, especially your Social Security Taxes if you are poor, will be used to bail out those poor rich boys.”
“Please Dune, you are giving me a headache. I would much rather talk about the water shortage. Its much more immediate. Besides what can I do about Big Business anyway?”
“By voting against Lagomarsino (our local Congressman. He has been a prime supporter of the corrupt Reagan administration. We need some fresh blood – someone who would be appalled at the atrocites perpetuated by our Government.”
“I couldn't do that.”
“Lagomarsino is so fatherly. I feel comfortable with him. The Government might be exploiting third world countries, but America has been prosperous under the Republicans. Even I can afford to own 2 VCRs.”
At least my sister-in-law is not blind to where her prosperity comes from.
“You're moving from Santa Barbara because of cost. You don't have health insurance because it is too expensive. Where is this prosperity you speak of? There is no affordable child care for your children, so your husband must stay home and take care of the kids because he makes less than you do. But your income is not enough to support the whole family. The infamous Catch 22. Where is this prosperity?”
“I keep reading about it in the newspaper. Everyone, but us, is doing just fine.”
“That's what the media would have you believe.”
“You're just so pessimistic. Are you trying to ruin my day? I would really rather worry about things directly under my control – how many times I flush my toilet or whether I leave the shower on or off during lathering. Actually I'm so busy just getting by that I don't have time for politics.”
“Well trust me then. The Republicans are ripping off the poor and middle class. Get them out of office.”
“But I feel so comfortable with Bush and Lagomarsino – both so stern and sensible. Besides Cranston, our Democratic Senator, is no angel.”
“Vote against incumbency after 12 years, Democrat or Republican. They become too entrenched in Establishment’s way of thinking – where the outrageous seems normal.”
Psych: “Although discouraged by the lack of interest in our global community from those around him our Author’s conscience convinced him to become ‘politically involved’. For his own good he needed to at least attempt to share his articles with the truths they revealed. He mistakenly assumed that anyone reading his missives would be aroused and transformed. He forgot about vested interests. But he was about to have a learning experience. The Universe has a way of providing us the lessons we need to learn.
After meditating he decided to submit some of his less controversial articles to The Independent, a locally generated newspaper – as it was the closest to an opposition press. He gathered up his writing and wrote the following proposal to the editors.”
To Whom It May Concern:
At present all of your news is locally based – which is good. However National & International events also affect us locally, for instance Social Security Taxes.
If our local Santa Barbara News Press gave an unbiased view of current events, this would all be unnecessary. Unfortunately the News Press view, dominated by the New York Times ownership, is quite distorted in its coverage of the Budget, the Deficit, the Debt, Central America, Military Aid, & Foreign Policy.
Therefore I am offering to cover these issues, using readily available facts & statistics (Available in the local press, yet under-emphasized.) Questions will be posed, never asked in the News Press. There will be an examination of the differences in the coverage by the California based Los Angeles Times versus the New York based SB News Press.
The name of your newspaper is The Independent. It would be nice to see an alternate view published. I understand however that you are dependent upon advertisers. So it might be better not to stir up too much controversy – which this will.
Enclosed are a few different articles with different styles. Many of my works are dual in nature for greater context.
1. ‘Central America/The Irresistible Economics of Greed’. Everyone knows about our economic and military exploitation of Central America but us – because our Press is in it for the money. 2. The Panamanian Distortion/ Social Security Taxes News-Press coverage of Panamanian Invasion – The budget figures that George Bush distorts or neglects to mention. 3. The Federal Budget Deception/ Military Aid. The US Government is broke and yet gives mega bucks to military dictators. 4. Three Billion to Israel/ Three Trillion Dollar Debt. Why so much to Israel, when we can’t even pay our own bills? 5. An analysis of a George Bush-News Press reporting distortion. Government propaganda to a force-fed press. 6. Why most people don’t really care. (& Why you might not either.) 7. Quayle’s Panamanian visit: SB News Press vs. LATimes. 8. Panama Invasion?/ Why’s Endara Afraid? Questions not normally asked in the major media. All the facts that I used in the submitted articles were obtained from the Santa Barbara News Press, the Los Angeles Times, & the 1990 Almanac.
I am not opposed to the editing or censorship of my works. I understand that you need to make a living too. I would just like to see an alternate, independent view aired.
I’ve written one unpublished novel, Butter on Table 7, based on my experience as a waiter at the Olive Mill Bistro. One theme was that ‘we don’t care’ because the media gives us so much B.S. My second novel, unfinished, Less Butter & More Babies, is based upon my experience raising children. Here a theme was, ‘we are too busy to care’. My third novel, in transit, Garbage from the Dump will contain the submitted articles woven into a larger framework. The theme here is that ‘we are trying to care’.
My ideal would be to write a weekly article for The Independent. However I am open to freelance writing on topics of your choice. I do understand the delicate nature of the topics I choose to write upon, the local nature of your paper, and a need ‘to not rock the boat’.
Hoping to hear from you as soon as possible, one way or the other.
Tourism is King
“Did the Independent accept your work?”
“No. This is their response.
Dear Mr. Lehman,
Thanks for sending these to us, but I'm afraid we won't be using them.
We do cover those other issues when we talk about Santa Barbarans involved in them –
probably not often enough, however.
Thanks for thinking of us.
Sincerely, Editorial Director
“Too bad. What kind of articles did you submit?”
“I offered them a variety of articles – from Central America, to Federal Budget Deficits & Debts, to the Social Security Tax rip-off.”
“Come on Dune, Central America is passé. Besides what does that have to do with Santa Barbara?”
“The Independent is a local newspaper reporting about entertainment and the local news.”
“Santa Barbara is an island cut off from the rest of the world? The water shortage, property values and cholesterol are the only politics that concern us. Nobody here pays taxes, votes, or has any dealings with social injustice.”
“Don't you realize? We just don't want to think about these things. It's easier to think about flushing our toilets and what food to eat. We especially don't want to be disturbed by our Entertainment paper, the Independent.”
“I'm sorry. I guess I misunderstood. Its name misled me – The Independent & its by-word – Your News and Entertainment Newspaper.”
“Come on Dune! Do you believe everything you read? People read the Independent to find out about local entertainment. This is a tourist newspaper, designed to tell you what local people talk about and where to go. It is not meant to be too controversial or disturbing. After all the tourists don't want their vacation disturbed by thinking too much. Besides we don't want to disturb those big corporate accounts coming into town. I can't believe how idealistic you are. By the way, you are in the wrong town if you want to stir up controversy.”
“Yeah, I keep forgetting I'm living in sleepy, little Santa Barbara – home to the rich and powerful. We're not supposed to care because we have the sun, sand, & climate. As long as property values are going up, as long as we have our mountain bikes and exercise classes - why should we care that the United States government is financing the bombing of the local El Salvadorian Indian population to the tune of $1.5 million dollars a day? Why should we care that we are or have made life miserable for 100's of millions of people throughout the world? I mean, after all, everyone in America, rich or poor, has a car & a VCR.”
“Dune, you are just a misplaced hippie. You are a few decades too late. We know injustice exists all over the world. We also know the government lies to us. But life is hard enough to deal with, just making ends meet. I don't really have enough time or energy to worry about people who are thousands of miles away. Besides,” she continues in her wise sort of way, “Life is so hard, I'd rather be entertained than depressed.”
“I see,” enlightened at last. “In this land of doublespeak, the Independent should be renamed the Dependent, Your Entertainment and Human Interest newspaper. My apologies for the misunderstanding. I've always been naively idealistic about such matters.”
“Finally you're beginning to understand. You keep ranting about the tens of millions of civilians that we have displaced in Southeast Asia because of our bombings – the three generations of Southeast Asians whose lives have been permanently scarred due to America’s imperialist policies. How do you think this makes me feel? It makes me ashamed to be an American. I don't want to be ashamed, I want to be proud. You're tearing away whatever self-esteem I have left. It makes me proud to win a war in Panama. Then you tell me the Panamanians are suffering. This is not what I want to hear. I want to be proud of my country. I prefer to think of this as a war we've won. Besides what does it matter anyway what I believe in the grand scheme of things? Nobody listens to me anyway. I’m not important enough.”
Sometimes I know too much, as my conscience begins to torture me.
Because of my research and writing I am acutely aware that excess Social Security taxes, levied on the backs of the poor and middle-class, are financing the bombings of the indigenous El Salvadorian Indian populations. These taxes are automatically taken from every worker’s paycheck, including mine. One third of these taxes go to finance the Federal Defense budget, which is utilized to exploit third world countries globally. Another third goes to pay the interest on the debt that we accumulated by building up the biggest store of military armaments the world has ever known. These same armaments have been supplied to repressive regimes all over the world – destroying the quality of life for millions of people. Although our neighbors from the greater American hemisphere are suffering, it is easy to ignore, because it is very quiet here.
Besides who wants to stir up a ruckus? Let’s keep still and maybe no one will notice. Maybe all the problems will go away without anyone noticing that we haven’t taken responsibility.
However because I was somehow impelled to write about these unfortunate truths, my responsibilities are different than the average citizen. I have a responsibility to the writings themselves.
But my personal survival is at stake. Maybe it’s better to play it safe. Let’s not be too offensive or arousing as it will only attract attention and perhaps retaliation.
And then my internal voice screams out: “It’s time to take responsibility. You need to speak out against injustice. You must share your writings.”
“Uh Oh! Someone has noticed. My own conscience is calling me on my social responsibility. I can’t pretend any longer that no one knows. No longer can I pretend that I don’t know. But I’m afraid to speak out against injustice for fear of repression.”
“Would you have watched the Germans round up the Jews from their communities as long as it didn’t affect you too much.”
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