This Can't Be Happening
Sites of Interest
(courtesy Empire Burlesque)
A Tiny Revolution
William Blum/Killing Hope
The Distant Ocean
Welcome to the Sideshow
Mark Crispin Miller
Crooks and Liars
Black Agenda Report
The Raw Story
Iraq Vets Against the War
Blues and Dreams
Bright Terrible Spirit
"You hear people my age get up and say, 'We were poor. We put cardboard in our shoes.' We talk like that. But we didn't know we were poor. Today you do. And how do you know you're poor? Your television shows you that you're poor. So it's very easy to build up anger in a, say, a high-voltage kid of seventeen, and, he knows he's poor, he looks at the TV."
Doyle went on to say that the cause was unclear, the "enemy" was unclear to people, and "so you take it out on your neighbor." Young men with no education have no employment anymore, he said, no opportunities to be worth anything -- except through the military.
The authors went to Welch, West Virginia, to speak with those suffering from and resisting mountain-top removal by the coal companies. Larry Gibson, who lives with death threats and other health hazards, has saved a fraction of his family's land from the surrounding devastation. "You heard about the World Trade Center terrorists?" he asks.
"You heard about them? Bombing, three thousand people dying, but have you heard that with the emissions of coal we lose twenty-four thousand people a year in this country? You know, eight times bigger than the World Trade Center. Nobody say anything about that. Then you have the something like six hundred and forty thousand premature births and birth defects, newborns, every year, EVERY year, and nobody's doin' anything about that. Coal kills, everybody knows coal kills. But, you know, profit."
Gibson points out that cities have passed laws restricting cigarette smoking in public, but families living near coal fields breathe the dust.
Julian Martin, a retired high-school teacher and son of a coal miner, says, "It's a sacrifice zone. It's so the rest of the country can have electric toothbrushes and leave the lights on all night in parking lots for used cars and banks lit up all night long and shit like that."
The fifth and last section of the book is focused on resistance, and in particular on Occupy Wall Street. It includes an excellent discussion of the occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., with Kevin Zeese, a persuasive case that a nonviolent revolution is coming -- that conditions are all aligned -- and a great summary of Hedges' recent thinking on activism and rebellion. But if you were part of Freedom Plaza, and if you've kept up on your weekly Hedges reading, it is the first four sections of the book that you will find most valuable. In many ways, there is greater organizing and activism found in those sacrifice zones than what we have seen thus far from the Occupy movement.
Occupy is national, even international, and -- at least at first -- had much greater attention from the corporate media (which is what made it national). It is also more middle-class and less-rooted in a community. If it can build one massive movement out of all the pockets of resistance, and move on from resistance to creation and substitution, it may indeed turn this avalanche of horror and misery around and push it back up the mountainside. "I have no interest in participating in the traditional political process," says John Friesen, occupier of Wall Street. "It's bureaucratic. It's vertical. It's exclusive. It's ruled by money. It's cumbersome. This is cumbersome, too, what we're doing here, but the principles that I'm pushing and that many people are pushing to uphold here are in direct opposition to the existing structure."
Hedges notes, importantly, I think, that the governmental response we have seen to the Occupy movement, the militarized police brutality, and the passage of federal legislation allowing the military to engage in domestic policing, is not a sign of weakness in our movement, but rather one of strength -- a sign of fear by Congress and its corporate bosses. Now we have to turn that fear into realization that the spreading of sacrifice zones will absorb us all unless radical change comes soon.