Renewing the Call to RESIST

by george.salzman@umb.edu  January 1997

this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Anarch/Cal2Res.htm

      In August we wrote to many of you that “the time has come to resist the war in Vietnam.” So began a letter of December 27, 1967 from Noam Chomsky, William S. Coffin, Jr., Dwight McDonald and Benjamin Spock. Many of us, myself included, answered that call? Where are we now, nearly 30 years later?

      Major political changes gave cause for hope — including the end of the Cold War with the breakup of the USSR and the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa. But the horrors of genocide and torture, the brutality of nation-states acting against ‘their own people’ — as though people are owned by the state, makes the struggle for human rights a burning necessity which, tragically, will obviously have to be fought into the next millenium.

      Further, the accelerating destruction of the biosphere, driven by the ideology of so-called Western civilization with its addiction to endless ‘development’ and obscene profits, shows no sign of abating. Violations of human rights and of ecological integrity are often closely linked. For example, the unmitigated greed of Shell Oil and of the military thugs who run Nigeria are served by hanging the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and others protesting the ecological/cultural destruction caused by Shell’s operations. Similar examples abound from around the world.

      So, if we care about the world and about our fellow human beings, and generations yet unborn, we must try to stop the onslaught. We must resist illegitimate authority! That, at least, remains my conviction. How are we to do this? The forms of resistance we can use depend on our individual life circumstances. One could write an entire essay exploring what to do *[see footnote at end]. I will focus here on only one form of resistance, providing money for those grassroots efforts aimed not only at opposing injustices, but at seeking to expose and counter the ideology which supports the repressive institutions that exploit and victimize us, and also aim, ultimately, to restructure the institutions themselves.

      I see money as a key focus, along with the commodification of almost every essential for life. My personal response has evolved over time, beginning during the Vietnam War when my wife and I decided to get rid of the stocks we then owned. We wanted to separate our interests from those of the corporations whose stocks we had. Immediately the problem came up: What to do with the money? And it's taken me about 30 years to resolve that question.

      Only a small percentage of the world's people have the luxury of living far enough from the brink that every bit of money need not go for day-to-day survival. For those of us so privileged, the tension generated by the question, What to do with the money? comes from our insecurity about our future. Our fears are constantly fed by our knowledge of what happens to the very poor without food or homes, to those with major health afflictions lacking medical care, to the infirm aged warehoused unto death. We are urged to protect our individual selves by saving, by insurance, by investing. Banking conglomerates, giant insurance companies, mammoth brokerage empires and the legal sharks who advise them how to swindle legally — the big-money business — they all feast on our insecurities.

      In truth, there is no escaping our fears within the existing institutional framework. Without real community there is no real social security. One of capitalism's outstanding achievements in its relentless drive to maximize profits has been its success in destroying real communities. Even extended families are disappearing as young people are forced to leave in search of jobs.

      It seems to me impossible to contribute significant money support to grassroots efforts as long as the fear of insecurity has us in its grip. For me, it is more important to try to make the world better for my children and grandchildren — and for all children — than to try to secure, as much as one can with money, my own long term life and comfort. So I have decided not to try to save, not to try to prepare for prolonged medical care, and to come to terms with my own mortality. This has enabled me to contribute large (for me) amounts of money each year, last year to 132 different groups, most of them tax-exempt. And I try to concentrate on non-mainstream groups, groups my liberal friends have generally not ever heard of. Including, of course, RESIST itself.

      Of course on a personal basis it’s risky. Lacking any real social security, only some accumulated wealth remains as a buffer between middle-class comfort and possible misery at the end of one’s life. But if enough of us take the risk, I believe the movement to gain real security for all the world’s people will be greatly helped. We must build a society without greed and without insecurity. That is the only solution for all the social problems that beset so-called advanced capitalism.

      * An exemplary effort [to explore what to do] is at: Getting Free: A sketch of an association of democratic, autonomous neighborhoods and how to achieve it, by James Herod. His contact:  <jamesherod@gmail.com>.
—G.S., January 1997

All comments and criticisms are welcome. <george.salzman@umb.edu>

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