This is a Kurt Vonnegut poem, “Requiem,” from his book A Man Without A Country:
The crucified planet Earth,
should it find a voice
and a sense of irony,
might now well say
of our abuse of it,
“Forgive them, Father,
They know not what they do.”
The irony would be
that we know what
we are doing.
When the last living thing
has died on account of us,
how poetical it would be
if Earth could say,
in a voice floating up
from the floor
of the Grand Canyon,
“It is done.”
People did not like it here.
In the same book, Vonnegut also said, “Our planet’s immune system is trying to get rid of people.”
He makes good points. It isn’t so much the entire human race that’s trying to kill off the planet, though. It’s a small, select group that lately we’ve come to call “the one percent.” These are the people with both the power to do widespread damage to the environment and the lack of conscience to avoid doing it. Individuals among the ninety-nine percent, average citizens, lack the clout to pollute all the oceans and poison all the land and air, and many of us would recoil from it, because we do have conscience.
What we ought to realize, though, is how individuals among the ninety-nine percent enable or overtly support the planet-destroying one percent. One way we bolster them is by being apolitical. When we sit back and fail to protest or even acknowledge the one percent has been poisoning our oceans, land and air for years, we are part of the problem.
People who go along with corporate claims that their oil spills are just inevitable collateral damage of doing business in a capitalist society; people who comply with corporate spin that says because businesses are the “job creators,” they should be able to poison the food supply or air to save themselves money; people who don’t stand up and speak out against these practices, are part of the problem.
Thomas Jefferson said that in order to maintain democracy, we needed an informed public. A public that justifies staying uninformed and being unengaged is, by default, joining the one percent in slowly killing the Earth. If we know what they’re doing, as Vonnegut suggests we do, and fail to do anything about it, we’re no better than the one percent and might as well be spilling the oil and spraying the poisons into the atmosphere with our own hands.
We’ve watched while most of our elected officials take millions of dollars in campaign contributions from the corporations that are destroying the Earth, and more of us are waking up to the fact that it is this money in politics that keeps Congress from enforcing laws to curb corporate destructiveness. It’s not as if we haven’t been warned.
As far back as 1992, journalist Bill Greider’s best-selling Who Will Tell The People cautioned that in order to appear to be serving the public interest, while at the same time doing the will of their corporate contributors, Congress had “perfected the practice of concocting hollow laws—promises the government makes to the people but does not necessarily intend to keep.” Greider called these empty promises “artful charades.”
Nothing will change, nothing CAN change, as long as corporate money buys politicians. There is really only one issue for the ninety-nine percent to focus on with all its might, and that is getting corporate money out of politics. Every other abuse goes back to that one source.
Greider pointed out that those in power are aware that citizen activists tend to be unfocused and erratic. They see the public’s attention is easily pulled from one issue to another, and because of the lack of focus, those in power have no fear the public will ever make a real difference. What the public ought to realize is that the body of the hydra is corporate money in politics, and all the other problems from pollution to the weakened economy are merely the hydra’s tentacles.
If we don’t want to be among the people Kurt Vonnegut described, it would be useful to open our eyes to our own role in protecting the Earth and our fellow humans. Occupy Wall Street isn’t just about selfish concern over our own personal finances, as critics sometimes say. It’s about waking up and being fully present as citizens and not mere consumers, and about each of us making our own contribution to create a society and a world not entirely dominated by corporate money.
Why is this essay entitled, “Crazy, Sexy Revolution”? Because (a) You might not have read it otherwise, and (b) this really IS a crazy, sexy revolution, complete with all the chaos, juice and vigor. We just need to focus all that energy.